August 12th, 2015


Politics Will Eat Itself

Oddly1, I’ve been keeping an eye on the race for Labour leader. Mostly this is because I’m a bit of a political wonk, but also because it’s proving an interesting example of just how divided the UK’s main left-wing party2 has become.

On the one hand, an actual old-fashioned lefty has thrown his hat into the ring in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. He enjoys massive support from the party’s membership base, but is under serious attack in the media. Oddly, a lot of what they’re running with has parallels with Project Fear, the sadly successful campaign of paranoia and shit-flinging that (along with good old-fashioned bigots) cost Scotland its independence last year. They’ve linked him to everything from 9/11 conspiracy theorisits to George Galloway.

On the other hand, you’ve got three cardboard-cut-out Blairites3. All of whom have pretty much nothing to distinguish themselves beyond being about as right-wing as our current Conservative government.

The thing is, a party leader can shape broad policy, with the support of the party, but they can’t shape policy at a personal level — unless they have a disturbing cult of personality based around a plastic smile and a sociopath’s dead eyes. For all the personal attacks on Corbyn, he’s not going to set the official Labour policy on a track of 9/11 conspiracy theorism. Even if he holds those beliefs dear to his heart he’s not an idiot. Attempting to make them policy would kill the party instantly.

Most senior figures in the Labour party are against Corbyn. Not just the three Blairites4 running against him but the party’s interim leader, and all candidates for leader of the Scottish Labour Party5. And yet, he’s got massive popular support.

The right-wing media establishment6 slings aspersions at the party itself. They can’t decide if Corbyn’s popularity comes from a bunch of their own readers joining the party to make sure the leader is an unelectable leftie or an actual surge of support for the only person in the Labour party to take a stand against the outright evil policies of our current Tory government. They often manage to advance both opinions in the same article, an act of cognitive dissonance that Orwell would have noted as a perfect example of doublethink.

All the forces against Corbyn claim that if he wins, it will tear the party apart. The level of infighting is bordering on all-out war already. Some commentators even predict a split in the Labour party.

As someone born and raised up during a time when the Labour party have been, in order: completely irrelevant, populists who (briefly) presented an actual alternative to a doddering Tory party7, cheerleaders of an illegal and immoral war, snoopers wanting to constantly monitor everyone’s thoughts in the name of “counter-terrorism”, victims of both parties' laissez-faire neoliberal economic policies that directly lead to irresponsible and borderline-illegal banking practices, demonisers of the poor, and an opposition-in-name-only, I can’t help but feel schadenfreude. Frankly, this current infighting is fucking hilarious because it lays bare the intelectual and political vacuum at the heart of the Labour party. On the one side, lifetime voters and members who actually want some level of left-wing policy. On the other, MPs and recent members who want Tory policies with a thin veneer of red paint to give the impression that they give a flaming bag of dogshite about people worse off than they are.

I think Corbyn would make an interesting leader. I’m not about to join Labour to vote for him; I’m a member of the Scottish Green Party because they have actual policies that I agree with. But another centre-left party that would go from being a de jure opposition happily doing nothing to counter Tory policy to joining with the current de facto opposition to actually do something about the Tories' disgusting attacks on everyone who doesn’t already own Hampshire would be nice8.

But yeah. Mostly it’s schadenfreude at members of a party finally waking up and seeing that over the past thirty years they’ve drifted so far to the right that they’re indistinguishable from the government. I’m under no illusions, a Corbyn leadership could only drag the party to the left at a pace that will look glacial to his supporters. But whatever happens, it’s nice to see a large part of the Labour party’s long-term supporter base finally notice just how far they’ve moved to the right. Took them long enough.

  1. Not oddly at all. 

  2. Not left-wing at all 

  3. Pron. “Neo-liberal warmongering scum desperate to carry on the legacy of a failed leader who thought himself the Messiah” 

  4. See previous footnote 

  5. A mostly-forgotten group of spineless patsies whose right-wing slide and increasing irrelevance to both the rest of the Labour party and the people of Scotland mean their branch office is pretty much a broom cupboard. 

  6. Including BBC News, ITN, Sky News, and all newspapers except the Morning Star and the Socialist Worker9. Their degrees of right-wing sympathy vary, but not a one is on the left. 

  7. If they’d stayed like this instead of going full-scum after the September 11 attacks, maybe my opinion of them would be higher. Anyone other than the Tories was an excellent result.10

  8. The Labour party currently talks a great deal about how they oppose what the Tories are doing, then does fuck-all to actually oppose them — abstaining on important votes, for example. Then they go on to say how they opposed the measures, even though to anyone with two brain cells to rub together abstaining is not voting against. 

  9. If you think I’m missing one you’ve obviously not noticed the Grauniad’s ridiculous Shoreditch-Champagne-Socialist bias that has less relation to left-wing values than an editorial in the Daily Heil. 

  10. Nobody could have forseen that the shift towards populism would lead to things like scrapping the student grant, introduction of tuition fees, and introduction of NHS privatisation under PFI. Still better than the Tories would have been. 

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