Friday, December 13, 2019

You Told Me So

A few minutes ago I cancelled my Labour Party membership. 

I have at no point in the last four years been an active member of the Labour Party and I do not want a vote in the forthcoming leadership election. I am still a member of a Trade Union. I forget if my membership of Unison allows me to vote for Jeremy's successor, but if it does I will not exercise it. 

If I had a vote I would vote for the socialist candidate. But if Corbyn is succeeded by another socialist, there will be a further decade of sectarian strife between the right-wing (or "moderate") parliamentary party and the socialist (or "hard left") leadership. This would not, in fact deliver a future socialist government. The person who defeats Johnson or his successor in 2029 will be a Centrist -- someone very far to the right of Blair or even Obama, but still slightly to the left of Johnson and Trump. I could not possibly vote for such a person to be leader of the Labour Party, although he is the kind of leader the Labour Party clearly needs. So the honourable thing to do is to waive my right to cast a vote. 

I urge other socialists and Momentum supporters to do the same; we have done enough damage already. I think that we are rather in the position of evangelicals in the Church of England: we are, as a matter of fact, in the right, but it makes more sense to go away and be in the right in our own church rather than spend the next hundred years fighting for control of an institution which is working perfectly well on its own terms. 

I voted for Thangam in Bristol on Thursday and she was deservedly returned with a massive, albeit reduced, majority. She occasionally holds her surgeries in my place of work, and she shows every sign of being a charming and empathic person who relates well to her constituents. Her open letter during the last leadership campaign was one of the few honest and honourable criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn I read during the whole sorry episode. 

However, I wish to be free to vote tactically against Johnson's far-right English nationalists in any future election and tactical voting is incompatible with party membership. I would be strongly in favour of Momentum breaking away from the Centrist Labour party and offering a socialist alternative but I would not personally wish to become a member of such a party.

People are going to come up with a lot of reasons for last night's extreme English nationalist landslide. Hardly any of them will be right. 

Corbyn might have been a better leader and he might have been worse. Some of us found his understated well-meaning geography-teacher what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality refreshing after the fake sincerity of t.c Blair. Some people found it weak and uninspiring. Some of the same people who found him uninspiring accused his followers of being in thrall to his personal charisma; some of those who found him weak also said he was dangerously authoritarian. Nigel Farage should never have been allowed to manipulate David Cameron into calling a referendum; but once the referendum had been lost, Corbyn's policy of a second vote with a straight choice between a known deal and cancelling the whole show seemed to me to be the best way of playing a very poor hand. 

A lot of people said that a strong anti-Brexit position would have won Corbyn the election, yet the Liberals fought an election on a fantasy Revoke platform and were annihilated. Obviously a Lib-Lab coalition could have kept Johnson out of Downing street, but the Liberal party hates the Labour party and the Labour party hates coalitions and everyone hates the Greens. 

Corbyn's reluctance to explain to Ken Livingstone why you don't put the words "Hitler" and "Zionist" in the same sentence even if it's true was clearly an example of weak leadership. Anyone who takes seriously the idea that a Corbyn government would have threatened the existence of British Judaism or would have ushered in a second Holocaust is simply in thrall to myth-making by an over mighty billionaire press. We discovered, late in the election, just how far the Sun is prepared to go in spinning conspiracy theories. The imaginary lines from The Political Correctness Brigade and the Liberal Media and the Social Justice Warriors lead directly back to the Frankfurt Group, a covert organisation of Jewish intellectuals who are secretly working for the downfall of civilization as we now know it. But that obviously isn't even a little bit anti-Semitic. Ed Miliband -- then a dangerous Red, now the greatest Prime Minister we never had -- was vilified by those same papers for a disagreement with a rasher of bacon. 

Corbyn's weak leadership and Corbyn's anti-Semitism are excuses. So, in fact, is the Parliamentary Labour Party's relentless under mining of him, although I am sure that didn't help. 

Jeremy Corbyn lost the election because Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist and the British People do not want a socialist party in government. 

There: I have said it. 

Put another way: Corbyn was unelectable. 

Not because of his jumpers or his jam or his bicycle. Because of his politics. 

I am not the kind of Marxist who is prepared to say "Those are my principles: if you don't like them, I have others." I don't think it is the job of politicians to find out what people believe in and then to pretend to believe what the people believe. I think it is the job of politicians to believe in the right things and persuade other people that those things are right. I agreed with Jeremy Corbyn's ideas yesterday and I still agree with them today. 

I believe in "from each according to his ability to each according to his need". But I am prepared to settle for "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work." My belief that people who have done the honest work ought to also get the honest pay is by today's standards monstrously radical. I think that everyone with a job ought to get paid enough to feed, clothe and house themselves and their family; to educate their children; to go to the doctor if they get sick; and to have a little bit left over for beer and comic books. I don't mind how we achieve that. We can make the beer so cheap that even the poor can afford it; or we can pay the poor a lot more so they can afford the expensive beer. We can set wages so high that everyone can afford books; or we can lower the price of books so everyone can afford them.  We can drop books on slum districts out of Zeppelins, or we can have free libraries on the ground. I think the best approach would be for the workers (by hand or by brain) to have a general strike and demand a living wage. I think the second best approach would be for the government to tax the rich and use the money to pay for hospitals and schools and libraries. 

Yesterday; I still thought that democratic socialism was on offer. Literally until 10 o'clock I honestly thought Johnson would get a very small majority and that a Corbyn led Liberal-Labour-Green coalition would form the government. This morning, I don't think that democratic socialism is a possibility: not in my lifetime. (I am not about to collapse due to advanced senility. but I'll be doing well if I cast 5 more votes.) The alternative then -- the only other way on offer of securing an honest day's pay for an honest days work -- is to kill all the rich people. This I put in the category of eating a whole box of Maltesers in one go or spending the entire weekend looking at certain very tasteful adult websites. It's in the category of things "one would like to do, but feels one mustn't". I would probably regret it in the morning. Neither democratic socialism nor revolutionary socialism are on the table. So I suppose I am not a socialist any more. 

So: you told me that Corbyn was unelectable; you were right. 

You told me that a party leader needed to be a handsome young guy in a smart suit; you were right about that as well. 

You told me that the people didn't want socialism; you were right about that too. 

You told me that we should concentrating on electing a leader marginally less wicked than Johnson. You are probably right about that. Like the entomologist trying to decide which bug to put in his collection, it is probably sensible to choose the lessor of two weevils. 

Probably the best we can hope for is that 2029 gives us a Prime Minister who is Slightly Less Evil Than Boris. I wish you good luck; I will very probably vote for you. But excuse me if my support is less than enthusiastic. 

I am sending my £5.99 a month to the Trussell Trust. There are probably all sorts of clever reasons why that is not the charity which most deserves my support, and I look forward to ignoring them. I will ask my accountant to work out how much of my champagne money would have gone in income tax had Jeremy been elected and add that to my standing order in due course. 

I have not looked at any news media since midnight last night and I don't envisage restarting any time soon. I am going to largely abstain from Facebook and Twitter for the next several weeks at least.

I will stay as far away from politics on this blog as I possibly can: but I have lots of interesting articles on other subjects up my sleeve. Come back on Monday and find out what euphemism Jesus Christ employed to refer to the lavatory, and why this is actually Quite Interesting from a religious point of view.

I'm Andrew. I write about folk music, God, comic books, Star Wars and Jeremy Corbyn. I have no political opinions of any kind.

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Mike Taylor said...

I am so sorry.

This result has been devastating for a lot of people, me included; but I think for many reasons it must have hurt you more than most.

I stayed up a couple of hours last night (was it really just last night?) not so much because I was interested in how things might develop as because I was too shocked by the exit poll to motivate myself to go to bed. As I sat there, numb, I tried to figure out exactly what it was that I was feeling.

Then I realised. I felt that my country had been invaded.

I still do.

I don't feel like I belong here any more.

Andrew Stevens said...

"If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are." -Montesquieu (far more true now than when he wrote it)

Sorry I haven't been able to read and respond to any of the comment threads on here lately. The bad news is that my doctors finally figured out what has been sapping my energy, focus, and concentration, blackening my mood, and making me more irritable for the last couple of years. It turns out I have diabetes (hardly a surprise - my mother and father were both diabetics and my late sainted older brother was a Type 1 diabetic). The good news is that it can be treated with medications and diet changes and I feel great now, better than I have in years. I will probably go back and respond at some point, though it will feel rather pointless since I imagine no one's reading those threads anymore. In the meantime, I have been busily catching up on those things I've been wanting to do for years, but have lacked the energy for.

As for politics, it's not as bad as it looks. The downfall of the West is clearly upon us, not being brought about because of weakness or privation, but purely out of boredom and spiritual despair. Everything is great - an era of unmatched peace and prosperity - and nobody is happy. I don't expect a cataclysm, just a long, slow decline. Fortunately, a civil war seems unlikely because we are all physical cowards with a love of luxury. Vice restrains our vice.

Gareth McCaughan said...

I don't know whether the moral realism thread is one of the ones you have in mind, but I am still interested in continuing the discussion if you are. (Fine if you aren't, too, of course.) Glad your health is improved.

Gavin Burrows said...

Granted we will hear "people don't want socialism" a lot, but I'd be wary of accepting itthat

It's well established that if people are policies 'party-blind' (so to speak) and then acted on those preferences Labour and the Greens would be the two biggest parties. Similarly, some fo us have watched with some amusement a 52% vote being "the will of the people" when polls quite regularly show two-thirds wanting water renationalsied, to name just one. Some wills are more will-like than others, it seems.

And I'm pretty much sure this must have been the most media biased event since the invasion of Iraq. It hardly seems worth going over all that again. Of course it wasn't the only factor. In many ways Labour fought a poor campaign, not least in the way they never seemed to have a strategy to combat that media bias. It was like, surely *this* time Corbyn explains he's not a racist patiently and calmly it will sink in. Strangely enough, it wasn't.

The result will of course be as you say, 'return to centrism' will be the mantra. The result of two years ago will be rapidly forgotten. As will the sudden death of Change UK, and all associated with it. Electoral politics will go back to what it was before, a stitch-up run by a narrow clique of careerists and vested interests. But electoral politics isn't the only form politics can take. It's time to remember politics also happens on the streets.

Mike Taylor said...

Part of what has been so awful abut the last two years is that both the honest-to-God socialism of Corbyn's Labour and the centre-ground of the CUKTIGs and Lib Dems has been emphatically rejected by an electorate who really don't care what kind of person is PM or what their policies are, provided their hair is amusing.

Andrew Ducker said...

I don't think socialism has been rejected. I think people didn't think Corbyn would be a good leader. is very good on this.

Andrew Stevens said...

It is. Thanks! I'll get back to it as soon as I am able. One the one hand, does it really matter if someone is correct on that? No, not really. What matters (in my opinion as a moral realist) is that they live as good a life as they can. That is certainly possible even if they don't agree with me on the issue. On the other hand, I am a firm believer, as a former moral skeptic (though granted as a teenager and young man) that my beliefs are both true and make it psychologically easier to live a moral life. It is far too easy for people to rationalize their selfish, greedy, lazy, or cowardly behaviors (as we are all, alas, prone to do) if they tell themselves that morality doesn't really matter.

postodave said...

Andrew, this is too painful to read. Somehow the fight must go on. Day by day, hour by hour.

Andrew Stevens said...

On March 5, 2013, Jeremy Corbyn tweeted, "Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world." I am genuinely curious what the socialists in this thread believe happened in Venezuela.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Thank you for your understanding, particularly given we have disagreed politically over the last few years.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I think that, as ever, Grace Petrie has it about right: now the country has fallen to fascism, the important thing is for the rest of us to be as nice to each other as possible. The networks that have been built up have failed politically, but can still be used to protect and defend people whose live are going to be more dangerous and difficult now the baddies are running the show.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I think they thought he wouldn't be a very good leader because he was a socialist. Partly they thought he wouldn't be a very good leader because the billionaire press told them he wouldn't be; but the billionaire press took against him because he was a socialist.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Thank you.

Andrew Rilstone said...

You wish to go through the whole "but Venezeula", "but Jews", "but 1978" thing all over again after I have conceded that I have lost the argument suggests that you rather missed the tone and tenor of my piece.

Andrew Stevens said...

No, not at all. My comment was specifically addressed to the other members here. If we should all be kind to each other (I agree!), we can at least start by assuming no bad motives on the part of our interlocutors. I am entirely sympathetic to your pain and do not wish you to write about or discuss anything you don't wish to write about or discuss. Believe me, I know how you feel, I watched my own party fall prey to an obnoxious conman.

Richard Worth said...

Firstly, sympathy: I am afraid that thirty years of being an administrator-of-fortune has left me fairly sanguine about who is in power, but I appreciate that this is a grave blow to you and what you believe in. Secondly, coffee: what I think happened last week is too complicated to be put down in a blog, let alone a response. Thirdly, Boris: you observed recently that he is not a fascist, or Donald Trump: an ex-London Mayor tending towards One-Nation Conservative may not be disastrous for the UK, especially the North. Fourthly, Socialism: I think that since 1945, most people in the UK have supported the Welfare State and the NHS, but no-one has found a way to make mill-towns and pit-villages earn a living. The shift away from socialism may be less radical than you suggest. Fifthly, Parties: the north-country mill-wright and Hampstead intellectual have always been an uneasy coalition, like the stockbroker and yeoman farmer of the Tories. The next five years may see all kinds of coalitions breed and break. Sixthly, Brexit: once we have moved past the sucking gulf we may be into calmer waters. Finally, more coffee, and possibly a slab of Mr Cadbury's finest (not sure if there is a Miss Galaxy, but she may appear on one of those tasteful websites): I think I would need something similar if the UK become a Republic or Richard Dawkins became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mike Taylor said...

Far, far back in the ancient mists of time (ten months ago), Richard Worth wrote: "an ex-London Mayor tending towards One-Nation Conservative may not be disastrous for the UK, especially the North."

I'm gonna go right ahead and file this under "Comments That Have Not Aged Well".

Richard Worth said...

Twelve months on I think that like Bilbo Baggins when he had the Ring, my views are not so much well-preserved as unchanged. The challenges of Covid to every government across the world has made it difficult to distinguish Boris from other world leaders, but he seems more willing than Donald Trump to 'follow the science' or to prioritise green investment. 'Brexit' is a separate issue, in that we had a Referendum, and Theresa May's attempt to strike a 'moderate' Deal foundered on opposition from her own Party. At time of writing, Boris still seems to be trying to reach a deal, rather than having settled on No Deal months ago.

Mike Taylor said...

This is your occasional reminder that Theresa May's "moderate" deal involved leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union, and was therefore the hardest of all hard Brexits that there then envisioned (back when No Deal was seen as not even an option). She made no attempt at all to build a consensus that reflected the closeness of the referendum vote but caved to the ERG — as Prime Ministers have been doing ever since, bringing us to the present point.