Sunday, March 01, 2020

I wouldn't join any political party which would accept me as a member

If I asked arkela why she wants to keep the Cubs going, she would say "Because it gets kids away from the TV and playing in the open air. Because Baden Powell's ideas are still relevant in the modern world. Because the boys who still come seem to enjoy it."

If I ask the vicar why he wants to save the Church, he would say "Because the word of God is still the word of God whether we are getting congregations of six or six hundred."

If you asked me "Why do you want to save the Labour Party" I would reply "Because I still believe in socialism, because I think socialism is the fairest way of running the country, because I want someone to put the case for socialism at every election."

And you would reply "You are part of the problem, not part of the solution." And you would not be wrong.

I gather there are two main contenders in the current round of displacement activity: a leftie one, who is popular with the people who prefer leftie ones, and a centrist one, who is popular with the people who prefer centrist ones. I understand the centrist one looks more male and white and therefore electable; but that he used to be a human rights lawyer, which is a bomb waiting to go off in the popular press. I understand they are both Zionists; I don't know if anyone has asked them if they are Catholic Jewish Atheists or Protestant Jewish Atheists.

Any talk about which of them is potential prime ministerial material is about as meaningful as discussing who will host the victory party when Bristol Rovers win the F.A Cup. The next Labour leader is never going to be prime minister; nor is the one after that. The next Labour leader with a shot at becoming P.M. is currently revising for his politics GCSE.

The purpose of the Labour Party is to form a Labour government. The purpose of forming a Labour Government is that if there are no Labour government then the Labour Party has no purpose. All talk of socialism and ideals and principles is meaningless flim flam if you aren't in government. Tony Blair has made that very clear: the question is not "is it right to support the rights of trans people"; the question is "will supporting the rights of trans people help or hinder the long march to a Labour Government." And he is not wrong.

If people think your fizzy drink is too sweet; then you have two options. Either you make it less sweet; or you fill the airwaves with subliminal advertising for sweet things; and advertising spots that say that sweet things are what the cool kids drink; and blind taste tests to show that people prefer sweet soda when they actually try it.

If people think your newspaper is too hard to read, then you have two options. Either you dumb it down, or you have an advertising campaign that tells people that all the girls prefer smart guys; and that in this day and age you need to read a serious paper to be informed; and that influences and opinion-formers prefer broadsheets over tabloids.

If people won't vote for your party, then you must either change and become the sort of party people will vote for; or else stay the same and persuade people that they ought to want to vote for the kind of party you already are.

But trying to persuade people to vote for your party is patronizing and insulting and suggests that you think you know better than them. It is tantamount to saying "If the people voted for the wrong Prime Minister then we should elect a new people." It is that kind of thinking that leads to walls along the Mexico boarder and sea bridges over ammunition dumps. In the real world, you have to find out what kind of political party people want to elect; and become that kind of political party.

We know the kind of political party people want to elect. They told us that very, very clearly in December. They want to elect right-wing, racist, nationalist, populist party, led by a rich, posh, white male. In order to form a government in 2029, Labour needs a posh, white, populist, racist leader: ideally someone even posher, even whiter, even more populist and even more racist than Boris Johnson.

Some people will not find such a leader to their personal taste: but there is an easy answer to that. Would you rather have a leader who you personally find congenial; or would you rather win an election?

So: whether the Leftist One or the Centrist One ends up as leader of the opposition, they will have only one job. They will need to do what Kinnock did and indeed what Momentum tried to do from the other direction. They need to rebuild the party machinery to ensure that they are succeeded by the kind of person that the people would vote for. An electable leader. A Labour Johnson or even a Labour Trump.

They will need, at all costs, to keep people like me  out of the party.  This could be achieved by a series of internal purges and loyalty oaths; or simply by becoming the kind of party that people like me would never, ever join. They need to change the rules so that party members are never again allowed to choose the party leader. They need to make a great big symbolic gesture to show the world that this is no longer Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, or even Red Ed's. Tony Blair famously tore up clause 4. Enthusiastically supporting the "Yes" side in Priti Patel's 2022 referendum to restore capital punishment would go a very long way to drive undesirables out of the party, while speaking to the legitimate concerns of ordinary working class voters in constituencies where there hasn't been a murder in decades. Of course, there would need to be a few sops so that old fashioned reformists can persuade themselves that a Labour populist racist is better than a Tory populist racist. Nursery school places often hit the spot, I am told.

"But why would you want to save the Labour party on those terms?"

Peace, child. You don't understand.

I'm Andrew. I like God, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Wagner, folk-music and Spider-Man, not necessarily in that order. I have no hardly any political opinions of any kind.

If you are enjoying my essays, please consider supporting me on Patreon (by pledging $1 for each essay)


JWH said... over-react, slightly?

Jeremy Corbyn has had a long political career. He has adopted several positions which are a - very divisive and/or b - not obviously dependent upon one otherwise having socialist beliefs and/or c - seemingly contradictory (e.g. to hate economic inequality and then propose policies, which at least initially, would increase it). So it would seem to follow that there might be a pathway to a broadly socialist government that someone else might find. The Labour Party members who supported it might find themselves in the position of having to compromise slightly on some of their beliefs (analagous to the very free-market Tory members who hate the idea of a BBC and an NHS, but in practice continue to support it, just not at the level its supporters would like). The Labour Party as an institution might have to accept that currently one of its aims (stopping the Tories) might currently be best served by formal pacts with other parties which compromise a little its main aim (maximizing its own vote in terms of seats). But none of that seems to me to rule out a socialist Labour party forming a government.

If you could go back in time seven months and form that Government of National Unity without Jeremy Corbyn as leader, but knowing what was about to befall, would you do it?

Mike Taylor said...

Well, I think this is more cynical than the situation merits.

But I can certainly see why you feel the way you do.

But honestly: equating Kier Starmer with a posh, white, populist, racist leader does seem a little extreme. I'm sure he's very nice.

Richard Worth said...

It is seldom that a blog by Andrew Rilstone provokes me to an ungovernable fury, and taking a two-hour walk to compose a reply was largely co-incidence, but....We may agree that the Papists and the Woodcraft Folk are not traitors to Queen and Country. We can agree that the BBC and the National Trust still do a jolly good job like they did fifty years ago, but perhaps not the same job. We can agree that Clement Atlee was still a Socialist, though he supported nuclear weapons and capital punishment. If these things are true, nothing follows. If I ask Andrew who should go into the lists against Boris in 2025 when the Tories are tarnished and threadbare, I can expect a range of answers. Rilstone A will give a faux naive answer about Boris being a toff who doesn't like the poor or black people. Rilstone B will opine that Kier Starmer is a Social Democrat, and therefore anathema to the Socialist Creed that we all know by heart. The proto-Rilstone probably has some good ideas about toppling Thatcher. The Ur-Rilstone wants to keep the sacred flame burning before the Goddess of Socialism, usually depicted as an Angel with an extended Left Wing. However, what I need is a summery of the five things Andrew would do if he was Prime Minister, and how these match with the policies of Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Peter Parker, Rebecca Long -Bailey and all, and all, Rebecca Long Bailey and all. What we have instead is that after ten lean years, Jeremy Corbyn will be re-incarnated as the Dalai Lama and after finishing their A-levels will lead us to the promised land. I am afraid this feels like the Socialist equivalent of a Vicar who believes that 'God's Word' is the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, 100 Hymns Ancient and Modern, and can't understand why the Bishop might want to sell off his crumbling church, move both parishioners elsewhere and use the money to fund a youth group. To sum up, you seem to have said a lot about having nothing to say, rather than speaking plainly and to the purpose.

postodave said...

Okay, a couple of points. The issue was not really about supporting the rights of trans people. It was about balancing supporting the rights of trans people against supporting the rights of abused women who still (rightly or wrongly) perceive some trans women as men. As a former human rights lawyer, I think Keir got that. Lisa and Becky didn’t. After Tony Blair was elected John Prescott was interviewed by Michael Parkinson in a kind of one Yorkshireman to another interview and Prescott spoke of how his experience as a shop steward had taught him to value compromise; that is why he, though left leaning, could be in Blair’s cabinet and why he is one of the few of the old guard Blairites who liked Corbyn. It’s why Keir Starmer could be in Corbyn’s government and as Tony Benn used to say the Labour Party like a bird has a left wing and a right wing and needs both to fly. Unfortunately, like the left brain which thinks it can operate without the right brain, the right wing seem to think it can operate without the left and think the Kinnock and Blair years prove that; they don’t. The left was always there, a bit wounded but beating away.
Anyway in the midst of all this conflict I have realised something very important. Most people, including me, don’t have a clue how economics and especially macroeconomics works. We need to educate ourselves and then others. Because without that basic knowledge being there people don’t really see why austerity was a serious error, why we can invest to grow. Why having broadband available for businesses will grow the economy and will put food on the table and why the Keynesian elements of the Green New Deal are very important and can not only save the country but save the planet. What I don’t know is how to get people to understand that without seeming to patronise them.

Gavin Burrows said...

Ah yes, "balance".

Andrew Rilstone said...

Did intend to say that Kier Starmer was a posh, white, populist etc etc. I intended to say that if the only or main thing Labour want to do is win the 2029 election, then the next leader but one needs to be a posh, white etc etc. (Because we have established that that is what an "electable" leader looks like.) If you don't want a posh, white etc etc leader then there it follows that there are more important things that electability. But there's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza....

Mike Taylor said...

Keir Starmer is unamiguously white, the poor thing. There's nothing he can do about that. He's also posh, but that too is difficult for him to change, unless you think he should pull a Nigel Kennedy and affect an estuary accent.

I'm not sure how he is populist. And I'm not at all seeing a racist part.

I note in passing that Corbyn is also white, and seems to me much more populist than Starmer, though admittedly less posh.

I think the main things I want in a Labour leader at this point are competence, the humility to listen to experts, and consistent hard work. It seems to me that in all these categories, Starmer would be an upgrade. I imagine that to you, all of that is outweighed by his policies not being as socialist as you would prefer. Which specific policies of his do you dislike?

Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Rilstone said...

It would have helped a huge amount if I had typed "Did NOT intend to say..." rather than "Did intend to say." I think on that note I shall go back to bed.