Here’s the thing

vote-labour-key-posterThe last thing the world needs right now is another column inch about Corbyn, so here are several.

I’m no psephologist but I know what one is, and I know they’ve all done the maths, concluding that Labour under Corbyn will not be able to persuade those I’m-all-right-Jacks in the Southeast of Englandland to vote for him.

So the whole idea behind the Labour Party parliamentary putsch has been to restore the idea of a Labour Party that can win some marginal seats in Southern Britain. Because they’re right, aren’t they? No way the former Mondeo Man, now the BWM 3-series Man, or Audi Q5 Woman, are going to vote against their own self interests. They never have. People vote for the party they think will make them richer.

The “miracle” Blair achieved was to create a Labour Party so right wing that people in the marginals actually voted for it. So now the Received Wisdom forever more will be that for Labour to win an election, they have to be exactly the same as the Tories on almost every issue, even as far as agreeing spending plans and welfare cuts.

Meanwhile, large swathes of Britain were taken for granted or forgotten. And into that vacuum of giving a shit stepped the nationalist parties, the SNP and UKiP. And there went Labour’s core support. Which means that Received Wisdom in the right wing of the Labour Party is that they have to also make the same noises about immigration as the UKiP as well as agreeing to punish the poor for being poor.

And here’s the thing. Once you’ve gone that far, once you’ve lost Scotland and your more racist former supporters are voting UKiP, and all the noises you’re making are exactly the same noises as the Nasty Party, well who gives a shit about you any more?

Which is where Corbyn fits. We need, so desperately, a mass movement of Labour similar to that of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Because out here in the real world, things are pretty fucking horrible. We’ve got a new generation of robber barons bleeding us dry; obscene levels of inequality; the steady erosion of hard-won rights; and a Parliamentary Labour Party (mostly lawyers) that votes, over and over, against the interests of working people. So when a new mass movement elects Corbyn as Labour leader, it’s not about winning elections. If the cost of winning elections is to be a a slightly pinker version of the Tory Party, what’s the point? Labour lost the right to rule when Gordon Brown bailed out the banks and then allowed the narrative of the financial crash to get out of his control.

All of the anti-Corbyn arguments are about winning elections, but those are the wrong arguments. It’s the differend, people. We’re arguing about different things. Winning elections really isn’t the point, unless is means higher taxes for the rich; the private corporations out of the NHS; and end of free schools, academies and grammar schools; a living wage; a ban on zero hours contracts; and a new programme of public spending (who pays? you do). We don’t need a Labour Party in power who just apes the Tories. What we need is a Labour movement designed to raise the consciousness of a new generation and agitate for progressive social change. We need a movement that’s fit for purpose and for the long term benefit of working people. And if that means a few empty Labour suits lose their comfortable seats in Westminster over the short term, well, good.


43-year itch

maxresdefaultI went to bed on Thursday night complacently believing that the British people would have voted decisively to remain in the European Union. In fact, during the day itself, I began to believe that the result wouldn’t even be close. As I read the bedtime YouGov poll, showing Remain on 52%, I even said to myself, it’ll be more like 55-45 in the end, a 10-point margin.

Which is why, on Friday morning, I had the odd experience of literally not believing my eyes when I picked up my phone and viewed the result. It didn’t help that the Guardian had chosen a pale yellow colour for the Remain side, so I couldn’t quite read what was on my screen. But, yes, I actually rubbed my eyes, convinced they were lying to me through the bleary insomniac dawn.

Part of me, not a small part, is enjoying the resulting chaos. I currently owe more on my mortgage than I’ve ever saved in my pension. My take home pay and my pension have been steadily eroded over the past 10 years, and my future prospects were already bleak. So what if the currency crashes, if there’s inflation? I already live beyond my means. A little inflation would help reduce the relative value of my mortgage debt, and if some of the pain of the austerity years could be visited – finally – upon those responsible, I’m up for that.

To see the hated Cameron depart, to see the foaming, flaming Tories tearing each other apart: this is high-quality spectator sport.

I’m not surprised at the outcome. And I’m not surprised at the general fallout. In or out, makes no difference to most people; to those of us living with frozen pay, venal managers, looming threats over job security; or living in the zero hours land of the living dead; who fucking cares, stick it to the man, burn the whole shit house down.

42 years ago, in The Towering Inferno, Steve McQueen is told he’s going to have to go into the building to blow the tanks on the roof to put the fire out. When he realises he stands very little chance of getting out alive, he just says, “Shit,” and goes in.

That’s where a lot of us live. We’ve already, years ago, looked at our future prospects and said, simply, shit. And we carry on.

Because there’s very little chance we’ll come out of this well, is there? You know how I know? Because here, now, is the moment for a strong and principled opposition to step forward and – as a first order of business – bring the government down. Force a general election, pull something out of their asses like Harold Wilson in ’64 and ’74. Kick the Tories while they’re down and keep kicking until they stop twitching. But instead of doing that, they (the Parliamentary Labour Party) saw an opportunity to replace Corbyn. And they’re doing it, not just because they really hate Corbyn, but because they can see a scenario in which he could win a general election and prove them all wrong. And they can’t have that. A Labour victory now would expose them as the morally bankrupt careerists they are. They’d rather keep losing. They have to destroy the village in order to save it. And the most astonishing thing is, it was obviously planned that this would happen now. All the tin soldiers were in place, waiting for the moment.

Like the MI6 and the KGB during the Cold War, there’s a moral equivalency between the Tories and the majority of the PLP. They all voted to cut welfare. They all voted for the Iraq war. They’re all conniving careerist cunts.

Burn the whole shit house down.

The Guardian: nope

When you install Ghostery or other content blockers, you get a message when you visit the Guardian home page: asking you to support the newspaper financially. I’ve said before that I won’t do this, in part because they keep giving a platform to Tony Blair. They’ve done it again today, given him an opportunity to spout his Islamophobia:

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 06.53.19

Of course Blair supports the bombing of Syria, because in his mind it also justifies his personal war in Iraq, which is why he keeps popping up in the Guardian.

In their intrusive ‘please support us’ banners, the Guardian likes to boast of its ‘independent voice’ and ‘quality journalism’. But with all the right wing newspapers supporting the bombing; and all the right wing newspapers producing character assassinations of Jeremy Corbyn, how is the Guardian proving its independence? By cautiously supporting the Syrian bombing campaign and slyly undermining the Corbyn leadership. Actually, it’s not even that subtle: they’re currently anointing old-style Labour party compromiser Hilary Benn, mainly on the grounds that he stood up and justified bombing Syria, getting applause from the fucking Tories or doing so.

As somebody said on the Twitter, if you’re getting applause from the Tories, you know you’ve made it in the Labour party. Hilary Benn probably regrets that his old man renounced the family peerage. The latest Guardian article proclaims him ‘fiercely independent’, which he proved by voting with the majority government the other night.

With the current PLP basically waving through rafts of Nasty Party policies, we turn to the ‘independent’ media to fight our corner. Except, oh, the Guardian is busy wringing its hands and producing ‘best of 2015’ lists, like any blogger can, and the BBC has decided to let itself die.

Corbyn: just when you thought he was out… they pull him back in

040369250GIA_bisI was disappointed, if not surprised, to see the headlines saying that our new, radical, dangerous shadow chancellor will follow the fiscal charter of the incumbent, reactionary, incompetent chancellor. (John McDonnel: Labour will match Osborne and live within our means). In spite of promising signs in the first week, when the media narrative indicated that Corbyn and his new team were doing everything ‘wrong’ and stomping all over tradition, and ‘needed’ a spin doctor, the process of pulling them back in to the establishment narrative of economy and society has begun.

When I started work for the Apple dealer I used to work for, I had a choice. Would I muck in with the team and become one of them, or would I stand aloof and apart, refusing to be a joiner or a team player etc.. The pressure was high. Muck in implies getting your hands dirty. In this case it wasn’t so much hands as soul. Being one of them would have meant participation in and tacit approval of company social events that sometimes involved lapdancing clubs as well as binge-drinking and random coupling. And I did not want to do that. So I didn’t. So that, and my accent, meant that I did not fit in, was seen as a snob. If you’re not there when people disgrace themselves and degrade women, they haven’t got anything over you. You have to do the thing, do the nasty, to join the inner circle. The final straw for many of the staff came when I chose to wear a Brasil football shirt to work when England were playing in a World Cup tournament. My snarky act of minor rebellion caused considerable outrage. After that, they hated me.

This is how organisations operate. They blow dog whistles, they operate under shibboleth, they have tacit understandings. They put up hurdles and hide bear traps. When Corbyn became the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, the die was cast. Unpack that title, for a start. Most loyal. Which means, kneel, which means, sing. How can you accept such a title if you claim to be a republican? Turn up at the service wearing a donkey jacket: game over. Turn up at the service dressed in a smart dark suit and refuse to sing: game over. Become leader of the opposition and join the Privy Council (which involves taking an oath on the kneel): game over. Refuse to do that: game over.

Whether it’s waving a burning £50 note in the face of a homeless person, accepting fellatio from a dead porker, or kneeling before the queen, all organisations have a price of admission. You wanna join the crips, you gotta steal a car, or take part in a drive-by shooting. You wanna join the Teamsters, you gotta do a little thing. To be in you have to undertake certain acts. And when you have undertaken those acts, once you have been through the threshold ritual, you are changed. You cannot change back. Over here, you are a boy; over there, you are a man; but to get there you must pass through this line of people who are beating you with sticks. Over here, you are a socialist. Over there, you can be Prime Minister. But first you have to pass through the ritual in which you’re just another empty suit who parrots the narrative peddled by the oligarchs and the corporations.

Corbyn is still liminal — just. He’s not quite all the way in. He has poppy day to negotiate. He has yet to kneel before the queen. If he fails to do so, he will remain an outsider, and will face five years of character assassination from the mainstream media. If he refuses to wear the poppy, may [god] have mercy on his [soul].

I too started a new job recently. So far, I’m fitting in okay. I bought some cakes on MacMillan Coffee Morning, donated a fiver. I’ve managed to gloss over the fact that I’m not interested in the rugby. I’m not doing the long hours thing, though, where you stay at work late ‘working’ so people know you are ‘working’, so that’s going to be an issue. And I’m not going to wear a fucking poppy, so that will be another one.

Corbyn’s Victory – my cool take

A doomed Enterprise?
A doomed Enterprise?

I’ve held off discussing the Labour Party leadership. I’m a (lazy, non-activist) Green Party member and I vowed after Iraq, after various other Blair/Brown betrayals, that I wouldn’t be voting Labour again. It’s been easy: I live in Speaker Bercow’s constituency, so Labour don’t even stand here and it hasn’t been an issue. As an old leftie, I always hated Blair, and considered Brown to be a lucky chancellor and an inveterate tinkerer. He blew it with me when he bailed out the banks. Given their behaviour since, given the media and political narrative that ensued, that blamed overspending and not bad lending for the near-collapse of the world economy, I still think he (and everyone else) was wrong to bail out the banks. Investments can go up as well as down.

Right now, we could be living in a post-capitalist, post-neo-liberal world, instead of this shitty austerity-riven, blame-the-poor, punish-the-weak, welfare-for-the-rich dystopia.

Miliband was the wrong leader to succeed Brown. A zero charisma, zero ideas, empty suit, slightly weird adenoidic who was a bacon sandwich photo opportunity waiting to happen.

Which leads us to here and this leadership election between three more empty suits and a man in a jumper. I said at the beginning that Corbyn was destined to be another Michael Foot.

I liked Michael Foot. One of the few politicians I’ve ever heard speak (at a CND rally), I considered him a decent, highly intelligent, principled man. I loved him and his donkey jacket, and I watched him destroyed by our almost-wholly right wing media as the Labour Party (always a coalition of competing philosophies and interests) disintegrated around him.

Labour. Never quite so radical as they were in 1900 and 1945, they’re an amalgam of socialist societies, career politicians with no principles, right wing trade unions, and left-wing firebrands. In the post-Foot era, the left was shoved aside and the Party was stewarded by a series of increasingly right-wing leaders into a position to win big in ’97.

So here we are and here we are and here we go, as the Quo said, and the cycle is set to begin again. Or is it?

Did you just see what happened. Every. Single. Major. Media. Outlet. They were all against him, especially the Guardian, publishing think pieces and opinion pieces and news pieces, seeking to pooh pooh the very idea him, the unelectability of him, the very Michael Footness of him. Never has there been such a clear and blatant effort to exclude a candidate. The very Labour Party itself wrote to many of its own life-long supporters (such as journalist/comedian Mark Steel) and forbade them from voting for him. And still he won. He won bigger than Blair, and he won fair and square, even among established and traditional Labour Party members.

A collective delusion, a close-your-eyes and wish for it, a doomed enterprise. All of this. For the next five years it will be A Very British Coup all over the shop, and the press and the BBC and the rest will be at him and all over him seeking to kick him to death before the 2020 election. It’ll be Michael Foot and the donkey jacket and the Cenotaph all over again.

Or will it?

Because you know what we didn’t have in 1983? Twitter. We didn’t have the means to construct a counter-narrative, to fact-check their lies and hand them their asses, over and over again. With Foot, all that old CND lot, there was never the power to fight back to organise, to mobilise, in the way there is now.

I used to sit at union meetings back in the 80s, and listen to the lefties bemoan the state of the Labour Party, the old “Labour Party compromisers”, the frequent betrayals. Nobody ever hates the Labour Party so much as their most passionate supporters. And for all these years, these years since Kinnock, the idea that the Blairites might be toppled, that New Labour might be given the boot, that anybody with any socialist ideas at all might ever get onto the front bench let alone into the leadership seemed like the purest fantasy. The Labour Party was lost to us, and some of us joined the Greens.

But there he is. Not just winning, but winning bigger than Blair. Dare to dream?