Aside

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.

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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.

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?

What Rachel Reeves could have said

Frank Gallagher as Jesus

The shambling old parasite: capitalism

Adopting a firm party line on welfare, the former Bank of England economist stressed that a key part of her task would be to explode the “myth” that Labour is soft on benefit costs, and to prove instead that it will be both tough and fair.

In an Observer interview, Rachel Reeves MP has said a number of things about social security, some of which seem fair enough, but of course she’s given the Guardian the headline:

Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits

Which is a shibboleth designed to both appeal to Daily Mail readers and enrage anyone with an actual soul. Why this interview wasn’t in the Mail itself is clear: you can imagine a Thick of It style conversation, in which she was told it might be “too soon” after the Ralph Miliband controversy to be giving succour to the fascists Daily Mail readership.

The policy of forcing people into work with a “guaranteed job offer” is clearly not meant to appeal to actual unemployed people. As with all such schemes, one wonders, if there’s a job to be offered, why it isn’t offered at the beginning of a period of unemployment. Being out of work for a whole year (two years if you’re over 25) is a soul-destroying and humiliating experience. If there are jobs, give people jobs. Don’t punish people first with unemployment, and don’t therefore treat the idea of a “guaranteed job” as a punishment.

“If you’re unemployed for two years, we will punish you by giving you a job.”

What she could have said is that it’s capitalism that creates unemployment. Capitalism requires there to be a pool of unemployed people in order to keep wages low. Tackle the scandal of low pay and you tackle unemployment. How do you tackle low pay? Reeves actually has some suggestions: a living wage for all government procurement contracts is one. Why wasn’t that the headline? Because it’s not a Daily Mail shibboleth. Why is the Guardian printing Mail-like headlines? Well, this is the “there is no father Christmas” moment for left-wingers: the Graun is in the business of link bait just as much as the Mail. Eyeballs on advertisements is what the Graun is after. Even left wing eyeballs.

Taking a wider view, as the Guardian’s own figures show, Jobseeker’s allowance is only 3% of the social security budget. For so much of our national conversation to be focused on such a relatively small amount of money is a sign that we’re not really talking about the money. Instead, we’re in curtain-twitching territory. We’re pointing fingers at people who don’t work. Even worse, we’re pointing fingers at the small number of people who are out of work for a couple of years. As someone who was once unemployed for 18 months – and who spent that time applying for many, many jobs for which I was eminently qualified – this kind of thing gives me the rage.

The conversation should be about the undeserving rich. Inherited wealth. Tax avoidance. Excessive profits. Price gouging. Obscene executive pay. Enormous, undeserved bonuses. Bonuses for people whose job is mainly done by computer algorithms.

And in the end, so what? So what if there are people who are work shy? They’re a tiny minority. What is this connection between morality and work? What if you don’t want to work for the machine? What if you want to opt out? This society is rich enough and should be big enough and wise enough to make space for people who want to opt out. For musicians and artists who want to pursue that dream, even if it means signing on for seven years. For people who, like Bartelby, would prefer not to.

People shouldn’t be punished for not wanting to participate, and the children of the long-term unemployed certainly should not be punished.

And, you know what? Frank Gallagher in Shameless was not a symbol of the feckless poor. Yes, he’s a shambling old wreck, a creeping, grasping, addled parasite: the living embodiment of capitalism itself.

Tora Tora Tory

Important scenes in the Planet of the Apes ser...

You’d have to strap me into a chair and force my eyes open with matchsticks to make me watch any of the Tory conference, but I keep up with current affairs, albeit in a much reduced way since my experimental news diet. I also still follow enough people on the Twitter who were watching the Nasties.

One of them tweeted the interesting thought that within a couple of election cycles, the Tory party is “done for”. It’s something I’ve believed for a while. Their ideology (unfortunately swallowed by the so-called Labour party) is discredited after the financial crash, and their increasingly desperate attempts to grind out profits for their corporate backers by privatising everything that hasn’t been privatised already are pissing a lot of people off. As this article in the Graun reveals, the bastards are getting most of their funding from the gamblers and speculators of the City, which is why all of their policies are about making them richer at the expense of everyone else.

(It’s a head-on-the-table moment, a repellent thought that the mind shies away from: that this country and many others were bankrupted by the gamblers and instead of throwing them in jail, “we” [well, not me, but “we”] elected them to power. The ending of The Planet of the Apes has nothing on this.)

Which is not to say that they (the nasties) aren’t doing a lot of damage in the process of being all washed up. My personal somewhat fatalistic attitude is that things are going to have to get a whole lot worse before the thicker members of the English electorate will wake up or die. I think one of the ways things could get worse would be for Scottish independence to gift the Nasties a couple more election victories, because, let’s face it, the Labour party is being propped up by Scottish and Welsh MPs.

But the Tory party is dying, because the old bastards who represent its grassroots and core voters are dying. With them will die any pretence that the Conservative party stands for anything other than rapacious greed at the expense of working people and the planet in general. The thing about the Tory bastards of the past was that at least they were mostly nasty farmers and stupid working class Tories. Toffs and forelock tuggers. But those are the demographic that are dying off. The ones that remain are the neoliberal banking scumbags who have about as much in common with the little old ladies of the local Conservative Association as I do.

Half of those dumbshit  pensioners are voting UKIP now, anyway, because UKIP’s message about hating foreigners, immigrants, and change is more comforting than the “we have to destroy the country in order to save it” message of the modern Tory party. And once the Nasties are done distracting the dumbshits by kicking and blaming the poor, they’ve really got nothing beyond their core belief that greed is good. They just want to have all the money, to the extent that leaving working class people with any wealth at all is like poison in their veins.

Meanwhile, the Labour party is busy destroying its whole point by breaking its trade union links. Combine that funding apocalypse with the voting apocalypse of an independent Scotland*, and the Labour party is done for, too. Miliband’s vaguely socialist witterings are irrelevant while they toe the austerity line and support ridiculous levels of defence spending (Trident). Which leaves the Green party as the only credible political force: which is exactly why they’re mostly ignored in the media: even UKIP and the BNP got more coverage this conference season.

*I don’t blame the Scots. I’d fucking want to leave the UK too. Imagine being free of the Tories, the Royal Family,  and the Church of England with the stroke of a pen on a ballot paper: heaven. Of course, you’d still have to deal with sectarian hatred and the terrible weather, so ho hum. In fact, you know what? That post-apocalyptic vision of a post-human world ruled by apes is starting to look more and more attractive. Let’s just nuke the whole site from orbit.

Thatcher was my Vietnam

Flag of former North Vietnam (from 1955 until ...

Flag of former North Vietnam (from 1955 until reunification with South Vietnam in 1976) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night, they blew up his house too…

Springsteen used to do one of his talks, on the Born in the USA tour, about what it was like to grow up in the 60s, with the Vietnam war on TV every night. America’s defeat in Vietnam was a deep psychic scar, a shattering of the illusion of American invincibility, and it led directly to the election of Reagan and thence the slow but steady erosion of middle class incomes which culminated in the financial collapse of 2008: the shattering of another illusion.

Thatcher and her government blighted my youth. You shouldn’t have to pay forever because you had an unhappy childhood, but I have. Leaving home at 18 because I had to, I experienced 18 months of unemployment – the summer of the 1981 riots – and, right then, my life chances were blighted.

The voodoo economics of the neo-liberals destroyed our industries, our fuel security, but also sucked the life out of whole regions of the country. I live in Buckingham now, a small market town which is steadily expanding as more and more housing estates are built around it. Why do we need all these houses? Because too many people want to live down here in the South, because that’s where (they think) all the jobs are. But there aren’t any real jobs in Buckingham, bar a few anonymous warehouses on the so-called industrial estate and a couple of supermarkets. There are a lot of charity shops staffed by volunteers and Britain’s first private university, fact that makes me feel physically sick. So all these people have to own cars so they can drive somewhere else to work. And why do they have to drive? Because Thatcher and her minions destroyed our public transport system in their rush to privatise anything that wasn’t nailed down.

We live with it every day, the consequences of all that privatisation. Public services being provided by people who are motivated by profit. What do we get? We get mis-selling of gas and electricity, we get continual flooding and water shortages because the infrastructure is so poorly maintained. We get people making profits from the infrastructure we built and paid for. You build all those extra houses and funnel all that waste water into the same sewers: work it out, genius.

I could go on, and have, for ten years on this and other blogs.

When she died I smiled a little because I really did hate the old witch. But I hated Hestleslime and Poortillo and the rest of them, too, and I’m insulted every time I see Poortillo on a train on the television. And I hated Blegh and his Thatcher-lite policies, and I hate Govegrind and the Bullington bully boys. And the spineless so-called Labour party under Milibland. That’s her legacy, and a continual reminder of everything I lost.

When she died, I spent a lot of time avoiding the media chatter, because I didn’t want to hear the tributes, and I don’t need, in the manner of preaching to the choir, to have my own views reinforced. And I muted a lot of stuff on the Twitter, mainly because I don’t want a diet of the same thing over and over again. But also because I wanted time to think about this. It wasn’t that I wanted to censor other people as I wanted the space and silence to think. Because Thatcher was my Vietnam.

Every day, I’m reminded of all that I lost. I won’t say “we” because that’s the point, isn’t it. There is no “we”. We’re all lonely monads, who wait until after the fact to defend have a little moan about the rights of those who have them taken away. I’m surrounded by colleagues who take so much shit so much of the time but feel they have no power, even though they have a union. Thatcher did that, by the simple expedience of introducing compulsory postal ballots. Seventy-five percent of those white envelopes with the ballots inside end up in recycling bins. So the unions lost their power to oppose, and the bankers opened their big fat mouths under the money taps and started to slurp it up. And everybody got worse off, and because they didn’t like thinking about that, they kept extending lines of credit in order to keep funding their illusory lifestyles. Barbecue Britain, with all the little Nigels and Nigellas.

We should all be poorer. We should have fewer cars, we should have slightly crap but publicly owned utilities, and we shouldn’t have companies with shareholders sniffing around our hospitals and schools. I live in an occupied country. I see them everywhere: Tories. White haired Telegraph readers, sharp-elbowed Daily Mail readers, young people drowning in trivia, because Thatcher was my Vietnam, and I live with that defeat every day.