Sunday, 2 August 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something Blue

Since their embarrassing defeat at the election, Labour has fallen into yet greater disarray. Things looked promising for a moment. Talk of a mansion tax on the super-rich and tentatively addressing New Labour's past record on the NHS, war and border control put Milliband ahead in the polls. Unfortunately, the message wasn't positive and coherent enough. No amount of hand-wrought apologising would would let England forget that New Labour had ultimately failed us in power and actually started the great sell-off of the NHS. Granted, they gave us the minimum wage but now what we really need is a genuine living wage and I don't mean like the phoney one George Osborne cooked up in the budget.

In the end they weren't offering enough of a change from the Tories. Scotland voted for the nationalists because they had a positive and hopeful vision for that country's future and, unlike Labour, are actually willing to vote against the government on austerity! England sadly didn't have that option.  Labour's idealistic Left went Green, attracted by impossible promises of all things nice whilst the white working class shifted towards UKIP. Predictably, as soon as the results came in the old-guards of New Labour emerged from their coffins to say if only Labour was more pro-big-business they could 'reclaim' the centre-right neoliberal, globalist position from the Conservative Party. Such is our dearth of choice.

The race is now on to find a new leader. Thankfully, Mandelson's slick and suited 'British Obama' apprentice has dropped out. Chuka Umunna cannot rightfully be called a 'Champagne Socialist' because that would in some way suggest he is a socialist, which he isn't. He does like champagne though and spends rather a lot on it.  We still have a handful of Party clones, too afraid to say anything which might offend anyone and let them be seen to be straying off the pin-point centre-ground. And then there is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is the left-wing conscious of the Labour Party. The Left has long-needed it's own Farage, by which I mean someone who will actually say what they believe and be genuinely human rather than a programmed P.R. drone. There has been a groundswell of popular support for Corbyn's leadership challenge which has thrown the elites of the party and writers of the Guardian newspaper into abject panic. If they can't even listen to their own membership and supporters then how can we really trust them to government the country? 

Is Corbyn the savior? No, but he's certainly shaking up the Labour Party and British politics, which is a good thing and interestingly polls suggest he is the favoured Labour candidate among UKIP supporters which goes to show the potential broad appeal of a left-populist anti-establishment figure. Aside from the fight between the forces of old and of New Labour there is also Blue Labour, which had an influence over some of Ed Milliband's more populist policies.  They describe themselves as 'The Voice of Labour's Radical Tradition' and favour guild-socialist co-operative economics as opposed to neoliberalism. They also advocate what could be described as 'socially-conservative' populist approach to to crime, immigration and the EU. Of course populism should be self-critical and guided by a strong ethics if it is to avoid falling into the kind of crudeness displayed by UKIP. However, the emphasis on local, decentralised solutions against big Statist policies that have been proved to lead to dependency and demoralisation is a positive thing. So long as they remain faithful to their stated Radicalism by putting up a strong opposition to free-market dogmas and economic globalisation then they can avoid the kind of empty populism that leaves the fundamental structures of the system intact.

Another interesting development, which is unconnected to mainstream politics, is The Common Ground Movement. It's aim is to unite ordinary people of different political colours against the establishment on a platform of basic agreed principles. These are:

  • Peace: No more wars of aggression.
  • Liberty: End the surveillance state. End the militarization of the police.
  • Justice: Hold the corrupt political and financial systems accountable.

What can be achieved remains to be seen but it is good to see efforts that extend beyond narrow sectarianism.  It is time for the periphery to unite against the centre and to begin to work towards an anti-establishment Popular Front.  All this fighting amongst ourselves is exactly what those in power want.

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