Tag Archives: Corbyn

On Hitler and Digging

Ah, what more to say about Hitler that hasn’t already been said?

There is that old maxim, that once you’ve invoked Hitler in an argument, you’ve already lost. Then there are those who just keep on digging.

Exhibit A: Ken Livingstone. I still don’t know what point he was trying to make, but given that Naz Shah had correctly apologised for anti-semitic actions, his gallant* riding to her defence was perplexing** and then annoying as he made it all about him. 20 times he repeated his bizarre Hitler analogy over the weekend and while I’ve since read some commentary from an Israeli scholar explaining his point, the fact that it didn’t lend itself to being easily understood by the wider public and was invoked unnecessarily and he persisted in flogging his horse before crucial local elections showed that this was about Ken and ego and not much else.

Exhibit B: Boris Johnson, over-egging the Brexit pudding. He appears to think that the EU is like Hitler. But not. But totally like Hitler. (?!) Of course, when questioned about these views, which by the way are a direct contradiction of what he’s said about the EU in the past, and are also patently not true, he doubled down. *sigh* (curiously, the big threat from the Brexit camp is the neverendum – that we’ll have another referendum if this one is lost narrowly. Conceding defeat…?)

And finally, on the topic of digging in – it turns out that Labour party members have been undeterred by months of ad-hominem and hysterical attacks on Corbyn (so much so that legitimate critiques are lost) and being told repeatedly  that they’re deluded and/or stupid. They still support Corbyn. Two-thirds of members would vote him in again as leader. It’s almost funny to watch the dismayed headlines, the headscratching at the various opinion tables.

I personally think Corbyn could do better – too many easy wins are lost. However, the party as a whole needs to make up its mind, does it want to spend the next few years infighting and then losing the next election, or being an Opposition and fighting like hell to win?

*patronising patriarchal move, much? The woman was handling her own business.

**Listen, if someone does something racist, I reserve the right to look at them askance, even if they’re not a fully paid up cross burning KKK member. Same with anti-semitism. Naz Shah apologised; but if some people looked at her askance, it’s not without reason. It’s up to her to continue to prove that those comments are no longer her views. But her friends riding in to announce how she’s not an anti-semite? That’s as dismissive as people doing the same to other racists. If you’re the group affected, you may understand this intellectually, but it still feels dismissive, like you’re being told how to feel about this. In summary:  If you’re not a duck, don’t quack. If you’re a dog and you quack from time to time, it’s entirely reasonable for the cats in the area to be a bit wary (and confused).



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Ring the Changes

A friend of mine from Kenya told me about how there is a concept of one generation intentionally handing over to the next, an ancient ceremony in which the leaders become the elders and let those coming through to take their place.

Looking at events in the US and the UK – not just Corbyn and Sanders but also the reaction to “no platforming” in universities and the #RhodesMustFall and other decolonising movements (not so much in SA but definitely the UK arm) I can’t help thinking that we’re in the midst of an upheaval.

The overriding response, in particular from the media, is derision – a bit like Madeleine Albright’s admonition of younger women who vote for Sanders (echoed by Gloria Steinem, who said these young women just wanted to be near “boys”). Over here, the ridicule of movements like #RhodesMustFall and the (often ham-fisted) efforts of student bodies to explore issues around censorship and safe spaces has been deafening. I don’t agree with all the incidents or stances taken by the students in all the different cases but the scorn has a hysterical edge to it. There’s no discussion, no exploration. It’s almost as if they are stupid for questioning, even if sometimes some students get it wrong. They are supposed to shut up and do what they’re told.

Millenials are sick of being told. As the Guardian discovered when they asked Sanders voters (not all of whom are millenials) why they support him, there’s a lot of rage and a lot of yearning for change.* There’s a bleak realisation that the status quo isn’t working. Well, it isn’t.

I keep saying this but post-2008, we’re looking another financial crisis in the eye but this morning it was reported that Osborne is trying to sweep away even those meagre post-2008 reforms to the banking industry. Oh, and HSBC has decided to stay in the UK. Again. They really need to space these ultimatums out. I’m sure they’ll be speculating again as we approach the Europe vote. The fact is, they don’t need to do this public tantrum. They clearly have more of a hold over Treasury than any citizen in this country so it’s rather amusing that they bother with the political theatre.

If no one has been held to account for the crash, the group that has had their future mortgaged to pay for it are the young. Education, employment, housing – basically every rite of passage is blocked or marred. The guarantees are broken. You can get your degree but we can’t guarantee the job, the house, or even – if you don’t get a degree – a decent wage with human-friendly hours. The safety net is shredded and the NHS is threadbare. In the face of all this, when young people reach for change they are ridiculed. I would argue that the system has worked fine for those doing the ridiculing – they have their houses, jobs and pensions – pensions that the rest of us will be paying for. So would it not be a little charitable to give young people space to have discussions, to think about changing the world, to try to craft something new out of the mess you’ve left them? (even if it’s a work in progress?)

*I have to give credit to the Guardian – though they have been among the sneering when reporting on Corbyn voters, they did, as with Sanders voters, actually stop to actually ask people why they vote for them. Quite why they report the results with such deep surprise and wonder, given the state of the world, is beyond me.

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A New Dream

I have a running joke with a Tory colleague of mine, that I broke democracy, which is why I #canthavenicethings . Because, I voted for Corbyn. I remember when he sauntered over to my computer as I was (on my lunch break, if my boss asks) just filling out my voting form online. He was amazed (“I’ve read about Corbyn supporters but never met one!”) and curious (“Why….no really..why?”)

To admit that you voted for Corbyn is like saying you believe the earth is flat or that your puppy is a unicorn. You might as well don the Wonder Woman bracelets and tin foil hats and wait for the apocalypse. Which, if you’re reading the Telegraph, draws ever nearer with every day that Corbyn is Labour leader. The unelectable man who is at the same time so dangerous that if he gets into No 10 (despite the aforementioned handicap) he will promptly ruin the country. He’s at once a sappy leftie idiot and a dangerous political animal who, as it turns out, isn’t dying to press the nuclear button. The media caricature of Corbyn supporters, meanwhile, is of hard-nosed idealists, aggressive and crazed, foolishly sailing towards the iceberg and throwing a party on the deck of the Titanic. Or – hard-nosed idealists, aggressive and crazed, gleefully plotting a Night of the Long Knives for Labour moderates and right-wingers.

Which is where my colleague comes in. Why, he asked me? Genuinely curious. Very surprised.

Because: hope.

I don’t agree with Corbyn on everything, far from it. But then, do we ever? But for the first time in a long time I voted for something rather than against something else. Yes, Ok, there was some voting against. I didn’t vote for the other candidates because they offered nothing.

No leadership, just polling.

No ideas, just Tory policies with a hug.

And an emphasis on winning as if the merit of them winning as opposed to the Tories were self-evident. (memo from the country: not necessarily)

This anodyne space is apparently the centre ground, where you’re supposed to be, according to political wisdom. Parties try to sound like the other to win the others supporters because you do have to build a coalition. Of course you must. No one can win otherwise. But the “ideas” of this centre ground, or the accepted wisdom: Immigration bad, free market awesome, welfare bad, NHS privatised, poor people lazy/bad…these are all right wing. And they are not true. They are contested. But instead of contesting this space, instead of shaping this centre, Labour would allow the Tories to define it, to shift public opinion and settle a consensus and then….tinker around the edges. Throw the odd social democratic bone. But just to keep the loony left quiet.(not so loony when they’re doing the door knocking for you, though. Then they are good foot soldiers.) A lot of these supporters that Labour despise, these foot soldiers, are working people. And that is not a guarantee that you’re earning a decent wage, that your rights are protected, that you’ll be able to buy a house or even rent securely. But…that doesn’t quite fit with the warm fuzziness of this centre where you have to be to win.

“Occupying the middle ground might appear democratic, shaping policies according to public desire. Yet the rush over the past two decades by parties of all hues to occupy the middle ground has coincided with greater public disengagement with politics. The more parties have politically cross-dressed, the less their views seem to have been heard.

Why? Because, in reality, it is an approach that has shrunk the political sphere and eroded the democratic process. Instead of emerging organically from a particular vision of what society should be like, policies are arbitrarily stitched together as means of appealing to particular constituencies. And so, the electorate’s ability to choose is diminished. This is why, right across Europe, large sections of the public have rejected mainstream middle ground parties in favour of populists, of both right and left.” Kenan Malik

And what did I vote for? A different way of doing things. Do I think it will win? I honestly don’t know. But dammit, we have to try. Someone has to contest the centre. It won’t move otherwise. Public opinion is not fixed, it changes. The Tories have been rewriting history – the crash, its causes, who must now pay. And they have been allowed to do so unfettered by either an opposition or reality. And I think it’s already having an effect.

Musa Okwonga has blogged about how Corbyn is changing the agenda , even a few days in. His focus is the Times editorial criticising Saudi and Bahrain. About time, you would say. But this uncomfortable but necessary relationship has long been a part of British realpolitik, an idea so settled as to be unquestionable. Until…

“It is remarkable to see The Times so strongly criticise a key British ally. Perhaps there are several of those in the British Government itself who have long since secretly tired of their relationship with Saudi Arabia. But it looks like it is Corbyn who has been the catalyst for the expression of louder discontent.” – Musa Okwonga

I don’t think Corbyn can change everything. But I voted in hope, despite all the cynical voices that keep saying that it’s silly to, we should just accept things as they are because that’s how things are now. The cynicism that we’re all being told to usher back into is a comfort blanket, a bit like when you have a bad breakup so you write off all men, while secretly hoping one good man will battle through your defences to prove that yes! good ones do exist! We’re told time and again that hope is the foolish thing, the easy thing. But, if you’re not working to change things, then what’s the point? There’s too much at stake not to try.

I voted Corbyn because, what the hell. Let’s give it a whirl.

Ben Okri’s new poem (allegedly about Corbyn) puts it best:

A New Dream of Politics.

They say there is only one way for politics.
That it looks with hard eyes at the hard world
And shapes it with a ruler’s edge,
Measuring what is possible against
Acclaim, support, and votes.

They say there is only one way to dream
For the people, to give them not what they need
But food for their fears.
We measure the deeds of politicians
By their time in power.

But in ancient times they had another way.
They measured greatness by the gold
Of contentment, by the enduring arts,
The laughter at the hearths,
The length of silence when the bards
Told of what was done by those who
Had the courage to make their lands
Happy, away from war, spreading justice
And fostering health,
The most precious of the arts
Of governance.

But we live in times that have lost
This tough art of dreaming
The best for its people,
Or so we are told by cynics
And doomsayers who see the end
Of time in blood-red moons.

Always when least expected an unexpected
Figure rises when dreams here have
Become like ashes. But when the light
Is woken in our hearts after the long
Sleep, they wonder if it is a fable.

Of our better natures?
Can we still wish and will
For poverty’s death and a newer way
To undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth
Of the Middle East, and prosperity
In Africa as the true way
To end the feared tide of immigration?

We dream of a new politics
That will renew the world
Under their weary suspicious gaze.
There’s always a new way,
A better way that’s not been tried before.

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Democracy and Wimmin

Ladies, ladies. What are (some of us) doing?

As poll after poll points towards a Corbyn Labour leadership, I’m sceptical that he’ll win.

Sceptical because I remember the General Election polling. (Er. Wrong)

Sceptical because most people play their cards close to their chest. I bet there are a lot of bored, but fairly reliable Burnham or Cooper supporters who will toe the….sorry, I drifted off there.

Sceptical because most people in Britain at the moment are afraid and there are many different Establishment forces (the Mail, Tory HQ, come to think of it Labour HQ, Murdoch) working rather hard to keep them that way.

Sceptical because in addition to the aforementioned fear, Britain is not Spain. Corbyn is not Podemos. And Brits are nowhere near as angry as they should be.

And a bit like a really crappy Captain Planet, when these forces combine…people stick with what they know.

But nevetheless….Corbyn has reminded everyone that people are crying out for someone who stands for something. And probably for some of his policies too. I’m not convinced that he’ll win. And if he did, I’m pretty sure that he’d compromise on some things, but I feel like his heart is in the right place.

And apparently a lot of other women (who are most likely to be affected by cuts in some way) feel the same.

WIMMIN. You give them the vote and the next minute they’re BREAKING DEMOCRACY, RUINING LABOUR FOREVER and ensuring that LABOUR WILL NEVER WIN AGAIN. EVER.*

*So we’re told. Let’s see.

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Whisper It: He’s right

So. Tucked away (sorry, Guardian) in the Guardian Economics pages, the news that Corbyn is right on Labour’s record and the economic crash.

“Corbyn is the only candidate sticking to the line that the banks were to blame and he is reaping the benefit. Not least because he is absolutely right.”

What’s saddening is that this is almost a quirky footnote. Despite the data, despite the analysis (which will always have its detractors) the fact is that Labour’s grandees are too busy trying to fit into the Tory frames of reference to try and reframe the debate and rescue their legacy. Instead, the truth is seen almost like a little side hobby by a far left loon. (the media caricature of Corbyn, not necessarily my own opinion.)

Still, Labour persists that we must allow them to win. Winning is all that matters (see: Kendall). But, why? If you’ll bend with the lies and disown even your own legacy, why should you get a turn at the wheel?

Those who accuse Corbynites of denying reality are engaged in their own self-delusions. Britain hasn’t moved left with the recession, they say, opposition to austerity isn’t self-evident. But their stump for the mandate to win seems to rest entirely on the premise that Tories are automatically Really Very Bad. Clearly, that’s not self-evident either.


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Sex Biscuits

Two things make me growl at my TV/radio/computer screen: when politicians witter endlessly about “hardworking families” (reinforcing an idealised community unit and the myth that only the lazy/feckless suffer hardship) and the ridiculous level of female political commentary.

I know that there are brilliant female political analysts out there; sadly the media seems to think women’s opinions begin and end with Mumsnet. They are a constituency that deserve to be heard, but everything seems to boil down to the infernal biscuit test (that Gordon Brown inexplicably “failed”) and whether a candidate (male) has sex appeal. It wouldn’t be so bad if this was one of many strands of commentary. But no, it’s magnified by the chattering classes and becomes the one of the barometers for how electable someone is.

It’s ridiculous and frustrating, though it’s interesting that Corbyn seems to have a weird sort of popularity. To be fair, Miliband did too, apparently. Which shows how useless this all is.

I like Corbyn. The apocalyptic New Labour/general commentary around him is interesting, especially as someone like Nigel Farage, a right-wing radical who is largely preposterous, is treated with a level of deference and the bellweather of popular opinion. If Corbyn is radical (and I’m not sure he’s as radical as they all make out) why is he the dangerous one? For wanting no tuition fees? For questioning the welfare cap? (sidenote: I’m following the Catholic critique of and argument with Iain Duncan Smith over his welfare vandalism policies with great interest).

At least Corbyn stands for something. Unlike so many who think that they need to cowtow to the minority who voted in the Tories in order to win again. Win for what, guys? There is a sense of entitlement there, as if Labour is due another go at the wheel to manage UK plc. There is no vision of what they’ll do when they actually get there. And Sunny Hundal, in his article on this, misses one crucial point. He posits that Corbyn’s way is a losing one because voters rejected it last time round. They didn’t. Ed Miliband had a couple of solid policies, but Labour’s messaging was safe, even cowardly. It was mean and small, echoing the Tory frames of reference. And why would you vote for Tory-lite when you could have the real thing?

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