Read the following and then let’s have your views.
We don’t know what would have happened to the economy if Darling hadn’t stood the banks, but we do know what happened to politics because he did. Shadow chancellor George Osborne pegged the global financial crisis on Labour’s traditional profligacy –‘sooner or later,’ he said in November 2008, ‘Labour chancellors always run out of money’ – and Labour were turfed out, leaving the way clear for the ‘long term economic plan’, a programme that ruthlessly and unswervingly blamed this structural crisis of capitalism on public spending.
The cumulative effect has been one of blood-bringing violence, made all the more vicious for being built on a lie: Labour had broken the system with its naughty greed. And now Father was to bring the house back into order. No more biscuits or they’ll come to take away the telly. Never mind the epochal salaries and parachutes for banking executives. Never mind the eye-watering cash reserves of private companies sat untaxed in the middle of the ocean. No. Poor people broke the system; poor people should pay to fix it.
George Osborne was able to frame the Labour Party as a spendthrift housewife in need of a bit of firm paternalism precisely because Labour endorsed the image of the nation as a household, whose aim should be balancing the budget, quietly accepting its weekly allowance from the private sector to be cashed once all the red tape-dusting has been done. And in the run-up to the 2015 election we – Labour that is – did nothing to challenge that image. We quietly endorsed cuts – as well as quietly blaming immigration – and then stood back slack-jawed as the people made their feelings clear: if you’re telling me the choice is the devil’s cuts or yours, I’ll stick with what I know, thanks.
When Jeremy Corbyn squeaked onto the ballot paper in June 2015, it was thanks to nominations from MPs who felt there should be a ‘broader debate’. It was a measure of how the party really felt about democracy, about what a political party is for: MPs knew that what Corbyn represented had long been repressed, and they felt it was only right to let him out for a little turn about the pleasure gardens. But things had changed around them: Corbyn’s plain, untrained manner and his simple message of anti-austerity were playing rather well.
To people like me – born under Thatcher, politically activated by austerity – to hear someone say out loud that essential non-fungible goods like train travel and energy provision should be run by the state, with an accountable minister rather than layers of corporate governance, that is genuinely, actually, honestly, exciting.
‘Corbynism’ is a project of radical empowerment across all strata of society – and as such I think it could easily be taken outside the traditional left-right divides, looking to the new. Yes, renationalising key services brings them onto the public budget sheet, but it also brings them within the public purview, under the remit of a sackable public servant. Public power. Public pride. You could go so far as to call it patriotic.
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