There is a problem with criticising people for failing to say what they mean in a straightforward way. It arises when you do exactly the same thing.
Frankie Boyle’s critique of the Labour leader candidates in The Guardian is very amusing but falls prey to exactly this problem. He makes several good points, but they’re a long way down the page. Why? So people will lose interest and stop reading before they get to them? Let’s pull them out and give them a proper airing.
Political parties are meant to have guiding principles. Frankie mentions this way down in the fifth paragraph, after revealing: “We’re told that they are responding to the concerns of voters. Labour keeps saying: ‘We’re concerned about immigration because that’s what people say on the doorstep’,” which is guaranteed to stimulate yawns as we’ve all heard it many times before.
Labour did have guiding principles once. They were intended to improve prosperity for everybody in the UK by raising the people who did the work out of the poverty that the leisure class (the people who profit from unearned wealth) force them to endure. So Labour used to stand for cheap accommodation, cheap – but nutritious – food, affordable utilities (gas, electricity, water), nationalised healthcare, a living wage, good government – all the things that helped Jeremy Corbyn score so highly in Newsnight‘s televised hustings a few nights ago.
Ah, but Corbyn, despite being lauded as “one of the few decent politicians remaining in the Labour Party”, is talked down as a candidate who caused “the left of the party to get quite excited that it is still allowed to lose”. He’s saying all the right things, Frankie. People are connecting with him. Don’t write him off so blithely.
Can it really be easier to convert Tories than to reconnect with your own core support? Of course not, but Frankie hits on one of the largest elephants in Labour’s room. It’s just a shame he does it in his concluding paragraph. He reckons Burnham, Cooper and Kendall get their information on what voters want from what businesspeople say (they’re desperate to be pro-business without knowing what it means), polls (which Frankie rightly says can be misleading) and the media (which are, again, rightly labelled deliberately misleading). As a result, they end up campaigning on all the wrong issues and turn potential supporters away, rather than attracting them.
Why does being ‘pro-business’ have to mean being ‘anti-worker’? The three leading – actually they’re not leading anything at all in the eyes of the public; let’s call them ‘preferred’ – candidates seem determined to disappear up their own rear ends, trying to explain how they will support the kind of people who couldn’t care less about anything other than building their own wealth, even though this creates misery for the workers on whose efforts it is built. Frankie hits it on the head when he writes: “I’m reduced to imagining that ‘pro-business’ is simply a rhetorical code for ‘right-wing’, and that we are watching leadership contenders wonder aloud whether they are being right-wing enough.”
We end up with a leadership campaign aimed at a public who hate benefits, immigrants and shirkers. Benefits and shirkers are in fact the same issue, but Frankie is right to highlight it. Labour introduced the most punitive benefit-cancelling system in British history – Employment and Support Allowance – in 2008 and the party line is still to say that there’s nothing wrong with it in principle, even though its implementation has led to many thousands of deaths that the DWP has already admitted – and who knows how many that it is covering up (see Vox Political‘s many articles on the subject). The simple fact is that Labour is afraid of newspapers saying the party is soft on ‘shirker’ benefit claimants, and is instead forcing itself to persecute people who desperately need help, just to stay alive. That is a Tory Party attitude.
There is a very simple case to be made against austerity, but Labour doesn’t have the guts to make it. Jeremy Corbyn did.
Still, they must know that they are not going to win the next election. This is the most damning claim of all. A decade ago, the Conservative Party was finished, washed up; a joke. All Labour had to do was keep a steady hand on the tiller and the Nasty Party would have been banished to history.
But Labour couldn’t do that. It had been infiltrated by neoliberal might-as-well-be-Tories who pushed harmful policies including ESA and the failure to regulate the banks that eventually sucked the UK into the global financial crisis and allowed the Tories to create a myth that Labour had messed up the economy. If Labour is unlikely to win elections now, it is that party’s own fault for giving the Tories a chance – by being too much like the Tories themselves.
Now we have three ‘preferred’ leader candidates who want Labour to be different from the Conservative Party only in nuance.
Let’s vote for the one who wants Labour to be the Labour Party again.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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