I have to state a fact.
That is, most of my best friends are ‘left leaning’ and can’t bring themselves to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
This finding is not surprising, nor is it shocking. In the polls, however reliable they are, Labour is consistently massively behind the Conservatives. But we know that the polls cannot be telling absolutely the truth, in that they were deceptive about the 2015 general election and 2016 EU referendum. Ed Miliband MP in the last parliamentary term had a healthy poll lead, and then went on to lose the 2015 general election. And we all know about Donald Trump.
The problem is that, with the Labour Party brand (of the Labour Party led by Corbyn and McDonnell) having been so comprehensively rubbished, it is very hard for any of the Labour Party in parliament to go out and act as advocates for it. It turns out that many of the proposed policies in private polling have turned to be very popular. And yet the Labour Party in parliament have shot themselves in the foot. And, having declared war so publicly on the membership in the last leadership election, the Labour Party find themselves with ground troops who do not feel supported. The same footsoldiers get a sick taste in their mouth when they receive an email from Ian McNicol asking for money for the party, when they themselves have been denied a vote in the leadership election. Yes, the second one where Jeremy Corbyn won again.
It’s worth deconstructing the term ‘sneering liberal Élite’ for the moment. Just look at how a closet cabal of box office journalists from the Guardian reacted to an article from one of their own, Decca Aitkenhead, about Steve Hilton, psychedelic pant wearing guru of David Cameron in a former life. I agree that it was a well written article containing an abrupt ‘killer question’, in the same elegant way the kill was delivered by Sam Coates and Rachel Sylvester – the kill in question which put to bed Andrea Leadsom’s leadership chances. But one is left wondering what the point of the article was, apart from to belittle Steve Hilton in some way. I don’t suppose Steve Hilton with his lavish lifestyle particularly cares, though my advice to anyone “dishing out” group sneering is to never underestimate the problems people never talk about. Did it produce any valuable insights on how globalisation had brought about inequality, and that both were being rejected in a populist way despite purported advantages? Hell no.
The word ‘sneering’ is, in my opinion, very well deserved. Under the general uber defence of the declining print circulation figures, there has been easy attack that all political bloggers are illiterate and have no formal journalistic qualifications – and so they can be easily dismissed. They haven’t ‘done their trade’ working for Paul Dacre at the Mail or for Jason Cowley at the New Statesmen. I have to say, however, the tone is very much of “sneering”. Rather than engage with any of the ideas you write about, the general approach of the ‘mainstream media’ is generally to ignore political opinion from elsewhere. The definition of ‘sneer’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a contemptuous or mocking smile, remark, or tone argument, contemptuous in tone”; the sneer is that most people supporting Jeremy Corbyn don’t want a Labour government or are completely incompetent Momentum T-shirt wearing types. The term ‘liberal Élite’ is, of course, a contradiction in terms. The ethos of ‘live and let live’ is of course not alive and well amongst the majority of journalists who, quite frankly, want to crush Jeremy Corbyn and the current Labour Party. The Élite word though represents faithfully the authoritarianism twang of this type of liberalism – which saw Tony Blair convert NHS hospitals into debt laden PFI poodles of the private sector for years to come, or Gordon Brown to detain suspects without trial.
Unsurprisingly, I have now been blocked by many liberal left-leaning journalists, or Labour supporters. I have always voted Labour for all of my adult life, and this includes at every general election since 1992 after the nadir of disgust at years of Margaret Thatcher. I was, as it happens, living in London at the time. Since about 2010, I had been a paying member of the Fabian Society, but I relinquished my subscription last month. The stunt where one leaflet written by Andrew Harrop, meant to be a free-thinking, independent and not necessarily representative pamphlet, was plastered all over the media designed to be the Fabian Society criticising Jeremy Corbyn was the final straw. I can handle all the conspiracy theories about Bretton Woods, and ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, on the other hand.
I could have written a public letter to Andrew Harrop, like you see from failed Labour MPs to Jeremy Corbyn in the blogosphere, but quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered to write it, and he certainly could not have been bothered to read it. The Fabian Society for me was not the hotbed of egalitarian, democratic, intelligent debate it could have been, but a group of people where inadvertently the tone had been one of aggrandisement and self-entitlement. I didn’t want to be a member of a finishing school for entrants to the Labour Party, though good for people who have successfully followed that route.
Jeremy Corbyn is not the first person to have ideological problems with the European Union. Lord David Owen himself set out articulately the traditional arguments against the European Union ahead of the Brexit vote. Tony Benn’s views, often running in parallel with Enoch Powell’s, were well intended and clearly set out (for example, wanting to have the power to get rid of officials). There are, inevitably, problems if there are operational difficulties in activating state aid monies in an economy for a steel industry failing partly due to Chinese ‘dumping’ of steel in international markets. Hugh Gaitskell famously warned that to join the “Common Market” would mean the end of 1,000 years of history. The lack of ‘opposition’ to Theresa May is a collective failure of the majority of Labour MPs, and the ‘sneering Liberal Elite’ who are unable to articulate the arguments for building a better future for the UK. I think this vacuum in direction can be seen prior the formation of the Coalition government in 2010 where David Cameron became heir to Blair. It can be seen in the lack of substantial policy contributions from either the Fabian Society or Progress following the decline of Blair. And for all the talk of the toothless Corbyn opposition, I don’t need to remind you of the mass abstention on the welfare cuts, do I? Or the ‘jump? how high?’ response to the savagery and cruelty of the NHS ‘efficiency savings’?
The lack of intellectual drive within Labour means it’s become easy ‘copy’ to sneer at suboptimal local election results with a ‘told you so’, never mentioning the months of relentless rubbishing of the Labour Party brand. It means that well meaning tweeters can remind you of the meme why you should not vote Liberal Democrat, as they gave you Conservative policies in coalition. This completely ignores the fact that some Labour and non-UKIP oriented Conservative voters will want actively to vote Liberal Democrat to prop up a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition. It’s an open secret Tim Farron MP loathes the Corbyn arm of the Labour Party, and would like bosom up to followers of Tony Blair while being scathing of the Iraq War simultaneously.
Personally, I am finding the lack of support amongst some in the Labour Party totally demoralising. Whilst I support Jeremy Corbyn as leader, as indeed I have supported all leaders since 1992, I find it completely dispiriting how so many find themselves unable to offer constructive solutions on burning issues such as disability quality of life, social housing, the NHS, social care, the ‘gig economy’, tax avoidance, school and university education, cost of living, and so on. There are still millions of people who need a Labour government, and the sneering simply cannot go on. To attack people like me who support Jeremy Corbyn without being Corbynite will achieve nothing.