Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
I learnt something new from the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn. I’m a sore loser and I find it hard to accept I’m wrong. I’m stubborn and quite an idiot sometimes. But on this occasion, I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
I started campaigning for Corbyn, volunteering and so on about a day after he declared he was running. I’d have started earlier, but I wanted to do some research first. I wanted to know the man I was backing.
To begin with, I was hopeful. Pessimistic of our chances, but hopeful that through sheer belief, we could get on the ballot. It went right down to the last and I tell you what, it was a close run thing. But we made it on and then the real stuff started.
We campaigned and we campaigned and we fought hard. I’ve made some fantastic friends across the Labour movement, many of them supporting different camps.
In the beginning of those debates, like many others in the Corbyn supporters camp, I called the other 3 candidates Tories. Oh I saw that statement Jeremy put out, about respecting each other. But like many, I rationalized it as, well they’re going to sling mud, best to make sure we get ours in too.
I realized that was wrong. It wasn’t some great awakening, it was a gradual thing. The first time I felt disquiet is the first of what became many, of insults towards us from the PLP and former Labour grandees. I didn’t like being told I was a petulant child, I didn’t like being told I needed a heart transplant. So how would supporters of Liz, supporters of Yvette and supporters of Andy feel being told they were supporting a Tory?
They wouldn’t like it. In fact, to a lot of people in these campaigns, there are few worse things to be called. So I cleaned up my act, apologized where I could and started telling fellow members and supporters off whenever I saw it. We are afterall, a broad church with a plethora of views.
Despite what every poll said, despite what everyone was whispering, until that announcement was made I didn’t truly believe we’d done it. I didn’t want to jinx it and boy did it feel good.
That’s what I learnt, a campaign of hope, not fear, of positivity, not insults, of policy, not people can inspire people to a better way.
But now that’s under threat, in many areas of the party, too many people haven’t realized that the election is over. Corbyn won. It’s over. The argument now isn’t Corbynites vs the rest. It’s Labour vs the Conservatives. And as the Scottish nationalists seem to have learned (well some of them), slinging insults isn’t going to help them persuade people to their views.
We need to stop using Tory as an insult, not too long ago, a Labour member told me a story about how his mother, an elderly lady, who voted Tory at the last election, was left absolutely distraught by the language of Len McCluskey. Now at various times, I’ve felt quite angry at people who voted Conservative, especially working class voters.
Do they not see? I raged, do they not see the suffering they’ve caused,? Do they not see the terrible cost of the Conservative’s policies? Do they not have a heart? A conscience?
I’ll admit, that anger felt good, it made me feel morally superior. But then, have they really seen? Or did they vote for the Conservatives because we, Labour, didn’t offer a good enough of an alternative?
What I learned from Jeremy is that we have to be better, we have to show people what we can do, we have to earn their vote, win a positive vote from them. Not simply sling enough mud until we are the least filthiest option.
Too often have we relied on the argument that if you vote for another party, you give a vote for the Tories and not often enough have we relied on the argument that our policies are better here and here, we can do this for you that no other party can. We can truly make this country better for you. For those around you and for your children. We haven’t used that language for some time.
Now this past week has been one of polarizing points. I realized the moment I joined the Corbyn campaign what we were in for. I knew that the gloves would come off from our press. After all, despite, Corbyn being avowedly centrist or centre centre left, he is, because of our current rightward path, perceived as so far left he calls Mao and Lenin neighbors.
Whether that’s true or not, we’ve had a pummeling. From the get go, near on every paper has had it in for us, on the assault, not only distorting statements or uttering them out context, but straight out lying. Take for example our economic policy. Now I won’t bore you with economics, but Corbynomics as its called, is avowedly mainstream. Part of it is ripped straight from what the Germans are doing and have done for decades and the rest of it is inspired by Keynesian theory, that’d be Lord John Maynard Keynes who’s ideas lifted the US and the UK out of the Great Depression and rebuilt this country after the war.
From the Tories attempting to make mischief with that misguided threat to security claim (one that has backfired horribly) to all manner of innuendo and so on it’s been a very difficult week. It has not been helped by members of our party attacking each other. It’s not just one side either, it’s all sides. It’s a very good thing that more and more people are participating in the Labour movement, we have in the past week signed up more members then there are in the entire Liberal Democrat party. But at the same time, an enthusiastic party is not enough, it requires an informed party. We’ve seen members of Parliament subject to abuse for not being present at a vote because they’ve had chemotherapy. Now this very well may be an isolated incident, but all it would have taken would a two second Google search, or even just an email to the MP’s office to ask why, they were not there.
On the other hand, we’ve seen members of Parliament such as the honourable member for Rochdale frequently briefing against his own party, not out of principle, but simply because he can cause trouble, going so far as to flirt with UKIP. This has resulted in attempt by some to deselect him. Whatever his actions and wrong as he may be, airing all this dirty laundry in public does not do us any favours. Especially when we are under attack from the outside too.
It’s time we put aside our differences and seek to resolve our perspectives and ideas with reasoned dialogue and calm language, dissenting, frequently but never attempting to smear or attack through the press.
We’ve also seen something else emerge over this week. I’m sure everyone has seen the story and joined in, my personal favourite for the affairs name being the ‘Bae of Pigs.’
Now I’ve had a laugh with friends and we’ll probably continue laughing about it as more and more people make some hilarious jokes and the like.
But what we should remember is that these allegations are not fact and it has no bearing on the Prime Minister. I’ve always said that what a Politician gets up to in their private life is of no bearing so long as he is present, ready and able to do their job when called upon, so long as they’re not for example, smoking cannabis and pushing a law to enforce harsher punishment on cannabis users. Or frequenting prostitutes and enforcing harsher punishment on people engaging in the services of a prostitute.
It’s a strange thing for me to defend David Cameron after all I’ve said about him, but this unproven allegation at the heart of the pig story is of no relevance to his ability to do the job and we should focus on things that are.
To many, the other set of allegations on that infamous front page are the ones that slipped notice, but they are the truly damaging ones and the ones we should be focusing on. Lord Ashcroft claims, that the Prime Minister was aware of his non-dom (non-domicile) status before the election and that he lied to the British public when questioned about it.
There is also the question of the promised position and why and how it was obtained (the promise that is).
The Prime Minister has got many things wrong, he said, in the lead up to the election, that we judge him on his record. And on that record he performs poorly. So if we must call for him to resign, call for him to resign based on those reasons. Call for him to resign to resign because of his repeated failures at tackling the housing crisis, of the food banks or ATOS. Call for him to resign for despicably using the tragic death of his son Ivan to deflect questions on the NHS and the treatment of the disabled by the DWP. But don’t call on him to resign because of something he may or may not have done when he was a young man, not in the public eye and not running for office, nor holding one.
But there is another way. Lets not call on him to resign at all. Lets challenge the Conservative party’s falsehood and obfuscations when they arise, let us instead engage in a new kind of politics, where we don’t bother with that rubbish in the context of an election (at the end of a day, it’s still good for a laugh). Lets instead make a real pitch about why we’re better, because of what we hope to do, what we can do and the ideas we have about making this society a better place.
I’m a politics buff, as many of my friends and acquaintances can probably wearily attest to. So this stuff is interesting to me, but to many it is not. To nearly 40% of this country, politics just isn’t bothering with. That is a damning statistic for a democracy.
Democracies demand a well informed and active electorate to function, because the more of us that are active about the actions our government take, the less chance there is for government’s to sneak through measures which nobody voted for, that are against our interests.
Isn’t it telling that the most frequent comment and probably most applauded comment about politicians is that they’re all the same. No matter what tie they wear, or what party they claim to represent, they’re all the same.
It doesn’t matter that its not fair to the large number of excellent MP’s we have who do great work, what matters is that our people are losing faith in politics.
It’s why a positive new way of politics is not only vital, but we must also reclaim that ancient tradition of people joining politics for the public good. We must create a spirit, an atmosphere were people join the political process for the public good, and a career in public service is not derided as something bad, but is seen as something to celebrate, giving up ones time, ones ability and even ones opportunity to make a lot of money, for the public good, so that we all can share in the prosperity that we seek to make.
That’s the politics I’ve subscribed to under Jeremy Corbyn, it may be naïve, it may be doomed to failure. But I’d rather try and fail, then fail to try. Because if we give up our hope in something better, in a better tomorrow for all of us, what’s the point of it all?
Lets try this again and lets try out this radical idea, that good principled policies can win an election.