The Return of Gorgeous George: What Can It Mean?
He never went away of course, but for all the good and bad things that can and will be said about GG, he is back in Parliament where so much of his career and reputation has been built.
No one can deny his landslide victory is a monumental personal achievement as well as for his team and for traditional “stump” politics over the massive machines of the big modern parties.
It is a proper monkey wrench in the steamrollers, especially Labour’s.
First thought: Add Green and Respect representation (for the first time) to the recent election of a charismatic overt left winger (Leanne Wood) to lead Plaid Cymru: There are now at least 3 parties in Westminster with an agenda markedly to the left of Labour. Each may be modest in scale, but with more reason for optimism than not. Along with perhaps SNP and some Northern Ireland members these MPs could, I hope will, co operate in tabling motions and steering agendas which serve the vast majority of citizens, rather than of a mainstream agenda dominated by whims and discredited orthodoxies of global finance fraud and corporate psychopathy.
While lacking a large number of MPs, these 3 parties represent well rooted and diverse traditions that are more broadly backed than that number alone would suggest. They could create a solid, qualified sense of genuine counter to the idea that Labour is somehow the only possible alternative to tory politics which, in practice, Labour too broadly concur with in any case. The coalition may have broken the 2 party narrative, but not without making people just resent the 3rd party as much. Could this be the start of a post 3 party narrative for England, enjoyed in Wales and Scotland for decades? If so, then celebrate that the far right didn’t get there first.
2nd (linked) thought.
Labour being soundly beating from a distinctly left direction would be big enough news any time, as it was when Galloway first did so. But for it to happen in opposition ups things a good couple of notches.
To what extent can they continue to lecture and emotionally blackmail those who oppose the tories that they “have no choice” but to back Labour? Will they keep sneering “my parties bigger than yours, your idea’s rubbish – it’ll never work” like an 8 year old in the school yard at any non tory agenda that isn’t their own specific brand of tory lite? “Only we can beat the tories as things are” they say. And who kept things as they are, refusing to change the voting system in 13 years? For what purpose?
It is as good a time as any to evaluate their position in the context of “the left”. For some time I’ve contended that Labour are more likely to be kept vaguely left facing via outside pressure from that direction than by the “change from within” still chanted, even believed, by so many. Some of these many are called “comrade” still. They sustain loyalty after 13 years of government that so often saw them patronised, ignored, insulted, even demonised – at least till some donkey work needed doing.
To so groundlessly hope that their failed mantra will unfail sometime over the next 2 to 3 election cycles would massively risk handing that time over to the same forces that place and keep us where we are now – under the cosh, screwing and blaming the vulnerable to hopelessly try and pay for the biggest rip off in history.
After generations of slog, sacrifice, struggle and technological advancement, people are expected to be thankful they can toil hours in maintaining what is often little better than serf status. All this while a faceless, unelected, unaccountable system of finance capital continues to suck all aspects of perceived material wealth upwards despite their massive failings, lies and crimes.
Are we really no better than that as a species, as a people?
Social mobility went down under Labour, divisions increased. As with banking fraud, subsequent bailouts, quantitative easing etc. it just doesn’t add up. People know it instinctively if they don’t know it intellectually. They may well not express it in such terms, but large numbers correctly hold Labour responsible for a right wing mess which they often incorrectly attribute to Labour having been “left wing”.
That anyone says Labour did cause the mess by being too left wing is testament to the systemic right wing bias of mainstream information sources.
Labour were using a good line a while back, which they should refer back to, that the economy didn’t tank as a result of too many hospitals and schools got built. It’s still a shame they pretend a Labour government really built them. It was of course the work of PFI firm, who often ripped off us and our children by running rings round civil servants in the drawing up of contracts (mention should also got to Labour, who helped the corpos along by allowing projected “public sector comparator” stats to be rigged to make contracts look like better value). Guile probably didn’t triumph so much over careless gullibility again till the tories stitched the Libdems up on the terms of the Electoral Reform referendum.
4 and 5 general elections from now we will still be paying massively over the odds; people will be saying “we are pouring all this money into schools and hospitals – where is it going?” Here’s where: To an offshore based corporation with countless such contracts, purchased and re financed for purposes of speculation, and with no special stake in the how any particular one might function in a community (a function which in former days was subject to a lot more of what is still sometimes referred to as “democratic accountability”) .
After the important interests have taken their cut, perhaps a bit more than half of it will go directly in to such leftie concerns as paying teachers or nurses. But it won’t look like any kind of value, because it won’t be.
Capitalism successfully blaming a misnomer of “socialism” for it’s own failings – a theme of our times (most solidly dating back to the rise of Clinton and “triangulation”)
Chomsky has a great explanation for the question, often asked by leftists, of why the post WW2 USSR was seen as unquestionably “socialist” while a lot of aspects of life there were stark contradictions of many highly valued socialist principles.
To paraphrase, he describes it as a lie told from 2 different angles for 2 very different reasons. I dare say how conscious or not these “lies” were is not as important as the outcome – their easily blending into a perceived truth: The US called it socialism to discredit socialism. The Soviet governments called it “socialism” to lend the name of a widely held and loved philosophy to whatever it was they were doing.
Likewise, the myth of Labour as substantially “left wing” (for clarity, I am referring overwhelmingly to economic policy here rather than social policy) is propped up from within the party as much by outsiders further to the right. Too often Labour folk project, even wallow in what is basically sanctimony. This is self accorded via virtue of left sentiment, often heavily laden with nostalgia. It would be unfair to say that such people would inherently lack genuine left aspirations, but we all know such aspirations are not nearly matched by the general reality. If a message of “Labour are left wing” is erroneously broadcast from within and without, we can’t really blame onlookers if they believe it. My economic politics are probably what would be called old style social democrat. In modern parlance I am a hard leftist. Such sources that describe Labour as economically “left wing”, as the BBC routinely does, are objectively inaccurate. I learned enough to discern that in about 2 lessons of A Level Economics over 20 years ago.
With regards to the crisis that blew up in 2008, some will say Labour didn’t cause the mess at all, it was a global mess. But it was a global mess centred massively on The City of London – as courted and assuaged by Labour going back to the days of John Smith and the “Prawn Cocktail Offensive”. “Not us guv” from a party who were up to their necks in it. Not only did they “not see it coming” they told us that “no one saw it coming” when plenty of people did, from all over the spectrum.
This kind of blatant denialism, hardly unique to Labour, but deeply insulting to the intelligence in way they should know better than to invoke, is another sad recurring theme. Then to top it off they ran around saying that giving many scores of billions of pounds to massive failed banks, virtually carte blanche, was “socialist”.
Some will say Labour haven’t been socialist in many generations, and there are countless perspectives on the whys and wherefores.
For me it wasn’t even war crimes or PFI that finally confirmed there was no way back – it was the failure to get enough people to back any opponent to Brown being elected leader. This didn’t just highlight the parlous state of the Labour left, but of the naivety, complacency, arrogance and very poor political judgement of the whole party. They should really have put someone, anyone, up just for the sake of appearances. How on earth didn’t they see that? Brown’s campaign team should have tacitly encouraged it if necessary.
Anyway, lots of water has gone under the bridge and they are where they are now. And they should be cautious of pointing the finger too much at Blue Ed for this defeat and any concurrent sense of malaise.
He has disappointed in some ways, but he really is far more a symptom of the problem than the cause.
I concede that, though there are far less politically and personally palatable people than him in the party, it is fair comment that he doesn’t exude the impression of being a “winner”. Anti authoritarians like me wouldn’t judge on that basis or want it to matter much generally, we might well consider it a plus in fact.
But most voters at least seem to respond to that kind of thing, so it does matter.
Who else is there who isn’t too much of an unknown quantity (thereby too risky at this stage of a parliament unless almost conceding the next election)? Ed Balls comes across as a bully linked heavily to the Brown years: Nope. His wife Yvette Cooper would probably be better idea but still too “maybe” and generally “unknown”.
Most others, male and female, are at least moderately complicit in the balls ups of the past but lacking intelligence or ethics to see it or, at best, lacking the humility to publicly say it beyond remit of standard cliché “we really have to back to listening to REAL people” – as if they had somehow been only listening to holograms or something.
For all his faults, the predominate vibe from alternatives to Miliband have a bland middle ranking management vibe that won’t stand up much against Cameron’s confidence.
Two possible exceptions: I always though Harriet Harman should have gone for the leadership, and she would be a good “safe pair of hands” if the knives did actually plunge. This could be to try and do what Michael Howard, to his credit, managed in the end, but she is far obviously far more palatable. Anyhow, it’s too late for any transitional role to be fulfilled prior to the next election.
David Miliband? Not the miracle some may hope for if you ask me, and way too right wing for my liking. But I suppose he could be worth a punt, and I wasn’t saying that a month ago.
Still “If it were done…then ‘twere well it were done quickly” as it is put in a Scottish Play. Past record shows there is more chance of sitting on their hands, even the tories are more internally rebellious (yikes!). And I reckon a full cost benefit / analysis of a leadership election fails to come out enough in favour of justifying the fuss.
And in any case, being honest: 1 term governments are very rare in this country, and Labour doesn’t look set to buck the trend. Things could fluke out their way, but they don’t have an obvious strategy beyond “lets just hope the tories end up hated enough”
The nation needs more to hope on in the next 8 years than such vapidity.
About the Conservatives: We spend so much time saying why they and their plans are awful. But anti tories should have the objectivity to recognise a big problem for the cause: Regardless of politics, Cameron gives off an air of doing the functions of a PM passably well, if not better. It is too early to say how the latest corruption scandal plays out for him personally, but he could well evade the worst for a variety of reasons.
His ease of manner is partially informed by his aristocratic “born to rule” roots, which he plays down just enough to make quite a lot of people forget. He also far from the most right wing or offensive in his party, he isn’t even the most obnoxious – though that is a trait growing with time.
The lack of relative extremity might also be related to blueblood. In all aspects of practice he is clearly a straight-bat functionary for the global hegemony of fraud, corruption, death and eco destruction. Culturally however he seems to want to tip the hat to older “One Nation” Conservatism – not as much as I expected, but more than most of his colleagues. The only high profile tory keeping it on substantial life support is Ken Clarke, though there is now crossover with aspects of the LDs since their rightward economic drift.
Some years ago Portillo made the simple observation that “the right had won the economic arguments; the left had won the social arguments”. There’s a great deal of truth in that, but such a shame that a more disaster prone economic case that won out.
Anyway, that’s nearly enough about “Bumface” & Co for now: Suffice to say that no matter how much you hate him or them, he seems for now to be more of an asset than a negative for the party. Indeed, the other senior tories seem a generally unlikeable and / or mediocre bunch, even more so than their Labour shadows. Compared to them Cameron is probably worth quite a few % points, even several. He could yet constitute a minor charisma miracle so many years after, as a relative unknown, he held his party and much of the nation in awe at his ability to speak with a degree of animation and without notes. It was hailed as groundbreaking. Do you remember?
Sorry tory haters, but it gets a bit worse. Because Cameron’s ability to project certain amounts of competence, confidence, and even likeability (yes really, if you ain’t familiar with tories culturally I won’t expect you to understand) there is uglier truth still, too rarely addressed: “To thine ownself be true” – which of the 3 largest parties is substantially ahead in acting out their natural brand and following The Bard’s instruction? It’s sadly not hard to answer is it? This will resonate subconsciously and count for quite a lot in the swing demographic. They might not like it, but they at least feel more confident they know what they are getting.
Any severe degree to which the public are confused about what Labour or Libdems really stand for, any sense of severe letdown amidst core support – these are things that just can’t be pinned on the Conservative Party.
Anyway, back to Labour: It is truly not in Miliband leadership that the Labour rot lies. It is in more to be found in the delusion and spinelessness of too many of the rank and file who really should know better.
We all know people who will roll their eyes or even imply you “get over it” at mere mention of war crimes or general right-winery. Like, that was 10 years ago for pity’s sake. Then maybe, a few minutes later, try an allusion to the foul deeds of Thatch. A serious froth could start to work up couldn’t it? But hang on…that was 30 years ago, and 30 is a somewhat bigger number than 10 isn’t it?
There is a big scandal in Ireland at the moment. Without getting into much detail, Bertie Ahern (Former premier and leader of Fianna Fail), was criticised by an inquiry for not being truthful about some financial transactions back in the day (we are talking property developer / planning corruption here – the specifics of which remain unverified and untried)
The report came out last Thursday (18th March). Before the weekend it looked pretty likely Bertie could be hoofed out the party. Before Sundays papers were in the recycling bin he was set to jump before he was pushed. Note that the Republic has not often been a beacon of accountable, above board government.
Now think of the Labour Party. Think of how much effort there has been to eject famous war criminal, now JP Morgan bankster apparatchik, Mr Tony Blair from the ranks. Or just hold him to any kind of internal account or questioning at all. There hasn’t even been talk of it.
Such curious and self defeating cowardice is further shown when adding up the amount of apparent internal debate along such lines as “If we are so progressive, ‘left wing’ even, why on earth did we so easily go along with all ‘PFI or bust’, ‘light touch regulation’ nonsense? Why did we go around thinking it was a good idea to try and eye-scan and fingerprint every citizen and have them monitored like sex offenders via a vastly expensive ID card and database, patronising opponents of the scheme who actually knew a lot more about it than we did? And that damned war thing again, leaving aside the abject lies and stuff: What about the total lack of forethought in planning for the post Saddam phase? Could it be that such gross negligence and consequences curiously found echoes closer to home?
I have my ideas on those questions, but those of Labour activists matter far more.
It’s always too late to change the past, but Labour have yet to properly face it at all.
Dropping the ball is one thing. It happens. In 13 years it can happen badly and a lot of times. But you still have to give proper attention to the replays if you are going to improve. If Labour readers want to evidence to me that this has happened in a meaningful way, beyond the possibly that it fed in a small way to the election of Ed Miliband as leader, I would be sincerely grateful to hear it.
Again, Labour activists should scrutinise themselves, those around them and above them before quickly doing the easy thing and blaming the front man.
In fact, I sense Ed Miliband has a better insight on all this than many who surround him, and preference for at least trying to deal with it. His impressive first Leader’s Speech at conference was replete with of allusions to this kind of thing, as was a lot of his talk in the first few months. I have no doubt this was self devised and well meant. But it is the nature of things that since then he will have become preoccupied with regular day to day opposition business, directed by a core of bland wonkery – the exact kind of politics and strategies (often an almost strategised lack of real politics) that have been thankfully now kicked in the teeth by thousands of ordinary people inBradford.
How ironic that a man elected on a modest hope of clearing the air might now be victimised as a result of being held back from doing so. Or that while he may face increased criticism and plots the best thing could be to robustly him in standing up for his own values, against the more faceless influences in the party who have been the far bigger menace in recent years.
Beyond even Labour and Conservative, the Bradford result is clear testament to the disdain in which people now hold all long standing establishment parties. Such a pattern has been there a while, notably displayed in the 2009 Euro elections and the rise in opinion poll “others” from 2 or 3% a generation back to generally round 12% or even more now. But this is the biggest signal of such rejection under this new government.
The Tories are trying to obscure having been caught red handed in massive anti democratic corruption. The immediate fuss has died down too quickly, but it is the first major tainting of Cameron’s tenure and that will stick. Labour is under performing. It’s no secret that The Libdems have their own large problems and generally poor ratings. Despite massive mistakes and problems I happen not to think the situation for them need be as bleak as many suppose, but that is for another story and better projections are dependent on collective imagination and courage I dare say they lack. Like Labour before them, too many seem likely to drift along with a whole load of stuff they dislike strongly because they think they have to, just in order to cling on to some form of illusory or actual modest power.
The dogs in the street know the game is up. The sands are shifting. Are we really going to stagger through 3 more years of this only to risk a possible 5 more of pure tory rule?
The voters of Bradford don’t seem to think their fate is any longer a matter for the Torys, Labour or Libdems to be trusted on. Those parties all seem to be saying this was an election highly influenced by the national picture – we know where the logic of those 2 facts leads and who would seriously bother to deny that conclusion?
The sorry tale of the “No” vote on electoral reform last year has put that issue off the table for the foreseeable. We know the parameters, and the evidence is in for those who didn’t already know : Most votes don’t count. Even those that do nearly always count for failed establishment phooey.
A very limited choice for “X” in a box every 4 or 5 years isn’t and shouldn’t be where it’s principally at, no matter how interesting or distracting the chat and banter along the way. Even with a fair wind for the likes of The Green Party and Respect, all but a relative handful of voters, in England at least, will have no choice but to be “represented” by parties and a system that have more or less run into the ground on a semi permanent basis.
Thus we must look far more to ourselves. And why should we not have such faith to grow and succeed, criticising and changing our own behaviour if we are found wanting, building human support for one another and resistance to austerity and oppression in our communities. We can increasingly look to new shapes and ideas that organically arise from such action. Such ideas that are now even reaching the fringes of parliament. And we might even dare once more to look to some parliamentarians for creative, practical and ethical ways out of our very obvious malaises.