sod it

If I were an MP, I’d be in the ‘making it work’ faction, being silent but face-palming almost constantly at The Labour Party.

Though, as a Twitter friend pointed out yesterday mid-my rant about feeling silenced, I have never been ‘silent.’

I think if there were ever an adjective my friends would use to describe me in one word, it’d be ‘outspoken’. I’ve been pretty loathed in a lot of circles, I’d imagine. A lot of my Twitter has probably been met with eye rolls. Particularly regarding one aspect; I have never been lowkey about my background. I use it (ahem, weaponize it) in arguments a lot, because my go-to motif has always been that the political is personal.

If someone wants to debate an abstraction about ‘Red Tories’ or ‘real Labour’, I’d happily use the story that I got into politics because, shortly after the 2010 election, my family was plunged into financial chaos. That I first cried about money when I was 15, overhearing a conversation that we could be repossessed.

I remember shortly after the election, the utter dismay of my teachers upon hearing that Building Schools For the Future was being scrapped. The school’s walls literally shook, morale of students there no less weak.

I remember the student riots, and the heartbroken working class kids discovering the £9000 price tag of ambition. EMA being scrapped. Now maintenance grants being snatched away too.

I remember the London riots just a few hundred metres from my house. A perfect metaphor.

I remember the sudden arrival of payday lenders and casinos on Walthamstow high street, preying on my family and my community, having fundraising lunches with Iain Duncan Smith. As he wielded his axe to welfare, it was they that benefited. I remember ‘Progress’ Stella Creasy MP worked so hard to sweep them away. It was Movement for Change and their campaign on that that was my first access point into politics. Concrete. Palpable. The very opposite of abstract.

You see, by far and away, the people that chuck about abstractions, reducing MPs and dissenters to dehumanized symbols of opposition, threatening deselection, accusing criticism of treachery, polls of deceit, on Twitter and across the cyberspace, they don’t have to worry about the real life repercussions. About difference.

Difference.

Give me a Blairite government over a Tory one any day. Call it ‘Red’ Tory, it’s still not bloody Tory.

Do you get what that word means? Do you have any idea the gravity of it? It’s not a benign abstraction you can add a prefix to. You have at the helm of government right now ideologically-driven Thatcherites who are dismantling welfare structures built by the last Labour government. Because they truly believe they are wrong. Iain Duncan Smith truly believes the poor have had it too easy for too long. He is on a crusade to alter their behaviour. Leaving a trail of poverty, 600,000 children deep. Blaming them for bad behaviour. Fucking think about that.

And you know I’m not a Blairite, right? Just thought I’d mention it. Not even in the slightest. I’m on the left of this party.

I remember amid the absolute heartbreak of the election defeat Chuka and Mandy sitting in that BBC studio talking about ‘aspirations’ as though it was a sole possession of the rich. I hated it. I hate that they try to claim the mantle of electability, that the working class are just an add-on in a coalition that has broken down and partially berthed UKIP and the SNP. Their arguments are outdated and they are dogmatic at sticking to their guns. Their solutions to Corbyn’s unpopularity -to oust him Game of Thrones style and replace him with a Kendallite figure- is bullshit, produces only self-inflicted wounds for their cause, and is equally based on dogma about ideology rather than the practical criticisms that can be leveled at Corbyn’s leadership style.
But then, the thing with dogma is that you avoid self-criticism. That’s been true of a lot of Blairites for bloody years, but it’s true of Corbynites too. Critics are taken as dangerous outsiders rather than constructive allies, so critical friends are made into the enemy within; which in this case is a ‘Blairite’ as dissenters to Blair’s modernisation project were called ‘dinosaurs’. There is no in-between. (And certainly no soft-left). You are with us, or against us.

But that doesn’t even matter. My views and my positions on the Labour spectrum are secondary. Because of what I’ve written above: this isn’t about abstract ideology, this is about class, and the concrete experiences of that. I am the very type of person you and the Corbynites committed to defending, to listening to, to representing. You claimed you were the only ones who were truly the heroes and saviours of the working class. You claimed you would be the voice of me.

And yet now look. A poll comes out showing the Tories with a 15% lead, with a 5% lead in the North. Labour heartlands, for goodness sake. And what’s the response from the Twittersphere? MPs dunnit’, also the working class are too entrenched in false consciousness to understand their self-interests. This isn’t The Ragged Trousered Philanphropists. These are the people you claim to represent most, and the minute they reject your representation, you snarl. You sneer. You dismiss it as ignorance. It is the exact opposite of the hug-a-hoody mood of the Summer Corbyn Camp; it’s pulled a bloody Cameron.

Critical people who want and need the Labour Party to do well are dismissed as agenda-driven and malicious if they do so much as sigh at this poll. I want the Labour Party under Corbyn to do well. I have no agenda. If I thought a Bennite Labour Party could succeed, I’d be out on the doorstep at its beck and call. I still will be, because I’m passionate for Labour and I, most importantly, need it to win. It’s supposed to represent my ilk. Which is why I find it odd that leftwing but anxious voices like mine are treated with contempt and suspicion the minute they raise a hand to question whether a 92-seat Tory majority is really a great offer from the Left to the working class.

And this criticism has been leveled because of the emergence of empirical evidence that the numerous gaffes and blunders and the completely unnecessary gesture politics of this leadership have translated into unpopularity. Easily avoided things. Foreign policy. Trident. Stop The War, MI5. Does anyone actually think these things matter to the people affected by cuts? How can you claim to represent the hardest-hit by going off on one about middle-class fringe issues? And they really are middle-class fringe issues. The poor do not spend their time discussing the evils of the West. How are you helping the likes of my mum by treating the British public like attendees to a Parliament Square rally? Most working class people are worried about wages and insecurity, not whether a terrorist is put on trial. Give it a god damn rest.

I was actually pretty hopeful about Corbyn’s leadership. Truly. While I didn’t agree that ‘strong, principled opposition’ was better than actually vying for power to practice principles, I expected it when he won. I’ve actually met Corbyn, he’s caring and decent, and passionate about working class issues. Economic issues. And I’d hoped that that would transpire in his leadership. A firmly anti-austerity leadership that chose that battle, that really important cause, as its call to arms. I really wanted it. One that would have hammered home about tax credits, no distractions, no Milnes. Something I think could win under the right conditions and the right discipline. What do we get? This. Distraction upon distraction upon distraction. Gesture upon gesture upon gesture.

Aren’t you bloody tired of saying ‘Look, the Tories are cutting X, so why are the media focusing on [insert Corbyn gaffe/gesture of the day]?’ Aren’t you exhausted? Aren’t you now angry that these distractions and easy ammo handouts are happening? You should be, because they don’t help the recipients of cuts.

Labour are at 27% in the polls. Because of shoot-to-kill. Shoot to bloody kill. A distraction. UKIP nipping at our heels, soaring on a high of disaffected working class communities in the likes of Oldham who care about flag and country, to the grimace of a lot of Leftist activists whose ideal image of the homogeneous working class has been smashed. So now, you turn on them instead of looking in and at yourselves.

Instead of self-critique, of questioning why the leadership has scored so many own goals and thus not provided the ultimate goal of ‘principled opposition’ that surely you are disappointed has yet to happen, of why you are not ashamed that the Tories have not been affected in the polls by tax credit cuts, you blame working class voters for either being brainwashed by Simon Danczuk’s latest article in a mid-market paper they likely don’t buy, or not changing to be more like you.

This is the most middle class the Labour Party has ever felt. It feels like the Green Party. And it’ll probably only represent university towns soon as well, unless you get a grip and listen to the bloody working class people that were the admiration of Corbyn’s leadership bid.

But, I don’t think you will. Because this isn’t really about palpable change for working class people, not really. This is about abstractions. The reality about working class people threatens your abstract concept of what is right for them, so you dehumanize the dissenting working classes like all your other opponents and reduce them to the abstraction of Red Tories.


 

 

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16 comments

  1. Steve

    Jade – it really is important that you don’t confuse carefully orchestrated media ambushes for Corbyn gaffes. When you do that you surrender to our opponents wholesale. Now please stow the wah wah wah stuff and get stuck in for the long fight comrade – see you in the trenches and don’t let us all down x

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  2. charlespwhitaker

    Not sure. Terrorist bombs are real enough, and so is the anxiety that you’re a target. Using the RAF in Syria – the most theatrical and probably least practical option for action on the table – is going to increase this risk. And it’s got to be right to want to prevent any recurrence of the De Menezes shooting, which was basically the outcome of putting pressure on the police to _stop suicide bombers at all costs_. I don’t think these are abstractions. But I get that the Labour leadership is being monstered on these issues, and that it needs to become a lot more agile, and a lot stronger on message discipline, to stop it happening again. I also think it’s time for the pro-Iraq part of the PLP – and there’s plenty of them – to accept that they got it wrong, and stop trying to take petty revenge on the people who were right.

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  3. Billo Qasira

    If UKIP map out a strategy of going ‘Red UKIP’ I could see them replacing Labour as the second largest party in England a generation from now. Remember when Peter Mandleson said, about the northern working class voters, ‘they have nowhere else to go’, well they do now.
    They feel betrayed by a Labour Party that cares more for political correctness, multiculturalism, and is part of a Left that is apologist for Islamists and extremists than them and their concerns about these issues. They instinctively feel Labour holds them in contempt. That they feel their values of benign patriotism, a desire not to see Britain overwhelmed by immigration, and love for country, derided by the Left and Labour. They begin to see that Labour sees them as contemptible, and so they shall leave Labour, and Labour will die. And because of how they were treated, why do you believe Labour does not deserve this fate?

    Liked by 1 person

    • simonfarrow59

      The problem with that though is UKIP’s tax policy would completely screw over the working poor their economic plan is thinner than a children’s story book. UKIP have two policies at best and even they are tied together. They also need to find some better people for their candidates in elections, half of them are racist, the other half are sexist and most of them are a mix of both. Labour has never been the working class party anyway, what it is though is the party that stands up for all the minorities and down trodden in this country, be it be, black, asian, immigrants, homosexual and the disabled.

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  4. amarettotredegar

    I’m old enough to have come to political awarness during the 1980s. I remember the glee with which the left elected Foot as leader. And I remember the long, desperate years of Kinnock putting the left back in the box.

    This is all deja view and horrible, but as a naturally left leaning person who is fortunate enough to have done reasonably well in the world I must admit that increasingly my attitude is tending towards the ‘well you voted for Corbyn so fuck you if your that stupid, it’s not going to impact me’;

    Blair was simply the best thing that ever happened to Labour, and Corbyn is a disaster. There is simply no way that the British electorate as a whole will ever vote a Corbynite Labour party into power. All that’s going to happen is the left will have to spend at least 10 years deluding themselves with tripe like ‘We lost because we were not left wing enough’ before the unions and the responsible members of the party find someone who will put the SWP-lite loosers back in the gutter where they belong.

    So after a lifetime of voting labour more often than not I’ll be back to voting Lib-Dem until the party comes to its senses. A lot of poor people are going to suffer along the way because of Corbyn, but unfortunatly the lesson will have to be learnt again, so realistically more suffering the better and sooner rather than later, because at least we might vanquish the trotsykites and their fellow travellers quicker and the long term damage will be less.

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  5. Dan

    I’ve read this through a couple of times and read the comments on Twitter, and I think – though passionately expressed – that it’s unhelpfully flailing at things that are quite complex and nuanced. (Although it is a self-confessed rant, so that might not be a reasonable criticism!)

    To take one obvious thing, the idea that being concerned about Britain’s position regarding air strikes in Syria is nothing more than gesture politics is hard to understand. Although it might be far away in a part of the world that can seem impossibly complicated and depressingly broken, our government’s decision not only has an impact on the poor people at the receiving end of the air strikes’ collateral consequences, but demonstrably impacts on the safety and economics of our country. Weighing those things up, trying to talk about them sensibly and calmly, and trying to make a decision that’s morally and pragmatically best in awful circumstances is something to respect, not object to, surely? You ask: “Does anyone actually think these things matter to the people affected by cuts?” I think the answer is undoubtably yes, when the effect of the decision comes home, as it always, always does. People may not or may not be interested in discussing it, but it’s trite to assert they don’t matter, and I don’t think the leadership can be blamed for having to respond to extraordinary circumstances (ones that have sadly also distracted everyone from domestic and economic issues).

    On the social security cuts, I just don’t understand your point. Prior to the current leadership, Labour was desparately and hopelessly triangulating a position (as on so many things) that was presumably intended to make it’s choices seem acceptable to large numbers of people who they supposed support the Conservative policy direction. I don’t think that’s Tory-lite or Red Tory, which is are meaningless, unhelpful phrases, but it was a reality, leading to actual voting instructions about actual laws. That situation has entirely changed since September. I agree that it hasn’t been well expressed at every step, and that’s a massive issue that needs to be sorted as pronto as possible and can’t entirely be blamed on the mainstream media, but the policy is fundamentally changed for the better, addressing precisely the type of opposition that you seem to be arguing and yearning for.

    Thanks for writing the piece, anyway. It’s obviously struck a chord with many people.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jude

    Brilliant Jade. Everything I’ve been thinking since I paid my £3 to vote. How sad that the party representing ‘the people’ needs to be educated in understanding their needs and preoccupations. What’s the solution?

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  7. am

    This is absolute bullshit, I was born on a council estate in a northern city and live on one now, having your home repossessed does not make you the voice of the working class and you will not speak for us. Many many working class people care as much about the fringe issues as they do about money and all of the fringe issues have side effects that hit the working class, war costs money, trident costs money and the MI5 cost money. When such huge amounts of money is spent who do you think foots the bill?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Peter

    I first worried about money when I was about 4 years old, I think. I heard my Dad yelling at my Mam that he would take me and my sister into the town centre to ‘fucking beg’. The next time, which can’t have been long afterwards, was when I was taken to a strange building, where my Dad had been summoned for non-payment of the T.V. license (they’d chosen to spend the money set aside on Xmas presents instead).

    This was mid-1980s north east England, at the height of Thatcherism. Both my parents were out of work, and we were stereotypically poor. National health glasses, free school meals, the idea of owning a car or going on holiday a pipe dream. We lived on a council estate – so never actually owned a home to be repossessed in the first place – and there were plenty of people in the same boat as us. Still are,

    Speaking for myself personally, I was unemployed for pretty much the whole of my 20s, and I have close family members who are still long term unemployed now.

    So now that i’ve established my proletarian authenticity, can I just say that I really like Corbyn?

    He’s proposing lots of things that will help the unemployed and the poor. First of all, opposing benefit cuts. A £10.00 an hour minimum wage. Investment in council housing. Higher and further education that is free at the point of access. Rent controls. Universal free child care. And so on.

    Secondly, issues like ‘Trident. Stop The War, MI5’ are not ‘fringe’, nor particularly middle class – it’s largely working class kids who get sent to fight and die in these wars, after all. And when you consider that wars and Trident renewal cost billions, and that those billions could be better spent on the social policies Corbyn is proposing, it’s important to oppose them. Never mind the deleterious effects the wars especially have on poor people beyond these shores (they matter as well, surely).

    I know there are other working-class people who feel just like me about Corbyn, and you don’t speak for all of us,

    Liked by 2 people

  9. paul4cowick

    Jaz, thanks for your rant!

    Why is it the first instinct, when the going gets tough, do people like Barbara Ellen and Robert Mitchell decide to quit?

    Back in the days when Blair took us to war, many of my friends, comrades and activists quit the Labour Party.

    I too was angry – but stayed to change the Party from within the big tent (although it wasn’t called that, then). That was what Tony Benn decided to do, and explained it so well to me and hundreds of others in the Leftfield Tent at Glastonbury.

    I’m not proud of going to war (and I still await with interest to read Chilcott) but let us not forget that 1997 – 2010 Labour Government did so many great things:
    Banned fox hunting
    Free entry to national museums and galleries.
    Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s.
    Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
    and lots, lots more.

    I endorsed Corbyn but voted for Andy…but now I support Jeremy because he his our leader, and that support would be the same whoever won – it the same way I supported all the Labour leaders since the day I joined the Party on 1986.

    But with the support will come criticism – I know I won’t agree with everything that Jeremy says or does, but that’s the nature of our broad church (even if the pews seem very narrow at the moment).

    I don’t care if it’s Progress or Momentum, Red Tory or Blue Labour, we need to go forward together – not for me, not for you, but for those that need us to stick you for them – the poor, the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the disabled, the long-term sick and the terminally ill.

    So next time we have a poll that shows us 15% behind the Tories, can’t we just attack the Tory ideology of austerity and cuts rather than attack each other.

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  10. Yorvick Member

    “This is the most middle class the Labour Party has ever felt….And it’ll probably only represent university towns soon as well, unless you get a grip and listen to the bloody working class people that were the admiration of Corbyn’s leadership bid.”

    This is certainly true of York where the left wing middle classes have joined in their hundreds. They’re they ones who are saying that sticking to ‘socialist principles’ is what matters, not being electable. But they seem to forget that it is the poor and vulnerable who are going to pay the price for their political purism.

    Liked by 1 person

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