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.
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.