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.
I’ve been sitting here for a while thinking of the best pun to use as the title of this post.
But I arrived at The Green Threat because I’m, frankly, not in the mood to mess around with this topic. The Greens are a threat. A real threat. Not only to Labour as a party but to the very poorest who desperately, desperately need rid of this Tory-led government.
I am just as bored of the ‘vote A, get B’ rhetoric as the next guy. It’s boring and its depressing. And in seats where a minor party is competitive -the SNP comes to mind, it’s not necessarily true.
But in the case of the Greens? In 646 seats, it’s absolutely true.
Had I been old enough in 2011 to vote for AV, I would have. Borgen looks intense, but it represents a far more democratic system than the one we live under. I have no qualms in saying that ‘voting with your head or your heart’ is not a question we should have to consider. Tactical voting puts our democracy to shame. AV would have gone a long way in neutralising this democratic deficit. Unfortunately, the public was dissuaded from it for numerous reasons. The sheer financial support of the No to AV campaign; the simplistic arguments put forward about the complexity of AV; the toxic brand of Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems greatest merit, that of a commitment to electoral reform, fell through because of their leader.
Had the campaign been successful, I’d welcome the ‘Green Surge’ with open arms. I’d still remain a Labour member either way, as I believe in a strong and united Labour movement under any system, but the Greens would be a great leftist contribution to our debates.
But right now they’re merely a burden. No, a threat. And a completely unnecessary and self-defeating threat at that.
Greens are on course to have 1 seat in the next Parliament. That of Brighton & Hove. As in, their campaign will be defensive, despite the offensive they seem to be planning. They could potentially win in Bristol West, Manchester Withington, and Cardiff Central -similar seats with a sizeable middle-class student and young professional voting base, but that’s it. All of these seats have something curious in common; they are Lib Dem. This means that the Greens are also benefitting, like Labour, from the Lib Dem collapse.
But the Greens have no presence in any Tory-Labour marginals. Not one. In fact, it is likely they will lose deposits in some of these seats. The simple fact of First Past The Post is that Greens cannot and will not win any seats in these marginals. These marginals are unrepresentative of the national picture in that they are still two-horse races.
In fact, it’s simpler to say that the national picture does not reflect the marginal picture.
Greens have gained many members (note however that activist members in no way represent average voters), Greens have reached polling-highs in national polling. Today’s Ashcroft poll was championed today by the Young Greens I know. All of these stories are all over my Facebook, being heralded as a new age in politics.
But it’s a delusion, or an illusion, or both.
Marginal polling is a far greater indicator of the state of play than national polling. And marginal polling shows that a vote for the Greens in any seat other than the above 4 does nothing to advance the Green cause, and even worse, could help -will help- prop up a Tory government.
Note that the coalition votes in these seats outnumber the Labour vote by less than the Green vote.
Voting Green in key marginals only splits the Left. That is the only effect it will have.
Vote Green in one of these marginals and you will get a Tory. It’s a cliche, but it’s an objective fact.
We are trying to play a 6-party political culture in a 2 and a half-party system. The decline of the two main parties exists within the preservation of a system that accomodates them alone. 10% in the polls does not equate to 10% of the seats. Anyone with a basic understanding of FPTP knows that. It’s ridiculous, yes, but it’s the reality of it.
“But you should vote with your heart, not your head”.
NOPE. NO. NO.
Do you know who uses that line, time and time again?
Middle class people. Ethical middle class people. People who are completely immune to the most severe effects of this government. People who are completely immune to the risks of gambling with the system.
It SUCKS, as I said, that the head and heart cannot be forged into one. But it’s reality. Your immunity is a privilege. Consider this when you walk past a foodbank queue. Consider that that queue exists because of a government that will be returned if you ‘vote with your heart’. Consider that you are not a part of that queue, and that’s why this is still a dilemma for you.
D’ya ever wonder why there’s no Green presence in majorly deprived areas? In safe Labour seats? Yeah…
“But you’re playing along with the syste-”
I was told this by a Green-voting blogger when I brought up the realities of FPTP and the dangers of voting for a minor party to me, a lower-working class person.
“You’re just aiding a system that works against you!”. No, no. This is the classist version of mansplaining. I’m gonna call it votesplaining.
I’m choosing not to start some faux revolution in one of the most dangerous elections in a lifetime. I know people who have lived through a dozen elections. Most of them will tell you this election is the most pivotol of their lives. Ask Harry Smith.
You see, some of us don’t have the privilege to think about ‘raging against the machine’ when:
- 700,000 families use foodbanks
- 522,000 have been hit by the bedroom tax
- nearly 2 million are unemployed
- 1.4m are stuck on zero hour contracts, and millions are in low-pay
- 700,000 youth are unemployed
- 250,000 are paid less than the minimum wage
- over 3m have been hit with overnight sanctions on JSA
- Homelessness has increased 26% since 2010.
- 866 Sure Start centres have been axed since 2010
- Child poverty has increased by 13% in 2 years, after Labour decreased it by half.
(Those last 3 -“But they’re all the same though!” “The Establishment!” -again it would seem this is the cry of the privileged.)
NGOs have begged Osborne to change course. We are in one of the most austere and unequal, poverty-stricken eras in modern British history. Wages are at their lowest in relative terms since the 1870s. Living Standards are at their lowest in 80 years. Public services are crumbling. The welfare state will be ideologically choked and taken from beneath our fingertips if the Tories are allowed another 5 years in government. And most important of all, people affected by bedroom tax are probably not quite so interested in gambling with their vote.
2015 is the most important election in a generation. For someone considering the Greens, it probably doesn’t feel that way, but for the most vulnerable, for the very poorest, this is a matter of heat or eat, home or street.
And the difference between Ed Balls and George Osborne’s plans is £30bn of cuts. £30bn. Many economists have pointed out that this is the biggest difference that has existed between the parties in decades.
Labour’s plan would include more of a 50:50 approach to deficit reduction that also includes raising taxes on the rich and borrowing to invest. Miliband repeatedly notes that the deficit cannot be reduced without tackling inequality, without ensuring people are paid enough to increase tax revenue. And he’s absolutely right.
“But Labour aren’t radical enough!”
You’re right, they probably aren’t. I hope that if anything comes out of this Green threat it’s a rail nationalisation announcement, or a change in welfare policy.
But I get the cautiousness.
The Greens, indeed all outsiders, can afford to be radical for several reasons, or perhaps several headlines. Here’s a few:
- When Ed Miliband attacked vested interests, The Mail led with “Why a deluded Red Ed isn’t up to the job”
- When Ed Miliband attacked energy firms, ”The lights will go out over Britain’: Shares in energy firms drop 5% amid warnings of blackouts from Miliband’s plan to freeze bills’
- When Ed Miliband announced the Mansion Tax, ‘Mansion Tax would clobber ordinary voters’. (Hint: It really fucking wouldn’t)
The trend is clear.
It’s a common mistake to suggest the media has the most influence in voter choices. That’s clearly not true. Kinnock’s defeat in 1992 wasn’t caused by the media Blitz, but hell it was aided by it. The Murdoch papers met up a day before polling day to consider plans to bring him down. Their solution: hand out free copies of The Sun in key marginals.
In this election, they and the Tories have managed to create -very successfully- a narrative whereupon economic competence is defined as austerity. Where public spending is now met with public skepticism, because apparently schools and hospitals caused the US housing bubble to burst.
This is something that the Greens simply do not have to worry about. They can offer a Citizens income, or nationalisation, or a £10 minimum wage without being faced with a resurgence of aggressive McCarthyism. Yeah, actually, genuinely McCarthyism. They do not have to face Tory attacks about debt or the deficit myth that Labour caused the 2008 global crash while those claims are aided by 75% of newspapers. The neglect of the Greens in this way protects them. By God, I’d love to see Labour move to the left. I think in recent times they actually have. But everytime they do, the attack dogs become more numerous and more aggressive, nipping at the heels of any even vaguely or modestly social democratic proposal. Even when the mansion tax is supported by over 70% of the public, it’s seen as a Marxist takeover.
I can understand Miliband’s cautiousness. And unfortunately to left-wing progressives the Greens relative radicalism is thus more appealing. But by splitting off from a cautious pack and joining a less powerful, smaller, but more energetic one, they are doing exactly what the Right wants.
One only needs to see Cameron hiding behind the Greens regarding the debates to see the Right utilizing them and making them a tool of the Right. Being supposedly progressive aids the anti-progressives.
Deciding that now is the prime time for a revolution, to ignore FPTP, to decide that -even after presumably supporting New Labour- Labour just isn’t left-wing enough under a leader that is genuinely the most left-wing in over 30 years, in this of all elections, is symptomatic of immense privilege.
The logic is that if the Greens are a genuine force in a seat, go ahead. If the seat is a safe seat, it;s a good opportunity to raise the green’s national share for the sake of awareness, but in a key marginal? Considering the objective fact of systemic limitations is essential.
I am going to use my first vote to seek an immediate change. To aleviate the use of foodbanks, to stop the bedroom tax, to raise the minimum wage, by voting for the only party that has the power to do so. For the sake of our most vulnerable citizens in an era of the worst deprivation in a generation, if you’re in a position privileged enough to consider the Greens -without fear of implication- first consider that privilege.