Friday, 25 September 2020

Labour Is Now a Conservative Party: The Neoliberal Democrats

I began writing this article two days ago, before Starmer's ridiculous sacking of Nadia Whittome, Olivia Blake, and Beth Winter which forced me to scrap my carefully crafted introduction and start with this instead because it was an event which perfectly illustrates the point I want to make - that Labour is now a conservative party: Blue Labour. Tory-lite. The Murdoch B-team. The Neoliberal Democrats.

Whittome, Blake and Winter were sacked for voting against the Overseas Operations Bill which among other things would've effectively legalised torture, but what's clear is that was simply an excuse, just like the Maxine Peake article was an excuse to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey. All of these sacked MPs have one obvious  thing in common - they are socialists - and we can't be having that, can we? 

Practising socialism is now the number one sacking offence in Starmer's Labour, followed closely by following your conscience and representing your constituents. The shadow cabinet must not under any circumstances question the wisdom of the focus groups.

The beige Sir Keir is purging left wingers from his front bench at such a rate, Rupert Murdoch might even allow him to become Prime Minister one day. A S*n endorsement certainly seems to be the goal, but will there be anything left of the Labour Party's soul by the time the 2024 general election arrives? Because, right now, it looks like it will be a Labour Party in name only. Certainly, the Socialist Campaign Group of which Jeremy Corbyn belongs is isolated to the point of zero influence, which is why so many socialists are calling for a new party.

I could make the argument for how a new party could shock the establishment and rise to power, but I don't want to get side-tracked so I'll just say even if power is unrealistic, a left-wing equivalent of the Brexit Party could still prove hugely effective in shaping the national debate. While the Socialist Campaign Group remains tied to Labour, it's effectively neutered so what is even the point?

Anyways, back to my originally planned introduction...

At the start of 2020, Sir Keir Starmer campaigned to be Labour leader with a promise to unify the party, making ten pledges to the membership which involved sticking to Labour's key manifesto policies and keeping the party to the left. Starmer presented himself as the respectable radical who could bridge the divide between pro- and anti-establishment voters, proudly pushing left-wing policies while placating the mainstream media. Many of us suspected this was bullshit from the start, given the recent track record of the FBPE saviour which includes participation in the chicken coop, befriending the toxic Labour hard-right, and leading the disastrous people's vote campaign, but just enough of the Labour membership were either uninspired by the candidacy of Rebecca Long-Bailey or just desperate enough to see if Mr Electable could fulfil the promises he is already backtracking on.

It would appear Starmer's leadership victory was based on lies, begging the question of whether he would've won if Labour members had any inkling of what was to come. Whatever Starmer has done so far, not even his most ardent of supporters (does he even have ardent supporters or just fellow Corbyn haters?) could pretend he has unified the party. Labour is more divided than ever and the key reason for the divide is the words and actions of Starmer and his supporters who at every opportunity, stick two fingers up at the left to appease the hard-right.

It was particularly galling for us who supported Corbyn to be called divisive and toxic for five years when we genuinely wanted a united and inclusive Labour Party. It's fair to say most of us initially believed, whatever our differences, we were still fundamentally fighting for the same cause - a transformative Labour government. However, it transpired that many centrists were actively sabotaging elections, smearing socialists and trying to destroy Corbyn while insisting that we were the divisive ones! Now the centrists have power, and the delightful Rachel Reeves, who doesn't want Labour to represent benefits recipients, reportedly wants to purge the Corbynites! That would be 60% of the membership by the way...

And let's be clear here: the Corbynites are, by and large, the poorer members of the Labour Party, the ones who've claimed Universal Credit or maybe even depended on foodbanks. They're the downtrodden that Labour was founded to represent and now Blue Labour doesn't even want such people in the party. The downtrodden don't deserve representation but the hard-right does. Labour is a party for middle-class people with middle-class economic views and is not even trying to represent ordinary people with meaningful policies. Instead, it will focus on flag-shagging and try to win over a few gammons who are fed up with Johnson.

Politicians who base their narrative around patriotism, family values and identity politics tend to be the worst kind of politicians. They focus on empty gestures while draped in the flag, using rhetoric to divide the public and deflect from the fact they have nothing to offer but more of the same.

Sir Keir Starmer was asked repeatedly by Robert Peston on ITV News to highlight a single Blue Labour policy. "Just one!" Peston demanded, but Starmer unfortunately has nothing beyond the Brylcreem and the fancy suit, apart from his desire to be Prime Minister. No one is expecting the man to present a fleshed out manifesto at this point, but given that he pledged to back the existing policies, he could've easily discussed some of those. It would've been perfectly fine for Starmer to explain nothing is set in stone, given the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, but he could've still indicated his direction of travel. 

But he did indicate his direction of travel actually... towards the substance-free right-wing where he will be completely inoffensive to the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the powerful people he is supposed to take on. The job of the Labour leader is to dismantle existing power structures, not bloody well bow before them, and certainly not plan to strengthen them. He is supposed to offer substantive change, not more of the same while pretending that would be radical. Nobody is going to vote Labour for that crap. Any voter who wants to maintain the status quo will vote Tory. It's actually repulsive to see Starmer offer to be a marginally more effective establishment PM than Boris Johnson. If he wants to be that, he is in the wrong fucking party!

The new Britain First...

There are so many problems with Starmer's approach, not least that normalising right-wing rhetoric is extremely dangerous, especially for minorities. It's the duty of the Labour leader and his MPs to counter and nullify reckless talking points, not bloody well amplify them! All the Starmerists will succeed in doing is shifting the Overton window even further right, and when people enter the voting booth without hearing a counter-argument, they will vote for the party which hammers home the strongest conservative message, and that will almost certainly be the Tories, despite Starmer's best efforts to tell them Labour is blue now. 

Starmer is almost certainly employing a losing strategy, but even if I'm wrong and the Tory-lite approach brings electoral victory, what's even the point of winning, if you become indistinguishable from your opponents in the process? That's no left-wing victory - it's a Rupert Murdoch victory, again.

Shadow Foreign Secretary and former leadership challenger Lisa Nandy is now saying a Labour government will not bring our services back under public ownership. No, Labour will nationalise our services by giving the public a little more say in how they are run... Um, I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure that's not how nationalisation works, Lisa... But it gets worse, Nandy was also talking of putting British people first in a shockingly ill-judged attempt to win over the gammonati - no wonder people are calling her Lisa Farage.

What could Nandy possibly mean by promising to put the British people first? The only conclusion I can draw is Nandy means we will treat foreigners even worse than we already do. And as the husband of an immigrant, I could talk all day about the awful treatment "the least racist country on Earth" shows to foreigners, but that would be an article in itself.

Let's be clear, Nandy (and Labour with their empty slogans written across Union Jacks) are now openly courting nationalists while still half-pretending to be socialists. I'm pretty sure there is a guy from history who did more or less the same thing, and while I'm not saying Nandy is anywhere near the National-Socialist stage, I don't want Labour to move a single millimetre towards nationalism. And nor should she.

And I think it's absolutely appropriate to highlight the killer of Jo Cox was screaming almost identical words to Lisa Nandy when he committed that horrific murder. My God, I really don't want to bring that up, but it's so important to emphasise because violence is what right-wing rhetoric can lead us to, even if it's completely unintentional. If you do the normalisation, your opponents will always take things one or two steps further, as any history book will show.

Just look at the "Make America great again!" nonsense Donald Trump comes out with at his rallies, cheered on by his baying fascist mob. Not a week goes by without one of his crazed supporters gunning people down or driving a car into a crowd of peaceful protesters. Do we really want to shift the Overton window so far right, that Trumpian rhetoric becomes the space your opponent occupies? Or do we want to pull the conversation away from that into more respectable territory?

Right-wing rhetoric does not simply serve the purpose of enticing a few extra voters, and amplifying it certainly doesn't make you a "moderate". Its use is backward and irresponsible, and of course, Nandy wasn't trying to encourage violent nutters, I'm not suggesting that for one second, but I am highlighting the unintended consequences a Shadow Foreign Secretary should be well aware of. I would therefore implore her to drop the "British people first" nonsense and remember, we're all human beings. She won't win over any voters with that talk because her target audience will vote Tory anyways, but she might win over voters if she discusses how Labour policies can improve the lives of ordinary people. That's the kind of patriotism the left should strive for - the compassionate kind, not the jingoistic kind.

Let's not forget, last year Nandy suggested Scotland should get the Catalonia treatment, which basically amounts to jailing your political opponents and denying the public the right to self-determination. I doubt Nandy actually wants to jail Nicola Sturgeon, but this was one hell of a gaffe and showed a complete lack of understanding of the situation she was referencing (at least I hope it was lack of understanding). If you want to win back Scottish voters, you basically say the exact opposite of what Nandy said, but Blue Labour is making a habit of being tone deaf while telling everyone how good they are at listening. It seems they're experts at hearing only what they want to hear and telling the working class what we think, like we're some gammon-flavoured monolith. 

It gets even worse

For some reason, Sir Keir Starmer thought it would be a great idea to address the electorate for the first time by writing for The Daily Mail and The Times (behind a pay wall), but he completely ignored the left-wing press. And how about this recent headline from The S*n: 

Security Security Sirkeirity 

Starmer woos the patriotic!

I think I'm going to be sick.

Starmer seems intent on wooing all the wrong people who couldn't give a crap about Labour and ignoring his enormous left-wing base in the process. "Flag, forces, family? Fuck off!" as Kerry-Anne Mendoza put it so eloquently on Twitter. I don't want your empty words, thanks, Starmer, I want my free broadband! My internet was briefly cut off the other day until I could scrape together the £12 I was short on my bill, forcing me to do the housework until service was restored. Shudder. No one should be going without essential utilities because capitalism refuses to allow them enough money to pay for the bill. 

Essentials must be accessible to all people at all times, but Jess Phillips thinks that kind of talk is not quite believable actually. It's okay, though, Jess understands that politics is not really about representing the people, it's about doing the important things like selling your latest book. (She hilariously called one of her books Truth to Power by the way. Don't read it, it's shit.)

Betrayal of the membership

Labour is now so democratic that Sir Keir Starmer tried to gag Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) from discussing the Labour leaks documents which suggested Labour staff may have thrown the last two general elections. Of course, those staff members were later compensated with six-figure sums by the new Labour leader, after they seemingly enabled his rise to power. If there is even a shred of truth to this (and it seems there probably is), Starmer's leadership may well be the most corrupt in the Labour Party's history. And it's absolutely in the CLPs' interests to explore this possibility, but Starmer won't allow them to because he wants to mark his own homework. I'm sure many will draw their own conclusions.

Let's not forget that as well as promising to unify the party, Starmer made those ten pledges to the Labour membership which revolved around staying true to the Labour manifesto and its radical policies. He still loves to use the word "radical", but he's watering down or scrapping policies, one by one, without a hint of what's to come instead:

  • He promised effective opposition to the Tories and then congratulated them on giving us Europe's worst Covid death toll.
  • He promised equality and then stuck two fingers up at Black Lives Matter and anyone who dares support Palestine.
  • He promised to strengthen trade unions and then refused to back the teachers over schools reopening.
  • He promised to defend migrant rights, then allowed his Shadow Foreign Secretary to say British people first.
  • He promised to increase corporation tax and then said it would be wrong to increase tax during a pandemic.
  • He promised to nationalise public services and now it turns out, he won't bring them under public ownership.
  • And he promised climate justice, but now there's talk of him watering down the cornerstone of our manifesto, the policy on which the future of our planet literally depends: the Green New Deal.

Regressive centrism

When I hear Starmer repeating the words "New leadership" and then I see them emblazoned so tackily against a Union Jack, it immediately brings to mind New Labour, and I actually suffer PTSD from the New Labour days. I have a twitch and everything. Those were the days I found myself jobless and homeless, having been forced to drop out of college, and received zero support from the state to help me get back on my feet. Eventually I dragged myself from the underclass into the working poor - that's when I was working extra hours just to keep a roof over my head and would go several days a month without food so I could make rent. A return to those New Labour days is not an inspiring vision for anyone who's lived in the real world.

Up until the age of 25, I would almost have been better off in prison, and in the latter half of my 20s, I effectively was in prison - a prison which I had to pay a landlord 50% of my salary to occupy. 

When the middle-class New Labour types went off to university, I was walking the streets, looking for dropped change to buy a fucking Mars bar, and they're going to tell me those days are what Britain should aspire to? It's not the left who are obsessed with looking to the past, it's them, and they do so without the slightest acknowledgement their policies not only ignored the key problems in our society, but worse than that, through their deregulate, deregulate, deregulate mantra, they absolutely sowed the seeds for a decade-long recession, despite their insistence otherwise. Yes, it was a global recession, but it was a global recession because other countries followed the banking policies Blair told them to follow! But alas, there is not the slightest hint of humility or contrition from this lot - instead, the hard centrists gallingly say Labour did not deserve to win the last general election. 

Well, the Blue Labour faction may not have deserved to win, but they clearly didn't want to win in 2019 anyways! I tell you who did deserve to win though - the hard-working activists, the working poor, the unemployed, the disabled, and the heavily-indebted students who are being treated so horribly by the Tory government and a landlord class which perceives them as people to either be exploited or simply ignored. 

How fucking dare Sir Keir Starmer, knight of the realm, tell us we did not deserve victory when our lives were literally dependent on it. Quite frankly, the man is a disgrace to the Labour movement and the only way he could get me to vote Labour now is to resign.

And don't give me that nonsense about how any Labour government would be better than a Conservative government because that simply isn't true. What is Sir Keir Starmer going to offer people like me who are so broke we cannot afford to replace our broken TV or torn sofa or even buy a double-bed, despite working our arses off and suffering ill health while looking after our three kids? What is Starmer's plan to help struggling families like ours get by? A stupid empty slogan emblazoned across a Union Jack? 

Starmer talks of family values, but what does "family values" mean if people are working so hard they never see their families and struggle to put food on the table?

When Jeremy Corbyn said, "For the many, not the few," it actually meant something - the slogan had real substance. Now Labour has slogans to replace substance and they have racist dog whistles - that's the Tory tactic of divide and rule they're adopting. The foreigners are the cause of your problems, and the benefits claimants and the working poor, but not your boss who is paying you a shitty wage or your landlord who is charging you extortionate rent or the corporations who are destroying the planet or the politicians who are letting them do all this crap. 

All the wrong people love what Starmer's doing, not because he's inspiring them, but because he is scrapping the policies which would inspire you. Starmer doesn't want to form a government that represents you, he wants to form a government that looks down on you. Here is a member of the Trilateral Commission and knight of the realm. A man who refused to declare who sponsored him during his leadership campaign. And then we found out about the £50,000 from pro-Israel lobbyist Trevor Chinn who reportedly campaigns, among other things, to keep taxes low for the wealthy. We criticise the Tories for taking money from dodgy corporations and Russian oligarchs, for God's sake.

And just look at Starmer's praise for the diabolical Ruth Smeeth. What was that if not a massive fuck you to hard-working Labour activists? It's almost as bad as the reports he wanted to make Emelie Oldknow general secretary or his actual promotions of the vomit-inducing Wes Streeting and Jess Phillips. Starmerists love to tell you Labour can only possibly win a general election from the centre, failing to mention only one of five Labour governments has been centrist, and in 1997, the Tories were well-and-truly ready to crack when Tony Blair came along. A socialist Labour could and would have won power and they would've actually made meaningful improvements to the lives of the working class. Things could've been so much better.

Starmer said the last thing we tried didn't work, but he failed to mention the thing we tried before that - Corbynism without a PV - almost did work in June 2017. Starmer doesn't want to try Corbynism without a PV again though, he simply wants to double down on the spectacularly bland Ed Miliband approach. He completely fails to understand why struggling people won't vote for vacuous centrism and also fails to understand why people of working age wanted Jeremy Corbyn to be PM so badly. He offered change, not more of the bloody same, only slightly refined.

If only people of working age voted in the 2019 general election, Labour would've won by four points!

It's not just the left who are unhappy with the beige Sir Keir though, I'm even hearing that Tory MPs are getting fed up with his feeble approach to Johnson because he's "impeding scrutiny." I'm also hearing many centrist Labour MPs are disappointed Starmer isn't getting close to the 20 point lead he promised to build over the Tories. It's entirely possible the hard centrists may push Sir Keir out before the left does, not that the left aren't actively looking into the matter, according to a credible source. There may still be a glimmer of hope we can change Labour from blue to red, but to be honest, I'm not holding my breath. I would prefer a new party.

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email: r.d.hale@outlook.com