liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
I feel completely out of step with most of my friends politically. Before the election, there were a lot of voices telling me I should definitely vote Labour. And nobody gave me a really strong reason why Labour would be good for the country, just that leftwingness in the abstract is good and the Tories are bad. I read the Labour manifesto, and I thought, well, maybe Labour would only be 90% as bad as the current Conservative government. They have some policies I kind of agree with, and Corbyn seems somewhat less awful than most influential Labour politicians in the last 20 years. And yeah, you have to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Then Labour lost the election and everybody was celebrating except me. It feels really horrible to be going around saying, I don't understand why all my friends are so happy about this, so I mostly kept quiet. But I really don't get it. All these people who days before were proclaiming that another five years of Tory government would literally, without hyperbole, kill people, would destroy the NHS and remove all our human rights, were suddenly... happy that we have a Tory government, because they have a smaller majority than before. It felt like they were celebrating a football score where the underdogs had only narrowly lost instead of being trounced. Or perhaps people really believed that this time Corbyn would change his spots and actually leverage the slim majority to start opposing the Conservative government.

Of course that hasn't happened. Corbyn has continued political manoeuvring to depose any MPs in his own party who don't sufficiently perform enthusiasm for their Great Leader. And has continued to do absolutely nothing to oppose the Conservatives, supporting not only Brexit, but May's ridiculous plan to make Britain economically competitive by deregulating everything and driving down wages. Hardly in line with the workers' rights platform he claims to espouse. Now he'se gone full on xenophobe, foreigners are coming over here (excuse me, they're not even coming of their own free will in his rhetoric, they're getting 'imported'), and taking our jobs.

My first election was 1997 and I felt much the same: everybody around me was celebrating Blair's victory, and I was horrified. In fact Blair turned out to be much worse than naive little 18-year-old Liv was expecting, but at least in 1997 the Labour party had actually won the election, and I could see why Labour supporters would be pleased about that. Now Labour have lost the election, and show every sign of continuing to be completely useless in opposition, not just failing to oppose the government in general, but not even offering any alternative the most destructive policies I've seen in my lifetime. I would be sad, but might understand it, if Corbyn were driving a hard bargain, offering support for Brexit in exchange for guarantees on issues he considers a priority, whether that's keeping the NHS afloat, UK labour rights, helping people in poverty, protecting EU citizens in Britain and British citizens abroad, or even simply the renationalization programme he's committed to. But no, he's purging his party of Blairites, dissenters and europhiles, and letting May do whatever she likes.

And I was wrong in all my other predictions too. I didn't think May would last a week after the disaster of a general election where she gambled away her majority, and there she is still Prime Minister. I didn't think the Lib Dems would end up with a leadership election, nor that they would select Vince Cable who had been ruled out several years before on the grounds of being too old. Much less that they would get on the Brexit, anti-foreigner bandwagon.

I feel that I'm missing a piece, somehow. People keep telling me that Labour is good for working class people, and I just don't see it. I could buy an argument that the benefits of EU membership are more palpable to well-off middle class people. Lots of people have told me that I'm just voting my class interests by making keeping us in the EU a political priority. But I just can't see how any of this is good for working class people, or non-working disabled people, or precariously under-employed people. If I could be convinced that the current political situation is actually benefitting people who are worse off than me, I would be able to join in the celebrations. But nobody explains it to me, I'm obviously just a privileged jerk for not seeing what's so great about an ineffectual Labour opposition and complete withdrawal from every vaguely Europe-related collaboration.

It is possible that Corbyn's purges will bring him a more united party better placed to win an election in 2022. But by 2022 I'm not sure how much will be left of the country to elect a Labour government. Both in a literal sense that I don't expect the UK to last that long, I expect the union to break up, and more broadly. The economic hit from Brexit, the continued sell-off the NHS, the increased xenophobia, the whole programme of reducing immigration by making Britain a less desirable place to live than Romania or even Afganistan... I expect a significant number of people not to make it to 2022. And when it comes, we'll elect a racist who will find an excuse why it isn't actually practical to offer free school meals to white British children, in place of a racist who is ideologically committed to the proposition that starving children is a good way to incentivize people to stop being poor.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-25 06:36 pm (UTC)
smhwpf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] smhwpf
I can certainly get where you're coming from here, and sympathize with some of what you're saying, but I think there's more cause for optimism than you make out.

I think the causes of celebration among progressives were, among other things:

- Relief that there hadn't been the expected Tory landslide
- Refutation of the theory that a left-wing leader and set of policies would inevitably lead to electoral oblivion for Labour
- That the Tories lost their overall majority in Parliament
- Belief that Theresa May and the Tory party in general were fatally damaged, and that the new government would not last long
- Expectation that the worst of Tory policies would have to be moderated in response to their weakened Parliamentary situation.

I think the first three are justified, the fifth seems to be partially justified, but I suspect the 4th may be over-optimistic. I suspect that Theresa May herself may not last that long, possibly going as soon as this autumn, possibly at the end of the Brexit process, but that the Tory/DUP government could well stumble on until 2022. Maybe not, maybe something will cause the coalition to fall apart, but there is no necessary reason why it must be so.

I think the Labour policies are much more positive than you make out. For example, on an issue that is very close to both of our hearts because of people we know, abolition of the Work Capability Assessment, and generally massive improvements in the benefits situation for disabled people.

There's also a lot of good stuff in terms of higher spending on health, education and infrastructure, higher minimum wage, better conditions for workers generally, making the benefits system less punitive and more generous, tenants' rights, some good stuff on mental health, and quite a lot else. It's not revolutionary, but there's a lot of stuff that would make a genuine difference in a lot of people's lives.

I am disappointed by the leadership's attitude to Brexit and immigration. I think they should unequivocally support remaining in the single market and free movement. I think they think they're being strategic, not opening themselves to attack and waiting for the government strategy to fall apart, but you need to be proposing a clear and positive alternative, which they are not. The pandering on immigration is very bad, and is clearly not what Corbyn actually believes and has been supporting all his political life up to now. I would not wish to offer any defence of this.

I think you are exaggerating the 'dear leader' thing. I don't think Corbyn is an autocrat. He is giving preference in the Shadow Cabinet to people who stood by him when his party enemies tried to bring him down, which is hardly surprising. I don't actually see any sign of a 'purge' of non-Corbynite MPs; there have been no moves to encourage widespread deselection, for example. I think Rachel Shabi has the right of it in seeing the irony in the "Oh Jeremy Corbyn" chants and the general "Corbynmania".

There is a tendency, on the left as elsewhere, to insist on absolute orthodoxy (for whatever value of orthodoxy), and condemn any deviation as betrayal, often accompanied nowadays by severe online abuse. This is a huge problem, but it is not new or unique to Corbyn supporters; I think by and large the worst abuse comes from the right, but that does not of course justify when it comes from the left. Corbyn himself has repeatedly condemned such abuse, not that that stops some of his supporters of course.

I certainly don't want to minimize this, online abuse especially is horrific in the way it effects women and minorities etc., but I don't think it is characteristic of the current Labour left-wing movement as a whole, as a key feature of its nature: it is something that exists within all political tendencies.

Overall, I think there is a lot to be positive about in UK politics at the moment, including in the Labour Party. Other voices on the left and center-left are also extremely necessary, including the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and PC. On Brexit in particular, Labour needs to be pushed in a more pro-Single Market, pro-free movement direction.

There's a lot to be negative about too, chiefly that the Tories are still in power, albeit weakened. I think there's a good prospect, though no certainty of them being defeated at the next election, but the question is how far away that is and how much damage they can cause before then, which could be quite a lot. The hope is that the mess they are making and their own internal divisions will lead to a collapse of the government sooner rather than later, but that is not certain.

If and when they are kicked out though, I think that the Corbyn-led Labour Party, hopefully in a position where it needs to make deals with other parties, offers the best alternative government program we've seen in a very, very long time.

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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