Sunday, 6 December 2015

Friends And Foes: Lining Up For The Election Battle In 2020

As I have already stated, the political boundaries have shifted and the Left, riven as it is with talk of class war and unable to move on from its founding fathers' rhetoric, has been caught napping. However, the rightward march of political discourse can only be stopped if they can get their act together. We need to talk about this.

There are two main trends I want to talk about in tonight's post: the rightward lurch of global political discourse and the reasons why it happens.

Political discourse has lurched rightwards

Notice that neoliberalism is the new middle ground with the neoreactionary movement on the mainstream right. Driving this rightward push is the rise of the corporations as global powers. Have you noticed the identikit surveillance and IPR laws taking shape throughout the world? The people behind them are the ones who stand to benefit the most from increased enforcement, namely enforcement professionals. The marketers are along for the ride. I believe we'd be doing more about it if we were more willing to work together but we've permitted ourselves to be divided over non-issues like class while real issues like low wages and cuts to social services face little in the way of challenge at the parliamentary level.

Who are the neoreactionaries?

The neoreactionaries are an offshoot of neoliberalism with a hefty dose of authoritarianism and a pinch of fascism. Since they own the lion's share of the news and entertainment media they've been successful in injecting their propaganda into social discourse using programmes like Benefits Street to promote the idea of the lazy, undeserving poor who would soon buck their ideas up if their state-sponsored support was taken away. Well we can all see how well that's worked out for Michelle Dorrell, who had evidently fallen for that nonsense hook, line, and sinker. And if that's not bad enough it seems that the Fascist Iain Duncan Smith has taken it upon himself to inject himself into the last lifeline of the desperate: he plans to get jobs advisors into food banks to help the lazy scroungers who use them to find work, even if they're already working all the hours God sends. This, he claims, is because he doesn't believe there is any such thing as "the working poor." Of course there is the risk that he might bring legislation in to regulate food banks so that only the "deserving poor" can access them.

Who's on our side?

Well, Labour and the Liberals are supposed to be watching our backs but you wouldn't know it from the raft of bad legislation they've helped to push over the years. The DEA and the pro-fracking laws that let the government allow companies to frack beneath your home were passed with the aid of Labour and the Liberals either gleefully joining in or abstaining. They're also very helpful on digital rights and surveillance, given the number of pro-snooping laws they've helped to pass. This has happened because they've accepted neoliberalism as a valid political philosophy instead of kicking it out at first glance. How and why did that happen?

How does political discourse change?

There are at least five factors to consider when discussing changes in political discourse:

1. The media
2. The public mood
3. The economic environment
4. The global political environment
5. Dissenting voices

1. The media

Whoever owns the narrative has the most influence over public opinion. In the case of British politics our major media outlets are owned by billionaires who lean right. Whether or not they get involved in editorial decision-making from day to day, their political leanings affect their hiring choices from the top down. That they occasionally hire people whose viewpoints differ from their main thrust should only be taken into consideration as an attempt at providing a fig leaf for their actual bias. The Sun has often bragged about its influence over British politics, as if they alone can determine who would or wouldn't win a general election. Whatever their detractors have to say about it, when the Sun backed Tony Blair, he won the general election in 2000 and remained in office as our Prime Minister from 2000 to 2100.

2. The public mood

Every media outlet has to bear its own audience in mind. Fox News is beginning to reap what it has sown as many of its viewers are complaining of a left-wing bias. While the media can influence the public mood it must also reflect it, or suffer the consequences; good luck trying to buy a copy of The Sun in Liverpool. Ever since it reported that fans had urinated on medical staff going to assist the victims, Liverpudlians have refused to purchase it. This clearly demonstrates that the public mood is mainly influenced by circumstances and the prevailing biases in particular communities.

3. The economic environment

People who are inclined to generosity will share what they have whether they are rich or poor but obviously the more you have the more you can share with others. That said, an economic environment in which joblessness, low wages, and lack of opportunity dominate creates distortions in perception and less tolerance for free riders whether real or imagined. In a situation fraught with anxiety over paying one's bills people are more vulnerable to manipulation by political opportunists than when they feel financially secure.

4. The global political environment

The provision and perception of news events can and do diverge according to the presentation thereof and the audiences' biases. If you show a news report of a terrorist atrocity to five different people you'll get five different proposals on how to deal with them. It is the prevailing public perception and bias that determines the course of political discourse. I believe that people tend to swing rightwards when they're afraid because they generally see the Right as being strong and willing to enforce traditional morality. The rise of UKIP and other right wing parties throughout the West proves this. I've also noted a swing to the left when economic inequalities create intolerable pressures on the fabric of society. The tension between these two often creates socially fraught situations that can spill over into violence.

5. Dissenting voices

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour party apparently began as a bit of a joke. He was a rank outsider at the beginning but his calls for returning to traditional Labour values and his promise of an end to the neoliberal consensus that has mired the country in austerity for years brought people flocking to him and thus he won the leadership decisively. Ever since he became the Labour leader Mr. Corbyn has been challenging the status quo by asking questions posed by members of the public at Prime Minister's Question Time. This has had the effect of forcing debate on government policy in terms of whether or not there's a real alternative to austerity.

What are the chances of a Labour win in 2020?

Labour's chances of winning the 2020 election are being undermined by backbiting from the neoliberal elements of the party, closet Tories like Simon Danczuk who are forever criticising Mr. Corbyn. If they can't or won't get behind him, what chance has their party got? How quickly they forget that their disarray in the last election lost it for them. We just couldn't trust them to run the country.

Would it do us any good if they won?

A Corbyn administration would reverse austerity but I fear that they'd do what Labour always does: run up a huge bill that gets out of control, then the Tories come back on a promise to clean up the mess. That they utterly refuse to look at the world as it is and base policies on what is actually going on is the problem. They're too deeply mired in dinosaur politics to be of any real use which is WHY the neoliberal element is so strong; they believe neoliberalism makes them electable.

How can Labour win?

The only way Labour can win the next election is to come up with a policy set based on meeting the needs of the nation, not on fulfilling ideological fantasies, and until they take an interest in doing so they won't be getting my vote. If they want to break the neoliberal consensus they'll have to come up with something better than the flat cap socialism that gets the Tories back in every time. Labour needs a new ideology that addresses the world as it actually is and it needs to attack neoliberalism directly, pointing out that it is predicated on a lie: there's no such thing as the free market. However, it also needs to address the fact that market forces do exist and must be respected.

The trouble with Socialism is that it rejects market-inclusive policies because it rejects the idea of "the market" altogether and attempts to impose its will on the economy. The trouble with neoliberalism is that it hives off all responsibility for social services provision to private enterprise on the assumption that "the market" will take care of it. What the party members don't appear to realise is that there are other options. We're not obliged to choose between See and Saw. That they think that's the only choice is at the root of Labour's inability to capture the middle ground voters who will decide the outcome of the next election.

I want to see "regime change" in the next election and believe it is entirely possible but only if the Opposition parties are willing to describe the world we live in as it really is instead of flogging that rotting equine corpse again. But will they? Or is the continuation of dinosaur politics too familiar and comforting to give up, even for the sake of the country? I'm not holding my breath until I find out.

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