Wednesday, 7 June 2017

GE2017: Could Labour Win?

Labour party's Jeremy Corbyn, cartoon by Wendy Cockcroft
It's been seven years since we had a Labour government. Since then, we've had a Tory/Lib Dem coalition followed by David Cameron followed by Brexit followed by Theresa May. During this time political discourse has become downright cartoonish, a Punch and Judy show. We need change, but could Labour deliver it? If so, will it be a change for better — or for worse?

The case against Corbyn

So far the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn seems to be an exaggerated claim that he's all over terrorists like a rash and is eager to empty our wallets to give to scroungers and the undeserving, idle, and feckless. His detractors also claim he's a Trotskyist extremist and will beggar us all by nationalising everything, over-taxing us, and driving potential investors away by raising corporate tax rates. Oh, and he'll hand over Great Britain to Brussels on a plate. Even assuming all this is an over-the-top estimation of the man, they say, just look at the awful line-up. Then they complain about the goof-ups and failure at maths over the costs of their policies, etc.

He's a socialist

Yeah, about that...

Basically, he's a socialist, with all that goes with it. I'm not a fan of socialism myself because its adherents tend more towards dogmatic ideological orthodoxy than to solving problems based on known, provable facts. I'm not interested in Marxism or class warfare, I want a fair society in which everyone has a stake and work is rewarded, not mocked with low wages and spiralling living costs, taking one for the better off team. Can Corbyn's people deliver this?

He's an idealist

Corbyn's policies, as examined by the Mirror, depend on our being able to mimic the success of other countries in these areas. The New Statesman is not so kind, demanding detail on where the money will come from. The Daily Mail screams they'll cost each family in Britain four grand a year.

Yeah, about that...

All this hue and cry tends to die down when the cost of Tory policies is mentioned; they haven't really bothered because Labour is supposed to be the spendthrift party while the Tories are a bit careful with the national kitty. Whether or not manifestos ought to be costed in the first place is up for debate but it's good practice to have an idea of what your policies will cost if people think you're bad with money. In any case it all assumes that Corbyn will gain a big enough majority to enact all his policies without opposition or having to compromise. That's not how the real world works. If Corbyn wins he'll be caught in an ideological tug o' war between the left and right wings of his own party as well as having to contend with Parliament. He's unlikely to be able to get everything done that he wants, is what I'm saying.

The case for Corbyn

The best case a communitarian conservative like me can make for Corbyn is that a) he's not a fascist and b) if he wins, political discourse will shift leftwards, bringing back the middle ground. Neoliberalism either will or won't fall to ruin depending on how able he is to implement his agenda. What's most likely to happen is that it will slink off to its lair like a wounded animal and will rear its ugly head again first chance it gets. Basically, it'll bide its time and wait for Corbyn to fall on his face, at which time it'll jump up shouting, "Aha! Told you I was right!" and slip back in as if it had never been away. It's up to Corbyn and his party to prove it doesn't work by giving us a system that does. However, what they've got is socialism lite.

He appeals to the people

Over and over again I've been reading about how Corbyn's rallies are attended by thousands. So much for being unelectable and a liability, etc. I've actually seen the sniping from the Blairites die right down as election day approaches, but the man has been filling halls since he became leader. Why? The people are sick of austerity and ever more awful Tory policies that kick the old and infirm and flat out abuse the poor. When the best the opposition can offer is "business as usual, adapt or die," it's no wonder people want a way out. Corbyn offers that. Whether he can deliver it or not is another question entirely. Perhaps he can.

He's a man of principle

The thing about Corbyn that people like is that he's a man of his word. He's a man of principle and has been consistently on the right side of history. Few of our current crop of politicians can have that said about them. Whether you agree with him or not you've got to give him that. I do. Integrity is important to me.

What about the Tories?

I expect policy U-turns after the election, not before it. Our Tess has already U-turned on social care and on social housing. I can understand wanting to look less evil over social care but bashing the poor by reducing access to affordable housing? 'Bye, Tess. LBC has posted a list of pre-election U-turns and it doesn't do much to boost confidence in the Conservative Party. By contrast, Corbyn's Labour has only U-turned on freezing benefits. What I don't get about the Tories is that they seem to think they have an inexhaustible supply of fascists, Little Englanders, and Loadamoney wannabes to vote for them. Erm, no.

The compassion chasm

As our society became more complex and mobile the traditional social supports eroded to the point where individualism trumped family and community. Result: most people haven't got much in the way of family and those who do can't rely on them. Okay, you tell me how Auntie Susan in Birmingham, who is over sixty, can take responsibility for caring for Grandma in Aberdeen, who is nearly a hundred and can't afford to move into a care home. Even if there were other family members, people in nuclear family arrangements would be reluctant to deny their kids the things they want and need to take on the burden of caring for an elderly relative, even if he or she wasn't particularly demanding. Indigent immobile adults require a lot of time and energy; kiss your career and social life goodbye if that's what you're dealing with. You can choose to have kids but you can't choose whether or not to have elderly or sick relatives. Tories don't get that. They assume that if you're in a mess it is of your own making but that is not always the case. The Tories have a chasm in their hearts where compassion ought to be and as a result they are alienating the base Thatcher gave them: the aspirational young adults who just wanted a chance to get out and shine. Now they're being told to work themselves to death for nothing in the long run and to die quietly where nobody can see them. It's this compassion chasm that is literally killing them. They won't shake that nasty party label until they rediscover their common humanity.

A new conservatism

The fascist alt-right conservatism being peddled at the moment is so utterly callous it puts me right off. We need a new conservatism in which community and family are at the heart of the policy agenda. Respect for tradition and the rule of law must prevail. As it is, this is considered left wing and I'm having none of it.

We need a conservatism that is not about being right wing but about doing what is right; rational stewardship of the nation and its assets as opposed to carpet-bagging and asset-stripping, as is happening now. I really do hope and pray that the Conservative party loses this election good and hard to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour. They've lost touch with this country and its people and they need to reconnect. What better way to achieve this than by slapping them good and hard with the cold wet fist of truth into the canal of I Told You So?

Assuming the Tories have got brains and unlike America's Republican party they're not going to whinge about people taking bribes of other people's money and their own failure to get their message across, they'll be forced into soul-searching and will ultimately change their approach. If they don't, it could be a long time till the party leader sees the inside of No. 10 Downing Street again.

If Labour wins

If Labour wins I'll be sticking it to them good and hard over things I don't like them doing, e.g. continuing surveillance and failure to address copyright, etc., don't worry about that. I don't do the ideological thing, I only care about whether or not I like the policies in practice. If the Tories win, I'll be examining why anyone would want that horror show of a party in charge. See you at the ballot box on Thursday. Good luck. We'll all need it.

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