In support of Jeremy Corbyn

“Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace? … [T]he forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment [punishment being the third of three inducements to rule, the first two being money and honour] is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.” Socrates said that, in Plato’s ‘The Republic’, but in Greek originally, obviously. Stupid, innit, bringing ancient Greek political philosophy into a debate about Corbyn. But it isn’t, really. I mean, our entire democratic system is borne of ancient Greek politicial philosophy. The word itself is Greek. So it’s weird, then, that our political thinking and analysis and punditry has become so detached from ancient political wisdom. There is no reason that a vast majority of the truisms of old can’t hold true now. I mean, now we wear lenseless, thick-rimmed glasses and beanies that look like deflated ball-sacks instead of togas, and we carry iPads with Pokemons on them rather than tablets with inscriptions, but really nothing’s changed – not to us, not to our humanity. And it is our humanity, after all, with which politics should concern itself.

 

That quote of Plato’s was what came into my mind when I saw Angela Eagle’s desperate, cynical, grasping, fickle, stupid attempt to become head of the coup currently floundering in the Labour party. That eighties gay-club pink Union Jack scrawled over by the lady’s pretty signature recalls Ed’s Labour’s cynical and mis-judged pink battle bus – a futile attempt to court the female vote. You’ll remember, of course, that Corbyn was a dark horse when he was first nominated to stand in the Labour leadership election of 2015 after Ed’s resignation. He came out of nowhere, he didn’t really put forward a campaign to stand, and he had expressed no desire previously to stand (and not in a Govian the-lady-doth-protest-too-much way – he just had expressed no desire). But he was nominated and then he was elected by the party members. More members elected Corbs than Tories and the Liberal Democrats have combined members in total. Truly, he was an unwilling leader chosen by the people.

 

“And the fear of [punishment], as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help – not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to anyone who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.” (That’s Plato again, by the way.)

 

And ever since taking the podium, Jez has faced slander and malice at the hands of the right-wing press, the Blair-leaning Labour MP’s, the Tories and basically anyone who fears the rhetoric of egalitarianism and change that comes out of the mouth of this scruffy, beige-jacketed socialist. Cameron famously shouted in his plum-mouthed tones that Jeremy should “put on a proper suit [and] do up [his] tie”. I get it, I do. I love nothing better than a good suit, and I think the British should keep up their image abroad as suited, top-hatted gentlemen swinging umbrellas and controlling the world’s finances – always silently superior. But I see something in that uneven face, that silver shock of hair, that train conductor’s hat, that sports jacket and that starkly tieless un-ironed shirt. I see something I didn’t see in Cameron’s middle-management cufflinks and his lighthouse forehead. I see something I do not see in Angela’s identikit campaign. I see truth. I see someone who’s too bothered with principles and ideology and with believing the words he says, with wanting to effect something progressive for this country, to bother with his public image. I see someone unwilling to engage in PR and spin, unwilling to play the shallow, nonsensical, irrelevant, bullshit games of Westminster – who actually gives a shit about people with Northern accents or black skin or vaginas that used to be dicks, or wheels where legs used to be.

 

You know that feeling after you eat a Maccy D’s? You know the one. When you’ve gorged yourself on a Big Mac and you’re full for ten minutes, tops, but when the initial sensation of an object having descended your trachea fades, you’re left with the feeling that you haven’t really consumed anything. Your organs don’t feel rejuvenated like after food with any actual nutritional value, you don’t feel warmed or fed; you just feel like you inhaled some synthetic food-like product; some plastic-based, cardboard-flavoured trash that really is nothing – it looks colourful and like food should look, but inside it’s hollow ash and empty calories. Well that’s the feeling I had looking at Eagle’s campaign when she unveiled it. She wrote an article for the Guardian to coincide with it and oh-my-fucking-God it was a whole mess of nothing. It contained such insightful, sparkling, intelligent, ideological, meaningful tidbits as these:

 

“It is our duty to ensure that the new prime minister, Theresa May, faces a credible and forensic opposition, and to offer a bright future for our damaged economy and fractured society.”

 

“I’m no Blairite, Brownite or Corbynista. What I am is my own woman”.

 

“But if we are to succeed, we need to concentrate on the politics of hope, not on grievance and blame. That’s the only way we can deliver on our principles of equality, social justice and social mobility.”

 

She’s said… nothing, really, has she? Nothing that hasn’t already been spouted by others of her ilk, anyway. Corbyn is unelectable. That’s basically what she said. Oh and remember – she’s her own woman. Phew. I was worried she wasn’t. She did make the recycled point that MPs who were elected by 8,000,000 constituents are trying to get rid of Corbyn, and therefore, arguably, they have more of a democratic mandate than Corbyn does, elected as he was by a paltry couple hundred-thousand members. But this point is rather easily quashed. You know how much it cost to be a Labour party member? Three quid. All 8,000,000 of those constituents, if they agreed with the MPs to whom they have given a mandate, can register as members and get rid of the old man before you can say “worker’s revolution”. Now they can register as members of the Unite union for 50p a week. They can become members for £25. But they didn’t, and they don’t. Which suggests one of two things. Either they are ambivalent towards Corbyn or they actively like him. And if they just don’t have 25 quid going spare… Well, then, we need Corbyn now more than ever.

 

To be honest, I am not even sure, personally, that I want Corbyn in power. I have no horse in the race, truly. I’m a white, middle-class, straight, mentally balanced male from the south of England with two law degrees. The dude isn’t looking after me. I don’t need looking after. Whatever system we have ever had so far has done that pretty well for people like me. But I am damn sure I want him in opposition, because I care about Britain and its people. I want him, shadowed by his massive grass roots support and Momentum – a united political movement the likes of which people of my generation have never seen – across the dispatch box from the Tories, bearing down upon them, snarling at them that we will not take neoliberalism and globalisation if it means our infrastructure, our rights, our livelihoods get destroyed.

 

Perhaps he may be misguided. I wasn’t alive during the seventies. I didn’t see the mining unions hold the country to ransom; I didn’t see bin bags piled high in the street; I didn’t see ‘Communist’ Russia, so I don’t have any of that to refer to. But I tell you what I have seen: I have seen a Department of Work and Pensions responsible for indirect manslaughter because the private profiteers to whom it contracts out care more about cutting costs that ensuring Johnny Disabled can eat. I have seen food banks proliferate in my great country – a country I deem to be the best in the world, which should be able to engineer a state that ensures the poorest in society are looked after if the private sector fails them. I saw banks get bailed out by the government while the people get poorer on zero-hour contracts. I saw financial criminals given a slap on the wrist in the papers and a bonus by their bosses for ruining this country and bringing its main industry – the City – to the precipice. I’ve seen the systematic selling off of our industries and our infrastructure and the gradual privatisation of public services we rely on. I see an electoral system plagued by billionaire donor money and corrupt media moguls. And I do not want to see it any longer. Those policies are not sound economics, they are not long-term ideas to generate sustainable growth and prosperity – they are the last belches of a country sick of itself, that has run out of steam like a bankrupt Aristocrat selling all the old paintings of his descendants. It can’t last. I want to see some nationalisation, some investment in the public sector and some regulation of the private sector, an end to the illusory, fallacious rhetoric of defecit economics.

 

I would like to see the private train system, an effective monopoly, taken back in to public hands so it can no longer raise ticket prices year on year beyond inflation while gutting the service it offers with no accountability besides a complaints procedure. I would like to see our head of state at least lead the world in a conversation about nuclear disarmament. I know, you may think his view on Trident is wildly dangerous, but remember it is still Labour policy to renew it. At least we would have a leader willing to discuss the issue. And when it comes to Trident, I always like to think of something Carl Sagan said – the concept of nuclear deterrents and mutually assured destruction is like having two people standing waist deep in petrol, one holding three matches, the other five. I would like to see our NHS not only protected, but improved, built upon and thriving. And I would like to see an end to the rape of our lands through fracking, and a new dawn for renewable energy. All this is to say nothing of the valuing of the poor and the workers and their rights.

 

And you know what? Maybe it won’t work as well as idealists and socialists hope. But that doesn’t matter. Not in the long run. It seems our politics is always preoccupied with the idea of the “final solution” when it comes to progress. That we need policies in place and a governing ideology that can stand forever, always working. There isn’t one. There are merely solutions to situations that present themselves. I applaud Thatcher for breaking the grip of the Unions in the eighties and taking our country into an era of economic prosperity. The only problem was that she did it not only for the purpose of ending the union tyranny, but because she was clinging vehemently to the ideology of neoliberalism. The neoliberal philosophy that informed her actions became scripture, and still is – unable to be altered or argued against. There is no flexibility and it has meant that we are where we are now – stuck with an economic policy that seeks to whore our country out to the highest bidder and which fetishises and idolises individualism to the point of isolation and which is, when you get down to it, nothing but numbers circulating on trading-floor screens, and waiters and waitresses. Really, we should place flexibility and freedom upon the pedestals of our regard. Remember what Churchill said of democracy after all: that it is the worst system we currently have, apart from all the others. Flexibility informed always by overarching goals: those of progress, of satisfaction and high living standards, of cohesion and competition, of liberty and work and intellectual evolution.

 

The fear mongering is unwarranted. I voted ‘in’ in the referendum, but I buy in to no fear mongering. The FTSE 100 – arguably as good a gauge of how things are going as a Twitter poll, being as it is an externalisation of the fears and prejudices of detached, money-hungry investors rather than a measure of the actual productivity of the companies themselves – is doing okay. As is the pound. We will be fine. Likewise, we will be fine if Corbyn gets elected. And, on top of that, perhaps we’ll have a country informed more by ideas of egalitarianism, a country less divisive and divided and more prosperous, run for its citizens rather than CEO coffers, and a society more collusive in its capitalism. I support Corbyn, because he is the solution to the issues that blight us right now.

 

 

 

Our war

We are at war.

After ten hours of rushed and harried debate, in which John Bercow was forced to hold his piss and wound up MPs were caught swearing at each other, our tired and exhausted, and no doubt impatient and frustrated politicians were forced to make a decision as to whether to commit young men, young British men, to fight and possibly die in a war on their behalf. They say you shouldn’t drive if you’re tired, which you probably would be after ten hours of non-stop debate, but taking a decision to start a war is fine I suppose.

Hilary Benn was hailed as a pro-bombing firebrand for his speech in which he proudly proclaimed: “Now is the time for us to fight this evil”. Oh it’s brilliant, it’s electrifying, it’s invigorating; memories of Churchill, of Empire, of British bulldoggian strength and beaches and landing grounds are flooding back, and in the fog of war I am filled with pride by his rhetoric. Yes! Yes! Send in the troops, drop the bombs, destroy the enemy, for we are Britain and WE are at war once more.

WE are at war.

Time was, long ago, when our leaders would march before our soldiers into battle. When we were at war, WE truly were at war. Now, though, a politician with a plum in his mouth can proselytise and proliferate and declare his dissertation, spittle flecks flying from his foam-frothed lips as he works himself up into a war-hungry frenzy, so passionate is he about the truth of his position. So ardent is he that security and justice will prevail on England’s lands, that he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice; he is willing to commit your sons to war.

Truly, it should be a point of order that MPs be disallowed from semantic untruths. Instead of saying that it is time for us to fight this evil, they should be obliged to announce the truth: “It is time for us to send men to fight a war because we reckon it might help a bit.” When Cameron says we are at war, he should be obliged to say: “Young men are overseas this Christmas, away from their families, at war, while you and I are back at home in front of the hearth, safe and sound, because that’s what I wanted.”

Now, you may say that it is a matter of national security, and those men signed up to the military, while the politicians, and we, did not.

But is it really a matter of national security? Certainly there is an issue of national security – we face a dangerous and barbarous threat. But is the decision to drop bombs on Syria a matter of national security? For one, all it takes is one man with a bomb vest to slip through. All it takes is one radical with an AK47. That is how this war is fought. There are no battalions or nations or uniforms. It is a just-about-organised collective of mentals. Like 50,000 Columbine shooters. Are bombing runs really going to solve the issue? You cannot catch every nut.

But suppose you can; suppose you can destroy every single member of ISIS and not even a handful survive and none of them manage to slip through to Europe. They’re all dead. Meanwhile, the West has just lain waste to another middle-Eastern country and left a power vacuum. Have we not learnt our lessons? It is a point so over-hammered that I’m not going to make it, but you get where I’m going.

Anyway, if this really is a matter of national security, if our country is at threat like it was against Nazi Germany – and no, I don’t consider myself hyperbolic in making that comparison. If Hilary can do it in his pro-war speech, I think I should be able to use it, to see if it stands up. Because truth is, it fucking doesn’t. This isn’t a war of equals, two armies against each other. This is the West being poked by a stupid, ravenous, barbarous gang of lunatics. Nevertheless, if you, a civilian, a normal person with an iPad who likes going to the pub and wonders about the Autumn statement and has got a bit podgy living off the fat of the cosy 21st century, are truly for bombing because it is a matter of national security, then I implore you, before making your mind up, to ask yourself, are we so at risk that, as in the Second World War, there is an impetus for you to sign up to fight and defend, because the homeland is going to be irreversibly threatened imminently?

No?

Not so keen anymore?

Think there might be other options?

Think we need to debate a bit more?

That’s because you’re a fucking hypocrite. You want to send men abroad to die because you feel a bit scared. And every person who sincerely and truthfully asks themselves that question and arrives at the same answer is too.

For if we were truly under threat, if your home was likely to be destroyed, your family killed; you would fight. At least one hopes you would. But, as we all know when we look inside ourselves, those things aren’t the case, so you have no need to fight. At the very least you’d think you’d have to make some sacrifices for war. Our grandparents had to go through rationing and blackouts and join the land army. What do you have to do? Be a bit worried at the news? Nope, this is not our war, we have to do nothing for it. WE are not at war and you are insulting and cowardly to suggest otherwise. In fact, since it is so in vogue at the moment, I would even go so far as to say it is appropriation on your part to say that WE’RE at war. You’re appropriating those soldiers’ experiences.

But you’re right, they are the army, that’s their job, not yours; you have no duty to go fight. The politicians on the other hand, what duty do they have? We take it as read that they don’t need to go to war with the men they have decided need to. But to what extent should that be true? Is it not a point of morality and honour that they should? Would it not make our war-mongering slightly less mongery? Decisions would certainly be taken with a bit more consideration wouldn’t they? It’s the same logic as applies to the argument for putting MPs on Osborne’s ‘living wage’. It strikes me as slightly surprising that we don’t find it at least a bit abhorrent that we are truly happy for our MPs not to have to face the consequences of their actions in the same ways we do. We allow them to dictate our fates, while theirs remain untouched.

Fear won yesterday. And now our pilots, and probably soon our soldiers – If Hague’s comments are anything to go by – are fighting our Government’s war, dropping bombs made my private arms manufacturers, firing privately made and sold Brimstone missiles, piloting privately made planes. Because war is good for the private arms manufacturers’ business, a business they were trying to flog just a couple months ago at their London fair. And their weapons, sold to politicians who will probably go and work for them, by lobbyists, are being thrown at an area of the world that so happens to be immensely oil rich. All of this is not to mention the power that can come from control of that region.

If this was about national security and justice and the preservation of Britain and its people, then why do the DWP allow suicides as a result of their policies to continue? Why are the poor and the hungry and the homeless allowed to continue as they are, dying and suffering? Because all that money we’re throwing at that war can be spent on other things you know. But austerity doesn’t apply to war.

Inevitably, you must ask yourselves, is the Government declaring this war in our interests? Really? Truly? Or do you think there might be other motivations? Because if so, is it really our war?