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.

 

 

 

In defence of not voting

It is not sacrilege not to vote, and it is not sacrilege to implore others, on certain conditions, not to vote either.

Well… what are these conditions?

For one, a tangible sense of alienation from the current political homogeneity – do you feel as if, somehow, there is something inherently wrong with being subjected to the sight of a bunch of round-bellied, red-nosed, jowl-quivering, delinquent buffoons guffawing and whooping in a lavish palace of baroque decadence while the people they are there to represent struggle?

Secondly, a feeling of being disincluded from decisions that affect you and your fellow citizens, a feeling of separation from politics, of being dictated to and condescended to rather than being involved and engaged in discourse. Somehow there is a sense that politics, the real politics – not the bullshit sentiments of a Muslim threat or benefit scroungers, but the politics of negotiating with obscenely rich tax ‘avoiders’, of regulating (or de-regulating) the City, which helps decide the national fate, or of privatising the NHS – is out of our hands. We can’t help but feel disincluded when we see videos of prominent MPs blithely negotiating glorified bribes from rich individuals or companies. This sense of being disincluded is exactly what Cameron’s Tories were appealing to when they adopted their hollow tag-line: “the Big Society”, in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. How’s that worked out?

Perhaps you feel powerless? Perhaps when you see images of twee, idolatrous bronze statues of the Iron Lady being bought at auction for unsavoury sums by wealthy, cackling silver-spoon gobblers in order to buy time with politicians in return for filling Conservative coffers, you feel powerless? Do you feel as if maybe, just maybe, those politicians will be less inclined to care about getting you off food-bank dependence or reducing your tuition fees or listening to your grievances and more motivated to ‘uncomplicate’ tax laws for a hefty fee? Or perhaps they would be more inclined to cut through some red tape so that a developer may build in your back garden or, worse, frack there. Do you maybe read about the millions of pounds that get ploughed into lobbying by big corporations seeking to colonise your homeland and feel just a little… meek in comparison?

If someone feels detached and separated from the system in which they live, should they sigh, puff out their cheeks, utter a “ho-hum”, resign themselves to it and hope for the best? While this might have worked for the war effort, it doesn’t, and should not be the case for the UK’s democracy. We are constantly implored to vote, we are told to the point of zealous fanaticism to vote, made to feel that by not voting we would be forsaking the efforts of our forefathers and foremothers who jumped under horses to earn the right for us. Nowhere is this more true than among politicians themselves. Sincerely, with pleading, desperate, wistful eyes they urge the people to vote, beg them to play their part in democracy and exercise their power as citizens. This, apparently, not for any other reason than an honest desire by politicians to be judged by their people. “Please”, they may beseech with tear-glazed eyes, “please vote, please play your part, please exercise your civic duty and your choice, your one choice, your one decision. It is your duty as a citizen of this democracy, it’s why we fought the war!”

Of course politicians want you to vote. A vote, every 5 years, is an acceptance of the status quo. A vote is an implicit legitimisation of the current political system, of the behaviour of politicians writ large. Voting, and more specifically, voting tactically and perpetuating a two (almost three) party system is all the limited and ultimately futile political expression that politicians would wish you to have. Sure, vote! Don’t protest though, don’t choose any of those smaller parties (lest you be encumbered with a pesky coalition government) – just vote, vote tactically, and vote once.

Not voting is denounced as political apathy. “Well, don’t be surprised when things turn to shit – you didn’t vote!” come the self-important I-told-you-soes. But voting is no longer the revolutionary, wind-changing choice it once was. Perhaps even as recently as the 70s and 80s was your vote a powerful weapon – even if we still only had a two-party system – because there were distinct and important differences between Labour and the Tories. Now, though, thanks to Thatcher and New Labour under Blair who fervently and loyally continued her work, the needs of business decide policy and there is little to no difference between Labour and the Tories. Even where there may be – for example, where the exaggeratedly nicknamed Red-Ed suggested putting a cap on energy bills – there is outcry, there were bullish threats from the Big Six and Ed, with a simpering whimper, was forced to shut up. Voting, therefore, is the true apathy. Voting has the same psychological effect as falling pregnant – a sense of accomplishment without having done anything but lie on one’s back and get fucked.

The logic from defenders of the vote seems to be that if you don’t vote, you deserve and can expect the jackboots of tyranny to march into Parliament. But this logic belies the importance of democracy and the inclusion of citizens in politics that Westminster loyalists are trying to emphasise. It suggests that if we don’t exercise our vote, our one piece of political influence, that we deserve fascism or whatever other system suggests a lack of democracy. This is insulting. The power of the people is not in their vote, the power of the people is in their ideas, their passion, their numbers, their sentiency, their indomitability. To restrict the importance of a citizen in political terms to whether or not they vote is insulting. The system is fundamentally broken and to perpetuate it by voting is fruitless.

There was record turnout for the 2014 Scottish referendum. Why? Because for once the citizens of Scotland felt there was a choice to be made, the decision of which would practically and in real terms affect their lives – and it was a decision over which they had real, tangible control. Not only that, but the Yes vote was filled with promises of bringing power back home and putting it back into the hands of the Scottish people – drawing it away from Parliament who an astounding number of Scots feel is unrepresentative of, and completely detached from, them. Scottish citizens felt empowered and emboldened by the referendum. It, if nothing else, served to highlight the immense feeling of powerlessness and disillusionment amongst the citizens of the UK.

This alienation and disenfranchisement is the juicy sustenance that has enabled previously fringe parties to grow into threatening political beasts. UKIP feed off political alienation, greedily hoovering it up and exploiting it in every soundbite. But it is laughable to think UKIP hold the keys to your empowerment. Removal from the EU won’t empower you, getting rid of the brown people won’t empower you – Farage is just the same as Cameron and Ed and as long as there is a political infrastructure such as Westminster in place, you will continue to be unrepresented. Nigel, though, unlike the Cameron and Miliband and Clegg, is cursed by having dim-witted troglodyte bigots for followers as opposed to politically savvy, relatively sharp-brained political careerists. The only reason he has been able to convince so many poor saps of his genuineness is because his party is young. The Tories and Labour have to put up with being labelled as part of the establishment because, well, they undeniably are. But Farage, unencumbered by a long party lineage, is able to play the new-kid-on-the-block card. Make no bones though, he is just as establishment as the others. Unless you’re pouring his pint, he doesn’t give a damn about you.

No, aside from concessions for pensioners by the Tories or bribes for the ‘yout’ by the Lib Dems or whatever inane, unspecific babble comes out of Ed’s dopy mouth, there is nothing of importance that can be gained from voting. The big decisions are taken out of your hands and you are left with patronising condolences. Instead, voting is a case of ‘better the devil you know’ or ‘the lesser of two evils’. Is that really the concomitant of all our hopes for democracy, the conclusion of years of reform and revolt, the materialisation of an enlightened and aware populace?

If enough people don’t vote, or even better, spoil their ballots, then there is evidence of an undeniable, un-sweep-under-the-rug-able systemic problem with our present democracy. And that problem will have to be addressed. A large portion of the population not voting, or actively spoiling their ballots, highlights the illegitimacy of whichever party wins power, it evinces a population that has not given a mandate to rule. It shows that something deep and far reaching has to change – enough with petty giveaways.

So, apart from not doing anything, what instrument is there that exists to effect change, to affect politics tangibly? Well, there’s protest, there’s pressure groups, there’s petitions, there’s writing and disseminating information on the internet, there is civil disobedience.

There is the law. The courts are not just somewhere you don’t want to end up. The courts are, in fact, the people’s greatest weapon. Cameron has labelled judicial review frivolous and anti-christ Grayling has set about restricting it in the name of streamlining. To the layman this has been sold as practicality and a measure in the interests of stimulating business and ‘getting things done’. Or, worse, it has not been sold at all, but rather has been set about clandestinely and under-the-radar – at least in terms of getting reported in headlines as the massive sucker-punch to the rule of law and throttler of people’s rights that it is. Judicial review is the probe that allows a citizen or pressure group to uncover the motivations behind ministerial decisions and, even, to overturn these decision where it is in the interests of justice (remember that?).

There is also the Freedom of Information Act. Of course, applications can be refused on vague grounds such as national security – which has an ever enlarging, ever wavy definition – but it’s worth a try. There’s also public inquiries. They’ve got a bad rep but if there’s enough knowledge of their potential and enough motivation they can be used damagingly.

So, come May 2015, instead of desperately seeking that strand of truth that might be concealed within the condescending, pseudo-terrifying party political messages, instead of deciding which politician has the most honest face, instead of putting aside your pride and that nagging feeling that perhaps they’re all made of the same shit and that juvenile insult-throwing and accusatory “he said she said” isn’t the way politics should be, perhaps… don’t vote. If enough people do it, it becomes a choice just as legitimate, and arguably more powerful, as any of the names on the ballot paper.

Bullshit

This is odd for me, this is my second post on my blog in three days. I usually post very infrequently but I just can’t keep my mouth shut (or my fingers from punching keyboard keys) over the torrent of bullshit that has recently flooded the British political landscape faster than a pyroclastic flow vomiting from the gaping mouth of a violently explosive volcano.  This week has been wonderful for British politics. Wonderful in the sense of being highly entertaining for someone who takes a keen interest in politics but is so disillusioned with the status-quo that they couldn’t care less what happens.

During the process of this political furore a number of beautiful things have happened, three to be exact, that highlight the extent of politicians’ bullshit. This week the intolerably chirpy Nigel Farage and his nauseatingly tacky yellow and purple covered UKIP bandwagon have rolled through Rochester & Strood on a wave of political alienation and suppressed racism. Mark Reckless, a man with more forehead than sense, has taken off his blue rosette to slip into something more comfortable – the poundshop-looking rosette of the anti-Europeans.

Well, while all this was going on, Labour, always the nose-picking spotty kid in the corner of the playground, have been in some trouble. One of their MPs, an Emily Thornberry, tweeted a picture of a house adorned in the flag of St. George with a white van parked on the drive. She tweeted it without comment. Now, for those of you who don’t understand the nuance of the situation, the English flag and, more importantly, its overuse, is associated with the working class, and more importantly, with an ignorant working class. In tweeting this picture Ms. Thornberry has done the cyber equivalent of snorting derisively in the faces of the proles. “Hah!” she sniggered implicitly, “look at this house and its silly poor people”. Anyway, she’s now resigned after it was reported that Ed Miliband was pissed as hell. The bit that I find absurdly wonderful is that while being interviewed, Ed was asked by a reporter – “what do you feel when you see a white van?” His response? Did he say “I feel nothing, absolutely nothing, when I see a white van because… its a fucking white van and you’re a silly little interviewer asking silly little questions now why don’t you quiz me on things I’m meant to know and do things about like, say, what we’re gonna do about climate change or overpopulation or sustainability?” No, he didn’t answer like that. Instead, Mr. Miliband with the pained and slightly gawky expression of a posh school prefect, said “I feel respect”.

“I feel respect.”

What an absurd, absolutely ludicrously, incomprehensibly, mind-boggilingly ridiculous thing to say. With the wide eyes of a small boy whose headmaster has just asked, “what were you doing behind the bike shed with that magazine and your flies undone”, Ed, with the muffled consonants of someone who has cotton balls stuffed in their mouth, said, with feigned and affected sincerity, that he feels respect when he sees a white van. This kind of whole and complete bullshit just sums up the flaky, disingenuous nature of our gasping politicians as they grapple around in blind panic like desperate little whores doing anything to get their head in our collective car windows. It shows how spectacularly they hold having a view point, or some ideals, or an opinion, in contempt. They will literally let noise fall aggressively and viciously out of their mouths.

Ed and his band of squirming, indecisive nitwits were not the only ones to feel fallout from the UKIP nuke. The right wing, namely the tories, is in disarray because, well, they’ve been out right-winged. This is nothing new. But of note to me was what one of Cameron’s cronies said was the solution to this insurgence. He said that the tories, to compete, would have to strengthen their stance on immigration.

This, you tory twonks, is not the reaction to be had. Perhaps in terms of winning an election, in clinging on to power and influence for power and influence’s sake, perhaps in terms of winning a competition and having to be willing to bite the other guy’s proverbial ear off; perhaps in those terms this is a good strategy. However, in terms of the purpose of politicians as being to espouse ideals and viewpoints in the best interests of the people and to achieve things to further humanity by sticking to ideas and policies because they seem to be the best solution, or even to change policies because another seems better; this tory reaction is a deliberately awful strategy. It is political pandering of the worst kind.

Whether we like it or not we live in a global society, politically, economically and morally, and we owe duties to one another – that is the legacy of dead empires and the burden of globalisation. To even contemplate a policy change with such ramifications as one concerned with migration is grossly irresponsible and entirely cruel.

However, the most poignant and, perhaps, appropriate piece of bullshit that has dripped from the gaping end of this week is Mr. Farage’s reaction to our quickly-aging chancellor’s defeat in the ECJ. Mr. George Osborne was rejected sternly and in no uncertain terms by the Advocate General of the ECJ when he implored our European judicial overlords to un-impose a cap on city-boy bonuses. The cap isn’t really a cap of any effect in the first place, bonuses are capped at 100% of salary going up to 200% with shareholder approval. However with salaries uncapped, bonuses are, theoretically, limitless.

And what was multi-chinned Nigel’s reaction to this development? He said that he hoped people would see, now, that we (Britain) never ever win in Europe. He smiled his face-creasing smile, his toad eyes all alight, and hoped people would see that he’s been right the whole time and this defeat would show people our place in Europe (presumably, in his eyes, that of the cajoled and timid maid who stands back from the banquet table while the real countries discuss things). This is the most insidious example of bullshit yet. If what Mr. Farage made you think resembled anything like the implications he hoped then, I’m afraid, you’re an idiot. The event and his statement showed us two things. Firstly, that the EU and it’s various instruments are still, for the time being, slightly less infected by the virus of City money, City greed and City motivations than Westminster. Our European overlords, at least, still retain some sense of sense, some fairness in their decisions and that, for all else, is a good thing and a factor we as people should not ignore when contemplating our place in the union. Secondly, rather than agreeing with the ECJ decision because it obviously reeks fairness and aims at reducing inequality (even if its only a drip of piss on a forest fire), Nigel chose to point out that we never win in Europe. Like that spoilt fat kid on sports day Farage sobbed, proverbial snot on his sleeve, whinging and crying that “ITS NOT FAIR! WE NEVER WIN!”

Nigel, the tweed-jacket wearing, beer drinking, cigarette smoking, blunt man of the people chose not to represent the proles he claims to, at least in rhetoric, by endorsing the ECJ decision. No, he implicitly condemned it. Mr. Farage showed himself as what he is; he is a City-boy, he is Cameron, he is Ed, he is Westminster.