Binary Labour

Going long on shares in a mirrored box
Got bullies, got smears, got ghosts, got sneers
Got tone-deaf choirs rocking has-been stock

Got champagne flutes, got red jackboots
And pumped up loyalists in romper suits

Got banners, got spanners, got sickles and hammers
Self-righteous manners and parochial planners

Got intolerance to chart with equality of snark
Got capacity to park and incompetence to mark

Got a telling dark inflection in the malice of projection
And perpetual reflection of foul-smelling misdirection

Got a creaky leaky PLP self-sabotaged by sneakery
That hubris did assist and gift so horribly predictably

Got groupies’ faith and blowhard fogeys,
Tin foil hats and lost apostles claimed as bogeys
Corporate shills and established wizards
With machine-made skills serving diehard lizards

Got facile and sage; got clinical and vague
Got statements of the obvious and hopium made.

Got progress rot and momentum BOGOF
Cracked pots self-kettled in a Gordian knot

Got wave and clap and wring your hands
Got loving like a menace and fearing like a lamb

Got reason on a ration, got hysteria for passion
Got rallies for revivals like it’s going out of fashion

Got entitlement to churn and enlightenment to burn
Got impunity for duty, got excuses under scrutiny
Disunity refracting semiotics symbiotically returned.

Maybe the first thing Labour has to figure out is which side gets to keep the name

Hope suffered a serious heart attack in May’s General Election. Confronted by another five years of callous and casual incompetence from the Government and an all-too acquiescent Official Opposition, when an unexpected gap offered a real choice, Jeremy Corbyn was seized upon and made a sudden and, I think, somewhat reluctant hero. His purpose, for me, however, was always in the need to shake up the Establishment and dispel the myths of TINA; to provide a platform for overdue challenges to the status quo. It was never about loyalty and love for the Labour Party or Corbyn, himself: he was just the only anti-TINA in his party to put his head on the block. Still, the collective relief was palpable after he won the leadership contest and I cheered the fresh air.

The abundant sycophancy for Corbyn, the man, though, is relief made ridiculous. So, too, is the equally abundant carping and vitriol of his opponents. A lot of people like to imagine that if you support Corbyn’s general narrative then you must be a devotee and that if you say anything anti-Corbyn, you must be a ‘Blairite’ or in another party, altogether. This is the nonsense of media mischief and tribal baggage. As a voter, left-leaning is about as near to a default position as I’ve observed in myself. Before plugging into the Twittersphere I just thought I was a humanitarian who believes in democracy. It is only by participation in public discourse that I have had to wrestle with a landfill of labels that are, simultaneously, convenient shorthands and poisonous straitjackets.

The concerns I’ve expressed about Corbyn’s desire and capacity to lead and his lack of willing support from the most experienced MPs are proving depressingly material. I’m sorry to see this decent man chewed up and spat out by the political establishment and shabby journalism. I’m upset by their deliberate undermining of an alternative narrative that Corbyn is trying to facilitate and I’m impatient with his own seeming inability and reluctance to at least play the game to more beneficial ends. It’s all very well saying he shouldn’t have to but that’s naive. The game is a highly popular and historically engrained fixture that won’t disappear by minority wish but is, at least, faster and smarter changed by an appearing to observe its rules. No, I don’t much like it, either.

I don’t think Corbyn is a great orator or effective manager and I do a wits’-end expression every time there’s a seeming bungle or re-interpretation for the Press to milk but I also realise that he is having to learn on the job in a very hostile environment and that this makes it difficult to gauge how much he is being hindered and how much he is hindering himself. Nevertheless, when he – or McDonnell – are interviewed and I hear them speak for themselves, they mostly sound calm, informed and reasonable.

And if not Corbyn, then who, right now? Like so many, I shared much of his general analysis on the state of domestic and foreign policy before I’d heard of him and he was given the oxygen. And condemnation of the exploitation of people and resources for exoteric global dominance and personal gain, by people who have the will, the influence and the power to do so, is what we were waiting for, after all.

What gets constantly overlooked by the journalists and the usual Labourites is that the value perspective Corbyn wants to give space to is the very space that these same MPs refuse to countenance beyond lip service and that a multitude of voters desperately wants and deserves to hear. If those Bubble-wrapped MPs had expressed sincere opposition to this thoroughly destructive socio-economic status quo, their party would have a more can-do-Politics leader. Well, they didn’t. And if genuine acceptance of and support for Corbyn’s position was there, now, there would be a cohesive and coherent message and a more efficient method; if their spinning was genuinely positive, the Conservatives would be not merely shaking in small doses but wobbling magnificently and visibly on their perch.

I don’t know what is really going on. I’d have to be in the Bubble to know, for sure. All I have to go on is what I see for myself and the media commentariat, paid and voluntary. It is hard to watch. We all know how desperately the country needs the Government to face opposition, scrutiny and redirection. I understand and buy the merits of having wide-ranging debates so as to discover consensus and develop a party line but the two sides seem diametrically opposed over too many issues that are fundamental to cohesion.

It looks like Labour is really two parties fighting for what they believe is its soul. Or maybe all that Labour is fighting over is the empty husk where its soul once dwelled. They can’t keep telling us that they are united in their values when their record and the dirty laundry they are now washing says otherwise to the public. Both sides are in each other’s way and that means Labour is not credible or electable, whichever side is preferred.

Maybe the first thing Labour has to figure out is which side gets to keep the name; the name that speaks to the notion of making tedious hard work of everything. Personally, I think I’d let the ‘Blairites’ have it.

I find that I resonate with many of the parties to varying degrees, even if only on a fragment but not one of them represents me enough to wish to become a member, let alone vote for one. The political solutions I could vote for are not available in a party that commands national electoral viability, including the part of Labour that I prefer. I have nowhere to go.

Labour won’t fill the empty centre

Mainstream socio-economic thought has diverted so far to the Right, these last decades, that the Right actually imagines it holds the Centre Ground. This is a ridiculous conceit, worthy of its own nursery rhyme. That Labour keeps chasing purchase on the same dumb end of the political see-saw means the party is merely adding weight to the lowest end. Labour is convinced that this is the only way to regain electoral credibility but is this because it believes that neo-liberal ideology is truly the best or only option or is it incapable of paying more than lip-service to the widely available evidence to the contrary? Does it even care or has the power of governance become the end, rather than the means..? Well, count me out because, if I’d bought into TINA, I could have just voted Conservative. If I were seeking more Toryfication, I would have.

I live in a time where the centre has shifted so far to the crazy that I’m beginning to wonder if sanity is not, in fact, on some long sabbatical but is dying of neglect in a damp, dark dungeon, somewhere. Observe how, out of 232 Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyn is the only leadership candidate who openly challenges the socio-economic narrative. The only one… His platform and approach are greeted by mainstream with a mix of mischievous relish and fearful contempt. He is treated by his own party as a distraction and an outlier. They humour him as they do their traditional voters and the wider electorate. So much for ‘listening’. So much for ‘learning the lessons’. Meanwhile, his most ardent fans compensate as though he were some all-encompassing last hope. But a one-man-band who can’t carry the Parliamentary Party with him? This is indication enough, to me, that Labour is not a credible answer.

Jeremy seems a decent enough chap. He speaks common sense analyses and appears to have the courage of his convictions but that does not mean he has managerial acumen and, I know this may be controversial but he doesn’t particularly inspire me, either. I also recognise those traits that attract to him the yesteryear labels and I know that, whether I can disregard his style and temperament or not, his charisma level has already been determined and framed by those that can open doors for him or slam them in his face. We’ve just had a Tory budget comprising several Labour policies so it’s no good kidding ourselves that the messenger is not perceived to be as important as the message, is it, however superficial or expedient that is.

Of course I’m relieved that someone from the left-wing of Labour has at least got a platform upon which to challenge the stale consensus. I hope he manages to reach further than the already converted and helps to shift consciousness in the wider population but I have no faith in his party nor the Media supporting him into leadership, let alone supporting him into leading a government. I don’t even think he’s the best man for the job. He’s just the only one willing enough, at the moment, with a slim chance at it. And that is exactly the rub because that’s the same hold-your-nose, stepping-stone justification for wanting him to win as I applied to voting Labour during the General Election. But Jeremy Corbyn is not the problem. Labour is. The empty centre he exposes is why.

The raging monster that is neoliberal power needs slaying, desperately but Labour looks neither able nor entirely willing. And perhaps it is too late, anyway. After all, Labour has had years to know who they are, what they stand for and where they want to take the country. They’ve had years to construct a narrative the electorate could identify with. They’ve had a whole Parliamentary term in Opposition to establish and refine it. They’ve actually had the same amount of time as everyone else. If they had wanted to keep up, they could have.

Labour’s tedious tosh

So, while the Cons are busy diluting and dismantling our democracy as they pretend to understand and care about what they are doing to the ‘United’ Kingdom through this cheap, hotchpotch devolution wheeze and superficial sovereignty nonsense avec Europe, the Labour Party is treasure-hunting for the People’s trust and wisdom and for the source of its own dried up imagination and shrunken aspirations

Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Liz Kendall and Tristram Hunt (maybe) – the misinformed, economically illiterate, totally uninspiring selection from which Labour voters and would-be voters are supposed to choose the next leader and, hopefully, future Prime Minister. Well, stop that silly hoping, right now.

I don’t know which is worse: the dire choices provided with their patronising aspiration and trust guff or the enthusiasm being expressed for any of them by die-hard Labour supporters. This is really desperate stuff. The candidates claim they are listening to the views of their would-be constituents, ‘learning the lessons’ – yawn – but only insofar as it confirms the rubbish they already believe.

The level of misinformation and enthusiasm for populist piffle on both sides of this candidate-voter equation is so disappointing and tedious that I am struggling to maintain respect for either. I know I’m not supposed to say that because apparently it’s rude and alienating or something but I just don’t care, today. I’ve had enough of listening to and reading the tedious tosh of the well-played public and all its woefully inadequate servants.

Even if we took all the present candidates, popped them in a machine and blended their strengths and better characteristics into one big candidate, he or she would still only be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. And as for the deputy prospects.. Oh, I can’t be bothered. You can look them up if you’re still interested.

A Little Less ‘Aspiration’

[Please forgive me. This has been cheesing around in my head for a few days now so I stopped resisting and have let it out]

 

A little less ‘aspiration’, a lot more inspiration, please
This Blairite naval-gazing is just exasperating me
A little more left and a little less spin
A little less dim and a little more vim
Get wise and open up your mind and Labour, please inspire me
Please inspire me, Labour

Labour lose the Right and listen to the music
Of the Commons’ mood and needs
It’s an awful blight and you should really disabuse it
Come along with us and resonate with We

Hey!

A little less ‘aspiration’, a lot more inspiration, please
This Blairite naval-gazing is just exasperating me
A little more grip and a little less shit
A little less ‘hip’ and a little more grit
Get wise and open up your mind and Labour, please inspire me
Please inspire me, Labour

Come on Labour, I’m tired of balking
Grab some nous and let’s start talking
Come on, come on
Come on, come on
Come on, come on
Don’t turn back and Labour, don’t hold back
Guys, the record’s scratched, getting sick of waiting around

A little less ‘aspiration’, a lot more inspiration, please
This Blairite naval-gazing is just exasperating me
A little more dare and a little less fear
A little less flare and a little more cheer
Get wise and open up your mind and Labour, please inspire me
Please inspire me, Labour…

Laborious

When I first joined Twitter I had a little refrain that went: Conservatives: they con us and serve themselves – Labour: making hard work of everything. I’ve seen many variations on the Tory one over the last three or four years. They are true, though, for both parties have become parodies of themselves, Labour being the most disappointing.

I really wanted to support Labour throughout the whole of the last Parliamentary term and, where possible, I did try but the Party made it so difficult that, in the end, I realised they were unlikely to provide the political answers and vision I was looking for. Though I exerted the majority of my contempt on the Cons because they were the ones in charge, I bashed Labour quite often on this site but, at the same time, I still hoped they would win this General Election because I knew that in a FPTP system, we needed them to, just to be rid of the Tories. Getting rid of the Tories became paramount. It was an odd circumstance, therefore, to ridicule and encourage, to bemoan and support Labour but I knew I couldn’t pretend they’d come good just because I wished they would. There can be a fine line between positive thinking and delusion.

Wishing and needing Labour to be the main governing party was, in the end, then, mostly to provide a brake; a breathing space. I remember writing that, when they won, we wouldn’t be able to relax for long; that we would have to push for the changes we wanted in all matters, from Foreign Policy to Social Justice; from democratic reform to environmental responsibility. I think all but the loyally blind knew this, too. Labour, in its present form, with its prevailing mindset, could only be temporary caretakers – willing facilitators at best – while we created something real and reflective of those who knew we could well do with turning ‘left’.

Like the neo-liberal groupthink of economics that thinks super-strength homeopathic treatment is appropriate when, really, we are in amputation territory, Labour seems intent on reaffirming the very characteristics that so many of its would-be, wanna-be voters have clearly and repeatedly expressed as loathing with a vengeance.

After the Scottish Independence Referendum, when Jim Murphy was installed as the Scottish Labour leader, I laughed and sighed and knew that the Party had learned absolutely nothing from the enduring impact of Thatcher and the negative effects of Blair. Since Ed Miliband resigned, the inevitable wallowing has begun and the Party is doing it again. They keep talking about how they must ‘learn the lessons’ and mustn’t go backwards but they can’t seem to move much beyond 1997. They are as misguided and nostalgic; as uselessly sentimental, in their own way, as Ukip and the Conservatives.

The Party still thinks and speaks of people in terms of top, middle or bottom boxes and of aspiration by categories of economic class. It still thinks of aspiration as something only ‘hard-working families’ possess and still imagines that our individual hopes and dreams are predominantly economically motivated and, when it says, like the Cons, that it is a ‘One Nation’ party, I feel it probably means conformist; homogenised, rather than nuanced and inclusive.

Too many in the Party still think and speak of ‘wealth creation’ and enterprise as being purely Business and Market led and that wealth and ambition are always about status and financial enrichment. They present as though only the poor old squeezed middle has aspiration and as though to lack it, in a recognisable form, is a failing. They think they didn’t win because they failed to talk about it enough… They think too much like the Conservatives and that is the last thing we need: more imitation. It is neither necessary to copy nor does it flatter the people of the country/countries – whichever the heck we are, now.

Aspiration is like growth, devolution, choice, Big Society and British Values – just another nebulous concept noun for nodding dogs that greases the wheels of policy but translates down into a patronising sop and an overly shepherded reality. Besides, not only do many people not wish to live by such intangible, politically arbitrary terms but aspiration is a disingenuous, deeply patronising hopium in a system that is knowingly manufactured as one big Ponzi scheme.

Sadly, the more some Labour folk try to explain what they think ‘went wrong’ and what it needs to become, the harder it is for me to even imagine being able to identify with the Party. I watched Liz Kendall on Sunday with Andrew Neil and I liked her. She seemed authentic and resonant, enough that I even thought I might want to give her more time of day. Afterwards, I came across a couple of articles that proclaimed her Blairite credentials which I had not recognised at all from her interview. I sighed. Again. She was going to be too far left of Blair’s, Mandelson’s or elder Miliband’s ‘centre’. Oh, they’ll choose Chuka Umunna, I mused. They’ll never let her lead. And I wondered if I would have liked her sufficiently to want her to and if I’d even get the chance to genuinely find out. How cynical…

Oh, Labour (part 2): Come on, Labour!

Come on, Labour!
Tell us where the country went
When Maggie promised individuality for everyone,
As though she did invent
And then bestow Free Will itself on all.
And do describe the gall her regime had
To asset strip the Brits with nasty tricks
That caused the very rip that Blair repaired in tokens
While he carved, bespoke, the Neoliberal Way
So effing deep, the bastards of today need no instruction

Come on, Labour!
Tell us why the grand construction of austerity
Is hogwash-speak
And shout about that money tree the BoE admits exists
And why it’s quite alright to use it
If it’s sensibly applied
To stuff like Capital Investment
In our national infrastructure –
Do explain how it is vital
For societal sustainment and prosperity

Come on, now, Labour!
Tell us how the spin of choice insults us
When it comes to the utilities
And health and education;
How the nearest school and hospital
Should be as good as every other;
How we should have ownership of things that everybody needs from one day to another
Or occasions of emergency.
And say that public service is a noble cause
And how it costs us less if it’s collectively resourced
Because the act of pooling risk is sensible
And ultimately cheaper to afford
And that the end reward becomes
More evenly assured.
Say how the vision of a well-run State provision serves us all
And that, as much as it ties everyone to shared responsibility
It also gifts a stress less space for individual liberty

Oh, Labour call a halt to this cruel, arbitr’y assault
On any easy demographic.
Name and shame all those who undermine the fabric of society
By splitting all and sundry into categoric lines
And why and how the welfare bill has climbed to plug the gap
Between employer and the neo-serf and profiteering landlord.
Say you’ll cap the corporate ilk that milks us
In the name of phoney isms and expose free market fraud
That grows this top-down corporate socialism;
How this scam is propped up by the tax of those,
Now lucky few who earn enough

Come on, now, Labour!
Tell us there’s no need for all this tough-guy act;
How rare it is, in fact,
For those in need to shun an actual, proper, decent opportunity
And how, if those in government
Have done their own job properly,
There will be plenty chance to work
And that unnecessary, cruddy, blanket threats as policy
Are ignorance and fear
Turned to the useful shirking of a regime’s liabilities

Oh, come on, Labour!
Tell us how Democracy has been usurped
By corporate stealth and bankster wealth
That each successive government
And many of our institutions aid
With so much cynical collusion
And complete contempt
For nearly every British voice
For years and years
Until, our freedoms, hopes, good faith and rights
Are recklessly diminished.
Come on, Labour: tell it like it really is –
Allay my fears and speak for me
Or risk that you are rightly finished.