When political parties all go wrong at the wrong/same time

The more I think about the 2019 General Election the more I realise what a terrible choice the British public had on offer in terms of potential Prime Ministers. On that basis is it any wonder they picked (with the more than significant help from our warped electoral system) the politician to lead them who is probably best summed up as a populist entertainer.

If Corbyn had been really credible he would have won in 2017. That he didn’t and went down hill from there makes you wonder what on earth the Labour Party was doing keeping him on as they must have known they were on the road to nowhere with him. And so it proved with a shocking electoral performance in December 2019 – Labour losing many seats to a Tory Party under the leadership of someone that no one trusted.

The Tories had been in a right old mess ever since David Cameron found himself calling the EU Referendum having surprisingly gained a majority in 2015; a majority which privately he must have very much hoped not to have for it forced his hand to go where he did not want to go with the EU.

The Lib Dems recovered some ground in terms of vote share in 2019 but bizarrely ended the election with one seat less than they won in 2017. Our wonderful NOT electoral system at work of course. But their leader Jo Swinson proved not to be an asset to the Party as on balance she wasn’t liked by voters and yes I do realise there will sadly have been some misogynist views at play in her downfall.

And then within a couple months a huge crisis envelopes the world, one that the UK reacted to far too slowly and which because of our obsession with austerity we have been incapable of addressing well. Here we are 6 weeks after lockdown with only a few brave Tories willing to wave the flag for Boris Johnson; the rest of the population wondering how on earth we ended up where we are with a shockingly poor government at the very time we need a strong one.

Oh for an Obama, a Blair, a Merkel or a that wonderful young lady from New Zealand whom we all struggle to say the name of (Jacinda Ardern) in our hour of need, but true leaders in UK politics are hard to find anywhere. The blood letting in both the Tories (over Brexit) and Labour (over Brexit, antisemitism and Corbynism) has led to the loss of many credible politicians and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with a leader the public really can take to since the demise of Charles Kennedy. That someone as credible as Dominic Grieve has found himself unwelcome in the Tory Party or that Louise Ellman walked away from Labour tells us that our politics is far from healthy and that dogmatically driven sects are far too powerful in our two major political parties.

That Labour has finally sobered up is a given in that they’ve now elected a reasonably credible leader in Keir Starmer although the jury is clearly still out. He’s no charismatic leader and worryingly seems still wedded to too many of the faults within Corbynism such as Brexit (he opposes the transition period being extended). He needs to become a true progressive as Blair clearly was in his early years, before he fouled up big style over Iraq. Yes it’s hard as Labour’s core working class supporters can easily swing to the right into regressive politics (as they did to deliver Brexit) but if Blair could be progressive and keep them on side Starmer has to as well. It will be no good appeasing them by throwing in a few ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ policies Keir.

As for the Lib Dems, who for reasons no one can quite get their heads around have contrived not to have an elected leader in place since the December 2019 GE, there is hope that someone like Layla Moran can come through to be a truly progressive Social Liberal Leader. I hope so as I want my Party to be placed not between the Tories and Labour but to the left of Labour on many social issues/policies as we were in Charles Kennedy’s day.

What will become of the Tory Party is a very big question indeed. You can’t see Johnson surviving or indeed wanting to survive as PM in the long term. His popularist entertainer position which he’s carved out over many years is clearly unsuited to a country in crisis as is his legendary personality fault-line of not doing detail.

Politically the UK is in a mess, England probably more so than the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations. There’s room for some optimism but it will be a long road before our main 3 political parties become fit for purpose again.

Merseyside Labour – They didn’t learn Kinnock’s lesson so Starmer’s sent more learning pills

I’ve seen a number of social media postings from journalists, political commentators and politicians in the last couple of days regarding there being no Merseyside MP’s in Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet.

Here’s my take on it. Merseyside Labour Party decided to indulge itself in another round of Militantism, only this time it was called Momentum/Corbynism. And just like the previous time (1980’s) they got slapped down; last time by Kinnock now by Starmer. It really is as simple as that.

Yes of course there will have been MP’s and indeed councillors who pretended to be Corbynistas to either avoid deselection or to garner favour from the former leader’s sect. But whilst that gave them cover during Corbyn’s time as top dog it created the very opposite at the end of his reign. So what do you do as a Social Democrat, centrist or moderate within Labour who decided to take Corbyn’s shilling? A sudden about face (not very credible) or more likely keep your head down for a while whilst slowly emerging with differing beliefs.

But of course that also works in reverse. If you were an ardent Corbynista, where do you go now? Walk away from a party which now seems to be all but embarrassed by by what it believed in until the electorate said not on your Nellie in December 2019. Alternatively, do you change your spots and start to cheer-lead for the new more moderate and very much establishment man at the helm?

So is it really any surprise that Starmer has calmly put Merseyside Labour on notice? No of course not. But will they learn. No of course not!

Political Cultism – Is it akin to religious cultism?

Jeremy Corbyn is often referred to as having a cult following and the same is said of Nigel Farage of course. Brexit itself seems to be cultish too but our view of cults is often more likely to be connected with religious extremism rather than politics. So the question is do political cults have a commonality with religious cults?

According to Wikipedia in sociological terminology, sects are products of religious schism and therefore maintain a continuity with traditional beliefs and practices, while cults arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices.

Well Brexit certainly fits the ‘novel beliefs and practices’ definition as it is based very much on belief rather than facts/reality and it’s proponents (Brexiteers) can be fanatical in their following of it despite strong evidence challenging their often seemingly emotional based stance.

But what of Corbynism? Is it akin to say Thatcherism or Reganism in that its followers see themselves as the true believers whilst they look upon the scepticism of others who do not subscribe to their beliefs as being, in religious terms, heathens? Certainly, in my experience Labour Party members and supporters who see themselves as Corbynistas will often refer to anyone else, even fellow Labour members who are not in the Corbyn sect, as ‘Tories’, the political alternative terminology to the religious heathen I guess. Subscribers to the political sect known as Blairism are particularly hated by Corbynistas yet both Blairism and Corbynism have both been the majority view within the Labour Party in the past 20 years. I’ve heard it said that some Corbynistas hate Blarites more than their traditional ‘enemy’ Thatcherites!

Interestingly though, Johnson, whilst probably being more of a Brexiteer than any members of the Brexit Party, does not seem to have a cultish following. Indeed, he seems to be widely unpopular other than with extreme right wingers. Is that because he switched from being an EU supporter and because he is seen to be a politician who follows the crowd. In other words not a true believer in Brexit?

What makes some of us look upon Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as being akin to cultists is that they will back their leader no matter what. No criticism of him is acceptable in any form from any quarter and they ‘know’ that anyone who does question Jez is a ‘Tory’.

As a Liberal who likes to hold a healthy scepticism of all political leaders, often particularly Liberal ones, this defence of ‘The leader’ come what may is hard for me to get my head around. I think I smelled something worryingly like cultism with the people who surrounded Nick Clegg during the Coalition Government days. They, like Jez Corbyn’s backers, were not for hearing the noise outside of their seemingly closed group and the consequences were dire for liberalism as it is now starting to prove for Labour too.

To conclude I think it is perfectly possible for political cultism to exist as an extreme form of the political sects which clearly exist within some political parties. The other interesting point to consider here is that those who look to be backing what seems to others as being a cult will probably deny that they’re cultists. Is that because they don’t see themselves as cultists? Is it only those outside of a cult who can see cultism for what it is?

And finally when does a sect, political religious or otherwise, become a cult?

Cable – I’m really warming to him – Quite the old radical when I thought he would not be

www.independent.co.uk/voices/vince-cable-brexit-white-nigel-farage-nostalgia-lib-dem-ukip-immigration-racist-a8251966.html

The Independent has an interesting opinion piece on Vince Cable and his recent controversial but spot on analysis of many Brexit voters.

Cable certainly hit some raw nerves on the right and indeed on the right wing of the left too if you get my drift. That Bluekippers would get upset is a given but Cable also made some of what Labour calls its working class vote uncomfortable too. Many of Labour’s core voters are often right wingers in reality even though their tribal instinct is to vote Labour. What’s more many of them are Brexit supporters and as an old Labour Party member and trade union colleague of mine once said to me many years ago – there’s more racists in the Labour Party than there are in the Tory Party – or words to that effect. No wonder Cable’s commentary on the EU Referendum got a reaction!

On a wider perspective, I must say I am really warming to Cable. I feared he would be a moderate centrist but he’s hitting a lot of quite radical notes for me, not least in calling out Corbyn for his regressive approach to the EU and his backing of Brexit. This quote sums up Cable’s radical agenda:-

‘Corbyn lets down the people he claims to defend. You can’t speak up for the poor and be complicit in making us poorer, claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash, be an advocate for workers’ rights and stand by while we leave the EU, which protects workers.’

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Labour – Another stab at why they are all but abandoning the poorest in our society

Or put it another way, some of us on the left have not been taken in by Corbynism

labour-uncut.co.uk/2017/05/31/why-doesnt-corbyn-just-go-and-join-the-tories/

At the risk of driving some of my friends in the Labour Party over the edge in their frustration with me I present, via the link above, another piece about why Labour is no longer on the side of those with little or nothing in our society.

This is a theme I have been developing for a while now and it seems that others have been having similar thoughts too.

My own guess is that the Labour manifesto is really aimed at the middle classes who are both earning and who will most probably vote. Whilst still trying to give the impression of being on the side of the poor the reality is that Labour are actually looking for middle class votes from those with a little nostalgia for nataionalisation.

There are too many voices now saying that only the Lib Dems are trying to seriously address the issue of poverty in our divided society for it not to be worth seriously thinking about.