Me ‘sanctimonious’?

I was accused of this the other day because I called out Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy for enabling the dead end of Corbynism by not themselves calling it out. Additionally, I pointed out Nandy in particular for her failure to call out how Brexit would make the poor poorer.

My accuser was of the view that they were just being loyal to the Labour Party leadership and that in effect I would have done the same in their position or words to that effect. My accuser clearly knew nothing of my lack of political loyalty and that I often take opportunities to say to folks that they should not necessarily believe or indeed promote what those in any form of power want. We need to be sceptical of them rather than blind to their faults.

Was it me who as Lib Dem leader on Sefton Council called out indeed called for the resignation of Nick Clegg during his time ruining the Lib Dems, why yes it was and in the Times newspaper too.

Blind political loyalty often gets us the political leaders we deserve i.e. bad ones and too often party members and supporters get behind bad leaders instead of getting those bad leaders out; it’s a fault-line in our far too tribal UK politics.

Me sanctimonious? Well not on this occasion:-)

Jeremy Corbyn no mention – Brexit no mention – And that’s in Labour leaflets!

Being of the left but an opponent of Labour I thought I’d have a look at the leaflets they’ve put out in the Sefton Central Constituency. The striking thing is that in the ones I’ve seen there’s virtually no mention of Jeremy Corbyn or indeed Brexit.

When political parties all but ignore their own leaders in leaflets you can bet that they’re thinking that mentioning them will be a negative influence on voters. And I should know my party had Nick Clegg as its leader some years ago! So we can read into this that Jeremy Corbyn is not felt to be of assistance and he may well be perceived by Labour locally as being a drag on people being willing to vote them in the Sefton Central constituency.

And what about Brexit, the subject that Labour really don’t like taking about because they’re split all over the place regarding it. They’ve had more policy shifts, nudges and winks over it than I’ve had hot dinners so talking about it is also clearly seen to be drag on their vote. Say they’re Remain and their Brexiteer supporters get upset and head off to Mr Farage, say they’re Leave and their Remainers get upset and head off to the Lib Dems. Quite a dilemma, best to keep Mum and try to pretend that Leavers think they’re a Leave party and Remainers think they’re a Remain party! If they get into government they’ll decided which way to face then, if they don’t then they’ll keep running with the hare and hounds, or in Jeremy’s case staying ‘neutral’.

The interesting point here is that the Labour candiadte in Sefton Central was a member of Corbyn’s Sadow Cabinet in the last Parliament so you’d think they’d fully behind Jez and be promoting his Brexit nuetrality.

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?

When the Right is controlling British politics – That’s most of the time!

It really is the majority of the time whether we on the left are willing to admit it or not.

There have only been 4 General Elections since the 2nd World war when the the left has had a significant majority in the House of Commons. Then again it could well be argued that whilst Tony Blair had a huge majority his was hardly a government of the left and probably it was only just left of centre. Could the same or similar be said of Harold Wilson’s Government?

What started this line of thought was that I happened upon a lecture by Vernon Bogdanor being shown on the BBC Parliament Channel recently. It was actually about the history of the Conservative Party. Now whilst I don’t care to be told about the regular electoral success of the Tories Bogdanor is always interesting, impartial and factual in his work.

One thing he mentioned has long been a matter of great interest to me and that is the working class Conservatives who have regularly helped put a Tory government in power. You could be forgiven for thinking that the working class (not a term a personally subscribe to but one that is widely quoted) will usually be voters of the left and therefore for Labour, but up to a third of them are not. What’s more many of them may be conservative (with a small c) or simply right wing whilst at the same time tribally aligned with the Labour Party.

I have regularly been fascinated by the group of Labour MP’s (and there have always been a fair number of them in each Parliament) who come over as reactionary, right wing, anti progressive politics or just Tories wearing a Labour rosette. I saw similar people in the trade union movement in my time as well. They must come from families that are loyal to Labour yet their stance on things such as equality issues, gay rights, crime and punishment, immigration etc. are firmly based on the politics of the right. Often these MP’s and trade unionists will be from the industrial midlands and the north and they will be utterly loyal to Labour, no matter what it stands for.

That loyalty will stem from the early days of the trade union movement and the need for trade unionists to stick together through thick and thin. It will have been inbred into them through families, trade unions and the Labour Party, yet often these people will be as far away from progressive politics as you can find. Sticking together is the most important thing, backing their leaders almost come what may is also big for them and I think it is what is in part driving the cult of Corbyn.

He’s either a very, very late political developer or he really is a second division politician of the left who has, almost by chance, found himself leading a political party. If you look at his history prior to being elected as Labour Leader he had pretty much no positions of responsibility in public life much at all. The Labour left will say that was because he had always been down-trodden by the right wing of the Labour Party (the Social Democrats) and held back and that he was always going to be a working class hero of the left one day. Well it’s a view but hardly a credible one I would venture to say.

Corbyn’s big problem is that he has some right wing tendencies and Brexit is the one that really stands out. Brexit has always been about internal battles within the Tory Party. UKIP was set up as those within the Tory Party who could not get the Tories to back leaving the EU felt they had to take a different route. Of course they succeeded in turning the Tories into a Brexit Party and they won over many people within Labour too. Remember the successes of UKIP electorally have often been in areas of England that are working class and where they won council seats they were often in Labour areas. Now UKIP has all but expired its supporters have drifted back to the Tory Party or indeed Labour. That Corbyn backs Brexit is bizarre to many of us on the left of British politics but he does and the Labour Party is backing him despite, we are told, the vast majority of Labour voters not backing Brexit.

But Corbyn is loyal to his right wing working class supporters who of course were the part of the Labour vote that helped the Tories/UKIP give us our Brexit. His party prides itself, or at least it used to do, on being a very broad church. At one end true socialists looking to break up the capitalist system and at the other people who would be at home in a Bluekip type Party if only it was called the Labour Party. That is indeed a very broad church, you could say so broad that internal power struggles would be almost impossible to to stop. The Social Democrats within Labour have gone very quiet these days (with a few exceptions) especially those in elected public positions as their stance is particularly unwelcome in Corbyn’s Labour Party and they need to be seen to be complying with the wishes of Momentum if they are not to be deselected.

So at face value Labour is presently seen to be a party of the hard left under McDonnell and Corbyn but, with Brexit in particular, they are peddling a Bluekip line. Also the party is having more than its share of infighting over racial issues at present and this is another indication of people of the left holding what seem to be intolerant right wing views.

Across Europe in many counties Social Democrat and Socially Liberal Parties have been a part of the mainstream. Labour has tried to be that in the UK but the drag of having illiberal and far left members in the same party has meant that it has struggled far more more than it has succeeded. Many thought that the victory of Tony Blair signaled a new (or New) Labour Party with broad center ground and moderate appeal but the medicine did not work and now Labour is in the hands of both the socially illiberal and hard left at the same time!

The point of all this? To show that the right has a huge influence on UK politics and that’s not just in the UKIP and Tory parties. Labour has it’s right wingers too and it can be quite easily argued that even the Lib Dems all but ceased to have a Socially Liberal leadership during Nick Clegg’s unfortunate time as Leader. Thankfully and even slightly surprisingly, under Cable, it seems to be regaining its radical and socially liberal edge though.

Which ever way you look at it the right usually predominates in UK politics and its because, in my view, there’s no electorally successful Social Democrat/Liberal Party at the heart of our mainstream politics and I say that as someone who looks upon some Social Democrats as being too right wing.

Reverse this phrase – ‘Labour gathering Momentum’

www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/25/momentum-loyalty-test-would-be-mps-labour-corbyn

The Guardian has this interesting piece on its web site.

That Labour is ‘suffering’ another period of entryism akin to that it had ‘trouble’ with in the 1980’s (Militant) is a given. But entryism and the radical changing of direction of political parties is nothing new although Labour in particular does seem have periods where what it believed in yesterday is no longer what it believes in today more often than other parties. It’s social democrat and hard left wings seem to be in continual battles to be top dog you might say.

But if you look at the Tories now they are nothing like the political party of Heath or even Major. Often now referred to as ‘Bluekip’ and at times leaning worryingly towards fascism is it not reasonable to look upon all those UKIP supporters and activists joining and voting Tory as entyists too?

And then there was the Clegg period running the Lib Dems. Apart from that period being an utter disaster for the Party there were what seemed to be very genuine fears amongst the party membership and indeed the electorate that what had been a genuine party of the center left under say Kennedy, Grimmond etc. had been hauled over to the right, certainly in economic policy areas. Not quite entryism but a significant and truly unwise experiment which may well take years to ‘wear off’ with left leaning liberal voters.

Momentum gathering Labour

So policy lurches in political parties are nothing new as there are other examples across all the main political parties if you delve into their pasts. However, is what is happening within Labour of far greater significance? I ask as the process within the party under Momentum does seem to be much more far reaching. Not so much Labour gathering Momentum but Momentum gathering Labour.

But is there anything fundamentally wrong with Momentum, if they are the dominant creed within Labour these days (and we assume they are), demanding loyalty to their policy agenda before Labour candidates are selected/reselected to fight elections for the party? There seems to be a logic to that argument to me, although it does significantly change what Labour have often referred to as their ‘broad church’ where once they tolerated and even celebrated a membership with vastly differing views.

Tuition Fees and Student Debt – Labour’s in a tangle all of their own making

I have been trying to get to the bottom of what Labour generally and Jeremy Corbyn and Angela Rayner MP in particular have been saying about this controversial matter.

Let’s kill one piece of fake news first – Labour brought in Tuition Fees when in government, end of. No they weren’t brought in by Nick Clegg, he just made an almighty mess of pledging to fight them before doing his spectacular U-turn and in effect reversing that pledge.

So ownership of Tuition Fees belongs to Labour but both Tories and Lib Dems in Government have backed them.

Of course the big news of this June’s General Election was that Labour had decided that their flagship policy to bring in Tuition Fees had been wrong and that they would be abolishing them if the electorate gave them a majority. That pledge went down very well indeed with young voters who flocked behind the Labour banner in the ballot box but not in sufficient numbers to give Labour a majority, indeed Labour were nowhere near a majority.

But what’s been going on since then is interesting as Labour spokespeople seem to have been trying to build on their success of attracting young voters by suggesting, saying and promoting the righting off of student debts. Clearly that talk has given the impression (intended or otherwise) that already held student debts (going back to when Labour introduced Tuition Fees?) would be written off.

And that of course begs the question of what would then happen about the Tuition Fees that have already been paid off? Would it lead to the students who have paid off their debt getting a refund? The logical end of this policy process is that yes they should and obviously folks are drawing that conclusion.

Clearly Labour has by loose talk put itself in a position where there are great expectations over Tuition Fees being abolished, debts being written off and already repaid debt being refunded. Oh how a political party can talk itself into a a hugely significant and expensive policy stance!

But what seems to be going on now is that Labour are trying to talk the expectations down (backing off the pledges?) and saying they had not promised this that or the other.

Have Labour learned nothing from Clegg’s U-turn and how young people took against him?