Friday, 24 July 2015

Blair, Welfare and the 'Corbyn problem' - keeping politics in safe hands

Just how do they get away with it, these 'hands-on' political villains responsible for so much death, destruction and social misery?

We slaughtered Iraq.
Just like that!
As a litany of Labour luvvies convulse over their nightmare vision of a real people-caring politician winning the party leadership, Tony Blair has handed-down a desperate appeal to 'deluded' Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

Addressing Progress (a right-wing, New Labour 'think-tank', part-funded by Lord David Sainsbury), Blair quipped that if people are voting for Corbyn "in their heart", they need to think about getting "a heart transplant". What wit. His select audience and attendant media tittered approvingly.

Much lofty 'debate' has ensued over Blair's 'intervention'. What will the 'Tony effect' be? Should he be 'hands-on' or 'hands-off'? Such is the vacuity of political discussion.

The issue isn't just Blair, it's the media's lavish indulgence of him, the free and helpful hand it gives him to stage his gesture politics.

Blair is ducking and diving, fronting himself up, saving his skin, fending-off justice, and, in the process, getting filthy rich with a grubby hand in every despot's business. But the BBC, Guardian and other service media have handed him acres of respectable space to carry on the great evasion.

This includes a line of shallow apologetics from the Guardian's Michael White and Owen Jones in defence of Blair's New Labourite 'legacy'.

White grudgingly concedes that, yes, there's Iraq and all that 'old issue', but asks whether Blair has a legitimate right to intervene in the leadership contest:
...the answer in a sane world must surely be: “Of course a triple election winner should offer advice. Whyever not?”
While White extols Blair as an election-winning machine, rather than questioning the sanity of a media that won't pursue him as a warmonger, Jones wants to focus on Blair's and "New Labour’s grand achievements: the war against child poverty", its creation of tax credits and other 'progressive legacies'.

It's a remarkable interpretation for Jones, a Corbyn supporter. Does he forget that these crumbs of economic 'comfort' under Blair and Brown (the 'Lennon and McCartney' of politics) occurred against a record of widening inequality, privatisation/PFI, neoliberalism and City-friendly policies so extreme they would have made Thatcher blush?

White commends Jones for "mak[ing] an honest stab at a balanced verdict here." The 'sage hack' handing-down plaudits to the paper's 'new left crusader'.

The Guardian's Polly Toynbee concurs on the Blair legacy, as she gushes over his reappearance:
The flash of the real Blair yesterday was a shadowy reminder of the deftness, flair and intelligence that made him a winner back in the day: his policies were often very good and sometimes very bad, but his political acuity was key.
Warning of the "disaster" and 'folly' of endorsing Corbyn, Toynbee reminds us that though a:
free spirit, the outsider not playing by the usual political rules [...and]unfettered by what a majority of voters beyond Islington might support in a real election, he’s a romantic.  
And while:
saying what no doubt many Labour members believe [...he's] a 1983 man, a relic of the election that brought him to parliament when Labour was destroyed by its out-of-Nato, anti-EU, renationalise-everything suicide note.
Toynbee does acknowledge Corbyn's core humanism. But that's not, apparently, important enough against what's politically 'realisable':
He’s a good man, sincere, ascetic, beloved by constituents – but voting for him is ignoring the electorate.
So says Toynbee, ignoring the fact that all those Corbyn supporters are also part of the electorate. This is classic liberal arms-around-the-poor politics, handing down the dire warning that only 'sensible Labourism' can seriously arm-wrestle that Tory muscle.

'Stand in front of you, take the force of the blow', goes the line from Massive Attack, words that could be used to signify the need for real protection against the latest Tory onslaught.

But how many Labour politicians will stand in front of Cameron and Osborne? Will this party ever check the relentless blows of neoliberalism? And which media is offering any real defence against these forces, including complicit Labour? The Guardian? White, Jones and Toynbee?

The Quiet Man shows his caring compassion
as Osborne announces savage welfare cuts
Iain Duncan Smith has shown a voracious capacity for hammering the weak and vulnerable. His fists clenched with zealous delight on hearing that his campaign to starve-out the poorest through benefit cuts, sanctions, and other siege policies had just been deepened with Osborne's budget.

This is Duncan Smith's 'helping-hand' to those at the bottom. Hands-up anyone who truly believes in that kind of 'assistance'.

In Glasgow's Easterhouse - for Duncan Smith a strange and distant locale he once visited in a kind of anthropological journey to shake hands with the alien poor - there's 'reportedly' many who might 'cordially' like to lay hands on him again.

While they and millions more face foodbank existence, Osborne's latest welfare handout to the rich should come as little surprise. The Bullingdon Club delivers precisely the kind of giveaways one expects of elites serving their own class.

That Labour have again been found working hand-in-glove with them confirms just what a venal entity it is.

Yet Harman's helping-hand to Osborne, ensuring safe passage of the Tories' Welfare Bill, ended up a ham-fisted failure to wield the whip over Labour rebels.

She duly pointed the finger at the 'irresponsible 48' who have only now, apparently, brought the official 'opposition' to a point of 'party crisis'.

As Corbyn forges ahead, his contenders, likewise, look on in bewildered panic.

Burnham, the initial favourite, now trailing Corbyn, has turned on Harman, accusing her not of collaboration, but of weakness in failing to wield the heaviest of hands over the Welfare vote. Like Cooper and Kendall, Burnham also abstained, saying he didn't want to split the party. It's "crying out for leadership", he pleaded.

Such shameless compliance and bland-speak reactions at being overtaken by Corbyn suggests that such figures are losing their once-assumed grip, trailing a shifting political mood.

Galvanised by the SNP, an ongoing referendum movement and the kind of real compassionate politics expressed by Mhairi Black, people are stirring for a serious alternative to clone politicians. It's a vote for authenticity, an appreciation of plain-speaking, shared experience and human empathy.

But any serious reflection of that mood cannot be countenanced by an 'even-handed' BBC and other alarmed media.

Corbyn is being tainted, smeared, trivialised and, above all, castigated as making Labour unelectable.

The warnings and appeals to 'show sense' couldn't be more front-page, headline and finger-waving.

Yet on a range of vital issues, from re-nationalising the railways and other public utilities to opposing Iraq and other aggressive wars, from approving a 75 per cent rate of tax to banning nuclear weapons - a substantial majority of the public are on Corbyn's side.

Beyond token acknowledgement of these feelings, the relentless media message is one of choosing between 'ideological wish-lists' and 'reality politics'.  From BBC News to Newsnight, the Guardian to the Independent, the consistent frame is how to deal with the 'Corbyn Problem'.

For Toynbee, we've now entered "summer madness", as it:
begins to feel like the poisonous place it was in the early 80s. That’s when it split over toxic Militant entryism unchallenged by Michael Foot, its unelectable leader with a raft of impossibilist policies.
Can the party step back from "the brink" of adopting this political 'amateur', the paper's Martin Kettle anguishes:
He is not, as his three opponents are, a reformist who aspires to govern and get re-elected. He is not interested in making detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises. Corbyn’s position is essentially made up of attitudes and slogans.
For Kettle:
There’s nothing particularly wrong with being a faith-based socialist – but please don’t confuse it with politics.
Politics, of course, being the all-knowing domain of grown-up journalists like Kettle.

And just in case we need any more handy lessons in frivolous democracy and silly ideals, Michael White is also on hand to remind us what befell Syriza and the Greek people in pursuing such leftist 'indulgence'.

In other words, get back in your box. Get off the streets. Trust your Guardianista.

The connection those like Black and Corbyn have to real people on the street pose a growing threat to blandscape politics, such as the anodyne lines handed-down by Burnham, Cooper and Kendall. Those street feelings also undermine the Guardian cabal.

Listen to Mhairi's deeply-felt compassion as she relates the treatment of people subject to cruel sanctions, vicious cuts and the humiliation of foodbanks.

Black articulates not just a rejection of austerity but a true, hands-on case for the better society.

The establishment have an enduring interest in promoting the politics of selfishness, scapegoating migrants, blaming the poor and vulnerable, encouraging divisive animosity. But the politics of 'choice' over how to respond to this is like opening out a pair of empty hands. In one, a resort to hateful Daily Mail conservatism, in the other a plea from soothing Guardian liberals to stay with moderate Labourism.

The charade of 'Labour's rebuilding' goes on. But, high-handed politicians and a slap-down media are struggling to contain the disillusion within and beyond Labour ranks. Whether Corbyn wins this contest or not, there's a growing realisation that Labour, in its system-serving role, peddling itself as a credible alternative, offers nothing of progressive use. As we've seen in Scotland, it's irretrievably broken. Nothing of radical worth can come from a party now so tainted by decades of incorporation and betrayal. Whatever transpires for Labour, the mood for a new authentic politics is growing.

That's the enveloping concern for a losing Labour elite and its anxious media handlers. Last year's near convulsion for them came from the Scottish independence vote. Right now, in this 'summer of madness', it's the all-hands-on-deck operation to stop Corbyn. All of which promises greater consequential crises for Labour and its establishment network. In continuing emergency mode, their authority is being further eroded, their legitimacy more deeply exposed.


radcliffe said...

It is blatantly clear now that the neoliberal consensus has taken a deeper hold than could possibly be imagined. All pretence at any Socialism has been expunged and Labour values built up over decades, fought and in some case died for have been abandoned. I feel physically sick every time I hear Hunt, Blair, Kendall et al spouting their version of this consensus while dressing it in the clothes of a Labour Party that no longer exists in their mind. They are the splitters, the collaborators, the traitors to the party and people who made them. I despair.

John Monro said...

Thanks for the article John, nicely written. As Radcliffe has just posted, we do see the near total triumph of neoliberalism - the right has won, not just in the UK, but around the world. What has and is happening in the UK is the same in New Zealand. Indeed in this country is was a Labour government who introduced so many neoliberal policies in the 1980s. NZ Labour is the same effete and corporatist party as in the UK, with a few softening touches, much as a doctor might put lubricant on his gloved finger before doing a rectal, and apart from the Greens, the left has failed in main stream politics - opposition is now devolved to other activists organisations, fractured and for the most part, ineffectual. What has happened to Greece, the sheer ruthlessness and vindictiveness that a psychopathic powerful elite inflicted on an entire population, should be a warning to us all. Basically this is a class struggle, it always is, and what could be more old fashioned as that - in which case who could be more equipped to lead this struggle than a man like Corbyn? Unfortunately, more likely the downfall of the right will be its own internal contradictions, and its environmental and social destruction. It is more likely that things will eventually become very nasty indeed than a single man like Corbyn can turn the tide beforehand, however decent and principled he is.

John Hilley said...

Thanks for your comments, radcliffe and John.

Yes, there's no escaping the truth of just how much of a grip the forces of neoliberalism have over us. The way in which the Guardian circle are helping to savage Corbyn also shows just how vital that ideological policing role is in upholding the power system, and the warning that it really is an 'unchallengeable reality'. And yet, look at the advances, albeit with great difficulty, still being made by Podemos. As Gramsci asserted: 'Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will'.

I'm not sure it's a matter of Corbyn being either suitable or up to leading any such struggle. It's more a case of building movement politics, rather than party politics and party leaders.

And, indeed, what "a psychopathic powerful elite [has] inflicted on an entire population" IS "a warning to us all." That's been the whole point. Don't even dare think about it, or you'll get a dose of what we've force-fed on Greece.

However, Greece is also showing up the massive crisis of neoliberal capitalism itself, which can only feed more political instability and pressure for change.

Youri said...

hey John! I've read your mythbusting articles before, and this one is superb, straight out of the ball park! Once again the so called respectable liberal media from the Guardian, the Independent, to the Daily Mirror, and Channel 4, are showing their true colors as like George Galloway, Russell Brand (before he endorsed lameduck Milliband but his documentary 'Emperor's New Clothes is a must see), and Tony Benn back in the 70s and 80s are making Corbyn public enemy number one. They aren't progressive, and certaintly not Anti-Tory, and in the case of Owen Jones not true socialist if they can whitewash Tony Blair's horrendous neo-liberal policies and the cult of New Labor he's left behind, and just put the bloody carnage that was Iraq under the wrong, as if yes the glass was broken but just hide the mess, no one will notice.

Corbyn is brilliant, he's not a radical as people make him out to be, he's actually quite moderate, but he is a truth teller, and the kind of Old Labor that Labor should be, both domestically and foreignly. I hope those who support Respect, the Greens, and those very members of the party tell people to support Corbyn, and Corbyn isn't afraid to reach out a hand of solidarity to them as he's protested alongside the Stop the War Coalition, and is fond of if you read the Morning Star and the few independent newsoutlets in the UK. If he and Bernie Sanders are suppressed, vilified, and the establishment New Labor or New Democrats once again are favored then there really is no hope, and we will always get fooled again like the Who talked about, and we'll continue to live in Orwell's Animal Farm.

John Hilley said...

Thanks, Youri. Well said. Be sure also to read the latest excellent piece from Media Lens on the whole media 'stop Corbyn' operation, noting, in particular, the Guardian circle's 'guiding' words.

Fantasy Politics - 'Corbyn's Morons' And The 'Sensible Approach'