Thursday, 11 October 2012

One Nation Labour - latest Guardian LIP service

Ed Miliband's breathtaking bravura and a One Nation stroke of genius
This was the day Miliband took full command of his party and turned his
private qualities at last into public strengths
So ran Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee's excruciating headline in support of Labour leader Ed Miliband, telling us all we need to know about the Guardian's own dutiful function.

As with past proclamations of 'saviour leaders' and their 'new-broom' projects, the Guardian has gushed its approval of Miliband and his 'One Nation' slogan, the most fatuous play to 'anti-class politics' since the shallow 'stakeholding' patois of Blair.

Rampant austerity, widening poverty, shameless pay rises for bankers, a privatised spiral of cuts across the NHS and other vital public services, treasury billions for death and destruction in Afghanistan, the spectre of further Nato warmongering, the haunting imperative of climate catastrophe - and here's Miliband's 'big political solution': One Nation Labour.

Rather than instant dismissal of this tired posture, minute dissection and grandiose prose duly filled the Guardian pages, as though Miliband had delivered some wondrous new holy-grail philosophy.

Besides the actual unoriginality of One Nation Labour (ONL) - why not New Improved Labour (NIL)? - one might reasonably wonder how 'serious journalists' can be so absorbed by such blatantly obvious spin. The answer, in large part, lies in the career-conformist ways in which liberal journalists comprehend, accept and describe the prevailing system of 'participatory democracy', the hegemonic fiction of which a 'critical, vanguard' media is itself a key, reinforcing part.   

And so the Guardian revels in its role as 'liberal inspector', earnestly comparing the extended party 'variants' of 'one nation compassion'.

Anticipating the prime minister's big conference riposte to Miliband, Patrick Wintour, Guardian political correspondent, considered the same great 'one nation challenge', as if being inside Cameron's head:
David Cameron will seek to prevent Ed Miliband's "one nation" Labour driving him from the common ground of British politics on Wednesday, asserting that his brand of compassionate Conservatism is not just for the strong, but also the best way to help the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.

Despite a conference full of tough messages on burglary, welfare and sometimes social issues, the prime minister will insist: "My mission from the day I became leader was … to show the Conservative party is for everyone, north or south, black or white, straight or gay."

In his annual speech to the Conservative party conference, he will tell his party: "It's not enough to know our ideas are right. We've got to explain why they are compassionate too."
And, with Wintour's fevered speculations duly registered, Guardian favourite Jonathan Freedland gave the all-important appraisal of the actual speech:
All of this amounted to an answer to a question Tories have long wanted Cameron to address. Given that he can't say how long Britain will have to keep taking the austerity medicine, they have yearned for him to explain again – and more effectively – why the treatment is necessary and what the country will look like once it's over. On Wednesday he made a decent stab at that. The result is a conference season that leaves the three main leaders stronger than they were before, at least with their own parties, and which has opened up a genuine and substantive argument between the main two. Both Labour and the Conservatives are now locked in a fight for the centre ground, each claiming to be the authentic voice of One Nation. The shape of the next general election just got clearer. [Emphasis added.]
How thankful we should be to Freedland and his Guardian peers for elucidating these "genuine and substantive" differences and electoral choices.

Which, as with the culminating farce of Obama-Romney, amounts to a Hobson's choice of who is politically distinctive, radically willing and intellectually capable of effecting real change.

What's the difference between ConDem 'compassion' and Labour 'compassion'?  In either policy 'content' or moral practice, precisely none.

What's the 'answer' to current Tory/Liberal cuts and austerity? More Labour-intended cuts and austerity.

What's the best deal going in 'one-nation-centre-ground' politics? Take your pick from the political party shelves, all guided by the Guardian's lofty indulgence of the hype and dissembling versions on offer.

The liberal media's complicity lies not just in its abject failure to identify and expose the charlatanism of branded party politics, the supermarket 'choices', but in its own image-enhancing part in the marketing.

One of the key checks on real political choice and reform lies in the relentless media messages which filter and sustain the very narrowest notions of achievable aims, trivialised to things like a few pence of tax breaks or a concession on tuition fees, a political culture of realist constraint and austerity sacrifice encouraged by whatever ready-fashionable conceit that 'we're all-in-it-together'.

From Blair to Brown, from Cameron to Clegg, the Guardian has helped project, protect and rehabilitate an entire catalogue of 'centrist visionaries', dutifully announcing their every fanciful take on the stakeholding/one nation/big society charade.

Now, as liberal commentariat and 'consumer-watchdog', it is eagerly selling Miliband and his "bravura" promotion. What serious chance of Miliband moving in any other direction than his neoliberal, war-criminal predecessors and contemporaries? What chance that the Guardian itself knows this basic truth and trajectory?

One Nation Labour, ONL, will have its seasonal appeal; pushed, fetishised and eventually sell-by dropped just like the others. As 'political' products, these appeal as 'current season', keeping leaders in the shop-window and correspondents looking like real journalists.

What matters, more crucially, is the preservation and continuity of that Liberal Illusion Politics - the all-important LIP-service to power - helping to legitimise the system through the high-personalisation of smooth-talking leaders, indulgence of their 'big ideas' and the shiny pretence that all of this constitutes real political debate.

LIP: now, there's a fertile political narrative for exploring; a far-reaching idea and message for the liberal literati to fill their bold headlines, searching editorials and analytical columns.

Don't expect that kind of dissenting chat any time soon at the on-message Guardian.


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