Tribalism is making this the most demoralizing General Election.

 

I wish I could have more hope with the upcoming General Election, Jeremy Corbyn is by far the most exciting leader in my lifetime, and although this should fill me with the  same giddy excitement of a One Direction fan winning a VIP tour to Harry Styles’s dressing room, I feel utterly demoralized. For the older generation, replace One Direction with Take That and Harry Styles with Gary Barlow. For my Labour friends in my constituency, replace One Direction with the Beatles, and Harry Styles with Paul Mccartney. 

Why should I feel gutted at the prospect of a General Election with one of the best leaders in my lifetime taking part? Because for the first time since joining the Labour party, my militant marching orders are to support Labour without a shred of critique, or a measure of cynicism. Do the Lib-Dems have any good ideas? No, no matter what policy they have, they are traitors, yellow Tories with no heart and a blood thirsty attitude towards poor people. How about the Greens, surely their lefty policies rub the right way with Labour supporters? Absolutely not, the Greens are crazy crusties with no hope of any power, and Caroline Lucas should really support Labour because we are right and she is wrong. This is literally the level we are at now. Corbyn’s hopeful “inclusive” politics, seems to only be inclusive if you’re part of Labour, otherwise you belong in Theresa May’s basement, eating the leftover crumbs of stolen primary school meals.

I grew up with Liberal Democrat parents, my mother as a councillor, and my father who is pretty much part of the woodwork which make up the foundations of the party. They worked closely with Paddy Ashdown during the Liberal Democrat renaissance of the 1990’s. My sister, a passionate scientist fighting for the environment, and tackling climate change, has worked with Caroline Lucas of the Greens. My mother and I have joined Labour, and are passionate about Jeremy Corbyn and his policies. If you heard any of us discuss politics around the dinner table, our differences in opinion are very subtle, nuanced and specific. We are all polar opposites to UKIP and the Conservative party. As are the parties actually policies if anyone bothers to actually check.

Here’s a few examples borrowed from each manifesto.

  NHS

Labour:

  “We will end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people, funding dignity across the board and ensure parity for mental health services.”

 

Lib-dems:

 “The Liberal Democrats will put an end to these sweetheart deals, block PFI contracts, prevent privatisation of the NHS through the back door and increase NHS funding each year”

We need services that fit around people’s lives, not ones that force them to fit their lives around the care they need. We must move away from a fragmented system to an integrated service with more joined-up care.

 

Greens:

  We will fight for a fair deal for those needing health care by opposing cuts, closures and privatisation and by demanding a full programme of locally accessible services.In particular, we will maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland.

All these parties support the reinstatement of nurse’s bursaries.

So not much difference here, maybe some nuanced differences on funding, but essentially the same goal compare to the Tories; who want more privatisation, social care paid for by forcing people to sell their houses, along with UKIP who believe the NHS is a monolithic hangover of days gone by.

Then we look at domestic politics. Many lefty media outlets praised Labour’s manifesto as Keynesian, I wonder if they and Liberals understand that John Maynard Keynes was actually a Liberal? That investing in an economy in recession is how you grow the economy, rather than floating it on credit card debt? Well the Liberals have now clarified they would boost the economy with a major program of capital investment aimed at stimulating growth across the UK; Labour will take advantage of near- record low interest rates to create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250 billion over ten years in upgrading our economy; and the Greens have stated “With scant evidence of the kind of strong recovery expected after previous post-war recessions, it’s time to admit that austerity in the UK has failed and that an alternative approach of significant investment to reduce the deficit is needed”

Obviously there are differences in how you invest in the economy between the progressive parties, but compare that to the Conservatives who are tripling private debt, decimating public services, and ramping up privatization in every corner of the country; why split each others votes in this election because of such trivial differences?

The Conservatives won just 24.3% of the population over last general election, why the hell do they deserve any kind of majority? If all the progressive parties had allied last election, they would have received 49% of the national vote. There is no guarantee that voters would switch, but why shouldn’t they? Considering the damage to the country done by this current slim Tory majority? And voters won’t switch on mass unless their supported party leads them that way.

What are the real dividing lines that stop a progressive alliance? For the Lib-Dems, it’s Labour’s position on Europe. Ironically for many in the Labour party the dividing lines in supporting Corbyn is his position on Europe. Personally, I’m immensely disappointed by Labour’s policy to accept Brexit for what it is, and given that Labour supporters voted 65% to remain, a significant majority in the party must, at some level, be feeling the same resentment. Tactically it hasn’t paid off either,  losing a lot of Remain voters to other parties, and lots of Leave voters to the Conservatives. So what’s the point in pretending Labour want to accept the Brexit result, when it’s neither honest nor tactically useful. At least in a progressive alliance, many in the Labour party would feel quite comfortable compromising for another vote on a Brexit deal, or at least staying in the Single Market.

For us in Labour, I would press the Liberals to fully endorse an anti-austerity program. From my experience Liberals are far more radical than the public notice, it’s always the hierarchy who caution patience, a cowardly tactical ploy to always appear in a mythical center ground, defining themselves from the other parties instead of focusing on their own beliefs. I cannot understand why re-nationalizing natural monopolies is not just a socialist ideal, but always a liberal one? You cannot empower people without taking them out of poverty either, so the Liberals should be far more on board with an anti-austerity program. Again if Labour compromised on Europe, something the party naturally wants, surely the Liberals can compromise by backing up a strong investment package? Which the party naturally wants!?

Now for many politically active, pro-European, Liberal Lefties, such as myself, I feel completely at odds and impotent In doing anything in this election. This tribalism is completely toxic for all people involved. Politics should be about values, policies, principles and morals, It shouldn’t be treated as religious, as many left of the Conservatives are doing now. Yes Corbyn is fantastic, but so is Caroline Lucas, and Farron’s defense of internationalism, refugees and civil rights, is equally inspiring. Nicola Sturgeon is also one of the biggest thorns in the current Conservative government . I see all these people as great politicians, but I must only support one, otherwise I’m a traitor to my cause. Not because I am against the policies, but because I don’t don my red rosette and demonize all the other progressive political parties simply because they are not Labour.

If you are truly inclusive, accepting of diversity, and passionately democratic, you cannot put all your hopes for a progressive future in one party. Under Blair, Cameron and May, every MP received their marching orders. You do as your told, or face sitting on the backbenches for the rest of your term. How can you defend a system which is effectively a democratic dictatorship? At least in coalition, people had to work to convince each other to vote for policies. You didn’t just have to turn up, vote with the whip, claim your expenses and salary, then go home again. Bearing in mind that over two thirds of European countries have proportional systems and continuous coalitions, and a reminder for the socialists in this country, that Corbyn’s type of politics is most prevalent  in European countries where there is proportional voting.

It’s far too late to ask candidates to withdraw, or have open talks with other parties. I ask as a passionate Labour supporter, to understand that by simply being in the Labour party doesn’t qualify you as morally superior, or politically more competent. That other progressive parties care as much about fixing social injustice and inequality as we do, with slightly different solutions to how to solve It. We can’t change what will happen this general election, but unless by some miracle we beat the Conservatives, we have to grow out of this primitive tribal politics, acknowledge the elephant in the room, and do something about the voting system if you care about the future of this country.

If you don’t oppose austerity, you don’t represent a credible opposition to the Conservative party.

So Corbyn wins again, the chicken coup rebellion by 70% of MPs and 10 MEP’s failed miserably and Corbyn gained an even greater mandate than he did previously. Small clusters of MPs have been rebelling against him as soon as he approached Labour’s headquarters In London. No other Labour leader has faced the shear animosity Corbyn faced within the first few weeks of his election.  If you combine that with the Independent’s study citing that 75% of media coverage has either deliberately misrepresented him, or simply waged a character assassination ignoring anything politically relevant – who can forget the stories about him not singing the national anthem, or not bowing low enough during a memorial service? – is there any wonder the members responded with stubborn resistance, which on rare occasions became aggressive?.

But to justify my opening statement, let’s look back to the reasons this country is in an economic and social mess; and I implore his critics to at least come up with some viable alternative policies, rather than repeat the same superficial abstract platitudes, that the right wing media uses.

Like most of my quibbles with Britain’s current predicaments, it seems that our most of my issues start with one person –cue the groans of Corbyn critics – yes you guessed it, Margaret Thatcher. The 1983 Big Bang was the start of a sudden deregulation of financial markets, coincidental (or not) with the same free market neo-liberal policy of deregulation by Ronald Reagan.  Combined with the lack of state investment in any public infrastructure, Thatcher’s focus was to make London retain its place as the financial capital of the world, and thus make our economy entirely reliant on a financial services sector in London. The only issue is that these financial institutions opened the floodgates to foreign investment, and all independent building societies and separate merchant banks where absorbed by universal banks and investment banking units. The practice of the financial sector changed dramatically, rather than smaller institutions investing in highly strategized safe projects, these big high street banks and foreign companies started gambling at risk, in a monetized feeding frenzy. Blair and Brown continued this trend of deregulation, something Labour “moderates” and Mr Tim Farron should recognize before leaping to defend the previous Labour Government.

Ok so you’re already bored aren’t you? Trust me it gets far more complex, but the gist of it is basically that our financial services became internationally entwined with the US, and this paved the way to the 2007/8 global financial crash. Once bad and risky loans were being bundled with safe investments (Collateralized Debt Obligations) then bought and sold across the world, this eventually led to the mass repossession of homes and ultimately crashed the value of housing , and the backbone of financial shares across the world. The greed of high street bankers destroyed lives, the same lives which are being crushed under austerity, whilst the perpetrators of the crash are now wealthier than ever before.  We bailed out our banks to the tune of 124 billion pounds in cash, and 333 billion pounds in the form of guarantees, where the Government will only provide cash if things go badly wrong.Now having read into this I could go on for hours about the implications of bailing out banks to this amount, because of the calamitous loans they themselves invested in. There are some atrocious stories about banks demanding to be privatized before paying back any money owed to the British government. Throw in a Brexit to this scenario and we go from a complex situation, to an all-around cluster-fuck, but that’s for another blog.

My point to all this is, why have we all bought into austerity as an excuse for a political strategy? especially considering that these cuts have hurt the most vulnerable in society and the Tories are in the process of systematically destroying the public services sector, all of which bear no responsibility for the greed and recklessness of the financial sector and the incompetence of previous governments. Tim Farron at the Liberal Democrat conference proclaimed that the Lib-Dems will become the official opposition as Labour is un-electable under Corbyn (fairly bold for a man leading a party with 8 MPs), and praised Tony Blair for his leadership, the man who not only led the way to further financial deregulation, but also introduced privatization into health, education, and that’s without mentioning the Iraq war.

Ironically, the talismanic, mystic and all round economic wizard Vince Cable – once favoured by the British public as being more competent with economics then Brown and Osborne – stated before the coalition the importance of investment over austerity as an economic policy. In fact one of history’s prominent economists (a lifelong member of the Liberal party) John Maynard Keynes, whose ideas led the revolution to modern day liberalism, stated the importance of saving in surplus and spending in recession. Yet during the coalition parliament Vince Cable changed his tune to support cuts to public services, excusing this attitude by blaming Labour’s  previous economic policies, incidentally ignoring the fact that deregulation of the financial industry started with the Conservatives, his partners’ in coalition . To this day on the Liberal Democrat website, their economic policy is still to inflict “necessary” austerity. Since the coalition, Vince Cable has expressed regret at defending the Liberal Democrats approach to coalition in regards to the economy, it turns out he was locked out of negotiations by Clegg, Alexander and Laws. Not as united on policy as Lib-Dems would like you to believe.

And now on to the so called ‘moderate’ wing of the Labour party. I was never a fan of Miliband’s Labour, ironically because I thought they were useless in opposition, always abstaining on any progressive policy put forward by the coalition and failing to show any enthusiasm for changing the voting system, something that could have dramatically changed the following general election, and may have averted a Brexit situation. The problem with old ‘New’ Labour is their obsession with electability, and their belief that principles can, and should be left at the gate, if you want to get to the corridors of political power.  This is fundamentally a toxic ideology, and why Blair should not be used as an example of a Labour party success story, given his close ties with the Murdoch media empire, and the neo-liberal policies which led to the recession and started the privatization of public assets.

And then after the slim majority win by David Cameron in 2015, with the crushed Lib-Dems and the meteoric rise of the SNP, acting leader Harriet Harman decided not to vote against the new welfare bill, restricting children’s tax credits, driving thousands of families into poverty. Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendell all advocated their limp leadership values based around an “austerity-lite” ideal, believing that what the public really need after consecutive years of public sector cuts, cuts to welfare, and pay freezes, is more public sector cuts, cuts to welfare, and pay freezes. All justified because both the Conservatives, then New Labour, messed with a global financial system, promoting greed at the expense of any egalitarian values.

And then we have Corbyn, the only leader advocating public investment, and harder regulations on the financial industry, the only leader (apart from Caroline Lucas of the Greens) who is anti-austerity. And this is painted as a mad, Trotskite/Communist belief by mainstream media, Labour moderates and Liberal Democrats? Don’t you think a little blame could go to the mad free market basket cases who caused the financial mess in the first place?

What’s worse is that Momentum and Corbyn supporters are now being demonized, vilified and misrepresented by the same self-righteous, facetious political pundits, whose only criticisms are superficial and sometimes simply based around gutter journalism. I understand skepticism from a self-serving Conservative, but anyone ‘Left’ of the Tories needs to actually have a little perspective, and stop treating us like idiots, and maybe, just maybe, talk about actual policies?.

The main criticism is that Jeremy Corbyn is un-electable, even if his critics can never fully explain why. My point all along is the now famous Jo Cox line “We have far more in common, than that which divides us”. If the Lib-Dems, and Labour moderates could focus more on their actual belief systems, go back to the drawing board and rediscover their own moral compasses again, rather than stick their finger in the wind to guess public opinion based around right wing media sources, then maybe they could see how many policies we have in common, especially in contrast to the Conservative party. Combine that with a pledge to change our voting system, and a focus on simply defeating the Tories in the interim, we could have real change in this country.

It’s time to stop the overt snobbery and contemptuous rhetoric against Corbyn. My plea to anyone left of the Conservative party is to start seeing who the real enemy is.