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.

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Theresa May has left us no choice but to ban Trump from his state visit.

Theresa May has left us no choice but to ban Trump from visiting the UK.

As the petition to stop Trump on a state visit, reaches over the million mark, the country is split 3 ways; a very slim minority with Islamophobic views, represented by our own deplorables from the darkest shades of Brexit phenomena; critics that disagree with Trump, but have the liberal values to at least give him a platform; and ardent critics of Trump who want to fully protest Trump’s values and policies in the loudest way possible.

I always believe that giving people a platform is important; we cannot force people away from debates because we think they’re wrong to have a certain opinion. This leads down the dark path of authoritarianism, the kind which put people like Stalin and Hitler in power.

During the build up to the 2009 general election, the BNP were gaining slowly in popularity, they managed to gain 2 MEP’s in the European Parliament, we thought then it was a scary time for politics! One memorable Question Time appearance by BNP leader Nick Griffin saw an abrupt end to any rise, and xenophobic nationalists fled to hide under a more covert banner with UKIP. Nick Griffin basically made a fool of himself, quoting memorably that he wanted better rights for British people who had been living in the country since the dawn of time, which to anyone with a remote grasp on our history, is palpably absurd. This is a great example of why you should debate everyone from any background, don’t let hate fester in the shadows where it builds credibility by being ignored by “mainstream media”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iKfrY9l2kY&spfreload=10

Surely one of the biggest winners of festering, dark shadow, conspiracy propaganda is Donald Trump. With the superficial and sensationalist mainstream media in the US, it’s understandable why people seek new sources for their information. But when people are pushed away from the regulated, centre ground of information sources, in our days of social media and the internet, they can get mopped up by any wondering lunatic with a Youtube channel or blog. In the run up to his election, Trump used information provided by the white supremacy news outlet Breitbart, and Alex Jones who regularly had stories about Obama being a real live demon.

So surely we should have him here to debate, or be interviewed by a Paxman or O’Brien who can hold his feet to the fire. Naturally I would definitely want him to have a platform, but we’re living in un-natural times. Brexit is a cliff-edge we’re all facing, whether you’ve opened your eyes yet or not. Leaving our main trading block of 28 countries, the Tories pretend everything will rosy, but in reality we have nowhere else to turn too, then the sweaty orange backside of an ego-maniac with a protectionist agenda. So Trump doesn’t represent all of America, of course he doesn’t, he lost the popular vote by 3 million people. However, we have to remember it is him in charge, and he’s leading a particularly ominous pack of rabid republicans, they will dictate terms of trade, and we will have little choice over what they will demand from us. Think access to our national healthcare, lower quality GM food, chlorine soaked chickens, and products made from prison slave labour.

So this doesn’t exactly answer why we should block him from coming, but it does show why Theresa May has to act submissive and friendly, to a man blocking women’s reproductive rights, cancelling climate change agreements, blocking entire countries from travelling to the US based purely on religion (unless they do deals with Trump’s business interests), endorsing the use of torture and breaking international law, and insulting Europeans, Asians, and Arabs as the rotten cherry on the cake.

The question is, should we British people really forsake our privileged position, as friends and equals to our European neighbours, simply to suck up to a man who is currently feeding our western values into the shredder previously used by dictators across history?

I sincerely hope not, I still believe we are a society better than this. And if Theresa May won’t stick up for the values of diversity, tolerance and liberty, which really make the backbone of our culture, than we have too. We have a lot of catching up to do with our damaged reputation across the world, lets show them what we’re really made of, and send a message.

Let’s ban the thin-skinned, sexist, racist, narcissist from coming here, sign below.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

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.

Debating with the Tea Party

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I’ve heard murmurs of the Tea Party in circles of debate, but I never bothered to find out exactly what they stand for – All I assumed is that they were becoming a 3rd party in America’s democracy, which I thought was a good thing as a Liberal Democrat. You see, as  a Brit that’s lived under 4 Tory governments, I couldn’t understand the discord with Obama’s politics, which have….well…been successful in boosting the economy with Keynesian style politics, I thought it should be a message to Europe! I still believe in the dangers of multi-national corporations, but this is where I and the Tea party fundamentally disagree.

I always join political groups, looking for a way to gauge world views and philosophy’s, that’s when I stumbled upon PoliticsNsuch. Unknowingly I pretty much joined the unofficial Tea Party page. I advocate a social democracy, and I was literally outnumbered with cries of anger “you hypocrite, YOU save vulnerable children if you care so much” and “It’s my right to not pay tax!”.

The conversation sparked anger within the first two comments, but became reasonable with passive persistence. The premise of the thread, was they believe in living by one soul ‘right’- the right to look after your own interest and property, and to not violate others interests and property. Now is it me?, or does that scream of paradoxes. So Instead, I wanted to question the moral philosophy of this ideal – “What about others round the world, are you going to stop dictators denying them the right you have” This provoked what I can only describe as a squawk of rhetoric, a flurry of definitions of what a “right” means, and, again, the usual insults, Trump style.  How did talking about dictators get to this? In fact they were calling me the dictator for making them contribute to the progress of others.

So on to the next “right” I believe in, the right for clean water. The response was again based around definitions combined with these hilarious responses “Charlies using a laptop and phone, he’s being selfish to the poor!”. Somewhat bemused at what, passive responses and respect can do to these ,reverse- trolls!, I persisted. Eventually the barrage of insults gets fairly unproductive, and I question why I’m not currently doing the dishes in the kitchen, before I simply agreed to disagree and told them, that it’s all part of the democratic process to define rights, and we’ll see.

Finally after a few hours of free-from-Facebook time, so my girlfriend could stop hating me, I stupidly checked the group page, completely convinced that I would not comment to anything. And there was the statement that convinced me to persist, “No one gets to define my rights, I do, and you can f*** off if you think you can”

Not only was there a chance to delve deeper into the humanity of these human beings, but there was also a curiosity about American politics that needed to be fulfilled. So I quoted them the bill of rights was democratically decided, and I promise you it wasn’t until the next day – my girlfriends mood had shifted to infuriated by this point –  I actually received anything but different varieties of “your stupid” in the debate. Isn’t it interesting that the people, that think a mob is shouting down their rights , currently look like a mob shouting down your rights.

So after one reasonably nice lady asked what I was suggesting, FINALLY, I spoke about something very simple, swapping corporation subsidies for foreign aid. –  By this point I’m on my phone locked out of the house – It was peculiar, the host of the page (Elliot) asked me “so your basically saying I have to contribute money to the poor, by ‘the mob’ putting a gun to my head”, now to be fair there were plenty of comments stating that, contributing to the poor was good, it just wasn’t a vulnerable persons right for aid. This ‘Elliot’ persisted throughout the thread “ WHO VIOLATED THEIR RIGHTS FOR WATER!!” I think at this point as empathetic human beings, we fail in debate. Because rather than continue with a debate –  which is turning into twisted definitions that  humans should have blanket coverage with one right , with no contradictions – we try to coax empathy, some shred of understanding for fellow living creatures.

And there-in lies a chink in our armour, our sensitivity. This leads to articles bemoaning delusion people for caring to much with the heart, and not thinking enough with the head. These kinds of people shout “RHETORIC!!! RHETORIC!!!!, whilst simultaneously giving no clear response and calling you stupid – or though by this point its led to members stalking my Facebook page, not for contradictions of moral philosophy, but simply  to make fun of me for being Australian, and my girlfriends complexion. This is both funny and scary, funny because I’m British, scary because it seems like Fox is poisoning peoples consumerist, elitist souls. Ok I’m being very judgemental and hypocritical about their intentions, turns out insults can change you, maybe that’s where humanities problems start.

At what point does this inward looking craze get out of control?. When pressed about how society decides the rights of human beings, a reply said, and I quote “I would bring a gun to the mob table, should even the odds 😉 “ As you can Imagine I asked “what if they all have guns” to be met by another strange reply “we would all decide democratically or have a war of attrition”. Who would you have a war with? with each other? Or are you saying that you would decide as groups, to have war, voting to decide the rights of each group within that war??? By this point – I’m not only very cold outside – but I realized I simply wanted to understand that point of view, I wanted to be in their shoes. But it feels like I’d be joining a life based on people who are angry at tax, a blame mob culture based on self interest, and feel that they deserve more than any other human being on the planet, and they base it on the delusion that they’re in a meritocratic society.

After an amusing attempt by the Tea Party group, to vote me out on a poll, they followed with congratulating each other on their triumph of collective bullying, although I was just amused that they couldn’t see the paradox with their collective thinking, and their mob culture. Then came Godwins law, usually reserved as a defence mechanism for UKIP candidates, I was called Hitler. In fact it went further, I (apparently) believed in the holocaust because Nazi’s formed a majority. Comments by the administrator stated, that in fact, I supported slavery, due to the ‘majority’ belief at the time. Rather than divulge deeper to this point, I simply asked “if a majority believe in something, who are you to say different?”. The very premise lost to these troglodytes, is that rights are definable, the bill of rights is part of a democratic process, rights are called amendments and, well I don’t know if these guys understand the definition of amendment.

Now the pièce de résistance, and the most telling value I can take from what might be a useless, and physically cold, exercise of understanding. Bearing in mind the thread has reached 500 comments with everyone shouting that I either, was akin to most evil people in history, or I’m so incredibly stupid to the point that special schools will have to put me in a down syndrome class, actual quote. The moderator and a few others, stated that the bill of rights was “decided by values of the Creator”, apart from the glaring contraction that people have different definitions of our “Creator”, is this all some subconscious white supremacy/religious issue? It’s one of those contradictions that is so obvious, and so infuriating during a form of mob harassment, you seriously question your own sanity.

For the record, I’ve started to learn more about the movement, and I feel for these Americans, we are all in a system with systemic problems of corporations without rules or regulations, chewing up the very concept of a free market. But the same institutions funnel a divided, self-interest philosophy to these people, focusing hate on any progress towards a truly meritocratic society

Before I leave this useful tool of venting, I want to show a scenario of their dystopian dream of the followers of Madmax. Imagine a world where without any public service, everything is privately owned. There is no regulation, so huge companies aggressively dominate each other economically, that’s apparently not a violation of any rights.

All products will be on a full spectrum of health and safety issues, maybe the richest can afford the only things that work and wont kill you? The reality is, that the Tea Party believe in a world where having the most money and stuff, is the definition of success. And the problem at the root of this, is that they don’t believe in the ability for human beings to enslave people’s rights economically.