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.

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.

The Post Brexit Game of Thrones. Why we need to take control.

After a week of mourning and aggressive outbursts, combined with the removal of several friends on my Facebook, I have finally calmed down over Brexit; but the political dust storm certainly has not settled in this country, let alone the rest of the world.

I did tell a lot of people to get stuffed, and am still considering leaving a political passion for the birds, it’s consumed my parents for their entire lives, I’m not sure If I want it to do the same to me.

But now I’ve picked up my toys I threw out of the pram, and the dummy is back in place, I think now it’s important to acknowledge – in my opinion – the elephant in the room.

First let’s look at what do we know at the moment?

  1. Remain campaigners are passionately marching in London
  2. A majority of Leave voters are sticking to their guns, although 1.2 million according to Opinium online market researcher have now changed their minds.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-second-eu-referendum-leave-voters-regret-bregret-choice-in-millions-a7113336.html

 

  1. The Conservatives have begun their search for a new Prime Minister, the choice is now the far right nutter, or the far far right nutter. I think we may even miss David Cameron if either May or Gove get elected. They’ve already stabbed Boris in the back, whom I sense was actually relieved to not clean up the mess he significantly helped create.
  2. Labour moderates have rebelled on mass, 170 to 40 voted a no confidence motion. But this is in stark contrast to the grass-roots, where Corbyn holds a mandate from 60% of the labour membership.
  3. And the Lib-Dems who are united, are not trying to build a progressive alliance with anyone who is “left” of the Tories, but tactically only looking to persuade Labour moderates to join their party instead. Despite the fact that Labour moderates tend to have a more authoritarian stance then liberal, which would undoubtedly create rifts with left-leaning Liberals, or radicals as they like to be known.
  4. Greens are in disarray but loosely backing Corbyn
  5. UKIP are resting on their laurels, and look a little perplexed at what to do next. Other than Farage, who is actively shouting at anyone European, and making any future negotiations increasingly difficult.

The parallels between this and HBO’s Game of Thrones is incredible, despite the lack of mythical creatures, magic, violence and incest – Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Farage had predicted hordes of Wildlings and White Walkers were poised to invade our country during the referendum, if we didn’t vote leave.

Everyone is hopelessly divided, but all are trying to playing their cards right to gain power. I find myself completely lost on who to believe in (although this may still be post-Brexit shock). I’ve yet to understand what it feels like to get over leaving an international democracy, mainly because we haven’t bloody left it yet. Unfortunately I think we have too; not because we may want to in the end, but because the Europeans have had enough of us faffing around, whilst there are serious global issues to address.

I’m not tribal with political parties, I believe more in principles like a publically run education system, nationalised healthcare, and energy. I like the idea of a basic income, a fair taxation system (which doesn’t only benefit the super-rich), and a high minimum wage. Despite these socialist ideals, I believe absolutely in the liberal values of privacy, competitive free markets outside of what I’ve stated, and the ability to work towards higher paid work. I chose Corbyn’s labour because this is the closest to me realizing what I believe in, although I’m increasingly disenfranchised from all parties who talk little about their belief systems, and more about electability.

The “elephant in the room” I’ve alluded to earlier is about devolving power, and allowing us a proportional democracy, rather than the archaic voting system we have at the moment. This isn’t a system that enough people, and most importantly politicians, are talking about at the moment. The Conservatives know that they cannot rule as a majority in this system, this is their secret weapon to keep power, and why they called a referendum in the first place – for fear of UKIP taking votes off them in a general election.  The problems with Labour are the same; they can never form a majority without First-Past-The-Post, and this is why they fear Jeremy Corbyn, who has rallied a significant left wing movement in the country, but not enough to win a majority either.

Although I think a lot of our problems with inequality, poverty, and austerity started with Thatcher in the 80’s, I would like to take aim at Blair’s government. They had a chance to bring in proportional representation whilst in power, and they didn’t to try to keep power to themselves. Under this system, less than 30% of the electorate are ever happy with their parliament representatives. I believe this is fundamentally why people voted to Leave the European Union, not because they had any genuine, tangible issues with international democracy, but because they thought for once their vote would count for something.

The media and the public talk about the rise in the radical left wing, and right wing politics in the world – Corbyn and Farage in the UK, Trump and Sanders in the States for example. But what do these “democracies” have in common? They both have a system which only represents a small minority of voters; people are forced to vote for the least, worst option; the lesser of two evils. This system quite often leads to a concentration of power. And this concentration of power allows big business and the ultra-wealthy to dictate government policies using their financial influence.

What people fundamentally don’t understand about the European Union, is that the system was proportional. Our (proportionally) elected MEP’s, formed coalitions with other MEP’s across the union, parties had to compromise on their views to put through legislations created by the Commission. Our system in the British national government is more like an elected monarchy – the Cabinet decide legislations and policies, and the whip makes sure every MP in the party votes with them. Those that rebel have to gamble whether their decision will hold them back from any promotion. You may cite Corbyn as being a contradiction to this (the man who rebelled  428 times since being elected as an MP) but look what his own party currently think of his values.  Tory rebels also tend to be ousted quickly, disloyalty is punished without mercy. Those that follow the whip, fearing retribution, don’t even have to turn up to any debates or meetings. You ever wonder why the chambers always seem so empty?. Despite the fact we elect 650 MP’s who are meant to campaign on our behalf?

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but what is clear from the referendum is not whether being a member of the European Union is an issue, but more that our own national government just isn’t working.  I was shocked to hear a prominent Labour representative of the South West, that I needed to put my principles in a box, that I and many others were sacrificing power, and we didn’t believe in a Labour government. He was right in one thing; I don’t necessarily believe that this country needs a Labour government, it really isn’t about which party is in power. What this country needs is a redistribution of wealth, well-funded public services, social mobility and the liberty to live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life; and I will support a party, whether Labour or someone else, that is dedicated to this

We need to talk less about the people we put in power, and more about how we can further empower people.

*If you want more information about Proportional Representation, check out this awesome video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI