Back in early June, I was asked to do an interview with A Very Public Sociologist, just as Jeremy Corbyn decided to put himself forward as a candidate for the Labour Party leadership. Phil’s first question of course was: Have you made your made up about the Labour leadership?
Jeremy Corbyn was my initial, intuitive choice. This was founded on my previous knowledge of him as an MP that I have always respected and admired. I recognise that Corbyn has always presented a clarified, strong, ethical and material socialism; that he had a strong aim to extend the scope of Labour Party values and push the boundaries of debate to include genuine socialist propositions and alternatives. That is a much needed, valuable development, as an artificially constructed neoliberal consensus has stifled progress in social policies for a long time.
Corbyn has a refreshing sociological imagination, which is a welcomed change from the Conservative’s starkly anti-social focus; ideologically driven repressive, rigid hierarchical thinking, ranking and organising and economic lack of imagination.
But being me, I took a reluctant step back and analysed the situation that the Party was in post-election, adding a rationale; which prompted the only commentary I’ve written about the leadership competition and the dilemmas facing the Labour Party.
I concluded that a change in direction and a left-leaning leader was most likely to be the best bet for the future, despite the misgivings of some about how such a leader would appeal to an apparently right-shifted, UKIP and Tory-voting public. The right-pitching view through the Overton window has made my hair and toes curl since 2010.
However, as stated, I don’t believe there is a neoliberal, New Right consensus. No-one was genuinely consulted, after all. The world isn’t really filled with irrational, glib, superficial people who all think broadly the same things and who swallow glittering generalities and mediacratic soundbites. Nobody in their right mind would endorse the massive inequalities we are now seeing, and the return of absolute poverty, as a consequence of the stealth policies that are dismantling our welfare state and NHS.
I’m a fairly optimistic realist, after all.
One of the biggest strengths of Corbyn and McDonnell’s powerful anti-austerity alternative narrative is that it will give many more ordinary people a larger stake in our economy. We know that austerity doesn’t work. It’s been used as a front for discriminatory policies that reflect an underlying Conservative extremist and prejudiced ideology.
Young people in particular, who have been betrayed by an older generation that has been happy enough to witness the dismantling of state provision – the provision that they have benefitted from all of their own lives – will hopefully show that such expedient political trade-offs which systematically punish the traditionally disenfranchised, are absolutely unacceptable. Now young people have a hope-inspiring and inclusive alternative that will mobilise their participation in democracy.
The alienation of politically constructed outgroups has profoundly undermined our democracy for a long time. We now have a much-needed change – a viable alternative narrative – for the better. Such an inclusive approach will undermine the Conservatives’ “no alternative” approach – founded on the pleas that austerity is “inevitable” – to public policy, ensuring that they have to listen to a broader section of society and reflect their needs and views in economic and social policies.
Conservative intentions have nothing at all to do with economic necessity, but rather, austerity is nothing more than an ideologically-driven effort to downsize the British state, particularly, to dismantle welfare, legal aid, social housing and the NHS – they are erasing our post-war settlement. The next generation are left with much less opportunity and support than we have enjoyed, the first generation in a long time that are worse off than their parents. We need to change that.
Last December in his annual fiscal statement, George Osborne, the high priest of austerity, set out plans to extend his austerity cuts until 2020, by which time, his projections showed, over-all public spending as a percentage of GDP would fall to the lowest level since the 1930s, reducing state provision to rubble .
In the run-up to this year’s general election, Osborne disavowed these figures. But once he was safely back on Downing Street, he cunningly announced a new spending review aimed at cutting the budgets of some government departments by another twenty-five or thirty per cent, with some of the biggest cuts falling on welfare support.
Labour’s recent increasingly homeopathic approach to public debate and policy – similia similibus curentur: “like cures like” – hasn’t exactly made room for a sturdy challenge to Tory pseudoscience and polished psychobabble, deployed to justify their draconian and frankly vindictive regressivism.
There have been many calls over the last few years from activists and from disillusioned, largely disengaged ex-members that we need to “take back” the Labour Party, reclaim it and make it a “party of the people” again, instead of a Party of opportunist “career politicians”. Well, that has certainly happened.
Yet despite the inevitable logic of what has happened, I still can’t believe Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide win – nearly 60%. Corbyn was the 200 to 1 outsider at the start! I have always maintained that the best leaders are those who don’t seek leadership, but rather, are often reluctantly thrust forward in situations because of their convictions, others come to trust their skills and judgements – and Jeremy Corbyn certainly didn’t prepare for this, but he has taken an unprecedented popularity amongst grassroot supporters and members, and leadership election success in his sure, determined and tightly principled stride.
In his leadership campaign, Corbyn promised to give Labour members a much greater say in the party’s policymaking process, and quite properly so. That is democratic, after all. I believe that proportional representation is also on the table.
His key proposals include renationalisation of the railways, quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, opposing austerity, controlling rents and creating a national education service. And staunchly defending the welfare state, the NHS and access to justice.
Andy Burnham is calling for the party to get behind Corbyn. I always felt that he’s fundamentally a decent man; I’m glad he has been much more gracious than the other candidates. His tireless fight to save our NHS has been outstanding work, we need that kind of dedication from our MPs on the frontbench.
It’s sad that there have been a handful of resignations, but I know many of you will be very happy to see the Blairite stand weakened.
Now the real fight starts. I’m hoping to see a more unified approach amongst my friends, fellow party supporters and members now that the new leadership has been democratically established. This is just the start of our fight for a fair, progressive, civilised UK. Regardless of who you wanted to win, we can’t defeat the Tories and mediacracy in 2020 without willingness and good faith amongst ourselves. We need unity, belief and strength. Solidarity.
Of course the corporate “journalicians” – the puppets of the right-wing establishment – will try to build a hefty damn against the turning tide. We now have one of the most left wing, anti-establishment leaders in Labour Party history.
Evidently that’s a threat to the security of the Conservative Party, leading to mediacratic hysteria and screamingly paranoid, charmless bullying headlines already. This said, it was to be expected: Conservatives have always displayed fears of nonexistent or overblown bogeymen that threaten social order, as well as demonstrating a deft expertise at manufacturing folk devils and inflaming moral panics.
Indeed other psychologists analysing political conservatism as motivated social cognition would certainly verify my comments: these theorists have integrated theories of personality (namely authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, “terror management”), and ideological rationalisation (social dominance, system justification), all of which explain the elaborate Tory and mediacratic manipulations of facts. And dogma.
The Tories are so afraid of alternative perspectives, progress and change – they are such anal retentives that their fearfully and deeply inserted anti-social heads emerge sooner or later where they feel safest and most at home: in the feudal era of their own ancestors.
As well as scaring anachronistic Conservatives into hysterical declarations and reducing them to spasms of gut-clenching horror, brother Corbyn presents us with a relaxed, easy confidence, and a very welcomed alternative and rational narrative that makes a lot of sense in terms of pragmatic problem-solving. His civilised, progressive, inclusive and democratic pro-social vision managed to unite and gain support from many of the Greens and some SNP supporters already. He has appealed to many who have been disengaged from politics and who have felt disenfranchised for a long time. He has already come to represent hope for a better future. That’s a remarkable achievement.
More than 40 leading economists, including a former adviser to the Bank of England, have made public their support for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies, dismissing Tory claims that they are “extreme”.
The only other feasible alternative post-election for the Labour Party was to try to gain the support from those who defected to UKIP and the Tories this year, by maintaining the austerity myth for the sake of “economic credibility” and for me, that’s untenable because it would entail a gross contravention of Labour’s core values and principles. Though some of the UKIP supporters are undoubtedly amongst those who have felt disenfranchised on the basis of class alone. However, I am sure that Corbyn will reflect a fundamentally new über-inclusivity that will address the trend towards alienation and anomie.
One thing is certain: the tiresome, disempowering and incredibly lazy soundbite that many on the left have previously delivered in criticism of the Labour Party- “they’re all the same” – won’t be used as the recycled nugget of folk wisdom with any whiff of credibility any more.
Politics is about to become very, very interesting. We needed a credible, strong and appealing alternative to mainstreamed prejudices, and to the social conservatism and neoliberal orthodoxy that became the dominant paradigm following Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” triumphalism. His end of ideology thesis was nothing but more ideology, based on a manufactured consensus after all. Free-market dogma.
I believe we have got that appealing, rational alternative narrative.
Upwards and onwards.