In recent years, it would seem that the left in Britain has undergone a resurgence of some description. The unions are still relatively powerful, despite the usual Tory policies of limiting worker’s rights to strike, and they have their man, Jeremy Corbyn, in charge of the Labour party, as well as their woman, Malia Bouattia, in charge of the NUS. Judging by this, it would seem that all is well on the good ship democratic socialism. Yet I believe that the left is in no better a position now than it was in the years of New Labour, where the centre-right became the centre and the Overton Window was a mile away from the Left. What’s the problem? I blame the leadership.
Firstly, we must ask ourselves, what’s changed in society since New Labour took and fell from power? Quite a lot is the short answer, but to go in depth, we’ve had a massive economic recession, come out of that, and then gone back into it. We’ve had 10 years of rather incompetent government. The banks are still unsure of themselves, especially RBS, which is somehow still losing money. The national deficit is down, true, but the debt has risen to an eye-watering 90% of GDP, over 1 trillion pounds. The debt is currently £1.7 trillion. We’re leading the ‘Race to the Bottom’ in corporation tax – a pathetic 19%, falling to 17% in 2020. Socially, there is more poverty, albeit less unemployment, by a quirk of the exploitative economic nightmare we have created in the West. Ordinary people are being priced and pushed out of their homes by faceless corporations in cities like London and Liverpool. Welfare benefits for the poor to feed their children have been cut while the government blows a £55bn (and rising) load over a pointless vanity project, namely HS2. Cuts in social care have been savage and indiscriminate, to the point that the UK is being investigated by the UN over violations to the rights of disabled people. The NHS is starved of cash and given a kick in the ribs every so often with another stupid, bureaucratic reform driven by ideology. These are conditions the Left should flourish in – increasing poverty, increasing inequality, and a general economic hopelessness. After all, in places like Scotland (referring to the SNP, not Scottish Labour), Spain and France the left is flourishing, increasing vote share and taking power. Why not England?
Firstly, it’s time to do away with the ridiculous notion that the media and the media alone is the sole reason for Labour’s poor polling and performance. Yes, the UK media does tend to lean to the right predominantly, bar a few exceptions. But that could be easily solved with a decent PR strategy and a charismatic fixer for the party. I loathe making comparisons to the New Labour team that won in 1997 and kept winning for 10 years for a number of reasons, mostly because the situation today is completely different, but Labour needs another Alistair Campbell to get the media onside. Today, Labour has Seumas Milne, who so far is doing a tremendous job at making sure the media actually pays no attention to policy at all, and focuses on Corbyn instead. Which bring us nicely on to the man himself, Jeremy Corbyn, Jezza C, or as the totally hilarious and original joke goes, “a geography teacher”. Ha-ha hah.
|Leader of the opposition, or geography teacher?|
Frankly, Labour policy is actually remarkably in-step with public opinion. Renationalising the railways is becoming more and more popular as private companies bump up fares more and more for a less efficient service, bleeding commuters dry. Energy reform is also popular, as energy costs increase and begin to bite into wallets. Building more houses is also an attractive policy. The issue is the man behind them. Corbyn does simply not have authority. He is not a good orator, able to whip up a crowd. Labour does not need a “new, kinder, politics”. It needs the oratory of Lenin, John MacLean, Keir Hardie, Clem Attlee, even Michael Foot, a fire and brimstone man of the people. What they get is a quiet man in a baggy suit from comfy Islington. I had to Google “labour policy” while writing this because it is so obscure, hidden in the shadow of Corbyn. He is clearly the wrong man for the task at hand right now. With Corbyn, there comes the ever- present questions over links to groups like the IRA and Hamas, as well as a whole lot of complex questions around the party’s attitudes to Jewish people.
As with Corbyn, another figure on the left is more problematic than good. Malia Bouattia, leader of the NUS, looks like a disaster from my viewpoint. I believe that Bouattia is from the section of the left that places racial and gender politics above class politics. She is not inspiring or uniting. Bouattia in fact creates divisions in the Left with her history of anti-Semitic statements and support of CAGE, which has a history of protecting and supporting Islamic terrorists, at one point supporting the implementation of an Islamic caliphate under Sharia Law. As a socialist, I see Bouattia’s support of CAGE as vile and idiotic, a disaster for students and for the Leftist movement as a whole. It’s good the NUS are on the left. It’s bad that the leader is so poor that universities are disaffiliating.
The Left, in the last few years, has finally found its power. But it needs a voice, badly, and a compelling one at that. Sadiq Khan is not the right man for Labour, before you scream it. He’s already made a massive faux pas in Scotland, and isn’t the right man for a leadership job right now. Corbyn and Bouattia are divisive and incompetent – better leadership could propel the left into power in the coming years, an opportunity that history tells us cannot be ignored.
The Left Has the Right Ideas, Just the Wrong Leadership | Gabriel Rutherford Reviewed by Student Voices on 23:42 Rating: