Saturday, 7 October 2017

A Political Ramble

Politics in the UK is in a strange place right now. The Conservatives are more right wing and Labour are more left wing than I have seen before. The Conservatives won the election and seem in decline and out of ideas, yet Labour who lost the election seem full of energy and ideas. However, both parties are being led by an aggressive pro-Brexit agenda and, regardless of appearances, the parties are still close to tied in the polls. With the Lib Dems ineffectual it means people are forced to choose between a Conservative party stubbornly holding to a failed and damaging pro-austerity pro-hard-Brexit agenda and Labour with pro-hard-Brexit and a more left-wing agenda than many people feel comfortable with. I have seen many friends and people who have historically supported different political parties complain about feeling politically homeless; especially due to the lack of an effective anti-Brexit voice in the UK.


I consider myself to be a political pragmatist with strong socialist leanings. I have accepted that a restrained Labour party with a gentler left position is more likely to form a government than a more left wing Labour Party. However, I also recognise that four decades of neoliberalism without enough socialism have caused many of the problems we face in the UK today. I believe that issues with housing, the economy, energy, the environment, public transport, education and issues in health and social care could all be improved with a more socialist agenda. However, most people are focussed too much in the short term and are not politically sophisticated enough to understand how socialism could help. Also, from recent experience, many from the left of politics are too intolerant of opposing views to take the time to rationally and reasonably talk through opposing views. If as a Labour member of 20 years my anti-Brexit views and criticism of Jeremy Corbyn (JC) on this issue are dismissed as a “Blairite” plot on a Labour only page, what chance does an undecided voter with concerns have of getting a reasonable discussion on these matters.


As a Labour Supporter I found Tony Blair’s (TB) success appealing and I find it strange how irrationally he is criticised by many of JC’s most extreme supporters. TB and his supporters are written off as “red Tories” and “Blairites”. Under TB many improvements happened in the country that would never have happened under a Conservative government and these improvements are ignored or written off as unimportant. Education funding, improvements in the NHS, social care, environmental policies, reductions in child poverty, access to higher education, Sure Start, Walk in Centres and worker’s rights; all of these improved under TB. Of course not everything was right, the biggest error that will always taint his legacy was the disastrous Iraq War. On a domestic level I believe the lack of council housing building and student fees were also significant errors.


The problem, as I see it, in the Labour Party right now is the blind factionalism without rationality or openness to criticism. It should be possible to support Labour, possibly without even liking JC, and not have your views belittled and ignored. Whilst I liked TB’s success as a leader, I think he made many mistakes, which I am free to say without being attacked in the Labour party. I do not understand why the same does not currently apply to JC. Also, I believe you can should be able to recognise TB’s successes without having your views written off as “Blairite” or “Red Tory”. I understand that politics is an emotionally charged issue, this is because it is important and matters to us. The reason I am so cross with JC on Brexit is because it matters to me. I genuinely believe that Brexit will damage the UK’s economy and by extension my and my families futures. Ironically if I am right, JC would not be able to implement many of his socialist ideas, should he become the Prime Minister, as the money would not be there for him to spend. Regardless, these disagreements should be conducted in a polite and reasonable manner with due consideration given to opposing views, especially when with friends or colleagues from the same political party.


Politically, my own position is that I like socialism getting some genuine airtime in the UK. At their conference, the Tories discussed council house building (admittedly in tiny numbers that would make virtually no difference to the current need) and student fee freezes (a gesture that is too small for the current need but a welcome change in direction). A year ago these ideas would have been laughed out of their conference. This country desperately needs more council housing to reduce housing costs freeing up people’s finances for other things (which would also help the economy and take pressure off employers). Also, a populace with greater access to education without being financially constricted increases the opportunity for everyone regardless of circumstance. However, the strong Brexit agenda of the main political parties is genuinely dispiriting to me. This one issue is the greatest threat to my membership of the Labour party and if there was a genuine political alternative with a pro-remain position and centre/centre left standing I would have a hard time convincing myself to vote Labour. As it is there is no alternative, so I continue to work within the Labour party trying to get this issue resolved in a more satisfactory manner.