There is undoubtedly a shockwave running through British (or should that be English?) politics. Jeremy Corbyn: long time Labour rebel, someone no-one in “conventional” politics took seriously, ridiculed in the media for decades, is now the leader of the Labour party. I cannot imagine he wanted the job. Such is that anger in the Labour movement that, having taken the party as far to the right as it has ever been, the Brown-Blair movement of New Labour has failed to win 2 elections against the Tories.
That anger has translated into action, helped in no small measures by moved to introduce more democracy into the Labour leadership elections. Gone are the days when Trade Union leaders would hold up their cards signalling that 3 million union members had “voted” for a particular person. And gone are the days when Labour MPs had an overwhelmingly powerful vote or veto. For me, not a Labour supporter, this looks like democracy in action. 423000 people voted for Corbyn; that’s not a huge number compared say to the 4M people who voted for UKIP in the general election. Then again, David Cameron won the Tory leadership vote with 134,000 so that doesnt tell us much about whether Corbyn will win an election for Labour.
The media (including bizarrely the Guardian) were scathing about Corbyn during the election campaign. The Tories are now seeking to capitalise on his election by demonising him. Because of his objection to nuclear weapons, they claim that the country is not safe in his hands. Because he challenges the “austerity narrative” the economy is under threat, and therefore every family’s finances. This is crude propaganda.
Corbyn is vilified as a radical for holding these views. But who are the real radicals? I suggest it is the Tories, especially now that they are unfettered by the LibDems who are the real radicals in the current political arena. The Tories are now hell bent on moving the UK to a small state, albeit an authoritarian one. They believe the market can solve pretty much everything – this is the belief at the heart of the neoliberalism philosophy. Free the shackles of regulation and the market will solve all your ills. The neoliberals believe the state is intrinsically a force for ill, not good, because inevitably the state will interefere in markets, and prevent them from working properly. Beyond neoliberalism lies right-libertarianism, where the state is intrinsically evil and must be abolished. It’s no surprise that there are libertarians of the right, such as John Whittingdale, in the cabinet. I was writing about this 4 years ago on the Grasslands Trust website; but now those early signs of libertarianism seem very mild in comparison to what has happened or is coming.
When the Tories won the election I suggested a rather doom-laded list of things they would do – its here if you havent read it. I underestimated them. They also do not believe in fundamental freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to withdraw work. They continue to muzzle voices such as in the voluntary sector, they are proposing to attack the trade union movement (again) and restrict the right to protest. While civilian and therefore democratically accountable police forces are savagely cut, the intelligence services funding increases. And anyone who challenges the scam, the three card trick, that is the austerity narrative, is ridiculed, undermined and subject to character assassination.
At first it seemed that the Tories were relishing the prospect of a Corbyn victory, but subtly this has changed. Now there is a note of fear in their voices and the voices that provide their echo chamber in the media and social media. Because while Labour may move to the Left, the Tories will not, can not, occupy the vacant centre ground. Their policies will not allow them to do so – since the election they have shifted, as one, significantly to the right. It’s a weird combination of free-market fundamentalism and the authoritarian right. The leader in waiting, the man in the shadows behind the throne, George Osborne, has no interest in the centre ground. His vision is to see the privatisation of every conceivable public organisation, the removal of every possible piece of regulation which prevents the market working, and will squash every dissenting voice he can.
I think this is why the Tory publicity/propaganda machine, led by Lynton Crosby, is swinging into action against Corbyn. New Labour bought in, at least in part, to the neoliberal agenda. Corbyn was one of the few voices of dissent. Corbyn will mercilessly attack the Tories for what they are doing to Britain (and their wider influence in the world.) Corbyn will out the Tories as the true radicals of our time. That’s why they are worried.