The Labour leadership contest has descended into a playground argument. All sides of this drawn out election battle are one step away from a full of fist fight, and blaming the other for starting it. The Tory Party must be sitting back with glee, recalling their similar breakdown in 1997.
On the one side, if you scrutinise Corbyn’s clear excuses for religious fascists, you’re referred to as ‘tabloid journalism‘ by Corbyn. Indeed, If you dare to criticise Hamas to a Corbyn supporter, be prepared to be told you’re an evil war mongering Zionist. Here:
But you would be forgiven for thinking after all the protestations of Corbyn’s supporters using abusive “You’re a Tory!” language directed at the the Cooper, Burnham, and Kendall camps, that they weren’t playing the exact same game of child-like abuse themselves, just a little more subtle. Take these two headlines from The Guardian recently:
– The hypocrisy is clear. Burnham finds it unacceptable to be labelled a Tory (meaning not true Labour) whilst insisting that a vote for the other guy is a vote to turn Labour into a ‘Party of protest‘ (which I’d presume he believes is also… not true Labour). Dan Hodges of The Telegraph similarly is unhappy with ‘personal abuse‘ whilst at the same time referring to new members as ‘rent-a-Trot‘:
– We shouldn’t be all that surprised, from a commentator of a newspaper that today ran with this corker:
Back to Burnham. I take issue with this ‘Party of protest‘ line. If you’re complaining about being labelled ‘Tory‘ whilst dismissing my beliefs as nothing more than ‘party of protest‘… you’re a bit of a whining hypocrite. The ‘party of protest‘ line is based on the presumption that you win an election from the centre, but it seems to me that the centre moves based on the narrative of the victorious party, and so the job of the opposition must be to reframe the narrative, thus shifting the centre on their terms. The Tories have moved as far to the right as permitted by their five years of rhetoric aimed at dehumanising all those who inevitably suffer from the subsequent policies, and they’ve become electable from that position. This isn’t winning from the centre, it’s winning from the right. You may recall a few years back that when Mick Philpott murdered his children in a house fire, George Osborne – the Chancellor of the UK – used it as a reason to take to the airwaves to bemoan welfare. Less than six months later, Labour – instead of ceaselessly pointing out just how utterly hideous this tactic was – chose to chase the Tories on this portrayal of welfare, with shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves insisting that Labour ‘would be tougher‘ on welfare, than the Tories. Recently, Andy Burnham referred to the proposed mansion tax using that trusty Tory phrase: “the politics of envy“. Labour are chasing the Tories to the right, by playing to a Tory narrative & using Tory rhetoric in the hope that it might win back Tory voters. They don’t seem to be able to shape political discourse, or understand what it is they actually believe. The implication from that weak position, is that the Tories are right, and Labour are trying hard not to say it, whilst thinking it. To charge that the choice is either austerity or ‘unelectable party of protest‘ is a worrying development for the Labour Party. It is designed to shut out dissenting voices.
Earlier this year, Liz Kendall refused to condemn massive cuts planned by the Conservatives, with Yvette Cooper responding by insisting – and reflecting comments by Corbyn supporters that Kendall is some sort of closet Tory – that some of her colleagues were “swallowing the Tory manifesto“. Kendall said:
“The only thing I’ve swallowed is the sheer scale of defeat that we faced at the election and the huge changes we need to win again. People didn’t trust us with their money and the economy.”
– This is a convenient way to frame the debate in her favour, but it’s not entirely true. Labour were neck and neck with the Tories in the polls, just five years after leaving government in the midst of a massive economic crisis. Five years later, and after constant attacks on the most vulnerable, blaming the concept of welfare for child murders, TV show after TV show – like ‘Benefits Street‘ – aimed at dehumanising those struggling, and a Chancellor telling us to take it easy on bankers (the ones who caused the crisis). We were subjected to millionaires on TV telling us how a mansion tax would harm them, whilst hearing almost no stories of how the bedroom tax and the increased need for food banks was harming those who aren’t millionaires. At this stage, the Labour Party were neck and neck, with Miliband the clear favourite to be the next PM. That’s a massive achievement. In the final two weeks, the tide was turning – i’d argue – due largely to fear of the SNP. A good family friend who never votes Tory, did so in 2015 because he told us he feared for the country with an SNP partner in government. Negative Tory campaigning whipping up English nationalism, a press convinced that the Earth would collapse with an SNP partner in government, and a Miliband camp that had no idea how to counter this new widespread fear, was enough for the Labour campaign to collapse.
So, Corbyn fans referring to opponents as Zionists, Cooper insisting that Kendall swallowed the Tory manifesto, Burnham tantruming at being labelled Tory whilst insulting those on the left as nothing more than ‘protesters‘. Let’s also not forget that Kendall is no stranger to refusing to actually focus on substance, instead using subtle, fanciful phrases to insult her rival:
– This hysteria was then backed by a name from the past. David Miliband has spent more time criticising Jeremy Corbyn, then he’s spent opposing any Tory policy of the past five years. He is convinced that until the sun burns out in a few billion years time, we are going to have a perpetual Tory government, because only a shift to the right – which won an election on a ‘massive‘ 35% of a 60% turnout in 2005 – is ‘credible‘:
It is frustrating on so many levels. I don’t have a preferred candidate, I quite like parts of each of their platforms, and thoroughly dislike others. As a Labour voter, I do not have any faith in any of the candidates, that they can win in 2020.