Just like that: How the Tory magic trick was done.

In the aftermath of the UK election, the Labour Party have now started to rip themselves apart. With centrists crawling out the woodwork to reclaim the party apparatus, while political vultures pick over the still warm carcass. Many have used this election result to discredit any ideas of socialism in the near future and indeed this result may have sent shockwaves down the left side of the political divide. But to focus purely on this, would simply be sidestepping what actually occurred on Thursday the 12th December 2019.

There are clearly two distinct themes that are emerging; firstly Corbyn was deemed not trustworthy by much of the public and secondly people were totally consumed by Brexit. So the question must be asked; how did a party with one of the most progressive manifestos since WWII get so soundly beaten. I’m sure lots of people will suggest that between 2017 and 2019 Corbyn took a wrong turn regarding Brexit. This was seen in many eyes as a major change of position from supporting the outcome of the referendum, to one of fence sitting. Although, this may well be true, it also misses a key point. A better question would be, how did Brexit become so emotive, to the extent that people voted for this over well funded health care, education and public services.

Rationally this makes no sense at all, the idea that people would vote against their own best interests is hard to fathom, but this in effect is what has occurred. There lies a crucial part of the problem, Labour’s campaign was built on logic, whereas, the Tories tapped into people’s emotions. All the Conservatives had to offer was a slogan “Get Brexit Done”, no tangible policies, just 3 simple words. Clearly, this was enough to mobilise the masses who have been thoroughly convinced that this will solve the bulk of their problems.

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When encountering a potential Tory voter on social media or even in person it is noticeable that there is a distinct lack of critical thinking involved during any discussion. You are repeatedly hit with a barrage of short phrases which are very tabloidesque, such as; “we need our country back”, “it’s because of free movement” or “Corbyn’s a traitor”. If this fails, you are often told to shut up and respect their point of view, no debate just blind obedience. It rapidly became apparent that, the more Corbyn supporters hit back with stats, academic papers and 9 years of historical proof the more entrenched opposing views became.

Simply put, you cannot combat tribal inspired politics, driven by emotion with logic or reason. This has been recognised for over 100 years, starting with people such as, Edward Bernays and Walter Lippman, two of the main founders of propaganda. Their job was to elicit an emotional response for a particular goal to aid the ruling elite. Noam Chomsky described it as manufacturing consent in his 1988 book and this is exactly what occurred last week. The Tory campaign understood the importance of this much more than Labour. They quickly realised that Brexit was a powerful tool and had split the nation by more than geography, political party, education and class. This was an extra tear in the fabric of society that an unpopular and desperate government could utilise.

Brexit has dragged on for 3 years. If the government wanted to “Get Brexit Done” they could have, but they didn’t. They used this anger towards a lack of movement on Brexit as political capital, a situation which they had themselves created to fuel leave voters. Once Corbyn had decided to take the Labour party away from supporting Brexit in an effort to unite the people, the trap was set. The Tories had in effect created a huge tribe with one unifying goal, that was to leave the EU and nothing else mattered. This sentiment was cultivated by the Tories using the politics of fear, which was considered by the Athenians centuries ago as one of the three strongest motives for action.

A narrative needed to be created to invoke a sense of being under siege. This can be demonstrated by people who casually suggest that immigrants have taken their jobs, or that their presence in the UK has lowered wages for UK born citizens. None of this is true, as many academics have documented, but this didn’t matter for this election, it was the reaction of the people that was important, for the political right. The working class in many former industrial areas had a bogeyman to fight, created by the very people who had caused the problems, the neoliberals. Now this tribe felt they had an enemy whom they could vent their fury at, that being; the EU, people who supported it and immigrants.

The ruling elite diligently manufactured the consent of many of the working class, all to maintain the status quo. This is an establishment made up of billionaires and millionaires, with the resources to construct a sustained campaign to both create an illusion and discredit any opposition. Billionaires almost entirely own the media in the UK, while the BBC have generally colluded with any government narrative throughout this current Tory stranglehold. Noam Chomsky talks about the 5 filters of mass media; here’s a short film to explain this. As a bit of fun, try and pick out how many of these strategies you think were being used by the Tories and the media during the lead up to the election.

These methods of course are not unique to one political side or another, but the Conservatives this time around utilised these techniques extremely effectively, while Labour attempted to communicate with the electorate using facts. The result ultimately was a landslide. Once the right wing created fear among the populace, they miraculously found a cure and that was Boris Johnson. Johnson is a right wing populist, this type of a politician tends to use rhetoric around restoring order be it, fighting crime, preserving a particular culture or as in this case “getting the country back”.

There is now reasonable evidence to propose that populism thrives when people feel a lack of political power or control, that life is unfair and at times when they feel they are not getting what they deserve. But for populism to work it requires two opposing factions, this was already established in the form of leave and remain voters. Opposing views and the formation of identities can occur rapidly in the age of social media, as people connect often with others they agree with, creating an echo chamber.

The curious thing about Johnson is, populist candidates generally portray their campaign as a fight against the establishment. However, Boris Johnson is a member of the establishment, he therefore, had to reframe the terms of reference. Firstly, he labelled the EU as a cruel regime, oppressing the people of Britain. This manoeuvre allowed him to position himself in direct opposition and declare himself as a heroic figure rescuing the nation from the tyranny of Brussels.

A further necessary component of this magic trick was to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a danger to society, a traitor and untrustworthy. Not only was this done by an eager mainstream media, but this image was further embellished by centrists within his own party. Daily lies about the Labour Party’s unfounded anti-Semitism, his baseless links with the IRA or any other terror groups has been ceaseless over a four year period. The media used their considerable power to wage the biggest campaign of persecution against a politician in recent memory. The reasoning was simple, at the time Corbyn was a huge threat to the elite and this had to be prevented at all costs.

Now the dust is starting to settle, the country is left with Johnson at the helm. He is an unlikely people’s champion, an Etonian who is related to half the royal families in Europe. Not only is he an improbable hero, he patently isn’t the saviour of the working class. Johnson’s remit was to motivate enough people in order to keep him and the Tories in power. Brexit was merely the vehicle for which to achieve this. The new Prime Minister will not be leading the people into any mythical promised land, rather they will be led like lemmings off the end of a cliff. The population of the nation now have more austerity, economic inequality, privatisation of the NHS and ever deteriorating public services to look forward to, led by a right wing, elitist, populist.

And “just like that“, the trick was done.

Britain dutifully bows down to the ruling elite.

Congratulations to the people of ‘Great’ Britain for voting the ruling elite into power yet again. You certainly do know your place. Now they have a mandate to treat people with disdain and contempt, for the next five years. I always thought people in the US were dumb, but there is a new kid on the block vying for the title. How can a party offering no credible policies, with a history of inflicting misery on millions, with a leader who hides in a fridge when things get mildly difficult remain in power. I could glibly say you get what you deserve, but that would be grossly unfair to the millions who can see through this charade of thinly veiled fascism.

It would appear that many people from where I grew up in the north have had a lobotomy, believing all that the billionaire controlled media had to say pre-election, because surely they wouldn’t lie to the peasants. Would they? Or is it Brexit that swayed them? Now that you have your country back, so you say, is it suddenly going to become compulsory to sing “Ing…….err…….land” at nauseatingly high volumes while consuming copious amounts of beer? Is having a tattoo of a bulldog on your arse from the age of 10, going to be a new kind of branding?

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Well done, you are now free, from what, I’m not entirely sure. The Conservatives will continue destroying workers rights at a frenzied pace. Expect full steam ahead with zero hour contracts, bogus self-employment, underemployment, all topped off with an ever eroding safety net. So when the walls come tumbling down following a job loss, nothing will exist to help you out of the mess. Well done, you must be very proud. “But we’ve got our country back”, you may cry. Have you, have you really?

The result would suggest that large portions of the populace have little capacity to critically think. “But we’ve got our country back” I hear once more. “But clearly not the NHS for much longer” I reply. I’m sure some will complain that I’m calling people stupid for their political beliefs. To clarify this, yes, that’s exactly what I am doing. If only some of these individuals could have put their crayons down or possibly read a book without pictures at least once in their lives, maybe things might have turned out differently.

In contrast to the US, where they were voting for change, regardless of what that looked like, it was ultimately a vote against the establishment, albeit misguided. Conversely, the UK have voted overwhelmingly for the establishment. I’m sure the Tories are delighted you all know your place in the societal pecking order. At the bottom, with a very expensive Oxford lace up shoe, made by peasants, kicking you repeatedly in the balls, while you ask for more. After 9 years of crippling cuts to public services, austerity, a decrease in wages and a health system which is about to be privatised, you still voted for a Conservative government. Amazing!!! But not in a good way.

Admittedly, the ruling elite’s propaganda machine has been running on all cylinders and it’s clearly worked like a dream. In contrast, vast swathes of people are about to enter a dystopian nightmare, orchestrated by people who just couldn’t care about you any less. Put a fork in the UK, it’s done! Scotland will rightly feck off into the sunset, as England will be led by a man who can barely form a coherent sentence. Supported by a cabinet who know nothing outside of their privileged, privately educated, corporate run universe from which they rarely venture out of.

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You could have made it more difficult for the establishment, a glimmer of resistance protecting yourself from the bombardment of excrement raining down from billionaire penthouses would have been nice. Maybe more people could have searched behind the headlines of the Sun and the Mail to dig a little for the truth. Instead the population by in large responded to a hollow slogan, “Get Brexit Done”. At which point you ran in like a little puppy dog hoping your master would tickle your tummy. Instead of fighting for something better, you gave up, handing the nation to psychopaths, billionaires, millionaires and right wing ideologues.

The establishment will be laughing their collective cocks off, sat in their private London clubs drinking brandy and smoking cigars. Patting each other on their backs for getting the working class plebs to vote for the abstract construct of Brexit, over real issues such as; healthcare, education, public services and increasing poverty. The people of Leigh, Bolsover, Blyth Valley, and Durham among others should be disgusted with themselves, scoring an own goal of monumental proportions.

You had a chance to elect a decent man, who has fought for peace and fairness all his life, who wanted a better place for everyone. But you blew it Britain. Now you will have to live with the consequences, while explaining to your children and grandchildren what you did on that fateful day in December 2019. My sincere condolences for those who chose wisely, who could see behind the slurs and right wing bile. Good luck in the future, I suspect you will need it.

Brexit: The saviour of capitalism.

An election is looming in the UK, on the 12th of December the nation will vote for a new leader of this beleaguered country. If you follow the polls, you may be thinking things are looking bleak for Labour, as many polls have the Conservatives in a sizeable lead. Of course, they could be way off, as they were in 2017, when Labour made significant headway. What amazes me is not that the Conservatives are reportedly doing better than Labour, but the question must be; how are they even close? Massive inequality, an NHS that’s steadily being sold off, poor public services, inconsistent education, increase usage of food banks, a growing homeless population and inertia when it comes to climate change, just to name a few issues. This should be a perfect time for a change Prime Minister of which Corbyn is well suited. So what’s happened? The answer is Brexit.

I’m not sure at the time if David Cameron, the Conservative Party or the right wing in general realised how much political capital would be gained by the charade that has become of leaving the EU. Before we go any further, I will just reaffirm my position on Brexit and it’s a simple one. It will be neoliberalism if the UK stay in Europe and it will be neoliberalism if you’re eating Corn Flakes having voted for the Conservative Party on the morning of the 13th of December. Nothing will change, well not for the better anyway. Everything will continue to get worse, only at a quicker pace because a majority of people will have voted for entitled, public school educated, upper class psychopaths, with a mandate to do as they wish.

This election has rather predictably been labelled a Brexit election, but this is merely a sideshow. There is much more going on in the UK that requires urgent action. Sadly Brexit has divided people like no other issue, blinding many to much more pressing matters that Brexit simply cannot and will not resolve. The UK is split on geographical lines, education, class, race, political party, climate change and of course the ‘B’ word. The political right know that when people are divided, apathetic, politically demoralised and voter turnout is low, they win and usually handsomely.

When people are united by the need for change, with a trust that this can be achieved through the democratic process and a general agreement of what it should look like, the population tends to move to the left. Much of the populist left does not possess much money or power, but when it works it is driven by the people, in vast numbers. Hence the beauty of Brexit. It adds yet another fissure to society, keeping people divided, bitter, angry, emotional and desperate. These factors lead to some working class people who have gained nothing from the system to vote for the very party who will maintain the status quo.

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The ruling elite are feeding off the anxiety and desolation of the working class, who have seen whole areas decimated and relieved of any trace of industry or prosperity. Huge swathes of this group show all the signs of ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘. This is a condition that is often displayed by abused people, prisoners of war and cult members. This occurs when people feel intense fear of physical harm and believe their captor is in total control. It is chiefly thought to be a survival response, which includes sympathy and support for their captor’s plight and can even display manifestations of negative feelings towards people who are trying to help (in this case Labour and Jeremy Corbyn).

A large proportion of this magic trick is performed by the ruling elite, providing disgruntled citizens a common enemy, while proposing a solution to end their pain. Primarily, but not exclusively regarding Brexit this particular ‘patsy’ is immigration. The powers that be, along with a complicit mainstream media have created immigration as a major issue. It has been suggested that immigrants are stealing jobs or reducing wages within the UK.

All this despite academic research suggesting that this is a false narrative, but the myth persists, as any dissenting voice is simply discarded as propaganda, both from the left and the right dependent on which side of the Brexit fence you sit on. Many people will vehemently declare they are not racist and I’m sure they are generally sincere with these admissions. However, the process of immigration involves of course people from varying countries and cultures and without any compelling evidence to support the immigration theory, lets just say, it doesn’t look good.

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Many people who move to the UK are there because the nation requires their skills, particularly in the NHS. Regarding EU immigrants, a paper by the London School of Economics suggests that they are generally more educated, younger and less likely to claim benefits than people born in the UK. Approximately 44% of this population have some form of higher education as opposed to 23% of those born in the UK. With regards to taking jobs, immigrants also consume goods and services, therefore, potentially creating more employment opportunities. Evidence has shown that in areas with the most amount EU immigration the situation has not resulted in major job losses or a reduction in pay for UK born workers. Most major economic repercussions resulted from the rich playing roulette with other peoples’ money, pre and post 2008.

So on the face of it, the immigration scapegoat holds little water, but we shouldn’t let a good yarn obscure the facts, because after all the ruling elite have a solution for all this. This of course is Brexit, on waking up post election, plus Brexit shortly after, the UK will be free to make their own decisions and to screw up the country as they see fit. They will be free to continue with the privatisation of the NHS, free to penalise the poor and free to allow corporate CEO’s, ex Prime Minsters, celebrities and other undesirables to hide their money in British Overseas Territories via trusts. All this freedom must be intoxicating for some people, but not necessarily for anyone you or I know. The idea that Brexit will cure all our ills is a fantasy, but it continues to fragment the people and for that the Conservatives must be eternally grateful.

Won’t get fooled again? The Brexit sideshow that could distract the UK from real change.

The people of the UK go to the polls on December the 12th bitterly divided by class, geographical differences, education, economics, race, culture and of course Brexit. Forty years of unbridled capitalism and now we have working class people supporting an Etonian, upper class Conservative Party and a metropolitan, middle class, Eurocentric group who may vote Labour (or Liberal Democrat), but hate their leader. Among this, there is still a very sizeable group who see Jeremy Corbyn’s politics of anti-austerity, pro people and fervently against the ruling self-serving elite as a way out of this neoliberal hell.

You would like to think it would be intuitive for people who have very little and have witnessed their town or city obliterated, while being turned into a giant Amazon warehouse to vote for someone who opposes this. Alas not. It is also difficult to imagine people voting against someone whose aim is to directly fund the NHS, thus providing better and cheaper services. In contrast to the Conservative’s who plan to expand the external market for exploitation by massive corporations. Sadly, this is exactly what is occurring in many impoverished regions.

The health of a society, the education of kids, utilities for the elderly in the winter and public transport should not be a business opportunity for the rich to gain off peoples’ daily predicaments. After decades of this, it has become a way of life, with a number of people not knowing of a time when things were different and now many individuals are unable to look outside of the corporatist matrix. We have been told we are “worth it”, that we are inherently competitive, while social cohesion has been destroyed and the population reduced to consumers.

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Neoliberal ideology has stripped us of our compassion. The idea of a strong functioning community and the notion of not leaving people behind who are struggling seems a distant memory. This has been replaced with a ultra punitive society, that locks more people in prison than any nation outside of the US and regularly celebrates the very people who make sacks full of money from our labour. This is a system that encourages us to buy shit that we really don’t need or simply can’t afford, in order to feel better than the family living next door. We buy newer or bigger, all to prove we that we are superior to the other lot, whoever they may be.

The upper class who control the media, who lobby the government, while hiding their dosh in British Overseas Territories through trusts, convince the aspiring middle classes to look down on the primary culprits. Who are invariably defined as uneducated, working class types sat on their collective backsides all day. The middle class Conservatives hate them because they apparently drain the government coffers while adding nothing to the pot, meanwhile the middle class ‘moderates’ despise them, because they are considered racist, stupid and probably a supporter of Brexit.

People from impoverished areas are cajoled by the likes of Nigel Farage. The story is told that immigrants are stealing their jobs and that the nation needs to be in control of its borders. This is despite the fact that most immigrants arrive in the UK qualified to do the jobs that the country requires and provide skills the nation lacks. Are these people stupid? No, they are desperate and have gained nothing from 40 years of ultra-capitalism. Additionally, being a part of this ‘magical’ organisation called the EU doesn’t appear to have helped most people in the former industrial heartlands. When mainstream politics fail, often individuals look to the margins for change. Leaders who will say anything and offer the world to gain favour. Enter Mr Trump and Mr Johnson.

Brexit is yet another fissure for which to divide the population of the UK. Whether this was intentional by David Cameron and his staff is hard to know, but since then it has been manipulated skilfully to shatter any cohesion the UK once had. As it stands right now with a Conservative government, whether the UK leave or stay in Europe the world will still cater for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. The EU is by design a capitalist, pro corporatist entity. It promotes “free trade”, “free movement” of capital, business austerity, low pay, flexible labour markets, privatisation of public services and the destruction of the welfare state.

To see the EU’s true colours we only have to look at Greece and other nations hit hardest by the economic crisis. The vast majority of bailout funds went straight to French and German banks, while very little actually made its way into the economies of these beleaguered countries. As part of the conditions for these bailout packages collective bargaining rights have been drastically eroded, estimated to have been reduced by an average of 21% across the 10 hardest hit nations. In Greece, workers rights have been reduced by an estimated 45%. The EU has continued to make an example of Greece, with privatisation and austerity, forced upon them at every turn.

Does this mean I support Brexit? No, in all honesty I’m pretty ambivalent towards Brexit. But what the EU isn’t, is some benevolent social democratic club that protects the UK from the vile Tories. Of course, the Tories can do all of those things previously mentioned and much worse without the help of a bureaucratic behemoth in Brussels. The Tories have devastated public services, workers rights and given half a chance they would rip up any remaining human rights that exist. So what’s the answer? Quite clearly, none of the above. I’m sure a portion of the metropolitan, superbly educated, suitably housed, well paid professional classes may benefit from the EU, but many people elsewhere have experienced little in the way of joy.

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Falinge Estate, Rochdale.

The north of England where I am originally from have 10 of the 12 most economically declining cities in the UK, two of which I worked in for the NHS, performing clinics in some of the most run down areas. As money has been syphoned into the South East (primarily London), real wages in these former industrial areas have consistently fallen or at best stagnated. The EU isn’t going to save the working class, but a bold plan from Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn might just start to turn things around. Sadly many people would rather cry into their G & T’s about Brexit than get behind a set of policies that would benefit the most amount of people.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who will go after the real perpetrators, these are ruling elites who use their money and influence to lobby government, while stashing trillions away in overseas trust accounts. It’s not the poor, the disaffected, the unemployed, the working class, immigrants or anyone else who are destroying societies in the UK or anywhere else. Already this week Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to take on “tax dodgers, bad bosses, big polluters and the billionaire media owners”, while pledging support for public services in particular the NHS.

Further to this, Labour is the only party totally committed to protecting the NHS from further privatisation. NHS officials have reportedly been in talks with US pharmaceutical firms preparing for a post Brexit trade deal. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the only party who clearly have the people in mind. If we look at the last manifesto of 2017 the main features were; to scrap student tuition fees, renationalise water, mail and rail, increase spending on public service including the police force and fire brigade, end zero hour contracts and crucially increase taxes on the rich and corporations.

This assault on the rich and powerful by attempting to close tax loopholes is in my opinion the primary reason Jeremy Corbyn has been savaged on all on sides and even within his own party. He stands to make the ruling elite accountable, something that hasn’t been attempted for decades. If you are opposed to what Labour proposes, you seriously need to ask yourself why. Have you been propagandised by the elite, convinced that politics is only performed by the rich and powerful for the sole benefit of them. If so that isn’t democracy. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport that rolls around every 4 years (or less). Democracy is a 24 hour a day activity, you may not partake, but I guarantee the people with the power will. I can assure you, apathy and petty squabbles on this occasion will not win the day.

 

 

Tribal power: The strange world of us and them.

All human beings belong to one tribe or another. We search for common goals that bring us together be it; a sports team, a political party, a religion, a type of music, our nation, a geographical area, the colour of our skin, sexuality or maybe just our age. We are all apart of some larger entity and often more than one. It’s also reasonable to acknowledge that some factors bind us together more than others. A tribe can unify people forming an in-group and by definition everybody outside of this are apart of the out-group. In a book by Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Minds: Why good people are divided by politics and religion, he suggests that “our minds were designed to unite us into teams, divide us against other teams, and blind us to the truth”. Weirdly, I started to ponder this idea shortly after New Zealand’s defeat to England in the Rugby World Cup semi final.

Alas, this is not a tale of another Kiwi crying into his beer after a comprehensive loss. It’s slightly more complicated than that. I was born in Manchester, England and lived there for 40 years. Notice how I stopped short of calling myself English. I started typing English, but I felt uneasy about using it as a descriptor. I’ll be honest, I was never someone who sang “here we go” at the top of my lungs in Ibiza, nor did I go searching for a “full English” the morning after a hangover. In contrast, I did commit to 8 years in the British Navy travelling to the far flung corners of the earth. I also suffered the collective deep pessimism each time England took penalties during a major football tournament. No, I don’t have 3 lions tattooed on my arm or any other part of my anatomy, but I have supported England in varying sports around the globe

So what happened? Put simply, I moved. I left England in 2011 and have now lived in Whangarei, a largely forgotten part of New Zealand for the last 8 and a half years. At first I continued to follow England in many sports, after all I still knew many of the players. But increasingly, I kept an eye on how New Zealand were doing, be it the Olympics, Rugby, League or Cricket. It must have crept over me like a shadow, but I suddenly realised during the one day cricket final against England (another heroic loss) that I was a fully fledged Black Caps supporter. There was no doubt in mind, second thoughts or even guilt. Was I traitor? Is this treason? Did I care? The answers in short are no, no and no. By the time this years rugby world cup rolled around, England seemed less like my home country and more like the enemy. What happened? What kind of animal had I become?

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It is well documented through many studies performed after the Second World War and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq that one of the main reasons soldiers keep going despite the stress and danger is for their buddies. It is certainly not for king and country as gets suggested in black and white war movies. From an evolutionary standpoint it makes intuitive sense, sticking together can help save lives, in particular your own. However, moving beyond major events we can be very easily divided in the most arbitrary of ways, quickly developing in-groups and out-groups.

In 1968 on the day of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination Jane Elliot, a teacher from Iowa conducted a little experiment and split her class based on eye colour. She showed that the “better” blue eyed children ridiculed brown eyed kids almost within minutes. While she observed the same treatment meted out when brown eyed kids were the “chosen ones”. This study has been subsequently repeated by psychologists thousands of times in a myriad of different ways. Further to this, a study by the University of Missouri highlighted that, in-group identification became even more intense if members were made to feel threatened. It is thought that during these times we rely on our group members even more, especially if we feel at risk of physical harm.

Although being a part of a group may keep us safer by gravitating towards people who might seem most like us, we inadvertently build metaphorical walls which prevent us from bonding with our fellow human beings. One result of this is groupthink, this can ultimately lead to the group being irrational and dysfunctional. In this state, critical thinking can be diminished as raising an opposing view, arguing or discussing controversial topics can be perceived as dangerous. With no opposing ideas, members are more likely to feel uniformed in their beliefs leading to black and white thinking, and the stereotyping of others. This behaviour can occur as much with the KKK as it can within ANTIFA, with Remainers as often as Brexiteers, this even occurs pretty equally between Manchester Utd and City fans (believe it or not).

Amy Chua in her book “Political Tribes” offers that allegiance to a nation is not as strong as for example, ethnic or religious factors. But at its core, belonging to a group or tribe is still linked around the concept of identification. Groups members congregate with one another, directing their love towards the same object, shared leader or a cherished cause. This creates a unified feeling of identification, reciprocated by other members of the group. Collective identity is thought to work in two ways; firstly all members relate to and are loyal towards their focus (goal, leader, ideology etc.), secondly there’s a recognition of this devotion among other members.

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Social psychologist Erich Fromm described these as primary ties, giving people security and a sense of belonging. Development of this solidarity prevents the individual from being morally alone, providing more confidence and increasing the certainty of their convictions in the larger social arena. With all this in mind and returning to the original question, am I a traitor for abandoning my nation of birth, in exchange for the country I’ve lived in for almost 9 years? I would suggest not, but I guess it should be down to someone else to decide this.

If as suggested, I was seeking an identity in a new country, choosing the All Blacks or New Zealand sport in general to support would make sense. Sport in New Zealand generally speaking is a uniting force. Citizens regularly follow the escapades of this small nation, the plucky underdog that always manages to punch well above its weight. It is also a relatively benign group to attach oneself to. Most of the time that is. Although, as a member of this group I can quite easily feel all the trappings of us versus them. Demonising the opposition, taking a bias view on refereeing decisions or even the irritation of watching joyous England fans celebrate victory.

This was palpable, especially when Owen Farrell crumpled to the ground clutching his face after being mildly pushed by Sam Whitelock (although for mere mortals that’s probably an oxymoron). My overriding response was to yell at him in my suddenly rejuvenated northern accent, “get up yer girl” or “I bet yer dad’s proud of yer, writhing around like a bloody football player” (his dad incidentally is Wigan rugby league legend Andy Farrell, who I’ve seen in action on numerous occasions). Oh how quickly we bond with the people we live and work with day to day for a common cause. On that day, however, we commiserated with one another as any slightly battered tribe would.

 

 

Tackle the policies, not the man: Personal insults will not win back the working class.

The UK has recently acquired yet another upper class Etonian, much the same as David Cameron. A man who has no political principles or moral convictions, someone who will say anything to obtain and maintain power. This is a potential gift for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour if they play it right. Unfortunately, I predict this will be another opportunity lost. I suspect the left in the UK might just mimic the Democrats in the US resorting to name calling, hollow allegations and memes.

Already the signs are there, literally, with protests featuring placards with “not my Prime Minister” on them. This eerily reminds me of the bourgeois middle class in the US, who threw a collective tantrum after the defeat of corporate stooge Hilary Clinton in 2016. Rather than reflecting on why people are drawn to such characters as Trump, many in opposition lazily resorted to pointless ad hominem attacks and his alleged actions of the past.

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This line of protest may well be considered a valid tactic on Twitter and Facebook, but is it really a pathway to changing the political landscape? I suggest not. Within minutes of any political disagreement on social media vast numbers of people regress to adolescence, often resorting to the petty ‘strategy’ of slinging personal insults at those who dare to disagree. When trying to unite a nation, in particular, attracting the working class back to their traditional parties, these methods only serve to polarise and harden opinion.

In the UK the left historically fought for the working class, but many now feel abandoned, even politically isolated, after decades of blue and later red neoliberalism. Subsequently, many people have voted for change regardless of the outcome. For a left leaning party such as Labour to enter government they need the working class, while the working class require a party or political movement to truly champion their cause.

Labelling whole swathes of a population racist, misogynistic, dumb or simply stupid, won’t endear them to you or promote healthy debate. Brexiteers and corporate Democrats, both who lost recent votes insist on suggesting they are the enlightened ones, while approaching life from an exceptionally myopic and rather advantaged perspective.

For those who struggle for money on a daily basis in areas such as the former industrial heartlands, there is still very much a class war going on, which incidentally they are spectacularly losing. This partly explains why citizens who are financially at the lower end of society in the western world have developed strange bed fellows such as, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and to a certain extent Boris Johnson.

All of these characters are ridiculously privileged, having absolutely no affinity to the very people they pretend to support. Weirdly from the “Rust Belt” in the US to the former industrial north in the UK, right wing parties continue to attract working class voters. All this, despite the Republican’s and Conservative’s open declaration of support for corporations, the rich, low taxation and minimal funding of any state services.

Often the phrase “it’s like turkeys voting for Christmas” does the rounds during election time. This sadly, fails to ask the hard but obvious question…….why? Why are people content to vote against their best interests? Or more reflectively, what have the left done wrong to lose the very group that would benefit the most from traditional left values and when did this start.

A quick and admittedly slightly glib answer to the problem, particularly in the UK could be summed up with one word, Blair. In truth, many leaders of traditional left leaning parties have ignored the plight of the working class, while searching for voters among the middle classes. But Blair even stated in a speech to the centrist think tank Public Policy Research “I want to make you all middle class“, as if this was some sort of aspirational comment. By many, this was seen and with good cause, as an abandonment of the working class. The Labour Party membership not surprisingly dropped from approximately 405,000 in 1997 to 156,000 by 2009.

I’m sure some people who claim to be on the left may suggest that we don’t need the working class, especially those who voted for Brexit. I would argue, that ending neoliberalism, reducing economic inequality, working for a sustainable future, protecting our human rights are all more important issues than the side-show that is Brexit. All these aspirations are heavily dependent on engaging and winning over the working class who largely feel neglected by previous incarnations of so called progressive politics.

Memes inferring a likeness of Boris Johnson to Donald Trump and targeting his repeated gaffs aren’t going to help persuade people to move over and vote for Corbyn’s Labour, for example. We’ve seen the same tactic aimed at Trump in the US having little to no effect. Working class Trump voters often reply with, “but the economy is doing better and unemployment is down”. This is where people in the UK need to deviate from the US strategy by pushing back on the issues, while not focusing on Boris Johnson’s bumbling demeanour, dress sense or hairstyle.

However, if we look back at Trump and his supporters claims, just using GDP as one metric, growth under Trump is admittedly consistent, but Obama had even greater periods at times during his presidency. Regarding unemployment, this has consistently been on the decline since 2011, although primarily due to the rise of the gig economy and other precarious methods of employment. For the left in the UK, finding out why working class voters have switched to right wing parties and challenging their assertions, while offering well thought out answers is better than calling Conservative’s heartless bastards. As true as this may be, it does not help the debate.

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One Bullingdon Club photo, two UK Prime Ministers

The UK is now on to its second upper class former Etonian and Bullingdon Club Prime Minister within 5 years of each other. If this photo isn’t an example of a failed democracy, I’m not sure what is. Johnson’s recently unveiled cabinet is equally disturbing, starting with Chancellor of Exchequer Sajid Javid. Despite his humble Rochdale roots, Javid is a former investment banker in the US, who can hardly be described as a man of the people. Next, the recently appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is even considered a right-winger among his own party. Raab studied at both Oxford and Cambridge University, just like most kids do (1% of the UK population graduate from Oxbridge).

Boris Johnson’s pick for home secretary is Priti Patel. Ms Patel is keen on the death penalty, but not so much on basic human rights. The daughter of Gujarati Indian parents who fled Uganda in the 1960’s, she seems desperate to kick the ladder away, advocating for stricter asylum rules and stronger enforcement of immigration laws. Along with the Prime Minister, this completes the line-up for the country’s top four political jobs, handed to those who have nothing in common with or any interest in the real world.

This is an ideal time to catapult an anti-neoliberal narrative into the minds of working class people. Although some people may not be convinced by Jeremy Corbyn (I’m not one of them), this a perfect opportunity for him. His main problem, however, continues to be elements within his own party who are determined to hamper any concerted effort to deliver discernible change.

Personally I see Jeremy Corbyn, as the first step, someone who can get the UK back on track. This involves moving away from a government that benefits the rich and idolises money, to a system that supports all of humanity. This progress could, therefore, be used as a springboard to promote further radical change in the future. Firstly Labour need to win their traditional base of support back, that of the working class and that will be a huge challenge.

 

 

“How the left was won”. The planned demise of a working class movement.

The left as it was once known is withering away. Of course there are pockets of resistance, the much maligned Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters being a prime example. There are certain politicians who show signs of leftist principles based on the pursuance of economic equality, who then feel the need to balance it up, succumbing to the pressure of identity politics. This is principally because many of the identarian left also make up the rank and file of Bernie Sanders (US), Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and Jacinda Ardern’s (NZ) supporters. To ignore them would be committing political suicide, in a world where winning is paramount to implementing any sort of change within the ‘democratic system’.

This erosion of the economic left has occurred from many directions, from within and indeed externally of the leftist citadel. In the mid to late 70’s Keynesian social democratic policies were running out of steam and so entered Thatcher in 1979, with an individualistic ideology known as neoliberalism. This is a brutal system of capitalism that had been waiting in the wings for the day Keynesian economics eventually spluttered and finally collapsed. Thatcher began an overt attack on the working class, that still persists today, as she laid to waste any remaining industries, selling them off at an alarming rate, for the rich and middle classes to benefit from.

Thatcher

The ‘Iron Lady’ made no attempt to hide her disdain for any semblance of a community, as the UK miners can attest to. The UK and also New Zealand a little later from 1984 entered a rabid world of competition and consumption, where more was better and if you didn’t succeed, you only had yourself to blame. Sadly today, this attitude is considered the societal norm across much of the world, where people fight for whatever metaphorical scraps are left on the table. Neoliberalism for many is the only political system they have ever known. With this in mind it’s not surprising the left with a more collectivist, traditionally compassionate perspective struggles to gain traction among the wolves of capitalism.

It makes sense that right wing policies from the Conservatives, Republican’s and National would attempt to manipulate the working class to gain more profit for their mates, but these attacks also occurred from inside “camp lefty”. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair made it clear that they were switching targets in the 90’s, coveting the middle class vote. While the relaxing of financial restrictions, such as Glass Steagall in the US echoed these sentiments. In the UK, Brown and Blair allowed the banks ever more leeway, contributing to the financial crash of 2008.

To appease their newly found middle class and professional class voters, these disciples of the “third way” focused on social justice concessions. This fight for rights for minorities was music to middle class ears, who had little money worries, just everyday dilemmas such as; where to go on holiday that year, or whether to build a summer house or install a new kitchen. Meanwhile, industry after industry was decimated and areas such as the North, the Midlands and South Wales, became one huge call centre, up until these jobs were inevitably shipped off shore, leading to even more unemployment

call centre

Now in the UK, the gig economy (bullshit jobs to you and me) account for 4.7 million workers, doubling in just three years. These jobs possess sparse workers rights, no paid holidays, little security and often requires employees to take on two jobs to cover the bills. This is not a basis for a secure society, but the disparity between the haves and have nots can be witnessed in voting habits. Starting with Blair and Clinton, these traditional working class parties gave up on the very people they were supposed to represent, in search of a less grimy class of voter. This societal neglect has since been returned with interest by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump.

The middle class and lefty elite’s reactions on both sides of the pond, was to blame the very people who been shafted for decades, calling them xenophobic, racist or just plain dumb. I’m sure victim blaming is a massive taboo among the identarian left, but alas, maybe they are just the wrong kind of victim. In centrist, middle class land, the gender wage gap (which is a dubious statistic at best) and the crusade to get an even 50% of men and women in all high powered jobs, seems to be on the forefront of the identarian mind. Often they are people who come from very comfortable backgrounds, have attended university, possess very little life experiences, but insist on taking the moral high ground, but chiefly only on issues that directly concern them.

Maybe, just maybe there isn’t enough women who want to be CEO’s in top corporations to make up the 50% quota, or even MP’s or engineers for that matter. Lets be honest, who would blame them, CEO’s are often “Alpha Male” narcissists, who put their life and family on hold, working 80 hours a week for the sake of financial success, both theirs and the company’s. Incidentally, I have never seen identarians protesting to make up 50% of oil rig workers or other dangerous jobs. It also becomes eerily silent when highlighting areas women dominate, such as education (60% are of university graduates are women), new graduate medical students, psychology and publishing.

I am using this as an example to show the disconnect regarding the priorities of middle class, bourgeois, educated, professionals and the working class. Who’s main preoccupations are centred around feeding the kids, paying the bills, debts and getting decent work. If we look at “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs“, many working class people are desperately trying to get out of “Maslow’s Cellar”. While the champagne identarian pretend socialists are focused on growth needs, self-actualisation and trying get into the penthouse. To the centrist middle classes (who often classify themselves as left), the working class are an eyesore, an inconvenience and an enemy of civility. Personally, I would describe them as being crapped on from a great height, repeatedly for 4 decades and who are increasingly desperate for change.

8 stage maslows

The problem is, the working class have little representation. Most unions are toothless and throughout the western world working class MP’s are as rare as “rocking horse shit”. In the 1920’s 70% of Labour MP’s in the UK came from working class backgrounds. Since the 1980’s this has plummeted to today’s figure of just 8%. The powerless clearly lack any representation from people who can actually enact change. We are now awash with career MP’s, who are more interested in keeping their positions, with little experience outside of the political bubble. This is significant, in a recent study it was shown that working class MP’s have much more interest in welfare policies than careerists. In contrast these professional politicians are increasingly likely to adopt policies for political or strategic reasons in order to win over swing voters and ultimately elections.

None of this is set to change, as the working class will continue to be marginalised, silenced and underrepresented. In all likelihood this group will continue to avoid traditional left leaning parties such as Labour and its ilk. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s hard work in this area, many people from the working class still consider Labour and the Democrats, as not representative of their values and concerns. The legacies of both Clinton and Blair are of course huge reasons for their warranted mistrust. I will conclude by suggesting that this has been a purposeful act by the right wing, the centrists, the media and the identarian left in order to quash working class concerns, while elevating their own self-serving agendas.

 

 

The failure of dialogue and the rise of political polarisation.

Question, how long does it take for a discussion on Facebook to turn into a childish name calling competition? Minutes, seconds, instantaneously? If you are on the left of Genghis Khan you are labelled a far left, snowflake, commie bastard and if you are considered to be on the right of Leon Trotsky you are considered an alt right, fascist, Nazi pig. There are absolutely no shades of grey in this equation. The overriding mentality suggests you are either with us or against us and if you are the latter, you don’t deserve an opinion because you are a worthless piece shit. At which point ends any faint hope of an adult conversation.

This is played out everyday on social media, in parliament, college campuses and the workplace. You have to devour the entire menu from either the rabid fascists or the commie bastards, otherwise you must be a troll and therefore, should be hung in the main square at noon. Only the team you favour is entitled to free speech and not everyone is allowed a platform or even a viewpoint. Looking at the state of political discourse, this polarisation is intensifying and doing democracy (what’s left of it) no good whatsoever. Below is a protest against Warren Farrell’s appearance at the University of Toronto in 2012, the event was discussing men’s issues, such as suicide. Apparently this wasn’t acceptable to the intersectional puritans.

Most people don’t agree with everything a political party serves up, but often we choose one which aligns with our beliefs, ideals and morals the best we can. This is quickly becoming “out of fashion” as a puritanical political ideology is starting to take over throughout the west. If for example, you show reservations regarding the effectiveness of modern day capitalism in certain quarters, you are suddenly lectured about how the Soviet Union and China was a failed experiment, killing millions of people, while probably being accused of supporting gulags and mass murder. In contrast, if one displays any mild dissent for example, on college campuses towards identity politics, you are immediately branded a misogynistic, racist, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, who probably voted Brexit and is Nigel Farage’s favourite real ale drinking buddy.

My examples hopefully sound absurd, but this absurdity is only matched by the lack of sane dialogue and nuance as witnessed in most political arenas. This ideological segregation leaps out at me, primarily because I don’t tick all the boxes of the self-ascribed modern day lefty. I am unashamedly an economic lefty, I believe economic inequality and poverty caused by runaway capitalism is primarily our biggest issue. It affects crime, social cohesion, health provision, education, the environment and foreign policy (aka constant war). Conversely, I view the identarian ‘left’ with it’s rigid all or nothing doctrine and it’s attempt to regulate societal acceptability as deeply disturbing.

Both sides of the political aisle, predictably, doggedly stick to their assigned media echo chambers. In the US, Fox News is the word of God (or indeed Rupert Murdoch), while on the left MSNBC is often the liberals choice of propaganda, ceaselessly proclaiming yet another rehashed Russian/Trump accusation. In the UK political allegiance is chiefly grounded in Newspaper outlets; the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun tend to cover the varying classes of Brexit voting, apartheid supporting, right wing, sabre rattlers. While the Independent and the Guardian cater for the permanently outraged, woke middle class, remain voting, snowflakes, who are convinced they are the most enlightened human beings ever to have walked the earth. Negligent posting of any form of media outside of your scope of bigotry is punishable by death, or at the very least an accusation of being a despicable troll, rather than an independent thinker.

Newsflash, just because you may read articles outside of your political realm at times, does not mean you are going to wake up one day the very antithesis of the person who went to bed that night. It is perfectly OK to challenge yourself with speakers and commentators you may not ordinarily agree with (in my case someone like Jordan Peterson). It is good to test what we believe, weighing up the information at hand, refining our ideas and sometimes, lo and behold changing them. This is indeed how we grow, develop or even strengthen our long held ideals. Picking a side and blindly sticking with it regardless of any changes that may have radically taken place within that group, such as Blair’s Labour years, is ludicrous.

As a society we seem to know less and less about our political opposites, yet we have ever stronger opinions about them. We often call for resignations, impeachments and no platforming, not necessarily in relation to what they stand for, but a caricature of what they represent. In the US the Democrats have spent over two years trying to build a case against Donald Trump regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The allegations are baseless, but it appears easier than trying to work out why millions of working class white folk voted for him, without referring to them as racist and xenophobic.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host and fulltime Russiagate conspiracy theorist.

The same can be said for Brexit, rather than acknowledging that millions of people particularly outside of the South East, have not benefitted from a system that has been at one with Europe for decades. It’s clearly more satisfying and simplistic to vomit ad hominem’s from a great moral height on the minions down below. Otherwise Remainer’s will have to recognise that neoliberalism either in or out of Europe will not help the working class and no amount of name calling or shaming is going to change that. Unfortunately this working class disenfranchisement has resulted in support for Semi-Gods (yes that’s what I said) such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. When society refuses to listen to its largely ignored, powerless members of the community, they may not protest like bourgeois, middle class know it all’s complete with face paint, but they will try to force change through the ballot box.

I would like to leave this piece with a message of hope, but I desperately fail to see one. Social media will make it increasingly easier for people to display more antagonism towards each other, typing the next line frantically before they have even read the previous reply. Papers sell more and people will watch more if we are perpetually at odds with each other. There will certainly be no solace found within these purveyors of propaganda, who stoke the daily fires of hate, purposefully spewing vitriolic hyperbole and division.

Finally political parties will do whatever is necessary to win and if it benefits society, it will be more luck than judgement. Billionaires will continue to influence big business, economic decisions, as well as national and international policy. In the other class hemisphere, the identarian left will endeavour to redefine societal norms, deciding what we can say, write and think. So as along as the two factions never meet in the middle, government will be delighted and the populous ever more divided.

May I present Jeremy Corbyn: The best Prime Minister the UK will never have.

There is no doubt that there are enough dark forces conspiring together, purely with the sole purpose of ensuring Jeremy Corbyn never sets foot in number 10 Downing Street. On a seemingly daily basis mainstream media, opposition MP’s, members of his own party, the middle class ‘remain brigade’ and of course many billionaires are all queuing up for a pop at Mr Corbyn. There is no way in hell that the pompous British establishment will allow a socialist, albeit a very mild democratic one to take the reins of a nation that is a mainstay of neoliberal ideology.

Just a brief glance at Corbyn’s vision for the country prior to the last election, it is clear that these proposals are less guided by GDP and more focused on the growth for all people. This is a hugely refreshing approach, but one that generally does not sit well within the ruling elite. Nor to the many indoctrinated by Thatcher and later Blair, this is tantamount to sacrilege and worthy of a prolonged stay in the Tower of London, without an en suite bathroom.

Corbyn has dared to challenge the deeply imbedded neoliberal mafia, who stash their cash in far flung corners of the globe. Offering very little in the way of tax, but plenty in the way of advice on how the country should be managed and indeed who should do it (Richard Branson for example). Jeremy has even had the audacity to suggest that people making billions by exploiting workers from the UK (Jeff Bezos) should pay tax (how dare he).

It has been made clear that Labour under Corbyn would have a fairer tax system, while endeavouring to close loopholes for evaders and avoiders. Critics often question whether this is even possible, but I can virtually guarantee you that this is not a critique on the practical applications of such a proposal. More likely, this is an effort to put doubt in peoples minds, as they continue to protect a system that works for the 1%. Unbridled, runaway capitalism in many quarters is being held up for scrutiny and it has been found wanting.

There’s is nothing that mainstream media love more than an anti-Corbyn story. If there isn’t one around do not fear, a so called journalist will always be on hand to make one up. Going as far back as 2016, it was found that over half the news articles written about Mr Corbyn have been critical or antagonistic in tone, this compares to two thirds of editorial and opinion pieces. Meanwhile, he has been linked to Hamas, the IRA, Iran, Hezbollah and Arsenal Football Club, with no evidence at all to back up these lofty claims (maybe a little on the last one).

Over the last few years varying publications have called him a traitor for such treasonous acts as; not bowing deeply enough at a remembrance service, claims of being associated to a Czech spy and of course inciting terrorism. There is also the matter of repeated and baseless allegations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. Ultimately the Daily Telegraph of all rags accused the Labour Party of being racist.

media bollocks
Mainstream media’s campaign of lies

It is common knowledge that the Labour party is deeply divided between Corbyn’s anti-austerity driven supporters and the remnants of New Labour, who nowadays appear old, crusty and frankly bitter. This group on the centre/right of the Labour Party are desperate to regain control, which is highlighted by the constant manufactured crises, generally followed by a leadership bid. It can be argued that by incessantly sabotaging Corbyn, they clearly have much more in common with the Tories than the current Labour leadership.

Their method of choice to dislodge Corbyn has centred around numerous, tedious anti-Semitic assertions, manufactured purely to force a change at the top. Any actions or words spoken by Corbyn and his close allies are manipulated, repackaged and used against them with relative success. An example of this was Jackie Walker who is of black, Jewish heritage, being hounded out of Momentum on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, to the delight of the Blairite faction.

The truth of the matter is, there is no evidence to suggest Labour harbours any more anti-Semitic views than any other party, or even society as a whole. The question routinely posed by ‘moderates’ on the centre/right of the party goes like this; “don’t you think Labour has a problem with ant-Semitism”? Firstly, don’t be fooled by this seemingly benign line of enquiry. This is a rhetorical trap, a game that ‘moderates’ seem to revel in. If your reply is no, you will be savaged for suggesting that the Labour Party is entirely free of anti-Semitic bigots. If you reply in the affirmative, this will be taken as an admission of guilt and that their narrative is indeed correct. The whole point of this is to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn’s image and reputation, therefore, hastening the Blairite faction to call for yet another leadership election, on the basis that he is unfit to stand in opposition. This is not some form of elevated morality the centre/right faction of the party possess, more it’s an opportunity to retake control of the party.

We shouldn’t be surprised that this group is exceptionally adept at playing politics. After all, Blair’s hollow revolution was entirely based on spin, false data, lies and an affinity for using identity politics as a tool of control. Corbyn’s opposition found within his own parliamentary members are not the only centrist/ moderate group he is up against. The largely middle class, bourgeois ‘Remainers’ are also baying for his blood. This particular sect has huge support in the South East particularly in London, who are seemingly more concerned with cheap goods and holidays, than the growing economic inequality. ‘Remainers’ often chime in that many jobs are dependent on the EU and although this may contain an element of truth, in the North of England where I’m originally from, it is home to 10 out of 12 English cities most in decline.

This much maligned geographic group have also witnessed a drop in real wages, which are still less than they were 10 years ago. It is completely understandable why many folk in the north don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings towards the EU that many individuals in the capital have. Regardless of these valid grievances voiced by people north of the ‘Watford Gap’, ‘Remainers’ appear to have developed a certain piousness, which manifests in feelings of moral superiority.

Numerous areas in the north, the midlands and South Wales in particular, have witnessed whole industries decimated and communities carved up like a Sunday roast, all occurring during this now celebrated time in the EU. Surely people in these regions can at least be forgiven for voicing concerns, that the current state of affairs hasn’t worked out all that well for them. Therefore, when you have nothing to lose, voting for something like Brexit carries little risk and any kind of change can appear better than nothing.

Dyson ceramic
Dyson ceramics factory, Sheffield.

The stark differences between both groups as displayed during the Brexit vote, are never more obvious than when examining class. In social categories  AB and C1 (high, middle management to professionals) both men and women voted in favour of remaining in the EU, conclusively so for women. In categories DE and C2 (skilled/ semi-skilled and manual occupations, plus the unemployed) the vote was in favour of Brexit, particularly among men. Despite all this, rather than trying to understand the plight of the working class, they have simply been dismissed as; stupid, poorly informed, gullible and racist.

The truth of the matter is only 34% of leave voters cited immigration as their primary concern for choosing Brexit. Many people who voted to leave are more concerned about low wages, a lack of decent jobs, education and affordable housing. This is just another example of the working class being marginalised, ignored and told to get back in their place. To make things worse these genuine worries are exploited by cretins such as Nigel Farage, in an effort to bolster his self serving populist crusade.

I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is acutely aware that he has to connect with the working class, who have been neglected during four decades of neoliberalism to achieve electoral victory. However, as we’ve observed in the US, populism is seductive and a hard spell to break. Further to this, Corbyn is swimming against a tide of media hostility, whose billionaire bosses would stand to be on the losing end following a Corbyn victory.

To compound all this, he still has to continuously grapple with a section of the party who have very little in common with his principles and consciously make life substantially difficult at every given opportunity. As mentioned earlier this segment of the Parliamentary Labour Party have more of a shared worldview with middle class ‘Remainers’, who on the whole prefer their politics to be of the neoliberal variety, with a large helping of identity politics on the side.

Corbyn is merely trying to challenge the status quo, in doing so, he has unearthed a multitude of enemies.  As a collective, these groups will be exceptionally difficult to defeat, hence my pessimistic title. Jeremy Corbyn should be a unitary figure, but after 40 years of unbridled capitalism and self-interest, Corbyn on the contrary polarises public opinion more than ever. Aside from the US, the UK is one of greatest examples of ingrained neoliberalism.

People have grown accustomed to being a consumer first and a member of the community a distant second. Society is ranked by what material goods are acquired and even the most civic minded citizen can be easily caught up in this mindless, self destructive drive to buy more and more shit to fill our relatively meaningless lives. These my friends, are the issues that constitute the miles of crap Jeremy Corbyn has to wade through in order to affect change for the better and sadly I don’t fancy his chances. Of course, I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

 

 

 

 

Time to fight for the working class.

For a couple decades, issues of class have been low on the list of priorities. Many of the ‘faux left’ parties have looked down their snobby, privately educated, liberal noses at the working class. In stark contrast, they never fail to grasp any opportunity to virtue signal for an array of gender and race issues. It appears unfashionable to fight for people who have suffered the most from neoliberalism. As a result of this abandonment and derision over the years, many now vote for the right. Despite the fact it is those very same capitalist policies they tick the box for, that are destroying them. So, rather than callously stating “oh it’s just turkey’s voting for Christmas”, maybe we should investigate why this has occurred.

It could be hypothesised that the middling, moderate, smart arse, pompous, plastic left are pushing people to the right, towards the Conservatives, National (NZ), Liberals (Australia), Conservatives (Canada) and the Republican’s. In some cases even further along the left/right continuum, to parties such as UKIP. Who until their recent capitulation, became popular within the working class. Throughout Europe we have also seen a rise of harder line nationalist parties mainly over eastern and central parts. Meanwhile, some traditionally left leaning parties are trying hard to realign back to their working class ideals. Most notably Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the UK and to some extent Jacinda Ardern in NZ. But mistrust still persists, partly because of a previous centrist hangover in the form of New Labour in the UK. While in New Zealand it was 33 years of neoliberalism first conceived by a Labour government in 1984, that didn’t help matters.

Across the pond despite a recent, small progressive revival, the corporate idiots in the Democrat party are still very much in control and have failed to learn anything from the Hillary Clinton disaster. What makes this a travesty, is the working class have been abandoned by the party that since Roosevelt was supposed to fight for them. This group have been the biggest losers regarding employment and have been told by their so called moral superiors that they voted Trump because they are uneducated, racist, sexist and ignorant. Well guess what, if you really want a truly left government, no matter where you may be from, these are the people we need to understand and reach, because supporting the working class is what the left is all about.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you will have noticed we’ve had a couple of important events on both sides of the Atlantic. This should have initiated a huge alarm call for the liberal elite; one being the Brexit result to leave Europe and the other Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. What arrogantly transpired, was not a period of deep reflection within the liberal world, but an outright condemnation of people who had the audacity to vote against their wishes. In the US, while Hillary Clinton sulked, the “not my president” brigade were out in force, because to them democracy suddenly wasn’t fair anymore. Following the result, noticeably there were a few very rich, connected individuals (Clinton and co), telling middle class people that it was the fault of those stupid fools from the working class for voting Trump.

We can witness these similar precocious, middle class types at college campus protests. A speaker who may be challenging in some ideological way can be no platformed in a heart beat, as it may rock their precious sensibilities. A similar vibe is also evident at events such as the ‘women’s march’ whereby millions of relatively privileged, educated, pussy hat wearing liberals, gather to protest……..I guess about something (usually Trump). All the while, taking selfies and brandishing brightly coloured banners, to presumably post on Instagram and Facebook. These occasions have more the appearance of a middle class day out complete with picnic hamper and a bottle of Prosecco, rather than a serious protest about something tangible. One concern that never gathers much traction within these groups is economic inequality, primarily because the majority of these fair weather protesters are pretty economically privileged.

not my pres.jpg
I hope it was permanent marker?

In the UK, just like the US, there is a predominantly middle class core of people called ‘Remainers’ who think they know better and propose that people who voted to leave the EU must be racist, stupid and gullible. No internal system checks or reflection as to why this went so badly wrong for them, just instant projection. It would appear that the metropolitan elite apparently know what’s good for the proletariat. Indeed people did vote to leave on issues such as; sovereignty, xenophobia and racism, but millions cast their vote for a myriad of other reasons. For decades there has been an all out assault on the working class from the liberal left and the right, attacking their identities and their places of work. Many politicians see the working class as an embarrassing problem. In return a majority of this group have stopped listening to Westminster and have started trusting their own experiences.

One of the suggested indicators regarding who voted for Brexit was education, areas of average education tended to vote leave, while areas with residents with college degrees were more compelled to vote to stay in the EU (71%). I’ll make it clear now, a university degree doesn’t automatically grant you the intellectual and moral high ground. Contrary to the current orthodoxy, education does not begin and end in the lecture hall either. But, there is a well established link that proposes inadequate education often leads to poor employment opportunities and decreased social engagement, therefore, providing a differing set of experiences from those of the middle class. Recently, as if people haven’t had enough of being told what to do, 670,000 people descended on London for the very Orwellian sounding ‘People’s Vote’ march. Just for the record, I will declare that I have no particular axe to grind regarding Brexit, as I think while there’s a neoliberal system on both sides, it’s a lose-lose. This is why Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to win with supporters from either side, I suspect he just doesn’t have enough of a stake in the outcome.

A large portion of ‘Team Remainer’ I would hazard a guess were created, when most of the ‘anglosphere’ adopted a similar mix of policies from the 90’s onwards, which you could loosely label ‘third way’. This comprised of more deregulation for the banking sector, such as Bill Clinton’s abolishment of Glass Steagall, while governments became increasing corporate centric. Another trait was the transformation of citizens to consumers. We suddenly had an abundance of choice, but this was only restricted to our spending habits, not our political parties. Most ‘supposedly’ left leaning parties, particularly Blair with New Labour abandoned the working class as his core voter base, in favour of the middle classes. This was highlighted by his repeal of ‘clause four‘ which effectively linked the Labour Party with socialism. This move was a definitive break from Labour’s past, socialism and the working class.

remainics

In turn, this new core of labour supporters were offered an enticing lifestyle, through neoliberal economics, punctuated by socially liberal policies. This on the whole, distracted, enriched and anaesthetised the middle classes. With less to worry about, they now could pursue other political issues such as identity politics. Which in turn could be used as moral currency in the sacred land of the pious. Yet, behind the cosy, socially caring rhetoric, economic inequality in the UK and other western nations began to widen. On the other side of the tracks, the working class regularly saw jobs vanish and whole industries dismantled under New Labour’s watch. Blair enthusiastically continued with Thatcherism on many fronts, in particular believing that the maintenance of free markets was the most efficient way to implement economic policy. New Labour also kept most of Thatcher’s sell-offs intact; BP, British Steel, British Airways among others. Additionally Blair continued with the anti-trade Union policies set in the 80’s and 90’s.

In defence of Tony Blair, he was responsible for bringing in the minimum wage, which did help the poorly paid and the exploited to some degree. At the risk of appearing cynical, I always felt this was no more than ‘lip service’ to the poor. Even so, New Labour could boast some impressive achievements; a dramatic cut in NHS waiting times, an 8 fold capital investment increase in education and growth in GDP per head by 20%. So with this in mind, why did Labour lose over 5 million voters from 1997 to 2010? While, at the same time membership fell from 407,000 in 1997 to 109,000 in 2004. Possibly, because New Labour was dedicated to a steady diet of centrist policies, which unsurprisingly did not meet the needs of diverse communities across the UK, many of whom were estranged by globalisation.

Blair doggedly adhered to the free market and services to advance economic growth. While manufacturing and wages declined outside of London, leaving a whole slew of folk left to fend for themselves. Secure trades were often replaced with insecure jobs, such as call centre work and warehouse employment. Blair’s centrist narrative was that of a rights-based individualism, while working class communities talked about the erosion of communal practices and institutions such as; pubs, neighbours and community centres. New Labour had no interest in values that were important to the working class such as; collective self-help, reciprocity and fraternity. Nor did Blair have any inclination to use New Labour as a vehicle for collective empowerment, in contrast he was more invested in managerialism, statism and centralisation. This working class rejection from Blair and by the Labour Party in general, I would wager, had a lot to do with the overwhelming eventual support for Brexit later on.

A similar outright rejection of globalism and corporate liberalism was equally evident in the US, which helped give rise to Trump. In an area known as the ‘Rust Belt’, states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana among others had been caught up in massive deindustrialisation, economic decline and urban decay. Workers had observed their manufacturing jobs shipped overseas, an increase in automation and a diminishing of the coal and steel industries. There have been suggestions that Trump turned these voters from Democrat to Republican, but the most accurate explanation could be that Democrats lost these voters. Obama who was once a big hope, offered nothing in real terms to the people of these regions. His centrist doctrine of ‘free market’ economics and social justice crumbs delivered poor returns in the region. Jobs continued to haemorrhage out the area, while real wages decreased.

nasty clinton

Trump during the campaign, in line with his modem operandi, offered nothing concrete. But he tapped into the desperation, emotion and nostalgia of working class people. He declared that he was going to restore manufacturing jobs to the area, while clamping down on immigration. Now, whether either of these things are possible or even true, is irrelevant, as the campaign had no relation to facts. This was about a narcissistic populist, telling an impoverished, dejected community precisely what they wanted to hear. What did the Democrats under Hillary Clinton do in response? In an act of extreme elitism, she brazenly stated that half of Trump supporters were a “basket of deplorables,” who were incidentally, racist, xenophobic or misogynistic. This comment was been vehemently rejected by Bernie Sanders, who rightly stated that the working class simply do not have a party to support them.

Countless middle class Hillary supporters and the liberal press suggested that Trump supporters were voting against their best interests. This conclusion is simplistic at best and views the problem entirely through a liberal lens. One aspect working class people voted for was dignity. As a group they have witnessed not only their jobs stripped away, but the heart of their community and their role within it. An ability to give, share and their capability as providers has been severely diminished. Although Trump’s campaign may have been disingenuous, it offered a possible return to dignity and when you have no hope, sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on the unknown.

So maybe we now have a bit of an idea why left leaning parties historically lost the working class. It could also be argued that many people don’t even identify as working class anymore. In the UK only 24% see themselves as working classed as opposed to 67% in the 1980’s. Many people who are struggling financially tend not to call themselves ‘working class’ as it is considered just another term for being poor. In contrast 71% state that they are middle class, which if you consider the UK has had 10 years of austerity with declining real wages, this is possibly not an accurate depiction of the truth. On the contrary, as a kid growing up in North Manchester, being working class was the norm and not something I or anybody else gave much thought to. I left school with 1 ‘O’ level in French and before I joined the navy I spent a year on a YTS (youth training scheme) fixing street lighting for the council. Going to the pub and playing footie on the weekend wasn’t just some romantic, wistful or even stereotypical reflection, it was part of life.

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East Lancashire Paper Mill, Radcliffe

Now, no longer is it the working class who feel integral to the spirit of the community. The old working class solidarity has been savaged by neoliberalism’s destruction of industry and the ties that held communities together. Many working class people now feel lonely, unhappy and pessimistic, while in contrast it’s the middle class who feel emboldened and a part of the community. Many factories, steel works, paper mills, collieries and shipyards had clubs, sports teams and some sense of belonging for people. No doubt that a large proportion of this started to decline long ago. Although, even in the 80’s and to a certain extent the 90’s in my hometown, which was primarily centred around paper production, all had popular clubs connected to the mills and some of the best sports facilities in the town. This is not a sentimental view of days gone by, but a reasoned look at what materialises when the ties that bind people together are broken. Thatcher never believed in society and was therefore, determined to destroy it. Blair continued with this philosophy by substituting the importance of the community and people, with consumerism.

Hordes of people from these now depleted communities regularly did dangerous, dirty, manually taxing jobs, that most of us wouldn’t wish to do. These workers often got by due to a semblance of solidarity, which existed throughout the industrial world to varying degrees. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that people who live in communities that didn’t gain from neoliberalism feel cut adrift, angry, lost, confused and are looking for something other than what currently exists. So why talk about the working class? Why are they important? Predominantly it is this group that keeps the place ticking over; refuse collectors, sewage workers and the many poorly treated warehouse workers all over the globe. This section of society have been taken advantage of more than any other, they’ve lost jobs, seen their pay decreased and witnessed government supports stripped away through austerity or pure vindictiveness. Even the phrase ‘working class’ is now, maybe by design, considered a derogatory phrase.

It’s politically ‘en vogue’ now to only care about issues pertaining to melanin levels and genitalia. However, class warfare is constantly being waged and shit rolls down hill. The ruling elite uses propaganda and distraction aimed at the middle class; such as the mainstream media and welcome theatre such as Brexit. The middle class primarily blame the working class, for example, voting Brexit, among these accusations are suggestions of a lack of intelligence, racism and xenophobia. In turn the working class take their frustrations out on the ‘unworking class’ and immigrants. This all plays into the hands of governments and corporations, who thrive when people are divided. Quite simply, if a left leaning party has any serious intentions of gaining power, with a strong desire to dismantle neoliberalism, it needs to engage with the working class and regain that once common ground.