The Corbyn Paradox

jeremy-corbyn-3In a massive political body-swerve the media are clinging desperately to Alex Massie’s wheeze  ignoring a huge outreach to a new constituency, an impassioned plea to openess and a listening agenda. Here was a Labour leader quoting Maya Angelou and Ben Okri striking out against cyber-bullying and misogyny and arguing for a values-driven politics.

No wonder the media had a collective spasm of angry bemusement quickly filling the studios with a cadre of discredited New Labour hacks and spin-doctors who now seem to be permanently embedded with the state broadcasters. In a new twist they seem to have been elevated to the status of Public Truth Interpreters. We watch the speech and then those people who have just been routed in a democratic election get to dominate the airwaves and reinterpret what we’ve just consumed. It’s an extraordinary framing of political events. The Corbyn hatefest shows no sign of dissipating, nor will it. The new commentariat class mewed that he didn’t mention the election loss, as if he was in charge and not a failed Blairite re-tread. They moan that he ‘didn’t ‘speak to the country’, code for he didn’t trot out the same Blue Labour line that’s failed them for years. They whined and chuckled in self-satisfied incomprehension. Andrew Neil talked to Lance Price. Lance Price told him it was a terrible speech. Andrew laughed and agreed. They all agreed it was ‘old’ and ‘out of date’ – as if providing affordable housing was something that had gone out of style in the 1980s, like Duran Duran or something. This isn’t political journalism it’s a coterie of fools. John McTernan is considered a sort of Delphic Oracle, and all of these  ‘former advisors’ are allowed, somehow, to dominate the debate as if they played no part in the unfolding meta-crisis of the Labour Party, as if they did not construct and nurture the awful edifice of spin and attack-politics that Corbyn is opposing and will palpably fail to defeat. Not because he’s not right, not because people aren’t sick of they style of politics he describes but because we have allowed it to dominate and structure how we discuss the world.

Watching Corbyn’s conference speech was a surreal experience after years of micro-managed and sterilised New Labour guff and spin. As the TV cameras panned round the Labour audience looked shocked at his language and appeal to populist ideas like renationalising railways and changing the tone and nature of political debate. But if the professional media class can’t comprehend what’s happening it’s also all touchingly naive, meek and lacking in real rigour and dynamism. Already its seems frayed at the edges and wobbly in the middle. As I was watching the conference I drifted to thinking what if Corbyn could speak properly, not in a Blairite way, or a JFK way, but just with a bit more fluidity, with a bit more actual passion?

A Divine Discontent

In truth it was a moving speech, poorly delivered. As forensically laid out here Corbyn’s comments on Scottish politics are, at best, ill-informed, at worst downright lies. The party’s inability to even discuss Trident completely undermines any credibility to be the ‘only genuine anti-austerity party’. Corbyn is right to say: “There is one thing I want to make my own position on absolutely clear, and I believe I have a mandate from my election on it. I don’t believe that £100bn spent on a new generation of nuclear weapons taking up a quarter of our defence budget is the right way forward.” But he doesn’t have control of his party and until he does it has all the political clout of a wishing tree. It will take his group at least a year to take control of his party, despite its massive mandate, in the context of a vicious media and an even more vicious internal party battle.

John Harris outlines here the mixture of idealism, euphoria and crisis that are flooding the party and Stephen Bush argues here that it’s a huge and  “a very different Labour party to the one  that was defeated in May.”

The point is that the fate of Corbyn will shape British politics, foreign policy and economics whether he ‘wins’ or ‘loses’. There’s a long way to go as he attempts to transform not just Labour but the form of political language. The problem is not just his constitutional ignorance or his being fed a dodgy line to attack the SNP. The deeper problem is that when he says: “Let us build a kinder politics, a more caring society together. Let us put our values, the people’s values, back into politics”, you have to worry that after three decades of Me First politics of greed, are those values really widely shared?

 

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  1. I despise tartan tories who pretend to be patriots says:

    Excellent article Mike. It is breath taking just to hear the audacity of the media’s truth-spinning gurus as they disperse their Neo Liberal manure all over a possible escape by the political tribe from the mental Prison House all politicians are supposed to quietly inhabit like dumb sheep. There are so many damned self-seeking grabbing scheming pieces of vermin in politics in general with their semi-invisible hell-spun network of cronyism/nepotism, that Jeremy will be brought down by the smiling lovely people whose ambition he has thwarted. But the door is burst open. The political tribe are running. They are off in the right direction and that is away from the Neo Feudal Neo Fascist normalisation of vicious right wing politics in Britain. So many (I mean idiots in politics) dont see how violently right wing Britain has become and all political dialogue must be kept within the mental walls of Neo Liberal dialogue end employ all the right words. New words and phrases pointing away from this land of criminal gang finance and open corruption are like doves of peace with the guns of greed dripping with venom as the words fly. Murder Kill and destroy them is the clarion cry. The amount of people inside the prison house of the Neo Liberal mind, brainwashed and muttering the cliches and tropes of greed, scares me. Being Left wing is still seen as dangerous across Scotland in some groups. Being apolitical is best among the people I have to associate with. Its a case of sit down shut up do as you are told and for Godsake DONT THINK or speak out loud. There will never be freedom in Scotland when brainwashing is so successful in blinding people. There are some in politics who care but there are a large number of people in politics who really just dont care about anything but their own mortgage and grabbing all they can get. They want to sound good, smiling like shallow Blairites, think they look good in the mirror of vanity while they suffocate debate and kill democracy to ensure they get what they want all the time. Good luck to Corbyn trying to get healthy new bottom up politics. The smiley right wing MP’s etc will splatter every idea into the ground or steal them or use them. Many of the people who rushed into the SNP last year wont renew membership. Many new members have been sickened by the suffocation of discussion and debate. Large groups filling halls have dwindled to smaller groups a fifth of the original size last October. So much false enthusiasm turned to fear among the political tribe as they let their insecurities show how shallow they are. In fighting over nominations and paranoia in places. Labour will do the same. The nice guys dont always come first as Dawkins argued. They get knifed in the ribs and back by smiling friends. Thats politics.

  2. Kevin Brown says:

    Well said Mike. A fine article.

  3. James Coleman says:

    “John McTernan is considered a sort of Delphic Oracle”

    Any outfit that thinks the Chief Loser and Patron Saint of Lost Political Causes has anything interesting or relevant to say shows it is inept.

  4. old battle says:

    In one week (a long time i p) we will be given two worlds (beating Genesis). One world from JC in which neo-liberalism is defeated by the spirit of Hardie (if not Marx); a new world imagined in hesitant marks sketched not defined but inspired. Corbyn’s world a poem where Labour & the media need a fix of prose.
    This very same week we will be offered another world: designed by Cameron (likeVW with lies, VW spokesman today was Olaf Lies).
    For Cameron’s world the temptation is of course to visit Orwell’s Animal Farm (post pig) but instead I went to his 1984 this week. There we read of a new world being created : a Cameronian world.

    ‘Do you begin to see then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined (viz JC but now comes the Tory world writ large).
    ” A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself”

    Two worlds in one week.

  5. bringiton says:

    John Logy Bear has a lot to answer for.
    Politics reduced to a stage managed opportunity to get your sound bites out to a gullible audience.
    Perhaps Murphy had the right idea with his “have brew crate will travel” message.
    Politicians rely on most people not being engaged with politics beyond immediate financial concerns.

  6. Gordie McPhail says:

    It’s a mixture of “there are none so blind as those who will not see”, “those who will never see because they are unaware what to look for” and those who have seen all along”.

    Since I was interested in politics I have always felt a bias on the TV and in the papers against the SNP plus Scottish and uk left wing politics. I thought it obvious, it has now become so frustrating I don’t buy Scottish papers or watch Scottish bbc news.

    It will ever be so until Scotland leaves this union.

    I live in London, when walking past newsagents, I often compare and contrast the front page of so called Scottish papers and Irish papers.

    Scottish papers are fixated with bad news, government / SNP deficiencies, murders, low oil prices, highlighting failure in our institutions or that our culture is parochial. The only time they rise to a smile is to report a Scottish sportsperson’s success in a uk context or some royal story with a tenuous Scottish connection.

    Irish papers are positive highlighting achievements of Irish people, promoting the country / culture and their strong relationship with other countries across the globe. The Irish don’t need an excuse to highlight achievement, nor do they have to diminish their achievements by sharing it with others.

    One could accuse the Irish papers of being too optimistic or building the country up higher than it deserves. However, I suggest that is exactly their job, providing they don’t fabricate news. Scotland on the other hand the press appear hell bent on knocking the confidence out of the people and belittling them with a fabricated negative picture of the country.

    Corbyn and McDonnell, much to my disappointment have started their leadership peddling the same misinformation and belittling the country. I find their stance on Scotland two, three, four or even five faced and as far as I am concerned, may they reap what they sow in Scotland!

  7. Justin Kenrick says:

    A one word answer to your question Mike: Yes.

    (And don’t let the me-dia persuade you otherwise!)

  8. Michel Martin says:

    Does Corbyn knows about sociocracy of Endenburg? Is Corbyn closer to Bookchin or to Lenin? Is he closer to social ecology that can promote emancipation of people Inside groups, or is he closer to the domination of the state that can alienate? Bottom-up or top-down?

    1. All good questions. I think he’s a pretty unreconstructed 80s Bennite with a sprinkling of social media jargon.

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