“there’s a great spreading middle-aged backend sitting on our politics and our economics…”

Coming up briefly for air on the Labour Leadership competition, this recently came to my attention…

The killer point by Will Self is here:

I think a lot of people who backing Corbyn are young and what young people see is that there’s a great spreading middle-aged backend sitting on our politics and our economics at the moment and they want to readjust things around that.

Bingo. Oh, and there’s this excoriation of an apparent nascent modern myth (H/T Paulo) that Mr Corbyn was a prophet on Northern Ireland peace. Although following the thoroughly militarised Sinn Fein whip on the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement doesn’t necessarily disqualify Mr Corbyn as a ‘willer of peace’.

So, before I flit off again, this (via Dougald) is a useful insight from the past as to where Labour now finds itself:

Electoral politics – in fact, every kind of politics – depends on political identities and identifications. People make identifications symbolically: through social imagery, in their political imaginations. They ‘see themselves’ as one sort of person or another. They ‘imagine their future’ within this scenario or that. They don’t just think about voting in terms of how much they have, their so-called ‘material interests’. Material interests matter profoundly. But they are always ideologically defined.

Contrary to a certain version of marxism, which has as strong a hold over the Labour ‘Centre’ as it does on the so-called ‘hard Left’, material interests, on their own, have no necessary class belongingness. They influence us. But they are not escalators which automatically deliver people to their appointed destinations, ‘in place’, within the political-ideological spectrum.

One reason why they don’t is because people have conflicting social interests, sometimes reflecting conflicting identities. As a worker a person might put ‘wages’ first: in a period of high unemployment, ‘job security’ may come higher; a woman might prioritise ‘child-care’. But what does a ‘working woman’ put first? Which of her identities is the one that determines her political choices?

Going back to the video, John McTernan is correct that more than fifty percent of the UK population voted for parties of the right, but perhaps not necessarily that Labour members really want to change that state of affairs before the next election.

Self, on the other hand, argues the Labour Party is too broad church and they cannot hope to bridge a gap that runs from entryist Marxists to neoliberals without changing the electoral system

(Hmmm, don’t you need political power to do that Will, and if you have political power… well, you get the point…)

Actually, it’s more complicated than that. It’s always been the case that Labour has had huge coalitions to manage. Blair became a powerful Labour anomaly with his three in a row, because he largely ignored them (and ‘listened’ to the wider public instead).

Labour is still in the navel gazing stage after having had its head handed to it on a plate by a not-very-impressive now Conservative government. And of course, knowing there is something wrong, and figuring how to fix it are two different things.

This leadership competition may move things on, but will hardly resolve the matter of Labour and power (or tackling the disengagement between the party’s diggers and its dreamers: http://goo.gl/ilVjNG ) perhaps for some of the reasons outlined in this earlier #SluggerReport:

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  • Turgon

    Its a very good point Mick but there is another one he made which is maybe nearly as important: McTernan was saying one had to get elected (which is true) and Will Self said “That is a political class thing”

    I think that is true and is a major part of Labour’s current dilemma. Many people involved with Labour are idealists. They do not want power to implement their ideas: rather they have ideas and want power to implement them. The difference might seem trivial even silly but the continuous claim that the first thing one needs is power comes across as cynical. Corbyn is many things but currently he does not appear cynical to his supporters (He may well turn out to be but that is another issue).

    Cynicism seems especially corrosive to political parties especially it seems left of centre ones, destroying their activist base and disenchanting many of their supporters.

    It is said that UK elections are won from the centre and that is probably largely true. However, that means that centrist politicians and parties win elections not that parties which track purely to the centre in order to get votes win. Interestingly the cynicism thing seems to afflict Labour and the LDs in electoral terms much more than the Tories. People seem to expect cynicism from Tories.

  • Dan

    Two baldies fighting over a comb.

  • mjh

    “People seem to expect cynicism from Tories.”

    And, despite all they might say to the contrary, a great many people seem to trust cynics more than idealists.

    Or is that just too…..cynical?

  • Turgon

    No I think that is about right.