Dividing politics into Left and Right is pretty redundant but I am as guilty of it as anyone else. In today’s political climate, I expect I would be lumped into the lazy category of ‘Hard Left’ because I support the current Labour leadership and oppose neoliberal politics but it is not the ‘Hard Left’ that people like me are part of. We are a frustrated, socially minded, potentially community spirited, lower case conservative politic, who value the NHS and comprehensive education, and who care about how public wealth is spent and what happens to publicly owned assets. And, yes, concerns about ‘immigration’ feature in that politic too.
Being concerned about the impact of immigration isn’t racist but scapegoating immigrants is. One of the biggest problems with immigration (and it was the same problem when people took to the polls for the EU referendum) is that people fear the impact of immigration BUT the impact of immigration should be regulated by our politicians; it comes down to whether you trust OUR politicians to act in OUR interests. People/we do not. The major problem then, is not immigration, it is our lack of trust in our politicians to act in our best interests. Another problem with ‘immigration’ is that we have an unregulated media who are free to broadcast and print whatever they like with no meaningful oversight. As engines of propaganda, it is the state’s duty to regulate the media to ensure that undue and unfair influence is not exerted against us. I dare say that the advertising agencies have stricter regulation than is exercised on those purportedly reporting ‘news’. Again, a failure of our politicians to act in our best interest.
At a recent discussion that I attended, the panel of speakers were asked if Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump were two sides of the same coin; the suggestion being that they offer extreme Left and Right politics. Of course, the answer is no. Despite how Corbyn is represented in the press, Labour’s policies and politics under the current leadership are central, lower case conservative politics; they are not extreme (or ‘Hard’) Left. Labour is currently operating on a platform that seeks to get Britain working for British people again, with focus on re-strengthening those public areas so badly abused under the Tories’ failed Austerity experiment and includes the ideologically driven mismanagement of investment in the NHS and Education and effective regulation of the media and breaking up of media monopolies.
There has been a fair amount in the media suggesting that Corbyn, like Trump, represents a rise in ‘populistic’ politics but, like most of what comes out of the media, it’s a narrative that makes little sense and falls apart under any scrutiny. The message from Corbyn’s opponents, since the very first day that he was elected Labour leader, is that he is not popular with the electorate and cannot win a general election. Can Corbyn be riding the wave of ‘populism’ but, at the same time, be unelectable? With focus on Trump’s associations with American fascist politics and the public fear of the rise of such extremist views, it is seen as an opportunity to attach Corbyn’s name to the same narrative in the hope it engenders a parallel public response, confusing Corbyn being popular with being populist.
The truth is, it is those who would be Labour’s king who seek to hold the ‘populist’ ground, spinning like weather vanes to face in whatever direction they believe popular opinion is blowing. And ‘populist’ opinion is predominantly blown by billionaire media barons. It is that rather simple fact that explains why Corbyn is popular at the grass roots level and it is something which those who have stacked themselves against him hope more of the public don’t wake up to. Corbyn represents a major political party leadership not in the pocket of billionaire media barons. Media barons have grown more influential under neoliberalism as the areas of the press have become high stakes political vanity projects for those profiteering from the trickle up/monopoly economics that personifies neoliberalism.
The corruption of public service broadcasters like the BBC is the final blow to a free press, especially if punitive regulation can be exercised against free press outlets online. The growth of free press online, challenging the media monopolies, is one of the boons of the internet but shutting down those voices will be key to media barons protecting themselves. Expect far more regulation applied to online free press than currently exists for old print and broadcast output. After the Tories brought in their Internet Snoopers Law (the Investigatory Powers Bill) it is reasonable to presume that the government will monitor how people are receiving their ‘news’ and will target free press sites that become too influential.
Unlike a lot of people, I am still willing to accept that when New Labour expanded Thatcher’s neoliberal project to include marketisation of Health and Education they did so with the best of intentions; a highly contentious acceptance, I concede. I don’t believe that the architects of New Labour had the foresight or imagination to conceive of the damage that the fruits of the seeds they were planting would yield. They may have been that cynical but I don’t think they were smart enough. New Labour laid the foundations that the Tories, since 2010, have built their ‘Long term economic plan’ upon, stripping Britain of its assets and squandering the labour and sacrifices of Britain’s post War generations. The experiment of New Labour bore rotten and poisonous fruits but still proved that Labour were still the only major party prepared to act in people’s interests. New Labour failed because, as the Tories are, it was wedded to the global neoliberal politico-media circus and the current Labour leadership are fighting to keep Labour’s independence.