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Terror Incognita

About a week ago, I was in the process of writing an article dismissing the most recent explosions over expenses as piss and wind. This was before the ‘flipping‘ scandal broke, with Hazel Blears at the centre of it, due to non-payment of Capital Gains Tax; before the resignations and apologies began to mount on the corpse of what was once a fairly respectable and decent institution. In the end, my contrarianism was defeated by the complete incapacity of even those implicated to just be honest. Which is why Hazel Blears is handing back £13,000 but not the £45,000 profit she made for flipping her second home, and the same with David Cameron and others.

My attitude has been changed and changed utterly. It is difficult to describe in words how angry I am with the whole bastarding, effete bunch in charge both of the Party and of Westminster. How is it that the holders of so many degrees, of so much wealth and so much life experience can be so wholly venal? There is no other way to describe such a sink of self-aggrandizing moral turpitude. It is disgusting, and the ineffectual quagmire which the Expenses scandal reveals – and which many have been noticing – is one gigantic problem for the Left, because while all this goes on, our people have been running around with their heads up their arse.

Paul, over at the Bickerstaffe Record, is an exception – though I’d much prefer it if he would hurl Jovian lightning bolts down upon the heads of the Parliamentary Labour Party rather than being so damn reasonable. Yelling, “It’s time for root and branch reform now you sodding bastards!” doesn’t begin to cover the fury expressed to me by other members of the Party – and of the CLP email lists I’m part of where we have sitting MPs, I know that those MPs have been assiduous in their declamations of innocence, knowing exactly what’s good for them in the wake of the scandals that are breaking like waves against a hitherto sheltered shore.

Nevertheless, it is Paul who recognizes the qualitatively different role that the Labour Party was set up to play in Parliament, to make an intervention of organised labour against Capital – however ineffective that has been, as a result of Labour’s unwillingness to accept the Marxist description of that conflict. This is why Labour will bear the brunt of the anger over the expenses row – because Labour’s own supporters will feel cut to the quick in a way that neither Conservatives nor Lib Dems can understand, and for those who aren’t Labour supporters, the media will do the rest.

It is important to remember that this expenses nonsense is a further symptom of the depoliticization of politics. Historically, Conservative MPs have made themselves much richer than their Labour equivalents, as Labour MPs were ideologically opposed to feathering their own nests. The further Left one goes, the more entrenched is that ideological opposition – until you reach the Communist and Socialist MPs of the last seventy years and their refusal to accept any further remuneration than what a skilled worker in their constituency would earn. The remainder was donated to Party building exercises.

Members of Parliament are far from the only coseted, depoliticized section of the country. Off in their own little world, the media darlings of the Left are still doggedly pursuing their Popular Front strategies. Facebook messages, emails and a blog article over at LibCon have announced Magna Carta 2.0, which wants to rank MPs according to their position on civil liberties and human rights, and then hold a big conference in June 2010. Or should that be “another” big conference, since the predecessor – the Convention on Modern Liberties, seems to have died a death now that the different parts of the Commentariat have found other, more entertaining, stories to write about.

Not that I ever believed it could achieve anything, just for the record. Magna Carta 2.0 seems like a rehash of the same event, with the same organisers still in position, still unlikely to achieve anything lasting on the basis that the nature of democracy is not just one more “administrative” issue. It is profoundly ideological, and the battle over what it should look like – how authoritarian, how liberal – is not the result of disinterested decisions by sufficiently-lobbied politicians. It is the result of class struggle, between a class that requires freedom of association and expression as cornerstones of mass political organisation, and a class that could care less about those things.

It is no accident, after all, that some of the most illiberal measures in history have been passed by Conservative governments, and that the current trend towards authoritarianism was inaugurated by a Tory government only to be continued by the most right-wing Labour government ever. So effectively have the best methods of prosecuting class struggle for our side – the side that bitterly resents the enrichment of its representatives whether at taxpayers expense or by their prostitution to private companies – been suppressed that we are now witnessing a great disintegration in every aspect of popular politics.

What remains to be seen is, as the sense of urgency and panic rises in Labour ranks, if Compass can emerge from their “No Turning Back” conference with a programme that might begin to push the local and national party back towards mass organisation rather than the plebiscite-media-institutional bias combination of New Labour. I doubt it. With elements of the media so despairing at Labour’s change that they are openly courting Tories – as at CoML – and with a strong bias towards mildly incestuous autocracy in the Labour Party, there is essentially nowhere to turn except what we have traditionally regarded as the fringes – the Socialist Party, for example.

Perhaps it is time to explore the edges of the map and the concomitant new forms of organisation entailed by breaking with the self-styled party of the working man. At the very least, the extreme Left of the political map should no longer read, “Here be monsters.”

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  1. Sam
    May 15, 2009 at 6:22 am

    “It is the result of class struggle, between a class that requires freedom of association and expression as cornerstones of mass political organisation, and a class that could care less about those things.”

    Oh yeah, how’s that going for you?

  2. Robert
    May 15, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I think New Labour has proved one thing it’s not afraid to run to the Tories to ask for help to get it’s policies through, and some of the new people coming into politics are in it for what they can get. One MP has stated £64,000 is not sufficient for what I do, is it not then of course leave and show us how far you will get in the private sector.

    But Ms Blears has shown one thing is not afraid is she.

    I’ve a nasty feeling Labour will be safe I’ll not vote BNP, but sadly I’ll not be voting Labour either. In fact I’ll not be bothering to vote at all. I now understand all the people in the past who has said nope sorry I do not vote.

  3. May 15, 2009 at 9:39 am

    This has developed from a non-story where a few career politicians where, surprise surprise, acting like self enriching bastards. However, as this has spread and intensified it appears that this is no simple crisis. It represents a rupture between the people and parliament and frankly I am not sure how many heads need to roll before people feel better

  4. May 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Sam, come back when you have an argument to make.

    Robert, actually I think Labour MPs should be held to a still higher standard – that of the workers’ wage platform.

    LO…I don’t think it was ever a non-story, to be honest. Corruption is corruption; there are people who care about it – but only now is it being used as a weapon by the anti-politics sections of the media.

  5. May 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    At the very least, the extreme Left of the political map should no longer read, “Here be monsters.”

    We’re not monstrous, incompotent perhaps but not monstrous.

  6. May 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    As indicated by the fact I can’t spell ‘incompetent’.

  7. May 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Dave, I understand your anger and expressed similar myself on Radio 4 last night. But I don’t think anyone on the Labour Left has been ignoring the issue.
    I also think, for once, that Gordon Brown deserves a bit of credit for acting swiftly and getting rid of Malik, Morley and Chaytor. I daresay more will follow. Paradoxically, this might ultimately prove a good thing for the PLP. Let’s face it, things can’t get any worse.

  8. May 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I don’t see how it will prove a good thing. It’s true that the genuinely “Left” MPs aren’t anywhere near the scandal – it’s the careerists on the make, the type who lined up behind New Labour. But none of this changes the balance of power within the Party – at the most, the base is quite angry, but actually that could work against us since there will inevitably be departures as a result.

    As for Gordon Brown, I think he deserves no credit at all. He has acted simply because his hand was forced; the dribs and drabs have been coming out now since the deputy leadership campaign. At which point Brown had the opportunity to act and sat on his fat ass.

  9. May 23, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Certainly there has been a significant degree of convergence among successive Labour and Conservative Governments, which as you say has resulted in the implementation of much illiberal legislation. Most recently this has been continued by the Labour Party with the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 and the Civil Contingencies Act in 2004 – both of them terrifying pieces of legislation which essentially give dictatorial powers to Government and should have been more thoroughly opposed (but were not).

    In part this convergence has been because the Conservative Party have never had any real desire to be truly conservative, instead favouring the pursuit of office rather than power at all costs. We are seeing exactly the same thing happening to the Conservative Party under the leadership of David Cameron, with significant concessions to the ideological Left on a wide range of policy issues.

    Furthermore, I see that you have dug up that rather bizarre (and for some convenient) myth about New Labour being ‘right wing’. Being ‘right wing’ is not simply a matter of a person taking up an ideological or political position to the ‘right’ of one’s own ideological position, but should in fact constitute a significantly different stance or ideology that results in a divide between one view and another. Neither is ‘right wing’ simply a label for everything that is ‘bad’ or perceivably so. I suppose it is arguable that the labels of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in some respects do not really apply any more.

  10. May 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    What a lot of piffle. Quite a significant amount of your comment is unnecessary and confused verbiage, so I don’t really know which bit to begin dissecting.

    How about my usage of terms such as “right” and “left” in a political context. You say that I’ve dug up the myth about New Labour being right wing. Your definition of right wing is that it should “constitute a significantly different stance or ideology that results in a divide between one view and another.”

    Evidently you are unfamiliar with very basic labour history. Within Labour there are multiple stances and ideologies, some of which are irrevocably opposed to one another. The impulse of many members is towards anti-capitalism, wealth redistribution and grassroots democracy. There is another tradition opposed to these things.

    This second tradition is more “right wing” than the former. It is so, regardless of where I stand in relation to either or any tradition within the Labour Party. Right wing and Left wing are nothing more than convenient short hand to group together similar ideas; on the one hand, capitalism. On the other hand, anti-capitalism. This is not, after all, the French National Assembly – and even then, there were numerous members who set on the Left, on the Right or in the Centre who disagreed violently with those beside whom they were seated.

    This renders your idea of how to distinguish between “Right” and “Left” completely nonsensical – not to mention that you’ve failed to outline what you believe to be the actual political differences one must exhibit in order to qualify for either set.

    The remainder of your reply is laughable. The Conservative Party have never shown the desire to be “conservative”? Well, first of all, who are you to decide what “conservative” is or isn’t? Whatever cultural epiphenomena surrounds the Tories, their prime objective has always been the security of the marketplace from the demands of the people whose work sustains it.

    From Peel to Cameron, despite changes in social and economic context, that is the objective of the Conservative Party and is ultimately the root of conservatism, the now-naked, now-masked class interest which sustains it. There are plenty of smaller things to quibble about – which is why among the Tories of history are to be found not a few radicals, just as in the arms of the Old Liberals are to be found not a few high Tories. New Labour also – just look at how many Tories crossed the floor, and how many New Labourites will cross next parliament.

    Moreover, if I take you seriously for a moment (inadvisable, bearing in mind the unmitigated and unsubstantiated guff you talk on your website, particularly about education) your idea that the Conservative Party has no desire to be “conservative” is nothing more than an extremely superficial answer as to why the Tories are just as illiberal as the current New Labour government. Why is this so?

    If you are suggesting for a moment that the Conservative Party prefers office to power, thus leading them to sell out their principles, I would say that this is contradictory since it is precisely the purpose of such laws as have been passed to increase the power wielded by the politicians who stand at the top of the State.

    The Conservative Party wields even more power than New Labour when in such a position because it more often than not will also enjoy the unqualified support of Capital and the media. None of which is explained away by not only dismissing the Conservative Party as seekers after office, but in establishing an opposition between this quality and the ability to wield power.

  11. Andrewmarkbaker
    May 24, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Has David Cameron flipped?

  12. Andrewmarkbaker
    May 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    My previous comment/question is both specific and humurous, at least that what was intended.

    A more serious point about this coverage is the fact that David Cameron has been disengenuous about his public posturing. Yes we perhaps know this but not enough has been done to expose this position.

    It is great politics to shield your own vulnerability by expousing a leader above the fray posture, but vulnerability to the charge of the same old greedy tories is still the truth. That is not to repudiate, that Labour and other parties have not had their equal share of this, but the opportuntiy to attack the disengenuousness in the DC brand should still be in the offing.

    What Labour in power must sort is the ambiguity and inconsistency that they have applied to particular cases,where the policy is principled set on addressing all wrong doing wherever it comes. The difference in treatment with backbenchers and government ministers is a case in point. That is the work we have not done which we cannot blame anybody else for. It is within our gift to do this and the prize is in exposing DC and his media gift for charm smokescreen, which so far is working out their in the voting public.

    Initiative. Communication. Initiative.

    Policy makers and handlers on the left should focus on these concepts now.

  1. May 15, 2009 at 10:16 am
  2. May 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm
  3. May 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm

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