I am finding the Labour leadership contest absolutely fascinating
You get a sense that the three sensible, moderate and realistic candidates are in a state of shock. Until a few weeks ago they were under the impression they understood how to do politics — it being essentially a matter of selling the electorate a well-formulated and attractively packaged product. And yet they now suddenly find themselves eclipsed by someone who looks like a geography teacher — for goodness sake.
The bit they really don’t seem to get is that, in reality, it’s not so much about Jeremy Corbyn as it is about an energy that is beginning to well up amongst ordinary people, a sense that things might be organised differently — not only more fairly, but more imaginatively and effectively. But, above all, it is the fact that people are talking to one another again that is most exciting. I have seen it and it’s real. It’s as if we have been in a deep enchanted sleep and now we are waking up — and not a moment too soon.
We have been duped, taken for idiots and sold the outlandish story that the processes involved in the concentration of monetary wealth are entirely natural and capable of delivering general wellbeing all round -- were it not for our sentimental attachment to older, less effective ways of doing things.
Except, this is not actually the story we have been sold. Though it might be an accurate summary of what is meant by neoliberalism it is a draught that is still too bitter to be taken straight.
Instead, we have the simpler story that says the country is like a household: if you spend too much you get into debt and debt leads to problems. So the most important thing is we have to stop spending and learn to live according to our means — austerity in other words. Much though we might be attached to the NHS, mutual societies, free education and the BBC, they are all simply too expensive.
This is a narrative that has been adopted, to a greater or lesser extent, by both main parties. To be fair, the Labour version has placed greater stress on the need to mitigate austerity’s harmful side effects, but the underlying premise has not been seriously questioned — at least not until recently, when we begin to see the terrible cost that this narrow ideology is exacting from a growing portion of the population. Children growing up in ugly and unsanitary homes; young people leaving university laden with debts; those starting young families unable to find anywhere to live; the elderly left to fade away in under-resourced care facilities
It needn’t be like this. With energy and imagination we can create something better.
In the last few days I have heard two of the three sensible, moderate and realistic leadership candidates say:
“I love the Party too much to see it … blah blah blah”
Maybe that is the problem: they have come to love the party so much that they have overlooked the fact that their job is to represent the rest of us.
Their line is that Corbyn will take us all back to the 1980s when the party — though not necessary everyone else — had a particularly hard time.
I remember the 1980s: we’re not going back there anyway; we’re going forward — to 2020.