It’s beginning to look as though we will be stuck with another four years of Lord Snooty and His Pals. Just a few months ago this prospect looked unlikely, even inconceivable; now it is beginning to assume a horrible inevitability.
This is partly because, aided and assisted by three quarters of the British press, large sections of the British public have accepted the Coalition’s pseudo-remedies, and now believe that the narratives of turning-the-corner, light-at-the-end of the tunnel are not fictional and that we’re all going to live happily ever after.
In Britain all you need to gain this effect, especially in the midst of the first decent summer in many years, are a few positive macro-economic indicators and rising house prices, and hey! everything’s alright again! Just like it was before 2008!
And all because we had a government that loved us enough to administer the punishment that we all deserved. Well some of us clearly deserved it more than others; the benefit scroungers living in their luxury homes while the rest of us hard-working toilers toiled; the disabled unemployed who the Coalition has turned into jobseekers and enabled them to fulfil their own potential, sometimes in death; the immigrants who came here and took our jobs and houses and pretty much everything the ‘white working class’had.
Because, as the late Ian Banks observed shortly before his death, it was all their fucking fault, wasn’t it? And while we were all drinking our medicine, real wages were falling by 5.5 percent, putting the UK amongst the bottom four countries in Europe, and the economy has been reconfigured around zero hours contracts, temporary jobs, privatised public services and all the other manifestations of what employers call ‘flexibility’ and what other more critical voices call ‘precarity.’
The British public, for the most part, has accepted all this as though it were inevitable and necessary, with barely a murmur of protest, preferring to kick downwards at migrants and the unemployed, rather than upwards.
This passivity has not been helped by the opposition, or lack thereof. Permanently weighted down by the memory its years in government and ineptly led by Ed Miliband – a politician who increasingly seems more like a hologram than a real person- the Labour Party is sinking up to its neck in the quicksands of irrelevance, deliriously uttering ever more faint soundbites about One Nation and calling for Peter Mandelson to reach down and pull it out – a true indication of how bad things have got, even as its ratings tumble.
On one level you can’t entirely blame Labour for its predicament. The idea that the British electorate is simply waiting for a pristine leftist program to rise from its dormant acquiescence and bring back the ghosts of 1945 is certainly over-optimistic, to say the least.
But that doesn’t mean that there is not a constituency out there that could be mobilised around crucial issues such as falling wages and working conditions, the dismantling of the NHS and other public services, and against the gigantic con-trick of ‘austerity.’
But to do this, the Labour Party would have to take on the same powerful interests that it effectively served when it was in power. Unwilling to do this, and apparently devoid of any social or political ideals except those dictated by electoral convenience, it has opted for a strategy based on the belief/hope that it could beat the Coalition simply by not being in power as things got worse – even as it effectively accepted many of the poisonous remedies and pseudo-explanations that Lord Snooty and His Pals have been forcing down the nation’s throat.
Take immigration. It has now become standard operating procedure for Labour politicians who make speeches on immigration to turn out in sackcloth and ashes, whittering on about how they ‘got things wrong’ regarding EU migration when they were in power, and make mea culpa apologies for having not recognized the ‘concerns’ of the public about this issue beforehand.
Do the idiots who have encouraged this strategy really think that it’s going to improve Labour’s prospects? Are they not aware that their apologies merely reinforce the pseudo-explanations emanating from the right about ‘mass immigration'(900,000 jobs=900,00 migrants, etc) and confirm Daily Mail-esque perceptions of Labour as cosmopolitian gravediggers of Britishness?
It’s so dishonest and cowardly for an avowedly social democratic party to be using this kind of language (I did use the word ‘avowedly’). Take immigration minister Chris Bryant’s disastrous speech about Tesco, Next and Polish migrant workers over the weekend.
This shouldn’t really have been a speech about immigration at all. Bryant was pointing out (inaccurately, it turns out) that Tesco and Next appeared to be undercutting British workers by hiring Polish workers who were either willing to work for less wages/or were willing, unlike British workers, to move in order to find work.
Buried in this speech, is an important argument about ‘borderless’ capitalism, about the exploitation of ‘native’and ‘foreign’ workers and the steps that a social democratic government might take to prevent such exploitation.
But this is not an argument that Labour really wants to have. So Bryant couched this discussion within the familiar ‘immigration is harming British workers ‘ parameters, and attempted to bash the Coalition for not ‘protecting our borders’ – an accusation that will always sound hollow coming from Labour.
In his original speech Bryant condemned Tesco and Next as ‘unscrupulous’ employers, but when both corporations barked, he fell back like a scared pussycat and meekly insisted that they were in fact really good employers after all.
That’s how it is in Labourland. ‘Business’ cannot be criticized, and its practices cannot be challenged. Instead its politicians prefer to scavenge on the garbage left by the Coalition, and have a go at immigrants, benefits ‘scroungers’ and other strawmen, in the hope of picking up working class Tory or Ukip votes.
They might think that will get them into government, but I suspect that they are dreaming – and I can’t help feeling that a party that behaves like this doesn’t deserve to win an election, and that unfortunately, means we may be stuck with the current bunch of bastards for another term.