Wednesday 27 September 2017

Jeremy Corbyn and the New Mainstream

Tweeting earlier in response to Jeremy Corbyn's conference speech, Ed Miliband observed that the centre ground had moved and was being shaped by Labour. Correct. The boasts about Labour being the mainstream have a solid foundation because, to be more exact, our party is one of two mainstreams.

There's the one we've seen Labour pander to for the 20 years pre-JC. The "common sense" centre ground expressed by newspaper editorialising, which has seen a rough consensus around market economics and the role of state, groupthink about cutting social security and immigration, and a unity of purpose in scapegoating powerless minorities. Blair's genius, if that's the right phrase, was to constantly adapt to this consensus rather than challenge it. Even redistributive politics that assisted low wage earners were crafted in such a way as not to frighten the horses in the leafy marginals. One problem was once the Tories got their act together under Dave, all it took was Brown to bottle an election for them to cruise to pole position among your YouGovs and Survations. The progressive consensus the later Blair talked about as the timer ticked down lacked substance. For the policy achievements, and there were some, there was no legacy in terms of value and political change. Dog-eat-dog economics reigned and right wing populism and fascism started getting traction during his time. Dave certainly had his problems after ascending to the top job, but overcoming popular affection for New Labour wasn't one of them.

This is the mainstream our Labour First and Progress comrades want to orient toward. The route to power runs through the middle of Britain they say, and this is where it's at. But they're entirely wrong, because there is another mainstream. Corbyn's politics were for years condemned and dismissed as fringe lunacy, but the general election result was a rude wake up for establishment politics of all hues. Just because the anger and frustration accumulating across British society didn't find expression in elite media outlets, that didn't mean it was a minority pursuit. Once the general election was called Corbynism became the repository of all that was rebellious and disaffected. Here was a party and a politician who spoke to those excluded from politics, responded to aspirations and interests the establishment conspicuously turned a tin ear to and from an incredibly low base took Labour to within a whisker of power. What Corbynism articulates is a sensibility that the world can be better. There is no need to throw a young generation on the scrap heap of precarity, low pay and frustrated ambition. Or look forward to a future of decaying public and social infrastructure, declining solidarity and atomisation bordering on loneliness. Or older people having their later life blighted by shoddy or non-existent care. Corbynism believes we can aspire to something better than beggar-thy-neighbour and I'm alight Jack selfishness, and 13 million people agreed. If the polls are to be believed - a risky proposition, yes - a consistent plurality of voters now do too.

The mainstreams are increasingly visible because we're seeing the process of polarisation come out into the open. As British capitalism seizes up and its class relationships undergo a profound transformation, the mainstream or centre ground as Blair and friends understood it ekes out a half-life only in their imaginations. The task of progressive politics now is to ride the wave of the new working class, of drawing the immaterial worker into politics in greater numbers and transform the Labour Party into its vehicle. It's about not just shaping the new mainstream cohering around left politics, but expanding it outwards. What the Labour Party is starting to grasp is how the centre is where the mass of aspirations are, and the mainstream the direction of political travel of a rising mass of millions of people. Jeremy Corbyn's speech shows he understands this, while his legion of critics do not. And it is this that will continue commending him to the growing dominance of our mainstream.


Anonymous said...

Just 3 months ago we lost our third election in a row. You/We need to get over it. Will JC's undoubtedly excellent speech today be enough to carry Labour to a win in ... 4+ years time?

Unknown said...

Labour only lost GE2017 because of all the backstabbers in the Labour Party who had been feeding stuff to the MSM over the last two years. It's amazing that they did so well. A further week or so and they would have won.

pauli said...

I don't think they helped, but the biggest challenge was, and still remains the mainstream media, who continue to display bias and contempt for a growing movement that challenges the status quo.

The constant lies and disinformation has a negative effect on those who are not savvy enough to follow the sort of independent reporting that was recently attacked by Neil Robinson and others.

Labour outwitted the mainstream media by getting their message out on social media.
So now they attack the integrity of those platforms that present news from a non establishment perspective.

The challenge will be to break through the antagonistic mainstream media where Corbyn's policies will be represented fairly and with the dignity they deserve

Anonymous said...

Excellent centrist dad post to begin this thread ;)

Lidl_Janus said...

The New Statesman has some figures which might be relevant.

johnny conspiranoid said...

The purpose of MSM fake news is not to change what is popular but to change what appears to be popular so that all the people its unpopular with will shrug their shoulders and go along with it.