Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Whys and Wherefores of Keith

Where would the internet be without people who have too much time on their hands? Probably a better tempered place, truth be told. This blog wouldn't exist for one. And neither would this meditation on why the left likes to call Keir Starmer Keith (or, to flaunt one's subcultural capital, Kieth). I'm at a loss to explain why The Social Review decided to go with an overlong disquisition on a daft nickname, but as this blog has a reputation for indulging political ephemera something would be amiss if even a short comment wasn't passed.

The article itself? Well. Our author Morgan Jones asks a few of his mates about the name Keith, decides it's chronically unfashionable and middle-aged. A bit try-hard shading into a mid-life crisis of divorce mobiles and fake Tinder profiles. Twitter-traveling leftists deploying the monicker are therefore suggesting there's something fake and forced about the Labour leader. What a shocking suggestion. Surely Keir didn't have fibs in his heart when he promised nice Corbynish things with added unity? The point isn't laboured, or for that matter much considered. Instead, moving through Morgan's text messages and FaceTime chats, a rummage through obscure ONS stats usually the preserve of pub quiz masters and Daily Mail features writers, we are not presented any explanation for this vile, bullying behaviour. Not even the obvious answer: it annoys some people.

In my opinion, one cannot wind up the self-important pricks on the party's right wing enough. And this is what, forgive me, "Keithism" is about. Yes, it's an in-term with meta-signification picked up and noted by the cognoscenti, but it's not some bullshit Twitter tribe warpaint. It's hardly essential. The 2020 Twitter left already has a collective identity founded on common experience: two hard fought general elections and five years of open warfare with people who should, yes, go off and join the Tories. It's a joke to needle the pomposity of those with little to be pompous about.

Now the Labour right have re-won some of their former power, the hypocrisies long-time members have heard for decades (unite behind the leader, shut up and don't embarrass the party, don't criticise hardworking councillors/MPs in public) are echoing around CLP Zoom calls as if 2015-2019 didn't happen, and more than a few are hoping to reset the old chummery and the repugnant cultures of deference. These people, who a Twitter wag described to me as "temporarily embarrassed right-wing Labour MPs", joined politics to be big I ams. And as we know, regardless of the size of the pond someone will always strive to be the biggest fish. They stand to gain the most from another round of suspensions and expulsions, and lose out if the leadership's ineptitude over shenanigans prevents it from happening. Still, their best hope for advancement is clinging to the leadership's coattails and making their lips sore from kissing as many behinds as possible (funny how these sorts of people never get a seat, despite services rendered).

Deary me, this is proving as ponderous as Morgan's screed. Time to wrap it up. Keith is just a name used to take the piss out of Keir Starmer. It has the happy byproduct of annoying the above, the very worst people in the labour movement who've jumped on his bandwagon. And because it does wind them up, the left are not about to stop doing it. More than this, Keith, Kieth, Keef, Keith Stalin, and the rest are good in and of themselves. The Labour Party needs a heavy dose of irreverence, especially now it's led by an empty suit with an authoritarian mindset who takes his job to be representing the state interest over and above that of working people. If Keithism helps that along, fine. And if it doesn't, also fine.

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Anonymous said...

Will Keir make sure that we have a independent investigation into the scale of Covid deaths in the UK? Will he make sure that the Labour Party develops social and economic policy which will promote good educational opportunities for all; access to a well funded and good NHS and to work opportunities? If so that work needs to start now otherwise, I would suggest tomorrow will be a long time coming.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the party I don't care about what someone is called I care as you do about that they say, do and represent. Otherwise I am asking myself what is the point? Time is important.

Anonymous said...

If you don't think Keef will advance the class struggle you're possibly not understanding social democracy correctly from a Marxist viewpoint. That's what I always say.

Anonymous said...

The Labour Party needs to raise their game. Is that not why many voted for Keir- get elected but for god sake use it to do some good- POLICY! The LP should be winning now. Boris is crap and many voters know that- use it. Is it really that hard?

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha Yes class struggle that would be something. What about just a decent chance for ordinary people? Decent opportunities and decent public services. Can the Labour Party do that if in power or is that a bit much to ask? I really do hope not. What we have now with the conservatives is very poor for the country economically, socially and their vision is in reality so lacking in aspiration.

Blissex said...

«If you don't think Keef will advance the class struggle you're possibly not understanding social democracy»

But Keith and his allies are not social-democrats, they are liberal-democrats, and some are even conservatives.

«correctly from a Marxist viewpoint. That's what I always say.»

And what I always say is "What to do while waiting for the inevitable dialectical replacement of capitalism with something else?" Just write essays theorizing the future revolution? Sing the Red Flag on the way to becoming drink soaked popinjays for trotskysm? :-)

What I suspect the marxist critics of social-democracy assume is that those that advocate a social-democratic approach in the current system want to stop at that, and achieve the "nirvana" of PASOKification instead. But even in a marxist perspective, as socialism should be a step on the way to communism, social-democracy can be a step on the way to socialism, as long as it is seen as a goal in itself.

Dialectician1 said...

Wasn't the didactic, authoritarian, gauche male character in Mike Leigh's brilliant film, Nuts In May, called Keith? Sums Starmer up really.

Blissex said...

«who takes his job to be representing the state interest over and above that of working people»

My usual quote from T Balogh's piece in the book "The Establishment", 1959:

«"Whoever is in office, the Whigs are in power." It was Mr Harold Wilson himself, many years before he came to the Prime Minister's office»

Blissex said...

«the didactic, authoritarian, gauche male character»

Starmer's character is not really the issue here, it is his politics, and while they are autoritarian, to pander to tory voters with tory policies (see New Labour's ASBOs), he and his politics are not "didactic" but rather deferential, to the tory government policies and the voters to which they pander. Rather than being didactic, starmerism is all about to be a good student, to learn how to appear to tory/whig voters as a more competent tory/whig than the Conservatives or the LibDems. A fairly unambitious task :-).