Wednesday 1 December 2021

Yvette Cooper's Peculiar Fandom

Having just sacked the previous shadow home secretary for resembling a shadow more than a home secretary, whom from the firmament of dazzling stars on Labour's backbenches might you select for the position? Someone who flipped their home three times during the MPs' expenses crisis? Might be a bit risky what with parliamentary corruption in the news. How about someone who designed and implemented the hated Work Capability Assessment, which forced hundreds of thousands of physically disabled and mentally unwell people through a set of Mickey Mouse tests on pain of destitution? Or an MP who thinks the best way of countering Priti Patel's callous treatment of refugees is with rightwing posturing of her own? This baggage train worth of dead weight was but a mere trifle for Keir Starmer as he promoted your friend and mine, Yvette Cooper, to the position.

There are two reasons, from the point of view of the Labour leader and his satraps, why this is a genius move. Her barely concealed desire to be wretched to the wretched of the earth overcompensates for the imagined problem Labour has on immigration generally: that the party stands for open borders and free movement. A position it has never had, not even during the Jeremy Corbyn interlude. Bringing her own "we'll fight them on the beaches" stick to beat Patel will ensure the Tories can't credibly attack the party from the right. Because the Tories and the press never lie about their opponents. And number two, Starmer is keeping a potential enemy close. A meaty briefing like shadowing the home office is an authoritarian technocrat's fever dream. So many opportunities to look tough, pose with coppers, getting security briefings, there simply isn't time enough to arrange a leadership bid.

But this isn't the point of interest, what is is the person of Cooper herself. Born into the highest echelons of the labour aristocracy, her career trajectory was the tediously familiar Oxbridge to senior spad to safe Labour seat route, fitting a holiday in in print journalism along the way. In government, her two achievements were the aforementioned Work Capability Assessment and the expensive and ill-fated Home Information Packs. As shadow home secretary she barely laid a glove on Theresa May. With no accomplishments to her name save an ever-diminishing majority she's the very picture of mediocrity, which begs the question. Why do centrists and Labour rightwingers go gaga for her? Evidently, it's not the record. Nor is it an association with second referendumism - Cooper flirted with the anti-Corbyn Labour leavers at the time. What does it come down to? What powers her fandom?

Unfortunately, your scribe possesses insight because I backed her leadership campaign, even though it was a clapped out banger running on vapours. It was a compromise, a sense she was the least objectionable of the establishment candidates while being more likely to win a general election. After spending five years hanging around with right wing Labour, this melty conclusion was an abject lesson in social being conditioning consciousness. But for others of my acquaintance, it was partly because she was well connected - she was the Labour First choice, after all. Therefore career advantage and position entered the calculations for some. But for most it was a question of habitus, of looking the part. It wasn't that she was briefcase Labour through and through unsullied by struggle and upsetting the establishment, she was the avatar of the party's technocratic trend. That wing of would-be administrators interested in power for power's sake, not making our people's lives better. Truly a cult of the non-personality, she presents a vacancy in a suit ready to associate with the most pitiful political fantasies: photo opps in the Whitehouse, more women border guards and, borrowed from the Liberal Democrats, skills wallets. A sort of a manager's everywoman whose emptiness allows other aspirant politicians and hacks to either imagine themselves as her, or themselves as the sort of person she would listen to. She passes the dinner party test, in other words. It is, in fact, exactly the same reasoning employed by rightwingers who supported Keir Starmer from the off, and informs those poor, lost centrist souls desperately searching for the good Tory.

It means two things. This ridiculous trend will always stick around for as long as representative democracy elevates and flatters MPs as a cut above, pushing them toward accepting a managerial illusio for those who occupy or aspire to the position. And that they are always going to resist the mass involvement of our people in politics, a move that threatens to make them superfluous and indeed did give them the fright of their lives between 2015 and 2019 when something like that happened. Yvette Cooper is awful, just like her nominal boss, but once her star has dimmed again there will be one, two, many Yvette Coopers to fill her place. And with it a peculiarly unhinged yet vacuous fandom following.

Image Credit


SimonB said...

This pretty much covers the issue of people like Cooper:

Blissex said...

«That wing of would-be administrators interested in power for power's sake, not making our people's lives better»

That is an ungenerous assessment: that type of people don't want to be mere administrators, aren't totally selfish about power, they want to use power to make *their* people's (their "sponsors", property and business owning rentiers) lives better. The "managerialism" is just a cover for that.

Anonymous said...

Making Tony Blair Shadow Home Secretary certainly stopped his campaign for the leadership in its tracks . . .

On the other hand, who would you recommend for the job, if you were in Starmer's shoes (I know you'd rattle around in them rather)?

Anonymous said...

I believe the statement "born into the highest echelons of the labour aristocracy" may not be correct. Her father was the General Secretary of the civil service union IPMS, who would have been non-affiliated to the party. I seem to recall that Cooper was, in typical Blairite fashion, parachuted into the safe seat of Pontefract having only been a member of the party for one year. This caused a stir as the requirements for prospective candidates stipulated a longer period of membership, indicating she benefited from patronage and preferment from the New Labour leadership.

As for for the "flipping" of their by home by Balls and Cooper, their apologists always state that they did nothing "illegal" and settled the resulting capital gains tax bill. The fact they cynically took full advantage of their privileged positions gets conveniently overlooked. Any other employee making such a mistake on expense claims would be presented with a P45.

It goes to show the political vacuity and weakness of Starmer that he needs to bring this odious figure from the hard right of the party into his Shadow Cabinet.

Phil said...

The term 'labour aristocracy' is different to 'Labour aristocracy'!

Phil said...

briefcase Labour through and through

An online community I frequent uses 'briefcase' to indicate swearing, as an alternative to '****' or '#$#$%!!". So that would work.

she was the avatar of the party's technocratic trend. That wing of would-be administrators interested in power for power's sake, not making our people's lives better.

It's a bloody big wing, unfortunately. My own local party, which would appear to be thriving from the headline numbers, is pretty much a husk sewn up by the technocrat tendency.

Anonymous said...

Augustinian Labour: “Oh God make me socialist, but not yet”

Blissex said...

«a husk sewn up by the technocrat tendency»

Again, "techocrat" is an improper euphemism: as if they were technocrats for the interests of workers and the lower classes, or the mythical "national interest" as fair and just "philosopher kings".
Instead the "technocrat" drones nearly always work for the interests of the incumbents, especially those in property and finance, and work against those of workers and the lower classes. In practice "technocrat" is an "end of history" style euphemism for "neocon neoliberal", "globalist rentierist", IMF/BoE/Fed style.

Related words of wisdom:
«Corbyn told me a story about having tea with Joan Maynard, former MP for Sheffield Brightside, and Harry Cohen, former MP for Leyton, shortly after the two were elected. Joan sat the two of them down and said: "If both front benches are agreed, it’s probably bad news for the workers. And if a minister ever gets up and says ‘we’re going to have to take some tough choices and some tough decisions,’ it’s a disaster for the working class. Just bear that in mind and you’ll not go far wrong."»

«Augustinian Labour: “Oh God make me socialist, but not yet”»

I would not be so generous, I think that it is more "Oh God, let the marks think that globalist managerial neoliberalism is almost like internationalist democratic socialism".

David Lindsay said...

Having just had International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we such persons here in the United Kingdom face an existential threat to our economic, social, cultural and political participation from the prospect, however distant, of a Government in which senior positions would be held by Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper.

Reeves has contrasted us with "normal people", while Cooper has killed tens of thousands of us, and subjected millions more of us to misery and humiliation, by her infliction of the evil Work Capability Assessment. Their political project must be defeated comprehensively.

Anonymous said...

Cooper's repeated bleating during the 2010 - 2015 period that concerns about immigration were legitimate added to the mass hysteria about EU Freedom of Movement, and that was one of the drivers of Brexit. She was no doubt doing what party HQ wanted, saying things that resonate with peoplle who go to Labour Party focus groups who, no doubt, mention immigration.

It would have been more productive to find ways to dispel the myths about FoM that were circulating. I doubt that idea ever crossed Cooper's mind.


Blissex said...

«concerns about immigration were legitimate»

They were indeed entirely legitimate, and there was a "third way" between "open the borders to the global reserve army of labourers" and "Little England", such as policies to limit the impact of rising population on lower wages and on housing inflation. Neither the "leftoids" nor the "mandelsonians" cared about that "third way" though, as posturing is so much more convenient.

«It would have been more productive to find ways to dispel the myths about FoM that were circulating.»

As to levels of low-wage immigration, impact on low-wage employment, impact on housing costs, the myths were all considerable underestimates; as impact on benefits, the myths were indeed exaggerations.

«saying things that resonate with people who go to Labour Party focus groups who, no doubt, mention immigration.»

That is an old trick that Peter Mandelson personally introduced:
«Tony Benn, Monday 24 March 1986:
At 5 I went to the Party´s Campaign Strategy committee, where four men and a woman from something called the Shadow Agency made a presentation entitled `Society and Self´. They said it was a qualitative survey in which thirty groups of eight people, 240 in all, had been interviewed for an hour and a half. We ere told that the purpose was to understand the nature of the target vote. Primarily, they were non-committed Labour voters.
They flashed onto a screen quotes which were supposed to be typical of Labour voters, for example: “IT'S NICE TO HAVE A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE BUT IT'S YOUR FAMILY THAT COUNTS.”
What we were being told, quite frankly, was what you can read every day in the Sun, the Mail, the Daily Express, and the Telegraph. It was an absolute waste of money. [...] Labour was associated with the poor, the unemployed, the old, the sick, the disabled, pacifists, immigrants, minorities and the unions, and this was deeply worrying.
The Tories were seen to have the interests of everyone at heart including the rich. Labour was seen as yesterday's party. The SDP gave hope but had no ideology or history.
The Labour party was seen as disunited, squabbling, with Militants or infiltrators, and lacking in Government experience.
[...] It was a Thatcherite argument presented to us: `You had better be more like Thatcher if you want to win.´
I came out feeling physically sick; I'm not kidding, I really felt unwell, because if this is what the Labour Party is about I've got nothing whatever in common with it.
D Wring "The Politics of Marketing the Labour Party", 2004
«Value free campaigning? The repackaging of Labour
The SCA and their ‘client’ representative Peter Mandelson provided the impetus behind the re-launch of Labour in 1986. In contrast to previous initiatives, the campaigns that followed were highly disciplined exercises. As Mandelson admitted: ‘Communications means throwing your net much wider than publicity. It means deciding what we say, how we say it, and which spokesmen and women we choose to say it’. The name of each campaign betrayed the party’s marketing conscious approach: ‘Freedom and Fairness’, ‘Investing in People’ and ‘Modern Britain in a Modern World’.
All three were highly media-centred operations. Input from the party faithful was limited to purchasing mugs and other merchandise from the revamped Sales and Marketing department.

Not much has changed between 1986 and today for New Labour and Keir Starmer.

Anonymous said...

Don’t forget how as housing minister she tried to bribe older Londoners to leave the homes where they’d spent their lives to move out with the ill fated ‘Seaside and Country homes’ scheme - adding to pressure on the receiving towns who were forced to house these Londoners.