The Politics of ...

The Politics of ...

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Bookie Knows Best

Maybe I'm biased. Maybe I see signs that aren't there. Or maybe I, like others, see a smidgeon of panic. When the candidates for the Labour leader became public, Andy Burnham was pretty much odds on favourite and the token left wing candidate, some aging MP called Jeremy Corbyn was 100-1 and frankly, bookies probably felt they could offer 1000-1 that was the chances of the 66-year-old winning. Then he opened his mouth and a few people stopped and listened; then a few more, then a lot more and by the end of July that 100-1 had been slashed to 10-1 and now bookies weren't sure they weren't offering people the chance to skin them alive.

Then 'the establishment' got it's act together. The right wing media began its smear campaign and the Parliamentary Labour Party - very much part of 'the establishment' since Thatcher endorsed Blair - started its own campaign - part vitriol, part eating itself. By the middle of August there was a great meme floating about. It had four figures: 4 - 7 - 11 - 0 and these figures were the number of times Burnham, Cooper, Kendall and Corbyn had 'attacked' each other; except it wasn't each other, it was the number of times the three Blair/Brownite candidates had dismissed or been 'nasty' about Corbyn and the number of times Corbyn - 0 - had criticised his fellow candidates. This kind of galvanised his campaign and on August 20th, a bookmaker paid out people who had taken bets on Corbyn at 100-1. The bookies now make Corbyn 1-6 favourite with Burnham at 7-4, Cooper 20-1 and Kendall 250-1 (higher odds than Jeremy had when he came into the race with no chance). Bookies are rarely wrong.

In the Independent, columnist and left winger Mark Steel said, "The problem for Labour and Conservative leaders may be that the enthusiasm for Corbyn isn’t confined to people who consider themselves left wing. It’s a movement of those who feel the poor weren’t, if you study economics carefully, the people who caused the banking crash, so probably shouldn’t be the people asked to pay for it." This appears to be one of the simple messages that Corbyn is getting across and it is inspiring people who for so long have been force-fed the party lines of austerity and all-in-it-together (although some are in it more than others). 

Corbyn appeals to the same people who Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon and Ken Livingstone appeal/ed to - he seems like the antithesis of current party politics and seems to actually question bad decisions with straight language rather than pussyfoot around like his Labour party has for the last six years.

It has been proven that the mess we're in was not the fault of the previous administration. This has pretty much been common knowledge for five years, but have Labour attacked the accusations directed at them? No, they talk rhetoric and have been a tepid opposition. Corbyn doesn't just question this lie perpetuated by Cameron and his cronies, he argues that it has been exacerbated by Osborne's ideology to destroy the welfare state and return Britain to a more Victorian society.

People didn't vote Labour in May because they offered nothing different - they were just a light blue alternative. The LibDems didn't need vilifying by the press because everyone who didn't vote Tory in 2010 blamed them for the coalition and everyone who voted Tory hated them because weren't Tories. What Corbyn has done is ignite debates that have been dismissed or ignored because they have never fitted in with the ideas of Thatcherite/Blairite/Neo-Liberalism and the reason these debates have happened is because people would really like talk about these things and get governments to acknowledge that people feel they need to be on the agenda.

Every time there is an article about Jeremy Corbyn there follows thousands of comments and at least a third of these comments are from people gloating that Corbyn means the Tories will hang onto power for at least another term. They sound like Labour supporters in April who figured they were a shoo-in after the mess the coalition were. No one expected the Scottish Independence Referendum to be as close as it was nor did they expect politicians to suddenly be heard by a wider audience. People suspected that the SNP might achieve a huge win in Scotland, but the extent of it? Suddenly Scotland was full of prospective MPs talking the same language and fighting for the things the people wanted. Nigel Farage's party managed 13% of the vote in May and got one seat (The Libs got 8% and 8 seats - and I'm sure the irony isn't lost on them), but Farage was head and shoulders the most popular 'politician' during the campaign. Yes, he might have lost his chance of being an MP, but 13% of the vote? These 13% weren't just racists and ignoramuses; many of them were poorly informed long-time Labour voters who thought UKIP reflected their historic memories of a Labour party designed to help people first and corporations second.

I'm not suggesting for a second that I believe Corbyn as Labour leader will be the beginning of a socialist utopia, but I do believe it will put the fight back into the opposition. I can't imagine the quietly-spoken Corbyn allowing Cameron to ham it up for the cameras. I expect to see a few uncomfortable screen grabs as Corbyn asks him questions he will struggle to paper over with accusations, blame and self-aggrandisement. Dear old hated Tony Blair says Labour cannot afford to be the party of continual-opposition again, but he seems to unable to see the fact that new governments tend to be formed from oppositions that show steel and push the incumbents on every issue not just the ones they think their voters feel strongly about.

I believe that for every person who tells you that we must continue with our current politics, whether it is right, a bit right or a bit right of centre, there are people who will tell you that we need something that looks much fairer than it currently is and something that doesn't treat the poor and disabled as a contemptible and wasted commodity. Modern Capitalism is just like Soviet Russia except here you get balloons instead of beetroot.

I also firmly believe that the press are desperate. The press is the mouthpiece of 'the establishment', the press do an unbelievable job of obfuscating everything; in the art of deflection the press has no peers. Mark Steel's Independent column is a perfect example - he's left of SWP, the Indy is now owned by a Russian Oligarch who urged readers to vote Conservative. The Internet did a great job of being the Freedom of Speech platform for those that cared until governments and corporations pwned [sic] them; now the internet is just an extension of television and pages like this are less popular than Channel 264 on Freeview - on a ratio scale. But Corbyn has people turning up to meetings like they haven't for donkeys years; he generates masses of column inches all over the place and if he can ride the final shit storm from the PLP - because we all know how desperate Blair and his 'ites' are to keep the red flag slightly pale blue - and can be as moderate as he actually is (someone said Corbyn's politics wouldn't seem out of place in Ted Heath's Tory party) then I believe he could regenerate former voters, defectors and more importantly people who feel politics does nothing for them. He might even help some of the selfish people in our 'society', the ones who really don't care as long as they're okay, to rediscover their love for their fellow humans.

Or maybe he won't win and we'll get the same old same old. That idea seems quite abhorrent now.