Here we collectively sit, watching a christofascist radical wave sweep the US whilst in the UK, our politicians openly lie in the public sphere.
Political honesty is decimated, taken to ruination by those in charge over the last thirteen years in the UK- though one could argue that Blair’s later stances were more aligned with center right politics than any iteration of leftism: and in the US, Trump’s meagre four years has left the country torn asunder- guns deregulated, women’s rights assaulted, LGBT+ people being legally ring fenced from the public under threat of literal capital punishment.
And what are we being offered in the face of white supremacy, of Neo nazism mainstreamed to the point that literal white nationalists marched on DC with a police escort the other day? Who will come to save us from the radical right wing rhetoric of Braverman’s “down the boats” speeches or Sunak’s calls to strip back the equality act?
You don’t fight against radicalism with moderation, you don’t offer a return to “sane politics”. You crush fascism and extremism. Moderation is capitulation. So be radical- you’re our only hope.
Many folk think that Starmer’s efforts to shift labour towards what I gingerly refer to as “the centre” is a master stroke- a repeat of Blairism for the iPhone age, a brilliant stroke of political engineering that will shore up victory for those tired of tory rule for their bakers dozen of disastrous years.
And whilst I’ve no doubt that some iteration of labour can potentially wrest victory from the tories in 2024, one has to wonder what we’re replacing radical conservatism with. But the centre isn’t the centre any more- everyone’s heard the allusion to the shift in the Overton window meaning the UK’s politics is more right wing than it has been before- so the centre isn’t the centre of the political spectrum- it’s the centre between a party who eschewed any more radical leftism and a party who is lurching towards fascism so quickly that even former members are leaping on stage to warn of fascist leanings at conferences.
Starmer himself has stated recently that labour is now the party of true conservatism- he doesn’t I’m told by many a labour supporter- mean that he is now a tory, and I don’t believe that either – because I believe you can be not a tory and still have bad politics.
I don’t believe in the disgusting radical conservatism that spills from the Conservative Party- it’s politics built on a lack of thought and even conservative MP Danny Kruger has said that the party must no longer appeal to the “intelligentsia”, but must work with “the values of it’s people”: no doubt a difficult task as the conservatives thrust their values into the flames of brexit, promising to forge a new way forward for Britain and emerging as a smouldering ruin, thick with shards of scandal and burning with political mediocrity. The party has wrapped its hands around the neck of the UK and dragged us bodily into culture war cacophonic nonsense, blaming people of colour during the BLM uprising in 2020, blaming people from the EU during 2016, blaming trans people from 2021 to now, or migrants, or “the woke”- as if daubing the label of “not insensitive” upon someone is somehow offensive.
And as this shift in the Overton window has occurred, we note a distinct lack of meaningful policy: no assistance with the cost of living, the highest energy bills in Europe, the prevention of scabbing by landlords, a protection of runaway mortgage increases- no protections for coronavirus which is now tangibly proven to be causing long term health conditions (I know intimately, for I am mid diagnosis for a health condition which coincidentally only began post covid)- and all the while we’re told that this is what the people want: but which people, and how big that group is, seems to be lost in translation from lies to alternative fact as it’s broadcast across the face of the media by compliant presenters.
Equally, dear reader- I don’t believe in traditional conservatism. I have no doubt it has its place in certain aspects of political discourse- none that I’ve ever encountered- and frankly I just don’t believe it works. Conservatism is what the party espoused from 2009 to 2018, before their radical cliff dive- conservatism is in my eyes the defining shift in the later Blair years- not wholly, but enough to be of note. Traditional conservatism got us here– through throttling of the public finances under austerity, through cutting welfare programmes for disadvantaged young people, upping university fees, a reluctance to update a curriculum to prepare people for life after education- plus, endless deregulation of banking, despite Sunak and his fellows being the arbiters of the crash that ostensibly necessitated all these cuts. Then after years of dissatisfaction, it was traditional conservatism being corrupted by radical elements like Patel et all, that led to the referendum that saw us leave our space in the EU.
Ultimately, conservatism is a brand of politics that appeals to the post-imperial ghost lurking in the attics of British- mostly English- people’s brains, decrying that we can do better on our own, that we don’t need trade deals or regulations on fairness, that we must eschew workers rights that supposedly protect the lazy, that political correctness is the cause of all our woes even when the anti politically correct people have been in charge as we’ve declined. Now we can see Patel again rising to critique the “central” Conservative Party eschewing her radical wing, claiming they’d be better placed if they would embrace her hideous vision of politics. All the while Rees-Mogg is on stage declaring that their attempt at gerrymandering failed- openly admitting to voter suppression to the roaring silence of the UK press. So why is it that the UK’s opposition party in chief has sought to embrace the same ethos of politic that has brought us to ruination? Frustratingly, the people seem to be to blame. Many people enjoy this iteration of labour, believing that things will be magically healed under a Starmer primacy.
But will it?
No doubt Starmer will steady the ship, a phrase I’ve heard often and loathe. No doubt he will deal with some of the haemorrhaging wounds left behind by the Conservatives. But a quick look at the positions espoused by labour typify the lack of braveness that encompasses the traditional conservatism he has seemingly embraced.
Brexit and its fallout batters the UK economy, causing a deficit bigger than covid. Trade deals in place that the government has sought out create a negligible boost and in fact our trade deal with Australia benefits them so much that the news coverage of it’s announcement was thick with the type of “I cant believe they agreed to this” that speaks to political illiteracy which throngs the tories’ current iteration. Starmer’s stance? “We’ll make brexit work, we’ll take back control”. I don’t know about you, but the cut and paste repeat of the conservatives’ own line on brexit- all aspiration, no actual promise, no solid information, no promise to actually deal with the issues which may or may not encompass a partial or wholesale about face- is entirely unhelpful.
How about NHS privatisation? Streeting states that there will be no NHS privatisation- as he promises to “temporarily outsource struggling areas to private companies on limited term contracts to deal with backlogs”. As someone whose entire career was built on maintaining the compliance of those private entities I can tell you that calling privatisation “temporary outsourcing” doesn’t prevent it from being, in fact, privatisation.
Worst of all, the draconian laws the tories have given concerted effort to implementing must be given time to “bed in”, says Starmer, that they have other priorities than simply removing legislation like the ID gerrymandering that Rees-Mogg spoke of, that repealing harsh anti strike laws don’t matter as labour is now the party of working people – seemingly forgetting that strikers are the working people.
Now, I must again reiterate that I’ve no doubt that things would be better under Starmer and Labour than the conservatives. Starmer offers some broad reforms I welcome- the implementation of EU citizenry voting, the offering of voting to 16+, an economic plan which seems dedicated to shoring up fair business practice and a step far away from deregulation meaning that instability in the markets would minimise, promises to offer out more aid to the young- I know that things will be better for the broad swathe of the public under Starmer- even a stop to the haemorrhage of political honesty would be good, someone preventing the conservatives from driving us down a very dark path paralleling that of the US’ brush with theocratic fascism- these are good things, labour does offer some hope and i’ve no doubt that things will be better.
But my issue links back to that phrase so oft repeated above- steadying the ship.
We have been dragged part way down a dangerous path by the tories, a path that over half of voters didn’t and do not want. We don’t need to steady the ship, to stop where we are, to drop anchor- we must move away from conservatism wholesale- not the least because, dropping anchor where we are still means we’re mired in populist right wing vapidry that continues to affect our life. Labour must make broad brave moves to drag us AWAY from this, we must strike out in the very opposite direction the conservatives continue to drag us towards every day of their tenancy in Westminster. Anything less is a failure to deal with the emerging radicalism that permeates the individual in the UK.
Without a clear departure offered by labour and its environs the worsening wave of hatred towards LGBTQ+ people will continue- our economic and social issues of worker shortages and xenophobia will continue unless common sense is spelled out in the brexit debate- promises to fix NHS shortages by offering fancy temporary privatisation will fail- educational reform to deal with new issues, and to educate the country’s young in politics will go some way towards enhancing our political literacy- offering a vote without perspective on its’ weight is unhelpful.
So whilst I understand that Labour offer some hope to those who feel escaping tory rule is key, it’s also vital to remember that labour must offer a distinction in their politics from what we’ve seen for over 13 years. If they do not, understand that conservative politics appeal to and improve the lives only of those who commit to it so political victory under conservatism, espoused by whoever, is a confirmation that the only politics you seek to support are politics that uplift you, and damn those who fall behind.
Labour has a chance to appeal to those disenfranchised: simple promises made to leftists who understand the broader cut & thrust of UK politics under the lens of hostile media and FPTP and consumed by knee jerk one issue voters. But if we continue to see our own political disabusement in favour of appealing to those very knee jerk voters, we cannot be blamed for losing hope in ever climbing out from under the weighty shroud of conservatism, the brand of politics that got us to where we are.
The clunky and unwieldy truth is that as radicalism has hidden in the dark, licking its wounds, we’ve become complacent and genuinely seem to believe that moderating away from radicalism is the salve we need- when what we need is to attack, to destroy radicalism in its entirety. Leftists are in for a difficult time as we fight back against the violently burning but nevertheless dying embers of a type of politics that has only harmed us as we’ve grown. Watching conservatism warp into right wing demagoguery is proof that its vital supply of ignorance is drying up at source- but we don’t deal with fascism or authoritarianism simply by lining up to vote every few years. Radicalism is dealt with by terrifying those who espouse it into silence, by breaking their chains of support, by wresting them from the positions of power they nepotised into. We don’t defeat fascism or authoritarian governments by asking them nicely, nor can we appease their environs by appealing to logic, because logic and radicalism are not in the same room. And my concern, dear reader, is that under the likes of Biden, under the guidance of Starmer, we won’t root out these issues and destroy them at source, we won’t shine a torch into the deepest, darkest corners of corruption- we’ll ignore it. And under that ignorance it will continue to gather the momentum that has led us to here and to now- to a place where the US is mandating the Ten Commandments on the wall instead of dealing with daily mass shootings, where the UK is giving voter disenfranchisement time to “bed in”, where groups of radicals like the Patriotic Alternative or the Proud Boys can line up in the street unafraid, unmolested- and taking solace from a grudging acceptance of their presence. Tolerating fascism in the street should be a stain of shame upon the tories and Biden’s presidency- and if that behaviour is to continue under yet another supposedly common sense branch of moderate conservatism, whoever espouses it, it is another death knell for progress.
Ultimately, I understand the political climate of the UK. There is a very clear chance that my politics may never be represented in parliament, because the country doesn’t have the appetite for it- and whilst some may find that amusing, that I cling to a branch of politics that others would let go in favour of power, I feel clear in my decision that I’d rather cling to politics that promises to do better for everyone, politics that wants to move us forward instead of “steadying the ship”, than sacrifice my aspirations to attain a power I use to please those who want what I do not. And overall, beyond anything, my final message on this: nobody wants to tolerate nazis right? What happened to the good old days of kicking their asses.