This post is prompted by a few twitter discussions I’ve had with people over the idea that the left has abandoned the working classes, in favour of liberal progressive agendas, which is why the tories are winning elections, and the solution is for Labour to do more to appease the working class tory voters. It’s difficult to conduct an argument when you’re limited to 280 characters, so here’s a more considered attempt.
First off – this isn’t really based on historical or political analyses – those aren’t really my field – instead it’s based on looking for cognate themes in the discussions people are having and trying to identify patterns in them. Which is.
People looking back at the origins of left wing movements usually talk about a pretty clear-cut dichotomy. On the one side there are the propertied classes, who own the means of production, and the working classes, who do the producing. The owners exploit the workers. The workers band together to accrue enough power to confront them. The left is labour, the right is conservative. There’s one issue – sharing of wealth. If you want to share it, you’re on the left, if you don’t share it, you’re on the right.
But in the intervening years, a whole slew of additional issues have started to face us: Women’s rights, Immigration, Black lives matter, Gay rights, Preventing climate change, Animal rights, and most recent (but not least) Trans rights. Our lives have got bigger. Our world has got bigger, and so we’ve each had to encompass these ideas and choose where we stand on them.
If you’re for any of those you’re more leftward leaning, against those you’re on the right. Which means if you’re historically for sharing wealth, but not for sharing power or defending the rights of those who are gay, non-white, transgender, or non-Christian, or you don’t believe in climate change (or do believe in it but don’t give a fuck) then without changing your original position on the whole wealth sharing thing, you need to face the fact that you are now, predominantly, right wing. Like this:
What’s frustrating is that people who agree with so much of the new right stuff, are letting their approval of that overwhelm their awareness of the traditional divide. If you have no money the tories will not give a fuck about you. That’s worth repeating THEY WILL NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU.
After the murder of David Amess, obituaries were full of the great things he’d done. It seems to be a British phenomenon to only speak good of the dead. But this is piss poor journalism. The guy was not a good person. He repeatedly voted against gay rights, against immigration, and he repeatedly voted against benefits increases. He was pro animal rights. So hated foreigners, gays. the poor, but loved animals. Let’s give him a 25% then. That’s not a pass. Obviously his murder was appalling (I’m not arguing against that) but let’s not whitewash his lack of ethics. And if you voted for him because you’re against immigration or gay marriage too, then you’re not a good person either. And if you voted for him and you’re on benefits, you’re a fucking idiot as well.
The idea that a party that focuses on all those things in the bottom left-hand corner of that chart, has somehow lost the confidence of all the working classes is bullshit. Because there are plenty of working class people who care about those things too. Part of the problem is that the tories have successfully convinced people that the reason they are poor is because of immigration, or because all the left cares about is a liberal progressive agenda. That you’ve lost your job because of a foreigner or because of quotas. But that is so evidently straight out of the fascist playbook that to fall for it there’s got to be plenty of underlying prejudice to build on. I think there should be more emphasis by the left on the equality for all classes a lot more, just to remind people that this is still a major concern of the left – of course it is. But if you’re after equal treatment for yourself, but not equal treatment for everyone, you’re a hypocrite. And if you actually want unequal treatment for others, then you’re a loathsome arse.
And this seems to be the dilemma people say is facing the labour party. At the moment it seems like Starmer is trying to appeal to the right wing working classes, because the working classes are the traditional demographic for labour. So something like this:
That’s creating such a mixed message that no-one is falling for it. Which means a choice between the top row, or the left-hand column. And he doesn’t seem either clued up or brave enough to make that choice.
What someone with integrity would do would be to appeal directly to those appealing for equality, equality for all, though. A minimum wage, a united europe, immigration, an NHS, social welfare, greenhouse gas reduction, pro-women, pro trangender, the whole bit.
And if that means abandoning to the tories those section of the working classes who are against those things then that seems like a reasonable loss.
Because they are assholes, and the tory party is the party for assholes.