Irritation of the day: “We’ve got to be elected to help people”

Here’s something that pisses me off that I’m going to write about, especially pertinent given that Jeremy Corbyn is leader of Labour still (who could have guessed that insulting the party membership as entryists and idiots could have entrenched his supporters and made him appear like an underdog even if he’s shit? Oh wait, me) is the line of argument about electability and trying to move towards where the votes are being the most important thing because without power, Labour can’t help people. This chafes my nutsack because it justifies promising essentially anything to anyone to get into power because of the promise of nebulous “help”. It also implies that this “help” is not something that would be negated by the promises you’ve made.

Let’s say someone “moderate” (doesn’t matter who) becomes Labour leader and wins an election while promising to significantly reform (i.e. dismantle) the welfare system, because the calculation has been made that parochial bellends in Nuneaton and other swing seats won’t vote for Labour unless it comes out swinging against those evil welfare dependents on their handouts. Hooray! Labour can now help people! But… weren’t the people that Labour was elected to “help” those same people who were on benefits out of necessity? And didn’t they just promise to do something about their being dependent on handouts? And aren’t those handouts the one thing keeping a lot of these people from starvation and stagnation? Errr…

Of course, one could make the case that Labour would “help” by creating jobs and therefore rebalancing the economy so fewer people had to be on welfare. But this isn’t what parochial Nuneaton bellends care about, they care about the handouts themselves because of a sense of grievance, and they won’t be placated by any wishy-washy “economics” or “long-term consequences”. They want the handouts gone – that’s what Labour promised. Therefore the handouts have to go, or be severely curtailed. The poor people that were supposedly to be helped by Labour being in power now face a shitty “reformed” welfare system and suffer.

We can see the further issues with this line of thinking now as the whole EU refrendum thing moves on and now the “moderate” position is that Labour should be against free movement because the parochial Nuneaton bellends (I’m just going to call them PNBs now and hope it catches on) and those imaginary heartlands don’t like the idea of the forruns coming over. We need to be where the electorate are so we can help people! We’ll help people by promising that we’ll come out swinging against freedom of movement even if we have to leave the single market! Wait, won’t leaving the single market crater the economy and cause a lot of damage to people? Errr…

The “Labour needs to be electable to help people” slogan is just a pithy way of putting a vaguely socialist spin on the same triangulating bollocks that got Labour its current reputation as a principle-free power-seeking group and a further product of the party’s clear failure to have an actual ideology to coalesce around and the complete unwillingness of many of its MPs to make a good-faith argument for something they know is right but unpopular. It can be used to justify any policy or any pandering which might potentially win Labour votes in swing seats or the mythical Northern “heartlands” by promising to Labour’s actual core of working and middle class urban voters that they’ll be helping people, even if by courting the aforementioned groups they’ll be pursuing policies that would hurt those same people. It is transparent bullshit of the most obvious kind, and anyone espousing it needs to realise that promising vague, undefined help to then be implemented by hurting others (or even those same people they claim to help) is not a trade-off many people wish to make, which is why Corbyn’s full-throated rejection of such obvious nonsense has become so popular. It’s also incredibly paternalistic and self-aggrandising, with the implication that if you don’t go along with this absurd game of “moving to the centre” (i.e. moving rightwards, because that’s where the political centre of gravity has moved) you’re condemning people to a life of misery under a Tory government, and the only way to “help” them is to elect centrists who are going to pander to the people who want all the nastiness a Tory government has to offer anyway.

This argument became most crystallised, and spouted on Twitter ad nauseam, during the leadership election. Cards on the table, had I been eligible I’d probably have voted for Owen Smith, if only because I’d prefer a damp rag that might conceivably be useful for some purpose to used bog roll. That said, I strenuously object to the idea that any putative vote I could have cast should have been done because of some self-regarding assessment of electability being the One True Way and anything which might put off some PNBs also being me damning already-poor people to a life of further poverty under a Tory jackboot. You can fuck right off if you intend to tell me, by implication, that I should be voting for your preferred candidate because otherwise some people will die poor and hungry.

This, incidentally, is not me saying that a centrist Labour government would be the same as or worse than a Tory government or any such other obvious nonsensical and deluded shit peddled by the sort of Corbyn fan who gives the rest of them a bad name (nor, for that matter, am I a fan of Corbyn in any meaningful sense). It is also not me saying that making unpopular stands is always courageous and right; blithering on about Trident and the Falklands, to pick two completely random examples, is far less productive and more of a dead end than defending the existence of a welfare system that involves cash handouts or our membership of the EU. Nor is it me saying that voting pragmatically is a wrong thing to do (it actually is in a binary two-party system like first-past-the-post – not so much when you’re formulating policy options for one of those parties, where there’s rarely only two choices of which one will always win). It is me saying that ends do not always justify means, especially when those ends are so ill-defined and the means are often directly opposed to the ends. It is also me saying that a Labour government being better for basically everyone than a Tory government does not justify any policy or any commitment with the Labour brand slapped on it.

The EU: we’re fucked

Since I am still failing to summon the effort to talk about politics in any meaningful sense, I think it’s instructive to have a look at what Pete North, someone who has been vehemently against the EU for a very long time, has to say about the looming clusterfuck of trying to extricate ourselves from it:

We are told Brexit means Brexit but in truth the government has no way of satisfying the expectations of leavers without inflicting a good deal of unnecessary self-harm. People think we are leaving a European legal system but it isn’t that simple. We are stepping out of a partition and into a broader global legal system where we have to reconfigure our own laws while honouring legacy commitments and also being mindful that close cooperation is still a necessity for the normal functioning of business.

The leave campaign has caused a number of problems. They pretended that sunlit uplands were only a single bound away and that the alternative is instantly preferable to EU membership. It isn’t.

The thing is, I think Mr North, something of an inverse stopped clock (as in, I’ll be nodding along to a lot of what he says and then suddenly come to a screeching halt as I reach something I’m violently unhappy with) and me would probably agree more on this whole thing than I’d care to admit, despite my being a pinko lefty bastard. The principal difference is that I want us to stay in the EU and he doesn’t.

David Davis, Liam Fox and the other cretins currently in charge of trying to extract ourselves from the EU are singularly not up to the task of it. Unfortunately for them and for us, “get us out of Europe” is a nice enough slogan but one that can be spouted without having to acknowledge the fact that the UK is deeply, deeply integrated with the EU from almost the roots on up, and to yank ourselves out of that is at best something that needs to be done slowly and methodically, if it must be done at all. Having spent decades whinging about it and screaming about how we need to get out from under the federalist EU yoke, they have now discovered that it’s not simply a case of telling the frogs and the krauts to fuck off and then suddenly everything being wonderful, but that we do actually derive some benefit from the EU and more to the point those benefits would be keenly missed by any number of businesses and citizens. The whole thing is beginning to remind me of the joke that goes around regarding Bitcoin and libertarians; the best part of the Brexit shitheap is that we get to watch Brexiteers slowly discover why we were in the EU to begin with.

What little we have heard from the senior Brexit braintrust is, to put it mildly, not encouraging. David Davis’ idea of leaving the single market, with all of its myriad benefits to the UK, because some people are shit-scared of Poles and we can’t let them down in their myopic crusade to keep the forruns out, is one of the stupidest, most cracked-out concepts ever advanced by someone nominally in charge of a government department. Actively insulting businesses as lazy just because they should be seizing all the wonderful “opportunities” this unabashedly cretinous right turn in policy lays out in front of them like an Elizabethan banquet made of fried dog shit is the sort of thing you’d only do if you shouldn’t be in the cabinet to begin with, possibly because you were disgraced and ejected from it once before, like Liam Fox was. Both of those articles feature Theresa May distancing herself from those remarks, which leads to the exciting prospect that our sovereign government is about as organised and coherent as a creche full of meth-addicted chimpanzees – not to mention, as Alex “Right About Everything” Massie pointed out, one that is overtly nationalist and has a strange idea that businesses exist to somehow serve the state by making leaving the EU a success. If you think it’s bad now, wait until the “lazy and fat” ones are British workers, dragging down Brexit by expecting reasonable wages for their work and making the UK less competitive – you’ll love that.

So it turns out I can actually be motivated to write about politics. It’s just that our government has to be turned into a fucking clown car in order for that to happen. Isn’t this year just great?