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.

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