Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Owen Jones, living in the distant past, has a startling resemblance to Nigel Farage

Twitter activists know that there is a tendency, forced on us by the 140 character limit, to to indulge in Reductio ad absurdum. Owen Johes has given us a classic of the type. He has managed to be contentious at least three times in the cramped space of one tweet.

Is Labour facing "wipeout" at the lands of the SNP? Well Lord Ashcroft's poll of 15 Scottish seats would certainly suggest so. But other polls and thoughtful analyses by Iain Dale and others point to Labour holding on to more seats than it loses. The anti-establishment movement seen elsewhere in the UK with the rise of UKIP and the Greens manifests itself in Scotland in the SNP. This was seen in the Independence referendum and the country is still in the afterglow of that near earthquake. Labour, honourably in the view of many, campaigned for a "No" vote and this has cost them dearly. There was certainly a strong Socialist element in the SNP's IndyRef campaign but the "Yes" vote comprised a broader coalition than that. Including, no doubt, a few "Tartan Tories" and others from the Right. The SNP's #GE2015 campaign may be overtly Socialist in character, but I doubt that it will be. The question the voters will address is not the binary Yes/No choice of the referendum but a much more complex one with issues spanning Trident to the economy to the role of MPs at Westminster. Yes there will be a fierce SNP/Labour fight. But to characterise it as a fight between the new standard-beamers of Socialsm (the SNP) and traitors of the Left ("Rightwing" Labour) is simplistic nonsense.

Jones, if he supports Labour (questionable), should surely be encouraging them in Scotland. They have three months under a new leader there to claw back ground lost to the SNP. It is far from the lost cause he suggests it is. The same applies more generally to Labour across Britain. Here Jones is suggesting that there are "political cranks" trying to make the Party more Rightwing. He wants Labour to be more overtly Socialist and eschew the centre ground. The problem with this is, of course, that were it to happen Labour could kiss goodbye to any chance of power. Perhaps Jones would prefer a party waving the Red Flag and returning to the days when they promoted "...the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange" - that's a perfectly respectable and intellectually sustainable message. If you want Labour to be a fringe party without a chance of winning an election.

The "political cranks" are, by the way, the Blairites and especially Alan Milburn and Lord Hutton. The former recently said "You [must] appeal to a broader constituency, other than your core vote. It’s very easy in politics, comfort blankets work in politics, because – guess what? It does what it says on the tin! – it’s dead comfortable. But it doesn't give you victory." The "comfort blanket" he is referring to is the old fashioned socialism that would, in theory anyway, shore up hard core support. It would also prevent anyone else voting for you. Milburn again: "How did Margaret Thatcher construct enormous majorities? By making a deep incursion into Labour territory. How did Blair construct enormous majorities? By making deep incursions into Tory territory."

The Tories would love it if Ed really was "Red". They could guarantee themselves another five years in power if he was. He isn't, and for two reasons. First conviction. Milliband was a supporter of and an effective Minister in the  "New Labour" government of Blair/Brown. Second pragmatism. He knows that  victory is only possible from the Centre/Left not from peddling old-fashioned Socialism. It is absolutely NOT "Rightwing" to be a supporter of a mixed economy and to acknowledge that successful modern States are public/private partnerships. And to argue that national economies should not run long-standing public deficits. Jones revealed his colours on this when he said that "Angela Merkel is the most monstrous western European leader of this generation". This was because she is the most powerful European politican and because she favours more balanced national economies - notably in Greece. To call her "monstrous" for this is as wrong as it is offensive.
There have always been Owen Jones's around across politics. Nigel Farage is another one. They resemble one another in their extremism, their convictions and their populist appeal - though Farage is well ahead of Jones in the latter. They are also alike because both want to return to the past - in Jones's case to 1945 and in Farage's 1955. Not many people make Farage look modern by comparison ! And they are alike in that there is not a cat in hell's chance that they will gain power or see their preferred policies implemented. I hope. 


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