This is just a very short blog with some personal observations on the Labour party leadership elections.I rarely talk about politics openly as in general I prefer to keep a lot of my viewpoints private, however it is not a secret that I am a member of the Labour party, and have been for a significant number of years. I will qualify this by saying that I do not like modern politics one bit. There is too much entrenchment whereby people associate with a party, whether it be Conservative, UKIP, SNP, or Labour, and then proceed to see absolutely no wrong in any policy or any action that their party might be involved in. To me, this signals a complete lack of intellect and signals a detachment from reality. I associate with Labour because I agree with the fundamental principles and underlying ethos of the party, however I do not agree with every single policy they stand for; I do not nor will I ever be blinded in the same way that so many seem to be. In particular in recent years, as with a number of other long term supporters, there is much about the party that has disillusioned me, and some of this I will mention below. On the other hand, there are a lot of critical writings on the party that I have read both in the mainstream media and online that are nothing short of inaccurate propaganda, with a lot of people not giving credit to the genuinely positive activities that the Labour party have continued to pursue.
With the leadership elections ongoing, there are some issues I feel I have to raise. First of all, the targeted and strategic character assassination from some quarters within the party of Jeremy Corbyn is, in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. Why? Because in all cases the central argument with a number of variations is that Labour will not win the next or future elections with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Whether through his traditional left-wing philosophy or alleged past associations, the ultimate statement is that the part will not win with him in charge.
This standpoint has gradually angered me more and more as the campaigning has gone on, as to be quite blunt, although winning would be great and allow massive influence over future legislation and other policies, it should never be a goal in itself. Does anybody join the Green party because they genuinely think they will be in with a chance of governing? What about independent candidates? Of course they don’t. Because although, again, winning would be wonderful, they join those smaller parties or support independents because of the courage of their convictions, the alignment with their outlook and philosophy. Winning is barely a part of the equation; it is an obsession, and not a healthy one for any of the larger parties. To me, it is a near irrelevance, as it should be for anybody who, almost as a dichotomy is genuinely serious about politics and the party that they support.
Then there are a number of policy areas that I completely disagree with. Equality for one. (I hear a sharp intake of breath from my laptop from anybody reading this). No – not equality as a principle; equality as it is presented in an incomplete and warped interpretation. I am going to state this absolutely categorically, and referring directly to Yvette Cooper on this point – you cannot use the term women’s equality, because it is a contradiction in terms. It should simply be equality or even egalitarianism-with no further prefix. By using the sppecific term ‘women’s equality’ this actually inherently creates inequality, by singling out a group for preferential treatment. I am a champion for equality. I have taught various aspects of equality policy and legislation at my own Institution, and have assessed the quality of modules containing aspects of equality principles in other Universities in my role as an external examiner. Equality is something that I take extremely seriously, but as true equality, not as something that is a fundamentally flawed conceptual misinterpretation of equality.
I want also to convey that as part of this discussion I am absolutely NOT inferring that specific groups within society do not suffer disproportionately to others in certain areas. Obviously and with evidence there are areas where women suffer moreso than men. However the problem with constructing as a main policy driver a version of equality that has a singular prefix is that this serves to ignore that also people of some races and ethnicities suffer moreso than others, and that people of some religions suffer moreso than others, not to mention the still very real issue of disability discrimination. So yes, have women’s issues as a focal point. But have the others too, and don’t create hierarchy of discrimination and equality policy by singling one out as a main driver to the detriment, or possibly more accurately the marginalisation of the others. I would be making the same comment regardless of which aspect of equality had been given this ill-considered priority.
Equality should mean equality of opportunity for individuals and groups of all races, religions, genders etc. It should not mean giving a fundamental advantage for one group to the detriment of any other. For example; candidate lists within the labour and other political parties. It is for some invalid reason legal to have women only lists for some constituencies, or where a woman is literally given preference purely because she is female. Now this is theoretically supposed to be in order to eventually redress the gender imbalance historically and still currently prevalent within Parliament, which is indeed a problem. However the current strategy is, again, fundamentally flawed, because the by-product is that there is very real discrimination then against males where even if they are the most suitable, experienced, and appropriate candidate, they are either not allowed to be put forward as a candidate, or have to move to another constituency where they are. Is this equality? Of course it isn’t. The strategy here in order to encourage women to take a more active role and in numbers within politics should be an encouragement, even with incentive, to get involved at the training and education level, and encourage them to put themselves forward. However when it comes to selection and elections, it should be the best candidates in all cases, no exceptions, who make the final lists. There is literally no valid argument that exists to the contrary. If this results in a parliament that is 95% male or 95% female, it should make no difference. There is no logical reason to say that only a woman can have a point of view on women’s issues, or that only a man can have a point of view on men’s issues. Laws are not created by one person alone. Important laws are presented as draft papers, put out to consultation by affected groups and individuals in society, discussed within committees, and scrutinised by both chambers of parliament. In short, no one man or woman will be a single voice in these policies, and so the gender of that person is essentially irrelevant. The current set-up is a prime example of an inarguably flawed outlook on equality, and ‘equality’ for equalities sake, and not for any valid or substantive rational reason.
To repeat, I am a champion for equality. True equality. Where all people have the same opportunity, the same ability to access training and education. The ability for all to be considered fairly and impartially in putting themselves forward for politics or employment. I am not a supporter of interpretations of equality that very literally and inarguably create inequality, as outlined in all of the above.
There are many, many more aspects of proposed policies I have read about in the campaign thus far, however I simply do not have the time to examine them all in detail; this has just been some of my thoughts. In short, I do not believe that any of Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, or Andy Burnham, for all of their well intentioned actions would actually have the desired effect of fundamentally changing the Labour party for the better. I’d happily be proven wrong by any of the three should they be given the mandate of the party to lead, but I just can’t see it. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand is a different animal. There would be real change under his stewardship away from the status quo. This might bring some traditional former supporters back to the party, and it might alienate many others. But it would be change. What a number of people can’t seem to understand is that sometimes either individually or as a group though, it is necessary to take a step backward in order to then take two steps forward. I am not in any way saying that Jeremy Corbyn would be a step backward, simply that the analogy is appropriate for those who do see his potential leadership as a backward step. Real change would result in a fundamental examination and analysis of the party at a forensic level from the core over the coming years. Ultimately, for better or worse it would be a move away from what has been in all likelihood the worst passage in the Labour party’s history to a new beginning.
Do I agree with everything Jeremy Corbyn proposes? No. Do I identify with what he is trying to do? Yes.
It is not all about winning in the short term. It’s about re-evaluating your principles and thinking very hard about the long term.
I will be voting for Jeremy Corbyn.