“United we stand, divided we fall.”
It’s a catchphrase that occurs to me nearly any time I venture onto left-wing forums these days. Whereas the right and far-right have put aside their nuanced differences, the Tories and UKIP have merged, and they all generally stand united in spewing bile against any who would dare declare themselves liberal these days, by contrast we snowflakes seem to be reenacting the ancient Roman practice of decimation.
The end result may well be the liberal-left splintering apart entirely, ceasing to even play a role in UK politics. Surely that has to be the primary concern for any genuinely concerned liberal, far more so than pursuing grudges and vendettas against other variants of liberal?
The left is losing ground across the UK and Europe, no doubt about it, even more obviously in the US. Given the relative weakness of the smaller progressive parties, combined with the endless and woeful chaos consuming Labour, any hope of a UK liberal-left resistance might seem a million miles away. Something that’s highlighted quite acutely if you peek into conversations taking place among the left on social media.
Split down the middle
The split within the Labour membership was disastrous. And like most of the political turmoil we face in Britain today, it was all caused by Brexit. Many try hard to make it about Corbyn’s supposedly “failed leadership”, but the truth of the matter is in Britain today, a UK citizen’s desire to either leave or remain in the EU is as likely to decide which party they side with as much as preconceived notions of left or right. Things are not straightforward any more.
One comment I came across shrewdly suggested: “the middle classes and educated/liberal types now want to jump into bed with the Lib Dems, particularly on account of their Brexit stance. But they also realise the Lib Dems are unlikely to get into power without the support of the working classes. So they’re torn between protecting their own interests and sticking with the Tories, who may well push them off a cliff, or siding with working classes who mostly despise them. The result is a lot of friction on Labour forums.”
It’s true, no other party was as divided by the Brexit vote. No one quite knew which of Labour’s roots Corbyn would prioritise – its liberal left values, or its working class support. With no middle ground, whichever he picked there was guaranteed to be fallout.
That fallout has taken the form of vindictive and spiteful rhetoric on forums and comment sections all across the web. But unlike the omnipresent war of words between the left and right we’ve all become accustomed to post-referendum, it’s an equally entrenched war between factions of the left. Between people who should, and certainly need to be friends and allies. Facebook groups such as We Support Jeremy Corbyn have become veritable battlegrounds, where absolutely anyone with doubts or concerns regarding his leadership are condemned as “traitors” and “trolls” who should “f**k off and die”. As “cancers that need to be carved out”, and worse. Language and sentiments I certainly wouldn’t define as tolerant or ‘liberal’ in any way shape or form. There undoubtedly has been a marked increase in obvious trolling within such groups, I’ve seen it for myself and can see it’s quite deliberate, but it’s all just breeding further intolerance.
Becoming what we despise
Twitter is just as bad. In short, leftist discussion groups are often as absolute, as unpleasant, and as nasty as anything you’d see on a Daily Mail comments section. But what really concerns me though, is however hypocritical and laughable they might seem now, accusations by the likes of Nigel Farage that the left are the “real fascists” might soon carry more weight if we don’t curb this aggression and in-fighting. We’re falling into a trap.
For example, the verbal abuse levelled at journalist Owen Jones and The Guardian for a recent article arguing in favour of new leadership, was nothing short of appalling. I was shocked. The way some people were going on, you’d have thought Jones akin to one of those awful people posting pictures of their family on safari with a giraffe they’d just shot. Where is the sense of perspective? When people who claim to be ‘liberal’ are calling for a writer with pretty much the same goals to be “maimed and killed” simply for a difference of opinion, it’s fair to say the left has lost its way terribly.
To coup or not to coup, that is the question
There are of course two sides to every story. For a coup that supposedly ‘doesn’t exist’, it’s odd how very coup-like the latest coup would appear. And how very predictable it was. In fact, when the Labour membership split as a result of Corbyn’s support for the Brexit bill, I personally started a countdown. In my mind there was zero doubt as to whether the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) would seize upon the weakness, and begin circling him like jackals.
Skip forward a bit, now we have outspoken and openly snide enemy of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP Jess Phillips, plastered all over TV screens and newspapers, complaining to a heavily Tory-biased newspaper that “the Tories are nicer to me than my Labour colleagues”. Laughing at merest suggestion a “softcoup” or similar is occurring. It’s just a Corbynista fantasy, after all. (As if two years of public belittlement and open mutiny are honestly in no way representative of intention to oust someone from office.) Lo and behold, the next thing we see is a Sky News interview airing the supposedly plucked ‘idea’ that Phillips could be the next Labour leader. An idea that in all likelihood would probably make the average Corbyn supporter choke on his or her tofu salad.
It’s understandable to be angered by such duplicitous behaviour, and to want to be defiant. But those on the left must also accept such excessive polarisation and vicious rhetoric is also weakening our cause as a whole. Owen Jones, for example, is hardly some evil and soulless individual deserving of evisceration. On the contrary, we need him on our team.
Is Corbyn to blame… and does it matter?
As much as many of supporters stand by him, the depth of division over Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership simply won’t go away. Jibes that the Tories currently face “no credible opposition” to their Orwellian rebirth of Britain, are sadly not far off the mark. It’s almost certainly a key reason Theresa May feels confident to throw her weight around like a medieval dictator in her implementation of Brexit. A pragmatist could argue that whether or not you put the failure down to the entrenched Labour leader, is almost immaterial now. We have a problem regardless.
For the record, I for one don’t think that failure was Corbyn. He hasn’t been allowed to succeed, it’s painfully obvious he’s been discredited and harassed from day one:
You're all 'paranoid conspiracists'! pic.twitter.com/gyEygBpMgl
— True Labour (@tedtully) February 28, 2017
Some have even come up with rudimentary flow charts to better describe Labour’s destabilisation:
— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) March 2, 2017
Sadly, whatever truths might reside in these theories, it might already be too late. The damage is done. Few could dispute Corbyn’s lack of political effectiveness (for whatever reason) has left the path open for the Tories to do exactly what they like, virtually unopposed. There seems to be no sign of that changing any time soon.
The bottom line is we’re running out of time. 2020 is not so far around the corner, and Brexit looms potentially closer still: like an alien-landing we’ve all been forewarned about on the news. (An alien-landing some will greet with euphoric dancing in the streets, others with soiled underwear.)
If Theresa May were to call a snap general election sooner than 2020, with her opposition scattered and in-fighting, under siege from within as well as from the all-powerful right-wing press, it seems hard to imagine she’d do anything other than sweep the board. She’d mould this country into something beastly. And since casting aside their coalition partners in 2015, the Conservative Party have already gone to great lengths to alter the UK’s voting constituencies and boundaries, in unashamed attempt to gain a greater choke-hold on government and diminish future Labour support.
If Corbyn stays in office and Labour are resoundingly crushed at the next general election, any hope of a fairer and more egalitarian Britain will be lost forever. Socialism will be branded a failed experiment, and the Labour party (or whatever replaces it) undoubtedly will return to the Blairite/Red Tory mantra. They will win, unequivocally. The very centre-ground itself will lurch to the right. So the question is, what matters more? The cult of the man himself, or survival of the ethics and values he stands for? Would it not be better to seek a new face and battle-plan now, while Corbyn and his supporters can still perhaps influence who carries the torch forward? It’s surely a fair question.
Even when evidence of Tory election fraud was discovered, it was swept back under the carpet almost as quickly. So things don’t exactly bode well for their accountability on the current trajectory of post-Brexit Britain. Bestowed of another five years in office, there’s really no telling how much further they might go to rig the system.
Some might say that’s a situation worth avoiding at all costs.
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