Why is everyone so f**king surprised?
As the future of Britain’s government looks increasingly unclear, the internet has been amusing itself with hot-take after hot-take referring to Corbyn’s success at the ballot box as ‘unprecedented’, ‘shocking’ and ‘a surprise landslide’. I can’t help but ask: Why is everyone so f**king surprised?
All of these takes miss the bleeding obvious: Most people want a government that represents their interests. Or else what the hell else is a government for?
There is nothing truly radical in the Labour Party Manifesto, because guess what? Nothing it proposes hasn’t already existed at some point in recent history.
I might add, after more than a year of slating by The Guardian which claimed Corbyn wasn’t up for the job, today it published a piece by a former Blairite who now claims Labour should have won and somehow it is all his fault, as if the dissent from within his own party had absolutely sod-all to do with it! And you wonder why trust in journalism has fallen to historic lows.
For all the talk of reversing the Thatcherite ideology that has underpinned the UK economic system for almost four decades, it is worth mentioning the top tax rate was 60% under Thatcher. Labour’s proposed top tax rate is 50%.
Labor also proposes the extremist policy of returning the rail network to Thatcherite status, back before transport infrastructure was privatised. (Thatcher did not privatise the railways. That was John Major in the mid-90s). And if it was good enough for Thatcher, surely it’s good enough for the UK / world.
There is nothing in the Labour Party Manifesto that wasn’t already in place for much of the time Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.
For all of her awfulness, Thatcher was also the one divesting from coal before it was cool. Problem was Thatcher offered no alternative to the miners left jobless after she closed the pits.
Labour radically proposes offering alternative sources of employment, instead of leaving it all to the free market and cheap labour for monopoly capitalists.
There is little, if anything at all in the Labour Party Manifesto that hasn’t already been tried and tested during and after the Second World War.
The wealth and prosperity that created and endowed the middle class during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s was a direct result of full employment policies enacted across the UK, US and Australia during and after WWII to stave off recessions, depressions and economic devastation.
Can you imagine what the world would have looked like had austerity been enacted after WWII?
There is nothing radical about a government which represents the will of the majority. There is nothing radical about a government that knows where it is getting its money from: raising taxes on the wealthiest 5% and a £250 billion National Transformation Fund paid for with private capital to transform the British economy.
Even its proposal to ease the tax burden on small businesses is a reintroduction of a policy which already existed under Blair and Brown.
And of course a price on carbon (which already exists in the UK) and sustainability incentives have already been proven to work before conservative governments in the US and Australia scrapped them in favour of trying to resuscitate the coal industry, even as their biggest constituents – the banks – are divesting from the dying industry in favour of renewables.
This is not socialism. It is social democracy. We have been here before. This is not new policy, nor really a new party. It is a return to policy of old.
Those who claim Corbyn’s win was unprecedented simply have not been paying attention.
Most people remember a time when housing was affordable, when health coverage wasn’t in doubt, a time when most families could put food on the table, pay the school fees and bills and still have some left over for a rainy day.
Most people remember a time when trains and buses were reliable and relative prosperity was easier to come across, even between the working and middle classes.
Sure, the system was never perfect. Let’s not idealise the past. But there was a time when things were… just a little bit easier.
We remember a time when war was something to be avoided, when immigration was not only something to be celebrated, but a mark of a civilised society, and government existed to protect and uphold the will of the people that elected it.
Of course there are genuine security fears that are now part-and-parcel of immigration concerns. And though one is still more likely to be attacked by a shark or have a refrigerator fall on them than be killed by a terrorist, I can sympathise with the climate of fear we now must contend with daily. But there must be something in the Labour Manifesto that set people’s minds at ease. Could it be that its continued commitment to Brexit demonstrated that this was a government that would put the interests of its people ahead of trade, military and ‘strategic’ alliances? How radical is that?! (‘Strategic’ being the vague, catch-all term for foreign diplomacy policies that have no tangible or positive impact on the lives of the people these governments are meant to represent).
Why was Jeremy Corbyn so successful? Why was Bernie Sanders? Because once upon a time the Democrats and Labour / Labor Parties (Looking at you too, Australia), were the workers’ parties. (Emphasis on past tense, for all except Corbyn’s Labourites. Blairites watch out). They existed to put a much needed checks and balances on a market that would run riot without controls ensuring workers benefited from the profits of their productivity.
One need only look to the bailouts following the Global Financial Crisis to understand the level of concern the Obama administration had for its voting constituents. (That is to say, not that much). Or the massive billion-dollar subsidies and tax write-offs that continue to flow to the private sector, even while profits soar, even while wages go backwards and even while the connection between those profits and job creation is tenuous at best.
Populism you say? Arguably populism has sod-all to do about it. This is pragmatism at its best.
If having a fully costed budget and policy strategy is radical populism then our expectations are in serious need of a raise.
Why was Corbyn successful? Because unlike May whose policy ideas were so shit she refused to discuss them publicly in any sort of debate forum, despite the fact that she will have to face Corbyn as Opposition Leader every day for the next four years in Parliament, Corbyn had the goods to back it up. He engaged voters on policy and helped the people of the UK understand acutely the direct connection these policies have to their overall wellbeing. He also seemed to understand the Tory platform better than it did, and helped draw a map for voters. Once they realised they were being led down a road to ruin, people voted with their feet: in the opposite direction.
He may not be Prime Minister, but Corbyn gave Labour the biggest vote share increase since 1945 despite hugely biased press coverage and dissent from within his own party, making him the only true victor of the election. He might well be Prime Minister today had his own backbenchers, who are now changing their minds, not undermined him.
Populism schmopulism. Corbyn ran a successful campaign of substance and importance. He drew a line in the sand.
If being a radical means having fully costed policies that improve the economic security of voters, I weep for humanity and the four years of drudgery we may potentially be forced to live through if the Tories manage to form a coalition with the DUP, a party with direct ties to Irish terror groups such as the Ulster Defence Army. (Don’t even get me started on the ironies that abound from that little decision).
The failure of the press, of many even within the Labour and conservative parties, even of the Obama administration which sent its best advisors to help advise Tory strategy (yes, you read that right), to understand how this came to pass demonstrates how completely out of touch they are with the people whose interests they claim to represent.
While ideology may differ, I propose most people have more in common than even they believe: People want economic security and government that represents their interests. It is that simple. The anxiety that abounds over this issue alone expresses itself in all manner of anxiety, which explains UKIP’s popularity in the first place.
Corbyn was clever in that he accepted Brexit, while offering an approach to negotiation which kept the UK close to the EU but put British interests first. As every government should be doing before it considers any decision, foreign or domestic.
The complete admonishing of responsibility of government’s over employment, prioritising strategic alliances which have sweet fuck all to do with the interests of your average Joe is what got us here in the first place. National governments have not existed for some time, and have been ruling on behalf of corporations, not people. (Ok maybe some people. The very very rich ones).
We do not yet know how this election result will play out. But Corbyn now has a mandate to show up every neolibertarian wolf in sheep’s clothing and call bullshit on policies that neither serve the interests of the UK population, or its economy.
How did this happen? Give me a bucket.