Dancing on the Left

I was obsessed with John Major as a child… Each time he came on the telly I would point and shout out his name. I had no idea who he was or what he did but for some very odd reason I liked him. So you can imagine how horrified I was when he one day disappeared from the television and this smug man who looked every inch the greasy used car salesman started appearing in his place. I hated him… I didn’t know who he was but I didn’t like him for the sole reason that he looked like a smug used car salesman. This was my first glimpse of a little thing we call British politics and what happened the day John Major disappeared from the television was to be a defining moment in my ideological development. I never did like Blair in the end, still don’t. I have always seen him as a seedy individual. As I learned more of what was going on in the political sphere my dislike of him reflected back on the Labour party too. I couldn’t bring myself to like them either…

There was another reason for this- The environment I grew up in. Labour and the Labour Party, and anybody associated with them, were treated as something dirty. Their inevitable arrival on the television or radio (which considering they were in power for all of my adolescence was a lot) was always met with scathing criticism and a torrent of, I suppose, abuse. They were belittled, treated as scum. Their hatred was so bad that I once used the notion that the bastards had voted for Labour during one particularly nasty argument. It was like throwing a large bag of shit at a very powerful fan- The overreaction that followed wasn’t pleasant. Interestingly, the tories were never treated the same way- It was as though they were perfect and everything would be grand and glorious under a tory government. And growing up in this environment it didn’t help my dislike of the Labour Party… It only reinforced my opinions. And eventually it formulated an erroneous idea, that the left wing of politics was something bad. And I started to dislike anything with the idea of ‘left’ attached to it. I began to see it as a kind of boogeyman, something to be feared, something evil.

‘I’ve got a used Fiat round the back… 3000 miles on the clock, one careful owner… Interested?’ (Picture from the Huffington Post)

Obviously however, Blair wasn’t left wing and neither was his Labour Party. It was all about as left wing as Donald Duck’s right arm. I had somehow become encased in the assumption that Labour still represented the working classes, that they were a socialist party. But Blair was nothing more than a tory decked out in red… Many of his hardcore followers were the same, and still to this day are the same. They still dominate the Labour party. What I didn’t understand when I was younger was that British politics is incredibly one sided and has been ever since the dominance of Thatcher, all my life in other words. British politics (and the media) is overwhelmingly dominated by the right. The left is almost none existent. What I was actually disliking all that time, was the right. To be honest, I didn’t understand what ‘left wing’ really meant.

Blair has been gone for eight years now, though he still pops his toxic, gurning head over the parapet every once in a while, and those eight years have cleared the fog caused by my dislike of him and reinforced by the environment I grew up in. The Labour Party are no longer the bad guys. The left is not something to dislike or distrust. In fact I see it far better now, for what it actually is rather than my childhood preconceptions and misunderstandings of it. As I have learnt more about the real world I have learnt that, actually, some left wing ideas are right on the money… Protecting the environment, curbing big business, looking after the little guy and creating a fairer society… Now what is wrong with that? If that’s the left wing then I’ll gladly rip my clothes off in front of it and shout ‘take me I’m yours!’

Which brings me to the political landscape of Britain right now, in the summer of 2015. We stand at the gates of the first Conservative majority since the day John Major vanished from my childhood and things look bleak. I can only feel sorry for those now starting University… These prospective scholars are going to graduate with a small mortgage attached. The rich of the country look set to get richer whilst the poor become more downtrodden and downbeat, squeezed until there is nothing left. And the BBC… It has its issues (whoever is making the trailers at the moments is in serious need of a boot in my opinion) but what, honestly, is the alternative? ITV? ITV hasn’t made a decent programme for years. If the Tories get their way the BBC will be facing serious peril, which is bad news for all of us. The BBC is something we should all be proud of, for where would we be without it? Under Cameron the next five years look dark and uncertain.

But there does appear to be a light shining through all this blackness and it comes from amongst those folk I used to detest- The Labour party. Right now they are rudderless, without a leader since they dropped the large, detrimental boulder that was Ed Miliband and so they are seeking someone new to take charge. Three of the candidates look to be the usual bunch of self centred driveling politicos and I have little interest in any of them. If they got the job they’d need to give me a damn good reason to vote for them before I did so… Otherwise I’m opting for Green or Plaid. The fourth man however… Now he has sparked my interest. He’s a traditional left winger, seems an honest man and yes, whilst he might be a pensioner and will be over seventy by the time of next election, I know that there would be a strong chance that if the wind happened to blow in the right direction at the time of the election I would vote for him. He is Jeremy Corbyn and at the time of writing this article he’s not only in the lead (according to the polls) but he also has the support of the Trade Unions. He supports the idea of renationalization, believes there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to afford the NHS or that it should be in crisis, taxing the rich… He is leaning, in my opinion, in the right direction (which, ironically, is to the left.)

The right have quite predictably come out to rage against him but they’ve offered very little in the way of constructive criticism, calling him a loony and shouting about how he’d be absolutely terrible for the Labour Party… This is despite many of his policies having considerable public support, including reintroducing the 50% tax rate and scrapping trident. It has even caused Blair to raise his toxic head once again, denouncing him as ‘old fashioned.’ This is again, despite the fact that those ‘old fashioned’ policies appear to have public support… Which in today’s Britain is a concept that is completely alien to the name of Tony Blair. In short, Corbyn has been viewed and portrayed by some as the joke candidate, as the outsider without a cat in hell’s chance of winning anything.

Jeremy Corbyn (Courtesy of the Islington Gazette)

But this is my view on the subject… He’ll be the first credible, outrightly left wing leader of a major, nationwide political party for twenty years… And no, I don’t think Ed Miliband counts. According to a quick search, despite his ‘socialist’ policies and nickname of Red Ed, he rests on the right side of the political compass, and Labour as a whole party were still very much on the right. Besides which… Any man who can’t eat a bacon sandwich is hardly ever likely to win an election. The last time anyone got to vote for a true left wing Labour was in 1992. By the time of the next election in 2020 that will have been almost thirty years! It’s even longer since we had a left wing government… Not since Thatcher took over from Callaghan in 1979. You’re looking at forty years of right wing government in Britain. In 2020 nobody under the age of forty five will have been able to vote for a major left wing party. Nobody under the age of fifty (or around that age) will be old enough remember living under a left wing government. That is a sizeable chunk of the population and it may just be the case that all those people will be tempted by this ‘new’ side of politics.

The right wingers of the nation (like the Daily Mail, for example,) will gladly tell you that the left is ‘unelectable’ in Britain, that the British don’t want the left, but I am going to disagree. In England the only left wing parties, at present, are the SDLP and the Greens and neither can really be major political forces. Until the recent election they have not been granted the same attention by the press or the media as the bigger parties. They are quite often seen as fringe parties, always in the background. A Corbyn led Labour will be the first major left wing party in thirty years- And we simply don’t know if the current voting population of England would vote for something like this because they have never had the chance. Such a thing has never been tried. Meanwhile, in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there have been left wing parties and they are incredibly popular… They’re the nationalists- The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fean. People vote for them. People want to vote for them. They win seats. Maybe that’s just because of the whole ‘nationalist’ idea but the point still stands… People are voting for the left. Just look at what the SNP did at the last election… They swept the board right across Scotland! I think therefore it is fair to say, based on that alone, that the left are not ‘unelectable’ in Britain… They’re damn well electable and people will vote for them.

For too long now British politics, overall, has been right wing. I’ve never known it be otherwise… Even as a child when I thought it was left it was really right wing. I’ve never known a left wing government but over the years I’ve looked at them, I’ve studied them. I’ve studied Wilson and Callaghan and Atlee… And two of those men did a fairly decent job. Atlee gave us the NHS and Wilson, for all his faults, was a competent leader of the nation, at least for a time. A left wing government, I think, would be good for us right now. As much as I obsessed over John Major as a child, as much as I hated Blair, despite all those years of hearing Labour shot down and thinking they were the bad guys, if Corbyn gets in I’ll happily dance on the left.


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