Talking of the current British Labour Party leadership campaign, I tweeted the following a few hours ago:
What did I mean? That the
constant alleged dialogue between leaders and led in this early 21st century wasn’t really moving much beyond kings, queens and serfs: the grand man (now woman too) of history versus the movements of the masses seemed to resolve matters clearly neither one way nor t’other.
This other tweet then came my way this morning. On the back of a Guardian article which headlines its thesis with the idea that Jeremy Corbyn offers his supporters a clarity no one else cares to, Sarah responds thus:
The only clarity being one of permanent opposition.
John Harris does add the following observation of Corbyn, mind (the second part of which is interestingly parenthesised, as if of an easily sidelined importance):
[…] What mattered to them, it seemed, was not how much Corbyn may have taken from Karl Marx but qualities that have as much to do with tone as content, and clearly set him apart from his rivals: clarity, moral oomph and an evident sense of purpose.
(There was a time when Labour’s big figures could combine an emphasis on the pragmatics of power with precisely those things: between 1994 and 1997, Tony Blair was a particularly dab hand. But something about the current Labour generation suggests that knack has been lost and left the vacuum into which Corbyn has happily stepped.)
The parenthesised bit, however, to me anyway, is of an utmost importance. It defines in its description of circles long unsquared – long untouched even – the inevitable decay of Labour and its ability to generate and understand the imaginative power of ideas. In the progressive (ie regressive) inability of left-wing politics to do much more than confusingly ape the right’s apparent juggernauts of righteously received opinion, we can see why it’s so easy for someone like Corbyn to promulgate his own repetitive and recursive policies successfully, as he dresses them up with the humanity we all deserve and hanker after.
For it’s the latter’s wrapping-paper that makes the difference. In everything else – that is to say, in a broadly shared and fundamental lack of any creative approach to policy-development and making – Corbyn differs little from the Tories, Lib Dems or indeed practically any other party currently floating flotsam-like amongst the real and clearly unmet needs of our society.
But in his expressed and manifestly sincere morality, he cannot be matched. And that makes the difference.
In truth, we’ve spent so much time not being properly represented by the (un)representative politics of the past forty years that we’ve probably got used to what we might call a post-politics age: an age where protest substitutes democratic engagement; where, in fact, winning or losing means whatever the result, we all will lose.
In such circumstances, who’d care about the devil’s detail? Hell is our inevitable destination: at least let us adorn the road of good intentions with pleasantries and a sense of decorum.
That is precisely what Corbyn offers us. And it doesn’t matter whether his clarity leads to another ten years of Tory rule, because even if Labour did manage to win a general election one day in the future, most people would continue to suffer the victory of its utter absence of ideas.
The choice today for all of us voting in the Labour leadership campaign is between two sad alternatives:
- left-wing clarity, and ten more years of righteous Tory rule
- right-wing fudge, and ten more years of righteous Tory rule
I do however wonder whether anyone, any one of us, any supporter, member, voter or thinker, might be able to imagine and creatively pursue a third option, occasionally given in previous times: an inclusively humane clarity, and ten more years of Labour government, where government means a collaboration amongst all concerned.
Of collaboration and cooperation we’ve heard precious little. Mainly it’s been big egos trampling on small people.
So in order to achieve some element of power, do we also have to ape the Tories in this?
Or can we begin to re-believe it might be possible to forge our very own way?