crowdsourcing politics – corbyn playing games or a real game-changer?

This has just popped into my inbox.

Labour's crowdsourcing of PMQs

It’s official stuff from Labour, barely hours after Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election; pretty complex and strategic long-burn stuff too.

I wonder how many people within the Party have been spending precious resource in the full knowledge that Corbyn was going to win.  I also wonder how it’s been enabled, exactly.  How it’s been coordinated.  How they knew before anyone knew.

Stuff I’m not privy to, of course.  Stuff I have no data about.

Anyhow.  Dan Hodges – well-known loyal Labourite that he is – reacts thus:

And then proceeds to tweet this:

It seems to me he has a point in both tweets, but at the same time completely – surprisingly – misses the point as well.

The point being?  Corbyn beat the Blairites hands-down on precisely the ground they had once made their own:

You never beat a governing party before you beat your own.  That’s the way of politics.  Alastair Campbell, more than anybody surely, should be fully aware of this fact.

That in the midst of their sense of foggy impotence, perhaps rightly felt too (only time will tell), Hodges, Campbell, Rob Marchant & Co should – in a sense – be blaming the voters for treading where only political fools have ever gone is the most surprising thing about this astonishing election process.

For Corbyn didn’t win because the voters allowed themselves to be duped.  Corbyn and his team won – will continue to win, if they continue to do so – by the same process and journey Blair et al went through as they won all the times that Campbell properly reminds us of:

  1. within their Party, gaining the foothold on power;
  2. still to be seen of course, negotiating high internal expectations with growing and complicated realities;
  3. one day going to the country, and battling the ranged forces of media hostility, own goals to be committed (as we all end up doing), and the long ragged wearinesses of any general election;
  4. showing themselves actually capable of delivering what they eventually choose to widely promise.

Whilst the Blairites (if it is at all fair to reduce them to what now feels such a disrespectful and limiting noun) are hating the size of the victory, and find grace in defeat so challenging, at least today, at least for now, they may nevertheless have a longer-term point in their autumnal discontent.  But whilst they continue not to recognise that Corbyn has beaten them on the patch they never expected to lose over – audience understanding and connection, the machine of their politics, technical efficiency and a sheer overall competence – they will never be in a position to be able to accurately predict whether Corbyn’s Labour will win or not.

And in their lack of humility and objectivity one might also wonder if they would now prefer that such a Labour lost the next general election than won, hands-down, the eternal duel fought across the writhing bodies of us haplessly confused voters.

Not because Corbyn’s policies were better either – rather, simply because his political nous, the machinery I mention above, was ultimately able to out-New Labour everything the Blairites had once laboured for so brilliantly.

Isn’t it, then, possible and fair to suggest, Dan & Fam, that Corbyn won not because the voters were dumb, empty-headed or simplistic but, far more likely, because – in quite neutral terms – his campaign was by far the most politically effective and intelligent since the Blairites themselves showed us how it should be done?

And to be honest, if that’s the case, whilst crowdsourcing the very short and silly game that is Prime Minister’s Questions to half a million of your voters is hardly a sincere and truthfully useful game-changer (how on earth will anyone expect for their point of view ever to get through to Parliament itself?), as a way of a) ingratiating yourself with your recent voters (the very day he’s voted in, Corbyn’s already connecting directly) at the same time as b) putting the PM on the back foot (any stupid jokes Cameron makes as his wont will now generate headlines about his lack of respect for painful questions asked on behalf of pain-ridden people), it all goes to clearly demonstrate that Corbyn’s Labour will be anything but naive lead-weighted monolithic leftishnesses.

What Dan & Fam really fear, I think, though I don’t know if they’ve realised it consciously yet, is that Corbyn’s team have read Machiavelli (or is that Mandelson?) from cover to cover – to cover to cover to cover.

In this sense, Dan doesn’t really fear that Labour will lose against Cameron.

Dan really fears Labour’s on the road to beating him.

so was austerity designed to stop or promote unconditional basic incomes?

More of these stories appear by the minute.  This from Finland, for example, has been rumbling away for a while:

The growing demand for a solution to austerity economics seems unstoppable – and in many parts of the world, unconditional basic incomes (UBI) are gaining ground.

In the eyes and on the tongues of the chattering classes, at least.

I’ve already argued elsewhere that UBI – and its guaranteed income streams, both for essentials as well as items of a more luxurious nature – could mean the end of traditional business models, in particular for the content industry:

Once #UBI comes in, tech, food, leisure and car corps will of course benefit from such predictable spending. But in every big change in society, someone always will lose out. And in this particular case it will surely be the content industry as it currently stands. Who’ll need paid-up journalists – or even a resource-hungry ad-plagued website – when volunteers, using cheap or zero-cost social media, tablets, smartphones and PCs they inevitably have for other purposes, can supplement their guaranteed income from the state with other activities of such a pleasurable and community-focussed nature?

And so seeing how, in this way, UBI would suit significant parts of the techie sides of big-business capitalism down to the ground, I automatically assumed that austerity’s promoters and sponsors were working in cahoots with the aforementioned big business.

But now I’m not so sure.

Let’s analyse what the Tory-led government here in the UK was doing since 2010.  That is to say, demonising the poor, in particular those dependent on state benefits, to such an extent that they have ultimately been blamed for the supposedly parlous state of the wider economy.

Yes.  Many have explained the strategy away as a distracting action to divert attention from the truly culpable individuals and orgs, mainly involved in the murky ins and outs of the financial services sector.  But it’s an awfully complex movement of smoke and mirrors, simply to hide from the public what they already know, fully know, to be the truth: rich people like rich people, and want to remain rich in the future.

Why go to all that trouble, knowing the British are always going to tend to put up with a helluva lot more than that?  Revolution and riots – with very few exceptions – are simply not what the long-suffering inhabitants of these islands get up to.

I think those who plan these things, or at the very least think carefully beforehand, are aware that the right wing of any politics – never mind that of the British body politic – would lose all reason to exist, absolutely entirely, if unconditional basic incomes became par for the course.

It’s not the redistribution of money that would destroy the right wing either.  No.  It’s simply the opportunity to turn one group of people against the other that would become fairly impossible.

But it’s not only the right wing which would lose out with the introduction of UBI.

Imagine a society where workers no longer needed to unionise.

Imagine a society where work was a weekend break.

Imagine a society where leisure was the 9 to 5.

Imagine a society where the sacred bond between jam tomorrow and striving today was broken forever more.

It’s not just the right which is looking to promote – and needs to perpetuate – austerity.  It’s also a certain group on the left which can’t believe in a civilisation where we actually spend most of our time carrying out civilised acts of gentlenesses, kindnesses, love, humour and discussion.

Where leisure and pleasure rule over dialectic and critique.

Where people can do what actually makes them happy … and not what makes them tiresomely weary.

In truth, if UBI came in, the political classes would lose huge rafts of control over us.  For one thing, the economic decisions which always augur “tough medicine” would no longer need to be boorishly wheeled out.  The rich would remain rich of course, but who’d care if we received the humane minimum which we’d need to live and let live?  And all kinds of new systems of time banks, maybe even barter, the virtual exchange of services and products for sure, would sprout up in hyperlocal communities, as little people decided to remain little in the full knowledge that happiness was far more important than the accumulation of unnecessary wealth.

Meanwhile, aspiration would be seen to be the empty and hollow concept it’s probably always been all along.  Instead of being a political tool to fashion a vacuous lottery of material futures, designed principally to keep ordinary people under the lock and key of consumerism, we could see our way through to reforging its nature so that financial measures were no longer the definers of our lives.

Austerity as a kickstarter for getting UBI in place more quickly?  Maybe, a tad cruelly in the event, for some it has been so after all.

Maybe they thought, in the beginning anyway, that more good would eventually come out of the process than bad.

But more and more, I’m beginning to think that at least with respect to its purely political promoters – not necessarily transnational businesspeople either but, rather, those very vested national interests whose positions in society depend entirely on keeping otherwise rounded people in preordained and squarely painful boxes – much of austerity has been aimed at constructing a firewall around predictable changes to a society whose nature could be turned utterly upside down … especially if work was no longer to be a political tool of control, nor human dignity’s denial a way of keeping the workers fearful and down.

why i’d like tom watson to be leader and stella creasy to be deputy #labourleadership

Tom Watson has a moral leadership that smacks in no way of moralistic leadership.  There are too many self-righteous people in politics at the moment for us to want any more – yet doing the right things properly, and learning from mistakes where made, are surely what we should be looking for in future leaders.

Humility is hard won and easily lost, but after his battles with the empire of the Murdochs, for all the right reasons and properly, and in a horrifyingly developing aftermath still developing horrifyingly with respect to VIP paedophilia, Watson is still more humble than most of us would be in similar circumstances – as well as focussed, also still, on the task of improving a whole society in complex and far-reaching ways few of us will ever get to perceive.

To know the awful underbelly of a body politic and yet, even so, to love it enough to want to save it from itself – without falling into the trap of a public, and self-publicising, self-righteousness – is achievement indeed.

And it ennobles him.

So rather than Deputy Leader, I’d like to vote for him as Leader.  (Even as this voting for a leader in general goes against my grassroots impulses and instincts – but more of this below …)

Where Blair, David Miliband, Liz Kendall et all were tempted/might be tempted some day down the line to tread, I think it difficult to contemplate that Watson would do the same.

He deserves a chance; we deserve that he has that chance too.

Stella Creasy has a shorter trajectory as befits her relative chronology, but has similarly been placing example before fine words.  This may lose her the Deputy election – or not; I don’t know – but, as a longer-term strategy, can only operate in the same way as Watson’s: don’t tell people what you want to do; show them instead … in fact, take the time you need – and the time your people need.

Choose your targets politically and humanely, both.

Get on with the job in hand.

Lead by that example I describe.

Lead through a careful seeding of actions.  Like growing turf over time, not laying it overnight.

Think first in private; develop your ideas in a slow-burn and sophisticated way.  Sophisticated in the sense of coherent, cogent and careful, though – not in the sense of wonkish.  Not any more.

Then primarily do and demonstrate them in practice, whether people understand yet – or not – how far ahead you’re headed.

For me, it’d be a wonderful start to a renewing Labour if Tom Watson ended up Leader and Stella Creasy ended up Deputy.  We’d then have what I’ve asked of Twitter today:

Perhaps (yes, I can see you’re desperate to do so) you would argue that Jeremy Corbyn combines the twin virtues of, on the one hand, moral leadership and, on the other, grassroots adherence – that is to say, all in one?  The easy answer too, maybe, to the tweet in question – and the conundrum I pose implicitly?

I’m not sure I’m going to allow you to convince me.  I suspect, when history one day gets told, that Corbyn’s campaign will be seen more as employing the kind of machine-politics tools we once loved about New Labour.  More rigid in its values, mind – in the sense of never swerving from them, ever – but then again, I never liked Thatcher … precisely because I’ve always valued fudge.

It seems more human, more necessary, more appropriate for complex times … where the simpleness of black and white only hurts those of us who vote hopefully for them.


My choice is cast, and cannot be cast.  My dream ticket is Tom & Stella.  But Labour is unable, for me, to deliver.

At least this time round, anyhow.

At least in 2015.

What should I do?  Vote for no one this month – and wait a couple of years in hope, for another chance?

What say you – Tom and Stella?

What should I do?