What if we are wrong? What if the haters win?

14th March 2016

What if we are wrong? What if the haters win?

In recent months I have spent a lot of time travelling in England, mainly on trains but also on buses, occasional taxis and trams. Being me, one of life’s chatterboxes, I usually find someone to talk to, often three or four someones. Contrary to popular belief people do like chatting. OK, there are a few who move away or shuffle uncomfortably but my experience is that people chat and at the end of a long journey pleasant goodbyes are exchanged. But don’t offer cookies to strangers (a story for another time perhaps).

Topics, not all chosen by me, have ranged from the weather, TV (generally about programmes aired the night before), delays to the journey, the weather (again), cancer  (provoked by a Daily Mail article). The general ‘pub rule’ of never talk about politics, sex or religion appeared to apply to public transport chatter. Until this morning (last Monday If you really want to know) a bloke who appeared to be in his 30s who I had spoken to on a previous journey, asked about Trump. We were two tables of four and I looked at the others. Mary (she wore her employer’s name badge with pride) offered up the first comment “he is awful but he does make me laugh.” As we approached Oxford an elderly bloke suggested that “politicians are all the same these days. Saying stuff to shock. Creating content for the Internet”. I got the impression that he probably blamed the Internet for a lot of things.

The young bloke (Dave I found out later) looked at me and said, “you are quiet today, what do you think?”

In my mind I thought about an answer that explained how I thought politics was in crisis, almost broken but instead I said, “I don’t understand it. A bit like I don’t understand the attraction of Corbyn.” I continued to explain that maybe it was that they are offering something different and maybe that is all people wanted – something a bit different.

By this time we had reached Oxford and as usual the train had arrived early so we had a wait. No-one spoke. It was weird. Then Mary said “Corbyn, I don’t know much about him. He seems a bit boring.” The elderly gent spoke again “Corbyn might be boring but he is thoughtful and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks – I like that in a person. But I couldn’t vote for him. I simply couldn’t”. I asked why. The response came quickly: “if you were in trouble you wouldn’t want him to lead your team – and I want a prime minister I can trust, someone who can lead.”

Dave (quite excitedly) said, “But Trump as President and Corbyn as Prime Minister, can you imagine that?” Our group of eight looked at one another, newspapers were shuffled and eventually the woman in the green coat sitting opposite me said “it won’t happen.” No-one spoke until Dave said, “but if it did it would be crazy.” I responded that I thought both lacked the broad appeal required to win an election. I was talking about Trump; but I had shocked myself.

The train pulled into Hanborough and the elderly gent said a cheery farewell and the rest of us sat and stared at one another. The conversation changed to the weather. The cloudless blue skies, hedgerows and lush green grass seemed comforting. I guess this is the much talked about middle England.

The train, almost lazily it seemed, trundled into Charlbury and the woman in the green coat stood up, smiled and said, “cheer up it won’t happen.” I managed what I hope was a polite goodbye but I was distracted by my thoughts. The remaining members of the group continued to chat but I wasn’t really listening.

What if we (by ‘we’ I mean the woman in the green coat and I) are wrong? I had stopped thinking about Trump. I was thinking about Corbyn. What if it does happen? What then?

Some or all of the above happened on the 06:52 Paddington to Great Malvern and bits were pulled in from various journeys to places I can’t remember or am trying to forget.

My journeys across England have taken me to places I hadn’t previously visited and I am in a place politically that I never expected to be.

One way or another I have been politically active – yes I am one of those activist types – for as long as I can remember. But at the moment there is a lot about politics I don’t like. Maybe I don’t understand it.

Across the Atlantic we hear Trump talking about wanting to “punch people in the face” and encouraging his supporters to remember the olden days when “protesters would be roughed up and carried away on stretchers”. If you are interested in seeing how deliberate his endorsement of violence is then spend 10 minutes watching this.

In the UK our own politics is also in a strange place. We have local elections looming, a referendum on our future in Europe and a Conservative government with large leads in the polls busily undoing everything the New Labour government put in place to make life better and easier for many. In Scotland the SNP surge shows little if any sign of slowing down and rumours from Wales suggest that support for UKIP is rising.

The Labour Party is in turmoil with Ken Livingstone doing his best to be more offensive than Bernard Manning. His latest outburst trivialised the crimes of a vile paedophile by comparing a legal donation to Dan Jarvis MP to Jimmy Savile running a children’s club. If you missed it this was in a bizarre interview with Iain Dale on LBC (you can listen to it here) and it earned him a rebuke from the loyal and hardworking NEC member Johanna Baxter.

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We also have an internal Labour Party enquiry into anti-semitism in our student wing.

And if you think I am exaggerating the problem look at this hate served up to Labour MP Luciana Berger.

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But it isn’t just the Labour Party. All of this is part of a growing trend. Politics is in danger of being about hate and not about ideas or policy. Not just in the UK but throughout the world and I don’t like it. I understand anger. I understand how hate works. But I don’t understand how politics is drifting towards accepting hate as the norm.

But back to the woman in the green coat. What if she and I are wrong? What if the haters win?

Corbyn was swept to victory in the Labour leadership elections promising a “new kind of politics”and the upcoming elections will be the first real electoral test of his appeal. But beyond that I am not sure that what is happening to our politics is what he had in mind. But as sure as Trump threatening to unleash his supporters on rivals encourages a lynch mob, Corbyn’s lack of action against the haters is giving them the nod to continue.

Updated 15 March 

Well, they say a week is a long time in politics but for Labour it seems ten minutes is the longest they can last before another scandal breaks. I don’t doubt for a second that our friends at Guido Fawkes have a whole back catalogue of screen grabs and embarrassing photographs but we can’t complain about that. If the evidence is there it needs to be held up for all to see. As the latest revelations around former parliamentary candidate for Woking Vicki Kirby show, it seems that Labour really does have a hate problem.

But let me be clear, while the current outrage over Kirby’s repugnant views is justified it wasn’t a Corbyn-led Labour Party that allowed her membership to continue with just a warning placed on her file. No, for that we can blame Ed Miliband. Maybe it was panic with an election looming and the need to ditch a candidate with repugnant views; maybe it was a deal – step down without a fuss and we won’t expel you. Whatever the reasons they were wrong. You cannot strike a deal with racists.

For those behind the news on this one, this is a collection of her tweets from 2014 (courtesy of Guido Fawkes)

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Surely no place in the Labour Party for that I hear you shout. But you are wrong. Labour simply says that “if new evidence came to light” they would consider it. And with that statement Kirby remains a member of the Party and decent members are left wondering what you have to do to get expelled these days. Anti- Semite? No problem, slap on the wrist and why not become vice-chair of your local Party? Joke about mental health and Jimmy Savile? Sure Ken, have a seat on the NEC and help us review our foreign policy.

Up and down the country members are asking what the heck is going on. And as sure as night follows day up pops a Momentum cheerleader to tell us:

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Of course Max has no truck with the comments made by Kirby and he soon told us that there was no place in the Labour Party for people who hold such views. But of course before he said that he was thinking about who leaked the information. Full purge ahead Max?

For the record I don’t really care who is leaking what but I do care if Labour is becoming a safe haven for racists and bigots.

Let me be clear: hate speech has no place in the Labour Party (I really can’t believe that I have to say that, but I do). Kirby doesn’t represent Labour values and neither does anyone who seeks to defend her. But this one cannot be blamed on Corbyn. Labour has a hate problem and we need to deal with it.

I will leave the last words to  a tweet from Labour MP Anna Turley which sums it up rather nicely.

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At noon on Tuesday 15 March the Labour Party announced the suspension of Vicki Kirby.

By Tim Carter


Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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17 thoughts on “What if we are wrong? What if the haters win?

  1. I have a slightly different take, I find this article one of the reasons you have such extremes, the centre ground should be a place where compromise leaves you, if you choose to, not a starting point.

    It’s like your idea of leaders, Democracy is supposed to see power vested in the people, instead of each elected individual standing for the make-up of their constituency, you now have this idea of top-down leadership where being in power in a corrupt system is more important than having principles to begin with.

    Jeremy Hunt as a present example, someone who’s in their present position because of their ideology rather than actual experience.

    New Labour epitomise this, decades of neglect were condensed into Benefit payments, as long as you keep your core voters bribed, re-addressing Societies imbalances can wait, New Labour started at the centre, compromised with the right and got burnt.

    Voter who are already desperate will not forgive this, 13 years of New Labour and inequality increased, you can no longer say you were working for the benefit of the workers. 13 years on and the rich are wealthier, banks have just as little regulation and the Tories are busy taking back all the bribes that kept Labour in power.

    A leader embodies the view of the people he represents, he’s not there to convince people to believe in something they don’t, if you do you end up a Universally despised as Tony Blair.

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    • Thanks for the comment.

      Are you really suggesting that the centre ground is responsible for the hate filled rhetoric of the far right and far left. That moderates are to blame for Trump talking of punching people?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, because today’s centre ground isn’t what it was 30-40 years ago, and the left-right split is along economic lines, where the left is the more conservative side.

        This can be seen in pretty simple terms by how policies of the right, policies instigated under Thatcher, and accepted by Blair, are now producing as much anger as they have always done on the left, because there simply isn’t enough money to go around.

        Even if you argue the centre-ground remained static, as population and inequality increased, Labour should have been there to keep pace, to re-address balance.

        How are you oblivious to this ? Left or right, you have massive groups of angry impoverished people who had Austerity enforced upon them, while the moderate line is what, the centre ground is what ? Austerity is needed and the rich need tax breaks to create wealth.

        You could blame Social Media as a catalyst, as a vehicle for mass movements, as a tool for populist incitement, but both sides had to deal with that.

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    • This makes no sense other than to absolve those who hold repugnant views of responsibility for holding them. What else are moderates responsible for? Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia? Seriously Labour and members like yourself need to get a grip. We are talking about adults here – they just have to grow up and take responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So you excuse the hate speech and threats of violence are ok because “there isn’t enough money to go round” even if I agreed with the rest of your response (which I don’t) I would find it hard to offer up any justification for a politician urging or wishing that a violent response to protestors was right or the abuse served up to Luciana Berger

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    • Oh my, Keyser! You seem to be arguing different points from the writer of this post. In fact you seem to be arguing a whole different set of “thinking”. A “let’s blame the previous New Labour (Blair) government for everything” position, even for today’s hatred and violence coming from extremes on both sides. I look forward to your reply to Tim Carter, justifying AGAIN, just so we are sure that’s what you meant, violent reactionaries within democratic politics.

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      • Mate I’d like to talk that’s all, was I rude ? What was wrong with I said ? I think Thatcher began to unravel Society and when New Labour came into power, their hope was that they would turn things around, not compromise, and patch things up while Thatchers financial liberation continued unabated.

        Why are you soo afraid to debate things ?

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        • I think you are confusing me with someone else, mate. I debate willingly. I simply disagree with your simplistic anti-austerity view and with your stating that Tim is driven by “hatred”. John McDonnell will also understand the real financial world eventually, if he ever gets round to working things out. Populism only works if there is no ambition for power.

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        • No Keyser all responses are by real people. As it was my blog post I am responding as me. But my point remains – leaving Trump to one side – how can anything justify the hateful stuff tweeted at Luciana Berger (hint: it can’t)

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    • Even without realising now you’re trying to push me towards an extreme rather than actually debate my point, it’s like dismissing black people who riot as what ? Create your own logical fallacies.

      You’re sitting their saying ‘I don’t understand it..’ any sane person would try, or maybe you’re too consumed by hate to try.

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      • Your response is basically write people off ? Which is the point, you can’t understand someone if you’re not willing to engage with the act or the actual person.

        Or did you just want a general disclaimer ?

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      • ..and then what ? you’ll engage the actual point ? Luciana Berger, No. Trump’s incitement ? No, but I really don’t think you can dismiss their anger on a Yes/No basis. It certainly won’t help you understand it.

        You seem to be quite inhibited.

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        • Thank you now on your point I don’t think that people’s anger should be dismissed or trivialised. I guess the point of my post was to say that no matter how bad things are we mustn’t let hate win.

          Now I am off yo bed as I left home at around 5am and have another early start in the morning.

          We may not have agreed on much but have a pleasant evening.

          Tim

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