It’s the aftermath of the general election. The Conservative party is reeling after losing its majority. Jeremy Corbyn is feeling smug after his enormous late surge. I’m feeling anxious (surprise!) and uncertain. I’m glad the left has done so well, but they still aren’t in a position to form a government. On the News Quiz somebody said that Jeremy Corbyn resoundingly proved wrong all those people who said he couldn’t win an election, without actually winning an election.
I’m cautious in my celebration of this quasi-success. Of course, I applaud much of the Labour manifesto, but there is still much I don’t approve of in Jeremy Corbyn. His apparent support for the more extreme end of the Ulster republicanism is clearly unacceptable. It also highlights exactly my problem with his brand of Labourite socialism: he seems such an old curmudgeon, fixed in a rigid mind-set of outdated Marxist binary oppositions. He has the typical English educated sense of superiority which makes him impose these structures onto everything he sees. He sees the IRA as opposing and challenging the suffocating British establishment, so he assumes they share his Bohemian socialist-libertarian values and beliefs of multi-culturalism and inclusion. If you point out that the IRA are the death squads of xenophobic and oppressive fascistic nationalist dogma, he brushes you off with an entitled disdain: he must know best because he is English. This imposition of his reading onto my country is a form of imperialism.
And this attitude extends to his other policies and beliefs, such as defence. He is, no doubt, a man of principle, but that isn’t the only qualification for running a country. He’s a great back bencher who holds the front-bench to account, and he’s re-set the Labour agenda wonderfully, focussing on some issues of social equality and justice that his party had lost sight of.
However, I am deeply suspicious of the very concept of “class” which underlines pretty much all British political thinking. It seems to be simply a way of “othering” people you don’t like and then dismissing them. No individual could possibly resemble the grotesque parody that class is, with its vast portfolio of characteristics. Class, like the divide between “left” and “right” is made up of vast, clumsy generalisations, far too unwieldy to be useful at all. As an exercise, I think we should all try to avoid any terms that refer to class. I bet we could still say and think everything we wanted, without having to resort to prejudice and stereotyping.
I’m also deeply suspicious of the internet, which Corbyn seems to have utilised so well in mobilising the youth vote. Social media is pernicious and malign, eroding pretty much everything I value. It lends itself not to reasoned debate but to thoughtless, emotional rabble-rousing and firebrand rhetoric. If the Corbynistas have managed to harness this nasty, snarling dark energy in the service of good, then this is only by luck – look at Brexit – the same forces will be lynching Jewish people or burning books tomorrow.
I guess I don’t like tribalism, even the modern, digital, self-determining tribalism of the internet. I’d prefer a society of included individuals with the flexibility to hold individual positions on all sorts of issues. I guess this is why I’m also suspicious of the new LGBT movement. It seems to me that we have been pedalled a very rigid binary concept of gender and sexuality: boys wear blue and girls wear pink. When my daughter was, perhaps, six, she picked a blue bike at the bike shop and was told by a bewildered shop assistant that the girls bikes were over there and were pink. If you are uncomfortable with, or bad at enacting, this stereotype, you are encouraged to be yourself by having years of painful and traumatic invasive surgery to create a botched approximation of the opposite, un-natural stereotype, no doubt generating much wealth for somebody along the way. Why not just let people work out their own likes and dislike, secure in the knowledge that whatever they decide they will be accepted?
Similarly, the term “LGBT community” fills me with foreboding. On the one hand this title has become so inclusive (LGBTI+), that it includes pretty much everybody other than self-proclaimed bigots. On the other, it is fundamentally not inclusive: it is a separate community, a ghetto. The term divides us up into tribes, us and them, and nicely highlights who “they” are. First you usher “them” into their very own ghetto and then, one dark night, you can burn it down.
Finally, this tribalism leads to the appalling two-party confrontational nature of British parliamentary politics, where Jeremy Corbyn can point out, jeeringly, that Theresa May is adopting his party’s policies, and then oppose them because they were proposed by the Conservatives. My solution is to make it illegal for politicians to be members of a political party. Political parties would become lobby groups who could support M.P.s and instruct their members to vote for particular candidates, but the MPs themselves would campaign individually in their constituencies and be elected as individuals to represent them. On entering the house, each new body of MPs would vote for who was to be prime-minister, home secretary and so on. Only at this point would the incumbent administration stand down. This would allow parliament to return to the idea of being a group that works collaboratively to administer the state’s powers and solve its problems, searching for mutual solutions and reaching compromises.