‘Picking sides’ – A short reply to Owen Jones

OJElectoral politics, especially in a two-horse race or First Past the Post system, is perhaps politics in its crudest form. They can lead us to uncritical cheerleading, to the politics of ‘lesser evilism’, and putting-up while shutting-up, rather than making nuanced arguments, offering critical support, or demanding policies that are not yet on the table. Resisting this ‘with us or against us’ mindset under Ed Miliband was what brought the Labour Left in from the wilderness, staking out our opposition to austerity, to the legacy of Iraq, and arguing for another way forward for the left. It is in that spirit of rigorous debate and criticism on the left that two articles this weekend, by prominent Labour-supporting (indeed, Corbyn-supporting) journalists, are to be welcomed. Continue reading

Fear is changing sides in Spain

Ken Loach and Owen Jones at Podemos rallyHundreds attended a meeting packed to overflowing – mainly young people, many Spanish – in London this weekend to hear a three-way debate between Owen Jones, Ken Loach and leaders of the new Spanish organisation Podemos, which took five seats in the European Parliament in May just three months after being formed. One of the new MEPs, Tania González Peñas, spoke from the platform.

Podemos (“We can!”) was inspired by the radical left force in Greece, Syriza. It grew out of the mass protests in Spain of the last three years, the Indignados movement. It fought the European election campaign on a tiny budget, much of it funded by small online donations. To universal surprise, it polled 1.2 million votes, drawing considerable support from younger voters, running on an anti-austerity programme that was produced in a way very different to the opaque processes used by the traditional party elites. Continue reading

Capitalism and poverty: what Toby Young doesn’t tell you

ood for a hungry mans soulCut a graph from a leading Washington neoconservative website, paste it onto your Telegraph blog, and tack on a few paragraphs presenting the result as irrefutable proof of the superiority of your preferred economic system. If only all of the enduring arguments of political philosophy could be sorted out as easily as that.

Such was the approach of rightwing journalist and noted free schools entrepreneur Toby Young last week, with the American Enterprise Institute’s claim that capitalism reduced world poverty by 80% between 1970 and 2006 triumphantly brandished aloft as Exhibit A. Continue reading

The left are more realistic about the working class vote than some think

Since the publication of Progress’ Class edition, and the polling that has been done through YouGov, there seems to be some confusion about how the left perceive the voting behaviour of working class people in Britain.

Reading Luke Akehurst’s fair piece on LabourList, aside from the harsh reality-check that working class voters in this country are not all egalitarian socialists, one gets a sense that the Labour left ignores this reality and pursues wrongheaded politics regardless.

I would like to challenge this myth, while exposing the dangers of going too far the other way and pursuing only a politics based on the polls of the day. Continue reading

Owen Jones and the prospects for neo-Bennism

The Daily Express was once the largest circulation newspaper in the world, Frederick Forsyth was once this country’s best-selling novelist, and Labour leftism was once a force that could not ignored. All of these statements, dear younger reader, are astounding but true.

So I was highly amused to see that the website of the has-been tabloid has today published a side-splittingly risible comment piece by the has-been scribbler, making the case that a certain has-been brand of politics is again growing in influence. Please do read it; it is seriously funny, in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way. Continue reading