On the same day that Theresa May announced the 2017 general election, my Labour Party membership was renewed. This was not deliberate, the money comes out at the same time each year by direct debit, but it brought a sense of certainty to me about the immediate future. The election is happening, I am in the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn is our candidate for Prime Minister. It was a day to acknowledge facts, because facts are stubborn things that, if ignored, go away, get friends, and come back to do you over.
Another fact to be acknowledged is that the outlook for Labour is terrible at best. The atmosphere amongst some of my Labour-supporting friends is like that in a trench before a World War One advance: eventually we will have to put our heads above the parapet to be shot down.
A poll published a few days before the election was called put Labour 21 points behind the Tories. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the Conservatives are going to win a thumping majority. Speaking as a citizen of London, the level of smugness coming from the home countries is palpable.
For years I believed that the radical left could win power if it was given a chance. If a major political party adopted a genuinely left wing approach of standing up to the people who fuck us all over, rather than shaking their heads and accepting the fucking with a little less glee than other parties, then why wouldn’t people support it? The only obstacle to this was voters’ support for being fucked over, aka accusing anyone opposed to the status quo as “anti business”.
Today the iron rule that has govern politics for decades is broken. It is no longer electoral suicide to be labelled ‘anti-business.’ I cannot think of anything that would be worse for UK Plc (I physically shuddered writing that) than Brexit, i.e. the top priority of the Tory government. The cocaine and Champagne cocktails must really be getting to the bosses of the capitalist class if they are throwing their lot in with the Tories on this one. For the first time in my life the voters are willing to put other priorities ahead of what’s best for people who are already really wealthy - but the left has never been further from power.
Meanwhile Corbyn, the great white hope of the radical left, is himself adopting policies from Ed Miliband’s leadership. If the Lib Dems can come back from their 2015 hammering by adopting the unpopular position of being anti-Brexit, and Scottish Tories can come back from near extinction through supporting Unionism despite Scottish fervor for independence, why can’t Corbyn use this apocalyptic moment to stand for something really radical? Like everyone who votes Labour gets to personally kick a banker in the nuts? What does he think he has to lose?
There is also the issue that Corbyn has failed to reform the party to ensure greater debate and internal democracy. The Labour Party needs reform if it is going to be able disagree with parts of itself without self-destructing, however, the entire Corbyn project is invested in one person. Socialists who chided Miliband for being too moderate are championing the same polices under Corbyn. Why? Because it’s the person that they care about more than the policy.
All of this is mainly the fault of Corbyn himself. As leader he bears responsibility for the party and the movement that he heads. It is an understatement of the century to say that opportunities have been missed in the last 2 years.
Corbyn has become of the focus of the left in British politics today to the point where the idea of Corbyn was become divorced from the man himself. From people who wanted politics to be a bit more genuine to anarchists who wanted radical new powers for local communities, all of these hopes have become bound up in one man.
This is partly because, in 2015, we were desperate to take anything that wasn’t Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Tweedledipshit (I’ll leave you to work out who is who). Three candidates whose reaction to the awfulness of the 2015 defeat was become either more awful, or more boring than cream-coloured wallpaper. There seemed to be no viable alterative to Corbyn as a means of change - and in June, there will be no viable alternative to the status quo at all. We have failed to build a movement for change, and have instead adopted one individual as a symbol for so many different fights against the establishment.
There are a lot of good, passionate, interesting people supporting Corbyn because they want change. I mean this in terms of politicians, journalists and ordinary people. Many cannot see his flaws, because he has ceased to be a person and has became a vessel for everything we want to be different. Now some of us are taking a look at that vessel and have seen that it was never fit for purpose, but it is too late.
All of this leaves me depressed about the future of the country and the left. The Conservatives will be in power, with a huge majority and can use Brexit to remake the country as the rainy version of Singapore where the unemployed dance for the amusement of tax dodgers, and being caught not wearing union flag underwear carries the death penalty.
What happens to the left, post Corbyn? A lot of people will collapse into complete cynicism about politics and try their best to destroy the Labour party through infighting in retaliation for it being not good enough to deliver all their hopes and dreams. Some will search for a new vessel and repeat a process that is doomed to failure from the start. The smart people will look to build the movement that we needed and desperately lacked in 2015, however it will be against a backdrop of utter hopelessness.
The Labour Party is in a terrible state. By glancing down the thoroughly unrepresentative sample of the people posting in my Facebook feed, I can see that support for the party is at an all time low. I have already seen former Labour supporters talking about voting Tory, because what the world needs is more cynical, middle class, centre-right people. Many more saying they will vote Lib Dem, because we also need politicians with the moral fibre of used toilet paper.
The likelihood of all the awful things happening in the year future seem as certain as the fact that a general election will take place in May or that I will have some craft beer over the weekend. These events are moving toward us at a steady and unstoppable pace as inevitably as one day following the next, or Brewdog taking all of my money. For now the facts are that an election is coming, Corbyn is the Labour leader and I am in the Labour Party. Depending on what happens in the next year I might not be renewing my party membership. All in all, this is certainly a depressing beginning to a campaign.