Monday, November 2, 2015

Why the Labour Party doesn't need even more Tristram Hunts


Tony Blair and Gordon Brown usurped the Labour Party back in 1994 and promised Rupert Murdoch that they would continue pushing Thatcherite economics in return for support from his vast media empire. Ever since then the party has been infiltrated by ever more self-serving careerist politicians with no real interest in the actual purpose of the Labour Party, and very little in common with the ordinary Labour voter. Perhaps the most glaring example of this kind of out-of-touch self-serving careerist is the former shadow education secretary and current self-appointed anti-Corbyn spokesperson Tristram Hunt.

Tristram Hunt comes from a wealthy establishment family, his father having been handed a seat in the unelected House of Lords by Tony Blair in 2000. In 2010 Hunt junior was handed the super-safe Labour seat of Stoke Central, which is an area with which he had no connection whatever. Hunt grew up in Cambridge, went to an exclusive private school in London, studied at university in Cambridge and has worked as a lecturer in London since 2001. In fact, before being parachuted in there, Hunt had more connection to Chicago, Illinois (where he studied briefly) than he did with Stoke-on-Trent.

Shadow education ineptitude

Before being parachuted into his super-safe Labour seat in Stoke, Hunt was best known as a TV historian, so perhaps the fact that he had some kind of rudimentary public profile is the reason that he was given the incredibly important role of shadow education secretary after just three years as an MP? Whatever the case, he was utterly inept at it, letting Michael Gove's ideological vandalism of the state education system go virtually unchallenged.

Of course Hunt wasn't the only one of Ed Miliband's shadow minister to do an utterly feeble job of holding the Tories to account. When Iain Duncan Smith was found guilty of unlawful abuse of the unemployed, the shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne let him write his "get out of jail free" card by allowing him pass some vile retroactive workfare rules as emergency legislation, and history must surely judge Ed Ball's austerity-lite economic agenda as one of the most inept and ill-conceived election strategies in modern political history.

Hunt's performance as shadow education minister was particularly inept though because of the severity of the Tory ideological lunacy being imposed on our schools and the fact that Michael Gove was spectacularly unpopular with the teaching profession and public alike. Instead of attacking what the Tories were doing Hunt actually ended up agreeing with most of it, and letting them completely off the hook.

Petulance

Tristram Hunt showed how much of a petulant mentality he has when he ruled himself out of ever serving in Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet, and has continued to demonstrate his petulance with regular toy-throwing tantrums about the fact that Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour Party leadership.

Instead of trying to constructively push the party in the kind of direction he would like, he's chosen to have repeated hissy fits and refused to play at all, preferring to throw bizarre childish tantrums on the sidelines in the vain hope that everyone will stop playing and begin celebrating him as the visionary champion that brought the "terrible" game of Labour Party democracy to an end.

Tristram Hunt has no qualms about continually attacking the Labour Party leadership in the vain hope that the Labour Party membership will meekly hand control of the party to his right-wing Blairite faction of the party.

Poor judgement

Tristram Hunt was one of the small clique of right-wing Labour MPs who backed Liz Kendall to lead the party. The fact that she came fourth and last in the Labour leadership contest with just 4.5% of the vote (as compared to Corbyn's 59.5%) just goes to show how out of touch Hunt is with the party he supposedly represents. 

Hunt speaks on behalf of the tiny minority within the Labour Party who believed that Ed Miliband failed to become prime minister not because he spectacularly failed to offer a clear alternative to Tory austerity, but because he didn't ape Tory party policy quite closely enough.

Social Media

One of the most blatant examples of Tristram Hunt's cluelessness is the utter contempt he has for social media. Instead of marvelling at the immense power of social media to dissect and destroy the right-wing pro-Tory narratives that so utterly dominate in the mainstream press, he has nothing but suspicion for social media, even claiming that social media has been guilty of disconnecting Labour from the public!

Instead of looking at the role social media played in countering the relentless tide of establishment anti-Corbyn propaganda (which was ubiquitous from the Daily Mail to the Guardian) and mobilising hundreds of thousands of people to vote for Corbyn, he's desperate to attack it. 

Instead of realising that intelligent use of social media represents an unprecedented opportunity to break the right-wing stranglehold on British political discourse, Hunt sees it as a dangerous threat to be condemned and belittled because it resulted in an outcome he was afraid of (the Labour Party shifting to the left, not even further to the right as he would have liked).

Public Services

Tristram Hunt is also prepared to launch desperately misleading public attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in order to undermine his leadership.

The overwhelming majority of the British public believe that essential public services like the NHS, the energy companies, the rail network and the Royal Mail should be run as not-for-profit public services. That Corbyn has been talking about renationalisation of public services is a demonstration that he's actually far more tuned in to what ordinary voters want than any other mainstream party leader in the last two decades. However, instead of lauding Jeremy Corbyn for giving the public a bit of what they want, Tristram Hunt has actually launched public attacks on Corbyn for having supposedly "marched decisively away from the views of voters" when it comes to public services!

One explanation for getting this issue so completely backwards this seems to be that he thinks that public opinion can be used interchangeably with the free-market fanaticism of the right-wing press barons. 

Another explanation is that he knows perfectly well that Corbyn is marching decisively towards the views of voters when it comes to public services, but his desire to undermine and overthrow Corbyn trumps observable reality, so he just decided to lie about it.

The one percenters

One of Hunt's most bizarre bits of backwards thinking was his assertion to a bunch of Cambridge students that by engaging with the public on social media, the Labour Party risks becoming a "sect", and that the solution to that problem is for the "top 1%" to take control of the Labour Party in the future.

It's utterly bizarre that Hunt thinks that a Labour Party with more paid up members than it's had for decades which is finally beginning to realise the awesome power of social media to erode the dominance of the right-wing media, is in danger of becoming a "sect". Even more bizarre is his proposed solution of disempowering the Labour Party membership by filling the party leadership with even more Oxbridge educated elitists like himself, and by abandoning efforts to use social media to engage with the public.

Which sounds more like a "sect"? A party led by a guy who goes on endlessly about giving more power to ordinary people to make important decisions, or a party led by a self-appointed clique of expensively educated one percenters?

Entitlement

What's even more appalling than Hunt's appallingly inept display as shadow education secretary, his bizarre public displays of backwards thinking and his staggeringly petulant reaction to things not going exactly his way, is his sickening sense of entitlement.

His comments about how the Labour Party needs to be run by the "top 1%", (as represented by Cambridge graduates like himself) illustrate his mentality. He believes that him, and people like him, have a natural entitlement to run the show, and he's clearly furious that uppity ordinary people have ignored his superior wisdom and overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn as their leader, rather than Liz Kendall (who got less than one vote for every 13 Corbyn did).

Instead of taking this walloping defeat with a bit of good grace, Hunt has been carping from the sidelines ever since. Instead of trying to learn the lessons of such a tremendous defeat for the most right-wing elements of the Labour Party, Hunt has vented his fury at ordinary Labour Party members and condemned the use of social media, because it's always easier to lash out like that than to admit that your own ideas were desperately unpopular.

Tristram Hunt clearly considers himself to be the kind of "top 1%" Cambridge graduate who has a natural entitlement to run the Labour Party if he chooses to, but his behaviour clearly indicated that he's actually nowhere near that smart. The most intelligent people don't go in for embarrassing public displays of petulance and blatantly backwards thinking. Neither do they attempt to pin blame on utterly bizarre things (like the use of social media) in the wake of resounding defeats, rather than trying to learn lessons about what they themsleves got so badly wrong.

Leadership

The fact that someone like Tristram Hunt rose so far in the Labour Party to begin with is an indicator of how desperately short of genuine talent the party has become (as a result of marginalising anyone who dared oppose the Blairite orthodoxy over the last two decades).

Hunt's performance as shadow education minister was abject; his decision to back Liz Kendall for Labour leader showed how out of touch he is with the party he supposedly represents; his refusal to participate in front bench politics demonstrates how childishly petulant he is; and his constant carping from the sidelines with displays of absurd backwards thinking illustrate the fact that he's nowhere near as brilliantly intelligent as he imagines himself to be.

I think it's entirely reasonable that people might have doubts about whether Jeremy Corbyn can be an effective enough leader of the Labour Party to overcome the awesome power of the right-wing press. Corbyn has got off to a reasonable start as Labour leader, but he's got an awful lot left to prove to his doubters. However, anyone who imagines that the rise of out-of-touch entitlement driven elitists like Tristram Hunt would represent a more effective opposition to the Tories must be as terminally confused about politics as Hunt is himself.

The Labour Party doesn't need an influx of new Tristram Hunts. What it actually needs is an awful lot fewer of them, and more people from ordinary backgrounds in positions of leadership.



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