Thursday, 7 November 2019

Why genuine 'centrists' should be backing the left

For the last nine years Britain has been charging headlong to the far-right, with one increasingly militant Tory government after another.

In 2010 the Lib-Dems enabled the Tories back into power for the first time in 13 years, and the results were disastrous. The Lib-Dems voted through every single piece of wanton Tory ideological malice, including the austerity fanaticism that trashed our living standards and laid the groundwork for the Brexit backlash to happen.

The Lib-Dems love to pretend that they were some kind of wonderful moderating force, but the truth is easy to find. If we look at the absolute worst stuff the austerity coalition did, Lib-Dem fingerprints are all over all of it: Austerity fanaticism, unprecedented wage repression, disability persecutionNHS privatisation, catastrophic local government cuts, Bedroom Tax, 75% of secondary schools in England privatised, Theresa May's unlawfully racist Hostile Environment ...

And to make matters even worse leading Lib-Dems actually took personal responsibility for delivering the absolute worst of it, the most egregious examples being Vince Cable's outrageous decision to flog off our Royal Mail at miles below its true value to a bunch of city spivs, and Jo Swinson doing nothing whatever to stop the imposition of unlawful tribunal fees, despite being Employment Minister in the austerity coalition!

Things did get even worse after the Lib-Dem collapse in 2015 as the unrestrained Tories intensified the already unprecedented rate of privatisations, and imposed the most brutal social security cuts in the history of the welfare state, but it's beyond obvious that things could never have even got to that stage without the deliberate calculated collusion of the Lib-Dems.

Then in 2016 the Tories gambled away the nation's future on a ludicrous Brexit referendum in which the Leave option was left entirely undefined, allowing Brexiteers to cynically promise voters the moon on a stick, with absolutely no intention of following through on their false promises.

The day after his gamble backfired Cameron was gone, replaced by the fanatically right-wing wannabe tyrant Theresa May, who had all the hard-right politics, inflexible stubbornness, control-freakery, and authoritarianism of an all-powerful autocrat, but thankfully not the competence, or self-awareness, or discipline to actually follow through on her outrageous threats, or actually 'crush the saboteurs'.

May did manage to inflict even more ideological damage during her two year reign, not least her decision to starve the NHS of new recruits by wantonly scrapping NHS bursaries, creating a ticking time bomb of a recruitment crisis that will destroy the NHS if it is not resolved soon.

And now we have Boris Johnson, who is so wilfully intent on pandering to the far-right ultranationalist demographic that stalwarts of Conservatism who backed all of the austerity fanaticism, and wage repression, and welfare vadalism, and disability persecution, and public service cuts, and infrastructure under-investment are now fleeing the party in droves in absolute disgust at what it's becoming, including Johnson's own brother Jo.

It's mind-bogglingly obvious that the UK needs to rapidly abandon this race to the extreme-right fringe and reset back towards the centre ground. It's equally obvious that it's literally impossible to move away from the territory of the hard-right without moving somewhat to the left.

Thus there are actually two kinds of 'centrists'. One type who recognise the obvious truth that the UK needs to move significantly leftwards in order to gravitate back towards the traditional centre ground, and another smug, complacent, orthodox neoliberal bunch who just want to pause where we are with a "more of the same" agenda, enjoy the trappings of power for a few years, and then hand deliver power back to the next hard-right government that comes along.

The problem of course is that there's no commonly understood distinction between these two different kinds of 'centrism'.

There are those 'centrists' who believe in the mixed economy of socially owned infrastructure and services, and privately owned but well-regulated businesses, who believe Britain has gone way too far to the right.

And there are those 'faux centrists' who believe in always standing just a couple of milimetres to the left of the Tory party, no matter how far off to the crackpot far-right extreme they've gone, and never shifting an inch back towards where the traditional centre actually used to be.

Unfortunately an awful lot of the second kind of 'centrist' have made their home in the Liberal Democrats, hoping to turn it into a Conservatives MkII party to hold firm on the hard-right political territory, to keep the crushing living standards-destroying austerity coming, to keep the tax dodge loopholes open for the benefit of their mega-rich backers, and to keep annihilating the wages and working conditions of ordinary working people under the utterly misguided delusion that the best way to make the rich richer, is to force the poor and ordinary into destitution.

I'm as guilty as anyone for vehemently condemning this kind right-wing faux 'centrism', and maybe genuine 'centrists' who do actually recognise the need for a dramatic leftward turn back towards the centre ground might have felt caught in the crossfire as the left have repeatedly slammed the faux 'centrists' for their ludicrous pretence that their pro-austerity, pro-privatisation, anti-worker, welfare-vandalising, infrastructure under-investing, hard-right fanaticism is anywhere near the legitimate political centre.

I'm sorry if this is the case, and people who just wants things to return to normality feels caught in the crossfire.

It's just that 
a bunch of right-wing neoliberal militants intent on creating a veneer of legitimacy for their radical hard-right agenda by pretending that it's some kind of moderate, mainstream, centrist philosophy have stolen the positioning of legitimate 'centrists', who do actually recognise the need to rebalance somewhat towards the left.

Any legitimate 'centrist' really has to understand that millions of people in Britain literally can't afford yet more years of "more of the same" neoliberal orthodoxy shamelessly disguised as 'centrism'.

We need fundamental change to undo some of the worst hard-right excesses of the last decade; investment instead of austerity, a well earned wage rise for British workers, restoration of the wantonly vandalised social safety net, de-privatisation of police, hospitals, schools, and prisons, and de-centralisation of political power ...

Legitimate 'centrists' should be saying "no bloody way" to Jo Swinson and the Lib-Dems' transparent efforts to restructure their party as Conservatives 2.0 disguised as 'centrism' to dupe the gullible, and "yes please" to Labour's strategy of actually investing in Britain's future, and undoing as much of the hard-right Tory damage as they can.

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JMonaghan said...

I have a younger sister who proclaims to be a 'centrist'. But given the evidence, I think she's one of those faux centrists you described.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure if you tell her you've labelled her as such, assumed her entire political outlook then tell her she's fake she'll magically switch to Labour. It's the sort of derision and condescension that's a real vote winner.

Anonymous said...

The UK need to stop this race to the far right fringe and abandon economic policies like austerity by continuing to be part of ... an undemocratic super state that endorses and has pushed austerity onto countries within Europe... OKaaay.