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Saturday, 30 May 2020
Corbyn Redux
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by Fergus Downie

‘A Corbyn victory is a victory for working men everywhere’. - Letter to the Guardian newspaper November 2018

‘The man’s a twat’ - Caretaker at Sunderland Leisure Centre December 2019, when consulted on voting intentions.

Nowadays everyone saw the disaster coming, and as the Labour party picks off its scabs there is no shortage of accumulated retrospective wisdom on the Corbyn delusion. Were it merely a tactical error, hastily repented, it would scarcely matter. Michael Foot after all led the party to a similarly catastrophic electoral performance in 1983 and for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory Neil Kinnock, the grinning redhead permanently off balance and stumbling from one avoidable gaffe to the next, could probably compete in this hall of shame. Corbyn however is a more sinister individual – and his flaws would not matter as much were they not in some profound sense rooted in the left’s declining moral health. Of this downward slide much ink has been spilled of late and it is to the credit of Tom Bower that his biography of Corbyn connects the personal and the political perfectly, and nowhere more so than in his portrait of the hollow man himself. Reading Dangerous Extremist one gets the impression of a cypher, devoid of any substance beyond the kind of resentments that are wont to animate any commonplace man, and minus even the shallower virtues. Blair may have been a charlatan but this is a recognisably human type and in some measure the vacuity of the political creed even amplified his qualities as a man. Corbyn by contrast comes across as no more than an embodied grievance and in the book there is plenty of unedifying material to confirm the diagnosis. In a party famous for producing very clever leaders – one thinks instantly of Michael Foot and Harold Wilson  - Corbyn, even on the most generous interpretation, emerges as an embarrassing lightweight, flunking out of North London polytechnic after an aborted stab at a Trade Unions degree and displaying nothing in his hinterland that suggests this lack of achievement was the result of a pedagogic injustice. Blair’s lack of reading as we saw attracted a wide arc of fire and he clearly fell well short of the exacting standards set by Roy Jenkins, but with Corbyn even the unflattering epithet of charlatan aims a little too high. Blair at least had a superficial understanding of deeper ethical concepts – without it he would have been unable to muse so ostentatiously on the categorical imperative - Corbyn by contrast showed little grasp even having read Marx’s more accessible essays and having stumbled on a creed through thinly disguised resentments rather than ratiocination he never had to wrestle with the obvious errors. For him there were no axioms just felt needs, and throughout his political career he has combined these luxuriating sentiments with a startling lack of intellectual or practical felicity.

Eric Hoffer in his penetrating critique of the appeal of mass movements noted the type well. Amongst those who could not find release in productive labour, the appeal of some ill-bred socialism would be irresistible and Corbyn whose life has been consumed by relentless episodes of student agitprop is an abject example of where it all leads. All in all, few subjects are better suited to the genre of pathography. In the 70s when he came of age there were nevertheless plentiful diversions for someone of his ilk. After a comfortable middle class childhood in the shires, his first contact with the adult world was a gap volunteer year in Jamaica, where, equipped with one of the worst academic resumes any half man could sport, he reduced himself to a quivering ineffectual wreck in a forlorn attempt to plant wisdom in impressionable minds. Kingston College, to Corbyn’s horror was not receptive to white guilt and overflowing with students turned out in pressed khaki intent on learning under the forbidding glare of inspiring Latin achievements mottos. Fortis cadere cedere Non Protest translates as The Brave May Fall but Never Yield, Corbyn never quite made the mark and after fleeing from unruly children the ill fated ‘Beard man’ appears to have consumed himself in the predictable middle class vocation of gritty tourism. Whether he actually took part in protest marches in Chile is beside the point, his interest in revolutionary Marxism and slum missionary work was clearly set and the facts are less important than what they reveal about his ambitions as a man. When he returned to his parents at the age of twenty his mental furniture was to all intents and purposes fully formed and his whole life has been marked by the same vuoyeristic psychology he put to work in the colonies. He needed to pay his way all the same. Fortunately for him, the world of salaried activism was one of the few growth industries in Britain at the time. The disappointments nevertheless mounted with each contact with reality. His first paid outing was as a ‘research assistant’ in the National Union of Tailor and garment Worker’s union in Hoxton and it is fitting that his first failures should have been wrought from a predominantly Jewish workforce.

Corbyn was gripped by the spectacle at first, here was inner city misery worthy of his virtue and he later romanticised his experience as a heroic one pursuing the feral and predatory rich through Companies House records after they cheated workers of their wages. By the recollections of his boss it was all a fantasy. He barely had a single contact with the workers, and even if he did he would have found the root causes of poverty prosaic. As his boss Alec Smith noted, the clothing industry was a tough business in the 70s and the poverty of the workers owed more to hard trading conditions than unscrupulous employers. Textiles was a Victorian industry in the process of being outsourced to the far east, and if the huckstering Shylocks Corbyn conjured up in his imagination were so thin on the ground that they needed to be invented, the workers, with their aspirations towards suburban respectability, would have been an even greater anti-climax. When he actually found a shtetl revolutionary in the shape of Mick Mindel he would have found to his horror that as a delegate to the World Jewish Congress he was also a Zionist (of the employers need I even mention that like so many Jewish businessmen, they were impeccably left wing in any case).

As Mindel tactfully noted he ‘didn’t have a chance to shine’ but in his next opening as a researcher at Associated Engineering Workers Union he fared little better. Fired for his inadequate research skills and constant diversions on anti-Vietnam marches he managed to hold water as a NUPE official even if he needed reminding that being permanently scruffy and ill-kempt is frowned upon by the respectable working class. Here, sartorial faux pas aside, he was able to prove his worth with council workers used to holding the public to ransom. As a researcher his academic skills found him wanting, as an official tasked with recruiting and organising members he was a natural.  Here his meagre intellectual talents were no handicap and the results were impressive. Along with the day job Corbyn soon became the driving force behind his local Labour party branch in the London borough of Haringey and its membership swelled ominously with Trotskyite cranks, whose agendas were fired more by the pursuit of global justice than the tawdry materialism of the local poor. Unless that is they happened to be his members. Given the sheer size of local authority payrolls in the 70s this was no small matter and when he was elected as a local councillor he combined the roles of union rep and councillor with a flagrant disregard for any conflict of interest. Notorious for running the worst council services in the country the housing department’s payroll nevertheless doubled, and when they went on strike for a 40% pay rise he joined the picket lines in a flash. L’etat cest moi he might have said

It is a revealing conceit and speaks volumes about the venal rent seeking practised by public sector unions in those days (the borough’s chief executive reported him to the Director for Public Prosecutions who cleared him wrongdoing and settled on the lesser verdict of gross incompetence).

It had to be paid for and whilst it flew the red flag from its council offices Haringey harried the phantom rich with diminishing returns, leaving local residents in one of the poorest London boroughs to pay the price in exhorbitant taxes. In the eighties the self-styled People’s Republic of Haringey was a byword for profligate inefficiency, and the only beneficiaries were the apparatchiks who fattened themselves on the spiralling payrolls. Unsurprisingly for a later admirer of Hugo Chavez the fraud that he managed to overlook was prodigious, and not all the cost had even the barest of Keynesian pump priming excuses. Of the 4500 employees, two were anti-nuclear officers and God only knows how much public money was wasted on twining Haringey with the ill-starred Communist satellite Grenada. All of this, contra the image of Corbyn a as genial English eccentric indulging lost causes with naïve idealism, was done with a steely sense of purpose, even if in Machiavellian style he did it behind the scenes. Corbyn was never council leader but this barely mattered when he had his own orgburo to manipulate sinecures. The purges of moderate Labour members on the local party during his chairmanship were brilliantly orchestrated, and carried off with an air of menace which belies his pacifist reputation. Corbyn has always sought the West’s disarmament but he has been conspicuously silent about the sins of its enemies. Throughout his career there was barely a riot or a terrorist outrage which he could not contextualise as the silent rage of the oppressed. Lukewarm in his condemnation of the Broadwater Farm riots (a policeman was hacked to death and almost decapitated by rioters) he was conspicuously silent with each atrocity carried out by the IRA against British citizens. When the IRA bombed Warrington and murdered two children he was nowhere to be heard, when the SAS shot 8 IRA terrorists attacking an RUC station in 1987 he reached high pitched eloquence in his condemnation of British imperialism. Of the terrorism wrought by states on their citizens he was similarly diffident. Animated by American sanctions against Nicaragua and Cuba, he was silent on the sins of North Korea and he did not hesitate to migrate his loyalties even to otherwise ideologically uncongenial causes if they served his hatred of Britain. When the Argentinian junta invaded the Falklands Islands even erstwhile Trots like Christopher Hitchens found a silver lining in Thatcher - Corbyn by contrast put his full weight behind General Galtieri and drew a moral equivalence which left many in the Labour party speechless. Youthful indiscretions? Corbyn was in ripe middle age when he embraced these wretched causes and given how morally repugnant they were it is as well to consider the private persons who suffered for them.

For someone who is so observant of private dignity in the abstract (Corbyn opened one campaign speech in 2019 by delivering his preferred pronouns) his dealings with women leave something to be said for. Of his first wife’s parliamentary ambitions he was conspicuously indifferent and one can only assume he harboured jealous spite when she was selected for a safe Labour seat before him. As for the legitimate expectations she might have had for a post-adolescent lifestyle he spared barely a thought. A telling anecdote from his early years. Returning home from one of Auden’s long boring meetings to an empty food cupboard, Corbyn opened a tin of beans and drank them cold from the can brandishing the accomplishment as a heroic rebuke to middle class manners. They lived in squalor but it was self-inflicted and the overall impression one gains is less of a stoic revolutionary than of a petulant adolescent. For all the victories of militant feminist levelling women are less good at it than men and it is not surprising he got through a few wives. With his first, fellow ideologue Jane Chapman the problems came early and they shine a revealing light on his cramped world view. Finally relenting on her desire to take a holiday he set off on a camping holiday which took him across the iron Curtain on a Czech motorbike. In Czechoslovakia it broke down and in revealing naiveté he wasted two days looking for someone to fix it. A little imagination would have spared him the detour. The bike had been built for the decadent west and good sense would have told him no mechanic would ever had ever encountered such a triumphant feat of engineering. As a metaphor for the clash of capitalism and communism it is brilliantly apt, and it is telling that when his wife sought to broaden her mind with the cultural gems that even communism could not destroy he sulked like an infant. In Prague he avoided the glories of Hradcany castle. Passing through Austria he was unimpressed by the Ringstrasse – dismissing it as ‘capitalist’. He passed up the palace of Schonbrunn in Vienna; ‘too royal’. These are revealing deficiencies in taste and they have stayed with him. Later, on a tour of the Commons showcasing the nation’s great deeds and eminent men he dismissed it all as phoney. ‘Phoney’?

No one with any pretensions to culture would even talk like this. It is not radical – it is infantile and in these petulant episodes one gets an inner measure of the kind of man who would sympathise with the nihilism of modern terrorist movements. It is not always obvious when one is intent on looking indulgently at his mannerisms. Overall the impression one gets from Bower’s Corbyn, with his homilies on manhole covers, cycling routes and allotment vegetables is not that of a zealot, but a man driven by fanatical mediocrity and raging political correctness. Anyone with memories of the GLC years when Corbyn, Livingstone and Red Ted Knight were municipal chieftains will remember the Black Lesbian self-defence classes and the Nuclear Free zones and much of it, if beyond parody, was harmless enough. Yet ideas do have consequences, and often create real life victims

The colonisation of Islington’s children’s services by paedophiles is a sensitive subject that Corbyn has managed to evade in a career he alleges has been marked by media conspiracies but given the ease with which daylight might have entered on this sorry saga he seems to have been well served by them. When Margaret Hodge presided as a docile stooge over this bankrupt empire as council leader in Islington between 1982 and 1992 there is no doubt that Corbyn, as the local MP, did his best to look away particularly given so many of the staff implicated were NUPE members. The safeguarding errors were grave and to any reasonable mind the consequences were predictable. The local authority had relaxed background checks on residential care home staff on the basis that they might give a licence to homophobia and scores of children suffered at the hands of sexual predators, particularly on the council’s Elthorne state where a child brothel was run for years by staff employed by the council. Compared with the breath-taking seriousness with which fantasy paedophile rings involving Tory ministers and (wait for it) an eminent member of the Board of Deputies were treated it is remarkable how feeble the post-mortem has been ]and at some level at least the failure looks a political one. Harriet Harman who in her later years resurrected an uninspired political career as stand in leader of the Labour Party had supported the Paedophile Information Exchange as a lawyer for the National Council of Civil Liberties and during the eighties this insanity had reached appoint where the Home Office was allowing these perverts to brief council social workers on the placement of vulnerable child with known sex offenders to protect their rights as gay men. In 1992, after unsuccessfully lobbying Margaret Hodge, irate social workers cornered Corbyn in his offices and brought it to his attention. To judge by Bower’s account he was shocked, and one assumes like any fractionally decent man he was, but by his own damming admission he had heard similar complaints before and not devoted a fraction of the time he devoted to conveniently global crusades. It is a symptomatic failure and it made for a stillborn political career. By 2015 it had run its course and he had little to show for it. Running a London borough into bankruptcy is at least an achievement of some sorts, as an MP all he could do is indulge in the shallow foreign policy obsessed posturing that saw him nicknamed the MP for Antarctica North. 

Six months before his unlikely and unexpected (perhaps unwanted) elevation to Labour leader, Corbyn was addressing a parliamentary meeting on “Human Rights and Security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Ever solicitous to the needs of immigrants in this constituency Corbyn had twice visited the benighted country and become “increasingly concerned.” “The horrors of the Congo,” he gravely intoned, are not new. As the sympathetic journalist Andy Beckett noted, "There was a sense, rare in Westminster, of politics being about life-or-death questions that extended across continents and centuries. But Corbyn’s entire audience consisted of a Conservative junior minister, a Democratic Unionist party MP, and four other people, two of whom chatted while he was speaking. Corbyn carried on, seemingly quite unfazed; in early 2015, as for much of his political life, promoting apparently lost causes before tiny audiences was what he did.”

It is a vision of almost senilic impotence and self-parody. Problems were everywhere constructive solutions nowhere. Small wonder he was considering retirement to the country and taking up bee keeping. Of the staples of constituency politics everywhere else; bins, dog shit and local housing conditions he could summon nothing. By the account of Bower the only local issue that really enthused he was sponsoring immigration applications and the obsession for seeking out global injustices was the flipside of a blatant disgust with his own country. Standing with solemn expression at the cenotaph is an easy ritual to pull off well for a national politician, and historically the annual Remembrance Day commemorations have been as emotionally comforting for the left and right. There lie real working class heroes and patriots to boot– the loss is bipartisan, the emotion to any feeling person should be visceral even if he watches it on a TV screen. Corbyn dressed like a tramp and couldn’t even manage a dignified bow when he laid his wreath, even dragging out the infamy by keeping tabloids in suspense over whether he would wear a poppy. What does it say about a man’s view of his country that respect for so many young lives cut short could jostle for a place in his thoughts? Compare that shabby sight with his simpering self-abasement at a Hamas rally or his dignified grief at an Irish terrorist’s funeral. The contrast is painful and telling

In normal times the influence of such a man would be limited but after the Labour Party jettisoned their messiah new vistas opened up. Maligned as he was by individuals who affected a retrospective disdain for his shallow spin doctoring, Blair was at least a winner and the key to his success was a neutering of the activists who had turned the Labour party into a toxic brand. Few working class members had the time a middle class zealot could devote to local party meetings and during its electoral drought there were hordes of well-heeled Marxists ready at the drop of a hat to swarm thinly attended meetings and burden the national party with all the cornucopia of infantile leftism. The disconnect this led to with ordinary working class priorities were glaring but it brought the hard Left to within an inch of power in the eighties. Belatedly sanity was restored with a right wing purge and after the dust settled Blair was able to reap the rewards. Party conferences in these days were dreary affairs and increasingly bare of the kind of tank topped bearded freaks who salivated on resolutions attacking Western imperialism and eulogising Irish hunger strikers. It was all achingly platitudinous but three general election victories seemed worth the price. When the last New Labour domino went down to defeat however the ludicrous Ed Miliband realised he was above it all and rediscovered the disastrous virtues of party democracy. Beholden to the thuggish Len McCluskey of the Unite Union he transferred responsibility for electing the leader from MPs to party members, and as party membership soared with Trotskyites the party moved inexorably to the left. The lamentably incompetent Miliband duly lost the election and soon the ultimate prize was in sight. As the candidate of the left Corbyn was never a natural choice. His closest political allies Livingstone and John McDonnell knew his limitations only too well but after McDonnell ruled himself out and Dianne Abbott failed to get enough nominations he was the only credible nominee. The moderates soon dug their own grave. With disastrous magnanimity he was seconded by right wing Labour MPs eager to ‘create a debate’. No one seriously saw him winning and they soon rued their excess of generosity. Corbyn trounced a weak field and after his coronation it was all back to the future. It started with a return to democratic centralism. Mandatory reselection, a goldmine for Trots seeking to replace right wing labour MPs was soon back on the agenda and the creation of the shadowy Momentum movement (led inevitably by an ageing Jewish leftie) offered a backdoor route into the party for communists that Neil Kinnock had firmly closed. For all its electoral woes the Labour party as Corbynites proudly boast is the largest centre Left party in Europe, all courtesy of the horde of snob Bolsheviks (tellingly Islington’s membership was predominantly drawn from homeowners rather than council estates and this in one of the most expensive boroughs in the UK) given a new form of outdoor relief in what was once one of the least incendiary democratic socialist parties so the continent. Meanwhile MPs were held hostage by swollen branch memberships fixated on the usual obsessions. In the old Militant fiefdom of Liverpool the party membership following Corbyn’s election had soared from 500 to 2700, and as the entryists took over the party most of the branch party’s business was squarely focused on the evils of Zionism and Israel. The abuse hurled at the Jewish MP Louise Elman was almost hysterically vicious and whatever credibility Corbyn might have had as a scourge of the socialism of fools was soon wiped out by his performance over the infamous Ockerman mural. In 2012 a tawdry piece of art had sprung up with council approval in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets. Grandly named Freedom for Humanity it featured bankers and with hooked noses playing a monopoly game on the backs of the poor, with a symbol of a freemason pyramid rising behind them. As an anti-Semitic trope it was picture perfect and enough even for the corrupt Islamist Mayor Luftur Rahman to think twice. The mural was taken down. Corbyn stumbling into the furore saw it as a moment to strike a blow for freedom of speech comparing it with Diego Viera’s famous mural in Detroit and declaring him in ‘good company’. When the tweet emerged in 2015 an explanation was demanded Corbyn feigned not to notice the lurid imagery and dug himself further into a hole by saying British ‘Zionists’ didn’t understand British culture:

So, clearly two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony.

It is a striking statement. Talking about black people having lived in the county ‘probably all their lives, and not understanding English irony’ would be  a career ending moment for anyone inhabiting the humourless and starched political landscape of even the mushy Guardian reading Left, and anyone with a weak foothold in reality probably knows the Black Hundreds haven’t been harrying Jews into Stepney for a while, but this kind of edgy talk went down well with the new members, and Ellman received little help from Jewish MPs like Kaufman whose fervent anti-Zionism earned him a pass. Besides his endorsements of Hezbollah as ‘our friends’ and shared platforms with Holocaust deniers, it might have been mild but the flippant tone spoke to his hierarchy of victimhood. The conferences meanwhile descended into adolescent left wing theatre, its 2019 gathering voting, in a resolution which must have warmed Corbyn’s heart to rip up immigration controls and give foreign nationals the right to vote. Much has come to pass since these halcyon days but whether it can dislodge this cancer is now doubtful and given the speed with which Corbyn has returned to the streets it is questionable whether it is even a priority. Soon after he resigned Corbyn was back into his comfort zone talking ominously about leading ‘the resistance’, as if he were a shabby Jan Hus bent on immolating himself for high principle, and truth be told  it is a much easier role to play for someone of his modest talents than dirtying your hands with real adult politics. Perhaps he wishes Johnson is a fascist (he is actually just an upper class prat) – his whole adult life has been a costume drama for this part and is it after all a rebuke to say it has accomplished nothing? No more ineffectual politician could ever be imagined but he is pure and his agitated and diffuse moral sermons clearly appealed to the ennui ridden middle class who flocked to his pulpit. Corbyn signalled virtue before it was compulsory and he aimed low.

Only passive victims stirred his idealism and this says much about the soft bigotry of low expectations. It is surely men of Corbyn’s stamp Churchill had in mind when he dismissed socialism as the philosophy of failure and the creed of despair. When whole nations decline to this stature it is never pretty. Irish republicanism, his chief crusade after Palestine is victim porn of the nth degree, and its ghastly ululating matriarchs wailing at terrorist funerals were doubtless as edifying for him as any he had attended in Tunis. It was bloody nevertheless and what is most repellent is the decision to cheer from the side-lines. Gerry Fitt, a Catholic with unassailable peace building credentials in Northern Ireland had the moral courage to abandon the purity of his principles for a happier Northern Ireland. A nationalist by instinct he abandoned the quest of dragging unionists kicking and screaming into a new fatherland for the sake of peace, Corbyn only supported a peace of surrender imposed by Republican semtex and like John McDonnell he was brave enough to hurl abuse at moderate nationalists who signed the Good Friday Agreement from the safety of genteel London suburbs. Fitt suffered silently under threat of assassination by men who detonated bombs in shopping centres and churches, Corbyn played out his petty psychodrama to a captive chattering class audiences and once he had finished liberating violent Celts the same bogey men kept coming back again and again. Lumpen capitalist tailors, imperialist Zionists, the Jews were everywhere and it is telling when he belatedly adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism amid mounting outrage he stalled for an eternity before relenting on the addition of his own pondering ‘But’

‘it cannot be considered racist to treat Israel like any other state or assess its standard against the standards of international law. Nor should it be regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies, or the circumstances around its foundation a s racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’

It must have hurt, and if he might once have deserved the benefit of the doubt even the most charitable observer must now concede all the evidence of an ancient prejudice is in. Political Jewry in Britain is tame affair, and unlike its American counterpart remarkably unwilling to cause a scene. This time the Board of Deputies spoke openly of the cancer of anti-Semitism in a major national party and openly endorsed Johnson’s Tories during the election. It is an unprecedented rebuke and the stubborn failure to recant shows there is something emotionally comforting to a man of limited intellect. Corbyn’s immature penchant for cartoonish pantomime villains is relevant here and recall August Bebel’s adage about anti-Semitism being the socialism of fools. Sophisticated Marxists usually swerve the bright colours and hold their desperate cults aloft with incomprehensible abstractions. Stupid people prefer the warm particulars – they cannot hate abstractions and, when hack journalists conjure up a world of Wall Street conspiracies, it is hardly a surprise the dots get connected. And what pits of depravity in our sub literate times cannot be summoned by rootless cosmopolitans and well-fed Jews?

There is unfortunately a constituency for this kind of thing and it is a mob prejudice which is difficult to pin on white proletarians (it is worth bearing in mind the role of the student mob in driving the anti-Zionist agenda). When he started his political career areas like Hoxton, and Shoreditch home to the sweated Jewish tailors he tried to cut his teeth on were brimming with hard earned poverty. By the end of the eighties they were already swamped with obnoxious yuppies and much the same could be said of Islington North, where Corby’s seat includes prim Highbury and the notoriously affluent and politically correct N1 postcode. Barring the cash poor elderly who never made it out to their ghastly seaside retirement homes nothing even approximating a cockney is to be seen, and the area, piously multicultural and trendily affluent, has little place for their concerns. Of this social cleansing much has already been said but it was worth remembering the Labour party’s strength in the capital now owes more to bohemians than workers. In 1983 the Tories starting eating into the soon to become famous C2 social class bracket (skilled manual) and in 2019 the Tories even managed to win out amongst those earning less than 20,000 a year. Throughout his career as an MP however Corbyn’s vote has increased with each election and however much he may pose as a champion of the dispossessed it is clear that gentrification, not the ever increasing immiseration of the proletariat is the driving force.

The significance of the white privilege obsession in all this should not be understated. The bobo class is fixated on it but its sins never quite rest on their shoulders and even when they attempt some tact it’s clear who’s in their sights. The etiquette of race is a class marker par excellence and it allows someone with progressive airs to engage in the kind of poor baiting that you would never dream of unless you could transfer all your affections to a more picturesque victim class.

The psychological motive is pressing and it shows itself in small details. The importance of nannies for the north London middle class is a given just as it is for their kindred in New England. Not so long ago she would have been home-grown or at a push Irish and this inevitably creates an uncomfortable class consciousness. Any honest parent who outsources their maternal instinct to a stranger would probably admit part of them will always resent her and it is an awkward status anxiety which the British upper classes bore more stoically than today’s well-heeled liberals. Better to keep them exotic if you need one. This is a ‘lurking detail’ but it wipes the floor with anything Walter Benjamin came up with. Who would not want to soften it with the haughtiness of compassion and multicultural navel gazing?

Is socialism then nothing but the false consciousness of idle privilege? It certainly looks like it, and it is difficult to see how it can be run out of the Labour Party. McDonnell, a shrewder and openly thuggish communist was clear there was no turning back. Trotskyites are notoriously difficult to dislodge. They compensate for in organisational strength and sheer determination what they lack in electoral appeal (where alas is the moderation that is a fire?)and what will the party have gained in any case if they are submerged beneath a wave of better mannered middle class members. Minus the violent menace the tastes are largely the same and is it in any case not a major achievement to get a third of the population to vote for it. It is not enough for power but it is rather a large taboo broken nevertheless.

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Posted on 05/30/2020 8:43 AM by Fergus Downie
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