The Left’s Blind and Posturing Moralism is Dooming Labour
Forgive me, but this is where I came in.
45 million people will soon have an opportunity to put a cross in a box on a piece of paper that could change the nature of their governance. If the polls are correct, an overwhelming plurality will reject change and hug the devil they know.
For many democracy is a cathartic experience. For true believers it is a test of their identities. On 8th June, that plurality will reject not just the party that they support, it will reject them.
In their grief, many will turn on Jeremy Corbyn. The one-time saviour of the left will receive scorn for his poor communications skills.
We’ve been here before: that the electorate rejects a party because they did not understand its message is one of the tropes of democratic politics. Ask Ed Miliband.
But to blame Corbyn is like blaming a dog for barking throughout the night. The bark is manifestation of a deeper problem.
The reason why Labour is doomed is the left.
They parade their consciences but deny anyone else’s
Blame election fever. Blame social media. Blame the provocation from a resurgent right. But it is a left that has lost its sense of reason, of proportion and of decency.
So let’s be clear: Theresa May is not evil. Tories do not kill babies. Trump is not Hitler. People who vote Conservative are not sheeple unable to think for themselves. This extreme language is puerile self-aggrandisement. It is possible to disagree without wallowing in sanctimony.
Nevertheless the left cries “Fascist!” as if this constitutes a profound statement or a political argument. Scum. Vermin. Nasty. Evil. Their minds seem to work like magic eight-ball machines. Any grandmother would demand they wash their mouths out. In most cases, even Toilet Duck would not do the job.
They decry racism, yet excuse a leader who has stood with Holocaust deniers. They pay lip service to LGBT rights, yet support a leader who took money from Press TV but never took a single opportunity to condemn Iran’s gay-hating, gay-killing regime. They troll Liam Fox for meeting Rodrigo Duterte or Theresa May for meeting Donald Trump, yet gloss over their own leader’s links with the political wing of the IRA. The whole Corbyn experiment has been an exercise in moral self-indulgence, made worse by its egregious double standards.
They parade their consciences but deny anyone else’s. As such, they have found themselves denying reality. There are lemmings hurling themselves off cliff faces who show greater self-awareness.
Any deviance from their faux-radicalism becomes heresy. It is not just that facts don’t matter, it is that reason is positively to be avoided, and complexity a vice. If they don't like what the Guardian is saying, they just read the Canary instead. These days you can choose your own facts.
You can sense this void when they dismiss those on the centre-left, such as Hillary Clinton or Tony Blair, as right-wing. Any intelligent study of political ideology shows otherwise. That this has to be argued shows the depths of the problem.
And when they have a choice to vote against a genuine fascist, many of them don’t. Instead, they shout “neoliberal”, a term they have reduced to vacuity. Call yourself an anti-fascist and you support the anti-fascist candidate. It really is that simple. Jean-Luc Mélenchon couldn’t. Nor could many of his supporters. He had no problem supporting right-wing Jacques Chirac in 2002 though.
Idealism that exists without recourse to reality is not about changing the world, it is about validating the self. And the country loses.
This abandonment of reason is fundamentally illiberal
Of course, not all left-wingers are like this. Maybe not even most. Still less the vast majority of Labour voters, many of whom do not define themselves by their democratic choices: voting Labour is just what they do at elections.
However, this blind moral hubris now defines the left.
Only moral vanity can explain how Labour put before the country a man whose inability to perform even the basic tasks of a prime minister is blatant. They deride the folly of Trumpists but cannot see they have done something similar: competence is not necessary because their values are superior.
This abandonment of reason is fundamentally illiberal, and anti-democratic. It starts by insulting voters as stupid or gullible. Then, confronted with difference, this bland left does not attempt to understand but tars its holder with moral perversity.
To call someone a liar claims a window into their soul. Assertions of moral superiority do the same. It denies the complexities of human motivation. It is within these shades of grey that democratic pluralism rests.
In 2015, Labour lost a winnable election because it condescended to the electorate. 2017 is not winnable but the inconvenient fact is that there would not be an election were Labour electorally competitive.
Rigid rationalism holds its own dangers: reason is only the start of a painful journey. Morality has a place in politics but a false moral conceit is a political cul-de-sac.
Not every Corbynista is a cultist. But until these fellow-travellers disown its moral self-righteousness then seize back the left from those who never will, Labour is doomed to lose.
About the author
Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).
A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.
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