Conviction politics is here to stay, we should get used to it

By Dominic Dixey

I am increasingly fed up with people of a right-wing persuasion, and indeed right-wing members of the Labour Party itself, moaning and consistently erupting in a tirade of phoney outrage at any mention of Jeremy Corbyn. The emergence and success of a genuine conviction politician appears to me to have ruffled all the right feathers.

I disagree with him on most things. I disagree with him on Israel, “austerity”, nuclear ships without nuclear weapons, NATO, the USA, Castro, the Royal Family – the list is endless. But the idea that he presents some kind of existential threat to this country and its wealth is just ludicrous. It’s the kind of fake, incredulous grandstanding that lost the Remain side the EU referendum. People don’t like being told that something they are considering, a viewpoint with which they might be flirting, is stupid. Everyone can see it patently isn’t. When will the establishment learn this?

On a personal level I think he has behaved with a great deal of dignity in the face of ridiculous snobbery. Besides his slightly lame quoting of random people at PMQs, his performances have been good, rising above the pathetic private school antics of the Conservative back benches. Cameron undoubtedly outclassed him, but he seems more mature when against the awkward chairman May – especially when she tries to pull off one of those gags that Cameron managed so effortlessly.

Everyone seems to love to throw the platitude at Corbyn that this country needs a strong opposition. Well, he provided forceful opposition to the government, right up until the PLP decided to needlessly launch a coup against him. He got the government to u-turn on scandalous cuts to PIPs (disability benefits), tax credits and housing benefit. He held the government to account impeccably, and prevented thousands of the poorest and neediest people in this country from losing funding. Just about every media outlet, however, was determined to paint him in a very different light. Most recently, he forced the government to release its Brexit strategy. I don’t really understand what more people want from him.

Corbyn has been accused of the most ridiculous things: not wearing a proper suit, not tying his tie properly. The people who voted for him or may be considering doing so really don’t care what he wears. When he didn’t sing the national anthem at the cenotaph, again the fake outrage is counterproductive. I profoundly disagree with his choice not to, but the spurious attempts of the right-wing media to brand him disrespectful were deeply unfair. Many of the soldiers who lost their lives will have agreed with his view of nationalism in the 19th and 20th century. I don’t, but the soldiers gave their lives to preserve the freedoms that allow us all to have these different points of view. Many of the electorate will agree with him too.

The greatest perpetrator of the anti-Corbyn agenda, however, is the BBC. Too often, people of the right brand the BBC as having a left-wing bias. It’s just not true. The BBC is unwittingly biased against anyone that doesn’t conform to its metropolitan, “liberal” agenda. The last era of British politics has been dominated by slick PR men who believe in nothing except power for power’s sake- Blair, Campbell, Cameron, Osborne, and the entirety of the Blairite wing and Notting Hill set. They’re wealthy, well educated, insular and believe in “doing the right thing.”  They have no genuine principles and have landed us with rule by EU bureaucrats and a mass immigration policy that no one ever wanted and no one ever voted for. This is where BBC bias lies. If you genuinely lie on either the left or right wing of the political spectrum (unlike these snobs), you are considered an extremist. Both Farage and Corbyn are “dangerous”, even though they attract far more grassroots support and engage with far more people than the likes of Cameron. Support for Corbyn is rising at well over 300,000. Farage’s raison d’être was Britain leaving the EU, and 17 and half million people agreed with him. It’s hard to gauge how many people align with Cameron, because no one knows what he stands for. No one has lied more at election time (on the issues that matter most to his core vote) in recent history than him- anyone remember the Big Society, immigration in the tens of thousands, and deficit eliminated by 2015? I’d go as far as to say Corbyn and Farage represent the views of a great deal more people than Cameron (whatever his views are).

Thankfully, the world is changing. The BBC, universities, and the entire political and media establishment need to wake up to the fact that the days of unprincipled career politicians are over. In the mainstream, those like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are the future. The Farages, Trumps and Le Pens are taking the mantel on the right. Of course we’re being told they’re communist, fascist, racist, or my personal favourite “populist”. Who is describing them so? An elite in the West whose world is collapsing around them. Good riddance. The public no longer trusts its elected leaders, with good reason, so they have turned to outsiders who speak their language and actually address their concerns. We owe it to these people to give the likes of Corbyn and Trump a fair chance. As the Sunday Times finished one of its leaders last week, “One person’s populism is another’s genuine concern. We should be careful with labels in 2017.”

Photograph: David Martyn Hunt via Flickr and Creative Commons

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