In a rather confused, agitated (agitating?) puff piece, the Times has broken cover to stand alongside its sister publication, the Sun, as an out-and-proud anti-Labour rag. The former newspaper of record was already virtually indistinguishable in any event.
Any pretence to balance, authority, nay, basic understanding of the political world… it is a thing long since departed. A close friend comments via gmail:
“I thought the Times was supposed to be a decent paper?
That article reads like the Mail, almost”
I must confess that in this fittingly critical first post, I am simply attempting to articulate in a more structured form a fractured mess of facebook bemusement. Sourced from a range of virtual acquaintances. Nevertheless, many of those assertions scattering the intertubes are nowt if not bang on.
Firstly, Mr Murdoch, it is difficult to understand why the Times seems so averse to Union backed candidates winning selection for, shock horror, a Labour Party.
A party linked to labour is what a Labour Party is. So it is fitting, then, that the Times has chosen to attack representation of union views in parliament at the same time that the Tories are busily trying to chip away at the union link, while preserving their link to the organised forces of capital. I wouldn’t even call them ‘business’; trade unionists depend on surplus producing ‘business’ just as much as senior personnel. For them, one form of economic organisation is acceptable (one that is massively undemocratic, dependent on hierarchical power relationships, and primarily advantages a minority interest within that grouping). Others are somehow a moving of the political goalpost.
Conservatives are in the habit of looking to America. In certain ways, this is healthy. Like all societies, the US has advantages and disadvantages. During the American Revolution, Tory predecessors, with the notable and heavily influential exception of Edmund Burke, stood against the American Revolution, its ideals, and its participants. Whiggish Radicals such as Charles James Fox backed the revolution wholeheartedly, and, despite this act of apparent treachery, maintained a large rump of parliamentary support.
In any event, as time passed into the full swing of Pax Victoriana, Britain was blessed with two parties who strongly emphasised the apparent differences between them. Some were significant, particularly the issues of free trade vs protectionism, political and religious freedom, and home rule for Ireland.
But despite these differences, way over half the country looked on with a total lack of understanding, mostly unable to vote, and if one should be so fortunate, faced with the choice between a shit and a shite. A large chunk of the population saw two parties with roundly similar policies and integral interests. These were parties of business owners who routinely and murderously ignored the greatest issue facing the country at the time; the plight of the massively expanded industrial working class, toiling in their millions for little reward in atrocious conditions, dying in their thousands as they built the railways, roads and bridges that business still profits from today, consumed as children in the mangles of weaving machines or the gas chambers of deep pits.
Men looked on from the benches, replete with their top hats, isolated, indifferent, and indistinguishable against the context. Many think that the main parties are too alike today. I would argue that this is because to a smaller or larger extent, they all represent capital as the a priori concern, no force pulls them the other way. There is an absence of opposition, and even an absence of compromise. This is more true in America, so admired by the Tories. Parties debate what kind of not-universal healthcare to have, what kind of regressive low rates of taxation they can implement, what variety of population, domestic or international, is worthy of oppression or abandonment, what kinds of guns they can let people carry around school.
This cosy irrelevance was even more true of the age here 1900. For all the lavish praise that constitutionalists and politicians heap on America, in a sense, and with great historical irony, it has preserved each of the trappings of political wrongness it tried to escape with independence.
For every action of political economy, there is a political response. The response in 1900 was great. The bulk of the population which existed in near slavery was forced to politically and industrially organise to defend its working men and their dependent families. Yet this, the need for jobs, sustenance and political representation as the final guarantee… it never come us when Tories discuss their ‘family values’. Unless they want to attack it.
A Labour Party was born. It broke consensus. And it needed to be there. It was demanded.
A Labour Party exists. It is sometimes allowed by the press into government, if it agrees not to represent its core values and core voters. Sometimes, like in 1945, it gets in anyway.
Some within it struggle ceaselessly for it to accept these external boundaries, for it to accept its own weakness as a movement and a body of opinion in the country. If it its subservience to the politics of papers like the Times and the Tories, who appear to hate the concept of trade unionists being represented alongside the top-hats, or funding, like business, a political party to represent them and the families who depend on them.
The times will attack the candidates, the Tories will attack their funding and the right of individual trade unionists to donate through their unions (you would never see that kind of thing with business donations). A Tory friend claims that I am being alarmist by saying this, but what they are attacking is the general concept of a Labour Party.
They want us to be Liberals circa 1900, and seeing as that’s not what most of Labour believes in, a few ultra-Blairites and the man himself aside, the Tories want to use their democratic mandate to make our party’s decision for us, through the law.
Next, they will be using the commons and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency to pass our conference resolutions for us.
Between Times and Tories, their merry tag team is attacking a reform to the political system which happened 110 years ago, the Lib/Lab split.
Their political ambition and paternal, undemocratic unscrupulousness knows no bounds.
As it happens, Labour currently demands in the rule book that members join a trade union if eligible to do so. Not so surprising then, that candidates usually turn out to be members.
As for the ‘left wingers’ (by which the times means anyone left Murdoch, presumably), I noticed that the Times piece didn’t include any criticism of the bonkers right-wingers, the Donal Blaney lickspittles who line the benches opposite. But someone suggesting we shouldn’t allow predatory advertisers to target kids for pester power (for that was the real proposed policy)… that’s just wrong, surely?
The Trade Unionists who founded the Labour Party were preceded by Chartists, who won working-class people the vote. They did not just do so as a result of industrial activity; indeed, for much of their period of agitation, unions were actually banned outright (perhaps David Cameron will leave this one for the next manifesto).
They were primarily political, not industrial.
As such, progressive who have diverted from the Liberal/Tory stitch up ever since 1900 have been characterised by patterns of alliances between political socialists and social democrats, and those whose interests they believe they represent, primarily represented by Trade Unions.
I shan’t claim that Compass have any comparison of value to Chartists, because I’m not an idiot in totality. But why is the Times so concerned that voters might now be able to choose to elect people who believe in and work for left-of-centre values? Why are they so concerned that the leadership of the Labour Party is no longer quite as committed to control freakery and nepotism as a matter of routine practise?
I have an alternative proposal, you see. Let people select candidates, fund them domestically and openly (not that Labour has a perfect record on this), then let people vote for who they want to vote for.
We can have democracy without this kind of utter nonsense, and it would be a lot easier to achieve if people ignored the hysterical alarmism that now seems so routine for Britain’s abused post-broadsheet.
Oh yes, just to round off, once again sourced from facebook
“The Times appalled 14 new of Labour’s new candidates have worked for a union. GMB says 63 Tory candidates come from banking and finance.”
I won’t go in for the divisive Thatcherite rhetoric of ‘enemies within’, but as it happens, as much as I think financial expertise should be valued, I think that trade unionists have played a defter hand over the last couple of years than the Tory banking establishment, hmm?
Trade unionists, right or wrong for the country, want to protect their jobs, their colleagues, and the well-being of their children. What do the bankers on the opposite bench want?
See. There’s a reason for unions in politics.