Wednesday, 25 November 2015

On Robert Mugabe, Richard Dawkins, & Jeremy Corbyn

Over at TW&TW I'm talking not too seriously about Robert Mugabe and his wheels.  I even drew a cartoon which took a ridiculously long time to cross hatch...

Meanwhile, I'm again writing this blog post quickly. It will be unedited and published straight to the blog in the spirit of my new blogging strategy.

Today I've been trying to get my mind around the question of religious tolerance with specific interest in the Twitter battle that Richard Dawkins has found himself waging. I'm not sure I'll be able to knock my words into a decent essay but, if I do, I think I'll have explained something that I've repeatedly found difficult to explain. Briefly: I worry that we are losing sense of free speech in the name of tolerance. We have been so indoctrinated by certain liberal values that too many people seem incapable of simple logical thought. Dawkin's is also victim of an obvious anti-intellectualism at work in the UK. Our great scientists and thinkers are lauded in America. In the UK, we barely hear a peep from them until they're being hounded by the slobbering mob, spluttering with half-conceived indignation. It's time that we can have serious debates in this country without people sending up distress flares every time somebody challenges something we take for granted.

I was, however, a bit distracted by the House of Commons. I noted with some incredulity that John McDonnell took out his Mao at the Dispatch Box today. It beggars belief.

My politics are neither to the left nor the right. I like politicians of both sides of the House and dislike with equal impartiality. I've always had mixed feelings about Corbyn. He never struck me as a guy to rouse my enthusiasm but, when he won, I could see why people voted for him. He's not political in the way that Cameron is political. He's difficult, odd, unpolished. I like that he debates, even when I disagree with his points. He feels sincere in the things he says and doesn't fall into the tropes of typical career politicians. He makes good points about subjects such as mental health. Yet he also makes huge mistakes, even if he makes them for the right reasons. Not leaping up and fist pumping when asked if he'd bomb Syria was, in truth, an adult response. Yet the media can spin it too easily. He needed to pump the air and shout 'hell yes' because the media know no other response.

McDonnell made, I think, the biggest political miscalculation since Michael Foot's donkey jacket. If the electorate worry about your Marxist credentials, you do not take out Mao's Little Red Book in the House of Commons, even if the point you are making is a sensible one. The point about the Tories selling our power infrastructure to the Chinese was a good one. McDonnell should, however, have realised that the symbolism of the image is worth more than his words.

Yet the problem goes deeper. That he would quote from the book suggests that Mao figures quite largely in his political thought processes. That should be enough to convince anybody that New Old Labour is not working. I understand why people would how that it could but, really, Labour voters need to decide if they want power or their principals. England and particularly Middle England will never vote for a left wing party. Not because people even understand what left wing means but simply because the media will tell them that 'left wing' means trouble.

In a better world, we would all be deeply invested in politics and unaffected by media bias. However, we live in this world. The media will never allow Corbyn to succeed and there is nothing to suggest that in the next four years the media will become less important in the way people make their decisions. After a four weeks media blitz, Labour will be lucky to emerge with a vote in the high teens. McDonnell's performance today should convince Labour's grandees that this is an experiment doomed to fail. For the sake of democratic politics we need a viable opposition. There's no point wasting four years to discover this sad fact. From where I sit today, whoever leads the next Tory government will be walking into Downing Street. Irrespective of your politics, that's not good for democracy and not good for the nation.

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