I love all this cobblers about being ‘moderates’ that the Blairites are trying to spin. On the Sunday Politics some right-wing Blairite said something like, “Since when has it been a bad thing to be a moderate?” Someone else said something like, “it’s incredible the whole mainstream of political opinion is being challenged’. And someone else said, “populism is the real problem across the politics of the Western world”. The idea here being that ALL challenges to the orthodoxy of neoliberal economics plus metropolitan liberal identity politics is irrational. These Islington metro-liberal professional politicians and journalists see themselves as representing the only rational, considered and reasonable world-view and everyone and anyone who disagrees with them is an extremist. And to them left or right, are just as bad as each other. To them Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn are both equally repugnant crowd-pleasing demagogue’s.
Yet these Islington metro-liberals do not represent the moderate, centre-ground of politics at all. Economically these people are right-wing extremists, and many of them are warmongering, right-wing extremists at that. There is nothing ‘moderate’ about the economics of ‘austerity’, there is nothing ‘moderate’ about voting for war against the wishes of your own party rank and file and indeed the public at large. From where I sit that is warmongering right-wing extremism, not moderation.
And of course therein lies the problem, because where you sit in the first place defines absolutely what you regard as left or right, moderate or extremist.
The Blairites thought that we the people had now accepted metro-liberalism as the new mainstream. This is Tony Blair’s third way if you like. A ‘New’ Labourism based on corporate managerialist pragmatism, neoliberal economics and metropolitan attitudes to gender, sexual and racial identity.
But clearly many (most?) of us haven’t.
On the Right UKIP reject the feminism, multiculturalism and ‘metro-sexuality’ of the metro-liberals. And on the Left we reject the entire neoliberal turbo-capitalist project. And these left and right wing positions are not manifestations of the same phenomenon of ‘populism’ as the metro-liberals seem to believe. No, UKIP and Corbyn are authentic expressions of the core political disputes of the last 100 years – the battle between capital and labour and between tradition and progress.
UKIP reflects the actual mainstream of conservative thought i.e. capitalism combined with social traditionalism and Corbynism represents the mainstream of Labour thought i.e. managed capitalism and income redistribution, combined with progressive identity politics.
One would expect Corbynistas to be against neoliberal capitalism but I would argue that most Conservatives – with both a big and a small ‘c’ – have as much to fear from neoliberalism as Labourites.
Neo-liberal capitalism is a form of anarchy, with the state being reduced to merely enforcing law and order and everything else being left to entrepreneurs and market forces. There is no ‘tradition’ under neoliberalism, there is no respect for traditional hierarchies, No place for monarchies or ‘old school ties’. In a pure neoliberal economy power is based entirely on ownership and profit. Thus the neoliberal era has been immensely painful for conservatives as well as the Left. Conservatives have seen multi-culturalism, gay-rights and feminism become social norms while neoliberal economics has torn their world to pieces replacing traditional values and traditional hierarchies with the destructive brutality and constant change inherent in neoliberalism capitalism.
So for me the rise of UKIP on the right and Corbyn on the left are a far more authentic reflection of the mainstream politics of the nation than the cosy alliance of metro-liberal politicians and journalists who make up our parliamentary class have yet understood.