Labour has just produced cowardly politicians of the likes of Starmer, Reeves, Cooper, Miliband and (off-stage but still around) Balls, who are conviction-free zones but who think they can present a ‘better-management’, technocratic argument without ever questioning whether the system they are managing is failing, when it so obviously is.
On his blogsite today, tax specialist and modern monetary theorising Quaker Richard Murphy writes with a high degree of accuracy, albeit of a painfully limited kind:
… there is a problem with Starmer. He is, as I defined the breed in my 2011 book, The Courageous State, a cowardly politician. As I said then:
The cowardly state in the UK is the creation of Margaret Thatcher, although its US version is of course the creation of Ronald Reagan. These two swept neoliberalism into the political arena in 1979 and 1980 following the first neoliberal revolution in Chile in 1973 that saw the overthrow of Allende by General Pinochet. Now it forms the consensus of thinking across the political divide within the UK, Europe and the US.
The economic crisis we are facing is the legacy of Thatcher and Reagan [who] introduced the neoliberal idea that whatever a politician does, however well-intended, will always make matters worse in the economy. Government can never able, according to neoliberal thinking, outperform the market, which will always, it says, allocate resources better.
That thinking is why we have ended up with cowardly government. What began as an economic idea has now swept across government as a whole: we have politicians who think the only useful function for the power is to dismantle the state while transferring as many of its functions as possible to unelected businesses which bankrolled their path to power.
That, I think, is what Starmer is. He shares a characteristic with all the cowardly politicians of the UK: he went to Oxford. As Simon Kuper notes in his book ‘Chums’, this matters.
Kuper’s thesis is that the Tories at Oxford in the 80s learned politics without any substance or conviction. What motivated those Tories was personal gain, pure and simple.
Labour politics of the same era at Oxford was worse. It too was about charade but in their case they learned the charade from the education system without acquiring any conviction. They became operators of a system they could not question, when questioning of any substantial sort was simply not on the agenda at Oxford then (or in almost any university now).
So Tories became cowardly politicians on the make while Labour produced cowardly politicians of the likes of Starmer, Reeves, Cooper, Miliband and (off-stage but still around) Balls, who are conviction-free zones but who think they can present a ‘better-management’, technocratic argument without ever questioning whether the system they are managing is failing, when it so obviously is.
Starmer has no idea what he and his government will be about because he has not got the convictions to inform his decision-making. And it shows.
(I’ve edited and abridged the above, but solely in the interests of concision. I’ve no desire to misrepresent a man who, his illusions notwithstanding, has my respect.)
Professor Murphy’s worldview – not as a Quaker but as one whose rejection of revolutionary solutions (on ground of their violence whereas I reject them as a suicidal pipe dream) leads him to embrace (as I do not) the illusion that we live under a tarnished but reformable democracy – misses a truth far darker than those he sets out with his usual clarity.
The truth I speak of being that Caitlin Johnstone’s assessment of American ‘democracy’ …
The US doesn’t have political parties, it has narrative control ops disguised as political parties. One of them overtly promotes capitalism and imperialism by appealing to Americans’ worst impulses, the other covertly diverts healthy impulses back into capitalism and imperialism.
An elephant and a donkey fight in a puppet show and the crowd cheers for one or the other while thieves pick their pockets. And when people start to notice their wallets are missing, they’re told they can stop the pickpocketing by cheering louder for their favorite puppet.
People ask why the Democrats never codified Roe vs Wade into law, and the answer is, because that’s not their job. Their job is not to enact the policies you elected them to enact. Their job is not even to win elections. Their job is to keep you staring at the puppet show while the empire has its way with the world.
… applies equally – once adjustment is made for a junior imperialist power hitched to the coat tails of a senior one in terminal decline and by that fact a lethal threat – to Britain.
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