I’m everywhere and nowhere, baby

by Rick Johansen

The hard left, or ‘the left’, as they call themselves, are not happy about Labour’s landslide win in the General Election. Piss poor Guardian columnist Andy Beckett explains that Starmer won by ‘shifting to the right. Whiny shitbag Owen Jones prattles on about how ‘the left Labour revolt is significant’, whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean. ‘Death to all right wing types in Labour’ hard left hack Aditya Chakrabortty doesn’t add, although I am sure he would if he could. It’s all left this and right that to the comrades. But does it really matter?

I am what I have always been since I first joined the Labour Party back in the mid to late 1970s. A soggy, lily-livered left of centre Blairite, some 20 years before anyone had ever heard of Tony Blair. Given that my MP at that time was Tony Benn, who was ostensibly the de facto leader of the hard left in Labour and the local Labour Party was in the control of the Trotskyist sect Militant, you might think it surprising that I did not end up fully proselytised, a fully-blown, walking talking Trot. But it never happened, despite the actions of local party apparatchiks who tried to brainwash me. Post the 1979 election, which brought the wretched Margaret Thatcher into power, I watched helplessly as Labour lurched to the far left, further and further away from, power.

It was a weird political place to inhabit. I was, unquestionably, a member of the lower working classes in terms of income and stature in society.  Yet here I was, arguing with largely middle class professional types who were coming from the hardest of left positions.

I always felt that elections were won by embracing the centre ground. I believed in some very socialist things, like the NHS, good state schools, dignity in old age, low unemployment, a country where meritocracy mattered, these kind of things, but I always liked the choices afforded to me by capitalism within the mixed economy. I had, and still have, red lines, that I will not cross, and here we go back to the NHS, but even there I have mellowed.

In general terms, I believe that the NHS should be wholly within the public sector, to kick out the get rich quick spivs who are milking public funds to fill their own bank accounts. Yet even there I have mellowed, if that’s the right word. The new Labour government has inherited an NHS in crisis, with over eight million people on waiting lists. They will use the resources of the private sector health vultures to help clear the backlog and treatment will be free at the point of delivery to people who need it. The comrades decry the use of the private sector. ‘That’s not socialism,’ they say. But answer me this. Would you define allowing sick people to rot on waiting lists, caused by the inaction of the Tories, socialism? I don’t. In the end, isn’t it all about what works and not just ideology?

Has Labour moved to the right? I suppose if you live your life around slogans, defining everything in terms of political labels, then maybe it has. But here’s the thing. Labour won the election by the ruthless targeting of votes in specific areas. Did Keir Starmer move to the right or did he seek to create a grand coalition of voters to get across the line? I’d say, without doubt, that it’s the latter.

The comrades call themselves ‘the left’ because they see it as a badge of honour. They see life and politics in terms of purity. Pure socialism is the only way. Anything else is a sell-out, it’s Tory-lite, those of us not on ‘the left’ are red Tories; they care much more. But I don’t regard people like me as politically impure. I did not become a Blairite, or whatever label you want to hang on me because of expedience. Like the man who was the original Blairite, Blair, I actually believe in it. And in 2024, I now believe in the offer Keir Starmer has made to the country.

I mention purity because that has how the self-proclaimed ‘left’ see themselves. Many so called leftists could not bring themselves to vote Labour this time. Starmer wasn’t offering the same prospectus as Michael Foot did in 1983, nor the one offered by Jeremy Corbyn in 2019. Corbyn’s fans adored the manifesto, it supposedly gave hope to millions, it enthused the young in huge numbers. That Foot’s Labour and Corbyn’s suffered catastrophic defeats didn’t matter. It was the purity that mattered, building a socialist movement. Corbyn’s manifesto was hugely popular with everyone except voters. To them, winning elections, and changing people’s lives can have been of less importance than so called principles. What a weird form of socialism. It doesn’t matter if you lose as long as you lose saying the right things. The millions using food banks might have something to say about that.

It’s true that I use labels too much. I’m guilty as sin. Fascist Putin/Farage/Trump, that kind of thing. So maybe some labels do matter? But the use of ‘the left’ by the ‘hard left’ – I can do it, too – is a nonsense.

I know who I am and what I believe in. I’m a Blairite, a Starmerite, a Kinnockite, Tory lite, red Tory, woke, snowflake, PC – I’m all of these things and none. I’m everywhere and nowhere, baby. How about simply wanting a fairer, better, kinder, gentler, united country, where everyone has a chance to achieve their potential? I think we can achieve all, or much, of that if people want it enough.

And if the comrades really want to push Owen Jones’s ‘left revolt’, why not set up their own party, or join their fellow cranks and luvvies in the Greens? Labour rarely wins elections. Let’s not waste this rare opportunity.

Keir Starmer has shifted Labour to the people. Isn’t that a good thing? We had the opposite in 2019. It didn’t end well.

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