#3 Artsy liberals, pls rethink the left

Posted by RDN under Politics & campaigns on 17 July 2016

In a nutshell: the artsy, right-on liberal ought to consider voting Tory. As an alternative he or she could have the role of transforming the Labour party, or helping to form a new centre-left grouping. 

I argue that the educated artsy-liberal (habitually, soft-left liberal and green in character) ought to consider voting Conservative, and failing that ought to consider helping the moderate, realist centre left to get electable. That is: they should stop being manipulated by the hard-left and consider where the nation’s bread is really buttered.

I think there is a strong tendency in the artsy-left liberal mind to avoid the difficult, real, issues in society and instead to find shelter in grand Causes. In the past this mindset has been suckered by various superior missions, from pacificism to the Green Dream and on to post-bureaucratic Google-ocracy and the wisdom of the Crowd and the Cloud.

This other-worldly progressiveness has always been important to politics, because whilst it has usually only in a general favoured the left (itself prone to fantasies), it has just recently been forged into the wedge splitting the Labour party.

I am pretty sure, with no evidence to hand, that the old, hard left – always lurking in the Labour Party, and in a way its most honest part – has suckered the dreamy soft left – the liberal delusion – with its £3 membership. The Corbynistas are a cocktail of the softest artsy left as manipulated by the hardest machine left. The missionary tendency is being played by the militant tendency.

The difficulty even for the reformed, modernist Nice Tory (actually a reborn 19th and 20th century One Nation Tory), is that the Missionary Liberal has cast the Conservatives, and the right in general, as the animal which it is always safe to hate and oppose. The oddest thing is to see how old, wise, experienced, affluent, successful liberals dare hardly admit that they have become Tory in their habits and even their thinking, but not in their voting (at least not in their voting as declared at middle class supper tables). An old-style reading of politics would have thought this a quite crazy dissonance: it used to be thought that politics was a representation of people’s “interest”, their actual, vested, fiscal needs. Now, it is common for people to love the material well-being they have but to hate the political and the economic means by which it is achieved.

The young loud liberal has always grown into the old furtive liberal. Bit by bit, people do read some history; they do see the merit of family; they do want a career and even prosperity; they do want to be led competently; they do realise that the private citizen owes something to the public service of the ambitious; they do understand that wars have to be fought; they do start to wonder who really gains from welfare; they do see that the 4R’s (reading, writing, articulacy and ‘rithmatic) are not negotiable extras in a person’s life.

They even begin to want prison to be hard as well as transformative. They do dimly perceive that maybe the Arab and Islamic world has been very badly led for decades and maybe centuries. They do realise that economic life can’t be fudged away: it is in some crucial way about competition. In short, somewhere in their minds if not with all their hearts, they become a bit Tory.

I believe that it is now past time for a re-think by anyone predisposed to be anti-Tory, and who feels that they recognise elements in themselves of the soft-left, green, liberal, artsy bien pensant. Such a person should spend some serious time wondering if the Tory spirit is as wrong, hard, or nasty as all that. And they should wonder whether good sense and kindness lies exclusively on the left. They might consider whether the left has actually been useful to the poor; they might ponder the crocodile tears of middle class socialists, shed for the illiterates who come out state schools; they might consider that if the left had been any use there would by now be no illiterate and unemployable working class, and indeed, no need for liberationism in British politics.

Many people feel warm about the Labour party, but the party itself is surely  dangerous to modern Britain. A modern, affluent society must be capitalist; to that extent it cannot usefully harbour socialism as a big wheel on its political chariot. Those who seek to moderate or reform capitalism’s hard edges must do so from other vantage or leverage point than state control. A modern society has no need of a working class and no need for a national politics dedicated to maintaining such a class, in its ignorance, subservience, dependency and inarticulacy. So, the politics of being to the left of the Conservative party now requires a party dedicated to getting rid of the working class.

One could keep things simple. The Conservative have a positive mission: a prosperous capitalist society with opportunity and decency for all. The left needs to acknowledge that it has no beef with that mission, but a better approach to lightly and cleverly deploying the state to further it. What the left would lose in class-based, liberationist, dissident rhetoric, it would gain in realism and positivity.

And yet the Conservatives would still merit support. The liberals I have been discussing might consider as positively as they can this proposition: the Tories are not all bad, and Tory realism may be rather a good thing. If the Tories were never very, and certainly aren’t now, nasty as matter of their social instincts, why not look dispassionately at their claims to be good for our polity and economics? And if there are bits of the Tory party one doesn’t like, why not join it, and try to persuade it in whatever direction you fancy?

For those liberals who remain rather more leftist than would allow them to join the Conservatives, might they not consider that the Tories have undergone very great transformations in their thinking? Labour now need similar changes, and need young, vigorous, realistic people to join them to make them happen. If neither of these strike the young as attractive, why don’t boost the LibDems, or start a new party, or sponsor an independent useful, charismatic MP in their constituency?

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