Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Corbyn fiddles while Europe, and the world, reach for the matches

Image result for violin imagesIt is somewhat inevitable, in the current, febrile political climate, that Tony Blair’s few interventions elicit disproportionate responses in Britain. Even when those interventions conclude little that most Western commentators outside Britain, or a European historian of average talent, would disagree with.

In part, this is because in Britain the unspoken May-Corbyn alliance on Brexit has meant effective mainstream unity on that subject.

That is, the only senior politicians who speak out against it are either (a) the leaders of minor parties (Greens/Lib Dems/SNP), or (b) retired heavyweights not bound by the party whip. So it is easy for him to outweigh the rest of the pack.

Love him or hate him, of all those, Blair is unquestionably the heaviest, in terms of prime ministerial experience at least. Against fellow living ex-PMs Major, Brown and Cameron, he wins on years (10 vs. 7, 3, 6); general election victories (3 vs 1, 0 and 2); and was never defeated in either a GE or a national referendum either, unlike the others.

And his latest intervention is not just correct: even if you disagree with him on Brexit (which, according to the latest YouGov poll, now puts you with less than half the population), it’s difficult to disagree with what he says about populism and the similarities to the 1930s.

2018 is a genuinely scary time to live. Not just through the narrow prism of Brexit, through which it seems all political questions are currently viewed here, although that is arguably a major disaster in itself and not just for Britain.

No, it is in the wider sense of Europe and particularly the EU, currently busy rowing back from democracy (viz. Hungary, Poland) and allowing its politics to be swayed and manipulated by Russian bots, hackers and propaganda merchants. Not to mention the Western Alliance, objectively looking weaker than at any point in postwar history.

Anyone who understands geopolitics – or indeed, history – must understand how perilous this is and how close the 1930s parallels are. There is a fractious, nationalist, anti-immigrant atmosphere amongst European states, especially the newer democracies of the East, enthusiastically egged on by Russia.

All the while, Western Europeans have become fat and complacent on the idea that conflict is impossible in their countries, after 70 years of peace. Despite the numerous flashpoints close by – Ukraine, ISIS, Middle East, not to mention the Cold War and the bloody Balkan wars of the 90s – we are safe in our little cocoon.

If NATO were to fail, for example – and that only takes the withdrawal of a US already in isolationist mode – the world suddenly loses the lynchpin of its stability. And if that alliance has sewn all our fortunes together since 1945, Trump is already picking at the stitching.

All the while, where is our esteemed leader, Jeremy Corbyn?

Ah yes. He’s busy with important matters, things Jezfest. A celebration of his – somewhat niche, at best – cult of personality. In a field.

This was not Corbynism’s Sheffield rally, nor even its Ed Stone. It was worse than that.

Every time you think that Corbynism cannot get any more embarrassing, inward-looking and cult-like, it surprises you. Labour Live was even not as successful as the Sheffield rally, a disastrous event which presaged Labour’s third successive election defeat, albeit a narrow one.

It was not as successful because Sheffield, at least, attracted over 10,000 supporters to Jezfest’s 4,000. Moreover, the concert was financially disastrous, wasting £1m which, as former staffer Jo Green pointed out, could have been used to fund 20 key seat organisers.

Sheffield also had a political point: to rally the troops to campaign for an impending general election. And neither was it a personality cult, talking only to those already inside the group.

Finally, it did not even compare favourably with the Ed Stone, a dismal attempt at election gimmickry which will forever go down as a similar comedy epitaph to a former party leader. But it too had a point, in principle. And at least its price tag was limited to that of two tonnes of limestone.

So that was where the Labour leader was, wasting his poor members subs in a pointless vanity project. Neither could he find the time, the following weekend, to march with the demonstrators in London against a hard Brexit, of course. Because he is in favour of a hard Brexit, and always has been.

And back to our theme: as anti-EU as he is also, and perhaps more importantly in the long run, demonstrably pro-Russia, anti-NATO, pro-Assad, anti-America.

That is, when the world ultimately divides into two camps, as Blair warns it is already doing – the populists and everyone else – Corbyn will not be neutral. He will be on the side of those who do not like Britain and the West. The Orbáns of Hungary. The Dudas of Poland. Putin.

In fact, he will be simply where he has always been. Corbyn is the Bard’s “ever fixéd mark”. Fixed in the 1970s. While the wider political currents are swirling countries in an ever more unpredictable path.

It should be obvious to the neutral observer that this concern is by no means restricted to Tony Blair, by the way. The chancelleries of Europe are full of deeply troubled leaders and advisers. As are the saner parts of Capitol Hill.

People who know what they are talking about are worried about the state of the world. Brexit or no Brexit in the end, they should be.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

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