Sunday, 7 July 2013

The far left is irrelevant and the internet means they don't even realise it.

 In his novel Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh describes a scene in which the Catholic priest Father Phipps, upon learning that the two protagonists Charles and Sebastian have no interest in cricket, looks at them “with the expression I have seen in the religious, of innocent wonder that those who expose themselves to the dangers of the world should avail themselves so little of its varied solace”. It's an expression I imagine Owen Jones has every time he sees a poll indicating that most Brtions favour a reduction in welfare spending, do not view the welfare state as the greatest invention in the history of mankind and don't want trade unions holding the economy to ransom (not that they do anymore).

 It is not particularly original to observe and comment on the fact that the British left has always been fractured and has historically preferred infighting rather than doing something practical like, say, trying to govern the country. The difference is that today the far left, with its strange fetish for self-destruction and electoral suicide, is more irrelevant than it ever has been and, because the internet allows knee-jerk leftists to never interact with the outside world, they don't even realise that the world has moved on.

 The recent exchange between Owen Jones and the Labour MP Simon Danczuk about welfare benefits on the BBC show Daily Politics. As has been pointed out ad nauseam, Danczuk was actually defending the government's welfare policy (though not without qualification). He and Owen had a bit of a row about it, with Owen pulling out his trump card by saying Danczuk sounded like a Tory MP. Wow, what an insult, you nailed him Owen.

 Asides from childish insults, there were two other problems with this incident. One is that polling consistently shows that the majority of people, especially the young, are on Simon Danczuk and the Conservatives' side when it comes to welfare. The latest polling from Ipsos MORI confirms this. Which brings me to the other issue. In the aftermath of the Daily Politics incident, Owen Jones' Twitter page was crammed with messages from his fans, most of whom were Labour members, congratulating him and telling him how wonderful he was. I have met people like Owen Jones: they rarely talk politics with people who don't disagree with them and have jobs where they are surrounded by people who agree with them. They have allowed themselves to be sealed inside an echo chamber, where they just sit and agree with each other all day (sounds ghastly, doesn't it?). And if you only ever talk to people who agree with you, eventually you'll start to assume that must be what everyone thinks, so when you meet someone who doesn't conform to this view, you turn into Father Phipps and give them that look of innocent wonder.

 This was exemplified by the reaction of hard leftists like Owen Jones and Laurie Penny to the news that young people had a more negative view of the welfare state than their parents and grandparents. Instead of addressing the issue of problems in the welfare state that may cause people to not to see it as the greatest invention since the wheel, they simply declared that a “campaign of disinformation” by the right-wing media (vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone?) had brainwashed the poor, ignorant proles. Oh, if only they listened to us, they sopped, don't they realise they would be some much HAPPIER living on benefits and blaming the Tories for everything wrong in the world?

 This is what happens when you don't allow heresy to penetrate the echo chamber, you turn into another Father Phipps. The cold truth for Owen Jones, Laurie Penny and the remaining Leninists is that people are increasingly turning against the welfare state. And you know what? This isn't the greatest tragedy to befall mankind. There are perfectly good reasons to oppose the welfare state. John Maynard Keynes opposed the welfare state. Heck, even Karl Marx opposed the welfare state. If the welfare state shrinks to a fraction of the size it was in the 1940s, it's not the end of the world.


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