Since arriving in the UK almost six months ago, I’ve been quietly soaking in the slosh of British politics, hesitant to form any rash judgments at the peril of being labelled a pestering peasant from one of the glorious empire’s failed penal colonies, New Zealand. However, I’d put it to staunch throated Brits that my lack of entrenchment gives me a rather uninhibited insight into your state of affairs, one that I’ve become unexpectedly fascinated with.
Now before you get too smug, this is in large part simply due to ideal timings; I just so happen to be in your country as my own sense of ‘giving a shit’ or righteous opinion has started to emerge out of post pubescent ego-centrism, and your political discourse, still horny from the election, just happens to be the one at hand to scrutinize. This is not to say New Zealand politics is lacking in flavour – our ‘pig-gate’ for instance was instead a ‘pony-gate’, where the horsing around involved the overzealous hand of our prime minister and a waitresses innocuous braid.
The reason I’ve felt compelled to put in my two cents, sorry: pence, is because of comments your enigmatic prime minister made this week at the Conservative party conference, referring to the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn as someone who thinks “the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy”. The reason I’ve taken specific exception to this, is that the activity of propagating misinformation deliberately and knowingly to play into the circus of the popular press is none that a head of a nation should be engaged in, even more so when they represent such a seemingly civilised global force. The context for Corbyn’s comment, which is a mouse click away for anyone who looks, reveals that his opinion is that the assassination rather than capture and trial is the tragedy, fitting into his wider point of the entire 9/11 episode as a tragedy.
Cameron’s follow up point was “No. A tragedy is nearly 3,000 murdered one morning in New York”. Which is tellingly, considering that in the obscure old clip of Corbyn he’s trying to enlighten us from, Corbyn’s own follow up statement was the “World Trade Centre was a tragedy”. What does this mean? That they agree, and it’s all a terrible misunderstanding? How delightfully conciliatory. No, what it means is that Cameron calculated that wide swathes of the public, upon hearing or reading his dribble, would not independently seek out the context of Corbyn’s comment. That context very clearly exposes Cameron’s point as nonsense, and without it, a reader or listener is simply left with the PM’s dirty characterization, of which he referred to as ‘the only thing’ you need to know about Corbyn. The sad thing is that for people already ideologically displaced from the Labour leader, that inherently false fact will ring true.
For those who would argue this is simply partisan slandering, nothing new, happens everywhere, that is accepting of a system that is more concerned with the means to stay in power than the wielding of that power in your interests, and worse, accepting that in the face of a genuine driver to reform that system. Whether you support Labour or not, you must value their effort to change how the overall political beast behaves. For me, Cameron’s comments, the perverted execution of cherry picking by a head of state to stigmatize the opposition rather than engage with the important substance of what is said, is simply inexcusable. Despite the bedlam of the United States presidential nomination race, you would not see Obama making such insults. What Corbyn stands for, is the constructive, rational debate of issues, absent from debate of personality. This is his ideological constitution, and it works in the benefit for everybody; for his opponent to disregard that notion, and go for a cowardly knife to the ribs instead, is unsettling. David Cameron should be ashamed, and the British people should be ashamed for him.
Another to jump on the Corbyn scaremongering was Tony Blair, drawing the analogy that the inability of Corbyn supporters to heed the advice of himself, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock to abandon their doomed backing of the new leader is like a driver continuing through a roadblock despite the old boy’s insistence that they’ve been “up and down this road many times” and it’s full of dangers and ultimately failure. Tony, you may have traversed the roads behind us, getting a few flat tyres of your own, maybe even on some of the same terrain, but you do not know the road ahead. Nobody does. Spare us your righteousness.
The discontent towards engaging and exploring issues productively within the political sphere and much of the mainstream media is not going unnoticed by the public, and it cannot be in the interests of Cameron or other politicians to display such playground antics in the face of voters who are over the gossip and bullshit. The front page article in an Evening Standard last week was titled: ‘Lord Alan Sugar: We should all move to China if Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM’. While simultaneously showcasing the unveiling of Sugar’s new luxury apartment building in London, a city riddled with hungry gentrification, a plutocratic housing market and growing poverty, the article shamelessly ran with the celebrity’s unjustified slandering of a man whose world view is by virtue focused by in large on the impoverished in society. These are the papers Cameron and others cater to with their poisonous dribble, hoping that some of it will seep into the minds of ignorant readers.
All of this weak criticism is something Russell Brand could testify on, given he was labelled “a joke” by the PM during the last election despite having followers and youtube views numbering in the millions. If you actually listen to Brand, if you look past the flamboyancy and the whimsical aura, you’ll find that’s where the jokes stop. His sound, rational arguments have amassed a huge fan base, all similarly discontented by the political complex, so by calling him a joke, you’re also calling his followers a joke, followers with as much sense of intellectual virtue and justice as anyone else.
From what I’ve observed these are all examples of the larger trend, to play into the fantasy and perceived demagoguery wherever possible, and we should all find that insulting. Whatever your views on Corbyn, whether you think he’s ultimately electable or not, is frankly irrelevant. His camp is unlike most others, refusing to sink to petty kicks under the table, or boisterous ramblings in parliament, and focusing exclusively on the content of the debate. The disruptive momentum of Bernie Sander’s campaign in the US, where many parallels can be drawn with Corbyn’s, is I hope indicative of an increased political engagement within my generation and others. Maybe they are the early signs that we are sick of cleaning up after this perpetual shit-fight.
Featured image: YouTube/exadverso