Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Party's Over

It began some years ago when people who served behind bars – let’s call them barmen – became ‘assistant managers’ on the same deal: the same unsocial hours, the same minimum wages, all for dealing with the same crowds of drunken buffoons. But hey, a titular upgrade and they’re management. Children no longer have Saturday jobs as shop assistants but gather curriculum vitae credits ‘in retail’. To have worked ‘in retail’ is much like referring to yourself as being ‘something in the city’. Yes, dear, but what did you actually do and how’s that CV bearing up now that online shopping bypasses the annoying ‘can I help you, sir’ obstruction to unfettered retail therapy?

Actually the phrase ‘something in the city’ has for years concealed the fact that in wealthy industries you could afford to have people sitting about twiddling their thumbs or indulging in their hobby horses on good salaries while others did the hard miles. Similarly it is a mark of affluent countries that, freed of the need to strive to survive, plenty of people earn their crust, often quite lucratively, by doing what interests and amuses them. It’s no wonder the post-Brexit shocks are felt more keenly by those in the media and the social meddling industries. Who’s going to need diversity coordinators once people wake up to the reality that diversity actually coordinates itself, pretty much?

Imagine an economy where everybody participates in productive endeavours and the non-jobs aren’t even options? We could become wealthy enough that it might be normal to take time out to pursue personal interests, or retire extra-early and live off secure investments. We should certainly be able to save and pass on a head start to the next generation. Instead, successive governments have pursued progressive agendas for short-term gains in popularity rather than face up to the fact that nothing comes without putting in the hard work first. Our bar manager is no more a manager than a 23-year old ‘business advisor’ is a businessman.

Instead of solving the problem, changing the name of the problem has been deemed sufficient. Studying, redefining, re-framing and facilitating understanding of a circumstance is not the same as tackling that circumstance head on and solving, eradicating or improving it. We need more engineers and fewer consultants, more real scientist and fewer 'cause scientists’, more labourers and fewer highly indoctrinated dupes appropriating the ‘L’ word and calling themselves a political movement.

All of which brings us to Corbyn’s cataclysmic cabinet collapse. Labour’s sole raison d'être was to represent the working man, not the trendy, right-on Islington set and their cadre of politically correct activists for whom no cause is lost until a career has been spent losing it. What Labour needs more than anything if it is to survive is to stop trying to be all things to all people and get back to basics. Maybe the reason they have become an irrelevant party of eternal opposition is because they have forgotten how to appeal to their core vote. We’re all middle class now, said John Prescott in 1997, stating an aspiration as if it were fact and in that moment setting out New Labour’s stall to tinker with the pretty fringes and forget the unattractive core.

In the same way that creating a subject called ‘literacy’ could never replace actual literacy and setting diversity goals helped bring about the resentment of the multicultural morass we now wade - or tiptoe - through, Blair’s focus-group driven policy unit pandered to the eccentric while ignoring the actual centre. No cause too faddish to be célèbre, no genuine concern too basic to be beneath contempt. Work, health, education, welfare; there’s your core, those are your prime concerns. The rest is frippery.

But this is where the political class still just doesn’t get it. Instead of appointing shadow ministers with real backgrounds in working and then representing workers, rather than career unionists with sociology degrees, Jeremy Corbyn has fallen for the old traps. Diane Abbott is a liability. Thornberry is loathed by, well everybody, and nobody has even heard of the rest. The first task for Cat Smith as Shadow minister for Voter Engagement (if she is still in post when you read this) is to work out what on earth that title even means. From where I’m sitting the engagement is well and truly over.

(Latest: Only 40 MPs supported Jeremy Corbyn in a vote of no confidence this afternoon. He remains defiant and intends to fight any leadership challenge.)

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