Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


Politics, mandates, and real life

It’s been a while. In real life, anyway. In politics, not so.

We’re due to have a new Prime Minister on 13th July, some time in the evening, a Prime Minister without a mandate from her own party, never mind from the country. I said the same thing at the time Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair (and so did Theresa May, actually). It brings the country to the brink of being a one-party state. She didn’t say that today, mainly because she’ll be the leader of that party, the totalitarian leader, in fact. All heil, Theresa.

And we’ve had almost three weeks to reflect on a referendum won by lies. I was going to say subterfuge, but that’s too mild a word. And by a process that went against the process by which democratic referenda are managed. No minimum turnout threshold, no two thirds majority. That’s because the law which enshrined the referendum didn’t set any such parameters, and the absence of any such parameters made it only advisory. If it had been intended to be a conclusive vote, the law which allowed the referendum would have said so.

Those who say I am writing this with sour grapes between my teeth and in my gullet I say this: had the law set the appropriate parameters, had the law said that the referendum was binding, I would not be arguing against the legality of it; I would merely be pointing out that it was won on falsity, and that it played upon the mistaken belief by many people that it would take immediate effect. It has not taken immediate effect; it is not legally binding, and it never was.

Leaving aside for one moment the lies peddled by racists such as Nigel Farage and his merry band of foreigner and LGBTQ-hating rich chums, leaving aside for a minute the biggest lie of all, that the NHS would benefit immediately to the tune of £350 million a week, spread by the liberals (ha!) on the right wing of the Tory party, leaving all that aside, I am looking at a landscape of devastated generations. And I don’t just mean future generations, not just your children and mine, and their children, and their children’s children. I’m looking at people older than me, those who have relied until now on charities and grantmakers (what’s known as the Third Sector) to maintain or improve their quality of life – because state support has been gone for some years.

Many charities have investments, investments that have fallen rapidly and devastatingly since 24th June. A fall in the value of those investments brings with it a fall in the return on those investments, in other words a fall in the money charities generate. This in turn means that many charities now immediately have less disposable income, less money to hand out, less money to give to the people who most need it (and there are lots of those, especially with the austerity measures imposed by the party which Theresa May will now, unelected, lead). This means that real life, for old people, for those in poverty, for those most in need, is actually already worse, never mind if the UK Parliament’s sovereignty is impinged upon and the decision of the advisory referendum is actually implemented.

That’s what this all means.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected by the membership of the Labour Party last year, to be the leader of the Labour Party. This was not an advisory election; the rules of Labour leadership elections clearly make such an election binding. He polled over 59% of the vote. A clear mandate, in anyone’s eyes, by anyone’s measures. And yet someone, somewhere, decided that this wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t fit to be leader. Why? Probably because he presented them with some unpalatable truths; like the truth that wars aren’t worth fighting, that Blair was wrong to send the UK to war with Iraq, that politics should be conducted in a fair and respectful way, that it’s better to be in opposition with principles intact than to be in power with almost the same policies as the Nasty Party. So many MPs in the Labour Party, crazy for personal power no doubt, decided they would try to throw him out, tried even to amend the crystal-clear rules of the leadership contest process so that he wouldn’t even be on the ballot paper. They have failed, thankfully, and a proper leadership contest will now take place.

But why is a leadership election even necessary ten months after the last one? Why does the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) think Corbyn is unelectable? Is it because he will ask for Blair to be indicted as a war criminal? Definitely. Is it because he is a man of principle? Probably. Is it because he thinks about real life rather than the rarefied atmosphere of Westminster politics? Very probably. Is it because he is, actually, very electable, and that the Labour Party stands a good chance of being elected, but on a platform that is somewhat to the left of the party that was elected in 1997? Definitely. There is the decayed scent of personal profit about the actions of the PLP and all those who sail in her. That’s sad. And despicable. Because that makes those people no better than the hyenas in the Tory Party.

Naturally, if the national membership of the Labour Party vote against Corbyn, even by 50.1% to 49.9%, I’ll not argue with that. And why? Because such a leadership election is binding. Because party politics is cyclical, and those cycles often even themselves out. Unlike the referendum, where futures upon futures will be blighted by a non-binding and advisory vote by people who didn’t understand what they were voting for, because none of the liars on the Leave side told them it would tear the fabric of the country apart, and that real life, for those of us who do not live in ivory towers shored up by bags of coin, would get worse and worse, not better. That’s why.

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