At the risk of falling foul of Godwin’s Law …

I’ve been quiet of late, because I’m in Jordan. Ordinarily trips to foreign parts bring a spike in my blogging as I regale you with my hilarious anecdotes and pithy observations. But, firstly, the hilarious anecdotes usually start with large-scale consumption of a substance somewhat frowned upon here; secondly, my pithy observations are being saved up (believe me); and, thirdly, I’m ridiculously busy trying to learn Arabic, which it turns out is something of a tricky language.

But things in Britain go on without me, it would seem, and pretty horrifically so (not least because as every week passes, things get roughly 5% more expensive for me here). I don’t have time for a long rant, or the mental energy to be excoriatingly insightful, so all I intend to do is provide you with a short list some of the anti-Jewish legislation passed by the National Socialist government in Germany in 1933.

February 27, 1933: The Reichstag Fire Decree curtails civil rights in the face of “communist violence.”

  • 2014: R v Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar becomes first trial to be held entirely in secret, the gagging order is upheld in 2016.
  • 2016: Theresa May announces British troops will not be subject to the European Court of Human Rights.

March 31, 1933: Decree of the Berlin city commissioner for health suspends Jewish doctors from the city’s charity services.

April 7, 1933: Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service removes Jews and Communists from government service.

  • 2015: Home Secretary Theresa May launches drive against “entryists” in public service.
  • 2016: UK government bans foreign-born LSE staff from advising on Brexit.

April 25, 1933: Law against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limits the number of Jewish students in public schools.

  • 2016: Schools must collect data on the nationality and citizenship status of their pupils. Amber Rudd introduces restrictions on overseas university students.

Look, obviously these comparisons are not exact. I am not claiming that the approach of the Conservative government is anything like on the scale or malignancy of the pre-war Nazi-controlled Weimar Republic. But what I am saying is that both of these represent, in an environment of economic strife, a systematic and institutional process of marking out a group of the population as “other,” making them lesser human beings to be monitored and restricted, and identifying them as responsible in large for the economic problems and potentially actively repugnant to the ideals of the state.

As well as scale, there are differences in kind. I can think of two in particular:

  1. In the Weimar Republic, the economic conditions were utterly disastrous for the whole populace (this is not to demean the experience of the half million plus forced to use food banks in 2015), but were also imposed from outside by the punitive stringency of the Treaty of Versailles. In contemporary Britain, the economic straits are a consequence of policies of precisely the same government (or, at least, the same party) that now seeks to blame them on their selected “others.”
  2. Most obviously, Hitler was a maniac, whereas Theresa May is an intelligent and, one presumes, fairly rational human being. The data exist showing that migrants bring a net economic benefit to the UK; that even in the jobs most affected by immigration—low-paid semi-skilled or unskilled service jobs—the effect of migration on wages equates to about 2p per hour; and that migration has virtually no effect on employment levels (and where it does, it is migration from outside the EU that has the effect). No-one would suggest that the Nazis should have known better, because knowledge was irrelevant to their programme. Theresa May does know better—she can hardly be unaware of these data—but knowledge does not appear to be relevant to her programme either. This, above everything else, is deeply worrying.

I get back from Jordan in late December. I have been, whilst here, thinking hard about whether to stay in the UK and fight the good fight; or to leave for other shores and let the country descend into institutionalized xenophobia without me. The latter option is winning out at present … I can just see nothing, nothing good that can come of our present direction, nor any practical way to change it.

I’m sorry to get all class war on you, but I ain’t gonna take advice on the direction of the Labour Party from a guy named “Tristram”

The private school and Cambridge-educated son of a peer has told Cambridge students that Labour is “in the shit” and that it is up to them—“the top 1%”—to take the mantle of leadership. How very egalitarian: this is exactly the kind of elitist born-to-rule stuff for which I rejoined the Labour Party.

Tristram Hunt—for it is he—claimed that Labour is becoming a sect because of “algorithmic politics” where “everyone shares the same views as you on social media.” Somewhat confusingly, however, he had previously said at Sheffield University (lowering himself to speak to the less-than-top 1%) that we must “move closer to the public” on a number of issues. Who would, presumably, then share the same views on social media. One wonders whether the necessary condition of popular opinion being sectarian is whether or not Hunt agrees with it. Hunt seems to object to consensus within the party, whilst avidly endorsing that the party abandon all principle to align itself with the wider public consensus.

Hunt has, in this, perfectly expressed what has bedevilled British politics since Tony Blair, and the reasons why I actually did rejoin Labour. He seems to feel that the job of a political party is to get its candidates elected, no matter what. That the primary purpose of standing for election is to gain power, and that the best way to achieve this is to “centralise” and to adjust most of one’s policies to fit current public opinion, whatever that may be. To me this is a ludicrous travesty of modern liberal democracy, which is (or should be) grounded in the discursive arena of civil society, and in which the job of the political party is primarily to represent the views of its members and to attempt, through discussion and persuasion, to convince the electorate to endorse them. To abjure that responsibility is to turn politics into nothing more than a beauty contest, with competing, unprincipled parties engaging in a cheap and unedifying race for votes.

If anything is algorithmic, it is the vision of policy-making as a brute mathematical function, taking inputs of public opinion, and generating an output of highest electability.

I rejoined Labour not because I agree with everything Jeremy Corbyn says or stands for, but because he, at last, was a leader who seemed to grasp this. I last voted Labour in 1997 and, since then, a whole generation have grown up who have never heard a mainstream politician articulate anything close to the social democratic—dare I even say socialist—principles which I support. Those of my generation who nominally support this position, yet insist that the Labour Party must be run by centralising ideology-free vote-whores such as Hunt, and believe that somehow, once the party has gained power by promoting these ciphers, they will suddenly turn socially responsible are fooling themselves.

An argument has to be won: the argument that there is an alternative route to prosperity and general well-being than that of laissez-faire, trickle-down, corporation-led, light-regulation monetarism. That argument won’t be won if it is not made, and it will not be made if the Hunts of this world have their way and keep Labour as a Tory Lite popularity-grasping machine. I believe that Corbyn has won that argument within the Labour Party—within their membership, who he recognises it is his primary responsibility to represent, though not the parliamentary party, who feel it is his primary responsibility to ensure they get re-elected. It is now time for the Labour Party to take that argument to the wider public and born-to-rule, top one-percenters who object to the consequent endangerment of their presumed privilege are welcome, as far as I am concerned, to jump ship to the other side, where I am sure they will feel quite at home.