We know from Angela Rayner that, under the new leadership, what is true is not acceptable: so it is probably no longer acceptable for a member of the Labour party to quote Caroline Lucas approvingly.
But I do so now on this New Year’s Eve, the day after the vote on the EU trade bill and the day before we enter 2021 as an insular nation at the whim of global events and Johnson’s right-wing idiocies.
Yesterday evening, I ranted on a local Labour forum about my disgust at the party’s response, which produced only a single vote against a policy which had the backing of merely 26.5% of the British population in 2016. (That vote was many things, but the one thing it clearly wasn’t is “the will of the people”.)
This morning, I am attempting to recollect that emotion in tranquillity; to enter 2021 with a degree of equanimity; to find positives in the midst of this plethora of angst-ridden negativity.
It is not easy. Yesterday, in the House of Commons, our representatives voted 521 to 73 in favour of a bill which – and I am quoting defiantly from Caroline Lucas again – “cuts British jobs, sidelines our services sector, undermines hard-won protections for the environment, workers’ rights and consumers, and turns Kent into a diesel-stained monument to hubris and political myopia”.
The principal sufferers from this hubris and myopia are, unfortunately, the principals of our two major parties. Both Johnson and Starmer have changed their minds frequently on this key issue, and not because the facts changed. Whenever it was politically expedient, the principals changed their principles. Whenever there was a chance to undermine their leaders and climb the greasy pole to leadership positions, they seized the opportunity. And they were ruthless in pursuing power: Johnson culling the liberal intelligentsia of the Tory party; Starmer expelling or suspending those who raised the mildest of objections to his authoritarianism.
Both claim to be curing divisions and putting an end to factionalism. But both are achieving this by enforcing the hegemony of their own factions and, in Starmer’s case, refusing the opportunity for members even to discuss his actions.
Yesterday showed that, in the parliamentary parties at least, there is no principled opposition left in either party. Under Starmer, Labour has failed to vote against a succession of bills: allowing surveillance, torture, Covid corruption and incompetence and Brexit. What is the point of a two-party system when both are at one? And at one not only with each other but with the media, the elite, the ruling class?
Starmer said, in a Johnsonian reference, that he now regards the Brexit issue as closed. Closed it may be, but there will be no closure.
He wants it to be so. He can stop us discussing it. He can suspend or expel those of us who do. But right now, on the eve of a new year outside Europe, in the middle of a pandemic, and with no confidence in our governance, I despair.
I do, however, wish everyone a happy new year. Good luck!
Today from the everysmith vaults: Perversely, on the sixth day of Christmas, I am listening to the St Matthew Passion.