Owen Jones and the revitalisation of the left

Centrists have an easy retort. OK, smug radical, if we’re not the answer, let’s hear you list the flourishing leftwing governments, describe how the left bridges its divide? And, of course, they have a point. The style and culture of the radical left is often shaped by university-educated young people (a group that includes me). They are a growing and diverse group; often they hail from modest backgrounds. But their priorities, their rhetoric and their outlook is often radically different to older working-class voters in small town England, France or the US. Both groups are critical to building a victorious electoral coalition, and yet they are, indeed, divided.

That must change. Unless the left is rooted in working-class communities – from the diverse boroughs of London to the ex-mill towns of the north, unless it speaks a language that resonates with those it once saw as its natural constituency, shorn of contempt for working-class values or priorities, then it has no political future.

That’s a hell of a fucking bridge you’ve got to build there Owen. Because the causes dear to your metropolitan heart have no resonance at all to that working class out in the provinces.

The gays rights agenda that sees bakers prosecuted – no one ever gave a toss nor even really mentioned the two blokes who lived in the corner house with their pair of poodles. Well, it’s their life, innit? But there would have been, is, a certain consumer resistance to their frightening the horses with buggery on the back of a truck to some Hi-NRG at the Gay Pride March.

Absolutely every Jamaican chippie who came over following the Windrush has been called Chalkie, something that would quite probably be illegal today, but as long as he stood his round he was as welcome as anyone else in the regulars’ corner.

And that working class values masculinity just as it does that strong femininity of motherhood. Family, not class, matters, place is hugely important. The demand is not for equality of outcome, it’s for a fair go.

And on and on. That working class you need as your vote bank just doesn’t think the same way you do. They’re not, in short, deracinated rootless cosmopolitans. They are the salt of the earth, that’s entirely true, but they’re a hell of a lot more conservative than you seem to realise.

So what next for the left? It clearly cannot compromise in the fight against racism, misogyny and homophobia but it must urgently work out how to do that in a way that connects with the unreached. The working class is increasingly diverse and the left must have a message that resonates with all constituencies. It cannot allow the populist right to portray it as a hater of working-class values.

But your problem is that your basic platform is in conflict with those working class values. No, they’re not all racist women haters who’ll beat up every gay they can find. Very few of them are any of the three in fact, they’re vastly tolerant of all sorts of lifestyles. But they’re tolerant, which is what they should be, rather than the celebratory that you keep demanding.

We need to project an emotionally compelling vision.

Here’s a little hint, for free and gratis. What the working class want, just like everyone else, is that they can see the world getting better around them. To know that their children are going to have better lives than they did, that civilisation marches on. And the essential clue to this is to understand just the basics of how economies work, how they work in order to produce the growth which makes those lives better off into the future. It’s not difficult. Just leave people alone to get on with it except where you must make sure that they don’t just get on with it. And that’s it really. Markets and a bit of judicious regulation and she’ll be fine.

If you could just get this clue crammed into that over educated brain of yours then you’d be able to walk to electoral victory. For we’re British, some of the most tolerant people on the planet. You can play whatever you want over that sound system at the parade, yes even Hi-NRG, as long as we’ve got the economics and freedom bit sorted out and we’re all getting richer.

48 comments on “Owen Jones and the revitalisation of the left

  1. ‘Because the causes dear to your metropolitan heart have no resonance at all to that working class out in the provinces.’

    Spot on! But it’s going to be amazing fun watching them try, isn’t it?

    *denudes the western corn output to make popcorn*

  2. I agree, and it shows an immense lack of empathy on Jones’ part that he doesn’t know this.

    I would add – stop insulting the people who you want to vote for you. Not only are most not racist, homophobic, misogynist etc. – they know they aren’t. So, when you try & call them that, for voting Tory, Trump or Brexit, they can clearly see you have no idea of how they live or think.

  3. ” It clearly cannot compromise in the fight against racism, misogyny and homophobia…”

    Don Quixote and his fucking windmills.

  4. How long are Jones (32) and Penny (30) going to keep insisting that they are the “voice of yoof”?

    Are they slowly going to morph in to some sort of (even more hideous than the original) Janet Street-Porter clones?

  5. Probably would help if they stopped telling poor white people that they are beneficiaries of ‘white privilege’ too.

  6. So what next for the left? It clearly cannot compromise in the fight against racism, misogyny and homophobia but it must urgently work out how to do that in a way that connects with the unreached.

    What he really meant was

    So what next for the left? It clearly cannot change it’s mind about racism, misogyny and homophobia but it must urgently work out how to con the thick rubes that is has.

  7. The problem for Owen and the rest of them is that the journey back is too long, and as they have forgotten where they once were (or may have been), they don’t know how to get there even if they were willing to go the distance.

    Or, to use another analogy, they have tried every girl in town and now want to go back to the wife who has kicked them out of the house.

    The working class and Owen are now two utterly different things, as different as a plumber from Barnsley and a hunter gatherer from the Amazon basin. They have zero connections, except one: Owen thinks he represents the working class in some vague way.

    The reality is that the new Left despises and fears the working class. The working class does something unexpected – the dog bites the hand which thinks it feeds it – and their instinctive reaction is Bad Dog! Racist Dog!

  8. They can’t help but tell normal people that they are deluded, deceived, ignorant, racist, or whatever else. If they don’t do this constantly then they start looking at what they are themselves, and it isn’t pretty.

    There is a lot of stuff in the lefty press about what the left needs to do next, and usually it boils down to something like people are sad because they are not benefitting economically and they have been deceived by evil Brexiters/Trump campaigners. Therefore solution = more socialism, things like tax campaigns to make sure everyone equally miserable, increase propagada output.

    What they always miss in their analysis is the burning desire of the left to ram things like mass immigration, promotion of alternative lifestyles, behaviour change policies like the smoking ban, identity politics, multiculturalism, etc down everyone else’s throat. If they could just realise that people don’t want their lives forcibly planned by Owen Jones then they might start having some success again, even with the stupid lefty economics.

  9. Absolutely every Jamaican chippie who came over following the Windrush has been called Chalkie, something that would quite probably be illegal today, but as long as he stood his round he was as welcome as anyone else in the regulars’ corner.

    There’s was a black Yorkshire comedian who used to make a tidy living telling jokes about his mate Chalkie. I saw him live once, very amusing. He pointed a a woman who arrived late “I see you’ve got a lot of freckles, you should be careful, that’s how I started”. He wouldn’t get away with that today.

    And here’s another free tip, ask for a sense of humour for Christmas. Outside dour left wing bubbles most people use banter and piss taking is a way of building bonds and creating thick skins, its a way of life. Its meant to put the offence takers in their place and tell them to get on with life and stop being self-centred pricks.

  10. If you could just get this clue crammed into that over educated brain of yours then you’d be able to walk to electoral victory.

    The problem, though, is that the “clue” consists of everything that is anathema to a statist and left-wing authoritarian.

  11. I agree with the others – excellent post.

    If Labour actually read & understand this, the Tories might be in trouble. No chance of that, though.

  12. And another piece of free advice, return the welfare state to being a safety net and not a way of life. Most working class people do have a sense of the deserving poor and hate seeing “scroungers”.

    How long are Jones (32) and Penny (30) going to keep insisting that they are the “voice of yoof”?

    Jane Street Ported kept believing it until she was well in to her 50’s, probably still does.

    I would add – stop insulting the people who you want to vote for you. Not only are most not racist, homophobic, misogynist etc. – they know they aren’t. So, when you try & call them that, for voting Tory, Trump or Brexit, they can clearly see you have no idea of how they live or think.

    +1

    All bigots might have voted Brexit/Trump/UKIP/Tory, but not all those who voted Brexit/Trump/UKIP/Tory are bigots and there’s a lot more of those in the working class.

  13. @BiND
    But if little Owen were ever to “stop being a self-centred prick”, what on earth would he do for a living? He may have passed his sell-by date as a rent-boy.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset – “All bigots might have voted Brexit/Trump/UKIP/Tory, but not all those who voted Brexit/Trump/UKIP/Tory are bigots and there’s a lot more of those in the working class.”

    You are buying into their world view. Who gives a sh!t if the people who voted were bigots? Why disqualify them?

    More to the point, since when did loving your own people and community become anything less than common sense? If we do not love ourselves, who will?

  15. “The style and culture of the radical left is often shaped by university-educated young people (a group that includes me). They are a growing and diverse group; often they hail from modest backgrounds”

    Wow, that’s a stretch. What’s your definition of modest, Owen?

  16. To be fair to him, at least he’s trying. Large chunks of the American left seem to have gone for the option of assuming that tomorrow belongs to them because whitey will eventually be a minority.

  17. “I agree, and it shows an immense lack of empathy on Jones’ part that he doesn’t know this”

    There’s a weird imbalance, isn’t there, between the people he claims to stand for, and the people he seems to have spent most of his time with? I suppose the latter group are student activists and the London political crowd, neither of whom know the first thing about the working-class

  18. Rob: “So what next for the left? It clearly cannot change it’s mind about racism, misogyny and homophobia but it must urgently work out how to con the thick rubes that is has.”

    +10,000

  19. The bigot word crops up again. Can anyone explain what it means, apart from “voices opinions I forcefully disagree with”?
    The only people who it seems to describe are the people who utter it.

  20. Great post Tim – you should either forward it to Owen or tone it down in a letter to the Guardian.

    Someone let me know when the testicles of this precocious entitled man-child descend and I may start to pay some attention to his scribblings.

  21. I thought the post rather sentimental, and particularly object to “They are the salt of the earth”. Not in my experience. I believe them to be a mixed bag. Just like humans, really.

  22. Somewhere I’ve read that the brown chaps from the Raj were also initially accepted as they stood their round in the pub – quite literally, they integrated into the working culture they had entered including going to the pub of an evening with your shop floor mates.
    Then the grags started crawling out of the caves back home and noticed the peons were escaping their control and going off to civilisation and bettering themselves. There was no way they could have that, so they followed them and stamped down on them and forced them to disintegrate themselves.

  23. A leopard never changes its spots. They don’t get it, and they never will. If you watch BBC Breakfast on BBC1 now you’ll notice that the sports reports are often equally divided between mens elite and womens sports. Only a vanishingly small number of people care about the latter, but they’re ramming it down our throats. We are still a work in progress to their minds and they mean to change us, not change themselves to reflect our views.

  24. > Then the grags started crawling out of the caves back home

    There’s not much Sir Terry didn’t get right, is there?

    Read my daughter the Bromeliad Trilogy recently. It’d been ages since I’d read it, so I was quite astonished at the amount of philosophy, metaphysics, morality, religion, and human nature he packed into books for kids.

  25. Seems a bit bucolic to me. London dockers helping passengers of the Empire Windrush and asking them to live next door. We know there was actual racism in Britain at all levels of society and tackling that was right. What didn’t happen is every case was integration to become like the indigenous Brits. The immigrants of the Caribbean are a great example of integration, adopting the working class way of life and enthusiastically interbreeding. As a result, along side a change in racist views on the superiority of skin colours) real discrimination of the kind of cops picking on them for no reason or not being offered rented accommodation is very low. Anti-racism activists exaggerate now to preserve their jobs when they should be folding tents.

    The Hindu and Sikh immigrants have followed the Jewish route of not intermarrying but otherwise adopt a fairly British lifestyle and don’t expect society to change to fit them. The problem is immigrants who don’t integrate, who demand that what we do changes to match their culture. That alienates the moderate working classes who understood they shouldn’t call people Paki any more but don’t see why their children can’t have pork sausages at school. They feel they have had to compromise too much by an elite who don’t value their culture. And now they have had enough.

  26. “the left must have a message that resonates with all constituencies. It cannot allow the populist right to portray it as a hater of working-class values.”

    The problem is, matey, that the “populist right” is simply telling the truth about you lot.

    As I’ve found first hand, being an educated oik from the back of beyond.

  27. When your cunning plan is to tax the kulaks to buy the votes of the proles, (both of whom you despise) there’s not much you can say that isn’t a lie.

  28. @Roue le Jour
    “When your cunning plan is to tax the kulaks to buy the votes of the proles, (both of whom you despise) there’s not much you can say that isn’t a lie.”

    +1

    I’m having that one

  29. “The style and culture of the radical left is often shaped by university-educated young people”

    If your movement cannot attract the mature, then give up.

  30. Ah, like Billy Bragg you mean?

    The bloke with an accent like Jamie Oliver?

    I thought he lived in a terraced council house on the borders of Sarf Lundun.

    Strangely, this turns out not to be the case.

  31. Ian Reid, promoting less-popular material is a perfectly sensible thing for a state broadcaster to do. Perhaps the only thing. It’s when they believe that these voices are only small because of discrimination (in the negative sense) that the trouble starts.

    SE, “Do you think you could fit Owen and his ego on a single sofa?” no, but it makes excellent stuffing.

  32. An excellent post even by the high standards of this blog. Worth putting it up in the Grauniad if it were stripped of its more colourful content?

  33. What DevonChap said.

    In particular, there’s a tweak to your last line Tim:
    “You can play whatever you want over that sound system at the parade, yes even Hi-NRG”

    The problem is that, to some degree, I’m not sure that’s true. That sound system has strong, loud even, overtones of the “forcing everyone to celebrate” to which people object.

    Worse still, it’s counterproductive even to the more limited goal – that forcing of celebration reduces the natural tendency to quiet toleration. You’re less likely to tolerate something if you suspect that that’s a wedge into your being forced to celebrate.

    Doubly so for the dreaded “respect”

  34. TPG,

    > That sound system has strong, loud even, overtones of the “forcing everyone to celebrate” to which people object.

    It’s the celebration on the BBC which particularly grates. Whether it’s the Queen’s 101st birthday, the Olympics, or gay pride marches, we’re told that this is positive for everyone. There’s no recognition that some people disagree. There are no republicans, nobody who thinks the Olympics was a waste of money, nobody who thinks shagging other blokes is fine in private but that it’s not really something to be “proud” of.

  35. “Absolutely every Jamaican chippie who came over following the Windrush has been called Chalkie…but as long as he stood his round he was as welcome as anyone else in the regulars’ corner…for we’re British, some of the most tolerant people on the planet.”.

    I can’t work out whether these comments are based on pure ignorance or are intended as heavy-handed irony.

    The slogan of “no Irish, no coloureds, no dogs” was so commonplace in Britain in the late fifties and sixties that, as Dave Allen used to say, “If you’re a black Irish wolfhound you’re buggered”.

  36. “The slogan of “no Irish, no coloureds, no dogs” was so commonplace in Britain in the late fifties and sixties”
    No it bleeding well wasn’t.
    You just need to say this to justify your ant white racism.
    As well – where were you at the time? I didn’t see you.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.