This week saw the birth of an exciting new political movement: ‘The Independent Group’, so named in order to use a legal loophole whereby a group of MPs do not have to disclose the information about their financial backers. Not to cast aspersion on their noble intentions, but their sources of income are probably dodgier than one of those intensive weight loss pills.
The man who will probably end up leading the ‘Blair Rich Project’ is Chuku Umunna, someone who always struck me as the sort of person who would charge you £1 for a single Rizla in a substandard nightclub. Umunna’s voting record is truly a sight to behold: he consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat overseas, voted against investigations into the Iraq war, and abstained on the 2015 Welfare bill. The only positive thing I can see here is that he voted for legalising assisted suicide: a policy that I can see becoming overwhelmingly popular if the Tories remain in power. To be fair to Chuku, it must have been difficult to go through private school and Oxbridge, only to have that guaranteed political career snatched away by ordinary people – god forbid- electing somebody outside of the ‘circle’ as leader. But I’m sure a friend of a friend will end up offering him a lucrative job in the tech industry in the not too distant future anyway.
To name a few, Umunna is joined by Chris Leslie: a walking human sneer. A man who thought that Labour’s 2015 manifesto had been too harsh on landlords and who confirmed, in his interview with The New Statesman that he was in favour of tuition fees, privatisation, and against the 50p top rate of tax. Angela Smith took some time out of her day job of defending privatised water to go on TV and discuss race issues with all the comfort of a Victorian headmaster teaching sex education, and describe ethnic minorities as having a ‘funny tinge’; thereby burdening the group with a racist scandal within hours of their inception. Her insincere apology- which expressed regret at ‘any offense caused’ but not of the actual offense- was like something out of Alan Partridge. The fact that she managed to create a scandal with the entire media on side was, to say the least, impressive.
Nick Cohen wrote in the Guardian that the Independent Group are ‘now able to follow their consciences’, but I see little in their voting records or behavior to suggest any of them possess a conscience. They all seem to share an enthusiasm for bombing the Middle East and for austerity. They all want a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit, but none of them want a people’s vote in their own constituencies, because they know that if by-elections were called, they would lose them.
They supposedly see their future as a new ‘centrist’ party, one that commands the support of the ‘politically homeless majority’ in Britain who are crying out for ‘moderate’, ‘sensible’ policies to save them from the extremities of Labour and Tory. To me, this is evidence that the establishment believe their own propaganda. There’s a reason why ‘centrist’ parties collapsed in the 2017 election. There’s a reason why centrist parties are collapsing all over Europe. There’s a reason why, in France, Macron is now the least popular president of all time. Everybody knows that so-called ‘centrism’ (in reality, neoliberalism) has been a spectacular failure for everybody except the rich, that this model is bringing our society and planet to ruin. If the Independent Group sincerely think people want a return to the Blair era, then I would love a puff of whatever they are smoking.
Because ‘public opinion’ as represented by the mainstream media is in reality ‘media opinion’ (in other words, far to the right of what most ordinary people believe in), it is difficult to say at this stage how successful the Blair Rich Project will be. It is entirely possible that they will take enough votes from Labour in marginal constituencies to deliver a Conservative majority at the next election. I suspect their ideal scenario would be to form a confidence and supply arrangement with a post-Theresa May Tory party. Essentially, they are designed to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn never becomes Prime Minister, they are there to ensure the survival of the neoliberal economic model. But even if that happens, the game is surely up for neoliberalism. People can see the amoral inequality, the dishonest media, the stagnant wages, the starving homeless people on our streets. And people have had enough. So good luck to the ‘Independent Group’ in their endeavors- they’ll need it. They are all swimming against the tide of history, and not one of them is Michael Phelps.