Dearest Mambo reader, tonight I wanna tell you a story.
I want you to imagine, if you will, a parallel universe.
One in which bald people are the target of ferocious media abuse and most people agree with the anti-baldy agenda. To wit:
“You know, the fucking baldies. It’s their own fault that they are bald. It’s weakness. Not trying hard enough. They deserve to be mocked and told as often as possible that it is their own fault they are bald. It doesn’t matter that there isn’t a cure for baldness available. It’s still their fault. Wankers.
And not just that. Their laziness in not sorting out their baldness is the reason why Britain has gone to the dogs. If it wasn’t for the baldies things would be ok. This once green and pleasant land would be green and pleasant again.”
I could go on, but you get my drift.
Now I want you to imagine you are a leading politician in a social democrat party in this baldy-intolerant society. You know, you must know, that baldness isn’t a character flaw or a symptom of one’s own personal inadequacy. The media witchhunt is ridiculous. The way they get singled out and blamed for the nation’s ills is wrong, obviously wrong, and a quite deliberate ploy by politicians and journalists with an agenda to divert people away from the non-hairloss related causes of our social problems.
What, as a social democrat, do you do? Do you stand against it this reactionary nonsense, or do you instead go along with it and actually say (quite openly) that you are going to make the lives of bald people even harder as that is more popular right now? Do you encourage intolerance or try and patiently change the terms of the debate?
How contemptible would you have to be to join in the hysteria? Could you look yourself in the mirror in the morning knowing that what you are doing goes against the very fabric of the principles the party you claim to be a proud member of, and are hurting the very people that your party was established to protect?
Now substitute ‘baldy’ for ‘people on benefits’ and imagine that the unnamed social democrat I have described is Liam Byrne.
Liam Byrne is probably the most unscrupulous man in British politics today. By signalling that he thinks benefits should be cut basically “cos it’s popular with Sun readers” he is only illustrating what many of us know about him already. It doesn’t make his comments any easier to tolerate though.
He cannot honestly believe though that a policy should be implemented merely because it plays well with the media, can he? (rhetorical question guys. I know the answer…..)
I’m not expecting Labour politicians to start quoting Gramsci or demanding the nationalisation of the country’s biggest 25 companies, but I don’t think it is too much to ask to avoid basing your politics on what Jeremy Clarkson writes in the Times.
It is ludicrous for Byrne to bang on endlessly about getting people back into work when there are no jobs and the numbers of applicants per vacancy has rocketed. The unemployment numbers are not a symbol of moral decline and proof that life is easier on benefits. And there are many, many people who simply can’t work and the mark of a civilised society is that we look after them regardless. We have the money, it just means making a very different series of ‘tough choices’ to the one this government (and Liam Byrne) is proposing; making those with the broadest shoulders dig us out of this hole whether they want to or not.
If Ed Miliband is serious about shifting the Labour Party away from the toxic Blairite legacy the easiest signal he could send that he means business is to sack Liam Byrne immediately.