I have never paid any attention at all to Nick Cohen to be honest. Not out of any strong (prior!) dislike I’d just presumed my time was better spent reading other things. I am also generally highly resistant to anti-Corbyn clickbait. Nonetheless this morning I did open this article and was, to say the least, surprised by the level of flimsy, delusional bullshit on offer. It’s almost as if we are living in two completely different Universes, Nick and I.
Nick bemoans the fact that the Tories are running over us unchecked by any serious opposition and the implication of course is that this is Corbyn and his supporters fault, after all Tories are going to be Tories, we shouldn't hold them to account for their actions, it’s “in their nature” and the real responsibility for the Government’s actions lies with the Opposition’s failures to counter them. Ultimate responsibility for food banks then lies with the Corbynistas. This is a perverse and self serving, you might even say morally vacuous, position to take ( and I suspect that Nick is nothing if not a moral vacuum).
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't much of the Corbyn surge brought about precisely by the failure of Labour to oppose the Welfare bill and by Burnham and Cooper’s essentially cowardly, opportunistic abstention? Didn't John McDonnell stand up and say he would swim through vomit to oppose it while the majority sat on their hands? Aren't the 48 MPs who did oppose it all the ones likely to do well in the imminent re-shuffle, and rightly so, “ after such knowledge, what forgiveness” and all that? Hasn't there been any effective opposition so far, no problems for the government whatsoever? Nothing around Tax credits? Hasn't McDonnell wisely shifted his position away from aping the Tories terms on the deficit? Hasn't political punditry been proven repeatedly and risibly wrong, around Oldham for example? Wasn't that increased vote a success, or are we just pretending it didn't happen, or doesn't mean what we insisted it would mean now we have been shown to be wrong? Still, of course the lack of integrity and realism is all on the other side, right? Not yours!
Perhaps none of this has happened and I have just imagined it all, no doubt I am so blinded by my atavistic political allegiances that I have some kind of confirmation bias that prevents me from seeing the wider political landscape like Nick. Heaven forbid that he has but this one shabby drum that he’s been beating for decades now every time the Guardian drops a coin in his slot. What pieces like this do is turn in some cod-serious analysis of Labour’s current dire state as true “opposition”, big on po-faced rhetoric and loftily fulminating with blocked compassion, without having the guts, or brains, to run with a convincing counter-factual. Where would we be now if Cooper or Burnham or Kendall had won, or if Benn came roaring in as replacement? Would they be holding the Tories feet to the flames over their cosying up to Murdoch? Would they be too abashed to do it at all if they had to face that dogged champion of the people Tristram Hunt across the floor, or any one of the others who wasn't previously prepared to oppose them on what should be a fundamental issue? Would Food banks have been instantly eliminated under Kendall, the leader we were repeatedly told the Tories most feared because she was somehow dead set on overturning the entire Thatcherite project and running completely counter to the Tories’ class interests by positioning herself to the right of them? Does this position of Nick’s, this implied loss and lack we suffer under, bear any relationship to the actual array of potential options as presented? Can a convincing case be made that any of the other candidates would be doing what is “needed”, can what’s “needed”, beyond a few empty signifiers; “effective opposition”, “electability” “ leadership” even be adequately defined here? The simple answer as far as I can see is: no.
Perhaps I won’t be reading him again, not because I want to bury my muddled head in the sandpit of infantile Leftism, I’ll happily read intelligent and honest Conservatives all day, even smart Neo-liberals, but this is just nothing, isn’t it? A windy, embittered, blustery and blathering nothing.
That’s what Nick’s bringing to the New Year Party.