Friday, 12 February 2016
Political wind of change in US too
I have no expertise in American politics, but it does not need expert knowledge to discern that the results of the primaries in New Hampshire indicate the same weariness with existing politics that has been exhibited here and in other parts of Europe.
Maybe it won't last. Maybe Donald Trump's frightening lead will evaporate once the Republicans settle on a single alternative. Maybe the Democrats' surprising support for Bernie Sanders (a Socialist!) will eventually be squashed by the might and money of the Clinton machine. But it is clear that, for the moment at least, those more active in American politics are rejecting "the mixture as before" and crying out for something new and different.
Clearly, as in Britain, the existing party establishments are terrified that what motivates the party activists may not be quite so appealing to the electorate at large. In the case of Trump and the Republicans one fervently hopes they are right. But on the left, as Syriza in Greece and Podemas in Spain have so ably demonstrated, the enthusiasm of youth can generate meaningful support for concepts of fairness and change which the established left-of-centre parties are now too timid to embrace .
To my mind the message for British politics is clear. Jeremy Corbyn has reached out to such a constituency of grass-roots enthusiasts. The Labour Party establishment, instead of rejoicing (if one dare use an expression tarnished by Mrs Thatcher), carps, criticises, and in Hilary Benn's case, openly opposes. Journalists from whom one hoped for better, join the chorus. The flip-flopping Polly Toynbee rarely mentions Corbyn without attaching the adjective "unelectable." In yesterday's Guardian, referring to Corbyn supporters, Suzanne Moore writes: "the thrill of principle unsullied by the reality of power, appeals." So far, alas, the Liberal Democrat leaders, such as remain, have been more "snipive" than supportive.
Although predictions of the political future in these uncertain times are mostly doomed to be proved false, of one thing I am pretty certain. That is that if the Labour establishment prevails, and replaces Corbyn with one of its pillars - Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, or either of the other two whose names I forget, and the Liberal Democrats continue to snipe Corbyn rather than support those many goals of his which we share (though our method of achieving them may be different) then we are handing the government of our country to the Tory destroyers for yet another generation.