There are times in politics when being in opposition isn't a bad thing. With Brexit tearing the Tory Party, and with it, politics as usual, apart, Jeremy Corbyn feels lucky to be sitting on the opposite side, watching the hapless Prime Minister trying to achieve the unachievable. So far, he has played the usual political game of obfuscation, never really taking a stance, letting the Tory Brexit fall apart on its own. Self-consciously, he stood up every day at the PMQs and got through it never really challenging the Prime Minister on the subject, almost making the point that her incompetence is self-evident.
It was a clever stance. It is hard to do what-ifs, but one can possibly argue that Corbyn's lack of stance unleashed the Tory civil war in full view. The political calculation of the Labour front bench was perhaps to enjoy a period of calm, after all the Blairite sniping of the past couple of years, and keep everyone guessing. Without this, Jacob Rees Mogg's antics would not have been so visible and Tony Blair's irrelevance wouldn't be so obvious. One can understand it was totally unnecessary for Labour to start a new civil war - or create grounds for all those 'new Labour' MPs who are ready to start one - on an issue which they are not in charge of.
But Corbyn is supposed to be a 'conviction' politician rather than a conventional one. For his core voters, his appeal is based on his authenticity. Authenticity is indeed what differentiates him from the ultimate reed-in-the-wind Prime Minister across the aisle, who only stays in the job by promising not to linger around for too long. The question, however, is - can Corbyn remain authentic while playing to his political advantage?
One way of looking at it is that Brexit isn't the biggest issue for the millions of people Corbyn intends to serve. House prices may fall, but they are not on the housing ladder. The banking industry may suffer, but they may have been refused credit a long time ago. London's economy may fall apart, but they are not in London: In fact, they may be able to pick up the pieces when London stopped sucking up all the opportunities and all the best people. When your house is about to be repossessed, or you are desperately looking for the next dole or waiting endlessly at an A&E, you don't care about Brexit. And, Corbyn, at the PMQs which sounded lame to the middle classes desperate to catch a hint of his Brexit stance, repeatedly reached out to those who had more urgent, and if you call it that, more mundane, concerns. He remained authentic, one could argue, even in the middle of the biggest political issue of the time.
However, there is another way of looking at it. In the middle of the biggest political issue of the time, Corbyn remained disengaged, failed to rise to the occasion and obsessed himself with everyday concerns of his voters. He is indeed being a good MP, but is that what the Leader of the Labour Party should do? Is he making the mistake, if a historical parallel must be drawn, after the German SPD, which remained legalistic and focused on their internal constituencies even when the Nazi danger was quite clear? Lenin, who Corbyn may pay some heed to, said the German SPD was so obsessed with rules that when they go to make a revolution, they would dutifully queue up to buy railway tickets first. Is Mr Corbyn thinking about the railway ticket too much, and about the purpose of the journey too little?
The problem indeed is that a bad Brexit would hit the little people first. House prices would indeed come down, but that wouldn't make it easy for anyone to get a mortgage. Boris Johnson was lying: There would be less money for the NHS and the A&E problem is not going to go anywhere. That one wants a Brexit which protects jobs is a good soundbite, but perhaps both Corbyn and the Shadow Chancellor know very well that there are no silver bullets here. Indeed, they could calculate that exiting the EU may actually be a good thing - it would allow them to nationalise industries etc - but they are also aware how difficult to turn the clock back within a global economy. Last time, socialism in one country was tried, it failed.
And, here is the final problem: Brexit comes with a racist paranoia, a desire to return to little England. No one voted for Brexit wanting to create nationalised industries: The Brexiters played the anxiety about racial and cultural purity quite upfront. It is an illusion that Brexit would enable a different economic dynamic but leave the society untouched. Corbyn may get a free hand to create a Command state, but that would come with a deep betrayal of the socialist internationalism that Corbyn is undoubtedly committed to. And, besides, a society in the middle of a racial nostalgia may never give him the chance.
As the House of Commons reconvenes in 2019, Labour may indeed have to show its hand. The crisis is too immediate and too obvious, and one can't hide any longer in the shadows. And, this would be the trial by fire of the promised politics of authenticity. Corbyn has been tactically astute so far, but history calls.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.