For Owen Jones

Dear Owen,

You were one of my favourite journalists, less likely to indulge in the hilariously stupid tripe favoured by many of your colleagues, and your fresh little face on the by-line reassured me that young people weren’t becoming so lazy about politics that they weren’t getting involved… even if (in your case) ‘getting involved’ seems to mean writing about it. Well, it’s a start.

But today, your by-line was at the top of an article that could well have been written by dear old John Harris on one of his all too frequent bad days – out of touch MP’s, all drawn from the political classes and they’re all the freaking same. Except they’re not are they? A quick glance around the front benches will reveal a Tory party stuffed with old Etonians and millionaires, right wing loons and chumps who staunchly believe in the right of the rich to rule. The Labour party may not host as many working class people from the coal pits and shop floor as we’d like, but they’re hardly the venal, vile and vicious goons of the current conservative party. To suggest that they’re both the same is well, lazy and self-defeating.

Lazy? Yep, because it’s hardly the case that you are the first person to write an article like this is it? As mentioned, not a week goes by without Jolly John Harris stuffing the Guardian with another ‘why voting is pointless’ piece and demonstrating that there is nothing worse than a jaundiced ex-Labour voter, and meanwhile the red-tops love to tell us why UKIP is breaking a mould and transforming moribund politics, wrenching the agenda out of the doldrums where blah, blah, blah, old guard, blah, professionalized blah… yawn….. So congratulations for mining an already over-worked vein.

Self-defeating? Yep. I would hazard a guess that you’re of the left brand of politics and you clearly don’t much like UKIP (sensibly to my mind), and yet here you are writing the sort of article that pretty much gives the lazy and disenchanted a jolly good reason to stay home and decline to vote (yay!) as well as encouraging the gullible to believe that only a ‘new’ party can change a system that is ‘irretrievably broken’. But if the press had spent as much time revealing the hypocrisy of UKIP and the paucity and sheer nastiness of their policies as they had on Nigel Farage’s big beery grin, we might not have a situation where those people with most to lose from a UKIP or Tory win are pegging their hopes on a party which has been deliberately vague about what it stands for and for whom.

Immigration (as you quite rightly point out) is a straw man, a convenient ‘other’ for those at the bottom of the pile to blame for their misfortune, and a useful smokescreen for those who are really screwing the poor and unfortunate over. The red-top press have spent a considerable amount of column inches propagating these fears and a decent journalist would be calling them out for it.

A decent journalist might also be revealing the facts about UKIP. I agree with those who reluctant to call UKIP simply racist, I think they are good old-fashioned xenophobes, hating anyone who isn’t familiar or immediately understandable. Many of their supporters maybe racist as well, but I suspect that they’re also misogynists, homophobes, Islamophobes and all-purpose haters too. UKIP have almost certainly decided to be deliberately sparing about the detail of their policies, and they’ve been helped along by a press that seem to care more for dissing the established parties.

As with the Indyref campaign, the lack of information, lack of firm plans, lack of realistic policy means that supporters can hang any wish-fulfillment, hopes and dreams from these bare bones. I’ve read reams of deluded imaginings: UKIP are the party of the working man and ‘real’ socialists (not led by and for business interests), they are genuine engines of change (not backward-looking, old men with a love of a 1950’s England that never existed) that they care about everyone’s ‘real’ concerns about immigration (they don’t, Nigel is much more interested in leaving the EU – despite being an MEP).

We do need to be addressing ‘immigration’ as a concern: many people are wrongly blaming poor migrants for societies ills when it’s the people who made everyone poor who should be targeted: bankers, Tory politicians, millionaire tax-avoiders, foreign oligarchs etc etc. We know (from bitter experience) that blaming ‘others’ and keeping people poor and un-happy has dreadful consequences and the passage of a mere half century hasn’t made us less likely to do it all again. We’re a rich and powerful country – let’s use some of our wealth to create public sector jobs and decent housing, guarantee a living wage and ensure that tax is progressive and re-distributive. I don’t think Labour can deliver on all of these policies (or indeed any) but I do know that UKIP and the Tories certainly don’t even want to.

I think journalists have as much responsibility for making things better as politicians: there used to be a great tradition of campaigning investigative journalism in this country, but these days we soak up miles of opinion from you lot, but what are you suggesting? Nothing new that’s for sure, just more and more of the same recycled nonsense. You sneer at Labour and poke the Tories, ignore the Green party and talk incessantly about a party that has one MP and what do you propose? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.


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