I realise it’s Sunday (meaning literally “the sun’s day”) and it’s very hot, and many of you would rather be outside enjoying yourself than reading this. If that’s the case, please do feel free to go and do something else. Perhaps come back in a few days’ time. I’ll happily wait. Go now, and no judgement will be cast upon you. I promise, just enjoy yourself.
For those of you left reading, I suppose this is something more ritualistic. Reading LabourList at the weekend, even when it’s 26 degrees, is just something you have to do, just as I have to write it, for fear of the editor sending me a frowny emoticon.* Like a pagan ceremony we dance around the fire, chanting as I, the shaman, throw powder into the flames and summon the spirits. This might seem an ill-fitting concept to analogise to the latter day British political blogosphere, but as much as we may live in a secular society, our everyday lives are still underpinned by similar rituals.
Now watch in amazement as I conjure shapes from this seemingly amorphous smoke.
What got me thinking about this was a tweet from Mark Ferguson, quoting Ann Pettifor speaking at Class think tank’s first seminar yesterday. She said that Liam Byrne’s famous “there’s no money left sozard! LOL, Liam xox” note [paraphrased here] was the biggest betrayal not only of economics but of the entire labour movement. Now, I wasn’t there, and I don’t know Ms Pettifor, but this is clearly the biggest overstatement, not only of politics, but of everything ever since time began.
At first, I was taken aback. Byrne’s note was stupid. A really terrible idea. An ill-thought through joke, at best. But the biggest betrayal of the whole labour movement, like, ever? I’m basically a child, about as young as Owen Jones looks, and I’m fairly sure there’s been bigger betrayal while I’ve been around, even in my own living memory. Possibly even since I started writing this sentence. Surely the biggest betrayal of the labour movement ever, like totally, totally ever, would have to shake the movement to its core and threaten the very foundations of our shared struggle?
Fortunately, I was quickly rescued from my state of taken-abackedness by the wise sage Hopi Sen, who told me, wisely, that there is “always room for one more betrayal myth on the British left”.
He is, of course, correct. There are plenty already. Ramsay MacDonald to this day remains a hate figure within the Labour Party, eighty years after his decision ceased to make any difference to the British political landscape. For some, Michael Sheen can never be forgiven for the way he treated his mentor in The Deal. The whole movement is based upon the idea that we’ve all been wronged in some way: an injury to one is an injury to all, indeed.
For many on the left, the “struggle” is about finding the newest biggest betrayal and fighting against it. A constant state of reinvention. It’s the same old ritual. Always circling the fire, looking at the same flames, looking for new shapes.
*Yes, this happens. Whenever this mentioned in conversation, all regular LabourList contributors I have spoken to have admitted to living in fear of The Frowny Emoticon.