Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Social justice versus liberal ideology (Election blog 2)

Polly Toynbee says Hold your nose and vote Labour, then continues that those defecting from Labour don't care about social justice.
"Poverty and equality are low on the agenda even on the left. Deep in email debate with angry Labour voters threatening not to vote for the party this time, I find it is the war and terror legislation they care about most, not poverty. Time and again they dismiss social justice as a second-order question. All ideological fervour is expended on liberty, very little on equality. If even the left is relatively uninterested in (and grossly uninformed about) Labour's social programmes that really can change lives, Blair and Brown are not alone to blame for public indifference. Where is the pressure on them to come from? I cannot help arguing fiercely with Labour supporters who own homes in reasonable areas and want to vote Liberal Democrat although the Lib Dems have equality and poverty nowhere in their plans. They would take a bit more from the richest but they would squander the money to woo the better-off in seats that they might win (the poor will already go free to university and poorer old people already get free personal care). But for many Labour voters the war appears to take priority; it is a kind of decadence that makes distant things easier to feel passionately about than the messiness of difficult social policy at home."
This is an important point. Time and again these days, I come across leftists, mostly comfortably off, for whom foreign policy concerns, driven by anti-American and anti-Israeli prejudice and by liberal ideology, take precedence over the hard work of fighting poverty and injustice. So, we have the AUT failing to fight the casualisation of academic labour and instead investing time in dismantling Israeli higher education. We have the Social Forum movement easing off on its commitment to global justice in order to spend its time focusing on the narrower issues of American engagements. And we have Labour voters switching to the Liberal Democrats, who have no agenda on poverty, in order to complain about the legality of the war, including supposed socialists like Tariq Ali.

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