UK Politics

Long lie down needed for Owen Jones

BY Iain Martin | iainmartin1   /  4 May 2018

Owen Jones needs to have a long lie down after the local elections. The results are in, and it would be fair to say that the Guardian columnist and Citizen Smith tribute act has got less than he hoped for after a frenetic campaign of Twitter self-promotion and virtue signalling, sorry that should read frenetic campaign on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and Momentum. Facing a government that is close to being a total shambles, Labour made little in the way of advances. The revolution has been delayed.

The Jones tweets from the election trail reached a crescendo on election day. Perhaps it was the heat, but it wasn’t that hot. In that vein, he later blamed mild sun stroke for his silence overnight as the results rolled in showing that the Tories were somehow holding up.

On the day he had been upbeat.”Let’s be having you,” he tweeted at Kensington, in anticipation of a Labour win.

Er, thanks awfully, but no, came the response from the voters.

Jones then attempted to rally support by tweeting that the Tories have the hedge fund managers but Labour has “the people.”

Good grief, the arrogance, group-think and contempt for fellow citizens on display in that tweet.

Were there 13.6m hedge fund managers voting in the UK general election last year? Of course not. That’s how many people voted Tory in 2017. More than voted Labour. Does the far left have any idea who Conservative voters are and what motivates and animates them? Have they met any Conservatives and talked to them?

Of course, the Jones tweet reminded me that one of the most hateful Marxist conceits has long been the idea of the purity of “The People” (often with the P capped up) with those out of line with the People othered. If those who are not included in the people are at odds with the People, then aren’t they enemies of the People who must be crushed? John Stuart Mill in On Liberty expanded on the idea of the “tyranny of the majority.” That risk is why institutions need to be flexible, adaptable and humane, and policed by the legal system and a free press.

Consequently, I hate seeing Brexiteers and Brexity media adopt the phrase “will of the people.” It is a short skip from there to regarding people with different views as traitors. Mind you, the speeches in the House of Lords to stop Brexit this week were pretty appalling.

Anyway, back to Owen Jones and his nightmare local elections.

I will not join the chorus of those laughing at him the morning after the night before.

I would simply say on a human level that politics has long been addictive, with the potential to push people over the edge, throughout human history. This was true even before the arrival of Twitter in the late 2000s.

Since then, social media has amplified the worst aspects of politics, speeding up the process, amplifying anger. We all make twits of ourselves on social media from time to time, making an unwise prediction or being rude (raises hand on both counts). The antidote is a rest, calm conversation with non-political people, a glass of wine, and a good book.

In a spirit of reconciliation, Owen, can I recommend some good books for the bank holiday weekend?

Anne Applebaum on The Gulag is particularly effective on where Marxism leads. Matt Ridley on how prosperity works is a must. And if you haven’t read Jesse Norman on Burke, then do, before he publishes his work on Adam Smith this summer. Smith is the master when it comes to explaining why markets work.