Joe Grundy is the elderly grumpy working-class character on the popular BBC Radio soap ‘The Archers’. He and his family suffer permanent misfortune and they are currently facing eviction. He ended last Friday’s episode by saying: “It’s a judgement on us all. You mark my words: this is the end of days and there ain’t nothing we can do to stop it.”
I know how Joe feels. The previous day I attended the North Norfolk Labour Party meeting held to determine who we should nominate as Labour Party Leader. This was a wholly pointless exercise – everyone will have an individual vote once the ballot opens. However it gave Corbyn supporters an opportunity to demonstrate their ascendancy locally. Corbyn secured 44 votes against 15 for his challenger Owen Smith. This is complete reversal, in percentage terms, of his support amongst Labour MPs.
The North Norfolk meeting was well chaired and was a tame affair compared to what is happening elsewhere in the country. We are an elderly lot – there were at most only three or four people in the audience under the age of 40. Talking about it afterwards with a friend who teaches at the local University, I discovered that I had participated in an event based in post-truth politics – a term that was coined to describe the European Referendum debate and Donald Trump’s campaign in the US Presidential Election.
Wikipedia defines the concept as follows. “Post-truth politics is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy and by the repeated assertion of talking points, to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” Too true: there wasn’t an inch of common ground between the two sides at the meeting. Our argument was that Jeremy Corbyn was an incompetent leader and that the lack of confidence had come from those who needed to work with him most closely. We were met by the argument that all was going swimmingly well until the advance of Labour was sabotaged by the vote of no-confidence and Shadow Cabinet resignations. To get to this conclusion it is necessary to ignore the reality of the local elections in May, pretend that Scotland (where we did disastrously badly) is not part of the UK and excuse the failure to get the support of habitual Labour supporters in the Remain campaign. In the spirit of post–truth politics, factual rebuttals must be ignored.
However the most important characteristic of post-truth politics, as defined above, is that debate must be framed by appeals to emotion. Those participating in the movement are made to feel that they are part of an enlightened vanguard. Have a look at the following blog written by someone who was at the same North Norfolk meeting and you’ll see what I mean:
It seems that, for some, the Holy Grail drifted over the meeting and, (like Arthur’s knights in Tennyson’s Idyll) the faithful are now inspired to embark on a great quest. They could start by knocking on a few houses in Melton Constable where we came fifth (behind the Lib-Dems, Conservatives, UKip and Greens) in a District Council Election held on 14th July.
In those Parliamentary Constituencies with Labour Members the next step will be to harass and try to de-select those MPs who did not support Jeremy Corbyn. In North Norfolk we do not have a Labour MP, nor any indeed any elected councillors.
Goodness knows where it will all end but I think that Joe Grundy has made a powerful prediction. I wish he’d been at the meeting alongside me.