If you’ve ever wondered why ordinary people hate politics, remember this summer. Everything about the Labour leadership election has been terrible – everything. If you wanted to design something to repel voters from engaging in democracy, it would be this. From start to finish, a grinding, tedious, hateful cavalcade of hubris, slime, condescension, viciousness, rancour, infighting, disloyalty, Peter Mandelson, disingenuousness, hatred, contempt, sneering, lies, deception, wilful unpleasantness, nose-cutting-off-to-spite-face-ing, self-destruction, ship-scuttling, grandstanding, sniping, patronising – oh God, so very patronising – bullshit.
(If you think, by the way, “ah yes, but my sage insights were above it all”, you’re wrong and you’re part of the problem. I’m part of the problem. This is part of the problem. We’re all part of the problem. Anyone thinking they’re above it all and wisely looking down and picking Maltesers out of the midden is deluding themselves. We’re all equally responsible for this never-ending clusterfuck. We all did it and we should all be miserably ashamed of ourselves. Are you? No.)
At the next election, when only three in ten people bother to turn up and put a pencil cross on a bit of paper in a draughty community centre, and we all wonder why, and we take to Twitter and grumble about how everyone should vote, do you mind if we remember this summer? Because no one has covered themselves in glory. Not the Corbyn supporters, not the Blairites, not the people calling anyone who doesn’t support full communism a tory, not the people who say you mustn’t call anyone a tory even if they’re a tory. None of them. Get this straight. It’s a massive, massive turnoff for everyone. It’s a disaster. Not just for Labour, although of course they’re doomed to a new SDP – or worse – but all of us. All of us. We all fucked it up.
Your Hodgeses, your columnists, your opinions-for-money no-marks, you expect them to be awful. And of course they have been. But it’s their job to be awful. They need to be, or else be bland, and therefore no longer of interest. No, don’t blame them. Baby needs shoes. It’s us. Ordinary people who’ve happily sniped and sneered and grunted and groaned our way through this endless dry heave. Us. On Twitter. On Facebook. Everywhere, talking shit. Endless shit. With only one aim: beat up the other lot. Not with any aim of achieving anything other than feeling glibly superior to the other side. That’s all it’s been. God, what a waste.
It’s not about twitter or social media though. It’s about those people who think they own politics – from the people who would like a party to be exactly what they want a party to be, and stick their fingers in their ears and shout “lalalalala” when anyone has a slightly different idea, to the commentators and scribes, so sure of what the plebs need and so certain of how they should be told to think, the silly twerps. It’s about who owns politics. And it’s not us. If you think it’s you, it isn’t.
In the wreckage there will be a new order. Perhaps there will be reconciliation and working together. Probably there will be more fighting while the real bad guys get away with it. We are the wrestling crowd looking on while the referee has his back turned and the bad guys are cheating. We are powerless, no matter how hard we holler. And that’s the way they like it.