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A Tale of Two Dawns

A New Dawn. How many times through history have people around the world been promised ‘new dawns’, with a fresh start and better days ahead? CorbynAnd how many times have they turned out to be false dawns, or at best accompanied by the heavy rain of disappointment and disillusion, rather than the rosy red glow of a rising sun of hope?  Yet, change and ‘new dawns’ are an inevitable part of humanity and so we see both Newcastle United and the Labour Party entering autumn 2015, by making new starts. But are they really just false dawns?

To begin with Newcastle United, there was at least a little optimism around in the wake of Ashley’s famous interview, the appointment of Steve McClaren and the spending of £50 million in the summer transfer window. That optimsm now seems to have largely disappeared as an all too familiar sense of deja vu has set in amongst supporters. To me the reason is clear; this is a false dawn. Indeed it is hard to envisage a real fresh start at Newcastle United, whilst Ashley remains the owner.

He has brought in a manager, who had clearly just failed in the Championship with Derby County and had previously turned Newcastle down, not once, but twice. Who exactly were the 80 supposed candidates for the job, we were told about in January? Did they really exist? More pertinently was it really just a case that McClaren was available and nobody better would come to Newcastle United whilst Ashley remained the owner?

As for the spending, it seems like nothing has really changed there either. The signings certainly seemed like a step in the right direction, but now we are well into the new season, with the possible exception of Chancel Mbemba, they look like more of the same; young players bought with a view to them being put into the shop window for a sell-on profit two or three years down the line. Certainly there seems to be no long-term plan and no concerted effort to put right the many things that went wrong last season.

And so to Ashley himself. I for one, wasn’t fooled by the interview in May. I am not convinced that he is capable of changing either himself or his business model. He will never see Newcastle United as anything other than a business to benefit him and to advertise Sports Direct, along with, of course, Wonga. It is hard to believe that there will ever be a real ‘new dawn’ until Ashley sells up to owners who actually care about the club and its supporters.

And so to the new start at the Labour Party. Perhaps the first thing to say about Corbyn’s victory in the leadership election is how quickly Blairism seemed to evaporate, despite the interventions of Blair himself and a number of his old cronies, who were clearly so out of touch that they never seemed to realise that every intervention just drove more Labour members into the Corbyn camp. I was reminded of what the character Prospero said in the Shakespeare play, The Tempest:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:”

Whilst it might have come as a shock to many media commentators, not to mention so-called Labour grandees, that Blairism was only really tolerated as liong as it kept winning, to many others this came as no surprise. It presented no real alternative to the Conservative neo-liberal consensus and has now. like so many of the victims of neo-liberalism, found itself redundant.

As for Corbyn, he has predictably faced a firestorm of vitriol since his victory and indeed since he appeared ahead in the polls at the end of July. It would probably be fair to say that he never attempted to or for that matter excepted to be leader and if he had he might have chosen some of the people he has been on platforms with, with a little more care. But, hey aren’t we supposed to be sick of cynical calculating politicians? And do you have to agree with everything somebody says, before appearing on a platform with them, especially if you feel that by doing so you can do some good? And then how about Thatcher being friendly with the serial human rights abuser General Pinochet, whose regime in Chile in the 1970’s and 1980’s used to ‘disappear’ opponents by kidnapping, taking them up in airplanes over the Pacific Ocean, before shooting them and dropping their bodies in the sea, not to mention some of the less savoury characters who have been for dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Then we have seen the press and other media making a big deal out of Corby not singing the national and then at the ceremony to commemorate the Get 15% off at Northern Threads with promo code TRUE15Battle of Britain, while recently I notice the blood donor section of the NHS has been using adverts to advocate that is patriotic to give blood. All this makes me think that perhaps it is time for a national conservation about what real patriotism is. Is it singing the national anthem at the top of your voice, so everyone can hear you, whilst waving a large Union Jack? Or is it working for the benefit of others throughout your nation, not just the rich, whilst campaigning to ensure that members of the armed forces are never put in harm’s way without very good reason and certainly not on the basis of a lie. What do you think?

As for Corbyn being a ‘hard-left extremist’, I simply don’t buy it. His policies are generally to the right of those of Harold Wilson. Indeed one economist who analysed Corbyn’s economic policies found them to the right of the 1983 manifesto. The 1983 SDP manifesto. It is simply the case that renationalising the raliways, or putting more money into the economy as a boost when it needs it, nothing more than the kind of classic Keynesian policy, which has served us well in the past, look very left-wing because the ground has shifted so far to the right since 1979.

What the new dawn in Labour Party might succeed in doing is finally breaking the consensus, which has hung around since 1979, that the market always works (even when it doesn’t) and that bankers and the wealthy are untouchable and can never be brought to account.  There is clearly a demand for a different kind of politics, which puts people before profits and community before corporations. There is a yearning for a new dawn, which will glow with new light of hope for all our people. Hopefully Corbyn can help steer the political debate in this country down a more caring, more decent and more humane road. This has to be better than a society where a fabulously wealthy can buy whatever they want and do whatever they like.

If you want to see the damage that that kind of thinking can do, you don’t have to look far. Take a look down Barrack Road, at a football club owned be a certain Mike Ashley….

(c) Peter Sagar September 2015