Corbymania & The Economist

Are we being Naive?

Corbymania

Seemingly like a whole swathe of the British population, I think Jeremy Corbyn is pretty great, and worth a shot. Call me and every other young and hip Corbyn supporter naïve, but we have passionately committed ourselves to his rise (Millifandom is already a distant memory in the past for our collectively political community). Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly to some, The Economist has taken a markedly strident tone against Jeremy Corbyn.

I really do like The Economist, and have been reading it for many years. Part of my respect for it stems from its relatively non-ideological approach. Sure, it has an economic slant, but it has what I see at views with integrity that don’t fit easily into one ‘box’, and often jar with established government policy for countries like Britain and America. They even makes criticisms in areas where level-headed commentary can be quite difficult, like on Israel-Palestine. It is not often overtly partisan, and I value that.

So when The Economist decides on such a strong stance as to write against Corbyn in several successive articles, it troubles me. Am I to simply dismiss this as the inevitable panic of the ‘Establishment’ at the rise of a relative ‘outsider’? No – that’s not going to work for me. That’s falling into the trap of being a ‘lefty’, beyond simply being ‘left-wing’. I feel like I have to read and give respect to the views portrayed in these articles, and subsequently put effort into debunking them in order to justify my support of Corbyn to myself. Surely, if I can’t argue effectively against the magazine’s critiques of his economics, my support would be more emotional than rational? It would be naïve, as some like to so often say.

So I will embark on this journey of rebutting one of the world’s greatest current affairs newspapers ever. I have no intention of being a part of a wave of naïve students supporting an impractical policy package unsuited to Britain today. Young people can be naïve; I don’t want my political views to be defined by this. To do so, I feel like I need to be able to intellectually withstand The Economist’s onslaught, and if I can’t, I might have to reconsider some of my stances.

Are there any other avid readers of The Economist having (forbidden) positive thoughts about Jeremy Corbyn? Do let me know if you manage to reconcile the two contradictory currents.

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Britain, Royalty & Modernity

Two men were arrested after the break-in

For all its modernity and development, the United Kingdom remains a monarchy. It might seem like something of an oddity that this increasingly liberal, areligious nation remains committed to this tradition of over 9 centuries. With the steady advance of free speech, public criticism and satire, all have been subjected to ridicule and scrutiny, and yet somehow this fundamental Renaissance-onwards movement has left our monarchy perfectly intact, albeit reduced to a ‘ceremonial’ role.

Some Britons consider themselves ‘Republicans’, committed to the idea that the head of state ought to be elected, or at least appointed by some body of politicians or otherwise. For some reason that I find slightly less than rational, I find myself disagreeing quite firmly with them.

This is largely sentimental; Queen Elizabeth II is just such a lovely old lady, isn’t she? In fact, some suggest continued support for the monarchy in Britain is largely due to her stature as monarch. That leaves a lot of questions to be asked for succession, given that Prince Charles has more outspoken politics – even if he is quite an affable fellow.
It is also born out of an attachment to tradition; the monarchy, broadly speaking the same family, has accompanied Britain through all manner of earth-shattering events, from the two World Wars to the rise and fall of the British Empire, pushing through Oliver Cromwell’s civil war and the revolution of 1848. I don’t believe the royal family is inherrently superior to anyone, not in the eyes of God; all are created equal. Yet surely there is much value in cherishing such a rich and longstanding tradition?

The royal family is quintessentially British; that has immense value in an era characterized by our increasing confusion over what Britishness even is. The same identity crisis can be seen in many nations today, buffeted by the homogenizing forces of globalization and neoliberalism. They are also a cherished symbol over the world- even in ex-colonies where British rule is viewed in hindsight overwhelmingly negatively (and rightly so)- William and Kate’s wedding was viewed with great interest. It is a symbol of British culture – it keeps us relevant. I have a sentimental attachment to that, but also a realpolitik, Machiavellian one.

There is value in tradition and symbols, but a large part of the public’s support is surely also due to the perception that the monarchy doesn’t really exert any power these days, and so its downsides are limited. Personally, I’m not convinced this is the case. The Prime Minister has been obliged to meet the Queen weekly for decades, and in high government circles it is well known that she is particularly astute and well versed in British affairs – as one would expect. Some may view these meetings as a formality, but I would not be surprised if there was some substance to these discussions that goes beyond exchanging pleasantries.

It would certainly make sense that a family so immersed in British public affairs and tradition, literally from cradle to grave spanning generations, would aggregate a commanding knowledge of what Britain is, ought to be, and what her interests are.  That this constant factor can act as an informative and stabilizing force in the background as political leaders come and go strikes me as a reasonable arrangement, although I suspect this is partly due to my affection for Queen Elizabeth II as an individual, and my perception that this arrangement has quite obviously not produced any glaring downsides in recent years. I imagine most of the British public would tacitly agree.

To be clear, I advocate no faux conspiracy. It is obvious the royalty’s functions are mostly ceremonial, and the royal family has long learned to respect the firm mandate of elected politicians; our current Queen quite clearly guards her neutrality and reserved-ness with the utmost vigilance (quite British, I’d say). But the political workings of any elite are often calculated, quiet and nuanced – shying away from the spotlight.  I’d bet the royals have many interesting conversations with people of significance in Britain, not least the Prime Minister, on a regular basis. They must exert subtle influence behind the scenes, in a non-invasive, non-partisan way. And that is not such a terrible thing.

So, for all my skepticism of the ‘establishment’, I have somehow ended up a sentimental royalist. Hats off to you, dear Elizabeth.