(Please Note: This is an updated and extended post from earlier this month called Corbyn, Wilson and Cheap Propaganda)
The smear campaign currently being run by the bedraggled caravan of Blairite ex-advisors, current apologists, the uninformed and the scared when it comes to the Labour leadership battle is not only largely infantile, it’s also nothing new.
There I was hanging around in the archives as you do when I came across this blast from the past: 1966 actually and in The Sunday Express (a right of centre UK newspaper). Doesn’t it remind you of current scare tactics being used?
So, what is happening today and why? Firstly, this has nothing to do with who is going to lead the Labour Party. The current smear campaign is aimed, from within the Party itself, at decrying the possibility of a left of centre Labour party going into the next general election. This not only offends the caravan in a political sense, it also attacks a core intellectual belief the ‘common sense’ that winning elections can only be achieved within the Downsian1 idea that:
“…in two-party systems it makes sense for parties to gravitate towards the middle and `capture’ the`median voter’.”1
This nostrum – and I use that word deliberately – is dug out of economic exchange theory2 like ore from an iron pyrite seam taken to the gold exchange. It assumes the electorate and the elected are playing a game; take the middle ground is a base assumption of chess for example. It is held up as obviously true.
Yet, it misses a very important point. The middle ground is not fixed, and at the moment despite Tony Blair’s Rumsfeldian ‘unreal political realities’3 a great deal of “the middle ground” in the two party democracies across Europe, and the American continent is seeking alternatives both on Left and Right.
The Middle is not only tarnished by smear, mendacity and underachievement, it is also not entirely understood to mean anything much more than “Fiscal and Social theories that since 2008 have patently not worked.”
Anyway, back to Harold Wilson and that cartoon cat.
Given that the Representation of the People Act (1949) under which the 1966 General Election was carried out legislated heavily against political advertising by political parties in the lead up to a general election, at the moment it smells very much like what in the USA is called a PAC (Political Action Committee).
However, at the time it was not likely have been considered to have infringed election electoral law.
Given that Labour Party leader Harold Wilson was widely considered to be a technocrat, a meritocrat and a pragmatic centrist and a reconciler, the imagery presented here is not a million miles away from that being promoted today by the anti-Corbyn old New Labour acolytes and Conservative press.
I am still looking at who the UK’s “Fighting Fund for Freedom” was – this will feature in my research and a forthcoming work.
Either way, smear does not work. Harold Wilson and the Labour Party won the 1966 election, and with a significantly increased majority and mandate.
1The Political Quarterly 68Volume 68, Issue 3, pages 231–240, July–September 1997 – Moving the Political Middle: Redefining the Boundaries of State Action by Mark Blyth (You need to pay or Shibboleth the full version).
2Models of Electoral Competition – Valentino Larcinese- EC260 The Political Economy of Public Policy – LSE
3The GuardianSaturday 29 August 2015 – Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland – by Tony Blair.