By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
LET THEM ANATOMISE Labour and find what breeds such hypocrite hearts. If I may be so bold as to adapt Shakespeare.
It’s a pertinent thought, given that Labour, and the left in general, are so very good at hypocrisy. Shami Chakrabarti, lately ennobled and inserted into the cabinet of Comrade Corbyn, had already spoiled her shining reputation as a fighter against injustice by accepting the Dear Leader’s invitation to conduct an independent review into the party’s alleged (ie, soon to be whitewashed) antisemitism, only to compromise that so-called independence by promptly joining Labour.
She has further purged herself of any remaining integrity by coming out against grammar schools and selective education while sending her son to a private school (Dulwich College). This, let us acknowledge, is a tradition among the upper cadres of the left. Abbott, Thornberry, Milne, all send their offspring to selective schools, as countless others do. Corbyn, as we know, broke with his first wife because he did not want their son to go to grammar school. The hypocrisy in his case was that he himself had benefited from a grammar school education.
In an interview with Robert Peston Chakrabarti could not clear herself of the charge of being a hypocrite — because it is not possible. If you are a leftist you live in a permanent state of cognitive dissonance. You know you can’t pontificate about a non-selective, one-size fits all comprehensive-style education for everyone else at the same time as you are sending your own child to a selective school, private or not. But you will do it all the same.
Why is that? What is it that leads clever, well-educated and often comfortably-off people to practice this form of deceit? I think it’s simple. If you are of a particular political disposition you live in a world of “should” and “ought”: a world as it should be, intellectually and morally, of the future, not the messy reality of the here and now. When it comes to deciding which school to send your child to your desire for ideological purity may come into conflict with your natural, familial duty to secure what is best for your child. It’s that innate, evolutionary impulse that disturbs you, because it doesn’t fit in the neat, rational framework of your politics. If you acknowledge the reality and validity of such bonds, you are compelled inevitably to acknowledge others that you find repugnant — such as national identity.
To their credit, people like Chakrabarti and Abbott, do the right thing, ie, send their children to the best schools they can manage. Unfortunately they cannot then acknowledge that most other parents may want the same and should not be denied the chance. The need for political purity, however, demands they deny it to others. In justifying their dissonance they’ll come up with all sorts of excuses or obfuscations. Chakrabarti, for instance, admits she has a “charmed and privileged life” but still wants what’s best for her homeless or food-bank visiting neighbours. She laments the fact that people had been “deeply scarred by the eleven plus exam”, which had created a “kind of segregation.” It’s funny that you never hear the same people complain about children being deeply scarred at having to go to dreadful comprehensives that replaced the grammars.
None of this will bother Jeremy Corbyn, who preserves his purity in the matter, having had a charmed and privileged life himself. He’ll be enjoying the adulation of the apparatchiks and useful idiots in the Concerts for Corbyn, organised by Momentum. It’ll be just like the old days of the 1980s, when Labour were utterly unelectable — learning from history not being their strong point. The first concert will take place in Brighton (where else?). One of the big stars playing there will be Paul Weller. Who sent his kids to private schools.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.