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Labour’s lost boy.


WHEN I WAS preparing a short podcast on Peter Pan for some students it occurred to me that some of what I was talking about had a direct relevance to current left of centre politics. This can be boiled down to two points: the first is the overwhelming desire to live in a fantasy world where you do not need to grow up, and the second is the amnesia that accompanies that desire.

We all know that Peter Pan himself is a Lost Boy, who refuses to grow up, preferring to live in Neverland, where he can play to his heart’s delight without having to bear the responsibilities of growing up in the real world. Listening to any leftist is like listening to a Peter Pan promising utopia: you can do what you want, everything will be free because mummy state will provide it, and the rich will pay for it. You don’t have to worry about taking responsibility for your own life or actions.

That is basically what Jeremy Corbyn is doing — promising the electorate a Neverland via renationalisation of the railways, energy companies and Royal Mail, giving everyone a pay rise (except for “the rich”, who will be stiffed via taxes for their “fair share”), increasing benefits, spending lots of money on clever projects, building millions of homes, and abolishing student fees. The play for the youth vote is obvious: who wouldn’t want to go to university for free? But it also indicates the juvenile nature of the whole enterprise, namely, that this is wish fulfilment you indulge yourself in when young but leave behind when you grow up — when you quit your dreamy Neverland and return to the dullness of the real world where everything has to be paid for by someone, and you are often that someone. This is politics for people who don’t want to grow up.

Jeremy Corbyn, then, is Peter Pan, and a great example of him in the purest mode. But in order to continue promulgating this sort of fantasy you have to ignore the lessons of reality. That brings me to my second point — amnesia. There is virtually no memory in Neverland. People come and go and no one cares or remembers. Peter Pan returns sporadically to the Darling household but lives in a state of forgetting. Even Tinker Bell and Captain disappear into oblivion.

The left has forgotten it has won most of its important battles and is now reduced to recycling old cliches about fat cat employers, and inventing new crimes such as transphobia.

In political terms the real world recedes. You don’t want to be reminded that the dream in which you live melts on contact with the daylight. You have to expunge memory. So it is that leftists conveniently forget the repeated failure of every socialist regime in history — and the present, with Venezuela collapsing into chaos.

Somehow, for all their talk of historical forces, they forget history. Somehow, for all their parroting of the Marxist line, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” they are stricken with amnesia with regard to the historical tragedies of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc, and remain blind to what a farce it would be to put in power someone like Jeremy Corbyn, for example. Any fantasy is better than acknowledging the messy truth of failure.

You could also stretch the idea further by saying that since Peter Pan tends to forget nearly everything and everyone, including Captain Hook, one of his greatest enemies, so the left has forgotten it has won most of its important battles and is now busy scratching around for something to fight against. The problem is that there isn’t anything. They’re reduced to recycling old cliches about fat cat employers, and inventing new crimes such as transphobia and Islamophobia.

Well, that might be stretching it a bit – but then, when you compare it with the outlandish things that many contemporary critics write, maybe it’s not.

suxcoverCurrente 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.

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