|Porter: Questioned over antisemitism|
What is Boutique Leftism?
Just like shopping in a Boutique, this kind of leftism makes it is possible to buy into issues made and designed independently of one another, with no real correlation to each other. In this way it has been possible to position the left as the focus of attention in a positive way, surrounded as they are by niceties and not engaged in depth with anything necessary or industrious. Often, the stock of the boutique is fringe or 'alternative' in nature, with different issues holding similar but individual appeal. This ensures that the left can attract broad support for any of the given items by appealing to the broadest possible range of tastes, without having to form any kind of cohesion between these individual issues. By cherry picking the issues that suit this need, the left can almost guarantee to have at least one item on their shelf that appeals to most lefties, and also to avoid those items which are disdainful or distasteful, and so the cycle of support and create is self-perpetuating. By way of example, here are just a few of the items in their basket at present:
Support for the Palestinians/hate for Israel
No to public spending cuts
Support for freedom of speech and democracy
No to tuition fees
Down with NewsInt/Rupert Murdoch
Support for the Unions
On the face of it, these items/issues are such familiar themes from the left that they might even begin to form the backbone of policy. But they don't. The problem for the left is the complete lack of any kind of cohesion between these items and that further, this kind of flaky cherry picking is in fact counter-productive and highly contradictory. Allow me to expand:
No to public spending cuts/no to tuition fees:
|Utterly impossible demands|
|Lovers once, Murdoch & Labour|
The unions and News International are identical in every way. Both have a body of membership who pay a relatively small subscription in order to be part of a large machine which lobbies and pressures in their interests. Both News International and the unions have very highly paid leadership with almost no public accountability, and both seek to influence polity for their own interests and the interests of their paid membership. The only difference here is that New International can switch political allegiance from time to time, the unions never do.
Support for freedom of speech and democracy/Support for the Palestinians:
|Democratic accountability; Hamas style|
Therefore, Boutique Leftism has two features. First, it is largely expressive. It expresses great sympathy with the poor and the marginalised, but fails to engage in any serious and complex analysis of what might make their condition better. Indeed, whilst it waxes lyrical about standing up for the 'disadvantaged' at home and abroad, it does so from the position of a kind of middle-class self-interest rather than in any meaningful or understanding way. Second, boutique leftists understand the old adage that the surest way to ward off criticism is by making it yourself and placing it at the feet of others. This second point explains why those on the left seem to lurch from one issue to the next without any meaningful direction of travel, almost hopping from one piece of moral high-ground to the next whilst never venturing into the valleys of reality. This lack of cohesion ensures that solid policy thinking is impossible because of the often contradictory nature of the items selected, and gives the distinct impression of band-wagonism.
If Mr Miliband(wagon) is to make any serious inroads as leader of the opposition, he must understand this article and begin to jettison contradictory issues in favour of cohesive policies which have real depth and credibility. He will only be able to do this if he stops listening to those who shout loudest, but very often know the least. My advice is to ignore anyone with a placard.
For now at least, the Conservative Party remains in government and, with it's coalition partner, firmly in command. Miliband is lurching about in the PMQ shop, interested in different items as dictated to him by the placard wavers and the left wing headline makers. Mr Cameron at least is able to stand firm behind the counter/dispatch box and continue with his course of fiscal responsibility with a degree of integrity and continuity, even in these difficult times. It is with hope that I commend this article to the blog; hope that enemies of the Left recognise the contradictory nature of their boutiquism, and use it to eject them from the UK political shop altogether.
Follow me on Twitter: @HortonEddison