Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Mumsnetter’s response to Paul Mason

On the 7th of November Paul Mason, an author and former broadcaster on BBC’s Newsnight programme and on the Channel 4 news, wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper titled: “Bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters must unite against Farage’s mob”.  The gist of the article was about the rise of right-wing populism and the danger it poses through its’ mass movement founded on hate, as seen in Donald Trump’s racist rallies. In the UK UKIP is threatening to gather 100,000 supporters outside the Supreme Court on 5 December when the appeal hearing starts on the Brexit judgement. 

The backdrop to the Supreme Court hearing is the judgement previously passed by the High Court stating that the Government must offer MPs a vote on the terms of Article 50. The Government has maintained all along that it does not have to consult with MPs because the result of the referendum in May is all that is needed for it to go ahead with Brexit. 

Paul Mason, in his article, states that left-wingers who are: “Anti-racists, globalists and believers in the virtues of science over mumbo-jumbo are still winning elections…” but progressive politics is being drained of its resilience. While the left is capable of fighting back Paul Mason makes clear that the “effort is going to exhaust us unless we become more radical”. The fight back, he claims, is the responsibility of the left to orchestrate through “an alliance of bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters”.

As a left-wing feminist mother Mumsnetter this article, to me, was a ‘call to arms’ to stand up for the values and norms that protect our children’s rights and freedoms. Put simply, I don’t want my daughter growing up in a society where right-wing populism touting the language of racism and xenophobia coupled with knee-jerk reactions that command stupid headlines in right-wing newspapers is the staple everyday lingo and mind set.

I have blogged about this in a post which describes my experience of living in a country where the judiciary is not independent. There is no way that I would want my daughter growing up in similar circumstances.

Paul Mason writes about the momentum behind people like Trump and Farage that comes from populism that is “moving fast”. The left needs to catch up and the first priorities are to make a “rhetorical break with neoliberalism”.

The associated features of neoliberalism are: “the doctrine of austerity, inequality, privatisation, financial corruption, asset bubbles and technocratic hubris.”

Given the way austerity has been pursued it has become easy for the right to claim it as a necessary way of life so that, among other reasons, our children aren’t saddled with national debt when they are older. Paul Mason, however, states that “It is entirely possible to construct a humane pro-business version of capitalism without these things”.

Back in 2014 I authored a chapter in a book titled: ‘Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism’. My chapter was called: ‘Austerity and Gender Neutrality: The Excluding of Women and Mothers from Public Policy in the UK’. I provided an analysis of the impact of austerity cuts in the UK on mothers. Much of women’s economic prosperity and ability to access services has been reshaped in accordance with a neoliberal framework that disregards women’s wellbeing and autonomy in society. 

Despite much evidence that points to how our lives have been made poorer materially by austerity the feminization of poverty has continued through benefit cuts, welfare caps and the withdrawal of various subsidies.

Neoliberalism is presented as a 'no other option' scenario when, in actual fact, it is a choice made by elected leaders. Austerity places more pressure on women, especially mothers who are struggling economically. 

I haven’t had a pay increase in my public sector job for 7 years now. A ‘no option’ austerity package plays into the hands of right-wing populism by allowing them to create and dominate a political space that crowds out respect for women’s rights and establishes a political culture in which it’s fair game to be sexist and racist.

Paul Mason ends his article by pointing out that the left needs to become populist and offer an alternative narrative and way forward. This is critical, he states, due to the collapse of the “extreme centre”.

A key part of this left populism should be about mother centric policies such as childcare and adequate social care because it is largely women, many of them mothers themselves, who look after children and older parents through unpaid labour. Mothers need an education system that is less about grades and more about education in a broad sense, a rational social based housing policy, better paid jobs and security of work. We want safe spaces for our children through an adequate provision of leisure and play areas.

There is much for mothers to collaborate around. Political capital does lie with us to reclaim political space and values.

Paul Mason concludes by stating that:  “If Nigel Farage leads 100,000 people to intimidate the Supreme Court, I intend to be on the other side of a police crash barrier opposing him. I don’t want to be flanked by only my anti-fascist mates from 30 years ago: I want to see an alliance of the left and the radical centre on the streets. That means bond traders from Canary Wharf, arm in arm with placard-carrying Trots. Masked-up Kurdish radicals alongside Mumsnet posters. Eighty years on from Cable Street, we don’t have many dockers and miners around, to help face down rightwing intimidation. Puny as we are, it’s up to us”.

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