Three ways we know centrism is a cult
Centrists love to throw the word ‘cult’ at anyone led by values. But this narcissistic tribe are masters of projection. Because centrism is a cult that worships power at all costs, and there’s no person or principle they wouldn’t sacrifice in their pursuit of that. And when reality is inconvenient they simply rewrite it. So here are the indisputable facts that prove centrism is a cult.
Every cult needs a leader
For centrists, that leader is war criminal and serial grifter Tony Blair. I imagine centrist nirvana is being held by Tony while D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better plays on repeat for eternity. Never mind the hundreds of thousands dead Iraqis, or the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. As for the death of Dr David Kelly or the anti-Muslim and civil rights-annihilating Terrorism Act? Memory holed. And of course, there was the introduction of government-by-spin-doctor. Totally consistent with their moral panic about ‘fake news’ right?
I was thinking of suggesting that Edward Colston be replaced by Tony Blair in Bristol
But maybe there isn’t yet a national consensus
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) June 7, 2020
None of this would matter if centrism declared it’s hand like any self-respecting conservative. I despise Norman Tebbit, but the man came dressed as himself. Centrists are smiling assassins. They claim a respect for democracy and social liberalism bordering on reverent. But they do not expect those values to be upheld by their leader. In fact, they will support a leader trashing every last principle they claim to hold in the name of power. They tell us, and each other, this is grown up politics. But what’s more childish than putting personal want over principle?
They revere Blair because he laid the foundation upon which centrists built their church. The church of “it’s better with us in charge, it just is”.
Yes, the groups marginalised today will be marginalised under centrists, but that’s just politics. The important thing is the Tories will be out. And that’s what really matters to a centrist.
If reality is inconvenient, just rewrite it
Centrism was a trick that lost its power once we figured out how it worked. Evidence for this is the declining centrist vote since 1997:
Blair oversaw declining vote share, seats, and actual votes in each successive election. And when the Tories presented a fresh-faced David Cameron against Gordon Brown, the price was paid in full. Instead of learning from this, centrists doubled down. They went into the 2015 election claiming to out-Tory the Tories. Amidst outrage at Tory austerity, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves promised to be ‘tougher than the Tories on welfare’. And the centrists lost again.
By 2015, the Labour membership was done with centrism. They knew it was a busted flush morally and strategically. And so they chose Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed socialist. Immediately, the centrists in the parliamentary party revolted. But despite their open mutiny and a universally-hostile media, Corbyn turned the party’s electoral fortunes around. He outperformed both Brown and Miliband, despite the relentless sabotage by centrist MPs in his own party.
And this is why centrists have memory holed the 2010, 2015, and 2017 general elections. They never happened. We went from Blair winning to Corbyn losing and not a stitch of sabotage was involved in the latter. They’ve also forgotten Change UK, the splinter party of Tory and Labour centrists that gathered a whole 10,000 votes in 2019. And what of the Liberal Democrats, who slid into centrism following the departure of Charles Kennedy? Well, they’ve been punished for it too. Nick Clegg’s coalition treachery so impressed voters their conferences could now take place in a telephone box.
But centrists don’t even attempt to account for this, or suggest a different strategy. They simply ignore it, and claim they are the silver bullet regardless.
Gaslighting isn’t a synonym for lying. It’s a form of abuse that makes the victim doubt their own reality and replaces it with the abusers. This is what centrists have done to the left and marginalised communities. But for their rewriting of reality to work, we have to believe it. And so they employ the most disgraceful tactics to achieve that aim.
Centrists primarily weaponise identities. They weaponised antisemitism, creating an entirely false impression that Corbyn was a rabid antisemite. Worse, they pretended left-wing Labour members – especially Jewish ones – were de facto antisemites. They weren’t innocent until they adopted centrist reality in full. Not just on apartheid Israel, but on everything. We saw prominent optics left figures capitulate entirely to this witch-hunt. Those who stayed strong faced relentless harassment, abuse, and ostracisation.
But it’s not just the witch-hunt. Centrists weaponise identities the other way too, without even blinking. Blair stoked anti-Muslim bigotry to gain support for his expansion of the police state. And Keir Starmer is currently on course for a full house – whether it’s praising an openly homophobic church, sending out anti-GRT leaflets, tolerating trans-hostile views in the party, or permitting flagrant anti-Black racism within his own ranks. Sir Keir Starmer is weaponising English bigotry against marginalised groups as an electoral strategy. And amidst all this, centrists haven’t uttered a word of criticism. Instead, they’re declaring that Labour is back on the good side. Saved from the cruel and bigoted left.
Up is down, black is white, and bigotry is fine as a political tool. But of course, it’s now a blunt tool. Because the voters they’re targeting have the real thing in Downing Street already. So Labour and Starmer’s ratings are plummeting at warp speed.
The only way out is through
Centrists will never back a socialist candidate. They have proven they will literally sabotage Labour’s electoral hopes for as long as a socialist leads the party. So if the Labour membership and its handful of socialist MPs want to win from the left, they have to purge the centrists. That will take years of organisation and mobilisation. While not impossible, the country can’t wait for that to happen. Marginalised groups can’t wait for that to happen. Another decade of Tory rule presents the genuine risk of eroding the last remnants of democracy. Because fascism is not so much a future threat as a present, unfolding disaster.
And so the left needs to recapture the insurgent energy of 2015-2017. The left lost because its leaders tried to fight a war of optics when they needed to fight an insurgency. They continued to try to win over implacable bad faith actors in politics and journalism by sacrificing allies. That can never happen again. It was a failure of solidarity and strategy.
The creation of new parties, fighting insurgent, hyper-local campaigns may be the way forward. And independence will allow devolved nations to escape the conservative anchor of English rule. The end result could involve a truly progressive coalition of small countries and small parties. By working collaboratively and creatively we might just take down the twin cults of centrism and disaster capitalism.
Featured image via Flickr (Modified)
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