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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

‘Progressive Centrism’: one of politics’ most laughable paradoxes

29 October 2018
Fred Garrett-Stanley explores the glaring hypocrisies in Labour's Blairite faction illuminated by Chuka Umunna's new job offer...

Chuka Umunna’s new job offer highlights the glaring hypocrisies rife in Labour’s Blairite faction, with Progressive Centrism appearing to be continually blind to its own contradictions.

We shouldn’t be shocked at this point by the Labour centrists’ perpetual tendency to prioritize their own career prospects over the interests of the members they represent, yet its predictability does not excuse it. Chuka Umunna’s desperate attempts to cling to a broken socio-economic model that has ruined the lives of many of his constituents reached a new limit yesterday with his acceptance of a £451-an-hour job chairing the advisory board for the utter paradox that is ‘Progressive Centre UK’.

The reality is that there is nothing remotely progressive about relentlessly defending a broken capitalist system which is responsible for increased poverty, homelessness, job insecurity and exploitation both nationally and globally. Umunna’s belief in an ‘inclusive economy that rewards those who work hard and play by the rules, while caring for those who can’t support themselves‘ is utterly delusional. Displaying either a lack of understanding of the inherently ruthless nature of unregulated capitalism, or a deliberate intention to ignore this.

The crestfallen, defeated expressions of the likes of Umunna, Stephen Kinnock and co. following Labour’s impressive 2017 General Election performance, and the complete lack of effort made since to support the party and increase pressure to form a left-wing government are testament to the Labour right’s utter lack of regard for any genuinely progressive project.

Any genuine progressive would not spend half their working life attempting to publicly sabotage and undermine a leadership determined to improve the lives of the many by: scrapping tuition fees, nationalising industries currently crippled by privatization, building over one million homes, ending zero-hours contracts and marginally increasing income tax on the richest. Any genuine progressive would not vote to bomb Syria, abstain on the Tories’ disgraceful 2015 welfare bill, and repeatedly conspire to topple a leader committed to desperately needed social reform.

Prominent centrists are not helped by the gradual realization that the shining lights of ‘progressive’ neoliberal politics, such as Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, harbor a number of disturbing positions. Macron’s astounding denial of France’s damaging colonial history and his offensive comments accusing the African continent of ‘civilisational problems’, or Trudeau’s staunch defence of Canada’s arms trade with the horrific, murderous Saudi regime, to name a few.

It boils down to the simple fact that a vague set of socially liberal values offer a flimsy disguise for a brand of politics fundamentally based on maintaining an economic and social status quo that protects the obscenely wealthy and punishes those at the bottom. The Blairite reliance on rampant, deregulated financial services as the foundation of the national economy was proved unworkable by the financial crisis over a decade ago. Yet Umunna and peers still cling on to the belief that the inherently selfish, profit-driven private sector can be relied upon to run public services and pay their fair share in tax.

Clearly, this reflects either a worrying level of naivety and ignorance, or more likely a refusal to clamp down on a private sector which represents vested interests. Umunna’s appointment to the ‘Progressive Centre UK’ is testament to the reality that many politicians, even within the Labour Party, are reliant on the financial support of private interests, in addition to their already extortionate £77,379 MP salaries. The audacity and sheer stupidity of Members of Parliament taking advantage of huge additional private payments, when the public has already lost faith and respect for politicians is astounding. Not to mention the lack of awareness centrist maintainers of the status quo show in regard to the public consequences of their actions. Ummuna’s role is a clear demonstration of why the Progressive Centrist movement will never be progressive, and never succeed.

Words, Frederick Garrett Stanley – @fred_gs