The Real Reason Britons will Vote for Scrooge

Trust Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian to ask the most pertinent question of the coming British general election and then fail to offer the one answer staring him in the face.

After examining the manifesto commitments of the Conservative and Labour parties, he asks: “British voters look like they’re rejecting Santa and embracing Scrooge. Why?”

Why indeed? At least, for once, Freedland doesn’t blame it all on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His answer is that the Tories are seen by the British public as fiscally responsible while Labour has long been viewed as irredeemably irresponsible.

A near fixed point of British politics is the assumption that while Labour’s heart is in the right place, it cannot be trusted to run the economy. …

So the party always begins with a huge, historic credibility problem that it has to work triply hard to overcome. Corbyn didn’t create it – but there’s no hiding the fact that he, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott have made it much, much worse. The sheer scale of the largesse in the manifesto, promising item after item, has only fed the perception of fiscal incontinence. …

Future Labour shadow chancellors will have to be even more tightfisted than Brown was in the mid-90s, just to prove their worthiness for office. It’s not that any one item in the 2017 manifesto is unworthy. It’s just that, especially when taken together, they represent the kind of offer you can make only once you’ve earned the public’s trust.

To be fair, Freedland makes a fleetingly brief nod towards the fact that the “rightwing press” pushes the line that Labour cannot be trusted with the economy.

But the rest of the article advances a quite preposterous view – an assumption adopted by Freedland and all other commentators in the corporate media – that the British public have independently arrived at their political views, without interference or mediation.

But how did they come by these views? Where do they get their information and their framework for understanding politics and economics, and for making judgments about the merits of the two parties’ respective policies?

Here are some other pertinent questions for Freedland. How did most of the British public end up concluding – entirely counter-intuitively – that the global economy can grow indefinitely by plundering the resources of a finite planet? How did they determine that private corporations would care for them better than the state – or, for that matter, cooperatives of workers? When did they decide that it was more important for Britain to become a “service economy”, run by hedge fund managers, than a green, sustainable economy? How did they ever believe that a party openly representing Big Money would prioritise their interests above those of a global elite?

Freedland has no answers for the simple reason that even to pause to consider these questions would require him to think about his place within a corporate media whose interests are intimately tied to a globalised, neoliberal world order.

The answer why Britons will vote for Scrooge over Santa is because even Santa’s little helpers, like Freedland, are really in the pay of Scrooge.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.