Unsurprisingly, existentialism is seldom referred to on the BBC's Question Time programme and, should you imagine it happening, you probably wouldn't envisage it coming from the mouth of parliament's only Ukip MP. So I was shocked to hear Douglas Carswell say the Labour party is 'existentially doomed' on last night's episode - what?! It instantly raised the philosophical level, if only for a few seconds. Then I realised he meant the literal existence of the Labour party, rather than their ongoing struggle to come to terms with an essentially meaningless and absurd life (although that might also apply).
Question Time guests aren't given to philosophising, preferring point scoring between MPs, with the interesting views often coming from guest non-politicians. Carswell's statement, before dropping the big existential bombshell (ha-ha!) about the Left's 'grand design' politics was also interesting, citing as he did this 'digital age' rendering grand design politics as untenable. Could he be right and not just Right? Can anyone other than the socially 'correct' Left say something valid? Surely not!
The referendum has raised so many questions, especially around the meaning of the Left in Britain today in relation to what were once it's core supporters, the white working class. It's seems incredible that the party lost touch with the working class but the warning signs were clear enough with Thatcher's victory. The final antidote to that being Tony Blair's Joker grin of optimism, soft Left politics and the fantasy that class no longer mattered. Politicians now no longer dare utter 'their' name, preferring terms like 'the ordinary working man and woman'. The mere mention of class is too cloth cap old Left! The combination of careerist Labour politicians and their denial of what society is really like are a recipe for alienation from The People.
It's ironic that the new breed's political ambition is founded, in part, on a form of idealism that's as loony as the hard Left's. They want a nice society in which everyone aspires not only to the materialistic social improvement mirage, but the multi-cultural united colours Benetton utopia. As accepting of immigration and mutli-culturalism as Brits have been for many years the tipping point was reached once the EU's free movement effect really took hold. Post-Brexit, the rift is obvious, between pro-Unionists happy to see as many European folk working here for a minimum wage as is physically possible and those who think it's wrong. There are other issues, of course, such as self-governing, and sovereignty. One tragedy being the notion that many Remainers accuse Leavers of being racist.
The Labour party struggles with this dilemma. To get in step with many potential supporters would mean accepting that there should be limits placed on immigration. Perhaps it's MPs fear there will be nobody to serve them a Frappuccino first thing in the morning if less young Europeans come here. It's a problem I've contemplated recently. This morning I asked the young girl in Pod what she was still doing here post Brexit. She laughed, of course. We both laughed. Then I asked her where she was from, she turned out to be Sardinian, then I pointed to the bleak, rain-sodden street and asked why. She cited employment, experience and improving her English. You can't argue with that.
If the last general election is anything to go by, too many people prefer the idea of business first, ex-Etonian money management to honest, grass roots, socially-minded conviction. Labour's 'mission impossible', should they choose to accept it, is to forcefully, positively promote another way; one that recognises economic necessities without sacrificing essential social values rooted in hospital care, housing and education.
If I dare evoke his name, Nigel Farage was laughed at during a referendum debate when suggesting, in so many words, that the economy mattered less than the concerns of many people today. His point being that for all of the UK's global business 'success' rating, it was far from being a successful society. Not on his terms, nor on those of many who voted Leave. Tories would say that economic chart-topping (well, high placing anyway) is everything if society is to improve. They're wrong. If nothing else, the Leave victory proved that. We weren't a happy nation before and we sure as hell aren't now.
Brexit may yet prove a revolutionary force in politics, but for reasons not made obvious by most of the media coverage, which prefers to highlight conflict and negative economic charts. Now that we're all examining ourselves and Britain as a community, once the realities are realised and understood, can any of the main parties offer hope and, if not unity, some kind of positive role model? The anarchist in me says 'No way'. The optimist, who was once a Socialist, says it has to happen and Labour are the only party capable. First they have to make sure they do more than just exist and rise from the ashes as something other than a faint-hearted, ineffective opposition. Jean-Paul Sartre said: 'The best work is not what is most difficult for you; it is what you do best.' It's about time the Labour party realised that and started acting accordingly.
The existential line comes around the 51st minute.