I am a genius. Yes it’s true, I really am. Stephen Hawking’s intellect can’t hold a candle to mine. I could knock a Hadron Collider up in my back garden tomorrow if I put my mind to it. Why are you asking me for my O’level results? They really aren’t relevant. Their mediocrity says little about my great intellect. And before you ask me to take an IQ test to confirm my genius status, I can already tell you it’s hovering round the average mark, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a genius. From now on, I always want to be referred to as ‘the genius Michelle Ryan’. I’ve already sent a memo to all broadcasting agencies and they have agreed to accept my genius status without question. They are very good like that.
Okay, before you rush to diagnose me with Narcissistic personality disorder, I know I’m not a genius. I know my intellect is dwarfed by Stephen Hawkings’, and I can barely manage to put up flat pack furniture let alone contemplate building a Hadron Collider. Besides I’m terrified of the thing. Joking aside, I’m trying to make a serious point, and the point is this. Moderate. Whenever I hear that well worn word applied to certain members of the Parliamentary Labour Party I want to call trading standards. It’s one thing if they label themselves as moderates. They have as much right to tell the world they are moderate as I have to tell the world I’m a genius. It’s the mainstream medias unquestioning adoption of the word that really rattles my cage.
So why are these MP’s so keen to be thought of as moderate? Well it doesn’t take a genius to work it out so I should be ok. The word moderate conjures up an image of someone who is sensible, rational, in control, and temperate. These are qualities most people value in a politician. When I looked the word up in the dictionary it also said, ‘to cause to be less extreme or violent.’
These MP’s know full well by claiming the moderate mantel, they are by default labelling ‘non moderates’ as extreme, irrational and over emotional. So it’s clever spin. And let’s be honest, it’s not just by default either. Throughout the leadership campaign Corbyn supporters were patronised in the extreme by those who label themselves moderate. Ben Bradshaw diagnosed us with post election emotional spasms. Tony Blair, the king of all ‘moderates’ suggested we get a heart transplant. Alan Johnson pleaded with us to end the madness. Every one of these remarks fit neatly into the ‘we are sensible and you are overwrought’ narrative.
What is unacceptable to me, is the way the mainstream media also use the ‘moderate’ label without any caveats. Occasionally I’ve seen the word placed within inverted commas, which weakens its power, but more often than not its used in a way that reinforces the absolute truth of the moderate status in the public psyche.
Never at any point have I heard a journalist question the use of this word. If I was a journalist I’d be asking the following questions. Why is it moderate to slavishly support United States foreign policy, even to the point where we follow them blindly into illegal wars? Why is it moderate to support a right wing ideologically driven deficit reduction programme, denounced by many renowned economists as poor economics? Why is it moderate to support renewal for a nuclear weapon we can never use? Why is it moderate to support privatisation of public services, or to saddle them in crippling debt through PFI? I could go on but I’m sure you get the drift
So what should the mainstream media be calling these MPs? Well how about Blairites? They acknowledge themselves as Blairite so why not? Or how about ‘those on the right of the party?’ The mainstream media feel no compunction about calling socialist MPs ‘hard left.’
But whatever terms we come up with I suspect the mainstream media will stick rigidly to the term moderate. It suits their own politics and agenda to do so. All we can do is refuse to play along – vow never to use this word again, or if we do, make sure we apply it to ourselves.
After all, it is we on the left who are offering the rational, sensible solutions to the problems faced by so many Britons today; problems such as low pay, insecure work, excessively high rents, and the inability to get on the housing ladder. It is we on the left who don’t rush to war, but think the situation through calmly, valuing diplomacy over bombs. It is we on the left who consult with top economists to ensure we come up with the fairest and most effective way of tackling the deficit. And it is we on the left who accept climate change as a very real threat.
We on the left are the real moderates, and we should say it with pride.