The Blog

Is Lovely Bubbly "Champagne Socialism" What People Actually Want?

The success of unregulated capitalism isn't because it's the better system, but because capitalists continue to win the propaganda war.

The success of unregulated capitalism isn't because it's the better system, but because capitalists continue to win the propaganda war.

In short, capitalists are better at lies and the dark art of slinging mud. Whereas moderates, and those on the left, so often filter their thoughts, right wingers offer fewer considerations on what should and shouldn't be said, what can and cannot be verified, and whether their words even remotely resemble the truth.

Take for example, the right wing press's consistent and erroneous attempts to label Ed Milliband a communist: The Daily Mail and The Sun being serial offenders; serving up all manner of scurrilous stories, amounting to little more than red-baiting - not only attacking Ed Milliband, but his wife, late father, and even his family kitchen.

Of course, Ed Milliband is not a communist, not by a long chalk. Nor, to the frustration of some on the far left, do modern-day Labour party policies remotely resemble a communist agenda.

Labour Manifesto Pledges:

Raising the minimum wage to just over £8 an hour by 2019.

A mansion tax on properties worth over £2m.

Reverse the cut to the 50p top rate of income tax (currently 45p) so that the top 1% pay a little more to help get the deficit down.

Hardly a Stalinist purge, seizing control of private wealth, and throwing the super rich in gulags. Indeed, the inconvenient truth is... (which The Daily Mail and The Sun seem intent to ignore) that although there remains a gloss of ideological difference between Labour and the Conservatives, the two main parties, in terms of policy alone, overwhelmingly occupy the centrist ground with only a single page of Das Kapital between them.

Of course, I'd like to think decent people ignore both The Daily Mail, and The Sun's nonsense. That people are sufficiently informed to know the difference between Communism and Socialism (which both come in a multitude of shades and interpretations). That people can also see the fundamental differences in New Labour's brand of socialism with a small, small "s".

I'd like to think this, and yet a part of me cannot help but wonder whether the constant right wing repetition of erroneous rhetoric does stick in people's minds, negatively influencing their decisions on how to vote?

After all, the right wing onslaught is relentless, following up their Red Ed commie assertions with further calls of Miliband being a champagne socialist.

'If he's not a commie, he's... he's definitely a something!' I imagine they bark, whilst sat in darkened rooms, and worrying about their "precious bodily fluids" (somewhat obscure Kubrickian reference).

Certainly, in a recent article for The Daily Mail, Tory MP Julian Smith felt the need to comment on the Miliband's living arrangements. You see, the Milibands have a live-in nanny residing in the basement flat of their £2m home, and Julian thinks this isn't the done thing:

"This exposes Ed Miliband for the hypocrite and champagne socialist that he is. He claims he is on the side of working people but the reality is his home life is like a scene from Upstairs, Downstairs."

But does it, does it really illustrate hypocrisy? It could reasonably be argued, what the situation actually illustrates is the Milibands offering up the entire floor of a £2m property (which is no doubt rather desirable) to their nanny, who, I'll hazard a guess, rather appreciated the gesture.

Anyway, the article offers me a chance to now introduce the term "champagne socialist", so I guess a thank you, is in order, Tory MP Julian Smith, for being such a bloated arse-trumpet in the first place.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the term, champagne socialism (also known as gauche caviar on the continent), it is historically a term used to deride "self-identified socialists whose comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyles are perceived to be incompatible with their professed political convictions" [Wiki quote].

However, the keywords here are "perceived" and "incompatible", and the key question should be: why should champagne socialism be perceived as a negative or in some way incompatible with an individual's desire for greater social justice? Isn't champagne socialism actually what most people want?

I'd argue most people in British society, don't actually mind people being super rich, as long as no one is super poor. And to expand on this point, I personally do not want to live in a country where everyone is economically equal (Communism). I see nothing wrong with differentials in wealth (Socialism). If a computer programmer, doctor or engineer works hard and earns a few hundred thousand per year, this is not a social ill; at least not as long as a hard-working bin man, factory worker or secretary is not paid such a low wage they cannot afford a decent quality of life.

Indeed, as the 6th richest country in the world, I suggest if you work, and even if you do not, there should be a bottom line we do not allow anyone to fall below (like the American Marines, no one gets left behind). Only when everyone is free from deprivation, has food in their belly and hope for the future, should we not take umbrage over uncapped differences in wealth.

Therefore, far from being lambasted, shouldn't the rich, like Ed Milliband and his wife, be applauded for "being on the side of working people", and for actually doing the right thing - despite such policies operating against their own financial interests?

I mean, my dislike for David Cameron and the current crop of old Etonians has little to do with their privilege or background. They are no more in control of where they came from than I am. If Dave and George had spent the past 5 years introducing a living wage, championing the poor and disenchanted, I would have found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to vote Tory.

My issue with Cameron et al are their policies: the savage cuts, the increase of zero hour contracts, low paid, and insecure jobs; factors leading to an increase in working people visiting food banks, and more child poverty than before the Tories came to office.

So, is Ed Milliband a communist? Once more, no he is not! And yet, despite my continual reservations about Labour, I do think Ed represents a slight and important movement in the right, or should that be left direction. In fact, even if Red Ed is a champagne socialist, well, maybe that isn't such a bad thing anyway, because to paraphrase the filmmaker Billy Wilder, I don't mind if you have ten bottles of champagne, as long as everyone has one!