I’m sorry to get all class war on you, but I ain’t gonna take advice on the direction of the Labour Party from a guy named “Tristram”

The private school and Cambridge-educated son of a peer has told Cambridge students that Labour is “in the shit” and that it is up to them—“the top 1%”—to take the mantle of leadership. How very egalitarian: this is exactly the kind of elitist born-to-rule stuff for which I rejoined the Labour Party.

Tristram Hunt—for it is he—claimed that Labour is becoming a sect because of “algorithmic politics” where “everyone shares the same views as you on social media.” Somewhat confusingly, however, he had previously said at Sheffield University (lowering himself to speak to the less-than-top 1%) that we must “move closer to the public” on a number of issues. Who would, presumably, then share the same views on social media. One wonders whether the necessary condition of popular opinion being sectarian is whether or not Hunt agrees with it. Hunt seems to object to consensus within the party, whilst avidly endorsing that the party abandon all principle to align itself with the wider public consensus.

Hunt has, in this, perfectly expressed what has bedevilled British politics since Tony Blair, and the reasons why I actually did rejoin Labour. He seems to feel that the job of a political party is to get its candidates elected, no matter what. That the primary purpose of standing for election is to gain power, and that the best way to achieve this is to “centralise” and to adjust most of one’s policies to fit current public opinion, whatever that may be. To me this is a ludicrous travesty of modern liberal democracy, which is (or should be) grounded in the discursive arena of civil society, and in which the job of the political party is primarily to represent the views of its members and to attempt, through discussion and persuasion, to convince the electorate to endorse them. To abjure that responsibility is to turn politics into nothing more than a beauty contest, with competing, unprincipled parties engaging in a cheap and unedifying race for votes.

If anything is algorithmic, it is the vision of policy-making as a brute mathematical function, taking inputs of public opinion, and generating an output of highest electability.

I rejoined Labour not because I agree with everything Jeremy Corbyn says or stands for, but because he, at last, was a leader who seemed to grasp this. I last voted Labour in 1997 and, since then, a whole generation have grown up who have never heard a mainstream politician articulate anything close to the social democratic—dare I even say socialist—principles which I support. Those of my generation who nominally support this position, yet insist that the Labour Party must be run by centralising ideology-free vote-whores such as Hunt, and believe that somehow, once the party has gained power by promoting these ciphers, they will suddenly turn socially responsible are fooling themselves.

An argument has to be won: the argument that there is an alternative route to prosperity and general well-being than that of laissez-faire, trickle-down, corporation-led, light-regulation monetarism. That argument won’t be won if it is not made, and it will not be made if the Hunts of this world have their way and keep Labour as a Tory Lite popularity-grasping machine. I believe that Corbyn has won that argument within the Labour Party—within their membership, who he recognises it is his primary responsibility to represent, though not the parliamentary party, who feel it is his primary responsibility to ensure they get re-elected. It is now time for the Labour Party to take that argument to the wider public and born-to-rule, top one-percenters who object to the consequent endangerment of their presumed privilege are welcome, as far as I am concerned, to jump ship to the other side, where I am sure they will feel quite at home.

You see, this is what happens if you start believing the Art myth

I thought that, a few months ago, I had made the nature of the Art myth clear: that it is a bullshitty nineteenth-century dogma arising from a Rousseauian sweet-toothed hero-worship of the creative individual, adapted using spurious pseudo-objectivist claims to function as a bulwark with which the privileged elites, long accustomed to defining culture according to their tastes but now threatened by post-Enlightenment democratization and egalitarianism, sought—and regrettably still seek—to defend their subjective views as somehow qualitatively superior in order to avoid having to face the otherwise obvious reality that taste is just taste, that no-one’s taste is better or worse than anyone else’s, and that to attempt to hoard all of the cultural resources of our society in order to reflect the proclivities of a tiny proportion of the populace is inconsistent with the principles of egalitarianism. Thus was invented Art, Literature, Greatness, and other such unsupportable and nonsensical concepts: all of them labels designed to give this veneer of objective superiority to the particular objects of elite adoration, so that these elites could continue to dominate culture at their pleasure.

Apparently some of you weren’t listening, and in particular the Guardian: a newspaper which generally I like, but sometimes despair of for the inconsistency between the pluralism and democratism of the politics they espouse, and the smug intellectual presumptuousness of a great deal of its arts and social commentary.

And so we come to this hideous little piece, published on their website, in which the author bemoans the fact that a popular author was popular; that when a popular public figure dies a great many people are sad about that; and that when a less popular person dies, less people are sad. (I will give him the benefit of ignorance, and allow that he was not aware that Pratchett had bravely and openly discussed his horrible condition, and that many of those who expressed their sorrow may not have read a single word of his books, but been touched by a man who had used his own personal disaster to contribute to breaking the prejudice and stigmas that surround dementia.)

This is what I was talking about, dear readers, this is precisely what I was talking about. Jonathan Jones, the author of the piece, is perfectly entitled to his literary opinions, and I don’t even take issue with his decision not to read any Pratchett. We all know our personal preferences and make exclusionary decisions based upon them; indeed I have not read Mansfield Park, though unlike Mr Jones I feel a complete lack of guilt for this omission, and have the intellectual honesty to declare that my neglect of it—and indeed, the entirety of Austen’s oeuvre—is founded upon my dislike of nineteenth-century fiction, a wholly subjective view which I feel no need to dress up in the ugly rags of claims of about what is and isn’t “literature” in order to justify.

This piece is a crystalline example of the Art myth in action: he has not a single argument to wield, whether persuasive (which is fine, try to persuade people of your taste by all means) or claiming the status of objective reason (which we could then, at least, take down piece by piece). No, Mr Jones merely delivers statements of his opinion as incontrovertible fact, and these purported facts are presented with all the élan of an automated phone-answering system.

For this is what really has me almost retching with ire over this arrogant little piece of drivel: for a man who sneers at Pratchett’s prose as “ordinary”, as part of a “middlebrow cult” (sweet Jeebus, as another popular figure Mr Jones no doubt holds in contempt would say, we musn’t only sneer at the lowbrow: even the middlebrow is contemptible), his own writing is clunkingly dull: his unoriginal and unimaginative opinions set forth with clichéd and turgid turns of phrase, which rise to an apotheosis of nonsense with “They enrich the very fabric of reality”, at which utterly meaningless and pompous locution I actually spat out my gin and tonic in nauseated fury.

Mr Jones contends that “life is too short to waste on ordinary potboilers.” Does he really suppose that his own little gem has not wasted precious minutes of mine (and—I apologize—now yours), spewing forth in colourless cadences the same facile, presumptive nonsense about Art and Greatness that one could get for free from any first-year arts undergraduate; all underlined by an ill-concealed spite towards the success of a man who brought pleasure to millions?