The Gift of Owen Jones │ Jake Scott

Usually, the divisive figures in politics are the politicians. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn, Jacob Rees-Mogg; almost every major political figure is divisive in some way. And this is not surprising; politics is often the institutional expression of deeply held beliefs. But with the rise of internet celebrities (see Rory’s article on the dark web), we are seeing the emergence of deeply divisive supporters or Party spokesmen. The most significant example of this is none other than unofficially self-declared “leader” of Momentum, Owen Jones.

Owen Jones is a nasty individual. He is to the left what Katie Hopkins is (or, hopefully, was) to the right; abrasive, rude, personal and more often than not, just plain incorrect. Jones acts as some morally virtuous saint who believes in the Gospel According to Jeremy in such an ardent way one wonders how authentic it might be. Jones campaigns hard in marginal Tory seats to unseat incumbents, taking his own brand of patronising and elitist socialism from the Internet to the streets, lecturing voters at their very doorsteps as to why their own votes were silly and wrong, and why they should vote for Labour instead.

I don’t want to play Jones’ game though, so I will refrain from attacking him personally. Instead, we should recognise the gift Jones presents to those of us in the grassroots of politics; his divisiveness itself.

Jones is an embodiment of the nastiness of Momentum, fixating not on the quality of ideas but on the persons propagating them – a phenomenon I have warned about elsewhere. But, just as Momentum have driven the moderates out of Labour, both directly and indirectly, Owen Jones is driving swing voters away from Labour due to his vitriolic “method” of argument, and his frankly childish tantrums that he throws both on Twitter and on BBC news.

And then, of course, there is his latest personal attack on the much-respected BBC presenter, Andrew Neil:

Call me an optimist, but I like to believe most people are reasonable, and I’m almost certain that a reasonable person, presented with Jones’ vitriolic and divisive rhetoric, would reject this polarising attitude. Most people, in their reasonableness, can recognise that a gulf of difference between themselves and others regarding an issue does not mean they capitulate to separation, and walk away from one another; instead they seek reconciliation, aim to build bridges, and thereby reach a common understanding.

When we are presented with the divisive rhetoric of someone such as Owen Jones, we are given a rare and important gift; the opportunity to rise above the hatred, to show ourselves as better, and to reject such politicking in favour of reconciliation. Jones is a symptom of a wider issue in politics that so many people have identified; the ad hominem, childish “my way or no way” approach to politics that steers us away from compromise and, therefore, solutions, and towards the internal division that illiberal people strive for.

We must now recognise the gift of Owen Jones for what it is; a bitter pill to swallow, and a chance to wake up to the danger of divisiveness.

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