Labour’s not lovin’ it
Jeremy Corbyn has banned McDonald’s from setting up an information store at the spring Labour Party conference, and has turned down a £30,000 donation from the US fast-food giant. The reasons for the snub are unclear, though it does reflect radical activists’ obsession with criticising McDonald’s over a range of issues, from animal welfare to its staff’s low wages.
Yet for all its radical sheen, hatred for McDonald’s is largely the preserve of anti-globalisation activists who have a loathing for modern society and, in particular, the people who inhabit it. Far from seeing plentiful and cheap food as a miracle of the modern age, anti-McDonald’s agitators are disgusted at the sight of ordinary people enjoying a Big Mac. Their ethical concerns about McDonald’s and its operation are a cover for nasty-minded, middle-class snobbery. As one columnist put it in response to Corbyn’s snub: ‘Next time you take your family to McDonald’s, remember the Labour Party is looking down on you.’
What’s more, this incident shows that for all the talk of Corbyn being a socialist firebrand, the party he presides over is closer to Tony Blair than Tony Benn. Blairism was not a weird anomaly in Labour’s otherwise glorious history. It flourishes among Corbyn’s ranks today, as the marketable version of a middle-class leftism that developed in the 1980s. The championing of animal rights, environmentalism and public-health initiatives, underpinned by a deep suspicion of brainwashed tabloid readers, has come to characterise the mainstream British left, both inside and outside the Labour Party. Corbyn’s McDonald’s ban has led him to be accused of dabbling in students’ union politics. But from the fox-hunting ban in the 1990s to restrictions on free speech in the 2000s, Labour has long been as petty and as authoritarian as the NUS.
Corbyn’s disdain for McDonald’s should come as no surprise. It’s just the latest demonstration of the modern left’s nasty, Hampstead-based prejudices against high-street consumers, and its blind embrace of fringe eco and animal-rights concerns. This reveals a remarkable shift in what the left represents. Socialism is no longer the call for ordinary people to have a better life – it is the moan of middle-class miserabilists.
Neil Davenport is a writer based on London.