I have a confession. A deep, dark secret which for so long has remained hidden within myself, smothered by all the self-denial I could muster. But to no avail. It seems I must come clean with myself and the world; I am in love with Owen Jones. This is certainly a difficult thing for me to admit, as a Right-winger — and a heterosexual one at that — to express a strong, almost obsessive, (platonic) passion for a poster-boy of the hard-Left revival this island is currently witnessing. I have to say that to achieve this level of personal honesty has been hard, and I tried to resist the forces of attraction which drew me to him, only to come to the conclusion expressed above.
I’d been in the closet for a while about Jones. I began by surreptitiously flicking through the Independent every so often, partially - so I told myself - to laugh at the idiocy and profound unfunniness of ‘comic’ Mark Steel. However, I soon became a regular reader of Jones’ writings, and (shock, horror) found myself in sometime agreement with my supposed opponent. I have since stepped up the stalking, moving online to satisfy my desire to immerse myself in Owen.
Were I a conventional Right-winger, with a socially conservative outlook as well, I would be in direct opposition to him on every issue. To that incarnation of me, discovering a hidden appreciation for his work would be as welcome as discovering oneself to be gay would be for an evangelical Christian fanatic. As it is though, the notion barely troubles me. Why?
Well, I am a Libertarian (despite the fact that some regular commenters tend to disagree) and so I ought to agree with Mr. Jones half of the time. His articles on the residual stigma against homosexuals, for example, should find agreement in anyone who sees themselves as being in favour of tolerance and liberty.
Back in the day, when I was even more of a mere stripling than I am now; my secret fear of that which was different propelled me into a mindset of middle class white man outrage - vented at the very mention of anything favouring people who weren’t any of those things: seen in that bogeyman ‘Political Correctness’. Now I like to think that I have matured (emotionally and politically); and so the knee-jerk reaction whenever, say, Muslims or women’s rights were mentioned has been steadily eroded within me, to the point of engendering mellow, “anything goes” tolerance.
But the economic side of things still presents a point of contention (where our metaphorical mental relationship may hit a snag). Since he thinks that the Cuts are a Bad Thing, and I posit that there haven’t been any serious cuts (and if there were it’d be a jolly good thing too), sparks are likely to fly. (If we were going out, this would probably form the basis for a second date argument). Hopefully; by the cheese course, we would have moved the conversation on to safer ground, like immigration, or a shared dislike of shopping. But the big difference would sadly still exist.
To be honest, I do sometimes find misty-eyed Socialist rhetoric beguiling - however, only until I remember the fundamental ideas of economic freedom and drip-down prosperity which have formed the justifications for my increasingly unpopular economic interpretation. My propensity for ideology over pragmatism - seen in my unceasing support for humanitarian intervention (something Owen would not like, I fear) - has made me susceptible to any eloquently expressed world-view. This does not solve the impasse, though, and I think it would be rather unlikely for Jones to take up Free Market stance in the foreseeable future.
But aside from mere politics, there are aspects of Jones’ career which deserve respect from those of all economic and social stripes. He does write his columns, whatever you may think of the opinions therein, with no shortage of skill and craftsmanship. His book “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” (which I am regrettably yet to read), has sold a lot of copies (surely the most important task for an author) and is also well received critically. In short, he has made the transition from freelance writing to established columnist at a newspaper of record: the dream for aspiring hacks such as myself.
It is also his ability to sustain a seemingly inexhaustive television schedule, and still appear informed enough to make some of his opponents (he’s never allowed on by himself) look rather stupid which impresses. I suppose I am just one of those people who are excessively impressed by memorised facts and the ability to regurgitate information. That being said, Jones does have a way with the facts (or at least the ones which agree with him). If more guests and panellists on current affairs programmes were as well informed as him then we could expect more lively and interesting debate. Similarly, the fewer comedians to frequent formerly serious TV programmes the better for us all.
Owen Jones is someone who is a powerful speaker and interesting writer, who manages to keep up with an endless supply of TV appearances and protests, articles and interviews, Tweets and opinions. The socially progressive ideas he espouses are expressed pointedly and powerfully. While Jones may come under criticism, mostly from spluttering Tory die-hards, or the occasional spiteful jab from turncoat leftists who make a career by cynically betraying their former comrades for appreciative Right-wing audiences, he is still a figure who deserves commendation. While I take issue with a lot of his output these days, I still read him, and revel in the consummate style of his offerings, perhaps at the expense of any substance they contain.
What I suppose this means is that there can be many areas of profound agreement between those who are nominally in opposition. Those of us who want to fight for personal freedom and tolerance can ally with everyone else who wishes to do so; regardless of which arbitrary hand of political classification they may fall into.