Owen Jones

British political pundit (1984–)

Owen Peter Jones (born 8 August 1984) is a British newspaper columnist, commentator and political activist. He became a regular columnist for The Guardian in March 2014, after a period with The Independent.

Owen Jones in 2021

Quotes

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2012–2013

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  • This generation of unemployed is forgotten, but not accidentally so. Much of the media enthusiastically backs the biggest cuts since the 1920s. They have little interest in exposing the human reality: after all, if it is widely realised that the deficit is being paid off with people's futures, then passive acquiescence to austerity can hardly be taken for granted. The Government is counting on the anger and despair of the forgotten generation to remain unseen, contained, confined to the dignified privacy of their homes. But if the forgotten and the lost organise, join forces, and make their voices heard, the Cameron Project could be sent hurtling into reverse.
  • His great departure from Thatcherism was a desperately needed boost to spending on public services. Nothing remains of this as a principle in British politics. It is left to arch-critics of Blair like myself to defend a big chunk of his government's economic record from his own supporters.
  • Galloway offered direct, clear answers; he spoke eloquently, and with language that resonated with non-politicos; he had enthusiasm, conviction and – to borrow a Tony Benn phrase – said what he meant and meant what he said.
    A lesson for Labour, then. Even a figure with a long-haul flight's worth of baggage can be cheered if they use populist language that connects with people and their experiences.
  • Gorgeous George is one of the most charismatic politicians of our time, but also one of the most divisive, and still manages to win over the audience. You don’t have to like him; but, if you want to change the world, you do have to learn from him.
  • [Jones' "favourite outed bigot"] That accolade goes to ­disgraced evangelical Ted Haggard, once a familiar fixture in America’s fundamentalist ranters' circuit: a highly well-paid gig, incidentally (it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of Heaven, but the Lord will always make the odd exception). Haggard was a leading backer of a Colorado amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2006. You can see why that might have wound up Mike Jones, the male sex worker he'd been having sex with on a monthly basis for three years, who retaliated by outing one of Time magazine’s top 25 US evangelical preachers. If you’re going to get a bit sloppy with your interpretation of the scriptures, you might as well go the whole hog, which probably explains why Haggard added taking crystal meth to getting jiggy with a member of the same sex.
  • A few months ago, the BBC asked me to debate with Labour's Simon Danczuk, who supported George Osborne's proposal to make people thrown out of work wait an extra week for benefits. I say "debate", because Mr Danczuk turned up with a few prepared personal attacks, finding me guilty of having lived in "the posh part of Stockport". If it really matters, I grew up in the town's second-most deprived ward: a more accurate ad hominem attack would have been that I grew up in a middle-class family, because my dad was a white-collar local authority worker and my mother was an IT lecturer at Salford University.

2015

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  • But how do men speak out about a form of oppression from which they benefit? Take this column. It is inherently problematic. There is no shortage of men offering their opinions on, well, everything.
  • What a farce it would be if men began to dominate the debate about men's oppression of women.
  • Men are so accustomed to various privileges – such as automatically being taken more seriously – that they are not even aware they exist. That’s why it is so crucial that men listen to women and their experiences, and learn.
  • Three judges were recently sacked for watching porn on the job. None of it was illegal, but they were still publicly embarrassed and dismissed. Yes, there’s clearly a sound argument that judges should be doing their jobs, not getting off on porn. Fair enough, but there's all sorts of procrastination that goes on in the workplace. Who knows, maybe an otherwise tense judge seeking a quick bit of relief will concentrate better. Surely someone should at least commission some research into it.
  • He [Jeremy Corbyn] is the very antithesis of the negative caricature of an MP: he's defined by his principles and beliefs, uninterested in personal self-advancement, and determined to use his platform to further the interests of people and causes that are otherwise ignored.
  • Corbyn would inject the substance so disastrously missing from the current contest.
  • Unless 35 Labour MPs nominate Corbyn, this farce of a leadership contest will continue and the Labour party – and the country as a whole – will learn nothing from it.
  • There’s structural inequality, and then there are stitch-ups. The scourge of unpaid internships has helped turn professions (such as my own, the media) into playgrounds for the privileged. Want to become a journalist? You may well find yourself expected to work for free for months, or longer, with no promise of a job at the end of it. If you have parents with the financial means, you have a shot, but otherwise the idea of labouring for nothing in London – one of the world’s most expensive cities – is a non-starter. So is shelling out for an expensive post-graduate qualification, which is increasingly a must. The professions have built walls too high for most to climb, discriminating not on the basis of your talent, but on the basis of your parents’ bank balance.
  • There is a long tradition of left figures who are charismatic and deliver rousing speeches but who – like George Galloway – are easily portrayed as demagogic. They can rouse the affections of the already convinced, but few others. When they are the object of personal attacks, they attract little sympathy, and tend to respond in kind.
    Corbyn, on the other hand, has a good shot at the title of most self-effacing and humble politician in parliament, and certainly for being the lowest expenses claimer among his colleagues. That helps shield him from the personal attacks that are normally dished out to figureheads of the left.
  • But the test of the Corbyn campaign, for me, is the extent to which it can rebuild a left with popular appeal that offers a coherent, viable, attractive alternative to the status quo.
  • But above else, Jeremy Corbyn will have to strike a conciliatory tone: which will not be difficult, given that's his default approach, in any case. When he is attacked – whether by the media or by his own party – they will be identified as the aggressor. An emphasis on conciliation and unity within his own party – building on his recent "unity statement" – will make it politically harder for those within the PLP who wish to undermine him.
  • It will be very hard indeed, and those who wish the Corbyn movement well need to prepare for it now. At stake is the future of the left in this country, and outside Britain’s shores: so no pressure. But as hard as it will prove – and it will be formidably difficult – the challenges are not insurmountable with enough creativity and commitment.
  • But if the Corbyn-led Labour party is to be successful, its supporters have to communicate. It is difficult, with relentless hostility raining down on your head, but that means adopting an inclusive, cheerful, positive approach: love-bombing opponents, even.
  • [O]utward-looking, willing to engage with the unpersuaded, hopeful, positive: that is the only way the left can thrive. We can't just want retweets and packed halls, after all, but to change the world.
  • He [Corbyn] enjoys the support of a mass grass-roots movement of the kind that almost no politician ever has but no professionalised apparatus – and he will now meet one of the most aggressive media on earth.
  • [T]he conventional media have to be engaged with, however horrible and nasty they are.
  • An incredible political moment arrived over the summer. It would be a travesty if it was buried because of an all-out media offensive that wasn't checked.
  • All opponents of trans rights are on the wrong side of history, just as history has imposed harsh and unforgiving judgments on those who opposed gay rights in the past. The rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals were won by building coalitions, ranging from trans people to 'cis' straight people. Solidarity – based on the principle of "an injury to one is an injury to all" – is a precondition of social change. Trans people must be the key voices in the struggle of emancipation. To be an ally is to listen and learn.

"The left must put Britain's EU withdrawal on the agenda" (2015)

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"The left must put Britain's EU withdrawal on the agenda", The Guardian (14 July 2015)
  • The more leftwing opponents of the EU come out, the more momentum will gather pace and gain critical mass. For those of us on the left who have always been critical of the EU, it has felt like a lonely crusade. But left support for withdrawal – “Lexit”, if you like – is not new. If anything, this new wave of left Euroscepticism represents a reawakening.
  • The left's pessimism about the possibility of implementing social reform at home without the help of the EU fused with a progressive vision of internationalism and unity, one that had emerged from the rubble of fascism and genocidal war. It is perhaps this feelgood halo that has been extinguished by a country the EU has driven into an economic collapse unseen since America’s great depression. It was German and French banks who recklessly lent to Greece that have benefited from bailouts, not the Greek economy. The destruction of Greece's national sovereignty was achieved by economic strangulation, [...] this was all about crushing a rebellion.
  • Let's just be honest about our fears. We fear that we will inadvertently line up with the xenophobes and the immigrant-bashing nationalists, and a “no” result will be seen as their vindication, unleashing a carnival of Ukippery. Hostility to the EU is seen as the preserve of the hard right, and not the sort of thing progressives should entertain. And that is why – if indeed much of the left decides on Lexit – it must run its own separate campaign and try and win ownership of the issue. Such a campaign would focus on building a new Britain, one of workers' rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago.

2016

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  • As Jeremy Corbyn is surrounded by cheering crowds, Labour generally, and the left specifically, are teetering on the edge of looming calamity.
  • A snap election is entirely plausible, and – as things stands, thanks to the actions of all sides of the Labour party – Labour faces electoral oblivion.
  • Call me a Blairite, Tory, Establishment stooge, careerist, sellout, whatever makes you feel better.
    The situation is extremely grave and unless satisfactory answers are offered, we are nothing but the accomplices of the very people we oppose.

2017

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  • Many others who wanted to make this unexpected victory work offered helpful advice. Yet it just wasn't listened to, it certainly wasn't implemented, and Corbyn's first impression was disastrous. A coherent strategy, a coherent vision and a clear message never emerged. Various terrible missteps played directly into the Tory narrative.
  • If Corbyn decides he is unable to confront the multiple existential crises enveloping Labour, then an agreement should be struck where he can stand down in exchange for the guarantee of an MP from the new generation on the ballot paper who is committed to the policies that inspired Corbyn's supporters in the first place. It is up to both Corbyn and the parliamentary Labour party. They should both be aware that history is a savage judge.
  • If [the Left] is overtaken by a loud minority who are, increasingly, bound by utter hatred towards anyone deemed to deviate from their sanctity of their cause, then there is no future.
    If they succeed, they'll turn the left into an ever diminished rump that, to the rest of the population, comes across as vicious, vindictive, and spiteful, and certainly not a cause they'll want to be part of.
  • We live in an age where in politics, people can't disagree with each other without good faith being questioned, there is always an ulterior motive - in it for the money, advance a career...
  • I am part of the left; I feel loyal. I don't want to do things that will be damaging to what I believe in.
  • It is a collective failure, not just him, the left, including people like myself, no clear strategy.
  • [As a divisive figure] It doesn't help that I am young, but I also look like a 12-year-old. We live in a country where there is a lot of animosity. If your politics is radical it antagonises. People might think I am overconfident. I look petulant when I stand my ground.
  • This is one of the most sensational political upsets of our time.
  • Labour is now permanently transformed. Its policy programme is unchallengeable. It is now the party's consensus. It cannot and will not be taken away. Those who claimed it could not win the support of millions were simply wrong. No, Labour didn't win, but from where it started, that was never going to happen.
  • I wasn't a bit wrong, or slightly wrong, or mostly wrong, but totally wrong. Having one foot in the Labour movement and one in the mainstream media undoubtedly left me more susceptible to their groupthink. Never again. Corbyn stays and – if indeed the Tories are thrown into crisis as Brexit approaches – he has an undoubted chance of becoming prime minister, and a fine prime minister he would make too.

2018

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  • We have a moral duty to offer support and safety to LGBT people fleeing repression for which Britain shares responsibility. ... It is now Pride season in Britain. Members of the government will wrap themselves in the rainbow flag and issue self-congratulatory statements about how far LGBT rights have come. Don’t let them get away with it. Gay and lesbian refugees are being detained and deported to countries where their safety is at risk, even their lives. The Windrush scandal should lead to a much wider conversation about the persecution of migrants and refugees. ... The architects of the British empire helped construct anti-gay laws across the globe that still endure today. The victims of such persecution need our support. Instead, they are being terrorised. It is a national scandal – and the silence over it must end.
  • And here’s where moral clarity is needed. Antisemitism exists, it is a menace, and frightens Jews traumatised by the all too recent Holocaust. Labour must show far greater leadership in tackling antisemitism in the party and rooting out every and any antisemite. But that should not detract from the just cause of showing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

2019–2021

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  • Some within Labour want to establish a year zero, which simply consigns the last five years to a dustbin labelled "Never to be repeated", but while that might suit factional ends, it advances no debate about the party's future in an era of unprecedented social turmoil. The need for a transformative political agenda is far greater now than when Corbyn first stood: but without a balanced understanding of the last five years it will prove impossible.
  • I certainly learned in great detail what we were up against. The parliamentary Labour party meetings were just brutal and gruesome. A lot of those people in the parliamentary Labour party – I'm just going to say it – are jumped-up thugs. Vicious, horrible people. They would sanctimoniously stand up and talk about the authoritarianism of Corbynism as they screeched like disturbed teenagers, spraying spittle at anyone with the temerity to support the elected leadership of the party of which they were members. I really don't know what they are driven by.
  • Yes. I think there was a lack of very basic emotional intelligence in some sections of the left in terms of engaging with the collective trauma of the Jewish people. And the same with Israel. There is an emotional connection that many Jewish people have with Israel and you just cannot ignore that.

2022–2024

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  • The past and the present offer an obvious truth: the fate of women – of all sexualities – and LGBTQ people are bound together. While women are the principal targets of patriarchy (that is, a society rigged in favour of men), this system also punishes those seen to deviate from rigid gender norms. Improving the position of women will probably be accompanied by progress for LGBTQ people; likewise, rolling back women's rights will also mean those of LGBTQ people deteriorate in tandem.
    This underlines why it is wrongheaded to claim that trans rights and women's rights are on a collision course.
  • A principled position Scottish Labour could long have adopted is to wholeheartedly back the right of Scotland to national self-determination, without requiring any embrace of independence. In the here and now, that means championing new devolved powers, but also handing Scotland the right to choose the timing of any potential independence referendum.

About Jones

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In alphabetical order by author or source.

2016–2020

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  • Jones was its foremost advocate and proponent. He was thrilled by Corbyn’s against the odds victory. He predicted and then witnessed at first hand the cruel ferocity of the assault upon Corbyn from within and outside the Labour party and defended him to the hilt. Now he faces the political crisis of a lifetime. The leader whom he defends will lose the battle that matters. What if his staying silent about this means, if only by default, that Owen Jones helps the Tories turn the country into "a jingoistic, foreigner-hating free market colony"?
  • Progressive head scratching as to what word might project the same corrective menace as terf (originally a small group’s chosen acronym, now applied at random), seems to have ended officially with this offering from my Guardian colleague, Owen Jones. "If," he mused last week, "TERF" [Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist] is unacceptable, let’s just use 'transphobe' and 'transphobic', problem solved." Given that this guidance comes from the man who admirably closed down "chav" because it "demonised" the working classes, there seems every chance that "transphobe" will become the approved term for people who think, for instance, that there might be one or two arguments for preserving certain women-only spaces.
  • Jones, Britain’s best-known left-wing commentator, was born in Sheffield in 1984. His parents, both members of the Militant Tendency, met while canvassing for Labour in the late sixties; his father was a trade-union shop steward, his mother a prominent computer-science academic. Other relatives were Labour councillors and radical preachers ... After reading history at Oxford and a stint as a trade-union lobbyist he worked for two British left grandees: archiving the papers of Eric Hobsbawm, and serving as a parliamentary researcher to John McDonnell.
    • Oliver Eagleton "Vicious, Horrible People", New Left Review (ii/127, January-February 2021)
    • From a review of This Land: The Story of a Movement (Allen Lane, 2020)
  • Owen Jones was passionately committed to the cause, living and breathing every moment of Corbyn’s leadership.

2023–present

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  • When Jones was later asked why he is so sceptical about the multiple reports of Hamas terrorists raping Israeli women – indeed, reports that they were specifically instructed to rape Jewish girls and women - he replied with a quote from a Washington Post article: "It's unclear whether authorities have accounts directly from rape survivors." That quote does indeed exist in that article, but it also makes clear that this is because Hamas almost certainly killed all the women they raped yet accidentally left many witnesses, including one who said a Hamas terrorist killed a woman while still raping her and a morgue worker who described female bodies so brutally assaulted they had shattered pelvises. But I guess he missed those details.
  • Even a screening of October 7 footage collated by the Israeli government, much of it filmed by Hamas, didn't convince the Guardian columnist Owen Jones. In his little YouTube video ... [h]e notes a charred female corpse "has no underwear on and this has been offered as evidence of rape. But that is not what you would consider conclusive evidence ... If there was rape and sexual violence committed we don't see this on the footage."
  • Some relatives chose not to share footage, as the screening was told. But if Jones had seen even one such withheld clip — of a girl being gang-raped and murdered, then Hamas pissing on her corpse — maybe he'd still dispute details that chip away at the whole, parse dead women’s ripped knickers to propagate doubt.
    Such a simpleton cheerleader cannot compute believing Jewish women since it would cast moral shadows on "his" side.
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