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Hate is such a strong word.
But passions do indeed ‘run high’ at election time, even if this is the third plebiscite in two years. Indeed, today is the anniversary of the 2015 general election.
The EU referendum was a landmark event in British politics for all the reasons which have been well rehearsed elsewhere. But why it is particularly noteworthy is that it somehow managed to galvanise members of the Conservative party into a strongly anti-EU party under the rationale of ‘will of the people’.
It is this ‘will of the people’ argument which has totally ignored the will of 48% (and even some of the 52%) who have never had an official way to articulate what it wanted to be on exiting the European Union. A perfectly possible position for the Labour Party to take would have been to be side opposite to UKIP but still respected the ‘verdict’ of the referendum.
We all have differing views of ‘leadership’. Angela Eagle MP had her chance to articulate her views of ‘real leadership’ last year at a time when the Labour Party was faced with a bland option of Owen Smith and Angela Eagle, or rather than supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
I heard a new Labour person sneer on the radio the other day, “I’d be surprised if Jeremy Corbyn had a smartphone.”
Let’s get this straight – this is not debate, this is BLATANT AGEISM.
Jeremy Corbyn clearly hasn’t done everything right – but he has been dealt a very bad hand. His 172 MPs are revolting in every sense and, with a few exceptions, have been sitting on their hands and sticking fingers in their ears, when they haven’t been openly slagging off Corbyn as is the wont of Alas Kinnock and Woodcock.
There was never a coherent debate within the parliamentary Labour Party of how the potential policy arms could be reconciled with Middle England.
Let’s be blunt. The behaviour of the ‘liberal press’ has been far from liberal. It’s given a disproportionate time to certain voices and the expense of annihilating the character and reputation of Jeremy Corbyn.
I would list at this point all the Guardian journalists who have been snide, antagonistic, pathetic, vituperative, negative, snide, smarmy, malicious, nasty, uncooperative, arrogant, unpleasant, but I can’t be bothered with them as human beings.
The Guardian has successfully, with others, turned England into a far right dictatorship, where it is acceptable to put up with robotic words such as ‘coalition of chaos’ and ‘strong and stable’ in the absence of a lack of debate about lack of meeting NHS targets including A&E times, the burdgeoning PFI bills, the closure of mental and physical health beds, the lack of access to your local GP, the anger amongst junior doctors over their new contract, the pain of junior nurses with training and cost of living pressures.
The Guardian are the Daily Mail of the left, except with the odd veneer of pseudointellectualism which is now fooling no-one. They spew bile and hatred towards any well meaning debate from left, and it’s pure hatred – in the name of Corbyn being an ineffective leader.
And for a couple of years this has been mainstreamed, and nobody bats an eyelid. The plan B to make UKIP a big force in politics has failed (apart from the fact that racist, elderly bigots have now been safely rehoused in the Conservative party).
The plan C to make the Liberal Democrats the third party has been doomed due to unnecessarily hostile tribalism from its leadership, and problems on its position over gay sex. Also, nobody at all can take their position on an extra penny on income tax for health and social care seriously after their Herculean somersault on tuition fees.
I salute the journalists in Guardian for not only carrying out the most complete character assassination of the left in my living times, but also for trying to extinguish the hopes and dreams of people like me who felt completely stuck in the rut of the same failed policies by the same hierarchy.
And all this for a woman who will not debate her policies, can only go to empty warehouses in England by helicopter, and who thinks that regurgitating the same memes wherever she goes is worthy of her second class degree from Oxford.
That woman can be intensely proud of her pathetic attack on the leadership of the European Union, but I for one thinks that she will get a firm two fingers salute from their leadership when she comes to negotiate the UK position. And 28 are more powerful than 1.
None of Corbyn’s critics can mount a coherent criticism against any of his domestic policies.
Call it what it is, please – this is simply a personal hate campaign with very sinister aspects of ageism.
I have no time for the new emboldened Tory, Unionist and UKIP Party. The Guardian can go to hell too.
It is alleged that John McDonnell MP, in reviewing the fortunes of the Labour Party in the recent elections, joked that at least Labour had not been annihilated. Who says the Left doesn’t have a sense of humour?
Of course, the likes of Alastair Campbell aren’t laughing.
Was the reaction to the recent local elections expected? Should we have guessed that Laura Kuenssberg would be behaving as if she had just bagged an amazing Louis Vuitton bargain at the first day of the sales?
I feel that this difficulty in the local elections was entirely predictable – and indeed is all factored into by people who want to get rid of Corbyn, as well as those who massively support him.
This comment was made in May last year on a US website:
“Mid-term elections, in particular, are revealing as to how triangulation strengthens the right wing. Once incumbency relieves national Democratic leaders of the any need to lean toward their “base,” triangulation comes in full swing. In 2014 for example, triangulation led to electoral disaster for Democrats and the lowest voter turnout in 70 years despite the record $4 billion spent on the election.
With few exceptions, 2014 offered the choice between pseudo-Republicans on the Democratic ticket and real Republicans. Voters choose the real deal and/or the demoralized voters stay home.
Triangulation sharply curtailed Obama possibilities. This is not a new pattern. Triangulation did its share to contribute to the rightwing resurgence and entrenchment in 1994, 1996, 2010 and 2014.”
Note – this is nothing to do with Jonathan Freedland, Stephen Kinnock or Richard Anstell. This comment is about how mid-term elections tend to reveal a low turnout, with a phenomenon that right wing parties tend to entrench their positions.
I’m not a professional political commentator. I think very few people are – apart from the magnificent Steve Richards. But I do have an interest in human psychology, and what I perceive to be fairness and justice. And the aftermath of the local elections and Mayoralty decisions have been very traumatic for ‘people like me’. But in a way which I think is entirely predictable.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell claim they want to reach out to various members of the ‘broad church’ – but like all playgrounds, this approach will run into difficulty if certain infants simply don’t want to play. Corbyn and McDonnell give the impression of only being interested in their own, and this ironically is a departure from the criticism of the Blair years where Labour is considered to have ignored ‘its core vote’.
Corbyn and McDonnell are not running a 35% strategy. It is claimed by Lord Steve Wood that despite the popularisation of this selective marketing of the Ed Miliband pitch offer this was actually a figment of the imagination of certain personnel in the media. One cannot possibly imagine who Wood means, but if the names John Rentoul or Dan Hodges actually come up, so be it.
Corbyn is perfectly happy with this ‘comfort base’. The element of ‘Corbyn’s way or the high way’ is prone to over-interpretation, such as the issue of whether Andy Burnham’s success party on winning of the Manchester mayoralty avoided turning into yet another Corbyn mass movement rally.
In terms of human psychology, people who support Jeremy Corbyn are incredibly passionate about him. They claim to be equally interested in his politics and ‘pledges’, and to be fair people who criticise Corbyn tend to do so on personal terms rather than detailing objections on policy terms. But arguably their style of behaviour on Twitter tends to wind others up – a ‘force field’ around 20 second gifs of showing Corbyn invincible as he ‘meets the voters’, or some meme blaming some fiasco in Corbyn’s outreach on ‘fake news’ or misrepresentation in the ‘mainstream media’.
But here the Guardian have not played fair either. Jonathan Freedland was the first to pen a nasty article about Corbyn’s failure to reach the numbers required to win a majority in an election – and I dare say there’ll be others. But the fact remains that authors in the Guardian have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at rubbishing Jeremy Corbyn, his colleagues and his supporters, trying to produce a mood of demoralisation which is hard for anyone to battle against.
Instead of focusing on the issues, or producing constructive criticism (for example how technology might be utilised in bringing together the NHS and social care in a Blairite way, or thinking about how the gig economy might work for both you and the State in a Blairite way), the agenda of the Guardian is to assassinate Corbyn politically.
And this has been the mission of Lord Neil Kinnock and Richard Angell (chief honcho of Progress). But I have to say that they were both personally very nice to me on the single occasions they have met me, in a club in Manchester and in a pub near St James’ Park (for a Christmas quiz) respectively.
I ‘get’ their frustration. They see the failure of Corbyn to ‘break through’ with the same frustration as me, but my unfortunate perception of them has been, rightly or wrongly, is that they – like Freedland – want Corbyn to fail. I cannot sign up to this philosophy. It goes much deeper than a misplaced sense of solidarity in the guise of socialism. I think this has been to play politics with people’s hopes, tread on these hopes, and want to see them dead and buried.
When I see John Woodcock MP throw his toys out of the pram, I cannot countenance him wanting to be a Labour MP. To be a MP under the leadership of whoever in Labour is a privilege – that crumpet Wo0dcock is nibbling on his cake and eating it – wanting to act independent but be labelled Labour.
The years of relentless Corbyn attacks have been, in my view, been to drown out any legitimate criticism of him over the years. There is of course an issue about whether the Corbyn inner circle would’ve listened to and acted on feedback – the persons involved are adamant that they act on feedback.
The perception has been of people on the sidelines supposedly well meaning, but flinging mud and contributing to the sour atmosphere – like Owen Jones. These are people who are adamant they are life-long supporters of Labour. A greater difficulty comes with people who have no intention of voting Labour ever who are held up to be great bastions of protecting socialist philosophy.
It is clearly now impossible with 33 days to go for Labour to embark on a third leadership election for leader. The only thing that Labour can do is to try to make sure its policies can break through despite the embargo in the mainstream media who are obsessed with the robotic ‘strong and stable’ meme of Theresa May.
My gut feeling is that Labour is living in cloud cuckoo land if it aspires to the ‘man on the street’ who would like Labour’s policy if only he knew about them from alternative news channels. I think it runs much deeper than that – like a group of people aged 50s from the shires who ultimately have an axe to grind against the Blair years and who were waiting for UKIP come along, but now UKIP have ‘done their job’, their natural inclination is now to vote Tory. This vote for Tory is a vote, they perceive, for competence rather than idealism – but of course the left ‘protest’, even not in an organised rally, is entirely principled to prevent the funding of public services getting further worsened.
I think Lord Stewart Wood is right. I think Tom Baldwin is right.
I think Lord Spencer Livermore is right.
— Dr Shibley Rahman ❄️ (@dr_shibley) May 6, 2017
The damage was done a long time ago, for example with 172 Labour MPs refusing to support their leader in public in any meaningful form (with the exceptions of a few, such as Grahame Morris, Debbie Abrahams, Barry Gardiner, Angela Rayner, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Richard Burgon). Voters rarely vote for divided parties – and the Labour Party thanks to the political hand grenade offered from David Cameron in the form of a EU referendum is now deeply divided.
Surprisingly, I therefore think it is too early to write off Jeremy Corbyn. I am not the ‘eternal optimist’ of Voltaire’s Candide. I am not completely deluded about this. Theresa May is clearly petrified of the Conservatives sending out the message the election is already ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ – but the dynamics are hard to predict, and the election result will come down to the exact arithmetic of where people place their votes in the privacy of the ballot boxes.
Given todays results, I hope someone, somewhere reappraises the strategy of triangulating our own Brexit posn based on Mays #KamikazeBrexit
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) May 5, 2017
So tweeted Clive Lewis MP today.
“Kamikaze” is a plausible sounding technique which has one major problem – it has a very low hit rate. Kamikaze (神風) were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy warships more effectively than was possible with conventional attacks. During World War II, about 3,862 kamikaze pilots died, and about 19% of kamikaze attacks managed to hit a ship. Labour’s Brexit strategy suffers from one big problem – not many people, with the best will in the world, understand it. Like Labour’s previous electoral offering for the 2015 general election under Ed Miliband, it feels a bit too little far too late.
A major strategic flaw about Labour’s Brexit reaction is that, as Clive Lewis observes today, it is entirely a reaction to Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, rather than a reaction to the EU referendum itself. There are certain features of the current political situation which are more robust than others, but it appears that many UKIP voters are thinking “job done” as regards getting the Brexit case successfully argued. It is now up to someone – and it doesn’t particularly matter who – to execute the implementation of Brexit competently. This is reminiscent of the New Blair approach to running NHS services – it doesn’t matter who runs them, e.g. Virgin, NHS or Serco, as long as they’re run as well as possible. The issue then is that the emotional attachment to Labour doesn’t matter. This is borne out by Tees Valley and West Midlands voting for Tory mayors, despite the ‘past’. The perception of these UKIP turned Tory voters is that Jeremy Corbyn is not the most effective person to be on the other end of the negotiating table, whatever the negotiating strategy is.
Given that the central argument of Richard Angell in Progress, and that of some others, is that it is Jeremy Corbyn who is the central liability in Labour – for whatever reason, whether the inclination of his bow, his tie knot, his talk style, his past positions on foreign affairs, Jeremy Corbyn is part of Labour’s Brexit problem allegedly. So if you assume that Brexit is the forthcoming big issue, and you have a strong (even if irrational) dislike of Corbyn, the most logical conclusion would be for Corbyn to outsource this negotiating rôle to someone else who is well loved by the general public. But this is genuinely focus group stuff – more at home in the pages of the ‘Unfinished revolution’ by Blair guru Philip Gould. Who is the person within the current Labour parliamentary party who is best placed to represent the UK’s interests in Brexit?
It is no accident that Theresa May has whipped up emotions against Jean-Claude Juncker, as this plays very well on the front cover of the Daily Mail. Some time ago, Anna Soubry MP, a person with whom I don’t have much ideologically in agreement, suggested that the anti-EU rhetoric would get far stronger at around the time of the triggering of Article 50, citing that the ‘divorce bill’, now estimated at 100 Billion Euro, would become the centrsal figurehead for this hatred. So, it can be argued that, given Jeremy Corbyn is fully signed up to Brexit, he would be willing to pay the EU any pay cheque because he is a ‘soft touch’. Here, there is clearly a divergence between the position of hardline Conservative-UKIP voters and that of people who want the most pleasant relationship with the EU after the Brexit process – the latter group would happily leave the amount of the divorce bill up to an external court. The reason that this does not curry favour with hardline Conservative-UKIP voters is that this is not ‘taking back control’.
In the past few weeks, once touted as the future Prince across the water, Sir Keir Starmer is not the solution to all of Labour’s problems. He is responsible for producing an overly technocratic, though albeit perfectly logical, position on Brexit so that Labour can face ‘both directions’ at once. Today has revealed a nonsense that the Conservatives are pretending that they are not becoming too complacent whereas the main opposition parties, including the Liberal Democrats with their withering vote, are still ‘in the game’. The one decision of the EU referendum was settled, for better or for worse, on June 23rd 2016 – that we will leave the EU. But the triangulation has no solution. It is unlikely that there will be a second referendum, even though some people may have changed their mind. And the second, more crucial, bit of the referendum was never asked – “Should we leave even if the alternative is worse?”. The answer, of course, for many Brexiteers will be ‘yes’ still.
All of this points at the other robust factoids about the Kamikaze Brexit.
One factoid is: the British voters have not actually been offered much meaningful choice about the style of Brexit. You can either vote for the Conservatives, with their ‘hard brexit’, leaving the membership of the single market, or Labour who appear to be ‘waiting and seeing’ having rubber stamped Article 50 through parliament. Or you can vote Liberal Democrat, Greens or UKIP, who are unlikely to have much negotiating power in the unlikely event of a coalition. Or, if in Scotland, you can vote SNP, but if the Conservatives become the largest power, this Scottish vote is in fact worthless. There is of course the huge disclaimer that local elections are different from the general election – there are more protest votes with a much lower turnout – but it looks unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit is THE winning formula.
The second factoid goes back to the triangulation with the ‘May position’, so to speak. We know that left wing voters, despite their opinions of Jeremy Corbyn, find May entirely unpredictable rather than “strong and stable”. Theresa May saying “strong and stable” five million times doesn’t make it true. As one Tweep put it, Theresa May is not actually ‘the iron lady Mk. 2’ after all – more like a robotic Metal Mickey, or as John McDonnell referred to the situation today, a ‘dalek’. Triangulating to the May position takes no account of the changing dynamics in the European Union – for example, if the new French president is able to be more successful in reforming the EU than David Cameron ever was.
So a more logical position would be for a strong negotiator of Labour to deal with the Brexit situation as it evolved, but this would be to go against the approach of Brexit at any cost. But given the mood music from Juncker and Tusk (and Merkel), it is unlikely that the 28 EU states are thinking very much about the size of Theresa May’s mandate. So all this fundamentally goes to the root of the problem – whether other voters are logical and reasonable, or simply irrational or bigoted? Let’s assume that Jeremy Corbyn’s domestic policies are unobjectionable (a big IF) – the solution for Labour to resurrect lost voters would be to say the policies are there to stay even if Corbyn isn’t for the full three terms (he would be approaching 80 if Corbyn started three terms). And Labour would have to stop standing in the middle of the road where it is bound to get run over as Nye Bevan warned. That is, it makes a stance – that of a party which believes that immigration is necessary to meet the social and economic needs of the country, and that the UK is better off being signed up to the single market, but our position as a unified UK can only dealt with with any certain as the political and economic situation of the EU evolves. This might be totally incomprehensible – but so is the current position of Labour on Brexit.
It is however clear that Labour can still produce ‘hits’. Look at Steve Rotheram in Liverpool or Andy Burnham in Manchester. The immediate drastic solutions to the kamikaze Brexit would be to find a ‘bloody difficult’ negotiator on behalf of Labour, but who unlike ‘that bloody woman’ will want to negotiate some of the advantages of inclusion within the European Union. But the current public perception of both the Labour and Conservative Parties wanting the same outcome on Brexit, but with the Conservatives with the better negotiator, is untenable. Also, one needs to factor in that the mainstream press will not allow ‘other issues’ to take central stage, like the NHS, social care or schools, even if the infrastructure of the UK goes to hell and a handcart on June 9th. And clearly – for such a big decision – the UK does need more time. It needs to ask the EU for an extended negotiating period to get the negotiations right.
And Labour needs to get personal with Theresa May, having made the entire debate so personal.
Can British voters entirely trust ‘strong and stable’ Theresa May to get back control of immigration figures, when she objectively failed as the Secretary of State for the Home Office?Can Labour extract out of May any ways for us to measure her performance on this? In other words, how can we hold Theresa May to account for her special ‘May Brexit’?
It’s a pity that Sir Keir Starmer spent so long working on something which has failed to address Labour’s central weaknesses on Brexit, but, given that Labour has now voted for political suicide (Clive Lewis MP was also against the triggering of the premature end of the ‘fixed term’ without invoking a vote of no confidence), Labour now has to produce some sort of eye-catching stunt on Brexit to allay voters’ fears. Or else it could be game, set and match – finished for Labour, with more loss than three hundred council seats.
We know that, if Labour had a free choice, it wouldn’t start from here – that is Lord Mandelson working ‘every day’ to undermine Labour (in his own words), or members of the parliamentary Labour Party continuing to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn – but it is too late to complete a third leadership election within the space of six weeks. Jeremy Corbyn needs to do something drastic and fast on Brexit, and also pin his nails to the Union flag, if he has any hope of standing up to the Tories or the SNP.
To this extent, the ‘moderates’ are right – there is little point in having principles without power? It is said that Kamikaze pilots who were unable to complete their mission (due to mechanical failure, interception, etc.) were stigmatised in the years. It is possible McDonnell and Corbyn are unable to ‘complete their mission’, but they would be the first to agree that if the current strategy is not working it is perhaps time for a re-think.
The problem with the strategy of 172 (odd) Labour MPs in parliament slagging off their leader minute-in and minute-out in open warfare conducted in the court of BBC News is that certain chickens would come eventually to roost.
It was vile. And utter madness.
At a time when the Labour Party could have united behind their once democratically elected leader, the MPs decided to rubbish entirely their brand. Labour MPs, barely out of their Price Waterhouse Coopers nappies, were heard to throw loudly their toys out of their parliamentary offices, as we all said: “Don’t bother shutting the door on your way out.”
And are the membership of the Labour Party all meant to be euphoric at the 20th year anniversary of Tony Blair? We’ve done our best in wheeling out Owen Jones (who interestingly shares a GQ triangle of himself, Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell) to mount the TV screens, and tell us all for the millionth time how many amazing achievements Blair had.
But whisper it softly. A new dawn had not in fact broken it, had it not, and could only be best as a false mirage. You can easily understand why the Blair legacy has ultimately failed, aside from the cataclysmic desire of Blair to own the failed mission that is the Iraq War.
It was, that, at best that New Labour itself had no vision, to extent that all Governments since Thatcher have been effectively the same government run by different parties.
There is barely anything to distinguish the Blair, Brown, Cameron and May governments in approaches to the hybrid market ideology and outsourcing/privatisation of the public sector – what the late Lord Macmillan of Stockton had called ‘selling off the nation’s assets”.
Scottish Labour, in their hearts, deep down, know this.
Corbyn had to be elected not once but twice to get some standing as leader of the Labour Party, and this is still in massive public opposition to him in the highly influential media who continue to troll innocent people in the social media without shame.
In a way, Peter Mandelson’s plan worked in toiling every day such that Labour would appear unelectable and to get Jeremy Corbyn out. Labour has tanked in the opinion polls, with no supposed hope of immediate recovery.
What Mandelson is, however, in denial is this.
For all of Tony Blair’s withering reputation as a ‘strong leader’, who took parliament into a war under false pretenses (some argue), despite his opinion poll ratings, not many people want him back – or at least want him back as much as a sewer infested with rats.
Already the hugely unpleasant media is talking about Corbyn ‘taking ownership’ of what will ‘inevitably’ be a disastrous general election result – and not a single vote has been caste yet. Kezia Dugdale and Carwyn Jones haven’t even stopped slagging off Jeremy Corbyn yet.
But there is an even more gruesome possibility strategy guru Mandelson has not thought of.
Mandelson like May is not ‘first class material’, but he has failed to grasp that the media have toxified the Corbyn brand that not even the people who wish to vote for Labour will now wish to reveal themselves to the opinion polls.
As far as “strong and stable” Theresa May is concerned, there is actually no strong mandate as far as getting the best for Britain is concerned.
The whole world and his cat knows that Britain is about to be tarred and feathered in a ritualistically humiliating exit from the European Union by the 27 member states led by Tusk and Juncker.
The whole world and his cat know that despite Nigel Farage’s imagery of not paying your subs to your golf class the UK will be sued to high heaven if it doesn’t come up with the billions held to be its liabilities.
And all of this is at a time when the NHS and social care are on its knees, not due to the ‘aged population’ as you might be led to believe from dilapidated chumocratic Tory peers – nor from the skeleton staff levels – but from the astronomic PFI debts amassed triumphantly under the Blair governments principally.
We know that schools funding is on its knees.
Furthermore, the economy is about to tank big time – due to creeping important inflation, faltering growth and wages being far outstripped by prices. Andrew Marr’s questioning of nurses having to attend food banks is only the tip of the iceberg.
Thankfully, if there are riots on the streets, the privatised justice systems will be able to make a tidy profit.
The only ‘strong mandate’ May can realistically hope for is that the Government, in whatever shape or form, has in its first Queen Speech the aspirations for a hard Brexit, thus meaning due to the Salisbury convention the House of Lords has to accept the wishes of an election manifesto.
After all, “strong and stable” Theresya May had only been elected by her party in parliament – a pathetically small number.
All of this carnage cannot be simply resolved by Guardian hacks telling their ever dwindling loyal readership to vote tactically for any party other than Corbyn’s – whatever their views of gay sex.
Get braced for Jeremy Corbyn to have to fight a third leadership election, but the advantage is that the country will have imploded by then. Even Scotland might be fully independent of the United Kingdom.
You see – people like me have waited a very long time to see a socialist case being presented nationally at the ballot box. If Jeremy Corbyn MP is not your cuppa as the twice democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, I hope that you’re able to use your vote wisely.
On the night of the results presented by David Dimbleby, I would much rather a Conservative seat fall to the LibDems or Greens, than not at all. I feel the loathing of Tim Farron MP tapping me on my shoulder, but I have nothing against Tim or his party. Indeed, I follow Tim (@timfarron) on Twitter, and he follows me. I think it’s true that many people will be going into this election feeling that the LibDem is fundamentally a good partner who’s had a period of ‘cheating on you’ – whether that was in welfare benefits cuts (introduced the outsourcing of benefits assessment in the first place), turboboosting privatisation through the Health and Social Care Act (2012) (rampant in the latter years of Tony Blair’s government, when Blair coincidentally was aiming to be President of the EU and competition law was a central plank of the free movement policy), or tuition fees (Labour are not innocent here either).
If you strongly believe in membership of the European Union, and you feel ‘left of centre’, then it’s not a bad thing if the Liberal Democrats can act as a brake for a Conservative administration anyway. I feel that this would be an ideal outcome for Tim Farron MP. Do it if you have no problems with Tim Farron MP becoming the new Nick Clegg, or the new Deputy Prime Minister. For all the bravura of the LibDems in parliament, causing the ‘strong opposition’ which Theresa May claimed caused her to trigger this snap election in the first place, unbelievably all 9 MPs have voted three ways on the EU.
And parliament has not in any way (nor the House of Lords) “obstructed” the progress of triggering of Art. 50, as claimed by Brexit dinosaurs such as Lord Michael Howard. In fact, many pro European Union voters, whether in the Labour Party or otherwise, feel that the opposition to triggering Article 50, knowing that Brexit is likely to be a cataclysmic disaster, could and should have been much stronger.
As a purely technocratic exercise —— I can understand why, with his constituency seats evenly divided between ‘remain’ and ‘Brexit’, why Jeremy Corbyn MP has led his party not to oppose Brexit. I can see why Jeremy Corbyn can see ‘positives’ to Brexit: i.e. it gives license to protection of important rights in law, such as in environment or employment, which otherwise get ‘grandfathered’ in a corrupted, Tory, way; it allows state aid to ailing and flailing industries not as easily possible as under EU membership (such as the steel industry). But that’s not to say that Brexit comes with it colossal problems – such as severely hampering skills mixes for certain sectors (not just Starbucks Baristas, as the stereotype goes, but for people in the NHS and social care), import inflation, lack of influence in EU policy, problems in not being in the single market (and under Theresa May voluntarily not being in the customs union). But it’s been Theresa May’s call on this – so the buck should stop there.
The timing of this election took everyone by surprise, not least the Cabinet who mostly heard of the idea for the first time after the Easter break. The news has gone down so well that Theresa May’s junior experts in comms have resigned. The prospect that the prices will outstrip wages, a phenomenon already known about by ‘hardworking’ nurses in the public sector, this year is already going down like a bucket of cold sick. So the election campaign already has the grubby fingerprints of Sir Lynton Crosby on it. And ironically, the ‘secret weapon’ in this war against Corbyn, proclaimed so emphatically by Lord Peter Mandelson who boasted how he was working daily to oust Corbyn, has gone kaphhhhhttt. That is, the sneering of the 172 Labour MPs. Crosby has clearly directed that attacks on Corbyn should not be too strong, as otherwise the perception is of victimisation, bullying and a hate crime. As it happens, when I ask certain people why they dislike Corbyn so much, the answers are split down the middle in ‘He’s incompetent’ and ‘Others think he’s crap’ – the universal, consistent lack of reasoning why they dislike Corbyn, with the odd reference to his shirt or tie, unfortunately leads me to think this is at best snobbery at worst blatant age discrimination.
So when Theresa May trotted out the back story of 3 Labour MPs who had made disparaging remarks about Jeremy Corbyn, the impression of those in the Lobby was not ‘wahey!’, but a feeling that this particular attack from May and Corbyn was nasty and vindictive. In other words, May and Crosby had overplayed their hand. And when Jeremy Corbyn gave a strongly anti-Establishment speech in Church House shortly afterwards, Corbyn singled out ‘cartel’ (he meant ‘collusive’ strictly speaking) behaviour between powerful individuals, multinationals and the media, not giving him a fair hearing. And there is indeed ample evidence for this. So, it was very early on in the campaign that the mainstream media knew full well that they had blood on their hands. No sooner than Newnight had run a party political broadcast on behalf of the Mr Theresa May party was Twitter awash with the alleged financial activities of the firm which extravagantly wealthy Mr Theresa May has worked in and their tax affairs.
The line that if you do not support Theresa May’s version of Brexit, which is the most hard core version of Brexit you could have dreamt up, you’re somehow unpatriotic is a very unpleasant line for May and Crosby to sustain. This of course plugs a sentiment into the personal vilification of Corbyn, at best unable to nod correctly for the National Anthem or kneel and kiss properly for his induction for the Privy Council, at worst runs the meme that Corbyn’s ‘best friends are terrorists’, of being deeply unpatriotic. Of someone who HATES Britain. Of course we have been down this route with the horrific attacks on Ed Miliband’s late father, Ralph Miliband. And talking of which – Rafael Behr has consistently attacked everything which Corbyn stands for, not laying a finger on the Conservatives, sneering that if Ed Miliband had been unable to make inroads it would be unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could. This is of course to ignore completely that England is on its knees and is in crisis over NHS, schools and social care. And to remind Mr Behr – was it the case that an ‘effective opposition’, so beloved of him and his colleagues, were ABSTAINING on disability benefit welfare cuts which are the lifeline of disabled citizens? Even if Rachel Reeves didn’t get it or sympathetics in the Guardian, Debbie Abrahams MP certainly ‘gets it’, and is taking this fight at last full on much to the delight of people in the ‘WOW petition’. And John McDonnell MP, who is never reported as having successfully run London’s budget for years, has been instrumental in upholding the rights of people who are disabled – like me, and I know.
So we already know that the policy suggestions, e.g. on housing or the living wage, are popular with many people on the Left, not just a select group of Tony Benn supporters or CND hippies who are caught in a 1983 time warp. The 2017 Labour manifesto has not even been published yet, and yet Nick Robinson has already gone on record in making a highly biased prejudicial remark against Corbyn. We know that the policies themselves are popular, if not badged up with the descriptor ‘They’re Corbyn’s’ – but this is the effect that the media and the 172 Labour MPs have had in successfully rubbishing the Labour brand. Alastair Campbell, who is licking his lips at any demise of Corbyn, such that he felt the urge to pretend to be a psychiatrist measuring the affect and cognition of Owen Jones for GQ magazine, and Tony Blair have never been able to state with any clarity what they feel the legacy of New Labour could’ve been or should’ve been – and have openly said that they feel hostile to Ed Miliband and successors for being negative about aspects of Tony Blair’s government such as the highly controversial manner in which we went to war with Iraq, or creeping NHS privatisation through putting PFI on steroids, etc.
Whereas in 2015, Crosby was going round telling everyone ‘don’t vote for Ed Miliband as he secretly wants to get into bed with Nicola Sturgeon (politically)’, Crosby can’t quite pull off the same trick in 2017 – as his campaign relies on Corbyn being universally toxic. Even Sturgeon has said that Corbyn has no chance of becoming Prime Minister, which has just made her appear like an arrogant tinpot dictator worthy of Dr Strangelove. Scottish voters of course have the option of voting for SNP in the hope of another Scottish referendum, when quite frankly the economic case is unsustainable and Scotland has more pressing domestic issues of policy – and getting loads of SNP MPs in Westminster acting as barracking but ubiquitously ineffective MPs, or they can overcome their dislike of Kezia Dugdale and vote Labour despite the toxicity of the New Labour brand. The stranglehold of the SNP over Scottish politics is unlikely to last forever, and you can throw any accusation at Jeremy Corbyn – but the notion that ‘Jeremy Corbyn is more of the same’ is quite frankly ridiculous.
So – for a number of reasons, the Crosby May plan has already gone badly wrong. A major factor in that has clearly been that the months spent rubbishing Jeremy Corbyn has had the unintended effect of lowering expectations concerning Corbyn that anything he does is frankly quite amazing. And the cumulative effect of those MPs automatically getting reselected to defend Labour’s policy offering, i.e. no ‘trigger votes’, means that bitter people like John Woodcock MP cannot say with heavy heart he is being forced to be a MP under a Corbyn manifesto. My advice to him is – if he doesn’t like it, don’t do it. Nobody will allow Woodcock to behave to all intents and purposes like a spoilt brat ‘independent’. Woodcock is currently standing on the cliff edge, like several of his colleagues, of warranting disciplinary proceedings if they cannot be loyal to the Labour Party?
My viewpoint is that, even if you hate Corbyn, the next few weeks will be fun. He is coming at this as the ‘underdog’ – but an underdog with loads of experience, who would ‘wipe the floor’ with Theresa May in any TV hustings. May’s team might be able to force people to say ‘no comment’ to the media at her public events, but May is giving every appearance now of cutting and running. She looks and sounds wooden, and her record in being able to keep immigration levels down and not being able to resist a ‘snap election’ speak for themselves. This is May’s election to lose. The only direction for this colossal poll lead, as everyone knows, is down.
“Strong leadership”? My arse.
Theresa May would like you to think her lying to you multiple times is ‘strong leadership’. Don’t be so gullible. pic.twitter.com/qCBZhGYG5Y
— Dr Shibley Rahman ❄️ (@dr_shibley) April 22, 2017
And while everyone has tried to make the Corbyn brand so toxic they have blatantly reared a generation of ‘shy Corbynistas’ who do not want to reach at the sight of May’s repackaged Thatcherite offering on May 8th 2017.
And then there’s the bus.
Got ‘election fatigue’ like Brenda?
Brenda of course does have a point. (Up to a point, Lord Copper.)
Brenda, like you or me, doesn’t particularly want ‘to go around again’, but there are reasons to be distinctly uncheerful this time – like the import inflation, fall in skills mix and lack of membership of the customs union/single market, and NHS, social care and schools in crisis.
You’re being directed to think Jeremy Corbyn is a monster. Look at the poll lead of Theresa May,
The media perseverated on why Jeremy Corbyn did not mention the ‘B’ word (this is of course ironic given that the BBC and Sky don’t like reporting on the #toryelectionfraud, and never let their lips become soiled by the failed NHS reforms of 2012 or national debt going through the roof in the Tory years 2010-7 compared to thirteen years of the previous Labour administration).
That word is ‘Brexit’. Emily Thornberry caused consternation is not having a ‘position’ on Brexit the other night, but it turns out from a response to Jack Blanchard, Political Editor of the Mirror, this morning, that a fuller account might be forthcoming.
I asked Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman if Labour can categorically rule out a second Brexit referendum. Just had this response: pic.twitter.com/yMmzG0IIy9
— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) April 20, 2017
Labour’s exact stance on Brexit continues to cause amazement, as the seats which had the highest % of ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remoaners’ were Labour seats. So technically it seems as if the Labour leadership wishes to face both directions at once, without offending outright either side of the debate. However, this has left many people who are strongly supportive of inclusion in the European Union feeling rudderless within Corbyn’s Labour Party. They feel that exiting the Single Market, or at the very least the Customs Union, could send the UK into a cesspit of economic despair. But likewise, the Brexiteers, stereotypically in Sunderland but who might actually live closer to Folkestone, feel that bearded 67-year old Jeremy Corbyn is not their friend. I have heard every insult about Corbyn under the sun in the copious media coverage of him, but Corbyn is never given any ‘credit’ for his speaking in favour of migrant workers, particularly in the NHS. Corbyn has never wished to ‘clamp down on immigrant numbers’ – it is, after all, Theresa May who has failed as Home Secretary to get immigration numbers down to the level which had been promised by the Conservatives in their former promises. This dividing line between Brexit vs Non Brexit means that the ‘rules of the game’ have indeed been ripped up. For example, Bath is a profoundly Remain seat Brexit-wise, but where the pro-EU LibDems have more than a good chance of taking the seat instead of the Conservatives. Tom Baldwin, former guru for Ed Miliband, and by far one of the brightest people in Labour at the moment in my opinion, is right in that I think Labour must be clearer on where it stands on Brexit. It’s clear that Theresa May wants to run the competence v chaos line which worked well for Sir Lynton Crosby in 2015, viz
But you could be forgiven for a mild degree of chaos in the Corbyn camp not being immediately being able to ‘rule out s second referendum’. Of course, this glimmer of hope for a second referendum will be music to the ears of pro-EU members of Labour, except that Labour later confirmed there would be no “second referendum”. It’s not that Jeremy Corbyn is avoiding talking about Brexit, it’s just that he doesn’t want to discuss it at the expense of everything else, such as the crisis in the NHS, social care or schools. And that’s not to say the economy is doing well – the economy having taken the first steps of ‘taking back control’ is likely to see a situation later this year when prices outstrip wages. This burden on the ‘cost of living’ is of course already known to nurses, particularly newly qualified nurses living in metropolitan areas, where the pay freeze for yet another year in a row, while every single other bill including council tax is rising, means that the triggering of Art. 50 is not the immediate problem.
But the advantage thus far is that the Tim Farron MP is very different from the Jeremy Corbyn MP offering. Labour’s pitch is so firmly to its pre-Blair core voters, who most strongly resemble Tony Benn rather than Dennis Healey supporters, that an ideological marriage between the current Liberal Democrat party and Corbyn’s Labour Party seems unlikely. Corbynistas are the first to remind people about the Liberal Democrats’ legacy from 2010-5, citing as examples the Health and Social Care Act (2012) – and creeping privatisation of the NHS, the hike in tuition fees, the welfare benefits cuts, and so on. But the advantage now for the Liberal Democrats to form a new Coalition with the Conservatives from June 9th 2017 onwards would be that the Liberal Democrats in coalition could act as a brake on a ‘hard Brexit’, i.e. killing off totally free movement of goods, services and people, and this would save the face of those Conservatives who don’t wish their political party to be overrun by the Bill Cash, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and Priti Patel types of this world.
1. “The nurse, the teacher, the small trader, the carer, the builder, the office worker, the student, the carer win. We all win.”
Well, the nurses are exasperated
— The RCN (@theRCN) April 13, 2017
And the evidence that selective schooling has a negative impact on children’s wellbeing is well known. At the end of last year, a very interesting article emerged from a Professor of Law in the Scientific American as to why Donald Trump overcame all the odds, ‘explaining Donald Trump’s shock win‘. There are some interesting lines from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech this morning. “It is these rules that have allowed a cosy cartel to rig the system in favour of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.” This is, of course, abuse of the word ‘cartels’ which should really apply to group monopolistic behaviour at sovereign level. But the point which is clearly being made here is that when a ‘critical mass’, say of Tory MPs, LibDem MPs and 170 Labour MPs, can easily find mouthpieces in the media run by a handful of every powerful and wealthy people, there is a big problem potentially with democracy.
She showed today how much ammo the #plp have provided and how much damage they’ve done. Regardless of strengths/weaknesses of #Corbyn https://t.co/qw6uGfhyBK — Myar Seitis (@Nowtsabother) April 19, 2017
That Jeremy Corbyn has had an offensively bad hearing is borne out even by the laziest quick glance at the English media. But if you need evidence – there’s plenty of it about, say for example from the LSE.
The LSE writes:
“Our analysis shows that Corbyn was thoroughly delegitimised as a political actor from the moment he became a prominent candidate and even more so after he was elected as party leader, with a strong mandate. This process of delegitimisation occurred in several ways: 1) through lack of or distortion of voice; 2) through ridicule, scorn and personal attacks; and 3) through association, mainly with terrorism.
All this raises, in our view, a number of pressing ethical questions regarding the role of the media in a democracy. Certainly, democracies need their media to challenge power and offer robust debate, but when this transgresses into an antagonism that undermines legitimate political voices that dare to contest the current status quo, then it is not democracy that is served.”
2. “Compare their lives with the multinational corporations and the gilded elite who hide their money in the Cayman Islands because the Conservatives are too morally bankrupt to take them on.”
It’s well known that certain people very close to the current Goverment have been involved in tax avoidance schemes of a truly industrial scale. This is a political choice on their point, but causes a real problem when it comes to funding the country’s infrastructure including public services – including schools and hospitals – and of course investing in people including nurses and teachers.
And this message was reinforced a number of times in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech.
“Instead of the country’s wealth being hidden in tax havens we will put it in the hands of the people of Britain as they are the ones who earned it.”
3. “A Labour government that isn’t scared to take on the cosy cartels that are hoarding this country’s wealth for themselves. It needs a government that will use that wealth to invest in people’s lives in every community to build a better future for every person who lives here.”
Here Jeremy Corbyn is articulating a genuine ‘enemy’, big Elites who are not ‘paying their own way’.
The enemy has of course become immigration.
And of course immigration has gone through the roof under Theresa May anyway.
4. “Don’t be angry at the privatisers profiting from our public services, they whisper, be angry instead at the migrant worker just trying to make a better life.”
The position of the Labour Party was from 2010 to launch a ‘Migration Impact Fund’ to support areas of the country with a high influx of migrants. The right wing media and politicians have of course gone to great lengths to belittle the contribution from migrant workers to the economy – the evidence is that migrants contribute more to the economy than they ‘take out’.
So therefore the attack from the Conservatives and their supporters, including some Labour MPs, is to criticise Jeremy Corbyn personally.
5. “Seven years of broken promises show us that on pay, the deficit, the NHS, our schools, our environment.”
In 2010, the Conservatives promised they’d pay off the deficit by 2015.
In 2015, the Conservatives promised they’d pay off the deficit by 2020.
Disabled people didn’t cause the global financial crash – City bankers did.
6. “Britain is the sixth richest economy in the world. The people of Britain must share in that wealth.”
It is likely there are more people who believe this than say so.
Take Donald Trump’s “shock win”.
But the polls were as wrong as the pundits. Problems with the polls’ methodologies will undoubtedly be identified in the days and weeks ahead. It seems equally reasonable to conclude that many Trump voters kept their intentions to themselves and refused to cooperate with the pollsters.
The 2015 EU referendum showed a deeply divided Britain, split down the middle over the issue on EU membership.
A reason why the polls could be wrong is the existence of ‘Shy Corbynistas’. After all, ‘Corbynistas’ have been so vilified everywhere including in the mainstream and social media that they are probably not revealing themselves in large quantities ahead of the general election on June 8th, 2017. That Jeremy Corbyn MP is trying to mobilise against inequality is convincing, compared to Theresa May giving a speech about equality from a helicopter. For all the talk of Corbyn about being ‘spineless’. 2-faced Theresa May can’t even be bothered to turn up to a TV debate.
7. “If I were Southern Rail or Philip Green, I’d be worried about a Labour Government.”
A lot of people who voted #Brexit voted against a 1% tyranny which they perceived from the EU ‘insiders’. The notion that Jeremy Corbyn is tapping into is an economy which isn’t working for people – look at the customer value of travelling by Southern Rail, or whether Philip Green really had pension fund beneficiaries at heart.
Take again Donald Trump’s “shock win”.
Trump’s victory would seem to herald a new era of celebrity politicians. He showed that a charismatic media-savvy outsider has significant advantages over traditional politicians and conventional political organizations in the internet age. In the future, we may see many more unconventional politicians in the Trump mold.
Even Corbyn’s critics agree that he has spent 34 years as a MP within the system – but as a complete outsider, only voting for things he believed in like the Equality Act (2o10) or the Human Rights Act (1999).
And Corbyn’s relative lack of experience in the top jobs?
Tony Blair was relatively under-prepared before he became PM in 1999; and Jim Callaghan MP had held every major office of state only to be booted out in the worst of all crises in 1979.
Back to Trump:
Trump will be the first president without elective office experience since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Eisenhower, however, served as supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and had unrivaled expertise in foreign affairs.
8. “If I were Mike Ashley or the CEO of a tax avoiding multinational corporation, I’d want to see a Tory victory.”
This is probably true.
Popularity ratings of the perception of business ethics of “First Direct” are not high. They resonate with the idea of a ‘sweatshop economy’, which is the fear of what the UK economy will become when it becomes a tinpot banana republic on exiting the EU.
9. “In this election Labour will lead the movement to make that change.”
“We will build a new economy, worthy of the 21st century and we will build a country for the many not the few.”
This has a lot to do with fighting the hostile ‘status quo’, who now include John Pienaar and Laura Kuenssberg.
Back to Trump’s win:
The answer lay in the intense and widespread public hostility to the political, media and business establishments that lead the country. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low and a majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.. The angry and volatile public mood made 2016 the ultimate change election.
Amid such a potent anti-establishment spirit, Trump’s vulgar, intemperate and unorthodox style struck voters as far more genuine than the highly cautious and controlled Hillary Clinton. As the brash and unpredictable Trump positioned himself as an agent of change, Clinton seemed like the establishment’s candidate, an impression that proved fatal to her campaign. Indeed, Trump used Clinton’s deep experience in the White House, Senate and State Department against her by citing it as evidence that she represented the status quo
And for all the talk of Theresa May’s ‘strong leadership’ (and we all remember how Angela Eagle’s pitch on that ended up), she has finally called for a general election, seeing the £ sterling plummet, after about seven public stern refusals of an early election. The 28 EU countries look set to give the UK a real blasting, and, whoever wins this election, the Cameron and May governments have now taken us all to a very bad place.
Labour it seems is now really only interested in a very small section of the general public who endorse Corbyn’s policies for social justice and public services, but the hope is that ‘rock solid’ Labour seats will remain rock solid while Tory-LibDem marginals turn LibDem. And the SNP vote is not as strong as it appears. For a start, there were people in Scotland who voted in 2015 SNP thinking their SNP MPs would be in coalition with Labour MPs led by Ed Miliband. Secondly, there are some people in Scotland who are sick to the back teeth of the performance of the SNP in governing Scotland or demanding yet another referendum.
Don’t be surprised if the general election is much closer than you’ve been led to believe. As Prof John Curtice said, it’s not likely that Jeremy Corbyn will win, but rather it will be one massive achievement if he does win.
The mother of all shocks?
Nigel Farage is not credible.
Theresa May and Boris Johnson are not credible.
The British on the whole tend to loath arrogant people – May might finally end in June, after all.
I have to state a fact.
That is, most of my best friends are ‘left leaning’ and can’t bring themselves to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
This finding is not surprising, nor is it shocking. In the polls, however reliable they are, Labour is consistently massively behind the Conservatives. But we know that the polls cannot be telling absolutely the truth, in that they were deceptive about the 2015 general election and 2016 EU referendum. Ed Miliband MP in the last parliamentary term had a healthy poll lead, and then went on to lose the 2015 general election. And we all know about Donald Trump.
The problem is that, with the Labour Party brand (of the Labour Party led by Corbyn and McDonnell) having been so comprehensively rubbished, it is very hard for any of the Labour Party in parliament to go out and act as advocates for it. It turns out that many of the proposed policies in private polling have turned to be very popular. And yet the Labour Party in parliament have shot themselves in the foot. And, having declared war so publicly on the membership in the last leadership election, the Labour Party find themselves with ground troops who do not feel supported. The same footsoldiers get a sick taste in their mouth when they receive an email from Ian McNicol asking for money for the party, when they themselves have been denied a vote in the leadership election. Yes, the second one where Jeremy Corbyn won again.
It’s worth deconstructing the term ‘sneering liberal Élite’ for the moment. Just look at how a closet cabal of box office journalists from the Guardian reacted to an article from one of their own, Decca Aitkenhead, about Steve Hilton, psychedelic pant wearing guru of David Cameron in a former life. I agree that it was a well written article containing an abrupt ‘killer question’, in the same elegant way the kill was delivered by Sam Coates and Rachel Sylvester – the kill in question which put to bed Andrea Leadsom’s leadership chances. But one is left wondering what the point of the article was, apart from to belittle Steve Hilton in some way. I don’t suppose Steve Hilton with his lavish lifestyle particularly cares, though my advice to anyone “dishing out” group sneering is to never underestimate the problems people never talk about. Did it produce any valuable insights on how globalisation had brought about inequality, and that both were being rejected in a populist way despite purported advantages? Hell no.
The word ‘sneering’ is, in my opinion, very well deserved. Under the general uber defence of the declining print circulation figures, there has been easy attack that all political bloggers are illiterate and have no formal journalistic qualifications – and so they can be easily dismissed. They haven’t ‘done their trade’ working for Paul Dacre at the Mail or for Jason Cowley at the New Statesmen. I have to say, however, the tone is very much of “sneering”. Rather than engage with any of the ideas you write about, the general approach of the ‘mainstream media’ is generally to ignore political opinion from elsewhere. The definition of ‘sneer’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a contemptuous or mocking smile, remark, or tone argument, contemptuous in tone”; the sneer is that most people supporting Jeremy Corbyn don’t want a Labour government or are completely incompetent Momentum T-shirt wearing types. The term ‘liberal Élite’ is, of course, a contradiction in terms. The ethos of ‘live and let live’ is of course not alive and well amongst the majority of journalists who, quite frankly, want to crush Jeremy Corbyn and the current Labour Party. The Élite word though represents faithfully the authoritarianism twang of this type of liberalism – which saw Tony Blair convert NHS hospitals into debt laden PFI poodles of the private sector for years to come, or Gordon Brown to detain suspects without trial.
Unsurprisingly, I have now been blocked by many liberal left-leaning journalists, or Labour supporters. I have always voted Labour for all of my adult life, and this includes at every general election since 1992 after the nadir of disgust at years of Margaret Thatcher. I was, as it happens, living in London at the time. Since about 2010, I had been a paying member of the Fabian Society, but I relinquished my subscription last month. The stunt where one leaflet written by Andrew Harrop, meant to be a free-thinking, independent and not necessarily representative pamphlet, was plastered all over the media designed to be the Fabian Society criticising Jeremy Corbyn was the final straw. I can handle all the conspiracy theories about Bretton Woods, and ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, on the other hand.
I could have written a public letter to Andrew Harrop, like you see from failed Labour MPs to Jeremy Corbyn in the blogosphere, but quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered to write it, and he certainly could not have been bothered to read it. The Fabian Society for me was not the hotbed of egalitarian, democratic, intelligent debate it could have been, but a group of people where inadvertently the tone had been one of aggrandisement and self-entitlement. I didn’t want to be a member of a finishing school for entrants to the Labour Party, though good for people who have successfully followed that route.
Jeremy Corbyn is not the first person to have ideological problems with the European Union. Lord David Owen himself set out articulately the traditional arguments against the European Union ahead of the Brexit vote. Tony Benn’s views, often running in parallel with Enoch Powell’s, were well intended and clearly set out (for example, wanting to have the power to get rid of officials). There are, inevitably, problems if there are operational difficulties in activating state aid monies in an economy for a steel industry failing partly due to Chinese ‘dumping’ of steel in international markets. Hugh Gaitskell famously warned that to join the “Common Market” would mean the end of 1,000 years of history. The lack of ‘opposition’ to Theresa May is a collective failure of the majority of Labour MPs, and the ‘sneering Liberal Elite’ who are unable to articulate the arguments for building a better future for the UK. I think this vacuum in direction can be seen prior the formation of the Coalition government in 2010 where David Cameron became heir to Blair. It can be seen in the lack of substantial policy contributions from either the Fabian Society or Progress following the decline of Blair. And for all the talk of the toothless Corbyn opposition, I don’t need to remind you of the mass abstention on the welfare cuts, do I? Or the ‘jump? how high?’ response to the savagery and cruelty of the NHS ‘efficiency savings’?
The lack of intellectual drive within Labour means it’s become easy ‘copy’ to sneer at suboptimal local election results with a ‘told you so’, never mentioning the months of relentless rubbishing of the Labour Party brand. It means that well meaning tweeters can remind you of the meme why you should not vote Liberal Democrat, as they gave you Conservative policies in coalition. This completely ignores the fact that some Labour and non-UKIP oriented Conservative voters will want actively to vote Liberal Democrat to prop up a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition. It’s an open secret Tim Farron MP loathes the Corbyn arm of the Labour Party, and would like bosom up to followers of Tony Blair while being scathing of the Iraq War simultaneously.
Personally, I am finding the lack of support amongst some in the Labour Party totally demoralising. Whilst I support Jeremy Corbyn as leader, as indeed I have supported all leaders since 1992, I find it completely dispiriting how so many find themselves unable to offer constructive solutions on burning issues such as disability quality of life, social housing, the NHS, social care, the ‘gig economy’, tax avoidance, school and university education, cost of living, and so on. There are still millions of people who need a Labour government, and the sneering simply cannot go on. To attack people like me who support Jeremy Corbyn without being Corbynite will achieve nothing.
There are some ‘rules’ of politics which generally go unchallenged – to some extent. “Everyone likes choice” – and the “yeah but…”, you have to be given the correct resources to exercise this choice. Some people have more choice than others.
That Jeremy Corbyn has produced such powerful resentment in certain groups of people is of interest, in that people who dislike Corbyn might be expected to let choice to run its course. But even before he had won his second leadership election, voices in the mainstream media and the parliamentary Labour Party had already drafted his obituary. I can’t pretend to agree with all of what Jeremy Corbyn says, but I feel there is a disgust by some Labour voters at Corbyn which would be better directed at themselves.
Not everyone agrees on Israel. Not everyone agrees on Northern Ireland. Not everyone thankfully agrees on Ken Livingstone. But it is rather that some of the strongest advocates of a liberal voice have made it their wish to shut down debate on important issues. I am loath to say that Jeremy Corbyn is an analogue politician living in a digital age, as I feel that gives power to the elbow of ageism which definitely runs as an undercurrent to some of the personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. But as Margaret Thatcher herself said, when you resort to personal attacks you have lost the argument.
Once you peel away the misreporting of the domestic policies, which is substantial, the policies are themselves pretty sound and reasonable for anyone ‘left leaning’. It is a genuine phenomenon that the media by and large do not give the Labour Party leadership or membership a fair hearing, preferring to give a dispropotionate voice to critics within the parliamentary Labour Party.
It has long been conceded that the Labour Party represents a diversity of views. As Tony Benn famously said, “People attending Church include some Christians. Labour is not a socialist party, although there are some socialists in it.” Much of the current media talk is inevitably about Brexit, but, for most MPs, what brings the legislation, policies and regulations to life is the caseload of the weekly constituency surgery. I expect that the number of complaints about lack of social housing, delays in A&E, or working in a ‘gig economy’ far outweigh whether UK citizens travelling abroad will be given free health insurance following Article 50.
It has become sexy to talk of an existential crisis within Labour about its identity, but it is my contention that – if you believe in choice – it is unfair for Jeremy Corbyn to be criticised for wanting to implement his view of socialism. The first thing that has to be acknowledged is that Jeremy Corbyn won overwhelmingly the leadership elections of his party nationally twice. The second thing to be emphasised is that Jeremy Corbyn has held robustly the same principles since 1983 when he was elected under the famous ‘longest suicide note in history’ from Oxford first-class honours holder Michael Foot. As the famous Marx brother said, “if you don’t like my principles, that’s OK – I have others.”
If it is inappropriate to say Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t “do digital”, I think it’s fine to say he doesn’t do binary. On the face of it, both Tim Farron MP (who I hear you ask? He is the current leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Jeremy Corbyn MP hold the same views on Brexit, in agreement on free goods and services and free movement of people. But the analogue argument is important, I feel. If you assume that Jeremy Corbyn holds roughly the same views as Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn would’ve voted to remain in the European Union but only just. Tony Benn believed that it was only possible to believe in free movement of capital if you believed in free movement of persons – as Benn put it, “if money can have passports, why can’t people?” Benn objected to a multinational corporatocracy, which is consistent with Corbyn’s support of the EU Posted Workers Directive, preventing undercutting of wages by multinationals. Gordon Brown in 2010 had proposed the migration transformation fund to provide financial support to areas of the UK which had experienced high levels of migration, but this was rejected by the electorate in favour of the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. That the EU referendum was held to keep together the Conservative Party, with the consequence of splitting the country down the middle, is pure and simple. For example, Jeremy Corbyn has himself reported that in his constituency non-EU families often remain split due to the current legislation which is often perceived as being discriminatory in favour of EU migration?
Where Corbyn, Tony Benn and Farage (and UKIP) are in agreement possibly is the idea that you should not give power to those you ultimately can’t take the power away from. Benn in his diaries talks about all the pain he had in the 1970s being unable to amend EU legislation even as a Minister of the Crown. Where Corbyn and Farage (and UKIP) are possibly not in agreement is that Corbyn believes that the State should be able to intervene in ‘failing industries’. To take as an example, because national policy had led NHS Foundation Trusts to become increasingly within the ambit of EU competition law, like the steel industries, the scope for ‘state aid’ became more controversial. The irony for the NHS is that the biggest threat to its existence has come internally from decades of underfunding – i.e. a deliberate ‘choice’ from a domestic government “taking back control”. Anyway – my point is that Jeremy Corbyn does not benefit from the need to portray these arguments as binary. The media wants to do binary for everything, like “Do you hate Jeremy Corbyn? Does Jeremy Corbyn bow properly? Does Jeremy Corbyn support Ken Livingstone? Does Jeremy Corbyn want to shut down your nuclear power plant?” But where we all have different views, i.e. we live in a democratic society, such an approach is in sheer defiance of democratic socialism.
Jeremy Corbyn has held views of democratic socialism, as indeed many within the Labour Party have, for years before Jeremy Corbyn became leader or before Owen Jones was interviewed for GQ magazine. I would find it impossible to believe that Jeremy Corbyn believes in any other system for the National Health Service other than where we pool risk equally, and where money cannot buy you undue influence. This is going to be of critical importance when we get into an age of personal genomics where the inheritance of certain medical diseases can be accurately predicted at birth. Tony Benn believed that the democratic vote bought you influence not money. I am quite sure that if Jeremy Corbyn is defeated at the ballot box, as so many people within the Labour Party appear to be actively looking forward to, Jeremy Corbyn will too live with that.
Jeremy Corbyn is for me the only constant in this particular scenario, which means that Jeremy Corbyn is not the one experiencing the ‘existential’ crisis. Quite the reverse. The crisis is being experienced by many of those MPs who expected to be serving in a Ed Miliband government (and who abstained on the welfare benefits cuts) and of course the all powerful Westminster lobby of journos.
Jeremy Corbyn was my first choice for leader of the Labour Party twice. I’ve always voted Labour, and I’m currently 42. I don’t consider myself a Euro-fanatic, but I voted ‘remain’ in Brexit. But I must admit when Corbyn said ‘Now the real fight begins’, I got genuinely scared – it had for me, as Emma Burnell opined, all the overtones of someone who doesn’t really believe in parliamentary democracy.
There are some people who believe that Jeremy Corbyn can do ‘no good’. I am not one of them. I have previously supported Corbyn to the hilt, and I think most of his principles in domestic policy are reasonably sound. We are both socialists. For example, I agree with Corbyn on cracking down on aggressive corporate tax a aoidance, and wishing to tackle head-on the crisis in social care and social housing. I agree that fundamentally the situation Labour finds itself is not as such Labour’s fault. I am not a ‘Blairite’ – there were some successes in the Tony Blair governments, and some failures. The history for me personally is that, in the last leadership election shortly after the referendum of June 23rd 2016, I found myself disagreeing with the views of Owen Smith MP and his supporters. I felt that that particular time was not the best time to having yet another leadership election when Corbyn had only just been democratically elected leader – and I felt that the behaviour of much of the Labour Party was pretty unconscionable. In fact, I blocked several Labour MPs on Twitter.
There was an unsaid deal that the parliamentary Labour Party would try to be more professional in experience, such as not briefing the media about offices which they should have vacated after publicly resigning, if the leadership machine communicated better with the PLP. There was an unsaid agreement that there would be at some stage much more useful detail about policies. Whilst not violently anti-Blairite, the spectacle of Anna Soubry MP and Alastair Campbell ganging up on John McDonnell (like Clive Lewis, a follower of mine on Twitter) beyond the pale.
Let’s be clear. Reversing corporation tax to fund the NHS and social care is not a policy in itself – nor is renegotiating the private finance initiative, important though that is. There is, however, an honest conversation to be had about how GPs feel themselves totally overwhelmed by the demand (and so do Accident and Emergency Departments), and, on the whole, people are living for longer with complex co-morbidities such as dementia. GPs will be the first to tell you that ‘ten minute appointments’ do not do their patients justice, and certainly insufficient for a frank discussion about psychological therapies for dementia compared to reaching for the prescription pad. The whole debate about integration has become engulfed in criticism about the sustainability and transformation plans; that there is insufficient money in both the NHS and social care is not in any dispute. On the other hand, for many long term conditions, the decision between ‘health’ and ‘social care’ is totally arbitrary and yet this has a profound impact for individuals in terms of their funding arrangements. The reality of ‘care at home’ is far from the rhetoric and yet the Department of Health is fighting its own battles such as with the junior doctors over their contract – whilst Jeremy Hunt is touring the world boasting about patient safety (neglecting to mention 20 hour trolley waits in England), and seeing if he can aggressively pimp NHS services to a New Trump US. We are all left exasperated wondering what it is that the UK is so desperate to sell to any country, dictatorship or otherwise, far flung or not.
Jeremy Corbyn’s stance is indeed ‘principled’ in that one half of the party faces one way (constituencies wishing to remain in European Union, such as Islington), and one half facing the polar opposite (constituencies wishing to leave the European Union, which as Hayes). But back to Nye Bevan’s old adage, ‘if you stand in the middle of the road, you are bound to get run over’. Corbyn’s political stance means inevitably he will end up annoying many on both sides, especially some in the 48% who oppose a ‘hard Brexit’. Whilst Keir Starmer and pals do not want to soil their lips with the words “hard” and “Brexit”, there is no other term for not being included in the single market, or giving up on the free movement of people. The ‘taking back control’ meme has become rampant, and it seems that every MP is entitled to justify voting like a robot even more on grounds of the fact that ‘this referendum result was delivered by the people’. The case against leaving the EU won’t go away, however, including the 40-60 Euro divorce fee, or the hit the economy will take when the City is not allowed to do EU passporting. But it is said that many Brexiters are prepared to take this hit. Indeed, many Corbyn voters who voted Brexit seem intensely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s performance.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Britain has a bright future, despite the import inflation and problems in finding workers for certain sectors of the economy. For now, Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU largely, has been muzzled, but it will not be long before they ‘take back control’ again and ‘roar again’ as Alex Salmond put it. The Brexit vote has given fuel to Nigel Farage’s rantings on his radio show, having extra rocket fuel from the election of a bigot, sexist, and racist elsewhere. The LBC phone lines are choc-a-bloc with racist and xenophobic rantings about how the ills of the world can be placed at the feet of immigrants. But such criticisms would be to shoot the messenger of this xenophobic racist rubbish rather than the message itself. A major ‘miss’ was there not being implemented a Migration Impact Fund, or Posted Workers Directive, to give areas of high migrant population additional financial support, or legislation to stop the undercutting of workers. But the solution to all this is not Amber Rudd MP, in the same way the immigration levels sky rocketed under Theresa May MP. Without any attempt to limit proportionately migrant numbers, and without funding public services, leaving the European Union is simply a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, and you can bet Nigel Farage will have long gone by then.
I do agree very much that it’s not all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. There are many head winds in the opposite direction to Jeremy Corbyn. For example, Corbyn daily has to deal with a vicious media and there are rarely any positive noises coming out of the Guardian or Laura Kuenssberg about him. And also, there has been a relentless focus on the ‘Labour rebels’, and the three-line-whip from Corbyn (presumably because Corbyn does not want to be blamed for obstructing Brexit), but one really has to wonder what on earth has happened to those Tory MPs who reperesnt ‘remain’ consittuencies. It is entirely possible, of course, that the Liberal Democrats will take these seats, and then the critical question for 2020 will be who is the largest party. I have a hunch this will be the Conservatives, wishing to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, rather than Labour and the SNP forming a coalition (assuming that there is no sign of a turnaround in Scotland’s fortunes from Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale).
Quite frankly, these are desperately stressful times for some people who want to vote Labour. There are some people who think that Jeremy Corbyn is utterly brilliant – and all power to their elbow. But there are also different people who believe Corbyn is overseeing the suicide of the UK Labour Party. Irrespective of your views on EURATOM or the ERASMUS scheme, what are we tell close friends of ours who are EU nationals and remain as ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiation about to happen? The reality is that we do not know what the attitude of the European Union will be – but guaranteed the hyperbolic importance of England by Nigel Farage over Brexit is not matched by the column inches devoted to Brexit in the continental newspapers. I have a declining faith in Jeremy Corbyn, but my ‘faith’ is being put to the test. I don’t see any other saviour on the horizon, and a third leadership election might make him bullet-proof as far as the membership is concerned. I would feel a lot more reassured if we had more detail on domestic policy, but I understand the problems in predicting the state of the macroeconomy particularly with Brexit and Donald Trump looming on the horizon.
And of course the 2020 general election might be a very good one to lose, if you take away the possibility of Jeremy Hunt negotiating a UK-US trade deal which would kill off the NHS entirely.