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This situation might be a lot more complicated than making it Jon Lansman’s fault.
The blame for this does not lie with Dame Margaret Hodge.
I’m not a Corbynista, nor a Blairite. I am though in my mid 1940s, and I have voted for the Labour Party all of my life. I had no sudden urge for voting for Boris Johnson, so not surprisingly my immediate reaction to seeing the ‘exit poll’ for the first time was a sense of impending doom. Not one for hyperbole, but a feeling of cataclysmic disaster, one of the worst days of my life.
We’re left struggling for simple narratives. This election was a referendum on Brexit – or telling the truth – or Jeremy Corbyn – or the NHS.
Paul Mason didn’t hold back:
“Brexit will happen, Scotland will become independent within a generation, the political centre in parliament has evaporated. And Corbynism has failed. It failed because, for around a year now, it has been less than the sum of its parts.‘
The Tories took Blyth Valley which has been Labour since it was created in 1950,in the first shock result of the general election. Ian Levy got 17,440 votes, beating the Labour candidate by more than 700 votes. There was also a win for the Tories in Durham North West, where Labour’s Laura Pidcock lost to Richard Holden.
Laura Pidcock – she was the future once – had only recently on Facebook written the following,
“They don’t feel what we feel
Ignore the polls.
Ignore the negativity.
Ignore the lies and the hate.
It’s a waste of your precious energy.”
There have of course been many equally bad days, and plenty more to come. The sense of disbelief at the exit poll from me must have come from a sense of ‘one last heave’ that I had felt after the 2017 election. There were too many ‘twists and turns’ for me to remember as to how we came to be in this horrible mess, ranging from the soap opera with Dominic Cummings to false reports of people being punched. It was difficult to tell fact from fake news, but somewhere in there was some actual news. Jeremy Corbyn was quite unpopular on the doorstep, or the plans for government were too diverse and unrealistic. Or that the early postal votes were in fact ‘grim’, and people were sick of Brexit.
But the basic question is – if Labour was offering so many good things, why were they so unpopular consistently? It’s possible that Labour defectors were much more worried about Jeremy Corbyn than about Brexit policy. It’s possible that certain Labour voters are now more concerned about Scottish independence. The basic plan for Boris Johnson to lead a greater number to getting Brexit through parliament is, I suppose, one with which ‘Workington man’ or a London black cab driver could collude with. There are so many possibilities for what we wrong. It could be that Momentum strategists wanting to keep things simple, by being seen to address lots of wrongs, such as WASPI, universal credit, lack of broadband, etc., simply by making pledges. But it might be still that the perception of macroeconomic competence is not strong enough for Labour. Possibly people care less about national debt going through under the Tories than they do about Boris Johnson’s track record in telling the truth.
This appeared to be an election at risk of double standards. I feel the pain of the Chief Rabbi, and yet islamophobia was brushed under the carpet. The Conservatives didn’t want to talk about the details of the Withdrawal Agreement, but they couldn’t be criticised by Labour for this as Labour didn’t wish to discuss the details of Brexit either. The cult of Jeremy Corbyn was criticised, and yet the cult of Boris Johnson was not important. Labour seemed pre-occupied with their social media campaigning, but Boris Johnson found time to put out a ‘Love actually’ type video.
The Tories may appear not like ideal dinner party guests, but Labour still looked like a party at war with itself – with Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Wes Streeting in one corner, and Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon and John McDonnell in another. Out of everything, I still have no idea what Labour’s plans were for certain things. I don’t know how it intended to progress with the integration of health and social care. All I heard about was privatisation including PFI. But the Tories did not get into heavyweight arguments of their own, focusing on the numbers of new nurses, or the numbers of new hospitals. I didn’t know, if austerity is such a problem (which it is), how did Labour intend to reverse the cuts in legal aid. If Labour is too obsessed with presenting London élite, how come there was so much exposure of Laura Pidcock and Rebecca Long-Bailey? Maybe the ‘cut through’ had to be more than Ash Sarkar wearing a Marx t-shirt on Newsnight?
It could be that the election of a strong and stable Boris Johnson government is indeed a good thing, in that the European Union is forced to deal with an output decided with some certainty from a UK parliament. I don’t know whether ultimately Britain will benefit or not from Brexit, but it could be that the UK parliament does benefit from getting Brexit ‘out of the way’. Brexit will not finally ‘end’ though – if there is no solution to free trade agreements or freedom of movement which makes sense to all. But likewise we don’t know exactly what Labour intended to negotiate in six months, and whether there was any point in presenting this in front of the UK electorate.
Lancing the boil of Brexit, making the case of independence, is odd given the call for a United Ireland or Independent Scotland. It could be that Boris Johnson’s latest lie is talk about ‘One Nation’, when the majority of MPs in Scotland are SNP – but there could be a genuine repulsion of Labour by voters in certain ‘heartlands’. Voting Conservative might lead to better living standards through reduced immigration, and that might be a price worth paying. Or it could be that the Conservatives have tapped into a sense of national identity and pride, which Labour had no hope of identifying. At worst, both Conservatives and Labour could be accused of ‘divide and rule’, by presenting certain sections of society as ‘the victim’. Or it could be that Ash Sarkar and Grace Blakeney were simply talking to themselves very loudly.
With Brexit getting done, and improvements being made to public services, despite a recent track record, might make the next five years attractive, but that is to airbrush out problems with probation, NHS and social care capacity, food banks and poverty. But maybe its condrascending and patronising to say that the ‘working class vote’ can be enticed by talking about poverty, other injustices, and NHS seemingly a lot of the time. Previously, the attack on Labour was lacking ‘aspiration’ – so here the accusation is that Labour by sitting on the fence had no aspiration to get something positive out of Brexit; rather Labour wanted to block Brexit at all costs. When you consider that Swinson wanted to block Corbyn in forming a government of national unity, and that Corbyn might have to block in future a demand for another Scottish referendum, maybe the bottom line was that the advocates of Brexit simply were less disunited. Either way, the end result is that we may have an unfettered Conservative government for another 5-10 years at least, and this could make life very difficult for many in reality.
“Get Brexit done” is, of course, as utterly meaningless as “Brexit means Brexit” or “Strong and stable”.
As Johnson knows from his undergraduate rudimentary study of Ancient Greek, language in Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War poses a problem. The Athenians, for example, assume a fundamental distinction between erga, “real things,” and logoi, “words,” with the erga constituting reality and logoi a kind of secondary phenomenon.
Occasionally, the mask ‘slips’. The façade of a vivacious charismatic lover of the joie de vivre is suddenly disposed of to reveal a highly unpleasant narcissistic arrogant person who clearly over rates himself. He’s played the system, having been to Eton and Oxford. But that in itself does make him wise or intelligent.
Johnson’s reaction to the news of a boy sleeping on the floor of a hospital was not even faux outrage. It was to stuff a reporter’s smartphone into his pocket. And yet this is a nice parallel to his general approach to evidence. Take for example, the lie exposed about the barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, exposed by DExU, the Treasury, an interview with Sophy Ridge, and the leader of the DUP, for a start. Or the lie about the 60 or so hospitals which turned out to be a handful of allocated ‘seed’ funds. This approach to evidence is sympathetic to his contempt of the law, in the alleged abuse of power getting special favours for his technology partner, or riding roughshod of the law such that the Supreme Court had to interview on behalf of decent patriots including HM The Queen.
Johnson does not understand the NHS or social care. Nor does his Secretary of State, Matt Hancock. Johnson’s immediate oven-ready soundbite in reaction to the latest incarnation of the 1992 war over Jennifer’s Ear was to talk about the ‘record investment’ in the NHS. But we know from all the ‘independent’-ish think tanks that this claim is false. We know there’s no green paper on social care. We know there’ve been savage cuts in social care. We know that integrated care under Jeremy Hunt stalled, whereas Andy Burnham’s ‘whole person care’ was oven-ready back in 2015.
Hancock instead sees staff as a costly nuisance in running the service. He is prepared to do something about NHS pensions such that he can’t be blamed for the disgusting performance over the winter crisis to come. He sees data as black gold, so much so he is willing to get into an unconscionable relationship with multinational corporations such as Amazon and Google, to make data breaches from local hospitals to make your eyes water.
The strangest thing about the record of the Conservatives in 2010-5 is that Johnson has managed to deflect criticism of this period onto his LibDem counterparts. He has managed to do this because Jo Swinson is either deeply fraudulent or idiotic in saying that she did not understand the impacts of the austerity policy on disabled citizens, some of whom lost their benefits and later died prematurely. One of the achievements of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, not McDonald, is that austerity has been exposed as a huge con. A con similar in ridiculousness as Labour causing the global economic crash of 2008. The crash, caused by financial products in the US, allowed a ‘scorched earth’ reaction of austerity. The next scorched earth event to happen is of course Brexit.
Jo Swinson has utter hatred for Jeremy Corbyn, and this has detracted away from the genuine offerings of the Labour Party over the NHS, social justice and tackling inequality. This is not something which ‘tribal’ Labour members will be able to forgive in a hurry. Sure, Swinson’s remarks like the Chief Rabbi or Laura Kuenssberg’s fake report of an altercation on Twitter, get more space than Windrush or islamophobia, but not everyone is deceived.
Jo Swinson has not facilitated any meaningful debate on the economy, climate change, or the NHS.
There will be some people who don’t vote Tory. These include Scots who wish to remain in the EU. Some people will vote for Labour, despite Jeremy Corbyn. This is because it is impossible for the Tories to defend their record. There might be some die-hard Brexiteers who want to ‘get Brexit done’, and, if so, even Dennis Skinner will lose his seat.
But Johnson is a pest, and doesn’t deserve to get a majority. If he does, he will find the country unmanageable.
Labour for me has many faults. It has people who are MPs whom I dislike. It has policies which I think are over-the-top.
I have voted Labour all my life. I am now 45.
To be honest, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal style annoys me sometimes; he can appear stubborn and aggressive. There is, no doubt, some frustration on his part, for how the media chooses to interact with him.
I just wish Brexit would go away. With the outcome of Brexit to run into the millions or billions, I think the democratic vote has been exercised enough. I don’t think it was the ‘will of the people’ to impose savage devastating cuts in living allowance on disabled people. I don’t think it was the ‘will of the people’ to introduce NHS reforms in 2013, or to slash legal aid. Or maybe it was the will of some people.
I am not particularly interested in the views of somewhat narcissistic supporters of Jeremy Corbyn pretending to be Nobel Prize winners in economics.
Social care is on its knees. The national debt is now running into the Trillions. David Cameron has set in play a chain of events where we are closer to leaving the European Union, and breaking up the domestic Union.
Taking back control puts international supply chains at risk, international political influence at risk, and lives of people living on essential medications at risk.
I think Boris Johnson loves himself too much, and is not quite as intelligent as he thinks. His Withdrawal Agreement Bill is truly a dogs’ dinner.
We should be prepared to forgive and forget. We all make mistakes – even Tony Blair. But the Liberal Democrats have in their time made some ‘whoppers’ over NHS reforms, legal aid reforms, and austerity in general.
I dislike the outcome of the Referendum of 2016, but this a Tory treaty which has been drafted up by the Tory party for Brexit-leaving voters. It seems far more desirable to try drafting another exit strategy with a fresh pair of hands, and to see whether the UK can approve it. Maybe they can. Maybe they won’t.
The issue is that the Labour Party can work with the SNP and Greens if it wishes to, to see if the EU exit can work. But I think unilaterally pulling the plug on it straight away would be dangerous politically.
I think the consequences of a Tory Brexit, and a further Tory government, are simply not worth thinking about. With my many reservations of the present Shadow Cabinet, I think it is far too risky to do anything other than to vote Labour.
It’s a bad start for the leading finalists in the Conservative leadership election to say that their party will be annihilated unless Brexit is ‘delivered’. Let’s face it – the implementation of Brexit by the Conservative Party, with no involvement of devolved governments or the official opposition, has been a disaster after three years. You only need to look at Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to see that the Conservative Party will soon be totally unelectable for a generation.
Boris Johnson exudes incompetence, arrogance, faux intelligence and self-entitlement. Jeremy Hunt fraudulently pretends that his negotiation with junior doctors was a success despite being deeply traumatic unnecessarily for all parties involved.
Brexit will do nothing to help with knife crime, or the parlous state of social care. ‘Taking back control’ means reinforcing your borders. So it’s no surprise that Ireland wants to reinforce its border to stop non-EU goods leaking from the UK into the EU single market. Brexit will do nothing to make universal credit run more smoothly.
Whatever your views on the economic future of the UK after Brexit, it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that the reputational damage for the UK in terms of an influential world force for good, apart from Trump’s America, has been enormous.
If the UK exits the European Union with a successful negotiated settlement, it is pretty likely that the Pound will plummet further. This of course is an opportunity for short-sellers. But the benefit for the City is likely to be shortlived, if the EU denies passporting rights for transactions in London.
I don’t understand some voters who might want to ‘get on with it’. I liken this to someone arsoning your flat. Instead of putting out the fire, you are asking the arsonist to pour more petrol on the flames. I don’t understand why some voters have gone all silent on immigration. Maybe they know that Brexit might actually catapult an increase in brown or black faces in their local vicinity. I don’t understand why some voters are still passionate about past glories of England, when their local car plant is being shut down to be relocated to somewhere more sensible for dealing with the international supply chain,.
Being socialist meant to me being social. This does not mean turning our backs on, socially, politically, or economically with our EU neighbours. The pretence that Brexit can build a socialist nirvana in one country has never been tested for. It is naïve at best, and profoundly economically illiterate at worst, to think that multinational corporates can be completely obliterated from a post-Brexit UK.
It’s too late to honour the referendum result, unless the same parliament, with a different Prime Minister, can ‘seal the deal’ with the negotiated outcomes. This is unlikely if Labour continue to reject the deal, which they should do as it does not fulfil their original stipulated requirements of being at least as good as membership. The EU after their summer recess have no intention of re-opening the negotiation. The whole country apart from the Conservatives and Rory Stewart know that the positions of Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are a pack of lies.
The only way forward is for Labour to decide on whether it wants to renegotiate a settlement (to which the EU would have to agree) or whether it simply wishes to end this stressful madness by revoking Article 50.
David Cameron’s ‘holding operation’ of an EU referendum has stunningly backfired. If Labour is unable to get a majority in the general election, to work with the Greens, SNP or Liberal Democrats, and to form a coalition of sorts will have to adopt a pro-EU position. These facts need to be stated clearly ahead of any general election it wishes to participate in, unless it is Labour’s intention to scoop up votes to form a coalition with the Brexit Party.
If Labour were to take a pro-EU stance, if the EU can’t renegotiate the settlement, it’s my genuine belief that the Conservatives will be out of power for a generation.
And, if so, good riddance to them.
The fireworks, after Sadiq Khan’s recent display, have certainly been impressive, with the likes of Roger Helmer foaming and frothing at the mouth. I am happy with what the current leadership of Labour has achieved. I have no intention of ‘smearing’ members of Labour. I would dearly love to see a Labour government. But it is an inescapable fact that there is, in fact, no version of Brexit that will satisfy both ardent supporters of Brexit and citizens of the UK who want to remain members of the European Union. If a further referendum is held, the possibility is that whichever side wins won’t win by that much of a margin. If ‘leave’ win, the words ‘be careful what you wish for’ will come back to haunt many. Many of the people who want a People’s Vote want ‘Remain’ to win, and simply wish to hold a referendum to maintain the importance of ‘democracy’. But democracy would possibly mean the UK could bring back capital punishment. Brexit as a solution to all the problems caused by neoliberal capitalism including austerity is a false, fraudulent prospectus. Attacks on ‘Blairites’ are in my view utterly irrelevant now to getting Labour into a position to form the next Government; this does not mean I am a ‘Blairite’, and such a lazy attack would be yet another dead cat.
There are some people who are determined to make this all about Jeremy Corbyn. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice, as I wanted stability in the Labour Party. I think though the obsession with him has become insufferable, including people who spend all the time flooding my Twitter timeline with plans for “Twitterstorms”. The perception is that Jeremy Corbyn has become more obsessed with getting into Number 10, rather than sorting out other desperate problems within his party, including Brexit. There’s an argument that ‘conference had decided’ that there would be a “people’s vote”, and failing that there would be a general election. However, events have been evolving fast. The Labour position is deeply unconvincing, and, whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s position ‘has not changed’, the notion that it will be able to negotiate successfully a solution to Brexit, the unicorn approach, is deeply unconvincing. This is nothing to do with my views of Barry Gardiner. The nature of the debate has become extremely toxic, with callers to local radio here in London referring to ‘illegal immigrants’ who can be shown not to be telling the truth with bone marrow aspirates diagnosing to the year their biological age, or “strapping Sadiq Khan” to a Catherine wheel (like yesterday).
The leader of the Conservative Party has had her position consolidated as a result of the failed ambush by the ERG. The only event which is likely to happen is that preparations are being made for the Theresa May negotiated agreement with the European Union to be rejected by parliament. In which case, a central plank of Government’s policy will fall, and it could be then that Labour is saving itself for a ‘no confidence’ vote in the Government, having previously precipitated a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister personally. Brexit has already proven to be a ‘financial opportunity’ for those sympathetic to the views or personnel of this Government, including problematic private companies taking on substantial financial transactions in commercial transactions extracting money from the State to fund their shareholder dividends. This is classic privatisation. The worst is yet to come, of course, with ‘patriotic’ Conservatives short-selling the currency, so betting on its demise, to make millions.
This is of course a far cry for why certain might have voted to ‘leave’ the European Union. It is speculation why exactly they believed a position which was impossible to negotiate bilaterally, given the sheer torrent of lies told by Nigel Farage, David Davis, Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson, and their ilk. But the potent ‘taking back control’ did tap into a rump of voters who felt as if the economy had not been working for them, by immigrants under-cutting their wages, and themselves adding to pressures on state-run services, inter alia. Many such voters, many of whom were also Labour voters, do not agree with the nationalism of some members of local clubs. The narrative had emerged that the UK can make a success on its own.
It is, however, important to remember that this mess should be owned by the Conservatives. This means that the failure of Brexit must be owned by the Conservatives. It is all very well for Theresa May to ask for no arguments and reconciliation, but she was the one who took her toys home two years ago and produced a deeply divisive partisan strategy for conducting the negotiations on behalf of the country with the European Union. The European Union cannot be blamed for their agreed settlement. If parliament votes it down, it should not be allowed to allow ‘no deal’ to be shoo-horned through, especially since the country is totally unprepared for it. The only people who are prepared are the ones about to receive privatised contracts from friends in the Government, or people ‘betting’ in the City. They have no interest in the destruction of the UK, including what happens to the NHS and social care. This is a betrayal of a phenomenal scale, and the Labour Party should keep a safe distance so it is not implicated in causing this disaster. The ‘shock’ of a no deal is of course will be exactly the sort of climate where the ERG or those in the ‘hard left’ can see themselves flourishing. It might even be a tempting climate for ‘Lexit’ to take root, but I don’t believe Lexit provides a solution either economically or socially, definitely not politically, to Brexit.
The only solution for me is for Labour to campaign on a platform in any general election to go back to the European Union, and to argue not only for a seat at the table of an influential trading bloc, but to ‘remain and reform’. I understand how tempting it might be for the UK to ‘go it alone’ and get contracts with Russia or China, but it is in reality hard to say that this would be easily possible. Having been a devotee of Tony Benn, and read all his diaries more than once, I am sympathetic to the Bennite view. But that’s where it ends. I think we can no longer within Labour waste any more time thinking Twitter arguments. There is an economic crisis to avert, but there’s more to Labour than a new radical model of economics even. Brexit will be more of a threat to welfare and social care, and the NHS, than even austerity has been, and there will certainly be no finality to the repercussions for Brexit for many years to come. It’s time for the ‘membership’ of Labour Party to stop thinking about Twitter campaigns, stop speaking to themselves, and put the country first.
This has got absolutely nothing to do with the Iraq War or Tony Blair. The background to this for me is personally relevant. I’ve voted Labour all my life – in other words, at every general election since 1992. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice as leader of our party, so let me indulge you on why I think Labour has to tread very carefully now.
The likelihood is that the main motion on December 11th, the Government and European Union proposal, will not be accepted. This defeat means that Labour will deliver on a promise for a ‘no confidence’ motion. And the likelihood is that even despondent Tory MPs, with no obvious successor in sight, will not want to inflict a defeat in that no confidence motion. We already know that the DUP, despite their reservations over the EU/UK proposal, intend to support the Conservative Government. So, as for Jeremy Corbyn’s challenges, this might end up consolidating and reinforcing Theresa May’s position as the Prime Minister.
These events won’t make the problem of the European Union exit disappear. The clock is still ticking on the UK’s exit. The position that would be, however, that the UK parliament will have rejected the mutually agreed terms for departure. The departure of the UK was always presented by Brextremists as being entirely on the UK’s terms, well Little England’s terms actually. The reality is that the agreement legally will need to show consideration, and will need to be bilateral with an intention to produce a meaningful arrangement.
The absence of a deal, or ‘crashing out’ of the European Union, would be disastrous on a number of fronts, ranging from medicines to airports. But with a lack of instant agreement on WTO processes, we would not be able to sell our products with agreed standards abroad. That is one of the biggest problems, aside from other major problems such as the lack of radionuclides for urgent cancer treatment.
It cannot be forgotten also that the EU has been incredibly patient and accommodating with the UK government, and themselves have earned a ‘good deal’ by all reasonable measures. So, they’ve run of patient a long time ago, but they want this all settled now. This means that they have already stated categorically that they don’t want a renegotiation, and this is unlikely to change with a change of government. It would, however, be useful if the EU could state their position on this now.
One of the former heads of the civil service of the UK government has said it would take at least 7 months to sort out the logistics of a people’s vote. We’d have to agree the question too.
I think socially, economically and politically, now that we know on what terms the UK would depart from the EU, different from when the original ‘will of the people’ was measured, it would be a disaster to exit the European Union.
People make mistakes, and, as a surrogate phenotype, UKIP won’t care as they are changing in public into their BNP clothes. The Conservatives are admired for their control of their economy (which I disagree with). Labour is not. Lexit is also a deeply deceptive construct, as it is always possible that exceptions can be carved out for public services for the UK. The EU didn’t make us legislate for competitive tendering in NHS services in section 75 in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The guff about state aid and greater public investment as a result of Lexit are so false it belongs on the side of a bus.
A lot of the problems in our country have been entirely self-inflicted by the domestic governments, such as welfare reforms including universal credit and the ‘Bedroom Tax’. These have been nothing to do with Brussels. At the risk of re-running the refererendum campaign, Jeremy Corbyn can legislate for his socialist nirvana for all, promoting equality, fairness and social justice, even if the UK remains part of the EU.
The Conservatives are also admired for their decisiveness. Whilst Barry Gardiner will deny he has vassilated from warning against a ‘vassal state’ to embracing the ‘will of the people’, it all is beginning to look a bit false and hollow from Labour. I agree they need to win an election to get anything done, but, if they willingly want to give a vote to people knowing that the UK could tank in the process, I don’t believe they can be supported.
As Emily Thornberry said this morning, “There is nothing stronger than a person of principle…. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s inspirational leadership, and the efforts of all the people in this room, it’s time to put Labour values back into government.” Everything has now in fact changed. This is not merely because the Conservative party, and their bullshit such as £350 million re-invested in the NHS, is a ‘busted flush’. It’s much more than that. I first went to the Labour party conference in 2010 in Manchester. It was in fact a few months before my father was to die. I remember my time there crystal clearly. I remember meeting John Prescott for the first (and only) time in a curry restaurant in the Curry Mile, and various people who were both very young and very energised about being in the Labour movement. David Prescott kindly helped me across the street, avoiding being run over by the trams. I had become newly physically disabled at the time, due to meningitis. In fact, I remember going to a fringe event at breakfast time in Manchester Town Hall on the subject of how to engage ‘missing voters’. Ellie Mae O’Hagan was there. Some brilliant contributions from Matt Zarb Cousin stuck in my mind. I wonder what happened to him.
At the time, I was in the ‘top ten’ Labour blogs. But now is much better. I think this Labour conference in 2017 in Brighton is full of optimism and hope. Labour for the first time in ages, I feel, has a realistic chance of being the party of government. I think we very mostly agree Jeremy Corbyn has turned ‘pro’. He batted away questions on striking from Andrew Marr with amazing ease yesterday morning. The hacks have made it an open secret that they have no conflict to discuss. The observation that Brexit is not one of the motions for debate is the only thing that desperate hacks can cling onto, but you only have to look at the list which has emerged – which includes the NHS, social care, growth and investment and employment issues – to see that there is no existential crisis in the Labour Party. Not at all. It is a party which is prepared to govern for the many, not the few.
The Tories’ economic model of delivering shareholder dividend with rocketing prices, suppressed wages with inflated cost of living, is not appealing to the vast majority. The ‘work til you drop’ approach is terrifying. The way in which disabled citizens have lost their personal independence payment is nothing short of the ultimate in unacceptable morally. Corrupt capitalism has had its day. Grenfell paid testament to that. Outside of the hall, it is very clear that many delegates have been speaking to some of ‘the many’. There has been a strong sense from speakers from the floor to speak out about issues of social justice, in the quest for equalities and fairness. There has been reference to homeless people, which Tony Benn famously used to congratulate market forces for. There has been a clear drive to reset the narrative to appreciate and value migrants and asylum seekers. The Momentum festival has been well received. There is no sense that Polly Toynbee needs to visit it to provide it with external validation. Trade unions defend public services, campaign to prevent abuses of workers and employees, and are no longer a ‘dirty word’.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice as leader of the Labour Party, and, like many, it is tempting not to forget so easily the time which has been wasted in setting out the case for Corbyn again and again and again, the carping and criticism from 170 or so Labour MPs, or the whingeing from senior people in the Labour Party keen to ‘blame’ Corbyn for Brexit. Nor is it quite so easy to forgive and forget the amount of time, effort and money taken by the NEC to stop people voting for Corbyn as leader out of fear that all the new members of Labour were Marxist throwbacks from the 1980s. But the surge in membership of the Labour Party is entirely genuine, making Labour a massive democratic party. This is an especially amazing achievement, given the context of how parties such as ‘Alternative for Deutschland’ with an anti-Muslim and anti-migrant, far right, agenda have garnered support to fill the ‘political space’. True that the Labour Party is not entirely a socialist party, although it has socialists in it. But it is also true that there are many more people are loud and proud to be associated with the socialist ideals and values which have been promoted by the current leadership of the Labour Party.
Whilst the ‘we want a Jobs first Brexit’ is in danger of being a vacuous phrase, there’s no doubt about the dependence of certain sectors, not least the NHS and social care, on EU citizens living in Britain. If it turns out that the Conservatives are simply unable to negotiate a meaningful settlement with the European Union within two years, it is quite possible that the Labour Party will have to do something drastic about deciding upon a post-Brexit future. Jeremy Corbyn openly explained on #Marr yesterday that it was possible that state aid rules had not made it possible to intervene in industries as he would have liked, and actually had helped to privatise certain industries such as rail. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that there had been concerns about how TTIP might stitch up a trade deal with the US over the NHS, but now the threat to the NHS from Donald Trump and Jeremy Hunt is far greater. Free movement of workers has had problems also with employees, particularly of multi-national corporates, effectively leading to wage suppression, but this fundamentally was always a problem presented by employers. But Labour is well aware that the UK economy could easily tank on Brexit especially on leaving membership of the signatories to the rules of the “single market” or “customs union”, and the devaluation of the pound sterling and exodus of jobs abroad are both already alarming. But if you think to choose who you want driving the car – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Priti Patel or Sir Keir Starmer, I know who I prefer.
Members of the media have consistently been spitting bullets at Corbyn. James O’Brien on LBC spent substantial daily effort into rubbishing Corbyn. The 2017 Labour manifesto was a massive triumph, propelling Labour to its largest vote this century. The Tories claim they even put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper the first time around. Various people sneered at the rallies held by Corbyn across the country, claiming simultaneously that Corbyn had a ‘bunker mentality’ which prevented him from meeting the general public, and saying that there was no such social movement. But it is clear that there is something material and significant happening under the RADAR, as Jess Phillips, Clive Lewis and Laura Pidcock are treated like rock stars rather than members of parliament. Paul Mason, I remember, was often criticised for claiming that “strong and stable” Theresa May would not be returned with a stonking majority, and Paul Mason’s views and opinions, for example, on topics ranging from tuition fees to bellicose nuclear speak from Donald Trump are taken with considerably more gravitas than other commentators. The whole team are pretty awesome now, including Barry Gardiner who is prepared to call out people talking nonsensical crap.
Gains such as Canterbury and London Kensington and Chelsea have been amazing. Amber Rudd’s seat in Hastings is now up for grabs. Nobody can fault how amazing Andy Gwynne has been. Of course, much blood has been spilt and this is to be expected from a broad coalition of sorts. I no longer speak to the Socialist Health Association because of their open support for marketization of the NHS, PFI and Owen Smith. Tom Watson is no longer on Len McCluskey’s Christmas card list. I think critics within Labour have really got the work cut out if they wish not to help Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party prepare for government. You can tell from the reception to the limp interventions from Ben Bradshaw and Heidi Alexander over the single market that they are not the future now. But supporters of Labour fundamentally know that they did not introduce austerity. Vince Cable, on the other hand, did. The Liberal Democrats cannot be absolved from their blame on the bedroom tax, either. The Fabians, with their star turns, are having trouble trying to reverse the deluge of criticism they have doshed out to Corbyn and colleagues. The Twitter community, with Chunky, Rachael, Steve, Matt, Tom, Peter, Liam, “Scouse Girl”, EL4JC, Michael, WowPetition, Éoin, Matt, Ellie, or Paul, of course going from strength to strength. Labour’s policies speak to the concerns of the many not the few – such as personal debt, only today, being worked up by John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey. I agree with Jeremy Corbyn that he will need at least two terms of government to get the UK back on course, but there is a real sense of energy, positivity, drive and optimism which means that Labour and its social movement deserve every success.
In political circles, there’s an “unwritten rule” that ‘voters don’t do macro’. In other words, voters tend not to get concerned about the actual numerical level of GDP or national minimum wage, but whether policies affecting the country affect them personally.
Rachel Clarke’s “Your life in my hands” has 14 chapters, each with a one word title, such as “Haemorrhage” or “Haemostasis”. You realise quite quickly on in this book that the author’s account of being a junior doctor is deeply personal, as well as acknowledging the larger narrative elsewhere. Each chapter has a memorable individual and an equally useful narrative on the wider context.
The commitment to being a junior doctor shown by the author is extraordinary. Here is someone who had a glittering career in journalism ahead of her, but who choose to fit in science A levels in her spare time to make her eligible to do a second degree in medicine.
The author can spot all the devices of journalistic spin a mile off – so one can only imagine her intense disappointment about the junior doctors’ strike being reduced to an industrial pay dispute, being seen to be protracted by an overzealous BMA, and potentially doing harm to patients whom Rachel Clarke clearly loves.
I normally, being annoying, like to read everything very carefully, including the epilogue. And here the epilogue is deeply poignant. It speaks of a personal influence on the author. Sometimes the criticism is that being a junior doctor is simply like doing any other ‘job’, but Rachel Clarke’s personal familial influences on medical professionalism are deeply raw, very insightful and quite often surprising. And the descriptions of very vivid ‘brushes with death’ are incredible.
My late father was a much-loved single-handed GP of about 30 years’ standing, and I remember him getting up at 3 am to drive to a patient’s house, when I was a very young boy, even now.
The time when Rachel Clarke’s young boy, acting the part of a paediatric surrogate patient, points out to some hapless medical students, ‘it’s called a stethoscope’ is brilliant.
Even though the characters referred to in the book are anonymised, I recognised most of them. The descriptions are amazingly fine-grained. If you’re a stickler for detail, the character portraits are brilliant. In my case, the heroin addicts were brilliant at shooting up themselves.
The notorious fear of cannulaes and cockroaches would make any junior doctor proud. The accounts of friendships made, as well as experiences such as exact contemporaries saying, “Please could you have a look at this? I’m not really sure”, are brilliantly described.
Also, the sheer detachment of the junior doctor workforce from the managers is captured exactly by the promotion of Zumba classes at inappropriate times.
The clinical vignettes are accurate and interesting, such as the need to cannulate with very large venflons someone about to engulf herself in a gastrointestinal bleed, or the peaked T waves on the ECG of someone with a dangerously high serum potassium.
In my case, one of my latest memories whilst a junior physician at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurology was the junior doctor in the adjacent cubicle screaming, “Just relax”.
This always signalled to me someone to me nervous about his examination technique rather than a genuine appreciation of gegenhalten and other similar phenomena.
As someone caught up in the GMC ‘class of 2006’, I have always found the concept of ‘resilience’ somewhat baffling. Rachel Clarke’s analysis of whether junior doctor training can really be likened to training in the army is both sophisticated and fascinating, as doctors invariably do not see themselves ‘in battle’ with their patients.
The word ‘resilience’, rather, I find inappropriate as it implies some regulatory frailty which is the fault of the junior doctor. Rather, in the case of a junior doctor with mental health problems, it is a feature of an extended ecosystem of lack of supportive seniors, often in a truly toxic culture, a lack of appointment of a GMC health supervisor, or a protracted regulatory regimen designed primarily to humiliate publicly its respondents, with no discernible endpoint.
The book clearly makes out how the professionalism of being a doctor completely defeats everything else. The joy of ‘take a look at this!’ for a medical student, in reference to situs inversus/dextrocardia, or a bulging palpable abdominal aorta aneursym, is wonderfully conveyed in the author’s description. None of this is, of course, captured by ‘productivity’, ‘efficiency’, or ‘innovation’ metrics.
I must admit that many of the recent episodes were immediately familiar to me, such as when Rachel and Dagan found themselves sitting at a fold-up table outside Richmond House, or that time messages from a secret group in the BMA found themselves in the public media.
The examples of the hashtags made me laugh, how the Secretary of State was unable to control all of the narrative. Nonetheless, the frustration of how the core problem of understaffing in hospital medicine had been exacerbated by deliberate cuts leading to threats in patient safety was clearly palpable like the most dilated vein Rachel Clarke has ever had to cannulate at 4 am.
And I do agree with a Twitter follower. When I come to re-read this astonishing book, I will want to do so on my iPad.
“Your life in my hands: a junior doctor’s story” Rachel Clarke, publisher Metro, July 2017.
One of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘trump cards’ was that Jeremy Corbyn’s personal vigour and attractiveness had attracted an unprecedented number of younger voters to the Labour Party. Lord Ashcroft’s recent breakdown of the demographics of the people who’d voted in the 2017 general election revealed that many older people, despite the policy disasters over the winter fuel allowance or the ‘dementia tax’, had decided to vote Tory. Critics of Jeremy Corbyn always insisted that these younger voters would never pull their finger out to go to vote Labour. Even when pictures appeared on Twitter of queues of young people voting in predominantly University towns, there remained a hardcore contingent who insisted nothing could be read into the turnout from such spurious anecdotal reports.
Owen Jones, to be clear, blamed himself as part of a collective failure ‘of the left’ to get their message across. But I disagree potentially with an important nuance of this. I don’t think it was ever held in doubt that it might have been unconscionable not to give nurses a pay rise. I believe even the most hardened belt-tighteners saw this as fair. John Rentoul for some time appears to have insisted, though I may be wrong, that ‘left wing policies’ are not instrinsically attractive. I think this needs some considerable qualification, even if you agree with the premise that there exists a very clear subset of ideas which are definitely left wing.
Supporters of Margaret Thatcher had for a long time resorted to drastic extremist arguments to make their points about state ownership. This varied, for example, from the ludicrousness of having a State removal van company such as Pickford’s, or how one would never contemplate a state-owned supermarket. But I feel this was the first step in taking voters for idiots. It was painfully clear that Southern Rail has been operating as a disaster. The Tories tried to discredit the costings of Labour of returning private rail into state ownership, but leading economists maintained that their criticisms were false.
It is well known that Andrew Lansley had in mind the utilities companies, such as British Telecom or British Gas, when thinking about ‘liberalising the market’ in the NHS. However, in economics, basic principles matter. The provision of healthcare is highly complex, and not everything is a homogeneous product such as water or gas. It is possible, conceivably, to hive off high volume and cheap services as hernia repairs into the private sector. But the issue boils down to whether you feel that market failure is a price worth paying for “market forces”. Tony Benn used to remark that whenever he saw a homeless person sleep under Waterloo Bridge he used to think of “market forces”.
If you leave anything to the market, there is always the risk that there will be large swathes completely not covered. For NHS patients, this is a disaster, if patients with rarer diseases bear the brunt of lack of coverage just because it is not profitable. This is the problem with taking a liberal view to the market, as indeed the Liberal Democrats had in 2012 pursuant to New Labour earlier.
Whilst it might appear easy to ‘ringfence’ younger people with younger issues, these are in fact issues which ‘cut through’ quite a large range of people. I ‘get that’ university fees are likely to affect predominantly people thinking about going to university imminently, but even this is not clearcut due to the mere existence of parents. The NHS is relevant to anyone for promoting health or fixing illness – or even delivering a baby. And the cut through continues for issues such as social housing too, where the purchase of a house to buy to build up your life is unaffordable.
The problem now for Labour is whether it develops a false sense of triumph from all of this. That would indeed be a disaster. It is true that Labour managed to make inroads last Thursday on results night in some weird and wonderful places, such as Kensington. It is overall true that Labour did in the end benefit from a ‘remainer’ vote – of people voting who perhaps saw Labour as an achievable way of slowing down a “hard Brexit”.
But the problem remains for Jeremy Corbyn for continuing to preach to the converted. There is an argument that ‘one last heave’ might well do it. It’s essential to remember that the Conservatives’ campaign was sensationally catastrophic. I am not sure whether it will become sufficient for Nick Timothy and Fi Hill to take the cop for the disaster, or whether the mission will creep to Sir Lynton Crosby and “strong and stable” Theresa May herself. The Liberal Democrats campaign was pretty dire too, although I don’t take away the achievement of Sir Vince Cable of returning to frontline politics. Remember it was Sir Vince’s acumen that had written off Jeremy Corbyn completely until only last week? The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto seemed to offer obfuscation for delivering Brexit, some spin on drugs of abuse, and little else. Oh yes, and it was launched in a night club surrounded by some controversy over gay sex.
Whether it’s shrugging off “the past”, or a failure of teamwork with some people who clearly can’t tango either, Jeremy Corbyn has become the lightning conductor for everyone else’s faults in Labour. I feel that while Corbyn has not got everything right, and I have supported him like every Labour leader for all of my adult life, he has got some of it very right. He has tried to communicate his message through his rallies when it is clear that none of the mainstream media have given him the time of day, resorting to innuendo and further innuendo. And that message is highly relevant to many people. And he offered a vision that was understandable by many – the many who understood, as Nick Timothy identified, that austerity had failed, indeed caused further problems, and was accelerating the decline of England.
An unknown is whether the Conservatives would have won if they had got rid of the robotic memes from their campaign and looked as if they did not wish to punish the older vote. Being a longstanding voter on the Left, I can’t help feeling the Tories are a busted flush, but it will take just one single mutation of their offering, like making their leader Boris Johnson, to throw everything into turmoil. On a more pragmatic note, the ‘supply and confidence’ relationship with the DUP is not an ideological marriage made in heaven, and a Government which only just manages to get its Queen Speech passed cannot be considered ‘strong and stable’. It is just as well that Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker always thought that the argument that an increased mandate would mean a stronger negotiating position was complete and utter bollocks.
The adage is of course that oppositions don’t win elections, but governments lose them. There is little more to lose from Theresa May, who somehow branded herself into a toxic brand. The reality is that all of this has happened at a terrible time, when issues such as our membership of the single market or the customs union should not be decided by a Conservative administration which has lost its majority and to all intents and purposes on life support. I entirely get that there will be people who will never vote Labour because of Corbyn, but I can tell you hand on heart there were plenty of people in Labour who felt they could never vote Labour because of Blair or Brown.
The fact that Corbyn did manage to win two leadership elections, and poll a share of the vote only second to Clem Attlee, is a disaster for all those pople who had diarised June 9th as the start of the campaign to get rid of Corbyn. Of course the current MPs could take to the media studios, like they did in support of THAT chicken coup, to finish off this government. The truth remains that many of them did not get elected because they hid Jeremy Corbyn out of sight – but that Corbyn in fact spoke to their needs in a way that Tony Blair didn’t. A lot of them could pretend to support Jeremy Corbyn. I suggest that those who want a senior job in his shadow cabinet at least make an effort to.
These are interesting times. What I disliked about the previous lack of support of certain journalists was the fact they knowingly were determined to extinguish my hopes as a well meaning left wing voter, but likewise there are plenty of people like Paul Mason, Steve Richards or Gary Younge who at least were sympathetic. But as far as I’m concerned it has to be water under the bridge. We now need a period of reconciliation to rebuild a country which has been savaged by war.
As I said, we live in interesting times.
I’m not a member of “Momentum”, though I was mildly amused by Andy Marr making reference to the Momentum uniform of the Royal Guards during the recent election coverage. I don’t in fact know what a ‘Corbynista’ is, though I have heard it invariably used as a term of abuse – somebody who is quite young, an ‘entryist Trot’ who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, some member of a cult supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
To disappoint you – I have consistently voted for the Labour Party at every general election since 1992. I am currently 42, and I’m hoping to make my 43rd birthday on June 18th this year.
There was a time when I thought I wouldn’t make my 33rd birthday. Well, sort of. I was completely unconscious at the time, being kept alive on the ITU of the Royal Free where it was anticipated that I would never leave the hospital at the time.
So, I can understand why relatively young people are interested in the NHS. I can understand why people of my age are interested in the abuse of zero hour contracts, or why they feel frustrated at not having had a pay rise as a newly qualified nurse for years. I can understand with the sheer fear of not being able to get a foot on the housing ladder.
I thought the manifesto proposed by John McDonnell and others was excellent. It contained ideas I mostly agreed with, and was relevant to people Labour moderates might call “aspirational”. There was an offer, for example, about tuition fees, which would have given younger people hope.
I had no problem with the manifesto. I liked it because it genuinely inspired hope not fear, and, as the meme goes, was for the many and not the few.
I think Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was superb.
Despite this, some of the estimates of the Conservative majority were simply ludicrous – 50, 75, 100 or 125 even.
I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near that – nor did Paul Mason, YouGov or Survation.
He had seven weeks to close a gap, and he did it. Friends of mine would sometimes say to me that they’d heard Corbyn for the first time, and that they were ‘surprised’. The one advantage of the plethora of MPs and all of the media in rubbishing Jeremy Corbyn was that they managed to set the bar for expectations so low. So, when Corbyn started closing the gap, I feel that a critical momentum was achieved, whereby some people were no longer ashamed to say they’d be voting Labour.
During all of this, there was a small but robust band of intelligentsia who could not bring themselves to vote Labour, but needed to vote Liberal Democrats. Those of us who’ve paid any attention to the Liberal Democrats knew that the visceral hatred of Nick Clegg to Labour members is torrential.
I don’t know whether the social media ever ‘converted’ anyone into anyone to voting for Labour, or ‘holding your noise’ and laterally voting for Jeremy Corbyn. I do know however it was great fun, with a strong band of people on Twitter being able to rebut virtually anything. The accusation, of course, is that this was simply furthering an “echochamber”, but many of us felt we had no choice. We felt, not to generalise, that our views were largely misrepresented or totally ignored by the mainstream media.
So, the idea of Jeremy Corbyn being an IRA ‘sympathiser’ was easy to rebut with clear explanations of how Tories had also met “unsavoury” people. A classic example of this was when Emily Thornberry asked Sir Michael Fallon what he was doing meeting Assad in 2007, when he was not even a member of Government.
I’ve never personally understood the expected efficacy of the “magic money tree” argument. Most people who support Jeremy Corbyn are well aware that the economic competence of the Tories is simply the myth. It was tacitly acknowledged that the large national debt of the country had not been well controlled. The deficit target which Sir George Osborne had set for 2015 had mysteriously been extended to 2025.
But it was not simply an issue of the existence of the money tree which caused problems.
Whenever Paul Mason was asked about the ‘magic money tree’, or indeed “Chunkymark” was, the reply would come, “Oh, don’t worry, the magic money tree does exist. It’s in the Bahamas”.
The Panama papers had been recent events, and people on Twitter were accustomed to seeing a particular prominent member of the Cabinet appearing because of her tax avoidance allegations.
I was once warned, “Shibley – be careful. It’s not just the content of what you say that matters, it’s also the style.
When I was watching the BBC Question Time event with Theresa May, I felt the content and style of the answer to the junior nurse who had been denied a pay rise for years was awful. May’s answer that ‘the money tree doesn’t exist’ showed a complete contempt of her situation, also given on the whole voters don’t do “macro”. It showed a complete misreading of the problem with stagnant wages but rising bills, what Ed Miliband might have referred to in discussion of the “squeezed middle”.
This seemed totally inconsistent with the Tony Benn aphorism, “But there’s always money for wars”. There was a fundamental issue why it seemed that the number of hospital beds was being cut, or cuts in social care were rampant, and yet somehow money could appear by magic for vanity projects such as grammar schools or HS2.
As someone who has now voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice, it was incredibly demoralising to see John Woodcock slag off the leader of my political party in public on a repeated basis, or the appearance of complete lack of interest in Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning from Ben Bradshaw, Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips, Wes Streeting and so on.
And yet again the media would appear the same memes – for example ‘terrorist friends’, economic incompetence (and yet not seeming to worry about the fact that the Conservative manifesto was completely uncosted), raving Trot or Marxist, ‘red under the bed’.
There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that the mainstream media overplayed their hand. There was a complete U turn from Polly Toynbee, but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. It was far too little too late. Owen Smith MP who was effusive with praise for Jeremy Corbyn had spent months last year trying to take Jeremy Corbyn to the cleaners politically, and failing.
I do think there were people who are genuinely unsure though. I felt this with Owen Jones, who was faultless once the general election was imminent.
The irony now with all the terrorist friends accusation is that the Conservatives need somehow to form an arrangement with the DUP for survival. And it is a fact that all the seats provided by the progressive alliance would not be sufficient to get above the magic number of 326. The argument that Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal was restricted is tempered by the real fact that he obtained a share of the vote only bettered by Clem Attlee.
Everywhere you looked, the Theresa May campaign looked desperately out of touch – Trident, for example, is of limited use in a NHS cyberattack or a terrorist in a built up metropolitan area.
I don’t think many people are sitting down to dinner to discuss Nick Timothy or Fiona Hill. But the conversation topic of how Theresa May spent £130 million to conduct a referendum on herself and lost might come up. It was May after all who demanded a stronger mandate to start the Brexit negotiations. She now has fewer parliamentary seats, the programme for Government will be presented in only a week’s time, and has become a mammoth laughing stock as far as Juncker and Tusk are concerned. Whatever is unclear, it’s pretty clear her negotiating position as regards the DUP or the European Union is the opposite of “strong and stable.”
The Theresa May campaign, from the perspective of a junior ‘Corbynista’, was the worst in my lifetime. I can’t remember anything as catastrophic as the Dementia Tax ever, which was a ridiculously partisan non-solution to a highly complex and important issue of the funding of social care.
The whole flavour of the Theresa May campaign was excruciating to watch with highly robotic and wooden sessions in what appeared like random derelict factories in England. The vernacular “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” jarred with the image of Jeremy Corbyn actually looking as if he was enjoying himself. The TV images of this rallies might have been motivating, but I am certain that they were highly motivating for some of us in the social media world.
The Tory Party is ruthless when it comes to its leaders. I think Theresa May’s days are numbered and the issue is whether she will have to delay the negotiations. I don’t believe for a second Theresa May will do the negotiations herself – the negotiations involve complex law, which she simply is not up to.
Theresa May did not give a resignation statement – quite the reverse, it was utterly delusional.
Delusional is when you don’t believe your police cuts are relevant to security.
Delusion is when your immigration targets have not been met ever.
“Now back to work.”
So, while I have no doubt that the Labour moderates are continuing to send their secret emails, and Peter Mandelson is campaigning every day still to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, I feel extraordinarily happy. Whilst we didn’t officially win, many of us definitely have the feeling we could win – and this matters – if certain people do not continue to undermine us maliciously. Time will tell.