Monday, 16 November 2015

Paris, the Stoppers and straight talking, honest politics

It was no surprise, naturally, when the Stop the War Coalition (or rather, Stop The Wars That I Say But Not The Other Ones) decided to blame the horrific bombings and shootings in Paris last Friday night on "Western intervention".

But the first post which came out from this perennially dreadful crew was particularly crass, even by their own low standards. As people died on the streets of the French capital, the best they could come up with was: "Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East". 
"Without decades of intervention by the US and its allies there would have been no 'war on terror' and no terrorist attacks in Paris."
Yes, that's right, it was all the fault of the evil West that the bombing happened. Victim-blaming at its best. Even though jihadist violence long predates Afghanistan and Iraq.

And then, as if by magic, it disappeared from the website, as did the tweet that accompanied it did from Twitter. Jeremy Corbyn then made an unusually measured statement condemning the atrocities, which did not even contain the traditional "but" we have come to expect from the Stoppers in such situations (i.e. it's all terrible...but we deserved it):
“Today, all our thoughts and sympathy are with the people of Paris. 
“What took place in the French capital yesterday was horrific and immoral. 
“We stand in solidarity with the people of France – as with all victims of terror and violence.
“I have cancelled my engagements today to hold discussions on events in France with shadow cabinet colleagues and be briefed by Downing Street security officials. 
“It’s vital at a time of such tragedy and outrage not to be drawn into responses which feed a cycle of violence and hatred.
“We are proud to live in a multicultural and multi-faith society, and we stand for the unity of all communities.”
Almost sounds normal, doesn't it?

The Stoppers themselves then came up with a much toned-down piece, which did still blame the attacks on "Western intervention", but took five paragraphs to get there.

Why do the antics of the mad Stoppers matter to the Labour Party? I'll tell you.

First because, until a couple of months ago, the chair of that august organisation was one Jeremy Corbyn MP. He is still closely associated with it in the minds of the media and the public. In short, the foreign policy of the Labour Party is, or at least soon will be, as the Corbynites consolidate their hold on party structures, the foreign policy of the Stop the War Coalition. That depressing and highly-damaging place is where the once-proud internationalism of Ernie Bevin has fallen to.

Second, and worse, because the Corbyn statement was not even honest. It was inherently disingenuous. It was "this is not what I think, but rather what I think I can get away with in the media".

We know what Corbyn thinks: he has made it abundantly clear over his thirty-two years in Parliament. Because he was never a career politician and never remotely expected to lead his party, there are records of his words everywhere.

So, assuming he has not suddenly had a Damascene conversion to a moderate foreign policy in the last two months of those thirty-two years, it is pretty obvious that he has not said what he thinks, which is essentially what is written in the first post. It was the West's fault.

Welcome to the Corbyn foreign policy era. 

"Straight talking, honest politics."

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Labour moderates should stop worrying about the next high-falutin’ political strategy and get organising

It’s easy to read the politics pages of national newspapers and think that the real problem of Labour’s moderates is that they’ve got to get a shiny new strategy together that is neither New Labour nor Miliband Labour, but something which will get Labour back in power. That, in short, it doesn’t really know what it stands for and therefore this needs to be its first priority.

While it is a problem, it is certainly not the immediate problem.

The reason for this is simple: the media generally sees politics through the prism of Westminster, not just Parliament but the plethora of think-tanks and lobbying firms that hang around it. Policy and political strategy are the glue which holds that world together, without it we are nothing.

But Labour, we should take pains to remember is first and foremost a party (and a movement, although with the current radical state of the leadership of most major unions, that may not be of much immediate help to the moderates right now). It is a living, breathing thing, made up of hundreds of thousands of activists. Right now, it’s all over the shop.

Which is more important during opposition, particularly during a crucial battle for the soul of the party?

It’s the party, stupid. And that means organisation on the ground, in the CLPs and Labour group meetings across the country.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Milne: now the revisionists are running Labour's strategy

It is now commonplace, even among journalists who should know better, to conclude that the current criticisms of the Corbyn leadership come exclusively from a hard knot of diehard centrists who refuse to accept that the new regime could win an election.

While it is clear that it cannot and it is also true that many sensible activists would rather die in a ditch than attempt to fight the hopeless battle of a general election under the current leadership, the reality is that there is really a much wider concern about the party’s current trajectory, and not just among Labour MPs. Even Tories and Lib Dems worry about the absence of a viable opposition.

To recap: we now have a party led by a man who never expected to leave the back benches; a shadow chancellor best described as “maverick”, with a treasure trove of past quotes already carefully dug up and filed at Tory HQ, providing a handy media drip-feed for the next five years.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Why “wait and see” is a fool’s strategy

It is now taken as accepted everywhere in British politics, with the exception of some parts of the Labour Party’s rank and file, that Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn at the helm. You can attempt to argue with this premise, but you’ll find few allies outside of the echo chamber of party activists and three-pound associate members who voted for him.

This leaves sensible members with two options: engage and hope things get better, or reject and look for a new plan. Many MPs are, in good faith, choosing the former option.

But as Ben Bradshaw MP must have seen on Tuesday night, any decent attempt to play ball with the new leadership seems doomed to end in the frustrating realisation that it is hopeless. MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party looked on in dismay, as the party’s flagship economic policy did an unceremonious U-turn.

Within two weeks of its announcement.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Labour, this is what you chose

The two important days of conference, the first two, have now passed. We have pinched ourselves. We have pinched ourselves again. But no, that really was John McDonnell outlining a fantasy financial plan on Monday, and Jeremy Corbyn giving the Leader’s Speech on Tuesday.

Let me just say that again. Jeremy Corbyn giving the leader’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party.

No matter how many times we say those words, it still beggars belief. Only four months ago, it would have been inconceivable.

How long ago that now seems. What happy, carefree days were those.

For those of us who have sat and watched dozens of leader’s speeches, mostly at times when Labour was actually running the country, it seems a strange, parallel universe. You get to know when a party is at a low ebb, just as when William Hague suffered his disastrous four years at the helm of the Tories.

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