Friday, 14 July 2017

Those who think the Corbyn leadership can change are dreaming. Appeasement will only strengthen the hard left’s hand

Last week Luciana Berger, prominent centrist, Jewish MP and Corbyn critic, underwent a coup on her local party’s Executive Committee, with nine out of ten places going to Momentum members.

Shortly afterwards, one of said members, Roy Bentham, demanded a pledge of allegiance to the leadership from her, the implication being that, if she did not start to be behave herself as a good Corbynite, she would soon face deselection: “Luciana needs to get on board quite quickly now…she will have to be answerable to us. We would like her to come out publicly like other MPs have done and apologise for not supporting him in the past.”

We could look at this story in two ways. First, the way that the local party and, ultimately, Berger herself have spun it: that it was an exaggerated story from the Liverpool local press, stirring up trouble. There was a tweet to that effect from Berger, disassociating herself from the Sunday Times tweet on the story, and a statement that the party was doing well under Corbyn. The local CLP also distanced itself from the remarks made by Bentham.

The second way is this: exactly what the Times said in its leader (£). In short, whatever the local party or MP might claim, there will definitely be a move to oust Berger, at least unless she toes the Corbynite line from now on. It is not hard to see that this is the right interpretation, whether Berger wants to accept it or not. One has to ask why Momentum would bother to take control a local party and then leave in place an MP who has views diametrically opposed to the Momentumites.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Progress has been a force for good and the party needs it

Two weeks ago it was announced that Progress, the centre-left pressure group within the Labour party, would cease to be funded by its patron for over a decade, Lord Sainsbury.

Progress has always been the part of the party most in tune with the British public, rather than Labour members or supporters, and has been unafraid to challenge Labour to engage with new voters, rather than preach to the converted.

It has therefore, as one might imagine, had a somewhat tough time since the party’s return to opposition and its gradual move to the left since that point. During the Miliband era, it continued to push quietly but firmly towards the centre, providing a useful ballast to the creeping “hullo clouds, hullo sky” impossiblism of the party’s then leadership.

However, even during that era, it was under attack: Miliband’s appeasement of the increasingly militant Unite union required the organisation in 2012 to take measures to defend itself against those, like Unite’s leader Len McCluskey, who accused it of “manipulations” and who would happily see it severed from the party body politic.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Reality check: a winning party needs to win, you know, seats

For some MPs and commentators, suddenly everything has changed about Labour’s situation. But what, exactly? Did we win, as Emily Thornberry thought we did? Has Jeremy Corbyn now become the nation’s best choice for prime minister? Is it just “one more heave”?

Hmm. Not really. In fact, dig a bit deeper and we might observe the opposite: that in fact, very little has changed at all.

Yes, Corbyn confounded expectations of the votes he could poll nationally. As did Theresa May. However, the mere fact that his impressive upswing in vote-share did not actually win him the election should give us pause, for three reasons.

Friday, 9 June 2017

How on earth did Labour get this FEW seats?

Yes, yes, I know I was predicting that Labour would do much worse than they actually did. And it seems Corbyn did enthuse the young and get them to the polling station. 

But it's not so simple as that. And since they are not forming a government, any sense of achievement is relative; relative to the terrible expectations most people - including myself - had.

Thing is this: they still lost, despite having the biggest upswing in voteshare since Clem Attlee in 1945. How?

Simple. They didn't target seats where they needed to convert Tory voters. They got people (such as young people) to vote who normally stayed at home, but in areas which were mostly already Labour. 

Pointless.

I am sure that if we graphed changes in no. of seats to changes in voteshare for the last n elections, this would be an outlier. It's really hard to have such a poor campaign strategy that you end up pissing away a massive increase in votes, one that could have put you in power.


UPDATE 13JUN: Tomorrow I will post that graph at Labour Uncut. It is an outlier, the biggest of the post-war period.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Self-indulgence has led Britain to this dismal point

I have voted Labour (actually about 10 days ago, by post) and, for the first time in my life, with no enthusiasm whatsoever. I voted for the party under Ed Miliband, knowing he was unlikely to win but at least thinking he was a vaguely decent human being, who might just be able to learn on the job and deliver something for Britain if elected.

I am afraid I cannot do so with Jeremy Corbyn. I have been in this party too long to leave it, clinically, to the dogs and believe it is not dead yet. But it is clearly drinking in the last chance saloon.

What led us here? Two different cases of self-indulgence, of making a poor decision on a whim. People being bored and longing for “inspiration”, “excitement” about politics. Well, look back on your handiwork now and glow with pride.

Exhibit A: the self-indulgence of 52% the electorate – because it ought to be called out as that – in falling for the snake-oil salesmen who sold them Brexit and then ran away. Who genuinely believed they would “take back control”. Instead they have pointlessly given a seismic shock to economic confidence from which it will surely take years to recover.

Nationalism is invariably about emotion, not logic. Ask non-nationalist Scots, or Catalans. It has no “reason”. It just is. But like religion, or any other political ideology, it can be powerful.

Britain has had such a disastrously weak opposition since September 2015, that it not only failed dismally to argue the case for Remain but has been unable to provide a pro-European opposition in this general election, which has by default confirmed Theresa May’s mandate to implement a Brexit as hard as she likes.

Exhibit B: the self-indulgence of many of the Labour Party’s activists and supporters (although there are also many honourable exceptions) in thinking it can defy political gravity and get elected the only truly far-left leader in the party’s century-long history.

And if you genuinely think that Jeremy Corbyn does not qualify as “far left”, it’s because you haven’t been listening for about the last forty years. In fact, he is one of only a handful of British politicans not to change their views over that time (most of the rest are his Shadow Cabinet allies).

There is a surfeit of information out there, as the Centre Left has observed numerous times and many well before he was ever party leader. You cannot just stick your fingers in your ears and mutter “fake news”. He is a sympathiser with Islamist and IRA terrorists. He does indulge anti-Semites.

And of course a special prize for self-indulgence goes to the 35 idiot MPs (there is no other word for them) who decided they would break with the common sense rules of the PLP deciding the leadership shortlist, in favour nominating of someone who they actually didn’t even vote for “so all sides of the party were represented”. As a result, an unexpected win for Corbyn has coming close to actually choking the life out of their beloved party.

No, it is self-indulgence which has led us here. We chide the Americans over Trump, but we are exactly the same. We have indulged our fantasies over the serious business of who runs the country and are now paying the price via the awful, lose-lose choice we are faced with today.

And if you want to know what happens to countries which don’t take seriously the business of who runs the country, you need only look as far as recent events in Turkey. Or Russia. Or even little Hungary, vying within the EU for the dubious distinction of being its first dictatorship. We Europeans sure have short memories of the history of our continent, to have got so frivolous, so quickly, about who governs us.

“Eternal vigilance”, Aldous Huxley wrote in a variation on the old saw, “is not only the price of liberty; eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.”

We might reflect on that, as our party lies in pieces. We not only failed to be vigilant, we self-indulgently, complacently let them in. We invited them in.
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