Monday, 17 October 2016

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Normally at the end of Conference season, I do a post outlining the thoughts and key themes of each conference.  However there appears to be one overarching theme linking the conferences of all of the main parties.  It is that of reacting to the referendum vote in June and talk of learning lessons, of reaching out and of policy shifts.

When conference speeches go wrong: Amber Rudd delivering her
now notorious conference speech
The biggest example of reaching out comes from the Prime Minister.  Mirroring her post inauguration speech in July, May’s conference speech was a return to attempting to woo blue collar voters with promises to help people get on and promises to curb the excesses of casino-capitalism.  These policy shifts are problematic for several reasons, not that this has occurred to the more excitable elements of Progress who are, frankly, bricking it from May parking her tanks on their policy lawn.

For starters, May is essentially flying in the face of many in her party who want a return to the red meat of right wing rule.  Many of them are pleased at the vote in June, as this – their logic dictates – will lead to a low regulation, low ‘overheads’ and highly flexible UK out with the EU which will (apparently) attract inward investment.  We saw this with the keynote speeches from Fox, Johnson and from Davies.  We’ve also seen it from the various media appearances from Duncan Smith – a man who went to Easterhouse and left wanting to make the residents life more difficult.

Part of that desire to re-establish a right wing government in the UK comes from the perception that Labour are out contention for the next UK Westminster Election (at least) and partly from the perception that UKIP will now be a busted flush – their aim of ‘an Independent UK’ now on course to be reality.  In the case of Labour’s (self inflicted, due in no small measure to the Blairite Progress Fifth Column) incapacitation as an electoral force, this has fueled May’s desire to adopt so called ‘centrist’ policies.  UKIP’s problems has also fueled policy grabs - witness Amber Rudd’s embarrassing conference speech (above) and rank bad foreigners list policy.

Whether May actually will enact those ‘centrist’ policies will be a mute point.  The thing that marks UK politics is the ability of our leaders to talk left but to act right.  Blair and Brown got away with it as Labour politicians because of the New Labour assumption that real left wing policies were not popular.  Cameron and May might receive envious glances from Progress wingers, but ultimately won’t get away with it.  Cameron, because he wasn’t clever enough to get away from the perception that he was ultimately too clever by half.  May because, I think, triangulation and swiping of centrist policies won’t be her priorities.

Labour have been trying to reach out too… across no mans land to each wing of the party.  After a bitter and divisive leadership election campaign won by Corbyn, we now have the bitter and divisive fall out from said election campaign.  There hasn’t really been very much new in terms of policy coming from Corbyn’s Labour party, partly because any policy announcements would be the start of another big fall out.  For both the Momentum and the Progress factions within Labour, the time for talking is almost over.  Either they find a way to pull together for the sake of their party…  or they both take their share in the near inevitable slaughter currently scheduled for May 2020.

If we are watching the break-up of the Labour party, it’s main beneficiaries here in Scotland seem ideally placed to slip into their shoes. Especially in the key test of sounding more radical than you are stakes.  It seems to be forgotten among the heat generated by the First Ministers announcement that preparations for the Bill to pass to enable a second Independence referendum are to begin this week that the SNP backed proposals for a third runway at Heathrow.  That Heathrow’s owners paid for a stall at last weeks conference is, of course, entirely coincidental and was in no way an influence on the SNP government.  However, allied to the conservative manifesto for May’s Holyrood election, the SNP do find themselves in a quandary with a noisy left wing contingent at Westminster and a centrist at best, sitting Holyrood government.  Then again, Independence and the attainment of it is turning into a rather handy fig leaf for, if not the SNP hierarchy then certainly the online supporters and the pro-Indy… er… blogs (surely “News Websites”? – Ed).

Indeed, to Sturgeon’s credit, she or the Scottish Government haven’t gone down the route that the more excitable pro-Indy supporters have gone down of not criticising the party for fear of handing ammunition to the hated “Yoons”.  While her opening conference speech on Thursday morning concerned itself with the EU referendum fallout and that Indyref 2 announcement, Saturday’s Keynote speech concerned itself with domestic issues.  That and a call for inclusion.

It’s not been the first time Sturgeon has made a call to be inclusive and to be respectful of ‘No’ voters in the Independence referendum, though it’s the first time this call has been made through the prism of the EU referendum.  It is a call that has gone unheeded on the MacTwittersphere as people still insist on using the phrase “Yoons”, the hashtag #youyesyet and other such things insinuating that ‘we’ told you so.  Personally, I find that all tiresome and disrespectful of the pro-Union voter.  After all, it’s not as if the case for Independence was bombproof.  Much more annoying is the disrespect shown to those people (including myself) that voted to leave the EU.

A million Scots voted Leave in June, I’d imagine that a hefty proportion of them voted because of the EU’s “Ever closer union” doctrine which sees consistent land grabs of power from sovereign states around the EU or because of the EU’s failure to deal with the aftermath of the Credit Crunch and subsequent banking crisis.  For those people (as it does for me) immigration figures (if it does) way down the list of reasons to leave the EU.  Instead, those voters are treated with distain and like closet Tories.  If the SNP Government genuinely wanted to be inclusive, they’d take our criticisms of the EU on board and not dismiss them as “we know the EU is not perfect, but…”. 

But then again, the SNP have their own agenda with the EU, wishing to do things that will placate the EU, which they hope will smooth the path for an Independent Scotland to join the EU.  It is the only explanation I have for their na├»ve attitude towards the EU and their unquestioning adoption of European directives like with the outsourcing of Ferry routes or the contract for Scotrail being given to companies (or the national rail network of the Netherlands in the case of Abbelo).

It is a sure sign that the political landscape is still in flux that all of the big parties held conservative conferences that played to their own supporter’s core values but talked big on issues out with their comfort zones. While Labour are still trying to find their way out of their self inflicted wilderness, both the Tories and the SNP made claims and policy statements designed to keep their electoral attractiveness in difficult times.  The problem with that is that talk is cheep and governments are judged on actions, not warm fuzzy words.  Just ask the man whose stock since leaving office is still plummeting, David Cameron.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

There Used To Be A Political Party Across There

In the current fluid political climate where everything is up for grabs, the only certainty is conventional wisdom.  Usually delivered by sober political commentators in what used to be described as “the dead tree press”, by a blogger now working for the selfsame “dead tree press”.  These tablets of wisdom define political thinking.  That these self same commentators have got so much wrong seems to have no impact as another piece of conventional wisdom is brought from above.

The question that no one asks is what if one of those pearls of wisdom is proven to be utter hokum.  There are two pieces of wisdom which are not correct.  The first one is the wisdom which dictates that “Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them”.  This may well have been true in the 1950’s or 1960’s, but has been proven to be not true since…  well the most unpopular politician in the country won a 144 seat majority in the morning of June 10th 1983.  However the pearl of conventional wisdom doing the most political damage, indeed the one which has effectively destroyed the Labour party, is the assertion that parties must pitch their tents on the centre ground to win elections. 

The belief in this has essentially led to a movement within the Labour party designed to keep Labour firmly on the centre ground of UK (or more accurately English) politics. The Progress group has been set up specifically with the aim of keeping Labour firmly to the old SDP model of a centre (not left) party.  The problem with Progress winger’s interpretation of centre ground politics is that it alienates left of centre voters and sidelines the left of centre view point, happy to write people with that viewpoint off as extremists and that old canard, “trots”.

The reason that I think this piece of conventional wisdom is utter hokum is a simple reason.  If General Elections were really won on the centre ground, then how do we explain the election victories of Attlee (won from the left) in 1945, Thatcher’s three election wins and Cameron’s win last year (all won from the right).  True, these are exceptions, but these exceptions show that it’s not centre ground politics that’s the important thing.  It is having ideas that will win over middle ground voters that is key.  This is why as a lefty I can’t forgive the Blairites for not even attempting to bring UK politics leftwards like Thatcher brought the country rightwards in the early 80’s to the political position it currently occupies.

Labour’s issues then are rooted to frustration with that centralist dogma, which refuses to realise that the country is not the same country that it was in 1997.  Indeed, as I’d pointed out in a previous post, the conditions which the kind of third-wayism would previously have thrived as an electoral force do not exist.  Thanks to 9 years of recession and austerity politics, the political landscape is now being cleaved between left and right.  The centre ground has simply disappeared into a hole firmly of the Lib Dem’s own Blairite tendencies making.  Indeed it is telling that the Progress wingers are looking to set up their own party from scratch, rather than outright defect to the Lib Dems and join up with their Orange Book kindred spirits.  Ironic then given that the Lib Dems themselves turned their backs on Orange Book-ism when they elected Dim Farron over the Orange Book candidate Norman Lamb last year.

This dogma seems to have clouded the Progress wing’s every thought, with the possibility that the next Westminster Election might be sooner than May 2020 concentrating that wing of the Labour Party to such an effect that they appear to have taken leave of their senses and utterly torpedoed any residual chance Labour had of winning the next UK election.  Indeed, the chances of… well any centre left politician taking the trip to Downing Street, via an engagement to kiss hands with Mrs Saxe-Gothe-Coburg, is significantly less than the chances of Kezia Dugdales chances of becoming Scotland’s next First Minister.  Partly that’s down to May being, I think, an upgrade, both in strategic and political terms, on Cameron. But mostly that’ll be down to Her Majesty’s official opposition being in more bits than a 100 piece jigsaw.

It’s not just Labour’s electoral chances that have disappeared down the plughole, it is the reputation of those leading lights that have gone down the tubes.  Both Burnham and Kendall are seriously damaged goods from last years leadership election defeat, while Cooper should have had the nous to win that election but didn’t.  Like Healy in 1980, Cooper should have run a better campaign and reached out leftwards – just enough to head Corbyn off at the pass and enough to retain her own centre/right base.  Instead her campaign stuttered and started and only really came to life when Corbyn’s own momentum was unstoppable.  Sunk though those reputations are, they have not suffered as much as the reputational damage to Hilary Benn and to Angela Eagle.  Benn’s reputation was already soiled goods, thanks to his wholehearted support of military action in Syria, but became irreparable due to the Observer story which precipitated his sacking.

Eagle’s however is maybe more tragic.  It is conceivable that she could have been Labour leader at some point, maybe succeeding Corbyn, had she not joined in with the Progress plot.  The first Labour politician to be any good at PMQ’s since Blair and showed a consistent ability to get under Cameron’s skin. Yet she’s shown the same lack of political nous as the rest of the Progress wing brigade.  Maybe, for once, Blair’s representative on Planet Earth, John Rentoul, has a point when he says that Eagle would have been a better candidate than the eventual candidate of the right, Owen Smith.  Smith’s campaign from the start has been one disaster after another.  The casual sexism, followed by the casual homophobia, followed by the gaffe over negotiating with Daesh all contributed to Smith’s long predicted defeat only confirmed in Saturday morning.

At the heart of Smith’s campaign though, there is now a very real sense that the Progress wingers and their cheerleaders in the media still haven’t grasped the new political landscape in this country.  From the Independence Referendum two years ago to the EU referendum and the subsequent release of the Chilcott Report, there has been an earthquake that has altered the political landscape, destroying the conditions that enabled the third way to survive electorally.  Third Way politics is now a toxic brand in the UK…  or at least it is in England.  Third Way-ism still survives and thrives here in Scotland under the radically different curatorship of the SNP, but in England it is a political philosophy which is falling out of fashion.  Neither May nor Faron can be described as ‘Third wayers’.  Indeed, May’s inauguration speech smacked of being somewhat old school conservative in some ways, whilst also referencing Thatcherism.  Or at least the bits of Thatcherism that concerned itself with removing barriers to people getting on.

Of course, the charges levelled at the Progress wing of Labour are serious charges, their actions and behaviours have played a huge part in the troubles Labour finds itself in.  While their leaders have shown a lack of political nous and inability to change up which should worry any centre left voter.  Certainly, there is not one alternative Prime Minister among the massed ranks of the Progress hierarchy, such is the collective reputational damage those individuals have inflicted upon themselves.  There is, however, one figure who seems to be carrying on, in a quiet way, as if nothing’s his fault.  But then again, the only thing you can really pin on Jeremy Corbyn is that he is utterly abysmal at the actual act of leadership.

While it’s true that, politically, he’s a lot closer to my own views than Blair, Brown or even Milliband, that shouldn’t and doesn’t stop any critical faculties from operating, and there’s a hell of a lot to criticise about the vacuum that is the leader of her majesty’s opposition.  I’d previously mentioned that he’d not handled his first shadow cabinet appointments in the best, most astute, manner.  Whilst recognising that his party colleagues have went out of their way to make Corbyn’s job as hard as possible, Corbyn himself has not stepped up or shown any signs of leadership of his own. Maybe this election campaign has shaken him up and now takes the post seriously.  Certainly his acceptance speech on Saturday was a mark above any speech he has made in the past year or so.  For Corbyn though, the easy bit was Saturday.  The hard bit, that of rebuilding a shattered, lost, rudderless, divided, bitter and borderline poisonous party, is still to come.

Corbyn’s biggest challenge will be the resistance he will face, not from his opponents but from his so called party comrades.  The ‘Scottish’ Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale has already signalled her dissatisfaction with Corbyn whilst glossing over her (countless) own failures while former Labour figures from the Blairite past have begun their ritual sneering at Corbyn.  Of course, it is these figures which will garner media attention given the uncritical familiarity these figures have.  Already we have had fawning coverage from BBC, ITV and Sky news for public meetings behind pubs and in alleyways.

That the re-election of Corbyn is not seen for what it is – a vote of no confidence in the corporate sponsored world of the Progress Wing – shows precisely what little political talent these people have.  Labour’s disintegration, being pulled apart by the shuddering tectonic plates of UK politics, has brutally exposed Labour’s own split loyalties and aims.  In one sense, it doesn’t really matter which left wing candidate was chosen to run.  If they had won, they too would have suffered from the campaign designed to undermine and to show that the Blairites were the only people who could win. 

In the meantime, we still have Corbyn, and for the moment he is the face of the destruction of the UK’s so called centre/left party, even if there are a lot of people on Labour’s right who have done much more critical damage to Labour’s structures and reputation.  If anyone questions Corbyn’s rumoured plans to purge Labour, they should gently be pointed in the direction of the people who for completely selfish reasons are engaged in acts of sabotage on the party they profess to love.  There used to be a party of the working person to your left, and whether you are a Corbynista or a Progress Winger, the chase for middle class votes at the expense of the working classes and those adjacent to poor has done more to (fatally?) erode so called ‘Labour values’ than an old school left winger from North London.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Too Soon

Last week’s announcement by David Cameron that he is to step down as MP for Witney saw another bout of retrospection on Cameron’s time in Number 10.  Among the reminiscences was his part in the Scottish Independence referendum, now 2 years ago.  To say his part appears to have been built up is perhaps the diplomatic way to put it.

In truth, Cameron was a ghostly presence during that referendum.  His total output being not very many visits north in the run up to the referendum and no meet and greets – with engagements behind closed doors and in office blocks in Edinburgh’s financial district.  In truth, the claim of supporters of Cameron that he saved the Union is a completely hollow one.  Gordon Brown, the now notorious ‘The Vow’ and the SNP’s policy positions on currency and the EU all played their part in the no vote confirmed two years ago today.

Yet the defeated side, the SNP, are champing at the bit to put us through all of that again.  They have never come to terms with the result, let alone stopped to look in the mirror at their own failings.  Yet they are certainly ready to plunge us all into another referendum campaign.  A campaign that, I’d have serious reservations that they’d win with their current tactics and mindset.

The most striking thing about the SNP and their group of strident supporters is that there does not seem to be any evidence that they’ve learned lessons from two years ago.  True, there’s now a discussion on an Independent Scotland’s currency options.  But this should really have been the first port of call for the SNP.  Instead the (false) narrative that it was all the fault of The Vow and the dastardly ‘Scottish based’ media has been allowed to grow and grow.  The Vow certainly didn’t win the referendum, it just stopped the haemorrhaging of soft ‘no’s defecting to ‘yes’.  As for the media, well if the SNP had a spin operation as ruthless as the fabled New Labour rapid rebuttal unit, we’d be Independent.  Salmond & (particularly) Sturgeon relied far far too much on attacking bad business news as “scaremongering” rather than a concise rebuttal.

So, sort out policy positions and the SNP’s spin operation and a pro-Independence vote is all but assured, yes.  Well…  no.  The issues over Sterlingzone masked the SNP’s inability to win the economic argument.  That the businessman and part time blogger Kevin Hague was able to undermine the economic case for Independence whilst showing up the bloated and grandiose Business For Scotland into the bargain shows that the SNP should have prioritised the winning of the economic argument much more.  It’s something that I may come back to, but even though I take different conclusions from Hague’s figures.  It is his delivery and presentation skills which showed up Business For Scotland’s leaps of logic from figures to conclusions without any workings.  Hague and his approach is something the SNP will possibly need to learn to love given the deteriorating deficit and the state (on figures built on the poor performance of the UK’s revenue service it has to be said) of Scotland’s finances.

The SNP’s biggest problem though is the concept of ‘material change’ and their own interpretation of it, versus the general population of Scotland’s interpretation.  You may have noticed that in June there was another referendum, this one on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union…

The United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, not Scotland, United Kingdom.  Got that, good!

Well, this referendum produced a victory for those people wanting to leave the EU, by a victory margin of 3.8%.  Both England & Wales voted to exit the EU while both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain within the EU.  Indeed, Scotland produced the biggest pro-EU vote (in percentage terms) within the British Isles.  62% of Scots voted for the UK to remain within the EU.  And this appears to have given Nicola Sturgeon the green light to talk of material change and a second Independence referendum being “Highly likely”.  It’s just that 62% seems like a light figure to be talking about material change.

I’d previously speculated that Sturgeon might be surprised at how alike Scotland and the rest of the UK are in terms of attitude towards the EU.  I’d also though that if Sturgeon was to successfully prosecute the material change line, then about 65% would have been the minimum figure that they had to get.  Lets also factor into the equation the left leaning eurosceptic’s voting remain out of a desire to spike the prospect of a right wing hard Brexit and wholesale deregulation of working practices and human rights.  Add in the stat that, according to Michael Ashcroft’s polling, we think that as much as 36% of SNP voters (at the last Westminster election) voted leave.

Added together, this makes Sturgeon’s claims of a Scotland 100% behind the European project a flimsy one at best.  If you take into account the theory of the eurosceptics voting to remain because of the prospect of a right wing takeover, and this was a view advocated by Owen Jones, Paul Mason and Iain McWhirter, then 62% doesn’t look like that big an endorsement of the EU that Sturgeon has been making out.  This also undermines her claim for the EU referendum to be a trigger for a second referendum, and certainly explains some of the lukewarm polling that this question has been gathering.  Indeed the average polling for Independence has now settled on 48% - a gain of approximately 3% and far short of the 60% target set by the First Minister.

The only argument where the SNP’s actions make any sense whatsoever is the argument that says that Sturgeon is on manoeuvres simply to keep the hard-line Yes-ers onside.  That the hardline Yes-ers, agitating for a referendum re-run have been pressing for that since what they perceive as a material change.  That Better Together were correct in their claim that the only certain way for Scotland to exit the EU was to vote to exit the UK seems to have bypassed those hardline Yes-ers in much the same way that Scotland’s name appears nowhere on the various EU Treaties.  Otherwise, pressing for an early referendum re-run when the case is flimsy and lightweight makes no sense and would be a recipe for disaster.

If Sturgeon has the political chops that people believe that she has, she should wait.  Remarkable as it may seen, time is on the SNP’s side.  Given the state of the Westminster parties and the mess being made of the country, Scottish People could conceivably coalesce towards Independence as a viable alternative.  Of course, that’s entirely dependent on the SNP performing as a government like they did between 2007 & 2011.  If they do get their heads down and perform, if Labour continues to fall apart as a political party, if the Tories become the TINA party by default, if the EU referendum fallout continues to poison UK-EU relations and if there is no sign of the near federal solution promised in ‘The Vow’… then conditions could play into the SNP’s hands.

The SNP’s Indyref2 manoeuvrings do not look like a party confident and in control of events.  By aggressively attempting to re-write the post EU Referendum narrative, Sturgeon is displaying a lack of patience which will do nothing to attract the voters needed to bring the prize of independence. Scotland is already split down the middle between people who crave a second Independence referendum and those who think that it’s too soon for that question to be asked again.  Rather than pressing the issue so soon after the 2014 Independence referendum, the SNP should be looking at why they failed and how they should rectify the situation in the future.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Death Rattle of The Third Way

In the aftermath of the European Referendum two weeks ago, we have seen the shock and fallout permeate the wider economy.  The Pound has fallen against the Dollar to levels not seen since the mid 80’s while the stock exchange has also fallen.  Rather revealingly guilts have also fallen, which may spell more economic uncertainty in the future.  It’s not just economically where certain stocks have fallen.  If you were a commodities trader, you would be selling shares in George Osborne and Progress. Fast.

George Osborne has been self explanatory, but in truth Osborne’s chances of succeeding Cameron were on the wane well before the disastrous Conservative ‘In’ campaign.  However it is the fate of the Labour Party which is capturing the imagination of the media and press.  In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, the Progress wingers among Labour’s shadow cabinet blamed one man for the referendum defeat – their leader Jeremy Corbyn.  It was his fault apparently that huge swathes of the former Labour heartlands in the north turned their backs on the EU.  There is of course one small problem with that synopsis – that only (according to Michael Ashcroft’s polling) 37% of Labour voters voted against their party’s advice.  Well behind the 58% of Tory voters who rebelled (and interestingly enough, nip and tuck with the 36% of SNP supporters).   

That hasn’t stopped the Progress wingers orchestrating a situation where a right wing coup would be the least worst option for Labour.  It is true that there are serious issues surrounding Corbyn’s failure to display any leadership skills, whether it is with his own party or in holding a disintegrating government to account.  It is also true that Corbyn, over the last 12 months or so has shown that he really is the best of a seriously bad bunch of opposition politicians.  Say what you like about the SNP, but they have been so much more of an opposition than Labour.  While the Progress wingers have a point about Corbyn’s performances, their utterly cack handed attempts to facilitate a coup/split (whatever their plans really are) have put the future of their party at risk and have almost single handed put the Union at risk.

The Progress wingers would have a point if their values and beliefs of a better version of Social Democracy was a popular ideal with real currency.  However over the past 18 months to 2 years, events have seen those ideals undermined and tarnished to the extent that we can certainly say that the age of Blairite “Third Way-ism” is now over.  Scotland provided the first signs that the Third Way edifice was cracking with the marriage of convenience between Scottish Labour and the Conservatives to set up the Better Together campaign.  Left wingers like Owen Jones point to Better Together as the reason for the collapse in Scottish Labour’s vote but don’t go further than Labour simply sharing platforms with the Tories.  It was Labour politicians, Labour activists and Labour leaders appropriating Tory attack lines & arguments – and happy to do so - which caused the penny to drop among “traditional Labour voters” rather than just simply sharing a platform.  Had Scottish Labour just modulated the Better Together message , made a left of centre case for remaining within the union, Scottish Labour would not have collapsed as it did.  Instead Scottish Labour revelled in the prospect of spending Tory money to beat the hated 'Nats', even if it meant using attack lines that would, within 9 months be used against them.

In that General Election the previously Blairite double act of Cameron & Osborne renounced their political heroes and announced manifesto pledges that would rip up Blair & Brown’s only positive political legacies – the rebranding of the minimum wage and the wholesale scrapping of Tax Credits…  Yip you did read that right.  Cameron & Osborne, lets not forget, took their cues from the Blair/Brown dynamic, taking notes and learning the lessons.  Given Cameron’s time in Downing Street has been one long (third rate mind) Blair tribute act, his claim to be the “heir to Blair” looks more like an attempt to consolidate the Third Way as a going concern for the Tory right.  It could then be argued that the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition was really the logical conclusion of Third Way politics in this country.  The conclusion of that coalition then provided an ending as the Tories then took the right turn they’d heavily trailed during the second half of the coalition.  If Cameron & Osborne were the true heirs to Blair & Brown in the first half of Cameron’s premiership, then by the time of the General Election, they’d certainly renounced that shared ‘heritage’.  In the firing line now were key Blair & Brown policies – The minimum wage, Tax credits and there was to be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

If the belief was that Britain was now a ‘centralist’ country, then that belief was swept away on the morning of the 24th June 2016.  The UK had voted to leave the EU, and the voters who had been left behind by the Third Way took their revenge on the political classes by spiking EU membership, wrongly blaming immigrants and freedom of movement for their many problems.  While you can blame Cameron & Osborne for failing to make a positive case to remain in the EU, the blame for the Northern heartlands voting en mass to leave lies squarely with the complacency of the Progress wingers.  Their calculation that left wing voters had nowhere else to go but Labour has now bit them in the backside twice in the course of 18 short months  Firstly during the Independence Referendum when scores of Scottish Labour voters plumped for Independence and have refused to vote for Scottish Labour again.  The exact same thing happened in England two weeks ago as Labour voters plumped for exit – though the right wing UKIP look like being the beneficiaries here.  Then again, what do you expect when the Progress wing’s idea of campaigning is to concede ground to UKIP by apologising for not listening to people’s concerns about immigration.  There is a reason why 3 out of 5 Scottish voters decided to vote for remain in the EU and it had more to do with the SNP’s own distinctive (separate and pro-immigration) campaign rather than the official Remain’s miserable excuse for a campaign.

We have seen voters turn against the values of the Progress wingers, but we have not seen why they turned against Progress values.  In the case of the last Westminster election, it was that Ed Balls signed up to Osborne-omics, hook, line and sinker very early on and deprived ordinary voters with no alternative.  In the case of Brexit, it is that living values – thanks to weak wages legislation and a minimum wage so far behind the living wage that you could, with considerable justification, describe the minimum wage as a slave wage – have crumbled since the start of the recession 9 years ago.  Elsewhere it is that Progress values are interested in only getting power, but not necessarily in standing up for people or raising living standards or any other choices that would put that power in jeopardy.   The release of the Chilcott report last week however provided the gravestone for the Progress Group.  Regardless of the other failures, there is one which towers over all other, slower burning, failures.  On that gravestone is the word Iraq.  

As Ian Hislop pointed out on Question Time on Thursday night, a lot of the things that cropped up in the Chilcott report were widely known at the time but not reported my the majority of the press.  The lack of evidence that Iraq had deliverable WMD, the lack of post occupation planning, the rush to war…  all deep failures that have completely and utterly destroyed the credibility of certainly Blair, Hoon, Straw, Goldsmith & Campbell, but also a lot of pro-war cheerleaders. Cheerleaders who are the main anti-Corbyn ringleaders.  These include both Hilary Benn & Corbyn’s leadership challenger Angela Eagle (above). Awkward.

Taken as a whole, the Independence Referendum, The Westminster Election, the EU Referendum and the Chilcott report represents the death rattle of Blairite Third-Way politics in this country. Given that Labour’s incumbent leader comes from the left of the Labour spectrum and the two candidates for the Conservative party leadership represent the right of the Tory spectrum it looks very like we are in for a period of old style left versus right politics with the middle squeezed out.  This is, of course, except for viewers in Scotland where we have our own working version of The Third Way, where the divide is between pro and anti Independence.  On a UK wide level though, the Progress wingers inability to see the big picture unfolding in front of their eyes is causing damage to their party.  For the second time in a generation, they are willing to sabotage their party’s prospects at the ballot box just to make a point.  Unlike in the early 80’s though the stakes are much much higher as us Scots now have an exit door if the prospect of Prime Minister May becomes something more than a temporary measure, with no small thanks to the short termist bad politics of the original Party within a Party.