Monday, 23 November 2015

The Stretch Armstrong Of British Politics

So we’ve now had two months of the so called “new politics” and, well what do you think of it kids?

Corbyn & Cameron recreate the Frost Report's Class sketch
The most obvious thing to say about the new politics is how unelectable Labour have now become.  The upcoming Oldham by-election presents a negotiable test for Corbyn & co, though the acid test will be next years London Mayoral elections & the Welsh Assembly elections.  Not the Holyrood elections because frankly the SNP could do all manner of daft and stupid things and Sturgeon would still be in pole position to become First Minister.  Kezia Dugdale’s task is to put Labour in striking position for a full blown tilt in 2021 (why not 2019?).  In reality, Corbyn’s scorecard should be marked with those elections for London & Cardiff and not with the current polling ratings.

That Labour’s polling ratings are tanking is really not a surprise.  Between the open warfare on Corbyn from Progress wingers and sundry other Blairites who have done everything in their power to undermine their own leader to an incredibly hostile press determined to spin and smear every small nugget and titbit to make Corbyn look like the second coming of Stalin, there’s not very many people who would be capable of surviving that.  Indeed Corbyn possibly could and should be able to get out and get some traction within his own party.  The reason that he isn’t, and why so many left wingers (not unlike myself) should be hitting their heads against the nearest wall is because Corbyn actually isn’t very good.

In my piece about how Labour lost, I’d recycled a gag from the The West Wing to highlight Labour electing leaders who were cerebral thinkers but with not very good leadership skills.  In Corbyn, they have elected someone else in that vein.  Except that at least Brown had the gravitas of a big hitter and Miliband at least could deliver good thought provoking speeches.  So far Corbyn has allowed himself to be pushed about and bullied by a furious Progress wing who feel that they were entitled to the keys to the Labour Party.  His handling of his shadow cabinet is a prime example of his lack of political nous.  His cabinet has the feel of a cobbled together list and hints at Corbyn not expecting the wave of people ruling themselves out of serving under him so therefore feels as if zero planning went into this key moment.  Someone with political nous would have turned this to their own advantage and blood the next generation of Labour front bench spokespeople. Corbyn did not do this.

Of course, no other politician, however talented they are, has ever been able to survive the size of outright mutiny which is on the cards within the parliamentary Labour party.  Corbyn’s honeymoon lasted all of 0.08 seconds until Jamie Reed threw his toys out of the pram and put his own selfish interests before his party.  Within three hours of the result, six other politicians showed themselves up as clearly not understanding Labour values – Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Rachel Reeves, Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umuna and Emma Reynolds joined Reed in the toy throwing exercise.  It remains to be seen whether those individuals have thrown away their political careers (fellow lefies would claim that this is not a great loss in the case of Hunt, Reeves & Umuna while asking who’s Reynolds). 

Since then, Labour’s hard right have waged a campaign of their own to undermine their own leader.  The justification for this behaviour being Corbyn’s own record as a serial offender in rebelling against the leadership.  Which really begs the question that if they noticed that then why did they not take on board the valid opposition to, say, PFI, Iraq and Blair’s fixation on security to the detriment of personal freedoms to pick three issues out of the air.  All valid reasons as well why I’ve not voted Labour since the mid 1990’s.

Of course the splits and the drip drip of negative stories is manna from heaven to a hostile media opposed to a Corbyn premiership and determined to kill his leadership.  Shamefully included in this is the BBC, who either repeat, unchecked, the claims of the press verbatim, or in the case of their precocious new Political correspondent Laura Kunnesberg, turned small issues into matters of national significance.  Obviously because we’ve never had such a high ranking republican in such a prominent position before.  Sadly though you’d expect this behaviour from the more foaming at the mouth sections of the English based media.  This makes me wonder why several of the Progress wing still write columns for these papers.  Blunkett had a column last week in the Torygraph while the most persistent offender is the Rochdale MP and serial self promoter, Simon Danczuk.  In between complaining about a plot to deselect him from his seat, Danczuk writes columns for those Corbyn friendly organs The S*n and the Mail on Sunday.  No wonder the Labour activists in Oldham didn’t want to touch him with the preverbial shitty stick.

The media’s myopia even extends to their coverage of Corbyn’s own group – called Momentum.  They’ve been accused of attempting to initiate de-selection procedures against ‘unloyal’ MP’s up and down the country…  except that’s precisely the sort of tactics Progress have been pursuing for several years.  Indeed, the behaviour of Unite two or three years back were only mirroring Progress’ own tactics.  All of which is an evolution on the selection process prospective Labour MSP’s went through before selection by uber Blair sympathiser Rosemary McKenna in the run up to the first Scottish Parliamentary elections in 1999.  A process which damaged Labour in the long run as the selected candidates only came from a narrow right of the party section of Labour while alienating left wingers.  Dennis Canavan left Labour, stood on his own ticket and won becoming the Scottish Parliament’s equivalent to Rhodri Morgan.

With there now being two distinct groupings within Labour – the Blairite Progress Group (the original party within a party) and the Corbynistas under Momentum – it feels as if Labour is being pulled apart like a political Stretch Armstrong.  Pulling the legs are outside forces – the Conservitives and the SNP.  Their aim is to consolidate their new found dominance of Scottish politics by highlighting Labour’s right wing tendencies at every opportunity.  This week’s Westminster debate on Trident being the perfect example of the sort of traps the SNP will set and Labour in it’s split personality disorder will blunder into – thus haemorrhaging more votes come next May’s Holyrood Election. 

I had made the point in August that none of the candidates showed enough of a realisation that they needed to appeal and to play to the differing and diverging priorities and aspirations of Middle England and Central Belt Scotland.  Both Cooper and Kendall’s campaigns in particular suffered because they refused to build bridges with sections of the Labour party other than their own narrow supporter base.  Before Progress wing politicians snipe and blame Corbyn’s poor political skills, perhaps they should be looking in the mirror at their own very real failings first.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Something Must Be Done-ism

In our fast 24 hour society, if a problem appears we demand an immediate response and an action to sort the problem out.  The obvious problem is that being seen to do something is not the same as sorting the problem in the first place.

This set of circumstances I think first appeared 25 years ago when a spate of dog attacks on small children led to the Dangerous Dogs Act – a byword for rushing into actions which did more harm than good.  It is this Something must be done-ism which came to mind in the aftermath of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

I wasn’t aware of events until everything had happened.  I then made the cardinal error of checking twitter and saw several tweets calling for direct action against the organisation we will call Daesh.  One in particular asked Cameron to carpet-bomb Daesh beyond the point of surrender.  The voices calling for direct military action against Daesh looked vocal and intolerant to opposing views (like the tweet above).  Kinda like Daesh themselves.

What escaped all of the people advocating the bombing of Daesh areas is that bombing of the Middle East has been done on and off since September 11th 2001 with not a great deal of success.  Afghanistan has fallen back into the arms of the Taliban, Pakistan has essentially become a no go area for westerners, Iraq became the vacuum that firstly Al Quaida and then the Wahabists of Daesh desired to set up a sort of homeland.  Libya has descended into lawlessness.  It’s not a good record of intervention, is it?

What will make things worse and increase the likelihood of more Paris style attacks will be the apparent desire to make our retribution a highly visible one.  The Middle East and sub-continent are not pro-Western areas at the best of times.  At moments like now, they’d be suspicious of reprisals, which might lead to a rise in support for Daesh.  However you look at it, bombing Iraq & Syrian areas under the jackboot of Daesh is not an option.

That’s not to say there are not things that can be done.  For starters the west should really start to look at their own role here.  They allowed the spread of the Wahabist sect of Islam to spread unchecked throughout the Islamic world from it’s home in Saudi Arabia.  Indeed the seeds of this can be traced to the migration of ‘freedom fighters’ from Saudi Arabia, including one Osama Bin Laden, to take part in the Afghanistan War in the 1980’s.  Tackling Saudi’s Wahabist tendencies is a vital first step.

We should also try and help and assist Iraq, Syria and the Kurds in driving out Daesh but in a resolutely non visible way – unless officially asked to.  This means any available background or supporting roles we can do we should be doing.  Anything that does not act as a call to arms against the west.

This is an issue that cannot be solved by a golden bullet.  Although there are parallels with the Second World War – Daesh’s values are remarkably similar to the National Socialists values in terms of their vicious intolerance to any dissenters or anything not complying to their values – this cannot be seen as a direct comparison due to the West’s standing in the Middle East.  This situation calls for intelligence and smart tactics to defeat Daesh, not the blundering in advocated by right wingers the world over.  Something must be done, but not that.