Thursday, 18 August 2016

Corbyn’s “straight talking, honest politics” mask finally slipped in the Observer interview

So much has been made of Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and freshness, that it is high time for us to probe it. After ten months of “straight talking, honest politics”, this weekend’s long and detailed Observer interview turned out to be rather insightful.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Free Ukraine. Last chance to see?

Just to note, after many earlier posts on the subject, that trouble is brewing again in the Ukraine. 

I have long predicted that Vladimir Putin would most likely want to finish the job of invading the country while Obama was still in office, knowing that the likely consequences would be zero, whereas under either the next Democrat or (God forbid, under present circumstances) Republican incumbents, they may well be non-zero.

Well, it seems to be happening. A surge is being reported in the already-invaded Donbass region, along with the deployment of some pretty hefty missile systems. In response, Ukraine is understandably building up troops on the Crimean border. The key cities of Odessa and Mariupol are being posited as possible targets for a further invasion. It strikes me that, if these two cities were to fall, Kiev might not be far behind. And with that, you could pretty much say goodbye to an independent Ukraine. 

If that happens - and even if it does not - future historians might reasonably conjecture how things might have turned out differently for Ukrainians with a marginally-less-useless-at-foreign-policy president of the United States.

Friday, 5 August 2016

A brutally honest letter to Labour members

I wrote this for Labour Uncut on Wednesday night, about the leadership election. It's, well, from the heart.

Dear Labour member,

You probably think this is like so many emails you get from the party nowadays. But it is not.

This is a letter to you from someone who loves the party and sees it in desperate trouble.

Apologies in advance: this is going to be tough. There is not really any way to be nice about it, so here goes.

To the party’s right: you need to up your game. Owen Smith – and Angela Eagle until a few weeks ago – have made a brave stand. But you cannot let yourselves be out-organised by the Corbynites. For example, if your rally is going to get only modest support, don’t do a rally at all, do something else. If you play who-pulls-a-bigger-crowd with Corbyn, you will lose. Lay out your candidate’s stall early and don’t let their opponent define them.

Please also do not let these clowns get away with subverting your local party structure. They are organising against you and you must organise back. You cannot be nice about this, too much is at stake.

Your opponents also have generous supplies of cash, thanks to the leaders of the larger trade unions having scant accountability to their members as to where they channel their subs. You will have to be truly inventive to counter that. But you can still win and there is still all to play for.

To the hard left: I do not care about you. With the notable exception of Dennis Skinner, you have no real love for this party and would see it burn. And frankly, you are not even that sure about democracy, either. Your ideas put into action will undoubtedly end in disaster and chaos; they always do. Our mission is now to ensure you do not take our party with you as collateral damage.

To remaining members of the soft left still supporting Corbyn: you are the key. This is in your hands and, with the best will in the world, you need to wake up. You probably supported Corbyn because you thought he was nice, decent and a breath of fresh air.

But you missed an important fact: he is, and always has been, hard left. Your views and his are really not the same (and, if you would take the time to check just a few facts easily available on the internet about his past associations, you might actually begin to wonder about his decency, too. But I digress).

So, you are supporting him now not because your views coincide, but because you feel he has been put upon by the media and the party’s right, and are leaping to his defence. In time-honoured Labour fashion, you are standing up for him as if he were a potentially disadvantaged minority, as you would rightly stand up for ethnic or LGBT minorities. And probably also because you never really liked those Blairite and Brownite types anyway, so supporting Corbyn against them feels like “sticking it to the man”.

But the truth is this: Corbyn is not disadvantaged, he is the front runner, and the opprobrium he has received in the mainstream press is really a hundred per cent his own fault. When even the neutral BBC and the left-leaning Guardian – employer of his current, hard-left press spokesman, remember – starts being labelled anti-Corbyn, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.

Your continuing support for him is not only sentimental in the face of strong evidence against doing so, but it is a self-indulgence which is now threatening the very future of your party. It is not the time for protesting and sticking it to the man. This leader cannot win an election and, worse, he is busy refashioning the party in such a way that no future leader will ever have the means to, either. And if you think mass deselections in the PLP is really going to help us win the next election, you are already lost to reason.

In short, the party is dividing into two factions: Labour and Corbyn-Labour. The latter of these is fast becoming not merely a cult of personality, but a political death cult and your cross on the ballot paper will decide whether it wins.

This is no longer a struggle for the soul of the Labour party we all care about. It is a struggle for its existence.

Please think about it.

Yours in candour,

A friend and comrade

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Labour at the crossroads

After the earthquake, it is surely time to stand back a little and take stock. After one of the most extraordinary months ever in British politics, the pieces have been thoroughly shaken and are now returned to earth.

The landscape is entirely different from the seeming certainties of just a month ago, the old guard largely cleaned out and most of the players new.

For Labour, it has shown one thing in particular: the spectacular house of cards on which the whole current leadership had been built.

It has now become a laughing stock, a leadership of zero credibility outside, and even for the vast majority of its own parliamentary party. The only place where the leadership is still respected, paradoxically, is within the party membership itself, where a level of denial exists which in years to come group psychologists will surely write books about.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Turkey: the bus reaches its destination

Now, the Centre Left has been a little preoccupied over recent months with the slow collapse of the Labour Party as we know it. But world events now still seem to be competing to reach the same level of insanity.

Aside from the horrific attacks in Nice, where families celebrating Bastille day were butchered by an Islamist madman in a truck, the disintegration of democracies on the fringes of Europe now seems to be proceeding at a clip.

Last night, those of us minding our own business on Friday night Twitter were treated to a presumed military "coup" in Turkey, which had apparently been put down by this morning. 

However, as regular readers will know, President Erdogan is no democrat - he was famously quoted as saying that democracy was a "bus ride - once I get to my stop, I'm getting off."

It now seems fairly clear that he had deliberately encouraged the coup in order to draw out his opponents. Now they are isolated, he can lock them up or kill them. And he will be the undisputed dictator, er, leader, of modern Turkey. No more need for any more of that pesky democracy stuff.

Particularly unedifying when you consider (a) that Turkey has fought since its creation to be a secular state, because Attaturk understood well the dangers of Islamist politics, and (b) what has happened in neighbouring Syria under a dictator.

Looks like someone just got off the bus.
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