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.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Labour is in meltdown

“The Labour Party is facing its most serious crisis in its century-long history,” writes Eric Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling. He’s not wrong.

First of all, since my last Uncut column, it is no exaggeration to say that British politics has been turned upside down by the win of Leave in the Brexit referendum. Barring some kind of monumental U-turn, Britain is on its way out of the EU. In the resulting whirlwind, it is difficult to keep pace with the rapidly-changing landscape.

Aside from the immediate and dire economic fallout from the decision itself, to have a PM resign, mass Shadow Cabinet resignations and a Leader of the Opposition deserted by the vast majority of his MPs in a confidence vote – all in the same week – is surely unprecedented.

Most bizarrely of all, while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision, barely any of the winning Leave campaign politicians are now placed for much of a role in carrying out Britain’s transition to its post-EU future. Neither does there appear to be even a sketchy plan. It is as if neither the campaign’s leaders, nor its followers, ever really expected to win.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Will Britain ever intervene again?

Wrote this yesterday for Progress Online, on the outcome of Chilcot: it seems, sadly, that Britain will be much less likely in future to intervene on humanitarian grounds. As we did in Kosovo, and saved thousands of lives. 

Syria (and, worse: Rwanda, where the international community stood by and the death toll was in millions) are now the models for the future.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The geopolitical case against Brexit matters

Like most Labourites, I am struggling to make sense of the fact that Britain has apparently just made a far-reaching decision to leave the European Union. One that changes the course of our history in a way which does not look at all positive.

Unlike many, I am perhaps thinking of things deeper, and blacker, than the short-term economic impact or what it means for Britain's levels of immigration (very little, according to the leaders of the Leave campaign themselves). 

I wrote this piece for Labour Uncut last Wednesday - the day before the referendum - and, given the delight which has greeted Britain's exit in places such as Moscow, it seems somehow now all the more relevant.

*

The decision Britain will make tomorrow is clearly a big one. Perhaps truly the most significant of our lifetimes, in terms of its strategic direction of travel as a country and the way the 21st century will shape up for us.

A decision in favour of Brexit will inevitably have short-term impacts. Some of them, such as a potential drop in sterling for exporters, may even be positive. But some vital, long-term effects are likely to be about Britain’s place in the world; its geopolitical power, if you like.

These are difficult-to-gauge, but nevertheless important, effects which are largely drowned out in the current debate by the bread-and-butter arguments about trade or immigration. Or “sovereignty”, that largely meaningless word currently being flogged to death.

Which would be fine, if we lived in a world full of stability, free of threats. Or even such a Europe.

We do not.

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