Thursday, 1 October 2015

Labour, this is what you chose

The two important days of conference, the first two, have now passed. We have pinched ourselves. We have pinched ourselves again. But no, that really was John McDonnell outlining a fantasy financial plan on Monday, and Jeremy Corbyn giving the Leader’s Speech on Tuesday.

Let me just say that again. Jeremy Corbyn giving the leader’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party.

No matter how many times we say those words, it still beggars belief. Only four months ago, it would have been inconceivable.

How long ago that now seems. What happy, carefree days were those.

For those of us who have sat and watched dozens of leader’s speeches, mostly at times when Labour was actually running the country, it seems a strange, parallel universe. You get to know when a party is at a low ebb, just as when William Hague suffered his disastrous four years at the helm of the Tories.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Labour's darkest hour

My seventeenth piece for the Independent, on Labour's political death wish, otherwise known as the election of Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, is here. For the record, I think this could well be my most-read piece ever, with over 6,000 Facebook shares, so quite pleased with it.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Corbyn’s pacifism won’t really affect Britain from opposition, right? Wrong

Another week, another revelation about what a Corbyn-led foreign policy would look like. It is enough that Labour would, as it did in the days of George Lansbury, be directed into a position of “peace at any price”, even if that were saving lives from genocide in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, as a previous Labour government did.

This is not an exaggeration: it is hardly a surprise that the chair of Stop the War Coalition, by definition, supports the idea that any military action by the West under any circumstances is a bad thing (although, strangely, that organisation has shown itself not so against war when it is conducted by a non-Western power, such as Russia).

And so we have been treated in recent days to a reminder that Corbyn regards the death of Osama Bin Laden as “a tragedy”. While, in times of peace, it is right to uphold the right of anyone to a fair trial, Bin Laden was killed in war zone. And it is difficult to imagine many British citizens agreeing with that particular stance, let alone those of New York, where he contrived the death of three thousand.

Leaving on one side the fact that this statement was made on PressTV, the propaganda channel of a deeply unpleasant regime, it is extraordinary that we even have to make these arguments.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Why backbenchers talking to terrorists is not the same as senior politicians talking to terrorists: a primer

In the wake of the general tripe important arguments recently promoted regarding backbench MPs' roles in apparently initiating the Northern Ireland peace process, bringing detente to Palestine and otherwise saving the world, it seemed to the Centre Left important to provide some guidance on talking to terrorists.

So, here is a handy guide to whether or not you should consider talking to terrorists, all you need to do is answer some simple questions.

Q1. Is it your job?

What is your primary job, is it:

(a) representing constituents and voting in Parliament, or 
(b) joining up a wide variety of minority interest groups and meeting people with unpleasant views in far-flung countries?

If your answer is (a), why are you trying to "engage" with terrorists, instead of doing what you're paid for?

Q2. Are you partisan?

Do you: 
(a) only talk to one side, or 
(b) talk to both sides?

If your answer is (a), how can you possibly be useful as a diplomatic channel?

Q3. Do you condemn all sides equally for atrocities? 

When you do condemn, do you 
(a) condemn one side universally but only condemn your favoured side when you have no other option, while simultaneously saying "but what about the other side doing XYZ"? or 
(b) condemn both sides equally and fairly for atrocities?

If your answer is (a), how can you possibly be a useful diplomatic channel?

Q4. Are you qualified?

Are you (a) a senior politician or (b) a very senior official?

If your answers to (a) and (b) are no, you are probably merely a fool, legitimising some dodgy person/regime. A "useful idiot".

So, you are now fully armed. Just in case you should be someone with pretensions to be an amateur diplomat, suddenly thrust into the limelight with an unexpected possibility of leading their party, you'll know what to do.

Look what Corbyn can do in twenty-four hours: now imagine twenty-four months

If current polls are to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is about to become Labour leader, not just by a small margin but by a landslide.

That is, as our own Atul Hatwal pointed out on Monday, a pretty significant “if”. For a number of reasons; protest voting in polls but not in elections, “shy” voters, ease of manipulation by flashmobs of more informal polls, difficulty of accuracy polling such a select group, further change in the final few weeks and so on. Given this, it is still perfectly possible that Corbyn will fall at the ballot stage, despite Westminster’s prevailing wisdom.

But let us suppose for a moment that he is genuinely on course to win.

In this case, we are at a genuinely historical turning point – a convulsion – for the party; one of a kind it has not really experienced since Ramsay MacDonald’s “betrayal” in the 1930s.

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