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.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

This is not "engagement". It is apologism

Yesterday I retweeted a Centre Left piece from four years ago, about the invitation of hate preacher and Hamas fundraiser, Raed Salah, to speak at the Houses of Parliament, a visit thankfully called off at the last minute, thanks to the timely intervention of the House authorities.

I retweeted it because, unlike political nerds like myself, I believe that there are Jeremy Corbyn supporters out there who genuinely think he is merely a doughty anti-austerity campaigner and genuinely have no idea of what his record is on foreign policy (there are others, of course, who know and do not care). 

But it is important that these things are known. When there is a non-zero chance that someone is to lead this great party, their utterances can and should come under close scrutiny.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

On emotional spasms

“You call that statesmanship? I call it an emotional spasm.”

Aneurin Bevan, shadow foreign secretary, 1959 Labour party conference
Bevan’s withering lines, warning the party against unilateral disarmament, illustrate the fact that we are not in a new place. In the face of a public, for whom two world wars were still a very recent memory, the party’s left had “gone off on one”, on defence and other matters – to be fair, a move largely nurtured by Bevan himself – with the result that Labour wandered in the wilderness for thirteen long years.

A similar effect took place in the 1980s under Michael Foot: seventeen more years. The party now teeters on the brink of a third, post-war wilderness period of comparable length.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ten hard truths for Labour

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths”, here are mine, as part of a short series at Labour Uncut:

1. The Labour Party has not merely just lost an election after five years of drift; it has been getting worse since. It has now fallen deep into an existential crisis of purpose, with a large portion of its membership worryingly in denial about what the British public will actually vote for.

2. The current leadership election is symptomatic of that crisis. Like in the early 80s with Healey and Benn, many in the party are no longer expecting to get the best candidate, merely looking to avoid a disastrous one.

3. For those who believe Liz Kendall was over-egging the pudding in saying that Labour has “no God-given right to exist”, and that it has earned a permanent place in the British Top Two of political parties, some reading about the Liberal Party in the 1920s is required.
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