Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

Why liberal Britain still gets Brexit wrong

First things first. I was a Remainer and I still am.
The EU referendum in June produced a decision which was irrational and reckless. It’s hardly an overstatement to say that the consequences will be felt for generations to come. And in the worst-case scenario, I wonder if historians will see the Brexit vote as a trigger which led to the ultimate demise of the whole European project. If so, they’ll be writing a history of deep economic recession and war.
Given that I feel so strongly about this, you might expect me to back wholeheartedly the renegades who are fighting tooth and nail for the pro-European cause. Cheering every mishap and fumble from the government in the hope that the whole absurd Brexit project collapses in on itself.
But I don’t. And the reason is quite simple. As well as being a strong supporter of Europe, I believe in social cohesion and public trust in the democratic process here in the UK. And I fear that both may come under threat as we move into 2017.
Let’s lo…

The view from the 66th floor will take your breath away

So, a week on, what do we know?
According to some eternal optimists, we’re seeing the sensible side of Donald Trump now.
In the campaign he was boastful, brash and bigoted – showboating to the crowds. Now, supposedly, we see his adorable, modest and vulnerable face, in which he compromises on his extremist pledges and is guided by wise counsel.
I’m reminded of another larger-than-life New York character – Ernie, the piano player in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.  With the spotlight on him and a mirror reflecting his face back to the crowd, he revels in showing off. But after the applause, he gives an implausibly humble bow.
As the narrator of the story, Holden Caulfield, remarks: ‘It was very phoney.’
Phoney is the perfect description of a man like Trump, who claims to live on the 66th floor of a 58-floor apartment building.
Who can tell exactly what the new President will do and what he won’t? He is capable of believing one thing on a Monday, reversing his opinion on a Tuesday…

When did the left forget that court judgments ARE political?

The world has generally gone fairly topsy-turvy over the past year or two. And now, in the latest bizarre twist, the UK’s left-leaning activists and liberal intellectuals have suddenly become the biggest cheerleaders for the British judiciary.
Yes, these paragons of the legal establishment – predominantly white, aged, privately educated, Oxbridge alumni – are now apparently the champions of the people who should be cheered from the rooftops.
Social media is awash with people defending the Brexit judges and despairing at anyone who doesn’t ‘understand’ their High Court judgment earlier in the week. How can we be so ignorant?  Aren’t British people familiar with their own constitution?
Of course, I found the various tabloid headlines lurid, objectionable and disturbing. The judges were merely doing their job and don’t deserve to be pilloried or exposed to abuse. I was even more disturbed by the rape and death threats received by Gina Miller, the figurehead of the group bringing the A…

Just how weird can the post-Brexit world get?

British politics has surely never been such an extraordinary mess in the course of modern history. And Brexit is right at the heart of it all.
The referendum on 23rd June was of course a symbol of the chaos we were already in, but also a harbinger of calamities yet to come.
And if you want to see in microcosm how shockingly weird the landscape is now, pay a visit to Richmond Park constituency in south-west London. This highly affluent seat elected the even more affluent Zac Goldsmith to represent it in 2015, with a phenomenal majority over the shattered Lib Dems.
I actually had to double check the figures, because although I knew he’d won well, I’d forgotten that Goldsmith clocked up a staggering majority of 25,000 in an area previously held by Jenny Tonge and Susan Kramer.
Zac is forcing a by-election and standing as an independent in protest at the expansion of Heathrow Airport – a position no doubt supported by the majority of Richmond residents, who live right under the flightpath a…

Michelle Obama spoke for decency. Three stories remind us how far America has to travel.

Michelle Obama’s speech this week was extraordinary in both its content and delivery. As many have observed, she is a highly credible presidential candidate herself and brought to the campaign a raw emotional blast against the abhorrent sexism and vulgarity of Donald Trump.
In a sense, the First Lady was doing what Clinton can’t. With just a few short weeks until the election, Hillary cannot afford to be labelled unfairly as a harridan or a man-hater.  She is conscious of all the baggage about Bill, which her opponent is happy to dredge up at every opportunity. So while she agrees with everything that was said this week by Mrs Obama, she needed someone else to say it.
The speech was about sexism and the treatment of women. It will rightly be remembered long after this tawdry and tortuous campaign season is over. But there’s another shadow that hangs over this election, as we all know. And that is the stirring of ugly racist sentiment – not just by Trump himself, but by a coterie of …

After more than 30 years, I leave Labour at 11.46am tomorrow.

Barring some kind of minor miracle - on a par perhaps with CETI announcing first contact with the Vulcans or the Great British Bake Off returning to the BBC – Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected on Saturday as Leader of the Labour Party.
The announcement is due at around 11.45 am.
So after three decades or so of membership, my association with the party will end at 11.46.
Yes, that’s all folks. 
I’m afraid I really do mean it this time. 
Party card in the shredder.  Standing order cancelled. 
It’s goodnight from me. And it’s goodnight Vienna from Labour. 
I threatened to quit when the Jezster was first elected, but people persuaded me to stay on in the hope that the situation could be rescued.  I wanted to go when Angela Eagle was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Owen Smith, but was told I couldn’t desert at such a critical moment and should rally behind the PLP’s chosen challenger.
Stay and fight, my friends say.  But over what?  The burnt-out shell of a 116-year-old party whic…

Corbyn's blamestream about the mainstream media

Those on the fringes of political life always need a scapegoat when the electorate fails to embrace their utopian or dystopian visions of how society should develop.
On the far right, these scapegoats tend to be Jews, the liberal establishment and the press. On the far left, they tend to be Zionists, the right-wing establishment and the press.
Seeing a pattern here?
Yes, there is an almost complete symmetry across the spectrum.
It’s become even more marked now with obsession among social media conspiracy merchants with the supposed lies and distortion of the ‘mainstream media’ or ‘MSM’.
Back in the 1980s, the loony left railed against the ‘Tory press’ – a choice of enemy that right-wingers found hard to embrace, for fairly obvious reasons.  But now the focus of ire is shared and internationalised with fellow fanatics on the ropey right. Trump supporters across the Atlantic and Le Pen followers across the channel join Corbynistas in a fanatical dislike of all regular newspapers, ma…

Jez and Trump have more in common than you can ever imagine

So it’s all over, bar the enthusiastic shouting of Corbyn supporters towards the end of September.
We can wait for the fat lady to sing, but let’s not kid ourselves that her tune is going to sound anything other than the death of the Labour Party.
The latest YouGov polling gives Corbyn a massive lead over his challenger Owen Smith. And YouGov has a pretty good track record in internal party elections. The figures may be arguable, but I fear the result isn’t.
When you read the small print of the survey, there are some truly astonishing things to take on board. Smith, for instance, is ahead by a large margin among long-standing members. But Corbyn is the choice of the people who’ve flooded in since September 2015, specifically to support him.
This is political contest as game show.
The red team tries to sign up more people than the pink team. And the pink team tries to confuse existing red team members by pretending that pink is really red. As a result, some contestants may run over …

Was New Labour really 'neo-liberal'?

If we created one of those ever-fashionable ‘word clouds’ from the posts of Corbynistas on social media, two phrases would probably appear larger and bolder than many of the others. One would be ‘neo-liberal’ and the other would be ‘MSM’ – their short-hand for what they describe as ‘mainstream media’.
The first of these two terms does have a meaning, but one which has become increasingly debased through misuse. The second is vacuous and means nothing at all unless you’re a fully-fledged conspiracy theorist.  So let’s leave the MSM just for the moment – I’ll maybe return to it another post – and focus instead on this idea of neo-liberalism.
Activist and Guardian journalist George Monbiot has described it is an ‘ideology that dominates our lives’ and says it ‘redefines citizens as consumers’. In the neo-liberal world, he argues, ‘tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised’. 
I don’t particularly disagree with his definition and interpretation.
The ‘n…

Back to the Future: Part Two

In the second section of my two-part blog, I trace the origins of Corbyn’s political antics today right back to their source: the 1980s.
As a teenager back in 1985, I spent a summer as a volunteer, helping to organise a peace camp in the unlikely setting of Clapham Common, south London. It was a project of Youth CND and the idea was to bring together a team of activists, who would then fan out around the local area and get involved in various small-scale demonstrations and meetings.
The bizarre plan was all made possible by the agreement of Lambeth Council, which consented to the erection of what must have been dozens of tents and a fairly sizeable marquee for the best part of a week.  I remember the Mayor rolling up in a posh car and the Leader of Lambeth – one ‘Red’ Ted Knight – hosting a reception for us at which he made a speech about the importance of ‘fighting for peace’.
No doubt many local residents would have felt Lambeth’s time, money and resources might have been better sp…

Corbynistas claim the 1940s as their own. Think instead of the 1980s.

What a fool I’ve been.
I seem to have spent a fair proportion of the past year debating with supporters of Jeremy Corbyn online.
I know.
It’s time I’ll never get back. But because I care about the Labour Party, I just can’t help myself.
As I’ve said in previous posts, the Corbynistas are the oddest collection of people, who defend their cause with a religious fervour. They are frequently bombastic and blinkered, often rude and rambunctious and, very occasionally, soppy and sentimental.
But sadly, one fairly common trait is a very muddled sense of history.
Many people who spent recent years slagging off the Labour Party are now members of it and claiming disingenuously to have its best interests at heart. And quite a few don’t really seem to know very much about previous Labour governments.
We realise, of course, that the name Blair is synonymous from their point of view with ‘war criminal’. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the Iraq issue here. Chilcot – remember him? – knoc…