Friday, 23 September 2016

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 which has been brought to ruin over a period of just 16 months?

Many MPs are tribally loyal to Labour and I respect that. But the Labour to which they owe their loyalty has gone.  The decision to elect Jeremy Corbyn for a second time is so profoundly stupid and destructive that it shows the membership has absolutely no desire to obtain power. The 1980s loony left haven’t just taken over the proverbial asylum. They’ve locked up the orderlies and are changing the menu in the refectory.

The people who support the veteran MP for Islington North are either cynical ultra-leftists who have no interest in Labour’s representation in Parliament or they are people sanctimoniously wedded to the idea that permanent opposition is a price worth paying for a range of abstract principles.

Much has been made of the poor campaigns of Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall last year. These mainstream politicians were criticised for offering ‘more of the same’ or ‘Tory Lite’.  The reality is that they provided intelligent and nuanced responses to the challenges of the modern world. It was just that the members – many of whom signed up specifically to vote for Corbyn while the election process was under way – wanted simplistic slogans instead. 

In that respect, Ed Balls was absolutely right to say this week that there is a common thread between Corbyn and Trump and populist movements of the far right.  They all scream about the ills of modern society with no coherent idea of how to address them. They all believe that globalisation can somehow be wished away. And they have no end of scapegoats for poor performance – the most notable being the much-derided ‘mainstream media’.

Here’s my prediction for what happens if, as expected, the sainted JC is anointed once more.

There will be crowing and gloating and nastiness in the Labour conference hall and in the dark corners of the web.  Corbyn and his pal Mao-Donnell will no doubt make conciliatory noises while their supporters run amok, targeting ‘treacherous’ Labour MPs who dared to question his leadership and will start working towards their de-selection. They will approach the task with all the charm, subtlety and grace that you’d expect of an outing of the Momentum Kids’ Club. Make that the Momentum Kids’ Club fuelled by illicitly smuggled sugar-laden biscuits, strictly prohibited by the Dear Leader.

So my message to Labour MPs is this: do not humiliate yourselves. You represent the views of millions of voters who hope for the return of a moderate progressive government.

Jeremy Corbyn represents supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and claims a popular mantle in the same way the Pope can point to adoring crowds in St Peter’s Square of a Sunday.

Don’t go back to his shadow cabinet with your tail between your legs. That’s what he wants you to do and it consolidates his power.

Don’t tell the media that we can all get along again. That’s what he wants you to say and it creates an illusion that he is somehow credible. He’s not.

The time has come for a new centre-left party. 

Of course, it will be small at first, but it will grow.

The argument that it will hand the Tories the next election is neither here nor there.  As things stand, the Tories are pretty much guaranteed to win the next election anyway.

There’s no doubt that the formation of a new party flies in the face of the first-past-the-post electoral system. But people don’t get divorced because they imagine it’s a good idea in principle. They do it because they can no longer live together. They do it because there is absolutely no alternative option.

Most importantly, the public deserves a real choice in the next election. In a modern, healthy democracy there needs to be a voice of moderation which sits somewhere between the ‘hard’ Brexiters and grammar school pushers on the one hand, and the old-style left-wing headbangers on the other.

I’m sad as I write this, because I devoted a great part of my late teens, twenties and early thirties to the party. I served as the Labour General Secretary of the London NUS in the late 80s. I chaired Frank Dobson’s constituency Labour Party in the early to mid-90s. I went on to stand in two parliamentary elections and have done more than my fair share of knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and phoning potential voters.

I never thought I would one day feel so out of place in the party that I would be forced to leave. But that day has come.

It would be dishonest to pretend that I could ever ask people to vote for Corbyn and McDonnell.  I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them myself. In fact, for the first time in my life, I may be unable to vote for any party in the next general election.  That’s not just a tragedy for Labour. It’s a terrible reflection on the state of British political life. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

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, magazines, radio stations and TV channels.  

If we look, just for the moment, at Jez’s Facebook and Twitter fanatics in the UK, it’s important to stress that their hitlist of condemned media outlets goes way beyond the usual suspects. It’s not just the Murdoch-owned Sun, or the right-wing Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph

The BBC?  Please don’t insult their intelligence.  Hopelessly biased against Corbyn.

A brainy and feisty journalist, such as Laura Kuenssberg?  She should be sacked.

The left-leaning Mirror and Guardian?  Subsumed into the campaign of vitriol against the Labour Leader who amassed the biggest ‘mandate’ in history.

In fact, anything written by a proper journalist, who is paid a salary by a media outlet with corporate owners or advertisers, is condemned.

Any article or media interview critical of the Jezuits’ guru – or perceived to undermine his position as Leader of the Labour Party – will immediately be dismissed if it is published or broadcast via the MSM. The medium disqualifies the source and the message from getting any kind of hearing.

The psychological and political thought process here – which has all the trappings of a religion - goes something like this:

The MSM has an agenda, which is to undermine and destroy Corbyn, because powerful vested interests are frightened of what he represents.

Ordinary people have been ‘brainwashed’ by the MSM to accept a ‘neo-liberal’ ideology.

More and more people have ‘awakened’ from their capitalist-induced slumber and are now challenging the power of the MSM.

They share information on their own networks and websites, which are far more reliable because they aren’t tainted by the vested interests of the MSM.

These are the kind of garbled ramblings of the darker edge of the web, where people have for many years debated the influence of lizards over political and economic life, while pausing very occasionally to consider whether the Moon landings were faked.

But the ubiquity and pervasiveness of this crackpot conspiracy culture forces us to address some of their points.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight. No vested interests are frightened of Corbyn.

Why?  Because he is completely incompetent and has a popularity rating of somewhere between minus 30 and minus 40 in the polls. He is never going to be Prime Minister of the UK or lead a government.

The vested interests would be far more frightened of a competent Labour Leader who actually had a chance of achieving power.

What the media does is ask Corbyn difficult questions, which he often can’t answer. And they poke fun at him, because the idea of a 1980s socialist with a penchant for jam-making and relaxation on the allotment is intrinsically funny. (Particularly when you couple it with the notion that he has somehow blagged his way into becoming leader of a major political party.)

The whole ‘brainwashing’ argument is probably expressed more elegantly in academic circles than by Corbynistas online.  Noam Chomsky, for instance, bears a great deal of responsibility for fuelling the whole MSM obsession and, of course, there is a perfectly legitimate debate to be had over the way in which media helps to construct social , cultural and political norms. It is doubtful, however, that every person who uses the term ‘MSM’ online is intimately familiar with the intellectual discourse that surrounds it. 

To most Jez fans, the position is clear.  The people – or, God help us, the sheeple – have been fed a diet of poison by the media, which has affected their ability to think rationally and embrace socialism. Even though a return to nationalisation, the eradication of nuclear weapons and the launch of women-only train carriages would clearly be in the proletariat’s best interests, they stubbornly refuse to see it.

Strangely, the supporters of Corbyn are unaffected by the magical rays beamed into people’s homes and on to their tablets and mobiles. With their razor-sharp intellect and incisive socialist analysis, they have erected a force field around themselves to protect themselves from such false consciousness and have no truck with any of the ‘lamestream’ media messages.

So where do the Corbynistas get their impartial news from, then?  The BBC is banned. Fox is shot. There’s a complete embargo on the MSM.  So what do they do? They go to cranky websites and dubious social media sources, which have an agenda every bit as obvious as that of newspaper proprietors. They share poorly-spelt and garishly-designed memes as if they have been created as handy educational tools for an infant school. By the pupils.

The Canary is a favourite of the Corbyn fans and, believe me, it is strictly for the birds. Breathless would-be newshounds serve up a stories which are purely designed to reinforce the existing viewpoints of the Alt Left brigade. Their stock-in-trade is taking something fairly obvious – far-left activists being suspended from Labour, for instance – and dressing it up as if it’s some kind of revelation or scoop. (When their hacks explain internal Labour politics, I often find reads as if it’s written for people who have only got involved in the past year. By people who learnt about it themselves six months earlier.)

But what’s this I see on The Canary?

It couldn’t be, could it? An advertisement?

For something that I might actually be interested in? A targeted ad on the right-hand side on the page?

How long before The Canary itself is part of the MSM?

The Huffington Post started out as a blog, after all. Perez Hilton used to be a one-man band, rather than a one-off brand.

If enough of us started to sift through the droppings from the Canary cage, would that signal that it was now ‘mainstream’?

One of the profound weaknesses of the MSM argument is that we now actually live in a world of millions of media sources. In the minds of the Corbynistas, these may be sifted neatly into ‘mainstream’ and alternative/underground. But the dividing line is not exactly neat and tidy.

And then it’s worth noting a splendid irony too.

Mainstream media seems just fine for the Corbynistas when it’s the MSM of, say, Russia or Iran.  Jeremy Corbyn was happy to present tedious shows on a channel sponsored by the regime in Tehran, while RT – widely viewed as a propaganda tool for the Kremlin – is often referenced in social media debates.  But RT (originally styled as Russia Today) is a well-funded channel with foreign bureaux, satellite links, anchors in comfy Moscow studios and plenty of advertising.

Isn’t it time for the Jezuits to be honest? Any media outlet which asks difficult questions of the saintly Jez is dismissed as ‘mainstream’. And any mainstream channel which gives him an easy ride is provided with some kind of Papal dispensation. 



Thursday, 1 September 2016

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 to the wrong side of the political assault course. 

Both the teams have a joker to play. Unfortunately, in each case, it happens to be their respective candidate.

Of course, it’s relatively easy for Corbynistas to round up the flotsam and jetsam of the British left with a rallying cry of ‘vote for Jez’. Rather less easy for sensible types to persuade their friends to sign up for Smith. After all, who wants to buy a ticket to board the Titanic when the iceberg has been sighted and you’ve already done some back-of-an-envelope calculations on the life-boat situation?

There’s another snippet from the YouGov poll worth reflecting on. A substantial minority of people voting for Corbyn admit that he is not competent.

Whoa!

Hold your horses just a second. Let’s spell that out in S L O W motion.

Around 40% of the people who say they’re voting for Jezza know him to be incompetent, but are voting for him anyway.

This is beyond crazy.

Support for the man is tribal, irrational and doing irreparable damage, not only to the Labour Party but also to the overall health of British democracy. And, no, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Let’s face it.  If there is no effective opposition in a two-party system, you are left with a one-party system.

The more the madness continues, the more parallels I see with the Trump phenomenon in the United States.  Many supporters of the US presidential hopeful – when confronted by their candidate’s gaffes, extremist opinions and lack of grasp of reality – simply shrug their shoulders. They’re going to vote for the guy anyway.

Why?

Because he’s Trump.

And for Trump, read Jez. While as personalities and politicians, they may well be poles apart, their supporters adhere to the same essential principles:

Don’t trust the media. They’re out to get us.

Don’t worry that the political establishment is against us. They would be.

Don’t worry that we have no coherent programme. We know what we’re against and that’s all that matters.

Don’t let them attack our man. He is a visionary and we are going to vote for him anyway.

Jez and Trump are insurgents who prosper from the alienation and anomie created by globalisation. Bizarrely, they have much more in common than you could ever imagine, including an irrational loyalist fan base, very thick skins and a complete lack of concern for what people think of them. Not to mention a love of merchandise.

But Jez is the poor relation.

He is dime-store Trump without the charisma, without the money, without the popular support.  

Where are we headed? It’s difficult at the moment to tell. British and American politics are fracturing left and right in unpredictable and dangerous ways.

Ed Balls and Liz Kendall – representatives of the Brownite and Blairite wings of New Labour respectively – have both said that moderates must stay and fight after a second Corbyn victory. But their voices will be swamped, Jez’s position entrenched and then reprisals will quickly ensue.

The only answer will be creation of a new, credible centre-left party. More on that soon.