Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Tories have run out of ideas. And the UK is running out of road.

There is a sense of real spiralling decline about British politics right now. The Tories appear to be in full kamikaze mode. Their plane has lost an engine and the last drops of fuel are being siphoned out of their depleted policy tank. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that the average age of the party member is now 71. Some observers claimed this was fake news, but it seemed for a brief moment all too plausible.

Freezing student loans or offering more money for people to buy their own homes just aren’t dramatic enough gestures for the scale of resentment. When you’re a teacher or doctor, aged 35, and you’re sharing a room in a communal house in London, you might indeed feel you were being treated with contempt.

The Tories have no big ideas. Theresa May spouts half-hearted platitudes. And her leadership rivals look woeful. The only remotely credible candidates currently have long odds at the bookies. Sajid Javid, for example. Or the talented Ruth Davidson, who can’t currently compete because of the fact she doesn’t represent a Westminster seat.

The Conservative collapse is a big challenge to the so-called Centrist Dads. We CDs are ridiculed by Corbynistas as the people who despair of the Tories and Brexit, but have been hostile over the past two years to Jeremy Corbyn. I did indeed vote Lib Dem in the 2017 election, albeit in a constituency where my Labour vote has previously helped the Tory win. For the first time in my life, I made the ‘tactical’ leap, because the alternative was going to be a pathetic abstention.

Now, when I survey the political scene, an obvious truth is staring me in the face. My ranting about Jez is really not going to help anyone. I have been negative and angry for a couple of years and it’s unproductive – both at a personal and political level.

As the Tory conference unfolds, it’s time to state the obvious. People are turning to Corbyn because they are getting increasingly frustrated and desperate. And he represents some kind of alternative to the status quo.

Jez, for all his faults and profoundly unsavoury history, is someone who rocks the boat and offers hope to people who feel that the current economic system gives them little. While it’s clearly fanciful to believe there’s some kind of intellectual renaissance on the left (as claimed here in a baffling FT article) or that Corbyn can deliver on his overblown promises, I accept that it matters not one jot right now.

We are heading for a period of tumultuous change and uncertainty. Almost anything can happen. The Tories might pull themselves together, even though they show little sign of it now. If they dumped May and plumped for a leader from outside the obvious group of candidates, I think Corbyn might have good reason to be unnerved. But any change of leadership would need to be accompanied by a new sense of direction and policy definition. Are they really up to the challenge?

If Corbyn’s dream came true and the Tory government collapsed, forcing an election, it seems entirely possible that he could now win – something I admit I never believed I would ever write.

Nevertheless, the campaign would be far more difficult for him this time, as his fence-sitting over Brexit would no longer wash. The Remain voters who flocked to him in June would need to know for certain that he was committed to the idea of a soft Brexit at the very least. And that leaves him vulnerable in the pro-Leave Labour heartlands. 

So we drift towards disaster with the divided and incompetent Tories. Or we embrace, by default, a Labour Party in the hands of hard-left ideologues. We career towards hard Brexit and long-term economic decline or we do our best to stay in the single market and accept freedom of movement, provoking a cultural and political backlash from outraged Leave voters

I’ve followed British politics in depth since my early teens, way back at the start of the 1980s. For the best part of 20 years, I was engaged as an activist and candidate. Never have I felt such a sense of profound unease about what’s to come. I glimpse an all-consuming cultural war looming with the nation divided along a variety of fault lines: rich and poor; old and young; urban and provincial; left and right.

The next year will be critical and may give us greater clarity over what lies ahead. But unpredictable events abroad add another dimension to our current woes. Not least the possibility of war between the United States and North Korea, which is likely to prove the biggest conflict in half a century and have a huge impact on the global economy, as South Korea, Japan and China would soon be directly involved.

As the world polarises and extremes assert themselves, history tells us that heartache will follow. Tomorrow will offer little refuge for a Centrist Dad.


Monday, 25 September 2017

The Brexit blag? Jez is already squealing.

If you were involved in planning, say, the next Great Train Robbery, Jeremy Corbyn would be the last person you’d ever want on the team. The Absolute Boy just cannot keep his mouth shut or remember what he’s supposed to say.

Note his interview on the eve of the Labour Party conference in which he started musing about the Single Market.

“We need to look very carefully at the terms of any trade relationship, because at the moment we are part of the single market, obviously,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. ‘That has restrictions on state aid and state spending. That has pressures on it, through the European Union, to privatise rail, for example, and other services. I think we have to be quite careful about the powers we need as national governments.’

You can imagine Keir Starmer slowly and methodically punching a pillar in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Brighton as he heard the Jezster open his mouth.

Corybn is simply revealing what we have known about him since time immemorial. He hates the European Union and sees it as a conspiracy of capital to prevent the implementation of a socialist programme of government.

The trouble is he can’t remember that he’s supposed to be presenting an alternative face in the autumn of 2017.

The gang sat him down and told him that Labour is now backing the single market and customs union for a transitional period.  They sold this change of direction on the basis that it might help embarrass the Tories and win him votes in the House of Commons.

Perhaps when that little plan didn’t work out, Jez thought the game was over and he didn’t have to play any more? 

Perhaps he forgot that the gang also whispered this might be prelude to a more fundamental shift which could lead to Labour embracing the single market long term.

But before you know it, the allotment king is blabbing his mouth off and sends Labour right back to square one. They look like a party that has no interest in saving the UK from the consequences of hard Brexit. Indeed, you get the sense that Corbyn’s supposed backing for the EU in last year’s referendum was a complete charade. If you don’t like the idea of the single market and its restrictions, how could you back the European institution even at a lacklustre 7/10?

His official fan club Momentum encouraged delegates to avoid any debate over Brexit that would lead to a vote. No sense of irony in the fact that these leftists always accused Blair of stifling debate and denying conference delegates the chance to have their say.

A document circulated at the conference describing any formal discussion as a ‘time-consuming cul-de-sac’. Actually, that’s a description of Brexit itself. And that’s why it needed to be debated as a matter of urgency.

When the Corbynistas crow about their election victory three months ago (which perplexingly left them 60-odd seats short of a majority), they assume that the coalition of voters they assembled will be there again for them next time. All they need to do is add to it. My suggestion is that they will lose the support of many young people who mistakenly believed that Labour would act as some kind of break on Brexit, as well as a proportion of long-term Labour voters who think the same.

Remember, when you put together a gang attempting one of the biggest-ever blags committed in British electoral history, you need to choose your members carefully. Jez is already singing like a canary. Or should that be The Canary?


Friday, 22 September 2017

It's global politics and economics that drive the Uber debate

The storm over London's Uber ban sits right at the very heart of the debate about modern economic and political life. When the app's disruptive power transformed the way in which many people travel around the city, it threw up a whole host of issues.

There's the impact on traditional black cabs and the minicab trade, along with the claim that the company spends incredible sums of money subsidising fares in a way that's designed to eliminate competition. There's the employment status of the Uber drivers, which is subject to ongoing legal dispute.  And then, of course, there are the tax arrangements of the company itself.

Undoubtedly the most controversial issue of all was the accusation that Uber fails to vet its drivers properly and has been selective in the crimes that it has chosen to report to the police.

Uber doesn't see its role as one of policeman. It doesn't even consider the drivers to be its employees. If it did, there would immediately be all kinds of implications in relation to tax and benefits which start to destroy the whole model of the free-wheeling San Francisco firm.

And behind all of these really tricky questions, there is an even more fundamental one. How far can government regulate multinational corporations? While the Mayor of London undoubtedly wields considerable power, does it compare to that of a corporation which generates billions of dollars of revenue every quarter (albeit at a considerable loss)?

Uber, in many respects, is an archetype of the modern corporate era. It brings convenience, makes use of innovative technology and delivers cheaper fares, but all the benefits come at a cost.

That cost is arguably felt by the firm's drivers, who may end up working long hours for little recompense, without the protections of employment law. It's felt by competitors, who see themselves at the mercy of a predatory behemoth. And it's felt by society, if the inadequate vetting of drivers has indeed led to a disproportionate level of criminality.

So this is a story for our times about the so-called 'gig' economy, the power of multinational corporations and the expectations of taxi users - particularly those under the age of 35 - of instant gratification by mobile phone.

What's interesting at a political level is that Labour is potentially picking a fight with the young crowd that embraced the party in the June 2017 general election. Because if there's one thing that goes along with singing 'Ooh Jeremy Corbyn' at a music festival, it's an Uber on the journey home.

The attitude of the Corbyn cult to firms such as Uber is predictable. Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey is on record as saying that she feels it's 'morally wrong' to use the service. (We can only presume she never receives a package from Amazon or orders a pizza.)

But the ban has been instituted by Sadiq Khan, a man so unpopular with the Corbyn wing of the Labour Party that he's struggled to get a speaking slot at this year's conference. It also seems to be supported by MPs from the moderate wing of the Party, such as Wes Streeting. Can these sensible politicians really be as out of touch with London sentiment as the far-left Labour leadership which they privately (and sometimes publicly) decry?

My hunch - and I'll be interested to see whether it's borne out by polling research - is that the ban will actually be more popular with Tory voters, who now tend to be older and romanticise the past, while bemusing the younger generation that has been increasingly drawn to Labour.

We live in a society which expresses increasing disquiet about the consequences of capitalism, while embracing all the trappings provided by the very system it condemns. If you want to protest against Apple or Facebook, no one seems to think that sharing a meme on your iPhone is an inappropriate or even remotely ironic way of doing it.

Uber will fight TfL in court over the ban, but the bigger battle will be for public opinion. Perhaps that's where they already have the edge.




I was sad when I quit Labour a year ago. Now, I feel a sense of relief.

What motivates decent people to stay as members of the Labour Party?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering intensely over the past year, which I’ve spent in self-imposed exile. I resigned the moment Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as leader after the contest with Owen Smith.

When I quit, it was with a very heavy heart.

As far back as the late 1980s, I’d served as Labour General Secretary of the London NUS. By the early 90s, I was chairing Frank Dobson’s constituency party in inner London. On two occasions, I stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate.

If you make that kind of commitment, you assume it’s a relationship that will last for life. And even though I hadn’t been an activist in recent years, it never occurred to me that I’d be forced to rip up my party card. 

Today, as Labour’s 2017 conference looms, I wonder how anyone with a moderate viewpoint can kid themselves the party is even worth rescuing.

One group of centre-ground survivors falls into the category of the bloody minded. Like me, they remember the battles of the 1980s and their attitude might best be summed up as follows: we beat the bastards once and we can beat them again.

They detest Corbyn and what he represents, but they’re damned if he will rob them of the party they love or lead Labour any further up a blind alley.

These stalwarts get full marks for commitment and stamina, but don’t score highly for political analysis.

Labour is now more profoundly and completely lost than it was at any point in the 1980s. The mass membership supports Corbyn and he has seized control of much of the party machine. (Remember, Tony Benn never even managed to get elected as Deputy Leader 35 years ago. The Trotskyists controlled particular councils and constituencies and trade union branches, but they had no ideological hegemony over the wider movement.)

This group of tough-talking centrists believes it can win back the Labour Party, but is in complete denial about quite how bad things really are.

There’s a second group of moderates which is still in the party too. Its members don’t have the same level of ideological commitment as the first, but they’re broadly centre ground and were very suspicious of Corbyn – mainly because they believed he could never win an election.

The result of the June 2017 poll has completely bamboozled them.

When they saw that Labour achieved 40%, they were delighted. They felt embarrassed they had been ‘proved wrong’ about the Labour Leader and now have a sense of renewed optimism. Perhaps they had misjudged the public mood? Maybe the veteran socialist can triumph after all? 

The most important thing now, in the eyes of this group, is unity.

‘I may not like Corbyn,’ they say to themselves, ‘but I’d better shut up, as I predicted a catastrophic defeat in the election and it never happened. And the most important thing now, surely, is to get rid of this terrible Tory government.’

It sounds superficially reasonable, but it’s based on a completely insupportable assumption: that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell would be a positive thing for the UK. Naively, this group believes that a Labour government – any Labour government – must automatically be better than a Tory one.

I can only state categorically that I no longer believe this to be true.

Looking at the tragedy of the British political scene today, I see a right-wing government which is divisive, ideologically blinkered and utterly incompetent, facing a left-wing mirror image. The existence of the former is, of course, a prerequisite for the strength of the latter.

Never in modern history has there simultaneously been a government so ill-equipped for the challenges it faces and an opposition so ill-prepared to assume its mantle.

If the likes of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and David Davis give you the heebie-jeebies, I present Corbyn, McDonnell, Thornberry and Abbott. But, of course, we’re not even scratching the surface here. The true agenda of the Corbynite left isn’t revealed in published manifestos or in public statements of those who aspire to hold the highest offices of state.

We see the real face of Corbyn’s Britain in the absurd and provocative sectarianism of more junior ministers such as Richard Burgon and Chris Williamson.

We see it in the pronouncements of backbencher Laura Pidcock, who decrees it unacceptable for people to be friendly with Tories.

We see it in the ideological war of attrition fought by Jezuit cheerleaders such as Aaron Bastani, Matt Zarb-Cousins and Peter Stevanovic, as well as the vitriolic and comical alt-news outlets such as The Canary and Skwawkbox.

We see it in the relentless denunciations and attacks on moderate Labour politicians such as Jess Phillips, Sadiq Khan and Mike Gapes.

We see it in the filthy anti-semitic and conspiracy-laden forums online, populated by fans of the Dear Leader.

Corbynism is a dangerous cult of personality, glued together by people who are cynical, extreme and fundamentalist.  Absolutely no good will come of it, either for the Labour Party or the wider UK.

Momentum will not rest until it has effectively taken this once great party of Attlee, Wilson and Blair and turned it into a Syriza or a Podemos. Except it’s a Syriza without the swagger, good looks or intellectual coherence of its Greek inspiration. It’s a Poundland Podemos that doesn’t have the courage to stand on its own two feet and survives by parasitically feeding off the Labour brand and garnering votes from long-standing party supporters.

The UK is approaching a period of great peril.

There is a ruling party which is reeling from an electoral meltdown and a challenge of Brexit negotiations it simply cannot meet. The Tories might end up sacking May and replacing her with somebody competent, which would cook Jez’s political goose once and for all. But we can’t pretend that’s the only potential outcome.

Brexit may well hit a brick wall. The Tories could descend into civil war. And the absence of any sensible alternative might conceivably lead to a Corbyn government. It’s not something I would ever have predicted in the past, but politics has become mighty difficult to read in an age of economic turmoil, sickening populism and precarious international relations.

The need for a new centre-left party has never been more striking or desperate. If the public were given this option, Corbyn’s poll ratings would rapidly decline. Think, for instance, how the SDP forced Labour back into the mainstream in 1980s.

The only reason for objecting to this strategy is the nature of the first-past-the-post political system and the belief that any Labour government – however ideological, extreme and incompetent – is better than the Tories.

After a year outside the party, I feel a great sense of relief that I’m no longer trapped into this sense of tribal loyalty. The country, after all, deserves so much better than choice currently on offer.



Monday, 4 September 2017

The mirror images of Trump and Corbyn

A number of people have pointed out the similarities between the populist movements of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn. Although from opposite sides of the political divide, the two leaders both command cheering crowds of adoring fans and enjoy the vociferous backing of online trolls, who take no prisoners in defence of their cause.

Tellingly, Jez and Trump share a disdain for the ‘establishment’, as embodied in the media and the mainstream political elite. Their political supporters patronise partisan alt-news websites and share a hatred of what they see as any kind of official news narrative.  Crackpot conspiracies and visceral distrust are at the heart of both political movements.

The American President and British Labour Leader also share strong misgivings about multinational institutions such as NATO, the EU and the World Trade Organization. They are instinctively protectionist, opposed to globalisation and share an illusion that jobs in traditional industries such as coal mining and steel can be revived.

Trump took over the Republican base and caused untold anxiety for mainstream GOP politicians. Initially they opposed him vehemently, until he proved that his populism could win votes. Then, they decided he was absolutely terrific. There was no better President than him.

Corbyn – with the help of his shadow party Momentum – has largely completed a takeover of Labour. The party’s lawmakers used his abysmal poll ratings to launch a campaign to unseat him in 2016, but it failed. To their horror, he managed to build an unlikely coalition in the June 2017 general election, which significantly increased Labour’s share of the popular vote, while leaving the party out of power.

Since then, the MPs have decided – publicly at least – that ‘Jeremy’ is a success, for fear of alienating the activists in the constituency parties who are keen to deselect them. (This strategy of appeasement is, of course, doomed to failure, but like rabbits caught in the headlines of a juggernaut, they are frozen in fear and can’t think of anything else to do.)

A further disturbing similarity between Trump supporters and Jezuits is their desire to rewrite history.

Corbyn fans believe that in the late 1970s, a model of social democracy was replaced by something called ‘neo-liberalism’ – a philosophy supposedly shared by such unlikely bedfellows such as Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown. Rather than the most successful Labour Leader of all time, Tony Blair is presented at best as a failure and at worst as a ‘war criminal’.

Trump fans, meanwhile, argue that America’s power and prestige has been undermined by ‘liberalism’ and that the USA needs to be reclaimed from its recent past. For them, Obama is the hate figure, as they detest the intellectualism, moderation and tolerance he represented.

It’s important to bear in mind that these factors alone – the trolling, condemnation of bona fide media and the rewriting of history – are enough for us to conclude that the Trump and Corbyn phenomena are both equally unhealthy and profoundly undermining to democracy.

But what about the Donald and Jez as individuals?

Here, there are some very marked differences.

The 45th President of the USA is, of course, no stranger to personal scandal.  Whether it’s the collapse of Trump University or the self-avowed tendency to grope women, his behaviour generally seems repulsive and reprehensible. 

Corbyn is clearly honest financially, respectful in his personal dealings and therefore free of scandal beyond the rather sensational claims of an unofficial biographer.

Trump shoots from the hip and says the first thing that comes into his head.  Corbyn’s responses, on the other hand, are pre-prepared and learnt by rote.

The most profound difference between the two men, however, is to do with their predictability. They sit at absolute extremes of a spectrum – both equally dangerous.

Trump is a man whose behaviour seems entirely erratic. One day, he threatens war against North Korea. The next day, he seems keen to foster dialogue. He’ll sit down with Kim Jong Un on a Tuesday, but blow him apart on a Thursday.

Disastrous comments about Charlottesville are countermanded by a considered statement, prepared by spin doctors. A day later, 45 reverts to type and starts mouthing off again.

He is as consistent as his last 140-character tweet. No way of knowing what he will do or say next.

Jez, on the other hand, is so predictable that no enemy would be in any doubt about his intention.

He would never commit British troops to any military action anywhere at any time, for example. We know this to be true, as he has never supported any previous military action – even when paramilitaries were conducting ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe.

This means that whatever the situation, however grievous the threat, a despot or terrorist group would be confident that Corbyn’s solution would be to sit down for a chat.

And what about domestic politics? Corbyn, if challenged, would support pretty much any strike or industrial action. His modus operandi is to assume that workers have a genuine grievance and that employers are always exploitative and greedy.

So when ASLEF ludicrously threatens strike action over technology that would check whether tram drivers in London are in danger of falling asleep, would Corbyn condemn the rail union? Would he hell. The best you’d get would, once again, be some mealy-mouthed formulation about sitting down and talking.

He is a guy who is consistent to a fault, although he’s usually consistently wrong.

So which do we prefer? A leader whose brain fires randomly, leaving us at the mercy of his moods, tantrums and political position of the hour? Or a leader whose brain doesn’t really fire at all, responding with trite platitudes or pre-rehearsed rhetoric first delivered circa 1980?

Both Trump and Corbyn are completely ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the modern world. Entirely different personalities, but leading politics down the same depressing and terrifying road.




Friday, 18 August 2017

The dual spectres that haunt fans of Jeremy Corbyn

Two things scare supporters of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn more than anything else.

The first is that their guru will be found out. That a penny will drop among voters – particularly the first-timers who came out in June – that he is maybe not the man they imagined him to be. The second is that a new centre-ground politics will emerge to fill the void now vacated by Labour and that the electorate may, by the time of the next election, have a better choice than May and Jez.

Both scenarios are absolutely devastating for the hard-left project and they know it. This is why they are fighting such a vicious rearguard action in the media against their critics.

One of fascinating things for someone my age about the general election two months ago was the fact that Corbyn’s history counted for nothing. This was a man whose links with extremists repulse many people over the age of, say, 45. But to a younger generation, who have no real memory of the IRA bombing campaign or the antics of the ‘loony left’ in the 1980s, his track record seemed fairly irrelevant.

Many Labour activists and politicians – myself included – misjudged this.

I have to admit this is partly a product of old age. When you’ve lived through something before and you see it happening again, you assume that the next generation will be better prepared. They’ll heed your warning. But history moves with frightening regularity from tragedy to farce and back again.

Since the election though, there have been a number of signals of Corbyn’s entrenched ideological positions in the here and now. It’s possible to see, for instance, that he and John McDonnell have no fundamental objection to Brexit and indeed welcome the break with the capitalist EU.

Veterans knew it already. Others are now coming to appreciate it for the first time.

The manipulation of the Grenfell tragedy to fit the far-left political agenda (Clive Lewis attacking ‘neo-liberalism’ on Twitter and McDonnell’s references to Engels and the concept of ‘social murder’) were another strong clue that we are dealing with ideologues. No surprise to anyone who lived through the rhetoric and local government administrations of the far left in the 1980s. But a wake-up call to people of a more moderate disposition in 2017.

There’s a more everyday example of how out touch Corbyn’s Labour really is with the younger generation they’ve co-opted. What about their opposition to disruptive platforms such as Uber? Last month, the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey argued the use of the app-based taxi service was not ‘morally acceptable’, which might have come as quite a shock to Labour’s younger middle-class fans, who probably use it regularly in cities such as London and Manchester.

Believe me, Wrong-Daily’s pronouncements will prove the tip of the iceberg. At every stage, Corbyn is going to be confronted by events. And these events will test his ideological stance on terrorism, defence and security, Brexit, economic policy and a whole host of other issues. 

The terrifying thing for the far left is that Corbyn’s promise of an election re-run shows no sign of materialising just yet, so there could be years of exposure. In the meantime, a new centre-ground party could emerge to offer voters a real choice.

The attacks on ‘centrists’ are therefore a quite deliberate attempt to undermine the politics of moderation and the middle ground. Corbynism can only thrive on polarisation. A man who previously enjoyed a level of unpopularity that interested researchers at The Guinness Book of Records enjoyed an upward streak because the alternative of Theresa May’s kamikaze Tories seemed so extreme itself.

In the early 1980s, Michael Foot enjoyed strong poll ratings when his Labour Party was the only credible replacement to Thatcher’s free-market experiment. When the SDP came along and teamed up with the Liberal Party, his popularity was quickly revealed as a mirage. When given a choice, a sizeable number of people wanted neither Foot nor Thatcher.

The absurdity and vitriolic nature of the attacks on ‘centrism’ from the likes of Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Laurie Penny of the New Statesman should come as no surprise. They know very well that if there were a party established which incorporated the moderate wing of Labour – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and others – it would transport votes away from Corbyn more instantly and efficiently than the Uber app his team condemns.

Of course, the contemptible targeting of people with middle-ground views (and the outrageous claim from Penny that they defend Nazis) is intellectual gibberish and designed to sow confusion.

The essential premise is that the so-called Overton Window has suddenly and inexplicably shifted to the left in the UK. Corbyn apparently is the new centre ground and his policies wouldn’t be out of place in continental Europe – a claim that will come as somewhat of a surprise to Merkel and Macron and even more of shock to those who were telling themselves they’d voted for a radical left party in June.

But what’s the reality? In that general election, the Tories actually got a higher share of the popular vote than at any time since 1983. All that’s actually happened is that Britain has polarised in a profoundly unhealthy way that we haven’t seen for over 35 years.

I have my doubts that the planned launch of the Democrats in September will disrupt the current political scene hugely if the new party is focused obsessively around Brexit and is essentially a party of pro-European Tories. If it did, however, widen its mission and managed to bring in elements from the moderate wing of the Labour Party, that might be a game changer. And a prospect that makes the British far left very nervous and aggressive.




Saturday, 29 July 2017

Cult of personality? The writing's on the wall.



Nothing makes Corbynistas more angry than the suggestion there are cult-like qualities to their movement and their veneration of the man they affectionately label ‘JC’. This accusation is viewed as such a slur, in fact, that on some social media channels moderated by the far left, anyone using the term ‘cult’ is deemed to be abusive and is in danger of finding themselves banned.

The evidence – specifically a cult of personality - is, however, now so strong as to be incontrovertible.

The madness reached some kind of apogee this week with the unveiling of a mural of Corbyn on his home turf of Islington.  

Let’s be clear. Murals celebrating political figures are not a part of British culture, unless of course you count the streets of West Belfast, where the Labour Leader has built up a strong network of contacts over the years. I’m sure they are de rigueur in parts of Gaza City, where the veteran socialist MP counts yet more friends.

It’s difficult to establish who is the more idiotic. The people responsible for the curation of this hideous blight on the north London landscape? Or Corbyn himself – so puffed up and full of his self-importance that he actually went along to some kind of ceremony to install it. 

This is, of course, just part of a much wider story.

Online, we find toe-curling memes celebrating Corbyn’s blessed humanity and philanthropy. If Mother Teresa were alive today, she’d be shocked to find that she’d been overtaken by the sage of N4 who has been on the ‘right side of history’ more often than he’s waded his way through crowds of Trotskyist newspaper sellers to address rallies of the faithful.

And what about the merchandise? It’s possible to buy semi-official Jezuit memorabilia from his Momentum fan club, but ironically there are other outlets online who seem to recognise an opportunity for free enterprise.

My Facebook feed is full of t-shirts celebrating the Jezster by appropriating the logos and slogans of commercial brands such as Converse and Carlsberg. I can only assume that the intellectual property lawyers have bigger fish to fry, but a few ‘cease and desist’ letters probably wouldn’t go amiss.

His image hangs proudly in the streets. His words, insights and aphorisms are shared among devotees. And there are mugs everywhere. Both literally and metaphorically.

We have no reference points in British politics for the peculiar psychological baggage that now surrounds the Corbyn leadership. The only parallels can be found in religion, celebrity culture or the stifling sentimentality that surrounds members of the Royal family. 

The weird, slightly feverish atmosphere this summer at times reminded me of the madness which descended in the wake of Princess Diana’s death 20 years ago. A bizarre association, it’s true, but the one which honestly comes to mind.

Jeremy Corbyn is obviously no Princess Diana. And he’s no Joseph Stalin either. But no decent, trustworthy and reputable politician would tolerate a personality cult developing around them. They would understand the dangers and would make sure their supporters knew that the memes, merch and murals had to stop. Corbyn doesn’t only tacitly accept it, but he turns up to unveil his own picture.

Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev issued a warning to the left over 60 years ago. In February 1956, he said: ‘The cult of the individual brought about rude violation of party democracy, sterile administration, deviations of all sorts, cover-ups of shortcomings, and varnishings of reality. Our nation bore forth many flatterers and specialists in false optimism and deceit.’

Now, at least in that brief moment, he was someone on the right side of history.


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Why I was right about Jeremy Corbyn

It’s always embarrassing when you warn a friend about someone, only to discover they don’t share your concerns.

That Manager in HR who’s an absolute nightmare. You tell your colleague not to get involved in that project with her, but they can’t see the harm. She appears to be very nice!

The bloke who groped the girl in accounts three years ago at the Christmas Party. You warn that he’s really not great boyf material. But all that’s just a rumour and it was before your friend joined the company. You really ought to stop badmouthing people and give them a chance.

Although it hurts to be told you’re wrong in the short term, the chances are you suck it up. Because you know that in due course, the truth will come out and that it will be you who’ll be having the last laugh.

At the moment, all the warnings about Corbyn and McDonnell from the moderate wing of the Labour Party seem to have been ignored by the general public. Traditional Labour voters turned out at the election last month and so did younger people in numbers not seen since the early 1990s.

The bedrock party supporters were aghast at Theresa May’s kamikaze act during the campaign and figured that the Labour leadership could hardly be worse. And seeing as Jez had little chance of winning, what harm could there be in backing him as a protest against the Tories’ incompetence and extremism?

Young voters liked the idea of denting the Tories too and thought that maybe they could reverse the imposition of Brexit by the gerontocracy in 2016.

So the result left people like me with serious egg on our faces.

I’d assumed – along with many others – that Labour heartland voters would baulk at voting for Corbyn, given all that is known about him. I hadn’t counted on the most disastrous and incompetent campaign by the Conservative Party in modern political history.  I had also under-estimated the extent to which the Lib Dem Remoaner schtick would fail to cut through.

I’d assumed – along with many others – that it was unlikely the youth vote would turn out in significant numbers. That’s a mistake I can live with, as it’s profoundly healthy for democracy that it did.

But I’m trying not to let my embarrassment cloud my judgment.

Far too many people, when they discovered Corbyn had done much better than predicted, decided to hitch a ride on his bandwagon. Suddenly he goes from being a walking disaster to being the ‘absolute boy’. Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party humiliate themselves by singing football chants in his name to the tune of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.

We saw the same phenomenon in the USA with Trump, of course. There is always a surprisingly large group of people in society whose instinct is to follow the herd. They were iffy about jumping naked into freezing cold lake, but all their friends are doing it. So Harriet Harman starts spouting nonsense about Jez being the heir to Blair.

But I really do know exactly what the politics of Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott are all about.

Why?

Because I was there the first time.

In the early 80s, as a young teenager, I was reasonably sympathetic to their views. By the latter part of the decade, I had become a lot more sceptical. And that’s because I had seen the hard left’s antics at first hand in campaigning organisations, the National Union of Students and the Labour Party.

So now, when I reflect on my humiliation in misjudging the recent election, I still have a wry smile on my face. Because leopards don’t change their spots and the truth about the extremist cabal at the heart of Labour will reveal itself as sure as night follows day.

We’ve already seen glimpses of it in the weeks following the poll.

John McDonnell’s description of the Grenfell Tower tragedy as ‘murder’ and his encouragement of a million people to take to the streets to reverse the result of an election he just lost. Jeremy Corbyn’s sacking of shadow cabinet members for their temerity to oppose his support of hard Brexit. Corbynistas rejecting any rapprochement with moderates in favour of deselection contests.

In the election campaign, my feeling is that younger people saw the criticisms of Corbyn’s earlier statements and actions as being ancient history. His links with Irish republicanism, for example, meant little to those who hadn’t lived through the IRA bombing campaigns. I get that. Boring old men like me talk about stuff which provokes a response of ‘meh’.

But what will happen is that people will learn all over again. It’s inefficient and exasperating and prevents the Labour Party from re-establishing itself as a mainstream force for a longer period than is comfortable. But the learning process will happen.

People will ask why it is that McDonnell clings to the idea that the UK must leave the single market. Didn’t they vote Labour to stop that kind of thing? And they will discover, one way or another, that he has always opposed the European Union, which he sees as an obstacle to his leftist economic policies.

And when Assad commits another atrocity in Syria and Corbyn opposes any action, people will scratch their heads. Doesn’t the absolute boy care about the suffering of the Syrian people? And then it will come out that actually he has opposed every military intervention by British troops ever proposed, including action to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.


Eventually, the HR Manager reveals her true colours and stabs your friend in the back during a meeting. Before long, another Christmas rolls around and there’s a further unsavoury incident at the office party. And the light begins to dawn. Yes, you were right all along.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Why the manifestos really won't matter

A common refrain from Corbyn supporters over the past couple of years is that we can’t trust the polls. It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to see committed Momentum supporters actually quoting the research companies over the past week or so.

As Labour nudges up to a highly improbable 32% in a couple of recent surveys (five points ahead of their actual showing in the recent council elections), it’s taken as evidence of some kind of surge.

The Corbynistas also seize upon suggestions in research that specific Labour manifesto policies are popular.

A majority of people want to renationalise the railways, for instance. The public supports higher taxes for rich people and likes the idea of a higher minimum wage.

The narrative then becomes something along these lines: voters support socialist policies and like Corbyn’s radical agenda, but shy away from embracing Labour because of a relentless tide of negative propaganda from the pro-Tory media.

It may well be true that individual Labour policies command support. But take a look at some of the other policies that YouGov have discovered appeal to voters.

Most people endorse the idea of stopping benefits entirely for anyone who refuses to take up an offer of employment. They also support a Trump-style ban on any immigration for the next two years, the abolition of parole for murderers and an end to overseas aid. None of these are likely to be high on the Momentum wishlist.

The conclusion I would draw is that members of the public are entirely ideologically inconsistent – defying neat categorisation. But the more important point is that British elections are not decided on manifesto pledges anyway. The outcome rests on the perceived economic competence of the respective parties and the credibility of their leaders.

Voters weigh up the potential options and ask themselves some basic questions. Do I trust this party and the man or woman who will be Prime Minister? Do I believe they will help make our country more prosperous? Will they keep me and my loved ones safe?

Until those boxes are ticked, no one will give much thought to housing, schools or even the NHS. After all, our public services are worth nothing if there isn’t the money to pay for them and you can’t trust the person who is notionally in charge of them.

Individual policies only matter insofar as they signal something about that fundamental decision of trust. Corbyn’s known antipathy towards nuclear weapons, for instance, and lack of support for his own party’s renewal of Trident, makes many profoundly uneasy – a sentiment which surfaced strongly in Lord Ashcroft’s latest focus group research.

Another uncomfortable truth – not just for the Labour Party, but all serious politicians and parties – is that impressions and snapshots which people find revealing and memorable are actually far more important than policies.

Think of Ed Miliband, an impressive and capable politician at many levels and certainly streets ahead of Corbyn in terms of his intellectual ability and understanding of the modern world.

The bacon sandwich.

The second kitchen.

The so-called Edstone.

These were the glimpses that helped to shape people’s perceptions of the man. No worthy policy pronouncement carried more weight than these trivial vignettes.

And with Corbyn, the same rules apply.

His apparent inability to sing the national anthem.

His lack of a Prime Ministerial ‘look’.

His association with Irish republicanism.

His lack of support from MPs, who backed a motion of no confidence in him.

In focus groups, Jez is frequently described as ‘wishy washy’. One participant on a research panel referred to the state of the MP’s front garden in Islington, which frequently features on news bulletins when the veteran socialist is doorstepped.

The untidy property is no doubt seen as symbolic of the hard-left parliamentarian himself. Someone who is disorganised and poor at presentation. So why on earth would you choose to send him to negotiate a deal with the EU over Brexit?

If it seems unfair to judge Corbyn on what we see of him and hear about him, it’s time to be honest with ourselves. This is exactly how we form opinions in everyday life – of work colleagues and friends of friends. If our initial impressions are not good – and they are reinforced by stories we hear others tell – then no amount of remedial action by the individual is likely to change our view.

Labour is a tarnished brand and it’s dragged even further down by its cult of personality surrounding a leader many regard as ineffectual, out of touch and untrustworthy. Can Labour’s vote really dip below the 27% in the council elections? Could the party end up with its worst vote since the 1930s? Only time will tell. But if anyone can pull it off, Corbyn can.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Week One of the campaign. And five reasons Labour may lose disastrously.

Any hope that Theresa May’s surprise general election would drag Jeremy Corbyn into the real world was cruelly dashed within a few short days. His major launch speech was a spectacular retreat into his predictable comfort zone. To say that the Labour Leader’s fiery socialist rhetoric preached to the choir probably insults the more intelligent of the choristers.

One of the funniest moments was when the prep-school-lad-made-bad listed all the people who should be afraid of him. Philip Green is apparently cowering, along with the bosses of Southern Rail. Tax-dodging CEOs pray at night that they are spared the wrath of Jez’s incoming administration.

The reality, of course, is that no one is remotely scared.

First of all, Corbyn isn’t going to get within 100 miles of Downing Street. And even if he did, he would be so out of his depth that wealthy and powerful interests would run rings around him.

It’s true that civil servants have to go through the motion of preparing for a potential transition. They were instructed to start talking to Jez’s team about the curtain measurements for Downing Street. But some wag on Twitter pointed out this was broadly akin to the host of 80s gameshow Bullseye, Jim Bowen, showing contestants the speedboat they could have won.

The only question in this election is how badly Labour loses.

My hunch is spectacularly badly.

Here are the five factors that will almost certainly lead to a disastrous result on 8th June.

THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE

The first and most obvious issue is Corbyn himself. There’s no point in rehearsing all his extraordinary gaffes of the past two years or his complete detachment from the world of 2017. His sheer awfulness has become common currency. Historians of this period will look back with bemusement that anyone ever thought him credible and will point to the instrumental role he played in shaping the disastrous Brexit result and a period of lengthy Tory rule.

It’s weird, incidentally, how history’s losers can often have a pivotal role in momentous events. Look at Ed Miliband blocking military action against Syria, for instance. His fateful decision (motivated by a desire to distance himself from Tony Blair and New Labour) led to Barack Obama’s embarrassing deal with Moscow. Assad was let off the hook, his murderous regime was emboldened and a vacuum was created which allowed IS to thrive.

Corbyn’s leadership – or lack of it – will be right at the heart of the campaign. He is being presented as the man at the centre of a ‘coalition of chaos’, involving maybe the Lib Dems and the SNP. This will be just as damaging as the accusation that the more competent Ed Miliband was in the pocket of Alex Salmond.

TRUST ON THE ECONOMY

The second reason Labour will suffer a historic defeat is a complete lack of confidence in their ability to manage the economy. This is somewhat unfair, as Blair and Brown had a very credible record prior to the financial crisis of 2008. But the Jezuits have disowned their predecessors’ legacy and never talk about any of the New Labour achievements in the management of the economy or investment in public services.

So, in 2017, we are left with an extraordinary wish list of policies. Renationalisation of the railways and those parts of the health service which are deemed to be privatised. The restoration of NHS bursaries. Free school meals for every child. An end to university tuition fees. An increase in the carer’s allowance. Ending the freeze on public-sector pay.

There is talk of spending half a trillion pounds.  While some borrowing is actually economically very sensible right now, as we can do it at historically low rates, the sheer scale of what Labour is proposing plays right into the hands of their Tory opponents. Most members of the public will want borrowing to be limited, taxes to be kept down and spending to be sensibly controlled. All ideas that are anathema to Corbyn and McDonnell.

BREXIT

The third problem for Labour isn’t entirely of its own making. It’s true that Corbyn’s lacklustre campaigning in the EU referendum was, sadly, probably enough to tip the balance of the vote the wrong way.  We might assume Labour voters would have come out in greater numbers for Remain if Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall or Yvette Cooper had won the leadership contest in 2015, rather than a man who had spent his whole political life opposing the EU. Once the referendum had been decided, however, Labour was caught in an impossible position.

Although the majority of Labour voters supported Remain, a substantial minority didn’t. And these Brexiters are disproportionately concentrated in Labour’s heartland seats. Labour will be too pro-Europe for the Brexiters and too pro-Brexit for the diehard Remainers. A completely impossible bind.

Corbyn’s solution is not to talk about Brexit. The trouble is that the Conservatives are determined to make this a Brexit election. And so are the Lib Dems. And probably the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru.  Last night, the rambling Labour Leader actually tweeted about rambling. I am not making this up.

DEFENCE AND SECURITY

This hasn’t really featured as an issue in British general elections since 1987, as both parties seemed broadly credible on defence from 1992 onwards. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has become associated once again with appeasement, pacifism and defeatism.

The British public will never accept as Prime Minister someone who believes we could renew Trident nuclear submarines without the warheads. Or keep the warheads and tell people we would never use them. This argument was categorically lost three decades ago, but Jez didn’t get the memo.

For the record, I do not believe there is any military action by British forces that Corbyn has ever supported in his career. And that includes the intervention to stop ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. According to his fans, this puts him on the ‘right side of history’, although the great British public will respectfully disagree.

THE VISION THING

Right at the heart of Labour’s failure to connect with voters is the dismal picture they paint of the UK.

Make no mistake, this is a country with far too much poverty and inequality and Labour’s raison d’ĂȘtre must be to address this. Otherwise what is the party for? At the same time, Britain is still a very prosperous country and many people have some kind of stake in that prosperity, however tenuous. It goes without saying that a good number of them need to vote Labour if the party is to achieve power.

Right now, Labour is full of vitriol about a world of zero-hours contracts and welfare cuts and NHS crises and failing public transport. Like many other people, I want to see stronger employment laws, protection for the most vulnerable, a properly funded public health service and trains that run on time. But I don’t think we are defined as a nation just by our current failings.

The language Labour uses is relentlessly negative and for all the talk of ‘new politics’ under Corbyn, there is absolutely no sense of what British society might be like under his leadership. The overall impression communicated is one of decay and decline. Blair in 1997, by contrast, offered hope, confidence and cautious optimism about the future.

It seems, sadly, as if a cataclysm at the polls is the only way in which the arrogance of Labour’s current leadership and the naivety of its supporters can be shattered.  The tragedy is that it is the people Labour exists to represent who will be hardest hit by the sheer madness of the last two years.


Monday, 6 February 2017

Forget the Oval Office. Join Trump in the back bedroom.

Some caricaturists depict Donald Trump as an over-indulged baby, throwing toys out of his pram. Others see him as a puppet, manipulated by the Machiavelli of the alt-right, Steve Bannon.

I’m sure there’s some truth in both these interpretations.

Hearing Trump talk today, however, I have a rather different image coming into my head.
The 45th President was talking at a US airforce base about Islamic terrorism in Europe and claimed that this was covered up by the mainstream media.

His actual words were as follows: "All over Europe, it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that." 

This is a truly madcap conspiracy theory.

On an X-Files scale, it rates a nine.

It pains me even to pick it apart, but think about what he’s saying. His accusation is that mainstream news media with professional journalists have their ‘reasons’ for covering up terrorist atrocities.

The reasons, one supposes, are that they are liberals who are dedicated to a vision of multiculturalism or active supporters of the expansion of Islamic ideology in Europe. These duplicitous political activists, masquerading as reporters, worry that if the public were to hear of terrorist attacks, they might rebel against the current order.

So they cover them up.

Except the ones they don’t cover up.

Like Paris and Nice, which Trump himself mentioned. And Brussels and Berlin and all the other places.

Boy, did the liberal media slip up with those ones! They really dropped the ball, didn’t they, with all their round-the-clock reporting?

Leaving aside the utterly ridiculous and unsupported nature of Trump’s allegations, there is also the issue of exactly how the journalists would succeed in keeping any terrorist activity in Europe under wraps. Perhaps smartphones, digital cameras and social media haven’t made it across the Atlantic yet? Maybe we Europeans are ‘sheeple’, who haven’t yet seen the light?

Except supposedly we have.

Isn’t part of the Trumpian world view the idea that Brexit was an awakening? That the anti-globalist populism of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders demonstrates Europeans throwing off the shackles of liberalism, multiculturalism and political correctness?

My image of Trump is now of someone who is 25-going-on-15 and still lives at home with his mother. His days are spent in his room coding, while eating KFC. His nights are spent alongside his empty bucket meals, trolling people on Twitter.

His reading consists of conspiracy sites which suggest that vaccinations are poison and that scientific evidence can’t be trusted. He rails against feminazis, snowflakes and libtards. Anyone who believes a poll is a fool and anyone who trusts what they read in the mainstream media needs to WAKE UP and GET SMART!

Of course, there are a million of these sad little men around and we could argue all day about the cause of their alienation and anger. But only one in a million gets to play at being President of the United States of America.

We know that Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Rex Tillerson and others do not subscribe to Trump’s ridiculous conspiracy theories. They might have some pretty obnoxious and kooky views of their own, but they do not believe that there have been terrorist atrocities in Europe that have gone unreported.

They need to say so.

These men do not believe that a federal judge appointed by George W Bush and ratified 99-0 in the Senate is only a ‘so-called’ judge.

They need to say so.

They do not believe that the New York Times and CNN publish fake news.

They need to say so.

They will be biding their time and thinking that there will be a later opportunity to remove Trump.

Now is not the moment. Keep our powder dry, they will say to themselves. Give him enough rope and he will hang himself.

No.

History tells us that if you give people like Trump enough rope, he’ll end up hanging you.

They need to act soon. For the sake of the Republican Party, the sake of the United States and the sake of the wider world.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The political minefield on the road to Brexit

Brexit produces a whole load of weird conundrums, confrontations and contortions, doesn’t it?

The Supreme Court has given Parliament the right to decide on the triggering of Article 50, as it was agreed by 8 votes to 3 that it requires a statute and cannot be waved through by Theresa May using Royal Prerogative.

Those supportive of the Gina Miller case like to regale us with stories about the constitution (uncodified) and The Civil War and the Witan of the Anglo-Saxons and God knows what else.
They were affronted and astonished that the government even dared to appeal the original High Court judgment. The argument for parliamentary sovereignty in this case was so glaringly obvious that even a child could understand it.

Rather strange, in that case, that three of the learned justices on the Supreme Court actually dissented. They must be pretty thick. Maybe they never saw those three-line memes summarising the case on Twitter?

Anyway, after all the hullabaloo, you’d think Theresa May would be quite frightened, wouldn’t you? Brexit is back in the hands of MPs. And they tend to be more inclined to Remain than Leave.

Her plans for wrenching the UK out of the EU must surely now be on hold?

But wait a second. What’s this?

Most MPs will exercise their sovereign right to block Brexit by allowing it to proceed.

That’s because they know that the real decision was taken last June, when the British public (disastrously, but democratically, in my opinion) made their views known and voted out.

As former Labour minister Yvette Cooper has said, to oppose Article 50, you’d need to take a Trumpian view of the democratic process. Remember how the newly-installed US President wouldn’t commit to accepting the November poll if it had gone against him? We growled at him for his blatant contempt for the democratic process.

In the referendum of 2016, it was made quite clear by both campaigns that we were taking a permanent and irreversible decision. A group of Labour MPs, however, say they are planning to defy their hapless leader Jeremy Corbyn and vote against the A50 bill in Parliament.

Some argue that they represent constituencies which voted Remain and they are simply giving voice to the views of their local residents. But if that logic were followed, there would be a very interesting turn of events. Over 60% of UK seats voted for Brexit. So the majority in Parliament for quitting the EU would actually be larger than the majority achieved among the general public.

Of course, the consensus is that MPs and the unelected Lords don’t have the bottle to block A50. But they are determined to amend the bill and attach some brakes and CCTV cameras to Theresa May’s runaway Brexit bandwagon.

This position is perhaps represented best by the intelligent and persuasive MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna. He bravely says that he won’t let his constituents’ living standards be undermined by May’s perverse attachment to a hard break with Europe.

But what can he and other MPs do in practice?

Pass amendments which set out a whole range of pie-in-the-sky objectives for the negotiations?  If I were May, I would actually be happy to accept one or two of these, knowing that they would mean little in practice. Until we get into the negotiating rooms with the representatives of the EU, we have no idea what ideas will fly and how much ground they’re prepared to give.

One scenario is that May goes into the talks and tells Parliament that she did her best to achieve their goals, but it was impossible. Sorry, guys. Tried my hardest, but what can I say? Here’s what I came back with.

Another option is that she fights amendments in the House of Commons and House of Lords tooth and nail. If she loses on some minor points, she doesn’t break much of a sweat (see scenario one). But if she is in danger of losing on something major – an amendment which seeks to guarantee continuing access to the European single market, for example – she turns it into a vote of confidence in the government.

A third possibility is that if things get out of control (Nicola Sturgeon plans 50 amendments) and the timetable were slipping – or she suffered a major defeat in the Commons – she would ask for the repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.  Jeremy Corbyn has already kindly offered to facilitate the required two-thirds majority to call a general election, which he apparently relishes.

I would say she has plenty of options and all the cards are stacked in the Prime Minister’s favour. Her opinion poll ratings are generally very good and they are rock solid on Brexit.

The one thing which would lead to her having to concede various amendments would be the thought that Article 50 might actually be blocked if she didn’t accept them. But the MPs won’t block A50 and she knows it.

The Labour Party is in a pickle.

It’s like a tenant who desperately needs a flat and has put down a deposit. They are then being told by the landlord the property is rat-infested and doesn’t have a working toilet. There’s no other apartment available in town and they’ll be sleeping on the street if they don’t sign on the dotted line. But they’re convinced they’ll persuade the owner to pay for all the repairs and throw in a new IKEA sofa.

Looming large is a by-election in Stoke, in which the populist right-winger Paul Nuttall is challenging Labour on behalf of UKIP. Every Labour MP who makes a statement saying they’re prepared to block Brexit will be helping to fuel Nuttall’s ugly politics in the Labour heartlands.

It confuses us and frustrates us. It confounds us and it frightens us.

It’s Britain on the road to Brexit.