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Showing posts from 2017

Why it's crunch time on both sides of the Atlantic

2018 is set to be a year of political reckoning in both the UK and the USA. It’s very easy to imagine the crises that are likely to unfold, but much harder to predict their consequences or the way in which they will be resolved.
Trump will clearly come under increasing pressure as a result of the investigation into Russian collusion by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. If there is to be any realistic prospect of the current President being removed through an impeachment process, we’ll need to see some spark of activity in 2018. Otherwise we’ll be moving inexorably towards the next primary cycle and attention will turn to the removal of Donald Trump in the traditional, tried-and-tested way – at the ballot box.
The mid-term elections in November might prove to be decisive in terms of forcing the hand of Republican Senators and Congressmen. After all, if polling evidence is to be believed, the Democrats look set to make significant gains with Trump’s popularity at a record low. The reali…

A 'meaningful' vote? Don't hold your breath...

David Davis is the guy who knocked on the door and persuaded you that your roof needed fixing, when it actually didn’t. He and his mates have been half-heartedly hammering away for an hour or two and you’re a bit worried about the end result, so you insist on inspecting the work when its finished.
Once you’re up on the ladder, he’s dismissing your concerns and telling you that everything’s fine. He’d love to spend more time on it, but unfortunately the crew is off to another job. And that will be five grand please.
So as Parliament gives itself the right to ‘scrutinise’ the final deal and hold a ‘meaningful’ vote, let’s not get carried away. All the ridiculous hullabaloo over the Article 50 case in the Supreme Court a year ago demonstrates that such rights are meaningless unless you’re prepared to exercise them. Let’s think about the likely scenarios.
Perhaps there isn’t a meaningful deal for Parliament to vote on. Some Brexiters online speculate that the insistence on this vote on…

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 compe…

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 ha…

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 kind…

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 …

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 minin…

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 ‘loon…

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.…

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 d…

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 L…

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 tr…