The Choice

Compare and Contrast, Obama’s Values v 45

Here we are again, the comparison between the head of the pride, and the runt. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that is the description between Barack Obama, a transcendental president, who represented the best of America, and 45, who failed in every way. It became Manichean, as someone who wanted to see the light for his country, was replaced by a character who embraced the darkness of his self-prophesied ‘American Carnage’, and brought his country back to the harshness of separatist 1950s America. Fascism might reign in the land of the free after November, but it will never destroy the hope, and character, of the majority who are here today, and the man who speaks for them, the man many good thinking people, are proud to call president, Barack Obama. Tell me the ways they differ,

Who, under anybody’s recognition, can use language as poetry and prose, and will be remembered for the ages? Will it be a demagogue, a lesser Greek or Roman, who tried to enforce the privilege of nobles, and enforce it on the rest of us, or a true democrat, who lived a life as we’ve lived, and tried to make it better for us? The language of Obama has been the language of Frederick Douglas, the cadence of Lincoln, the echo and response of Martin Luther King. But what of 45? When he reads a speech, he sounds like someone, who fears language, rather than embraces it, not necessarily through stupidity, but from a man who rejects lyricism, musicality, and rhythm, within any make-up of his outlook.

And this is the choice for Americans. 45 will do his best to make this an unfree and unfair election. The best of that country can look back to President Obama, and the intelligence that pervaded his presidency. He was not perfect, as many fine left wing friends of this writer have rightly critiqued, and observed. But here’s the choice; Joe Biden, an honest and decent man, who can carry the torch for the Obama ideal of America, or continue with the most racist President in 50 years. The intelligence gap between the sensible people and the non-sensibles is just too wide now also. There is a serious gap between those considered to embrace critical thought, and the 40% plus of the American population, who, up until ten days ago, were prepared to believe Coronavirus was a hoax, and that 45 could do no wrong. Now that the New York’s least worthy export has started wearing a mask, his followers, cult-like, have embraced his new edict.

The choice is there. To continue Obama progressivism, or to revert, and go back to the Plato’s cave. There is a terrifying connection that 45 has with his base. The angry, the ignorant – it’s okay to still say that, simply means people who don’t know things -, the racist, the rich, the poor who have heard no better, and the those who have the effrontery to say they have a faith that in every other aspect is an offence to the lives of their fellow human beings. As against a constitutionalist majority of voters, who believe in equality before the law, a recognition of past wrongs, and a strong desire to make the unlikely story that is America, to improve, and learn from her history. The best part of that voice was Obama’s. Never let the white Jacobin voice reduce what he achieved. His was the journey. He did more than most of his critics would ever achieve, and he did it with an intelligence that 45 will never approach, and one that Biden can hope to try and match more so than the current place-holder in the White House can ever do.

Sincerity is always a risky area with politicians. Who do you believe and why? Let’s start with a premise. Who would you be more likely to believe; a politician who started as a community activist, and wrote about his family with an honesty that many of us would struggle with, or a man who the record states had a tyrant as a father, and the son who lied as course throughout his life, and by any honest chronicler, has bullshitted his way from financial con, to political gain. Truly, 45 has been the Film Noir heal of a president, the character Peter Lorre would have rejected as being both too incredible, and distasteful.

The choice is not just between Joe Biden and the incumbent. It is about how voters in the swing states want themselves to be. Are enough prepared, as the polls seem to suggest, to reach out to their neighbor, to imbue the spirit of 2008, and believe that there is more that unites Americans than divides them. Or do they want to retrench, to stay in the comfort of the cave, away from the shadows outside, and the light beyond in the distance?

Categories: Uncategorized

Labour’s Leader, Brexit Lemmings, US Tinderbox

Starmer Shows Signs of Swift Leadership

Keir Starmer moved swiftly when he dismissed Rebecca Long-Bailey from her frontbench position of Shadow Secretary of State for Education. He had little choice. The realities and perceptions of ant-Semitism under the Corbyn era cost the party dearly in terms of internecine squabbling and easy fodder for the right wing Press. There was no comparison between the fast and decisive handling of Long-Bailey’s careless re-tweeting and subsequent asinine behaviour in refusing to delete her tweet of support for Maxine Peake’s interview, and the way Corbyn’s team sat on complaints, and seemed to have strange bedfellows on Twitter that seemed blind to allegations of anti-Semitism. Amnesty themselves have said Peake’s claim – saying the infamous neck-hold which killed George Floyd was based on training received by US police forces from the IDF, according to an Amnesty report – was not what they had said.

The usual Corbynites jumped to the defence of the hapless former leadership challenger, but in a sign of how much the party has moved since Starmer’s ascendancy, she was gone by the end of the day. There was fury from the hard left, with a lot of them threatening to leave the party. If that is one of the outcomes, then there’ll be few regrets from Starmer’s team. Although he was all things to all people when he ran for leadership, he knows that relying on Momentum, the latter day Militant Tendency, will be more of a burden than a boon as Labour try to rebuild and challenge a populist, deceitful Tory Party between now and the next general election. If the Hard Left goes to war, it could be brutal. But it’s a battle Starmer may have no choice but to fight.

Brexit Endgame

Brexit, even during times of a global pandemic, is a background noise that isn’t going away. As the British negotiators close down more and more possibilities of compromise, it seems, from a European outcome, that the only logical conclusion, is a no-deal. To reemphasize this, the United Kingdom’s current position, is to have conceded the trading advantages they had as members of the European Union, principally priveledged access to a market of 450 million people, and to start with nothing, in a time when Covid-19 is still prevalent, particularly in Great Britain itself. No trade deal can with the US can replace the status Britain would have within the EU. They are hobbling themselves for a generation down to the ideology of Little England fanatics, and Libertarian Anarcho-Disruptors.

It is a shame for British public life, and the status of their economy in the coming years, that Dominic Cummings wasn’t hounded from office as he would have been in any functioning accountable government. Instead, his arrogance seems to have been bolstered, as his Rasputin-like grip on Boris Johnson continues. The two of them are edging their country ever closer to the no-deal Brexit cliff, an option which the vast majority of those who voted in the 2016 referendum would have thought was complete madness. The shame is that there was genuine goodwill from Barnier in the negotiations, and an empathy from people like Donald Tusk that Britain could construct an amicable departure agreement. No more; the mood has hardened, there is a feeling that they want shot of Perfidious Albion for a long time indeed.

US on the Brink

Finally, some serious commentators are discussing the prospect of serious civil unrest in the US in November following the Presidential election should Trump refuse to respect the result. It has been the elephant in the room for much of the presidency, one that the respectable, liberal, Press has been too scared to address. The US, with Trump increasingly flirting with laying the ground for disputing the November result, is a powder keg, When a serious, unsullied, and decent candidate like Joe Biden can be demonized as some sort of evil, demented, crook, when there’s approximately 300 million privately held firearms, when there’s a broken electoral machinery, then you can see how the US could easily disintegrate, state by state, city versus rural, into a Yugoslavian nightmare.

Can it happen? With fascistic militias on maneuvers, and organizations like the Boogaloo actively looking for a race war, and a President declaring war on anti-fascists, the situation is closer to midnight than many are prepared to admit. The US have come through terrible times, but this seems different. There is an unstable, dull-minded, cruel, corrupt, figure at the head of the Republican Party, one that puts Nixon in the shade. The GOP have a relatively simple choice over the next few months; do a sufficient amount of their number join in with the honourable Never-Trumpers in upholding the constitution, or do they enable the drift towards an horrific outcome, one that history will judge them as culpable for as the actions of the anti-Union side in the Civil War?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Right is (Still) Wrong

Cummings Fiasco

The Cummings debacle has exposed the Johnson government to be a an fragile scarecrow of a structure. To be that dependent on one man, a deeply flawed, cynical, and dangerous one at that, shows that the British prime minister is woefully unable to tackle the Coronovirus crisis. Cummings has almost unprecedented power as an unelected official. Johnson appears to be unable to cope without him, and that, above anything else, is a sign of profound weakness. The PM still wants to proceed full steam ahead with Brexit, and Cummings is seen as essential to the project. The madness of English nationalism; their anti-Europeanism has promoted a culture of dishonesty and fear, a terrible legacy.

Cummings is the closest the new British establishment have to a Stephen Miller or Steve Bannon figure. He is a self-proclaimed mastermind of the new populism, which in itself bears a remarkable resemblance to what Umberto Eco described as Ur-Fascism. Many of his definitions of the type are met by the Brexiters and Trumpists. Throw in a fetish around new technology, and you have a noxious brew of extreme nationalism and democratic subversion via technological methods.  Theirs is the dark world-view, that sees human nature as narrow, selfish, and organized along social Darwinian principles. They believe tomorrow belongs to them, and do not tolerate dissent. Their like has been seen before throughout history. They are the societal misfits who take their anger back out on society.

Johnson’s failure to sack Cummings has eaten up an enormous amount of political capital for a leader relatively fresh off the back of a thumping parliamentary majority. Yet now, he looks weak. He seems to be subservient to someone who is after all a mere political advisor. Not only did Johnson shirk in his responsibility to fire Dominic Cummings, he showed appalling judgment to have appointed the notoriously loose cannon in the first place. He knew the risk, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Yet, he is unable to make the relatively easy call of removing one of the most unpopular men in England from post, and this may be the key to his own downfall.

Keir Starmer is already making inroads into the Tories. A double digit Tory poll lead has dropped to four points, a remarkable turnaround from the December election. Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis has seen Britain suffer the highest death rates in the World so far. Many feel that the unwinding of lockdown is moving way too quickly, so there may be a second spike in fatalities. The calm and forensic manner of Starmer contrasts with Johnson’s flippancy. In a House of Commons hollowed out by social distancing, Johnson’s weaknesses are cruelly exposed. His style over substance shtick wears thin when he fails to answer basic questions. The famous Eton cult of the insouciant amateur is not much use when being asked forensic questions at the dispatch box.

It looks like Cummings will survive. If so, Johnson’s fate is now tethered to that of his emotionally volatile advisor. It may even suit Labour’s purposes to have the two men stuck with each other for the time being. They may hope that they’ll bring each other down, and who’s to say this won’t be the case?

Trump’s Darkness

The death of George Floyd has been the spark to set off a week of righteous fury in the US. In no other democracy do black people die in such numbers due to police brutality and shoot first, questions later approach to community policing. The rioting has been condemned by black mayors and leaders; just as with the LA riots in the 60s and 90s, it is African Americans businesses that suffer when there’s civil unrest. But it’s so understandable. It’s as though the White Right has remained dormant since the civil rights era, and Trump has given them license to be racist in plain sight.

Trump falls under Eco’s definition of an ur-fascist. He stokes up violence, appeals to racist instincts, attacks on the media and other ‘elites’. And this strain of hard right nationalism has been bubbling above and below the surface for much of American history. There’s the increasing possibility that the 2020 presidential election will be hijacked by the Trumpists. Add in his utterly inadequate and cavalier approach to the Coronavirus, and you have the most dangerous of times, as frightening as the horrors of 1968. The country could descend into civil war; this is no longer an outlandish prospect.

There is still hope. Joe Biden is polling well, and Republican attempts to smear him, including the ludicrous Ukrainian ‘plot’, have been largely ineffective so far in chipping away at his support. These lies have played well to the Trump base though. If the November election is run fairly, President Biden and his tea, can help to rebuild America. If not, the fall into chaos continues.


Categories: Uncategorized

Quo Vadis? Responses after the virus.

April 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Covid-19 has been the dominant, if not the only, issue concerning governments and populations around the world. It is easily the worst pandemic in over 100 years, since the ‘Spanish’ Flu of 1918. Millions died then, more than died in the First World War. It was a cruel coda to those four years, taking many of the young, as well as the old. This current crisis, if handled effectively, won’t be as lethal, but it has the potential to be so if the virus mutates or adapts to its current path. There are several issues that will be concerning politicians, voters, and those under authoritarian rule around the world once this is over. These are just the major ones among the myriad of considerations coming down the line.

There’s a near consensus that testing and contact tracing needs to be ramped up in order to either contain or eliminate the virus. The development of tracing apps and use of data analytics from mobile phone providers are among the measures being adopted in different countries. Police have been given unprecedented peacetime powers of enforcement in several jurisdictions, and perhaps counter-intuitively, some members of the public want greater powers given over, and tougher restrictions. So there are real questions of how we treat civil liberties over the next few months. Are certain right inalienable, or are they adaptable to circumstances? How much are we willing to concede against an invisible enemy?

The issue of how nations run their health services will be front and central when, and possibly if, we return to normality. How much contingency and capacity should the nation state build into their medical services? Will there be an end in some countries between private health insurance and the public system, or will there be a further division between those with the ability to pay, and those reliant on, to coin a phrase, a national health system?

Then there’s the issue of mental health. Tens of millions of people are under enormous stress. The lockdown in some countries can best be described as brutal. Human contact is makes us who we are. Yet, with the application of that most cruel and cold sounding of terms, ‘social distancing’, we have become estranged from family, friends, neighbours, colleagues. We have lost that immediate sense of community which may not be apparent most of the time, but the absence of connection is a key factor in mental health issues. Governments need to address this during the crisis, and after.

Will society value key workers who are not only the skilled, such as medical professionals, but the so-called ‘unskilled’? To the latter category, we can include the shop workers and warehouse operatives who’ve kept us supplied with food, as well as hospital cleaners, and carers in nursing homes. There must be, at the very least, an end to the casualisation of work in these and other sectors. Zero-hours culture and the lowering of global worker health and safety standards at minimum wage must be reversed. Will people vote accordingly though?

How do politicians communicate to the governed? Do they speak as per Angela Merkel or Jacinta Ardren and level with their populaces with clear and honest language? The use of clear language, giving bad news where required, and hope, followed by the pattern of the thinking in government circles on exit strategies, is an enormous factor in getting people onside and giving them a sense of there being light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas you could adopt a somewhat distant tone, and not show full transparency in how decisions are made. This only antagonizes, and ultimately will lose support. Treat people as adults who are entitled to honesty and clarity.

A corollary of this is the question; have the Trumps of this world been called out by the virus? Will his supporters, or those who support right wing nativism in other parts of the globe, turn against the ‘strong men’ who only recently, were seen by their base as at the very least not harming them? Trump voters are all for hurting the Libs, but did not expect this level of pain to be visited upon them as well. Is the populist goose cooked, or will authoritarianism prosper in a new dystopia?

The virus will have a permanent effect on the psyche of every single one of us. Some will glide through relatively unphased by restrictions in the belief that this will soon be over. Others will want to remain indoors for as long as possible, while there’s another group wanting to take some risks with restriction relaxation, and another cohort who would put the health of others at risk to satisfy the profit motive. However this ends, the world may be more divided than ever before. And that is the tragedy of it all.


Categories: Uncategorized

Divided Approaches to Fighting a Common Enemy

March 29, 2020 Leave a comment

This is the strangest of times. The pandemic has still not peaked in most parts of the World, and there is a feeling of existential dread surely only comparable to war time. Every nation is at war, and, for the moment, the enemy has the upper hand. It is little consolation that most of us will survive when it is our nearest and dearest who are under threat. The spread of Covid-19 has been a huge health, economic, and logistical challenge for both democracies and totalitarians. It has raised huge philosophical questions on the value we put on human life and how we can accept short term hardship for a long term good outcome. Nobody knows quite how this is going to end, maybe there will be no VE Day, where there are parties on the street. The world has changed, and we can look at how the crisis has been handled badly, and how it has been responded to reasonably well.

It is perhaps no surprise that populist countries with divided populations have been slow or negligent in how they’ve sought to push back the virus. Great Britain under Johnson, who now himself has been diagnosed with having a mild version of the Covid-19, played down the risk, and adopted social distancing at a late stage. It seems the Prime Minister’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, has been gaining more and more Rasputin-like influence and had been recommending a highly risky and, many have said, unscientific approach of ‘herd immunity’. As others have noted, his phrase usually only applies where there’s already a vaccine available. It is difficult to see how this applies in a society where a preventative fix-all or a readily accessible cure is unlikely to be in production in the time-frame in which pandemics exponentially grow. Johnson has reversed course, but it looks like he’s lost valuable time, and sadly lives, in his government’s failure to adopt the correct strategy. There was the perception that public health experts were not being allowed to set policy. Brexit has divided the UK down the middle, and now, with the need for the public to heed expert guidance, it’s up to Boris Johnson to restore trust in institutions and expertise. If Britain is in a bad way, the US, and particular states, are in real trouble. Trump has possibly been criminally negligent in his stewardship of the most serious public health issue since the Flu pandemic of 1918. He has expected personal fealty from state governors as a prerequisite for providing them with federal assistance. Trump has behaved like a mad king throughout, blaming, variously, Democrats, the Press, the Chinese, Obama, and anyone else who deflects from his own responsibility. He has foolishly called for a return to work on the Easter weekend, and has arguably been personally responsible for the death of one of his supporters who drank a poisonous concoction recommended as a cure by Trump on Twitter. His behaviour could change the tragedy that is the spread of the pandemic, into a calamity. He is, metaphorically, coughing and spitting in the face of the American people.

Then we can look at countries that are handling this crisis reasonably well. While we can’t say when this will all be over, nations that are following the public health guidance over political expediency are the polities best placed to flatten the curve. These are typically countries without right wing populist leaders in charge, ones with more social cohesion, and countries where there is sufficient trust in politicians to give them the benefit of the doubt in the time of a crisis. There’s a sense of a shared goal, and that a common purpose can assist in slowing down the spread of the virus, leading to less hospitalizations, and ultimately, less deaths. Countries which provide relatively generous economic and social supports to the thousands who’ve suddenly lost their jobs, have a better chance of mitigating the short term effects of the virus, by keeping people away from the office and working at home, and will recover economically in the middle term once the worst of the crisis has passed. Social solidarity can take decades to build up, and the effects of this can be seen in compliance to stringent restrictions on movement required on a temporary basis. There is a trust that these freedoms will be restored.

The US is sadly paying the price for decades of the glorification of private over public, the belief in unfettered individualism, and the election of a dangerous lunatic unable or unwilling to protect his people. Other countries will get through this with better outcomes. If we learn anything, hopefully it will be the need to contemptuously reject the mantra that greed is good. For the first time since WWII, we really are all in this together. Let’s help each other, and learn from our mistakes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Starmer Armour and Dumping Trump

February 25, 2020 Leave a comment

Starmer Chamelon?

Labour’s interminable leadership election has finally reached the voting stage. There’s no real need for it to drag on so long. The main argument falls down to this; more of the same with Rebecca Line-Bailey, or a move back to picking a leader who can actually, horror of horrors, win elections, with the candidacies of Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer? So far, Starmer has proved the most agile of the three, deftly avoiding the perils of being trapped in a ‘Trans Rights/Self I.D.’ debate he can’t win, and while recognizing that he needs votes from Corbyn supporters to top the poll, refusing to say if the man who is no longer the Messiah shall be in any future Starmer shadow cabinet. The criticism of the front runner is that he’s all things to all people. But it’s unfair to call him a Starmer Chameleon.

He’s been savvy in avoiding the advice from those of the old Blairite tendency telling him to break things by coming across immediately as a moderniser. He may well want to move the party well away from the cul-de-sac politics of the last five, some would say ten, years. But he sees the merit in keeping the best of left ideas, and junking the bad ones. He’s been smart enough, too, not to bash Blair for the sake of it, and his safe pair of hands appeal is winning support from all wings of the membership. Such is the hatred of many of the Labour Left for Tony Blair, that the former three times election winner will not openly say which candidate he’s supporting for fear of making his pick unpopular. Starmer’s seen as having argued the anti-Brexit side as much as he could, often against the bitter resentment of the Hard Left in the movement, who were ineffective in their attempts to marginalise him. He is, on the evidence so far, nobody’s fool.

Starmer’s challenge, should he win, is enormous, but he is suited to the job at hand. He demonstrably has the intellect, the affability, and the political nous to make a serious go at firstly restoring Labour as a fighting fit opposition party, and secondly making them a credible party of government again. He may need three elections to do this, such are the numbers and the prevailing political winds against him at this moment. But he represents the best chance Labour have for taking on the Tories. The 2020 defeat was a calamity for progressive politics. Many Tory voters will soon find out how little Johnson cares for them, and when they do, they’ll need a party who can reach out to their frustrations and disappointments, and offer them some hope again. Britain, or whatever’s left of it in a few years, needs Labour. Starmer is the politician who can take them back into the game. There’s too much at stake over the coming decade for the party membership to make the same mistake as in 2015. This time, they need to vote with their heads as well as their hearts.

Dump Trump Derailed by Blue on Blue

There is only one goal for any Democrat in the next nine months; put Trump out of office in November, and try to rectify some of the appalling damage he’s done in the last four years to the notions of a democratically accountable state in his trashing of the best of the United States. Yet, such is the dysfunctional nature of the American Presidential system the Democrats may gift the most corrupt President in the annals of the White House another term, without him even having to rely on mass cheating. It is possible that ‘Vote Blue, No Matter Who’ may not hold, particularly in the rust-belt. It’s to be hoped that the current division, exacerbated but not solely due to Bernie Sanders infiltrating the Democrats, can be salved come the Fall.

There is a proud and noble American Left tradition which isn’t too far removed from the great reform programmes of the two great domestic Presidents with three letter acronyms, FDR and LBJ. Those titans recognised that capitalism would implode unless saved from itself. Sanders may not fit comfortably in the tradition of recent Democratic Party nominees, but he speaks a language that attention needs to be paid to. The great fear is that Trump will turn the election into a Brazil-style Left v Right referendum, allowing his opponent to paint himself into a corner marked ‘Socialism’. Selecting Bernie Sanders would be the taking of a massive electoral bet.

There are two other candidates worthy of nomination and who could both defeat Trump in a head to head. One is Joe Biden, the other is Elizabeth Warren. Both are formidable opponents. In a Summer Convention where Sanders has only a small plurality, Biden or Warren should be head of the line in challenging him for the top of the ticket. Bernie Sanders is a good man, but he’s probably not the right man for the forthcoming brutal campaign.

Categories: Uncategorized

Trump on Trial, and Labour on the Brink

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Impeachment – a Moral & Legal Imperative

In perhaps the most iconic scene in ‘All the President’s Men’, Woodward and Bernstein are searching through thousands of index cards in the Library of Congress. The camera pans up, and the backing music become more ominous. We know that there on Nixon’s trail, and that ultimately, they’ll find the receipts they need. Similarly, Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee has been working assiduously, as have the best of American media, to hold Trump to account for his high crimes and misdemeanors. It looks like 45 won’t be convicted, but the music is playing, as the Senate Impeachment trial begins, and he will always be an impeached President.

This trial should have taken place in 2017; Trump’s abuse of power in firing FBI Director James Comey, his enrichment from Office while breaching the Emoluments Clause, and his subservience to Putin, were all grounds for impeachment. Better late than never; better that the legal and constitutional process go where it always had to go, rather than ducking out of what has to be done on the grounds of political expediency. If US democracy is to die, rather it die having deployed all her defences against her enemies, than wither away as a would be tyrant destroys all checks on their power. Nancy Pelosi was right to go down this path. Trump can shout hoax all he likes, he is as guilty as snow is white.

The process looks doomed to failure, as the Senate Republican majority will strain all credibility in seeking to defend the indefensible. Mitch McConnell and a reasonable cohort of his fellow GOP hacks in the Senate see Trump. They know what he is, how he has debased the Presidency, and they must surely know the risks in defending Trumpism and what will likely follow him should he succeed. Yet, unless the Democrats can persuade a handful of their Republican colleagues to force a procedural acceptance of witnesses at the hearings, and then in turn, get a minimum of 16 of them to vote for conviction, then Trump will avoid the conviction he so richly deserves. The corruption in DC has reached Roman proportions, and it stems from the top.

What Trump tried to get Ukraine to do to Joe Biden was so blatant, so patently wrong, and so transparently anti-democratic, that only those willfully ignorant to his behaviour can honestly claim he’s an innocent man. The White House is under occupation; it is occupied by an inveterate liar, and this year is the last roll of the dice for the US. America has fallen; not to an invading force, but from a malignancy from within, one that enough voters supported to signify it is a country on the edge. The constitutional and legal process must work, or else there are grim times ahead for democratic norms in the United States. Once the Democrats have selected their candidate, the ticking clock till November begins. It’s not melodramatic to see that the forthcoming general election is the last chance saloon for the US as a nation to put its own house in order. It can be far easier to take away freedoms than it is to restore them.

Road to Recovery, or Labour’s Terminal Decline

Jess Philips pulled out of the Labour Party leadership race today. Maybe she knew she couldn’t win, but her stated reasoning was correct; she couldn’t unite the different wings of the party. There are three remaining candidates. Of those, two could claim to bring the Hard Left, Social Democrat, and Blairite together, one will continue Jeremy Corbyn’s awful legacy, and keep Labour out of government for at least another two electoral cycles.

Kier Starmer is an early frontrunner and has the potential to be the figure that leads Labour out of the wilderness. He has impeccable progressive credentials as an advocate that represented the disadvantaged and oppressed. Starmer performed Trojan work in trying to square the Brexit circle for the party, yet was ultimately unable to come up with a winning formula. No matter; Starmer did the best he could, and represented Labour’s Remain majority with considerable political skill. Lisa Nandy showed a great degree of courage in standing up to Corbynite trolling, and as a Northern moderate woman offers the party a combination they’ve never had as leader. Emily Thornberry despite her skills at political survival is unlikely to win.

Which leave the Corbyn Continuity Candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey. The unashamed standard bearer for the Corbynite message, has a real chance of winning this. If she does, Labour can kiss goodbye to being back in Downing Street till at least the 2030s and if that happens, it will have been over 30 years since their last general election victory. Starmer has some strong left-wing endorsements, but Long-Bailey may benefit from a Momentum operation on the ground. If she wins, the Tories will be delighted, and Labour voters will be the ones who’ll lose out. Let’s hope it’s Starmer.

Categories: Uncategorized

Corbyn’s Catastrophic Crash

December 28, 2019 Leave a comment

The exit poll said it all. The Conservatives would have their biggest majority in over thirty years. Boris Johnson, perhaps the greatest charlatan of modern times to disgrace British politics, would be returning to Number Ten. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was all but conceding minutes after. There would be no (metaphorical) red flag flying over Downing Street.

Labour’s catastrophic defeat in the recent British general election will have come as a devastating shock to their millions of voters looking for a party that represents the many, not the few. Unfortunately, the outcome had been foreseen by anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Labour party politics and electoral history. The Tories now have carte blanche to ‘Americanize’ what’s left of British public life, and plunder the national wealth. There is little to offer – in Churchill’s phrase –  except blood, toil, tears, and sweat for at least the next two election cycles, as Labour either go down recovery road, or turn into another cul-de-sac. Of course Brexit was an enormous wedge issue, but so much blame lies at the door of those who took over a centre-left, reasonably electable party in 2015, and turned it into a husk, that the party will be lucky to take power again in the 2020s. The ghost of Christmas Future has appeared, and he offers a very grim visage to all who behold him.

The burden of responsibility must lie with the leader. Jeremy Corbyn was a serially disloyal to his party since being elected in 1983. For his supporters, this was a virtue; for his critics, this was a harbinger of things to come, of a mindset unwilling to adapt to changing circumstances. Here was a man who had no role in the Irish peace process except to support the so-called armed struggle; he opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement, and bolstered Sinn Fein support when the moderate, and constitutional SDLP were the representatives of Irish nationalism. He was a fellow traveler of Militant Tendency, a party within a party. He had no leadership experience as he appeared to see the politics of the front bench as compromising his unchangeable world views, he would rather protest than govern. He was utterly unsuited to inherit the task of fighting Brexit and the Conservatives. Sadly, the 2017 election was to prove a false dawn. There was no great appetite for 1980s-style socialism, rather, there was an anti-Tory vote out there, which he failed to capitalise on. This writer tried to be fair to Jeremy Corbyn, and gave credit where credit was due. He was a man out of his time and depth.

Culpability also rests with the coterie of Stalinist and Trotskyist party apparatchiks appointed under Corbyn. Among the views held by his inner circle were that the European Union was a capitalist plot, that Putin represented a welcome check on America and NATO, and that ‘New Labour’ were class traitors to be despised more than the Tories. They, along with Corbyn, pushed for de-selection of – the irony! – MPs who dared to criticise the party leadership. Men like Seumas Milne hated the views of most of the parliamentary Labour Party. They had a Jacobin zealotry about them, a disdain for what actually brought Blair and Brown to power for thirteen years. They still want to cling on, and seem to be taking no responsibility for what happened on December 12th; they will blame everyone but themselves. They are the embodiment of Kinnock’s ‘grotesque chaos’ speech from 1985 and it’s as though time had reversed, but this time, the Bennites, not the more moderate Michael Foot, control the party.

Then there’s a significant percentage of supporters who were never in the Labour Party before Corbyn became leader. Many of them were to join his support group, Momemtum, and here’s where Corbynism tipped over into becoming a fully blown cult. There are many decent Momentum members. There are also those who went on to wreak havoc online, demanding absolute loyalty to the leadership who in their eyes could do no wrong, and Corbyn soon became a kind of Messianic figure for them, one who would lead Britain out of the wilderness. They had no sense of the compromises needed to build a successful winning coalition. They would rather call out moderates like Tom Watson than accept that their great leader could possibly be in the wrong.

Political recoveries happen. But it can take years, and the party is now in a worse position than in 1983. They have, at least, broken the 200 barrier for MPs elected, and there will be opportunities to work as an effective opposition. Sadly, we are in a populist age, and unless Labour elect a leader able to expose Johnson and Cummings, we may be in for a period of Conservative hegemony that will make the Thatcher Years seem like the blink of an eye.

Categories: Uncategorized

Britain on the Brink

November 27, 2019 Leave a comment

It seems that every British general election since 2010 has been a ‘crossroads’ one. Will the electorate reject thirteen years of Labour hegemony? Is Cameron able to prove himself more than a soi-disant Tory reformer, and be accepted by enough of the population to govern? Can Teresa May trounce Corbyn and get Brexit done, despite knowing in her heart and mind that it’s a policy inimical to the health and wealth of the United Kingdom? And then we come to the 2019 election, now just over two weeks away. This one feels a notch up again in terms of political significance. Is Britain ready to elect Boris Johnson, a proven liar, to ram Brexit through, and with that, elect the most right wing Conservative government in modern political history? The trope of ‘only X days’ to save the NHS’ seems more true than ever.

What we’re talking about now is the importation of Trumpian values into the heart of the British establishment. Johnson’s Tories are a reversion to the ‘nasty party’, but worse. Forget any one-nation nonsense, that’s just unbelievable window-dressing. They will gut the already thread-bare welfare state, they will go on to promote English nationalism when the nationalist persuasion is the last thing the world needs as the illiberal order of the US, Russia, and China, pose formidable obstacles to the European Union, and the noble founding principles of that commonwealth. Swivel-eyed Righites like Dominic Raab and Priti Patel will call the shots. These are about as far from the 70s Tory ‘wets’ as you can get. No wonder Michael Heseltine won’t be voting Conservative.

Johnson and his Svengali, Dominic Cummings, are smart enough. They aren’t particularly innovative when it comes to political strategy; their overarching theme is of dividing and conquering, and playing to the lowest common denominator. Anyone who has truck with someone like Steve Bannon and his 1930s politics either has profound judgment issues, or is an extremely dangerous individual themselves. Johnson as Janus is that he can appear to be both; the Bertie Wooster  ‘wopps, me gov’nor, did I say that?’, and a coldly calculating, ruthlessly ambitious man who would sacrifice almost anything to get power. He is already a disgrace to his Office, in the way he sought to geld parliament. His getting an overall majority would be a cause of alarm and fear for people not usually given to those feelings.

Whither Labour? As several commentators have observed, they should be walking this. Their heartlands were rocked by austerity, their natural supporters are crying out for leadership, and there’s no way Johnson is going to become Prime Minister on the back of a personal vote. But the Corbyn effect just won’t go away. For all the reasons this writer has previously stated, he may well have hit the buffers of his own limitations and hostages to fortune. Hung around with Hezbollah? There’s receipts for that, as there are for his outrageous support for the IRA while the majority of nationalists, in the north and south of Ireland, opposed them. His long-term opposition to NATO offers succor to Putin, as does his relying on the ghastly Seumas Milne.

And yet, there’s the unpredictability of the polls. While a repeat of 2017 looks unlikely, it has to be remembered that the 2017 result looked extremely unlikely itself. May went into the campaign with a massive lead over Corbyn, and to the surprise of many of his critics, he and his his party did justice to the distinguished name of Labour. If the leader of the opposition can recreate some of the electoral magic from two years ago, then it’s possible Johnson will be denied his majority.

If there is another hung parliament, and depending on how the numbers fall, then three female political leaders will hold the key to what happens next. Jo Swinson will demand Labour under a new leader if Corbyn asks the Liberal Democrats to help him form a government. She is hoping to benefit from tactical voting, and not suffer the third party squeeze that so hobbled her predecessor, Tim Farron’s, outcome in 2017. Nicola Sturgeon looks like having a successful outing in Scotland; how times have changed from when the nation in waiting used to be coloured a solid red. Her demand if she should hold the balance of power will be another independence referendum, and she will get it. She’s shown herself to be a real leader, and capable of considerable tactical and strategic savvy. Then there’s Arlene Foster; the DUP was cast adrift by Johnson. How would she react if he needs to come running for help again?

Nothings’s inevitable, but hindsight makes it so. The Tory Press is at their nauseating worse trying to get Johnson over the line. Let’s hope they fail, and Britain steps back from the brink.

Categories: Uncategorized

Broken America and Little England

October 27, 2019 Leave a comment

Three Years and Still There – Why?

Trump is still in office. Let that sink in. Someone who disgraces the role and his country on a daily basis, who cheated his way to victory, who has refused to release his tax records knowing they’ll be a damning record of financial malpractice going back for decades, has still got his bloated ego gripping on to the chair in the Oval Office. Take in even a small fraction of his behaviour and you have the grounds for removal in any other normal functioning democracy. The contrast with the Obama years is stark and grim; in Trumpland, probity is seen as weakness, graft is smart, and thuggery becomes the modus vivendi.

The USA is broken. It can be fixed, and mass peaceful process is one such way of repairing the damage done to the democratic fabric since 2016. But it is still in a state of gross disrepair.  The much-vaunted checks and balances have looked increasingly weaker, and there’s a sense that the more lies he tells, the more his obfuscation leads to disunity and lack of focus in opposition forces. There are real and well-grounded fears of violence in the run up to the 2020 presidential election. The pendulum that swings between optimism and pessimism seems to be accelerating with increased regularity. The pessimists have much to be downbeat about.

Mueller failed. His defenders like to say it’s all there in the report, that the facts speak for themselves, and that it’s only Billy Barr’s obstruction and Trump’s deviousness that’s stopped the righteous prosecution of the biggest threat to American democratic norms since Richard M Nixon, and in many ways, a threat that is a lot worse. The Democrats aren’t even using Mueller’s Russia findings for impeachment. Mueller did not do his duty because if he had, we’d be looking at the last days of what Sarah Kendzior calls Trump’s ‘transnational crime syndicate’. His refusal to take anything beyond a minimalist approach to questioning, and utterly depressingly-asinine declining to say if the Commander in Thief should be prosecuted, has meant that those who believe in the rule of law have a much more difficult task on their hands. It may be that we’ll look back at the Mueller Report and say that the pulling of his punches and lack of clarity, aggravated the fall of the Republic.

One of the reasons democracies fall is because ‘good Germans’ miss that final moment before the darkness descends. Decent Republicans – and let’s hold off on the ontology of that statement and leave that discussion for another time – may have already missed that chance. There have been countless opportunities for the likes of some GOP Senators – enough to bring the numbers up to impeachment levels perhaps – officials who’ve resigned and former office holders. They’ve mostly decided to try and sit this one out, as though Trump is an aberration, and that the constitution is not under siege from ‘Trumpism’. Or they’re afraid. Not of any coming authoritarianism, because if they’ve ducked and covered for this, they’ll survive worse times should they come. No, they’re afraid of losing power, their jobs, their access to money; the most venal of concerns for a legislator.

The numbers are there for resistance. If Trump wins in 2020, it will be down to the outdated and gerrymandering-enabling Electoral College. The Democrats need to pledge to abolish this. They also need to threaten to pack the Supreme Court, not necessarily with liberals, but with Merrick Garland style constitutionalists who will take the country back to a normal keel. Forbearance has failed; 2020 is not the time to ‘go high’ against the Republicans.

The Brexit Mindset

There’s no convincing an ardent Brexiteer that their worldview is grossly distorted. The fact that that French and German politicians don’t spend every waking moment worried about the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union may come as a surprise to your average Leaver. They’ve been fed a diet of tabloid gruel and Telegraph polysyllabic prejudice, and see the world through a prism where Hans in Hamburg is terrified that he’ll sell fewer cars to the UK, or Ann-Sophie in Normandy is losing sleep over the threat to cheese exports. It’s a universe of deference to true ‘Brit Grit’, one where the spirit of two world wars and one world cup will see them thrive on their own resourcefulness and plucky fighting spirit. This is the super-structure to the politics, the emotion behind the increased trade possibility rhetoric. Like any fantasy, or pattern of denial, this veil of ignorance will take a long time to be lifted, and for the hard-core Leaver, they may never admit that most Europeans now see them as a punch line to a joke, a country still living up to Dean Acheson’s maxim of having lost an empire, and not yet found a role.

Categories: Uncategorized