Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Brand the Tories right wing? I Woodwouldn’t

Oh dear. To read the Observer report of Shaun Woodward’s leaked memo on how Labour should attack the Tories, the question which springs to mind is not so much, is this going to be genuine Labour strategy as, what on earth was he thinking?

The thrust of the piece is that Labour should attack the Tories for reverting from their “cuddly conservative” projection to a more traditional right-wing positioning, and to make this the Brown-style “dividing line” between us and them, on which we should base our attack.

Now, there is much to be said for dividing lines, indeed their judicious use has been a great help to Labour over the last twenty years. And there is no doubt that Cameron is now pursuing a more right-wing agenda than was being projected in the run-up to the general election. However, for a whole raft of reasons, Woodward has badly miscalculated.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hard choices (reprise)

Nearing the end of the Mandelson memoirs: love or hate the Prince of Darkness, they are essential reading for those who want to understand Labour's last twenty years, and the Brown years in particular. Memoirs must always be read with the caveat that you view the world through the author’s prism. However, at their best, they can be fascinating in revealing, through events, the strengths and weaknesses of personalities.

And what do we find, tucked away on page 526, but a little insight into the mind of Ed Miliband - written, of course, before he ever became party leader - on Labour's 2010 manifesto, which he wrote: 

"It adopted radical rhetoric, but when it was boiled down it was vague and appeared to avoid any hard choices."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Warning: Euro-iceberg approaching

As we pass an unusually newsworthy summer on the domestic front with phone-hacking and riots, not to mention economic wobbles in the US and China, let alone Libya, it might be wise to return for a moment to the iceberg edging towards our own continent, its long-term significance for Britain ultimately liable to outstrip all these things.

For a measure of just how significant, you must admit that it is newsworthy, not to say deliciously ironic, when that full-blooded Tory George Osborne finds himself somewhat sheepishly agreeing that 
"the remorseless logic of monetary union leads from a single currency to greater fiscal integration". 
In other words: you Euro-chaps really should get cracking on giving away more sovereignty. 

Excuse me? As Nick Cohen relates: 
“We have become so used to hearing it that we fail to notice the strangeness of a eurosceptic Tory chancellor begging Europeans to integrate faster...Osborne is panicking because the theories of what will happen if the EU tries to keep muddling on and a major European country defaults range from the alarming to the catastrophic. Liquidity would freeze, British banks' capital would be wiped out, Britain would go back into recession…and the deficit balloon beyond control…he must support a policy he has spent his career opposing.” 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Labour’s riots response: wrong on tactics, wrong on strategy

It was a mere few days ago that we were praising the willingness of a reinvigorated Ed Miliband to make hard decisions. The dumping of the Shadow Cabinet elections. The explicit non-backing for an unpopular strike. Most striking of all, two occasions on which he had gone out on a limb against powerful interests – even though the endgame of both is still uncertain – his sure-footed handling of the parliamentary debate on phone-hacking, which finally had Cameron on the back foot; and his determination to adjust the representation of unions in party decision-making.

It seemed like Labour had things all sewn up for the summer recess, and we could look forward to a renewing summer break and a gentle trot into conference season, enjoying the first truly glad, confident morning of the Miliband leadership. But oh, how quickly events can intervene, dear boy.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The week the tectonic plates shifted

Night view from the Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Think for a moment, if you can, beyond the riots. Beyond the slow-burning flames engulfing parts of the Murdoch empire. Beyond the British cuts and the British growth problem, to that delicate balancing of immense forces which is global geopolitics.

And, last week, amongst the domestic news, you saw some truly momentous events. Some momentous in themselves, some merely telling indicators, signifying how far we’ve come incrementally along a historical road.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Parliamentary recall: the return of gesture politics

So, parliament is to be recalled for a day to debate the disturbances in London and elsewhere. Now, there is clearly an arguable case for the home secretary, the mayor of London and even the Prime Minister to be there for COBRA, but...parliament? Why?

First, a necessity for parliament sitting arises if we need to pass laws. Is there a need, as blogger Pat Osgood sensibly pointed out, for primary legislation? Of course there is not.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

In the hands of the many, not the few

So, we are having a debate about the role of unions in the Party. Perhaps Ed, as my Uncut colleague Peter Watt suggests, is on a hiding to nothing: he is paddling against a strong current of realpolitik that dictates that this cannot change, at least whilst the party is taking ninety per cent of its donations from unions.

But, this aside, perhaps we should examine something more important: rather than whether Ed will win, we should look at whether or not Ed is right.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

How pseudo-democracy fools us all

Democracy, as even that oft-pessimistic Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, noted in his rather good volume Age Of Extremes, is one of the great unsung advances of the twentieth century. The post-war period, especially, saw a huge increase in the proportion of the population living in democracies, a development for which we should all be thankful. Think about it: just India, Russia and South America account for around a quarter of the world’s population and, within the space of a mere half-century, all had flipped over to democracy.

But there is a caveat. Before all this, countries were largely either undemocratic (that is, totalitarian or feudal) or democratic. No messing about. It was the Allies versus the fascists, or the West versus the USSR and China. That’s not to say Britain wasn’t friendly to some awful regimes, but you knew that and accepted it as realpolitik. In the old days, you knew where you were. There were some foolish people who pretended the USSR was free, but they were just that – foolish.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Racism: you couldn’t make this stuff up

“Appeasing racists and the...ideology that is behind them does not lead to success or cohesion. Concessions and encouragement...lead them to demand and get more.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP, who continues to defend racist Islamist preacher Raed Salah, rightly vilifies white racists in the Morning Star

But without, apparently, seeing the slightest hint of irony.
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