Saturday, 31 December 2011

Hats off to Val Shawcross

If Andrew Gilligan's blog is to be believed (I admit, a not entirely moot point), we learn, via the excellent Harry's Place, that Val Shawcross, Ken's running-mate in the London mayorals, has commented on the former's lack of wisdom in his choice of friends the extremist Al-Qaradawi, and his comments to Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold that got him suspended as Mayor.

In other words, at last, someone senior in the Labour Party has clocked the damage that these things has caused, as Gilligan says, to the support of "liberals, gay people, Jews, feminists and democrats" for the mayoral campaign, and to the party in general.

Chapeau, Val, for speaking out. I hope you are not the last.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The best of 2011 - who's Number One?

Just in case you missed them first time around, here were the best-read posts of 2011 at the Centre Left:

5. UCU and the siren call of “my enemy’s enemy” - written after the union's extraordinary, Kafkaesque decision, on being accused of anti-semitism, to rewrite what anti-semitism means.

4. The New Politics (reprise) - Huhne’s Reagan Defence - on the decision of Chris Huhne to claim, somewhat implausibly, that he had forgotten all about a night about which exists a taped conversation between him and his wife.

3. Our tolerance of extremism will do for us - on the various attempts of the British left to abhor racism without, whilst tolerating it within.

2. Faith schools: a bad idea just got worse - on Michael Gove's allowing the total exclusion of non-faith teachers

1. A response to Richard Burden MP on racist extremism And, at no. 1, many thanks to Richard Burden MP, for entertaining us with his irony-free plea to exclude a visiting Bible-basher from the UK as a homophobe, while defending overtly homophobic and racist preacher Raed Salah, friend of suicide-bombing terrorists Hamas. Well done, Richard, you really have brought credit on our party with that flawless logic.

Thank you all so much for your continued interest, support and debate through the year. We'll be doing our best to keep it coming this end during 2012.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

2012: A year to fix the party

As our leaders sit back and take stock during the holidays, they might reflect, not just on the daily parliamentary grind against Cameron and the coalition, but of something else: of the time that opposition affords parties to deal with their own problems and, in dealing with them, help show their fitness to govern.

They’re not small, these problems. The unfinished business of the party organisation, freely acknowledged by Tony Blair in A Journey, is coming back to haunt us, as it becomes clear that this year’s exercise of Refounding Labour has done precious little to advance, well, the refounding of anything at all.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

And the winner of the 2011 "Reagan Defence" Award is...

...a late entry, the irrepressible CNN talk-show host Piers Morgan, for apparently having forgotten most of his life as editor at the Daily Mirror during yesterday's Leveson inquiry hearings.

He beat off stern competition, however, from News International's Les Hinton (also forgot about phone-hacking during Leveson) and of course the government's very own Chris Huhne (forgot about any details of a rather important speeding ticket).

An eminent field, surely worthy of comparison with the untouchable President Reagan, who memorably forgot about everything that ever happened to do with Iran-Contra.

So, congratulations to Piers. As @SimonNRicketts tweeted yesterday: 

Piers Morgan is only being filmed from the waist up at the #leveson inquiry because his pants are obviously on fire.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Two reactions to extremism

Compare and contrast:

a. Tory MP, snapped next to man dressed as Nazi, sacked
b. Labour MPs invite real, declared anti-Semite to speak at Westminster: still in post.

I am no fan of the Tories, but...something's not right here.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

It’s the financial markets, stupid

‘The real game’s not over here’ – Lou Reed
What is the main thing driving the urgency of a solution to the euro crisis? Why, the financial markets, of course. Not because they should be calling the shots, but just the obvious reason, that you need to keep them on board in times of crisis because, if not, in that water there are sharks who will kill you. That is the way it has always been, from the South Sea Bubble to the current crisis.
First of all, there was the summit, which had the UK media, not to mention those in Europe and across the world, in a frenzy. But not about the dismal failure of the summit to agree a credible package to save the euro. No, a much more readable story was Cameron’s walkout and Britain’s isolation. But some softer voices, the business editors and the FT , made the point.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The coalition is on life-support

“Mummy, what is that man for”? This exquisite, though probably apocryphal, comment from a small child has been variously said to be about many politicians over the years, including Herbert Asquith. But Asquith’s successor a century later, Nick Clegg, may suddenly be finding that a real and painful question, as he reflects on the wreckage of last week’s European summit.

But first, what happened: Cameron vetoed a treaty amendment on European integration, leaving the remaining countries no alternative but to set up a separate group which would implement the deal outside the EU. It was technically a veto, but only technically: it stopped nothing. The sticking point was said to be the financial transaction tax (FTT), an oddly unfair idea that a group of countries with relatively small financial sectors could jointly gang up to tax the one country which has an unseasonably large one, and which would certainly have damaged British interests. In that sense he was right to veto. Since the FTT is unfeasible without Britain, it was very likely a deliberate ploy by Sarkozy, as Ben Brogan suggests, to insist on this point which he knew Cameron could not accept, thus removing the “difficult” Cameron from the scene and clearing the way for an EU which might just have a chance of agreeing what it needed to

, this does not mean a triumph for Cameron – far from it. It is, as former Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, told John Rentoul, “the worst foreign policy disaster in my adult lifetime”. But not because of the FTT. It is a disaster because it should never have come to this. Sarkozy took this action precisely because he knew Cameron was hamstrung and would never co-operate. Rather than the EU limping around with a British club foot, Sarkozy ruthlessly opted for amputation. But Sarkozy is no fool: he must have seen the attractions of a deal, but didn’t see it as possible.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Flynn: tolerating the intolerable

Last week, two things happened which produced condemnation by our politicians. Jeremy Clarkson appeared on national television threatening to shoot strikers in front of their families. And Paul Flynn MP, interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle, spoke against having a Jewish ambassador for Israel, after suggesting in Parliament that he might be working for a foreign power.

Clarkson is a big-mouth and a boor. He may even, from his recorded comments, be described as casually xenophobic. He is also – many may not realise this – extraordinarily successful at an international level (Top Gear has 350 million viewers per week in 170 countries – believe me, despite their protestations the BBC will not sack him any time soon). I don’t particularly warm to him or his alleged humour, but that’s beside the point.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Miliband the seer, Miliband the invulnerable

Last Thursday, Ed MIliband was speaking at the IPPR on the economy, doughtily willing that Labour’s alternative can soon be heard again, in light of Britain’s increasingly dreadful prospects. In spite of the response of many commentators, that here was a battle he couldn’t win, his words indicated that, on the contrary, he genuinely believes things are going his way on the economy and that Labour merely needs “one more heave”, as Dan Hodges puts it. He and Ed Balls need only keep saying the same thing, and the political tectonic plates will have shifted their way by the general election.

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