Sunday, 29 January 2012

Respect, a misnomer if ever there was one

Just to note (hat-tip: Harry's Place) the excellent news that the awful Carole Swords, mentioned in a previous post as a member of Viva Palestina and chair of Respect in Tower Hamlets, has been convicted of threatening behaviour.

ere's the delightful Ms Swords shouting "go back to Russia" at some passing Jewish people:

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Why Mehdi Hasan is wrong about Islamophobia in the media

On Thursday I sent a tweet – slightly intemperate, I admit – drawing attention to a piece by the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan on Islamophobia in the British media, and the fact that I thought it was a problem on the streets, not in the press.

Mehdi, to his credit, politely invited me to read the submission to the Leveson inquiry which prompted the article and a letter to the Guardian signed by various luminaries (almost all on the left), which I agreed to do (the document is 86 pages long, but luckily only the first 16 are relevant. I read all of them, like the true pedant I am). I know this piece is a little long, but it was important to answer properly.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Smart people learn from their enemies

The furore over last week’s defection of former Labour staffer, Luke Bozier, to the Tories provides a convenient excuse for a closer look at the party that he has just joined. Not with a view to doing the same, you understand – it’d be a cold day in hell for most of us – but with a view to a bit of hard-nosed, non-partisan analysis.

Leafing through Alan Clark’s idiosyncratic history of his party, The Tories, there are some interesting lessons for Labour. Not ideologically, of course: but about the nature of politics, and the nature of power. And power is something which the Tories were uncommonly good at securing and retaining during the period of the book, from their successful defenestration of Lloyd George in 1922 through to their rout in 1997. Indeed, during this period, as Clark points out:

“…the Conservative Party was the dominant political force in Britain – even when, for short periods, it was in Opposition”.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Democracy falters, in a country near you

All of us sometimes have mixed feelings about the EU but, in one area, even its harshest critics would have to reluctantly agree that it has succeeded. In its expansion eastwards it has helped consolidate democratic rule where there previously was none, aligned militarily and politically towards the West and away from an increasingly less democratic, and periodically sabre-rattling, Russia.

In a moving passage from his autobiography Denis Healey describes how, in 1956, as the news came over on his car radio that the uprising against the Communists had failed, he pulled over to the side of the road and tears of frustration rolled down his cheeks. Britain, on one of the Tories’ most incompetent watches, had abandoned its Hungarian neighbours to their fate in favour of a hubristic, end-of-empire and ultimately doomed intervention in Suez.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Abbott, Flynn and why we lefties think we can never be racist

My third piece for the New Statesman, about Diane Abbott and Paul Flynn is here.

By the way, the original Centre Left piece about Paul Flynn, in case you missed it, is here.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Labour’s Groundhog Year

The New Year. Our thoughts and hopes for the future. A difficult year behind. Another one ahead.

Sound at all familiar?

In the film 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a character who realises that he is getting up to the same song playing on his clock-radio, I Got You Babe, every day and that all the same things are happening in the same order. After a while, he realises that he is stuck in a nightmare where the same day repeats forever: he must change and reinvent himself in order to break out.

Anthony Painter’s LabourList piece summarised rather well how the year has not been a good one. But there’s something more: already we seem to be in danger of restarting our own Groundhog Year, destined to go through the same in 2012.

First, the New Year’s message from Ed Miliband: as Peter Hoskin notes in the Spectator, it’s remarkably similar to last year’s. Yes, there is an important nod towards fiscal conservatism (perhaps the work of my good comrades Painter, Lent, Cooke and Sen in Into The Black Labour did not go unnoticed, after all), but essentially the same points are made. Brave troops inAfghanistan, check. Politicians alienated from the public, check. Optimism, check.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Political blogging: why it’s good to critique your own team

During 2011 a number of people, often well-meaning, sometimes not so, have questioned the choice of some bloggers at Labour Uncut and elsewhere to analyse dispassionately and sometimes brutally, not just the Tories and the Lib Dems, but the Labour Party under Ed Miliband. The inference being that, as loyal party members who want a Labour government, bloggers should make only supportive comments (which, by the way, those same people often do), and not critical ones.

Some history: at the beginning of the New Labour government in the late 1990s, the UK political internet was in its infancy, and there was really no such thing as blogging in the UK. The only real outlet that party people had was through the traditional media, and largely the only people who could really get arrested in the traditional media were MPs (and with the local press, councillors).

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