Sunday, 24 June 2012

Paranoia and Progress

It's my last blog for a couple of weeks as the Centre Left is on holiday, but I thought I'd post a quick final thought about the attempts of the GMB and Unison to have the New Labour thinktank, Progress, ejected from the Labour Party.

Nick Cohen writes brilliantly today in the Observer about the cowardice of Wikileaks' Julian Assange, and the bizarre conspiracy theories being propagated by his supporters, that he is being pursued by the US government (which has yet to even issue an extradition request). But I was struck by his final quote, from American commentator Richard Hofstadter, about how such thinking leads to cognitive dissonance of a type by no means unknown on either the left or the right:

"the tendency for the paranoid to emulate the enemy they claim to oppose. His words read as well today: "It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him."
The GMB's original motion fundamentally derives from the perception of a shadowy conspiracy on the part of a perfectly above-board and transparent organisation, with a handful of employees and which only operates within the Labour Party (there is no "outside the party", unlike unions themselves, which is why accusations of entryism are so ridiculous). This is not an opinion, held because I happen to subscribe broadly to Progress' politics: it is fact, easily verified by the most cursory analysis.

In short, it is precisely unions' own weakness for anti-democratic stitch-ups which makes them fear such phenomena in Progress, whether they exist there or not. It is precisely their own factionalist plotting which convinces them that Progress is guilty of the same, even if the truth is that they generally aim for the opposite: to build broad coalitions. It is precisely their own wish to take out their opponents, rather than win the argument against them, which feeds their view that Progress is a dangerous force which will, unchecked, do the same to them.

As we come into a critical conference season where Cameron has surely handed Labour the chance of the whole parliament to get back in the electoral running, surely the last thing we need is to be drifting carelessly into the conspiracy theorising which, in our world, is normally to be found only on the far left.

The Centre Left is now on a brief hiatus until 12 July

Thursday, 21 June 2012

No time for foolishness

The sabre-rattling about cutting donations to Labour Party funds. The attack on those frightening people at Progress who seem hell-bent on doing unspeakable things, like building support in no-hope seats, helping local parties raise funds or debating ideas for getting the party elected. Ah, we must be coming into conference season.

Now, to be fair, during every conference season I can remember, I swear that at least one journalist has used the phrase “limbering up for a fight” to describe the mood of union leaders, only to be followed by their crushing disappointment at the relatively peaceful and harmonious Labour Party conference which usually results.

This time, however, it seems for once that the phrase might just be accurate. The return of the far left during the past couple of years, as evidenced by the Bradford West by-election and the resurgence of unpleasant views on the fringes of the labour movement and of the party, means the possibility of confrontation, although by no means certain, looks higher than it has been for some years.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

We shouldn’t stop at Responsibility To Protect

There have been plenty of column inches in recent weeks dedicated to why the world should intervene in Syria: for most of us the unspeakable pictures of children with their throats cut from the massacre in Houla is enough. It seems undeniable that the world should do something in the face of genocide or likely genocide, but something – especially since Iraq – holds many of us back on the left from saying so.

So perhaps it’s useful to step back and look at a more fundamental, perhaps more philosophical point: how can we on the left not feel obliged to stop genocide in general, and not just its implementation within the constraints of the UN, via its doctrine of Responsibility To Protect (RTP)?

Does it not sometimes feel like people still see human life through a nineteenth century prism, where the nation state is all we care about? When it was simply not possible to make military interventions without mass loss of British life, and our interest in intervention was pure colonialism (as, in Diane Abbott’s parallel universe , it probably still is)?

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Guardian reaches a new low (ii)

Gobsmacked, I think is a fair way to describe my feelings.

Sorry to rant,
but it's hard not to be indignant at this. After Raed Salah, I really thought it wasn't possible for the Guardian to become more idiotic, and more openly tolerant of racism, in its invitations to guest writers. 

Silly old me.

Yes, the Guardian's editorial staff have trumped their Salah op-ed by this piece from a real, live, unashamed terrorist. Ismail Haniyeh, leader of suicide-bombing terrorists Hamas in Gaza, is their latest signing. Read his apologia for his nasty crew here, and do check out the lovely Hamas Charter here, replete with Hamas' progressive views on jihad, the secondary role of women and, Jews, Jews, Jews!

[Hat-tip: Richard Shepherd at The Commentator]

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Labour and anti-semitism: a good start, but not enough

I know this happened a couple of weeks back now, but I just wanted to comment on Ed Miliband’s piece in the New Statesman, where he uses his Jewish heritage to try to rebuild bridges with London’s Jewish community after the disaster of Ken Livingstone’s relationship with them over recent years, which started to go wrong in 2005 with the Oliver Finegold incident.

It is well, good and long overdue that this should happen, as my good colleague Dan Hodges comments at his Telegraph blog. It is, indeed, a tragedy that it should ever have come to this in the first place, in the proud party of anti-apartheid, which has undoubtedly done more than any other in British twentieth-century history to combat racism. But where I think I differ from Dan is that I believe that it is still way too little. Now he has the opportunity, and has established a firm hold on the leadership, Miliband is in a position to go much further.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why Tories should worry about David Cameron

I don’t hate Tories. I’m sorry if this is a terrible admission for a Labour man, but there it is. I think that their values are different from mine; really, I merely want us to win and them to lose. And there are some things which do, and should, transcend party politics. We should be able to appreciate that, quite apart from their political opinions, many Tory MPs are decent and a few are not; as is the case, if we’re honest, in our own ranks, too.

So, why should Tories worry about Cameron, a man who, after all, largely made them electable and put them into government? I’ll explain.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Without a revival in the south there will be no new Labour government

It is spring, two years into a parliament, and an activist’s mind turns to…elections (well, we are an odd lot).

Candidates start to be chosen and campaigns planned. We have a much clearer idea of what kind of opponents we will be up against in 2015. A new leadership finds its feet and gets to grips with its medium-term political strategy.

The trouble with the end of an era in politics, as in most other branches of human thought, is that in our rush to turn the page, we’re invariably faced with the baby/bathwater problem. And the next election is no exception.

New Labour is dead, and those of us who were part of it need to be sanguine about the need for moving on. But there’s a current fashion in some quarters of the party to go further: to try and convince ourselves that everything which happened after 1994 was somehow a tragic disaster, an aberration from Labour’s true path.

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