Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spain's crisis could not have come at a worse moment - for her and for Europe

Afraid I rather lost the plot and didn't realise my fifth piece for the Independent, on Spain's current political meltdown, had come out on Sunday - link here.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A downgraded government – but is that enough for Labour?

There can be no overstating the political and economic importance of last Thursday’s announcement from Moody’s ratings agency, that it is downgrading the UK’s credit rating to AA1. And the fact that financial markets were expecting it by no means lessens that importance.

What does this mean? Simply, it means that the world’s economists think that instead it being virtually impossible that Britain declares itself bankrupt, it is merely highly improbable. Sounds a bit anodyne, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Isn’t it time Labour stopped facing both ways on Islamist extremism?

In the Labour party, we have, last week, been shocked at how one of our members of Parliament, Sadiq Khan, can receive death threats from freaks who believe they are licensed to make him vote against gay marriage by force including, apparently, murder. And Khan is apparently not the only one: Labour List reports that “Rushanara Ali, Shabana Mahmood, Anas Sarwar…are all believed to have been similarly targeted”. Bravely, none of them wavered in their commitment to their own values, of equality for all under the law.

Yet, at the same time, we have other MPs,
who invite a preacher who laughs about taunting his Jewish high school teacher with a swastika, who thinks being gay is a “great crime” that signals “the start of the collapse of every society, and who is convicted of funding a terrorist organisation, to speak at the mother of all parliaments.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Safe European home? If you’re Jewish, that ain’t necessarily so

The most chilling thing about Michael Dugher MP’s timely piece on “mainstream” anti-Semitism is that it needed to be written. Anti-Semitism in Britain, as I wrote in the New Statesman last February, is sadly a phenomenon no longer confined to the fringes of politics.

But our worries pale into insignificance when we look at some other countries close to home. One of the most disturbing pieces of news on racism I have seen in recent years came last week, not from some country of desperate poverty, but from within that cosy little nest of tolerance and democratic values and that we like to think is the European Union.

Oskar Deutsch, leader of Vienna’s Jewish community, recently welcomed Jewish families emigrating from Hungary, reports Jewish News One (JN1). But there was an unpleasant undercurrent to it all: the families are emigrating because they do not want to live with the anti-Semitism which is now rife in Hungary. And one hundred and fifty families are crossing the Austrian border each year to Vienna, to escape it.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Political debates: a procedural guide for the far left

Since I’ve had a few debates with mad people recently, especially on Twitter, I thought I would save any other members of the SWP, Respect, Stop The War Coalition, etc. the trouble of having to think too hard about individual subjects, and written a simple how-to guide on debating “in the style of”. It’s really easy.

1. Choose subject.

2. Decide on opinion on subject, preferably by asking someone else in your peer group what you should think.

3. Review facts.

4. Manipulate facts to fit opinion, carefully omitting any which might unhelpfully contradict opinion previously decided on in 2.

5. Debate opinion with others, but be careful to limit audience to those who happen to have exactly the same opinion. Warning: ignoring this point may lead to exposure to dangerous contrary facts and, in extreme cases, complete breakdown of groupthink.

6. Wait for “aha!” moment, one key fact that you can use as clinching proof that you are right.

7. Say, “aha!”

8. Reiterate “aha!” as many times as desired ("gotcha!" is also acceptable).

9. Alternate with “I told you so” at intervals, especially when bad things happen. NB Bad thing does not need to be remotely connected to subject chosen in 1.

I hope you all find it useful, and can debate with yourselves happily in future without involving me! I guarantee your opinion will chime exactly with that of all your friends!

Thanks so much.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chris Huhne: some reflections on the last two years

As we are seemingly nearing the end of the trial, and reporting restrictions have been a little altered since the guilty plea, my concluding piece for the Independent on this subject - which the Centre Left has followed from the start - is here.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The far left, not so far from the heart of the Labour Party

While the latest controversy surrounding the Socialist Workers Party shows that we all still have an odd, vicarious interest in the goings-on of a fringe, far-left party – or as blogger Laurie Penny put it in an unintentional comedy moment, a party which contains “many of the UK’s most important thinkers and writers” -  we might just miss something less obviously scandalous but closer to home.

Three weeks ago, Ken Livingstone’s former chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, was appointed as trade union liaison manager to the leader’s office. A backroom role, it is there to manage the relationship between trade unions and the party and has the ear of the party’s leader and deputy.

While the Mail and the Standard, not really newspapers which understand the running of the Labour party, ran their predictable “Red Ed” headlines and tried to use the appointment, laughably, to attack Miliband for being a Trot in disguise, in the process they made one legitimate point which should concern us on the mainstream left. It relates to the so-called Socialist Action group.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Huhne: a recap

Obviously the trial of the unfortunate Huhne, who has just pleaded guilty to peverting the course of justice, is still going on and therefore sub judice. I make no comment therefore except, having taken particular interest in the case, to refer you to two earlier pieces I wrote two years ago, when it was not. All I can say is that I suspect that very few of those of who have followed the case are surprised at his plea.
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