Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A glimmer of sunlight for Britain and for Labour

Image result for images sunlightThe first thing to observe about the current political situation in Britain is that it is incredibly difficult to predict. At every point of the mathematical decision tree, there are unknowns and strange distortions (more of that later).

So the starting point for us, like Sophocles, is this: the only thing we know is that we know nothing. And the one thing which is usually true about politics is when there is an “everyone knows that…” conventional wisdom, it is more often than not completely wrong. Whoever would have predicted the success of Donald Trump? Or John Major, or Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter?

That said, if we look incrementally at what has changed in the last ten days, it would seem that Britain, and Labour, are both in a slightly better place.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The tragi-comic end of Wreathgate is a timely reminder of how far British politics has fallen

Image result for jeremy corbyn wreath imagesYou will recall how, a few months ago, a certain party leader furiously denied, then in the end implicitly accepted, that he laid a wreath at the grave of Palestinian terrorists: essentially in the face of overwhelming evidence that he did just that.

Thanks to the painstaking work of some ordinary folk, as well as journalists, piecing together maps and photographs from the event, it was made clear that the route he took through the cemetery would have made any other explanation untenable.

For many of us, this was a watershed moment. We knew he had a long history of hanging out with dubious people and supporting unpleasant causes, but we wanted to believe there was still a chance that he was merely naïve and occasionally mendacious, rather than a serial liar. This shattered that possibility.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Tiny step by tiny step, the unions reassert themselves as ballast against the hard left

by Rob Marchant

If last year’s party conference was an unabashed love-in for Corbynites and the party’s leader, this was the conference where – as always happens eventually in all environments where the far left runs the show – the cracks started to appear.

Ok, it may not be enough to stop the party from self-immolation. But, after the shock to Labour’s system of the tsunami of new members and a leadership dragging it off to the far left, the tectonic plates appear to be slowly, infuriatingly slowly, moving back towards their traditional positions.

There are reasons why the power structure within the Labour Party has grown up as it has. The party came out of the unions and the unions have always had a seat at the top table – some times more powerful than others, but always there.

Now, in general, unions and the union movement have so far been widely supportive of Corbyn. Why? Because the decline in union membership (and thus the accountability of union leaders to their members) has allowed the bigger unions to drift sleepily to the left, into a misty-eyed, 1970s nostalgia where globalisation never happened. Corbyn plays to the worst and most self-indulgent instincts of the left-leaning unions: he tells them they were right all along.

But the smarter ones among the leaders, left and right, are starting to wake up and see that not all is roses. They are realising that, first of all, a strictly member-led party may not pay attention to their views on, say, the leadership of the party. And the more power goes to the members, the less there is for them. Hence why they voted to dilute the rule changes for a more “member-run” party and actually increased their own say in leadership elections.

Second, that said members, although they are mostly pro-EU and have voted at conference for a second referendum, that is a mere conference motion. And that new, vastly-expanded membership may not be sufficiently assertive to secure an actual change to Corbyn’s position on that topic and hence protect the economy, jobs and workers’ rights (by the way, if anyone in the Leader’s Office can point to a paper which explains why a “jobs-first Brexit” is anything more than a breathtakingly meaningless slogan, it would be great to see it. Thanks).

Hence deep concern in the unions over Europe. Union members, by the way, back a second referendum by two to one. Of course, it is hardly unheard of for the big union leaders to go against their members (let’s face it, most are elected on a pitiful turnout) but eventually strong feelings bring some pressure to bear on their views, too.

Third, that, in slavishly following the Corbynite “anti-Semitism, what anti-Semitism?” position, those members may actually encourage the racism that the British labour movement has spent its whole history fighting against. It was no coincidence that the abstruse, yet symbolically vital, issue of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism finally caused unions to break cover against St Jez, in the form of Unison’s Dave Prentis and GMB’s Tim Roache (who memorably told him to “get his head out of his backside”).

All these things tend to put distance between union leaders, looking out for their union’s interests, and the party (we should probably exclude from this Unite’s Len McCluskey, who is generally looking out for Len McCluskey). But the bottom line is that unions have a long, long history in the party, and thousands of activists who will still be around when hundreds of thousands of dilettante Jezuits (most of whom are not, for the record, hard left) have long gone from the membership. They provide a continuity and, very often, a ballast against extremist views. As historian Professor Andrew Thorpe put it, “the unions have, on the whole, kept ‘the Left’ of the party at bay”.

And so it was, on September 30th 1935 – 83 years ago to the day – that a barnstorming speech by the T&G’s Ernie Bevin saved the party from the dangerous hands of its naïve, pacifist leader, George Lansbury, at a time when fascism was on the march in Europe. In the late 50s, after initially imposing unilateralism, they helped save the party from the unilateralists. And in the end, although they foolishly helped advance them in the beginning, they closed ranks to kick out Militant in the 80s.

Indeed, there is something of a pattern of unions, often naively, supporting a caucus or policy position and, in the end, rounding on that same caucus to defeat it, for the greater good of the party.

Let’s hope the unions have not fundamentally changed so much over the decades. The signs are that they haven’t and, if there were ever a time when their political ballast were needed to swing the party back to common sense, it’s now. It really is.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Labour leader lies

Just this, really.
We might also add that, in an unprecedented development, Labour's press office has also lied about this. As an ex-staffer, I can say that I have never before experienced any other example of the latter happening in my life, and I am deeply ashamed.

Sad to say, though, Corbyn himself does have previous: I have just remembered him telling these three lies in short order to Andrew Marr in February.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Wonder why Britain’s Jewish community doesn’t trust Corbyn?

With all the stories in recent weeks about Labour and anti-Semitism, it would be understandable if some members started to suffer some kind of “Jewish fatigue”.

But the reason for coming back to it is simple: normal Labour politics is currently suspended, as people gaze on in horror at the internal, self-inflicted crisis currently unfolding. We are witnessing something entirely unprecedented in the party’s century-long history: the slow-but-now-accelerating implosion of a party leadership, if not perhaps the party itself as well. And because of an infection with one thing this, of all parties, had never thought to have to endure: racism.

At the same time, we have a leadership which is so inept, so arrogantly convinced that this is all overblown, that it is now embarked on a collision course with the rest of the political planet.

We might first look at the dropping of the investigation into Margaret Hodge. The extraordinary conclusion we must draw from this matter is that it was not because Hodge backed down (although that was what the Leader’s office stupidly tried to spin, convincing precisely no-one in the Lobby). It was, on the contrary, that Corbyn knew that he could not win. That is, that the most he could say was that Hodge was rude to him: in the rough and tumble world of politics, hardly grounds for suspension.

Let’s just reflect on that for a second.

The leader of the Labour party and of HM Opposition, a potential prime minister, judged (presumably on legal advice) that he would struggle to prove that he was not a racist.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Corbyn’s ill-judged reaction to Margaret Hodge’s comments may just become his undoing

Jeremy Corbyn has really not had a good week. It was the week when the dam really finally burst on anti-Semitism, with the PLP wholeheartedly rejecting the party’s “doctored” definition of anti-Semitism, one-third of British voters surveyed thinking him an anti-Semite and an unprecedented and scathing joint editorial on the front page of the UK’s three most prominent Jewish newspapers, condemning Corbyn. But more of that later. On Tuesday, he also finally came out as a full-blooded Brexiteer.

Over the last two years, Jeremy Corbyn has increasingly irritated Labour’s Remainers (who, according to überpollster Prof. John Curtice, are actually in the majority in the party nationally and not just in London, as many previously thought), by his disingenuous attempts to ride two horses at once over Brexit.

And somewhat inexplicably, he has chosen this moment, when everything is going spectacularly badly, to “come out” for Brexit and try to sell its “benefits”.

His “British jobs for British workers” 1970s schtick may resonate with some Labour voters, yes (let us not forget that Gordon Brown once tried much the same). However, apart from the economic illiteracy of the approach, toughness on immigration is not actually the vote-winner it once was, as the latest Social Attitudes Survey now shows.

In fact, in view of the recent Cabinet turmoil over Brexit and dire warnings arriving from all quarters about the possibility of No Corbyn could scarcely have timed his “coming out” as a Leaver worse.

No, one of Corbyn’s many problems as leader is that his judgement is hardly consistently good.

Thursday, 19 July 2018


I realise that the Centre Left has been more than a little focused recently on the continuing slow implosion of the Labour Party, however what is happening on the world stage right now as a result of the Trump-Putin and NATO summits is both significant and deeply disturbing.

The president of the United States has not only made it clear that he does not feel compelled to stick to the NATO treaties which have kept the peace in Europe these last 70 years. He has essentially given signals to the Russian president that he might invade one of its members - the tiny state of Montenegro - with impunity.

It may not have been entirely coincidence that Trump elbowed the country's president out of the way at the previous NATO summit in 2017.

The world now has two people with access to the nuclear button who are clearly aligned with each other, and not in a good way. As I wrote last night:
We shall see if this fear turns out to be well-founded. I really hope not. 20th century history has shown us that "little" wars in the Balkans do not always stay that way.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Labour and anti-Semitism: enough really is enough

anti-Semitism rally
The original #EnoughisEnough demo against anti-Semitism, March 2018
What with the Cabinet crisis, NATO summit, Trump visit and World Cup, it is easy to pass over some events in the Labour Party which could be accurately described as momentous. And not in a good way.

Last week may have been the week where the Corbyn leadership really crossed the Rubicon on anti-Semitism. Or worse, in fact: it took its already highly-questionable position and doubled down.

Perhaps for the first time, serious, sensible and non-partisan people are describing Labour as “institutionally anti-Semitic”. And it’s not hard to see why.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Corbyn fiddles while Europe, and the world, reach for the matches

Image result for violin imagesIt is somewhat inevitable, in the current, febrile political climate, that Tony Blair’s few interventions elicit disproportionate responses in Britain. Even when those interventions conclude little that most Western commentators outside Britain, or a European historian of average talent, would disagree with.

In part, this is because in Britain the unspoken May-Corbyn alliance on Brexit has meant effective mainstream unity on that subject.

That is, the only senior politicians who speak out against it are either (a) the leaders of minor parties (Greens/Lib Dems/SNP), or (b) retired heavyweights not bound by the party whip. So it is easy for him to outweigh the rest of the pack.

Love him or hate him, of all those, Blair is unquestionably the heaviest, in terms of prime ministerial experience at least. Against fellow living ex-PMs Major, Brown and Cameron, he wins on years (10 vs. 7, 3, 6); general election victories (3 vs 1, 0 and 2); and was never defeated in either a GE or a national referendum either, unlike the others.

And his latest intervention is not just correct: even if you disagree with him on Brexit (which, according to the latest YouGov poll, now puts you with less than half the population), it’s difficult to disagree with what he says about populism and the similarities to the 1930s.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Country before party, reprise

This post was written prior to last night's votes

Today, Parliament will have arguably its most important day of votes in decades.

There are three particular ones which matter: on the EEA, on the Customs Union and on a “meaningful vote” for the Commons on the final deal.

The Customs Union one Labour will vote for, but it’s not to get us to stay in theCustoms Union. It’s just to get Theresa May to actually tell us what progress she’s made towards any participation in a Customs Union. As The Independent’s John Rentoul put it: “ ‘I haven’t made any’ would meet that requirement.”

As if this were not enough, the current position of both major parties on a customs union is nonsensical. Both are asking that Britain be able to negotiate its own trade deals as well, the absence of which power is the whole point of a customs union.

In other words, they are subscribing to what we might reasonably refer to as “Schroedinger’s Customs Union”, that is, a customs union that Britain is part of and not part of at the same time.

Next, that Parliament should effectively be left to sort out the next steps, in the event that the “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit package is lost. Labour will at least vote in favour of that.

No such luck with the vote on staying in the EEA, Britain’s last chance to have a Norway-style arrangement and actually hold onto the trade benefits the leadership is disingenuously claiming to want to hold onto (although, in reality, it doesn’t really). Labour MPs are being whipped to abstain.

But why are Labour MPs, the majority of which are apparently Remainers, even caring about the whip?

A PLP that rebelled on mass against Corbyn two years ago are now – with some honourable exceptions – supine, either for fear that their constituents will punish them or that their careers in a politically-destitute Labour Party will suffer? Even with the public now turning against Brexit, albeit slowly?

And what of that public? We rule-followers of Britain seem, frustratingly, to have an attitude to an advisory referendum far above and beyond the call of democracy. It seems clear that, in practically any other European state, pragmatism would have got the better of people and politicians.

On the amendments in general but the EEA in particular, as Neil Kinnock put itover the Lords’ vote: “It would be a serious evasion of duty if Labour did not seize this chance to protect our country from the rockslide of hard Brexit.”

And then, finally, if you wanted any further reasons why Remainer MPs might consider it a public duty to break the whip tomorrow, there is Russia.

After this weekend, were it not before, it now seems clear that Russia not only deliberately intervened in the US presidential election but also in the Brexit referendum, on the side of Leave. Whatever you voted, this is clearly not a good thing. Not only with its online trolls and bots, but by offering a financial “opportunity” – not a bribe, oh no, that would be cheating – to Leave.EU’s Aaron Banks in the run-up to the referendum campaign. Not to mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In short, it is clear that a hostile foreign power is now rubbing its hands with glee at the thought that Britain could exit and weaken the European Union.

It is already, through its authoritarian allies in Hungary and Poland, pulling at the stitching which holds that union together.

The reality is that it may yet, in our lifetimes, invade (likely denying everything, as it did in Ukraine) members of NATO, which would formally require either a military response or acceptance that NATO was dead. And if you don’t believe that, ask some of the Baltic state leaders what they think about Russia’s recent exercises there.

A couple of months back we talked about the fact that, with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, at some point, the time would come when moderate MPs would be forced to choose between party or country.

That point has now come, at least for the Remainer majority. And it is not “party” in the wider sense of what the majority of the party’s members and supporters want – they have already made it clear that they want the softest of Brexits or, preferably, no Brexit at all.

No, it is “party” in the narrowest of senses: whether or not you will displease the Leader and the Whips’ Office. You can take your chances with your constituents in a couple of years’ time. Furthermore, the theory that you will be “punished” if you go against their referendum wishes remains anyway largely untested.

And so this, ultimately, comes down to your career prospects under a leader who will very likely never become Prime Minister; who, if he does, will surely enjoy the most disastrous premiership of any PM since Eden (or earlier); and who, let us not forget, himself defied the whip 428 times while Labour was in power. It is not difficult to conclude that we are living a temporary, largely unsustainable, situation within the party.

If you are a Leaver MP, fine, vote with your beliefs. But if you are a Remainer, how can you possibly in all conscience vote with the Tories, for a nonsensical position which you know will leave your constituents poorer. You cannot.

If there ever were a “country before party” vote, it is surely this one. If you have been in Parliament long enough – and, at this point, relatively few of you have – you may have felt that internal tug-of-war in 2003 over Iraq. But Iraq, for all its ability to split the party on different interpretations of moral imperative, did not affect the daily lives of all your constituents.

This does. In fact, it affects almost all the things that we, the party of the many, claim to hold dear. Jobs. Investment. Internationalism.

In the end, you can vote with your conscience. Or you can explain to your kids, as they survey their economically-underperforming future over the next couple of decades, why you didn’t.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The madness of self-identification in a political party

Image result for transgender logosWhile one can guarantee that on the streets of British provincial towns, it is not exactly an issue high on most people’s agenda, it is clear that, on Twitter and in the political bubble that is Westminster politics, the tricky area of trans politics has in recent months taken a huge step into the limelight.

Last week, Labour, for the first time, declared that people who declare themselves to be trans should be accepted as such within the party, without question. Obviously it is not intrinsically “trans-phobic” to have concerns about the fairness or viability of a mechanical process, but that is exactly the charge now being levelled at anyone in that category. And such criticism is, in most cases, because people genuinely see that such a policy is open to abuse.

Like activist David Lewis who, to draw attention to the potential for abuse, declared himself a woman but only “on Wednesdays” and put himself forward to be Women’s Officer in his local CLP. Satire, yes, but an important point – who is to say he is any less worthy of consideration than someone who says he is a woman five days, or seven days a week? Where do you draw the line?

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Turkey’s democracy is crumbling

My new piece for Progress is about the sharp decline of Turkey as a functioning democracy (okay, it's never been perfect, but it's really headed down the wrong road now). Most interestingly, at least one journalist has recently been noting the marked similarity between President Erdogan's populist positioning and that of a certain party leader over here...

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The shame of Barnet - losing a council because the voters think you're racist

Image result for welcome to barnet imagesThe general consensus of the UK media is that Labour did not achieve the result it needed to in the local elections last Thursday. As largely expected, it had lukewarm results in London overall and disappointing results outside.

But the most significant result of the night was surely that in Barnet, where the Tories in midterm, in London, actually regained a council that they recently lost to No Overall Control.

The reason? Unsurprisingly, the Jewish voters of Barnet, surely the council with the highest Jewish contingent in Britain, turned away from Labour in droves. Because they were fed up with Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism, two years after the Chakrabarti report. And, as the Jewish Chronicle’s Stephen Pollard pointed out:

Crucial point about Barnet is its not just Jewish Labour voters who have been disgusted by the party's handling of its antisemites - it's non Jews too.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Why McCluskey tried to bully moderates last week and why it didn't work

Wes Streeting (left), one of the five MPs attacked by McCluskey, among the
group who escorted Ruth Smeeth MP to the hearing of Marc Wadsworth,
who left her in tears at the launch of the Chakrabarti Report
A week ago, the leader of Britain's largest union, Unite, decided to wade into the anti-Semitism debate with size 10 boots on and have a very personal go at five named MPs. Essentially, he clearly hadn't got the memo from Corbyn where he accepted that the party really did have a problem with anti-Semitism and tried to cling onto the idea that it was a "smear", whipped up to destabilise the Dear Leader. He then went further, saying these MPs would be "held to account" (translation: deselected). It was a serious misreading of the gravity of the situation, in terms of both media and the party's representatives.

Firstly, kudos to the MPs concerned: Chris Leslie, John Woodcock, Wes Streeting, Neil Coyle and Ian Austin. All five of them are people I have met at least briefly over the years, and they are all decent and politically sound, especially on this touchstone issue (yes Ian, I have moved on from the time you bawled me out over Gordon's laptop, or whatever it was).

You should all be proud to wear this threat as a badge of honour - you are being singled out, essentially, for defending Jews. Good on you. Right now, people need to stand up and be counted as a matter of honour.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Labour’s current situation with anti-Semitism is unsustainable

Let’s try an experiment. Since anti-Semitism is a form of racism, let’s simply use the word “racism” as we outline the following facts.

In the last four weeks, a British mainstream political party has:
  • Received a letter, addressed to its leader by two well-respected national community groups, protesting perceived institutional racism within it;
  • Been demonstrated against, twice, by anti-racism campaigners, the first of which demos was attended a number of its own MPs;
  • Had various members threatening those same MPs with deselection and abusing them online over their attendance of said anti-racism demo, including a celebrity member demanding their expulsion;
  • Had hundreds of members attending a counter-demo, against the anti-racism demo, which included a banner from the country’s biggest trade union;
  • Had its leader attend a controversial event with a radical left-wing group who also criticised the first anti-racism demo;
  • Had its leader found to be a member of a number of Facebook groups infested with racists, ultimately forcing him to close his Facebook account;
  • Had its leader support in an online Facebook comment the painter of a racist mural;
  • Had its Head of Compliance resign, after his department had already been significantly beefed up to deal with a flood of disciplinary issues connected with racism;
  • Appointed a leader to the party machine – ultimately in charge of dealing with first-level disciplinary issues – who had previously been in controversy over remarks that many perceived as downplaying racism;
  • Had to remove the chair of its Disputes Panel for championing an activist suspended for posting about the “Holocaust Hoax”, and only after public outcry was said chair actually removed from its National Executive Committee;
  • Replaced said chair with NEC member who worked for, and has in the past defended, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, also currently suspended for alleged racism;
  • Had another NEC member write a piece in the Guardian criticising MPs who attended the anti-racism demos;
  • Had a cross-party group of peers ask the Met to investigate various Facebook posts by its members for inciting racial hatred;
  • Had a sister party in another country suspend relations with it over perceived tolerance to racism.
It’s not pretty, is it?

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Labour's anti-Semitism tipping point - or not?

An update on the many things I have written on Labour, Momentum, the left in general and anti-Semitism over the last seven years: I and others have wondered in recent months whether or not Labour is actually close to a "tipping point" on the issue, where its failure to deal with the issue can no longer be swept under the carpet.

On Sunday, a row which had really been rumbling quietly since 2012 came to the surface: a Facebook post of a blatantly anti-Semitic East End mural was defended by Corbyn. While one presumes (and he maintains) that he had not really looked at it very closely, it is still extraordinary that even a backbench MP would not notice the images of bankers with big noses, playing Monopoly on a board supported by the bodies of black slaves, and find it somewhat, er, problematic.

Rightly, the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote Corbyn a very strongly-worded letter on the subject last weekend and, perhaps for the first time, Corbyn apologised in an "emergency" Sunday night statement for the apparent resurgence of anti-Semitism within his party; really a tacit acknowledgement of the dismal failure of his Chakrabarti report to address previously-reported problems. He stopped short, however, of acknowledging his personal complicity in encouraging this resurgence via numerous other episodes (see Centre Lefts passim).

It will be difficult now for Corbyn not to act in cases such as Ken Livingstone's, however it seems clear that neither does he directly hold the ring on all such matters and may not be prepared to challenge his new General Secretary (or the father of her child, Len McCluskey), the NEC or other figures within wider Labour circles.

It might even be that, at some point, the powers behind the throne see fit to ditch Corbyn in favour of someone like Emily Thornberry, who has been quietly positioning herself as the "pro-Jew" succession candidate. While it seems unlikely that such a leadership would be any better than Corbyn's in many areas (e.g. foreign policy, as we recently saw over Iran), at least - at least! - something might finally be done to rid the party of this particular cancer. 

That said, there have been many previous false dawns on this issue going back to the Miliband leadership. It would be unwise to hold one's breath.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Labour MP’s dilemma: when does this become party before country?

Image result for labour party imagesIf there were a week for Labour MPs to question their continued acceptance of the party whip, it was surely the last one.

Should we cite the lack of apparent sanction on Chris Williamson MP, who appeared onstage with Jackie Walker, suspended from the party for anti-Semitism along with Tony Greenstein, and then proposed their readmission to the party, to rapturous applause?

Or the stitch-up of the General Secretary choice, effectively handing control of the party machine to Len McCluskey and his acolytes? Triggering the resignation of six key staff-members? While the aforementioned Walker and Greenstein celebrated outside party HQ, barracking the party’s remaining staff and telling them they were coming for the rest of them? And a General Secretary herself, notorious for questioning the neutrality of Baroness Jan Royall to run an anti-Semitism inquiry, on the spurious grounds that she had once visited Israel?

But the real question for Labour MPs is simple: can you genuinely look yourself in the mirror in the morning and say “I want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister”?

Yes, we know there are millions of supporters to whom we owe a Labour government. Yes, we know you may well think he’ll probably never get there, but that’s not the point. What if he does?

Friday, 16 March 2018

Not just Skripal: we should all care about what Putin's up to elsewhere in Europe

Putin's passion for rearmament is well-known (he currently spends around double the proportion of GDP on defence that NATO members do). But so far, his targets have all been able to be dismissed, in Chamberlain's awful words of appeasement, as "faraway countries".

However, today there is a piece of news it could be easy to lose in all the Skripal fallout is this, and it's scary: according to Newsweek, the Putin regime is helping support a new military buildup by Serb separatists in Bosnia. In fact, the West's current focus on the Skripal case could just form a convenient piece of magician's misdirection away from bigger events.

For those of us old enough to remember Srebrenica and other massacres of ethnic Muslims in the 1990s, this could easily become a much worse bloodbath than that currently still taking place in Eastern Ukraine.

More importantly, whereas Eastern Ukraine is still a long way from EU borders (Ukraine itself is enormous), Bosnia is not. In fact, it's part of a mini-oasis of non-EU states, centred around the shores of the Adriatic and surrounded by EU (and various NATO) states.

What better way to cause chaos and fear in the member states of Putin's favourite hate-object, than to foment a new civil war? Which could also conveniently scupper Serbian accession to the EU? In a theatre at the heart of the EU project, but not actually part of it? Where everyone can witness the might of the new Russia at close quarters? A case of look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair?

Watch this space, but a renewed, Putin-sponsored war in the Balkans could make Ukraine look like a tea-party.

On the form of the last couple of days, not to mention his denial of genocide in Kosovo fourteen years ago, no doubt my party leader will be quick to denounce Serb/Russian aggression when it it happens.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Three reasons why Jennie Formby should not become General Secretary of the Labour Party

By Rwendland (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
Following the abrupt resignation of Iain McNicol – apparently not fallen on his sword but pushed under a bus by the party leadership (£) – there are currently two candidates to be Labour’s General Secretary: Unite’s Jennie Formby and Momentum’s Jon Lansman.

While this might be reasonably likened to choosing for your leader between Ghengis Khan and Pol Pot, there is always a least worst option and, in these difficult times, it is important to take note which it is.

Here’s why Formby should not be General Secretary.

Friday, 2 February 2018

BREAKING: Labour leader leaves national television interview with pants on fire

You could be forgiven for thinking that Andrew Marr’s interview last Sunday was to be an unremarkable one.

The first 16 minutes are fairly anodyne: the leader’s normal waffle on economics and the standard, disingenuous, face-both-ways position on Brexit. Important, but all things we know already.

From 16:25 we get onto Corbyn’s view that transgender people can self-identify, an issue rightly concerning a number of Labour women who see the incorporation of this into the Labour rulebook as a change fraught with opportunities for abuse, at “cis” women’s expense. A fair point. But to be realistic, this is an issue of probably minor importance to the electorate at large.

Then, nearly 19 minutes into a 21-minute interview, Marr, in a Lieutenant-Columbo-like manoeuvre, comes up with “just one more thing”, as he is metaphorically walking out the door, away from the scene of the crime.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Ye Livingstone Formulatione On Antisemitisme

You have all probably seen the current madness over the Bayeux Tapestry. So some wags have created this brilliant online Bayeux generator, which you can use to create your own designs.

So, with all the various news items about anti-Semitism and the left this week (mostly, sad to say, referencing the Labour Party), I'm afraid I couldn't resist creating this:

At the risk of labouring the point, this is the way the hard left (and certain members of Momentum, in particular) often counter-attack accusations of anti-Semitism by saying "no, mate - I was just criticising Israel, can't you tell the difference?"

Thanks to James Mendelsohn for reminding me that this type of bad-faith accusation, levelled at Jews, was memorably named by writer David Hirsh as "The Livingstone Formulation", after our dear friend Ken who has made great strides in popularising this odious technique (see Centre Lefts passim).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism

Momentum is on a roll. It has just secured three places on Labour’s NEC. It is now on course to easily force deselections in seats where it does not like the sitting MP. It has also, as its first act in that newly-constituted NEC, just ousted the long-serving head of the Disputes Committee, Ann Black, on the left of the party – the Campaign Group, no less – but widely respected as fair and neutral.

“Fair” and “neutral” are words that we might struggle a little more to apply to her replacement, Christine Shawcroft. Shawcroft, you may remember, was one of the few party members who supported disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he had been forced from office for electoral fraud and had not even been a party member for five years. A trick which got her suspended from the party (now reinstated). Amazingly, she was still defending him on Tuesday as the victim of “a terrible miscarriage of justice” (Rahman was also struck off as a solicitor a month ago).

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Justice, o sweet justice

For the record, I am not a vengeful person and honestly consider desire revenge to be the lowest of emotions. It is difficult, however, not to occasionally appreciate justice when you see it, especially when it is poetic.

I also realise that to some this will be old news. However, in the course of writing this week's Labour Uncut piece, I have discovered that former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was a month ago struck off the register as a solicitor and left to pay £86,300 in costs. Shame!

Yes, the Lutfur Rahman that once tried to have me arrested on a specious charge after I wrote critical things about him, was not only tried and convicted of electoral fraud in 2015 but is now no longer allowed to practice as a lawyer, on the grounds that he essentially can't be trusted. 

And yes, o litigious Mr Rahman, I think that is a reasonable summing up of what the regulator said about you. Only surprising is that he has somehow escaped criminal prosecution, but hey.

Justice, o sweet justice.

Monday, 8 January 2018

2018: The year of still living dangerously

If you thought 2017 was a disturbing time for world geopolitics, hang on to your hats. Last January we wrote about the potential bear-traps of a Trump presidency. One year into it, they are all still there and mostly look worse.

Current situations in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Ukraine and the Baltic states all look like either remaining, or escalating into, serious conflicts during 2018. Worse than that, we live in genuinely unstable times where the historical precedents are not great.

Aggressive powers – mostly Russia and its client states – have been appeased over recent years in a manner eerily reminiscent of the way fascist powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) were appeased in the 1930s, also following a few years after a major financial crisis and world recession. And that decade didn’t end too well.

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