‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’ The notorious Daily Mail headline is just one chilling indication of the very real threat Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists posed in the mid 1930s. Inspired by the successful rise to power of Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, Mosley sought to galvanise support via a combination of naked anti-Semitism and brute force. By 1936 he was attracting both well-heeled establishment support and thousands to his rallies where any protests would be dealt with violently and without scarcely any intervention by the police. Continue reading →
And just like that my constituency disappears. Wrapping like a skeewiff cummerbund around the svelte middle of the Potteries, Stoke-on-Trent Central stretches from a hint of countryside up Stockton Brook way, and snugly grips Baddeley Green, Abbey Hulton, and Bentilee. It takes in Hanley which, confusingly for outsiders, is Stoke’s city centre (not Stoke town itself), and scoops downwards to embrace Eaton Park, Etruria, Shelton, before bending towards Newcastle-under-Lyme and making room for Hartshill, Penkhull, Boothen, Oakhill, and Trent Vale. These suburbs, estates, districts aren’t going anywhere, but in a Boundary Commission land grab the North will advance South and the South will advance North with a new border settled more or less outside my front door. Stoke-on-Trent Central is set to become a memory that, from 2018, will be recalled only by election geeks and Wikipedia. Life is set to continue, but the Potteries are losing an MP. It won’t be pretty either. Making three into two means at least one loses out, and who is that going to be? It might be all of the incumbents – others could be waiting in the wings for a chance to acquire a seat for themselves. With high stakes such as these, Labour Party politics for the next couple of years threatens to be interesting, and that’s without factoring in Jeremy Corbyn, the hundreds of new local members, and the ongoing battle for the party’s soul. Continue reading →
Accusations of abusive behaviour by the Corbyn-supporting left began from the moment Corbyn was elected leader. The Labour Party all of a sudden became, according to frequent media reports, a seething cauldron of racism, specifically anti-Semitism. It was also heavily involved, according to reports, in regular threats of violence, homophobia, and sexism. It didn’t matter that these reports were based on a tiny number of alleged cases or that most of the journalists involved (including sadly many leading journalists on the Guardian/Observer) had no interest in checking the truth or significance of these stories. Anything that contributed to the “get Corbyn” campaign was deemed okay.
The wave of alleged anti-Semitism was over in a few months and is now hardly mentioned. The media has moved on to other means of trying to attack the Labour leadership. The upshot has been however to make Labour politicians longing to remove Corbyn feel free to claim, on slender or no evidence, victimisation by Corbyn supporters. Mild heckling becomes “intimidation” and reasonable criticism is equated with “abuse”. The most notable feature of the abusive-Corbynite accusations has been lack of evidence to support the claims. Continue reading →
For the purpose of what follows I am assuming that Jeremy Corbyn (JC) will win the leadership contest, which now appears very likely, and that Labour does not split or collapse into a state of civil war, which is somewhat less likely but will hopefully be the case.
Given the division within the party it could be assumed that this reflects widespread and fundamental disagreement over most policy areas, but in fact this is not the case, as is indicated by the policy proposals put forward by the two candidates, which in most respects do not differ markedly from each other. This is partly because there has been a general shift, not confined to the Labour Party, away from neoliberalism and towards some degree of greater state intervention, and partly because, despite his radical left image, JC’s policy proposals have usually been well within the confines of moderate social democracy. Continue reading →
Owen Smith yesterday admitted he thought Britain could “potentially” re-join not only the EU, but also the Euro despite Brexit, if he were to become Prime Minister.
Speaking plainly, Smith told Andrew Marr, “I want us to be part of the European Union”, then argued Labour should go into the General Election in 2020 promising to keep Britain in the EU, if it were still an option. Unfortunately for Smith, as Andrew Marr pointed out, if Theresa May triggers Article 50 next year as intended, then by 2020 Britain will have already left Europe for good. Continue reading →
In last year’s Labour leadership contest and after much shilly-shallying, my vote went to Yvette Cooper. This year there was no hesitation: I duly ticked the box for Jeremy Corbyn. The passage from the poster woman for “sensible” managerial politics to Corbynism might be puzzling for some, so here are my reasons.
First off, it’s partly a protest. Partly. Over the last year, my dismay has grown over into disgust at the behaviour of the PLP. Of course, it’s not all of the PLP. A minority are doing the behind doors briefing, and complaining loudly every time Jeremy so much as picks his nose. But it is also a collective problem because no one is reining our brave souls in. Far from it. For every Jamie Reed, Jess Phillips, and Wes Streeting there are five, six, many MPs egging them on. They say Jeremy’s leadership is a clapped out old banger, and to prove it they’re puncturing his tyres and pouring sand (and scorn) into the petrol tank. Do they genuinely, honestly, really believe their moanin’ and sabotagin’ is helping the party? Because I can tell you, the number of people in realworldland sat there thinking ‘good on Mike Gapes for socking it to Corbyn, at least someone in Labour has their head screwed on’ is precisely zero. Quite independently of Jeremy, they’re making our party look like a shower of shit and inflicting incredible damage to its name. Continue reading →
In politics it is sometimes worth stepping back from the immediate hurly burly to take stock of the broader context. David Osland’s new pamphlet “How to select or Reselect your MP” invites us to do so, by his self-conscious decision to reboot a pamphlet that was first published in 1981.
While both the Corbyn and Smith camps are concentrating on the immediate task of maximizing their vote for the Labour leadership contest, and both camps planning their next move after the results on 24th, it is worth reflecting on how extraordinary life is in the contemporary Labour Party.
All party meetings, except those absolutely necessary for specific practical tasks with the permission of the regional director, are currently suspended. Senior Labour MPs are briefing about party members being a rabble, tens of thousands of members are being suspended or excluded on seemingly the flimsiest of pretexts, and various atrocity stories are being leaked to the press about alleged violence, spitting and abuse at party meetings, as well as reports of online insults and bullying.
What a carry on. Continue reading →
Spare a thought for the poor hacks paid to write about the Labour Party. Your job is to throw down boiler plate with a semi-original angle, while making a conscious effort not think about it unless you’re employed for that express purpose. Making matters trickier is that last year’s silly season saw every seam strip mined to throw dirt at Jeremy Corbyn. With little else left to be excavated we see a churn of pretty much the same stuff. This then has led to the new journalistic sub-genre of the anti-Corbyn missive, and their recycled insights come in two flavours. The first are attacks on the leader’s character, of which the tedious Traingate non-story is an example. And the second goes after his support, which typically entails questioning the intelligence of those who back him.
Of the second type is Euan McColm’s piece in The Scotsman. Reading like a desperate bid to get the thousand words necessary to hit pay dirt, Euan’s piece is at turns insulting, at turns patronising, and is nothing we haven’t read already. But what it does do is condense the common sense among plenty of journalists and politicians. And because it so often persists that Jeremy supporters are mendacious or brainwashed or thick or naive, we have to ask why it is the view is so widespread. Continue reading →
With our current standing in the polls the Labour Party needs urgently to review how it appeals to women voters. Whilst such a review should include structural changes such as gender quotas for Party positions including the Shadow Cabinet and the ‘great offices of state’, a standalone position of Minister for Women and Equalities, and of course All Women Shortlists for selection (all matters raised in the recently released Labour Women’s Network survey) the most significant progressive change that could be implemented this year is a renewed and revitalised Labour Women’s Conference.
At present the Labour Women’s Conference takes place on the day before Labour’s Annual Conference. It has proved very popular with regular attendance of up to a thousand CLP and trade union women. But important democratic reforms are necessary to make the Conference a proper voice for women in CLPs and working women organised in trade unions. These include the Conference becoming a decision making event, and the opportunity for the policy decided there to become Party policy via Annual Conference Resolutions and via the National Policy Forum. Continue reading →
Team GB’s second place in the Rio medals table is nothing less than staggering. It is only 20 years ago that the squad returned with a solitary Gold from Atlanta ’96 clinging on to 36th in the table. This sporting nation is now ranked alongside the Olympian superpowers of USA and China. If it hadn’t been for the partial IOC ban on their competitors Russia would have been in the mix too but still this remains a remarkable Team GB medal haul.
Unlike the football World Cup, the Olympics Medal Table is by and large an indicator of global economic and political power. These superpower nations, USA, China and Russia, cannot claim a single men’s Football World Cup title between them or have come anywhere close, mostly. The Olympics is different. So how has Team GB ended up on top of the Olympic pile? Continue reading →