Ireland always rising

Layout 1For St Patrick’s Day Mark Perryman outlines the meaning of the forthcoming Easter Rising Centenary for models of Britishness

St Patrick’s Day. Down the local, one of the best night outs of the year, a non-stop party drenched in all things Irish. A celebration of Ireland’s freedom, which can never be entirely separated from history either.

For decades it was Ireland that defined first the British Right, the Conservative and Unionist party remember, and then latterly the street-fighting Far Right too with their links loyalist paramilitaries and hatred of all things otherwise from Ireland. Today such connections are broken, the last remnants the unofficial insertion of ‘No Surrender’ into the National Anthem (sic) by a section of the football crowd at England internationals. No surrender? To what exactly. Continue reading

Jeremy Corbyn follows the example of Lincoln

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863Possibly the best film I have ever seen about politics is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. It is partly inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s extraordinary book, Team of Rivals, that includes biographies of Edward Bates, Salmon Chase and William Seward, who served in Lincoln’s cabinet, but were also opponents of his who had themselves sought the Republican nomination.

Lincoln of course had an extraordinarily difficult task, as he was a relatively obscure figure compared to his opponents, all of whom had more experience than him in the corridors of power. Lincoln won due to superior organisation in the nomination contest, and a grassroots reputation gained following his success in the famous debates with Democrat Stephen Douglas in 1858, after which he toured, for example accepting the invitation to speak against slavery in Seward’s powerbase in New York

Once elected President, Lincoln had to contend with the chronic disloyalty of Salmon Chase who despite being a Cabinet member schemed and conspired to replace the President, and was deeply resentful that a political outsider like Lincoln should occupy the highest office of state. Lincoln had the advantage of his mandate as elected President of the United States, but his rivals were better connected within the political establishment. Continue reading

Historical allusions: a helpful guide for Blairites and appeal for cooperation

StalinGordon Bennett, those Blairites (a historical term for people roughly corresponding with the 4.5%ers – Ed) can’t half be a bunch of drama queens sometimes. The merest slight to the amour propre of the tattered remnants of New Labourism often meets with hyperbolic allusion to some of the most dramatic events of recent centuries by way of rebuke.

The problem with using history in this fashion is that those doing so run the risk of making themselves look foolish. And we can’t have that, can we?

Maybe the problem is that Oxbridge PPE degrees do not include a history component. So let me extend a comradely hand of friendship to the Labour right, and walk them through some of the stuff they presumably slept through in their A-level classrooms. Continue reading

The ‘Stalinism’ of Jeremy Corbyn: a reply to the Telegraph’s deputy editor

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters should get off Twitter and read a book instead. Or at least that’s the somewhat patronising headline accusation that opens the Telegraph deputy editor Allister Heath’s polemic against the left’s contestant in the current Labour leadership contest. It’s a bit rich for rightwingers to accuse leftwingers of not reading enough books. Surely the stereotype is that we read rather too many of the damn things, supposedly rendering us other-wordly intellectuals who remain congenitally unsuited to the genuine rigour required to run a whelk stall?

Heath can rest assured that many socialists are in possession of formidable private libraries, often including the output of our intellectual critics. Because of that, many of us will readily identify the Hayekian provenance of his arguments. Our interlocutor’s assertions are chiefly two; that Corbyn’s manifestation of Labourism is somehow incipiently totalitarian, and that there is no alternative to the economics of the free market right and its political corollaries. Thus the piece starts with an invitation for ‘any gullible youngster … who has fallen for Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist siren song’ to read Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, which ‘may at least jolt them out of their ideological stupor’. Continue reading

A manifesto of good reads

Extreme CentreMark Perryman of Philosophy Football selects his reading for the 2015 General Election Campaign

The much-missed indie band, well by some of us of a certain age, Sultans of Ping, had a great line in one of their barnstormer numbers “I like your manifesto, put it to the test ’tho.” We are told in all seriousness that this is the most important General Election, ever, yet it will be fought between the three parties of the mainstream with ever-decreasing differences in their politics. Most important? Not in those terms, the importance lies almost entirely in the busting apart of the Westminster cartel, the centre this time really won’t hold.

Veteran rebel, aka 1960s ‘street fighting man’, Tariq Ali proves the durability of a countercultural idealism. Tariq’s new book Extreme Centre is a splendid denunciation of the battle for the middle ground and never mind the rest of us. Continue reading