Monday, May 11, 2015 

I'm not working.

I hurt myself yesterday / To see if I still feel

I've written before about self-harm.  It's not cool, kids.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I didn't expect yesterday to be lying in a field, listening to a bird singing barely 10 feet away, giggling away to myself.  I didn't expect that my brain would react to the absurdity of a 30-year-old man scratching at himself with a blade in such an incongruous setting by being precisely that, triggering a laughing fit that didn't stop for 10 minutes.  I thought I remembered that hurting myself before hadn't done anything except leave scars.  Perhaps it didn't then.  All I can relate is that for a good few hours yesterday I felt euphoric.  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I walked home.  Grinning, laughing.  Then once I was home it quickly wore off.  The pain remained, still does somewhat.  It pulses, burns slightly, like your skin does when the heat of the sun on it becomes too much.

Doctors will tell you there are a number of tell-tale signs to depression.  Loss of appetite, or rather you all but stop eating.  Loss of enjoyment of everything, or rather you return to what you know best, to comfort yourself.  You listen to that music, you watch that TV show or those movies, you listen to that man rant about those things.  Inability to sleep, which thankfully doesn't concern me as I've been on medication that helps me with that for umpteen years.  Alternatively, and this does apply to me, sleeping more.  Where before you were getting by on 6 hours you can now go for double that.  I speak in a monotone.  I stop finding attractive people attractive.  I shake.

Petrified for the millionth time / Slowly my soul evaporates / No parachutes no dismal clouds / Just this fucking space

You don't expect these things.  You do expect other things, but you do it anyway, because you've got no self-control, or you use that as an excuse.  Let's put it at best, that you're an annoyance, rather than something more visceral, that you disappoint rather than bring someone else down with you because you're such a fucking imbecile.  You beat yourself up about it, but that's not the real reason you turn against yourself, is it?  You can't leave well alone because you don't know anything else, isn't that it?  Can't you admit that you do this because you want to, that it's no one else's fault, despite you saying over and over again you're the only one to blame, do you really mean it?  Because it sure as hell doesn't seem like it.  Haven't you just proved you're a masochist, and that at root that has something to do with it?  You like the pain.  You might not want it, but when it comes as it always will you secretly enjoy it.  You tell yourself you can't change, and when you demonstrate just that, or think you have, it just reinforces your spectacularly immature world view.  There is only one solution, and you're still far too cowardly to let it envelope you totally.

It's worse than you think.  Yeah, thanks Guardian, tell me something I don't already know.  You see all the old barely human faces, the skin not as thick as it once was, stretched tauter over bone.  What this proves is I was right all along.  These people can't even wait until the corpse is cold, their glee total at what has transpired.  Had it been the opposite they would have been nowhere to be seen, muttering to themselves about how it couldn't, wouldn't last.  Aspiration.  The centre ground.  Working hard and getting on.  Wealth creation and cultural affirmation.  Those words coming just after the writer tells us that politics has to be emotional rather than public policy seminar or data collection exercise.  This, friends, is what awaits us in the next Labour leader.  It doesn't matter that no one has come up with a prescription so far on how you can win back voters in Scotland that went to the "left" while convincing those in England that went to the right that you aren't going to launch a pogrom on white van men, clearly where Labour went wrong was in not remaining on the centre ground.  Like the Lib Dems, who clung to the centre because Nick Clegg decreed it and were duly squashed flat.  Labour was just slightly to their left, and apparently that was enough to seal their fate.  Pull the other fucking one.

This is not evidence Britain is a "fundamentally conservative country", says Matthew d'Anconservative, as if it were neither the NHS or BBC would exist.  No, Britain in the era when both were created was not a fundamentally conservative country.  It was a fundamentally social democratic country.  Then it stopped being such and the only reason we retain both is because they remind us of what we once were, that and no one has come up with a better alternative.  You can't replace an entire health system.  You can get rid of the BBC though, and don't be surprised if that process begins under this glorious government.  The Tories would be quite wrong to interpret the election result as a green light to cut welfare, Matt goes on.  Why not?  Rather than deploring the politics of heartlessness, a good percentage of the public seem to have embraced it.  They've displayed a very funny way of saying they disagree with the bedroom tax, for instance.  As the inestimable Flying Rodent has repeatedly said, no one makes people watch Benefits Street or all these other gawping documentaries on the poors.  See, that's where Labour went wrong: too much emphasis on the poors and the riches, not enough on the middle.  Because Labour didn't spend years going on interminably about the squeezed fucking middle, did it?

Half of me wants to scream that Labour needs to have the shortest leadership contest possible, regardless of whom comes out at the end of it, because it was during the navel gazing of the contest last time that the Tories banged on endlessly about the crash being all Labour's fault.  With neither a Labour or Lib Dem leader in place, although hey, thank heavens for small mercies that Nigel Farage has been preserved for the nation, we can expect the same again.  The other half of me though just doesn't give a shit.  This result has pretty much proved there's only one thing that does for the Tories, and that's a disaster like Black Wednesday followed by the party obsessing over itself.  Even then Labour can only win by going one foot to the left of the Conservatives, and as the more perceptive have pointed out, it wasn't Ed Miliband that screwed Labour in Scotland, it was a certain Mr Blair.  It was a very delayed reaction, but reaction it was all the same.  Hunt, Kendall, Umunna, Burnham, Cooper, whoever wins they look set to accept in full the prevailing message already dictated.  None of them look quite as weird as Miliband did, although Burnham has some especially sensual eyelashes, but you think they're going to be fellated like Blair was by all comers?  There's no one, and they have nothing to say.

All that's left, all I have left is to point and criticise.  I'd like to think I'm reasonable at doing that, I'm dedicated at least if nothing else.  I'm also always unexpected.  Dedicated and unexpected.  What a fantastic epitaph.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, May 08, 2015 

Acedia's blackest hole.

Where do we even begin?

Perhaps it's best to start with what I and so many others got spectacularly wrong.  First, the Lynton Crosby "crossover" happened.  It happened at the very last minute, but it happened.  Second, the mainstream, overwhelmingly right-wing media has far more influence than anyone on the left or on the internet as a whole has given it credit for in years.  Their screeching appeals to their readers not to vote Labour over the past couple of days are almost certainly not the reason the Conservatives have a slender majority, but the months, years of attacks on Labour and their depiction of Ed Miliband as a mixture of Stalin and Mr Bean, to borrow from Vince Cable, have exacted a heavy toll.  If you want a reason why UKIP won just shy of 4 million votes, almost as many as the SNP and the Lib Dems combined, you need only look as far as a media that depicts Britain as a country where the power lies not with the white, upper middle classes but with immigrants, benefit claimants, the EU, and a constantly being bent over and sodomised BBC.  The real metropolitan elite has succeeded in creating an image of a phony metropolitan elite, where politically correct limp-wristed Guardianistas allow children to be raped and everything that's wrong with the country is down to their smug, sneering attitude of knowing best.  You can't support England!  You can't talk about immigration!  You can't say anything anymore without someone jumping down your throat!

Where I would maintain I wasn't wrong is in that no one won this election.  Now, plainly, the Conservatives did.  They didn't however win on the basis of anything in the Conservative manifesto or almost anything that David Cameron said the whole campaign.  The Tories have increased their share of the vote yes, something not achieved since 1900, but the swing is a miniscule 0.5%.  The Conservatives won because at the last minute more decided to stick with what they know than risk a Labour minority "held to ransom" by the SNP.  Apart from a few exceptional results, like the defenestration of Ed Balls, the Tories have their majority thanks to winning the seats they needed to from their former coalition partner.  Nick Clegg's message of dead centrism, which even to me looked as if it might in the end pay dividends failed catastrophically.  Why have a Lib Dem MP supporting Tory policies when you can have the real thing?

The Labour result is though throat-slittingly, jumping into a gaping chasm, blowing your own head off with a howitzer bad.  It represents everything the party must have feared in its darkest moments combined with the very worst of its most gleeful enemies' fantasies.  To gain an overall swing of just 1.5% after 5 years of austerity, real terms losses in earnings and hacking away at the public services as only a Tory led government can is not just nightmarish, it suggests Labour as a party is in terminal decline.  As we've seen on the continent, it isn't the centre-right parties that have been most squeezed post-crash, it's been those on the centre-left.  Unlike in Spain and Greece where parties of the radical left have been the beneficiaries of the collapse, we're seeing a refracted image of the situation in France, where the Front National looks set to become the unofficial opposition.  Clearly UKIP aren't going to play that role here, but what has happened is that as all the main parties have moved to the right on immigration and the economy, it's the establishment parties of the left that suffer most.  As the Greens will never be a working class alternative to Labour for a whole myriad of reasons, the major shift has been to UKIP, but there has been a much smaller if still significant shift to the left also.

How is Labour meant to win those voters back?  The more hawkish it is on the deficit and the harsher on immigration the more it loses voters like me to the alternatives on the left.  Meanwhile those on the right aren't satisfied as Labour won't go further than merely copying Tory policies.  It's utterly stuck, and has next to no room to manoeuvre.

For the left to win, it seems the only hope is to have a charismatic leader.  They can be an utter bastard, like a certain Mr Blair, or they can be a sign of change rather than stand for anything, like a certain Mr Obama.  If you look slightly nerdy, decide that you'd rather than country was just a little bit more equal please sir, and that it's not the best idea in the world to chuck bombs at countries without thinking it through first, or to spend the whole of your life brown nosing some of the most despicable cunts on the face of the planet, then boy are you fucked.

Ed Miliband's gambit was that the country had on a few really quite slight measures shifted all but imperceptibly to the left.  In their heart of hearts, perhaps most people do feel that way: they do want a higher minimum wage if not a living one, they do want a job that provides a way out of poverty, which is secure, they do want the corporate behemoths that now run so much of our public services to be just that, rather than service only their shareholders.  When it came down to it though, they held onto nurse in case of something worse, the worse being an inconclusive result where a nationalist party set on breaking the country up would hold the balance of power.  Yes, the failure to correct or challenge the media/Tory narrative that Labour was responsible for the crash did have an impact, but then on so many other fronts Labour and indeed all the parties have failed to do the same.  For far too long the main three have been too scared to confront voters' prejudices and instead have given in to them.  You celebrate the way the country has become diverse and yet you tell us you want an end to immigration right now; you tell us you hate scroungers and yet the welfare bill is increasing because benefits are topping up low wages and subsidising landlords, not to pay for layabouts; you complain about the wait to see a doctor and the threat to the NHS, and yet you're not prepared to pay the taxes to fund it to the same level as health services elsewhere.

Who Labour should choose to replace Miliband seems almost moot.  It clearly can't be someone else from the Blair/Brown era, which rules out Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham at a stroke.  Chuka Umuuna would, should be a frontrunner but while he has steel he lacks said charisma and passion.  I'd like to think it's time the party chose a woman, and on that front Liz Kendall would probably be the best bet, only yet again there's no reason whatsoever to believe she would make the needed difference when there is so little scope for policy change without losing more voters to UKIP or the Greens.  If there is the tiniest, most minute squib of brightness, it's that nothing can possibly get worse for the party in Scotland.  It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but it can't get any worse.  Whether Scotland will still be part of the UK by the time it's ready to challenge again could be the real question.

Finally then we must turn to our new overlords.  The Conservatives have won a majority, regardless of how, on the back of the most right-wing manifesto since the days of Thatcher.  They promise to rip up the Human Rights Act, if only to replace it with a British Bill of Rights codifying the same things, to slash social security to the absolute bone in ways they refused to let us in on, to further ramp up the housing market, to all but abolish inheritance tax, and to run a surplus from which tax cuts in time for the next election will be handed out.  Let's surmise that in fact it won't be that bad: Osborne will now look at the books, realise that cutting as much as they say they will is complete lunacy, and that a further delay to reducing the deficit is sensible.  We still though will be facing cuts that look unachievable, if that is the party doesn't now renege on its promise to not raise VAT, to posit just one thing it could do instead.

As promised by Cameron, the starting gun on the EU referendum has sounded.  Let's assume the best: that Cameron gets something from Angela Merkel and the rest that allows him to claim he has successfully renegotiated our membership.  Regardless of that, his backbenchers, looking over their shoulders at UKIP once again will be campaigning for the exit.  The poll will not be about the benefits of the EU so much as what are seen as the negatives: the open borders, the loss of power, the amount we pay for barmy EU bureaucrats, and so forth.  Even if the vote is a yes to stay in, the Scottish referendum has proved that once you've asked the question you will sooner or later have to ask it again, as it's guaranteed the result will be as close as the 55%-45% share north of the border.

Then we have the issue of Cameron himself.  We know he's not going to serve a third term, so the party leadership battle begins here.  At the same time as the EU referendum we're going to have Osborne, May and Boris battling it out, with all that implies for infighting in the party in and around the referendum.  When you've won a majority on the back of being right-wing shitbags and those whose support you're trying to get are right-wing shitbags, why on earth would you then head back to the centre?

I could go on but that's probably enough and I'm sleep deprived as it is.  To be slightly optimistic again, the Tories are still going to have trouble governing: their majority is smaller than it was in 1992, their backbenchers will be just as fractious as in the last parliament, and by-elections will dwindle it further.

Let's not lie to ourselves, all the same.  Today's result is a disaster for those at the margins of society.  It's a disaster for those who believe in internationalism, rather than nationalism.  And it's the evidence we should have seen before that the left in England is fucked, probably irrevocably.

Have a good weekend.

Labels: , ,

Share |

Thursday, May 07, 2015 

Erection special!

05:53:

Yeah, that's it.  This is what you wanted Britain, this is what you're getting.  I think the only thing left to do is reprise the only thing of worth Neil Kinnock might have ever said, only I've slightly altered it for 2015:

I warn you not to be ordinary.  I warn you not to be young.  I warn you not to fall ill.  If you're old, you're the only ones who will be protected.  Everyone else will be fair game.



05:40:

The strange thing about all this is that turnout doesn't seem to have gone up dramatically, except again for Scotland.  It might be 1 or 2 percentage points higher overall, but not to where you might have thought it was the turnout that swung it.  Rather it seems to have been the weeks of deadlock that prompted the switch at the last minute, aligned with the SNP fearmongering and perhaps some renewed "shy Tories" shenanigans.

05:36:

Not that that's surprising when I feel sick to my stomach at what's happened.

05:26:

Ed Miliband looks to have aged 10 years in one night.

05:21:

Norwich South, the seat the exit poll had inexplicably flagged up as the other Green win, has gone to Labour with a near 8,000 majority over the Tories.  Something went slightly haywire with your sample there lads.

05:14:

If by some freak of nature you're one of the 1,141 who voted Green in Bury North, where Labour's James Firth fell short by 378 votes of the Tories, hang your head in shame.  It won't have made any difference, but still.

05:00:

Esther McVey has gone.  Quite possibly the only bright spot of the entire night.  That's how little we've had compared to the position we started from.

04:51:

Amazing.  Clegg leads his party to a result so terrible they might have less than 10 seats, and yet he hangs on in Sheffield Hallam.  Never has a win been less deserved.

04:47:

Vince Cable has gone.  I've knocked Cable on here over the past few years for his bashing the Tories while remaining a minister, but there was the one hope if Clegg lost his seat of there being a Labour-Lib Dem pact of some variety.

Turned to dust, like so much else on this dreadful night/morning.

04:45:

The result we're looking at right now is quite possibly the worst of all possible worlds.  An indecisive one would have had to put electoral reform back on the agenda, a point being made by Douglas Carswell, who could be UKIP's only MP.  If the Tories either fall slightly short or scrape over the line, they have absolutely no reason to make any concessions on that front, and why should they?  In Scotland, we now have a party that hates the Tories probably just marginally more than it does both Labour and the union in total control, and will spend every moment of its time at Westminster raising hell, shouting at the complete illegitimacy of whichever government we have.  Add in how a referendum on EU membership is now certain, and which will in turn become not so much a vote on Europe as on immigration and the government itself, and to say the next five years look even bleaker than the 5 previous doesn't seem an understatement.

A few years back now I saw Simon Munnery, not long after he had (bizarrely) appeared on a panel on Newsnight alongside Greg Dyke on the AV referendum.  Afterwards, according to Munnery, Paxman said to Dyke on the economic situation, "this country really is fucked, isn't it?"

If it wasn't then, it is now.

04:24:

Results flooding in now.  Thurrock, Hendon, 2nd and 3rd on Labour target list, both remain Tory.  It was over long ago, but seems to be confirming we're seeing a repeat of 1992 only sans the Sheffield victory rally.


04:17:

Lynne Featherstone has gone as well.  She was one of those who demanded someone must resign over the death of Baby P, helping along the demonising of social workers that followed.  Probably also worth pointing out that David Cameron's bright idea a few months back was that those in a position of authority who fail to protect their wards should face up to 5 years in prison.  That, unfathomably, was one of his less wacky pre-election brainfarts.

04:11:

Simon Hughes has lost his seat.  He you might recall defended the prisons book ban, and thus richly deserves to lose regardless of the good he has done previously.  Not that it's going to make much frigging difference in Labour beating the Lib Dems at this point, sadly.

04:05:

By the way, hello to the one remaining person who seems to reading my ramblings now.  And I don't mean myself.  Apologies this hasn't been more insightful, but I'm trying not to start crying.

03:58:

Rare gain for Labour in Ilford North on a swing of 6.3% from the Tories, still adding up to a majority of just 589 mind.  This was 84th on Labour's target list.  What might have been had Labour managed that across the board.

03:41:

I'll say this right now: David Lammy shouldn't seek the London mayorship, he should seek the party leadership.  Looking at all the other potential candidates, he's the only one even remotely inspiring.

03:33:

Incidentally, I haven't seen much evidence tonight of that fabled BBC bias.  Labour figures might be in mourning, but the BBC presenters seem pretty buoyant, despite a Tory majority spelling the all but end of the licence fee.  The SNP aren't great fans of Auntie either.  Still, eh?

03:18:

I think I've gone very quickly through the 5 stages of grief tonight.  Not that I was angry, I'm rarely angry these days.  Despair has taken over on that score.  Acceptance has already arrived though, don't worry.

03:16:

When I said vote, you bastards, I didn't mean vote for the bastards.  Just to clear that up.  Because clearly it's your fault.

03:11:

Jim Murphy has lost his seat.  He looks demob happy, and again, who can blame him despite his utter uselessness.

02:59:

Story of the night is told by North Warwickshire result, Labour's number 1 target seat.  In 2010, the Tories won by 54 votes. They've turned it into a majority of nigh on 3,000.  Speechless.

02:54:

All the Labour people on so far look absolutely shell-shocked, not by Scotland, but by England results.  Can't say I blame them.

02:45:

Swindon South, 2010 Conservative majority: 3,544
Swindon South, 2015 Conservative majority: 5,785

Labour has gone backwards.  I repeat, Labour in the Tory marginals has gone backwards.  Not a single person predicted this.  In Scotland the polls were about right.  In the rest of UK, completely and utterly wrong.

02:40:

Incidentally, don't worry about the constant references so far tonight to suicide.  That's perfectly normal around here.

02:35:

I think at this point I have to stay up just to see if the Tories get a majority.  Something to tell my, err, actually fuck knows who I'll tell.  Probably the birds in the park when I'm sitting on the bench about to slit my wrists.

02:25:

Flying Rodent, who I don't think has been wrong about anything ever, tweeted this prediction this morning

The Tories, having correctly and shamefully chosen a strategy of spite and resentment, to squeak it. 5 more shithouse years.

Closer than any other pundit it seems thus far.

02:17:

Tim Farron: We know the scale of nothing so far.

Indeed we don't.  I really, truly hope the Conservatives aren't going to somehow squeeze a majority but as this point it looks possible.

02:00:

The Nuneaton result confirms it, if there was any doubt.  A 2,069 Conservative majority in 2010 has turned, incredibly, into a majority of nigh on 5,000.  Something major happened today that the polls failed completely to pick up on.

01:54:

Call me premature, but we may as well already get on with the post-mortem.

Any gains Labour will make, and there will be a few no doubt, are going to be wiped out by the losses in Scotland.  Labour has fouled up there spectacularly: how did it not realise within a matter of weeks of the referendum result that almost all those who voted yes were going to vote SNP?  Answer: years of neglect and taking its base for granted.  With a dedicated campaign of listening and action it might, just might have been able to staunch the worst of the losses.  What did it do?  It elected Jim Murphy, the la-la not listening act went on, and the end result could be a complete wipe out.  The party couldn't have bargained on Cameron's the SNP are going to crash the economy act, but it could have prevented him from being able to make the argument with such force.

Peter Mandelson, sad as it is to say, is right.  Labour has been squeezed between two nationalisms.  UKIP probably won't win more than 2 seats, but it looks as though it's on course to be the opposition to Labour in its northern heartlands.  Meanwhile, in the seats Labour had to win to stand any chance, voters have gone to UKIP and the Greens, while the 2010 Lib Dem voters have split down the middle between the Tories and Labour rather than en masse heading left.

How much of the blame can be personally assigned to Ed Miliband is difficult as yet to ascertain.  The gains in popularity he made during the campaign don't look to have been enough.  As I wrote before, I honestly don't believe David Miliband or Alan Johnson would have made much if any of a difference.  Even if the exit poll ends up being dead right, this isn't so much a vote for the Tories or against Labour (except in Scotland) as it is against the "threat" posed by the SNP to England.  You can say again that's Labour and Ed Miliband's fault for not dealing with the SNP, and you'd be right, but this is hardly a vote of confidence either in David Cameron.  With so much in his favour he should still have won a majority tonight, and that isn't going to happen.  As said, it could still turn out that thanks to the vote against the Lib Dems, which is total, Cameron will still find it extremely difficult to govern.  Let's not split hairs though, he will say he's won, and in truth he has.  Second election or not, we've got another 5 years of the Tories coming up.

01:21:

I think the very best we can hope for now is the Tories don't get quite as many seats as predicted by the exit poll.  If the Lib Dems have done that badly, then a difference of ten seats could be, as Ed Balls said earlier, the difference between the Tories being able to govern and not.

Battersea result, another swing to the Conservatives.  Doomed.

01:08:

Oh, and the Lib Dems have mostly it seems gone Tory in the marginals.  I missed them out.  Easy to forget.

01:03:

What seems to have happened as always looks obvious in hindsight.  More defectors from Labour to UKIP than expected.  UKIP/Tory waverers went back to the Tories.  Undecideds until the last minute went Tory.  Mass scaremongering about the SNP seems to have worked, as the Tories were claiming it was.  And we didn't expect it because the polls couldn't cope with the UKIP rise in support/couldn't tell us about undecideds properly.

What a horrible, horrible night.

00:50:

Swindon North result: 4.3% swing from Labour to Conservatives.  102nd Labour target seat.

I think it's over already.

00:48:

According to Isabel Hardman, Nigel Farage has failed in Thanet South.  Not really much of a consolation when so many of the Tories set to be returned want precisely what he does.

Also looks as though Douglas Alexander has lost his seat.  He had a majority of 16,000, and his SNP opponent is 20, yes that's 20 as in years, said she fantasised about headbutting Labour councillors and that no voters were gullible.

Fuck me.

00:34:

You know, you forget just how life threateningly terrible the hours are before the results proper start coming in are.  I'm sitting here with the BBC on mute and am still just inches away from beating myself to death with a plastic bottle based on how many of these terrible, terrible cunts from all three parties have already been in my line of sight.

00:20:

So how are you all?  Been to any good gigs lately?  And what brand of rope do you recommend when it needs to be good and strong?

00:02:

Three seats down, number of Liberal Democrat deposits lost: 3.

P.S.  The Greens also got more votes in all three than the Lib Dems.

23:58:

Please BBC, it is beyond pointless going through all these seats based on your forecast.  If it's right there's plenty of time to beat us over the head with that later.

23:48:

If Nick Clegg has held on, that's the cherry on the gigantic shit sundae we're all going to have to chow down.

23:43:

Also I'm not sure that 2 constitutes a group.

23:39: 

Natalie Bennett:
If we have doubled our parliamentary representation and we are sending perhaps Darren Hall in Bristol West to join the brilliant Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as a strong group of Green MPs in Parliament - then that will be a good result for the Green party. 

Yeah, shame about the rest of the country, oh and the potential for keeping the temperature rise to 2C, but you carry on Natalie.

23:27:

Let's try and cheer ourselves up a bit, eh?  Check out the balls on this fucking lecher (Yes, it's probably her old man or her electoral agent, but play along with me here):



23:06:  Last bit of exit poll speculation after saying I wouldn't, I promise:

Nicola Sturgeon tonight: I'd treat the exit poll with HUGE caution. I'm hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely!

Nicola Sturgeon tomorrow: The people of Scotland have spoken.  A second independence referendum will be in the 2016 SNP Holyrood manifesto.

22:52:

Just to add, the poll is clearly wrong on one thing.  If the Greens win another seat, I'll join Paddy Ashdown in eating a hat.

22:49:

Oh, and if it's right, what I said about the press having lost their influence?  Saturday morning, the Mail, Sun, Telegraph, they'll all have "IT WOZ US WOT WON IT".

22:36:

The Labour line: coalition has lost its majority if exit poll is right.  Come on, please.  If it's right, the Tories have won.  Simple as.

22:28:

Speculating about speculation is pointless.  I just can't see how the exit poll could be so wrong though.  Last night I was optimistic.  Right now I am staring into the abyss.

22:05:

To bring a completely local anecdote into this, I saw a hell of a lot more people voting in the neighbouring safe Tory seat than I did 5 years ago.  Only way I can possibly get my head round how the exit poll could be right.  Still, the Lib Dems down to 9 seats?  That's what I can't quite believe more than anything, or indeed Labour losing seats.  As Mike Smithson has tweeted, if right, a complete disaster for all the polling firms and some major inquiries to be held.  Oh, and we're all utterly boned.  But that comes second, obvs.

22:01:

OK, if this exit poll is right I'm going to fucking shoot myself.  With my imaginary gun.

21:58:

It's not until it's real that you remember just what a complete prat Jeremy Vine is.

21:42:

At this point, I think I can say if you voted for the party that used in all seriousness the slogan "BAIRNS NOT BAMBS" and put this out with the intention of winning over support:



You deserve everything you've got coming.

Labels: ,

Share |

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 

A campaign of failure.

"All political careers end in failure," we often hear, a slight misquote of a line from Enoch Powell.  These might be exceptions that prove the rule, but few can claim with a straight face that the careers of either Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan ended in failure.  Thatcher was ditched by her party, yes, and arguably the Tories have never recovered from that singular moment of trauma, and yet who can deny that the legacy both she and Reagan left the West has not proved resilient since then?  Not even the great crash of 2008 has led to a break with neoliberalism; if anything, quite the opposite, regardless of the rise of a few opposition movements.

Barring a complete shock, tomorrow's election results will demonstrate there are times when political failure is absolute, whether it ends careers immediately or not.  The last polls all point either to a dead heat between Labour and the Tories, or a lead for the latter well within the margin of error.  6 weeks, or rather nigh on 5 months of campaigning by both has failed to shift opinion in any substantial way.  All they've succeeded in doing is consolidating their support: that might not strictly be a failure in that it's just as important as winning over undecided voters, but it speaks of just how limited the terms of engagement have been.

Nor is it as if the main two haven't tried: the Conservatives have thrown every conceivable bribe at those they consider "their people" possible.  The all but abolition of inheritance tax, the expansion of right to buy to housing associations, the promise of tax cuts to come, paid for by a brutal slashing of the social security budget, none of it has worked.  Labour meanwhile affected to pinch the Tories' clothes on deficit reduction, pledging it would fall every year, guaranteed by a "budget responsibility" lock, the forerunner to the 6 pledge tombstone.  The parties battled over whom could deny themselves the most potential revenue: the Tories would legislate to make raising income tax, national insurance and VAT illegal, while Labour said they would only put the top rate of income tax back to 50p.  If this was meant to make voters believe just how serious they were about sticking to these fine words, it hasn't worked.  Why would it when everyone can plainly see there's going to be a mass bartering session come Friday afternoon when another hung parliament is confirmed?

The failure has not just been political, however.  If the 2015 election becomes known for anything, it will be as the one where newspapers confirmed they are as good as dead.  This is not to say they no longer have any influence, as some risibly claim: quite the opposite.  They might not have a direct impact on how people decide to vote, but they can define perceptions and shift attitudes fundamentally.  Ed Miliband would not have been considered a complete no-hoper little more than a month ago if it had not been for the way he was persistently caricatured as a weird leftie nerd from almost as soon as he won the Labour leadership.

What has changed is the abandoning of all pretence of being the voice of their readers as opposed to the voice of their owners.  The Sun straight up admitted its contempt for Ed Miliband was based around how the fiend hasn't ruled out breaking up Rupert Murdoch's continuing stranglehold on the media, something it would have never done in the past.  Most egregious though has been the Telegraph, once respected by all for the dividing line between its news and comment, reduced by the Barclay brothers to prostituting itself without the slightest shame to the Conservatives, time and again turning its front page over to missives issued directly from CCHQ.  Peter Oborne's exposing of the paper's sycophancy towards advertiser HSBC seems to have led to it straight up throwing in the towel, not so much as bothering to hide its bias.  The Mail meanwhile with its non-dom owner Lord Rothermere savages Miliband as a "class war zealot" who will "destroy the nation", although when the paper has already described his deceased father as "THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN" it's barely possible to go any lower.

It wouldn't matter as much if there was the slightest evidence the monstering of Miliband and Labour was working, or if there was something resembling wit in the constant attacks.  Putting Neil Kinnock's head in a light bulb and asking the last person in the country to turn out the lights if he won at least had the semblance of originality, of being a wounding attack.  Reprinting the photograph of Miliband eating a bacon sandwich in a slightly comical fashion alongside a whole load of puns on pork is pathetic, nowhere near cutting enough and worst of all, obvious.  The Sun of Kelvin MacKenzie's era, of Rebekah Brooks's era for goodness sake would have come up with something better.  If nothing else, the Sun once knew how its readers' minds worked.  As with the rest of the popular and indeed right-wing press, those days are gone and they're not coming back.

That at this point the right-wing media rather than eulogising about Cameron and his party is spending all its time attacking Miliband and questioning his party's legitimacy to govern itself demonstrates their and the Tories' abject failure.  When all they've got is a year-old photograph, a five-year old joke of a letter and the prospect of a party in power that hasn't won an election, after 5 years of precisely that, little could be more pitiful.

Not that Cameron or the rest of the leaders have been held to account by the media as a whole.  All the attempts to trip them up, to get the Tories to say where they'll make their cuts to welfare or how much Labour will borrow have been brushed aside.  The interrogator who has caused politicians the most discomfort, Andrew Neil, has been doing so to an audience of politics nerds and the barely compos mentis, while tinsel tits Evan Davis was given the job of interviewing the leaders in prime time, bringing his brand of less tenacious and less insightful technique along with him.  All the emphasis on trapping the parties in a gaffe has only had the result of making them risk averse above all else.  The campaign as a whole has suffered from that choice.

If anyone's failure has been total, it must though David Cameron's.  He's had every advantage a prime minister could hope for: an utterly servile media; a divided opposition with an unpopular leader; a growing economy; and the collapse of said opposition in its Scottish heartlands.  The threat on the right from UKIP has subsided somewhat, helped by another failure in the shape of the wheels coming off Nigel Farage's bandwagon, and still Cameron hasn't been able to shift the polls in his favour.  From the outset he's displayed every sign of not being interested, from the interview with James Landale where he said he wouldn't serve a third term, instantly starting the Tory leadership contest, to the cringe-inducing showing of "passion".  If any other politician had claimed to be "bloody lively" and "pumped up" the ridicule would have been absolute, as it would if it was Miliband addressing empty cowsheds or dropping in on farmers for a spot of breakfast, or if the Labour leader had made the slip that the election would be "career defining".  Calling him the poor man's Tony Blair doesn't really work any longer; not only did Blair win elections, Blair at least believed in things.  Cameron as the profile by Matthew d'Aconservative in the Graun demonstrates believes in absolutely nothing.

Indeed, the only thing saving Cameron is Labour's collapse in Scotland.  This isn't so much down to the success of Nicola Sturgeon as it is the carry on from the referendum and Scottish Labour's helpless flailing around trying to work out why it is this has happened now.  There is a point to wondering why it is voters who've come to the conclusion they've been abandoned and ignored by the party they previously backed en masse would then transfer their allegiance to one single party en masse and think there'll be a different end result, but only as far as it goes.  The only thing to be done now is to appeal to voters' better instincts: that every seat Labour loses in Scotland helps David Cameron regardless of what the SNP says about "locking the Tories" out.  It also has to be emphasised that just as Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland and the rest of the country will never forgive Labour if it refuses to work with the SNP, it's also the case the SNP will never be forgiven if it refuses to vote for a minority Labour government's Queen speech on the specious grounds it doesn't end austerity.

5 years ago, the British people conspired to ensure no one won the election.  Five years later and they seem all but certain to produce a result that adds up to the same thing, only with bells on.  If this doesn't result in the political class considering just why it is they've become such failures and what to do about it, then they've missed the real message of this campaign.  The same goes for a media that has never seemed more out of touch, talking to itself and only itself.  Regardless of which party wins the most seats or manages to form a government, there's a reckoning coming.  It's not going to be pretty.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 

The party that cuts off its nose to spite its face.

It always happens.  Just when you think a point of no return has been reached, something comes along and proves there are always new depths to be plumbed.  Yes, politics really has just got even stupider.

Why it surprises each time is a mystery considering the way politics has been conducted over the past 5 years.  As Paul Krugman in the Graun today set out, the entire defining media discourse of the last parliament has been based on assumptions that don't stand up to scrutiny.  Yes, the deficit does have to be reduced, but the time to do so is the boom, not when the recovery has barely started.  Britain has never been in a position even remotely like Greece's, nor is it any danger of being so when we control our own currency.

By the same measure, the Tories' entire pitch to the country is built on a lie.  They claim to have rescued the country from Labour's Great Recession, and yet as yesterday's GDP figures made clear, the recovery, such as it is, has been built mainly on continued consumer spending rather than the rebalancing away from financial services originally promised.  Despite record low interest rates the economy has not bounced back in the way it has from past recessions, suggesting this time might be different.  This could be partially down to said austerity, or it could be what has been called secular stagnation, where the economic growth we were previously accustomed to becomes all but impossible due to various factors including a decline in the working age population and technological advances no longer leading to improvements in productivity.

Either way, to be proposing now is the time for "colossal" cuts as the Tories are, especially when growth is threatening to come in lower than forecast is at best daft and at worst positively dangerous.   Up until today most economists and commentators had concluded they didn't, couldn't really mean what they say.  It's to keep the hardliners onside.  It's to be negotiated away come the talks on forming a new coalition.  Osborne relented once he realised austerity was having the precise opposite effect to the one he claimed it would.  It would be impossible to make the "savings" they're proposing without putting up taxes.

Only, such is the apparent Tory desperation at how their message doesn't seem to be getting through, now the promise not to put up VAT, income tax or national insurance will be enshrined in law if they win the election.  This is so completely deranged it takes a while to sink in.  We've previously had Osborne trying to "trap" Labour by legislating to cap benefit increases for those of working age to 1%, and they've since put in law the very outline of their spending plans.  This though is something else: quite apart from how it seems to be the Tories admitting there's so little confidence in their ridiculous sums they need to make it illegal to not follow their pledge to get people to believe them, it leaves Osborne with next to no room for manoeuvre in the event of another crisis and closes the door totally on much in the way of alternatives to the mooted cuts.

Laws can of course be repealed, but that wastes time that might be of the essence in a genuine emergency.  As a gimmick, which is exactly what it is, it's a self-defeating one.  The obvious assumption is it would be something else negotiated away in coalition talks, which again raises the question of why you would make such a promise only then to drop it at the first opportunity, exactly the sort of move that invites cynicism.  Are the Tories that panicked by how the polls still aren't shifting, with the most likely outcome remaining a minority Labour government into thinking something, anything that convinces a few more people of their sincerity is worth it, regardless of the all the downsides of such a bill?

Apparently so.  Why though do such a thing when it finally looks as if the Tories' bluff on their proposed £12bn in welfare cuts is being called?  The IFS, as exasperated at the main parties' lack of candour in their manifesto as it ever gets, outlined to get anywhere near that figure (PDF) at the same time as protecting pensioner benefits would mean the absorption of child benefit into universal credit, which would save £5bn, while requiring housing benefit recipients to pay at least 10% of their rents could save a further £2.5bn, still leaving a £2.5bn shortfall.  Labour, in what has been a pitifully underreported press conference this morning, overshadowed somewhat admittedly by Miliband's soiree with Fey Guevara, put out their own take on where the axe would fall, deciding cutting tax credits was just as likely, saving £3.4bn along with the aforementioned child benefit cuts.  Tonight Danny Alexander in an apparent valedictory move ahead of the likely loss of his seat to the SNP has given the Graun Iain Duncan Smith's "Welfare Reform Quad Summer Reading Pack" from 2012, when the coalition was arguing over whether to carry on with Plan A.   Again this focuses on child benefit, with IDS having suggested limiting it to two children, removing the higher rate for the first child, removing it altogether from 16-19-year-olds, and finally means testing it, which all told would save £8bn.

The IFS was far from complimentary about Labour's own failure to outline cuts that would save money as opposed to the equivalent of pennies in government spending terms, but then Labour's plans are such that as the IFS has said, they've left themselves enough room for manoeuvre as to barely cut spending at all if they so choose.  The Tories have now had 2 years to come up with something resembling an outline of where they would make their savings, only to respond every time they should be trusted to do so based on their record.  Their record, as we've seen, has been to sell the country the biggest of lies.  That they've gotten away with it, while an indictment of Labour and a servile media, only makes it all the more remarkable they've now been reduced to one of the most idiotic and cutting off their nose to spite their faces gestures in recent memory.  It will be nothing compared to the effect on the country if we end up with a Conservative majority that governs as it says, mind.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 

Me and Stephen Hawking we laugh.

You can't help but be struck by the Tories' lack of serendipity.   The economy is meant to be their trump card, their "jobs miracle" an unquestionable fact.  Of course, the recovery they stalled for two years would be put in jeopardy if Labour were to get in and rack borrowing up again, whereas there wouldn't be any negative effects from the Conservatives front-loading their proposed cuts in the first years of the next parliament in their quest for a surplus.  You know all this.

How desperately unfortunate then that the GDP figures for the first three months of the year are so disappointing.  They are just a snapshot, based on incomplete data and may well be revised up.  All the same, that without the boost provided by the drop in oil prices and corresponding low inflation the economy would be all but flatlining is not the news the Tories were expecting at this stage.  Their response, the only possible one, however counter-intuitive, has been to say this just proves the last thing needed is a change of government or the instability of an inconclusive outcome next Thursday.  Clearly what's needed isn't just the certainty of a Conservative majority, but the impact the further austerity proposed would have on growth.  This is assuming the Tories mean what they say, which is open to doubt considering Osborne slowed the retrenchment programme in 2012 when the economy was double-dipping (since revised away to mere stagnation rather than a second recession), in spite of all his denials of adopting a Plan B.  We can though only go by what they say, rather than what a government not hell bent on an ideological shrinking of the state would do in such circumstances.

The further evidence this was precisely what the Tories weren't banking on is this is their designated "economy" week.  They would have known all too well today would see the ONS publish the latest statistics, and so clearly went ahead presuming their boasts of having rescued an economy on the brink would be further reinforced.  Oh and dear.  

Not that it will likely make much difference when actual news is the last thing on the mind of a press that has long gone past the point of embarrassment when it comes to serving up what's given to them by the Conservatives: the Mail today dredged up a two-year old story on Miliband somehow being a Stalinist for daring to suggest more use of compulsory purchase orders to help get more houses built.  The Times meanwhile declared there are 10 days to save the union, just as there were however many days in the past to save the pound, save the NHS, save Jennifer's ear and so on.  Considering the Conservatives have been going out of their way for the past two weeks to suggest a vote for the SNP is somehow illegitimate, with the two parties almost in cahoots in their attempt to squeeze Labour even further in Scotland, it's an odd line for Cameron to suddenly take.

Equally strange is Cameron feeling entitled to say who his opponents should or shouldn't be interviewed by.  Considering Dave's idea of an interrogation is less Paxman and more Philip Schofield, such is his preference for the sofa of This Morning as opposed to the rigour of appearing on say the Today programme, not to bring up the whole avoiding anything resembling a debate that wasn't a waste of time, it's a bit rich to declare Ed Miliband a joke for agreeing to an interview with Russell Brand.  Apparently Cameron hasn't got time to hang out with Brand, although he did find room in his schedule for the chuckleheads at Heat magazine to ask him a few truly important questions, such as whether Sam prefers pink or brown.

Brand, it cannot be said enough, is a gimp.  He goes after the easiest of targets, has no interest in anything beyond the shallowest understanding of what he talks about, does so in the most infuriating way imaginable and has, up to now, undermined any good he has done by supporting causes like the Focus E15 mothers and generally raising awareness by telling those about to shafted the most by a Conservative government not to vote.  As soon as he gets bored or gets a better offer than spending his days making money from Google via the YouTube partners programme for the Trews channel he'll be off doing something else.  

For Miliband to agree to be interviewed by Brand is nonetheless exactly the sort of thing he should be doing: he has absolutely nothing to lose at this point, and, if as the Graun is suggesting it's finally got through Brand's thick skull that not to at least offer a suggestion as to whom his viewers should vote for if they're going to would be a betrayal, then all the better.  Moreover, detest Brand's way of expressing himself as I do, I'd much rather listen to him and Miliband having something resembling a normal discussion on how to tackle tax avoidance than the cringe inducing falseness showcased in Labour's abominable "Ed Miliband: a Portrait" political broadcast.

Still, if tomorrow's front pages are anything to go by, we've reached the stage in the campaign where cries of anguish about what supposedly isn't up for debate, as exemplified by the Mail last week having the gall to claim immigration was the great unmentionable, have given way to straight ad hominem attacks.  Do you really want this clown ruling us, asks the Mail, the paper owned by the non-domiciled Lord Rothermere.  Oh for the chance, the mere possibility, of being able to say it was the right-wing media wot lost it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, April 27, 2015 

Can you feel the passion?

Election fever has finally reached my humble rotten borough.  Not in the form of canvassers obviously, as the place was written off as Tory bastion many moons ago, although UKIP may well have made some recent inroads.  No, with the delivery today of a leaflet from the Green party candidate, we have now received literature from all of the big five parties.  This is an improvement over last time, when I don't recall getting anything from either the Lib Dems or the Greens.  Considering the wider constituency could be just about said to be marginal, in that on a very good day Labour should be taking it from the Tories (Labour held it from 1997 until 2005), that you could quite easily pass through the area without seeing anything to suggest there's an election on ought to tell you the nation's mood hasn't exactly been captured by the campaign thus far.

This isn't exactly surprising considering just how controlled and traditional the approach of the main parties has been.  No chances are being taken of either a Sharon Storer or Gillian Duffy moment occurring, despite all the evidence suggesting that Gordon Brown's description of Duffy as a "bigoted woman" had absolutely no impact whatsoever on how people voted.  If they could both Labour and the Tories would conduct all their set-pieces for the cameras in hermetically sealed temporary constructions, accessible only to friendly media and the activists/extras recruited to act as background props, and then only once they had been carefully disinfected.  The other slightly different approach, the one George Osborne has been stuck with, is to do a Hugh Abbott and spend the entire campaign touring friendly businesses.  Any unpleasant behaviour by employees, such as asking questions not provided by Osborne's advisers and minders will no doubt be noted and reported back to the person who invited them in the first place.

Cameron, responding to the criticism of how he's spent the campaign thus far in a barely interested torpor, has duly rediscovered his passion.  Passion to David Cameron is getting slightly flush in the face and saying the same things only louder.  Only with the odd vaguely rude word thrown in.  It's also pretending that what really excites him is not just how much more time he'll have to chillax once he loses the election, but getting that all important childcare place, that workfare placement, that bedsit.  If you want excitement, go to Greece!  If you want showbiz, go to Essex!  If you want Boris, go to Barking!  If you want insincerity, you've come to the right place!

At this point it's worth remembering that David Cameron's key objection (beyond his realisation he was on a hiding to nothing) to taking part in the debates was he believed they had overshadowed the campaign last time.  They did, but that's because as we've seen, strip them out of the equation and all you're left with is two sides fighting a battle against the opponents they would like to have.  The Tories are stuck back in an age, if it ever existed, when letters to a newspaper mattered.  Seeing the Mail, Telegraph and Sun act as an adjunct of CCHQ for a leader they and their owners don't really believe in invites pity more than it does fear.  At least Richard Desmond has been honest with everyone on that score.

Unspoken is how both parties have all but come to terms with the fact there's going to be another hung parliamentEven if today's outlier poll from Lord Ashcroft which shows a 6% Tory lead became reality, on an uniform swing it would still deny the party an overall majority by 4 seats.  This hasn't stopped Labour from trying, with the various pledges over the weekend on housing, but there's little to suggest promises that have been made before and gone unfulfilled are going to swing many votes at this point.

Little wonder that whether it comes in the shape of Russell Brand patronising schoolchildren or Nicola Sturgeon promising to end austerity by being less radical than Labour, it's that something different however silly or based in falsehood that cuts through.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies' verdict on the SNP manifesto ought to have been damning: what little difference there is with Labour's plans would be for the worse, the reality being it's Labour pulling the nationalists to the left rather than the opposite.  And yet still the SNP share of the vote in the polls edges upwards, to the point where you suspect some are now saying they're voting SNP for a quiet life, in a reversal of how in the past Tory voters were embarrassed to admit they were going blue.  I still can't quite see how the SNP can overturn a majority of 17,000 in Douglas Alexander's seat when their candidate is a 20-year-old who has twice called no voters "gullible", to take just one snapshot, and yet such is the apparent mood, in spite of everything that should be screaming the SNP are interested in just two things, themselves and independence, it would be a brave person now that bets against a SNP whitewash.

If nothing else, Cameron and Miliband have little to lose from adopting the Sturgeon approach at this stage.  Just turn up at places, don't bring the entire retinue along and listen to some real people rather than bussed in party hacks.  Go off script, stop repeating the same lines we've heard a bazillion times now and Ed, please stop saying "...and let me explain why", as though you're talking to an especially dull and dim child.  At the weekend the ever brilliant Marina Hyde characterised this as the Jose Mourinho election, with both parties waiting for their opponents to make a mistake, indulge in the utmost gamesmanship and most certainly not try and win through expansive flair and attacking dexterity.  No one wants to be Jose Mourinho; not even Mourinho wants to be Jose Mourinho.  As someone might have said, surely we can do better than this.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 

Ready for drowning.

Nick Clegg is deeply upset at how human beings, not migrants, people are drowning trying to make the desperate journey across the Mediterranean to gain asylum in Europe.  Nick you might remember was, still is the deputy prime minister in the government that along with much of the rest of EU declared the Mare Nostrum mission undertaken by the Italian navy a "pull factor" in migrants attempting the journey.  Not a single politician honestly believed it to be the case, because not a single one of them is that stupid.  99.99% of those boarding the rickety boats are completely ignorant as to what awaits them if they complete the journey, let alone if their vessel begins to sink.  The mission was downgraded first because no one was prepared to help the Italians with the costs, second because of the turn in attitudes towards migrants across Europe and the rise of various populist/far-right parties and movements, and third because they didn't think anyone honestly cared thousands drown every year fleeing war and oppression.

That decision was not then taken with the best of intentions.  It was taken for entirely cynical reasons and then justified on the basis of a lie they knew would ring true to those convinced migrants come to Europe for the benefits rather than to escape the unbearable.  They obviously didn't know that once winter was over and conditions had eased that more than ever would try and make the journey, but they did know Libya was more of a basket case than in previous years and so correspondingly open to the traffickers.  They knew more people would drown than before.  It was a choice they made and one they should answer for.

Clegg and the Lib Dems at the time said nothing.  Now Clegg knows what the answer is, and what isn't.  The problem's not that migrants are making the journey, but the conditions leading to them trying to make it.  Conditions like the collapse of the Libyan state, which came about as a direct result of the Nato intervention Clegg and the Lib Dems fully supported.  For argument's sake let's accept that was a decision taken with the very best of intentions, to prevent a massacre in Benghazi.  What followed on from that, the choice not just to protect civilians but act as the rebels' ostensible air force, ending only with the death of Gaddafi, was taken despite knowing Gaddafi effectively was the state.  Perhaps little could have been done to prevent Libya becoming the all but failed state it now has, but little is precisely what was done once David Cameron had his moment in Benghazi.

We should then be supporting the security forces in Libya, despite said security forces as far as they exist being far more interested in propping up the two separate governments Libya now has, neither of which really controls much in the way of territory anyway.  We need coordinated action against the people traffickers, despite the people traffickers only really providing a service, if it can be called that, that wouldn't exist if countries like Libya that previously offered better paid work to Eriterans hadn't collapsed in part thanks to actions supported by Clegg.  Clegg recognises the Libyan situation is a problem, and yet still insists it was a fabulous idea to intervene.

Nick is of course right that a "sustainable future" has to be built for those who live on the borders of Europe.  It strikes as just a little bit lacking in joined-up thinking then that we were so quick to dispense with the Gaddafi that up until the Arab spring it had been decided we could do business with.  Whether that was the right decision in the first place is open to question, but it was the one that was made.  Also entirely absent from the piece is so much as a mention of Syria, the country so many of those trying to make the trip are from, and which no one bothers to pretend has a "sustainable future" on the horizon.  There's little point in yet again reheating the same old arguments about our policy in Syria; suffice it to say the Liberal Democrats haven't made a squeak about it having been wrong or having contributed to the clusterfuck still unfolding across the region.

It's difficult to demur from Clegg's conclusion that a multifaceted approach is needed and that "intelligent use of our international development budget" is essential.  Quite where Clegg gets off on attacking UKIP for pointing out the obvious though, that decisions made by the coalition contributed to where we are now is a mystery.  When he claims in complete seriousness that the original decision to end the Mare Nostrum mission and replace it with Frontex was made with good intentions, at the exact same time as Theresa May and Philip Hammond, Clegg's fellow ministers and likely allies in a second coalition continue to insist there is a "pull factor" while hundreds drown, then it's not UKIP and the Tory right-wing that are "washing their hands", it's the Lib Dems that have gone along with such decisions and seem destined to do so in the future.  We have failed these people again and again, Clegg writes.  Indeed he has.  He should be judged on those failures.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 

Politics fails psychology 101.

Without wanting to come over all who are the Beatles, I hadn't until a couple of weeks ago heard of the band All Time Low.  Giving your band such a name does rather seem to be asking for it, just as the groups Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck and Fucked Up don't really expect to get much in the way of radio play.

Then again, the basics of psychology seem to allude many.  For instance, you might have thought people would have realised by now that the one thing obviously self-hating, self-publicising individuals feed off is attention.  When you've been on one reality television show after another, it's not that great a leap to deciding what the world really needs is semi-outrageous political commentary.  To such shit-stirrers any publicity is good publicity; to get Grauniad columnists comparing your output to that of the hate transmitted by Rwandan radio prior to the genocide is to have won big.  To have over 250,000 people sign a petition demanding your sacking is to have gone above and beyond what the Sun could have imagined when it signed you up.  That the former petition will almost certainly end up with more signatures than the one demanding something be done about the situation written about speaks volumes of the way things work now.

The same could be said of the Conservatives ramping up even further their Nicola Sturgeon is the devil made flesh rhetoric.  The thinking behind it seems two-fold: first, that it will encourage more people in Scotland to vote SNP because so many north of the border react in a Pavlovian manner to Tories saying no you can't; and second, that English voters will be terrified at how a Labour minority government will be pushed even further to the left as a result of the Tartan loons holding Red Ed to ransom.  Wheeling out John Major to make this exact argument is a classic old campaign trope: an ex-PM couldn't possibly be as partisan or stupid as the current leaders of the party, therefore he should be listened to.  Labour already tried this tactic with Tony Blair, to indifferent if not negative results.

It nevertheless remains striking just how much nonsense journalists will regurgitate when ordered to by their bosses.  Older readers might recall the Sun's attitude to John Major after Black Wednesday, with Kelvin MacKenzie informing the PM he had a "bucket of shit" he intended to pour over his head and into the newspaper.  Now, according to the Sun's current political editor Tom Newton Dunn, Major is a "party legend, a successful former Prime Minister and a modern day political saint".  Such hyperbole is the order of the day on SunNation, the paper's deliberately and hysterically biased free site designed to help, or more likely hinder the Tories' return to power.

Whether this is the second dead cat on the table of the campaign or not, designed as much to distract from Labour trying to make this week about the NHS as it is to be taken at face value, it again seems based on extremely dubious reasoning.  Banging on and on about the SNP being in a position to prop up Labour is almost certain to lead people to look and see firstly whether they can, and second if it really would mean the immediate end to Britain as we know it.

After all, the SNP surge has almost nothing whatsoever to do with policy.  It's a combination of the zoomers carrying on zooming from the independence campaign, the switch from a Salmond personality cult to a Sturgeon personality cult and the apparent winning over of many people to the SNP faith, where facts come second to sheer belief.  On the BBC News last night Robert Peston pointed out that while spending on health and education had risen under the wicked Tories in England, in Scotland under the SNP (who are in power at Holyrood, though you'd never realise it) spending on the NHS hadn't kept the same pace while on education it had actually fallen.  And yet the leader of SNP is the one demanding an immediate end to austerity and promising to pull Labour to the left.

Indeed, as the Graun points out in its analysis of the SNP manifesto, the party's apparent determination to hug Labour close has in fact seen this great progressive force be pulled leftwards itself.  Gone are the former promises to cut corporation tax and not reinstate the 50p top rate of tax, both overturned at the recent SNP conference, both of which just so happen to have long been Labour policies.  Subtly altered too is the party's attitude to "full fiscal autonomy", which rather than being a key demand is now merely an aspiration.  This is despite Nicola Sturgeon condemning as smears Labour pointing out the Institute for Fiscal Studies had calculated this would lead to a near £8bn hole in the Scottish finances.

Such things matters little when the SNP has so successfully managed to conflate itself with Scotland as a whole.  During the independence campaign Alex Salmond characterised Yes as "Team Scotland" while Better Together were "Team Westminster"; now Nicola Sturgeon doesn't so much as mention the SNP as she does Scotland when apparently the two are one and the same thing.  It's no surprise then when a poll finds 51% would take criticism of the SNP as criticism of them personally, a percentage far beyond even that of the 35 and 36% of UKIP and Greens who said the same thing.

As argued before, what this adds up to is the SNP not having much in the way of bargaining power come May the 8th.  A coalition is both not on offer and not wanted, and as Sturgeon has made so much of keeping the Tories out come what may she can hardly renege on supporting Labour, even if on a vote-by-vote basis rather than confidence and supply.  Ed Miliband could offer the SNP nothing and still come out as prime minister.  As it is, the pledge of a slightly higher minimum wage in the SNP manifesto seems calculated to be that one policy the party could point towards as pulling Labour leftwards.  The SNP would obviously prefer the Tories to win for their own purposes, to claim once again the wishes of Scotland have been thwarted, but a minority Labour government wouldn't be the worst of all worlds.

The Tory and media fearmongering relies on the assumption that as May the 7th edges nearer minds will be concentrated and the lack of trust in Labour on the economy will become crucial.  The SNP factor is meant to intensify the effect.  The problem for them is the polls seem deadlocked.  They could of course be wrong; there could, of course, be that last minute switch of undecided voters to the Tories, or a large scale return of those lost to UKIP; David Cameron could, of course, finally decide he wants to win a second term rather than coast to defeat.  Time, however, is surely running out.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, April 20, 2015 

Foreign policy: not on the campaign agenda.


You hardly need me to tell you the election campaign has not exactly caught fire thus far.  It has briefly threatened to, with Labour's unexpected pledge to abolish non-dom status and the Tory response of Ed Miliband being so ruthless he'd stab his mother in the back to get her independent seafood deterrent or something along those lines, but otherwise it's been three weeks of increasingly hysterical warnings about what the other side will do.

Indeed, it's all wearingly familiar to 5 years ago, with personal attacks on an unpopular leader and scaremongering about the economy the defining characteristics.  The major difference is the Tory emphasis on the "chaos" that would result from any sort of SNP involvement in government, despite the indications up to now this is having precisely zero impact on the polls, unless part of the aim is to do the equivalent of jumping up and down on Scottish Labour's corpse.  The polls as a whole suggest an effective dead heat between Labour and the Conservatives, with slight leads for both from different companies cancelling out each other.  As we head ever closer towards Thursday the 7th, the chance of the fabled "crossover" for the Tories surely becomes less and less likely, with all that implies for how the final week will pan out in terms of last minute attacks and stunts, not least from the never knowingly underbiased media we all know and loathe.

Nearly entirely absent has been any discussion of foreign policy.  Whereas in 2010 debate didn't go much beyond how Labour had clearly breached the military covenant by failing to give the Ministry of Defence exactly what it wanted in Afghanistan, with Gordon Brown criticised for bothering to write a personal letter of condolence, this time it's been limited even further to the 0.7% overseas aid target and the potential in or out EU referendum.

Considering just how disastrous the coalition's foreign policy has been with the exception of the aid target, it's more than slightly incongruous.  It's only when you realise that with the single exception of Miliband stopping the attack on Assad by mistake, which might be a slightly unkind verdict on what happened back in 2013, there has not been a single substantial difference between the main three parties on bombing the fuck out of Islamic State, bombing the fuck out of Libya and supporting the good rebels in Syria while opposing the bad ones that the reason becomes clearer.  When it's left to Private Eye to sum up the ever more bizarre contortions of whom we're supporting and where in the Middle East (see above, obv.), from the satire pages no less, something has gone spectacularly wrong.

The situation in the Mediterranean is not wholly the result of European foreign policy but on it most certainly rests a very heavy burden of responsibility.  Both David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy saw the crackdown by Gaddafi in Libya not just as demanding the invocation of the responsibility to protect in order to save the citizens of Benghazi, but as an unbridled opportunity for European companies to take full advantage of the possibilities created by the dictator's removal.  The UN resolution meant to protect civilians was used to justify changing the regime.  It wasn't inevitable that the end result would be another civil war, but the complete lack of interest from Europe once Gaddafi was dead and his government gone was palpable.  Only now when the country has become the key transit point for migrants looking to escape from the wars and oppressive governments across the region has anyone began to take notice.

Our foreign policy is not so much coherent as asinine.  In Libya we overthrew a secular dictator, just as we did in Iraq; the result has been the same, if so far less bloody.  In Egypt we initially welcomed the overthrow of a secular dictator, only to get cold feet over the Islamism of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, democratically elected or not, and so we now support the restoration of the secular dictatorship in the shape of President Sisi.  In Syria we support the downfall of the Assad regime, but obviously we don't want the Islamic State to take power instead.  What we do want isn't on offer, as the non-Islamic State supporting rebels nonetheless aren't interested in democracy and instead would like an Islamic state.  We're supposedly training "moderate" rebel forces, but whether they actually exist is still up for debate.  In truth what we seem to have settled for is a bloody stalemate, with neither Assad or the rebels able to win an outright victory, and as a result what's been described as the biggest refuge crisis since WW2 carries on regardless.

In Iraq we naturally support the central government in its fight against Islamic State, but the central government has almost no control whatsoever over the army the Americans supposedly trained at vast expense.  Instead most of the fighting is being done by the same Iranian-backed Shia militias that previously were behind much of the insurgency in the south of Iraq.  The perceived sectarianism of the central government was what drove many Sunnis into once again supporting the Islamic State; now the militias, accused of looting and summary executions are completing the job.   


In Yemen things are even crazier: Houthi rebels, linked with but not under the control of Iran have succeeded in exiling the useless president installed after the protests in the country following the Arab spring.  In a further example of the proxy war being fought between the Saudis and Iran, the Saudi response has been to bomb the fuck out of one of the poorest countries in the world, and we, naturally, are fully behind it, in part because of their negligible help against Islamic State in Syria.  So far the bombing it better approach has amazingly failed to work, with the Houthis continuing their advance.  That no one is the slightest bit interested in yet another bloodbath in the Middle East when there are so many others to pay attention to isn't surprising; when it leads to a further exodus to European shores, as it will, it might just increase in importance.

For while there are some among those making the crossing from Libya to Italy, Greece or Malta, with thousands drowning in the process that are simply looking for a better life or fleeing oppressive governments we have little traction or trade with, like Eritrea, many are there because of conflicts we have either been responsible for or made far worse.  Only Germany and Sweden have made an effort to take in Syrian refugees, with the rest of Europe declaring itself to be full or saying one thing and doing another, as we have.  The decision was effectively made to let migrants drown this spring on the basis that to rescue those put to sea in dangerously overcrowded or inadequate vessels was a "pull" factor.  The numbers have increased regardless of any such thing.  The belated response now has obviously not been to admit that the foreign policy of most EU member states has directly led to the thousands attempting such a perilous voyage, but to target the smugglers themselves, as though they're comparable to the Somalian pirates.

This narrowness between the main parties is an invitation to the bigots and the opportunists to say what they like or claim they somehow offer an alternative.  The Libyan war was a choice; allying with the "moderate" rebels in Syria was a choice; allying with the Saudis in Yemen was a choice; the Iraq war, more than 12 years after it began, remains a choice of almost unparalleled stupidity.  The drowning of thousands of those desperate to escape from the nightmare of their lives is being described as a failure of compassion.  While true, it's more damningly a failure of policy.  That despite 5 years of utter lunacy on the foreign policy front none of the parties want to suggest a better way forward, and in fact two of them want to stir the pot even further goes to show just how limited our politics has become and is likely to remain.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

About

  • This is septicisle
profile
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates