Friday, July 05, 2024 

A one term landslide.

I promise not to make this an every 5 year ritual, honest.

This time there are no guilty men. Last night was an election so rich in stories that I could write 5,000+ words and still not even begin to adequately summarise what will end up being likely the most seismic vote in modern political history. Not necessarily because of what it means this time, but because of what it almost certainly heralds.

First though, the sheer unbridled joy at Jeremy Corbyn, this humble but dogged and determined man, who never asked for the hopes and dreams of so many millions to be placed on his shoulders but nonetheless took up the burden, winning as an independent brought out the waterworks. In spite of the Labour machine being against him, in spite of that Survation poll, in spite of voter apathy, in spite of all the MRPs, the sheer love so many of us have for him and his ideals propelled him back with a majority of over 7,000. And the response of the Lee Harpins of this world, the aggro centrists, and all the worst people in the world has only made the victory all the sweeter.

Nonetheless, it would be churlish to deny in spite of the vote share and the popular vote that Starmer, McSweeney et al have succeeded where Corbyn failed. Yes, it's now all the clearer the non-aggression pact between Tories and the then Brexit party was a huge factor in the defeat last time. Yes, it's apparent that Starmer himself with his 2nd referendum policy sabotaged what could have been a much closer result. Yes, nearly the entire media was against us then, and this time nearly the entire media was against the Tories, but ultimately it's seats that count. Yes, you can effectively argue the Conservatives lost this election, and had already lost it 2 years ago, rather than it being Labour wot won it. There is nothing wrong at this point in saying we lost and that they've won.

This though is a 1997 style result without any of the bedrock to suggest the slag pile won't simply collapse again. In some areas, it's even more dramatic than 1997, such are the seats that fell to Labour last night, seats that have never been Labour or anything other than Tory in the lifetime of my parents. Aylesbury for instance. Buckingham, which hasn't had a Labour MP since Robert Maxwell, albeit on hugely different boundaries than then. The same alliance that delivered the 1997 landslide, with the Lib Dems winning seats once synonymous with the party or its predecessor, Sutton and Cheam, North Devon, and more besides like Newton Abbot, while Labour wiped out huge Tory majorities, most obviously Liz Truss' in South Norfolk, back together like a reformed Spice Girls.

Only this alliance has none of the freshness, the pizzazz or energy of the one that formed that day in May. Yes, the Tories have been annihilated, the worst result in their history, and yet there's a grinning, gurning goblin sitting right in the space vacated. And besides Farage, there are the deep, fissured fractures that it's impossible not to see in the McSweeney-McFadden strategy. They could not be more evident than in Keir Starmer's own seat. A triumphant landslide winning prime minister is meant to increase their majority considerably, not see their vote cut almost perfectly in half. Andrew Feinstein's astonishing 2nd place with over 7,000 votes, based wholly around unseating the Labour leader over his at first support for Israel's assault on Gaza after the Oct 7th attack and then the sophistry of claiming to want a ceasefire without doing anything to pressurise Israel into ending the war was but a foretaste of what else was to come. 4 pro-Gaza independents defeated Labour candidates, capitalising around what many of us had known was a groundswell of rage at the atrocities being committed in full public view without any of the attending media outrage at Russia's invasion of Ukraine. I suspect there could have been at least one more, in Birmingham Ladywood, had it not been for the various revelations about Akhmed Yakoob's views on things other than Palestine.

That Wes Streeting, supposedly this amazingly popular figure in focus groups, came within a whisker of being defeated by Leanne Mohamad, a 22-year-old British-Palestinian was something no one except those on the ground could have predicted. Streeting spent the evening acting the cunt on all three of the election programmes, looking every bit an eye-popping psychopath on the BBC when Corbyn's name was mentioned, and had he been defeated it would have been the Portillo moment to end them all. Humble is something Wes Streeting simply doesn't do, and humble is something that many in Labour ought to be today rather than basking in the adulation of political journalists who have frotted them all the way into government.

And then too there's the rise of the Greens, as laser focused on building their votes in the four target constituencies as anything proposed by McSweeney. To gain Bristol Central, North Herefordshire and Waveney Valley at the first attempt suggests a party far more ruthless than it has ever been before. Without question many of us have given our votes to the Greens not because we hold any great affection for the party or come close to supporting all their policies, quite the opposite in some instances, but because they are at least offering an alternative; the manifesto was practically Labour's 2017 one. As with Reform, the dozens of seats in which the Greens came 2nd establishes a foundation on which to build, something began by the previous winning of council seats. That they can do it in both what were Labour and Tory seats also reflects an unlikely coalition between the liberal urban middle class and rural, small c conservatives which otherwise would chafe.

All of this makes clear that the Labour party cannot possibly govern as it has operated in opposition. As a suddenly noticing pundit from the Economist has it, the punching hippies hasn't all been about showing how the party has changed, but because they actively enjoy it and despise such people. Starmer told us that if we didn't like the changes he had made, we could leave. We left. An anonymous source describing the resignation of councillors over the party's stance on Gaza as "shaking off the fleas", and the utterly tone deaf hubristic comments of Starmer about sending back Bangladeshis in a Sun debate, however much he claimed they were misconstrued, made clear just how little the party thinks about so many of its natural supporters, who duly supported the independents and the Greens instead. Nowhere was this new mood of fuck you I won't do what you tell me more exemplified than in Chingford and Wood Green. Faiza Shaheen was treated shamefully by a party high on its own sense of impunity, deselected and replaced within a day. She could have done what many previous purged Labour candidates did and endorsed her replacement for the good of the party; instead she fought and completely divided the Labour vote, with Iain Duncan Smith winning because of the sectarian stupidity of a Labour executive that thinks it's too clever by half.

I would like to think that as boneheaded as some on the Labour right are, they would recognise where they've gone too far. I would like to think that rather than David Lammy's "progressive realism" that they will accept they need to demand an end to the war in Gaza now, and find the pittance of money necessary to remove the two child cap on child benefit. These would be two relatively small shifts that would be popular, signal they are already listening and accept a new coalition beyond that which has won them this election will be needed to win the next one. You can belittle and insult the left when the priority of so many is to get the Tories out and they will vote tactically to do so; you cannot when that alliance will have fell apart in five years' time. That I cannot see them doing even these two piecemeal things, or at least not for years, says much about where I think this will end.

5 years is of course an extraordinarily long time in politics. By then a 2nd Trump presidency could be on the cusp of going down in flames. Ukraine is likely to have been defeated, whether on the battlefield or in the negotiating room. Equally, by then the planning reforms could have already started to kick in; real economic growth and an increase in real terms' pay might be back once more. The ultras thought Starmer was just a placeholder, such was the scale of the "worst defeat since the 1930s" of 2019, which would take two terms to overturn. My thinking was Starmer would be knifed as soon as excusable with Wes Streeting installed as his replacement, always the ultimate plan of the Blairite ultras; that now looks highly unlikely given his shaky majority. Whether they could coalesce instead around Reeves or someone else remains to be seen. It might not be the case that the right will unite around the leadership of Kemi Badenoch or Robert Jenrick, with Farage given a plum job in order for him to merge his party into the Conservatives. It could be that instead it's a rerun of 2015, with voters despite everything giving the party of government more time.

But these are all pleasant, optimistic thoughts rather than realistic ones. 2024 is an extraordinary result, but it suggests 2029 will be far more defining of the politics of this century. Unless Labour can change again, this will be a one term landslide.

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Friday, December 13, 2019 

For one night only.

Rather than do a massive tweet thread no one will bother to actually read, it's probably better to revive this festering hole for one day only.

And let's do it this way. First, the guilty, or the pricks, in no real order.

 1. Alan Johnson Instead of this useless cunt copping the blame for the disastrous Remain campaign, despite his leadership of it, it was Corbyn who did at least bother to tour the country, who ended up getting it. For him then to pop up last night and claim it was Corbyn that couldn't lead the working class to save his life was just a trifle rich.

I could point that last night's showing was still better than that managed in terms of vote share than both Brown and Miliband, both of whom Johnson served under. I could point out that at least we still have a shadow chancellor who understands economics, unlike the tool who said he would need "an economics for beginners" textbook on being appointed to that role. I could point out that when your wife is so sick of the sight of you that she decides to run off with one of your fucking bodyguards, you're probably not one to talk about leadership. But these would be low blows.

2. The media
And I mean the whole of the fucking media. Every single mainstream organisation, broadcaster, publication has almost without exception disgraced themselves over the past six weeks and in truth for far longer than that. Forget the right-wing press, we're talking the BBC, the Graun, the New Statesman, the lot. You had one job: to try and hold the most unfit person to ever be PM, at least since 1900, to account. You didn't just fail. In some instances you actually gave additional prominence to his lies and distortions. Our most high profile journalists have become clients, messengers, stenographers, rather than analysts. They make everything merkier rather than clearer. Democracy cannot function when we have a media that won't say when someone is lying without contracting out the task out to "fact checkers".

And this isn't something you can try and sort out for next time. Johnson and his cadre have triumphed on the back of 88% of their adverts containing lies. The BBC imagined that they could get Johnson to undergo a grilling from Andrew Neil on the basis of just keeping on asking him. As John McDonnell angrily said "they're playing you". And while this playing was going on, still Kuennsberg, Peston and the rest were repeating what "Tory sources" were telling them. It was left to regional reporters, and fucking Good Morning Britain with the cunt's cunt Piers Morgan to bring out the worst in Johnson.

The message has been clear: lies work. Disinformation works. Spending huge amounts on targeted ads works. Having a servile, boot-licking right-wing media works. We've had four years of the opposition being held to account. That's worked too. And so the message to us poor saps is also clear: the media, even those parts sympathetic to us, will no longer fight our corner. An entirely new media is needed, has to be built, fought for. If they won't do it, we'll have to. Shitposters of the world unite.

3. The People's Voters
As Flying Rodent has been flogging himself to death on Twitter saying, there could hardly have been a more destructive to Labour's chances at this election force than Continuity Remain, and at its heart the People's Vote campaign. This could be more widely extended to the liberal elite in general, to the If Labour Went Remain They Would be 20 Points Ahead crowd, to everyone who failed to listen to those who voted Leave. Yes, of course leaving the EU will make us poorer. Yes, only the ERG and the former UKIPers really believe it will set us free. But it's what the Leave vote came to symbolise: the ultimate refusal on the part of politicians to listen to a democratic vote, however it was achieved.

When it came down to it, the Remainiac narrative was the new centrist party only without the party. Labour had to change policy they screamed, regarding the European election results as liable to be translated at a general election, only they never ever are. Many Labour members fell for it because all their sources of news and opinion reinforced it. And yes, of course Labour should be pro-European party. Just not at the expense of taking people worn down by decades of being taken for granted, insulted, ignored. That's what we did. And it's the reason above all others that we lost.

And so to the not guilty:
1. The team behind the 2017 triumph Predictably, the knives are out for Milne, Murray, Murphy, Fisher et al. And yet following on from the guilty men above, whenever the argument was put across about why Labour was prevaricating against coming out in favour of a 2nd referendum, which was very rarely even given voice to, it was because they feared exactly what has come to pass.

Labour is a coalition, and that has been exposed by last night as never before. It has to appeal to the residents of the big liberal cities and to the traditional towns to get near to forming a government. The move to a 2nd ref and Labour's fall in the polls happened simultaneously. It's not a coincidence. Ian Lavery, the most forceful proponent of not shifting position, clung on to his seat but with a majority of under 1,000. He has been vindicated. Tom Watson, who would have lost his seat had he stood again, well.

2. Momentum
One of stories of the election that will now be underreported is the sheer numbers of Labour supporters who fought like lions for every single vote against what we now know were insurmountable odds. The pictures on social media of dozens of activists out canvassing, fighting for what they believe all agree were unprecedented. And yet from some of the most disingenuous and bitter already accusations are flying of the biggest force behind this surge being in some way responsible or not being in the right places. There will be plenty of time for a full post-mortem of what went wrong. The least those who were supported by these volunteers can do is spare us the sneers until we know for sure.

3. The left
The headlines have all been about Labour's showing being worse than Michael Foot's, which is sadly true in terms of seats. What it isn't is in vote share. Corbyn's 2nd attempt still yielded 32%, higher than Foot, higher than Brown in 2010, higher than Miliband in 2015. After 9 years of Tory rule, yes, of course it should be higher. But does anyone genuinely think that with a centrist leader pursuing an even more aggressively Remain position it would have been any better? Would those Lib Dem and Green votes have added to up to that many more seats? Surely not enough to prevent a Tory majority anyway. When you have 45% or more who want Brexit no matter how hard, this was always likely to be a losing battle.

And finally: Reasons to not be too downhearted
Well, up to a point. And coming from a blog that used to be 33% anger to 66% despair,(1% piss)  that probably sounds a bit empty considering what we face. And yet.

Let's put it this way. Johnson has got his way, but almost certainly at the expense of the union. Another of the real stories that will quickly be seized upon is how for the first time, nationalists in Northern Ireland hold more seats than unionists. The hard border down the Irish sea will further impoverish an already dependent on the public sector state. The SNP meanwhile may not have won the 55 seats the exit poll predicted but their demands for a 2nd independence referendum will become all but impossible to resist.

Nor will the fracturing of the red wall mean those seats are gone for good. Already there will be plenty wondering what on earth they have done, whether by voting Tory for the first time or not turning out. So close to Christmas some families will likely to be eating on the day itself in silence. They can and have to be won back, but to do so will require a listening exercise that few of us will want to hear.

Much will obviously depend on how the Tories now govern. Johnson is a charlatan, not an ideologue, but at the same time the hedge funds that have payrolled his rise are hardly going to accept the slim pickings the Tory manifesto offered. Anything and everything could be up for grabs.

As Stephen Bush has said, at least this gives Labour time. Time to properly ascertain what went wrong. Why Putney went Labour while Hastings didn't. Time too to pick our next leader with the utmost care. My first instinct is it has to be someone with a background hard to smear. Angela Rayner, if she decides to stand is the best candidate on that score, but I'm open to persuasion. They will have to be someone who accepts there is no going back to TINA, to triangulation, but who also can appeal to both city and town. Whoever it is, the party has to unite around them, and I believe it will. The despair of today has to give way to renewed action. We still carry that new world in our hearts.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016 

The end.

A part of me died last Sunday.

The part of me that died held within it the only remaining impetus for continuing to write this blog.

The part of me that died was the part that against everything else, against my cynicism and occasional descents into outright misanthropy, convinced the rest of me that on the whole, most people, in this country at least, are decent, upfront and kind.  The part that convinced me so many years ago it wasn't that the readers of tabloids shared the views of the owners, the editors, the columnists, it was they just wanted something quick and simple to read in the mornings.  The part that even after the vote to leave the EU, after the Conservative victory of last year, felt this was an aberration, a howl of protest, rather than something more organised, more spiteful, more nasty, a true reflection of where it is we're heading.

You could call it my naivety.  My stupidity.  My belief that it was possible to make things right even if in the most oblique of ways.

I'd like to thank all of you for reading.  Special thanks must go to Sunny Hundal and Tim Ireland, both of whom saw something in my writing that prompted them to host it elsewhere and give it a larger audience.  Thanks also to Flying Rodent, John Band, Left Outside, tychy and anyone else I've forgotten who more recently has sung my praises and linked to my posts on Twitter.

It's been quite the 11 years.  We've had some good times, bad times, awful times, fun times.  But it's time to go.  The blog will stay online, at least for the moment.  How long it does, or if I pull the plug on as a whole remains to be seen.

Take care everyone.


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Thursday, July 14, 2016 

Here we go gathering nuts in July.

Whenever journalists wet their pants over a speech, you can guarantee it will fall apart within hours.  They did it time and again over Tony Blair's conference speeches, ditto for David Cameron's, and especially George Osborne's budgets. 

Lord, did they repeat the Pavlovian routine last night.  Never mind that Theresa May's address outside Downing Street was almost word for word the same as the one she gave on Monday morning, only for it be immediately overshadowed by Andrea Leadsom's withdrawal from the race; here it was again, regurgitated and reheated, and still it was lapped up.  Never mind that every Tory leader starts out by promising to govern for the toiling masses, for the troubled and the woe begotten, to bring hope where there was previously despair; this time it will obviously be different.  How can Labour possibly hope to compete faced with a newly centrist government, led by a ruthless and yet still compassionate leader, now focused on improving the life chances of the squeezed middle and below?

Err, by meaning what they say rather than spinning a line, by chance?  Theresa's warm words have not exactly been reflected by her appointments to the cabinet; of all those promoted or brought in from outside only Damian Green can you call a true Tory liberal, and he's be given one of the shittiest sticks of all as work and pensions secretary.  Whether he continues with Iain Duncan Smith's cherished universal credit scheme, a clusterfuck of a programme if there ever was one, not to forget the other benefit cuts still meant to be coming into force will be one of the first signs of whether she intends to pay so much as lip service to what she said last night.

Before we continue, can we have a millisecond of silence for the Cameron set?  That's enough.  Again, the response to the sacking of Osborne, Gove, Crabb, Letwin et al has been to marvel at May's brutality and lack of sentiment.  A moment of thought would suggest now is the best time to get rid of the failures, as that's what they are by the goals they set themselves.  The Goves might not currently be speaking to the Camerons, but you can guarantee that now what's done is done it won't be long before the the hatchets are buried.  Moreover, Gove and Cameron had both signalled a shift towards the beginnings of criminal justice reform, something May has never shown the slightest interest in.  Keeping the Sun and Mail on side by junking it before such notions had even got off the ground makes perfect short-term sense for May, if none whatsoever in the longer-term when prisons are on the edge of anarchy.

Similarly, when better to get rid of the completely useless than now?  The bewilderingly over-promoted Nicky Morgan was a sacking waiting a reshuffle, while any worth John Whittingdale offered has long since evaporated, especially when at the outset at least it's an idea to get on the BBC's good side.  This obviously doesn't explain why Jeremy Hunt has stayed in position at health, one explanation being he's so poisoned the well that whomever drinks from it will be similarly afflicted.  Nor is it immediately understandable why Priti Patel has been given international development when only a couple of years ago she suggested abolishing the department, unless that's the idea, or why Andrea Leadsom, aka both the worst minister and leadership candidate ever has been given the environment brief.

As the idea that you punish someone by giving them a job they claimed they could do better when they clearly can't just doesn't work.  Brexit can't mean Brexit if Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox make a complete balls up of it.  Davis is a likeable character in many ways, principled and a sceptic of the securocrats when such a thing remains highly unpopular, but the best man to get the best deal from the EU when his claims are a slightly more sophisticated BUT THEY WANT TO SELL US CARS?  Where is the sense in creating a whole new department for the disgraced Liam Fox when he shouldn't be trusted in charge of a dachshund, let alone international trade?  Johnson as foreign secretary can only be May deciding to keep her friends closer and her enemies even closer, as Johnson is the obvious successor should she fall under a bus: better to have him next to her than scheming from the backbenches.  She also seems to be presuming that giving him a serious job will stop his clowning around, a forlorn hope if there ever was one.  Thinking the three Leavers will cop the blame if there is either no deal or a terrible one is a fantasy: the PM owns the responsibility.  As party management, it might work.  For the rest of us, it should fully underline how fucked we are.

We are then supposed to imagine a more egalitarian line is to emanate from a cabinet dominated by those on the hard right.  We are meant to expect a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, when money will inevitably become tighter even than it was before.  We are told to put out of our minds 6 years of failure, the promises of strong, stable government, and instead rejoice in the opportunities coming our way courtesy of trade deals bigger than any we could possibly have contemplated, let alone made before.

Who wants to be the first to shout Mayday non-ironically?

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016 

Our worst post-war prime minister.

In retrospect, you can pinpoint precisely the moment when it became clear what a David Cameron premiership would mean.  Not during the 2010 election campaign, when his disembodied head started out from billboards, promising that he would cut the deficit, not the NHS.  Certainly not when he went off on his husky adventure, or when we learned that as part of his eco man of the people act that his papers came behind him in his car as he cycled to the Commons.  It wasn't when he said he would do his best to stop his party banging on about Europe, at the same time as he took it out of the main Conservative grouping in the European parliament.  It wasn't when he was making so much, alternately, about creating a big society from out of our broken society, both policies that practically nothing came of.

No, it was back as Tony Blair finished his last PMQs and the government benches rose almost as one to applaud a man who had won elections but had repeatedly brought his party to the brink of mutiny for his own ends, when Cameron ordered his side to join the ovation also.  Cameron, George Osborne and the rest of his clique desperately wanted to emulate much of what had made Blair so formidable an opponent, if not his policies.  They weren't so much acknowledging Blair's achievements as prime minister as much as they were recognising his qualities as a leader, his ability to play the press at its own game, to make those formerly instinctively opposed to Labour change their opinion.  They wanted all of it, but for their own ends.

It obviously didn't work out like that.  Cameron leaves Downing Street nowhere near as loathed as Blair had become by the end, but with even less in the way of achievements to his name.  He never so much as came close to touching Blair's ability to transcend politics, to being able to find the right soundbite at the right time, even if he always sounded plausible.  He never won the grudging respect of his party as Blair did, was never able to force them down his path; quite the opposite in fact.  He never so much as managed to win a mandate as large as Blair did for his third term in government, let alone the first two landslide Labour victories.  Had he managed to convince the country to give him that sort of scale of victory in 2010, it's difficult to see how much of what went wrong for him would have taken place.

This emphasis on Blair and Labour is for the reason that in time, it's likely to be come to be seen that Cameron's Conservatives merely followed on where a Blairite Labour party would have taken the country anyway.  Very few of Labour's reforms, both economic and social, have been overturned in the past six years.  The major ones have in fact been expanded by the Conservatives.  Not all schools will be forced to become academies as was until recently the plan, but most non-primaries are already.  Free schools, the pet project of Michael Gove, are a further extension of the ideas behind academies, just freed completely from centre control.  The pledge during the 2010 election to not impose further top-down reforms on the NHS, as had been the Blairite way, was abandoned within weeks.  Andrew Lansley's establishing of clinical commissioning groups is already widely viewed as a distraction from the problems that an ageing population are putting on the health system, a problem exacerbated further by the spending squeeze necessitated by austerity.

Cameron's victories weren't so much as his as they were those of his media advisers, Lynton Crosby especially.  The Conservatives focused unyieldingly on the economy and the deficit, to the point where the public came to believe that Labour's spending rather than a global banking crisis had been the cause of the recession.  This allowed Cameron and Osborne to put in place an economic policy that by the goals set out by the pair themselves they failed utterly to achieve.  The deficit was meant to have been eradicated before 2015 in order to provide for some election giveaways; in fact, post-Leave, the refined goal, to have a surplus by 2020, has been abandoned entirely.  Austerity is set to be with us for even longer.

The second victory, which again with the Leave vote has come back round to trap them, was the identifying of a significant shift in the British temperament after the crash.  An anger that was always there metastasised, directed not so much at the top of society but at those below, seen as freeloading and getting something for nothing, whether they were benefit claimants or immigrants.  Labour had again began to put in place the policies the Tories under Cameron expanded upon: the retesting of all those on incapacity benefit, now put onto employment and support allowance, a policy since found to not save money, and the expansion of workfare, with Labour's Future Jobs Fund replaced with a myriad of schemes ran by private companies.  A cap on benefits, indifferent to extraordinary temporary circumstances and the needs of large families was established, while those claiming housing benefit judged to have more bedrooms than they needed were penalised under the "spare rooms subsidy", a policy meant to incentivise claimants to move, but where to was never explained.  These policies had almost no impact whatsoever on public perception of where money on social security was spent (overwhelmingly on pensions and those genuinely in need, rather than the unemployed and feckless) unsurprisingly when the rhetoric of clamping down on those getting "something for nothing" never changed.

Cameron's greatest success, pyrrhic as it would turn out, was the small majority he unexpectedly won last year.  A campaign that focused almost entirely on the recovery of the economy, a recovery already under way when he became prime minister, asked the electorate if they could trust a Labour party that refused to accept it had been responsible for the crash.  It compared the strong, stable leadership of Cameron with the simultaneously weak and brutal Ed Miliband, in the pocket of the SNP, bound to give way to those same loathed wasters, yet prepared to stab the country in the back if that's what it took.  The victory paved the way for a referendum he never expected to call, along with the introduction of policies he believed were to be to bartered away in a second round of coalition negotiations.

Oddly, Labour's derided and abandoned manifesto was quickly pilfered by Cameron and Osborne (and since also by Theresa May), with one of the few policies Cameron spoke of today taken almost directly from it.  The national living wage, despite being no such thing and only just having been introduced, was one of Cameron's boasts.  He talked of the increase in employment and the recovery, both things that would have undoubtedly taken place under any government.  He brought up the introduction of gay marriage, despite it being loathed by a substantial number of Tory MPs, and again was little more than an obvious expansion of Labour's civil partnerships.  One of the few unqualified successes of his premiership is the increase in overseas aid to 0.7% of GDP, yet it's another policy unpopular with some on the backbenches, and one hardly guaranteed to last long under his successor.

Just though as Iraq will be with Blair always, so too will the EU referendum with Cameron.  In many ways a lucky prime minister, Cameron never faced a true crisis.  When one of his own making arrived he resigned, just as he would have had the Scottish independence vote gone the other way.  His actions that morning, to instantly call for English votes for English laws, made clear his contempt for any attempt at reconciliation.  It's no surprise then he maintains he leaves the country stronger than when he arrived; perhaps he has come to believe his own propaganda that Britain was on the precipice, on the road to becoming another Greece as he entered Number 10.

In reality, Britain looks weaker and more divided than at any time since the 70s.  The new prime minister insists "Brexit means Brexit", ignoring the wishes of both Scotland and Northern Ireland, with it seeming only a matter of time before the former becomes independent.  Cameron made clear his preference today for the UK remaining in the single market, but whether that can be achieved when May has said she favours restricting free movement whatever the cost is dubious in the extreme.  England is split between a prosperous south east and a north that has been in decline for over 30 years, although the same could be just as easily said about the difference between the major cities, the M4 corridor, and everywhere else.  Cameron's austerity has only further exacerbated those differences, with the jobs that Labour provided in the public sector replaced if at all by precarious part-time ones or others on zero hour contracts.  If Labour papered over the cracks, then the Tories tore down that veil and boasted about it.  Cameron may not have created the attitude towards welfare and immigration that rose after 2008, but he did everything to ride it, including making promises he knew he could not keep.  In the end it cost him his job.  The rest of us are being left to pick up the pieces.

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Monday, July 11, 2016 

Eagle and May: the absurdity intensifies.

Poor Angela Eagle.  Jeremy Corbyn was the least likely leader of Labour, didn't for a moment expect he was going to win, but at least he's always believed in what he was doing.  Watching the tragic Eagle dumped in front of the media, trying desperately to persuade herself she agrees with what she's saying, let alone the few journos who hadn't decamped to see Andrea Leadsom flounce off is another of those "like watching a lion rape a sheep, but in a bad way" moments.  Eagle at the best of times looks as though she's on the verge of bursting into tears; so do I, come to think of it, but then I'm not challenging to become the leader of the opposition.

If it weren't for the unreality of the last 18 days, this would surely have been the most patently lysergic interlude of the year thus far.  Eagle looks for all the world as though she's about to launch into selling us a timeshare not in a holiday property, but in Avon products.  Buy shares in Real Leadership by Angela.  Except that doesn't say Angela, surely?  It looks more like Arscle.  Why does the capital A join with what is meant to be an n?  Why is it pink?  Why?  Just why?  They had two weeks to come up with something, and this is it?

We ought to give Eagle the benefit of the doubt.  She clearly doesn't believe for a moment in what she's doing, but she is doing it for what she thinks are the best of reasons.  The real opprobrium needs to be heaped on whoever it is pulling the strings and doing such a lousy job of it.  Are they really all such fucking cowards that none of them are prepared to stand up themselves?  The reasoning presumably is that Eagle is one of the few figures in the party vaguely on the left who might be able to bring some Corbyn-backers away, more so than say a Yvette Cooper, despite Cooper being a far more obvious leader than Eagle.  Or is the plan still to try and deny Corbyn from even being on the ballot, with Eagle the unlikely assassin who then gives way to the real candidates?

No one knows, not even it would seem the plotters.  You would assume they have applied the Kinnock test, not least as the parliamentary Labour party was apparently en masse moved to tears by the beauty of his peroration last week.  Ed Miliband (some might recall that Neil Kinnock's reaction on Miliband's election as leader was to declare "we've got our party back") failed to pass the supermarket test according to Neil, as voters told him they wanted to vote Labour, but couldn't for Ed personally.  Corbyn fares even more poorly, with a fitter on the docks in Cardiff calling him "weird".  How on earth do they imagine Eagle is going to fare?  She doesn't even look confident in herself for crying out loud.  What happens if Corbyn is still on the ballot?  Assume that Corbyn is still on it and against all the odds Eagle wins.  Unless Labour hasn't noticed, the near entirety of the right-wing press has very quickly declared Theresa May to be the reincarnation of Thatcher, Churchill and Boudica combined, the kind of warrior for truth, justice and the British way we've all been yearning for during these barren years of Cameronite hegemony.  Any affection they might have for Eagle dispensing with Jezza will disappear in an instant, and we'll be back to the headlines, only altered slightly, that every Labour leader gets (COMMUNIST EAGLE WANTS TO NATIONALISE PREMIER LEAGUE/NON-BALD EAGLE FAILS TO TAKE FLIGHT/EAGLE DEMANDS RIGHTS FOR VEGETABLES etc).

For May it is.  All memories of the last two instances when parties appointed leaders unopposed have it seems been banished, as in neither case were Michael Howard or Gordon Brown the greatest of successes.  Others might also recall the Tories demanded an election when Brown was in effect given a coronation, and then had much fun with their "Bottler Brown" jibe.  May we're told is not considering an election, despite how she has stated repeatedly that "Brexit is Brexit".  Hadn't it ought to be put to the voters if that is still their feeling considering the turmoil of the past 18 days, the changing of leaders, the resignations, the plotting, the everything?  Shouldn't voters be asked to give their approval to what the exit plan turns out to be at the very least, especially when May said today that bringing freedom of movement to an end was more important than staying in the single market?  While some might well have taken the question on the ballot to be "Do you think the UK should be economically crippled because you're a racist cunt? Yes/No", I'm fairly certain it wasn't.

Impossible as it is to feel even slightly for Leadsom, as she knew full what she was doing with the comments on Theresa May's lack of children, you can't also help but wonder how the May media consensus developed so quickly.  The Times described Leadsom as lacking "judgment, knowledge and decency".  Really?  Compared to whom, and what?  The Theresa May who informed the world a man escaped deportation because he had a cat?  The Theresa May who the Telegraph, yes, the Telegraph lambasted for her absurdly right-wing conference speech last year on immigration and asylum?  The Theresa May who had ultimate responsibility for the chronic problems at the Yarl's Wood detention centre?  If the media are having second thoughts about leaving the EU, then unless they know something we don't there doesn't seem to be any room for manoeuvre.  Can it really be be purely down to May being the best of a very bad lot when they've had no problem plumping for monomaniacs and fanatics in the past?

If she meant at least some of what she said in her speech this morning, a massive if considering it was as much as meant to be a pitch to Tory members as it was the country, you could conclude May might be something of an improvement on Cameron.  Only all those suggestions of reforms are undermined by her insistence on leaving the EU, and doing so potentially in the stupidest, most damaging way possible.  Again, this might have been a sop to those who voted Leave.  If not however, it only underlines how disenfranchised those of us who don't think a Leave vote based on a campaign of lies and xenophobia, lead by politicians who have since defenestrated themselves should be taken as final.  With Corbyn also making clear that Labour under him would campaign for leaving the EU, albeit with the best possible deal for the country, it leaves us where?  With the Lib Dems, who contributed heavily to us being in this mess?  Hoping some Labour figure emerges who isn't a stooge, that can unite the party and bring the country along with them?

On second thoughts, I think I'll just say fuck it and move to a country with sensible politics.  I hear Swaziland's nice this time of year.

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Thursday, July 07, 2016 

Leadsom balloon.

It would just about sum it all up if after a referendum fought on post-fact, post-truth lines, our next prime minister turned out to be someone whose CV is a work of fiction, and unlike our out-going premier, really is a tax avoider

Would about sum it up, but still not cover quite how ghastly the choice of Theresa May versus Andrea Leadsom is.  Slightly less ghastly than if Michael Gove had made it through to the last two admittedly, mainly as Ken Clarke couldn't have nailed Gove better than in his comment about Gove's potential for getting us into three wars at once

One or two good things about May's time as home secretary can at least be said: she has stared down the police, forcing them to face up to their terrible record on stop and search.  She also fought Gove to a standstill over his attempt to make things even worse in the aftermath of the Trojan Horse panic in Birmingham, refusing to let Mr Drain the Swamp impose his views on extremism on the Home Office.

Otherwise, May's only claim to being a safe pair of hands is thanks to lasting six years in a job where so many others have failed.  This is less down to May's stewardship and more due to Labour when in power hiving off many of the home secretary's previous responsibilities to the always Orwellian sounding Ministry of Justice.  Presto, the appalling state of prisons, not to forget many of the other disasters of Chris Grayling's time as justice secretary, since reversed by err, Gove, are nothing to do with May.  Happily, Grayling has been rewarded for this unwitting protection of the home secretary by being made her campaign manager.

She can though be judged by the other policy stands she's made.  It was she that had no problem with the sending round of the "go home" vans.  She has been the principle force behind the pushing for the security services to be able to effectively do whatever the hell they like in terms of surveillance.  The remarkable stupidity of the psychoactive substances act is her own extremely illiberal work.  The victory she often trumps in sending Abu Qatada back to Jordan was nothing of the sort: he left of his own accord, prepared to take his chances rather than remain locked up here indefinitely.   The "Prevent" programme inherited from Labour has been expanded to the point where we have nurseries required to ensure those under 5 are not showing "signs" of radicalisation.  Rather than practically every other politician barring the Conservative front bench, she has also refused to guarantee that EU citizens will be allowed to stay in the UK after (or if) we leave, claiming she will only do so once the rights of our own citizens are guaranteed elsewhere in Europe.  It would be easier to accept this line of argument if May's team hadn't already taken to attacking Leadsom for claiming her stance would allow foreign criminals to stay too.

All this, and yet May is the equivalent of FDR in comparison to Leadsom.  Boris Johnson's support for her can only be put down to as previously stated, either nihilism or the belief a Leadsom victory would open the door for him almost as soon as it had been shut.  She is a laughably archetypal Tory of the old school: God-bothering, worried about the impact of sex education on children rather than the impact of the lack of it, has strange views on what political correctness is or isn't, and convinced leaving the EU only opens up new opportunities rather than shuts them down.  Not that she has been consistent on the EU mind, which means there has to be some other reason why so many other Leavers have jumped on her bandwagon.

Yep, a Leadsom victory would just about us up as a nation.  Unafraid to embrace decline, so long as we can indulge ourselves in nostalgia for a past that never existed.  We can also heartily look forward to thinkpiece after thinkpiece on the misogyny of the left for criticising whoever wins in the exact same terms as we have Cameron and pals.  What a time to be alive.

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