Saturday, 8 February 2020

Mr Freedland in the Guardian

Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian has penned a column which chastises the left wing of the Labour party for daring to retain principles and ideals, qualities - it seems - that should be jettisoned in pursuit of power.

Never mind that Freedland was an ardent Remainer, that is to say, one of the people who fundamentally didn't get it and argued vociferously for the Labour Part to commit ever more public acts of self-mutilation.  Now he's on the job and about his usual business of telling the little people what's best for them to think.

He ends it with a paragraph of blatant self-justifying, it-weren't-my-fault-guv blame shifting:
But the first step is to accept its importance, to recognise that winning power is the sine qua non of politics, literally the thing without which there is nothing. Labour deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon might worry that party members will panic and “just reach out for whatever is most conventionally electable”, rather than opting for the most “radical” wishlist of promises, but there is a ready response to that. Labour’s experiment with the not “conventionally electable” ended in a conventional crushing two months ago – and there is nothing socialist or radical about that. Its only achievement was to grant the Tories five more years – and the power to reshape the world around them.
Mr Freedland should have spent the last four years writing columns like this reminding the right wing of the Labour party that winning power was far more important than undermining and besmirching the reputation of the Labour leader.

Instead, as I recall, he and his ilk in the allegedly leftwinf media were more than happy to join the Mail, Telegraph and the howling decayed giblets of the Murdoch press in demonising Corbyn. To borrow Freeland's own climactic line, "Its only achievement was to grant the Tories five more years – and the power to reshape the world around them."

But, of course, the same people who gleefully joined in the kicking to death o the Labour party between 2017 and 2019 are the same people busily re-writing history to disguise their culpability in handing Johnson those five years. By repeating the lie that defeat was all down to Corbyn and his radical policy platform they mask their own guilt.

I'm a forgiving chap but the likes of Freedland, Cohn and Toynbee need to acknowledge their own responsibility rather than pointing the finger elsewhere.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Everyone, we must be united and work together (now we've got rid of the Corbyn)

Yvette Cooper has written a piece in the Guardian outlinig 'Seven things Labour Must Do To Win The Next Election'.

I'll overlook the absurd headline - no-one is talking about Labour winning the next election and I assume that Cooper didn't write the headline (she doesn't mention winning the next election anywhere in her piece); I assume it is typically witless work by someone in the Guardian, drawing to much inspiration from the style of clickbait ads. There's enough wrong wirth what Cooper says to set that nonsense aside. She shows a spectacular lack of political self-awareness, attempts to duck all responsibility and implies everything is the fault of Corbyn and the 'narrow hard-left'; effectively continuing the condescending and arrogant attitude towards the membership.

According to Cooper, the party must:
1 Face the scale of defeat with humility.
2 Stop the factional infighting.
3 Be a party for the whole country – not just a liberal-labour party for the cities.
4 Learn to love the achievements of the last Labour government.
5 Be a strong and credible opposition, as well as a radical alternative government.
6 Bring kindness and integrity back into politics.
7 Get involved.
The seven basic points she makes aren't too wide of the mark - though one can't help but think 'trite' and 'obvious'.  I mean, would anyone advocate more factional infighting or call for increased unpleasantness and bitterness?

(Actually, plenty have done just that - since the December debacle I've read plenty of people demanding 'Corbynists' and 'Momentum' need to be 'eradicated' and 'driven out' of the party.  Cooper's oddly silent on that.

It is the commentary she expands them with that tastes foul. Who else but Yvette Cooper could write Labour must "Stop the factional infighting" and then continue "We cannot be a narrow hard-left party. That doesn’t reflect our values or history. Nor will we win next time if we collapse into polarised factional infighting. Parties are teams. If we can’t compromise with each other, we can’t hold any coalition of voters together"?  Remember, this is the person who refused to be part of Corbyn's cabinet - showing a distinct lack of team spirit - and And it is has only bothered to issue this fatwah on the importance of unity after Corbyn has been endured four years of undermining and back-stabbing. Strange she didn't bother to say anything before.

A more honest appraisal would have acknowledged infighting and factionalism originating on right wing of the party contributed massively to the failure of the Corbyn project, and that the party's 'establishment' never accepted the membership's choice of leader and worked to overturn it from the moment Corbyn was elected.  She does not even mention the Chicken Coup of 2016, or the rantings of Margaret Hodge and others.

(She then turns the rest of her commentary on that point into a puff piece indicating she isn't going to stand as leader this time, although people have been begging her - literally begging her - to do so. Because she knows this "isn't the time" as "there are many in our party who won’t see me as the person to pull all sides of the party together" - which isn't surprising given the attitude on display here. The implication being that she might stand next time - when the post-Corbyn leader has brought the party back to something like electability, and those pesky leftists (aka members) have been rooted out of the party.)

So not much effort to build bridges and heal there.

Friday, 3 January 2020

This is good

Still feeling very kicked in the head.  Took some time off over Christmas and New Year to think about stuff, contemplating the unthinkable idea that i might have been ... wrong.  But, after a thorough deconstruction of my cerebellum and rigorous self examination, I conclude I was not, am not.

Okay, obviously, I was wrong about the whole Labour-being-the-largest-party and the shy-Labour-voters bit, but I don't think I was wrong in y fundamental diagnosis post-election; that the catastrophe was brought about by the revolt on the right of the party, the sustained, deliberate attempts to undermine the Corbyn project and demonise a decent man.

This, from Corbyn's erstwhile spin-doctor, Marc Zarb-Cousins, shows I am not alone in thinking this:
I have been asked by some to "own" the defeat. I am happy to hold my hands up and say I misread the mood of the country. But I won't apologise for voting for the best candidate in both leadership contests, and then supporting the leader of the Labour party. I won't apologise for campaigning for a Labour government, or for working harder than I've ever worked as Jeremy's spokesperson 2016-2017. With what little profile I actually have, what did the people asking me to apologise want me to do? Did they think me using my platform to attack the leadership of the party would have made a Labour government more likely? 
People who have spent the past 4 years undermining the Labour party and the leader are now telling us to "own" this defeat, while we've been campaigning relentlessly -- in some cases for certain hostile Labour MPs who now have the temerity to say to us: "Look what you've done, this is all your fault." None of us, least of all those with a profile or a safe Labour seat, are passive observers in politics. We are all active participants, able to affect change and influence those undecided. If you've spent the past few years attacking the leadership of a political party, it's not exactly endearing to now be having a go at those people who had in the meantime been giving up their time and money to help bring about a Labour government.
He then goes on to suggest that the leadership contest will be between candidates all essentially claiming the 2017 / 19 manifesto policies.  Which is interesting as it suggests that even in their moment of triumph, the right of the party are already defeated.  The next leader will be elected by the electorate that twice voted - overwhelmingly - for Corbyn.  There will be no swing to the right.

Which will then reveal the Great Lie of 2017 and 2019.  When the new leader is monstered in the same way that Corbyn was monstered - by the right wing media and by the increasingly bitter right wing of the Labour Party - it won't be possible for them to claim that the problem was Corbyn.  We've been hearing that for four years.  It was never true.  The problem was that Corbyn challenged the hegemony of the Blairites over the party, and the policies that he put out there threatened wealth, power and privilege in Britain as a whole.  Only a tiny, tiny bit, but enough to bring down the fires of Hell upon him.

The right wing of the Labour party feared they would never get their party back (they won't) and so they were willing to crash the party and deliver the country over to Boris Johnson.  The Establishment didn't like to see their position under threat, so happily connived with them in a project that suited them even more than it suited Tony Blair and his successors.

And if Corbyn had been as hapless and hopeless as he is portrayed as he would not have been subjected to this - an epic, four year campaign of character assassination, intensifying to an unparalleled degree after 2017 when it looked like he might actually find himself in a position to do the things he said he would do.

Will the next leader be subjected to the same fire and brimstone?  Probably not.  The Conservatives probably have enough of a majority to make the next election another round of First-Past-The-Post attritional warfare.  Labour are in the position the Conservatives enjoyed in 2005 - no prospect of winning, but having to do the groundwork for the next again election.  Though a lot can happen in five years.

I think - once the dust settles a bit and the Blairite wing of the party realise that, in spite of everything, they still haven't got their party back - they may realise that they are and were the problem, not Corbyn.  They will slowly go through the process of realising that - if they ever want to taste power again - they need to actually accept the judgement of the membership and come to terms with Labour being a left wing party.

Right now they are accusing the left of being in dnial, or going through the stages of grief, or having their heads in the sand.  Truth is, it is them doing all these things, and they've been doing them since Corbyn's election in 2015.  Time for them to face up to the reality and accept it.  Theyre always going on about how to succeed in politics you need to be pragmatic, and be ready to sacrifice principles.  Always, this is directed at the 'naive' and 'idealistic' left; while the right don't budge. Well, let's see them doing some sacrificing and compromising.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The Aftermath, Part 3 - Who Is To Blame?

So, following the catastrophe that overtook the Labour Party last week, blame is inevitably being directed at Corbyn.  As pointed out in my last post, there is some dubiour research that supports that conclusion, if you are minded to accpet it at face value.

I think, however, that blaming Corbyn's leadership, or lack there of demonstrates a massive misunderstanding about the situation confronting the Labour Party.  Corbyn and his adherents are being demonised and portrayed as something to be crushed and driven out of the party, like fleas or ants. It works on the assumption that once Corbyn and the Corbynistas have been eradicated then everything will be okay again.

I think this is, fundamentally, missing the point.

Corbyn is not the disease, he is the symptom of the disease. His election in 2015 was not some whimsical decision by the membership, a jolly jape they decided on without thought to the consequences.

It was their way of signaling to the 'elite' in charge of the party how utter dissatisfied and disaffected they were, after almost two decades of Blair, and Brown, and Milliband; how neglected, ignored and taken for granted they felt. that's why Corbyn's message resonated and that's why he got elected.

Of course. the aforementioned 'elite' didn't get the hint. If there is one thing they are very bloody good at it is thinking they know best. They viewed the election of Corbyn as a foolish error on the part of the membership, who had to told off, sent to the naughty step and made to elect a proper leader this time; hence the Chicken Coup - only the 'elite' (significantly misnamed; there isn't much elite about them in terms of intelligence or wisdom) were so clueless and craven they put up Angela Eagle and the Owen 'Lacklustre' Smith might be viable alternatives, with fairly predicable results. Corbyn won, and the elite decided that, obviously, the membership were being recalcitrant and really, really needed to be taught a lesson.

At no point, it seems, did anyone bother to ask, "Why DID they vote for Jeremy?" Or if they did, the answers were probably just a load of patronising generalisations and sneers.

Remember what happened with Corbyn as leader (before Friday the 13th, I mean): membership soared to almost half a million and there were genuine signs of a mass movement developing.  People becoming re-engaged and excited about being Labour again.  2017 happened, just as much as 2019 did, and can not be ignored.  The message resonated and the messenger was not deemed too abhorrent then.

Only, of course, the 'elite' knew better.  Corbyn and his rag tag bunch had stepped out of line and had to be put back in their place - for the good of the party, you understand, and especially for th good of the membership, who had let the power Ed Milliband had unwisely gifted them go to their heads and used it unwisely.

They identified real but not Earthshaking issues - the presence of some foolish people in the party who don't think before they tweet, plus some genuine anti-Semites - and started to make Quite A Fuss about it. And they never missed a chance to confide just how awful things were to their friends in the media.

In the meantime, of course, Brexit was rumbling on. They noticed that Corbyn and the Unions weren't too hot on Remain and the 'elite' - who love skiing in the Alps and holidays in Umbria - felt once more they knew better. The 'elite' always knows best and if they have to keep intervening to correct the unruly plebs, well, noblisse oblige.  After all, THEY haven't gone to Oxford to do PPE so how could they be expected to know what's best for them?

The proles had voted foolishly - AGAIN, you'd almost think they were doing it on purpose - and once more had to be corrected. A botched compromise was devised and Labour was forced to go into an election offering a fudge that might have been morally principled but only seemed to tell people they were being ignored - again.

So, now that Corbyn is on his way out, the impetus will be to make sure that him and his horrid followers are excluded from the party and never even given a whiff of a shot of getting anywhere near power. It will be very hard for anyone running on anything that even resemblance of a Corbynite ticket to get the nominations to stand as leader. There won't be any more 'widening of the debate' because the elite know they will lose that debate. They will try to force a bland slate of safe, Blairy candidates on the membership. One of them will win, and it will be just like the 2010 leadership election all over again.

The lesson of 2019 is not that Corbynism needs to be crushed but that the 'elite' need to look at why Corbynsim ever happened in the first place, and be honest about why something that was actually working pretty well in 2017 was an abject failure two years later. And acknowledge their own failings and responsibility for the stagnation and failures of the last 20 years.

I'm not holding my breath.

Aftermath, Part 2 - Why Did All The Votes Go?

Predictable, there has been a lot of effort being put into saying the disaster of Friday the 13th is down to Corbyn, Corbynism and Corbynistas.

There was a poll published by Opinium the day after the election, asking why people did not vote labour, and why Labour voters who voted for other parties switched.

The survey found the main reasons people did not vote Labour were:
  • The leadership (43%)
  • Brexit (17%)
  • Their economic policies (12%)
They also looked at the reasons given by party vote:
Further polling focused on those who voted Labour in 2017 but not in 2019:
  • The leadership (37%)
  • Brexit (21%)
  • Their economic policies (6%)
On the surface it looks pretty convincing.  Clearly, the Blairites were right.  The issue is and was Corbyn and his leadership team.

But ... but ... but ... but ...  I have some issues with this data.

First of all, 'Leadership' is a very vague category compared to 'Brexit' and 'Economic policy'; a lot comes under than heading so it isn't surprising it is the biggest category.  Does it mean the leadership was too leftwing?  Was it to do with the alleged failure to address anti-Semitism?  The inability to silence the criticism and attacks from within the party?  The disunity?  Because some of these aren't really criticiss of the leadership per se, but of the behaviour of the MPs and others who have been trying to throw Corbyn since he got into the saddle in 2015.

I'm also disappointed with the lack of geographic detail. I'd be very interested in seeing the result broken down by region - what if 'Brexit' was more of an issue in the Northern constituencies?  This was an election where what happened in the north was critical.  Traditional Labour heartlands revolted just two years after they had enthusiastically embraced Corbynism.  In 2015 Labour polled just under 18,000 votes in Blythe Valley; in 2017, that swelled to just under 24,000; but by 2019, the total was down to just under 17,000, and the seat was in Tory hands.  Those are remarkable changes in a couple of years.

The absence of the Brexit Party from the data breakdown by party is unforgivable. The BXP were critical in draining Labour support in a lot of constituencies, allowing the Tories to win on quite modest vote gains.  If we looked at that crucial demographic would we see Brexit significantly more prominent?  That seems to be the trend from the limited data available - where former Labour voters were more concerned about Brexit, and less so about 'leadership.'

I'd like to see more information about the reasons given for defection. Given the skewing we can see in the data we have, where almost a third of Lab / Con defectors identified Brexit 31% of the time as their reason for switching, I think it nothing much can be deduced without a more detailed picture. At the end, someone switching from Labour to Conservative is likely to be on the right wing of the party, so is likely to be opposed to the leadership anyway; we really need to know what went wrong in those northern seats and where the Brexit Party was decisive.

If we zoomed in on the Northern seats, and then in again on the Labour voters who went to BXP, would we see Labour voters switching to BXP because their old party had not embraced the referendum result?  And if we did the same again in other areas, would we see the Labou voters switching to the Lib Dems because Labour was not sufficiently Remain?

Aftermath, Part 1 - Where Did All The Votes Go?

So, that didn't go so well.

Immediately after the election, the Guardian published data showing where Labour's vote had gone:
Labour to Conservative - 4.72%
Conservative to Lib Dems - 1.34%
Labour to Lib Dems - 6.06%
The impact of the Brexit Party (BXP) on Labour has already been noted - in seat after seat, the BXP absorbed Labour votes and allowed the Tories to take the seat on relatively small gains.  In Blyth valley, the Conservative vote went up by about 2,000 - small change.  But the Labour vote dropped by 6,000 - 3,000 stayed at home and 3,000 appears to have transferred to the Brexit Party.  And this allowed the Tories to take the seat.

(It is a shame the figures don't include the BXP.  I imagine the transfer would be small, but critical in a lot of seats.)

But the third figure is also interesting.  Labour lost a lot of votes to the Lib Dems, and as a result neither went anywhere.  In spite of Swinson being ousted in East Dunbartonshire and ending up a couple of seats down on 2017, they actually increased their vote share substantially by absorbing Labour votes.  In 2017 the Lib Dems won a national vote share of 2,371,861, or 7.4% of the vote. In 2017, their vote was 3,696,423, 11.6%. It seems unlikely that the extra illion were people inspired by Swinson's charismatic leadership. It looks like they absorbed a lot of Labour voters.

Perhaps the hidden story here is that Labour lost Leave votes to BXP AND Remain votes to the Lib Dems, with both sides of the argument rejecting Labour's measured, sensible Seocnd Referendum compromise. Be interesting to know - though there is probably no way of telling - how much of this was smart tactical voting, and how much Remainers dumbly rejecting the second referendum.

This time, Labour seems to have been caught between two vote sinks - the Lib Dems taking their votes on one flank, and the BXP giving disaffected Labour voters an option than stopped short of voting Tory. And the result of this mess is that it enabled a Tory government with a massive majority.

Some of it was intentional - Farage's ploy of standing own candidates in Conservative seats was an obvious but effective ploy. And some of it boils down to the continual madness of running two parties competing for the centre left vote. Thatcher's reign in the 80s was enabled by the SDP-Liberal Alliance absorbing 25% of the vote and returning fewer than 5% of the MPs.

It seems we've learned nothing since.

This is not about trying to transfer all the blame onto the Lib dem - another, oft overlooked, reason why Blair's government should be remembered as a failure. They had the opportunity to change things in 1997; but they decided the system was working for them, so they would keep it like it was.

Of course, subsequent incarnations of the Labour Party have failed to embrace electoral reform. Stupid short-termist idiots.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

"People's Faces" by Kate Tempest

Heard this on Radio NZ this afternoon. Perfectly captures how I'm feeling just now.

It's always good to find new music, though it would be nice to be hearing something celebratory. Even "Things Can Only Get Better" would be welcome, if it was accompanied by a thumping Labour victory.

Mr Freedland in the Guardian

Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian has penned a column which chastises the left wing of the Labour party for daring to retain principles an...