Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever

I interrupt the general political discourse of this blog to announce the recent death of my friend Bob.

Bob always had rather average taste in music.  Neil Young was one of Bob's favourite musicians.  Bob Dylan was the other.

Still, liking music like that is no excuse for dying of meninfuckingitis in some dismal hospital in India.

Cheers, marra.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Mail playing politics with paedophile allegations

In an impressive new low, the Daily Mail has resorted to using the investigation into a allegations of child abuse by MPs and other powerful individuals to attack Tom Watson, one of the people who has pushed the issue into the light.

In a long-on-fulmination-but-short-on-credibility piece penned by Guy Adams and Stephen Wright, they accuse Watson of selectively targeting Conservative MPs in his campaign.

Their 'smoking gun' is that Watson refrained from putting his name to a letter calling on police to invesigate Lord Janner, a Labour peer and Britain's second least convincing victim of dementia after Ernest Saunders, and echoes claims made in the Telegraph that Watson is singling out Conservative MPs for his attention:
In April, for example, he called the Daily Telegraph a ‘disingenuous, lazy’ and ‘failing’ newspaper.

Its crime? To have published an editorial suggesting that party politics meant Watson was not pursuing (Labour’s) Lord Janner with the same vigour as he had gone after the (Conservative) Lord Brittan.

Watson denied double standards. He claimed his differing levels of activity with regard to the two cases were down to a simple fact: ‘I have spoken directly to survivors of Leon Brittan. I have not spoken directly to any survivors of Lord Janner.’ A fair explanation. Or at least, it would be if it were true. But it isn’t. For, as Watson revealed in an interview with the Guardian newspaper last year, he very much has met Exaro’s witness ‘Nick’, in what he called a ‘very, very traumatic and difficult conversation’.

This is important because ‘Nick’ claims to be a former victim of Lord Janner. Earlier this year, Exaro reported: ‘Janner, now 86, sexually assaulted him at several unidentified venues in London between 1979 and 1982.’ It is possible, of course, that ‘Nick’ and Watson never discussed Janner during their meeting, and that Watson was unaware of ‘Nick’s’ allegation against Janner. But still, Watson has met one of Janner’s alleged victims.
Dates are important here.

The Guardian interview took place in 2014, when he refers to talking to Nick.  It can be read here.

The exchange between Watson and the Telegraph took place in April 2015.  The Telegraph editorial is dated 17th of April, 2015.  Watson's response is dated the same day and can be read here.  Amusingly, Watson highlights a tweet he issued on the 16th of April, about the Janner case that makes a joke of the Telegraph's claim that "There was a strange silence in some quarters yesterday".

Only, there wasn't, and the Telegraph would have known this if they'd had the sense to look at Watson's tweets.

Like the man said, a lazy newspaper.

 Nick's claim that he was abused by Lord Janner appears in an Exaro piece by Mark Conrad, published on the 18th of April, 2015.

So the Mail's damning evidence of double standards is that Tom Watson didn't know, six months before the story broke, that 'Nick' was going to implicate a Labour peer.  Tom Watson's statement, when he made it, was absolutely true as far as he was aware.  It's pathetic stuff, essentially a tarted-up version of yelling,  "Tom Watson is a big fat discredited LIAR because he can't see into the future."

The Mail is trying to destroy Watson's reputation, for a political purpose - the very crime it accuses him of.

There are oddities in the column.  It describes a woman who accused Leon Brittan as 'discredited':
The discredited testimony of ‘Jane’ was among the matters detailed in a sensational BBC Panorama documentary entitled ‘The VIP Paedophile Ring’.
In fact, Jane was not 'dscredited,' at least not as a result of any information provided by the Mail. Her claims were not substantiated - not surprising, given the incident was alleged to have taken place in 1967.

'Nick' also described the murder of a school friend that had been staged to look like a hit and run accident.  The Mail blandly advises that, "And no public murder of that nature was reported in the media at the time."

Obviously, the incident would not be described as a murder!

I assume Adams and Wright are intelligent people.  So why are they making such obvious efforts to mislead and confuse readers?

They say they are sceptical of the stories being put out by the likes of 'Jane' and 'Nick'.  Fine.  Then examine their stories carefully and judiciously.  Don't make laughable tenuous aspersions based on Tom Watson's lack of precognitive powers, or attack a claim on false grounds such as their deliberate murder / man slaughter mix-up,

I am also very concerned about some of these stories, and expect that some of them will turn out to be false.  Unlike the Mail, I am less concerned about the reputations of a few MPs than I am about the likely impact it will have on genuine victims of child abuse.

And the Mail's politically motivated attacks isn't making things any easier for them.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Tel-LIE-graph forced to retract evil smear of Corbyn

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has slammed the Telegraph as vile liars and distorters of truth (whodathunkit?) and forced them to RETRACT, CORRECT and GROVEL in apologetic apoplexy before the feet of the People's Darling, Jeremy Corbyn:
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint from Ivan Lewis, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, about a 15 August story headlined “Labour grandees round on ‘antisemite’ Corbyn’”.

The story claimed Lewis had attacked Corbyn’s “antisemitic rhetoric”, saying the party must have “zero tolerance” for such views.

It later cited an article the MP had written for Labour List stating “Some of his stated political views are a cause for serious concern. At the very least he has shown very poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged not in legitimate criticism of Israeli governments but in antisemitic rhetoric.

“It saddens me to have to say to some on the left of British politics that anti-racism means zero tolerance of antisemitism, no ifs, and no buts. I have said the same about Islamaphobia and other forms of racism to a minority of my constituents who make unacceptable statements.”

Lewis lodged a complaint that the Daily Telegraph had misrepresented those comments, and he had not accused Corbyn of antisemitism.
Echoes of the Zinoviev letter, anyone?

Not sure a 'correction' is enough.

Burning an editor or two at the stake might be sufficient, as we leftists are not vindictive or cruel.

Unlike the telegraph.

Well, that didn't last long

David Cameron went all Daily Mail in his conference speech, echoing that rag's infamous "The Man Who Hated Britain" smear on Ralph Miliband.  He's working hard to paint Jeremy Corbyn as a leftist monster:
My friends, we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.
In doing so, he's making himself, not Corbyn, sound like an extremist idiot.

Trying to frame someone as faintly nice as Corbyn as an extremist and hater of anything other than sausages only makes Cameron look like a tool. They managed to frame Ed Miliband as a bit of a weirdo dork but that's because Ed was a bit weird and dorky.

Trying to make Corbyn out as the fifth horseman of the apocalypse only makes an idiot of Cameron because, gosh, renationalising the railways isn't really that extreme.

It's strange how people ... well, the right ... slam Corbyn for 'appealing to his core vote' and yet when Cameron basically does a Daily Mail, it isn't seen as the same thing. It's a pretty nasty bit of bottom scraping.

Of course, blustering about threats to national security and hating Britain doesn't really fit in with the 'irrelevant ... unelectable ... barely worth noticing' theme the Tories are trying to advance. Mixed messages. An unelectable threat to Britian? An irrelevant hater?

Not really a convincing narrative.

Still, interesting to see that Cameron is opting for the strident, imminent-threat-to-our-way-of-living idea. Putting a clear distance between himself and Corbyn, but not - I think - in a way that really flatters him. Makes him look like a silly, spiteful clown.

Nice to see he's really embracing the new, nice, gentle political style Corbyn offered.  Cameron managed to make nice for about three weeks before reverting to type.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Fun fact - homelessness soars under Tories!

As an aside at the end of a rare positive story about Jeremey Corbyn, the Independent noted that the number of people sleeping rough in England rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 2,744 last year.

That's a 50% in just four years. Why isn't this a bigger story?

Oh, wait, a Kardashian is not wearing clothes ...

Do we just no care about the marginal? Yeah, that's kinda a rhetorical question.

 Margaret Thatcher supposedly once said that Tony Blair's Labour Party was her greatest achievement - a Labour party that repudiated socialism to get elected, and effectively embraced her market reforms and privatisations.

She under-valued her other great achievement, which was to usher in a new era of gutter press and yellow journalism, where important social issues are ignored because people - created in Thatcher's image - just don't care so much any more.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Labour trounce Tories in by-election STUNNAH!! 6% swing!!

Taking back Britain, one seat at a time:
Jeremy Corbyn has been given a boost in his bid to prove his ability to win over Tory voters after Labour won a council seat off the Conservatives in a by-election. 
It was the first victory at the ballot box since Mr Corbyn won a landslide victory in the Labour leadership election last month. The party won a marginal ward on the Conservative-controlled Cherwell District Council on a swing of more than 6 per cent.
Tories tremble! The International Socialist Supreme Command has identified Cherwell as a crucial battleground in the war to establish the dictatorship of the Corbyntariat. Once Cherwell District Council is in our hands, Downing Street will fall soon after.

This is a body blow to Cameron, in the heart of Oxfordshire. Who says Corbyn can't in the shires? Though oddly, the Guardian - which made no secret of its admiration for Yvette Cooper - did not see fit to cover this remarkable triumph.

Has David Cameron still not resigned? Staying in Number 10 would be like Stuart Lancaster remaining as coach following England's elimination in the pool games! A travesty! A shame on the nation! Surely a public school boy has some understanding of the Proper Course of Action for a man in his position.

Do not hesitate, Dave! Quit now and restore a shred or two of dignity for your family name and the old school!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Thoughts on Labour (NZ or British variety)

The other day I treated The Standard to a long and waffley post about the not-as-similar-as-they-initially-appear plights of the British and Labour parties.  It is all to easy to assume that what will work for one may work for the other; and if that were so, my (very) cautious optimism about Jeremy Corbyn would look to be at odds with my glum response to David Cunliffe's quixotic campaign in 2014.  But there are differences between New Zealand and Britain, and between the British and New Zealish Labour parties.

So it was with some bemusement I noted that great minds think alike, or fools seldom differ, as the New Stateman also publishes a piece of Corbyn inspired navel gaving, covering roughly the same terrain (albeit with out the New Zeal element).

They start off by re-framing some thoughts from that profound left wing thinker, Lord Ashcroft, from his 2005 opus telling Dave Cameron how to get re-elected (helpful advice for which he felt he was was not rewarded adequately, leading to the publication of another, slightly less helpful book in 2015).  The main points identified by are:
  • A party must target their scarce resources at people who are more likely to vote in places which are more likely to decide elections.
  • A party must campaign hardest on the things that matter most to people, rather than things they hope can be made to matter.
  • There are number of parties competing for voters. It should never be assumed that one party’s unpopularity directly translates into support one other single party.
  • A party must not simply indulge the instincts of its core voters. The core is, by definition, not big enough to win an election on its own. By endorsing their views and tactics (e.g. classist, inverse-snobbery) too strongly a party risks alienating wider sections of the public that are needed for electoral success.
  • There are a number of different types of voters that must be brought together under the umbrella one party’s support. They are likely to have some diverging interests but it is the managing of your loyalists with the persuadables that is key to avoiding become an unelectable rump.
Which is all well and good, though I think actually more applicable to New Zealand than to Britain.  They are not the same, you see.

I think Corbyn can succeed in Britain, which may not be quite the same thing as winning an election.  But I’m not sure a Corbyn figure - something some on the left are trying to imaginate - could succeed in New Zealand. They are very different countries and have very different electoral systems.

Britain has a much longer and stronger left wing tradition, where as New Zealand’s left is more of a fickle beast. How many genuine, irredeemable socialists are there in New Zealand? I’m not convinced there are that many.

There are a lot of socially concerned liberals and lots of people who instinctively oppose National’s combination of neo-liberalism and rural conservatism. But that’s not quite the same thing, and moving left tends to make this loose coalition fragment. After all, in New Zealand they can do that – if Labour smells too strongly of Trotsky, the wets can always vote for the fragrant Mr Dunne, or Mr Peters (he looks like he uses Old Spice) or the Greens, depending on their perversion preference. They’ll still get what they want at the end of the day – a government that reflects some of their centrist principles, built on the back of a diluted version of Labour or National.

I think – this is all just opinion – Britain has a much larger socialist / social-democrat demographic. They are, however, deeply apathetic and disengaged. Turn out in British elections is about 10 percentage points lower than in New Zealand – a massive difference. It is unlikely, in my opinion, that there is much to be gained by campaigning for the non-voters in New Zealand. You might get a few more votes, but it would be at a huge cost – and if winning those votes meant moving left, it might also cost centre votes. Whereas in Britain, there are a lot more votes to be gained, and the archaic monstrosity of First Past the Post means there is no-where for votes to go. As a Brit, I’m quite familiar with having to vote for a party that is only vaguely representative of my opinions (take a bow, Tony Blair!) because the only alternative is much, much, worse. That’s less of an issue in New Zealand, for reasons already described.

We saw what happened with a nominal leftie here in 2014. 25% of the vote. The ‘Missing Million’ did not show up. Hell, even many of those committed enough to vote for Goff in 2011 abandoned ship.

Yeah, I know. The media blah blah blah and / or not sufficiently left wing blah blah bah.

Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you think the media are really, truly that bad here? Look at what Ed Miliband had to put up with, what Jeremy Corbyn has already had to endure. The NZ media are lightweight. And as for trying again even further from the left, I’m not sure repeating the same experiment, once more with feeling, is the best choice anyone has ever had. Corbyn may work in Britain (and it is a big may) – but I doubt he would here. New Zealand just isn’t the sort of country that would vote for a socialist. And voters are clued up enough to know if they vote for an allied party, they’ll likely get something they don’t want.

What we need is a strong, charismatic centrist figure, someone with a strong social conscience to actually make a real difference (a positive one!) to people’s lives. I don’t think we can realistically hope for more than that at this time.

Which brings us back to the five points identified by Lord Ashcroft.  No-one likes compromise and no-one likes centrist muddle.  We all dream of red flags and revolution and storming the barricades and whatnot.  But the whole point of such shenanigans is that they don't win elections.  Doing that is a grubby, miserable, fraught business of trying to persuade enough people into agreeing with you to let you do more good than bad.  It's not terribly inspiring, but it is reality.

The left need to grow up and stop pining for their own romantic revolutionary hero who will somehow conjure victory of of impossible electoral mathematics.  A pragmatic compromiser, with a dash more charisma and core of principle but an instinct for building bridges rather than barricades, is the best medium term option.

But who the Hell fits that description? And even if we did have such a figure, what’s the likelihood of infighting and factioneering bringing him or her down?