Saturday 31 May 2014

What is Labour's problem?

I've just had another look at the recent One News-Colmar Brunton poll - the one that gave National 51% of the vote and Labour more than 20 points behind, at 30%.

Looking beyond that painful picture, there is a list of issues concerning New Zealanders.  They were:

  • Education, identified as a key election issue by 40% of the electorate.
  • Health - 37%.
  • Jobs - 30%.
  • Child Poverty - 27%.
  • Wages - 25%.

This is quite astonishing, because all five are areas Labour should absolutely own.  Fair access to education and health are fundamentally leftwing issues.  Employment opportunity, security and workers' rights ditto - why do you think it was called the Labour party?  Child poverty, absolutely a leftwing issue.  Wages ties in with employment and jobs.

Labour should have been making the running on these issues for years by now.  Not because they are potential vote winners, but because they are the building blocks of a just, fair, socialist society.

Instead, we've had ... nothing much.  Kiwi Build.  Something about power bills.  A smart idea about using savings to balance economic pressures, which probably sounds alarming to the average voter ("They're going to put up my Kiwisaver rate whether I want it or not?").

Other than that, a yawning chasm of indifference from the leaders of the so-called people's party.  The election is coming up fast.  The government should be utterly on the ropes - it is incompetent, corrupt and vacillating.  The only thing keeping its ratings so impossibly sky high is that the alternative major party of government looks even less plausible.  They don't look like an alternative government.  They don't even look like a credible opposition.  They look like what they are - a bunch of over educated elitists waiting for their turn to play with the levers of power and happily drawing their salaries in the mean time.

Their lives won't be made substantially worse when Labour are trounced again in September.  Hell, some of them will probably find their career prospects enhanced as they seek more remuneration in the private sector.  they won't be living in run down, damp, unhealthy rentals, or working on inadequate minimum wages terrified of losing their jobs, or sending their children to desperately under-resourced schools staffed by exhausted teachers trying to educate far too many students.

So you can understand the lack of passion and urgency in Labour.  This is not about them, or their people.  They're part of the problem for the left, for progressive parties and socialists.  Unfortunately, they will have to be part of the solution as well, for the foreseeable future as they still bring in about 30% of the vote, and will be more amenable to working as part of a progressive coalition than National (though it isn't as great a difference as it should be - I can almost imagine National working with the Greens at some point.  Almost.  A possibility that seems to elude Labour, who boorishly seem to insist the Greens are simply a kooky extension of the left.)

But the left, sadly, needs to start looking to the future and beyond the Labour Party in its current form.  Perhaps it can re-invent itself, but it seems unlikely.  Vested interests aren't very good at looking after anyone's interests other than their own, and not particularly good at that, either.  They'll carry on assuming they are one of the two parties that are imbued with the divine right to rule New Zealand, as their support dwindles further and further.

Which is - oddly - why I welcome the inflation of National's poll ratings.  It is the evidence of voters simply giving up on Labour.  As voters are inherently a conservative bunch, many will give up, initially, one main party for another.  They understand (unlike fanatic activists) that Labour or National has to form the foundation of the next government.  And they are so disgusted with Labour that they switch to National, as the default alternative governing party.

But their loyalty to National is only going to be temporary, as everything that is wrong with Labour is found in National in concentrated form.  Indeed, National make a virtue of all the things that are alienating voters from Labour.  So, after handing National an undeserved but probably inevitable third term, and being treated like garbage as a reward, the voters will look else where.

I have no idea what the political landscape will look like in ten years time.  It is just possible some charismatic class warrior will seize control of Labour and revitalise the party.  But wasn't Cunliffe supposed to be that guy?   (Though I've always been sceptical of Cunliffe's progressive credentials)

It hasn't worked, and probably won't work in the future because of the deadening hand of the vested interests.

The reappearance of Laila Harre on the political scene -  in one of the strangest political marriages ever - perhaps provides a clue.  Perhaps the future will look a bit like the Alliance, only this time it won't be crushed by Labour antipathy.  If Mana and the Internet Party can find some common cause, and Laila Harre finds it not too ludicrous to join the fun, perhaps some loose knit but formal left bloc is conceivable.

Post 2015, a few disheartened Labour MPs - the ones that actually become MPs for the right reasons - might find their way into it as well, as the party drifts into the mid 20s and the government benches seem to drift further and further away.  And suddenly the voting public will notice that there are smart, passionate and essentially normal people in politics.

And finally Labour - a pointless rump polling 15% - regains power as a junior party in a new progressive government.

Insane?  Maybe.  But not as insane as continuing to vote for Labour and expecting them to suddenly to decide to change their behaviour.  That's a classic example of doing something repeatedly and expecting a different out come.

Labour isn't working.

Can't be fixed.

Time to do something different.

Friday 30 May 2014

Newark by-election

The electoral excitement just doesn't stop coming in Britain.  After the dizzy thrills of the local and Euro elections, up next is a crucial by-election, brought about by Patrick Mercer resigning his seat in Newark.

Normally a safe Conservative stronghold, a pre-poll poll of Newark suggests the UKIP might pull off a stunner, if Labour voters are smart enough to vote tactically: 

CON 36%(-18)
LAB 27%(+5)
LD 5%(-15)
UKIP 28%(+24)

 Obviously, the 28% voting UKIP aren't going to vote Labour; but Labour voters should think of switching to the UKIP to humiliate the Tories. It might be strategically astute for Labour as they would benefit from the UKIP being in parliament and increasing the likelihood of a fatal split in the right vote.

The aggregate loss of support for the coalition, 33%, is awesome.  True, Mercer was a corrupt self serving Tory (ain't they all) but he was also very popular.  The people of Newark - hardly radical country - seem to be repudiating the coalition.

Will they be smart / cynical enough to switch votes to the UKIP?

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Is Charles Kennedy sober yet?

The Lib Dems might need him:
The electoral oblivion apparently confronting the Liberal Democrats as led by Nick Clegg was underscored on Monday by leaked opinion polls in four seats showing that the party will be wiped out. 
Commissioned by a Lib Dem supporter from ICM and subsequently passed to the Guardian, the polling indicates that the Lib Dem leader would forfeit his own Sheffield Hallam constituency at the next election. 
The party would also lose its seats in Cambridge, Redcar and Wells, costing MPs Julian Huppert, Ian Swales and Tessa Munt Westminster seats. 
If the business secretary, Vince Cable, were to take over as leader, the Lib Dems would perform marginally better, the data suggests. Appointing Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, would give the party a more modest boost. 
The damning verdict comes after a crestfallen and visibly exhausted Clegg said in the early afternoon that he would not buckle in the face of woeful European election results which cost the party 10 of its 11 MEPs and left it in fifth place. 
Ukip topped the polls – winning 23 MEPs – leaving huge questions for all three mainstream parties, but especially for Clegg's strategy of confronting the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, in two TV debates that he was deemed to have lost.
I'm not really in favour of leaders resigning over rather trivial mid term elections, nor do I like parties reneging on agreements. But the Lib Dems really are in dire trouble and I think Clegg might need to resign, and the contest needs to be not just about a new leader but the future of the coalition agreement.

I'd suggest the new leader should run on a 'quickie divorce' agreement but on the explicit understanding that they will 'endeavour' to allow the Tories to continue a minority administration until the pre-agreed dissolution (Cameron can not dissolve parliament to suit himself).

This would get the Lib Dems out of a toxic arrangement but not leave them looking like wreckers - but in the powerful position where the Tories have to come to them for support.

It will also hurt the Tories, which is obviously a good thing. Though it might also hurt Labour, as a couple of percentage points of Lib Dem defectors return home.

Monday 26 May 2014

Enough of the UKIP earthquake already

And enough of the vacuous "Labour not doing very well" drone.

Of course they aren't. They were only ejected from office in 2010, remember, and the time before that it took them 18 years to get back in! So it's pretty impressive that they are in a position to win just 4 years after Gordon Brown, the financial crisis, the dodgy dossier, ID cards and all the other reasons people voted them out.

Labour can also stop panicking and wailing. Several councils won, almost 300 new councillors, Hammersmith, Cambridge ... and as for the UKIP threat in the north, consider this, from the Guardian:

Labour has gained full control of Bradford council after winning seats from the Tories and Lib Dems and fighting off attacks from Ukip, which took just one spot in the West Yorkshire administration. 
George Galloway's Respect party made no gains in the city, despite Galloway touring the city in an open top bus in support of his eight candidates. 
Respect has no representatives in Bradford's town hall since its five sitting councillors – elected in the euphoric aftermath of Galloway's byelection win in 2012 – quit the party last year. They now sit as an Independent grouping. 

Bradford - with experience of high immigration, riots, ethnic division, it's history as a BNP stronghold - you'd have thought, would have been one place where the UKIP would be very strong

It's actually been a dreadful night for the anti-EU crowd. Hot on the heels of the worst financial disaster since the Great Crash, and the prolonged death rattle of western Europe's economy, the far right have managed to win a couple of elections.

It's hardly Nuremburg, is it?

(The rally, I mean, rather than the trials)

I proclaimed earlier Farage needed to get 30%.  He failed.

(Technically, I didn't do anything of the kind, but I did predict 30%, and if you aren't living up to my expectations, you are wicked, naughty and wrong)

I know other parties failed worse, but the interest in their success or failure isn't so high.  There will always be Tories and Labour.  The UKIP will survive only as long as it keeps moving forward and upward.

There will be an almighty fuss for 3-4 weeks because the media like a good exciting story, and Farage is happy to give them plenty of frothy head, never mind the dead rats and turds floating in the glass ...  Polls will soar into the low 20s.  Once or twice, they will get to within margin of error boundaries of the Tories ...

Then everyone will realise that nothing is fundamentally different, the European parliament just doesn't matter and the 'breakthough' meant nothing; the sliding share of the vote at the locals is a harbinger of 'Peak Farage' has already arrived.  Before the end of the year, a steady slide into to the high teens will begin.

The main parties will start to concentrate energy on suppressing the upstart.  Some truly unpleasant characters will start to emerge in the new ranks of councillors and the media - sensing new good exciting stories, will turn.  Farage will become shrill and desperate.  Unfortunate interviews and increasingly shrill public pronouncements won't mask the gradual ebbing of support and (more critically) interest.

They may still get one seat at the general election, two if they are lucky.  but that will make them as about as important, interesting or challenging as ... oh, Respect.  Or the Greens.  Or possibly the Lib Dems, the way things are going for them.

Friday 23 May 2014

The UKIP 'earthquake'

So the UKIP are having a reasonable night in the British local elections (in that they are doing better than the Greens, though not actually winning any councils outright, inspite of having been trying for 21 years).

Nigel Farage inevitably described this as an 'earthquake.'

Really, Nigel?

Earthquakes are dreadful. They kill people, destroy property, businesses and disrupt lives. I wouldn't go about associating my party with them.

Elsewhere, he's claiming, "The Ukip fox is in the Westminster hen house," which suggests he's either drunk or doesn't know the difference between local and general elections.

It might also be worth noting that the UKIP success is generally in areas that haven't experienced high levels of immigration.  London has largely resisted Nigel's advances.

This suggests two, non-mutually exclusive possibilites.  First, that the support of the UKIP is the result of fear and paranoia, rather than actual experience; and that people voting for the UKIP are largely Tories who have jumped ship.

Whether they stay jumped is, of course, a matter upon which much depends.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Why the Farage barrage?

I do wish the proper press would row back on the whole Farage UKIP thing.  He's not the anti-Christ, he's just a self-promoting knob, and doesn't deserve the free publicity.

He's not as important or as interesting as the continual wailing and ngnashing of teeth would make him out to be.  Or, at any rate, whether or not he is important is irrelevant; FPTP wont allow him to be.

Obviously, there's a better story in "Farage is Intensely Controversial" than there is in "Farage is not Important."  And a bit of me wonders if there a deliberate policy to continue splitting the rightwing vote.  Either way, it is not the role of responsible media to manufacture or manipulate the news like this.

Also, there are stupid people out there who do this sort of thing if they are told enough times that Farage = Moseley and the UKIP are his Blackshirts reformed.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Euro elections

I predict:

CON 22%
LAB 30%
LDEM 10%,
UKIP 30%
GRN 5%
BNP 3%

... or something like that.

The UKIP will hail the result - whatever it is - as a 'massive break through,' a 'transformational' moment in British politics and so on.  They will, briefly, enjoy an increase in support for Westminster, topping 20% consistently until support starts to fade away again as people become tired of Farage and the media obsession with him.  They will poll about 12% in the 2015 election and get one vanity seat with Farage if they are lucky.

Labour will claim victory as they thoroughly beat the Tories, heroically ignoring the fact a solid 50% of the population voted for insane right-wing parties, not for them.  Even if the people voting Tory and UKIP aren't baked in mad-people, that makes it worse in some ways - they are so unenthused by Labour they vote for the Tories and UKIP regardless of how they know it is an insane, disgusting thing to do.

The Lib Dems will claim they have 'steadied the ship' and 'turned the tide' in a revolting display of metaphor mixing.  They may well have done; but the ship is no longer the sleek Destroyer they had in the last election; it is a leaky little life boat, and the huddled survivors on board are eyeing each other up, wondering when they'll have to resort to cannibalism.

The Tories will bleat about how they are doing really well, all things considered, and it is quite normal for a governing party to be deeply unpopular in mid term, trying to hide the fact it isn't really mid term any more and even if it was, any party taking over from the PR disaster of Brown's Labour government should have enjoyed a gold plated honeymoon lasting until about 2050.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Fundamentalist wreckers in the English education system

There's been a lot of ink spilled by the Daily Mail about supposed fundamentalist Muslims trying to take control of English schools.

As part of a rather unIslamic sounding operation called 'Trojan Horse,' they are trying (Shock! Horror!) avail themselves of the powers and rights to influence school governance that are available to everyone and make sure (again, Shock! Horror!) make sure the schools reflect the character of the communities they serve.

 It is worth noting that English state schools are not secular. They should be, but they aren't. There is actually a legal requirement that religion is part of the school - collective worship and religious education are mandated. It isn't 'learning about religions' - otherwise there wouldn't be a option for parents to withdraw children.

The story does has some worrying aspects, though the whole thing I suspect is grossly exaggerated - it is the Daily Mail, after all. Much, as I said, has been made of this by the Mail and the gibbering hate press, in between the unending stream of articles about 'halal' slaughter.

Meanwhile, a fanatic has successfully infiltrated the education system, at the highest level, and is causing havoc. he is twisting and perverting the education system, re-allocating money to fund his pet projects at the expense of mainstream schools that do not fit his blinkered vision of what good education 'looks like.'

The fanatic is called Michael Gove.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, the Lib Dems confirmed highly damaging leaked information from a senior government source, who said that Gove had secretly taken the money from the Basic Need fund for local authorities last December, in the face of stiff opposition from the Lib Dem schools minister David Laws. 
The Basic Need budget is given to local authorities to ensure that they can provide sufficient school places for all children in their area and it is crucial when there is heavy pressure on pupil numbers. 
The government source behind the revelations tore into Gove, describing him as a "zealot … so ideologically obsessed with his free school experiment [that] he's willing to see children struggle to get suitable school places". 
This was done, said the source, because Gove had let the free school budget spin "out of control". 
Last month this newspaper revealed a secret plan to focus support on failing free schools because of the "political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate".

A sickening, hateful monster, trying to twist the education system because of a warped, nasty idea of how things should be.

The Mail doesn't seem to worried about it, of course.

My own frothing aside, this latest spat between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems does raise the (inevitable) question of how the coalition is going to end.

 The Lib Dems have made massive efforts to support the Conservatives, and have seen their ratings decline to single figures as a result. Nick Clegg was regarded as the future of politics once, remember? 

The Lib Dems will have to 'uncouple' at some point before the election. It would be really stupid of them to go in still propping up the Tories.

Why not now?

A year of 'constructive opposition,' supporting the government on confidence votes and supply votes, would allow the hatred to subside and let the party re-establish some sort of non-coalition identity, and also show how an alternative formal coalitions would work.

Cameron, of course, can not dissolve parliament and call an election - he gave up that power in 2010 in one of the few genuinely good things this government has done. Parliament remains, even if the coalition splits, or even if the government loses a confidence vote.

I doubt the Lib Dems would actually want to topple the Conservative government. They'd prefer to let it limp on as a minority administration, depending on the Lib Dems or minor parties for continual support, tormented by the MPs it relies on to survive from day to day.

But they could. So there's a possibility of UnEleKTUD EdD getting into Downing Street before any one votes for him!

Sunday 4 May 2014

Adams' arrest is the price of peace

The police have been granted more time to question Gerry Adams over involvement in the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
Mr Adams, 65, vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered Jean McConville's murder and secret burial in 1972 after she was wrongly accused of passing information to the security forces.
Well, he would, wouldn't he, as he has always denied being a member of the IRA.

It isn't surprising that the police need more time to interrogate Adams. After all, he's had more than 40 years to prepare his answers ...

Unsurprisingly, the arrest of Adams has attracted a lot of Republican ire, including threats to withdraw co-operation with the police and the hint that the peace process itself may be jeopardised.

I think the arrest of Adams is justified. He has been implicated in a grotesque murder. No matter what militarist jargon you use, whatever justifications you attempt, a widowed mother of ten was brutally murdered.

Even if she was acting on behalf of British intelligence - which is very doubtful - her killing was a barbaric, evil act. If Adams knows anything about it - and it is preposterous to suggest he doesn't - he needs to admit it. It was a dark act from the dark days of the 1970s.

Adams deserves credit for dragging the Republican movement into peace talks and ending the bloodshed an violence. Another of Moloney's points is that Adams started moving the IRA away from violence long is generally realised. In the mid 80s, he started making the first contacts with Ireland and London, and reversed the abstentionism policy for political institutions. The infamous "Aramlite and the ballot box" strategy was actually a massive commitment towards democracy and a crucial step towards peace.

Adams might have done some reprehensible things but without him, there probably would not have been a peace settlement and the psychotic violence would still be going on.  But he owes the peace the truth. Denying any involvement in McConville's murder, and letting her killers walk freely, is an insult to her, her children and the peace process he started.

It also mitigates the shame of Britain's own failings in Ireland - as long as the circumstances around McConville's death is still a dirty little secret for the IRA, then it is hypocritical for Adams and others to talk about truth and reconciliation, and for the British to account for their own bloody actions.

He needs to face the consequences of what he (most likely) was involved in. So does everyone.

I hope the threats about withdrawing co-operation with the police and intimations of the peace coming to an end are just bluster. Whatever his past, Adams was committed to a settled, compromise peace by the mid 80s, an incredibly dangerous position to take.

Oddly, the test of his legacy will be seeing if the settlement can survive his arrest, possible trial and conviction. If it can, in a strange way, it will show how much of an impact he had.

Saturday 3 May 2014

David Cameron heals the sick

A teenager with incurable cancer who has raised more than £3 million for charity - and was this morning praised by the Prime Minister - has been discharged from hospital. 
Stephen Sutton, 19, was being treated for multiple tumours at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital and was recently pictured giving his 'final thumbs up' from his hospital bed - convinced that he would not make it out. 
But Stephen has announced on Facebook that he has now been discharged after a 'quite remarkable' recovery.
Remarkable. Cameron's talents are clearly wasted in politics. Dave for pope?

(Anything other than Prime Minister would be a good thing for Britain.)

 Next: Dave will try to walk across Lake Windermere. He has told emergency services not to intervene if he seems to be in difficulties because, "I have to die for your sins, you know, and I'll be back in three days anyway."

More seriously, the 'quite remarkable' recovery doesn't mean Stephen is cancer free, just that he survived a major crisis and is doing better than expected, in the very short term. Still, good to see a positive-ish moment to a heart-warming-but-tragic story.

The Mail must know the truth of the matter and if it is exaggerating the scale or strength of Steven's recovery, it is a ghastly example of story spinning.  Presumably, they are seeking to emphasise the pathos and create a little bit of hope - to increase the shock and sorrow when the poor chap finally dies.

They haven't had the decency to wait for him to die before exploiting him.  What a hideous rag.

(You might say, I am no better, with my piss-take introduction about Cameron; but you would be wrong.  I am British, and black humour is how we deal with intolerably sad things.  It is a far more appropriate response than cloying sentiment and sickening manipulations such as we have seen in the Mail.)

Anyway, Stephen, you have raised a lot of money for charity. You are this blog's inaugural Everyday Hero.

Lefthandpalm salutes you and wishes you all the best.

Thursday 1 May 2014

The Murder of Jean McConville

Gerry Adams has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of Jean McConville, murdered by the IRA in 1972.

By coincidence, I'm currently reading Ed Moloney's book about Adams, the IRA and the peace process, A Secret History of the IRA.

According to Ed Moloney, McConville was working as a British 'spotter,' reporting on IRA activities in her area. She was caught and warned by the IRA, but her British controller compelled her to continue working, after which the IRA murdered her.  I mention this not to try to justify the cold-blooded murder of a widow with 10 children, but to suggest this might blow back in British faces as well, which is good.  Full and frank disclosures about what both sides were up to is essential.

The British agent story has been attacked and has never been substantiated. On the other hand, the suggestion she was murdered by the IRA for giving comfort to an injured soldier seems a bit far fetched.  Murdering her and denying it happened wouldn't really send a message to other potential collaborators.  But disappearing was what was done to systemic traitors. 

Moloney says plans for killing would have been known to Adams, and would have been authorised by him as the IRA Belfast commander. Oddly, this fits with what Adams has said: "While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville."

Which is a bit equivocal.  He is not denying all knowledge of it, or that he authorised the deed.

Who actually wanted the killing is not identified.  Moloney only says the killing was the result of the actions of two "ruthless men" - one the British controller, the other a "senior IRA figure in Belfast who decided that her secret death would suit his purposes."

Moloney identifies Adams as an IRA member and the man in charge of the IRA's Belfast unit that carried out the killing. Adams has always denied involvement with the IRA and accused Moloney of libel (but never got around to suing him.  Might be he suddenly realises Moloney was right all along, especially the bit about British intelligence using McConville as an agent.

I note Ivor Bell, for some time Adams's lieutenant, was arrested more quietly a few days ago.  He was Adams's deputy as brigade commander at the time.  I suspect Adams is simply helping set up his old comrade and will be mysteriously found blameless of involvement in McConville's murder, as will British intelligence.

The Worst Article in the History of the Universe

Unsurprisingly, penned by the ever-reliably-rubbish Hadley Freeman:
Let us turn now to another divorced and now engaged celebrity, one Jennifer Aniston. Like Clooney, Aniston was married and then got divorced from a fellow actor who has since remarried another actor and gone on to have children with them. Like Clooney, she went on to have a series of relationships with stonkingly good-looking people. And also like Clooney, she is now engaged to a fellow glamorous human being who goes by the name of Justin Theroux. So presumably when her engagement was announced, the media should have been filled with headlines along the lines of "Sorry, boys, Jen's been snapped up!" and "Jen's engaged?! We're all heartbroken!" 
But of course none of those headlines appeared because even though – going by the tabloids' rubric – Aniston is a less desperate case than Clooney, being both younger and divorced for a shorter period, she is a woman. Therefore her engagement to Theroux was reported in precisely the terms and tone I used in the first paragraph, and has continued to be so ever since, with tales of Aniston's fiance trying to "break it off" and "refusing to see her" and her "desperation for a baby" filling the covers of tabloids and women's magazines every day. And that's because, in the world of the media, women are tragic and desperate and sad, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn't watch on a 14-hour flight.
She doesn't seem to see the absurdity of complaining how Amal Alamuddin, George Clooney's fiance, "is described in terms more appropriate to a wild animal hunter."

Are wild animal hunters tragic desperate and sad? I had no idea the profession was so angst ridden. Are zoo keepers also the new existentialists? Would Hamlet a be vet nowadays?

Aniston created her own image to feed her own publicity driven career. If Freeman is to dim to see this, she's probably the journalistic equivalent of a crap romcom you wouldn't watch on a 14-hour flight.


 From the Guardian : The  Observer  understands that as well as backing away from its £28bn a year commitment on green investment (while sti...