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Politics in flux – regroup?

globalisation-imagesIn July Peter Hitchens wrote: Globalisation hasn’t worked but our elite have not yet been held to account”. As he said, the EU referendum result was a heartfelt protest, but is Brexit likely to enhance the lives of those who made that protest? He continued:

“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security”.

But people are re-engaging with politics

Hundreds of thousands have joined Labour. Tens of thousands have joined the SNP, Greens, Tories and, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems – and this, in an age when we have been told that people no longer want to get involved in politics. The growing adherence to Sanders, Corbyn, the SNP and radical parties in Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland suggest that the existing order is being challenged and new hope is emerging.

In a different article Hitchens said: “If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap. Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character”.

Is it just a matter of time before parties regroup?

Some Conservative and Labour voters are moving to UKIP, some to the Liberal Democrats – and others are listening to calls for a cross-party progressive alliance.

alliance-6

In July there was a “Post-Brexit Alliance” meeting with speakers including the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga from Take Back the City and the Guardian’s John Harris. This month, a statement calling for progressive parties to work together for electoral reform was published; it is signed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party.

‘Principled, grown-up politics’ indeed.

 

 

 

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Media 54: the latest proxy Corbyn onslaught – on Labour supporters

Rattled by Labour’s Oldham by-election success and three other recent by-election victories, right wing journalists are now moving away from gripes about Corbyn’s national anthem silence, and his consistent support for moves to stop wars, to focus on those of his supporters who have high incomes.

99%-3

They ignore those of the 99%, the people to whom Corbyn has given hope, and who continue to support him, as seen in audience reactions, by-election wins and Labour Party membership figures.

The FT’s Janan Ganesh (below left) enlightens ‘poor whites’

janan ganeshPossibly influenced by UKIP defeats in all four by-elections, Janan Ganesh whose articles I usually will not read, earlier wrote approvingly: “Political apathy in the UK is perfectly respectable”. Now he writes hopefully: “Years will pass before we know the consequences of Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader of the opposition Labour Party but the alienation of working-class whites, UKIP’s quarry (sic), has to be among them”.

He hopes! And, trusting in the power of the press, he is trying to achieve this. His arguments are too specious to repeat but may be read here on free registration for anyone who wishes to spend time in this way.

Ganesh writes about ‘’poor whites, especially those who line the eastern edge of England and populate the deindustrialised north” – subhuman? – whom he believes Corbyn has alienated: “Many will not vote. A few who can swallow their ancestral aversion will go Tory”.

UKIP fits the bill?

He appears to prefer a UKIP resurgence: “UKIP still has what it takes to win the larger share of these votes: economic populism, rhetorical bluntness, name recognition. The shambles of its leadership is not fatal. Populism does not attract people looking for a government but people bored of having their plain sensibilities laughed at. If Mr Corbyn leads Labour into a general election, UKIP need only stand still to move forward”.

With an ego enhanced by his entry as one of Debrett’s 500 most influential people, he then refers to the return of the ‘perfumed Islingtonian’ !

giles corenAnd the unwholesome Giles Coren (right) in the Times (scroll down his entry – but avoid the even nastier Esquire article) adds substance to this trivial attempt to alienate Corbyn supporters: “a cabal of wealthy north London professionals who have taken an interest in Labour because they haven’t much else to do”.

“Labour is the new hobby for the idle rich: Corbyn’s revolution is a Woosterish indulgence for Islington millionaires. They’ll join any protest, if they’re not in the Dordogne”.

Readers who can face it may read the article here — at a price: “A disproportionate number of Labour members who have joined since the 2015 general election are ‘high-status city dwellers’ pursuing well-paid jobs,” reported The Guardian on Thursday, after getting its hands on leaked data commissioned by the party.

Ganesh adds that protests/demonstrations are “Weekend japes, in other words. Because being a Labourite in 2016 is nothing but another leisure option for the seriously rich. Like sailing or collecting wine or riding to hounds”.

Messrs Ganesh and Coren have no idea what is happening outside London

Labour’s new strength lies in its core supporters who do not read these articles and would discount them if they ever wasted money on them. The establishment has been ‘rumbled’. Here (below) are a hundred or so of the thousands in Birmingham who attended Corbyn or Momentum gatherings. Far from wealthy, their incomes will have been hard-earned . . .

momentum first city meeting

Face it: at long last advertisement/corporate dependent mainstream media and their corporate-political masters have lost their former influence over most of the general public – and that is a wonderfully healthy and hopeful development.

Media 53: mainstream ignores three Corbyn-Labour by-election victories

Not the news they wish to hear?

In two Kent seats and in Liverpool, UKIP came second.

karen constantineYesterday, a generously worded welcome for Karen Constantine’s Newington victory, taking a seat from UKIP, came from Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator and public relations expert. Karen, a trade union equalities officer and mother of four, will now take her place on Thanet District council.

This led the writer to find in all three Labour election gains this week.

susan kennedyOn the 21st, Labour also won the by-election for Ramsgate Town Council with Susan Kennedy being elected, again with UKIP second. Susan is a consultant working in education at national and local level, medical education, university lecturing, secondary school teaching and senior management.

nova charltonToday, Nova Charlton won the Thatto Heath ward (St Helens Council) contest with 964 votes and UKIP’s Alastair Sutcliffe came second with 182. Nova is an employment officer for a housing association who has been campaigning with Labour for the last five years and says: “Holding a place on the council is about being honest, questioning and challenging, and standing up for what your community is asking for.”

A Google search only revealed these successes reported in local papers in Kent and Liverpool.

Had Labour lost, there would have been two-inch gloating headlines!

Another Blairite voice in the corporate advertisement-funded media

As voters swing to Labour under Corbyn in many council by-elections the desperation of careerist Blairites grows.

philip collinsOne such, Philip Collins (right) had an article published in The Times today. Collins, Wiki reveals, for years an equity strategist at two investment banks before becoming chief speech writer for prime minister Blair, is now chief leader writer for The Times.

Eerily reminiscent, in appearance and motivation, of Jane Austen’s Mr.Collins, he notes that voters are turning away from the two main parties – “in 1979 the Tories and Labour between them polled 80% of the vote, in 2015 it was just 67% – and adds “A new party led by sufficiently untarnished figures could conceivably capitalise”.

With ‘untarnished’ figures – such as Peter Mandelson . . .

Who can play Roy Jenkins, the éminence grise with experience of Brussels? Why, Peter Mandelson, of course. Which young former foreign secretary will supply the intellectual dash? The new David, Miliband. Harriet Harman as the respected party elder and Douglas Alexander as the strategist completes the gang of four”.

But Oldham stays his hand

JC 4 smallHowever, he recognises: “The case for staying put in the Labour party . . . remains strong. Last week’s Oldham by-election showed that a bedrock Labour vote still exists.”

No, Mr Collins, to that ‘bedrock’ was added thousands of new and returning members and supporters enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s principled honesty, giving 62% of the vote, nearly triple that of the second party, UKIP.

Collins then warns: “by next year’s party conference Mr Corbyn could have cemented his position by changing party rules” and rues:

“A new party would have no base in local government unless all its councillors resigned the franchise on which they were elected. It would, at least at first, have no activists, no infrastructure and no headquarters. The governing institutions of the Labour Party would be duty bound to stay where they were and, with no trade unions moving.”

A challenge to Corbyn?

And, adds Collins. “Mr Corbyn may not prove as meek, in those circumstances, as many of them suppose”.

We also add what he was surely thinking: that the thousands who have seen the prospect of a better Britain will also continue to support this leader and, against such ongoing electoral support, mainstream politicians and corporate vested interests are impotent.


 

The £50bn HS2 project – a folly – must hit the buffers: Jeremy Paxman

On Friday, Jeremy Paxman wrote an article about HS2 in the Financial Times, opening with incredulity (“How on earth are we even contemplating this scheme?”) that the project had not been an issue for the three main parties during the election campaign, “All decided that the planned HS2 high speed railway line from London to Birmingham and then — if things go to plan — on to Manchester and Leeds by about 2033 was A Good Thing . . . it was left to the UK Independence party and the Greens (who generally love railways) to point out that HS2 is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money.

Some points raised:

  • Despite living in an age of austerity, the main parties were as one in believing it a brilliant way to blow a projected £50bn of public money.

hs2 cartoon

  • It will not be £50bn; cost controls on public spending projects are laughable – see the over budget Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly buildings, the cost of the first high speed rail link and the National Health Service IT project.
  • At the end of years of digging and disruption we shall be able to get from London to Birmingham 30-odd minutes quicker.
  • To get from Leeds to Manchester on HS2 you would have to travel south to Birmingham and then north again on the other side of the country.
  • If, as has been predicted, Birmingham will turn into a suburb of the capital, that will only be for those wealthy enough to afford tickets.
  • The point that seems not to have been much recognised by huge numbers of the poor saps who will have to pay for this project is that at the end of their journey north, the happy business folk will not be alighting in the centre of Birmingham, at New Street station, but will have to take a 10-minute walk to get there from the planned HS2 terminus (Ed: unless the Metro is completed).

Jeremy Paxman concludes:

 “Britain is notorious for its shuddering transport policy. When was the last time you heard an MP say, “I’m begging the prime minister to let me go to the Department for Transport and stay there forever, so we can get this country moving properly”? Building a decent infrastructure is serious, unglamorous work with little political dividend, so our system is hopeless at long-term planning . . .

“[U]nless someone comes to their senses soon, future generations will definitely be able to look at great tracts of concrete laid across the countryside to enable a slightly quicker journey through our overcrowded island. More than likely, they will still be paying for it”.

Was fear the key?

In the Birmingham Press , Steve Beauchampé, who correctly predicted that the Tories would be the largest party in terms of seats and vote, comments on the results of the General Election 2015. The writer has made a pedestrian (3) summary of points made:

  • although (Ed: because?) a decent and honest guy, Ed Miliband has never convinced voters that he was Prime Ministerial material, whilst Labour was not trusted on the economy.
  • The Conservatives had their relentlessly vaunted ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ whilst Labour gave us Liam Byrne’s ‘I’m afraid there is no money’ piece of paper, probably the shortest suicide note in political history.
  • No party wins a UK General Election when both their leader and their economic competence persistently polls second in the court of public opinion, something that Miliband and Labour did for almost five years.
  • the Conservatives, having finished second in a large majority of Liberal Democrat seats in 2010, were always the most likely beneficiaries of the expected Lib Dem vote collapse.
  • it was clear that Labour would suffer heavy losses to the Scottish Nationalists – in a geographical area where the Conservatives themselves, quite literally, had almost nothing to lose.

The fear factor

A hung parliament still seemed likely though, possibly allowing Labour to try to form a government by assembling a left-leaning alliance. But . . . cleverly knitting together the public’s two main worries, Cameron’s claim that: “One wants to bankrupt Britain, the other wants to break up Britain” might just have been the most effective line spoken during the entire campaign, whilst their poster showing Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket was crude but effective.

Labour’s incessant lambasting of the SNP merely reinforced this narrative and with the minor gains and losses between Labour and the Conservatives largely cancelling each other out, and with the First Past The Post electoral system taking care of any threat from smaller parties – such as the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Greens – the Conservatives were all but assured of retaining power.

The travesty of First Past The Post: surely the most effective lock for perpetuating the Labour/Conservative hegemony anyone could devise:

UKIP polled almost 3.9m votes (12.6%).

The Green Party over 1.1m (3.8%), but each won just a single seat.

The Lib Dems (2.4m votes and 7.9%) remain under-represented with just eight seats, Labour, the Conservatives and (probably for the first time) the SNP are significantly overrepresented.

There seems little prospect of either an elected Second Chamber or the devolution of powers to English regions involving democratically accountable structures.

When we can’t even offer every MP a seat and table in the Commons chamber and adequate office space in which to carry out their duties what hope is there for more fundamental reform?

Only around 66% of those registered to vote actually did so, whilst millions more people aren’t even on the electoral register (Individual Voter Registration saw over 900,000 drop off in the year to December 2014 and far more could join them at the end of 2015).

The Conservatives attained absolute power on 36.1% of the vote and despite having few, if any, elected representatives in many of the largest conurbations. Such unjustified concentrations of power are also to be found under Labour rule; for instance the party controls all 96 seats on Manchester city council.

Yet instead of addressing these seismic failings in our democratic system, Britain is likely to spend much of the next five years becoming more isolationist. It is all very depressing.

Read Beauchampé’s Press article in full here.

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Iannucci: now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote – generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can

armando iannucciIn a January article Iannucci wrote: “They’ve had months, years even, to prepare and mighty budgets for media spend, and yet we feel so little the wiser. You get the impression they’d love their manifestos to go out encrypted. It’s easy to see then why the Brand mantra – “Don’t Vote” – has so much appeal. Post 2010, we all got austerity measures, bedroom taxes, NHS reforms and tuition fees that absolutely nobody voted for because absolutely no political manifesto mentioned them. So why shouldn’t we abandon our political masters and stay at home?

Extracts from a more recent article by Armando Iannucci in the Observer

Questions to David Cameron included:

  1. What are the further £10bn of welfare cuts you need to make but haven’t detailed?
  2. Do you accept that parliament will not vote on a possible replacement to Trident until next year?
  3. If so, can you explain why the Ministry of Defence has for the last two years spent £1.24bn on “getting ready” a replacement and preparing “long lead” parts of an as-yet unvoted for missile system?
  4. Is it true that for your first year in office you had no idea of the full scale and ambition of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms and were furious when you found out?
  5. Why did you push the TV companies to schedule as many of the TV debates as possible before the publication of the party manifestos?
  6. How can the electorate question you on your proposals if you’ll take questions only before you propose them?
  7. Do you feel responsible for a political culture in which more than a million benefit claimants were sanctioned and penalised in 2013 but only one HSBC tax evader has been prosecuted?
  8. How do you feel about the rise in suicides of people who have been denied disability benefit?
  9. Why do we have so many food banks? Why do Save the Children and the Red Cross, two organisations set up to work abroad, now work extensively in the UK?
  10. How do you square launching the “big society” with Iain Duncan Smith’s refusal to meet volunteers from the food bank charity the Trussell Trust in 2013 because he felt they were “scaremongerers” and “political”?
  11. Why did IDS refuse to speak in a 2013 Commons debate on the growing use of food banks? Indeed, why did he leave that debate early?

Questions to Ed Miliband included:

  1. Why do you not make a speech highlighting the benefits immigration has brought to this country?
  1. Why did your work and pensions spokeswoman, Rachel Reeves, say Labour “is not the party of people on benefits”?
  2. If you’re prepared to admit that New Labour made mistakes over wealth inequality and financial deregulation, will you go further?
  3. Will you also admit that many of the administrative problems in the NHS were caused by New Labour’s mission to inject private market forces into an organisation not built for that purpose?
  4. Will you admit that much of New Labour’s obsessional drive to impose targets on the NHS pushed staff to breaking point with, to cite one example, paramedics suffering from urinary tract infections because their bosses wouldn’t permit them toilet breaks?
  5. If you’re in favour of commissioning a replacement to Trident, will you or any of your team be making a speech defending the cost and outlining your clear reasons for prioritising a nuclear deterrent over other spending plans? Or is this an awkward subject?
  6. When so much of the first-, second- and third-generation immigrant community votes for your party, why do you still prefer to use the language of “restricting” immigrant numbers employed by Conservatives and Ukip?
  7. Do you like the unemployed? Or are you embarrassed by them? Do you take it for granted they vote for you? Are you fully aware many of them are turning to the Greens, Ukip and the SNP instead?
  8. Why do you feel the need to talk tough about welfare cuts and immigration levels without much prompting?
  9. You do realise that the slogan Vote Labour, We’re a Little Like Ukip is not going to bring out your base?

Iannucci reflects: “Now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote. With such a fragmented system on offer, nothing is inevitable. Uncertainty may create instability, but it can also generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can. The truth is, we haven’t been abandoning politicians – they’ve been abandoning us . . . The 45% who voted yes to independence in Scotland . . . is driving the agenda in Scottish politics as powerfully as if it had been on the winning side . . . Alternative answers such as Green, nationalist, pro-NHS, even the Pub Landlord (standing against Nigel Farage), no longer look like stupid also-rans”.

To read the March article go to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/28/questions-for-cameron-and-miliband-armando-iannucci

Establishment urged to ‘Keep calm in the face of European populism’ – Greens, SNP, NHAP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP please note

99%-3Knives are out for ‘populism’

First debase its meaning:

A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite, becomes ‘a political ideology claiming’/‘asserting’ that it speaks for the common people’, (FT editorial, 28th December), adding:

“They must persuade voters that core elements of the populists’ platforms are incoherent and unrealistic. If implemented, they would harm the economies, social fabric and international standing of their nations”.

The writer adds that an ongoing search will be made for ‘skeletons’ in the cupboards of senior ‘populists’ which can be used to discredit them – standard political tactics beloved of our British ‘Whips’.

The clearest and most objective account of affairs in Spain and Greece was found in a Bloomberg article by Charles Penty in Madrid:

Podemos, a new movement that grew out of street demonstrations against politicians and banks, won five seats in the European Parliament as Spanish voters lent their voice to protests against mainstream parties. It was co-founded earlier this year on the model of Syriza, now leading polls in Greece, by Professor Pablo Iglesias, other academics and participants of the Indignados movement, born after the 2008 financial crisis.

In September, the Wall Street Journal marvelled: “Something extraordinary is going on in European politics. The populist rebellion saw fringe parties secure almost 25% of the seats in the European Parliament in May”, adding that Podemos is the preferred option for 18% of those likely to vote in Spain, citing an opinion poll by Spain’s state-controlled Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.

Global finance might be on the verge of losing this freedom and facing some borders soon if the latest polls from Spain, Greece and Slovenia prove to be an accurate forecast.

Cameron's real changePodemos calls for political control over the European Central Bank and unlimited purchases of government bonds and appears to be a natural ally for Alexis Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party, which won the biggest share of the vote and six seats in Greece.

In November Srecko Horvat shed some light on Syriza, the most popular party in Greece, with an 11% lead over New Democracy commenting: “If an early general election were held in February, there is almost no doubt that Syriza would finally be able to form a government”.

The FT advises politicians to “renounce the discredited game of making patently undeliverable promises in order to win office. If it is too much to expect them to come fully clean about their past occasional incompetence, they can at least say humbly that they will try their best next time to meet higher standards”.

Not a word is said, however, about the corruption which so often exposed in Britain, and currently making headlines in Spain: see the Economist.

gravy trainThe Spain Report, which accepts no advertisements, opting for original, independent, focused, quality, in-depth news reporting and editorial analysis, comments:

“The contrast between cold-hearted market-focused eurocrats and the will and passion of the poorer people in southern Europe will be very stark indeed.

The FT reassures vested interests: “In most countries, populist parties relish their outsider status and prefer slogan-making to the compromises essential to democratic government”.

Could the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and NHAP, driven by a concern for the public good,  manage to work with and influence UKIP for the better? It would be well worth the effort.

What is ‘at the heart of the malaise in British politics’?

Earlier this month George Parker of the Financial Times  asserted: “it is the state of the economy that remains at the heart of the malaise in British politics”, but his other reflections were nearer the mark.

george parkerHe said that: “Panic over the rise of the populists is spreading across the Westminster establishment, which is turning on itself in a round of recrimination bordering on self-loathing. With a general election less than six months away, British politics is about to enter a volatile and unpredictable phase”.

Another comment: “Polls suggest voters regard the Westminster class as out of touch and incompetent . . . Global events have exposed the inability of the British elite to identify risks, let alone deal with them. From the financial crash, through the rise of Russian aggression in Ukraine to the surge in Islamic radicalism in the Middle East, Westminster politicians were initially blindsided, then appeared impotent in their response”.

A serious indictment – and he should have added to it a reference to the fatally corrosive effect of the corporate–political alliances which skew decision-making in favour of the already rich.

occupy wall st cartoon corp money

This is seen as corruption by many, here and in America (see cartoon). It is noted that – in this particular – the Westminster class are far from ignorant and incompetent when adding to their incomes and those of family and friends – aka ‘feathering their nests’.

Mr Parker expresses the sense, among some British voters, that they are victims rather than beneficiaries of globalisation, which – Political Concern adds – has offered so many opportunities for leaders of corporations and governments to enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘rank and file’, vastly increasing economic inequality and environmental pollution.

He continues: “If the mood continues, the next election could see a remarkable rejection of traditional politics . . . neither of Britain’s main parties can expect to win an overall Commons majority in the election, which will be held on May 7. A period of instability and multi-party coalitions – possibly including minority parties as diverse as UKIP, the Scottish National party, Ulster unionists and the Greens – is a real possibility”. And adds:

Both Tories and Labour acknowledge that supporting UKIP has become a cry of pain from people who no longer feel they have a stake in the future and have lost faith in Westminster politicians to help them.

Many will watch with interest campaigns by ‘minority parties’: SNP, the Greens, NHAP, Plaid Cymru, in Cornwall Mebyon Kernow and UKIP, which still gives cause for concern.

Time for change!

FT on the rise of populism in politics: Janan Ganesh doesn’t go to the heart of the matter

A promising start:

tony blairGanesh, “A spirit of anti-politics began permeating the country around the turn of the millennium when Tony Blair, the last politician the British allowed themselves to love, broke their hearts by turning out to be a prime minister and not a miracle worker.

“The disillusion intensified after the Iraq war, a work of naive over-ambition forever remembered as an act of heinous deceit. Then came the crash, the expenses scandal and much more immigration than voters were told to expect.

“Cynicism verging on nihilism is the closest thing modern Britain has to a national ideology. It has become common sense to assume the worst of anyone in public authority”.

Causal trends noted:

  • fragmentation of class loyalty,
  • wage stagnation and structural unemployment,
  • UKIP relies on older voters, of whom there are more and more.

Damage limitation?

Ganesh advises: “Mainstream politicians should remind populists that they do the hard work of politics: representing constituents, reconciling competing claims and taking an interest in dry corners of legislation that affect people’s lives. Most politics is necessary drudgery”.

The public has become aware of the truth

revolving door largerMany more people are now aware that political decisions are being made in the interests of wealthy corporates, not the electorate. This leads to the damaging decisions made in the economic, social, environmental and military sectors. The Political Concern website was set up to raise awareness of the ‘revolving door’, rewards for failure, widespread behind-the-scene lobbying and party funding which corruption the decision-making process here and abroad.

The latest example of the revolving door:

jackie callcut textjackie callcut text2

Until leading politicians really care for the ‘ordinary’ people, who elect and pay them to work for the common good, the spirit of anti-politics” will continue to “permeate” the country.

We need to build an anti-corruption movement – one did well in Delhi elections.