Archive for December, 2019

Tony Blair: Wrong Again

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

In his angry speech yesterday blasting Labour’s election management to bits, this historically discredited prime minister, who has since made millions,  blamed everything on the Corbyn left. He  claims  the road to power lies in a return to his hallowed centre. This reeking quagmire is exactly where absolutely nobody among voters wants any government now to be. We have had over twenty years of that and look where we are.

No, the root cause of Brexit and now Boris, is none other than Blair himself. His New Labour confection of spin, a con trick war, and the preservation of all the worst bits of Thatcherism, without any revival of industry or decent jobs across great wastes of former industrial heartlands, offered neither hope nor succour.  His new pink left chattered and dined out on the spoils of asset inflation, funded by quantitative easing, driving the working class to detachment, distrust and despair.

They walked from New Labour. Millions stopped voting altogether. Between 1997 and 2010 Blair and Brown lost 5 million votes. Corbyn won back 4 million in 2017, but lost about half the gains in 2019. He still did better than Milliband, Brown, and Blair himself in 2005. Corbyn in 2017 won 2 million more votes even than Blair in his second landslide of 2001.

There is no doubt that Labour ran a bad campaign and were unprepared for the brilliantly executed attack on their subsidence weakened Red Wall. Coming on top of the party’s wipe out in its Scottish roots in 2015, this has decimated its tally of seats at Westminster. There are many remedies which spring to mind to be explored in the months or years ahead, but none involve following the advice of Tony Blair. That would indeed lead to oblivion.

Election Aftermath: The Tories: Behold The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

It was widely declared, especially by this blog, that Boris was a clown, a showman, a liar and incompetent. There were two reasons for this. One was that this was the personna Boris on purpose presented. Second he is evasive over detail when questioned and refuses interviews with forensic interrogators. In fact he appears to suffer from something a bit like dyslexia when articulating detail. But he his a master of strategic vision and a political tactician without equal in Westminster. That most of us did not know.

Being Prime Minister is the only job he ever wanted or was willing to take seriously. It is the one he has planned for all his life. He comes from money, Eton and Oxford. But, and this is the greatest historical political fact of the hour, he is not a Tory. He has seized control of the Tory party as his own political machine. It is to be remade to his design. It has shifted far to the left, become, in his words ‘the party of the people’ and, as all populists down through the pages of history have done, he will give the people, ie the working class, the forgotten rustbelt industrial communities, what they want. And they will sustain him in power.

We are about to enter a new era. One so very different from the austerity, drift, indecision and grandstanding by little people, already swallowed by that forgotten corner in the quicksand of history. This is a new era of raw power dominated by a single leader, where things happen thick and fast, for good and bad. Whatever may be the trauma of the defeated Labour and Liberal Democrats, it will be nothing compared with what the Tories go through. Because both the beaten parties, in spite of internal blame arguments and name calling, have a fair idea of their place in the political spectrum. But the Tories are about to have their very identity turned on its head.

With all populist leaders there are two certainties. There is a rise and in the end a fall. The difference between the historic greats and the figures of fun, is the length in between. Boris will be judged on that. We will have to see if he is in fact a political genius in the Peel, Disraeli, Thatcher, class  Or, as some still believe, just a clown after all.

Election Aftermath by Party: Labour

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

To describe the outcome as a disaster for  Labour is not an exaggeration. But to describe it as a calamity is.  In spite of everything Corbyn received 10.2 million votes, which was better than Milliband 1n 2015, Brown in 2010 and even Blair in 2005. This supports the Labour claim that their manifesto was popular. It was. The strategic thinking of taking back  utilities into public ownership, rebooting the economy with a green industrial revolution and restoring proper funding to public services and local government, all this was good.

But the tactical use of the advantage it gave over the austerity tainted Tories, was destroyed by muddled thinking, inept presentation and the irreconcilable ambiguities of their Brexit position. Maybe there is evidence to show it worked well to protect its support in the sunny south and even gained Putney, but in the dark forests of discontent in the old industrial heartlands to the north, regarded by Labour as its bedrock in England, Scotland having gone altogether, it cut no ice at all. And it was through those supposedly impenetrable thickets from which Labour activists sent urgent pleas and warnings, that the full force of the Tory attack came. The result was a rout. The worst seat tally since the 1930s, although in votes not that bad. But where the votes were needed, they went elsewhere or stayed at home.

The problem was not Corbyn, although the shine of his appeal to the young burned less brightly, nor was it the radical manifesto. Nor actually was it Brexit. It was the way all three issues were handled. First Corbyn. By sitting on the fence over issues like how he would vote in a referendum and appearing reluctant over anti-semitism apologies, he and his advisers allowed the Tory press to brand him as a threat to everyone and everything.

Next the manifesto. It was silly to include meddling with the City and the structure of corporations. Maybe in government do that, but you have to get there first. Stuff like that is far too complicated for the doorstep, but wonderful ammunition for opponents. Nationalising public utilities, stopping outsourcing and funding, properly, public services was plenty. Moreover it was doorstep friendly.

Now for Brexit. In the south, where it is even feasible to take your car through the channel tunnel for a day trip Christmas shopping, nuanced approaches to everything are much in vogue. The further you go north of London, the further you are from Europe. Sophisticated and nuanced degrees of Brexit are good in Canterbury but not in Sedgefield. In reality there are only two options for Brexit, as in the end events will prove. A hard one or stopping it. The Labour option, where you obey the rules but cannot help make them, favoured also by the banished wing of the Tory party, is pointless. When you come to think about it, such a move is plain silly. And northerners are much clearer thinkers than southerners.

Finally there is the general point of the absolute spectacle and international ridicule of parliament going round in circles, unable to move forward on the great issue of our time, stalling on implementing the promise of Brexit. Shock and frustration in the country at large was simply not registering in Westminster, where one cerebral excuse after another was offered for whatever was the latest failed vote, as deadlines came and went. Finally Boris offered a way out. And the Red Wall took it.

So everything played a part in Labour’s humiliation and kicking out Corbyn will not alone be the answer. The root of all of it, including Brexit itself, is New Labour’s abandonment of the working class, to become the pink Thatcherite party of the cocktail left. Any thoughts of moving back to the centre and abandoning the workers again as punishment for backing Boris and it will all be over for Labour. For good.

Labour must understand it is not the natural party of government. There have only ever been three Labour prime ministers elected in their own right with a majority. Attlee, Wilson and Blair. Labour is a reforming movement to confront injustice and champion the  needs of the ordinary people when these are ignored by the better off few. Such a time was now. Sadly Labour blew it. But another time is coming. Maybe sooner than we think.

Election Aftermath By Party: The Lib Dems

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

I am going to start with the Liberal Democrats because they are widely reported as having a disaster. They lost their leader and did not break through except in, I think three constituencies, one in Scotland and two in the south of England. But once again, if you look at the figures, they added 1.3 million votes onto their 2017 total.  This compares with just 300,000 votes by Boris over May. Indeed the Lib Dem tally is more than all the other parties put together.  So their aggressive Stop Brexit message was not as silly as  many think. If you add the SNP with 1.242 million votes to the Lib Dem’s 3.7 million you have nearly 5 million supporting parties wanting to revoke Article 50. That is a big number.

The problem for the Lib Dems was using their advantage with tactical skill to make it work its way into seats. Here the path is littered with mis-steps. Refusing to accept Corbyn as leader of a minority government and declaring both Boris and Corbyn ‘unfit’ may be deadly true but it was childish politics. Labour, defending as it was two thirds of its seats in Leave constituencies, could not come into the open as a Remain party, but it could have certainly gone along with an anti Boris alliance, which would have saved some Labour seats and rewarded the Lib Dems with a few more gains. Allowing the Lib Dem success in the Euro elections, which are proportional voting, to go to her head, Swinson, by declaring herself a prime minister in waiting under a first past the post structure, looked ridiculous. It lacked maturity and cost respect.

But the core message of being willing to go to any length to stop Brexit was a high value and courageous idea, which sadly was frittered away. Jo Swinson paid the price. Politics is brutal.

Election 2019: The Morning After: The Hidden Messages

Friday, December 13th, 2019

A lot of stuff is being said by worn out commentators, some of which is just not true. The truth lies in the figures. Here are some interesting ones. There will be more in the coming days but these are the basics mid-morning Friday.

That Stonking Great Mandate 

The total number of votes cast for the Tories and the Brexit Party was

14,583,409

The total number of votes cast for the parties opposed to Boris’s Brexit, Labour, Lib Dems, Scot Nats, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, the DUP and Greens was

16,654,064

Our first past the post archaic and unsuitable voting system for Westminster elections gave Boris seats yes, but he is  two million votes short of a national mandate for his single issue Brexit plan.

 

Our Democracy

For 13.94 million votes the Tories won 364 seats

For 10.29 million votes Labour won 203 seats

For 3.67 million votes the Lib Dems won 11 seats

For 1.24 million voes the SNP won 48 seats

For 244 thousand votes the DUP won 8 seats

For 864 thousand votes the Greens won 1 seat.

This is completely ridiculous. It is not fit for purpose. Every vote must have the same value and every party must, above a reasonable minimum threshold, gain seats in proportion to their support.

 

 

 

Election 2019: Now We Wait

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

The country is at last voting after a campaign which lacked sparkle, like the turbulent weather and short winter days. The darkness matching the dark mood in the country. Polls tell us to expect more Johnson Getting Brexit Done. They do not tell us what exactly that means nor, having technically set off from the EU, where we shall actually wind up.

But how good are the polls with five parties in play nationally, plus regional parties in the three not England nations of our Union? And one massive cross party question about leaving the EU as well as individual party visions of what kind of country we want to live in? Is Brexit everything, or are things like the wreck of our public services, affordable housing, the NHS, an unfair economic model based on asset inflation benefitting the few at the expense of wealth creation for the many, issues which count too?

As the night wears on we shall find the answers. In the morning perhaps we shall find a nation coming together. Or one more divided than ever.

And angrier too.

How Far Left Is Boris?

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Far further left than you think. He is neither Tory nor socialist. He is a populist. Which means he is first about Boris and next about ordinary people. He is from the establishment in wealth and education, but far too maverick to be part of it in the embedded sense. His entire Downing Street machine is anti-establishment. And if he wins it will be because very large numbers of working class people, who deserted from Labour in the New Labour Blair days, will have voted for him. Not for the Tories, but for him. Because of Brexit, but also because they believe that Brexit will improve their lives and resolve all that has gone wrong for them.

And because of that they will have very grand expectations, which cannot be met by any more austerity, nor timid spending plans. His new northern voter base will have priorities which are real, deserving and urgent.  Boris will have to step up to the plate.  So if there is a Tory majority next Friday morning, you can expect the most left wing government of that party, since the days of Harold Macmillan. Socially conservative maybe, but economically Keynesian, with a lot of spending and loads of borrowing. Austerity looks to be over whichever way this election goes. Thatcherism is already dead.

This assumes that those northern Labour heartlands swing behind the Conservatives rather than frittering votes on the defunct Farage. If they don’t and on the day stick with Labour, Boris will have to hold all the Remain seats of the south to keep his job.  That might be a good deal easier said than done.

Election 2019: Time To Come Off The Fence

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

With a few days to go it is time for undecided voters to make up their minds how they are going to cast their vote and time for tribal voters to reaffirm their loyalty to their party, or to desert it for a greater good. It is also time for this blog to stick its neck out for the benefit of loyal readers. So here goes.

At the moment conventional reading of conventional polls indicate a working majority for Johnson, the size depending on the poll. Corbyn can still close or narrow the gap if over the last week reforming the economy, in favour of the many, edges ahead of Brexit, in the public consciousness of what they are voting for. But so close to the day, that is quite a big if.

But it is also the key. For if Brexit dominates, tactical voting will be used, possibly more than in any previous election, having peculiar and unexpected consequences in different parts of the country for different reasons. That could easily result in a lot of seats changing hands, but with thrilling gains for major parties here, being cancelled by shock losses there. So we end up again with the same arithmetic in parliament, but new faces. In that event if Johnson does not have a majority it could end with Corbyn in Downing Street at the head of a minority government backed by all the remain components of the new parliament. Because in the end  Remain leaning parties will work with Labour but not with Boris. He is on his own and has to triumph over all comers.

He thinks he can. His backers hope he can, but are getting nervous. If you look at totals of Tory plus Brexit party against Lab/Lib Dem, Green, the latter are always just ahead. Meanwhile in camp Corbyn hopes remain high that Labour’s final advance will peak on polling day and spring a 2017 style surprise.

There is still everything to play for.

NATO: Brain Dead? No But……

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

NATO was set up to confront the Soviets and prevent the Communist superpower advancing West. Stalin had managed to occupy and retain half Germany and all of Eastern Europe at the end of WWII. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its own defence treaty organisation collapsed too. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded.

NATO was designed to deter and defend, not to frighten and provoke. The Warsaw Pact was an instrument of conquest.  So when it was disbanded it might have been best to disband NATO. But no, too many general’s careers and defence contracts would have gone up in smoke, so it was decided to keep it going to counter anything happening in the world which nominally threatened its members. New threats did develop and engagement in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya followed and, notably, Iraq One but not Iraq Two.

Unfortunately NATO, in a rather triumphalist mood, expanded East, absorbing several ex WP members, until almost at the Russian border. This both threatened and provoked and Russia has been a troublesome partner on the world stage as a consequence. The mistake was not to recognise that with the fall of the Berlin Wall, all Europe was now one and Russia was in fact a European power. There were just two options for a secure outcome. Disband NATO when the Warsaw Pact fell, or keep it going, but with Russia in it. A third option was to keep it going and exclude Russia. That was the one chosen. Now the challenge is to clear up the mess resulting.

Rail Strikes Make The Case For Nationalisation.

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

What a mess. In the run up to Christmas we are once again faced with rail strikes which make commuting exhausting and stressful while infuriating everybody except the obdurate franchise holders and the incompetent Tory government, under whose bizarre free enterprise or bust ideology they function.

The RMT has right on its side. Every train must and should have a guard, train manager, or whatever you like to call this important official, who is needed for both safety and security reasons. Imagine the problems for women and girls suffering harassment, passengers being taken ill, some mishap boarding or leaving, without there being anyone to turn to for help. The driver is responsible for driving the train with the lives of passengers in their hands. They cannot supervise the interior of the train as well. The whole idea is just a cost cutting exercise at the expense of passengers, already overcharged because the railways are organized to an irrational model favoring profit over investment and shareholders over passengers.

Labour is on to a vote winner here with its nationalisation plan and it knows that.