Tag Archives: politics

On Corbyn, Eventually

I was never going to write this. I have supported Labour in pretty much every election I have ever voted in, but I am not a party member and not a party loyalist. It is not my place, then, to comment on internal party politics. And yet…
Fiona Millar tweeted today that she was not sure how much longer, after 40 years, she could stay with Labour. She is, among other things, the partner of Alastair Campbell. Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin are facing disciplinary proceedings over their respective challenges to perceived antisemitism among Corbyn supporters.
All are core party achievers who had much to do with Labour’s revival and its successes in government after 1997. Others have already left in disgust. The party that helped mobilise support against the Mosleyites in the 1930s now refuses to condemn outright and blatant antisemitism.
This is not so much the tail wagging the dog. This is the dog devouring its own entrails.
Why? Corbyn is eight years older than me. I recall the student politics of the mid-70s, a strident, fissiparous whirl of Trots, Communists, ultra-Trots, anarchists, ultra-anarchists, God knows what. They were forever passing motions in support of Albania, China, wherever, celebrating the death of Franco, condemning Pinochet or US policy, congratulating the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the MPLA in Angola.
None of it meant anything outside that bubble. Most people involved in all that grew up and walked away, or used their undoubted political energy in more sensible ways, the trade unions, mainstream politics.
Corbyn and his ilk never grew up. There were plenty like him. He spent the next forty years swimming in the same waters. His like will have attended any number of events celebrating the Cuban revolution, condemning Israel and the US, in support of various former USSR satrapies, pro-Ghadafy, pro-Saddam, pro-Serbia in the Balkans conflict, even.
He voted for the UK to leave the EEC, as was, in 1975. This is in line with the views of Moscow at the time, as expressed by its then mouthpiece, the Morning Star, and the Communist Party. “Down with the bosses’ Europe!” (One reason I campaigned on behalf of the EEC back then was the view that anything the Kremlin thought was a bad thing, geopolitically, must have something to recommend it.)
In all this time, Corbyn and others like him will have shared a platform, especially at those anti-Israel events, with any number of antisemites, many but not all from the Arab world.
Scroll forward to 2015, and Corbyn becomes head of the Labour party, against all expectations, including, probably, his own, and against the wishes of most of those taking part in the election process. An accidental leader.
Then comes the steady drip of those meetings he had attended, in the company of antisemites and other undesirables. About one revelation a day, at present. There are the unapologetic apologies – I apologise for any offence I may have given from taking part, rather than, I apologise for even being there. Corbyn cannot apologise properly because he remains wedded to those causes.
He never grew up. He could never say, as most would and as would be the most electorally advantageous strategy for Labour today, yes I did believe some silly things in my youth but I have abandoned them. Because he hasn’t. He at least has the courage of his earlier convictions.
The people he surrounds himself with must share those convictions because this is how the far left operated all those years ago. Ideological purity is everything, so expel all those who disagree.
(I suspect John McDonnell knows this, which is why I would take a small side-bet on his becoming leader within six months. God knows what he will do with Diane Abbott.)
It is our misfortune to be alive at the concatenation of three unexpected events. The worst existential crisis to face this country, barring the Cold War, since 1945. The most grotesquely incompetent serving Conservative government since probably well before then. And the arrival of the accidental leader of the opposition, someone unable to abandon his juvenile views even though it is in his best interests, the best interests of his party and the best interests of the country, to do so.
What a state to be in.


On the 1960s, and progress

To the V&A for the You Say You Want A Revolution exhibition on the
years 1966 to 1970. There is a strict ban on photography. Which in the
spirit of the age I ignore, surreptitiously.
It is surprisingly moving. I was 10 in 1967 and have no excuse not to
remember it. Hair (actually 1968), Magical Mystery Tour… I remember
them. The 60s are a decade much derided, and there was a lot of
silliness about, well documented in the exhibition. I recall it all.
And does one really need to see the frock coat worn by Jimi Hendrix’s
drummer? More than one actually.
It was quite revealing, though. A lot of things that made an awful lot
of people’s lives an awful lot better started there. Women’s rights,
gay rights, black people’s rights, environmentalism.
You walk around the exhibition with the headphones on playing the
appropriate music. Which is then available in a 3 CD set. And there’s
a souvenir book.
The revolution will not be televised. It will be available in the gift
shop after your visit.

On Brexit, A Scenario

I was talking over lunch with the finance director of one of our
larger companies about Brexit. He ought to have more idea on this than
I do.
What happens next? One scenario: May finally capitulates to pressure
from Tory Outers, say next January, and triggers Article 50, or
whatever you do with the wretched thing.
So come January 2019 the UK is no longer in the EU. It is
inconceivable that the necessary trade deals with EU members can be concluded by then.
I am a manufacturer who wants to ship my goods to my regular customers
in Germany. Does the German state impose tariffs? Not in their
interest, if it risks similar action by UK Govt. They still want to
sell us Mercedes.
If I were manufacturing in Norway, outside the EU, no problem because
the necessary trade deal is in place, as I understand it. But come January 2019 there will
be no UK-Germany trading pact.
Another complication: a huge chunk of our “trade” with the EU is
actually goods shipped to Rottedam and then sent elsewhere, to places
where we presumably have trade deals. Is that affected?
My point is that no one knows the answer to any of this. Neither me, nor
my lunch companion. It would be an utterly irresponsible act by UK Govt to
trigger Article 50 until we do, given  such huge uncertainty
So here is another scenario. We send those charged with bringing about Brexit with finding out the answers to those questions. That should keep them busy. We stagger on in this Heisenbergian state, in but potentially out, for three years and then both parties go to the election with a commitment to staying within the EU, given those uncertainties. Which is what most of the country actually wants. Boris could change his mind again.

The Tory right erupts, but none are going to vote Labour. Ukip is a busted  flush. The Daily Mail has an aneurysm. The next (Tory) government carries on with the UK in the EU. The last four years look like a bad dream. Bobby Ewing waking in the shower.

(Is that right? My grasp on some parts of popular culture is a bit vague.)


On Catching Up

I don’t tend to follow the news much on holiday. Anyway, while I was away and since I got back to the UK, various things have happened.
To take a few. The Bank of England has cut base rates from almost nothing to a bit
less. This means our pensions, which were unaffordable, are now
slightly more unaffordable.
The Government has this summer decided, as a consequence of a vote the
result of which the majority of the country now regrets, that any
attempt to bring the country’s finances into balance is no longer
worth attempting. See the above, re pensions.
A hospital in Grantham is no longer offering a 24 hour A&E service. Not, not enough money, but not enough doctors, however much we are prepared to pay them.
Spending on the NHS is rising by 1 per cent a year. The amount that
needs to be spent, because of our ageing population and our refusal to
stop eating ourselves to death, is rising by 3 per cent plus. This is
going to end how?
A review of the banking system which has run for several years has
come to the conclusion that there is nothing much wrong with the banking
system. The man responsible was on R4 Today defending this conclusion.
Not terribly well.
Nothing that has happened over the past decade would lead one to the
conclusion that there is anything wrong with the banking system,
would it?
The Government has decided to delay the decision to build new
electricity capacity that will be desperately needed in half a decade because it
is always easier to delay a decision than to take one. As it happens,
I think that new Hinkley Point plant is the wrong solution to that
problem. But to solve it, we have to decide to do something. Not
This means the lights will start to go out about when the country runs
out of money and the pensions of people now nearing retirement prove to be inadequate. That will make for an interesting couple of months, won’t it?
Oh, and staff on Eurostar are going on strike over the Bank Holiday, thereby
screwing up any number of people’s summer holidays. Their reason? With no sense of discernible irony, they are unhappy about their work/life balance.
Welcome home.

On The NHS

On The Purpose Of Money

On Demographics, And Brexit

Here is an interesting fact to throw into the whole Brexit debate. Last year, for the first time ever, more people died in the EU than were born. The population of the EU, about 740 million, shrunk by 135,000, if you take out the effects of migration.

Of the biggest countries, only France and the UK saw a natural increase. Germany shrunk at a faster rate than any other country. To cut the figures another way, if the UK, and its natural increase in numbers, was excluded, that total fall of 135,000 would have more than doubled. The EU is running out of people, as are other advanced economies such as Japan. We in the UK are merely better off than most.

Obviously, migration makes up the difference, and then some. But a shrinking population, which is by definition an ageing one, is bad news for all of us. Which is why we are having to import so many economically active younger people.

Those Brexiteers who want that inwards migration to cease will have to face up to an inconvenient truth. If you are not prepared to allow people into the country to do the needed work, you are going to have to do it yourself. Which means a later retirement date.

Given that those voting for Out were, proportionately, older than those voting In, I wonder if they appreciated just what they were voting for, a longer working life. I rather think not. The Law of Unintended Consequences again, then.

On Labour, And History

In the first ballot for the 1976 Labour leadership contest, I am reminded, the candidates were Jim Callaghan, Tony Benn, Anthony Crosland, Denis Healey, Roy Jenkins and Michael Foot. Say what you like about these. Crosland helped destroy the education system. Foot – well, they subsequently had to wait three decades to find a leader who was worse.

This time round we get Jeremy Corbyn. Angela Eagle, a politician so charismatic that when she held her press conference to launch her leadership bid the entire press corps left half-way to report on the doings of someone they had never heard of a fortnight ago. You can see it here:


Oh, and Owen Something, a person whose sole qualification for the job is that he is Welsh.

It is like the aftermath of some terrible First World War battle, is it not, when all the officers are killed and the regiment is led by dim second lieutenants fresh out of Sandhurst? Excepting of course Theresa May, whose spell as Home Secretary suggests an inability to crack down on the real Bad Guys and a willingness to infringe on civil liberties in a botched attempt to do so. IMHO. Time will tell.

On Southern Trains, And Brexit

Odd how unconnected ideas sometimes come together. We were travelling on Southern rail over the weekend. This is officially the worst rail franchise in the country, the operator having been given permission to scrap hundreds of services a day because there are not enough staff to man them – or because the staff are constantly pulling sickies as a form of industrial action. Depending on who you believe.

There is a long-running dispute with the union over removing the guards from the trains. You can wave to the new rolling stock all ready and standing at Three Bridges as you go past, assuming you can get onto the train in the first place.

Our train out was, needless to say, cancelled. We were told to change at Brighton – except that we were not allowed to use the next train there. Against the rules. Wait for the next one. More delay. It is fair to describe the attitude of Southern staff as unhelpful. This has been a long running scandal, with passengers stranded for hours day after day.

Go to the information desk to ask what you do now, and there are two policeman standing there ostentatiously. They are there to prevent trouble – there have been ugly scenes, demos, one man was recently escorted from Victoria Station, itself a warren of temporary barriers put up to combat the persistent overcrowding.

People are understandably angry. Lives are disrupted, for months on end now. The fares are enormous, and the recent change to the timetable is designed to prevent them from claiming refunds. We have the forces of law and order standing by to prevent protests getting out of hand, because those customers have no levers they can pull, no power to compel those who run the service to do so properly.

It is that sense of powerlessness, the sense that there is nothing people can do to change a system which is weighted in favour of those who sit in offices somewhere out of their reach and control their lives, which led to the recent regrettable referendum vote. People who feel they have no power will do anything.

Abusing disgruntled Southern staff is not the solution, but it is all they can do. Most of us have felt like that at some time or another. Equally pointless is a vote to leave an economic union they may barely understand, whose consequences are unknowable and probably self-destructive.

On Corbyn, And Lenin