Grenfell Tower, mobs, and Justice

At least 30 people have died in the Grenfell Tower fire. That is the highest number of deaths in a single incident in the UK since the 7/7 attacks (55), a number it seems likely to surpass over the coming days. That would leave only Hillsborough (96), the Aberfan Disaster (144), and the Lockerbie bombing (270) as higher totals in the last half century.

The Daily Express has asked if EU regulations resulted in the choice of cladding which encouraged the spread of the fire. The answer is no – the cladding is banned in Germany. A little bit of investigation would have told the Express reporters the idea they were suggesting was untrue.
The Daily Mail has printed a story drawing attention to the individual whose fridge apparently started the fire.
The premise of the Daily Mail’s article overlooks the fact that the fire would have remained small in scale had there not been more systemic issues, and risked turning residents’ anger towards an ordinary man who will probably be suffering with extraordinary trauma.The story will have had to pass through a number of editorial and legal staff, there is no way that none of them know how a fusebox works.

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Do You Support the Aims and Values of the Labour Party?

The Labour Party is a divided house. Discussion of the issue tends to be emotionally charged, and consist of finger-pointing, half-truths and lack of critical reflection, from all sides of the divide. Political realities mean that the Labour Party are currently the standard-bearers and the loudest political voice for the British left and the working-class. Their conflicts, their dysfunctions, will impact on all of us. In this essay we’ll attempt to form an understanding of what’s happening within Labour, and whether it’s capable of surviving.

We’ll begin by defining the terms we’ll use; discuss the records and reputations of Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn; discuss the idea of ‘dissident intellectuals’ within a party and a movement; the tactical failings over the last year; take a look at the theatrical side of politics and the use of the media; look at anti-semitism and sexism within the Labour Party; the culture of brutalism within the Labour Party; ‘post-truth politics’; ask whether Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist and look at the stubborn ideology of centrists like Blair and Balls. We’ll then answer the headline question of whether the co-writers support the ‘aims and values’ of the Labour Party (and whether we think you should) before giving our opinions on what the road ahead should be.

This essay will be a long read, and anyone with an opinion on the current state of the Labour Party will find something to object to. We don’t claim to be providing wisdom from on-high, but consider that we have a series of relevant questions to ask. Questions which will hopefully spark further discussion, and encourage co-operation across divides. As long as this essay is (over 12,000 words) we intend for it to be the starting point of a conversation, not the end. Hopefully, anyone who reads all the way to the end will feel that they have a better framework for discussing Labour’s internal conflicts – whether they agree or disagree with our conclusions.

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Respect and Context

Respect and context.

Those are the two key things to bear in mind on September 11th.

The events of September 11th 2001 were shocking and tragic. Three thousand lives were ended, countless more lost loved ones, and thirty-seven thousand contracted health complications which have defined their lives since. Whatever anyone thinks of the wider context of American foreign policy, those who died were, on an individual level, innocent.

On the fifteenth anniversary of their deaths, it is correct to pay tribute to them.

But it is also an opportunity to draw attention to the wider context.
On September 11th 1973, Chile’s General Pinochet overthrew his nation’s democratically elected government, almost certainly with the support of the CIA. Pinochet’s terrorism did not last just one day, but for decades, killing tens of thousands. It is correct to use the anniversary to pay respect to the victims of 2001, but that is an anniversary few in the US or UK will forget. Many in those countries will not be aware of the actions of 1973, or their consequences. The anniversary of the better known tragedy is an opportunity to provide context.

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The Importance of Political Narrative

Telling stories is an important part of who we are, as a nation and as a species. There’s a huge amount of data thrust at us by the world, and, given that we can’t be experts in everything, the stories we tell ourselves and others are a very useful short-hand to help us make sense of the chaos around us.
By failing to realise the importance of storytelling, politicians and voters underestimate the ability of influential leaders to shape public opinion, rather than just chasing it.

In this essay we’ll begin by examining two the standard narratives that have been constructed around the 1983 and 1997 general elections; we’ll look at the part the idea of ‘economic competence’ played in returning the Tory Party to power in 2015; we’ll examine the way people latch onto tangible details over more important but more abstract details; move on to look at Labour’s messaging in the 2015 general election and the question of whether Miliband’s Labour or the SNP were more left-wing; examine debates around the minimum wage and the living wage; look at contemporary failures of political journalism; and then ask whether Jeremy Corbyn is electable.

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A Few Simple Questions for the Labour NEC (12/07/2016)

This first appeared on the Facebook page.

A few simple questions for the ‪#‎LabourNEC‬.

* Why was the motion to prevent members who’ve been with the party less than six months not on the agenda?
* Did the proposer of the motion deliberately wait until Corbyn and allies had left the room before proposing it?
* Has whoever brought the motion looked into the legal implications of taking £4.5m in members’ fees in the last week, then denying those members a vote on the leadership – one of the advertised features of membership?
* Why is an exception to be made for those who can afford a £25 fee?
* Is this exception deliberate, to encourage the ‘right type’ of member?
* If so, is this motion an acknowledgment that, contrary to centrist propaganda, Corbyn is the candidate more likely to appeal to the desperate and poor?

Please share this, and answer any questions (politely and with evidence) if you can.

Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism and the Labour Party

A version of this post first appeared on the Facebook page.

Racial politics are complex, and it’s nearly impossible to discuss racially charged issues without causing offence, even when both the speaker and listener are both open-minded and acting in good faith. When we get into using terminology that means different things to different people, and which have evolved over time, there’s an increased possibility for misunderstanding and deliberate misuse of terms.

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