Stoke Central: Labour vs not-Labour

The Stoke Central by-election is a conflict between Labour and Gareth Snell on one hand, and not-Labour and Brexit on the other.

paul-nuttall-by-euro-realist-newsletter-2009-09-04The specifics of UKIP and Paul Nuttall will drag down the latter – being a pathological liar and a party of clowns will not be attractive qualities anywhere in the world. Nuttall seems to be aware of this, not having attended either of the last two hustings for what is probably the biggest contest in the party’s history, and taken down his website for ‘routine maintenance’ just a week before voting.

Despite these specifics, Nuttall still has a chance of winning. In Stoke Central, 69.4% voted for Leave in the European Referendum, and there is the feeling among a lot of working class voters that neither Tory nor Labour can be trusted to make Brexit happen. This is part of a broader sense that parties don’t listen to voters.

It’s easy to laugh at Nuttall and UKIP. But as Donald Trump proves, just because a politician is ludicrous, we shouldn’t underestimate their ability to take advantage of a sense of abandonment.

 

Goldsmith’s Folly

This post first appeared on our Facebook page.

Zac Goldsmith has resigned as Tory MP with the intent of making the by-election a referendum on the unpopular Heathrow expansion. Although such a ‘referendum’ would be informal and abstract, it’s unlikely to be the major factor when locals decide where they will cast their vote.

The Tory Party will not stand a candidate, and it appears that UKIP will not either. This leave’s Goldsmith’s main opponents as Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, all of whom share Goldsmith’s opposition to Heathrow. If there is no pro-expansion option on the ballot, how can the by-election possibly be a referendum on the Tory Party’s policy of Heathrow expansion?

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.

Continue reading “Do You Support the Aims and Values of the Labour Party?”

The Incredible Incompetence of Steven Woolfe

There are currently two leadership election campaigns being ran by major British political parties. As leftwingers, the co-writers of this blog initially saw wins for Labour’s Owen Smith and UKIP’s Steven Woolfe as the worst possible scenario for the left.

Large proportions of the working class areas which voted to Leave in the June referendum were in safe Labour seats where UKIP have been growing in strength. The working class Leave vote was, in our experience as Remain campaigners, largely an anti-establishment vote. Phrases like ‘something has to change’ came up fairly often. Smith’s suggestion of a second referendum once the terms of Brexit have been made clear (as opposed to the best of all worlds mirage which was offered in June) is sensible. But the prospect of a well-off former drug company executive potentially trying to reverse a working-class rebellion against the establishment would be a dangerous one. To make this work, Smith would need to draw on reserves of charisma, persuasion and clarity of communication that he simply doesn’t have.

Labour’s ability to present themselves as being the party of the working class would be even tougher were UKIP to be led by the highly-regarded working class MEP and barrister Steven Woolfe, born and raised in Manchester’s Moss Side.

However, despite Woolfe being favourite to win, his application was submitted to the party 17 minutes after the deadline closed, leading to UKIP’s National Executive Committee voting to exclude him from the contest. So why did the man many see as Nigel Farage’s most natural successor fall at the first hurdle?

Continue reading “The Incredible Incompetence of Steven Woolfe”

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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Lucas, Bartley and Womack: The Future of the Green Party

Last weekend saw the Green Party of England and Wales’ autumn conference, and the formal announcement of the Green Party’s new leadership team – Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley as joint-leaders, and Amelia Womack as Deputy Leader.

Lucas and Bartley’s victory was not a surprise, but perhaps the size of their victory was (87.7% of the vote, 81% clear of their nearest rival). This is despite some displeasure at the manner of the announcement they’d be standing (an article in the Guardian the day before formal nominations opened). Lucas had previously suggested she may continue with the decision she made in 2012 – to step aside from the leadership so that, among other benefits, more faces could make a name for themselves, and build a national reputation. Deputy Leaders Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali among those suggested as possible candidates, as well as MEP Molly Scott-Cato. Continue reading “Lucas, Bartley and Womack: The Future of the Green Party”

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.

Continue reading “The Importance of Political Narrative”