General Election: Vote!

TL; DR: Vote Against the Tories

This is long, and I’ll understand if you don’t want to read it. So, a summary.

The election should never have been called; Labour should have resisted it when it was. But now that it’s here we need to take advantage of it to protect the NHS. And maybe hold out some hope for stopping, or at least softening, Brexit. Because with the Tories we’ll only get a disastrously hard crash out.

Vote to stop the Tories and save the NHS.

Continue reading

Also on:

Scattered Thoughts on the General Election

An Election Unlike Any Other

This election is going to be completely unique in our lifetime, probably ever. Because people will be torn between voting on the normal things they care about: health, security, homes, welfare, the economy… — and the big thing of our time: Brexit.

There were close to half the electorate who voted to stay in the EU (close to half the turnout, anyway). There’s no reason to suppose that any of those have changed their minds, even if many now talk in terms of acceptance. There are plenty who voted the other way who wish things had gone differently. And the non-voters are an unknown.

If a party — or a coalition — were to clearly stand on a platform of stopping Brexit, or even of promising a second referendum, they would be in a position unlike any party ever. Or so it seems to me.

Unfortunately only the Liberal Democrats seem to be even close to that position.

I Can’t Vote Labour

I can’t in conscience vote for a Labour party that won’t clearly place itself against Brexit. I just can’t. This means I have to leave the party, I guess. Corbyn called today for “A Brexit that works for all.” No, no, no.

I imagine this means I’ll be voting Lib Dem. Possibly Green. I’m not sure where they stand yet. In one sense, of course, it doesn’t matter, as I live in one of the safest Labour seats, but that’s not really the point. I’ll be writing to Diane Abbot to explain my position, but I don’t imagine it will change hers, which is to support Corbyn, even though her constituency is one of the most pro-remain in the country.

I voted for Corbyn as leader twice, but he’s very disappointing now. Though I have to say that his policies on literally everything else would be dramatically better than the Tories.

Why, and Why Now?

Why has Mayhem changed her mind on a snap election, and why now? The obvious thing is the Tory lead in the polls, and to take advantage of Labour chaos. Nothing to with Brexit at all, not directly.

But something I was seeing on Facebook tonight was the idea that they were about to lose their majority, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brings charges for electoral fraud against up to 30 Tory MPs. The prosecutions will still happen, but they won’t affect the position of MPs who get elected this time round (well, unless they get convicted, of course, but I’m guessing the Tories will quietly deselect the ones who are likely to go down).

Effect of Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

My first reaction was, “They can’t: what about the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act?” Turns out that contains a clause that lets the sitting parliament ignore it, as long as they get a two-thirds majority. The irony of that figure was not lost on me, as possibly my most-retweeted tweet shows:

Without Labour voting with the government they wouldn’t get that two-thirds. Corbyn has cheerfully agreed to go along, missing an open goal. First, the opposition should oppose the government, as a general principle. Unless the government is doing the right thing, which is not the case here. More amusingly, if they didn’t get the two-thirds, they would have to go for a vote of no confidence. That is, a Tory MP would have to stand up in the House of Commons and move that “This house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” Even if they could come back from that, Corbyn should have forced it just for the lulz.

Polls Can’t Be Trusted

All is doom and gloom, because the polls look so bleak. Except… if there’s one thing the last few years have taught us, it’s that we can no longer rely on polls.1

On Newsnight tonight Paul Mason says he thinks Labour will win. Gotta admire his confidence, at least.


  1. Or the bookies, and don’t get me back onto that argument about how bookies’ odds can be mapped to percentages of expected voting. []

Beginning of the End

A total of 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, joining 50 SNP MPs and seven Liberal Democrats. Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, joined them in the division lobbies, to applause from Labour rebels.

A fifth of Labour MPs defy three line whip to vote against article 50 bill | Politics | The Guardian

Well done to all the rebels. But really, Tories: only one? Only Ken Clarke? Is that really you doing your duty, acting in the best interests of the country?

We’re living through the death of representative democracy.

Smith & Jones

The “other” Labour leadership candidate, as you might say, is called Owen Smith. There is a Guardian and New Statesman columnist and noted left-wing writer called Owen Jones.

It’s easy to confuse them; I saw this article (which is actually from almost exactly a year ago, and is about the first leadership election, but never mind) today and was confused, because it seemed strange that Jeremy Corbyn’s opponent would be writing a piece warning of the attacks that will come if Corbyn wins.

Then I realised that the byline was Jones, not Smith.

All I can say is that Kid Curry & Hannibal Heyes, and Mel & Griff Rhys — and indeed, The Doctor & Martha — have a lot to answer for. 

On Corbyn, Electability, and Compromise

The other night we watched Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film about the US president. It covers just a few months towards the end of the civil war and his life, during the time when he was trying to get the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution through the House of Representatives (the Senate having already passed it). That’s the amendment that outlaws slavery.

It was dramatised, of course.1 But what struck me, and what held resonances with our current situation, was the sheer amount of compromising he had to do.

Then I read an article on Vox about Hillary Clinton, which included this:

politics, as Clinton never tires of reminding audiences, is about getting real things done for real people.

This is the problem that Labour is having now. Whether it’s Jeremy Corbyn’s fault or that of the MPs not backing him, in Labour’s current position it has no chance of getting into government. And if we don’t get into government we can’t do those “real things” for “real people.”

However, I’m far from being convinced that Owen Smith, even if he were to be elected as leader, would put us in any better a position. As well as being largely unknown in the country, he has what looks a slightly shady past, with his lobbying for Pfizer and speaking against the NHS. Though to be fair he rejects any talk of privatisation now.

Corbyn is constantly criticised for not building bridges, not reaching out to people within the party – even within his cabinet, as I linked to the other day. I think it’s fair at this point to say that he is at fault to some degree on the Remain campaign. And I’m certainly unhappy with his call, early on the day after the referendum, for Article 50 to be invoked immediately. That does strongly suggest that his support of the Remain campaign was only ever half-hearted at best.

But even if that’s all true, it doesn’t mean he is solely or even mainly to blame for the disastrous result of the referendum.

And the ongoing, slow-motion disaster that is besetting the Labour Party is at least as much the fault of the plotters. In particular, their behaviour at Prime Minister’s Questions the other day was disgraceful. Their point – renewing Trident was party policy, so the leader should not be speaking against it – was a valid one, but the floor of the House of Commons during the most important event of the parliamentary week, is not the place to argue about it.

The idea of Britain still being a nuclear power, and the doctrine of deterrence, are even more ludicrous now than they were during the 80s when I was a member of CND. But like I say, there’s a time and a place to have that argument, and it’s the party conference.

Maya Goodfellow has a great piece about it all in The Guardian:

The coup itself is unique in recent times, but Labour’s navel gazing is not.

The tribalism that grasps the Labour party is part of its problem. There’s an idea among lifelong supporters and MPs that you’re born Labour, you call the party your own and you will never leave it. This makes some sense – these are people whose families for generations have been Labour members, who spend their weekends canvassing and invest all their spare time, emotional energy and money into the party. They want to feel they have control over it.

But it [the tribalism] is also partly responsible for the current divisions. The people who feel entitled to call the party their own have competing viewpoints; some of them want to see a leftward shift and others range from wanting Miliband 2.0 to the rebirth of Blairism.

The idea too often seems to be “Vote for Labour because we aren’t the Tories”.

Instead of slinging insults at opponents or branding them all Blairites, Corbyn supporters would do better to focus on the task at hand – winning a future general election.

That idea of the divisions on the left go further than just the Labour party. I thought it was well summed up by this banner that I saw on the Palestine Solidarity march two years ago:

March with banner showing 'CPGB-ML Communist Pary of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)'

“Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist),” it says. You can just feel the layers of splits down the years that have led it to such an unwieldy name. Splits on the left are far from new. It’s an old criticism that we spend more time fighting among ourselves than fighting the real enemies.

Or in this case, than working out how to get back into power. Because going back to Lincoln2 and his compromises, to Hillary and her desire to get things done: it’s all for nothing if we don’t get a Labour government into power.

The problem is that Corbyn is “unelectable.” Is he? I’m not sure we know that. He’s sometimes compared to Michael Foot, who famously failed to win an election. But things are very different today from how they were in the eighties. It won’t be easy, but a Labour Party that got fully behind a left-wing leader might well be in a position to win power in 2020, when the next election is due. Or sooner, if May goes to the country over Brexit or otherwise.

In the end I wonder if Corbyn’s biggest problem isn’t just handling the Media. Maybe he needs an Alistair Campbell figure (or hell, why not: a Malcolm Tucker one). Does he even have a press secretary or Director of Communications?

All of this leaves me not knowing how to vote in the new leadership election. My heart is with Corbyn, as most of his policies match my own principles. But if the MPs won’t get behind him again, then we’ll be right back where we are now, with the party not providing a useful opposition, and with no likelihood of electoral success.3

Owen Smith, on the other hand, seems more likely to fight for us to remain in the EU. But can we trust him?

And either way, what will it do to the party as a whole? A party divided against itself, or worse, a party split in two, has no chance of forming a government.


  1. Though I wonder whether anyone with less Hollywood power than Spielberg could have got a film made that was so much about talking and legal and political manoeuvring. []
  2. No left-winger, of course, though seeing the Republican Party today, it’s impossible to understand how he could have been one of its founders. []
  3. Because, I contend, of the split, rather then necessarily the leadership. []

“He is not a team player let alone a team leader”

As I vacillate on the Labour leadership business, and try to decide what’s best for party and country, I keep coming upon things that increase my feeling that Corbyn might not be the right one for the job.

Specifically today, two posts by MPs suggesting he is poor at communicating and building bridges with people.

First, Lilian Greenwood of Nottingham on how he undermined her on transport policy _and_ the referendum.

And then Bristol MP Thangam Debbonaire’s [Facebook post](https://www.facebook.com/thangam.debbonaire/posts/10157204442320083) about the chaos around her being appointed to, and/or sacked from, a shadow-cabinet post.

And yet there’s also [this article](http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/the-next-scheme-to-knock-corbyn-stories-about-the-shadow-cabinet-resignations/) claiming that those two posts are part of a “scheme to knock Corbyn.”

What’s a person meant to believe?

Leadership

There has been little in the news lately but the refugee crisis and the Labour leadership election. I’m here to talk, briefly, before the polls close on Thursday, about the latter.

I just voted, and guess what? For Jeremy Corbyn.

I’ve never been a member of the party before.1 I always thought that I was too independent to toe a party line; too many of my anarchist ideals, forged in the fires of punk, still stood.

Well, maybe. But my anarchism, such as it was, was always on the socialist wing. And I recognise the idealism that drove it. I’d like to think that humans could live without governments and leaders — that we are perfectible, and could form a working society through cooperation. But the fact is, of course, that that is not yet the case. And until it is, there are things worth standing up for, worth believing in. Worth fighting for.

I didn’t want to toe a line; but in May we crossed a line. After five years of a Tory government in all but name, we have a named one. David Cameron and his regime will go down in history as worse than Thatcher’s; but until he does go down, we have to deal with the effects of it.

On the morning after the election I resolved to join the Labour party and do what I could to help. This wasn’t about electing a new leader, though I realised that would be part of it. It certainly wasn’t about Jeremy Corbyn: I made the decision before Ed Miliband had even resigned, and enacted it before the leadership candidates had been nominated.

And for what it’s worth, I joined as a full member, not one of these £3 Supporters that we’ve been hearing so much about.

I think the aftermath of the Scottish referendum had some effect on my decision. Seeing how the failure of the “Yes” vote energised the SNP and led many supporters to join led me to hope that something similar would happen with Labour. As indeed it has.

Anyway, getting back to that choice of leader. It’s long past time that Labour had a woman as its leader, but neither of those standing are right for me. Where we are right now, Corbyn’s views most closely match my own values. When he says things like this:

> Paying tax is not a burden. It is the subscription we pay to live in a civilised society.

> — “[The Economy in 2020](https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/jeremyforlabour/pages/70/attachments/original/1437556345/TheEconomyIn2020_JeremyCorbyn-220715.pdf?1437556345)”

that is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been saying about tax for years.

There is much else. I’m not convinced about leaving NATO, but I don’t think it’s a fundamental policy. I do think we shouldn’t waste vast amounts of money on replacing Trident. The cold war is over, more or less.2 And even if Russia is getting alarmingly expansionist these days, a British not-really-independent nuclear missile submarine is going to worry them much.

Corbyn might not be electable — I doubt that analysis, but let’s go with it for now — but he should at least lead a Labour party in opposition that _actually opposes the government_. Which, with its slim majority, could actually be vulnerable.

Interesting times ahead.


  1. The title of my blog is partly a nod to my long-time support of it, though. []
  2. I nearly typed “[the cod war](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cod_Wars)”, which is also long over, but was much less terrifying. []