Or the bookies, and don’t get me back onto that argument about how bookies’ odds can be mapped to percentages of expected voting. ↩︎
The time is almost upon us, and I have The Fear. Or at least, I understand The Fear.
I understand the fear of Brexit; of giving the Tories control, yet again, of the NHS, and of the economy; and of their plans for changing the constitution in all the wrong ways, since I feel it myself.
But despite my problems with Corbyn, I don’t understand the loathing for him. It doesn’t seem to come from dislike of his policies. Some of the people who say they don’t like or don’t trust him seem to be Labour voters, who you’d expect to have similar beliefs. Even if those people have more centrist beliefs, you’d think they’d be close enough to the party’s current policies not to be put off totally.
It seems almost to be personal. Do some people dislike him as a person? Strikes me as odd, as he comes across as quite moderate and reasonable to me. To be sure, he can get snappy with interviewers at times, but it’s nothing compared to some people. And at least he doesn’t bluster; doesn’t lie; and always gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about.
Yet some people say they don’t trust him. Sometimes those same people say they do trust Johnson, even as they acknowledge he lies. It’s unfathomable.
On tonight’s Channel 4 News they interviewed a guy in Johnson’s constituency who claimed to be a socialist, but who is going to vote for Johnson this time. They didn’t push him for an explanation.
In the same constituency there was a business owner who had always voted Tory but is not going to this time, because of the way the party has been taken over by the far right. It takes a Tory businessman to recognise what a “socialist” can’t. We are through the looking glass and no mistake.
Anyway, I’ll be voting Green. I hope everyone reading this will get out and vote on Thursday, for anyone who isn’t the Tories, and to stop Brexit.
You know what? I’m done with Jeremy Corbyn. This interview in Der Spiegel, in which he says “Brexit can’t be stopped,” is the clincher.
As always, literally everything else he says is on the good side of politics — the side I tend to agree with, to be less judgmental. But he refuses to resist — even, really, to engage with1 — the thing that is the most important political issue and biggest political mistake of our lifetime (setting aside for the moment climate change, which is not just a political issue, and is global in scope, not just European). Look at this:
DER SPIEGEL: Not just Labour, but the whole country is extremely divided at the moment — not least because of Brexit. If you could stop Brexit, would you?
Corbyn: We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognize the reasons why people voted Leave.
This is that “will of the people” nonsense, the idea that it would be undemocratic to ask again. The will of the people can change, and almost certainly has. And you don’t agree to a deal with going back and checking that it’s still OK. Having a confirmatory referendum would be considerably more democratic than not having one.2 And we can stop it. Parliament, which is, and always was, sovereign, could revoke Article 50.
Back to the interview:
I’ve been critical of the competitions policy in Europe and the move towards free market, and obviously critical in the past of their treatment of Greece, although that was mostly the eurozone that did that. My idea is of a social Europe with inclusive societies that work for everyone and not just for a few.
You don’t build a “social Europe with inclusive societies that work for everyone and not just for a few” by leaving the EU! You build it by staying in, and working to build that society! God, it’s infuriating.
I voted for him as leader, I respect and believe in most of his policies, but he needs to go. Labour won three general elections under Tony Blair, and was able to do a lot of good. They could have done more, they could have been better, and Blair destroyed his legacy by throwing his lot in with George W Bush and the Iraq War. But those were times when things were improving in the country and we looked to the future with positivity. It can be like that again.
But it won’t — for decades at least — if we destroy our economy, hobble worker’s rights, and undercut food-safety regulations, by leaving the EU.
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:
Snap general election called. Ironic that to ignore Fixed-Term Parliaments Act needs a two-thirds majority. Unlike, say, leaving the EU. #fb
— Martin McCallion (@devilgate) April 18, 2017
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.
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.1But 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:
“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.