Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Labour Thoughts

I'm not a Labour member and haven't been since the early 2000s, but I would like us to have an effective opposition. I think the level of infighting hasn't been this bad since the party was formed, but I don't know anything for sure. Here are my very disjointed thoughts about this very sorry mess:

We need a better politics. Clinging to the 2 party FPTP system is doing us no favours.

The media, including that which places itself left of centre has far too much power.

There is a whole lot of stuff going on that we're not privvy to. No story emerging from either faction in the Labour Party rings true. Worryingly, where anything does appear to have the ring of truth I suspect it means it's more likely to have been fabricated.

The dirty tricks that the Labour Party has turned on other parties of the left: Green, SNP, Plaid; it now appears to be turning on itself. It's really not pretty.

There is a narrative emerging of heart vs head. Of principle vs pragmatism. Yet it seems that pragmatism won't extend to meeting principle half way.

For all the talk of a new politics it seems that the Corbyn camp still employs centrist tactics.

Owen Smith was a worse choice than Angela Eagle as a candidate to stand against Corbyn. It is very sad that the Labour party is tainted with misogyny and homophobia. There is no sign of any kind of unity candidate emerging and this is very worrying.

If the Labour Party can't work with itself, it lacks the ability to work with other centre and left leaning parties. Thanks to the developments in Scotland I'm sure this is the only way it will be strong enough to stand against the Tories in a Westminster election.

The electability of Corbyn is a red herring. It is personality politics played in a party that no longer understands what its identity is. What does Labour stand for now?

Labour is not electable under the current system. It doesn't matter who heads it and how centrist it tries to be. It needs a strong identity based upon values, backed by policies that are easy to understand, wherever on the political spectrum it eventually places itself.

While it is unelectable it still needs to function as an opposition. It is failing in this task.

This is all very, very depressing and it has given the establishment a free ride at a time when it needed rigorous scrutiny. There is no sign of this changing in the foreseeable future.

It's a worrying and serious situation, yet I can't see that there is anything that I, or pretty much anyone else outside the party machinery can do about it.

I have a horrible feeling that this has been orchestrated by some clever corrupt individuals. Yet I suspect many of the players who have been abused for their views are genuinely trying to do their best.

I have never felt so much despair for the political future of this country.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Taking back control?

It is not a good time to be a believer in social justice and progressive politics. The EU referendum delivered a result based on more than Gregg's entire output of porkie pies, many of which have proven themselves within hours, but we're still told to respect the verdict of the people. I respect the result of an advisory referendum where many of the participants were decidedly ill advised, but I don't think it's a great basis for policy decisions that will last generations.

Things change, sometimes at a rapid pace and democracy is meant to be able to accommodate such changes. Many of the Remain campaigns dire warnings of economic pain have proved themselves and that itself ought to be enough to give Leave voters pause for thought. Widespread reports of people who already express buyers remorse provides anecdotal evidence that were the referendum to be repeated right now, the result might be quite, quite different.

In the space of a week things have moved on significantly. The PM resigned. There is a field of deeply uninspiring candidates to replace him from the point of view of anyone interested in social policy. There's been a spate of racist hate crime that's seen a five fold increase in reports to police. Just when we needed a strong opposition voice, the rug was pulled from under Corbyn. Perhaps there was a worry that he might prove effective in the wake of a damaged Tory party? Instead, Labour has committed political Hari Kari and will probably not be an effective force for years, if ever again.

Natalie Bennett, outgoing Green Party Leader has reissued the party's invitation to other progressive parties to form an alliance against the conservatives and UKIP. In the absence of proportional representation this would seem to be the best chance of getting the voices of social change heard, especially if the possibility of an early general election becomes reality. It's only if the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid, Greens and Labour come together to prevent a split vote in many constituencies that we could really get a representative number of MPs elected. Many of these parties have already signalled some degree of cooperation towards getting PR, but there's one notable absence: Labour. While some in the party are enthused by proportional voting, many, especially in its centralised power base, are not. Labour has also campaigned vociferously against other left of centre parties, often using phrases like "no better than the Tories", even when, like in Brighton, budget cuts forced upon a minority administration, were, in fact due to Labour's lack of cooperation.

So Labour remains a fly in the ointment of a progressive coalition. It still tends to regard itself as big enough to stand on its own, even though this now flies in the face of the evidence. It also has a notoriously slow party machinery that makes change very hard to effect. The smaller parties are more nimble, more comfortable with their members' participation and able to adapt much more quickly. It means that, even if many Labour members support the idea of a broad coalition of left of centre parties, it could take until well after the next election to agree it.

So, what can we do, if the largest left leaning party won't or can't cooperate? Well, to borrow a phrase from the awful Leave campaign, I suggest we Take Back Control. Instead of lobbying the chaotic and unwilling control centre of the Labour Party, I suggest we target local constituency parties instead. Reports that many constituency parties are unhappy with their MP's conduct during the attempted coup against Corbyn, rather suggests that they might be amenable to some informal talks.

It's down to the constituency party to select or deselect candidates for election. In most cases they have either duly accepted the central party's preferred candidate or merely rubber stamped the selection of a sitting MP. But they can, and sometimes do, select their own candidate. They can also opt to not select a candidate for election. This would send a very strong message to the central party.

If local parties of Lib Dems, Green, SNP and Plaid were to arrange informal cross party meetings, perhaps they could persuade constituency Labour parties to listen or even attend? If these parties could come to agreement on who selects a candidate to stand and, crucially who does not, you have the makings of an informal electoral pact. Should there not be time to agree a broader policy at party conferences, this might be the most productive way forward. It involves working at grass roots, it empowers local activists and, if applied widely enough, it could effectively provide strong opposition to the emerging neocon agenda.

There are powerful interests that would like our politics to be a spectator sport. Let's not give them their wishes.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Last minute EU Resources

Apparently "Don't Knows don't vote". Yet it's those people who have yet to make up their minds or are wondering whether to vote or not who will decide this referendum. On the Leave side there are very passionate people whose views will not change. Remain seems a sensible but not exciting prospect and so its support is softer. That's probably why Project Fear was launched; to try and get people to vote who might otherwise stay at home. The problem with fear is that you can overplay your hand. Once both sides are trading in fear, anger and hate tend to follow.

I prefer Project Reason and Project Humour. Here are some resources from those camps.Let's start with the slightly duller Reason.

From Project Reason


Try this talk by Professor Michael Dougan who is an advisor on EU law. It's 25 mins long, but you can get the most info from the first few minutes:


Ben Goldacre of Bad Science fame wrote a reasoned piece for Remain:

I'll include the piece I wrote on it a couple of weeks back on this blog: http://www.joecassels.co.uk/2016/06/europe.html

Possibly clearer is this graphic by Dave Walker


The Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis clarifies the various financial claims on both sides http://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2016/06/05/how-to-vote-in-the-eu-referendum/

Now lets have a look at Project Humour


John Oliver has produced a brilliant piece on the folly of Brexit. Sky won't braodcast til after polls have closed for reasons of "balance" but here it is:  



And finally some Remain misinformation that tries to match the quality of that from Leave. Rhodri Marsden produced this gem: