Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Voting for Jeremy

I voted Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader today, with Andy Burnham as my second preference.


(1) The Best of the Bunch
 I don't think that the feeble policies and approach offered up by the others would have any chance of winning. Although Corbyn's success has given the other candidates some temporary backbone, I'm sure they would revert to jumping at Murdoch's shadow were any of them to be elected. Corbyn has a better chance of winning for Labour than any of the others.

(2) Margaret Thatcher
 I believe that, perversely, Corbyn has the Thatcher Factor – a conviction politician who inspires passion from supporters and respect from detractors. Remember, Thatcher was seen as unelectable in the 70s. Nobody thought she could would win the leadership, let alone become Prime Minister, but it was her clear conviction about what she believed was best for the country that set her apart. Corbyn is a conviction politician and after decades of spin people are crying out for someone who has authenticity. The hundreds of thousands joining the Labour party have proven that.

(3) Unity is Likely
The Labour Party will unify around Corbyn. It saw what happened when the right wing of the party last split off and formed the SDP – it won't do it again. I want Burnham to have a strong showing because of his declared willingness to support Corbyn and help quickly unify the party. The task then is to agree on a set of policies based on what's best for the country, and set about the task of convincing people that these policies are good for *everyone*.

(4) Grass Roots Shoots
The Labour Party needs and will hugely benefit from the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of new supporters it has gained. Top-down, PR-led campaigning has left many CLPs hollow. South Thanet Labour Party (for whom I campaigned in May) has websites, Twitter and Facebook accounts that are like the Mary Celeste. They have been untouched since May 7th... The party urgently needs to build itself up in those areas, and integrate true local passion and expertise with superior organisational help and resources (I voted for Stella Creasy for Deputy Leader as she appears to get this). If Corbyn wins, the enthusiasm will intensify, if he loses, it will disappear, possibly for good.

(5) Managing Murdoch
New Labour is intellectually bankrupt and definitely isn't new. (I had to laugh at the the description of the New Labour as "the modernising wing", recently). What's interesting about all of the commentators from that tradition, most especially Tony Blair*, is that their arguments have been about electability rather than about why their policies are better. Blair believes that not upsetting Murdoch and the right-wing press is essential for a Labour victory – and you know, he may have been right in 1997. But right now, and over the next 5 years, social media is going to act as a counter-balance to the massive scare-mongering about Labour and Corbyn that we will see from the right-wing media, and social media will allow Corbyn's message to get through unfiltered, in a way that wasn't really possible until recently.

(7) PQE and More
Finally, I think the majority of Corbyn's policy positions are right for the country, including, crucially, his economic policy. Nations aren't households, despite what the Tories and the bankers want us to believe, and printing money for the good of the country instead of (as has happened until now) for the good of bankers should be a weapon in the UK's economic arsenal, to be used when needed.
So for those reasons, and more, I'm voting Corbyn. Politics in the UK is going to be an exciting place if he wins...

*The Iraq War has indelibly tainted Blair, but I remember when he was a real hero, back in 1998. Here he is, in January of that year, holding up a copy of the CD-ROM that my company created for the British Embassy in Tokyo. I basically manhandled him into position to show off the cover to the cameras. It was an interactive guide to the best of Britain at the the time: Mr Bean to Kenneth Branagh, Anita Roddick to Richard Branson, Trainspotting to Hamlet to the Spice Girls...Eek!

Monday, 17 August 2015

A Note on Burnham

I'm putting Burnham as my second preference with no others. I think he could actually be a very useful part of Corbyn's team, and in a new political paradigm may finally have the courage of his (rather well-hidden) convictions.

It's important that the party stay unified after the election. If Corbyn wins he would ideally get the support of all of the other candidates as part of that unification process. It's unlikely that Kendall and Cooper would support him or join his shadow cabinet. Burnham has indicated that he would join and will support Corbyn. To maximise the unifying effect of that it would be best if Burnham came second in terms of number of votes cast. It can then be said that the two candidates that got the most votes are working together etc.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Gordon Brown on Electability

Gordon Brown is an impressive speaker (if he'd learn to stand still – I'm still dizzy) but the narrative that most people who support Jeremy Corbyn are not interested in whether he is electable is silly. If I didn't think Corbyn could be elected I wouldn't be supporting him.

Brown lost. Miliband lost. Cooper would lose. Kendall would lose. Burnham would probably lose. 

The reality is that Corbyn has the best chance of winning in 2020 if the party unites behind him.

First, Corbyn can expand and energise the party to make it a real campaigning force, a real social movement that can make its case effectively to liberals and centrist Tories. Second, he has the best chance of winning back those 40 seats in Scotland. Third, his straight-talking–but polite–authenticity can win over those who don't vote, vote UKIP or don't care because they believe all politicians are all the same.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Economic Credibility

Lucy Powell, one of Ed Miliband's top aides, was on Newsnight last night. Her comments epitomised the irrationality of some parts of the Labour Party.

She refers to polls taken after the election that showed that one reason many didn't vote Labour was because they didn't trust the party on the economy – that Labour weren't, in the now-familiar phrase, "credible on the economy".

Powell implies that this is evidence that Labour must move closer to the Tories' economic policies, and since Corbyn's economic policies are further away, he isn't electable.

What nonsense.

We have to imagine that she, Ed Balls, and Ed Miliband thought they were credible on the economy when they were campaigning – so what the poll results *really* mean is that Labour weren't able to *market* themselves as being credible to the electorate.

And, let's face it, Labour had an uninspiring, mediocre campaign that failed – both from the point of view of the "air war" at a national level and the "ground war" at the local level. (A subject I'll go into at a later date, based on my experience in South Thanet.)

The take-away for me is that whatever economic policies we think are the best for the country need to be presented to people in a much more effective manner, in a manner that *establishes* Labour's economic credibility – *by making the case effectively*.

New Labour, on the other hand, has decided that the election result tells us that economic credibility for Labour now equals Osbornomics, but with a few more crumbs from the table left over…

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Demonisation of 1983

I don't think the comparisons between Corbyn and Labour in 1983 are valid, but it's true to note that between the 1979 and 1983 elections Labour lost just over 3 million votes. 

Was it a clear indictment of Labour's manifesto? Or was it due to Thatcher's bounce after the winning of the Falklands War – and the impact of the Liz Kendalls of the day defecting to form the SDP, splitting the party and the electorate?

What happened to the 3 million votes lost by Labour in 1983? Well, the Liberals, in alliance with the Labour defectors of the SDP, just happened to increase their vote by 3.5 million that year…

So you have a prime minister coming off a successful war (in the country's eyes) and a recently-split Labour Party. And, yes, Michael Foot wasn't from central casting... Clearly, it would have been hard for *any* party with *any* manifesto to win under those conditions. 

Given this, New Labour's use of 1983 as the final, damning argument as to why left-wing policies would make the party forever unelectable is disingenuous, at best.

And, in any case, the idea that the Labour Party should be reduced to patching up the wounds inflicted by the excesses of the free market instead of working to reform and manage it properly has to be resisted. And Corbyn's the key, right now, to that resistance.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Lesson from South Thanet

I spent 3 weeks during the general election in Broadstairs, Kent (and 3 weeks here in Tokyo before that) running online and social media publicity for Labour's campaign in South Thanet (amongst other things) to keep Nigel Farage from becoming the MP there. It was a hell of a ride. UKIP spent an absolute *fortune* on trying to get Farage elected. Our goal (apart from winning the seat for candidate Will Scobie, of course) was to keep Farage out by stemming the tide of Labour voters moving to UKIP. In that, at least, we succeeded: Farage lost.

Labour nationally had abandoned South Thanet and the regional Labour Party was more hindrance than help (e.g. cancelling a morning press conference with Delia Smith on the night before despite invitations having already gone out, not passing on interview requests from the media etc.). But we did have strong support from a number of MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, who visited at least twice. (No pictures with me, I'm afraid, I was slaving behind a hot computer much of the time.)

It was during this election that it really hit home to me how out of touch the Labour Party was with people, and how essential it was to have: 

(1) a leader who spoke human and was prepared to say what he believed, authentically – this was the element that so many people found attractive about Farage.

(2) a social movement that was active in between elections not just something that popped up at your doorstep when it wanted your vote. (The South Thanet Labour Party seems to have popped out of existence since May 8th.)

Now, in addition, we need to understand what kind of society we want to achieve (not in a utopian way, but in a down-to-earth way with concrete examples) and then debate what policies are best to help us get there.

This approach casts aside labels such as "left" and "right" which are often meaningless, often used thoughtlessly, and which usually have the effect of dumbing down the conversation, a conversation which needs to be about how effective policies would be in getting us where we want to go.

Corbyn is a breath of fresh air. I'd prefer someone younger, and I don't agree with everything he says, but he is raising the conversation the Labour party needs to have to the level it needs to be at.
And he was nice enough to help us in South Thanet! :-)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Politics and Life

This blog will cover areas outside of my normal business life and focus on politics, history and science. All things that I'm very interested in and want to spend more time on.

From February 10, 2013 • Original Posting is Here
With the British parliament passing legislation to allow gay marriage, it reminds me again that cynicism about politics and politicians, whilst an easy and cool position to take, is not always merited. When I was born, homosexuality was illegal and civil rights in the US were still being violently contested. In 1987/8 when I edited the students’ union magazines above, the Conservative government was trying to make it illegal to “promote homosexuality” and Nelson Mandela was in prison. The 80s for me (as can be seen from the contents of OVERDRAFT) were a mix of alternative comics, Meat is Murder, anti-apartheid, anti-fascism and anti-sexist activity. At the time, shivering in the cold on yet another demo, I remember it all seeming a bit futile. But looking at where we are today, I think we can say that those efforts by millions in the UK, and around the world – including efforts by progressive politicians – paid off.

The world has changed to one where Nelson Mandela is an ex-president of South Africa, to one where Condaleeza Rice, as US Secretary of State, goes to Rosa Parks’ funeral, where the US has a black president and a woman is the favourite to be the next one – and gay marriage legislation is promoted by a Conservative prime minister.

These victories are not an excuse for inaction, or a lack of vigilance, but they are an argument against cynicism and an antidote to feelings of futility.