Sunday, 29 January 2017

Museum Piece (2)

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Philip Collins writing in The Times provides an deadly judgement on the state of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

The full piece is behind the newspaper's paywall but it has some memorable lines including the following two paragraphs:

"Politically, Jeremy Corbyn he has been dead for months. Politically, he is already a relic.

"This need not be a terminal dilemma. A clever leader would do three things. First, change the subject as often as possible. Talk about the NHS, education and productivity. Keep reminding the nation that, while the government is preoccupied with the self-inflicted task of leaving the EU, the world goes on and it is not looking good. Second, change the conversation about immigration so it is about more than the numbers. Make a point of applauding work (the clue is in the name Labour) and start an argument about a welfare state that respects contribution as much as need. Third, define the nation after leaving the EU in your own image. Argue that a country that is less reliant on immigration is now going to have to take the training of its own workforce, and its own problem with low pay, much more seriously."

The problem is that Corbyn is not a clever leader and he is focused exclusively on the views of party activists who joined Labour after its 2015 general election defeat rather than the opinions of the much larger constituency of Labour voters.

The Labour Party will end with a whimper, not a bang

By Philip Collins - The Times

Two vital by-elections in the north next month will show how the party has been abandoned in its former heartlands

There is more than a phonetic association, wrote Theodor Adorno in The Culture Industry, between museum and mausoleum. Items have to become relics before they become exhibits. The museum is a space reserved for artefacts that are now curiosities because time has taken their purpose. Tristram Hunt, who has resigned as a Labour MP to direct the Victoria and Albert museum, may be the first person to abandon a mausoleum because he could sense more life in a museum. Written out of the story by bigger events and real politics, the Labour party might be turning into a museum piece.

An inexperienced prime minister is struggling to command the most intractable policy problem in modern British history. A not notably talented Cabinet communicates little imagination or energy. The NHS is struggling. Industrial relations are poor. Yet Labour is at 24 points in the latest opinion poll, sixteen points behind the Conservative party. There is no political question to which Labour is genuinely relevant. No pressure is exerted on the government. They might as well not be there which prompts the thought that perhaps they won’t be.

The settled strategy of MPs who know Mr Corbyn is a calamity is to wait for the party to be thrashed at a general election. From that low base, held in place by the resilient 25 per cent of the nation they believe to be inveterately Labour, they will then rebuild. That process will take a decade and, remember, these are the party’s optimists talking. The conventional two-party view might now be wrong. Labour MPs may be reckoning without the change that two referendums have done to politics. Scotland has gone and it is not beyond the realm of the conceivable that England might follow. Harold Wilson once bound his split by going to the people for a vote on Europe. If that first referendum helped to shore the Labour party up, the second may be its gravedigger.

Museum Piece (17/01/17)

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I enjoyed this 'museum piece' in The Observer which reflects on the resignation of Tristram Hunt as the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Read the full article in the link below, but here's what Andrew Rawnsley had to say about the choice facing Tristram Hunt.   

"He was a passionate and eloquent advocate for the Potteries and their people, but he came into politics with aspirations to do more. His majority was too slim to be confident that he could survive the disaster that will engulf Labour if the party’s current opinion poll ratings are translated into a crushing defeat at a general election.

"The hard left has been very active in his constituency and had him on its hitlist. On top of which, the boundary commissioners have proposed that his seat should be abolished. His choice was to wait to be handed a redundancy notice or take what he describes as “a dream job” running the V&A. It was not really a choice at all."

Not allLabour MPs face the same issues or threat of deselection, of course, yet those who do seem likely to vote with their feet in preference to a prolonged spell on the opposition benches at Westminster.

Why Tristram Hunt concluded he had a brighter future in a museum

By Andrew Rawnsley - The Observer

His resignation isn’t an isolated case, but an example of the existential angst afflicting many Labour MPs
Tristram Hunt, who has announced he is to stand down as a Labour MP to become director of the Victorian and Albert Museum in London. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Observer

One could be idiosyncratic. Two might be a coincidence. Four and with more to come begins to suggest a pattern. Were Tristram Hunt the only example of an ambitious and talented politician in his 40s contemplating his life and deciding there were better things to do with it than continuing as a Labour MP, his decision to abandon parliament would be interesting but not wildly significant. 

When the offer to become director of the Victoria and Albert Museum was confirmed, I bet it took him less than a nanosecond to decide that this would be a whole lot more rewarding – and not just in the financial sense – than remaining as Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He is and has always been entirely out of sympathy with Jeremy Corbyn and what the current management of Labour is doing to the party.

His witty sallies mocking Corbynism were the mask on a deep despair, widely shared by Labour MPs, about their prospects. Before he announced his decision, he had told friends that he would wake up in “a cold sweat”, haunted by the spectre that he would one day find himself a decade older and still sitting on the opposition benches. 

Irony is not dead (27/01/17)

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Jeremy Corbyn was a serial rebel during his 32 years as a backbench MP and since 1983 Jezza voted over 500 times against his own party's leaders in the Westminster Parliament: Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

Yet now the Labour leader is demanding loyalty and discipline from his MPs over Brexit, over which Labour remains divided and confused. 

Meanwhile Corbyn supporters call the rebellious MPs 'traitors' and 'betrayers' of their Dear Leader. 

So despite Jeremy's many and well documented failings it's good to see that he retains a fine sense of the absurd - irony, if nothing else, is flourishing in Corbyn's Labour Party. 

Labour whip Jeff Smith to rebel over Brexit bill vote

BBC UK Politics

Image copyright - PAImage caption - The bill on Article 50 was published on Thursday

More Labour MPs have said they will rebel against an order from party leader Jeremy Corbyn to back a bill that will trigger the Brexit process.

Party whip Jeff Smith has said he will defy a three-line whip on the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

Shadow ministers Daniel Zeichner and Tulip Siddiq will vote against it. Ms Siddiq quit the front bench over it.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said voting against the bill would "be very undermining of democracy".

"MPs voted for a referendum, there was an extraordinary high turn out - 72% - 17m people voted to leave. Many of them in some of our poorest areas," she told the BBC. 

Shadow minister quits over vote

"How would it look if a bunch of politicians and commentators in London turned round and said: 'We know you voted to leave but we're just going to ignore you?'"

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was produced after the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament - not just the government alone - must vote to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts the formal process of the UK leaving the EU.

Labour leader Mr Corbyn is to impose a three-line whip, ordering his MPs to back the bill. He said he understood the pressures faced - many Labour MPs represent constituencies which voted to remain in the European Union - but called on them to "unite" around "important issues".

Frontbench members of parties are generally expected to resign from their post if they decided to defy a three-line whip.

'Palpable rage'

Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith told the Manchester Evening News: "My constituents voted strongly for remain and I think it's important to represent their view."

Another whip, Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, told the Bristol Post she was "minded to vote against" the bill to represent her Remain-supporting constituency, but added: "It will be a tough decision."

Meanwhile, senior Labour backbencher Meg Hillier told the BBC some of her east London constituents were "horrified" at Mr Corbyn's stance.

"Certainly in Hackney the rage in the room was palpable - and people are really concerned. My constituency voted 78% to remain [in the EU] and while a lot of those people recognise the outcome of the referendum, we just don't want a blank cheque."

Tulip Siddiq quit as shadow early years minister on Thursday, saying she "cannot reconcile myself to the front-bench position". 

'Civilised conversations'

Mr Zeichner, shadow transport minister, said he would defy the whip and vote against the bill. "It's my strongly held personal position, and I represent three-quarters of the people of Cambridge," he told the Cambridge News.

"I've had perfectly civilised conversations (with the Labour leadership). They know my position and they understand exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing and it's for them to decide what to do next."

Image copyright - PAImage caption - The bill is due to clear the Commons on 8 February

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to begin the formal process of quitting the European Union by the end of March.

The bill is due to be initially debated by MPs on Tuesday - in a sitting that may last until midnight - and clear the Commons on 8 February, after which it will move to the House of Lords.

The Liberal Democrats have vowed to oppose Article 50 unless there is a guarantee of another referendum on the final Brexit deal that is agreed with Brussels, while the SNP has vowed to table 50 amendments to the legislation.


Corbyn's a Complete Dud (26/01/17)

Yesterday's PMQs at Westminster started very badly and then went quickly downhill for Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader began by expressing condolences to the family of the police officer who had been shot in Northern Ireland over the weekend - claiming that the officer had "lost his life".

But this was a gaffe of enormous proportions since the officer had sustained bullet wounds to his are and was making a good recovery in hospital.

A Labour spokesperson said later that his the party's hapless leader had meant to say "nearly died" even though that language bears nor relation to the words "lost his life.

Ulster unionists (whose motto, I think, is 'never pass up the chance to kick a man while he's down') were quick to pounce and the DUP MP Nigel Dodds described Corby's comments as:

“one of the worst displays of crass ignorance that could be imagined. The idea that someone who sees himself as an alternative prime minister could be so out of touch to make such a basic and hurtful error is almost unbelievable.”

Now this was not a mainstream media plot since the words were all from the horse's mouth as it were, but Corbyn went on to dig an even bigger hole for himself over Brexit, after the Prime Minister Theresa May produced a 'killer quote' from London Mayor Sadiq Khan which made the Labour leader look ridiculous.

Have a look at PMQs and decide for yourself, but if you ask me only the most deluded supporters can now see Jeremy Corbyn as anything other than a complete 'dud'.


Corbyn - No Plan, No Clue (21/01/17)

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Regular readers know that I have little time for Jeremy Corbyn, but the Labour leader seems to have taken leave of his senses with his latest bizarre comments on Scottish politics.

Because according to Jezza, leaving the European Union (EU) represents an opportunity for  Scotland while independence can only spell disaster.

Now I can understand people who support remaining in the EU and remaining part of the United Kingdom (UK), as I can understand those who favour coming out of the EU and becoming independent from the rest of the UK.

Even those who favour independence and Scotland remaining within or re-joining the EU have a logical position, even if the terms of staying in or re-joining the EU are clearly problematic.

But what I don't follow is how Corbyn concludes that only Scottish independence is a threat to the economy while he welcomes Brexit with such open arms.

If you ask me, the man is a walking disaster.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit is 'opportunity' for Scotland, while independence means 'turbo-charged austerity' on Glasgow visit

Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale

By Tom Gordon - The Herald

INDEPENDENCE would impose “turbo-charged austerity” on Scotland, whereas Brexit offers an “opportunity” to bring more powers to Holyrood, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

On a visit to Glasgow, the Labour leader also dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to keep Scotland in the EU single market, saying Brexit would be a UK-wide decision.

He said: “The question of single market access is and has to be a UK decision."

Corbyn's Dead Cat (11/01/17)Image result for dead cat on the table + images

After months of dreadful opinion polls Jeremy Corbyn and his advisers have clearly decided to throw a 'dead cat' on the table, if the Labour leader's comments on Brexit and a national 'wage cap' are anything to go by.

Now I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't really care what Wayne Rooney earns from Manchester United FC 

Because what I care about is whether Wayne Rooney and people like him pays their fair share of taxes.   

If any Government were stupid enough to set an arbitrary limit on Wayne Rooney's wages, then everything above the new 'wage cap' would be lost to the Inland Revenue - and the end result in not one extra penny piece for the public purse.

In other words it's a piece of virtue signalling from a politician who is running scared from the electorate and because Jeremy can't think of anything better to say, his only hope is to throw dead cat on the table.  


Equal Pay Day! (10/11/16)

Today is Equal Pay Day in the UK during and if this Twitter photo is anything to go by, all kinds of people including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be keen to emphasise their public support for the concept of 'equal pay for work of equal point'.

But it's worth pointing out that despite all the windy rhetoric from 'leftist' politicians like Jeremy, the trade unions in the UK have never held a national demonstration, never mind a national strike, over Equal Pay during the past 30 years!

As regular readers know, Action 4 Equality Scotland has led the fight for equal pay north of the border and the trade unions have often been part of the problem.

In areas such as South Lanarkshire, for example, where local trade union leaders actively discouraged their members from pursuing equal pay claims against the local Labour-run Council.


Having A Laugh! (17/10/16)

The latest Labour Party poster made me laugh with its ridiculous image of Jeremy Corbyn 'calling time' on the equal pay waiting game.

Maybe Jeremy could find the time to send this poster to some of the many Labour council who fought so hard against equal pay for all these years?

South Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire Councils are two of the more obvious ones that spring to mind.

In South Lanarkshire, of course, the local trade unions actively discouraged their members from pursuing equal pay claims against the local Labour-run council for many years - and if you ask me Jeremy Corbyn is of that same, old-fashioned, 'leftist' union mindset.

One that talks the talk, but fails to deliver time after time.


Can't Cut The Mustard (22/09/16)

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I listened to quite the most devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership abilities on Radio 5 Live, the other day, from his first wife Jane Chapman.

Now this was not the bitter rant of a woman scorned, not least because Jane voted for her former husband first time around when he won the Labour leadership in 2015.

Nor was this 'uninformed' opinion of someone with an axe to grind since Jane is now widely regarded Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln and a visiting Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge.

Nonetheless Jane's view was that Jeremy had failed to mark his mark in any of the roles he has played throughout his life as a local government councillor, a trade union official and/or as a Labour MP, observing that:
  • as a local councillor Jeremy chaired nothing more important than a council sub-committee
  • Jeremy's trade union career never progressed beyond the 'entry level' rank
  • as Labour MP for 32 years Jeremy never took on any position of responsibility - not even that as the chair of a parliamentary select committee 
So without rancour or any hint of personal animosity, Professor Chapman essentially came to the same view as the vast majority of Labour MPs - that Jeremy Corbyn does not possess the skills for the job of Labour leader.

Which is, of course, my considered view as well.


'Bog Standard' Officials (24/06/16)

Jeremy Corbyn appearing on The Last Leg

I was unfazed one way or the other by Jeremy Corbyn's appearance on 'The Last Leg' TV programme which had the Labour leader arrive in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, dressed in a dinner suit and a full-length white fur coat.

After all if you have an image problem, then why not do something out of the ordinary to confound and confuse your political opponents.

But no, my real problem with Jeremy is that in answer to a 'dolly' question about how he would rank the importance of the next week's EU referendum on a scale of 1 to 10, Jezza responded with the unbelievably lame answer of "7 to 7 and a half".

Now when so much is at stake in next week's referendum, you would think a Labour leader worth his mettle would have emphasised, in the strongest possible terms, the very real threat to the UK economy, jobs and investment posed by the country's withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

So Jeremy's a complete fool if you ask me, a political half-wit, but that's what you get if you elect as Labour leader a man who rose to the dizzying ranks of 'bog standard' union official before finding a niche as a backbench Labour MP in the House of Commons for the next 32 years.

And while there are some decent trade union officials around, believe me there are plenty of complete 'duds' in the ranks too, as the Labour party and the country is finding out to its cost.


Labour Flip Flops (10/01/17)

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Question: What's the difference between Jeremy Corbyn and a pair of flip flops?

Answer: Not a lot, especially as the hapless Labour leader prepares to join the Tories in arguing that Britain will actually be better off outside the EU.

Apparently, after months of claiming the exact opposite, Jeremy Corbyn will stand Labour policy on its head and say that his party supports 'repatriating powers' from Europe and is not wedded to the principle of 'free movement' of workers within the EU.

If you ask me, this is all down to Labour's terrible showing in the polls and the prospect of the Copeland by-election in Cumbria where Labour is defending a once previously safe seat which is now vulnerable to the Tories because of Jeremy Corbyn's well known hostility to nuclear power.

Still, could be worse, Theresa May could call a general election and force Labour to go to the country with Jezza at the helm.