Politics & Current Affairs

GE 2015: Power and the Fear of Losing It

tony_blair_1553707cA lust for power does strange things to politicians. History has illustrated the point so depressingly frequently that only the most unglued would consider it a topic meriting further debate. GE 2015, however, is revealing in stark form the bizarre impact that the fear of losing, or not attaining, power has on our political class.

Take Labour, for example – not that the polls are suggesting many are going to – someone, probably several someones, decided it would be a good wheeze to wheel out Tony Blair (henceforth to be referred to by an abbreviation of his near-anagram, Tory Plan B) to give the Jellyfish’s campaign a boost.

Plan B, one of the nation’s leading war criminals, an impressive achievement given the stiff competition historically provided by the Empire on which the sun never set, is an unusual choice of popularity-booster. For starters, the Jellyfish’s desperate and forlorn bid to win the keys to Number. 10 rest mainly on him convincing us that the NHS is Labour’s uncontested home-turf. How novel, then, to draft in the man who did the unthinkable and first set in motion its demise at the hands of the market.

Still, say what you like about Plan B, while his messianic saviour-of-the-world shtick might well owe everything to narcissism and corruption by power, he at least avoids cutting a pitiful figure. Not so the Jellyfish, alas.  How broken must his judgement be, how great his desperation, how cheaply he must value dignity that he’d Tweet about the hugely-despised Plan B thus: “When a serious figure like Tony Blair warns UK national interest is threatened by a Tory 2nd term, people from all parties should take note.” One is almost moved to hug the poor wee fella. Or, as my good friend and comrade, Eddie Truman put it: “The dafty is reduced to punting the thoughts of a man who hates him.” Quite.

Meanwhile, in the land of my infant nurture, or God’s Own Country, as most know Scotland, Jim Murphy’s proximity to reality continues to be at great remove. His performance during the Scottish party leaders’ debate provided several examples but let’s restrict ourselves to just one: “Labour is the party of the common man and the common woman.” Which must be why common men and common women are flocking to the SNP in numbers not seen since the Israelites Exodus from Egypt.

He invited further disapproving frowns by sporting brown shoes with a gray suit, something for which, had I committed such a faux pas,  my much-missed mother would’ve skelped my arse. One doesn’t wish to be shallow, however, and reduce a man’s essence to his clothing and surface appearance. We confine that sort of behaviour to commentary regarding women, of course.

Another pal from North Britain, James Stuart, is clearly enjoying a Wonderful Life as the SNP insurgency shows as much sign of abating as The Eton Rifle not exploiting his sadly deceased son for cheap political gain. James observed, with some satisfaction, “Says a lot about the political environment in Scotland that all the unionist alliance leaders were trying to outflank Nicola Sturgeon from the left. You just know times are getting interesting when even Tory leader Ruth Davidson tries to come across as a bash-the-rich lefty!”

And yet the terror of losing power was revealed in its starkest form, thus far, by The Grubby Chancer. The pusillanimous Clegg, who effortlessly attains a standard for duplicity, opportunism and self-preservation best described as Olympian, is currently leading the pack in terms of gasp-inducing cheek.

The Grubby Chancer insisted that he and his band of Tory-supporting brigands represented the best chance of keeping any future coalition anchored to the centre ground. Indeed, if anchoring to the centre ground could be said to willingly aiding the Tories in quadrupling food banks, killing the sick and disabled and demonising the most vulnerable amongst us, then he’s certainly done that. Oh, and don’t forget tripling tuition fees. Mind you, in today’s Britain that pretty much is the centre ground so, aye; fair point, Cleggy.

Given that the Grubby Chancer is set to lose his Deputy Prime Minister’s job and, possibly, even his own Sheffield Hallam seat, his behaviour is perhaps understandable. Personally, it’s his family I feel sorry for. You can just imagine them begging him “Please don’t tell mam you’re Nick Clegg! She thinks you play the piano in a brothel.”

Politics & Current Affairs

GE 2015: A Very Caledonian Coup

surgFormer Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, a man not noted for his fevered commitment to the communist cause, once advised that we should “never underestimate the British establishment’s ruthless determination to destroy its enemies.”

Sage advice, to be sure, and one wonders if Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is familiar with the quote. If so, we can imagine her nodding in resigned agreement at the end of an extraordinary week.

She was branded by the Daily Mail as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” – surely a badge of honour, awarded as it was by the notorious Hitler-worshipping rag? – and then wowed even English voters during the leaders’ debate on Thursday evening, topping the many resulting polls.

The events that followed, then, represented a certain inevitability. The SNP oppose austerity, oppose the scape-goating of immigrants and oppose the destruction of free education and the NHS. As someone remarked, in these reactionary times, that’s virtually the transitional programme.

Crucially, the SNP have tacked left under Sturgeon’s leadership and are now even more opposed to the establishment’s austerity consensus. Added, of course, to the party’s determination to see the end of the British state, as it is currently constituted, and their not insignificant commitment to ridding Scotland of Trident. Something it is inconceivable to imagine leaves the Brit state’s bosses on the other side of the Atlantic in a mood of unruffled equanimity.

Fitting, then, one supposes, that the Telegraph gives us a 2015 cover version of the Zinoviev affair. We can only imagine Dacre and the Daily Mail are kicking themselves for not thinking of it first.

The allegation that the First Minister told French diplomats she would prefer a Tory government to one headed by Ed Miliband has, by now, been so comprehensively debunked as to be worthy of little additional commentary.

What is worthy of further scrutiny, however, are the motives behind what is clearly a state-orchestrated fit-up and the reactions to it of, most especially, Scottish Labour.

It is mooted that the smear is plausible because, from a strategic point of view, a Tory government would actually suit the SNP. The thinking is that five more years of Cameron’s Eton Rifles hammering the poor and rolling out further punitive austerity measures would drive even more sickened and desperate Labour supporters into the arms of the SNP.

It’s nonsense on two counts. Firstly, the SNP’s primary objective is independence from the UK. That is far more likely to be achieved – or rather significant concessions towards it – with a battalion of SNP MPs twisting Miliband’s arm behind his back, in exchange for SNP support in a hung Westminster parliament, than it is by trying to get another Holyrood-organised referendum off the ground less than a year after the last one.

Secondly, given the polls unanimously predict an SNP wipe-out of Labour’s branch office in Scotland, who would really believe the SNP would counter such a bonkers strategy just for the sake of mopping up a few more disgruntled Labour voters?

The counter to this is: ah yes but the SNP threaten the Labour vote not the Tory vote! How does framing Nicola Sturgeon as a Tory stooge benefit the Tories and why on earth would they be unhappy with Labour losing votes to the SNP?

Such a question is beyond naïve. We’re talking far bigger stakes than mere party politics. We’re talking the break-up of the Brit state, the ejection of UK, ergo US, nuclear weapons from Scottish soil. And, of course, the shattering of the establishment’s austerity consensus of which Labour, in both its Anglo and Scottish expressions, is a crucial part. Labour is, not to overstate the case, an important plank of the Brit state’s self-defence mechanism and, in this sense, the Tories’ junior partner.

Finally, and feel free to fire accusations of naivety right back at this writer, Sturgeon and the bulk of the SNP are conviction politicians. No one is suggesting that they are the Bolsheviks reincarnated; indeed Richard Seymour makes the not unfair suggestion that the party shouldn’t even be labelled as ‘left’ but rather ‘progressive’. But for all that, on an essentially human level, Sturgeon represents a streak of decency and integrity almost extinct in British politics.

No, what we have here is a vengeful and frightened Brit state lashing out at its biggest threat. Project Fear: Part Two is well underway and there will be more to come. An uppity, lefty, female Jock having the cheek to take on the Brit state? We can be sure the Sir Humphreys are already massing.

Culture Politics & Current Affairs

Making Plans for Nigel : a Beginner’s Guide to Farage and UKIP

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book, Making Plans for Nigel : a Beginner’s Guide to Farage and UKIP, via Five Leaves Publications.

I’m chuffed to be working with Ross and Five Leaves again, following last year’s Look Back in Anger: the Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire – 30 Years On, on which he and his team did such a great job.

The current effort, about which not much needs to be said given the self-explanatory title, is a shorter, snappier book and is intended for the prospective UKIP voter. As I write in the introduction:

“By the time you read this the next general election will be barely a month away. This handy guide to Nigel Farage and UKIP is intended to help the undecided voter – and maybe the decided ones, too –  make an informed choice when the time comes to put that cross in that all-important little box. Given that increasing numbers of voters are shunning the voting booths – in much the same way that Michael Macintyre studiously eschews anything remotely funny in his routines – and are of the not ridiculous opinion that it doesn’t matter for whom one votes as the government always gets in, it appears likely that future administrations will be elected by fewer and fewer people.  All the more reason, then, for those potential UKIP voters to have at least a basic understanding of what they might end up with. Hence this book which looks in detail at Nigel Farage, UKIP and the party’s policies. It examines Farage’s anti-establishment rhetoric and compares that with his party’s policies and with his and his colleagues’ public pronouncements. It is a timely book because the prospect of a Tory minority government propped up by a clutch of newly-minted UKIP MPs, cannot be ruled out.”

It’s provisional publication date is April 1st, which I think is just perfect, and more info will be available soon. A special thank you to Martin Rowson for the superb cover. Makes me smile every time I look at it.


Culture Politics & Current Affairs

All That is Solid

All That is Solid is one of the left’s most widely-read blogs. It’s the baby of Dr. Phil Burton-Cartledge, former aid to Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt.

As well as managing the aforementioned blog, the good Doctor also lectures at Derby University.

In recent weeks he’s penned a very positive review of my book, which you can read here and last night he published an interview I did for his site, which was a lot of fun. You can read that here.

I’d recommend Phil’s blog to anyone interested in politics, current affairs and related matters with a sociological twist.