Saturday, 21 January 2017

Back On Tuesday

Off to my uncle's funeral.

Keeping Us Safe?

In June, as the House of Commons was preparing to vote on the "renewal" of Trident, a test firing of it veered off in the wrong direction and nearly hit Florida.

That was the first test in 16 years.

Read that over again.

The wretched thing had not been tested in 16 years.

But when it finally was, then it went the wrong way and almost hit the American mainland.

The Commons vote ought to be rerun.

And the Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, who by the way has never had a job outside politics, ought to resign forthwith.

In Your Orbit

Sputnik is consistently excellent.

Check out this week's, with Richard Burgon and John McTernan, on RT at 7:30 or 11:30.

And make yourself a weekly viewer.

Lives, Matter

Protesters against Donald Trump have taken to attacking Starbucks and Bank of America.

Those were six figure donors to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Where were they when she and Barack Obama were bombing seven countries?

Or when he was deporting more immigrants than any other President, ever?

Or while the mass incarceration and the not uncommon Police killing of black America were continuing unimpeded on his watch?

Clinton's campaign did of course have other sources of funds besides corporate America.

But one assumes that these marches in the world's capitals will have avoided the Embassies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Welcome To The Cheap Seats?

Where has this delusion come from, that Copeland and Stoke Central are safe Labour seats? 

In 2015, the Labour majority over the Conservatives at Copeland was 2,564, while the Labour majority over UKIP at Stoke Central was 5,179. 

The by-election at Copeland was already being fought on the NHS, which is the biggest issue there. Or, indeed, anywhere else at the moment, and possibly always.

UKIP's selection of Paul Nuttall means that the by-election at Stoke Central will now be fought on the NHS, too.

Brexit is just not what parliamentary elections are about, have been about since 1983, or ever will be about. That was why there was a referendum.

Labour and the Conservatives both campaigned for Remain, but they both accept the result, so there is really nothing to discuss there.

At least until such time as the huge Remainer majority of Conservative MPs removes the current Leader, whom they had thought was one of them.

The Remainers on the Labour benches have already staged a Leadership Election in which one of the few policy differences between the candidates was that one of them wanted a second referendum.

The one who had called for Article 50 on the day after the referendum beat him by a mile, and Labour now campaigns on the NHS, as the electorate always wishes.

Of course, inveterate Remainers can vote Lib Dem. And they will. But that is a whole other story.

The Conservatives would of course survive a failure to take Copeland, although Theresa May shouldn't and quite possibly wouldn't. 

But Stoke Central is UKIP's last chance. If it doesn't win there, then it's over.

National polls have nothing to do with anything. 

Britain or even England has nothing resembling a national political culture. 

It never has had, and it is now further away from that than ever.

If the Conservatives do not win Copeland, then they cannot hope to win any seat that they did not win in 2015.

The loss of the tiniest handful of those seats would result in a hung Parliament, but the Conservatives are on course to lose scores of them to the Lib Dems in the Remain heartlands of the South.

And if UKIP does not win Stoke Central, then so much for Paul Nuttall, unable to win a working-class seat that was won twice by Tristram Hunt.

At that point, UKIP, which is already nearly bankrupt, ought to be dissolved, and probably will be.

Meanwhile, since Jeremy Corbyn had become Leader, Labour would have successfully defended seven seats in the House of Commons.

Seven.

As many as Nigel Farage has sought without success.

Stealing A March

So much for Theresa May's speech, after Donald Trump's to his Inauguration that was attended by hardly anyone.

She has still yet to meet him. Give that a moment to sink in.

I cannot see the point of demonstrations against Trump until he has done anything.

Obamacare never was all that good, and his Executive Order has at least reopened the debate on it.

Trump himself is on record as being in favour of a single payer system. Known to some of us as the National Health Service.

More generally, Trump's most vociferous supporters are in for a series of enormous disappointments.

Either that, or they are in for comically having to pretend that they always did support the economic and foreign policies that they had hitherto derided as Islamo-Marxist or what have you.

As for Women's Marches, they are like all-women shortlists.

Back in the day, we all knew who was a woman and who wasn't.

But these days, the whole thing is supposed to be as fluid as ethnicity, which is a great deal more fluid than class.

Sex, or even "gender", is not really like that, of course. But we all have to pretend that it is.

The one constant seems to be straight men, who, at around 40 per cent of the total, are by far the biggest bloc, by far the most stable as a proportion, and thus able to behave as a majority without in fact being one.

Someone has to, I suppose.

So, back to proper jobs it is, then.

And no more wars over such matters as the female dress code in Afghanistan.

Broken On The Potter's Wheel?

This is it, then.

Either Paul Nuttall will win Stoke Central for UKIP.

Or Paul Nuttall and UKIP will both be finished.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Thani Thieves

Harrods is owned by one of the richest and most influential families on earth, the Royal Family of Qatar, which really does run that cesspit of human rights abuses.

All in all, this victory is truly magnificent.

Rocks In His Head

Are you a shareholder on BlackRock?

Sell! Sell! Sell!

That company is now being advised by George Osborne, the worst Chancellor since Anthony Barber.

Still Feeling The Bern

Bernie is there.

No petulant child, he.

Oh, and he would have won.

Bernie would have won.

Crystallises What Can Happen

"The inauguration of Donald Trump as President crystallises what can happen when centre left / left parties abandon transformation of the economic system and rely on identity politics."

So posts the great man, Richard Burgon, on Facebook.

Of course, he is quite right.

Clinton cultists, this is your Inauguration Day.

This is the Inauguration Day that you made possible, and even inevitable.

There is a need to move, as a matter of the utmost urgency, away from the excessive focus on identity issues, and towards the recognition that those existed only within the overarching and undergirding context of the struggle against economic inequality and in favour of international peace, including co-operation with Russia, not a new Cold War.

Coping and Stoking

Gillian Troughton as the Labour candidate at Copeland is all the more reason to have Chris Spence at Stoke Central.

Although the main issue at Copeland is the NHS.

People whose parliamentary vote is determined by being Leave are already UKIP, in the way that people whose parliamentary vote is determined by being Remain are already Lib Dems.

If UKIP did not win Stoke Central, then it would be finished.

If the Conservatives did not win exceedingly marginal Copeland, then Theresa May would finished, and Article 50 this side of the 2020 Election would be finished with her, regardless of what Jeremy Corbyn thought on the matter. 

But if Labour held on, then it would be the Labour Right, at least in anything like its Blairite form, that would be finished. 

With any luck, both of these by-elections will be held soon, and on the same day. 

These results should be very well worth staying up for.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Health of The Nation

Even seriously affluent Surrey cannot make up the shortfall in social care without a huge hike in its Council Tax, if then.

And this extremely mild winter has given the starved English NHS its worst winter crisis ever.

Why are we talking about anything else?

In All The 48

I'll say this for the Lib Dems.

I don't agree with their approach of Remain or Bust, or at the very least of Single Market or Bust.

But there are shedloads of votes in it for them.

Leading to scores of currently Conservative seats across the Remain heartlands of the South.

Enough for a hung Parliament, in fact.

On The Block

RT is blocked from posting or sharing anything new on Facebook until after Donald Trump's inauguration.

That's that, then.

Back to The New York Times we obediently troop.

And to Liar Kuenssberg's BBC.

This Opportunity Should Not Be Wasted

“My politics are simply the Morning Star,” the next Leader of the Labour Party once told me. Therein, Colin Burgon writes: 

Why is free movement of labour such a difficult issue for the Labour Party?

Is it because since the 1980s it has stopped analysing society in economic terms, accepted the neoliberal consensus and concentrated on social issues, thus resulting in the confusion of thinking we are now experiencing?

The “liberal wing” of the party — stretching from Guardianistas to Corbynistas — along with the residual Blairites, view free movement as primarily a social, not an economic issue.

The Blairite Progress pressure group was all about opening our society to the global economy in the belief that everyone would benefit.

For the Blairites, their quasi-religious support of the EU precluded any criticism of free movement, as it was one of the four fundamental pillars of that institution.

I well remember an exchange in Parliament in 2005 with a very prominent architect of Labour’s economic policy in which I raised my fears of the impact of free movement on our supporters.

I expressed the view that it was politically bad news for us and economically bad news for our supporters. 

He replied: “It’s a good thing, as it helps to keep inflation down” and I responded: “In effect you are using free movement as an incomes policy for working-class people.” 

It is fascinating to see that many of these Blairite MPs, representing seats outside of London, are finally realising how out of touch with their constituents they have been. 

They’re now changing their tune on the issue and this switch, characterised by panic and an ultimate desire to save their seats, fills me with no confidence that they grasp the true reality of the issue. 

Their opportunistic move also fortuitously gives them an additional stick with which to beat Corbyn. 

The Brexit vote highlighted the central fact that those earning below £20,000 a year overwhelmingly voted Leave. 

A very big section of these people have historically been Labour voters. 

Our failure to speak for them indicates the disconnect Labour is experiencing in our heartlands. 

I think that we should, and can, do something about it. 

That can best be achieved by Labour developing a class and economic analysis of our society. 

Bernie Sanders showed brilliantly that there is a growing audience for this approach. 

Class does indeed “trump” identity politics. 

When I retired from Parliament in 2010 I did not retire from active politics. 

For the past six years, I have been fortunate enough to do political education for shop stewards in my union. 

Undertaking these regular sessions enables me to share the concerns of key groups of working men and women in the public and private sectors. 

It soon became clear to me that these groups, mainly Labour but with varying degrees of enthusiasm, were going to vote Leave. 

The claims from Remain that their economic future would be undermined didn’t strike a chord with them. 

They were aware that their economic position had been deteriorating for decades even when they were in the EU. 

Since the 1980s and the triumph of neoliberalism, Britain like most other “advanced economies” has become more unequal. 

The share of the wealth taken by the top 1 per cent has steadily increased at the expense of the rest of us. 

How has this been achieved? 

The intellectual victory of neoliberalism and increasing inequality has been brought about by undermining the position of labour. 

The means have included the conscious weakening of unions, privatisation, technological and work pattern changes, financialisation of the economy and the outsourcing and export of jobs to cheap labour countries. 

Many who class themselves on the left would have no problem agreeing with this analysis. 

However, this agreement breaks down on the place of free movement of labour in this process. 

Most of the shop stewards have not read Karl Marx, Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman but they have grasped the simple truth that a surplus of labour drives wages down. 

The capitalist class know this. 

They are not supporters of free movement because they are in favour of people experiencing different cultures. 

They support it because it benefits them economically. 

The failure by many in the Labour Party to grasp the primacy of economics in relation to this issue has resulted in a complete denial of reality and much muddled thinking. 

“Who benefits?” should always be the question we ask in relation to economic matters. 

Many working-class Labour supporters see free movement as helping to create an atmosphere of job insecurity and yet another way of holding down wages, terms and conditions. 

In all the discussions I have had, this is the dominant feeling and not one of personally blaming “eastern Europeans” for the problems encountered. 

Labour must deepen and strengthen the understanding that free movement is fundamentally an economic issue. 

Ukip attempts to simply blame “the foreigners” for the increasing economic insecurity working people are feeling. 

Labour has to argue it is the top 1 per cent, our own rich and powerful class, who are taking advantage of people — both EU migrants and our own workers. 

As a party, we should want to regulate the large financial institutions. 

We should want to regulate in favour of combating climate change and we should want to regulate all aspects of labour conditions. 

And Labour has to finally say that there is nothing socialist or inherently progressive about the free movement of labour in a capitalist society. 

Coming to terms with this truth will help us to move the debate forward and also help us to reconnect with those of our people whose lives are dominated by insecurity and a lack of hope. 

Labour now has an historic opportunity, under a leader unafraid of challenging stale orthodoxies, to demolish a key tenet of free market capitalism. 

This opportunity should not be wasted.

Brexit and a New Second Chamber

The Finished Article

There ought to be an amendment insisting on that extra £350 million per week for the NHS.

But the people expressing even the mildest surprise at Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Article 50 know literally nothing about the Left.

Corbyn would have voted for Article 50 even if there had been a Labour three-line whip to vote against it.

Now, though, he is the Leader.

Wherever you are, Tony Benn, this one is for you.

Social Surrey

Good luck to Surrey County Council in seeking to make up the shortfall imposed on the social care of its residents by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Health, both of whom sit for constituencies in Surrey.

But this ought not to be left to local authorities, some of which will of course always be far richer than others.

There would be obvious savings in a national system.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Jonathan Ashworth ought to present them to the affluent, yet increasingly hard-pressed, householders of Surrey.

Mistaken For Milne

Seumas Milne is now officially leaving The Guardian in order to work full time for Jeremy Corbyn.

I once spent at least 20 minutes entirely failing to explain to someone that I was not Seumas Milne.

On and on she went about how much she had enjoyed "your" book on the Miners' Strike.

I have never written a book on the Miners' Strike.

His is excellent. But it is not by me. 

There are several reasons for that. Not the least of them is that I am not Seumas Milne.

Definite Article

A three-line whip to vote in favour of Article 50 would not "force" Labour MPs to vote for it.

It would just be a three-line whip.

MPs would be within their rights to break it, as Jeremy Corbyn did often enough.

And to take the consequences, which should be understood in light of the fact that Corbyn is still alive, is still possessed of all four limbs and all five senses, is still a Member of Parliament, and is now the Leader of the Labour Party.

What would those bemoaning this whip have had instead? A free vote? A whip to overturn the referendum result? What, exactly?

Improving The State of The World, Indeed

Congratulations to Theresa May on having gone to Davos, delivered Jeremy Corbyn's act, and got out in one piece.

But that is more than she would manage if her party failed to win Copeland.

Forget the number of Conservative MPs who pretended to support Leave.

That is like the number that pretended to oppose same-sex marriage. How many would vote to repeal it?

Similarly, the true number in favour of Leave is at most the number that did not support Theresa May.

So many of them did support her that no election was deemed necessary.

The first big loss to the Lib Dems in the Remain heartlands of the South has already happened.

A failure to overturn a Labour majority of a mere 2,564 at Copeland would mean that in 2015 the Conservatives had won the most seats that they ever possibly could.

There would certainly be a hung Parliament in 2020.

In an attempt to avert that, Mrs May would be removed, after considerably less than one year as Prime Minster, and replaced with someone who had never undertaken to invoke Article 50 by an given date.

Or, indeed, at all.

Replaced, moreover, with someone who would not be going to Davos and delivering Jeremy Corbyn's act.

Those who wanted both Article 50 and that act, with or without any trip to Davos, or indeed who wanted so much as one of those things, would then have a very clear option.

In every Durham constituency except Grahame Morris's Easington, and in each constituency falling wholly or partly in Derby other than Derby North (assuming that Chris Williamson were the Labour candidate there), that option would be to vote for the candidate from within the Teaching Assistants' campaign, something that Grahame and Chris can also be said to be.

Everywhere else, that option would be to vote Labour.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Going On

"What's going on with the Teaching Assistants' strike action?"

This is.

It's Not Trump, It's Us

This is why he's John Pilger.

Respectability

Lee Jasper, who among other things was a Respect parliamentary candidate as recently as 2012, must be back in the Labour Party.

Good for him, if that is what he wants.

And good for me, since I am now officially more dangerous than Lee Jasper.

Centrism Begat Populism

After John Milbank earlier, here is another of the old Blue Labour luminaries, Stewart Wood: 

For just under a quarter of a century, British politics has been dominated by what might be called, paradoxically, a “theology of centrism” – the belief that most people were more concerned with what works than ideology, and that politics should principally be the art of improving the delivery of public goods. 

It was a theology that, for all their policy differences, united Tony Blair and David Cameron. 

Anyone who thought electoral success could be won anywhere but from the centre was either naïve or fanatical, or both... but definitely wrong. 

Now, populism is on the march across the West. 

In Britain, as elsewhere, the political class is unnerved and baffled. 

So what happened? 

Partly, as with all revolutions in politics, the answer is: “events”. 

Unsuccessful wars, economic crashes and political scandals all played their part. 

But that isn’t enough of an explanation. 

In fact, the rise of populist politics has also been a direct result of the era of centrism. 

Here is what has taken place: 

1. A hollow left and right 

First, the theology of centrism was the culmination of a decades-long hollowing out of mainstream politics on the left and right. 

In the mid-20th century, Conservatism was a rich tapestry of values – tradition, localism, social conservatism, paternalism and fiscal modesty, to name but a few. 

By 1979, this tapestry had been replaced by a single overriding principle – faith in free-market liberalism. 

One of Margaret Thatcher's great achievements was to turn a fundamentalist faith in free markets into the hallmark of moderate centrism for the next generation of leaders. 

It is a similar story on the left. 

In the mid-20th century, the left was committed to the transformation of workplace relations, the collectivisation of economic power, strong civic life in communities, internationalism, and protection of family life. 

By the turn of the 21st century, the left’s offer had narrowed significantly – accepting economic liberalism and using the proceeds of growth to support public investment and redistribution. 

It was an approach committed to managing the existing economy, not transforming the structure of it or of society. 

And it was an approach that relied on good economic times to work. 

So when those good times disappeared after the financial crash, the centrism of both parties was left high and dry. 

The political economic model of New Labour disappeared in the first days of October 2008. 

And when a return to Tory austerity merely compounded the problem of stagnant living standards, public faith in the economic liberalism of the centre-ground was mortally wounded. 

2. Fatalism about globalisation 

Second, Labour and Tory politics-as-usual contained a fatalism about globalisation. 

The right, obsessed with economic liberalism, welcomed globalisation readily. 

The left under Bill Clinton in the US and Blair in the UK made their parties’ peace with it. 

But globalisation was not a force to be managed or mitigated. 

It was to be accepted wholesale. 

In fact, in his 2005 Conference speech, PM Tony Blair chastised those who even wanted to discuss it. 

“I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation," he said. 

“You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer. They're not debating it in China and India.” 

I bet they were, and still are.

The signal to voters was that it was not legitimate to fret about the pace and consequences of change. 

No wonder, when the fretting began, people turned away from these same politicians. 

3. A narrowing policy gap 

Third, the modernising projects of Blair and Cameron ended up producing a politics that was, to use Peter Mair’s term, “cartelised”. 

The backgrounds, worldviews and character of party elites began to converge significantly. 

Both parties’ leaderships accepted the same external conditions under which British politics operated – globalisation, economic liberalism, sceptical acceptance of the EU, enthusiasm for closeness to the US on security issues. 

The policy space between both main parties narrowed like never before. 

As a result, economic and class divisions in the country were less and less reflected in political divisions in Westminster. 

The impression arose, with good reason, of an intellectual, cultural and financial affinity between politicians across the main divide, and between the political class and big business. 

This affinity in turn gave rise to a perception of “groupthink” across the elite, on issues from expenses to Europe, and one that came with a tin ear to the concerns of struggling families. 

It may be misleading it is to depict all politicians as snug and smug members of a remote Establishment. 

Nevertheless, social and economic convergence inside Westminster party politics gave populists an opportunity to present themselves as the antidote not just to Labour or the Tories, but to conventional politics as a whole. 

4. New political divides 

Lastly, the populist moment was created by the way in which new electoral cleavages opened up, but were ignored by the main political parties. 

The last decade has seen a global financial crash that has restored economic insecurity to frontline politics. 

But at the same time, we are witnessing a terminal decline of normal party politics based fundamentally on the division between a centre-left and centre-right offering competing economic policies. 

Of course economics and class still matter to voting. 

But a new cleavage has emerged that rivals and threatens to eclipse it – globalism vs nationalism. 

Globalists are economically liberal, positive about trade, culturally cosmopolitan, socially progressive, with a benign view of globalisation and faith in international law and cooperation. 

Nationalists are hostile to both social and economic liberalism, want more regulation and protection, are sceptical of trade, see immigration as an economic and cultural threat, and have little time for the liberal international order. 

The factors that drive this new electoral divide are not just about voters’ economic situation. 

Age, geography and education levels matter – a lot. 

Initially both main parties were tectonically slow to respond to this new world. 

But populism – whether Ukip, the SNP or Theresa May's Tories – has thrived on the erosion of the traditional class divide, and sown seeds of panic into the Labour party as it faces the prospect of sections of its traditional core vote peeling away. 

Centrists thought their politics was moderate, pragmatic, not ideological. 

But signing up to free market liberalism, globalisation and an economistic view of politics turned out to be seen as a curious kind of fundamentalism, one which was derailed by the 2008 crisis. 

The exhaustion of the theology of centrism did not create populism – but it did allow it a chance to appeal and succeed. 

Those on the left and right watching the march of populism with trepidation need to understand this if they are to respond to it successfully. 

The answer to the rise of populist politics is not to mimic it, but to challenge it with a politics that wears its values proudly, and develops a vision of Britain’s future (not just its economy) on the foundation of those values. 

Populists need to be challenged for having the wrong values, as well as for having anger instead of solutions. 

But calling for a return to centrism simply won’t work. 

It plays precisely to what has become an unfair but embedded caricature of New Labour and Notting Hill conservatism – power-hungry, valueless, a professional political class. 

It suggests a faith in moderate managerialism at a time when that has been rejected by events and the public. 

And it tells voters to reconcile themselves to globalisation, when they want politicians to wrestle a better deal out of it.

Liar Kuenssberg


How is this person still employed?

She stands exposed today as the Queen of Fake News.

But the Orgreave Broadcasting Corporation never learns.

Chris Spence for Stoke-on-Trent Central


A Red Labour stalwart and a Corbyn campaign organiser to beat Paul Nuttall?

Yes, but that is not quite the point.

The point is a Red Labour stalwart and a Corbyn campaign organiser as the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

And the point is Chris Spence as the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

That is what Parliament and the country need.

Cumberland Sauce

At Copeland, the Conservatives were only 2,564 votes behind in 2015, before either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May came along.

If the whole of opinion polling and almost all of paid political comment have any worth whatever, then the Conservatives will win the forthcoming by-election there.

But if they do not, then that will prove that in 2015 they won every seat that they ever possibly could.

That is enough for the barest of overall majorities.

But the loss of the tiniest handful would result in a hung Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats were already on course to win Remain seats in the South that were held by the Conservatives.

Indeed, they had already done so once, in a constituency where the Conservative majority had previously been of eye-watering enormity.

And then came yesterday's speech by the Prime Minister.

A hung Parliament in 2020 is now a racing certainty.

If Labour retained Copeland, then the Conservatives would be well advised to remove Mrs May.

Whoever was her successor would never have undertaken to invoke Article 50 by any specific date.

Or, indeed, at all.

Anyone who wanted that would need to vote Labour.

We're All Loonies Now

My fellow Leave voters, did you vote Labour in 1983?

Or (like me) would you have done so, if you had been old enough?

Or would you have done so, if you had been born? 

Do you regret that Labour lost the 1983 General Election? 

If your answer is no, then you have absolutely no credibility whatever.

If you were old enough to vote Labour in 1983, but you didn't, then you just need to shut up and go away.

No Such Casualties Were Identified

The man known as “The Southern Avenger”, Jack Hunter writes:

When it was announced on Tuesday that President Obama would commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, Fox Contributor Judith Miller asked how many lives the whistleblower’s actions had cost. 

This has been a common refrain from Manning critics for many years. 

But Miller and those of similar mind should finally stop asking this question. 

We already know how many people died due to Manning’s actions: zero. 

The Guardian reported in 2013, “The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.”

The report continued (emphasis added): 

Brigadier general Robert Carr, a senior counter-intelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the Defense Department, told a court at Fort Meade, Maryland, that they had uncovered no specific examples of anyone who had lost his or her life in reprisals that followed the publication of the disclosures on the internet. “I don’t have a specific example,” he said. 

It has been one of the main criticisms of the WikiLeaks publications that they put lives at risk, particularly in Iran and Afghanistan. The admission by the Pentagon’s chief investigator into the fallout from WikiLeaks that no such casualties were identified marks a significant undermining of such arguments.

So there you have it. Manning’s leaks didn’t result in any deaths according to the Pentagon.
However, the Iraq War resulted in many deaths.

It was Judith Miller’s shoddy reporting for the New York Times in 2002 that helped build the public narrative that helped sell the war, an irony that didn’t go unnoticed when she tweeted about Manning Tuesday.

Still, I don’t expect Manning’s critics to stop saying she caused deaths any more than I expect unrepentant hawks to continue defending the failed Iraq War

But when it comes to war-related matters of life and death, let’s stop pretending it was Chelsea Manning who did the most damage.

The Key To Their Survival

The intellectual colossus and academic demigod who wrote the preface to my first book, and who commended my second book by calling me a “prophet”, John Milbank, writes: 

The populist voter insurgencies of 2016 are complex, but one important aspect of them is the rejection of a seamless liberal order and worldview. 

Despite its unbearable claims to be the only possible worldview, liberalism has been rejected because it does not work for the majority of people. 

And just as liberal economics are now being questioned, so are liberalism’s cultural and ethical assumptions – in a way that the highly intelligent liberal Richard Rorty prophesied 20 years ago. 

The backlash against liberalism 

Liberals have too casually spoken as if being white, male and heterosexual were in itself a cause for suspicion, rather than a condition that white heterosexual males cannot help. 

So liberals should not be surprised if they now face a backlash from ordinary, not very successful WHMs who have dangerously started to think of themselves as a threatened “identity”. 

This “whitelash” may well sometimes take on unpleasant forms of racial prejudice, misogyny, dislike of all Muslims, nationalism, even anti-Semitism and so forth. 

But more commonly it is a reaction to liberals’ tendency to obsess over their favourite issues to the neglect of what the majority needs: family, community and work security along with a sense of cultural identity. 

An identity that is all the more precious to the less-privileged, and often the key to their survival.

Too often liberals can sound not just as if they do not care about these things, but even as if they should be disparaged. 

What is more, it is possible that liberals have too easily assumed that there exists a new consensus over abortion rights, euthanasia rights, gay marriage, transgender issues and positive discrimination (as opposed to formal equal access) for women and racial minorities. 

In reality, it may well be that a large number of people either reject or have doubts about these things, but feel that it is no longer acceptable to say so. 

Their real views perhaps emerged anonymously as one aspect of the votes for Brexit and for Trump. 

In the face of all this, one can well feel a divided reaction. 

On the one hand, a fear of mass tyranny and new reasons to feel hesitant about the undiluted virtues of pure democracy. 

See my new book The Politics of Virtue, co-written with Adrian Pabst. 

On the other hand, a certain sense that the voters have grasped several truths. 

Last year’s votes showed an inchoate popular recognition that liberalism has become a violent and elitist global tyranny, that economic and cultural liberalism are really at one (Blair, the Clintons, Cameron) and that we may have modified or abandoned ultimately Christian norms about sex and gender all too casually and with no serious debate. 

These popular instincts may all be far more intellectually cogent than the vapid conclusions of a thousand postmodern academic seminars. 

This point was for me well illustrated by a recent radio phone-in programme where an academic rightly said that “race” was a mere European ideological construction, but a listener then asked why, in that case, the academic wanted to validate “black history” and “black studies” in isolation? 

“Would that not just reinforce the ideological delusion?”, she naively but perceptively asked. 

The academic had no serious answer, illustrating the dialectical illiteracy of so many supposed intellectuals today. 

Gender assumptions 

In what follows I am not denying that there are some people with confused bodies who deserve our every help towards a viable individual solution. 

Nor that there are others with unfathomable psychological conditions estranging them from their own corporeal manifestation. 

Perhaps, in extremis, surgery is the only solution for them. 

But many people rightly sense that the liberal obsession with the transgender issue has gone beyond merely wanting to help this minority. 

It has become a whole movement to change our notions of gender. 

And its preoccupations come across as irrelevant to most people, unjustified in its conclusions, and apparently condemnatory of the normal with which most people identify. 

As with the new post-liberalism in general (in both nasty and wise variants), the point is not “conservatism” versus “progressivism”. 

It is rather a question of essentially liberal novelties tied to an individualist, positivist philosophy which recognises only “facts” and “choice” as real. 

To reject this philosophy does not make you a reactionary. 

The contemporary liberal worldview, influenced especially by Judith Butler, sharply divides the mere “fact” of given bodily sex from the “chosen” cultural construction of gender. 

Bodily appearances of engenderment are no longer seen as manifestations of a psychic-bodily unity, but as meaningless physical circumstances. 

Real gender is seen as something that our culture has collectively fantasised. 

However, more sophisticated exponents of cultural theory, including many feminists, have asked whether nature and culture can be so easily divided. 

And in reality, liberals cannot sustain an account which denies so much of our experience. 

Instead, they end up shamelessly muddling nature and culture. 

Exceptions to the gendered and heterosexual norm are at one moment deemed to be non-negotiably “given” as natural, even biological facts (nature), and at the next deemed to be valid individual preferences (culture). 

Why liberalism hurts the poor 

Liberalism, then, drives the attempt to displace the heterosexual norm – which leads to the (shockingly illiberal) criminalisation of those who do not endorse either gay practice or gay marriage. 

But liberalism includes capitalism: in the end, liberalism defines people as simply property-owners, narcissistic self-owners, choosers and consumers. 

Aquinas thought that our natural orientation to something outside ourselves was fundamental to our being.

Liberalism, by contrast, denies the importance of relationships. 

Thereby it encourages the undoing of community, locality and beauty – and also marriage and the family.

And there is, naturally, money to be made out of all this. 

Husbands, wives, children and adolescents (this last an invention of the market) are more effective and exploitable consumers when they are isolated. 

Fluctuating identities and fluid preferences, including as to sexual orientation, consume still more, more often and more variously in terms of products and services. 

The fact that the market also continues to promote the nuclear family as the norm is not here to the point – of course it will make money from both the “normal” and the “deviant” and still more from their dispute. 

Ultimately, profits will accrue from reducing the heterosexual norm to the status of just another “lifestyle choice”. 

The populist (as opposed to the well-heeled and ultra-liberal) faction amongst Brexiteers and Trumpists implicitly see all this – and realise that the marginalising of the family, as of secure labour, coherent community and safe environment, is not in their interests. 

For, as RR Reno and others have pointed out, the poor or relatively poor simply cannot afford the experimentation with sex, drugs and lifestyle that can be afforded by those cushioned by wealth.  

Thus the result of sexual liberalism and the decay of marriage as a norm for working people is too often women left on their own with babies, and young men (shorn of their traditional chivalric and regular breadwinning dignity) driven to suicide. 

The intellectuals’ mistake 

I repeat that there are some people who really do have a psychic disparity with their gendered body. 

They may be a very small minority, but they should be listened to – and liberalism has certainly helped us to treat them with understanding and compassion. 

But we should still consider irremediable psychic disparity with one’s gendered body to be a highly rare exception, and normatively one should assume (with the sensus communis of all ages) that gender indeed follows upon biological sex. 

Otherwise, one is embracing a most bizarre dualism of mind and body or soul and body. 

Normatively, we will identify with the indications of our given bodies and be propelled by them towards attraction to “the other” body, or alternatively (in the case of gay people) to “the same”. 

But this is too much for liberalism, which finds such thought “essentialist” and limiting. 

For liberalism, inner feelings about sexual identity and attraction may imply that I am not really in the “right” body, or alternatively that it is my right to choose the body that I “really” want. 

There have also been stories, following the same logic, about people choosing to be disabled, to be of “another race” or even another species. 

So two controversial points about transgenderism follow from this. 

First, that we are not talking here about simply the discovery of “another” minority condition that demands recognition and emancipation, but rather about a necessary extended footnote to the rendering of homosexuality as the new norm. 

For once we give equal status to attraction towards “the same” as to attraction towards “the other”, we have already rendered sexual difference a subordinate irrelevance. 

Secondly, that the contradiction I described earlier is still there: “transgender” oscillates between being merely a matter of choice, and being something unchosen, something lodged in a presumed non-pathological soul. 

A neurological or corporeal basis for transgender seems unlikely. 

It is just possible that genuine neurological evidence will alter our perspectives on all this, but so far it is very inconclusive. 

In any case, the mere discovery of a neurological equivalent to a state of psychic/corporeal confusion is unlikely to show which came first – the formation of the brain or of a person’s psychological responses to social interactions. 

Arguably, the psychology is more likely to come first, given the known extreme responsiveness of the habits of synapses to our patterns of behaviour. 

Unless one could identify an unambiguously physical source at the genetic level for an abnormality of brain functioning, it would be very difficult to presume that transgender has ultimately neurological causes. 

If transgender is alternatively considered to be a matter of choice, then one might suppose that collectively we should encourage people to stay in the bodies and psychic guise they were born with, since that is more likely to further social happiness and the perpetuation of the human race – or more immediately, the continuance of the European legacy (however much one may allow for the conversion and inculturation of incomers). 

Yet already there are suggestions and practices which demand that gender-neutrality be rendered normative, so that children can eventually choose (but how, with what guidance, with what formed habits?) their own gendered identity mix. 

This is to ignore the overwhelming evidence familiar to us all (with no need for dubious accounts of experiments and statistics) for biologically-given gendered behaviour in babies and infants. 

So educating children this way is a recommendation for liberal tyranny and oppression. 

Most people rightly think any such educational programme is nuts. 

They are the intellectuals, and the liberal academics are the lunatics.  

And without bodily sexual difference, there would of course be no prompting to the social imagination of gender. 

This is the very simple point that is naïvely overlooked as too naïve by the Butlerian thinkers. 

It is dangerous to suggest that any and every claim to be in the wrong body requires the expenditure of scarce health resources, rather than some form of guidance. 

If we treat gender identity as so easily laid aside, we could lose our bedrock understanding of what human nature is. 

The new intolerance 

The present is here in some ways less tolerant than the past. 

As with homosexuality, past cultures did not so readily label transgender tendencies, much less make them all-defining of someone’s identity (think of late Victorian broadmindedness here, as in the case of the strange archiepiscopal Benson family). 

Instead, previous generations allowed that young girls might often be boys and – a little less readily – vice-versa. 

Screeds of nonsense are now written and enacted about gender-bending in Shakespeare as “subversive”, but the whole point about such ironic games is that they depended on seeing gender as a bi-substantial absolute (i.e., to be human is to be either male or female, period), while recognising that our deepest spiritual souls transcend gender even as they do not wholly do so. 

By comparison, transgender as promoted today is a deadly earnest attempt to abolish gender altogether. 

Naturally, this promotion is most of all directed towards adolescents and children (rendering our fears, legitimate and not, over child abuse, somewhat hypocritical) by the commercial music industry. 

What comes after transgender? 

Surely no gender at all, but only the lone self, wandering trapped in a labyrinth of endlessly binary forking paths, by which it is more controlled than it can ever be controlling. 

With gender vanishes sex, save for self-pleasuring, and with both sex and gender vanishes the most fundamental mode of eros and relationality: that between man and woman. 

Most non-tyrannical human self-government has been built on male-female relationality, as Ivan Illich showed. 

It also provides the metaphors on which most of religion is founded, from Hinduism to the Wisdom literature of the Bible. 

And with this vanishing, reproduction would be more and more removed from the sphere of free and loving relationships and handed over to market forces and state scientific control. 

Increasingly isolated individuals would still want babies and it would be in the interests of both commerce and the state to provide them with the artificial means to do so and to seek to exert influence over that process and its outcome.  

This is just what Aldous Huxley predicted in his Brave New Worldwhose title of course ironically invokes the founding cultural shock of the recognition of sexual difference in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

His brave new dystopia is really a world that puts an end to the true human novelty.

It is not surprising if the majority of people feel threatened by transgender obsessions, both for the way in which they themselves are perceived and for the fate of their children and their own way of life.

Dimly, perhaps, they also discern the post-humanist direction in which this is all heading. 

Both the unchurched and Christian dissenters may have now obliquely spoken up for the western and Christian legacy more abruptly and absolutely than the mainline churches.

The cult of transgender is of course but one manifestation of a rejected liberalism, but it is highly symptomatic.

And it may well be one of the things that has provoked an altogether unexpected populist reaction.

Like so many, I do not admire much of the form this takes.

But the people may sense that, in this case as in others, things have gone too far, and they are by no means wrong.

Coping Mechanism

If the Conservatives do not win Copeland, then they are not going to win the General Election in 2020. 

This will be the first by-election in a marginal seat since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Leader, and therefore also since Theresa May became Prime Minister. 

The two parties in close competition are Labour and the Conservatives, with no one else anywhere. 

Bring it on.

2020 Visions

The NHS was in all three manifestos in 1945.

Therefore, 2020 will be the most momentous General Election ever to have been known to be so in advance, rather than only in hindsight.

Article 50 or no Article 50, there is no way that Britain will already have left the EU by May 2020.

So that Election will be between Jeremy Corbyn's vision for Brexit Britain, and the vision of whoever was the Leader of the Conservative Party by then.

Frankly, that latter could be anyone, and a lot sooner than that.

Meanwhile, great tracts of the country will never be reconcilable to Brexit in any form.

Depending on which way it swung, the UUP might benefit from that. The SNP certainly will.

As, at least in the UUP's absence, will the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

And as, on a very large scale, will that party's Lib Dem allies across the South of England.

The Lib Dems are already the only party to have taken a seat at a by-election during this Parliament.

Unless Labour won in 2020, and the Conservative Party has now begun to descend into internecine warfare, then there is going to be a hung Parliament.

I'll be there.

As should be the Teaching Assistants or their allies for every other seat in County Durham that had not been retained by Grahame Morris, and for every seat in Derby that had not been regained by Chris Williamson.

After The Mayhem

I do feel for the people who are stamping their feet at the refusal of the rest of us to acknowledge the supposed genius of Theresa May.

"Or we'd just leave on the day, under WTO rules"? I ask you! Where does one even begin?

May herself knows perfectly well that that is drivel.

Article 50 means nothing, and it will continue to mean nothing until its invocation ever results in any country's withdrawal from the EU.

When that simply does not happen in this case, and we are still in the EU exactly as if there had never been a referendum, then she will claim that at least she tried.

But she is a staunch Remainer, far stauncher than Jeremy Corbyn.

As are the people who made her Leader, and who are already moving to unmake her Leader if it looked as if any of this might happen in actual fact.

The kind of saloon bar foghorns who think that UKIP first secured and then won the referendum (both of those things had literally nothing to do with UKIP) are beside themselves at the failure of the rest of us at least to refrain from laughing.

The next General Election will be fought between competing versions of the Brexit Britain that will certainly not be in place by anything like as early as May 2020.

On one side, some bargain basement sweatshop, advocated by the people who had entirely messed up the previous three years.

On the other side, the Britain that Peter Shore and Tony Benn had always wanted, advocated by people other than those who had entirely messed up the previous three years.

Let's see which of them wins.

Not On Her Terms

It is entirely reasonable, both to have opposed David Cameron's terms for remaining in the European Union, and to oppose Theresa May's terms for leaving the European Union.

There is no sign of that extra £350 million per week for the NHS.

With that, May's Bennite anti-Thatcherism would have been worth considering.

But without it, that is simply not the case.

The voters will see it the same way.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Central Issue

I do not always agree with Julia Hartley-Brewer, but she was right on Newsnight.

UKIP will either win Stoke Central, or it will never win anywhere.

To which I can only add that UKIP is not going to win Stoke Central.

Nor would the Conservatives be doing too well, if they did not win Copeland.

Where the main issue is not nuclear power, but the NHS.

24 Into 50

Or 50 into 24, if you prefer.

Theresa May specifically and forcefully refused to lay out any Brexit plan before Article 50 had been invoked.

But today, she did precisely that.

This is the twenty-fourth U-turn that Jeremy Corbyn has secured since becoming Leader of the Opposition.

The State of Rural Services, Indeed

There are votes to be had here.

Votes against the people who are currently running Durham County Council, for a start.

Seconds Out

Anyone remotely impressed by Theresa May's speech has not been reading Arron Banks's Twitter, @Arron_banks.

Everyone should. I am very much starting to like Arron Banks.

Both Houses of Parliament will reject withdrawal from the Single Market, if it ever gets that far.

But whereas the composition of the House of Commons can be changed, that of the House of Lords cannot.

At least, not without what would be the ludicrous creation of hundreds of Peers in one go.

Of course, that is the point. Giving the Lords a veto is May's utterly Tory way of ensuring that the whole scheme is killed off in the end.

This has nothing to do with such reforms as there were under Tony Blair.

Those reforms postdated the European Communities Act, the Single European Act, and the Maastricht Treaty.

This looks like it, the real possibility of a new second chamber.

But there is no point waiting for May to come up with anything specific.

Likewise, opposition to an elected second chamber was a key Blairite identifier, like support for First Past the Post, and opposition to the lowering of the voting age.

Instead, the Left needs to get in there with a specific proposal that would maximise the representation of the Labour Left, of smaller Left formations that had the good sense not to use the C-word or what have you for electoral purposes, and of non-party Left activists.

There are alliances to be made here from the Lib Dems, to the Greens, to UKIP, to the Conservative Right, to Plaid Cymru, to the UUP or the DUP (whichever was doing less well at the time), to the SDLP, to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Watch this space.

Their Brexit And Ours

Lindsay German writes: 

The sheer scale of difficulties faced by the British ruling class over Brexit was highlighted by Theresa May's speech and the reactions to it. 

May’s speech made some concessions to her opponents. 

She agreed to a vote in parliament on the final deal of Brexit, she claimed that she wanted to get a rapid deal over existing EU citizens in Britain and that she did not want to be antagonistic to other EU countries. 

But she also made clear that she wants to leave the single market, thereby prioritising limiting immigration over the economy and trade. 

This is opposed by many sections of business, economists and politicians, and despite her claim that such a move was implicit in the pre referendum debate, it most obviously was not. 

Capital 

Increasingly the debate between different sections of the ruling class and the establishment is what works best for capital, and how can they square the circle of the EU referendum outcome without damaging their profits and the society which has brought those dominating the debate on both sides such overwhelming benefits. 

That shouldn't be the argument of the left. 

We should not be arguing that one model of capitalism is good or better for us, but that this historic moment gives us a chance to pose a totally different scenario, one which benefits working people rather than the rich, which creates decent public services and develops jobs and work practices which are not part of the race to the bottom which characterises the neoliberal EU. 

If we cannot fight for that alternative, then whether we voted leave or remain, working class people are going to get shafted. 

That is the message not just from May's speech, but from the whole debate around it. 

It comes through particularly strongly in her veiled threats that if negotiations don't go nicely, the UK will slash taxes for the rich and corporations, turning the country into a tax haven off the shores of Europe which will damage EU trade and economic prospects. 

We can guess what will accompany that: more zero hours and insecure work, less funding for the NHS and schools, wages kept to their present low levels, and the continuation of a low productivity economy where there is little investment in machinery and plant. 

Frackers and speculators will be encouraged instead. 

Welcoming 

May could have said today that the money promised by the official leave campaign to go to the NHS would be guaranteed by this government. 

She didn't. 

She said she wanted to do something for EU citizens in Britain who have lived in uncertainty for seven months, but didn't say what or when. 

But the status quo hasn't guaranteed these things either. 

Wages have fallen more than anywhere else in Europe other than Greece over the past decade and will continue to do so. 

There is a distortion of the economy toward the City of London, and a dire crisis in housing, health and education. 

We need public investment, training and education, guarantees of standards of employment, trade union rights, and an emergency housing programme. 

There needs to be regional policy which helps some of the poorest areas, including decent jobs and transport infrastructure. 

There also has to be a fight against scapegoating, a commitment to welcoming migrants from all parts of the world. 

The two models of globalisation - in or out of the EU - offer the opposite. 

Socialists have no interest in supporting either.

To Right This Historical Wrong

Shabbir Lakha writes: 

Nobel Laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called on fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama to support the right of resettlement for Chagossians during his last days as President.

In an open letter published on 5 January 2017, the seven Nobel Laureates set out a five-point plan and make an impassioned plea to the soon departing President to overturn decades of injustice.

The ethnic cleansing of Chagos 

The Chagos Archipelago is a group of many small islands in the heart of the Indian Ocean, which make up the British Indian Ocean Territory.

This region which is not very well known by most people, and isn’t very big (amounting to 56 square km in total - smaller than the London Borough of Barnet) and is shrouded by a murky and tragic history.

Following the defeat of Napoleon, Great Britain took over Mauritius, Seychelles and the Chagos Islands and officially made them British colonies in the early 1800s.

In 1903, Seychelles was made its own separate colony, while Chagos was attached to the Mauritius colony and was ruled from there.

Although still under British rule, the Mauritian Labour Party won consecutive elections since the first general election in 1948 and the road to Independence was underway.

However, in 1965, before Mauritius gained its independence in 1968, Britain purchased the Chagos Archipelago from the then Mauritian government for £3 million, making it the British Indian Ocean Territory.

The UK brokered a deal with the United States in 1966, agreeing to a 50 year lease of the Chagos Archipelago for their Armed Forces and with the intention of creating a US military base for support with the Vietnam War on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the archipelago.

In order to fulfil this, the British executed a policy of depopulation and ethnic cleansing by deporting all 1,700 Chagossians and leaving them penniless in slums and refugee camps in Mauritius and Seychelles.

Since 1973, the only inhabitants of the Chagos Islands are US and UK military personnel and contracted individuals.

It is clear that even for externally contracted job posts, the UK have ensured that no Chagossians were able to take on these jobs.

“Unfortunately along with the birds go some few Tarzans or Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are being hopefully wished on to Mauritius” said one diplomatic cable in 1966, highlighting the racist attitudes of British Government Ministers at the time.

This policy was nothing short of a racist colonial expedition based on supporting the US in projecting its military aspirations for the Middle East and Asia.

The return benefit for the UK is a discount in the cost of hiring the Trident nuclear missile system from the US.

The legacy of the British Empire is full of crimes but what makes the Chagos case particularly disturbing is that this took place during the decolonisation period and the government have blocked every avenue to provide justice for the displaced Chagossians.

The fight for resettlement 

The Chagossian community in the UK have fought persistently in the courts to bring justice to their people and allow for their resettlement.

In 2006, they were successful in the High Court of Justice where it was ruled that their expulsion was unlawful, but the British Government under the direction of David Miliband (then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), appealed to the Court of Appeal (where it was upheld) and then to the House of Lords who overturned the ruling in 2008.

It has since been revealed that the British Government’s establishment of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area around the islands in 2010 was “the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling in the [British Indian Ocean Territory]” as said by Colin Roberts, then Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in a leaked cable.

The British Foreign Office were quick to assure their American counterparts, according to the leaked cables, that the Marine Protected Area’s logistics were to be negotiated together to ensure that it protects the interests of the US and its military base.

Evidence seen by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when conducting its investigation into CIA torture as part of the War on Terror showed that the military base on Diego Garcia had been used for rendition flights with the full cooperation of the UK.

A Libyan dissident who was allegedly abducted and returned to Libya via Diego Garcia today won the right to sue former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the Foreign Office and Home Office.

No political will Despite a KPMG feasibility report on behalf of the UK Government confirming that resettlement by the Chagossians is entirely feasible and at a minimal cost, the UK Foreign Office decided against resettlement in November 2016.

With the 50 year lease to the US military that started in 1966 coming into review, the decision was made to extend the agreement until 2036 after which the terms may be renegotiated.

The Foreign Office “squandered a perfect opportunity to right this historical wrong” according to Tom Guha of the UK Chagos Support Association.

Jeremy Corbyn, a long standing supporter of the right to resettlement for Chagossians, made a point of bringing up their plight when he met President Obama last year.

In the open letter, Nobel Laureates point out that the Chagossians are not asking for the US military base to be closed and that “civilians live next to U.S. bases worldwide and military experts agree resettlement would pose no security risk on Diego Garcia.”

Given the lack of political will shown by successive British and American governments over the last five decades in providing any kind of justice for the people of Chagos, and Obama’s two days left in office, it seems the fight of the Chagossians for their basic human rights must still continue.