Death of a Party

“Oh, plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope – but not for us.”

Franz Kafka

I had almost an entire piece written about the Labour Party…. but it depressed me too much so I deleted it. There has been so much analysis of the issues confronting us that I don’t think it helps me writing my own take – which is normally my way of trying to come to terms with a situation.

I write this as a Labour member, a party I joined without huge expectations after the general election, but the reality has been so much worse. I’ve always considered myself to the left of what has been the standard Labour position during my years eligible to vote. In theory I should have been pleased that Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership election last year, but I was very worried.

Corbyn represents a strand of left wing politics that has got into bed with some fairly horrific regimes, as well as (despite what they try and deny) having a strong record of anti-Semitism. He also, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually seem to be for anything. Some very clever people have written some very convincing arguments about why we should support Corbyn, but most of it boils down to people projecting their own thoughts and theories onto Corbyn. He does not necessarily stand for those ideals himself.

When Corbyn does talk on policy matters, EU membership, Trident, ending tax relief on pharmaceutical companies research, he comes across as unconvincing, and lacking any real understanding of how the world works. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Corbyn has marketed himself as an antidote to “career politicians”, which is impressively as that is exactly what he is. It is just that the causes that he has been interested in and worked towards over the last 32 years have tended to be on the margins of British political life. It is why he is comfortable talking to people who agree with him, but he is utterly hopeless when confronted with those who do not share his own viewpoint. Unfortunately for him, the job of opposition leader is not to bask in the adoration of the devoted, but to win round the couple of million people Labour needs in order to win the next election. Not only does he not seem able to do this, he doesn’t seem particularly interested in trying.

Doubtless Corbyn will win the next election and will lead Labour to a record breaking defeat at the next general election. If I was Theresa May I would call a general election the day after the Labour leadership results are announced. However, even if Owen Smith does somehow beat Corbyn and become Labour leader I don’t see how he can win a general election either. There will doubtless be a huge fall-out with the membership which will have a big impact on finances. He has tacked left in his leadership pitch so far, but doing so will make our rabidly right wing press attack him with a fervour that will their treatment of Ed Miliband seem benign. There will also be the fact that, that the core Corbyn supporters will see him as a traitor and will be unlikely to vote for him, despite the fact that at the moment there seems to be little difference in policy platform between Smith and Corbyn.

In conclusion, I can only see a hideous shit show. The right wing will continue to rise, increased nationalism will lead to another war, and if the USA elect Trump, well, all bets are off. There are lots of people doing good work in the world, trying to make it a better place. I hope that their example will shine through, but it won’t be enough over the next few years. Time to learn how to grow your own food and brew your own beer.

Inside the tent

It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.
Lyndon B. Johnson

I’ve always been someone who has preferred to be outside the tent. I have always had a deep-seated suspicion of joining anything. I don’t want to be co-opted – why would anyone want to co-opt me?

So what I’ve just done has taken me by surprise … I’ve joined the Labour Party. I know they’re not perfect, and they never will be, but this election result has booted me up my complacent leftie arse and made me want to get involved in whatever small way I can to make this a fairer country, and to improve the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable. Labour can do this, even if they will never be as radical as I would like …. in the gap between a Labour government and a Conservative government lies death, misery and waste. If the Conservatives get elected again in 2020 I at least want to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I at least tried to stop it happening, I tried to take small, practical, measurable steps to make this country a fairer, more equal, more hopeful place.

I’ll always call out Labour policies I don’t like. I am not a fan of austerity-lite or their ridiculous position on immigration, that’s never going to change. What has changed is now I want to build and contribute towards policies that I do like, on disabled benefits, on minimum wage, on workplace protection, on human rights, and to get involved in local policies on housing and education that are coming to a boil. So, as of now, I’ll be inside the tent pissing out … want to join me?

I’m going to get myself deported

This election is making me want to leave the country.

Driving down the A34, passing houses draped in UKIP posters, the bookshop … the fucking bookshop! … round the corner from my house has a 3 page article pinned on the shop doorway urging Britain’s to vote UKIP in order to make Britain great again.

What the hell is wrong with people? Why can’t we see the real enemy? Except … this surge in support for UKIP actually starts to suggest that people are starting to train their sights on the true culprits for this absolute mess we find ourselves in during the foul year of our lord 2015. Not the people who are voting for UKIP rather than BNP. There probably isn’t much that can be done for them. However, a number of people give their reason for voting UKIP as that they are sick of the political class, they want to shake things up. This instinct is absolutely correct. Unfortunately we live in a country where a middle-aged, white male, employed by Rupert Murdoch and until recently the BBC, who counts the prime minister as a personal friend, can be seen as some sort of figure of rebellion. It isn’t surprising that our notions of how to shake-up the status quo are a little off.

To make it quite clear, a vote for UKIP is a vote for the establishment. Funded by billionaires (Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express, hasn’t given his journalists a pay rise since 2008 has donated £1.3 million pounds to UKIP, evidence to anyone that it isn’t immigrants keeping wages down it is greedy owners), and with a core of candidates and members drawn from a lifetime in the Conservative party, city banking, and wealthy landowners, a vote for UKIP is, with apologies to Elton John, a vomit directly into a strong wind. For 99% of people who vote for UKIP, a UKIP government would literally be the worst thing that could happen for them. Maybe by the 2020 election they will have figured this out and we can start having a sensible debate about politics in this country? Maybe, but I am not optimistic. Race, Europe and immigration appear to be three topics that will always lie outside of rational political discourse in this creche of a country.

Not that any of the other parties are exactly making a compelling case for voting for them. Anyone who votes for Liberal Democrats frankly deserve everything they have coming to them. David Cameron’s campaign must rank as one of the worst of all time. When the SNP win a massive majority in Scotland and call another referendum in 5 years time – which they will win – you can blame the break-up of the union on a prime minister who has spent much of the last few weeks telling the world that any government that is made up of votes from a quarter of the kingdom would be illegitimate. It is an act of unprecedented constitutional recklessness that is being supported by a mainstream media that is increasingly not seeing the need to even try and dress up the fact that they are essentially the cheerleaders for the Conservative party. I mean, does the Telegraph even read the nonsense that the Conservative press team feed them or do they just print it verbatim?

As for Labour, well, they haven’t been quite as disappointing as I thought, but that really is setting the bar pretty low. Out of a bad bunch they would almost certainly cause the least damage, but they are still so wedded to the false rhetoric of austerity that all they really have to offer is diet tory. Where are the progressive policies on environment, transport, housing and wages that we need so desperately? If Murdoch really isn’t so important any more, where are the policies that would make the old bastard’s blood boil? Labour still seems to be trying to keep a foot in tory territory. Fuck privatisation. There’s a winning campaign slogan for you right there Ed, but we all know you’ll never say it.

Politicians have too much invested in keeping the show turning and to hell with the rest of us. Which is why I understand that impulse that makes people think of voting for UKIP, but you wouldn’t shit in your bed out of choice and then settle down for your 8 hour sleep in it, and voting for UKIP would be worse and would enable more of their racist, sexist, homophobic bullshit, so please don’t do it. 99% of us are in it together. We should concentrate our anger on the 1%, the elites, the corporations, the troika, the political classes, and UKIP are ball deep in with them. Whoever wins this election, our work is only just beginning.

If football clubs were political movements ….

I don’t support Newcastle but have been reading a fair bit about them recently, partly because of Pardew leaving – and also because of Mike Ashley’s attempts to strengthen his grip on the club formerly known as Glasgow Rangers.

Ashley’s Newcastle are a metaphor for wider austerity Britain. Celebrate mediocrity (8th place as a success) despite having the potential resources to do better (Newcastle have gates of over 50,000 and Ashley is one of the 5 richest men in Britain – although we’ll come to that in a second), sell off public property to private enterprise (the renaming of St James Park to the Sports Direct Arena), treating fans as mindless consumers who should just keep on paying their money and shut up about any demands they have for enjoyment (an attractive, attacking team, a cup run) as that is not the primary reason for the football club to exist. Generating a profit for Mike Ashley is.

Reading the back pages of the newspaper about Newcastle is like reading the front pages about coalition led Britain. Like Newcastle consistently selling their best players we are regularly told that we can’t afford benefits for the disabled, art centres, libraries, refuges for victims of domestic abuse, etc despite the fact that we have the 6th largest total GDP and have no problem affording Trident apparently.

Just as the government continues to sell off public assets like the Royal Mail, the NHS and the East Coast Mainline to their friends and family in the private sector so Mike Ashley treats the history of Newcastle football club as expendable in order to increase advertising opportunities for his business (Sports Direct). The worldwide exposure of the premier league increases brand recognition of Sports Direct on a global level – never mind the history of St. James Park the shareholders of Sports Direct need an increased dividend.

Invest little for maximum profit. Ashley’s Newcastle is pure capitalism that is probably a gold standard for sports business management graduates to emulate. It is also joyless, depressing, elitist, exclusionary and soulless. Just like ConDem Britain.

For evil to succeed all it takes is for good people to work for charities

“The world of do-gooders is steeped in hypocrisy, and anyone who proclaims the contrary, or even asserts it, is either a subtle exploiter of humanity or an unpardonable idiot. Ninety per cent of the time we are up against subtle exploiters, ten per cent of the time against unpardonable idiots.”Thomas Bernhard

If you walk through any English town centre you can’t help but be confronted by an ever increasing number of charities competing for your money. From charity shops to  young people in branded jackets with clipboards exhorting you to sign up to a direct debit to help Oxfam, or Amnesty International, or Greenpeace, or the RSCPA or the Red Cross and so on and so on, the High Street seems to now primarily exist in order to fund the charitable sector. How is this a bad thing? Because charities and human rights organisations have become the acceptable face of capitalism, foster the belief that there is such a thing as responsible capitalism, encourage the death  of thought and take up the time and energy of people who should be looking to change the world rather than making small differences – and ultimately propping up a failed and corrupt system.

The truth is that capitalism and charity should be fundamentally opposed. Charity works to improve people’s lives, to give some of the most unfortunate people in the world a chance to build a self-sufficient, rewarding life. Capitalism looks to make rich people richer – and to hell with everyone else. Charity under capitalism instead just serves as an easy, and indeed false, way for corporations to demonstrate social responsibility, helps to boost the fading careers of celebrities who, revitalised in the eyes of the public, now have just the image needed to represent corporations and encourage us all to consume more useless junk, and perhaps most importantly charity, especially major campaigns like Red Nose Day and Children in Need help us all to salve our consciences and stop thinking about any uncomfortable issues. The reality is that charities and the issues that cause them are locked together in an eternal embrace.  Look at the recent news about Comic Relief. They can defend themselves for investing in BAE with no apparent sense of irony. You don’t even have to imagine that ludicrous example, it is real!

Whilst we live under capitalism we will always need charities to try and counteract the inequalities caused by the very nature of capitalism. It seems a sorry way to think that the best system for living we as a species can come up with creates an entire industry to try (and inevitably fail) to negate its excesses. If, instead of working for charities, or mindlessly donating money to charities we worked to establish a society that isn’t based around profit and exclusion, that isn’t doomed to wreck the planet chasing the myth of unlimited growth, if we succeeded in creating a more equal, more caring, less profit obsessed society – wouldn’t that be our truly charitable act?




No change here

At what point did we lose control of politics? Or more to the point when did we lose control of politicians? In 1945 Churchill lost the general election despite being a victorious war leader because people doubted his ability to deliver a new world worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that had been made. It also didn’t help Churchill that there was a strong opposition with clearly defined differences. There are no such worries for David Cameron now. Despite handing Labour open goal after open goal nothing that Labour has said gives any indication they would do anything radically different. It is brutally apparent that a vote for Labour will bring no real change. At best they are Tory Zero, basically the same but not quite as bad for your health. Which brings me to the question of losing control of politicians.

For all the claims about the wealth of the current cabinet, there is plenty of money and privilege in the backgrounds of the Labour front bench. In itself of course this is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when Labour start espousing identical policies to the Conservatives and fail to defend the working class it seems to be bitterly obvious that in the main our politicians are from one small sphere of life and pursue policies that will principally benefit others in the same small group. So essentially our choice is to vote for someone with a red tie or a blue tie and that is all we have to go on. How can we give somebody control over important decisions that impact our day-to-day life when their personal reality is utterly divorced from the majority of the people they represent?

If we want any change we need to move away from a system run by a political elite for the benefit of the elite. We need to move away from the failed corpse of liberal democracy. All that remains of a once proud concepts is a hollowed out shell. Liberal democracy is a Trojan horse for neoliberalism. We need a revolution, and we need a post-revolution agreement that market driven capitalism needs to die for good. Surely humanity hasn’t evolved purely to benefit shareholders?

Bumbling idiot act broken

So Boris Johnson has finally allowed the act he’s been playing for some time to slip and and the real Boris Johnson has been nicely exposed by Eddie Mair. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person – everyone got to see just how nice on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th March. You can watch the interview courtesy of the BBC in the UK. Other countries might need a bit of searching to watch it.

I think such an occurance has surely been coming for some time. I find it difficult to believe that someone who is really such a bumbling idiot could have maneuvered to such a position as Mayor of London. Perhaps the real scenario is that’s the technique that Boris has always used to deflect attention from the reality of what he’s really like – a personality that seems much more suited to his political success. I could, of course, be wrong and I frequently am but it will be interesting to see what the fallout is.

It’s some time now since the incident occurred and Boris seems to have been somewhat quieter than usual – possibly drowned out by the furore surrounding the death of Margaret Thatcher although it might also be because he seems to have pissed off to the US. Long may he stay there but I expect he’ll be back, particularly as the ‘bad news’ has probably been buried.

Still Waiting for Superman?

I have just finished reading Kangaroo Courts and the Rule of Law by Desmond Manderson. It is an excellent analysis on the relationship between law, literature and justice – and on DH Lawrence’s ideas on the nature of justice – and how the crisis of modernity continues to plague us. For various reasons that led me onto think about the Occupy movement.

Ever since World War I all of our certainties have been shattered – and we still haven’t recovered. Fewer and fewer people believe that God will deliver us from our earthly woes – but that doesn’t mean that any number of equally misguided romantic, transcendental beliefs haven’t taken root. There is a reason that cartoon superheroes have been one of the most successful and enduring cultural symbols of modern life – they represent our deep held desire for something or someone to sweep in and act outside the structures of daily reality in order to improve our lives in a way that seems impossible if we conform to existing norms. This is why dictatorship continues to hold an allure despite the numerous horrific examples of where that inevitably leads.

When the Occupy movement first started gaining mainstream press attention the lack of leaders was one of the aspects highlighted. This is a deliberate reaction against the failures of ‘leaderism’ demonstrated in many political movements in the past. There have been any number of articles questioning whether the movement can survive without leaders. Is refusing to deal with existing power structures just another example of hoping that some other force will sweep in and change the world? Is Occupy still waiting for Superman?

I would argue that not only is this not the case – but that stepping away from the cult of the leader and working together to make decisions is the only way to generate the change that is so clearly needed. Why should we deal with corrupt power structures that  have quite clearly failed? We should work together sure in the knowledge that change won’t happen unless we make it happen…one tiny victory at a time.

Forget Superman. We’ll save ourselves.

Standard Government Policy: De-regulate, Disaster, Shrug

The title of this post is shamelessly lifted from a radio program I listened to on the way home from work last week. And it’s absolutely right, that’s standard government policy. I don’t just mean the current bunch of useless tory bastards, it’s the policy of ALL political parties. All equally useless.

Compare this with the approach taken in Iceland to a recent disaster that seems to have its roots in the deregulation of the banking sector, or their sheer incompetence or maybe the faintly ridiculous idea that the economy will keep growing forever. Or maybe all three. But I’m getting distracted by another bunch of cretins, back to the point. Iceland has take a different approach to most of the rest of the western world in tackling this crisis.

I recently read an interesting post on the Icelandic situation, interesting because it highlights not only the way that the issue has been approached but also the results that are being produced by this approach. I don’t think anywhere else is seeing any positive results of any policies intended address the current situation. On the contrary, it seems as though it’s used as an excuse to push through more punitive financial measures, sell off or deregulate any remaining government properties, by a front bench comprised of millionaires who really have no concerns in the current environment.

So, as yet another budget day draws near, what’s the likelihood of any constructive policy? From everything I’ve heard so far, absolutely fuck all chance! There’s a famous quotation that to keep doing the same thing each time and expecting a different result is a sign of madness…