Monday 31 December 2018

Top Ten Dance Songs 2018

Politics is the rhythm round these parts, but its electronic music that provides the beats. And here, as per tradition are the picks of the year. Perhaps you'll find some tracks/artists you've heard of for once?

10. Flames by David Guetta and Sia
9. Nordic Nights (Darren Porter Remix) by Mark Sherry and RAM
8. Rain by Bicep
7. Breathe by Jax Jones feat. Ina Wroldsen
6. Cure by Tube & Berger & Alegant
5. One Kiss by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
4. Will We Remain (Spencer Brown Remix) by ilan Bluestone and Maor Levi feat. EL Waves
3. Back Home (Fady and Mina vs Omar Sharif Extended Remix) by Hazem Belatagui feat. Adara
2. Rainbow by Estiva with Ruben De Ronde

House and trance, trance and house, such is the way of the solid disco world in 2018. And, much to my surprise as anyone's, three mainstream monsters made my considered grade. The appearance of Flames marks Sia's third appearance (and Guetta's second) on the end of year list, and it's a jolly, bombastic number suiting Sia's mighty vocals. Check it out with the video as well - a trés fun homage to 1970s Hong Kong flicks. Jax Jones and Ina were so good that they featured back on the blog in January, and I wasn't surprised they remained a favourite come the year's end. And, as much as I use these occasions to berate Calvin Harris for not doing anything good, his collab with emerging superstar Dua Lipa invalidates all previous criticisms. It was impossible to escape its boozing-on-the-beach vibes wherever you went, and stood out from the usual crowd of soulless EDM that goes down well in the American market.

Trance was well represented this year with four belters. Good to see RAM back in the listings, but it's thanks to Darren Porter's remix that catapulted his collaboration with Mark Sherry to greatness. Ditto for the work Spencer Brown did with Bluestone/Levi/Waves. I'm particularly taken with her vocal for Remain. Initially unfussy, British and business-like she breaks into full trance diva as the song progresses - brilliant. Mucho praise for Back Home too. Cheesy, nostalgic lyrics are wedded to Adara's powerful vocal and create a euphoric experience seldom surpassed in trance these days. Exceptional stuff. And the best trance track of the year IMHO was Estiva's collaboration with Armin van Buuren protege/wingman, Ruben. No vocals on this occasion but a well crafted wunderwerk I'll have on the playlist for years. In all, top job and drinks all round.

Another good year for house too. Bicep's Rain certainly tickled my fancy. Yes, I know it got a long trail on YouTube but it wasn't until this year it was released, so it qualifies. Tube & Berger's collaboration with Alegant was a proper hottie, not least because the vocal sounded very Tom Smith from Editors - he previously featured back in 2010 as part of the Raized by Wolves project. Not a dissimilar style too. Brooding but weirdly relaxing, give it a listen!

What has made it to top of the pops? It has everything. Strings. A smouldering, echoing, decadent vocal different to but redolent of Lana Del Ray at her best. And, of course, a glamorous but dark heart around which the song is weaved. Here you go, my song of 2018:

Who knows what musical goodies 2019 has in store, but I know one thing - next new year's eve is the occasion for the countdown of the best songs of the decade. Be seeing you!

The Most Read 18 of 2018

As we turn the page on the year 2018, let's have a look back at the posts that commanded the most attention. And perhaps a few that need a little bit more love.

1. Suspend Labour Friends of Israel
2. The Bourgeois Politics of the People's Vote March
3. Toby Young and the Taming of Higher Education
4. A Terrible Stalinist Purge
5. Besmirching Labour's Name
6. Enemies to the Left
7. On the Campaign Against Corbyn
8. Corbynism and Anti-Semitism
9. The Cloying Desperation of the Tory Press
10. Is it Okay to Like Morrissey?
11. Owen Jones vs the British Media Establishment
12. No One is Above the Party
13. 10 Points on Russia and Russian Politics
14. The Conservative Party's Eugenics Problem
15. Frank Field: An Anti-Eulogy
16. Labour NEC Fallout
17. No Labour Exit from Brexit
18. Can Blairism Win Back the Labour Party?

Once again Labour factionalism dominates the list. If the right behaved themselves and learned to be a constructive opposition, then I might not write about them as much. Nevertheless, happy to see a couple of pieces about the Tories get in there, but there is definitely a case for more variety. And who knows, as 2019 is the year of Brexit perhaps there will be more diversity as I'm forced to cover soup kitchens, wheel barrows full of fivers, cultivating carrots in window boxes and other fun topics. Also, in my projection of work I've got a few articles and book chapters to get done before the biggie: writing the book plan and a couple of sample chapters. Hopefully life won't get in the way too much!

No predictions again for 2019, I've learned my lesson. But there were some pieces deserving more of your time that didn't make the end of year list. For some weird reason I quite enjoyed writing this pair of pieces about the dismal 'blue' Marxism of Jon Cruddas, and I tried writing about Deleuze too. You be the judge of how well I did. Perhaps I should also do more writing on telly, because, again, writing about A Very English Scandal was good fun, as was throwing down a few scribbles about French cop drama Spiral. I almost wrote something about the summer's reality TV hit, Circle, but there was too much scabbing in the Labour Party going on demanding of words and time.

Okay, that's more or less me done for 2018. All that remains is sorting out my top ten dance tunes for the year and then ... rest. Until tomorrow morning at least, when 2019 brings in more of the same.

Sunday 30 December 2018

What I've Been Reading Recently

Another quarter of a year has gone, and as per recent tradition I am compelled to list the books I've read since last time. They are:

Transpositions by Rosi Braidotti
The Lost Revolution by Chris Harman
Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment by Aeron Davis
I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammanti
The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter by Ambrose Bierce
The Attention Economy by Claudio Celis Bueno
Betting the House by Tim Ross and Tom McTague
The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara
Deleuze and Politics edited by Ian Buchanon and Nicholas Thoburn
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
A Picture of Health edited by Jonathan Ashworth
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
Fall Out by Tim Shipman
Beyond Brexit edited by Olivia Bailey
Capital Volume One by Karl Marx
Taduno's Song by Odafe Atogun
Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin
Elephant by Raymond Carver
Game Changer by Steve Howell

With Volume One in the bag, that's another bucket list book done. Though as explained in the piece I wrote about it, Marx's prose is very straight forward. It requires patience, but it is superbly written and clear. Forget the books about Marx, or at least those written about Capital. Just dive in! Other notables - I enjoyed the Atwood, it's a good laugh. Olivia Bailey's Fabian collection on Brexit was surprisingly interesting, if only as a way of marking the tacking of Labour's old establishment to the left. In the battle of accounts of what happened to politics in 2017, I'm afraid the take from "Shippers" came out on top. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy Steve Howell's insider account of the Corbyn campaign as much as I was expecting - basically because I was anticipating something like Alex Nunns's excellent The Candidate. It's not a bad book, but if you're well read on the ins and outs of the 2017 election campaign you might be a touch disappointed. Sorry, Steve! As for the Ross and McTague effort, considering it's a fairly hefty number it reads like it was rush-written and has precious little insight. There's nothing there that "Shippers" doesn't do better in his.

Anyway, that's enough from me. What have you been reading recently, and did Santa bring you anything interesting for Christmas?

Corbynism in 2018

Going in to 2018, Corbynism was presented with a challenge it hadn't encountered before: the relative peace of continuity. The movement began with an event to mobilise around in the 2015 leadership contest, ditto with the the coup that failed in 2016, and last year we had the general election and its fall out. There was nothing scheduled on the horizon for 2018, nor was there likely to be a mobilising moment. The old establishment had nothing to commend themselves, no avenues for striking back, nor any hope of destabilising Corbyn and snatching control of the party away from the membership. And Theresa May wasn't about to call a general election what with Brexit negotiations and a Tory party more divided then any time in, well, perhaps ever. How then has Corbynism fared over the course of the year? How is it developing? What are its successes? And how is it coping with threats and challenges?

In the metrics that matter most to conventional politics, Corbyn's Labour has a good story to tell. Polling is either level pegging, a little bit behind, or a little bit in front of the Tories. "Oh", wail Corbyn's opponents, "if he was any good we'd have double-digit point leads over this shower of a government". And perhaps Labour would if it wasn't for the political circumstances we find ourselves in. As noted previously and many times since, political polarisation has persisted throughout the year. It's not just a matter of the Tories and Labour mobilising different constituencies of voters, but that Brexit plays different roles in gluing these coalitions together. For Labour voters, as a general rule Britain's relationship to the EU is important, but other concerns like housing, the NHS, jobs, a better future, etc. more or less successfully keeps the coalition together. For the Tories, Brexit is absolutely central. It keeps the former kippers on board, it helps keep the Scottish unionist vote on board, and works as an attractor for the flotsam and jetsam of voters who buy the delusions of Brexit. If Brexit was a minority pursuit, which it isn't, then the Tory coalition would be smaller. To reiterate, the reason why the Tory vote remains large is because they are the party of Brexit. They're negotiating it, they're its custodians, and millions of people - who wouldn't necessarily vote Tory under other circumstances - are backing them for as long as it takes to get it done. Whether this falls away after 29th March or persists while the government prats about with a trade deal is a question we might be able to answer this time next year.

But this post is about Corbynism, not the Tories! May's local elections weren't a thumping success, though getting the best result in London for 50 years is worth shouting about. Nevertheless it demonstrated steady-as-it-goes progress with a polarised electorate in the background. Though, without indulging official optimism, it is worth remembering that turn outs for local elections are low and tend to flush out two groups of people; the super hard core who follow local politics and, disproportionately, older people. For Labour to do well in contests whose demographics favour the party's Tory opponents isn't to be sniffed at.

With electoral consolidation, um, consolidating, how are things looking in the party? Well, in 2018 we find a similar story. Momentum's membership grew massively over the year, passing the 40K mark in the Summer and with trolling talk of it soon overtaking the real membership of the Tories. It's possible! The year also saw the left firm up its control. 2018 began well with the left making a clean sweep of the three extra seats introduced to the NEC. There was plenty of argy-bargy in the last round of selections for this year's local elections, with the right claiming the left are racist/sexist/homophobic for deselecting councillors with awful politics - the sort of absurd logic which, turned the other way, damns every one of them for supporting white boy David Miliband over Diane Abbott in the 2010 leadership contest. In March, Corbyn flexed his muscles in the sacking of Owen Smith from the front bench for continuing to peddle his own line about a second referendum as opposed to the party's position. His forced departure occasioned the usual bellyaching, with Peter Hain going so far as to describe it a "terrible Stalinist purge". Neither it nor the fall out of the Skripal affair, where Corbyn used the occasion to draw attention to Russian money propping up the Tories, made any dents on the left in the Labour Party, and following May's elections it was a fairly easy task to get left wing delegates elected to conference and returning a full slate of leftwingers to this year's NEC.

The only real setback the project suffered internally were the shenanigans around mandatory reselection. Readers will recall there was an on-paper majority for it, and sundry rightwing Labour MPs were getting sweaty. Even Westminster colossi like Mike Gapes openly pondered their resignation of the Labour whip. And, in the end, there was some sort of deal done and instead of a simple reselection process we got a reform of the present trigger ballot system. This was disappointing, but not surprising. The leadership wanted to avoid headaches from the parliamentary party, and trade unions wanted to continue to have a hand in who does and doesn't get selected. Calling it a betrayal, as some did, is a bit much but it is an own goal and one bound to bite both the leadership and trade union general secretaries on the backside in the future. Nevertheless, what it did demonstrate was a tension in the relationship between Corbynism-in-the-party and Corbynism-in-the-unions.

Throughout the year, Corbynism's opponents in the party have either resigned in despair, as per John Woodcock and Ivan Lewis (neither, of course, had anything to do with a studied refusal to face sexual assault allegations), thrown tantrums like Frank Field, or trailed the prospect of a new centre party. If these people can't marry up a coalition of recalcitrant MPs and 50 million quid of LoveFilm money, how can they hope to be decent ministers? Well, we know they can't. But as far as the old Blairism and the Labour right are concerned, they did hit upon two weapons that have caused damage to the project and will no doubt be reached for again in 2018.

The first is anti-semitism. Jeremy Corbyn isn't an anti-semite, and neither are the overwhelming majority bulk of the Labour Party. But as explained here, there is a culture of anti-semitic carelessness on the left that has come into the party, which has been amplified by ones and twos of Labour people on social media sharing anti-semitic conspiracy idiocies, far right memes, defences of Gilad Atzmon, and Rothschild obsessions - all of whom are seized upon with alacrity by the media and the Labour right. This climaxed over the summer with the row over Jeremy Corbyn's attendance at that funeral. Unfortunately, while the right should be condemned for their disgusting and dishonest behaviour on this issue - where were most of them before anti-semitism became something you could damage the Corbyn project with? - the left needs to take responsibility and stamp this shit out. Better, quicker disciplinary procedures, a programme of party-directed education, and zero tolerance of anti-semites, conspiracy fools, and "leftist" liabilities who deny there's any such problem are good starting points.

The second is Brexit or, to be more accurate, the movement for remain. Broader and more politically amorphous than the FBPE cult on Twitter, it is nevertheless a bourgeois social movement, and one used by sections of the Labour right to try and drive a wedge between Labour members and Labour voters, who the polls tell us are mostly anti-Brexit and want a second referendum, and the party leadership. There was the pre-Christmas poll from YouGov that boldly claimed the LibDems would surge to second place if Labour was seen enabling Theresa May's Brexit, and there was the Graun interview in which Corbyn restated Labour's 'all options on the table' policy, which was taken up as some great betrayal by sundry Labour MPs and their friends in the Liberal Democrats. Of course, Labour has a tricky tightrope to walk. Brexit is damaging and a load of crap, but unless you think a bit of dodgy funding and a few Facebook adverts invalidate the result (especially when remain spent more overall, including on Facebook), seeing it through is the democratic thing to do. Unless another general election comes along and rewrites the rules. As noted earlier, Brexit does play a different role in Labour's voter coalition vs the Tory vote, but different role doesn't mean no role. In my view, calling for a general election with the promise to try and negotiate a different deal with the promise of a referendum at the end to confirm it is the best approach to take. Whatever happens, the party cannot be put in a position where it "reluctantly" votes for May's deal - Scotland and the fate of the LibDems shows what happens when other parties become the Tories' meat shield.

Overall, Corbynism is more or less politically united. More activists are more regularly involved, and provided the party carefully steps its way through the Brexit mess it remains well placed to win a general election. But there is still much to be done. Corbynism conceives of labour as a party/movement, a collective active in community struggles, trade unions and wider campaigns while simultaneously being a contender for power. The two are not mutually exclusive as the cretinists of the right maintain, but central to winning an election and transforming our society. Therefore we need to be aware that Corbynism hasn't spurred wider radicalisation. At least not yet. Tied up with this is building the network of ideas, thinkers, publications and websites, broadcast media, institutions - which is central if you want to frame the battle for the country's soul in terms of hegemony and counter hegemony. This is coming together and Corbynist outriders, mainly from the left of the movement are regularly getting themselves in the media to push the new common sense. However, the problem of what John McDonnell calls 'cadre development' remains. When you have a Labour Party culture historically antithetical to, well, thinking, and a social media culture productive of conspiracy theorising, instilling a sense of history, capacities for informed social critique, and hunger for new knowledge is a big ask. Nevertheless this is happening and, fortunately for the left, the experience of tens of millions tallies with what it is saying about the world.

Corbynism then leaves 2018 in good shape, in better shape than when it entered it. 2019 isn't going to be a walk in the park, but when you look at the state of our opponents in the party and outside of it, we could be in a much worse place.

Friday 28 December 2018

Beware Boosterism

Because it's Christmas and loads of people are off work, comrades hanging about social media today might have seen this tweet doing the rounds. It is a summary of this year's election results, lumping together by-elections from across the year and Labour's results from May's local elections.

You can understand why folks would be keen to share it. Labour is put on 40.5% of the vote and is up 76 council seats with a tally of 2,445 to shout about. The Tories on the other hand finished the year with 1,451 councillors who faced election, down 84, and 32% of the vote. And for those interested in such things the Liberal Democrats have 579, up 85 (and a 14% vote share). And so these results allow for two inferences to be drawn. That Labour is doing better than polling suggests and the Tories much worse, and therefore the polling companies are minimising Labour's support - just as they did in the run up to the general election. Therefore it's safe to ignore the YouGov latest, and all those other polls the peg the Tories ahead. Unsurprisingly, we have certain sites with a reputation for a conspiratorial approach to politics gleefully republish it. It might be factually accurate, but utterly useless and politically misleading.

Labour's support in this "poll" is boosted by the performance in the local elections which, among other things, saw the best result in London for almost 50 years. The problem is for anyone wanting to read off the national picture from May is that the contests were more or less clustered in Labour held areas. It still picked up a good haul of seats, but, well, because London. It is not the rest of the country, nor is it every big city - as the results from Birmingham's mayoralty contest should remind us. One would presume next year, after a set of council elections in mainly Tory held areas register a depression of Labour's vote, that Skwawkbox will be reassuring its readers that the results are geographically skewed and therefore shouldn't be anything to worry about. Remarks that, coincidentally, apply to the by-elections that took place this year.

Bandying about results like this without any caveats might make some feel good, but it's dishonest, politically disarming, and is only setting folks up for disappointment. The job of commentary, particularly left wing commentary, is to analyse, make sense and suggest directions for one's party/movement or whatever. Boosterism of this kind is the enemy of clarity, and it's clarity what we need to identify and make the most of the opportunities presented to us.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Brexit and Mental Illness

Mental illness is a social phenomenon. More people are open about the difficulties they live with, and those who don't suffer mental illness will know several people who do. And it's a growing problem. Having worked for five years at my current place, the number of students coming through the doors with mental health needs and requiring support plans of some description have gone up over time. Indeed, there has been a big increase in the last 12 months alone. Compare this with when I first started teaching in 2002, and prior to that my own experience as an undergraduate and the past, even the recent past, is revealed as a foreign country.

Has Brexit got anything to do with this? Before Christmas, The Times reported that the DWP was prepping for the increased risk of suicide in the event of a chaotic Brexit and dumping hundreds of thousands onto the UK's decrepit, underfunded, and frequently vicious social security system. Last month, The Indy reported that prescriptions for anxiety medication went up in the wake of the referendum result. HuffPo and the New Statesman have run stories on the effect it has had on relationships, and exacerbating the wider climate of uncertainty. Anoosh in her NS piece picks up on research done on the spike of suicides during the Munich Crisis in 1938, which suggests concentrated political tensions can have calamitous mental health consequences for some. And when this is prolonged? As Elisabetta Zanon, the head of the NHS's European office noted shortly after the referendum, "a climate of uncertainty if perpetrated for a long period of time could impact on the mental and physical health of people, potentially leading to an increase in demand of services."

Just as Brexit is an event with many roots, the mental health crisis it is occasioning has antecedents of its own. In sum, it comes down to multiple crises in ontological security. As Mark writes, this is one of the few useful concepts to come out of Anthony Giddens's menagerie of books. This is conceptualised as a sort of a cocoon, or as Giddens puts it, "a sense of ‘unreality’ rather than a firm conviction of security: it is a bracketing, on the level of practice, of possible events which could threaten the bodily or psychological integrity of the agent. The protective barrier it offers may be pierced, temporarily or more permanently, by happenings which demonstrate as real the negative contingencies built into all risk." For example, living on the corner of a street there is always a possibility a car or lorry could crash into the side of my house. This is a potential physical threat to me every time I'm home, and is pregnant with the possibility of anxiety if you think about the financial fall out, the hassle, and the mental health toll should it unhappily come to pass. It's an ever-present risk, but one I barely ever think about - it is thoroughly bracketed by my own sense of ontological security. Similarly, think about the journey to work. Every step is dogged by risk from pedestrians, road users, public transport, or some other catastrophe, yet for most people these hardly register. Their threat is psychologically suspended. We know the risk when we stop to cross the road, but none of us ever think we'll get hit by something - until we are.

Ontological security is always conditioned by our everyday existence, but does not refer solely to it. As Durkheim noted in his classic study of suicide, one of his four types locates suicide in anomie, or normlessness. That is a combination of the social conditions we were brought up in or familiar with no longer apply, so our habits and habitus are out of sync with the way we find the world. For example, many EU citizens living here have and do experience varying levels of xenophobia, but what could previously be dismissed as the idiot prejudices of a few now presents, with the result, as something more than a minority pursuit. This not only has the consequence of putting many people on edge, to the point of second guessing acquaintances and colleagues, and perhaps avoiding situations they may have previously felt comfortable in, the continuing uncertainty over the state of Brexit is positively anxiety-inducing. Will I have a job? Can I rent a place? Take out a loan? Go to hospital if I need to? These are just some questions EU residents are having to worry about as the end game approaches. For many EU supporters something very similar is going on, and tend to fall into two overlapping sections of people. Those most apprehensive about the future, who tend to be younger, and are fearful of price rises and economic dislocation, and those for whom the EU intersects with their identity in some way. i.e. As an instantiation of liberal values and a pseudo-internationalist/post-nationalist break with Europe's imperial history. To wake up in a society in which has just rejected this and, by extension, the 'enlightened' values you hold is a profoundly jarring experience and helps explain why there is a mass movement seeking to reverse the referendum decision.

If you like then, Brexit is a suddenly imposed symbolic injury, a body blow to the ontological security of millions of people. However, what makes this into a mental health issue is not just the crisis characteristics that surround Brexit per se, but the already febrile condition of ontological security across the industrialised world. This is less a failure of social integration or the dominance of identity politics, as conservatives on the right and left maintain, but is more fundamental. It's about the kinds of human beings we are and how we are constituted as such. Neoliberalism as a concept has attracted more brickbats from establishment scribblers in proportion to its obviousness to growing numbers of people. On the one hand, in its most common usage it refers to a particular configuration of capitalist accumulation. i.e. The respective roles played by markets, states, the law, business, and labour movements. In neoliberalism, at least ideal-typically, the market is left to run riot while the state is concerned with the heavy regulation of labour and creating new markets, typically by opening up public institutions through privatisation or creating new markets or, to use the old language, new avenues for the accumulation of capital. In its less discussed form, neoliberalism is a mode of subjection, a way of how to 'be'. The notion that we are little rational actors with an instrumental orientation to the world and an entrepreneurial conception of self is less a consequence of "brainwashing", and though ideologies and stories supporting this common sense are incessantly pumped out, through design we have little choice but to relate to state institutions in a transactional fashion and abide by their attempts to discipline is as rational actors. Unemployed? You have to demonstrate your entrepreneurship by showing your job applications to the nice advisor at the Job Centre, and attend mandatory training and "clinics". Thinking of going to university? Students are invited to make their choice according to spurious notions of value-for-money, backed by a kaleidoscope of metrics and with a definite career destination in mind. Need care? You or a named person is expected to "manage" your package with the funds available, and so on. Problems and difficulties are individual problems and individual difficulties, the result of making the wrong choices or being insufficiently motivated to make the right decisions. And who is responsible? You. Just you. If you're in precarious work, have no hope of saving for a deposit, and your incomings barely cover your outgoings, there's no one else to blame.

Stressing individual responsibility has the inevitable consequence of socialising anxiety, but what catalyses it further are the insidious ways in which quantification has become a measure for self-worth, and how this has invaded the everyday life of millions of people. Of course, quantification has long been a cornerstone of capitalist culture. Why, for instance, are Richard Branson and Alan Sugar taken seriously? Because they have accumulated huge piles of unearned wealth - they are paragons of success, the culmination of the best human beings can hope to be. As Bourdieu notes, the economic logic of accumulation has had a profound effect on how our cultures are configured with hierarchies of taste, gate keepers, and forms of cultural capital specific to one or a number of related fields. This has been amplified via social media, where the numbers of followers, likes, shares, notes, retweets and what have you are crude measures of one's standing in the fields that matter to you. If you're commentariat, Twitter is the platform of choice and retweets, followers, and followed/follower ratio are suggestive of one's position and seniority in the pundit field, for example. Where it is particularly pernicious is the intersection of social media and selfies, where likes and comments (or lack of them) have a direct bearing on looks and style and therefore can have a huge impact on senses of self-worth and wellbeing.

For millions of people, life is a permanent state of anxiety. Insecurity at work. Insecure relationships with public institutions. Insecure in personal relationships. It is a culture of performance, of constantly striving to meet (oft self-imposed) quantified expectations in public and in private, because we are always on display and accountable to them. Hence the fragility of ontological security. One can become habituated to an insecure life, but by letting go of the kinds of goals and hopes one was socialised into. Therefore for something to come from the outside, like Brexit, it strips away a background that was supposed to be permanent, introducing further uncertainty into an already uncertain life and loosening off a racist, nationalist id thought suppressed by official anti-racism and what Blair used to call the "progressive consensus". Such is the mental health consequences of Brexit. It has less caused the problems, but has simultaneously stressed, catalysed, and accelerated a pre-existing pathology while tipping many others into the path of the epidemic's blast wave. Dealing with is requires much greater funding to mental health services than the Tories are allowing, but this is a sticking plaster. Making Brexit go away isn't going to happen. Even if it is somehow reversed the reverberations will not stop, it's here to stay. But what can change is the perverse culture of anxiety and insecurity underpinning the mental health crisis. That means more than bleating about putting your phones down and deleting Facebook. The culture has to be tackled at source, of unpicking the institutions and relationships productive of socialised anxiety, and that requires socialist politics.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

2018 Local Council By-Election Results

Overall, 475,101 votes were cast over 275 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. For comparison see 2017's results here.

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
Plaid Cymru **

* There were 10 by-elections in Scotland
** There were five by-elections in Wales
*** There were 13 Independent clashes
**** See the quarterly round ups for the results from smaller parties

Considering the painful political year that was 2018, the story told in the council by-elections of the last 12 months is a mixture of not much changing and business as usual. Not much changing in terms of vote shares. Conservatives and Labour are miles in front but are giving up electoral performances significantly lower than their respective polling. This is less a case of real voters turning away from the main parties and more the consequence of how the availability of other options depresses their vote. For example, totted up together the Independents muster almost five per cent between them but in an actual general election they get nowhere.

And by-election business as usual? The incumbent party suffers in terms of councillors lost and the Liberal Democrats resuming their winning ways at a local level. Though it has to be said, the powers that be in the party haven't twigged yet that their path back to sustained success is targeting the Conservatives. The results from 2018 underline this.

Are their other stories these results tell? UKIP are totally done. Gerard Batten's decision to take the party up the garden path of fascist flirty fishing alienated what was left of its well known figures, including Nigel Farage. If whatever happens with Brexit inspires a revolt of leave voters, it's unlikely the party will be its political focus. No tears shed here. As for the Greens, who like the LibDems think political capital is to be accumulated from gouging Labour, we have a year of standing still. This is no mean feat considering the pressure represented by Corbynism, but again they have to have a think about whether more profitable opportunities lie elsewhere.

Dare some predictions be ventured? Well, we're not supposed to do these any more thanks to calling all the big political events of recent years wrong. But I wouldn't be surprised that if, sitting here next year, we look upon the year's results and find they are substantially the same as those here - but perhaps with even fewer interventions from our UKIP friends.

NB Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that the minus and the pluses for the seats gained/lost don't tally up. This is because one by-election was the creation of a new three-seat division in which no one had stood before, and was won by the LibDems.