Monday 24 December 2018

The Illusions of David Miliband

Politics is in flux and everything is up in the air, but the shifts and winding patterns of the last few years have nevertheless established two eternal truths. Back bench Tories talking a good rebellion but tripping over themselves to capitulate is one of them. And the other is the studied refusal of what was the establishment centre left to reconcile themselves with Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party. And lo as Westminster has broken up for the Christmas hols and the immediate pressure of the government's shambles dissipates, filling the void comes an avalanche of whingeing and belly aching about, you guessed it, Jeremy Corbyn.

Complementing my warm desire for a slap up dinner and a mince pie this morning was the wisdom of one David Miliband. You'll remember him, the former cabinet minister once touted as the heir to Blair, but dithered and was seen to be dithering over a coup against the blessed Gordon Brown. The man, we were told, who would have won us the 2015 general election - even though he spectacularly failed to win a leadership contest stacked in his favour, and that Labour's contact rate in his own South Shields constituency stood at an impressive 0.5% after departing office. You see, the legend of David Miliband is entirely fictional. Apart from his Macron-levels of arrogance there was nothing to commend him, and his reputation is a phantasm of wish fulfillment concocted by others. An exercise, if you will, in centrist fantasising.

Fantasy is apt when we consider his grand intervention into the Brexit debate. It's almost as if there are two Labour Brexit strategies: the one that really exists, which bases Brexit on a customs union with the European Union and a trade deal with single market access, and the one entirely made up by the galaxy brain of David Miliband. For Labour-loyal comrades without my sunny disposition, I'm sure the headline, 'Corbyn has given up on Europe. For the good of Britain, we cannot' and the blurb, "As Labour subscribes to the government’s dangerous Brexit fantasies, a people’s vote is now the only way to ensure stability" would have been enough for the red mist to descend. But let's be generous and put this topping down to the sub-editing. And we can afford to be because there's enough evidence here to convict the Prince Across the Water with dishonesty, performative ignorance, and downright nincompoopery.

Setting the bar low, he at least makes it through the first paragraph without fibbing about his opponents, but he quickly disassembles in the second. "The first illusion [leaders have in Brexit] is that the fundamental problem with Brexit is the faulty negotiating tactics of the government." He cites Boris Johnson as evidence, who as readers will know has been writing the same Telegraph article since the summer castigating Theresa May for not being bold enough, not being ambitious enough, etcetera ad nauseam. We are then told that the Labour leadership are guilty of the same sin. This, of course, is rubbish. Brexit is shit, to coin a phrase, but depending on your political priorities a range of different Brexits can be negotiated. Labour's "jobs first Brexit" is more than trite spin, it is a pointer to what kind of settlement it would be seeking - one that, funnily enough, is about protecting employment before all else. Hence why the party is opposed to May's deal, because of the extremely stringent state aid rules worked into her fudge so the Tories can close the borders to EU citizens. It's not about negotiation tactics but a substantive political difference.

Buffeted by his ignorance, David reduces Corbyn's talking points in the now infamous weekend interview with The Graun to a "better atmosphere" in the negotiation if Labour was to take them over. Thankfully, there is this thing called the internet which archives such things and we can read the article for ourselves. Corbs notes,

I think the state aid rules do need to be looked at again, because quite clearly, if you want to regenerate an economy, as we would want to do in government, then I don’t want to be told by somebody else that we can’t use state aid in order to be able to develop industry in this country.

Now, you can call this many things. You can spend time arguing about the chances of the EU accepting a customs deal with this as a red line, but "confusion", like David does? No, it's a straightforward position. Then David launches off into an irrelevant aside about the problem with Brexit, that May's negotiations and the mess the Tories have got themselves into are a product of fever dreams making contact with an unsympathetic real. True enough, but hardly a revealed truth or a keen insight. More a case of filling up the word count with faux erudition to cover up the fact you don't know what you're talking about.

We then come to David's "second illusion": the idea that once Brexit is complete politics will go back to normal. Not so. Once we leave on 29th March we have the joys of the future relationship to negotiate, not least of which being the character of trade. As David wonkily puts its, "there is no realistic future where we continue to negotiate with the EU and have the bandwidth to mobilise national willpower for the big challenges ahead." He might have a point, though with his characteristic dishonesty he cannot come up with an instance of anyone in the Labour leadership suggesting the old times are going to come back. Then again, he might not have a point. Even if May by hook and by crook gets her deal through the Commons in mid-January, the arguments and rows will move on to how the trade deal is going to look - a process, which David notes, will take years and years. True. And because it's a long time and doesn't require parliamentary timetabling, there is space to think about other things. If he'd paid any attention to British politics in the two years since Article 50 was triggered, he'd know a hell of a lot can happen.

And then we have our third illusion: that countries are lining up for trade deals with the UK. I think David needs to sort out his glasses prescription because he's obviously mistaken Liam Fox's speeches for Jeremy Corbyn's. Yes, David is right. By detaching the UK from one of the world's largest trading blocs it will find itself buffeted more by the capricious waters of the global economy, not less. The likes of Boris Johnson, the Moggites, and the freakish fauna of their backbenches sold leave voters a false prospectus: a diminution of UK sovereignty dressed up as greater independence. Again, nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, but quite a bit to do with the kinds of interests this section of the Tory party articulates: the hedge funds, the financiers, the disaster capitalists.

Summing it all up, our David declares "We have no time to lose in getting to grips with reality, sloughing off the illusions that have held sway on right and left, and embracing a vision of Britain’s future that is positive, empowered, progressive – and European". Does that "we" include you, David, or are you staying in exile with your obscene salary, leaving the "getting to grips with reality" for others to do? David's article is less a despatch from over the water and more a letter from another time, one in which masses of people aren't interested in politics and much fancied red princes carry all before them. There is no awareness that politics at the close of 2018 has moved on from the politics he left in 2013, that a cadre of notables hanging on his every word exist no longer, and that, well, he's irrelevant. When masses of people are politicised establishment politicians can try and intersect with it in some way, as others are David's ilk are doing, or play on the sidelines with figments of your imagination. Such is David Miliband. Pathetic, really.


Tmb said...

It didn't take long, did it?

The Tory party is tearing itself apart, and heading even further up its own arse, led by a leader that couldn't hold a piss up in a brewery, and ...

The Undead start to attack Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of their party. Next it'll be Blair and Camoron. The last we heard of D Miliband was he buggered off to New York and getting some 'charidy' job for £300,000 a year. Nice for some.

We know the media, the political machine and most that passes for political opinion is rigged, and most of them have been bought and sold.

dermot said...

Miliband working for a 'charity' haha. Yet another NGO that's a front for the US establishment.

QUOTE: U.S. government funding of the IRC's programs originates from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). UNQUOTE

Don't know much about this author, but CIA involvement would be absolutely no shock to me. In any case, Miliband Major is no doubt learning many of the required Dark Arts.

Johny Conspiranoid. said...

Dermot; no suprise to me either.

miguelito said...

DM hateful person. Dad revolving in grave. Brother bit better

Anonymous said...

More than a bit better tbf.