Monday, 10 May 2021

"Shoot the Mad Dogs!"

"We demand the vermin and all their followers be mercilessly exterminated!" Not Andrej Vyshinsky, Stalin's chief jurist at the show trial of Karl Radek and Georgy Pyatokv, but Peter Mandelson in the wake of Thursday's calamities. With the dust settling following Angela Rayner's move to another set of briefs that allow more time for her permanent leadership campaign, the pod people on the PLP's right are chuntering away, as per Mandelson about the need to change the party. And "changing the party" always, always means attacks on the left and the trade unions. As everyone with a bit of history in the labour movement knows, even the Labour right themselves when a moment of honesty flickers across their consciousness, these moves are entirely cynical and about winning and holding power inside the party. I.e. the only struggle for power they've ever been serious about. But how is this justified to themselves, and why - in as far as they truly believe anything - does it present itself as the tonic to shrug off defeat?

It's pretty straightforward. If the left amount to anything more than door knockers and leaflet pushers, it will prove to be a drag on the party. The public don't like nationalisations, "impossible demands", critiques of foreign policy, and anti-racism, and the whiff of such sends Labour's polling through the floor. When reality disproved this thesis in 2017, the Labour right did everything it could to confirm their dire warnings by the time 2019 rolled around. In the terms of their stunted imaginary, the shenanigans, scabbing, and second referenduming were nothing of the sort. The left was already unpopular, they were just letting the public know what the, um, public already thought and had minds their minds up on.

As Labour in 2021 is lousy with the left's legacy, Keir Starmer - if he is serious - has to stand up to his party and win back trust by publicly flaying his critics, and greenlighting branch and constituency parties to help themselves to an orgy of bloodletting. Then and only the, when voters or, more accurately, their proxies in the press judge Labour to be sufficiently purged does the party stand a chance of getting anywhere. And besides, treating one's party with brutality can pay electoral dividends. Just see how Boris Johnson was able to convince his electorate he was serious about Brexit by unceremoniously ditching grandees and big beasts like Nicholas Soames, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine. In the two months prior to calling the election the Tories were in turmoil, but Johnson defined himself against the remain faction and reaped the electoral dividends. "Starmerism" has to be just as ruthless and single-minded.

If recent history isn't convincing enough, then we can look to Labour's history. According to the right's wisdom, Labour lost the 1983 general election because it was too left. That John Golding, as he confessed in The Hammer of the Left, was only too keen to sign off on the manifesto because it would ensure Labour's defeat and put the left on the back foot is best not talked about. And subsequently, the battles with Militant and the left under Neil Kinnock, it was messy work but someone had to enjoy doing it. The Labour leadership ensured it was a million miles away from the miners during the 1984-5 strike, did all it could to smash the movement for municipal socialism in its ranks - just as the Tories were gunning for the powers of local authorities - and for good measure purged Militant some more. The 1987 election rolls around, Labour puts on 20 seats and 1.6m votes, and the conclusion is more movement to the right, more of a demonstration that Labour politicians are standing up to the "bullying" trade unionists and lefties. The poll tax struggle therefore afforded Labour not an opportunity to strike the Tories a wounding blow, but a pretext for getting rid of activists and members banged up for refusing to pay. Most notably Militant's two MPs, Terry Fields and Dave Nellist got the heave-ho because of their uncompromising opposition to Thatcher's tax.

1992 came and went with another loss, this time unexpected. Following the John Smith interregnum, to demonstrate his seriousness for office Tony Blair picked fights with his party. Firstly over Clause IV, in the hope of exorcising the ghosts of nationalisations past, and generally doing all he could to distance himself from anything smacking of "old Labour" - above all unions and anything recognisably working class. The policy agenda was pared down to five simple pledges on a card, and there was little in the Labour manifesto that wouldn't have been out of place in, well, a Tory manifesto. The left's influence was utterly negated and Labour won big. There endeth the lesson.

Peter Mandelson has an interest peddling this narrative because, well, he engineered it. Not the victory, but the myth. Blair was happy to ride the vapourwave of change, and once in office busied himself undoing Labour's position in the country. Having won after attacking the left, New Labour was locked into carrying on if they wanted to avoid the press's ire. Not that there was anything reluctant about this. Labour ministers gleefully toughened social security, scapegoated Muslims, dumped on unions, and forced marketisation and the private finance initiative con on public sector institutions. And the "correctness" of the orientation was further confirmed in 2001 and 2005 with two more election wins.

The story falls apart once you probe it to any depth. It is handily forgotten how Blair inherited massive poll leads in July 1994, when they reported leads for Labour between 13 and 28 points. It's true subsequently some ridiculous numbers were reported, at one point reaching the height of a 43 point lead, but was this the consequence of an enthusiastic embrace of New Labour as it adopted Tory-lite policy, or as the most convenient hammer to hand to get shot of the Tories? For those not around at the time, it is difficult to articulate the popular antipathy toward them. Major's authority had entirely crumbled and they eked out a long goodbye with a raft of punitive policies. Charging OAPs VAT on fuel bills and vindictively closing mines is less well remembered than the parade of colourful sex scandals, but their coming hot on the heels of the Black Wednesday debacle put paid to them. And so, in that sense, Mandelson was right that the left, working class voters, people who saw themselves as socialists had nowhere to go. Except, in 2001, we found they did. They could stay home. And again in 2005 - home or the Liberal Democrats in their leftish phase. Labour attracted support as the default alternative, and the collective memory of the Tories kept them out for 13 years rather than popular enthusiasm for Blairism and its works. The whole project was premised on frittering away the political capital Tory calamity had awarded them, and they didn't have the first clue how to renew it, apart from chasing headlines by punching left.

The unique alignment of the 1990s meant this strategy, as ruinous as it was for Labour in the long-term, had serious but time-limited legs. In the 2020s, it's utterly preposterous. Keir Starmer, already having told swathes of former Labour voters that he wasn't interested in their referendum vote, now finds how uninterested they are in voting for him. So the evidence suggests. Under such challenging circumstances, they're not going to get won back by painful and inauthentic displays of patriotism. Indeed, if he really wants a hearing he should apologise for driving them away instead of the nonsense we get about a new leadership and how crap Labour are at winning elections. Except rather than deal with problems as they are, "Starmerism" now buys into the Mandelsonian imaginary or reds under the beds and armies of spotty Trots putting the punters off Labour. It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.

The Labour right will keep going on about the worst election result for 85 years until, well, until their boy does even worse in 2023. But they do so because it stops them having to think about the most important lesson of the Corbyn years: that the party has a new core vote of the new working class. These are the growing segment of (mainly) younger workers who aren't just precarious, low paid, and are the butt of Tory policies, their work is characterised by immaterial labour. Socially liberal if not small s socialist, tacking toward social conservatism in a doomed effort to win over a working class whose working days are largely behind them is a pretty stupid strategy all considered. But what Keir Starmer is doing, encouraged by Mandelson and his long tail of epigoni, is to attack the very people in the Labour Party who did the spadework of bringing these millions of younger, working class voters to the party in the first place. What Blair and Brown took 13 years to do, Dear Keir has managed in less than a year: demobilise the party's coalition, spur its growing fragmentation, and strengthen challenges to Labour's left. Above all, as forecast, the Greens. The right might think they're hammering the left, but if they opened their eyes and looked more closely, they might discover they're striking nails into their own coffin.

A purge then woud be the height of stupidity, but this is a very stupid leadership. What we're seeing then is an experiment, of the unreconstructed Blairists in alliance with right wing remainers and so-called centrists, trends whose historical obsolescence should confine them to the tip, trying desperately to navigate a divided and polarised political landscape they do not and, it seems increasingly obvious, are incapable of recognising. Unfortunately, their ruin is our ruin, and if the situation cannot be retrieved the cause of working class political independence will have to be taken up anew. But at least they get their dream of a Labour Party without a left, even if it means it's without a hope.

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Saturday, 8 May 2021

On Keir Starmer's Stupidity

Not everything went according to the Tories' plans on Thursday. Wales, Manchester and Salford, Labour gains in the South, the Cambridgeshire and West of England mayoralties, solid results in Newcastle and Preston. There was, with half of the results yet to be declared, some good stories to tell amid the gloom. Prepping senior Labour politicians for a tour of the Sunday politics show studios would have had some nice counters to awkward questions, provided they talked up the party's strengths where it was rooted and offered a decent alternative to the Tories.

No one was reckoning on what Keir Starmer would do next.

An undercover agent for the Tory party couldn't have caused more damage. With lackey after lackey talking about how the party needed to "change", Keir spent Friday taking responsibility for the results before going on to say he wants to stop Labour from quarrelling among itself. And then, without warning, he sacked Angela Rayner. In a mind-melting move, Angela's been dumped out as party chair, a role which is nominally responsible for the campaign that was actually driven directly from the leader's office. As you might expect, Twitter is awash with her crimes against Keir. Such as winging it in a couple of campaign presentations, and travelling first class on the train. And then, as events unfolded we learned that she was being found another top job to showcase her "working class talents" (the words of our anonymous briefers, not mine). If then this was a straight reshuffle, a competent leader might have secured her move to another brief. Even if she was getting the heave ho because she's no good, given her independent mandate as Deputy and the genuine support Angela has built among members and the trade unions, she cannot be treated as if she was a trainee coffee courier at the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is exceptional stupidity, and political analysis has to make allowances for it. In Keir Starmer's case, his stupidity is a consequence of his authoritarianism. He might have had values once, but all that remains is managerial rigidity, a contempt for those who disagree with him, a lack of political skills - of the big and small p kind - and an abject cowardice, a refusal to carry the can for his own mistakes. His politics, such as they are, cannot brook alternative points of view nor others that might outshine the dim bulb of his own non-personality. Why else is the shadow cabinet full of non-entities?

Well, if you're going to be stupid you might as well go all in. With the party in uproar, his clear out of the shadow cabinet is targeting Anneliese Dodds (remember when he said she was safe?), his loyal litter bearer Nick Thomas-Symonds, and ... Lisa Nandy. According to the fizzes and beeps on the rumour hotwire, she is considered "disloyal" and is therefore ripe for a demotion. Nothing substantial has emerged from the ether, but it is known Keir does not like unauthorised briefing to the hacks, particularly concerning the keeper of Keir's ear, Jenny Chapman. There might be more going on, and we know Lisa has a propensity for porkies, but it is starting to look like Keir has something against women from the North West who speak with regional accents. It gets better, of course. Compounding unforced error with cackhanded decision-making, Wes Streeting and Jess Phillips are tipped for another promotion, and on matters strategy he's hired Deborah Mattinson as the new head of strategy. A Blue Labour "thinker", asking focus groups what animals politicians remind punters of tells you all you need to know about her calibre.

Two days on from a set of elections that actually saw a modest swing to Labour, despite the losses, Keir Starmer has responded as any bad manager would. The campaign, the messaging, the policies (pah), they were all concocted by him and his close advisers. And so a group of younger, more junior women are held responsible, regardless of the fact doing so brings together Labour's hard and soft left, some of the unions, including ostensibly moderate ones, and the more wavering elements of his support. If Keir can't understand his own party and display the elementary political skills to run it, then he shouldn't be there. And thanks to his ineptitude, Angela Rayner is extremely well placed to take the leadership from him. She should consider it, because if Keir Starmer isn't going anywhere then neither is the Labour Party.

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Friday, 7 May 2021

10 Points on the 6th May Massacre

What a terrible reckoning for Labour. Hartlepool gone and the Tories winning big right across England. With thousands of results due to come in over the weekend, no one is expecting a late bloom in Keir Starmer's favour. The news this morning was grim, and it's going to stay grim as the ballots are tallied and results declared. The question then, and one sure to stump the pundits for a while, is how has this come to pass. Why are the Tories surging 11 years into the most disastrous government since the Second World War? Here are some points for guiding analysis.

1. With the polarisation of politics after 2016, Labour enters every set of second order elections in England at a disadvantage. As explained last weekend, the class cohort divide which resolves itself as a stark age divide means the Tories have a significant advantage. Not only do older people disproportionately support them, they are much more likely to come out and vote than younger people. If anything, this is exacerbated in elections that "don't matter". Turn out is always lower, but dips even lower among younger cohorts.

2. Given differential turn out is well known, what is Labour going to do about it? What is the party doing to encourage its natural support to stump up at the polling station or post them votes? How did they go about it this time? Or, to be more accurate, given the mountains of data churned out month by month on voting intentions why does the party not even realise this is something it has to do?

3. Tory corruption and the body piling comment came too late to impact on the votes. As did yesterday's Airfix patriotism off the coast of Jersey. With record numbers of postal votes cast for second order elections, a good chunk of those who might have changed their mind about voting Tory had already cast their ballots.

4. If Jeremy Corbyn's Labour can do better in Hartlepool in 2017 and 2019, and not as badly in local elections between 2016 and 2019 than Keir Starmer's Labour, then Thursday's results have very little to do with Jeremy Corbyn. More relevant is how Labour "under new leadership" turned around Labour's polling following Keir's election, and by December were level-pegging with the Tories before collapsing back down again. If there was any truth to the vaccine bounce, his personal ratings wouldn't be cratering as well.

5. On Hartlepool specifically, the loss here had more to do with the party's entitled attitude toward the seat than anything else. As Jill Mortimer, the newly-minted Tory MP for the seat rightly observed, her victory was a protest against Labour Party complacency, of a feeling the town has been completely taken for granted and was previously served by MPs who simply marked time. The result had nothing to do with the timing of the election, which is a pitiful excuse that does not stand up to scrutiny.

6. Again, Hartlepool, Keir Starmer and David Evans have to take responsibility for choosing the worst possible candidate and the worst possible methpd for selecting him. Turns out putting up six-time second referendum voter Dr Paul Williams and banging on about the NHS in the hope no one would notice wasn't a good idea. Fancy that. And we had the absurd stitch-up, which just so happened to dominate headlines in the local paper in the crucial first days of the campaign. This simply reinforced Tory messaging in the constituency. Keir might as well have gift wrapped Hartlepool and handed it over to Boris Johnson.

7. Where did Labour escape a battering? Wales and Manchester spring to mind. Why? Because the party had a record to stand on (warts and all), offered recognisably Labourist policies instead of waffling in front of a flag, and over the last year have had occasion to oppose the Tory government.

8. When the far left do terribly in elections, which is nearly every time they venture into them, the incredibly poor result is always spun as "at least we put down a marker." In 2021, Keir Starmer's Labour have reimagined this as "We've won the right to be listened to."

9. Compounding the disadvantages faced by Labour going into these elections, the party's national messaging has been nowhere. Pointedly going on about sleaze sounds like 90s nostalgia night at the pub karaoke, a line of attack repeating the lyrics without emotion and sounding out of tune with the times. Talking about the NHS but refusing to offer anything positive, not even supporting nurses' pay claims, is a sign of a clapped out leadership bereft of ideas. And awkwardly, unconvincingly attacking the Tories from the right, "Starmerism" went out of its way to put distance between itself and the absolute dangers of the left. Labour strategy has specifically gone for the imagined older, home-owning, socially conservative patriotic Labour voter. And said voter is uninterested because said voter is an endangered species.

10. What are the chances of this being a teachable moment for Labour? With the likes of Steve Reed and Peter Mandelson blaming "the party" as opposed to the leader or the strategy, the odds aren't looking good. Six years on from Labour's evisceration in Scotland, no analysis has been ventured by them, no lessons learned. 2017's uptick in Labour's fortunes - an election that must be buried at all costs, nothing to be seen here. And 2019: an awful result to be sure, but no consideration of how the party still clung on to over 10 million votes. Only a trend as stupid, factional and myopic as Labour's right could look at their organisation's recent electoral performances and conclude there is nothing useful there to learn about. These people are simply not serious.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Good Keir and the Horrors

Look at these books. Look at the state of these books. Keir Milburn is certainly a comrade on the right side of history, but the rest? A never-was, a boring provocateur, a one-trick pony pushing demonstrable piffle, a strategic genius leading Labour into its current impasse, and a veritable who's who of scabs, authentocrats, and dullards. And some reading this might have thought my current efforts with Anti-Oedipus was a questionable choice.

Reveal time. The first book is done and I'm just waiting for the proofs, so what now? A summer of reading and retro gaming has its appeal, but there is that itch again, and the irritation is the persistent bullshit of Blue Labour. It's the smell that won't go away, a putrid stench emitting from the suggestion success is possible only if Labour turns its back on anti-racism, liberation struggles, and proper (as opposed to EU/NATO) internationalism. Faith, family, and flag is the road Labour has to travel with Keir Starmer in the clown car's driving seat. Now, I'm not so daft to believe a book taking apart Blue Labour's absurdities is going to kill it dead, but the battle for hearts and minds is won by slogging away and adding to the weight of opinion. The struggle is not won by not making the argument.

And so yes, something quite lengthy about Blue Labour, how its cultural horizons are consistent with and exemplifies the Labour right's politics, and how it is effectively the working through of their collective death instinct. For the end point of Blue Labour is not victory and permanent electability, but a party completely closed off to who would be its natural support. This is an organisation doomed to chase constituencies who don't vote Labour and will never vote Labour, but at least a true blue Labour would be sealed and shielded from outside influences. No awful left wingers expecting a say, no radicalism, a party that is entirely predictable and rigid, unable and unwilling to connect with political realities ... and therefore ready for the grave. Blue prefacing the green of putrefaction, if you like.

Writing to write off these conceits would be easy and straightforward enough, and it is tempting just to let the froth overflow and bang something out quickly. But there's something else niggling away at me. It's our friend immaterial labour, a concept entirely ubiquitous as far as discussions here about class and politics go. This could do with a bit more elaboration, a thinking through of its limits, and also why the explanation it offers for the cultural divide between the class cohorts of younger workers and the asset-owning older workers and retirees is, well, invisible to political science. After all, the discipline as a whole knows there is a link between material conditions and culture. What is oft hailed as the most successful concept in political science by political scientists - Ronald Inglehart's postmaterialism thesis - still doesn't allow them to join the dots. And there is the everyday banal reality of immaterial labour, why is it so difficult for those whose job is to think about politics can't or won't think through its political implications? Especially when they're (privileged) immaterial workers themselves? Truth be told, an elaboration of the politics of immaterial labour was on the cards a couple of years ago for my chapter in Mark Perryman's Corbynism from Below, but life and work intervened and instead the book got something on how the new class dynamics were reconfiguring the Labour Party. Time to dust off the fragmentary original draft and fill it with new life.

And so this is the project starting to condense out of the mist. A restatement and elaboration of immaterial labour, and an evisceration of Blue Labour. What's not to like? No book plan yet let alone a publisher sorted, but it's there in the background, weighing on the brain not as a nightmare but as something to look forward to.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

On Entitlement

When I was elected secretary of Stoke Central CLP 10 years ago, one of my first acts was to visit Geoff Bagnall, then general secretary of Unity - the New Labour-era rebrand of the Ceramics and Allied Trade Union. Over a brew in his office, I said I wanted an end to blank cheques from the union to local Labour candidates. In future, local politicians should earn their support instead. Geoff agreed and I'm pleased to say the local party was much more receptive to Unity's priorities afterwards. You see, what disgusted me was the attitude some in Stoke Labour had toward the union: it was there for the privilege of bankrolling their campaigns, no questions asked or strings attached. A microcosm then of the entitled attitude that MPs on the Labour right, including His Blairness, have long held regarding trade unions.

The entitlement doesn't end there. Despite being abused and defamed as antisemites, called cultists, having their say in the party stifled, and their efforts systematically undermined in 2017 and again in 2019, the left are being told to shut up and get on with campaigning. The party doesn't want their views, but will take their money and their time. And their existence as handy scapegoats when things go belly up.

Consider the debacle of the Hartlepool campaign. The latest poll from Survation forecasts the Tories romping home handily with a 17-point lead. We'll find out how on the money this is in the early hours of Friday morning, but consider what has happened. A completely unnecessary stitch up that assumes local voters will happily support anything Labour puts a red rosette on. Mentioning Paul Williams is a Doctor in every leaflet, putting out branded literature of him in his scrubs on the assumption the punters will lap it up. And basically trying to turn the campaign into a referendum on the NHS when the good folks of Hartlepool know Labour aren't going to do anything about it. Again, the assumption health care is a silver bullet that will put the Tory beast down for good, despite evidence to the contrary, is supposed to take up the slack when our new leadership has nothing to say. 127,000 dead, a government up to its neck callousness and corruption, with plenty of material around it beggars belief that the Tories are poised to win. From the outset, the Labour have felt entitled to Hartlepool's votes, just as their predecessors felt entitled to Scotland's, and it's looking like the locals have had enough. But none of this is because of them and the choices made by the strategic geniuses up above, it's all thanks to "long Corbyn" - the folly of activists and Labour supporters who are now expected to go on the stump and turn over their votes.

Labour Party entitlement has a long history. It rests on the safe seats whose rock solid support for the party was built on the sweat and tireless activism of tens of thousands of party members and trade unionists who worked to build Labour in the first place. It was maintained by close associations between work and home, of a link between who you were, your station in life, and the politicians who would (at least rhetorically) look out for your interests. The collapse of the labour movement in the 1980s left a huge amount of Labourist political capital in the bank in seats like Hartlepool, but as the years went by, as these places were taken for granted and how, unforgivably, we had Labour governments actively undermining their own mass base, the capital was expended with nothing accumulated. Except for directorships and nice jobs for former New Labour ministers.

The material basis for Labourist entitlement has gone, and so either the party's leadership acknowledges this and starts doing something different, beginning with learning from the wipeout in Scotland or, horror of horrors, the 2017 general election, or it carries on and dies. Given the tactical and strategic calls made this last year, I'm pretty confident Keir Starmer and friends will make the wrong one.

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Monday, 3 May 2021

gardenstate & GVN - Take Me There

Apologies comrades, I wanted to get something out the factory gate this evening but life. Maybe the intended Line of Duty post will still see the light of day? We'll have to see. In the mean time here's a great tune in the running for this year's top ten. It might not be bank holiday when you hear this on Tuesday morning, but crank it up anyway.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Kuenssberg to the Rescue

Is Boris Johnson a liar? Ask anyone who follows politics, anyone in the Commons, anyone who knows him and the answer is yes. Peter Oborne recently devoted half a book to Johnson's light touch relationship with the truth. And another Peter, this time Stefanovic, has a viral video on this very topic that has been viewed over 14 million times. So we can all agree, right? No. There is one hardy soul standing against the crowd, and they're not one of the Prime Minister's lackeys dependent on him for preference and position. Why, it's the BBC's chief political correspondent, your friend and mine Laura Kuenssberg.

In a lengthy piece (by BBC News standards), she ponders Johnson's propensity to lie and, um, carries on pondering. In a mishmash of psychodrama, gossip, observation, and soap opera we learn that politicians seldom lie ("Only one senior politician still in the game has ever privately told me something that was utterly, entirely, and completely untrue. It was proved publicly to be a lie a few days later"). We also learn Johnson might have a cavalier attitude to the truth, but it comes from an honest place. Yes, really. Drawing a flattering comparison with the late and unlamented Steve Jobs, we're given to understand he was driven by monomaniacal ambition, and inhabited a universe in which his ego was the animating principle. His schemes, whatever they were at any given time, were what mattered and everything was subordinate to them. Including the truth. It's almost as if Jobs didn't have time for such inconveniences.

That's certainly true of Johnson. Vanity has long been the primary motivator, and now the ambition is fulfilled all he has is the reactive business of everyday politics. His lies then for Kuenssberg are less falsehoods, but merely an effect of absent-mindedness, of a brain consumed with other passions and priorities. It's the "pressures of life", or simply an innocuous happenstance of Johnson's contrived efforts to bamboozle and bluster. Besides, she continues, those who voted for him knew what he was like. His "authenticity" is what counts, and if he govern on whims? Oh well, we might as well shrug our shoulders. No harm done.

This is piffle. Kuenssberg's piece is one of the most egregious examples of political commentary designed to obscure, if not alibi her subject. It's entirely sympathetic and circles gingerly around what everyone knows. There is no accountability here, let alone criticism of Johnson. Perhaps more fruitful than considering the content of the piece is why she turned in this sub-par apologetic. And it might have something to do with the new regime at the BBC, which is now run by a clutch of Tory donors. While its status as a fearless promulgator of the truth is something of a BBC myth, even if plenty of its personnel still believe it, the Tories have long targeted its output as not being impartial enough. Or, to put it more plainly, entirely uncritical of their shenanigans. And as they're in government, they're using their position to strip down the BBC and denude it of critical resources. A monoglot of trash with anaemic news outputs, especially as it pertains to politics, is what they want and are working toward.

Where does Laura Kuenssberg fit into this? She did not get to the top by raw journalistic talent alone. She had to play the game, have a feel for the stakes, know the direction the wind was blowing - just like anyone who ascends to the summit of anything. And now with the BBC firmly in the government's scaly grip, she's not about to jeopardise her position by repeating Commons commonplaces from her perch on one of the world's busiest websites. Not that her time in the job has been marked by a thirst for holding senior politicians to account, save one, of course. Indeed, her adjustment to the more overtly Tory BBC requires very little movement on her part. The cosy lunches, the shared text messages, the off-the-record briefings and the seamy stuff they care about but affect to say no one else is interested, her position is compromised anyway. To keep turning in the copy and remaining a player means keeping on the good side of virtually the entire cabinet. And this, her desire to keep this state of affairs going, is a more effective censor than an unwelcome phone call from the chairman.

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New Left Media May 2021

Another good month for newly emergent left media. Please check them out, and if you like 'em, support 'em!

1. Ari Drennen (Twitter) (Blog)

2. Centrist Dads (Twitter) (Podcast)

3. GND Podcast (Twitter) (Podcast)

4. Love is the Message (Twitter) (Podcast)

5. November Magazine (Twitter) (Instagram) (Magazine)

6. SPLIT INIFINITIES (Blog)

7. Thelma and Tom Look Left (Twitter) (Podcast)

8. Turn Left (Twitter) (YouTube Channel)

If you know of any new(ish) blogs, podcasts, channels, Facebook pages or whatever that haven't featured before then drop me a line via the comments, email, Facebook, or Twitter. Please note I'm looking for new media that has started within the last 12 months. The round up appears hereabouts when there are enough new entrants to justify a post!

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Previewing the Super Thursday Elections

At last, some movement in a positive direction. The polls have been uniformly dire for Labour of late, but what's that? As the belated April showers move in there are straws in the wind. Opinium reports the 11-point lead for the Tories has more than halved to five. More cheer for Keir too as Survation dropped theirs on Friday night. A nine-point cushion for Boris Johnson has collapsed to a single point. The Tories then will be hoping the clutch of polling firms, such as YouGov are nearer the mark. Double digit lead intact, encouraging numbers in the so-called red wall and, terrible news for Labour, a cataclysm among the 25s-49s where a 26-point lead has fallen to just three. Looking forward to this Thursday with Holyrood, the Senedd, the London mayoralty, local authorities, metro mayors, and police and crime commissioners, and the Hartlepool by-election all up, what can we expect?

There are the certainties. Sadiq Khan will win handily in London. Andy Burnham's re-election is a foregone conclusion. As is, sad to say, the return of Andy Street in Birmingham. The dysfunctional character of Liam Byrne's campaign is fairly well known, but not even half has come out yet. What is clear is the way he's behaved, the noses put out of joint, the bullying, blokeishness, and banality of the campaign, and the whiff of egregious rule-breaking shows Byrne is not fit to have a place on the local government panel, let alone enjoy the easy life as a no mark MP bidding for executive office. In Scotland and Wales, the only question is what the margin of victory will be for the SNP and Welsh Labour. Can the Tories make up ground in the latter, which has been forecast by some pre-election polling, and might Labour re-take second place north of the border? Both are possible.

From the perspective of politics Twitter Labour have had a disastrous campaign in Hartlepool, but putting my trust in the swing away from the Tories (which seems to have more truthiness to it than continued invulnerability), Labour might just hang on. The experiment around the Northern Independence Party is hampered by Thelma Walker being forced to stand as an independent among a sea of other indies and minor parties and so will, at best, have a marginal impact. Of course, no one is expecting a massive splash on the first outing, but matters would have been more interesting if they had been able to stand under their label and Northern Independence was clearly on the ballot paper.

Local elections? Despite movements in the polls, it's not going to be a great night for Labour. And this isn't entirely Keir Starmer's fault. The issues that persisted in the Jeremy Corbyn years largely apply. I.e. Whereas 2017-19 saw outright polarisation between the two parties, we are now experiencing lopsided polarisation. That is the Tories have held on to their electoral coalition and, um, Labour hasn't. The Tories also have another advantage. As this Thursday is a cornucopia of second order elections (except for Scotland and Wales), these tend not to matter to most people. This explains the routinely depressed turnouts we've seen before, and are going to see again. This plays well for the Conservatives because their voters are disproportionately older, and as anyone who takes the age divide in British politics seriously will tell you, there is a positive correlation between age and turnout. This is even more exacerbated for second order contests and so, yes, the Tories can look forward to making sweeping gains as their people turn out and Labour's doesn't. Fancy another Tory advantage? Millions of postal votes were cast long before government corruption and other difficulties made their presence felt on polling. Therefore expect a few people paid to write and talk about politics for a living to be stumped when the results come in.

Because Labour's vote is in the process of disaggregation, the party has to look out for local challenges from the LibDems and the Greens as well as the Tories. But also, political science isn't rocket science. The data about voting behaviour and who Labour's vote is can be found in every single poll and a simple comparison of voter characteristics over time. LOTO doesn't have to listen to mad lefties like me to grasp this elementary fact of Labour's existence. It's all there in the data tables of the polling outfits they live by. And yet, they carry on as if they're a right wing party with a right wing vote, and not a rapidly Pasokifying formation who might, with timely action, reverse the trend. Keir Starmer might find the chances stacked against Labour this Thursday, but he has not lifted a single finger to try and make political weather for his party. Instead, he's content to sit under the rain cloud, awkward and bewildered. I hope he's ready for the soaking. It stands to reason then that with all the advantages the Tories enjoy, if the party goes backwards this Thursday they are in much more trouble than polling suggests.

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Five Most Popular Posts in April

The year is now four months old. But what new additions to the blog attracted most attention in April?

1. One Abysmal Year of Keir
2. Why Political Commentary is Useless
3. Whither the Northern Independence Party?
4. Explaining the Hartlepool Poll
5. Radical Theory and the Crisis of the Present

A miserable anniversary came and went, with the occasion marked by a clutch of miserable polls and evidence Labour's new core vote is switching off. Not a way to celebrate a year in the party's top job, but this is where the geniuses around Keir Starmer and the snore master general himself is taking us. Their only hope is the allegations of Tory corruption, the fall out from the flat decorating furore, and the frightful revelation that Carrie Symonds is no fan of John Lewis are deux ex machina enough to dent the Tory numbers. Handily, Survation on Friday evening may have offered salvation.

Takes filed under hot by you, le audience, also comprised my moan at Andrew Rawnsley and the commentariat's inability to see politics for what it is. Then came a consideration on the prospects of the Northern Independence Party. Some folks reading this might be sold, but the separatist character of the project will cause it big problems in the long run - assuming the electoral system doesn't strangle it first. April was also the month Survation (them again) dropped a poll on Hartlepool showing Labour were on course to lose. Typical of the idiots littering the parliamentary party, they chose to attack the CWU for funding the exercise instead of taking heed. And lastly, and gratifyingly, a theory post snook into the top five. Check it out.

Two for the second chance tip this month. And they're sort of related. As some folks know, I'm finally reading Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus at the moment, so apologies in advance if a few fragments (partial objects?) of their infamous work crop up on the blog. One such detachment was this on D+G against BuzzFeed, truly an abominable and entirely unwarranted connection. The other is this brief think through of the partial, lopsided and stunted subject positioning of 'the taxpayer'- a designation the left would do well to avoid.