Corbyn: Pushing Labour into the abyss?

At the end of this week the Labour Party will begin sending ballot papers to their supporters; well, at least the ones who survive the vetting process of potential ‘infiltrators’. We’ve had several months of heated debate from all factions of the party and some seriously strong comments from ex-party chiefs, and one thing has been brutally clear as this process has gone on. Labour is in serious trouble.

Within a month or so of announcing his bid for election Jeremy Corbyn has erupted from his position as a distant outsider to a firm favourite, with a recent YouGov survey giving him no less than 53% of the vote. Meanwhile, Andy Burnham, who was the bookies favourite since Miliband’s resignation, has slipped into a (very) distant second and seems to be doing little to challenge Corbyn. Yvette Cooper, a close third, seems content to rely on his un-electability to boost her own campaign and Liz Kendall has been too busy fighting off calls to abandon her campaign to do very much of anything. Of course, party divisions are common-place when a leadership election is ongoing, so this shouldn’t be a great cause for concern. However, the nature of this division is somewhat different to those that have come before it and the timing of this particular election is putting many supporters, and MPs alike, on edge. With many in the party still reeling from one of the worst defeats in Labour’s history, some MPs are not so concerned with its immediate political direction but rather its survival. Some question whether the party will be able to maintain its position as the second party through the next couple of decades – some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that Labour may well slip to the position of a fringe party before too long.

The Labour party has always been divided between those with a more progressive neoliberal stance and those to the far left that describe themselves as fiercely socialist so this is nothing new, indeed, every party in British Politics suffers from a similar tug-of-war between traditionalists and progressivists. What is new is the extent to which this has caused upset within Labour; most noticeably in the fruitful language used by many to describe the outcome of a Corbyn victory, Tony Blair foremost amongst them. Chris Leslie (Shadow Chancellor) has said that he would refuse to serve on a Cabinet were it lead by the Islington North MP. So what is it about poor old Jeremy that’s causing such an uproar? Is it his policies with which people draw issue? Or perhaps something more shallow in nature?

The answer is both. Corbyn’s policies read as if they’ve been lifted straight from the party hand-book during their era in opposition. Rather than take a modern, progressive stance such as those championed by the other three remaining candidates, he appears to be reverting to the losing policies of the 1980s whilst taking several steps backwards. They include; nationalisation of the railways and the energy companies, scrapping Trident and reducing our military spending, opposing HS2, abandoning NATO and reversing austerity in favour of allowing the Bank of England to print money. His economic strategy is even denounced by his own party; the aforementioned Chris Leslie said his plans to end austerity would hurt the poor and his strategy would keep the Conservatives in power. As Yvette Cooper rightly said, Labour need to propose new solutions to today’s problems, not give old answers to old questions.

Corbyn himself is another cause for concern. His personal views certainly don’t follow the status quo and several of them could create some real upset. Although he has made no suggestion that he would try to implement them should he be elected, they are nevertheless in the public domain. Firstly, he holds that Ireland should become a United Republic by abandoning Northern Ireland despite a recent Belfast Telegraph poll suggesting that less than 30% of Northern Irish desire such a union. Secondly, he wishes for the UK to become a Republic, thus removing the Monarchy (and the tourism income that comes with it one would assume), abolishing the House of Lords and electing a president. Finally, in 2013 he attributed the chaos in the Ukraine to NATO and he said that “the root of the crisis” lay with the US. Then there is the more shallow, yet not unremarkable criticisms of Corbyn.

Unfortunately, as time progresses our society appears to be becoming ever more vain and shallow in its outlook, and appearance and likability have become increasingly important in politics (think of pint-in-hand Farage and Nice Nick Clegg).  Whilst such factors should not influence politics it is undeniable that they do and Corbyn could end up being the least electable Labour leader since, well, Ed Miliband. He is teetotal, a vegetarian and recently turned 66 years old. By the time the next General Election comes around he will be preparing for his 71st birthday and doubtless still wearing the off-white cotton shirts and vests to boot. If his policies weren’t enough to put the electorate off I’m sure his distinct Grandad vibe would be.  Is there an alternative? Unfortunately it seems unlikely.

Cooper, Kendall and Burnham run the risk of falling into the age old trap of focusing on their opposition’s campaign rather than their own. Equally, the more critics speak out about Corbyn, the stronger he gets; especially when the likes of Tony Blair, who is hated by many at the left of his party, are the ones denouncing him. If one or even two of the other candidates were to drop out of the race and declare support for the other, they may have stood a chance of beating him but the opportunity to do so has long past and Kendall fiercely fought against such calls earlier in her campaign.

Of course, under the Alternative Vote system there is a chance that Corbyn won’t receive 50% of the vote, leading to a redistribution of 2nd and maybe even 3rd and 4th place votes giving an underdog the lead. However, the growing popularity of the favourite, and recent opinion polls would suggest this is unlikely, so it looks as if Labour will be stuck with him.

Should he be elected as leader next month I do not doubt that there would be a sudden surge of energy as he rides on the wave of ‘change’ with promises of exciting new times for his party, there may even be a revival in party membership as we’ve seen these last few weeks. He may even maintain that energy until 2020, but my prediction is that he would go into a General Election having failed to improve his parties credibility and failed to bring the whole of his party behind him. Another dismal election performance ensues, the Conservatives continue their reign of austerity for another 5 years ever increasing their accountability and credibility until Labour eventually makes the right-ward shift it’s needed all along. But will it be too late?  I suspect so.

Having said that, we have learnt 2 very important lessons from recent years in politics:

  1. Never trust an opinion poll.
  2. When it comes to Labour and the AV electoral system anything can happen.

Only time will tell.

They might have won a majority, but the Tories’ campaign was far from admirable

The election is over and congratulations are due to the Conservatives for doing what most people deemed impossible. But that’s not to say that their campaign was anywhere near admirable. There are 3 specific features of their campaign with which I draw issue.

1. Scare-mongering

A continual aspect of the Tory election campaign was the establishment of fear:

– Vote Labour and we’ll return to economic doom and gloom

– Vote Labour and lose Scotland

– Vote UKIP and get Labour

Wouldn’t it be great if rather than slating the parties in competition, they championed their own policies and tried to build confidence in their own party instead of trying to destroy that of the others?

2. Anti-Scottish posters and rhetoric

Throughout the election the Tories repeatedly suggested that the SNP would tear apart our country, yet rather than try to win over the Scottish people and promote the Union, the Tories decided to attack the SNP and even attempted to turn English voters against the Scots by portraying the SNP as thieves.

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3. The personal attacks on Ed Miliband

Whilst bullying Ed Miliband was by far the easiest way of discrediting Labour, it’s certainly not something that the electorate want to hear and it definitely doesn’t help the House of Common’s image as petty posh-boys scwabbling in Parliament.

In the next election, I’m sure I speak for the majority of people when I say that negative campaigning is not what we want to see. It’s even been proven that negative campaigning has a detrimental effect on the party doing it, so why won’t they stop? It’s time for politicians and political parties to grow up and take a leaf out of the Greens’ book – positive imagery, promotion of policies and an end to the shameless bullying of individuals.

Why are Labour voters so stuck in the past?

In the run-up to the General Election it was inevitable that I would be having a large number of heated discussions with my friends, family and even complete strangers. Over the course of these political debates I learnt a great deal; I realised some things about my own views and even developed some new ones, but the majority of my observations were not about myself, but concerning others.

Without doubt, the most interesting observation I made in the last few weeks is how the different supporters of each party, but most notably Labour, respond to one simple question: “why are you voting for them?”.
Before I continue, I’d like to say that of course not all people respond in the same way, and the trends I am about to discuss do not apply to them all (I should also apologise profusely to my dearest friend who inspired me to write this post, please forgive me!).

Here are the 3 most common responses to the all important question of why Labour have their support:

– My parents vote Labour, my grandparents voted Labour, I have to vote Labour!

– They’ve done good stuff in the past, y’know, like setting up the NHS!

– Margaret Thatcher closed the mines and lost loads of people their jobs!

There are some obvious problems with the above statements:

1. The idea that you should vote in line with your parents, or anyone for that matter, is hugely damaging to democracy and whilst Labour might have appealed to your family in the past, there’s no reason to suggest they represent YOU today – I really don’t think this needs more explanation!

2. You should choose who to support based on which party most represents your views and who’s current policies you most agree with. The establishment of an institution 70 years ago is hardly a qualifying policy…

3. Voting for a party based on the fact that the Conservatives did something you don’t agree with 3 decades ago is equally foolish! “Surely no-one still basis their vote on something so long in the past??” I hear you ask. You’d certainly hope not… but this would suggest otherwise:

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Your grandparents will probably be dead soon if they’re not already, Margaret Thatcher died over 2 years ago and Aneurin Bevan who founded the NHS is little more than dust and a feature of my AS Politics textbook. Maybe it’s time for Labour voters to let go of the past and look to the future…

Please note: I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t vote Labour, just that they should be doing so for the right reasons, as I’m sure many who read this did!

What are the Greens playing at?

With the dissolution of Parliament only three weeks away, it’s probably time to start paying some attention to the false promises and empty words that our beloved politicians are throwing our way. I’d like to start with the Greens.

I have always been a strong supporter of the Greens; it seems only logical to me that environmental policy must be at the fore front of the national agenda and to deny climate change at this stage is effectively admitting to having an IQ lower than that of the average five year old. Furthermore, I believed that the Greens were necessary to bring about the changes in both social attitude and government policy that are needed to sustain the planet and our economy (our reliance on fossil fuels makes no sense even if we have reduced it in recent decades). However, in recent years/months the Greens have made some fatal errors that have completely discredited them from my point of view.

Electing Natalie Bennett:

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the last few years it’s that political personalities are crucially important to a party’s success. You only have to look back to Miliband’s unfortunate bacon sandwich incident and the success of ‘pint-in-hand’ Farage to see that. And yet, the Greens choose to elect an Australian-born journalist as their leader… not only that, but one who can’t hold her own in a political interview, doesn’t seem to know her party’s policies or where the money for their more outlandish ideas will come from (if you don’t believe me, watch the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dFn8RIXOBE ).

bacon pint

Ridiculous policy proposals:

The Green’s have always had some fairly bold policies but those suggested in the most recent Green Party Conference really take the biscuit. I’ve selected three that especially grind my gears.
– For a start, “extending human rights to all sentient life forms”, I feel like this really doesn’t need an explanation, the clue’s in the term ‘Human Rights’. How can you extend the principles of education, shelter and employment to a badger?
– Then there’s the proposition of ‘Forest Schools’ designed to build “self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees”. It’s bad enough that home economics and general studies are on the curriculum, now they want to introduce a tree appreciation GCSE?
– And finally, what better way to alienate the 12 million rural voters by regulating or banning almost every country pursuit, most notably, horse racing. The Grand National alone attracts 150,000 visitors to Aintree, not to mention the 600 million viewers worldwide.
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As the Greens have grown in popularity over the last year (even overtaking the LibDems and UKIP in party membership numbers), I fear that they have begun to lean towards their more extremist policies that have lay dormant since the late 80s. Rather than focusing on green policy, which is after all their main attraction, they have swayed towards their socialist roots, something which will surely hinder them in the long run.

You can find the Greens full policies on their website and their election manifesto will be revealed in the coming weeks: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk

5 reasons to hate Valentine’s Day..

We all know that Valentine’s Day divides the population; for half of us it’s a celebration of what a successful loving relationship we have, and for the rest, it’s a day to remember our past relationship failures and current loneliness (…perhaps!). But whichever side of the love spectrum you currently reside upon, it’s guaranteed that at some point or another you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the other; and I’m sure we can all agree – it sucks! So here are 5 reasons that every single one of us should detest the beloved day of our Saint Valentine…

1. It’s a disgusting festival of American, Consumerist scum…

Regardless of your current relationship status on Facebook (you sad fuck), it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Valentine’s Day is nothing more than an opportunity for Clinton’s to sell out of tacky over-priced cards and Thornton’s to mass-produce their most revolting heart-shaped delicacies. Coming in close second place to Christmas, Valentine’s is the second most exploitative Christian festival of them all.

2. It makes us all feel like shit

With the exception of the lucky few who find themselves sat in KFC with a share bucket telling their other half that this has been the most special day ever after exchanging a cheap teddy or repugnant perfume, Valentine’s makes us all feel like shit. Even those who have little to no desire to be in a relationship – there’s something infectious about this day that makes us all feel kinda blue.

3. It forces us to hate our amigos…

If you’re the most chilled-out, laid-back, single mo-fo alive, then good for you, but the chances are even you get slightly jealous when you’re ‘bezzy’ gets all soppy on Facebook… I mean, cum’on, nobody wants to see you declare your love for some guy/gal you won’t remember when you’re 30 and it’s just not cool to remind your mates how single they are…

4. It’s a disgrace to the Christian faith

Now, I’m not even remotely religious, but even I can understand why you’d be annoyed when a bunch of loved-up adolescents high-jack the sacred day of one of your saints!

5. We’re all too poor for this…

There’s nothing worse than being a poor old student and being forced to buy a present that you can’t afford due to social convention. And if the financial implications aren’t enough to put you off, the struggle of coming up with something meaningful and original is enough motivation to flee the country!

And so, on this fantastic day of sharing, giving and loving, my message is this… When next year comes around, do yourselves a favour and pretend it doesn’t exist.