Sturgeon V Burnham

Or is that Jimmy Krankie V Andy Capp?

Sturgeon, who comes across as a tough Glasgow political street fighter, takes on Greater Manchester’s Scouse Mayor who tries to portray himself as the fighter for the common northern man and woman. Well, there’s only going to one winner in that spat and it’s not Andy Capp. Frankly, Burham’s not in the same league as Sturgeon; he’s more a shouter from the sidelines in my view.

Yes I know, I’ve never rated Burnham as readers of this blog site will know. He’s always struck me as a populist follower rather than a leader of progressives. And wasn’t he close to NHS privatisation during the Blair years?

But whilst the spat is ostensibly about whether Manchester/Salford folk can travel to Scotland during the present Covid 19 situation the reality seems to be that Burnham, you might say cleverly, is using the issue to promote what looks like his ongoing plan/campaign to run for Labour Leader leader (again). This on the basis that, as many within the Labour Party seem to think, Starmer is forced to call it a day or is told to call it a day. But let’s not forget that Burnham has stood for leader previously and if memory serves his performance hardly won many hearts and minds. The reality is, of course, that Starmer will probably limp on until the next general election so Burnham has a while yet to find a safe seat. If he does stand then it will be to try to pick up the leaders job.

So would Labour do any better with a populist (with a conscience) as their leader especially one who is clearly a northerner? That’s a question no one presently has an answer to but you can bet it’s exercising many a Labour strategist mind presently. Of course, as I’ve already indicated Burnham will have to find a safe Labour seat to become an MP once again as his old seat (Leigh) is now represented by a Tory! And that very situation kind of sums up how left of centre politics has been unable to find answers to populist right-wing politics (with little or no conscience).

With credit to Private Eye re. Andy Capp

Starmer shown red card and has early Bath

It seems as though Keir Starmer can add unlucky to his present list of troubles following his unfortunate encounter in Bath with a Brexiteer.

Your first thought is how on earth did his minders get him into such an encounter; the very kind of publicity he’d not have wanted.

But then on further reflection, what on earth was he doing campaigning in Bath which is already represented by a radical and progressive MP. You’d have thought his efforts would have been better aimed at a Tory seat rather than helping the Tories to unseat an MP of the centre-left who is far more radical and progressive than the vast majority of Labour MP’s. Having said that maybe it’s as simple as he’s on the same track as Jez Corbyn i.e. get rid of all other radical left of centre MP’s who are not Labour; the Tories can wait until we’ve achieved that. Trouble is that the tribal approach simply does not work and it lets the Tories have a free run.

Whilst Starmer is clearly more electable than Corbyn he’s no progressive leader at all and he seems to spend much of his time making progressives both inside and outside of the Labour Party cringe. He also seems to be on a very different course to Tony Blair who gathered progressives around him, made friends with the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown and made himself look like a progressive who could and would win. Starmer’s approach seems to be one of hiding behind his party political sofa saying as little as possible and certainly not reaching out to other progressives in the Greens, Lib Dems etc. So the ‘one more heave’ policy of Labour under Corbyn is still thought to be alive despite it being pronounced very much dead in the December 2019 General Election.

The trouble with Labour is that they are a wide collection of political sects from the right, through social democrats and off into the many sects of socialism. This means working-class right-wingers, who have bought into Johnson, are in the same overall tent as Momentum! No wonder Labour spends so much of its time fighting itself and trying to heal internal divisions. They call it a ‘broad church’ but it’s so broad that its internal sects often hate each other more than they do the Tories.

So no one on the progressive left really has any idea where Starmer is heading as he clearly didn’t in Bath.

Having read this far you may think I want Starmer to fail but actually, the opposite is true. We desperately need a centre-left, progressive and yes radical alternative to our UKIP-type Tory Party. A Progressive Alliance of Labour, Lib Dems & Greens is required but for that to happen Labour has to stop attacking fellow progressives and Starmer has to start to look like a real leader of women and men. Sadly, the way things are going there’s not much room for hope and the Tories march on without a credible opposition.

Brexiteers created the problems, now their leaders seem to want to make them worse

Health warning – Brexiteers shouldn’t read this posting without having extra blood pressure tablets within reach

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim has this about right as a piece of level-headed commentary but the matter is far from being level-headed of course because Brexit is very much an emotional as opposed to a logical issue.

Well that’s probably got my Brexiteer readers jumping up and down but however you cut it this Northern Ireland issue is a direct consequence of Brexit. The way forward according to our government seems to be to break an international agreement which we signed up to only a couple of months ago. It’s as though those who voted for Johnson’s Brexit Deal, which includes all but one of Labour’s MP’s, didn’t know what they were doing or the consequences of their vote! Blindly voting for a last minute Brexit Deal as Labour and Tory MP’s did was always going to end in tears and so it has come to pass.

The trouble with Brexit is it meant many different things to many different Brexiteers but probably the biggest issue was that those who promoted it actually did not understand the far-reaching consequences of what they were campaigning for, let alone be able to explain those consequences to the electorate. Johnson’s ‘oven ready deal’ ended up no more than half-baked and Keir Starmer led his troops into backing it. Of course Brexiteers, blame the EU, the French, the Irish, the Germans; indeed it’s everyone else’s fault but their own. And have you seen the January trade figures with the EU!

Brexit was always a hugely complex matter but it was sold as everything the electorate could wish for, no down sides, huge benefits and Britannia would again rule the waves. Of course none of that was even remotely true but it sounded akin to Trump’s ‘make America great again’ and look where that got the US!

We are in danger of becoming a failed state, indeed we are already well down that road I fear……

Is Starmer another John Smith?

Now I’m a Liberal who had some time for John Smith as Labour Leader; I thought he had something about him even though I had little time for his party. That someone should compare him to Keir Starmer struck me as more than a little odd as to me Starmer as Labour leader has been quite a big disappointment. I’d thought that when he was seemingly reluctantly running along with Corbyn that there was far more about him than has subsequently been shown since he became Labour’s leader.

So what about the article that got me thinking about how on earth Starmer could possibly be another Smith? Here’s a substantial extract from it

When talking about Keir Starmer, think of John Smith – by Mark Pack

The parallels between former Labour Party leader John Smith and current leader Keir Starmer are striking.

Both took up post after four Labour general election defeats in a row (1979-1992 and then 2010-19). Both succeeded a Labour leader whose personal ratings had a positive burst but had fallen into persistent negative territory by the end (Kinnock, then Corbyn). Both themselves had not only been a leading member of the Shadow Cabinet prior to the last Labour defeat, they had even held the post central to the key issue seen at the heart of that defeat. Brexit for Starmer, the economy for Smith. On becoming leader, both addressed a major internal issue that had been seen as costing Labour votes (anti-Semitism with Starmer, the union block vote and move to OMOV for Smith). But beyond that, both also were modest in the extent to which they set out to change their party or its policies. Both looked to have an approach to winning the next general election of, ‘Let the government mess up while I’ll show that I’m not my predecessor’. One more heave rather than one big revolution.

Whether this would have worked for John Smith, tragically we will never know. The plaudits given to him after his early death from a heart attack in 1994 were of the sort any of us should be honoured to receive. If you or I receive even an echo of such fulsome words, we will have led a good life. For all Smith’s many positives, the one thing left hanging unresolved is whether or not he was a good leader of the Labour Party. Had he set the course for victory or was he going to turn out to be too timid to win? We’ll never know.

With Starmer, we will. For there are two competing stories waiting for historians to pick between them. One is of Starmer the triumphant, who wisely realised that oppositions don’t win elections but governments lose them. So he made clear he was not his highly unpopular predecessor and other than that mostly kept out of the way, doing little radical and letting the government destroy itself. The other is of Starmer the timidly defeated, who turned out to have nothing much to do or say beyond, ‘I’m not Corbyn and I’m opposed to anti-Semitism’, and who then went down to defeat as the Conservative Party pulled itself together when the general election neared.

Either could yet be true.’

Well yes I get the parallels but Starmer’s too right wing for me. Yes I know, he’s desperate to get his white working class right wing supporters back who voted Tory in December 2019 and virtually everything he does is a dance to their tune but that’s certainly putting off progressives in spades too. He’s not willing to embrace electoral reform/fair votes, he opposes Universal Basic Income (UBI) which is the only real way to seriously tackle poverty and he led his party to support Johnson’s appalling Brexit Deal. As I say there’s nothing to warm the heart of a progressive there what so ever!

So for me Starmer is no John Smith

Progressive politics in the UK is desperately short of leaders and that’s important because for the Conservative’s majority to be overturned* it’s going to take a huge joint effort by Labour, Lib Dems and Greens in some way working together rather than in opposition to each other. For that to happen credible leaders need to be found whom progressives can coalesce around. The alternative is more years of populist right wing government and if that’s not enough to sober up anti-Conservatives I don’t know what is.

* Labour’s usual route to a majority, via Scotland, went west when they were all but wiped out by the SNP.

Political inspiration desperately needed for the left of UK politics

You might say ‘God help us we are desperately in need of dynamic political leadership on the left’, although in my case it would be your God as I don’t actually have one but you get my drift. And indeed drift is what has got the left of UK politics into the mess that it is.

But where did the rot start? For the Lib Dems after Charles Kennedy bowed out as their leader, for Labour probably when the wrong Miliband was elected their leader. Yes we can argue about when the rot started but when will it stop?

I don’t know about you but I’m desperately unimpressed with the direction progressive politics has been and may still be heading in. It could not organise itself to oppose a Brexit that virtually every progressive opposed whether they be members of PC, SNP, Lib Dems, Greens or Labour. There’s been no credible opposition to the Conservatives since 2010 at least. Yes there’s been a lot of shouting from the left but when push came to shove the left went in 5 or more directions all at once due to factional sects being unwilling to work with each other even on agendas where they shared common goals! The nearest we got was the Remain Alliance at the 2019 GE when the Greens, PC and Lib Dems tried to put out a nearly unified team, which then utterly failed.

Failure for the left is a comfortable old coat that gets passed down from one generation of left leaning party leaders to the next to give the Tories an assurance that the left is rarely going to get its act together and of course it usually tries not to!

Under our warped electoral system which virtually all other democracies ditched long ago we are left in almost every constituency with a binary choice. In most it’s left V right but it can be left V left but rarely if ever right V right. The right of UK politics is good at reorganising as the Conservative party morphs itself into UKIP when it was a threat to its ground and the Brexit Party when it reared its head. But the left stays in its own political silos pretty much come what may, no matter that it means year upon year of Conservative governance.

But the lack of serious opposition has meant the Tories have also become careless because they pretty much know they can get away with anything & everything. May’s minority Government was weak; Johnson’s is all over the place and both when the UK has needed strong governance and a clear direction. But even with a weak right the left can’t or won’t get its act together! It treads water, it shouts from the side-lines, it settles for keeping it’s own minority of backers on side. It all but takes out advertisements saying that it’s a waste of space and incapable of offering alternative leadership which folk can feel in any way enthusiastic about. Ask us in 2024 when we are near the next election and we may have woken up by then but don’t expect anything other than us going through the motions, at best, until then.

Blair understood that he needed to build an alternative movement and so did Ashdown indeed they did some of their planning in joint consultation because they knew that fighting each other would only be to the Tories advantage. Has the left learned anything from that? Clearly not and that’s because everything that Blair stood for is now policy of the devil amongst many on the left. They look upon him as being wrong about everything because he fouled up badly over Iraq and is perceived to have been too moderate and centrist. Of course he was not wrong about everything and the understanding he had with Ashdown was very far from being wrong – although it was sadly not followed through. As usual the left chucks the baby out with the bath water because well it enjoys cutting off its own nose to spite its face, it’s what the left does and in some left leaning minds it’s what it always should do.

I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of this carry on not least because it keeps delivering Tory Governments. But what can we do? Well the prospects aren’t good let’s be honest. To start with both the Lib Dems and Labour have middle aged white leaders who would do well to win a dull as dishwater contest even if they were the only contestants. Not sure where the Greens are going but the SNP at least has a credible leader. Ah but the Lib Dems and Labour fight like cats and dogs with the SNP because they’re unionist parties whereas the SNP is by definition a party of independence. Never mind that, putting that Scots Indy issue to one side, there may well be areas of social policy for example where there’s some common ground they still have to be seen to politically hate each other over everything. Oh what’s the point you may well say, indeed I’ve said it myself, but with the present Conservative Party having a free run to do anything they want the left simply has to stop kicking itself in the goolies and face up to providing an alternative vision. Doing nothing just puts the UK on the road to ruination, which is of course why many Scots want out!

So the two dull as dishwater leaders have to start talking and they have to find to try to some accommodation with the SNP. If they do nothing else they need to look back at the Blair/Ashdown talks of not that many years ago and as Ashdown is sadly no longer around even consult Blair.

You know there are good people in the Labour Party, in the SNP and even in the Lib Dems who can find ways of not declaring war on each other at the drop of a hat. If they don’t do this, if they can’t summon up some left leaning political inspiration to capture the hearts and minds of the electorate but particularly of young people then we all on the left deserve to go to the Tories version of hell in their rickety hand cart.

Labour’s dilemma – Class based V Progressive Politics

Labour is trying to pull back into its fold the right wing white working class voters who voted Tory at the last General Election. This despite the fact that these voters can often hold views which would embarrass a truly progressive party – This is summed up by Jim Hancock who says this in one of his recent blog pieces (Hancock’s Half Page):-

‘Sir Keir’s statement that “we love our country” was really important. For Labour to have any hope of regaining its northern strength, it must recognise the deep patriotism of the working class.’

To me that deep patriotism sadly often proclaims itself as racism, anti-Semitism, pro-Brexit, anti-gay, anti-Muslim etc. etc.

At the same time Labour’s also looking to bring on board real progressives who certainly reject the views outlined above but who, like the working class backers, became disillusioned with the party in recent years mainly due to the party’s fence sitting over Brexit and its anti-Semitism problems.

And thereby hangs Labour’s dilemma; trying to appeal to progressives and regressives at the same time. Under Tony Blair they achieved it although more I think by ignoring their white working class supporters (whom I’m sure must have been a huge embarrassment to Blair, whilst he still needed their votes) than by currying favour with them.

Starmer, who certainly does not have Blair’s charismatic qualities, therefore has a huge task on his hands. And if you add into that heady mix the fact that Labour has been almost wiped out in Scotland the task gets all the more difficult with Labour, like the Lib Dems, being a unionist party when the Scots are moving further towards independence.

My point in writing this posting is that Labour needs the Lib Dems to be successful just as much as Lib Dems need Labour to be successful. They’ve tried going toe to toe and it gave the Tories a free hand so they’ve got to do just the opposite and find a way not to fight each other in those seats where doing so simply hands seats to the Tories.

Yes I know that in many policy areas the Libs will continue be to the left of and more progressive then Labour. That’s just been highlighted by the Libs backing UBI & Labour rejecting it. And of course Labour traditionally has wanted to fight the Libs probably more than the Tories because they’re another left wing sect they want out of their way. However, unless the two parties want a re-run of the terrible campaigns which Corbyn and Swinson delivered in December 2019 then they’re going to have to find a way to live with each other as Blair and Ashdown did.

And yes I know it’s our appalling electoral system that creates this need to co-operate between two very different parties but without that co-operation then you know what the probable outcome could well be – yes that’s right another Tory Government!

But Labour’s USP has always been that they are not the Tories and maybe not being the Tories is all that’s needed now? If so it explains why Labour’s all but a policy vacuum; they stand for nothing much at all but they’re not Tories.