Saturday, 20 February 2016

Bad news - I agree with Jeremy....


Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has just responded to David Cameron's EU deal:

"...Despite the fanfare, the deal that David Cameron has made in Brussels on Britain’s relationship with the EU is a sideshow, and the changes he has negotiated are largely irrelevant to the problems most British people face and the decision we must now make. His priorities in these negotiations have been to appease his opponents in the Conservative Party...."

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was one of the most extra-ordinary women the North East of England has ever produced. Amongst her many "achievements", was helping to draw the borders for what became the modern day state Iraq. The Getrude Bell Archive at Newcastle University reports she is:
...the subject of a new exhibition showing from 30 January - 3 May 2016 at the Great North Museum. It features content drawn from Newcastle University's Archive with significant loans from the British Museum, Imperial War Museum and others to tell her unique story of adventure, discovery, and political intrigue....
The more eagle-eyed geographers may spot the uncannily straight nature of some of the lines on the map below

Robert Fisk, that doyen of Middle East correspondents, wrote in 2004:

Bell attended Churchill's famous--or infamous--Cairo conference where the British decided the future of most of the Middle East. TE Lawrence was there, of course, along with just about every Brit who thought he or she understood the region. "I'll tell you about our conference,'' Bell wrote to a friend in her jolly hockey-sticks way. "It has been wonderful. We covered more work in a fortnight than has been got through in a year. Mr Churchill was admirable ..."
Fisk writes:
It quite takes the breath away; the British thought they could fix the Middle East in 14 days. And so we laid the borders of Iraq and laid out the future for what Churchill would, much later, refer to as the "hell disaster'' of Palestine....


Thursday, 17 September 2015

...but what if???

9 times out of 10, Corbyn would be doomed to failure, Labour will elect a new *moderate* leader in 12-18 months and everything reverts to normal service. 

However, what about the 1 in 10 chance….what if instead he ends up capturing a new Zeitgeist, where chronic insecurity about employment, the cuts to welfare state, dismantling of the BBC and NHS combine to swing enough people, behind some *socialist* policies. 

I guess the risk is that in capturing this new mood, Corbyn ends up presenting a genuine challenge to the establishment, whilst the Liberal Democrats can only carve a niche as an irrelevant mild mannered centre party. This would be just as ill-conceived as any of the political tactics dreamt up during the Coalition/Clegg era and with just as devastating a result. 

I’m thinking that we should instead be looking to work and campaign on progressive issues together where we can find agreement; developing a new style of politics which seeks to put the common good above political point scoring. I have a feeling there is a market for a broadly progressive coalition, less so for a soggy Blairite faction.

(*this originally appeared as a comment on Lib Dem Voice*)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Soggy Syriza???

The phrase coined by Danny Alexander and blogged about here regarding a supposed 'danger' of the LibDems becoming a 'soggy Syriza' is revealing.

Syriza came to power in Greece on a wave of great hope and expectation that this (supposedly) radical government would tell the ECB, the IMF and the Germans where to stick their crippling austerity measures.

After a nearly two-thirds vote against a ruthless package of cuts in Tspiras' referendum, the Syriza government turned round and then themselves stuck two-fingers up at the Greek people before meekly accepting even harsher cuts imposed by the ECB/EU than was the subject of the referendum. Needless to say, many Greeks feel betrayed and who can blame them.

Now, the revealing part of Alexander's phraseology of 'soggy Syriza': In 2010, a supposedly radical and progressive party teamed up with the Tories to implement draconian cuts in public spending.

Despite pledges to the contrary, students, in particular had good reason to feel betrayed at the imposition of £9k tuition fees, which seemed like the LibDems turning round and sticking another two fingers up to the young aspirational types of the sort the party seemed to have been hitherto making its core-vote.

The bitterness engendered through this episode may be as long-lasting as the Poll Tax and ERM was for the Tories and the Winter of Discontent was for Labour, but with the added negative "bonus" of only a microcosm of seats in Parliament.

So, yes the LibDems can be compared to Syriza, but not in the way Danny, Paddy, and presumably Nick, would care to admit..


Friday, 17 July 2015

Tim Farron: A deep breath....

"...When it comes to opposition to gay rights, conservative Christians have been on the front lines, opposing measures that would give people in same-sex relationships the right to visit their partners in the hospital, file taxes jointly, adopt children, share insurance, and rent apartments without fear of unjust eviction. Routinely fundamentalist Christians compare people in same-sex relationships to paedophiles and demand an explanation for how their most important relationships are any different than people having sex with dogs. Anti-gay bullying, discrimination, and hate-speech often go unchallenged by Christians, and are far too often perpetuated by them...."

(This extract is taken from 'Changing Worship', an American Christian blog)

If Tim Farron had expressed any of the above attitudes or behaviours, I would be the first to condemn him.

However, I don't see a SCINTILLA of this, in either what he has said, or even in his voting record in Parliament.

Lets just see how the party and Tim's leadership develop rather than rushing to judgement which, I rather thought, was what being a liberal is all about!


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Liberal Democrats: Post-facto

The more I think about it, the more I'm struck by the fact that the Liberal Democrats - or at least most of their voters - have been left behind in British politics over the last 5 years. 

The tragic loss of Charles Kennedy reinforced vividly the memories of the days when the party was streets ahead and much more progressive than the two other major parties. The bitterness and anger felt by the progressive coalition of voters Kennedy and the wider party had built up since the beginning of the Blair government who had good reason to feel betrayed by the actions of the Lib Dems in government was the real reason for the electoral annihilation suffered by the party in May.

The biggest strategic mistake made was for Clegg, Alexander and Laws all too wilful capitulation to the Tory neo-Thatcherite mantra: that it was entirely Labour's supposed "profligacy" which caused a financial crisis, rather than a much more complex failure of US & UK fiscal regulation egged on by their rich and bent mates in the City of London. The lock-stock-and-barrel approach to this version of history vacated the field for the Greens and other (supposedly) "progressive" parties.

Secondly, on Europe, the supposed party of "radical" constitutional reform at home and "liberal internationalism" abroad was too often seen as either defended the status quo or offering highly muffled critiques of the manifest democratic deficit which is perceived to lie at the heart of the current European project. This continual error of judgement left the field open for UKIP and their appeal from outside the elite to the worst aspects of the English character - insularity and xenophobia.

The fact that the lack of a real say for at least two or three generations of voters has been at the core of British Euro-scepticism, was ignored. "Your political elite", voters were patronised, "knows best". Rather than arguing for the principle that it should be the British people who should decide our long-term future within or without the EU in a referendum, the party took a pass and muttered something about the future of Britain being at risk if such a plebiscite was held.

It remains to be seen what the future - if any - for the Liberal Democrats holds. It is possible that the party will die a quiet dignified death unless ways is found to re-establish the link between the progressive idealism of the past with the current attacks on the welfare state and the poor, and convincing voters that the decency at the heart of basic Liberal Democracy is still alive and kicking...


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Tim Farron's Gladstone Club Talk....


"...But briefly, it should be obvious that we have to approach politics in a very different way in this Parliament from what we've been used to. We need to become a movement, not another managerial Westminster party.

We've fallen into a style of fighting elections which relied on identifying ourselves as the main challenger to whoever held the seat, and then mobilising local grievances to convince the voters that we were on their side, whatever they thought and whether or not they were remotely Liberal in their beliefs. What we actually stood for and believed was almost irrelevant, except during atypical periods such as the war in Iraq - with the result that while the electorate began to recognise a few things we were against - the Iraq war, tuition fees, cuts in local services - they didn't know what we were for..."

Read the whole speech here