Northern Irish Politics And Britain’s Wilful Ignorance

Northern Ireland is a bit of a mystery for Tories and many people on the so-called mainland. So it comes as no surprise to The Cat that the historic gains for Sinn Féin and the collapse of the Democratic Unionist Party’s share of the vote in last Thursday’s snap election went under-reported by the British media. More about that later.

For many British people, it’s as if the ‘Troubles’ (I hate that euphemism) never ended and the Good Friday Agreement never took place.  For the Tories, especially, time in Northern Ireland stands still in the year 1984. This is often revealed in the ‘Corbyn and McDonnell appease IRA terrorists’ slur, which is repeated by Tory, UKIP and Lib Dem politicians and the trolls that gather on the ‘below the line’ threads on newspaper websites and blogs like this one.  Centuries of history are simply swept aside along with evidence.

The mainstream media, too, selectively recalls the ‘Troubles’ as a symmetrical conflict between Catholics and Protestants, with the former group often depicted as wild-eyed Fenian bomb-throwers and the latter as oppressed victims of sectarian hatred.  Nationalism, too,  is often conflated with Republicanism. So it comes as a surprise to many that there were Protestant members of the IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army and Catholic Unionists; while Loyalism is a peculiarly Protestant phenomenon and predates Unionism as a political movement. Unsurprisingly, there is  little, if any, mention in the British media of the strong fraternal (sic) ties between the various Loyalist paramilitaries and extreme right parties like Britain First and the British National Party.  The mainstream media’s simplistic narratives deliberately ignore the complexity of Northern Ireland’s politics and gloss over the history of the centuries old occupation of Ireland by the British.

The gerrymandering of Northern Ireland by the Unionists from the inception of the semi-state in 1920 until the 1970s is also ignored by mainstream media commentators. This video from the 1970s describes how Unionists controlled Derry City Council by rigging the wards.

In the years following partition, Stormont was a mostly Unionist institution with nationalists represented by the Nationalist Party, a continuation of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The dominant Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which monopolized the Protestant vote, has close ties to the Conservative and Unionist Party on the mainland.

In the first Northern Ireland House of Commons election of 1921, James Craig’s Unionists polled 60 seats with Sinn Féin and the Nationalists receiving 6 seats each. Both parties abstained from taking their seats. This remained the case until 1925, when the Northern Ireland Labour Party gained 3 seats and Independent Unionists took 4 seats from the UUP. This would be the last election to be held using proportional representation. There are no prizes for guessing why PR was abolished in favour of First Past The Post. Single seat constituencies were also created, thus making it doubly difficult for small parties and independents to gain seats. The UUP held onto its unfair advantage until 1973 when direct rule was imposed on Northern Ireland by Westminster. Even so, the UUP’s hegemony remained intact until the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of 2003, when it was overtaken by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.

Success for the DUP at Stormont would translate into success at Westminster, where it eclipsed the UUP. Now part of a power-sharing executive with with its old foe, Sinn Féin, the DUP believed it could keep the Unionist political hegemony alive forever. How wrong they were.

In spite of their historical differences, the DUP’s Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness appeared to get along well as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The press even dubbed them ‘The Chuckle Brothers’.  When Paisley retired due to ill health in 2008, his place as FM was taken by Peter Robinson, who immediately adopted a hardline approach to the Shinners. Robinson would eventually be brought down 8 years later by no less a figure than his wife, Iris, who was involved in an extramarital affair with a man who was nearly 20 years her junior. She also arranged £50,000 of loans for her lover to open a restaurant.

Under Robinson and his successor, the hapless Arlene Foster , the DUP  blocked socially progressive legislation and supported Brexit (they have always been anti-EU), while most voters in the Six Counties supported Remain. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) or ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal, began to drag Foster under.  RHI had been introduced while Foster was Minister for Enterprise and Trade and she was accused by a “senior member” in her own party of withholding evidence from the Assembly.  In response to Foster’s stubborn refusal to resign while investigations took place, Martin McGuinness, who was already extremely ill, resigned as Deputy FM, thus precipitating the election. The DUP has lost 10 seats, while the UUP continues its descent into obscurity having lost one of its six seats. Other smaller parties, like the Loyalist-orientated Traditional Unionist Voice, are static. Only  Sinn Féin and the SDLP made significant gains, while Profit Before People lost one seat.

Yet Foster still refuses to stand down. Even Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the UUP, resigned. The normally Unionist-friendly Belfast Telegraph has urged her to stand aside.

Unionists of all shades – mainstream, moderate and hardline – need to engage in a soul-searching inquest. The fact that Mike Nesbitt so swiftly relinquished his leadership of the Ulster Unionists should not mean that Foster can ignore a similar fate in the DUP.

Meanwhile Sinn Féin is refusing to work with the DUP if they insist on keeping Foster as FM.

There is nothing particularly modern or forward-looking about the Unionist parties and they have held the Six Counties back for far too long. Could this be the beginning of the end for Unionism? I hope so.

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Filed under 2017, Government & politics, Northern Ireland Assembly elections

Tory Majority Could Be ‘Wiped Out’ as Police Send Electoral Files to CPS

The net is closing in on the Tories. The Cat thinks that election over-spending is the tip of a very large iceberg that includes other forms of malfeasance. Stay tuned!

 

UPDATE 15/3/17 @ 1203

Last night, Craig McKinlay, the Tory MP for Thanet South was interviewed under caution by Kent Police. The BBC’s Nick Watt did his best cover for the Tories by claiming that he’d spoken to a Tory grandee, who apparently advised him that nothing would happen but a few slapped wrists. However, a fine could result in the result being overturned, meaning  fresh by-elections could take place.

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Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015, Government & politics

Let’s Talk About: Those New Labour Achievements

If you’re a Corbyn supporter, you’re probably more than familiar with the rebuttals (such as they are) deployed by Blairites and Nu Labour sympathizers to the discourse that insists their prescription for governing the country is the wrong one at this time. As you may already know, such minds are closed to all reason. For them, facing backward is always preferable to facing forward. Nostalgia is just so, so much better than real life.

Perhaps you’ve heard the oft-uttered defence: “When we were in power, we achieved” to which the speaker will go on to produce a list of the Holy achievements. This line of defence recently appeared as a Twitter rebuttal to the critiques of Ken Loach and Paul Mason, and has been reproduced on the otherwise interesting Political Scrapbook. As arguments go, it’s pretty weak.  Why?  Because the repetition of the “our achievements” line is little better than a curmudgeon opening their front door and shouting at some little kids playing football in the street , while at the same time leaving their back door open to all and sundry. “I fought several wars for the likes of you”, shouts the old duffer as bigger kids ransack his house and steal his valuables behind his back.

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, Blair swerved around the structural problems that had been accumulated by nearly two decades of neoliberal economic and social policies. The notion that only the market can provide solutions was accepted as fait accompli by the Nu Labour policy makers and apparatchiks. Blair and his acolytes internalized the Tories’ economic arguments and accepted them as Truths. For them, the economic orthodoxy formulated in the Thatcher years, which has been responsible for untold miseries, can and could never be challenged. It has become holy writ. Set in stone – so to speak.

So why do Blairites insist on listing Nu Labour’s achievements as words of power to ward off all and any criticism of the party and, particularly, Tony Blair? Well, it reveals their lack of a relevant vision for the future and in failing to offer a real alternative, they have become prisoners of their past. Moreover, their constant reproduction of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ betrays their lack of a big narrative and policies that will transform peoples’ lives for the better. Nostalgia is and always has been a very poor substitute for history as it was really lived. Slogans and headline-grabbing gimmicks have become a replacement for ideas for the PR-driven Parliamentary Labour Party, itself the true offspring of Nu Labour. Today’s crop of right-wing and flaccid Left Labour MPs, who were produced by the machine created by Nu Labour, are not only devoid of imagination and ideas, they are incapable of learning from history and can see nothing beyond the status quo.

The paucity of meaningful ideas was brought into sharp relief during the last two leadership elections: in contrast to Corbyn, the Blairites and their allies could only offer more window-dressing and empty soundbites. Hope as both a concept and a word was noticeably absent from the vocabularies of Burnham, Kendall and Cooper; while Smith, who was/is emptiness personified, thought he could steal Corbyn’s policies in the hope (sic) that no one would notice. But they did and he lost. Badly. It is only Corbyn who has offered an alternative discourse to the prevailing socio-economic orthodoxy and it is only Corbyn who has articulated anything resembling a vision. The others offered nothing and in this, they are little better than the managers of expectations and the destroyers of dreams. There is no hope and there is no future. Only more misery. But hey, what about our achievements when we were in power?  What about them? What about the future? We’re not asking you to be scryers.

Those who follow the Nu Labourites, Progressites, Blairites or whatever, never bother to ask the questions about what kind of country they would like to see. Instead, like those they worship, they are at once fixated on the past and are insistent their leaders and they alone should be in power. The Bitterites haven’t cottoned on to the fact that if they can’t articulate a vision for the country that is original and distinct from the Tories’ empty promises and Newspeak policies (National Living Wage), they will be consigned to the dustbin of history. These people are nothing if not romantics. They are also megalomaniacal; inured in the Westminster system that cossets them and provides them with a handsome pension – even the failed MP and right-wing troll, Louise Mensch, gets a parliamentary pension.

Voters need hope and they need to see something that at least resembles a vision from a political party that purports to be on the side of the weak. What voters don’t need is someone in an expensive suit telling them “we have to deal with the world as it is, not how we’d like it to be”. The economic crisis depression that began in 2008 needed radical, bold action. Instead, what we got was inertia, weakness and a craven mentality that allowed the Tories and UKIP to control social, political and economic discourses in the public sphere. This is what happens when political parties become complacent and that complacency continues to dominate the discourses of Smith, Kendall, Reeves, Austin et al. Hands up! Who wants more misery and an extra helping of pain? Not me.

If you want a better future for yourself, your family or for society, you will not get that from a reanimated Nu Labour Party. The Blairites and their pals will simply hand you another shit sandwich on artisan bread and tell you that’s all you’re getting. Society deserves better than that.

 

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Labour leadership contest, Labour leadership election 2015, Let's Talk About

The Manchester Gorton By-Election

The long-serving Labour MP, Gerald Kaufman, died last night, aged 86. His death has prompted yet another by-election. As sure as night follows day, the Blairites and assorted plotters will be looking to sabotage this election or impose an anti-Corbyn candidate on the constituency.

The selection process is usually the responsibility of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP), but Manchester Gorton was suspended last year for alleged bullying. The Manchester Evening News reported:

Police have been called in by the Manchester Gorton Labour party amid fears for the safety of members – following claims of bullying, intimidation and voting impropriety.

MP Sir Gerald Kaufman’s riven constituency party has now been suspended by party headquarters after reports of abusive behaviour by local members.

According to a letter from Labour head office, the CLP is now in discussions with Greater Manchester Police after members raised concerns over their safety.

If this sounds familiar to you, then cast your mind back to July last year, when the Wallasey CLP was suspended on trumped up charges of intimidation.

With Manchester Gorton CLP suspended, the job of selecting a candidate will fall to the Iain McNicol-controlled National Executive Committee (NEC), which will undoubtedly impose a candidate on the constituency. This is what happened at Stoke-on-Trent Central with Tristram Hunt and the St Helens South constituency with Shaun Woodward.

The NEC is quite happy to suspend CLPs that are accused of bullying and Labour members on hokey charges of anti-Semitism. But the NEC’s actions are selective. Recently, Ella Rose, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement and former employee of the Israeli Embassy, threatened violence against Jackie Walker. Nothing happened. Rose is still a member of the party. It makes you think. No?

UPDATE 28/2/17 @ 1125

The Cat understands that Manchester Gorton CLP is no longer suspended but has yet to hold an AGM. This means that Lavrenty Beria Iain McNichol can still impose a candidate on the CLP.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour

The Blair-Murdoch Axis And The Lack Of Choice For Voters

We know that the dewy-eyed romantics, collectively known as Blairites (whether they like it or not), will stop at nothing to wrest the leadership of the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn and place it in the hands of one their own. They will destroy their party in the misguided belief that they are trying to ‘save’ it.

When Blairites, Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt resigned, they did so knowing that the seats they occupied were marginal. Thus began the latest attempts to remove Corbyn as party leader. The Blairites and assorted plotters have a good deal of financial and moral support from wealthy individuals and hedge funds to the Murdoch propaganda empire and a compliant BBC.

Since last Thursday’s by-election defeat in Copeland (the count itself was conducted unlawfully according to the Skwawkbox blog), the Blairites had been out in force before, during and after, each of them issuing dark threats and repeating the by now familiar canards and logical fallacies.

Whenever you get into an argument with a Blairite, they never hesitate to repeat the claim that “Tony Blair won three elections in a row”. These words are used to ward off any criticism of Blair, but are also deployed as a discussion-killer whenever a Corbyn supporter reminds them of Nu Labour’s  shortcomings.  These words are also detached from reality and presented free of any association from the Murdoch empire and, indeed, history itself. As I have said in previous blogs, that Nu Labour won three consecutive elections isn’t in doubt, but so what? His government did nothing to address structural issues and kept the Thatcher project alive.

Over the course of 13 years, close to 5 million voters abandoned Labour. These voters either voted for another party or didn’t bother to vote at all. Yet, the Blairites and others insist that the only way for Labour to win a General Election that takes place in three year’s time, is not to reach out to these missing voters but to attract Tory voters instead. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is a winning strategy. Moreover, it suggests to The Cat that this pathetic strategy is merely another ploy to create a situation in which the choices for voters are limited to various shades of right-wing parties, leading to a de facto one-party state. This must not be allowed to happen. Even Thatcher herself admitted that her “greatest achievement” was “New Labour”. Could there be a more clearer indication of how voters are being stitched up?

It’s useful to look at the socio- political climate before the Nu Labour landslide of 1997.  After 18 years of Tory government, first under Thatcher and then Major, people were so fed up that they would have voted for a pig wearing a red rosette. They didn’t vote because Blair promised them anything; all he did was to offer a fresh appearance. For behind the brightly-coloured shop front laid bare shelves. In the postmodern world of politics, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.

Let’s remember that in July 1995, Tony Blair flew half way around the world to meet Rupert Murdoch on an island off the east coast of Australia.  What took place in that meeting is open to speculation but it resulted in Murdoch giving Nu Labour his support.

Only a year earlier, Alistair Darling, the Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, tabled a Commons motion condemning Murdoch’s newspaper price-cutting.

“The newspaper industry is not only an important business but also a vital organ of the democratic process … predatory pricing, with the intention of forcing rivals out of the market, will reduce choice and undermine competition,”

The motion was supported, among others, by Peter Mandelson, then the MP for Hartlepool and a friend of Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupe’s daughter.

If we go back two years earlier to 1992, The S*n produced these front pages.  The one on the left appeared on election day, the one on the right appeared the day after.

The page on the right is supported by the claim in the bottom right-hand corner that the “Truth” had been “hailed by the Tories”.

When Labour lost the 2015 General Election (which is still shrouded in controversy because of the Tory Election Expenses Fraud), the Blairites turned on their leader, Ed Miliband, whom they had been plotting against since he was elected instead of his Blairite brother in 2010. In an article in the Financial Times, George Parker wrote:

Lord Mandelson said Mr Miliband and his supporters had made a “terrible mistake” in abandoning the New Labour centre ground and undertaking “a giant political experiment” that went badly wrong. Asked by the BBC’s John Pienaar what was missing from Mr Miliband’s approach, Lord Mandelson said: “An economic policy.” While many in the Labour party remain stunned by the poll result, Lord Mandelson was one of a number of Blairites who fanned out across the media to try to reclaim the party from the left.

This “centre ground” as the BBC and others like to describe it, is a myth. The centre shifted right under Blair and has continued to do so under successive Tory governments since 2010.  Also quoted in the article is  Blair’s former chief speech writer and now Murdoch hack, Philip Collins.

Philip Collins, a former Blair speech writer and columnist, tweeted that it would take more than five years to repair the damage of the defeat: “That is the price of the Ed vanity project. He lost two elections in one night.”

Collins has also been touring the television and radio studios to issue threats and warnings. The fact that Collins himself shuffled off to join the Murdoch empire so soon after the Blair bandwagon ground to a halt in 2008, speaks volumes and shows us how close the Blairites are to Murdoch.

Yesterday, Collins gleefully tweeted to his followers:

It is partly thanks to the efforts of Murdoch hacks like Collins that Corbyn is 36 points behind May in the personal ratings polls. However, I doubt the people Collins claims are “working class” are anything of the sort.  I mean, how many working class people does he actually know? None, I’d suggest. He’s gaslighting and not for the first time.  Polls are part of a near-perpetual feedback loop that includes negative press coverage. They are a form of confirmation bias that allows Collins and those like him to claim anything he likes.  This, in his mind, is ‘evidence’ that Corbyn must be overthrown.

If today’s coup plotters think that removing Corbyn will magically reverse the party’s poll ratings, then they’re much more naive than they care to admit. If today’s coup plotters think a Blairite or a similar stuffed shirt will make them more ‘electable’, then they are delusional. The fallacious reasoning of the Blairites is only matched by their evident blindness when it comes to the sainted Tony’s failings.

There are times when I think Corbyn and his supporters should split from the rest and form a new Labour Party. This party would be able to move forward, free from the fifth columnists who are more interested in attacking their own party members than the government. Any rump party, regardless of how much money it’s attracted from wealthy donors will soon count for nothing. Why? Because such a party would be deeply unpopular,  and would be forever tainted by its associations with the Iraq War, extraordinary rendition and a disdain for the working class vote that it took for granted for 13 or more years. Corbyn and his team must also embrace proportional representation to give voters a real choice at the ballot box.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Tony Blair

Some Thoughts About The Copeland And Stoke Central By-Elections

It’s axiomatic that the Blairites, the media and the Tories hate Jeremy Corbyn and all that he stands for, so when the by-election results came on early Friday morning, it was accompanied by the predictable chorus of “I told you so”.  Yet there are those who are so obviously blind to what’s happening that they refuse to see it for themselves and will believe every lie that comes from the mouths of media commentators and the stuffed Blairite shirts that dominate the television studios.

The Blairites knew that mounting another leadership challenge would end in failure, so they resorted to their other tactic: encourage two of Corbyn’s most prominent critics to resign and force by-elections.  Their latest phase began when Jamie Reed resigned on Christmas Eve (how symbolic) and a couple of weeks later, he was followed by Tristram Hunt. Both MPs were in marginal seats. The timing of their resignations was, just like everything else the Blairites do, blatant. If these were generals on the battlefield, they would be defeated and captured by their enemies. Why do I say that? Because unlike good generals, they telegraph every move in advance.  Let’s face it, these people aren’t chess players. These are poor leaders and equally poor strategists, who have no other interest than to self-aggrandize and grab power for themselves and their class.  Be in no doubt, for all their complaints about Corbyn’s alleged incompetence, they’re not much better and their previous attempts to unseat him are a testament to that. Bereft of real ideas, they can only resort to insults and temper tantrums in the television and radio studios, where they know they won’t be challenged  by supine interviewers, who are in on the game.  It’s a proper little stitch-up, folks.

For many people, the recent attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn looked, on the face of it, like a couple of very ordinary resignations by disgruntled MPs,  which had little or no connection with the ongoing Blairite plot to seize control of the leadership. Yet even a cursory examination of recent events reveals that there are coordinated efforts on behalf of the state, the media, the Blairites and the Tories to ensure that a left-wing Labour party is eliminated from mainstream politics. Hence the frequent use of phrases like ‘hard left’ to describe the mild democratic socialism of Corbyn.  Moreover, smear stories don’t appear in the media all by themselves; someone has to plant them there. From the stream of “Labour is anti-Semitic” stories to the fabricated “brick through the Wallasey constituency office window” story, each and every one of these has been fed to the media, which for its part, has failed to verify the claims.  Thus the press has abdicated its first duty to its readers: check and double check the story.

In Copeland, Labour’s share of the vote had been in steady decline from the heady days of the Nu labour landslide of 1997. The figures below put this into perspective.

2017 37.3%
2015 42.3%
2010 46.0%
2005 50.5%
2001 51.8%
1997 58.2%

As you can see, since Reed’s election in 2005, Labour’s share of the vote went into freefall. The reason for this is obvious: Reed wasn’t popular; Blairism even less so. Yet neither of these things featured in the supposedly expert analysis of the media commentators who painted the loss of Copeland as the fault of Jeremy Corbyn.

For the last couple of years, the Blairites have been openly collaborating with the government and the media in undermining their party leader. Indeed, for all their talk of wanting to “save” the party they apparently care so deeply about, their actions say the opposite. Take Peter Mandelson’s words on last week’s Andrew Marr Show.

“I work every single day to bring forward the end of [Corbyn’s] tenure in office. Every day I try to do something to rescue the Labour Party from his leadership.”

People like Mandelson aren’t interested in governing the country for the benefit of those they claim to represent, because if they did, they wouldn’t spend so much time undermining the party’s leader. They are, for all intents and purposes, little different to those they ostensibly oppose. For the likes of Mandelson, it’s all about power for its own sake. They can talk as much as they like about “needing to be in power to change things” but while they were in power, they did very little beyond producing headline-grabbing gimmicks.

These days, they are little better.  Blairites offer no alternatives to the Tory government and they said as much during the 2015 Labour leadership election, nor do they have any vision. For them, it’s business as usual: more cuts to public services and more foreign wars waged on a false prospectuses. The economic orthodoxy must never be challenged.  In the entire 13 years that Nu Labour was in power, it did nothing to tackle the structural problems facing the country and concerned itself only with superficialities.

During the 2005 General Election, rather than challenge the Tories’ dog-whistle racism campaign head-on, they chimed in with with words of their own. Today, the discourse surrounding issues of immigration and national identity have been colonized by the far-right. The Blairites see nothing wrong with this and have instead engaged in the same kind of anti-immigration rhetoric as UKIP and the Tories.

Worse still, are the legions of fair weather Corbyn supporters who flake off as soon as a negative story appears in the media – planted by the Blairites. This is how the Gramscian (2003) concept of cultural hegemony works:  by getting the public to turn against themselves and join in the condemnations.  Bourdieu and Wacquant (2003), on the other hand, called this “symbolic violence” and it works in much the same way as cultural hegemony. This is “the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”. Often people don’t realize the existence of this violence or they may collude in it themselves. We can see this at work everyday we turn on our televisions and watch the news, which has become increasingly about creating news rather than reporting it. To this end, the news media actively facilitates the narcissists that want to do us harm.

We can see this in action whenever a Blairite or other Nu Labour drone appears on television or radio. They will talk about how they want to be “a credible opposition”, which is used interchangeably with how “[they] must be in power”. The problem with this line of argument is that the Blairites would oppose precisely nothing. The Tories also claim that they want a “strong opposition”,  but they sound insincere whenever those words tumble from their lips. The last thing the Tories want is a strong opposition, and the Blairites say it because they think it’s good for their public image.  Oh, the Tories may claim that having a weak opposition is “bad for democracy” but their words are as empty as their claim to be the “party that governs for all of Britain”. Why the Blairites and the Tories don’t form a new party between them is down to the size and fragility of their egos rather than anything pragmatic. Token opposition is all the Blairites can offer and even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties to lend a veneer of democracy to the dictatorship.

Remember that in the 13 years Nu Labour was in power, they refused to repeal the anti-trade union legislation enacted by Thatcher in the 1980s. The state and the Tories have never wanted a parliamentary party that represents the working class, let alone a left-wing party that promises to redistribute wealth fairly. This is anathema to the state and the corporatists in the Conservative Party. It also sticks in the craw of the Blairites, who want to crush trade unions for having the temerity to fight for better working conditions.

The Blairites were hoping that Labour would lose both by-elections. In the end, the party only lost Copeland. That doesn’t say much for the Blairites’ organizing skills. Copeland remains a marginal seat. The new Tory MP has a similarly small majority to the last MP. This can easily be overturned in a General Election.

If Corbyn is removed as leader and the party is returned to the hands of the Blairites, it will lose hundreds of thousands of members overnight and its electoral chances will be ruined forever. So what is the solution? Clearly, there is no chance of Labour disciplining the saboteurs because the mechanisms that control internal party discipline are in the hands of the Blairites. So what is left? I wish I had an answer. If I were Labour leader, I’d be exploring ways to rid the party of its fifth columnists or bringing them to heel.

Today, David Miliband, the failed candidate in the 2010 Labour leadership election chipped in with his tuppence worth.  The extreme centrism espoused by the likes of the senior Miliband the the media is essentially right-wing and all the talk about the voters not being concerned with what’s right or left is wishful thinking. These Blairites are as predictable as clockwork. Tomorrow on the Andrew Marr Show and The Sunday Politics, we can expect more sound and fury from the Blairites and their Tory handlers.

Finally, if May and her Tories thought the Labour Party was really so weak, why are they so reluctant to call a General Election? Instead they make excuse after excuse and all the while the media refuses to interrogate them on their apparent disinclination to put their money where their mouths are. Perhaps they’re waiting for the gerrymandered constituency boundaries to take effect?

Actions always speak louder than words.

References

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

Gramsci, A. (ed.) (2003). Selections From The Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence & Wishart.

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Filed under BBC, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

Petitions, Petitioners And Petitioning

If you’re a regular user of social media, the chances are you’ve seen loads of petitions.  Maybe you’ve signed a few of them yourself. You can’t escape the fucking things. Signing petitions can, at times, seem like either a pointless chore or become a full-time job.  There are so many damned petitions.  But there are petitions that are perfectly reasonable and worth signing, and there are petitions that are, well, so utterly stupid that you have to question the intelligence and the motivation of the petitioner.

A few useless petitions have caught The Cat’s eye for their sheer stupidity, but the most prominent ones are those that express ignorance of how parliament works. Take for example the petition that was addressed to the Queen, and which asks her to demand a vote of no confidence in the government. Yes, I know it’s laughable.

First, the Queen doesn’t intervene in such matters, for to do so would break with the centuries old tradition of parliamentary sovereignty.  It’s all there in the the constitution.  Yes, that’s the supposedly unwritten constitution that has its origins in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 (it was a palace coup for crying out loud) and the Bill of Rights (1689).  Second, censure motions can only be instigated by opposition parties and for such a motion to succeed, the party drafting the motion needs to ensure there are numbers in its favour. This is currently not the case.

The government presently has a working majority of 16 – excluding the Speaker, who exercises a casting vote in the event of a tie. The Democratic Unionists, Ulster Unionists, Sylvia Hermon (independent Unionist) and maybe the Blairites, would be most likely to vote with the government.  So a no confidence motion has been defeated even before it can get off the ground.

“Ah, but it’s showing them our discontent” I hear you protest. Well, so what? They know we’re not happy with them but this exercise is futile. Your time would be better spent doing something else.

So what are your options?

Well, you can write to the Prime Minister directly but that’s not going to get anywhere either.  In the unlikely event that she, herself, replied to you, what would she say? “Dear [insert name] The government is committed to enriching our class and we don’t give a shit what you think?”. No, they’re going to tell you how great they are and will blind you with cherry-picked statistics and sophisms.

You could write to the leaders of the opposition party. Again, good luck with that one. How about writing to your MP?  Nope – especially if your MP is in the governing party. So what can you do? Well, you could go on marches and attend rallies or you could take direct action instead.  You could join a political party or become a community activist too. There are plenty of campaigns to join.

Petitions of the kind I mentioned are really nothing more than a form of carnivalesque, which allow the signatories a fleeting moment of imaginary power. Yeah! I really stuck one to the man, man! I signed a petition!

The announcement of the forthcoming state visit of Donald Trump to Britain spurred the creation of two petitions. One was opposed to the visit and the other was in support of it. It’s the one in support of Trump’s visit that’s been created, not for any genuinely noble or sensible reasons but, instead, as a misguided metric of his popularity among the so-called ‘alt-right’.

If the petition in favour is a gauge of Trump’s popularity, then the opposing petition trounces it several times over. At the time of writing, the petition against stood at 1.8 million people as opposed to the petition for, which stands at a mere 300, 000 and has been rejected. It was never going to attract more than a few thousand.

The petition against Trump’s visit was always going to be more popular and because of that, it will be debated in parliament. The creators of the pro petition needn’t have bothered. The matter was always going to be debated without it. Surely that was the point all along? to have the matter debated? Apparently not, if you’re in support of Trump’s visit.

Are petitions any use? Of course they are, but on their own, they’re of limited value. Just remember, it helps to know what you’re signing and why. It’s also a good idea to read up on how parliament works before signing some stupid petition demanding a vote of no confidence in the government.

 

 

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