Tag Archives: Charles Kennedy

Why Do Some People Have A Problem With Protest?

To hear establishment figures talk, you’d think that protests were pointless and those who do it are equally pointless. Furthermore, listening to the same people, you’d also be forgiven for thinking that the only people that protest are students. This, of course, isn’t true but it reveals something about the mental workings of the complainants: they despise learning and erudition and see students, along with the unemployed as feckless and indolent.  Indeed, this is a commonly-held view on the British political right and some in the Labour Party. Protesting is seen as an activity limited to lazy students, who should be in lectures instead of on the streets.

Years of tabloid anti-student ridicule has fixed these tropes firmly in the minds of Britain’s reactionaries, who see universities, not as places in which long-held assumptions are challenged but places of left-wing (sic) indoctrination. Let’s leave aside those views and tropes for now and concentrate instead on protests and those who view them as useless.

One of the complaints made about Jeremy Corbyn since he became leader of the Labour Party was that he would turn the party into a ‘party of protests’. This claim rested on the assumption that because Corbyn frequently appeared at rallies and demonstrations, that the party will spend much of its time waving placards instead of involving itself in the serious business of ‘yah boo sucks’ parliamentary politics of which the Tories have excelled themselves for many years. In this case, the word ‘protest’ is deployed as an insult, because we all know Westminster politics is where the action is. Right?

Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, is a case in point: Theresa May replied to one of Corbyn’s questions with “I lead a party of government, unlike the gentleman opposite, who leads protests” (I’ve paraphrased this). It was meant to be a snappy comeback, but it struck me as petty and ridiculous.  It also revealed the narrow-mindedness of those who see protest a useless.  Governments and certain politicians may frequently trumpet their absurd democratic credentials, but they loathe protests and see them, wrongly, as anti-democratic.

It is likely that those who despise and ridicule protests have never had to protest in their lives. Why? Because not only are they tied to the establishment, they are also comfortable. They have been encouraged to see politics as something reserved only for professionals, who are drawn from the ‘correct’ class. In other words, those people who see themselves as a our ‘betters’.  Tories rarely, if ever, protest and when they do, it usually results in a total washout.

Protests have affected change in Britain and this cannot be denied or elided with glib questions like “since when did protests achieve anything” or the blanket dismissals of professional politicians.  Protests have achieved a great deal throughout history. If it were not for protests, women would not have been given the vote. If not for the Chartists’ many protests, the vote would not have been extended to all men.  The many Poll Tax protests, which culminated in the riot of May 1990, resulted in the end of that hated tax. These are only a few examples of successful protests.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the first party leader to appear on the platform at protests. The former Liberal Democrat leader, the late Charles Kennedy, was a frequent speaker at anti-war protests as was former SNP leader, Alex Salmond.  So when the likes of Theresa May or the legions of right-wing commenters in the ‘below the line’ threads on newspaper websites ridicule Corbyn for appearing at demonstrations, remember this: these people aren’t democrats and have a limited understanding of politics generally. They have neither the gumption nor the passion to take to the streets themselves and are only capable of carping from the sidelines. Remember also that protesting is a legitimate form of political activity, whatever the Tory tabloids and their representatives in Parliament tell you.

 

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Project Volvo: what a load of Balls

“Politician in backstabbing shocker” is what yesterday’s Daily Telegraph exclusive should have said.  The politician in question is Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, who was allegedly behind a plot called Project Volvo to oust Tory Bliar. Well blow me down and knock me down with a feather! There was a plot to oust Blair? Really? You must be joking! Blair was so popular. How could anyone conceive of something so rotten? So duplicitous.  So Machiavellian? Er, how about politicians? It’s their stock-in-trade.

In all honesty, this is a very big non-story. It’s a non-story that was cooked up by the Maily Torygraph.  They got their grubby, greasy, nicotine-stained hands on some memos sent by Balls. This proves that there was a brutal plot to “destroy” Blair! In reality the Torygraph is doing its bit for the government by deflecting attention away from the very big mess the government finds itself in.

That’s its job.

Lord Snooty’s plans for the NHS have run aground.The economy is shrinking though the IMF gave Hon Gid the thumbs up for his austerity measures. Yeah, the IMF… like that really means something. If the IMF gives you their seal of approval that means you’re hammering the poor really hard. They like that kind of thing. The war in Libya is dragging on with no end in sight (and you thought it was just a no-fly zone?) and Ken Clarke is being slapped down for his eccentric views on sentences for rape. Could it get any worse for the Tories? Maybe it can. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 29 year old woman in Central London (he’s a family man don’t you know). You didn’t see that one coming. Did you?

Predictably, the bloggers at the Torygraph are all beside themselves with joy. But they’re a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies. It seems that everyone in the country, except for the hacks on the right side of Fleet Street, knew about this story. This sort of thing isn’t unique to the Labour Party but the deadheads at the Telegraph think it is. They forget how Michael Heseltine, resigned from the cabinet over the Westland Affair and spent the next few years on the backbenches plotting Thatcher’s overthrow. It’s all conveniently forgotten. Then there’s the Lib Dems, whose Young Turks plotted the overthrow of Chatshow Charlie Kennedy. Once they’d dumped Kennedy, they knifed their mentor, Emperor Ming Campbell in the back. Now they’re in power. What gentlemen.

I think the silly season has begun early.

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Is Charlie Kennedy about to jump ship?

This article from The Independent says that senior Labour whips have been in talks with Charles Kennedy to try and persuade him to defect. But how could Kennedy join a party that has so much blood on its hands?

The Lib Dem leadership has denied that Kennedy is in talks with Labour. From The Guardian,

Senior Lib Dems and allies of Kennedy were quick to dismiss rumours that he is poised to rejoin Labour – the party of his pre-SDP youth – as dirty tricks by rightwing bloggers seeking to destablise the coalition, though some MPs, also unhappy with coalition policies, admit “Charles is in a funny place at the moment”.

You have to love their turn of phrase. Kennedy would feel uncomfortable in a Labour party led by David “Don’t talk about the war” Miliband. The Lib Dems then were the only one of the three main parties to come out against the war.

This announcement comes not long after it was revealed that support for the Lib Dems has declined. Nick Clegg has also angered his own members by saying that he will not withdraw from the coalition should the vote on AV not go his way.

Here at Nowhere Towers we believe that Clegg will eventually join the Tories. As for Kennedy…

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The Lib Dems: a spent electoral force?

The Liberal Democrats are finished as an electoral force. Having accepted the poisoned chalice of going into coalition with the Conservatives and with members leaving the party for Labour and others, the party faces losing its own identity too.  They would have stood a better chance as partners to Labour – at least they could have pretended to be left-ish. They would have even stood a better chance propping up a minority Conservative government under a confidence and supply arrangement. But Clegg and the rest of the leadership wanted power…and who could blame them?

79 years of hurt and all that…

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the rightward drift of the Lib Dem leadership began with the appearance of The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism. Published by the think tank Centre Forum, the book contained essays by David Laws, Vince Cable, Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and others.  This group is generally referred to as the Orange Book tendency.  The Orange Book appeared at the same time as pressure was mounting on Charles Kennedy to resign (some felt that he was leading the party too far to the left). The book was not a hit with everyone as Richard Grayson of Goldsmiths College writes,

Many in the party were deeply hostile to The Orange Book; others simply tried to ignore it. A response eventually came in 2007, in the form of Reinventing the State: Social Liberalism for the 21st Century, which I co-edited with Duncan Brack (also a former director of policy) and David Howarth, then the MP for Cambridge. This sought to give a more sophisticated account of internal party divisions, and indeed included chapters from Orange Book-ers such as Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. It argued that, although there was much wrong with the state, the answer was not to reduce it, but to reform and relocate it, principally by making public services locally and democratically accountable.

This is confusing me, Clegg and Huhne wrote chapters in a response to the Orange Book? No wonder there is a such a lack of real focus to the party or a uniquely identifiable ‘brand’  image. Grayson also says that there are few factions within the party, which suggests that the Lib Dems are less split over issues that would split Labour and the Tory ranks. Nonetheless,

Political culture helps to explain the party’s support for the coalition. The Liberal Democrats have become extremely leadership-loyal. The trauma of losing Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell in quick succession should not be underestimated. However narrowly Clegg won, the party was always going to stick with him, and his brilliant personal performance during the election campaign consolidated support for him. The culture of the Liberal Democrats is also in*herently reasonable. There is a willingness to try to see all sides of an argument and a long-standing belief that coalitions are desirable.

At this point, we need to remind ourselves of the factions within the party. There is the traditional bearded Liberal, sandal-wearing wing; the Orange Book Tendency which is  represented by the party leadership; and the residue of the old Social Democratic Party (SDP), which merged with David Steel’s Liberals to form the Social and Liberal Democrats, the Democrats which then became the Liberal Democrats.

A fine mess.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that Charles Kennedy is uneasy about the coalition and so is The Emperor. But the Orange Bookers are in the ascendancy: they are the engine that drove the Lib Dems into the arms of the Tories. There is little difference between the Orange Bookers and the libertarian wing of the Conservative Party; they both want a smaller state. But how much of this ‘small statism’ can the social liberals stomach? Kennedy was once a member of the SDP, while Emperor Ming has always been a Liberal. Campbell stood by and watched as his Young Turks plunged the knife into Chatshow Charlie’s back. Once he became interim leader he rewarded them with front bench positions.

A big mistake.

Campbell, too, would find himself ousted by the very same forces he unleashed within the party: the Orange Book Tendency. They said he was “too old” to lead the party: they wanted a leader that could match David Cameron’s youth. Step forward, Nick Clegg.  Huhne  stood no chance against Clegg’s youthful good looks and his aristocratic background (he’s the great-great grandson of Ukrainian nobleman, Ignaty Zakrevsky and the great-great nephew of Moura Budberg, who was also known as “The Russian Mata Hari”). Perhaps it was inevitable that Clegg and Cameron would engage in full-blown inter-party relations. Cameron is, after all, an indirect descendant of William IV and therefore a cousin of the Queen.

Two blue bloods for the price of one!

That’s the parliamentary party, what about the membership? Lord Greaves is appalled at the news coming from the coalition. The Guardian ran a story on 15 May that told of grassroots Lib Dem members deserting their party. The leadership denied this

A Lib Dem spokesman claimed that fewer than 100 people had left since the coalition was announced four days ago, while more than 400 had joined.

“We don’t believe it’s anything to do with disillusionment over the new government. On the contrary, we have gained more than 1500 members over the election campaign,”

I find it hard to believe that 400 would join the party because of the coalition but then the Lib Dems have never played with a straight bat. Other parties are working hard to attract disillusioned Lib Dem voters including the Greens and Labour.  Harriet Harman claims that Labour has attracted 21,000 new members many of whom are former Lib Dems. But can we believe this? Why would anyone want to join Labour? Libdemvoice claims that 4,500 have joined since the election. Again, this seems a little far-fetched; people don’t join parties because they like the ‘chalk and cheese’ nature of the coalition.

I suspect that the Lib Dem leadership is in denial about the potential loss of members and voters. They prefer to content themselves with how things might look should their plans in the coalition succeed. But the proposed referendum on ‘political reform’ is an awful abortion of a compromise; AV is not proportional representation nor is it the first stop on the road to PR. As with most compromises this one will please no one but those who want to keep the present system for voting. Once voters see AV for what it is, they may decide to stick rather than twist. This will not help the Lib Dem’s cause in any forthcoming election or by-election, because they will not only be seen as liars, they will be seen as weak and wishy-washy.

Here is a history lesson for the Lib Dem leadership: in 1931, Ramsay MacDonald’s second Labour government lacked the numbers to form an outright majority. The Liberal Party agreed to prop up the government but this was too much for some Liberals who broke away to form the Liberal National Party. This party moved closer to the Conservatives and by August of that year, a national government was formed and headed by MacDonald. This coalition government contained many Tories as well as Liberal Nationals. MacDonald was famously expelled from the Labour Party and led his breakaway National Labour Party in the coalition. Most Liberals wanted nothing to do with this arrangement and consequently the support for the Liberal Party plunged and the party split into two camps that would never be reconciled. In fact many Liberal Nationals and National Liberals (as they later called themselves) joined with the Conservatives and fought elections together until 1968. But by then the pretence was over and they were subsequently absorbed into the Tory party. The Liberals on the other hand never scored more than 12 seats from 1945 to 1974 and by 1979 the party could  comfortably squeeze itself into a London black cab. Could history repeat itself?

I think so.

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