Tag Archives: Ed Miliband

“He stabbed his brother in the back”…

One narrative the Tories are keen to push is the notion that Ed Miliband “stabbed his brother in the back” to become leader of the Labour Party. I’ve heard some ridiculous things in my time, but this claim that Ed “stabbed his brother in the back” is rubbish. Did David Cameron stab David Davis in the back to become leader of the Conservative Party, or does this rule only apply when two brothers contest a party’s leadership?

If I were to play my brother at chess and I win the game, have I “stabbed my brother in the back”? No, I beat him fair and square. This narrative that Ed Miliband used nefarious means to become leader appears to have been drawn from either a notional understanding of classical Greek tragedy or the Cain and Abel story, yet the idea itself is worthy of a bad Whitehall farce scripted by Lynton Crosby.

Today, Michael Fallon resurrected this notion in his attack on the Labour leader. Fallon claimed Miliband would “barter away” Trident to get into Downing Street because he “stabbed his brother in the back”. Talk about lazy thinking. I’ll return to Trident in a moment. Yet, even Fallon’s fellow Tories have criticized him for personalizing the election discourse.

Fallon, the MP for Sevenoaks, read Classics and History at St Andrew’s University, which would explain the appeal of this sub-Classical narrative. While he was Deputy Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, Fallon claimed mortgage repayments on his Westminster flat in their entirety. This was against Parliamentary rules.

Jon Swaine writing in the Telegraph in 2009 wrote:

Between 2002 and 2004, Mr Fallon regularly claimed £1,255 per month in capital repayments and interest, rather than the £700-£800 for the interest component alone. After his error was noticed by staff in the Commons fees office in September 2004, he said: “Why has no one brought this to my attention before?”

There’s more:

He began making the excessive claims after buying the Westminster flat for £243,000 in June 2002 and designating it as his second home.

Various other household expenses he claimed for after September 2004 included a £250 per month cleaning bill, which Mr Fallon reduced from £300 after being asked for a receipt.

In addition to his expenses claims, Fallon is also

…paid as a director of three companies. His salary from one, a money broker, is reportedly £45,000. He also pays his wife from his taxpayer-funded office expenses to work as his secretary.

The main issue with Trident is that it is expensive and that it isn’t actually owned by Britain.  The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament states that “it is technically and politically dependent on the United States”. Richard Norton-Taylor writing in The Guardian in 2009 states that it would cost the country £130 billion to renew. That figure increased to £350 billion by 2012. The Tories are fond of telling us how the country can’t afford the NHS or other public services, yet they would be prepared to fork out billions of pounds on something that will never be used. The real beneficiaries of the renewal of Trident are weapon’s manufacturers and the Tories who have a financial stake in its renewal.

The idea that this country needs a nuclear weapon to guarantee its national security is an over-dramatization. I’ve just heard Fallon making a speech in which he claims that the world is a “dangerous place”. Well, excuse me, but it’s always been dangerous. Possessing weapons of mass destruction won’t make it safer.

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

The Words Of The ‘Better Together’ Campaign

unionist alliance better together

Unionists: what great bedfellows they make

The Unionists have called their campaign “Better Together”, but it’s a dismal campaign based on fear, negativity and old fashioned bullying. Better Together’s message is little better than someone telling their friend, who is being abused by their partner, to stay together “for the sake of the children”. Alternatively we can compare their words to those of an abusive partner standing over their spouse shouting the words, “You’re nothing without me and you’ll never amount to much” before hitting them. These are the words of the ‘No’ Camp.

For the last couple of weeks, Unionists have sought to personalize the independence campaign by insisting that a vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond. Two days ago, we had the Bank of England governor, Mark Carnage Carney claiming that currency union is “incompatible” with independence. Carney’s words are those of a Mafia soldato who’s running a local protection racket.

The three stooges leaders of the main political parties at Westminster flew up to Scotland to conduct some ‘love bombing’ sorties. Cameron’s words were, to be honest, pathetic and patronizing. He claimed that the independence vote was being seen in the same way as a general election and urged the Scots to turn their backs on the idea. He pleaded “I care far more about my country than I do about my party. I care hugely about this extraordinary country, this United Kingdom that we have built together. I would be heartbroken if this family of nations we have put together – and we have done such amazing things – was torn apart”. Shame, then, that successive Tory governments have worked so hard to tear the country limb from limb. In The Guardian Cameron is reported to have said:

The rest of the world “looks on with awe and envy” at the modern British achievements such as the National Health Service and state pension system, Cameron said.

This is the same National Health Service that he and his ministers are working hard to abolish through privatization. Such words fall on deaf ears.

St. John Major was also in Scotland telling voters that the country would be “diminished” on the world stage. Such empty macho words fail to impress.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister spent his time in a Liberal Democrat friendly area in the Scottish Borders where he invoked the name of Gladstone.

“People say this is all last minute, [William] Gladstone was campaigning for home rule in the 1880s. This is something my party has been campaigning on for generations.”

Such insincere words make him look like yesterday’s man.

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader performed his schtick for a Labour crowd where he told his activists:

Let me say: this thirst for change is shared across the United Kingdom.

We cannot carry on with an economy that only works for a few people at the top and doesn’t work for most people.

A Labour government will act.

Changing the way our country works and tackling the injustice we see is at the core of the Labour Party’s programme, and the contract we have set out with the people of Scotland.

The last Labour government aggrandized itself and continued the work of Thatcher. Given that his party will continue with the present government’s cuts, there is no reason to suggest that Labour will rediscover its socialist backbone any time soon. We want change but do the Westminster parties want the same thing? I doubt it. Such words make him look shallow.

The Orange Lodge will be marching through Edinburgh to rake over old coals and summon up the dead from their graves. Their words come from the dead language of a long-deceased Empires and its silly rituals.

UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who was last run out of Edinburgh with his tail between his legs claimed that Scottish independence is driven by “anti-Englishness”. His party wanted to abolish the Scottish Parliament, so anything he says can’t be taken seriously because his words are those of a Little Englander.

The banks have threatened to quit Scotland but then they are based in London, so their words have a hollow ring to them.

The supermarkets chains like Asda and retailers like John Lewis have threatened to increase prices if the Scots vote for independence. Their words are those of blackmailers looking to extract the last ounce of flesh from their victim.

North Korean dictator and Scotch whisky drinker, Kim Jong-un, apparently feels “positive” about Scottish independence, but his words were seized on by the corrupt Tory press (and no doubt MI5 and MI6 too) as evidence that Alex Salmond is a commie spy.

These are words and words have power. Politicians choose words for specific reasons. Sometimes they are deployed to shape people’s thoughts. Sometimes they are used to express violent intent. For the last 4 years we have heard the same kinds of words ‘cuts’, ‘slashing’, ‘hardworking’ and we’ve grown weary of them.

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum, there will be demands for greater autonomy in the English regions and there will be demands for a new political settlement. It is inevitable and there is nothing Westminster can do to stop the juggernaut. We will have new words to replace the old words.

The genie has been released from his bottle and he doesn’t want to go back in. He wants to make some mischief. These are my words.

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Filed under Government & politics, Scottish Independence Referendum

The Daily Mail: it has plenty of form when it comes to smears

The Ralph Miliband smear story is merely one in a long line of Daily Mail smears. The most notorious one of all was the infamous Zinoviev Letter. This letter, apparently written by Grigory Zinoviev, a high-ranking Soviet official was passed to the Daily Mail by British military intelligence or MI6.

The first Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald was weak and relied on the support of the treacherous Liberal Party (plus ça change). A vote of no confidence on 8 October 1924 was triggered by the MacDonald government’s decision to drop its prosecution against John Ross Campbell, the editor of the Weekly Worker under the terms of the  Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. The government lost the vote and MacDonald was forced to go to the king to request a dissolution of parliament.  He called a general election for 23 October.

During the weeks between the dissolution and the general election, the Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter, which purportedly claimed:

A settlement of relations between the two countries will assist in the revolutionizing of the international and British proletariat not less than a successful rising in any of the working districts of England, as the establishment of close contact between the British and Russian proletariat, the exchange of delegations and workers, etc. will make it possible for us to extend and develop the propaganda of ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies

Tories will tell you that the Zinoviev Letter had no effect on the outcome of the General Election but that view is naive at best and mendacious at worst.

Richard Norton-Taylor writing in The Guardian in 1999 said:

The Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest British political scandals of this century – was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published today.

New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook.

It points the finger at Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and at Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926.

The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will never be known, Ms Bennett said yesterday. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.

Over the years the Tories have become masters of dirty tricks  and their very close relationship with the security services and Fleet Street allows them to undermine other political parties and rig elections.

On October 25, 1924, four days before the election, the Mail splashed headlines across its front page claiming: Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders To Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed. Labour lost by a landslide.

Ms Bennett said the letter “probably was leaked from SIS [the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6] by somebody to the Conservative Party Central Office”. She named Major Ball and Mr Morton, who was responsible for assessing agents’ reports.

Labour lost the 1924 election and the Tories were returned to power. But it would not last long. In 5 year’s time, they would lose again to Labour, which found itself fronting another minority government.

Ten years after it published the Zinoviev Letter, the Daily Mail published its most infamous headline of all: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”.

Yesterday, the Telegraph’s deputy editor, Benedict Brogan, couldn’t help himself and like some incontinent schoolboy wrote this blog titled “Whether he hated Britain or not, Ralph Miliband was one of the Cold War’s bad guys”.

Brogan was the Daily Mail’s political editor until 2009.

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Dan Hodges: could he be more bitter?

Last week or the week before, Dan Hodges said he’d torn up his Labour membership card. Well, excuse me, but what took you so long, Dan?

Hodges, whose mini biography on Telegraph blogs informs us that he is a “Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest”, has been churning them out this week. I’ve counted two blogs today already. Is he obsessed? Yes, no question about that. Is he bitter? Undoubtedly.

Today, nothing has changed; his biography is exactly the same as it’s been since he joined the Telegraph a couple of years ago. Hodges should actually change his bio to something more accurate… something like “Blairite chickenhawk in a well-feathered nest” would suit him better. To adapt Grassic Gibbon’s description of Aberdeen: Hodges detests the Labour party with the detestation of a thwarted lover. So enraged and bitter is he that he actually threw himself into the arms of Lynton Crosby, the so-called Wizard of Oz last year.

The pair of them are pictured here celebrating Bozza’s victory in last year’s London mayoral election.

Hodges and Crosby1

The reason for Hatchet-job Hodges exit from the party that he still claims to love is Ed Miliband’s sudden discovery of his spine, which led to his refusal to support Cameron’s desperate rush to fire cruise missiles at Syria.

At $1,410,000 each, cruise missiles are rather pricey. In fact, for a country that is, according to the ConDem government, “broke”, one wonders where the money will come from to pay for a military adventure. Curiously enough, neither Hodges, Cameron nor Osborne have mentioned the national debt and how a war would actually increase the level of debt. Funny that.

Here’s a snippet from blog 1

If Miliband wants to return from his the seaside with his reputation intact – or even enhanced – then he is going to have to deliver a few unpalatable truths to the brothers and sisters.

The first relates to events in Falkirk. Over the weekend Miliband’s office were briefing heavily they thought Unite had been lucky to get off on a technicality. In fact, they were even whispering Unite had actually got off by putting some of the Falkirk witnesses under heavy manners. As a result, Miliband’s spinners claimed, their man had no intention of backing away from his charge the union and its general secretary had been guilty of “machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice” and that instead of “defending that kind of thing, Len McCluskey should be condemning it”.

And here’s blog 2

So in the end, he ran away. Ed Miliband ran away from his battle with Len McCLuskey. He ran away from his confrontation with the unions. He ran away from a fight he had personally crossed the road to instigate.

Some will say this was a “job done”. Miliband escaped from Bournemouth with his dignity intact. There were no boos, even polite applause.

Others will no doubt argue he stuck to his guns, and made clear he intended to carry on with reform of his party’s affiliation link with the unions. Well, if he did stick to his guns, they weren’t loaded.

Today was not a speech. It was a trial of strength, one Miliband himself had established. It was Miliband, and no one else, who had decided to make the stand-off with McCluskey and his union the defining test of his leadership. It was  Miliband who chose the terms of that fight. And it was Miliband who decided how to frame it.

The bitterness and bitchiness oozes from every letter of these blogs. But does anyone pay much attention to Hodges? A better question would be “Why would anyone pay any attention to Hodges”? Well, the answer to the last question is: some of his rabid right-wing readers. They love him. Take this comment, for example:

FloydInPink

4 minutes ago

If Ed Miliband backs off over these reforms, I believe he will be making a serious strategic error. A Labour Party in hoc to the Unions will not go down well with a significant proportion of the electorate. The mayhem of the ’70’s caused by these people is etched into the memory of the electorate – we don’t need a second helping.

Obviously, the fear is a lack of funding – but that hasn’t stopped UKIP from becoming a serious political contender.

The reason?… POLICIES!

There’s your answer to the Union bully boys.

No irony here. This Tory (for surely it must be a Tory) hasn’t quite understood why unaccountable millionaires and hedge funds funding a political party is much worse than unions funding a party – especially if that political party was created by the unions in the first place. The aim for the Tories has always been to destroy the Labour Party. It never got used to the fact that ordinary workers may want a say in how things are run. Not even the bitter Hodges seems to understand this. Odd for someone who still claims to be a Labour supporter (even though he is no longer a member… apparently). No?

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Filed under Media, Tory press

Dirty Tricks, Corruption and Burglaries: What Really Happened at Ed Miliband’s Office?

Last March, the news media carried a story about a burglary at  Ed Miliband’s office. When I heard about this, my immediate thought was “is this a possible British Watergate“? But entertaining such thoughts and then expressing them leaves one open to the charge that one is a conspiracy theorist. But such questions refuse to go away so easily.

Here’s what The Guardian said at the time.

Scotland Yard received reports shortly before 7pm on Friday of a forced entry to the premises in the Norman Shaw buildings, which were the force’s own headquarters until 1967.

It is understood that a member of Miliband’s staff found that a door had been forced but it is unclear whether anything was missing from the room.

A Labour spokesman said: “There is an ongoing police investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment.”

And it adds:

News reports speculated the burglary may have been the work of pranksters or political opponents.

The Sun tried to make cheap political capital out of the break-in by telling its readers:

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband’s Westminster office has been burgled — but there were no policies there to pinch.

The really odd thing about this burglary story is how quickly it went cold. No one appears to have been arrested and curiously, none of the papers tell us if anything was stolen from Miliband’s office.

Since Ramsay MacDonald’s  first Labour government in 1924, the party has been the focus of a right-wing dirty tricks campaign beginning with the notorious Zinoviev Letter. The really low point came when the Conservative Dr Julian Lewis posed as moderate Labour party member in the Reg Prentice deselection case of 1976 in an effort to undermine the party and steer it in a rightwards direction.

This speech by Alun Gwynne Jones (Lord Chalfont) in 1975 to the House of Lords is rather interesting because it foregrounds the later right-wing attacks on the Labour Party of which Jones was purportedly a member. Here’s an extract:

Mr. Bert Ramelson, who is the national industrial organiser for the Communist Party, said last year: The Communist Party can float an idea early in the year and it can become official Labour Party policy by the autumn. … We have more influence now on the Labour movement than at any time in the life of our Party.

Mr. Idris Cox, another leading member of the Communist Party, has said: Notably more Communists are being elected to key positions in the trade unions. Through the unions they can influence Labour Party Conference decisions.

Interestingly, Jones wrote an article titled The Strategic Defence Initiative for the Conservative Monday Club, which appeared in the 1985 Tory Conference edition of Right Ahead. 1985 was the year the miners strike ended and the Battle of the Beanfield took place. It was also the same year that Neil Kinnock delivered that speech.

You can read an interesting article on Pink Industry about Jones/Chalfont here.

Jones/Chalfont was later appointed  Chairman of the Radio Authority by the Major government.

These kinds of incidents prompt the inevitable question: do we really live in a democracy? How is it that one political party can undermine another through a campaign of dirty tricks and outright subversion? We expect this sort of thing to happen under authoritarian regimes but in Britain?

I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 about the Watergate scandal a few months ago, when a journalist (not sure of the name) claimed that a Watergate “couldn’t happen here”. When asked why, he pointed to the architecture of state secrecy and hinted at the role of the security services in preserving the status quo. Even the Leveson Inquiry has been subjected to attacks from the right-wing press, who have so much to lose. In effect, Britain doesn’t have a free press and its political system is fatally corrupted.

As for the burglary at Miliband’s office and given the role of the secret state in party politics, I doubt we will ever know what really happened.

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Some thoughts about Falkirk

The Labour Party has enjoyed a lead over the Conservatives since the coalition was formed over three years ago. Recently, Labour extended its lead over the Tories by more than 10%. This must have alarmed those at Tory high command, because such a consistent lead in the polls contradicts their deeply held and delusional belief that they’re doing the ‘right thing’ for the country. The Tories so desperately want to win the 2015 election and will do anything to get themselves re-elected. This includes using dirty tricks. Indeed when it comes to dirty tricks, the Tories have plenty of previous.

Last year, Lynton Crosby was hired as the Conservative election campaign ‘consultant’ after winning the London mayoral election for Bozza. The contest was marked by a massive smear campaign against Ken Livingstone. This is Crosby’s modus operandi: use dirty tricks to scupper your opponent’s chances of winning fairly.

Yet, Crosby hasn’t always been successful. The 2005 general election was a disaster for him and led to defeat for Michael Howard, whose semi-racist “are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan failed to deliver the goods. Howard was kicked upstairs, replaced by a younger and equally incompetent leader in the form of David Cameron.

When I first heard that the Unite union had allegedly been involved in ballot-rigging, I thought “this has Crosby’s fingerprints all over it”. This was confirmed when Dan ‘Hatchet-job’ Hodges was invited to various television studios to offer his apparently ‘expert’ view. Hodges, as many of us know, pens blogs for the Daily Telegraph where he is described as “The Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest”.

Here’s Hodges with Crosby at Bozza’s victory celebrations last year.

Hodges and Crosby1

On Wednesday, Hodges wrote in his blog:

There is fierce anger among Labour officials at the arrogant – and cack-handed – way Unite have been conducting themselves. “What did they think they were doing?” asked one. “They weren’t even trying to be subtle. They were openly bragging abut what they were up to.” Another points out that in a constituency like Falkirk, many of the trade union activists Unite were trying to hoover up were in fact nationalists. “Unite were basically letting the SNP fix a Labour Party selection,” he said.

Did you see what he did there? He’s insinuating that the SNP, through Unite, has taken over the local branch of the Labour Party. Those are Crosby’s words.

In this blog he manages to tie this story to Ken Livingstone, one of the Right’s favourite hate-figures:

This is Ed Miiband’s Yellow Trouser moment. Just as the government was trying to get agreement on the Leveson report, David Cameron sent Oliver Letwin – resplendent in canary yellow cords – to the Labour’s leaders office to try and negotiate at deal. The fact he was going cap in hand to the leader of the opposition communicated the extent to which No 10 had lost control of the situation. It also demonstrated they have no idea of how power relationships in politics work.

Ed Miliband’s late-night phone call to Ken Livingstone is similarly revealing. It shows how vulnerable he feels politically, not just about this issue but his position in the party generally. And it again shows – as I wrote this morning – that Miliband has a gaping hole in his political management. If you’re running a serious political operation you don’t get the leader scrabbling around firefighting stories like a junior press officer

Now, I’m not a fan of Miliband or the Labour Party but there’s something about Hodge’s blog that looks suspiciously like a dirty tricks campaign that’s been initiated from deep within Crosby’s foetid brain. This final paragraph says it all:

Forget the ins and outs of who did what in Falkirk. This issue is indeed about who runs the Labour party. And Ed Miliband needs to show it isn’t Ken Livingstone.

The Tories have always complained about Labour’s relationship with the trade unions, whining that the party is ‘in hock’ to them. Unlike the shadowy networks and pressure group that support the Conservative Party, unions are made up of ordinary workers. This is a point that’s lost on the Tories and their friends in the press. The Labour Party was founded by the trade union movement. The Tories represent the interests of big business and the landed classes, which are unaccountable and unelected. By contrast, unions are democratically elected and accountable.

The Tories are past masters of dirty tricks. Their close relationship to the security services was brought into sharp relief with the production of the infamous forgery that was the Zinoviev Letter, which contributed to the fall of the first Labour government in 1924.

The Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest British political scandals of this century – was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published today.

New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook.

It points the finger at Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and at Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926.

The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will never be known, Ms Bennett said yesterday. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.

My bold. This behaviour was repeated in the 1970s when groups like the National Association for Freedom (later renamed The Freedom Association) were launched with the intention of destroying organized labour under the rubric of ‘freedom’. This was vividly demonstrated in the year-long Grunwick dispute of 1977 – 78 when John Gouriet, one of NAFF’s founders, used volunteers to break the strike. The police also stood by and watched as strike leader, Jayaben Desai’s foot was run over by one of Grunwick’s managers. He was not prosecuted. NAFF or TFA has a very close relationship with the security services.

In 1995, the satirical and investigative magazine Scallywag was driven out of business by the Major government when it alleged that the Tories were involved in a dirty tricks campaign against Labour that was orchestrated by the Conservative Research Department, headed by Dr. Julian Lewis. Oddly, Scallywag wasn’t sued for libel. Instead, its distributor and anyone who handled the magazine was prosecuted. Lewis had previously stood as a moderate Labour candidate (sic) with funding from NAFF during the Reg Prentice deselection case in 1976. Prentice later joined the Tories and was made a life peer. If this wasn’t a perversion of the democratic process then I don’t know what is.  I can’t think of many countries in which one political party actively works to undermine the internal workings of its opposite number. There’s the Watergate scandal in the United States, of course and the various banana republics that are propped up with money from the US and UK. Yet, if this is supposed to be a democracy, I find it difficult to fathom how Lewis, NAFF and the Tories  could have avoided prosecution without support from the state’s more shadowy elements.

So you think you live in a democracy? Think again.

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David Miliband exits stage right

David Miliband is packing his bags and slinking off across the pond to take up a new job with International Rescue. So who’s he going to be? Virgil? Gordon? Or that other fella… wotshisname? Oh yeah, Brains. Oddly enough, this was supposedly his nickname when Blair plucked him off the backbenches and took him under his wing. Blair… there’s another one.  He’s doing all right for himself and I expect Miliband will also make a decent wedge for himself in the States.

The Labour party may have lost one of its arch-Blairites but that doesn’t mean the parliamentary party is shifting to the Left any time soon. Baby brother, Ed, has the unemployed in his sights and seems happy with the government’s attacks on the working poor of this country. His frontbench team is composed largely of disciplinarian headbangers like Liam Byrne and lily-livered cowards like Stephen Timid Timms.  They are out of touch with the lives of ordinary people whom they spit on from the lofty height of their ivory tower. Don’t be fooled by the brand spanking new One Nation Labour brand either: it is really little more than New Labour Mark 2. Mr Ed despises so-called Old Labour and he told us so in his speech back in January.

David Miliband’s South Shields seat is now vacant and a by-election has yet to be called. It’s a safe Labour seat, so there’s little danger of the party losing it… unless, the real Left can get its act together and snatch it from them. As for the Tories, they have about as much chance of taking the seat as I have of becoming Pope. Capiche?

I read a terribly naive tweet a few hours ago that went something like “ordinary need to join Labour and take it back from the Right”. Good luck with that, I thought. Loads of people have tried and failed. The parliamentary Labour party needs more than a few dedicated Left-wingers joining it in the vain hope that they can seize the party from the grip of the Blairites. It needs a complete overhaul from root to branch. It needs to welcome back the socialists it expelled in the 1980s and 1990s. But I don’t see that happening. Do you?

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