Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

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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Filed under Government & politics, protests

But… But… The Polls Say…

I can’t count the number of times people have said to me on Twitter or Facebook that the polls have “told them” (as if the polls are some present day Oracle at Delphi speaking especially and directly to them) that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. This usually happens when you demolish their narrative (I won’t dignify their discourse with the word ‘argument’) that only a Blairite or a similar stuffed shirt would make a better Labour leader. They base this notion on the fact that he (Blair) won three General Elections in a row. That the Blair-led Nu Labour party won those elections is irrefutable, however as I pointed out in a previous blog, Labour lost 5 million voters in the space of 13 years. Of course, that fact is also ignored because it reveals an uncomfortable truth: the policies of Nu Labour and its variants Blue Labour, and the unfortunately coined ‘Brownism’, are unpopular with many people. So why do people persist in citing polls as some kind of ‘evidence’?

For eons, humans have sought to master nature. One way in which people have tried to achieve a mastery over  powerful unseen forces is by attempting to predict future outcomes.  For some, tarot cards do the trick and for others, it means consulting their horoscopes in the papers.  Sometimes, the future will be divined from random signs that have their origins in folklore: bones scattered on the ground and animal entrails thrown onto a fire have both been used with little or no success.

Polling deals with numbers, so it is seen as being more scientific and less susceptible to human fallibilities. I mean, numbers don’t lie, surely? Well, they do. It all depends on how numbers are interpreted and who is doing the interpreting. Sadly, polling companies don’t employ people who have been produced in an ideological vacuum and free of discourse. They may make all kind of plausible claims that their ‘research’ (sic) is ‘rigorous’ but this is done to throw people off the scent. I mean, how objective was Lord Ashcroft’s polling? At least he declared his political position from the outset. Polling companies don’t do that and will claim to be ‘objective’, but as many academic researchers will tell you, it isn’t possible to be totally objective.  This is why qualitative researchers use self-reflexivity.  Pollsters don’t bother with such things because they see themselves as the impartial interpreters of signs and that’s their weakness.  Thus, we can regard them, quite literally, as the self-appointed high priests of psephological divination. In the eyes of the mass media, therefore, they are uncritically accepted as politically-neutral soothsayers; mere observers of a history to come. Their legitimation having come entirely from their claim of being impartial.

But it’s not just the numbers, it’s how people arrive at their responses . This is rarely, if ever, discussed. Polls exist, not to gauge public opinion, but to shape it.  Thus, the questions that are asked of respondents are equally important as the numbers themselves.   Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the right-wing press and the Nu Labourites of the Parliamentary Labour Party have persisted with the narrative that Corbyn is “unelectable”.  There is no basis for this claim and it seems to be based entirely on antipathy towards him, rather than his policies or ability to connect with voters (which is also disputed).  Narratives like this and “Corbyn has failed to reach out to working class voters” are trotted out frequently as kinds of truths.  But if you start to subject these narratives to scrutiny, they quickly fall apart.  Polls may start with a statement like “It has been said that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable”.  To this, a question will be added that reads something like “how likely are you to vote for a Labour Party led by him”?  The polling companies prompt respondents to react in a certain way.  Thus the narrative has been planted in their minds from the outset.  The narrative will also be repeated in the mass media as a kind of Truth.

This article in the New Yorker asks if polling is destroying democracy.  If polls are being commissioned by the newspapers and broadcasters, then questions need to be asked, not only of their validity but of their purpose.  Last week, the Daily Express produced a story from a survey that claimed “Most people want to go down the pub with Boris Johnson”.  My first question was “who did they survey” and my second question was “who commissioned this rubbish”? Perhaps the most important question is “who is this story and survey for”? It tells us nothing and if The Express commissioned this poll, then it begs the question of why it’s still in business as a serious (sic) newspaper.

The failure of the polling companies to predict the future was brought into sharp relief by Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory and last year’s UK General Election. Their fallibility was laid bare for all to see.  “Ah, but what about the margin of error”? What about it? Whenever polls are criticized, especially in the case of their claims of Corbyn’s apparent unelectability, the margin of error canard is deployed as an appeal to authority.  Crucially, those who defend polls never consider the fact that those questioned in these surveys may be Tories who won’t vote for Corbyn or who may not even vote at all.  They may even change their views between now and election day. Some respondents may even lie. Apparently, these variables are factored into polling but how accurate is this margin of error? Not very, by the look of things.

YouGov is often cited by polling experts and watchers as being the most accurate of the polling companies, but this company was founded by Tories, Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi.  The latter still has questions to answer over his involvement in a Jeffrey Archer charity in which millions of pounds, apparently destined for Kurdish refugees mysteriously vanished.  Shakespeare is a twice-failed Conservative Parliamentary candidate and former member of the Socialist Workers’ Student Society.

The latest YouGov poll repeats the by now familiar “Labour is x points behind the Tories”. Polling companies and the mass media work hand-in-glove with each other.  The latter produces a constant stream of negative stories and the polling companies respond by producing a poll, which reinforces the claims of the former.  Sometimes the poll will be commissioned by persons or organizations known or unknown.  In any case, they feed each other.

 

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Filed under allegations of bias, Media, propaganda

The Richmond Park By-Election

The Richmond Park By-Election was called when billionaire playboy and Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith resigned in protest over the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport. He is supposedly standing as an Independent. The Cat has his doubts on that score. He is tipped to win.

One thing is certain, unless something truly extraordinary happens, Christian Wolmar, the Labour candidate, is likely to lose.

Another certainty is that within minutes of the result, the Blairites/Progressites/Blue Labourites will blame Jeremy Corbyn for the defeat. You can put money on that one.

The thing is, Richmond Park isn’t natural Labour territory and the right-wing of the party knows this full well.

The Lib Dems’s Susan Kramer held the seat until being ousted in 2010. They may do well. Who knows?

 

 

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Corbyn And The Media (Part 2) or “The Members Don’t Matter”

The Labour Party now has over 500,000 members, many of whom have joined since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Most politicians would chew off their right arm to get these kinds of numbers joining their party but not the Blairites. Indeed the most common response from them and their allies in the right-wing press is “the members aren’t the electorate” or “members don’t matter”.  Sometimes this is qualified with “Labour needs to win over Tory voters”. Let’s take each of these in turn.

To the first two replies, I always offer the following response: “When was the last time a party in the contemporary era with fewer than 100,000 members last form the government or the official opposition”? The silence to the question is always deafening. More members mean more people to argue the party’s case on the streets, in the workplaces, the pubs and other social spaces.  Party members are also part of the electorate. This is something the Labour plotters and their allies in the right-wing media have consistently ignored. They ignore it, not because they are blind, but because they know it’s the truth. Hundreds of thousands of newly politicized people scares the living bejesus out of the establishment.

This leads me on to the claim that Labour “needs to win over Tory voters” in order to win a General Election. There is no evidence to support this claim. When those who make this claim use the Nu Labour landslide of 1997 as their only mitigating response, it tells us only one thing: they haven’t paid attention to the fact that after 18 years of Tory rule, people were fed up and wanted something different. They’d have voted for anyone as long as they weren’t Tories. But those days are long behind us and the world has changed. The Third Way fails to meet the needs of the millions of people who have seen their incomes stagnate and the cost of living rise exponentially. People want hope and they want change. To tell them that “we must live with the world as it is and not how we’d like it to be” is no better than saying “tough shit”.

During the Blair-Brown-Miliband years, Labour lost 5 million voters and thousands of members. When I put this point to the Blairite MP, Jamie Reed on Twitter, he replied somewhat cryptically with “3 million dead”. Such a flippant reply reveals the arrogance of politicians like Reed, who are only in Parliament to feather their nests and satisfy their egos.  I mean, how dare you question them on their lack of vision or their contempt for their members? You should be tugging your forelock and lavishing praise on them.

Here’s Reed speaking to the Huffington Post. He claims that “Corbynistas (sic) hate humour”. I can remember the racist and sexist comedians of the 1970s brushing off criticisms of their humour with “it’s just a joke”. Reed’s defence is no less dishonest.

“There’s nothing like getting told to die by an anonymous egg,” says Jamie Reed, the Labour MP and lightning rod for Twitter abuse from supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

He knows why he gets it in the neck, but refuses to curb his criticism of his party leader on social media to pacify the “trolls”.

Remember even the slightest criticism is considered as either “abuse” or “trolling” by these oh-so-sensitive people.

The Huffington Post takes him at his word and gushes.

By contrast, Reed is playful, owing as much to Viz comic, the Beano and Carry On … as the tenets of the 1997 general election landslide. His Twitter avatar has been the British actor Andrew Lincoln in zombie series The Walking Dead. It is currently the leader of the Rebel Alliance starfighter corps from Star Wars.

 “Playful”? He’s poison.
More telling is this:
He says former Tony Blair adviser John McTernan put it best: the hard Left hates humour. “It can’t co-exist with it. Just treating people who are clearly incensed – and in some case for reasons they don’t know why – with a light touch is something they hate.”
McTernan recently told his Telegraph readers that the government should “crush the RMT”. Are these really the words of someone who claims to be a Labour Party member? Remember, McTernan lost Scotland for Labour and cost former Australian PM, Julia Gillard her job. He’s about as Labour as Enoch Powell. Anyone who uses the words of John McTernan to support their case doesn’t belong in the Labour Party.
Reed even thought that Miliband was too left-wing and worked to overthrow him.
Reed played a central role in the failed attempt to oust former Labour leader Ed Miliband before the general election, and is angry about him distancing the party from New Labour.
So there you have it. Unless the leadership gets a grip and moves to jettison these Blairites, then the Labour Party is doomed to go the same way of the US Democratic Party or Spain’s PSOE.  Labour leadership, take note.

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A Typical Conversation Between An Ordinary Citizen And A Labour Right-Winger

Scene: an indoor gathering at which the local Labour MP, a professional politician and former public relations executive is present. An Ordinary Citizen has just asked the MP a question to which comes the following pat reply.

Labour right-winger [smugly]: We have to be a credible party of government.

Ordinary Citizen: But you’re not in government. You’re the official opposition.

Labour right-winger: Yes, but we need to be a credible opposition.

Ordinary Citizen: Make up your mind, I thought you said you had to be a credible party of government.

Labour right-winger [indignantly]: Stop harassing me.

Ordinary Citizen [puzzled expression]: Huh? I’m not harassing you.

Labour right-winger [feigned vexation]: Did you just threaten to kill me? I’m phoning the police!

Ordinary Citizen [rolls eyes and sighs]: I’m going for a pint. Have a nice day.

Labour right-winger: Now you’re threatening my family!

Ordinary Citizen walks off to the sound of the Labour right-winger ranting about ‘Trots’, ‘Militant’ and ‘entryists’. 

 

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Corbyn And The Media (Part 1)

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing as a candidate in last year’s leadership election, the smear stories have been relentless and increasingly shrill in their tone.  This week has seen the absurd ‘List’, which was leaked to The Times and the ratcheting up of a dodgy story about Ian Lavery pocketing loads of union money.  All of this happened, coincidentally, on the back of a good showing in the polls for the Labour Party.

Yet, some of these anti-Corbyn stories are downright hilarious, and others are just plain sloppy. A few days ago, I came across this article in The Independent in which someone called Caitlin Doherty, who says she’s a student, claims to have left the Labour Party because of “Jeremy Corbyn”. Well, that’s what the headline says and who am I to argue? Sod it, I’m going to argue. I’m going to argue that this article is little more than clickbait. Howzat?

I’m a student Labour supporter – but I just quit the party over Jeremy Corbyn

Last summer Young Labour blanketed itself in a sense of euphoria. Yes, our party may have lost the election; our optimism, encouraged by pollsters and the unexpected popularity of the Milifandom, may have been initially destroyed. But it wasn’t the end; it was just the start of a new beginning.

There was a new guy on the Labour scene: a guy who looked oddly like your granddad, wore tweed suits and rode a pushbike through Islington. Jeremy Corbyn was set to change the face of the tired and irrelevant Labour Party, and that hot bed of lefties – the student population of Britain – was understandably excited.

So far, so clichéd.

That euphoria, however, is slowly bringing about the end of the Labour party. According to figures released this week, the tidal wave of support that pushed Corbyn to the opposition front bench is coming to an end. For the first time since the general election of May 2015, more people are leaving the Labour Party than joining. And I am among them.

Caitlin links to this misleading article by Andrew Grice in the same paper (sic) that was published the day before, which makes the bold claim that party membership is “falling”. Predictably, Grice offers no sources for his claim.

The majority of these Labour “deserters” are thought, like me, to be the students that drove him to success: the idealists who were swept up in the hashtags and headlines became quickly bored and have moved on elsewhere, it is said. This sweeping assumption does Labour students a great disservice.

“The majority”? Some numbers would be nice or maybe a link? No chance. “Hashtags and headlines”… don’t you just love alliterations? They’re almost as good as tropes and there’s loads of them in this article.

Students aren’t leaving Labour because it isn’t trendy anymore. Students are leaving Labour because they are fed up. Fed up with the ecstatic reception Corbyn still receives – particularly in UK universities where Labour Societies have become increasingly elite and exclusive to ardent Corbynites, with no room for questioning Our Great Leader – despite very little demonstration of any opposition to the increasingly strident Conservative Government.

Was being a member of the Labour Party ever “trendy”? Notice how she slips in the word “Corbynites” and “Our Great Leader”, the latter of which I often see being used on comments threads beneath pro and anti-Corbyn articles.

Caitlin’s previous effort for The Indy was this article on how to survive ‘A’ Levels.

I traced her to the Huffington Post, which tells us:

Caitlin is a second year English Literature student at the University of East Anglia, the Global Editor of UEA’s ‘Concrete and a writer for several other local and national publications. A passionate writer, committed politics follower, and occasional book reader she can often be found getting very angry about something.

She’s written three articles for them.

However, with a little digging, I discovered that Caitlin also writes for the University of East Anglia’s student rag.  Last September, she wrote this article in which she says:

In a so-called “unity statement” on his campaign website he argues that: “There is no place for personal animosity, negative campaigning, and saying or doing anything now that will damage our ability to work together as one party”. and he urges supporters to add their signatures to this statement of intent. Campaign proclamations aside, whoever finds themselves elected leader in a few weeks’ time will likely have Jeremy Corbyn to thank for an increasingly disunited and fractured Labour Party.

I don’t think she joined Labour because of Corbyn.

I reckon our Caitlin would make a great Progress intern or a Murdoch hack. How about you?

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Internet, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

Let’s Talk About: ‘Labour Maquis’

This week a friend tipped me off about a Twitter account purportedly belonging to a group calling itself the ‘Labour Maquis’. Those of you familiar with the history of World War 2 will know that the Maquis were the French resistance. Some Maquis cells were as small as 5 members and others could boast as many as a thousand members. As I write this, the ersatz Maquis has 1,176 followers, which means absolutely nothing at all. They may call themselves a “resistance” movement but they’re more Vichy than Maquis.

This Tweet is a hoot.

I like the way it talks about “core values” by reeling off a list of words that could easily have come from so-called ‘Corbynistas’, whom they despise and oppose. Yet it’s the way the word “democracy” has been deployed as a weapon in this Tweet.  It makes the claim that Corbyn and his supporters are freedom hating anti-democrats.  Hell, they may as well be called ‘Commies’. Although Dan and his friends would disagree, it is they who hold the democratic process by which  Corbyn was elected  as leader in contempt. Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word.

But have a look at the icon. That isn’t the logo of the Maquis (they didn’t have one), that’s the logo of the Maquis in Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is a fictional Maquis, and like their bitter enemies, the Cardassians, they don’t exist. The imitation of reality in the Star Trek series, although set in the distant future, is very much anchored in the present and is influenced by contemporary discourses. But it is not real; it is only a representation of the real. It is, as Baudrillard would describe it, a simulation.

So whose  Twitter account is this?  The Cat thinks it belongs to ‘Desperate’ Dan Hodges, the self-styled “Blairite cuckoo in the Labour nest” and embittered Torygraph hack. For only a couple of months ago, Hodges wrote a column titled “Labour members are now preparing to go underground to resist the Corbyn regime”. I hardly think any of them have gone “underground” as our Dan would have us believe. Danczuk? Mann? Umunna? They’re what you might call ‘out and proud’.  I digress but here’s the crux of the article:

Over the past few days two different strategies have emerged, which have been dubbed the “Free French” and the “Maquis” strategies.

Really? Do tell us what these “strategies” are.

The Free French strategy involves effectively withdrawing all support from Corbyn. MPs will not serve in his shadow cabinet, they will not observe the whip, they will not be bound by any sense of collective responsibility to the official party line. Those advocating that strategy are being compared to De Gaulle and those French forces that retreated into exile in Britain, then returned to the French continent on D-Day to liberate their homeland.

The Maquis strategy involves “staying behind enemy lines and fighting”, according to one MP. Existing members of the shadow cabinet will organise slates, and stand for election in the shadow cabinet elections Corbyn has pledged to reintroduce. From here they will oppose Corbyn’s more radical policy initiatives and start to construct an independent base from within the PLP and the wider Labour party, which they will use to strike out against him when they judge the time is right.

I find his use of war language crass, and the comparison of Labour right-wingers to the French resistance also tells us that he’s no student of the history of WW2 (except in the sense he’s probably watched The Great Escape a million times). This ignorance also extends to recent history, because those with whom he shares an ideological kinship, still believe they are uniquely capable of winning elections… and this is in spite of the fact that the Labour Party under a  right-wing leadership lost two elections in a row!  And here’s something else: the Labour right is only concerned about elections and can’t quite understand that politics is about more than fighting elections, which themselves happen once every five years. It’s about relating to what’s happening everyday in the lives of real people between those elections, rather that relating to fictional characters from a Star Trek story arc.

Comparisons to the Maquis are not only over-dramatic: they insult the memories of those who fought against the Nazi occupation of France. But the use of a logo that belongs to a fictional resistance militia from a television series set in space, shows us that whoever owns this Twitter account is representative of the Labour right’s weak grip on reality.

 

 

 

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