Tag Archives: John McTernan

The Worst Election Campaign Ever?

When Theresa May announced her cabinet last July, I remember thinking how it seemed redolent of John Major’s cabinet: incompetent, crooked and potentially sleazy. Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary? You’re having a laugh! The disgraced former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox as Trade Secretary? What have you been smoking?  Priti Patel as International Development Secretary after she said how she wanted to see the department abolished? Did I fall asleep and wake up in Bizarro World?

Last week, a friend and I were chatting about the election when he said to me “I think the Tories are trying to throw the election”. “Really?”, I asked. “I wouldn’t credit them with that much intelligence”. To be sure, May’s Tories are an arrogant bunch but brainy? I don’t think so.

When May called the election a few weeks back, it reminded me of Ted Heath’s petulant ‘Who Governs Britain’ snap election campaign in 1974. Heath, whose own government was pretty incompetent, went to the country confident of a massive victory. He lost. Like May, Heath’s campaign was run along narrow lines. For Heath, it was about his macho image and facing down the National Union of Mineworkers. For May, it’s apparently about getting a mandate for the Brexit negotiations. Something she already got when Article 50 was passed by the Commons. The Cat thinks the negotiations should be conducted by representatives from all the parliamentary parties and the party in government, but that’s a subject for another blog.

Few people can be in any doubt as to how shambolically the Tory election campaign has been run. From the day she called the election to the launch of the manifesto and now the sudden and apparent volte face over the what’s  been dubbed the Dementia Tax, the Tory campaign has been a disaster. Not even the exceptionally dull ‘Strong and Stable’ slogan can mask the evident ineptitude with which the campaign has been conducted.

Compare Corbyn’s campaign to that of May. Corbyn is happy pressing the flesh, having selfies taken with people and holding babies. When May’s been exposed to the public, she looks uncomfortable. She’s not a people person.  I mean, when did you last see her having a selfie taken with one of her followers? May’s appearances around the country have been highly stage-managed and local reporters have been locked away from the main event, while specially selected journalists are permitted to ask Chairman May vetted questions.

What about that manifesto? Oh, the manifesto. Didn’t that seem as though it was thrown together at the last minute? When Labour launched their manifesto last Tuesday it was met with the predictable sneers and swipes. All of our favourite clichés were summoned up: “it doesn’t add up”, “Labour is the party of high taxation”, that sort of thing. But Labour’s manifesto pledges of the renationalization of key infrastructure, the abolition of university tuition fees and general decency – all of them popular –  put the weak and unstable Tories into a spin. The day following Labour’s manifesto launch, the Tories arranged a hasty press conference where they ‘warned’ (sic) of the ‘dangers’ of electing Jeremy Corbyn (not the Labour Party).  It was panicky and, frankly, the whole spectacle was rather comical. The dismal May and her equally dismal sidekick, Philip Hammond, trotted out their stock of anti-Labour tropes. “There’s a black hole in Labour’s manifesto” claimed Hammond. Actually, Phil, the black hole is in your mind.

Yesterday’s campaign posters today!

There’s a vacuum at the heart of Tory thinking and, at times, it’s felt as though the Tories have recycled the 1992, 2010 and 2015 General Election campaigns and simply pressed them together in the hope that no one would notice. Themes from each of those campaigns have made an appearance in this campaign: the tax bombshell, the bold claims of being ‘economically competent’ and the ‘coalition of chaos’ have all been dusted down, patched up and sent out to fight the enemy once more. But this is a combatant that should be seeing out its last days in a retirement home  instead of being ordered to fight again.  Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, the Tories’ apparent election masterminds, have clearly lost their touch.  Maybe they should employ someone like, say, John McTernan instead? He couldn’t do any worse, then again…

I can’t remember when a manifesto u-turn has happened in the middle of a General Election. Surely this is a first?

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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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Len McCluskey’s article and the predictable Tory backlash

Well said, Len!

Well done, Len McCluskey, for his article in yesterday’s Guardian. MCluskey the recently elected general secretary of the union Unite penned this blog on the paper’s Comment is Free section.

The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss “general strike now” rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle. It is our responsibility not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault.

Early in the new year the TUC will be holding a special meeting to discuss co-ordinated industrial action and to analyse the possibilities and opportunities for a broad strike movement.

The paper produced an editorial which was quite possibly written by Matthew Parris’s partner Julian Glover (not the actor).  The piece, titled “Trade unions: leading nowhere” is nothing short of a vicious sub-Thatcherite attack.

It may not be a bad rule of thumb that anyone who thinks the term “Con-Dem” is a clever description of the coalition, who uses “Blairite” to dismiss all those on the left who think winning elections is important, and who describes strike ballots as “anti-union”, is someone with nothing interesting to say about any of them.

Groan. But it gets better

But the public does not want an unreformed welfare state, a lame duck industrial sector or trade unions that seem more concerned with overthrowing governments than representing workers’ interests democratically. It wants welfare, work and industrial democracy that are relevant to today’s world, not that of our grandparents.

So the author of this article thinks that the welfare state and everything that goes with it is what? Not modern? I find it irritating the way some writers will make great claims to modernity only to be revealed as dogmatic reactionaries who would like to see us return to the 19th century with its notions of deserving and undeserving poor.

It isn’t clear what Glover is saying here. He’s in some sort of funk

The labour movement is now in a minority. A large majority of the public are not in unions and do not vote Labour. There are millions in this majority who nevertheless feel threatened by cuts, who fear for the future of the economy and who think the government is too doctrinaire – but who do not approve of increasing deficits, who accept that sacrifices have to made (and shared fairly), who approve of the trade union laws of the 1980s (even if not of Mrs Thatcher), who think Labour can learn positive as well as negative lessons from Mr Blair, and who are not excited by battling the police or a new wave of strikes. Mr McCluskey’s priority ought to be to reach out to these people, showing he understands their lives and looking for innovative ways of addressing their anxieties. Instead, like a true Bourbon, he sadly sounds as if he stopped thinking in 1979. What a waste.

I think Glover has missed something here. In fact, he seems to have been living out in the Kuiper Belt for the last couple of months. The anti-cuts movement is united and is growing.

There is a letter of support for McCluskey here.

The Labour Party leadership also slapped McCluskey down. The Tory press, meanwhile, printed the usual mixture of bile and spittle,

The Daily Mail advised the unions that they faced a “threat of anti-strike laws”.

David Cameron is being urged to draw up plans for emergency anti-strike laws to prevent militant trade unions holding Britain to ransom.

It adds,

Senior members of the Government are now understood to be urging the Prime Minister to draw up contingency plans for a crackdown on reckless industrial action.

Mr Cameron held a historic face-to-face meeting with union bosses in Downing Street yesterday over mince pies and coffee, at which he told them he wanted a ‘constructive dialogue’.

Rest assured, this wasn’t beer and sandwiches. Accompanied by a photo of Charles and Camilla’s chance encounter with republicanism, James Kirkup’s article in the Torygraph says,

Mr McCluskey’s rhetoric may raise tensions between the Coalition and the unions, but there was little public response from ministers.

Privately, several Cabinet ministers are pressing for action to toughen trade union laws. But the Coalition is determined not to be seen as instigating conflict with unions.

Rather than making public statements, the government will simply leave any public brickbats to their lackeys in Fleet Street.

Meanwhile John McTernan’s says that “Christmas has come early for Ed Miliband”,

Miliband must be truly grateful for this opportunity to stand up to the unions just before the political season enters its holiday hiatus. It won’t be to McCluskey’s taste, but he’s done the Labour leader a real favour.

McTernan seems to have forgotten Miliband’s speech to conference. Labour’s leadership won’t be supporting the anti-cuts movement any time soon.

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Britain’s press and the race to the bottom

The King Rat of sewer journalism

Last Thursday, the starting gun was fired in the British press’s race to the bottom. Just when you thought Britain’s media couldn’t sink any lower, up pops the BBC’s Ben Brown with possibly the worst interview ever conducted on television this year.

This descent into the gutter has been in progress now since the BBC opted to run a 24 hour rolling news channel that it likes to tell us is “award winning”.   On BBC Breakfast, the following day, the snide Bill Turnbull and his on-screen ‘spouse’, the simpering and gushing Sian Williams, repeated the same line of questioning. Turnbull and Williams, it should be remembered, infamously allowed Stephen Pollard to talk over Ken Loach in the day before the Iraq invasion took place in 2002.  The BBC wanted to compete on near-equal terms with Murdoch’s Sky and its US counterpart, Fox News, which offers nothing that can be described as ‘real news’.

Brown’s insensitivity was defended by Toby Young, who says in his Telegraph blog,

Watching the above clip, I don’t think Brown did anything wrong. He may look a bit callous for not making allowances for the fact that McIntyre suffers from Cerebral Palsy and just treating him as he would any other interviewee, but that’s exactly how the interview should have been conducted. For Brown not to hold McIntyre to the same standard as he would any other person on the programme because he’s disabled would be deeply patronising. After all, there’s nothing wrong with McIntyre’s brain.

But that isn’t the point, Tobes, it’s the fact that Brown insinuated that McIntrye could use his wheelchair as a “weapon”. McIntyre’s cerebral palsy is not the issue. Young offers a wee concession at the end of his blog but this is quickly followed by a boot in the face.

I’m horrified by the way in which McIntyre was treated – this really does seem like an open and shut case against the police officer concerned. But if only he had understood the policy properly – realised that it would actually make higher education more accessible to children from socially deprived backgrounds, not less – he wouldn’t have been on the street in the first place.

Young, like so many other soi-disant journalists makes the usual point of missing what the protests are all about. He, like the others, continues to labour under the misguided assumption that the demos are about tuition fees alone. Wrong. They’re about the cuts that his beloved government are about to make on public services.

The Telegraph’s John McTernan tries to make amends by saying,

My esteemed colleague Toby Young makes a brave attempt to stand up for Ben Brown’s interview of Jody McIntyre on BBC News 24. He really needn’t have bothered. The clip speaks for itself. To be honest, Brown looked like a police stooge when he repeated their claim that prior to the clip on YouTube McIntyre was rolling his wheelchair towards them. “Aw, diddums, did the man with with Cerebral Palsy scare you, and you in your riot gear and all” would have been the right response to whichever Metropolitan Police flak had the chutzpah to offer up that nonsense

But McTernan soon reveals his true colours towards the end of the blog,

While Frank Field was asked to “think the unthinkable”, today Iain Duncan Smith is going one better – he is “doing the unthinkable”. I look forward to many more blogs from Toby Young explaining precisely why the protesting public have got the wrong end of the stick about a change to the system which is really in their own best interests.

By far the worst offender in this race to the sewer, is the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn. To tell the truth, Littlejohn is a long-term resident of the sewer (having moved there from the gutter years ago). He’s merely there to welcome the others to his world of turds, spent condoms, used baby wipes and discarded tampons. What’s worse is that he’s commissioned the Mail’s resident cartoonist to create a sort of Little Britain-inspired image. The suggestion here is that Jody McIntyre is ‘faking it’ because he isn’t four square behind the government’s misguided plans for higher education

The text that accompanies the cartoon isn’t any better – as one would expect.

I want to go to the demo…

Wheelchair-bound Jody Mcintyre has complained that he was beaten and manhandled by police during last week’s student fees protests.

But if he’s looking for sympathy, he’s come to the wrong place.

A man in a wheelchair is as entitled to demonstrate as anyone else. But he should have kept a safe distance.

Mcintyre put himself on offer and his brother pushed him into the front line. It’s not as if he didn’t know there was going to be trouble.

He was also at the last student demo in London and persuaded friends to hoist him on to the roof of the Millbank Tower. If his brakes had failed and he’d gone over the edge, who would he have blamed then?

Jody Mcintyre is like Andy from Little Britain.

‘Where do you want to go today, Jody?’

‘Riot.’

‘Are you sure? Wouldn’t you rather go to hear Bob Crow speak at the Methodist Central Hall. You like Bob Crow.’

‘Yeah, I know.’

‘So, we’ll go there, eh?’

‘Riot!’

‘Ken Livingstone will be there, too. He’s your favourite.’

‘Riot!’

‘All right, then.’

Five minutes later at the riot . . .

‘Don’t like it.’

I wonder how long it took Littlecock to dream up the idea that Jody was really Andy in diguise? Not long, I should think. Littlejohn lives in a world where he imagines himself to be under siege from the ‘polticially correct-gone-mad’, liberal do-gooders, lefties, feminists, gays, blacks, Muslims, lesbians…in fact anyone who doesn’t support Littlehjohn’s distorted version of reality is an ‘enemy within’. 9 years ago, Littlejohn had his first novel published. Titled To Hell in a Handcart, the book was roundly condemned by critics as well as those who understand real literature. The Guardian’s Stephen Moss had this to say,

To Hell In A Handcart is racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic trash. Now, Richard Littlejohn should be satisfied. He said recently that if the Guardian dismissed it in those terms, he would put it on the cover as a recommendation. Littlejohn, you see, hates the Guardian.

Christ, that sounds worse than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

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