Do Not Despair of This Election 630

I have had moments in the last few days which led me to feel pretty hopeless. Perhaps the worst was in the ITV debate when Corbyn was roundly jeered by a substantial section of the audience for stating that climate change impacted hardest on the poorest people in the poorest countries. That encapsulated for me the current far right political climate in England, dominated by boorish, selfish stupidity. I do not come from a left wing political background and I have never subscribed to the romanticisation of “the people”. Years living in the UKIP heartland of Ramsgate made me realise that “the people” en masse can be very unpleasant and racist indeed. I have always for that reason eschewed direct democracy and subscribed to a very Burkean view. That however falls down when, as now, you have a political class who are becoming even more base and vicious than the most unpleasant mob. But the growl of that studio audience, infuriated that Corbyn cared about the foreign poor, is a warning klaxon of the state of English society.

A close second despair-inducing moment was Jo Swinson’s interview following the debate when, asked if she would press the nuclear button, she replied without a millisecond of hesitation: “yes”. As I reported last week, when asked at the Lib Dem campaign launch why she would not put Corbyn into Downing St in any circumstances, she had instantly replied that he would not be prepared to instruct submarine commanders to fire nuclear weapons.

The woman is deranged.

I come from a Liberal tradition. Probably the two books which most influence my thinking are On Liberty by John Stuart Mill and Imperialism, A Study by J A Hobson. The line of British liberal thinking that comes down through writers including Hazlitt, Shelley, Byron, Carlyle, Mill, Hobson, Russell and Keynes is a tradition which looks set to disappear from British political thought. That makes me horribly sad. One thing I am sure of is that Swinson has read none of them. That the Lib Dems had moved economically so far to the right was already worrying me. Their completely illiberal opposition to Scottish Independence upset me still further. But that the party to which I belonged for 30 years and which was once led by my friend, the gentle and wise Charlie Kennedy, could now be led by an arm whirling, narcissistic, female version of Dr Strangelove, is beyond my wildest nightmares.

Let me go back to that ITV Debate. It was enormously dispiriting that of a 50 minute debate, 25 minutes were devoted to the subject of Brexit, compared to just one minute on the question of climate change. The Brexit discussion was completely unenlightening, with Johnson booming out “Get Brexit Done” at every opportunity, and even when there was no rational opportunity after the discussion had finally been moved on to other subjects.

I thought Jeremy was slightly under par. There was one point where I think he made a definite mistake. When Johnson claimed the last Labour government bankrupted the country’s finances, Corbyn failed to come back and say that it was the bankers who bankrupted the country’s finances. He could have gone on to add that banking deregulation had been the cause of a decade of global misery and Boris Johnson’s plans for Singapore on Thames would be banking deregulation on steroids.

It is not the first time this election that Labour have failed to point out it was the bankers who crashed the economy. I am not sure why. It may be a desire to seem City-friendly. Corbyn may be held back because, like me, he believes Brown was completely wrong to bail out the bankers with taxpayers’ money, and Corbyn therefore thinks it best to avoid the whole topic for the sake of party unity. Either way, to let Johnson say that Labour spending ruined the economy is to miss an open goal – the bankers are still massively unpopular.

The other point is one where Jeremy actually annoyed me. I cannot tell you how infuriating it was, as a Scot, to see Johnson repeatedly stating that Scotland would not be allowed an Independence referendum, and Corbyn making no effort at all to stand up for the Scottish right of self-determination. Given SNP exclusion from the debate, it was demeaning to see our masters discussing our future with no pretence of giving a hearing to the Scottish point of view.

Corbyn has to tackle this. The Johnson “Labour will give you two referendums” attack line is not being sufficiently countered. For Corbyn to ask Johnson whether he accepts that the Scottish people have the right of self-determination would be a killer question, and Jeremy could ask it quietly and effectively. A large majority of English people are actually perfectly happy for Scotland to have an Independence referendum.

Corbyn has tied himself in knots to accommodate the bitter cabal of Blairites and Orangemen that constitute the majority of the rump Scottish Labour Party, while its membership and voters have defected en masse to the SNP. 40% of the remaining Labour voters support Independence anyway. Rather than put himself in a false position for the sake of hopeless colleagues who have crashed Scottish Labour from domination to 12% of the vote, Corbyn should state his support for the right of the Scottish people to decide – something which I have no doubt he personally believes in, deeply.

The good news is that Johnson made an ass of himself in the debate, constantly repeating “Get Brexit Done”, and Corbyn’s insistence on discussing more important issues than Brexit cut through. You Gov’s verdict of a 51 to 49 victory for Johnson was very dubious indeed. But even that would be a major advance for Corbyn given the constant barrage of unfair media demonisation to which he has been subjected in the last five years. Almost seven million people watched the event live, a significant audience. Parity with that audience is a very good start for Labour. I suspect it really went better than that. YouGove have a long and dishonourable history as Tory push pollsters.

There are similarities here to the 2017 election. The chance for both Corbyn and Sturgeon to be seen in election coverage directly by viewers, each arguing their own case, will improve the standing of both with the electors, compared to the unmitigated vilification of normal media. (Sturgeon is being unfairly excluded from key debates but her Dundee speech today was extensively covered).

The Tory campaign of closed workplace addresses, artificial set-up encounters and a constant simple soundbite slogan is repeating the formula that failed so spectacularly in 2017. “Get Brexit Done” is going to annoy voters as much as “Strong and Stable” did, especially if Johnson continues to deploy it whatever the question asked.

I strongly expect we will see the first signs of the opinion polls starting to tighten shortly. I am half-English myself and have no desire to see Johnson inflicted on the population of Newcastle or Liverpool. But I confess I am also comfortable in the certainty that should Johnson win the election, it will precipitate Scottish Independence very soon. Nobody should despair yet. But it is certainly more comfortable to watch this from Edinburgh than from Manchester.


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630 thoughts on “Do Not Despair of This Election

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  • Mary

    The complete letter that a group of doctors has sent to Priti Patel, plus a list of the signatories.

    An open letter from doctors: Julian Assange “could die in prison”
    24 November 2019
    The following letter was authored by more than 65 eminent medical doctors from the UK and around the world, calling for urgent action to protect the life of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange.

    Evidence from Craig and John Pilger is referred to within.

  • Jackie Jake

    The reason the audience laughed is likely because that’s what Corbyn and the left are known for: caring about the poor and only the poor. Corbyn could have made an effort to research what the public think about him and the left and re-framed the argument in a way that shows the danger of global warming to the West – i.e. that when people don’t have the ability to feed themselves and survive, it’s going to lead to chaos in those countries, and extremists may rise to power, who promote militarism and war as the solution – in short, it could all lead to WW3 and millions of deaths. Even without WW3, it will badly affect us as we rely on these countries for manufactured goods and various raw material & other imports. In a globalized world, we can’t ignore the “Third World”.

    Something to that effect – I haven’t fully researched the First-World-Third-World-Nexus and all its consequences!

    Sadly, Corbyn is clueless as a leader, which – and I’m being very charitable here! – may explain his silence regarding the UK violating international law in how it’s treating Julian Assange. But, then, over 200 Labour MPs abstained on, or directly voted for, the “Welfare Reform Bill”, which has led to so much suffering and so many deaths and suicides – what’s one more life?

    I will NOT be voting Labour – Corbyn has done NOTHING to reform this Tory party clone and even less to earn the huge sums he gets.

  • jmg

    Letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn, from a Rabbi of the United European Jews:

    26th November 2019

    Dear Mr Corbyn — Leader of the Labour Party

    I write to you on behalf of the Executive Board of the United European Jews organisation regarding an unusually disturbing declaration that was today reported in the media claiming that the overwhelming majority of British Jews are “gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in the forthcoming general election.

    Please not that we totally reject and condemn in no uncertain terms these remarks, which does not represent the views of the mainstream chareidi Jews that live in the UK.

    We believe that such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda. An agenda which, I might add, is diametrically opposed to fundamental Jewish values as well as the opinions of tens of thousands of Jews in our community.

    At this time, we also relay our gratefulness for your numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years and also welcome your assurances that Labour will do everything necessary to defend the Jewish way of life and protect our rights to practice our religion.

    For all this, we take this opportunity to say: Thank you! Mr. Corbyn.

    Yours sincerely,

    Rabbi Mayer Weinberger

    The letter from a rabbi that won’t make the front pages of most of the mainstream media | The Canary | 27th November 2019

      • Marmite

        Interesting to see that Haaretz, but I suppose it is one of the less fascist media companies propping up the Israeli state.

        Serious question here now, because my mind is blown by all this, and I no longer really know what is what:

        Does it make me racist toward Caucasian people if I opposed South African apartheid?

        Or does it make me racist toward ‘Aryans’ (is this term even used anymore except by historians) if I condemn the crimes that happened in places like Treblinka?

        Am I racist toward Chinese because I am outraged by what I see happening in that country’s western provinces?

        It seems we live at a time when the ability to reason and think logically has sunk so low that everything is unrecognisable.

        • jmg

          Marmite wrote:
          > Does it make me racist toward Caucasian people if I opposed South African apartheid?

          Apparently, because if you don’t agree with Netanyahu’s politics, then you are called an antisemite. Of course this smear means that half the Israeli population — which opposes Netanyahu — is comprised of antisemites.

          The Rabbi and Executive Board of the United European Jews, who wrote that supportive letter to Corbyn, have to be a bunch of antisemites too.

          • Marmite

            What is interesting, too, is that in its desperation to ‘appear’ as if it is ‘balanced’ (rather than decidedly biased), the mainstream media has to constantly push this antisemitism myth, whenver the more palpable racism of Tory meatheads is reported. This twisted kind of political correctness (at least in appearance, as a cover for plain wickedness) just produces massive distortion. I fear it is that kind of distortion, arising out of a semblance of so-called or self-proclaimed ‘balanced independent journalism’, that is causing so many to incline toward voting Liberal (or the equivalent: SNP).

  • michael norton

    just heard chuka umunna on radio four, he predicts the LibDem lot will will 140 seats.
    he is rather too optimistic, he did seem quite self assured.

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