Sunday, 15 September 2019

Corbyn again

As suggested earlier, Tom Bower’s book about Jeremy Corbyn is not an easy read. It is well written and well researched but Corbyn himself is not a particularly interesting character. If it were not for his unscripted and somewhat accidental rise to Labour party leader he would have been a tiny footnote to UK political history.

Overall conclusions? The man is very limited with what seems like a poor memory, weak analytical abilities and a strong preference for stock phrases over genuine engagement. Although he does appear to have a certain ability to attract political support. From the book we have the view of Corbyn’s first wife.

Among the surprises for Chapman was the absence of books in her husband’s life. Throughout the four years of their marriage, he never read a single book. He did not think deeply about ideology or political philosophy. Her initial judgement that he was ‘bright’ was mistaken.

An obsessive interest in political violence is well known, as are his distaste for argument and tendency to walk away from any attempt to question his underlying motives. As a counterweight to his deficiencies, Corbyn’s biggest asset seems to be a steely determination to maintain the “decent bloke” image he has cultivated for decades. This he does rather well for an inarticulate man who clearly loathes his own social class.

He came to loathe achievers, especially undergraduates with ambitions to get to the top, disdained those who enjoyed material wealth, and showed little respect for religion. Most of all he hated the rich and successful, and identified with losers. In his self-protection he became conspicuously stubborn.

I’m not convinced he has any underlying motives apart from the obvious class malice. Hate is undoubtedly what drives him in spite of his rigidly low-key demeanour. That demeanour seems to be necessary in that he does not have the mental agility to engage with any kind of hostility towards his obvious absurdities, incompetence and apparent lack of interest in the damage he has done in the past. Bower’s book brings this out this dismal aspect of his history very well.

Within Haringey council, everyone knew about Corbyn’s conflict of interest. He was in charge of the employment of NUPE members, and at the same time he was their trade union representative organising a strike against the council. He was also responsible for the housing maintenance department, from which £2 million had gone missing annually for several years in succession. Council employees were both stealing money and inflating their claims for overtime.

Most of his political opponents are likely to be far more articulate than he is and he knows it. As a result the standard seventies rhetoric has barely changed in decades and that also suggests there is nothing more to the man. What you see is all there is. What Bower’s book does well is pull it together. For example, Corbyn has a long history of siding with the most blatant antisemitism.

Corbyn’s antagonism towards Zionism is one of the most notable through lines of his entire career. During the 1980s he sponsored the LMCP’s campaign to ‘eradicate Zionism’ and replace Israel with Palestine. In 1984 he chaired a conference blaming the Labour Party for colonising Palestine. ‘Zionism,’ asserted the LMCP, ‘is inherently racist’, and that same year he sponsored an LMCP newsletter calling for the disaffiliation of the Poale Zion, the only Jewish group attached to the Labour Party. He also supported the expulsion of Jewish societies by student unions.

Apart from the obvious, one conclusion one might draw is that Jeremy Corbyn epitomises a great political divide between simple and pragmatic. In a formidably complex world simple doesn’t work and as we have repeatedly seen, the only way to enforce it is by coercion. As the failures mount so does the coercion until the inevitable disaster. As a direct result, simple attracts those who are also attracted to coercion. Corbyn is one of them.

All in all the book is well worth reading as a forceful reminder of just how poor we are at attracting capable people into national political life.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Disfiguring Derby

The BBC has a remarkable claim that Derby could be disfigured by a monorail project.

A "futuristic" billion-pound monorail, inspired by one being built for Egypt's ancient pyramids, is being proposed to connect Derby to a possible HS2 hub.

City council leader Chris Poulter said the highway in the sky would run people from the city centre to the high-speed rail station in Toton, Nottinghamshire.

Mr Poulter said the scheme was "quite futuristic stuff" and was one of several alternatives being considered.

However, rail experts said a monorail could "disfigure Derby".

Surely more optimism is called for here. Making Derby even less visually attractive would be no easy task even for city planners. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The lad Corbyn

At the moment I'm slogging my way through Tom Bower's book on Jeremy Corbyn. Well written as usual but unexpectedly hard work because old Jeremy seems to be considerably less interesting than I imagined. With all the depth and fascination of a pancake he comes across as a guy who never really grew up.

Oh well - time to plough on with it.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Parliamentary losers

A core problem with Brexit is that hardly any members of the political class seem likely to emerge with any credit. Even worse, hardly any of them seem to know how to extract a residue of credit from the situation. As if they are new to the political game and don’t know how to play it, don’t know what counts as winning or losing, don’t understand what spectators expect from them and why.

It is not so much the intransigent bungling of Parliamentary Remainers but the banal nature of the debates, the amateurish attempts to cling to an unwinnable position. Because even if we remain within the EU, politically Remain is an unwinnable position. Professionals would have abandoned it and moved on.

The Brexit referendum turned certain political options into blunders because the result is what it is and cannot be denied. Remain lost the referendum and a lost game is a lost game. The only professional move is to accept the loss and move on. Competent Remainers could accept the referendum result, help implement whatever is the best option then work for a closer relationship with the EU. Fair enough but this hasn’t happened and the only conclusion one can draw is that the Parliamentary players are incompetent.

That is not to say that they are incompetent in the pejorative mud-slinging sense, but in a basic professional sense where players know which goal is theirs, understand what the lines on the pitch signify and why spectators turn up.

That’s the problem, the insufferably tedious nature of Parliamentary incompetence. Everyone understands winning and losing but far too many MPs appear to think like children where losing is deemed to be impossible or the rules of the game must be altered to make it impossible. Most of them shouldn’t be there. They can’t even play the political game to a reasonable standard.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Blimey – who thought it couldn’t get worse?

Labour's Harriet Harman to run for Commons Speaker

Harriet Harman has confirmed she will run to become the next Commons Speaker.

The Labour MP and Mother of the House - the longest continuously-serving female MP - made the announcement after the current Speaker, John Bercow, said he would stand down by 31 October.

Ms Harman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was the Speaker's job "to ensure Parliament can have its say".

Monday, 9 September 2019

The price of admission

Here’s an admission – I am wealthy...

...but probably not compared to you. Yet in a global context I am wealthy - as is almost everyone in the UK. We live in a wealthy country. As far back as I can remember we have been reminded of our relative wealth by an unending cascade of appeals, images and TV programmes about famine, disease, poverty, malnutrition and the general plight of the undeveloped world. For decades organisations such as Oxfam have driven home the message that in global terms we in the West are wealthy.

The message has consequences. As global perspectives seep into everything, our political concept of wealth has undergone a significant change. When we refer to the rich in a global context we cannot easily exclude ourselves without a sense of hypocrisy. We are wealthy in global terms but have been taught not to admire wealth. Apart from celebrity wealth perhaps. As if our situation is some kind of privilege which fell from the skies.

One consequence is that political movements based on hating the rich are turned inwards. Socialism and its offshoots turn inwards because globally we are the rich. How do we bash the rich in a global sense? What are we to do - hate ourselves?

Obviously we don’t hate ourselves but progressives have opted to do the next best thing – hate stereotypes who just happen to be in the same boat. Build those stereotypes around the old enemy, the bourgeoisie and capitalists then add a few more such as racists, xenophobes, islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, climate deniers and so on and so on.

This allows lots of virtue signalling but more importantly it allows progressives to dream their way into a fantasy world where they are not associated with their own society while retaining the right to live off its wealth and its achievements.

The core of it all is a progressive ethos which is simple enough for wide appeal and doesn’t cause immediate economic problems. In an impossibly complex world millions of middle class people have opted for an ethos so simple that they can teach it to young children. As they do.

Progressives define what they are not as opposed to what they are. This is the function of progressive stereotypes - the usual function of negative stereotypes. The advantage of defining what you are not instead of what you are is that schisms and divisions are minimised. It doesn’t much matter what you are - what you are not is more important. The end result is a flexible ethos for the modern world. And the modern child of course.