« they have seen the future and it works for them | Main

July 25, 2017

Comments

Richard J

Nothing really substantive to say, but seeing a new post here made me remarkably cheerful.

(Though most of the commentariat has now migrated to being rude about power on Twitter...)

jamie

haha, thanks. There may be more, though one of my vows about returning to blogging is to keep off British politics as far as possible.

Strategist

yes, great to see you back in black

Dan Hardie

Great to see you back. I was thinking of getting together with a few of the regulars here and emailing you an offer of a bottle of decent whiskey in return for a few posts. So by posting this you've undercut yourself...

The post as a whole is notable for the absence of the words 'John' and 'McDonnell'- who is rather well-known for being much more interested in the detail of domestic policy than Jeremy Corbyn ever has been. Corbyn's interests during his decade as a backbencher were nuclear weapons, Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine and the wider Middle East and solidarity with Latin American socialism. Yes, I agree one shouldn't indulge in supervillain fantasies. But in any complex discussion, someone who has thought about the subject and has strong views on them has an advantage on someone who hasn't.

Also: why would you think Corbyn, specifically, wouldn't take a view on Europe that was 'to the left of common sense'? Corbyn never took the standard Left position on a lot of things. Northern Ireland would be the classic example. A lot of left Labour MPs and their supporters had qualms about the position of Catholics in Northern Ireland or some of the tactics of the security forces, and virtually no Labour MPs (bar Kate Hoey) had much time for the various flavours of Unionism.

But how common was it among Labour MPs to host Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness before the ceasefire, and be photographed smiling alongside them, or to stand in respectful silence for the IRA men killed at Loughgall? Really not all that common at all. About the only prominent Labour Left people doing that kind of thing were Corbyn, McDonnell, Livingstone and Benn.

Reading off standard Left positions on this and that, and then saying Corbyn must have held them because he was on the Left, doesn't strike me as a good way to understand the man. He was such a lonely politician for such a long time because he wasn't afraid to hold positions that even most of the Left didn't hold.

Dan Hardie

That should be Corbyn's 'decades as a backbencher', obvs. And those were his main interests, not his only ones, but the point holds (I think).

Guano

"Corbyn would accept the single market and its strictures if he could have FoM back ...... but try getting that through the PLP right now."

This is the key point, in my opinion. The referendum result freaked out the PLP because it seemed to confirm their fears about the mobilisation power of immigration as an issue. There are thus two positions held by members of the PLP:-

1 That the UK can stop FoM but stay in the Single Market
2 That the UK can stop FoM and that means the UK has to leave the Single Market.

Pointing out that opinion polls suggest that only a minority of the electorate see stopping FoM as a priority doesn't appear to budge their opinions.

Dan Hardie

'Pointing out that opinion polls suggest that only a minority of the electorate see stopping FoM as a priority doesn't appear to budge their opinions.'

Hmm, but that's a recent development, surely? Until about six weeks ago, the polls were showing the opposite, with stopping freedom of movement being the priority.

At least three things are likely to be changing people's minds, I suspect. The idea that leaving the EU didn't mean leaving the single market was pushed by almost all the Go campaigners, and almost certainly got some people to vote for them- but that idea's now been chucked overboard by the Tories. Secondly, it's becoming harder to pretend that talk of Britain's economy being damaged by leaving is just alarmism by the Stay campaign. And finally, May is clearly damaged goods, but, for those who follow the news, David Davis doesn't look so competent either.

As this news filters through, and the polls shift some more in favour of single market membership being more important than immigration, it might well become more possible for politicians to declare themselves against Going. I'm hopeful, but we're not there yet.

dsquared

But how common was it among Labour MPs to host Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness before the ceasefire, and be photographed smiling alongside them, or to stand in respectful silence for the IRA men killed at Loughgall?

This is more of a public relations position than a political one though. "Ireland for the Irish" was about as common a position in the Labour Party of the 1970s and 80s as "South Africa for the whites" was in the Conservative Party at the same time - as in, supported by a very substantial minority, most of whom had enough common sense to shut up about it when there were reporters about.

Brexitism was more like what Jamie says; not so much a political position as a conscious choice to take a holiday from reality[1]. Post the Delors speech, the only people who were still anti-Europe were a small bunch of eccentrics who never shut up about it. I think it's very unlikely that Corbyn was more or less the only Labour Eurosceptic who, unless someone very very much better than me at google searching knows better, never mentioned the fact before 2014.

[1] Or, I guess, in light of recent events, to claim to be taking a holiday while actually attending a jihadi training camp for a later assault on reality.

bert

The first time I click on your bookmark in ages I find new stuff posted yesterday. Spooky.

Two more missing words: ”Seumas” and ”Milne”.

Talk about eccentric. That would describe his politics perfectly, since student days. He went (via the Economist - daddy ran the BBC, don't you know) to the Guardian, where he spent his time lowballing the number of millions killed by Stalin. When Soviet communism collapsed and was replaced by reactionary kleptocracy he remained surprisingly eager to take the Moscow line. Regular on RT; panellist at Sochi; etc, etc. A couple of years back, abuse by a corrupt Russian client brought protesters out on the street in Ukraine. He dismissed the protesters as fascists, perfectly echoing the Kremlin media. At the time the protesters were waving blue and yellow EU flags. He accused Brussels of arrogant empirebuilding, and talked about Russian spheres of influence (language also used by fellow RT regular Nigel Farage). Putin's approach to the EU was to see it as a rival bloc, hostile to Russian interests, vulnerable to a subversive counter-policy of divide and rule. The referendum offered Russia the same sort of opportunity as the US election later the same year. Milne's spoiler role in the official Labour campaign has been widely reported, not least by Alan Johnson, who drew the shitty task of running a Remain campaign being actively undermined from the Leader's office.

If Milne had played the same role in the US election as he did in the referendum, he'd currently be having his collar felt by the FBI.

ejh

Fab, are we doing conspiracy theory now?

bert

Seumas Milne, last seen above ground muttering to vice.com about how staff in his own office were leaking Corbyn's PMQs direct to Tory HQ.

ejh

But presumably not actually seen by anybody speaking to his Russian handlers about how he crashed the referendum for Putin, which unless I mistake myself is the import of your posting, no?

bert

Funnily enough, there are people making exactly the same point in defence of Don Jr.

Dan Hardie

I think Milne took the positions he did on Russia because he honestly believes in them, not because Sinister Forces have lined his pockets with Red Gold. The people round Trump, on the other hand, while they will have some fellow feeling for a bunch of nationalistic authoritarians, are almost certainly supporting the Russians because they are crooks on the take.

ejh

there are people making exactly the same point in defence of Don Jr.

That is not a very edifying style of argument.

bert

You want me to say he's an agent of influence?
No, don't think so. A useful idiot, though?
That description fits, and would comfortably embrace Don Jr too.

Brexit is what matters. Now, and for any foreseeable future. And Milne is - objectively - on the side of dickhead central.
What's more, it's blindingly obvious to anyone not signed up to the Judean People's Front that he has a case to answer, as described above.

ejh

Well I'm sorry to everybody else that this has diverted into a discussion of Seumas Milne, but he obviously hasn't got a case to answer, since you haven't made a case: you've described (accurately or otherwise) some opinions of his, not shown in any way that he has acted under anybody else's influence. The phrase "he'd currently be having his collar felt" was the one you used.

You might like to ponder the ethics of making accusations on such a thin basis: you might also like to consider the antecedents of describing people as being "objectively" on one side or the other, perhaps with reference to, for instance, how advocates of the Iraq War described its opponents.

As I say, not very edifying.

bert

I use objectively in its Marxist sense, Justin.
Prim handbag-clutching about a style of argument don't cut it, son.

ejh

It's not the cutting that concerns me, it's that perhaps you ought to stop digging.

By the way, I'm fifty-two.

Dan Hardie

I agree entirely with Justin. Which is not really like old times at all.

Bringing things back to Corbyn, the question is surely what happens if (as now seems very likely) the electorate begins to sour on the idea of Going from the EU as the Tory party starts to rend itself apart, the negotiations proceed badly and the bad economic news mounts.
At some point, Corbyn will be in a position where he could come out with some other formula that would allow him either to vote down a Tory-negotiated Go deal, or, if he became PM before Britain had left the EU, to remain in the EU. He might say,for example, that he would, if Prime Minister, only approve leaving the EU if he was convinced that Britain's economy or workers' rights would not be harmed. This will never be a risk-free proposition for Corbyn (or any other Labour leader), but circumstances might make it less risky than, say, committing to leaving the EU come what may.

The question is, if things do change to that degree, would Corbyn attempt to find a formula that might keep Britain in the EU?

bert

The worst can be avoided only if Brexit is junked before Article 50 expires. As far as I can see, that happens only if 1) leadership discipline breaks down in both major parties, or 2) the business wing of the Tory party decides that a leftist government is a price worth paying, and votes no confidence on condition that Article 50 is rescinded. Both John McDonnell and Seumas Milne will be pushing for Brexit. Decide now to oppose them.

Dan Hardie

And, very interestingly, here is John McDonnell saying that Labour's opposition to single market membership may not be set in stone, regardless of what Corbyn said at the weekend or Barry Gardiner wrote in the Guardian. McDonnell is (I think) very much the key voice in the Labour leadership on domestic policy, so if he is open to changing course on this one, it would be very significant. And I'd be very happy to hear that I was wrong in suspecting him of Lexit tendencies.

bert

Some people appear to think that soft Brexit is a good Goldilocks place to end up.

Bullshit. Taxation without representation.

McDonnell ain't gonna make it,
with anyone,
anyhow.

bert

And Dan, even on the charitable assumption that soft Brexit is both coherent and deliverable, it would create a stab in the back narrative, gift-wrapped for the crazies. Not a stable endpoint. Just a stage in the progression of the disease.

On Milne I'm serious, by the way.
I've heard you and Justin dismiss it out of hand.
Let me just ask a simple question about the summer of 2016. We know that Russian intelligence services hacked into systems used by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign chairman. This was part of a wider effort to influence the US election and affect the political outcomes arising from it. (I suppose it's possible you might want to dispute this, by suggesting the many US sources for it are untrustworthy and have ulterior motives, but I'd expect you to be happy leaving that argument to @realDonaldTrump.) The question is this: are you confident that no such effort was made regarding the Brexit referendum?

I'm no spy. I see only what we all see.
Right now I see both Justin (”conspiracy theory”) and you (”Red Gold”) extremely keen not to consider something that seems highly likely, and in actual fact probable. And the Don Jr meeting shows how it's done. There's no uniformed KGB colonel. There's a drink at the bar after the Sochi panel. Contact is established, unobtrusively, and is taken from there.

I don't want to be dramatic, but it wouldn't hurt to remind yourself that they have actually killed people on British soil.

ejh

"I have no evidence for this conspiracy theory, so in lieu of that I will propose instead that you state that it couldn't happen. Personally I didn't get tired of this stuff round about a decade and a half ago."

Guano

Dan - I don't know whether it is a new phenomenon that opinion polls show that only a minority of the electorate see stopping FoM as a priority. I admit that I don't follow opinion polls closely. What I do remember, though, is that a series of opinion polls earlier this year showed that about 40% of those surveyed didn't understand that probably a choice would have to be made between ending FoM and membership of the Single Market: there was never any clear evidence that the electorate was clearly in favour of ending FoM of EU citizens. In my view Theresa May (and large number of Labour MPs) jumped to this conclusion out of fear of Paul Dacre rather than out of respect for the electorate.

And maybe I am wrong that Labour MPs cannot be budged on this issue. Maybe this is the time to try to push them to change their view.

Dan Hardie

Oh FFS. I think Milne is a Stalinist hack whose positions on most things, including Russia, are indefensible, but I'm not prepared to accuse him of being a paid agent of a foreign power unless there is something resembling hard evidence, which you haven't presented.

If I were a political journalist for a UK paper I would certainly be looking at who took gigs for 'Russia Today' and other media institutions or events associated with the Russian government. I'm not. There have certainly been 'soft power' efforts by the Russian government, which is an authoritarian regime with the intelligence agencies centrally involved. That doesn't mean that every publicity-seeker who turned up at Sochi or did a fawning interview on RT is in fact on the FSB's books. Their behaviour is certainly discreditable but if you have evidence that they were working for foreign intelligence agencies, present it.

On another point, there are various ways in which the UK can go about leaving the EU, from the harmful to the economically suicidal, and there is also the possibility that the UK will not actually leave. On that specific point, stop assuming that I am in favour of some mythical 'soft Brexit' which will make everything okay: I am in fact in favour of the UK not leaving the EU.

More generally, if you want anyone intelligent to continue trying to engage with your comments, you need to stop assuming that they are in favour of things which they have not in fact said they are in favour of. And then stop following your false assumptions with your overwrought, under-thought 'eh? eh? EH?' comments. If you can't calm down a little and start writing with rather less hysteria and paying at least a modicum of attention to what other people have actually said, I'm ignoring you.

Dan Hardie

Guano: yes, I pretty much agree with all that. One of the key moves the Go people made in the referendum campaign was, of course, to promise that the UK could leave the EU and limit immigration while staying in the single market. Now that it's becoming clear that in fact we can't have it all, then it may be possible to change people's minds.

Which, as Jamie points out, really would not have been possible had 'May's original triumphal progress towards nationalist consolidation around Brexit' succeeded. That really would have been a lousy country to live in.

ajay

"I think Milne is a Stalinist hack whose positions on most things, including Russia, are indefensible, but I'm not prepared to accuse him of being a paid agent of a foreign power unless there is something resembling hard evidence, which you haven't presented."

Agreed. And welcome back B&T!

The distinction here is between someone who is ordered (and paid) by the Kremlin to take position P, and then does so, and someone who sincerely held position P and is merely given as much of a platform to do so as possible. The advantage of the second sort of person is that not only will they probably be much more convincing, but they're much cheaper. I am confident, for example, that Donald Trump is sincerely a fan of Putin and Russia.

I am fairly confident that the Russians didn't try to do exactly the same thing to Remain as they did to Clinton, because what they did to Clinton revolved around leaking damaging emails, and that didn't really happen during the referendum campaign. That is not to say that Russia didn't want Leave to win (they made that very clear), and try to help them; just that they didn't do so by hacking (and probably not by DDOSing the voter registration process https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/apr/12/foreign-states-may-have-interfered-in-brexit-vote-report-says). Fake news on social media, yes.

I think it's very unlikely that Corbyn was more or less the only Labour Eurosceptic who, unless someone very very much better than me at google searching knows better, never mentioned the fact before 2014.

Here's a nice BBC roundup.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35743994

Shorter BBC:
Corbyn voted against EEC membership in 1975

Voted against the Maastricht treaty in 1993: The treaty, Mr Corbyn said, "takes away from national parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community".

Voted against the Lisbon treaty in 2008 and wrote that "The project has always been to create a huge free-market Europe, with ever-limiting powers for national parliaments and an increasingly powerful common foreign and security policy."

Sounds fairly sceptical.

ajay

Now, all that being said, I think that jamie is probably right that Corbyn was not actually in favour of Brexit at any point. There is an important divide between "Eurosceptic" and "Brexiteer".
He didn't want us to join the EEC, and, our having joined, he didn't want the EEC/EC/EU to get any more powerful. That is pretty much the definition of "Eurosceptic". But actually wanting to leave was a different question.

Richard J

Having read Corbyn's contributions to the Maastricht debate, he took the distinctly minority opinion that the treaty was bad because of the power it gave the EU over the UK's migration policy, in particular restricting non-EU citizens' rights to come to the UK. Not exactly a majority opinion among Eurosceptics.

Re Milne, I'm reminded of the old bit of doggerel about "you cannot bribe the British journalist, but when you see unbribed what he will do"...

Dan Hardie

By Humbert Wolfe, 1885-1940:

'You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God!) the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there’s no occasion to.'

ajay

And so it would make sense that, when the flight envelope expanded to make Brexit a practical option at least politically, that he wouldn't be energetically trying to stop that happening.

ejh

hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community

Well at least he was wrong about that

ajay

"Ireland for the Irish" was about as common a position in the Labour Party of the 1970s and 80s as "South Africa for the whites" was in the Conservative Party at the same time

But the mechanism matters here. "My ideal outcome would be Ireland for the Irish through a peaceful and consensual adjustment of borders, leading to a united democratic Ireland" is the position of a lot of people, including the SDLP, almost the entire political spectrum in the ROI, and, on occasion, me, depending on how the Unionists are behaving that day.

The alternative view is "Ireland for the Irish through the defeat of the British state by armed force, leading to the Anschluss of Northern Ireland and a socialist state in the island of Ireland". This was the position of Sinn Fein, the IRA, and, apparently, Jeremy Corbyn.

ajay

in particular restricting non-EU citizens' rights to come to the UK. Not exactly a majority opinion among Eurosceptics.

Though more widespread than you might think. Pretty much every Brexit voter I've spoken to (true, not a balanced sample) was either an immigrant or a child of immigrants, and several of them mentioned their belief that leaving the EU would make it much easier for them to bring their extended families into the UK from, for example, Pakistan.

ejh

leading to the Anschluss of Northern Ireland

What a remarkably silly comment.

Pretty much every Brexit voter I've spoken to (true, not a balanced sample) was either an immigrant or a child of immigrants

I think the "true" is the important part here.

Dan Hardie

According to Tim Shipman's book on Brexit, 'All out war' (which I have skimmed but not yet read), this argument about Brexit making it easier for Commonwealth immigration into the UK was the centrepiece of the campaign organised by two British Asian Leave activists, which was particularly energetic in the West Midlands. Dan Hannan sings the praises of these guys in the Shipman book.

ejh

How is Shippers these days? He used to be all over Twitter until round about June 9th. He wrote something in the Sunday Times about the election which involved Boris Johnson being a big plus in the media - I can't remember what the exact phrase was, having let my Times sub expire - which didn't look so insightful at the time and looked even less so later. (I interpreted it as a signal to Johnson on Shippers' part that he wanted to back him.)

Shippers was also responsible for a not-far-short-of-fawning interview wirth Arron Banks, which also looks pretty bad now and for that matter, looked pretty bad at the time.

Guano

Dan Hardie - 11.12


"One of the key moves the Go people made in the referendum campaign was, of course, to promise that the UK could leave the EU and limit immigration while staying in the single market. Now that it's becoming clear that in fact we can't have it all, then it may be possible to change people's minds."

Yes, I agree. However there are a lot of Labour MPs who also took that position and appear to still take that position. It makes it difficult to argue that the Leave campaign was based on a lie when many Labour MPs have bought into that lie.

It may be possible to change people's minds, and it may be worthwhile to try to do so. However the Labour Party's position is a mess partly due to many of their MPs being very keen to accept that the referendum was about immigration (which it was, of course, but not in a good way).

ajay

leading to the Anschluss of Northern Ireland
What a remarkably silly comment.

"Forced annexation against the wishes of its inhabitants" sound better to you?

I think the "true" is the important part here.

No, the important part is the second part of the sentence. I know it's quite long; keep reading.

ejh

"Forced annexation against the wishes of its inhabitants" sound better to you?

Better, but not still not at the level of in any way useful.

The answer to the question "how is Shippers these days" appears to be "fat, and writing will-this-do for the New Statesman", which magazine I seem to recall being the subject of disfavourable comment on this blog. It's not improved.

Re: Shippers's much-touted book, I've not read it, though I have seen bits of it here and there, in the Guardian for instance. Just about everything I've seen has consisted of unsubstantiated and anonymous gossip. Now I'm not so foolish that I don't appreciate why a lot of political gossip is necessarily anonymous, but at the same time other people shouldn't be so foolish as to think that has no effect on how reliable the gossip is.

Shippers strikes me as an absolute model of a moden political correspondent: thinks he isn't a courtier when he obviously is, treats it all as a hilaroious game which he's above until it's under threat, and then Laughing Boy turns into a nasty, prejudiced bully very quickly indeed.

Guano

"Dan Hannan sings the praises of these guys in the Shipman book."


Quite probably he does. But "these guys" were promising something that nobody was committed to deliver and is unlikely to be delivered and was the opposite of what was being hinted at, to other groups of voters, as the likely outcome of the referendum. And on other occasions, when it suits him, Dan Hannan argues that the referendum was not about immigration but about voters choosing a globalist economic model.

So Dan Hannan was praising "these guys" for misleading a certain groups of voters. And I have a strong feeling that Tim Shipman failed to notice that, because it is the kind of thing political correspondents usually fail to notice.

Dan Hardie

Yes, that's rather why I mentioned that Hannan praised them: like all the prominent Go* figures, he promised diametrically opposed things to different groups. He and they have found out that this is a great strategy for winning a referendum, but they may just be realising that it creates one or two problems for governing.

Dan Hardie

*Asterisk carried over from previous post- I have got into the habit of using Chris Brooke’s terminology of using ‘Go’ for ‘Brexit’ or ‘Leave’, and ‘Stay’ for ‘Remain’.

Guano

And does Tim Shipman doesn't point out the contradictions?

Dan Hardie

For some reason, the phrase ‘why don’t you look at the fucking book yourself?’ just popped into my head.

Guano

I might make the effort to read a book by a political correspondent if he/she made the effort to think about the implications of what their sources are telling them. My prejudice is that that a political correspondent rarely does this, because the tend to be courtiers who want to protect their sources.

Dan Hardie

‘…So in the meantime, it strikes me as perfectly reasonable to demand that you act as my unpaid research assistant and provide me with a detailed summary of part of a book which you once briefly flicked through in a shop.’

Dan Hardie

‘You know’, said Jamie to himself, ‘I should write another blog post. It’s been too long since the last one. My commenters weren’t that bad really. I’m just imagining that they used to fight like rats in a sack.’

The comments to this entry are closed.

friends blogs

blobs

Blog powered by Typepad

my former home