Jeremy Corbyn and the media.

Oh yeah, the blog.

I’ve been meaning to update this for a while but I’ve been unexpectedly busy lately. This’ll be a short one I think, might try and do summat longer over the weekend if I get the chance. Trying to think of some non-politics stuff to write about as well. Anyway…

So, Corbyn won! And I for one welcome our new, unelectable, socialist overlords. The first three days have been…well, tricky but come on, it could have been so much worse. I’ve seen the shadow cabinet formation described as ‘chaotic’ – and certainly it wasn’t perfect – but the MPs who refused to serve were all fairly predictable. There wasn’t a ‘shock’ refusal to stir things up (although, to be fair, there were so few MPs behind Corbyn it’s probably only McDonnell who could have refused and been a genuine surprise) The complaints about the lack of females in the ‘top’ jobs are…well, I don’t entirely disagree but I do think the circumstances offer some excuse.

Attention has turned to his handling of the press. Specifically, the notion that it’s unusual that Corbyn has been pretty much ignoring the mainstream media. No big interview on the Andrew Marr show, no big piece in the Guardian, no turning up on ‘Today’ to be talked over and cut off prematurely. A few things I’ve read seem to think this is a terrible mistake and that the Corbyn camp are being naive about media relations.

Now, something struck me about this today.

Bob Dylan gives – roughly – one big interview each year, usually to tie in with whatever new ‘product’ he’s offering – be it an album, a book or some metal gates he’s welded (yes,really). Because I am a borderline obsessive I read them all. They almost always start by noting how rare it is that he agrees to an interview and I think ‘It’s not that rare those is it? He does – roughly – one big interview each year, usually to tie in with…’ You get the picture.

(Bob Dylan, I note, is a slightly grumpy old bloke who appears to reject all the expected behaviour of his profession and who achieved something of a late-period boom in popularity having been roundly dismissed as a relic from the past.)

I mention this because these interviews always seem far more significant than they are. They’re presented as rare – and therefore noteworthy.
Now, no politician can do that – they’re not ‘promoting’ a one-off product for one thing – and I’m not suggesting Corbyn is.
However, I’ve just been listening to a chap on the radio opining that Corbyn should realise the mainstream media is essential to him getting his message across and that, while the right-wing press will be predictably hostile, he would get a fair hearing from the BBC etc.

I’d suggest that it is unlikely this has never occurred to Corbyn.

The Labour Leadership contest got a ridiculous level of media saturation and the one thing EVERYBODY knows is that Jeremy Corbyn is very, very Left-Wing. The public are not crying out to know ‘just what is Jeremy Corbyn like?’ If they’re remotely interested (and, truth be told, not many are) the public pretty much know what he’s like, what he stands for etc.

The right-wing, and even the slightly left-wing press are bound to be hostile. The first week was always going to bill filled with FEAR and DOOM and FEVERED SPECULATION. May as well let them get it over with. At some point, while they won’t change their minds, they’ll have to turn their attention elsewhere. It’s ‘news’, it has to have some novelty, they can’t put him on the front page forever. Eventually, he’ll still be demonised, but demonised in a couple of paragraphs rather than a front page and pull-out supplement.

And then, in a couple of weeks maybe, do an interview. For one thing, it’ll be newsworthy in itself – not something that can be said for many interviews with politicians. People might even pay attention to it. It’ll certainly have a bit more room to breathe with a bit of distance from the actual ‘winning the leadership’ stuff. With the cabinet settled, he’ll have a better idea of what the consensus opinion is – there’s little point him stating a position today and having it challenged by, say, Maria Eagle tomorrow.

In the meantime, making a big show of ignoring the media sends out it’s own message. It looks, well sort of fearless – to the point of lunacy perhaps but still.
Michael Crick reckons putting your hand over the lens of a camera is ‘on of the biggest mistakes in politics’ – true perhaps, I wonder if meekly holding up a copy of a newspaper that hates you with a stupid, rictus grin on your face is any better though? Ed eventually did some good work taking on the Murdoch press it’s true. But by appearing hurt by their attacks, or even acknowledging them maybe he looked a little…scared? And therefore maybe not as confident? And isn’t that meant to be why people thought he’d be rubbish?

And I’m fairly sure the media are overestimating how much people care. I’m not sure people care that much if someone is rude to a journalist. I’m not sure that much of the population cares that much about the Labour leader.

(EDIT: I do think there are certain things being mishandled – or at least things that could be better clarified – but I think this can be put down to not having put together a proper ‘team’ yet which is probably an even better reason for generally keeping schtum for now)

Now this is just speculation on my part. I have no media training. It’s entirely possible that it’s a terrible strategy. But I can’t quite believe that someone who’s been in politics for 30-odd years is entirely naive. I think these choices, right or wrong, might well be deliberate.

Anyway, it’s quite possible I’m being a complete Pollyanna about all this and maybe this is just the beginning of the disastrous path we were all warned about. But, sod it, there’ll be plenty of time to be miserable. Let’s at least take a moment to consider this:

The Left actually won something.

Jeremy Corbyn and the media.

Waste the summer praying in vain for a saviour to rise from these streets.

Articles about the Labour Leadership Campaign now form 65% of our GDP so I’ll bang out one more…

Right, so, I was going to follow up the last post with a more positive slant on why Corbyn might make a good Labour leader – and I will in a bit – but first, in light of the week’s events, I’ll just repeat that possibly the most compelling reason to vote Corbyn is that Labour needs to have a leader and his rivals have all had hopeless campaigns. Furthermore it seems that the whole ‘anti-Corbyn’ wing of the party are not terribly good at politics.
Essentially just repeating a lot of the last post really. Still…

‘Previously on Buffy…’

The £3 Sign-up: That went well eh?
The Initial Pitches: Looked sensible at the time. One a bit to the left, One a bit to the right, one in the middle. All basically apologising for not winning before and promising that they would next time. All keen to stress they ‘accepted’ the party needed to ‘listen’ to the public. All, to some extent, implying that the Tories were the model to follow. All dull as ditchwater. In retrospect, perhaps it’s easy to point out that the Tories weren’t that popular and, more to the point, the voters in this contest were supposed to be Labour supporters – y’know, not Tories. Trying to swing that oh-so-desirable 7% or whatever might well be a good idea in 2020. Not so much now. Meanwhile, the daft, novelty candidate starts to look mildly impressive.
The Welfare Bill: PR disaster. Plenty of reasonable political reasons for abstaining but that wasn’t made clear til after the fact (and left to poor souls like Stella Creasy in the New Statesman or Andrew Glynne on his blog). Too keen to appear ‘in touch’ with the public on welfare. Led to surge in popularity for Corbyn.
Blair Intervenes: The ever-popular ex-leader pops up to be condescending. Again, this speech was presumably agreed on by someone. Will they take this approach with the electorate? Imagine walking up to a bloke in your local and pointing out that ‘You say your heart is with West Ham…(*smirk*)… get a transplant!…Chelsea are the only London club that can win the league’. Also, nobody really likes Blair. They never did – even when he won everything everyone sort of thought he was a prick didn’t they? He just seemed competent. (Can you imagine him actually having friends? Or does he, like Kissinger’s America, ‘only have interests’. Seriously, try and imagine him ‘chatting’ with a ‘mate’. Can’t can you?) Led to surge in popularity for Corbyn.
Master Strategist Campbell Intervenes: ‘Anyone but Corbyn!’ because the best way to tackle an opponent currently on around 50% in the polls is to encourage a 3-way split against him. Also, fed into narrative of ‘us v them’ which has made whole contest a disaster. Plus nobody really likes you, you’re just marginally less of a dick than Piers Morgan on twitter. Corbyn already surging by this point. Didn’t hurt though.
Blair intervenes again: That went well eh?
Brown Intervenes, Miliband (D) intervenes: This in no way makes them look desperate. Also why not get two people primarily associated with losing election campaigns to accuse someone else of being ‘unelectable’? Common sense that. Corbyn ‘probably not arsed’.
#LabourPurge: This is a mess. It’ll make any winner look suspect but more to the point – and allied to the general ‘get Corbyn’ campaign – it’ll make any non-Corbyn winner (unlikely I know but…) look like a patsy. Sure the Tories will jeer Corbyn for not having the support of his MPs, but they’ve now got an open goal on any other leader for not having support of members.
Also, the meddling, bossy, ‘we-know-best’ attitude is the thing that, if I’ve understood this right, the public generally dislike Labour for.

So, to reiterate from last week: I’m not sure ANY of these people know what they’re doing. Sod voting for them.

So, I will vote for JC despite being fully aware that things could go badly. Here’s some wild optimism for a sunny day:

1: PMQ’s might improve.
For ages now Prime Minister’s Questions has been a terrible, soul-crushing imitation of a shit comedy night. Boorish braying, weak one-liners, crap lager (probably)…Nobody likes it. At the same time Corbyn has been roundly (and I think slightly unfairly, he’s quite wry at times) mocked for a perceived ‘humourlessness’ but that in itself could properly wrong-foot Cameron. It’s hard to be glib with someone who isn’t playing.
Also, Cameron was the subject of much speculation pre-General Election that his ‘heart wasn’t in it’ – He’s already said he’ll step down before 2020 – Corbyn is nothing if not thorough. The relentless, mild-mannered, detail-obsessed grind may actually break Cameron.

2: Actual Left-Wing views getting media coverage.
Yes, Corbyn’s going to be torn apart by he media. But at the same time, they will have to report on stuff like PMQ’s. Those ideas will be out there, on Primetime television, in general circulation rather than comment pieces in the Morning Star. It might not sound much, but there may be mileage in just getting these ideas heard. A lot of ‘daft’ Left-Wing things (rail nationalisation for instance) aren’t actually that unpopular with the public when they’re put forward. I don’t think there’s going to be a sea-change in public opinion on, say, Welfare, but one or two things may well take root. I don’t know that all that many people define themselves as ‘left’ or ‘right’ these days. Certainly there’s a lot of confusion – hence Nigel Farage being accepted as some sort of ‘man of the people’. People’ll pick & hoose the ideas that sound sensible. There’s no reason Corbyn’s ideas can’t be presented that way. For instance, hardly anybody actually knows anything about economics, that’s why we get the austerity program framed as some sort of grocery budget on a grand scale – despite various economists pointing out that that’s a daft comparison – it sounds sensible.

3: Shaking up the party
One of the less-remarked upon aspects of Corbyn’s policy is the idea of doing away with the ‘top down’ policy making structure of the party. This, as much as anything, is the thing that gives me most hope.
For one thing it would, in theory, stop things lurching too ‘unelectably’ far to the left – given the make-up of the party.
And on the other hand, much of what I’ve read about the last three leaders suggests that they were overly reliant on a small group of close – and unelected – advisors. Several ministers (T.Hunt, Ed Balls etc) have stated that they tried to shift the focus of the Miliband campaign with little success, Brown was notorious for a siege mentality and Blair apparently decided to go ahead with the Iraq war without really consulting the cabinet.
Now, it’s possible that events would have turned out much the same even if there had been a wider range of views taken into consideration but it might at least have been easier to present a coherent, united front. Especially with the Miliband, it seemed policy was being made up day-to-day, as seemed fit. Bizarre notions that surely someone should have shot down – the anti-immigration mugs, that stone thing –  allowed to make headlines and then just fizzle out.
‘Strong Leaders’ are a popular idea, much like ‘auteur theory’ but only really work if they’re either so powerful, borderline dictatorial even, and popular, that everyone else knows where they stand and which way the wind is blowing. That’s not likely for any Labour leader right now and is a tough requirement for any opposition leader generally I would have thought.

4: Probably buggering off after a bit anyway.
This blog:
This Blog by Dougald Hine presents, what sounds to me, a plausible yet optimistic scenario..
Short version: The likelihood is Corbyn would stand down before 2020 anyway – without being pushed. If, in the meantime, he’s able to reform the party a bit, shift the debate a bit, bring some new, passionate support into the party we might well end up with something ‘electable’ but still ‘different’. Someone young, possibly female, untainted by previous disasters, could take over. Perhaps an end to Labour being the vote that ‘keeps the Tories out’ and something that we might actually want to see in power.

I don’t know what will happen. Neither does anyone else. Two months ago if you’d predicted Jeremy Corbyn would (probably) be leading the Labour party you’d have been laughed at by the political commentators. But weird stuff happens. People are unpredictable. Maybe Corbyn could be Prime Minister, Maybe the mood of the country will turn to socialism, maybe Prince will make another good album…
Some things are unlikely but they still happen. I don’t say that as an out-of-touch leftist who refuses to accept that there’s a world beyond his twitter timeline. I just mean – Nobody knows for sure and there’s definitely no point voting for Yvette Cooper purely because you think there’s a vague chance that, under her, Labour might take Nuneaton in five years.
It could all end very badly, disastrously in fact, but then something else will happen. For all Miliband (D)’s talk of a ‘One-party Tory state’ they only have something like 35% of the popular vote. More people didn’t vote Conservative than did. Even if Labour falls apart…well, sod it. Maybe it’s time. Something else’ll happen. Politics, like many things, moves much quicker these days (Hello Scotland!). It would probably be preferable to have a single, cohesive, united ‘left’ party but…well, Labour haven’t really been that for some time anyway. The sky will not fall.
All the apocalyptic warnings, as well as the evangelical tracts, the endless predictions, the in-fighting, the back-biting, the flouncing and posturing: It’s summer. Something has to fill the papers. If it wasn’t this it’d probably be riots but the weather’s been a bit crap.

So I quite like Corbyn. He says a lot that I agree with, some things I don’t, but generally he’s the sort of person I’d like to vote for. So I will. Because that’s meant to be the point.

Right, not even going to bother editing this.
If you’ve read this far you have my eternal gratitude and pity.

P.S: Inevitable plug for the Corbyn Fuzzy Felt cards I made. 20% to the Corbyn campaign (or Labour party if he wins and I still have any left): Corbyn Fuzzy Felt Cards.

Waste the summer praying in vain for a saviour to rise from these streets.

Trouble in the Heartlands…

I’ve spent the last week making Jeremy Corbyn fuzzy-felt cards – available here: please feel free to share around, buy one, etc. I’d like to sell as many as possible as I’m donating to the Corbyn campaign and there is also a rare French record on ebay I would quite like to buy.

I would also recommend this blog: which my Mum wrote. It runs in the family, see.

So the big ‘Stop Corbyn’ push has begun in earnest.

The Guardian’s come out for Cooper and, more to the point, against Corbyn. On the same day the ‘Choose Cooper’ editorial was posted online they published several anti-Corbyn articles, including one from noted-humourist Suzanne Moore about how his brand of socialism is a bit joyless. Personally, I’ve always found that the dreariest of parties can always be enlivened with a reading of choice extracts from Moore’s jolly oeuvre.

‘Typhoid Tony’ Blair returned, bringing dire warnings about cliffs, presumably because his last intervention was such a roaring success. Some people in the party clearly still think he’s the man to bring potential Corbyn voters back into the fold. I’ll return to that later.

Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umunna and others are said to be organising a ‘resistance’ group. It seems the tactical nous and keen sense of the public mood they’ve brought to Liz Kendall’s campaign will be vital in restructuring the Labour party against the wishes of half it’s members.

Cooper & Kendall have stepped up the attacks on Corbyn’s policies and aptitude as leader and are warning of party splits under Corbyn. Of course Cooper (Brownite, married to Ed Balls) and Kendall (Blairite) would be horrified at any behaviour that might lead to disharmony in a party noted for it’s unity.

Anyway, there’s plenty of thinkpieces doing the rounds about how voting for Corbyn is silly, idealistic, naive, indulgent etc etc. I thought maybe I’d write one about how it might be a sensible, pragmatic choice. I’m going to start with what puts me off the alternatives, then I’ll come to why I think Corbyn might actually be a good shout in a follow-up blog.

I’m told that the major attraction of the American system of primaries is they’re seen as a sort of ‘dry-run’ for the presidential campaign – they need to be able to win them in order to be taken seriously as contenders for the big job. By this measure Burnham, Cooper & Kendall have no place leading the Labour Party – they, and their backers, appear to be a bit rubbish at politics.

All 3 initially hung their campaigns on the hook of being ‘the only one who can win in 2020’ That was their selling point. It probably seemed a good strategy at the time: Reeling from a painful defeat, surely the membership would crave victory above all else?

But then they…started to look like they might lose. To a man they’d sort of written off as an amusing novelty. Presenting your opponent as a vote-repellent looks a bit daft if he then starts absolutely trouncing you in a contest. If you’re big thing is ‘I can win’ you really have to win stuff. It doesn’t matter if your actually talking about some bigger contest down the line. I could go round telling everyone I’d win the Men’s finals at Wimbledon but if I got beat by some beige-suited tramp in the park…you wouldn’t believe me.

And they had nothing to fall back on.

They’d put all their chips on the idea that the membership would want a winner to the extent that it drowned out any other message they might have. All 3 are still pushing the idea that only they can win – scroll through their tweets – to the extent that it obscures any other message. Meanwhile Corbyn – who’s never seemed that fussed about winning, something that I’m sure has endeared him no end to the British public – has been free to communicate ‘a vision for a fairer society’ (that phrase turns up a lot). For a supposedly naive, idealistic campaign it’s remarkably smart. He seldom mentions 2020, it’s all about the here & now. It’s rare to see him refer to his lead in the polls – apart from the odd thank you for the support – you don’t need to tell everyone you’re a winner if you’re actually winning stuff.

Certainly he barely mentions the other candidates. Whereas they talk about little other than him. They’ve made the whole contest about him which I’d always thought was meant to be a bad idea for politicians?

Cooper especially seems to have a knack of throwing out an attack on Corbyn every time she makes a policy statement – meaning the attack gets the headlines. Drowning out any ‘vision’ she puts forward.

As for Kendall, I can’t help thinking that a strategy of appealing to Tories is not really one I’d use for the Labour Leadership contest – where the only Tories voting will be voting for Corbyn. What on earth were her people thinking? It’s a lunatic strategy to be come straight out the gates – as a relatively inexperienced MP and an unknown quantity – and make a point of antagonising half the people that might vote for you. And this was BEFORE the Corbyn surge. She’s currently on 7% I believe. And yet it’s ‘her’ people (Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna, etc) who are supposedly ‘organising’ the resistance. Will they organise this ‘resistance’ in a brewery perhaps? As I can think of other activities they may fail to pull off in such an environment.

Poor Andy Burnham’s probably sat in a hotel room somewhere, forlornly staring at a mirror and wondering if he can grow a beard in the next two weeks. I guess if you start out thinking your USP is being ‘the left-ish’ one and then Jeremy Bloody Corbyn comes along it’s probably quite hard to shift course. Every policy that might have appealed to the left suddenly looks piss-weak.
But unpredictable things happen in politics. They will probably happen to a Labour Leader. How you deal with them, how you are seen to be dealing with them is important because that’s what people vote for.

And then someone – probably one of this new ‘resistance’ thing – thought it would help if Tony Blair stuck his oar in (or at least failed to dissuade him from doing so). Who thought that was a good idea? Who thought ‘That line about the heart transplant will go down well’? I guess the ‘Transplant’ line was meant to unsettle – so confident in it’s dismissal that the Corbyn support would stop and pause, maybe reconsider – but not only did it come across as arrogant, it’s also the kind of line DESTINED to be pulled apart on social media.

Much is made of how Social media is an echo chamber & not to be trusted, but the echo chamber aspect does have the effect of emboldening people to make riskier choices. The initial feeling of ‘I like Corbyn, but he’s an outsider, a wasted vote’ would have probably killed his campaign from the start even 5 years ago. Now the potential supporter sees other like-minded individuals and can feel part of a movement very quickly. A line like the ‘transplant’ one might have had the effect of damaging someone’s confidence in their own choices, but we all have access to a huge support group of like-minded folk now. It’s true that Twitter does not reflect the country as a whole, but it doesn’t always have to. It’s probably of minor influence on a General Election but this is exactly the sort of contest it could have been predicted to influence.

The ‘Transplant’ comment sounded dismissive and disrespectful not just of the new, young, idealistic, possibly naive recruits but all those on the left – who tend to be the most loyal, the ones who canvas, who stuff envelopes, who do the grunt-work. If some ‘Resistance’ ends up taking over they may struggle to get this work done in 2020. If you’re going to write off a chunk of your support it’s probably worth articulating how you intend to replace them. There may be Tory voters who can be won over, but they’re not going to sign up and help.

Blair was also supposed to remind everyone of how a ‘pragmatic’ approach could reap success but showed up the gulf in quality between the ’97 era Labour campaign and that of the heir-apparents. It’s easy to mock in hindsight but the 97 Blair was all about hope – Things can only get better – and change, and ‘New’ ideas. His heirs have reduced this down to a timid, cautious approach, openly stating that it would be a bad idea to stray too far from what the Tories are saying.

And of course, Blair is not terribly popular with much of the party anymore. Nothing looks as dated as recent fashions. The  anti-Corbyn wing once again seem staggeringly tin-eared when it comes to sounding out popular opinion within their own party, where you would assume such information is not that hard to obtain.

Finally, they’ve been countering the pro-Corbyn argument that – ignoring 2020 – he would be an effective opposition to the Tories by repeating the mantra of ‘We can’t achieve anything in opposition, we need to win’. But this just makes me think they have no faith in their own ability to be a decent opposition. It seems obvious to state but that does have to come first. How are they intending to win the next General Election without being a decent opposition? They don’t seem to have a plan for the next 4 years, or if they do they are failing to communicate it. And it’s the next four years that we’re voting for.

The chunk of the party that is terrified of Corbyn has failed to put up an inspiring candidate and failed to come up with a decent strategy for the candidates they have got. Everything they’ve thrown at Corbyn – and he really shouldn’t be a difficult target – backfires. They seem stuck in the past (Blair). They totally loused up their strategy on the Welfare bill – managing to make their favoured candidates look spineless or inconsistent – walking straight into a Tory trap. They seem dismissive of being opposition leaders – which is the job they’re applying for.

So, I’m thinking they might not be very good at politics.

Now, I’m sure there’s a bit more to it. I don’t think these people are stupid. All these people have politics degrees. They’ve never done other jobs. They must know what they’re talking about. But it seems to me they need to show some evidence of being able to win something, anything, before they start banging on about me (or you) choosing someone ‘unelectable’.

That’s quite a bit of writing for now so I’ll split this into two parts. Tomorrow I’ll put my case FOR Corbyn.
If you’ve read this far you have my endless gratitude and sympathy.


Trouble in the Heartlands…

Surround Yourself With Sorrow

Cilla Black died today. A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she was one of those fixtures of British culture that you can’t imagine not being there.

Some people get known by one name because they’ve styled themselves (or been styled) as ‘icons’ – Madonna or Elvis, say – but Cilla’s the opposite of that. She gets the ‘one-name’ treatment for the same reason we call our friends by one name. You got the idea that you knew what she’d be like in ‘real-life’. She was likable. She built a career on being likable. As a host of Blind Date or Surprise Surprise she’d josh along with people and make them feel at ease in a way that probably seems a bit old-fashioned now that ‘normal’ people are on tv all the time and don’t seem as nervous when a camera is rolling. Later on she was always a good value talk show guest – happy to roll out a funny anecdote, a bit of self-deprecation, something mildly risque – everything the British want in their national treasures really.

Her records are likable too. The obvious criticism of her voice is that she lacked subtlety, tending to go from zero to BELTING with very little middle-ground, but there’s something very endearing about her best songs. One of the things that’s always appealed to me about 1960’s ‘girl’ singer records is that they seem to be attempting to actually sound like teenage emotions, full of drama and mood-swings. Sophistication and subtlety are all well and good but they’re for grown-ups, sometimes you just want to wallow in the extremes: utter broken-hearted desolation or TOTAL JOYOUS DELIRIUM!

Dusty could sound world-weary, Sandie could do a sort of sulky cool but Cilla sounded a bit more like a younger sister. Her best records are the sad ones and they tend to sound like it’s the first time she’s been let down, less guarded, like it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened and SHE’LL NEVER GET OVER IT. They rush into these huge, unhinged choruses. Like the song/emotion is too big for her and she could lose her grip on it at any second. Sure, it’s largely down to her limitations as a singer but it’s something that a more technically adept singer wouldn’t be able to do – Dusty & Dionne always sound in control – and it resonates in it’s own way.

And of course, she always sounded Scouse. One of the fascinating things about the 60’s is the way the new, young, working-class stars all keep their accents. Even the rock’n’rollers of the late 50’s were at pains to sound ‘polished’ – if not ‘posh’ – in interviews and the like. It’s another thing the Beatles can probably take credit for. With Cilla it’s there in the records – keeping them rooted in something relatable, something British, sounding like someone you might actually know.

Anyway, Cilla left a handful of terrific singles – a couple of which still get regular plays on radio, which is more than most of her contemporaries – she managed to be a significant ‘face’ in different eras and seems to be thought of warmly by most of the nation. That’s a life well-lived eh?

Here’s three of my favourites:

While writing this I had Cilla’s 2009 compilation ‘A life in music’ playing on spotify. It ended – just after I’d hit ‘publish’ – with a short, spoken message from Cilla herself, thanking us all for our support over the last 45 years (and inevitably a ‘lorra, lorra love’ to us all). Quite sad in the circumstances but also totally ‘Cilla’.

Surround Yourself With Sorrow

The promise of power.

Jonathan Freedland: The Corbyn tribe cares about identity, not power

The Guardian 24/07/15

There is a very telling line in Mr Freedland’s article regarding young people’s perception of Tony Blair: “they don’t associate his three election victories with the chance to implement a minimum wage or a windfall tax on the utilities…”. Keep that in mind, I’ll return to it shortly…

Currently the great & the good in the Labour party are running around desperately reminding us that we must, under no circumstances, vote for a left-wing candidate to lead the party because they will be ‘unelectable’. The accepted line seems to be that the ‘pragmatic’ approach (ie: a drift to the right) Blair took was essential to gain power. Once that power was gained the party was able to implement it’s ‘progressive’ policies, it’s ‘core values’ if you like. The left of the party is constantly fed variations on the theme ‘hush up now and let us get on with getting into power, Then you can have some of your nice ideas implemented’.

In 1997 Labour had a majority of 179 – that kind of majority seems a thing of the past for any party nowadays, let alone Labour – especially now that they’ve apparently mislaid Scotland. It ought to be a pretty strong mandate to implement policies. A Blair-led Labour then went on to win two more elections, both with significantly healthier majorities than even the most optimistic candidate would expect in 2020.
What are the first two generation-defining, nation-changing, spectacular, progressive acts that spring to Mr Freedland’s mind when looking back on this era?
“(A) minimum wage and a windfall tax on utilities”

Minimum wage I’ll grant you, that was a big deal – brought in despite tough opposition. A proper Labour policy, serving the interests of the workers. Probably the first thing I’d think of in a defense of the Blair years.

But ‘A windfall tax on the utilities’? That’s the next biggest thing? If you’re only picking two things to represent all that was good about the Blair era – majority of 179 at it’s height, in power for 10 years, most successful leader in the party’s history etc – the second biggest thing that springs to mind as an achievement is ‘A windfall tax on the utilities’?
Hey! It’s a good policy, I’m not knocking it. It’s a thing New Labour can be proud of…but it’s hardly the NHS is it?

That’s why it’s hard to swallow this idea that the party should drift to the ‘right’ in order to gain power so that a few ‘left’ policies can be brought in. Because it didn’t really happen. The Blair years weren’t all bad by any means, there were good things but there weren’t enough – and they weren’t ‘big’ enough – to make up for the compromises, and certainly not big enough to make up for the big betrayals, tuition fees, stealth-privitisation, not-so-stealth-privitisation and Iraq.

And Iraq is relevant, as ever, because it’s a perfect example of the dangers of ignoring your core base. The conviction that the left were irrelevant and could, maybe even should, be ignored and that the important thing was courting the ‘right’ – and in this case the US – led to a path that, regardless of your opinions of the war itself, damaged the party enormously.

Later in the article Freedland writes: ‘Ed Miliband’s positioning as the man who came to bury New Labour subliminally taught younger supporters to believe that little of value was achieved in those three hard-won terms. They absorbed the lesson that maybe power was not essential if all it led to was privatisations, Iraq and an engorged City.’
I don’t think it was Ed’s ‘positioning’ that taught us that. I think some of us figured it out for ourselves.

I do think it’s important that Labour is electable. I don’t think Corbyn is the only ‘unelectable’ candidate. I think they’re a weak bunch and, if anything, he’s proving himself as the most adept communicator. Freedland ends by suggesting the other candidates need to counter Corbyn by presenting an ‘exciting’ message such as ‘the first female Labour Leader’. There’s something horribly patronising about the tone of the whole article (suggesting that support for Corbyn is a whim, no more considered or weighty than changing your Facebook profile to a rainbow). But I agree with the general thrust that the candidates need to offer something – something progressive, something hopeful, something other than a vague centrist continuation of what we already have – other than the promise of power.

‘When the promise is broken, you go on living but it steals something from down in your soul’
Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Promise’ 1977

The promise of power.

Good Evening.

Thought I might start a blog.
Never been too confident with the old written word. Thought this might be a good ‘self-improvement’ type exercise. Might last, might not. Who knows.
Becoming more engaged with politics lately, so I’ll write about that a bit – which means I won’t be cluttering up people’s Facebook timelines. Other than that…probably a lot about music, a lot about Bruce Springsteen, a bit about Art. Some diary-type things. Who knows.

Anyway, if you’re reading this – Howdy! Let me know what you think.

Good Evening.