Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Just... Any Kind Of Sign

So there's a lot in the much-bandied-about Taylor Parkes column that rings true about Jeremy Corbyn's numerous demerits as a candidate, even if you have to take a spade with you to get through all the screechy wibble about Hezbollah and so forth.  You can read all about it there, if you like.

The thing that I noticed today was that the overwhelming majority of people bringing Parkes' piece to my attention were precisely the kind of horrible New Labour twunts that have made Corbyn's victory possible, and perhaps even inevitable.

I imagine that you know the type of person I'm talking about - grudgingly admits the war on terror was "badly-handled" and "poorly-planned", but can't understand why some people won't just move on;  quick to flourish the Big Waggy Finger at idiots acting up on social media, but rarely seems arsed to complain about the government's spending cuts, and so on and on.

Anyway, the really ironic thing is this: If most of the people who have been RTing and Facebooking Parkes' column today and wailing in terror had spent at least some of the last decade shutting the fuck up and listening a little instead...

...There would probably be no need for Parkes to have written the article in the first place.

Because it's difficult to adequately convey how bizarre this situation is.  Seriously, just try to imagine the scene back in 2006, if you'd told anyone with an interest in politics that the chair of Stop The War would lead the Labour Party by 2015.  Martians would've heard the shrieks of laughter.

And yet, here we are.

In football terms, this is like East Fife beating Celtic 13-0 at Parkhead - one of those things that should just never, ever happen.

To stretch the analogy, I can tell you now that if a bottom-tier team dealt out that kind of drubbing to the richest club in the country, nobody would put it down to East Fife's sudden samba football.  The headlines wouldn't read "Fifers Fantastic".

They'd say - "Woeful Celtic hammered", "Shambolic Celts stuffed" and, most importantly, "Fans demand immediate resignation and suicide of everyone associated with this mortifying catastrophe".

But there's been surprisingly little of this kind of criticism in the Labour election campaign.

Sure, I've seen lots of New Labour politicians and pundits turning purple and screeching and drumming their little heels, but I don't know that I've seen a single one write an article titled:  "We're losing to the comedy candidate because we've utterly ignored our core constituency for years"*.

I've seen plenty of people call Corbyn names or claim that all of his supporters are lunatics, but I'm not sure that I've heard any MPs say: "This humiliating rejection tells us that our own members think we are terrible at our own jobs.  Here's how we plan to be less terrible". 

Isn't that a bit revealing?  It certainly shows a certain... self-confidence, I think, a certain blunt fuck-you-I'm-right-ness, expressed surprisingly strongly for people who are professionally and politically dependent upon mass support from the very folk that they're calling names.

And remember, the Labour election was launched amid a grand fanfare about listening to hard truths and learning difficult lessons, and so on and so forth.  If the party was really going for clear-eyed self-analysis, it's a bit odd that so few of its Blairite-leaning senior members and supporters have noticed that the loud-and-clear answer has been:

"We think you're shit at your jobs, get better at it or sod off". 

It's all very strange.  I've been trying to think of a suitable comparison for this attitude for a long time, and I've finally hit on that scene in The Man With Two Brains where Steve Martin tells the portrait of his dead wife about his plans to remarry:

Dr Hfuhruhurr: Becca... If there's anything wrong with my feelings for Dolores, just give me a sign.

(Room shakes; ornaments topple, portrait begins to spin madly) 

Wailing shade of dead wife: Noooooo! Nooooooo! Nooooooooooooooo!  

(Room returns to normal) 

Dr Hfuhruhurr:  Just... any kind of sign.


Oh well.  As I said back when Corbyn first started to gather support, the party's leading lights are ever-prepared to countenance almost any kind of heresy, except for the type that suggests that the problem might be them.

*I know Tony Blair did that "I know you may not like me, but" piece.  I'm thinking of something more along the lines of "You may not like me, and you're correct not to like me, because I am an appalling shit of a man, and here's how I intend to stop being one".   

**The most ludicrous part in all this is that it all comes after Scotland - Labour's heartland since time immemorial - switched en masse to the SNP, formerly a comedy party, who won lots of support mainly by 

a) sounding vaguely left-wing and 

b) not being Labour.  

The party's response?  A mass outpouring of grief at its own socialist crimes, followed by commands to shift to the right.

Good luck north of the Border with that angle, if it eventually wins out.


dsquared said...

"I used to be a militant leftist but the Charlie Hebdo massacre reminded me I've always been outraged at Militant" is not even a parody of that article.

Seriously, "I hung around the labour party for decades and assembled such a crop of tools as my mates that my Twitter feed, diligently curated by me, is full of anti Semites and people who applauded mass murders of journalists. Now listen to my views for I am a shrewd judge of character "

It really does interest me that these Decent Sunday School conversion narratives are never from people who were sensible before. They're always from people who used to be extreme left idiots and are now centre right idiots, using their previous folly as evidence of current sagacity.

septicisle said...

Perhaps I'm guilty of exactly what Daniel says, but I too thought there were an awful lot of people, not just from the extreme left, who were convinced of Charlie Hebdo's racism on the basis of front pages in a language they couldn't even read. I have plenty of other problems with the article on foreign policy, but that part to me at least seemed spot on, even expressing almost precisely what I felt.

flyingrodent said...

It's a social media bias thing, I think. I don't really follow that many of the wackier Corbynite types now, let alone then, so I couldn't really work out what all the cries of horror were about.

After a while, I realised it was mainly that every time some dorks somewhere said something daft - and there's always some dorks saying something daft, somewhere - they got retweeted a bajillion times so that everyone could be horrified about it.

One way or the other, however, I suspect that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor his supporters are in favour of executing cartoonists, and that any suggestions that they are may not be made in good faith.

But DSquared is right about that particular form of political epiphany, I think. If someone only noticed that there are a lot of oddballs and highly unpleasant characters in politics - and note how I'm pointedly not saying "on the fringes of politics", here - after Charlie Hebdo, that person probably wasn't paying much attention in the first place.

ejh said...

For the record, Taylor Parkes is neither an idiot nor centre right.

Dave Weeden said...

Why do these people write so much? I was bored by the time he mentioned Tony Blair, and the side-thing showed I was only about a tenth in.

Second why is the Labour right-wing so negative? Here's Janan Ganesh on David Cameron. (FT but free today.) Why can't anyone in Labour write about their preferred candidate like this? Instead, it's all "he's an anti-Semite" or "his economics are crap." I say the voters hear two messages: one, the person spoken about has such bad flaws that even his own party acknowledges them; and two, the person making the allegation is a pretty nasty, bitchy, disloyal sort of person.

Following septicisle's comment, I read a little further. There's the oxymoronic "Mainstream Radical Left" thing, which I don't think means anything. Salman Rushdie was on tonight's R4 "Front Row" talking about Charlie Hebdo, and he said he felt betrayed by some in PEN, and that when he wrote or spoke to him they gave unsatisfactory justifications for their position, but he didn't blame the left, as such. There just seem to be some people confused about who to support. (Although anyone violently attacked looks like a good candidate to me. Were they a nice person? isn't even a sensible question here.)

flyingrodent said...

Why can't anyone in Labour write about their preferred candidate like this?

There have been numerous efforts, but ultimately I suspect their problem is that they know that their preferred candidates are dull and uninspiring. I find JC quite dull as well, but he clearly knows what will inspire a significant chunk of his own party.

Really though, I suppose it's not surprising that a political movement born with the idea of moving ever-rightwards and pissing on anyone to your left, has few ideas after twenty years that don't involve moving ever-rightwards and pissing on anyone to their left.

septicisle said...

Liz Kendall is supposedly giving a speech tomorrow admitting the party overdid the whole we-must-become-the-Tories-to-win-again stuff in the immediate aftermath of the election. Just a little bit fucking late.

organic cheseboard said...

I do love me a long read, but jeez, I feel for Taylor P's editors. That's total self-indulgence.

It also evinces my problem with his stuff, including the Britpop piece but also his When Saturday Comes writing (mercifully he seems to have gone from there) - the focus on himself, at all times, and his innate superiority to whatever he is writing about. Yeah, he's never got anything wrong - was against the Iraq war, but for the stable transition to peace; is a Marxist in spirit but pragmatist at heart, and has always backed the right side; he kept up being a lefty even as he hated every other lefty he met (this is the Nick Cohen dance); he would rather give to the homeless than Trotskyists; etc etc. Same as the Britpop piece: yeah, he might have been a senior music journo at the peak of Britpop, where the paper he worked for was full of the stuff and where he dated one of the leading stars, but he never really liked it, in fact at home he always listened to something that was presented in the music papers back then as irredeemably naff but coincidentally is now cool. Yeah, Tim Lovejoy is a total twat - but say nothing on why he is (well, was) actually popular.

I too thought there were an awful lot of people, not just from the extreme left, who were convinced of Charlie Hebdo's racism on the basis of front pages in a language they couldn't even read

Agreed, and guilty as charged (though am still very uneasy with the level of anti-Islam stuff in CH - that's not to say anything vs CH is justified, just that I probably wouldn't have read it). But there's a difference between that and what Parkes is suggesting - that Corbynistas in general thought the murders were justified. That's eye of the beholder stuff, lacking in any evidence.

One of the things I like about blogs and digital age writing in general is that people can produce links, to provide evidence for their claims. Yet unsurprisingly, none of the Evil Lefty Straw Men here have links provided.

I agree with Dsquared about these conversion narratives, though as EJH says Parkes isn't 'centre right' - instead he's having his cake and eating it, finding himself in agreement with everything Corbyn has been campainging on - which is the reason for his popularity - yet at the same time putting that into a totally anti-Corbyn piece in which Parkes is the True Left and all others are impure.

Just for once it'd be nice to see an intelligent journo - and Parkes is intelligent - actually writing intelligently about Corbyn, instead of wheeling out ancient far-left horror stories (I might be the only one here who's not entirely clear about who the Sparts even are/were?) and guff about Stop the War.

As Dave W says, too, compare this with the easy ride journos have been giving Cameron and Osborne recently. The Jason Cowley interview with Osborne is a case in point - an again overly long hagiography, in which so many contentious issues are totally unchallenged and in which the 'wisdom' of this obviously only-human man is left unchallenged, e.g. his saying that Liz Kendall's ideas would be the ones that gave the Tories most trouble. Why, exactly, would agreeing to copy almost every Tory policy have given them trouble? He knows this isn't true (after all, agreeing with everything Labour did didn't work for him until the financial crash, and the only sway he saved his own skin was by reviving a classically Tory policy i.e. cutting inheritance tax), and is only saying it for the lulz, yet people lap it up as it it's the fucking gospel.

organic cheeseboard said...

Sorry, three other things and one unrealted piece of guff.

1) Parkes claims that he's 'not a hawk', yet 'there's always someone out there who won't be won over by a cup of tea in Islington' - this is just lazy insinuation, right? Corbyn's not suggested e.g. dismantling the armed forces. He's suggested that talks rather than bombing are right in terms of international law, and is surely correct according to Parkes's own anti-Iraq-war logic; and he's also suggested not replacing Trident - does Parkes support Trident then? He doesn't say, because, yet again, it's easy answers all the way with him. It's not hard to find actual reasons to criticise Corbyn, yet he doesn't manage to do it.

2) Nick Cohen has enthusiastically retweeted this, yet one of the things Parkes finds boring - blacklisting in the building industry - was described by Cohen thus in 2012: "the loud voices that boom across our media cannot talk about a scandal that is in front of their eyes."

3) Parkes's core point - that Corbyn is the wrong frontman for the left - is pretty much right. Yet it's Andy Burnham's fault he's even on the fucking ballot. He didn't have to be. Even this is a mess of Blairite making.

Sort of off topic, but from what I can tell Salman Rushdie's new book has as its hero a genius philosopher who is also witty and a sexual dynamo. His name is Ralman Sushdie or some such.

andrew adams said...


Reminds me of the hero of Stieg Larsson's books - the principled and fearless left wing journalist who just happens to be sexually irresistible to every woman he meets.

Metatone said...

Great post.

I think there's also the sheer incompetence of the 3 candidates who Corbyn appears to have beaten.
It's sort of basic party political tactics, you pander a bit to the base to win the party election and only then move to the centre.

This idea that you can win the leadership by haranguing the party about what losers and idiots they are (Kendall particularly guilty here) is frankly deluded. There seems to be total amnesia about how Blair actually won his leadership bid. The search for union backers, the deal cut with Brown (who at the time had more support on the left) and the inclusion of old guard figures like Prescott.

None of that from the "centre" candidates in this election.

ejh said...

Yeah, Tim Lovejoy is a total twat - but say nothing on why he is (well, was) actually popular.

Good piece that. Whether the present piece has as much to be said for it I have no idea, as I have no intention of reading it.

organic cheeseboard said...

Oh don't get me wrong, that's not a bad piece in and of itself - it's at the good end of the superior approach he takes, but it's still part of it.

The Kendall speech is a pretty spectacular piece of having-cake-and-eating-it as well; on the one hand she sticks to the idea that Labour have "failed to take on* hard arguments about a range of issues – from the public finances, to reforming welfare and our public services, and Britain’s role in the world", while then saying:

We ['Modernizers' is the term she uses]’ve allowed ourselves to be defined as purely pragmatic – concerned with winning elections alone, rather than winning for a purpose – thereby ceding the mantle of principle to the far Left.

She says this is 'unfair' - yet her entire campaign was built around this core idea.

*A usefully vague phrase that - 'take on' as in challenge, or 'take on' as in adopt the Tory version?

Anonymous said...

I think Dianne Abbott's run in 2010 gave nearly everyone a misleading idea of how popular a left campaign headed by a 'campaign group' MP could be.
Also the lack of a sustained attempt to work/court the unions and affiliate organisations by the Right of the party continues to surprise me - This was the blatant failure of David Milibands campaign in 2010 yet here they were again failing to get endorsements that went to Corbyn.
Organisationally Kendall was never in it as the external muscle(Unite /stop the war etc) went with Corbyn and the internal party staff/organiserswere already signed up to either cooper or Kendall. I think it's been the really revealing thing about Kendalls campaign that away from media support from pundits there is no Blairite machine in the party to speak of .

Alex said...

Corbyn's not suggested e.g. dismantling the armed forces.

He did suggest that anyone who wanted to pay a bit less tax could opt out of paying for the MoD budget.

Phil said...

What does Taylor Parkes actually know about the internal workings of Hamas and Hezbollah? What does he even think he knows, and why does he think he knows it?

I'm just a bit pissed-off, frankly, with this:

Whatever Corbynites claim, this is not international diplomacy. These were not summit meetings, nor were they peace talks; more like publicity stunts ... there's no conceivable way that anything constructive – not one thing – could ever have come from any of them. And nor did it; only the provision of a platform for bastards.

I was at a conference the other day where an academic was talking about setting up meetings with both Hamas and Hezbollah - I think he'd met people from Hamas in the past and was hoping to get to talk to Hezbollah - with a view to opening up discussions about alternatives to blowing things up. He told us about the specific guy from Hamas who'd been his choice - somebody who was particularly open-minded on the not-blowing-things-up front - and how he'd had to work hard to get hold of him, while keeping lines open to the rest of Hamas, but said that it had worked out and the meeting had gone well. Then he said they hadn't been able to repeat the meeting, because open-minded guy had been assassinated by the Israelis.

Seems to me Taylor Parkes isn't on the side of jaw-jaw here.

Phil said...


This is someone who still believes that Slobodan Milosevic was misunderstood

I haven't been able to find out what Parkes is referring to here. "Corbyn defends Milosevic" is all over the Web, but on inspection he turns out to have 'defended' Serbia against (a) NATO aggression (which was illegal) and (b) the charge of having murdered at least 100,000 Kosovars (which they didn't).

Why is this stuff always so sloppy (when it's not actually dishonest)? It's as if they're writing for an audience who already believe the worst & don't need any persuading about the fine details - in which case it's really no different from writing an article about how Yvette Cooper's a Commie who wants to renationalise British Steel, and pitching it to the Daily Mail.

ejh said...

Why is this stuff always so sloppy

Quite, and this is in very large part why I haven't read it.

ejh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

sorry - should read that it was Cooper and Burnham who signed up all the key internal party staff/organisers

septicisle said...

The Kendall speech distils exactly why she's so aggravatingly frustrating, contradicting herself over and over while every so often tapping into why Corbyn is likely to have won. "We've been technocratic and managerial, we haven't properly debated amongst ourselves, which is why a Labour leader cannot tack left during the contest and then go to the centre with the electorate, and also why I can't serve with Jeremy because he's a lunatic." Huh? It really isn't impossible to combine your party's long held principles and win elections, just as it isn't complete madness to have a debate with the voters every now and again, especially when in opposition. Politicians both rightly and wrongly ignore or disagree with the people that put them in power routinely - the idea that you can't have disagreements whatsoever, that voters can't be bucked seems to be an utterly absurd new belief the right of the party has fallen into.

And yet I still put her as my first choice. Sigh.

organic cheeseboard said...

Heh, I didn't know that about the armed forces opt-out.

A couple of things from the Parkes, to go along with the charge of sloppiness:

Labour lost in 1983 because its manifesto was simply too left-wing for the British electorate.

Wasn't it primarily the SDP split that ensured the size of its loss? I was 3 at the time so I might be wrong there.

All he's done is offer up the very basic outline of a social democratic programme, and then waved his hands in place of explanations as to where he'd get the money – never mind what the holy hell he'd do about capital flight or uncontrolled inflation

OK, and i'm not sold on Corbynomics, but this was a campaign rally, not an interview on Channel 4 news. You get this a lot from Decents, as discussed a fair few times on here: 'Waa, Corbyn is offering simplistic solutions', 'waa, the vote in July on social security was too nuanced a piece of parliamentary business for the electorate to understand', etc. Blair was the great communicator, right? I'm pretty sure he's not rated on that basis for his tendency to make hyper-nuanced points and to provide detailed economic case studies for each policy.

Anonymous said...

OC "The Kendall speech is a pretty spectacular piece of having-cake-and-eating-it as well; on the one hand she sticks to the idea that Labour have "failed to take on* hard arguments about a range of issues – from the public finances, to reforming welfare and our public services, and Britain’s role in the world" ..... "

Tony Blair "reformed" the Labour Party to become a top-down organisation, in which decision-making was highly centralised and policy pronouncements were made as if a prophet were coming down from the mountain. MPs and party members were expected to be "on message". And Blair claimed to be doing a lot of hard-thinking in his 10 years as PM.

So it is odd that Kendall claims that Labour has failed to do any hard thinking because supposedly this is what Blair was doing. The basic problem is that nobody can see whether this hard-thinking took place, what was considered, how it was considered, or which experts were called in to help. It is very difficult for an outsider to participate in this hard-thinking, even if they were to join the party. The Party is expected to cheer the wisdom that comes down from on high, though Blair claim no special skills in anything except spin and winning elections. The wisdom that come down on high tends to be eye-catching to the tabloid press and oddly this hard-thinking rarely concludes that tabloid conventional wisdom has got the wrong end of the stick.

So if some people conclude that this is only about winning elections it is because that's what it looks like.


Phil said...

In 1983 (quoting my blog), the SDP got 3.5 million votes; the Labour vote went down by 3 million. If we're blaming anyone, I think there’s some to spare for four former Cabinet ministers who used their social and media connections to advertise their own rectitude and denounce the party which had enabled them to achieve anything. It’s certainly hard to imagine that three million voters would have been sufficiently revolted by the state of the Labour Party to vote Liberal or abstain if the Gang of Four hadn’t left the party.

Shorter Parkes:
"I hate Corbyn. Of course I'm still on the Left!"
"It's tough out there. And it's going to get worse. Why does no one ever notice this except me?"
"Corbyn has dodgy friends. Really really dodgy friends. And his foreign policy's a bit, you know. How many times have Russia invaded since we've been in NATO? Just saying."
"Did I mention the dodgy friends? Because they're really dodgy."
"So here's me. I used to be on the Left, and I never minded all the nutters, because I just ignored them. Then Charlie Hebdo happened, and I couldn't ignore the nutters any longer. Because there were more of... er, no, because they were more representative of... no, wait, because more people were listening to... no, that's not it. But anyway, it meant I couldn't ignore the nutters any more, so I'm not on the Left any more. No, wait, I'm still on the Left, but... Well, Corbyn, eh? Not saying he's a nutter, but still."
"Corbyn! Nice man and everything, but he's got really dodgy friends. Lots of them. Look into it some time."
"So I went to this meeting, and this flash kept going off in my face, which was horrible. And everyone there was either old or young, except the parents with children, who were sort of in between. And some of the speakers were really dull, and some of them were really exciting, so that was weird. And then Corbyn came on. He talked about all these policies he's got, and I actually agreed with all of them, so that was weird. But I don't agree with his foreign policy, obviously. Plus he's got really dodgy friends, I don't know if I mentioned that."
"Corbyn. The left. Nutters. Weird."
"And they don't care about homeless people either, not like I do. It's tough out there."

flyingrodent said...

Just for once it'd be nice to see an intelligent journo - and Parkes is intelligent - actually writing intelligently about Corbyn, instead of wheeling out ancient far-left horror stories (I might be the only one here who's not entirely clear about who the Sparts even are/were?) and guff about Stop the War.

I think this exposes a fairly unpalatable truth about modern Britain, in that an actual living saint with fairly traditional Labour views who came within a mile of actual power would soon find himself depicted as a despoiler of virgins.

The fact that not one national paper has come out for Corbyn tells me that The Way Things Just Are possesses a powerful autoimmune system that swarms and attacks anything that poses a serious threat.

The specific difficulty with Corbyn is that he's not even slightly difficult to attack. For people in that trade, the headlines write themselves.

And yes, there's a lot of ducking-of-responsibility when individual hacks say things like "Well, he's brought it on himself" - maybe so, but you don't have to print Gotcha headlines. But still, there it is.

I haven't been able to find out what Parkes is referring to here. "Corbyn defends Milosevic" is all over the Web, but on inspection he turns out to have 'defended' Serbia against (a) NATO aggression (which was illegal) and (b) the charge of having murdered at least 100,000 Kosovars (which they didn't).

This is much the same as the wild claims of "Corbyn thinks Poland shouldn't defend itself" etc. Even a few seconds of digging usually shows that he actually thinks e.g. that Nato policy in the east has been very stupid. Which it undeniably has.

It's as if they're writing for an audience who already believe the worst & don't need any persuading about the fine details...

That's exactly it. You're never short of people to jump on chairs and scream for the cat, whenever some troublesome left-winger bolts out of his mousehole and starts playing on the furniture.

I'll have to come back to some of the other points here later...

Metatone said...

One of the fundamental problems is that while Corbyn is going to be monstered by the press if he wins the leadership, you only have to recall the "Ed's Dad hated Britain" to know that being less radical is no kind of inoculation against that kind of thing.

That's why I think if Labour is to have a future, it has to look to the post-newspaper demographic. Now getting their attention, convincing them that even though they grew up with years of Thatcherite propaganda there is an alternative & then getting them out to vote are all huge challenges.

But really is there any other option? When rabid and simplistic "we have to cut the debt" thinking rules the day you set up a death spiral of underinvestment. If you're not going to give in to that, you have to step away from the Kendall (and today, Lord Ashcroft) analysis and look for a different way forward.

Now all that said, would I have chosen Corbyn as the figurehead for some kind of attempt at a different strategy? Probably not - but none of the other candidates even noticed that there might be a requirement for a different strategy... and I think that's a lot of the story of how we end up where we are...

(No ballot paper for me, so in the end, my indecision has no bearing on the result.)

flyingrodent said...

OC: She says this is 'unfair' - yet her entire campaign was built around this core idea.

I think that Liz Kendall and her supporters have spent much of the campaign complaining how unfair it is that people react badly to her tin-eared style in finger-wagging them about how silly they are. If this isn't how she meant to come across, her PR people should really look at her presentation style, because that's exactly how she came across.

Anon: I think it's been the really revealing thing about Kendalls campaign that away from media support from pundits there is no Blairite machine in the party to speak of.

Which says to me that there isn't, and probably never was, any solid thing called "Blairism" worth speaking of. God knows it seemed like an empty PR exercise then, basically just opportunism with especially good timing, attached to a fairly unhealthy personality cult, but there's nothing at all there now - no ideas, no particular distinct principles, no identifiable policies beyond "let's move rightwards". If anyone doubted this before, this campaign should've set them straight.

Phil: What does Taylor Parkes actually know about the internal workings of Hamas and Hezbollah? What does he even think he knows, and why does he think he knows it?

It's a species of the old "The Guardian printed a statement by this Hamas spokesperson, Oh no! Would they print a column by a BNP leader?" gambit.

Which rather misses the point that Hamas are a belligerent party in one of the world's oldest and most intractible conflicts, and that they're going to have to be part of whatever agreement is finally reached, no matter how deeply unpleasant they are.

Unsurprisingly, this view is not popular with people who are dead-set against any agreement ever being reached. The idea that nobody must ever talk to Hamas, or give serious thought to what they want and how they operate, concludes with no peace deal ever and perpetual war, which is just fine with a lot of folk. Which is why those people are also quite happy for Tony Blair to speak to Hamas, but nobody else. Because nobody who pays attention is under the impression that Tony Blair is interested in a fair and equitable agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The BNP, by contrast, can be ignored in perpetuity with no ill effects whatsoever.

flyingrodent said...

And, to return to the Charlie Hebdo thing - which I don't particularly want to do, since I had a lot of arguments about it at the time, and it wasn't an edifying experience:

I'm less offended than some here by the idea that some folk considered Charlie Hebdo's content to be racist, from a position of ignorance. People, innit.

I say this from personal experience, as someone who's spent a fair bit of time deliberately tweaking noses by saying things that at first sound very suspect, but upon further reflection, turn out to be super-clever zingers that show off how very sharp I am.

You always get people who respond to this kind of thing without thinking it through, and that's part of the point in doing it in the first place. If I aim to scandalise you so that I can then turn around and say, But see, it is all a clever joke, well that's fine - but I can't then claim to be surprised if some people, especially stupid people with strongly-held opinions, take what I'm saying at face value and don't get the joke.

So it was with Hebdo. I have no problem with them using racist imagery to poke fun at actual racists, although I can't say I was a big fan of their particular style. That's all in good fun, and more power to them. I am not, however, very receptive to any complaints that people erroneously assumed that they're racist, since giving people that impression for comedy purposes was the whole reason why they were doing it in the first place.

I'd like to think it goes without saying that, even if Hebdo had been the living heir to Der Sturmer rather than basically a satirical comic, it still wouldn't be okay to kill its cartoonists.

And I think that at this point, we have to be honest and say that quite a lot of fairly dishonest people have deliberately tried to encourage the idea that there's no difference at all between saying "Why, these cartoons look a bit suspect, don't they" and "The people who drew these cartoons brought violence upon themselves and/or they deserved to be killed".

There's quite a big difference between these two positions, and there's been strenuous effort put into the pretence that there isn't.

Igor Belanov said...

What the three 'other' candidates and their advocates don't seem to have realised is that there is a very substantial anti-establishment trend in British, if not World politics at the moment. Sometimes it benefits idiots like Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson because they happen to be 'different' from other politicians, but in the Labour Party, where opinion is usually more ethical and reasoned, they have backed Jeremy Corbyn.

The fact that Corbyn resembles an earnest Citizen's Advice Bureau worker rather than a demagogic 'saviour' has stood him in good stead against people who are essentially shady salespeople and two-faced managers. Fortunately, this anti-establishment atmosphere also means that, no matter what shit gets thrown at Corbyn, very little sticks because establishment politicians and their acolytes are trusted about as much as Joseph Goebbels and their 'reasoned' positions on issues are treated as what they are- small-c conservatism. When they are finally provoked to 'act', it is such blatant opportunism that no-one is fooled.

The advantage of the Corbyn campaign has been to demonstrate that people on the Left are increasingly sick of putting up with 'surely none of you wants Jones back' politics and are standing up for some kind of principle.

Malkintrash said...

It's difficult to comprehend how self-serving and self-deceiving the Labour right's reaction to defeat has been so far. When it is put to them that campaigning on the basis of electoral competence and losing your arse from about halfway to the finishing line might not be compatible conceptually speaking, you get sententiousness about "selectorate" versus "electorate" - as if electoral competence wouldn't entail the ability to adapt between one and the other. It's like the newb who comes out their first judo class saying "go on, attack me! ... no, not like that!"

So you get Tony Yates coming off like a shit TS Eliot commenting "here lurks popular non-sequitur" when Dawn Foster makes this very point, when it really isn't a non-sequitur at all. We are dealing with Owen Paterson badgers and goalposts levels of surreal self-exculpation. These used to be the people who marketed themselves as the clear-eyed, unsentimental calibrators of electoral campaigns based on exercises in engagement with representative samples of the base. Now you can basically invert everything in that description and you have the Labour right in 2015.

FBH said...

Regarding Corbyn's foreign policy, I'm pretty sure he's not saying a single thing that every major IR academic hasn't been saying for years.

I'm so tired of the way that the overton window has shifted away from reality on just about everything. The reality is that Russia is scared to hell that NATO will bomb them if they have riots because from there point of view we're an aggressive alliance. This doesn't excuse their aggression to Ukraine, but it does explain it.

The reality is that the bombing of Kosovo basically only meant that the Serbs of Kosovo got ethnically cleansed not the Albanians.

The reality is that Austerity doesn't and hasn't worked.

Yet again and again all we here is how we can't tell anyone any of this because aparently reality is too unbelievable?

organic cheeseboard said...

Feels a bit funny to still be adding to this thread but there are a couple of related links worth looking at - also weird that hacks suddenly notice what won Jezza the leadership after the event.

This one spells out some interesting stuff on Scotland:


Opponents of Corbyn must see that the very people they consider so sane and respectable – from George Osborne to Liz Kendall – have driven Scotland into the arms of nationalists. So if their plan for saving Britain is not about providing an anti-austerity Labour party, perhaps they could inform us what it is.

Going by my standard and trustworthy thesis on Osborne,* am personally of the opinion that he viewed the independence debate as a chance to make Labour look a bit silly, and that's about it. I think that he'd literally give up the Union if it gave Labour negative column inches for a few days.

Also this from our old chum Bloodworth:

Where we get, shock horror, proper analysis and thoughtful writing, involving a cosnideration of why Corbyn was actually popular, as opposed to the OMG Jezbollah stuff JB was pumping out all summer. If only people had been saying this stuff back then, eh? Anyone would think that OMG Jezpocalypse was totally unconvincing, wouldn't they?

*Incidentally, in a straw poll of, er, my mates, the two who voiced most visceral personal dislike of Osborne were - um - an investment banker, and a trader.

flyingrodent said...

I'm not sure how much I like the "Labour drove Scotland into the arms of the SNP" narrative, since it's exactly the SNP's own propaganda line. Still, there's more than enough truth to it for it to be a real focal point in the next election. It's certainly true that huge numbers of Scots had long since decided that Labour offered them nothing.

And it's good to see that at least our James has spotted that it wasn't hordes of Galloway-bitten zombies that elected Corbyn leader. It's almost as if he, unlike most of his mates, does at least speak to other left-wing people and occasionally listens to what they have to say.

I always get the impression that every second that e.g. Nick spends listening to anyone speaking who isn't basically repeating Nick's own opinions back at him are basically like that scene in the Simpsons, the one with the cymbals-monkey in Homer's head.

organic cheeseboard said...

Aha, that Simpsons idea has legs. I'm fairly sure Cohen does think the true people's ballet is a bear driving a car in a big top.

I agree on James B though I'm fairly sure he'll have been a paid-up member of the 'all corbyn supporters have dogs on strings' brigade prior to the leadership results coming out. Am also equally sure he'd have ridiculed the 'Blairites are to blame' thing if e.g. Owen Jones had said it. I still do find it utterly bizarre that anti-Corbyn types still believe that his appeal is limited to the far left, and nothing more - Rentoul an especially bad example of this.

I get you on the SNP line thng. I guess I liked the broader point there - that every Kendall concession to the Very Real Concerns etc is a step away from the Labour core vote. As EJH said on the other, more recent thread, what Blair etc offered in 1997 was better enough to justify voting for it - but the 'better' stuff was totally lacking from the Other Three's campaigns - and that, coupled with the stupid idea that everyone in the country, including Labour supporters, are impressed when they see the poor fucked over, is the reason Corbyn won.

dsquared said...

With regard to Charlie Hebdo, I have to declare an interest, and that interest is this:

The way the world is, it is not impossible (although unlikely) that either Nick Cohen or David Aaronovitch might be murdered, most likely by an anri-Semitic Islamist loon.

If that happens, it will be awful, tragic and an assault on freedom of speech. Some people will say that they brought it on themselves but those people will be arseholes and wrong.

However, a lot of people will, out of a mistaken belief that doing so adds emphasis to their condemnation of the terrorist attack, want to say that Cohen or Aaronovitch were great journalists, brave truth-tellers and people who everyone should emulate, and that the body of journalism they leave behind should be held up for admiration.

I obviously couldn't agree to that sentiment, because I spent over five years cataloguing, more or less obsessively because I thought it was important to do so, the precise extent to which this was not the case. So, although I would like to hope I am not enough of a bastard to go around saying so before a decent (hhdyswidt) interval had passed, if asked to endorse any online campaign saying "Cohen/Aaronovitch was a great man", I would try to find an excuse not to, and if really pressed on the subject, I'd explain why.

I would guess that any such explanation I did give, wouldn't satisfy anyone who was in a mood to start such a campaign. So ironically, I would have even more of a reason to resent and hate the Islamist loon responsible for the initial atrocity, because he would have created a state of affairs where it looked like I sympathised with disgusting people, simply by holding a view that I had always held and which was utterly reasonable and unobjectionable before the atrocity.