Nuclear weapons: Meh

I don’t have an opinion on the renewal of Trident, which makes this a rather boring basis for an article. Might as well stop reading. No real point even writing anything. But while I keep trying to wrap my head around exactly what sort of prime minister Theresa May actually wants to be, given that her speech on assuming the throne (so to speak) sounded like it came from Ed Miliband’s mouth rather than her of all people, this is the big news – Trident’s replacement is up for a vote, and it will probably win.

And in all honesty, I don’t care. My position on it is simple – Trident will probably never be used, its cost is steep but ultimately (when amortised over its useful lifespan) a drop in the bucket of stale piss that is government expenditure, it is something somewhat needed out of geopolitical necessity and, most importantly, getting rid of it is politically impossible. While it hasn’t noticeably deterred anything we’ve also got no real evidence that it hasn’t deterred anything, because if it had deterred something then we would never know (Trident not deterring something of consequence being something evidenced by explosions, mushroom clouds and people melting.) We, as a country, piss away money on other ridiculous bullshit that doesn’t achieve anything meaningful but that also doesn’t have any societal benefit at all (e.g. obscene tax cuts for corporations, as pushed through repeatedly by our Eldritch abomination ex-chancellor), whereas Trident at least keeps some sailors and dockyard workers employed. All that said, I’d love to live in a world where nobody had nuclear weapons, and I’d love to be in a UK where we don’t have nuclear weapons, but that world is one that does not and probably will never exist and so is that UK.

I thus, ultimately, couldn’t give a sun-blushed shit whether we keep Trident or not because we are never going to unilaterally disarm in any event as it is political suicide (as Jeremy Corbyn has discovered) and so talking about it is pointless. We may as well talk about the possibility of dressing up sheep as ice cream men and having them dispense Flake 99’s made of ambrosia from vans that have been knitted together from unicorn pubes. And I say this as a former paid-up member of CND.

There is one tiny caveat to that. While Trident’s cost is indeed a drop in the ocean, that does not mean it is not a substantial amount of money. That substantial amount of money is something that the Government has, for the last six years, relentlessly hammered home that it does not have, which is why public sector provision must be slashed, benefits for the disabled pointlessly rejigged and cut and JSA claimants made to feel sub-human in order to try and save their pissy £72 a week. I have no particular opposition to renewing Trident at its lifetime cost of over £200billion, so long as the Government also does not try and tell me on the other hand that it can’t spare any money for other things. Spending a shitload of money on weapons that by definition should never be used if they work at their intended purpose while also going to great lengths to stop someone claiming £72 a week for food and essentials while they’re in between jobs solely in order to “save money” does not strike me as a particularly consistent position.

As mentioned, I don’t know what sort of government Theresa May is going to run; if we take her maiden speech at face value it indicates she will probably be more centrist than Cameron was, which is welcome – we may see a retraction of some of the cold-hearted bullshit that has happened. Whether we should actually take a Tory prime minister who was balls deep in Cameron’s government at face value when she nicks the language of Milibandism is another matter; but I suspect I’ll probably be more comfortable ignoring Trident under her government (with the above caveat) than I would under Cameron and Osborne.

And now back to not thinking about it.

Stitched up

Welp, that’s me and the Labour party done for. I thought we’d escaped the stitch-up of Jeremy Corbyn not being on the ballot – as much as I didn’t especially want him to continue leading, I wanted him to not continue leading as the result of a fair fight against a clearly better alternative. Admittedly, I want a lot of things that are equally implausible, but at the very least the “fair fight” bit would have been accomplished, if not the “decent opponent” bit.

But, of course, there had to be a but. Why wouldn’t there be? The number one lesson of 2016 so far is that if something good happens then it will almost immediately be followed by sixteen thousand shit things happening at exactly the same time. This time, the turd dropped in everyone’s lap was the announcement that if you joined the party in the six months prior to the NEC convening on the 12th July, you would no longer have a vote in the leadership election… unless you wanted to cancel your membership and re-register as a registered supporter. For £25. In a two day window.

To give a full history: I have been a member of Labour, on and off, since 2010. I originally joined, from the Liberal Democrats, in May 2010, and voted for Ed Miliband in the leadership election that year; membership lapsed for financial reasons (i.e. I went through a lot of shit in 2011). I rejoined again in October 2013 after seeing Ed finally coming out of his shell a bit and saying things that really chimed with me again; a few months later I started doorknocking and delivering leaflets. I was a member of the party up until November 2015, when I (as I previously wrote about) quit after seeing John McDonnell somehow respond to an open goal by setting himself on fire and shitting on the ball. I rejoined, as I found out today, on the 18th January this year after reconsidering, and have since then attended multiple branch meetings, done telling for the party during the local elections and delivered a shitload of leaflets – not as many as I would like to have done, but what I could with my circumstances. As I found out, ironically after getting home from my local branch meeting, being an active member and supporter of the party is apparently not good enough to earn a vote in the leadership elections; as I “joined” six days after the 12th January cut off, it was confirmed to me today, I will not get one.

Unless I quit again, and part with £25 to be a registered supporter.

You know what Labour: you can suck rancid drops of sweat from my hairy taint before I will even consider parting with more money for something I thought I had paid for the right to do as part of my membership of your party. Take my membership card and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I’m out. Oh, sure, you’re building a social movement, you’ll miss my money, nobody else can beat the Tories, yada yada, but why the everfucking fuck should I not take it personally that I rejoined you six days late and therefore one of the most basic rights of membership has been stripped from me in an effort to stymie imaginary hordes of entryists who joined well before this pathetic excuse for a leadership competition was a twinkle in anyone’s eye? I rejoined because I realised that despite McDonnell’s idiocy I did still think that the party was our (the left’s, and the average working person in Britain’s) last hope for a better future, and I’ve stuck with it even as the party tears itself asunder in the most undignified manner possible; as the leadership continues being bumbling and incompetent and as the PLP see this bumbling incompetence and respond “well we can be shittier!”… but this is not good enough. Six month rule.

I’ve been disenfranchised on a technicality. Many people haven’t even got that; they’ve just had their vote nicked off them retroactively simply for the crime of not being in the party long enough. I personally know two people who joined recently – yes, both supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in a rather less qualified way than I could ever claim to be – and why should they stick around when the first message they get loud and clear is that they’re not good enough and the things the Labour party sticks on its website as a paean to potential new members aren’t worth the photons they’re borne upon? Why should they not feel like they’ve been sold a pup? Why the hell should they trust Labour again? Why should trust Labour again? Oh sure, you can get around it by joining a union, or another society, but at the end of the day the principle counts – why should I have to?

The answer is; I won’t. I couldn’t give a sun-blushed shit what it has to say to me or anyone else, I’m gone. Apparently I’m not good enough, and neither are the hundreds of thousands of people who showed enough faith in it and its embattled leader to join it even amongst all the tumult. Sure, go ahead and tell me they’re all entryists, they’re all Trots, they’re all communists, SWP members, CPGB members, sandal-wearing lentil-eating north London hippies that chuck bricks through windows and tweet rape threats at MPs, or they could be just good, decent people who appreciate what Jeremy Corbyn believes in and who have now got every reason to feel bitter and disgusted with the party he leads after it has taken their money and then changed the deal. Good job repelling the people who fund you, you absolute shithouses.

I’ve joined another party, for what it’s worth; I won’t disclose which one (here at least, some people on the /r/LabourUK IRC channel know; at least know it’s not the fucking Tories) but frankly it seems like a better home for me right now than a party that, while everyone I’ve met on a local level has been friendly, welcoming and nice to have a pint (or diet Coke in my case) with at meetings, doesn’t appear as an institution to give any basic respect to me as a member or anyone else who has committed the grave, unforgivable crime of looking like they might possibly vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Clarification

A few people have asked me what my position on Jeremy Corbyn being leader is. I appreciate it seems a bit ambiguous.

I voted for Corbyn last year. I wanted the Labour party to go leftward and I felt he was making the right arguments for domestic and economic policy. I voted based on his platform, no more. I think most people who voted for him were the same.

That was then, this is now. Corbyn being leader of the Labour party is completely untenable; his MPs have no confidence in him, and regardless of how you feel about member democracy the MPs are pretty fucking important for a parliamentary socialist party. He has simply, for a variety of reasons, failed to cut through to the public. I hoped he would, but he hasn’t; you can blame whoever you like for this, but it’s true, and you have to deal with that basic fact at some point. He’s made some appalling decisions (going “we need to invoke Article 50 right now” a few hours after the result of the referendum became clear was jaw-droppingly insane) and most people can’t imagine him as Prime Minister. It isn’t so much the ideas that are the issue but the lacklustre execution.

However, while I can’t stand Corbyn’s poor attempts at politics I can stand less people pissing on my head and telling me it’s raining. The leadership candidate who came forward today came across as a crushing non-entity who couldn’t articulate any real reason to have the job other than a vague notion of “electability”. If the hill Labour MPs are planning to die on is competent leadership, then putting forward someone who can’t even seem to put forward a coherent reason for her to be elected in the name of “electability” is ridiculous at best. Please don’t ask me to forgive basic errors by Corbyn’s opponents while they set about him for being shit at politics, since from where I’m standing both sides are shit at politics. The rebelling MPs are just asking to get curbstomped, again, by Corbyn.

In short, ask me to choose between someone I agree with who’s shit at politics and an idea-free vacuum who’s also shit at politics and I’ll choose the former. I need something more to sway me to a new leader than just telling me how shit Corbyn is, because I already know he’s shit, it’s just I’ve not really got any other compelling choices. Give me a compelling alternative and I’ll gladly vote for them; field a non-entity and I won’t. Fairly simple.

Angela Eagle: A lack of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Angela Eagle did, indeed, announce her leadership bid on Monday, thus confirming point number one of my five predictions. Too bad it was immediately overshadowed by the fact that the news media didn’t give a shit and immediately ran away to report more interesting news, like that we have a new Prime Minister. I will say this for the Tories; they are ruthless cunts. It takes a level of cuntism that can only be described as pure genius to schedule your press conference for the new Prime Minister to be anointed (as that’s effectively what it is) over the top of your rivals’ leader’s rival’s leadership challenge announcement. My hat goes off to them.

Of course, points two and three (that the leadership bid will involve moving to the right on immigration policy and an obsession with the public finances in order to capture “swing voters”) haven’t had time to bear fruit. They especially didn’t today as Eagle didn’t talk about any policy at all, any kind of driving ideology, any kind of anything really that would motivate anyone other than “I am not Jeremy Corbyn and Jeremy Corbyn is shit”, something bound to really, really excite and motivate the 60%+ of Labour members who still support Jeremy Corbyn. The most we got was a declaration that she’s “Not a Blairite, not a Brownite and not a Corbynista”, which is first of all meaningless since it is a statement that applies to basically everyone from David Cameron to Hitler, and doubly meaningless because she’s not said anything that she actually stands for other than winning elections and not being Jeremy Corbyn.

In fact, just to be fair, I went to her campaign website and read some of the materials therein. Her key selling points seem to be, according to her statement, that:

  • Labour is good and wonderful and has achieved many good things
  • Northern. Socialist. Joined Labour because of Thatcher.
  • Likes winning elections. Labour winning elections leads to nice things.
  • Can unite the party

To which my responses are:

  • Yes
  • And?
  • How?
  • How????

Not included is any discussion of policy, the direction she’d like the party to go in (other than winning elections and being united, of course), what she would want to achieve once she’s won those elections, how she would win those elections or any statement of ideology, intent or an overarching goal for any government she might conceivably one day lead. This is embarrassing compared to the former leadership campaign site of, for instance, noted political incompetent Jeremy Corbyn, with its bushel of policy documents.

I’m sorry, but even without her conference being interrupted by major events, this is just embarrassing. How long has this leadership bid been going on for now? It’s been trailed heavier than most Disney/Pixar films; they’ve all but had Angela Eagle bobbleheads in Happy Meals the amount that this bid for leadership has been promoted. You’d think in that time that she’d have been able to knock up a side of A4 or two on policy, wouldn’t you? And this is supposed to be the “professional” side of the party? We’ve put up with two weeks of some of the shittest public relations this side of our hiring Rolf Harris to do the grand opening of the Ian Huntley Day Care Centre, and the sort of sabre-rattling usually experienced in the weeks before a North Korean nuclear test, only to have it turn out like, well, a North Korean nuclear test – underwhelming and, while supposed to be concerning, actually rather calming in its own way.

I’d dearly love to have a more media-friendly leader than Jeremy Corbyn – his approach to public relations (i.e. hiring Seumas Milne to do it for him) has been about as successful as Josef Fritzl’s. But a policy vacuum who’s not even that good at media relations herself and whose sole selling point appears to be “I’m electable”, a bald statement that is never followed up with any reasoning as to why or how this will be achieved (and is in fact, given the abysmal messaging surrounding this whole thing, a statement that gets less plausible by the day), is not particularly something you’ll motivate Labour members to vote for after they’ve quite categorically rejected triangulating policy vacuums en masse. The fact she can’t appear to put any goals down on paper other than the winning of elections and that she’s a socialist (so was Tony Blair) demonstrates an alarming paucity of ideas and, worse, a cynicism that you have nowhere else to go if you want to get rid of Corbyn, so we’ll just run any old shit and hope it works. Christ.

In my previous post, I said this:

I hope that Eagle has enough nous to know who she’s pitching herself to – 600,000 people (and counting) who aren’t in hock to Corbyn because of some strange Marxist-Leninist personality cult but because he actually speaks a language they understand, shares the same concerns they do and is quite vocal about wanting to do something radical about it rather than tinkering around the edges of a system that is failing people.

Just based on the fact that her pitch is of absolutely nothing other than an end goal of winning an election with nothing specified before and after, I don’t have high hopes for this to be the case. Once again; I’d be pleased to be proved wrong.

Come and gaze at Bloon’s crystal balls

Indulge me for a second. I’m going to make some predictions about the now actually-imminent (as opposed to the supposedly imminent) leadership challenge by Angela Eagle. I’ll make a note somewhere to come back to them in about a month’s time and then we can all see whether my powers of basic logic can predict the future.

  1. Angela Eagle will actually announce her leadership bid on Monday as promised. This will be the conclusion to almost two weeks of the most boring telling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf ever. I’ve had people tell me that actually this was a really clever move to keep the Corbynistas at bay while Tom Watson tries to negotiate a compromise agreement (how exactly you compromise between “I want to keep my job” and “We want you to not have your job” is a matter for them) and I can only presume that they’re smoking crack, because Eagle has only damaged her own credibility with this pointless announcing and then re-announcing.
  2. Eagle’s leadership bid will involve talk about “recapturing Labour heartlands” and the means of doing this will involve moving to the right on immigration. Book it. Done. There are numerous assumptions that need to be dealt with here – that these places are our heartlands (they were, they’re not any more), that we have an automatic right to these “heartlands” (we don’t), that they will automatically come back to us if we become anti-immigration (they won’t), that if we become anti-immigration we’ll be trusted (we won’t), that the rank and file membership will put up with this (they won’t) and that our actual core vote/heartlands will also put up with this (they won’t). There’s a very basic political calculation in play here, one that betrays the very fundamental idea that Labour at the moment doesn’t think it can persuade anyone so therefore it must not try and make arguments; people in our former heartlands are switching to Ukip, we must be more like Ukip to win them over, become more like Ukip. Of course doing so pisses off our actual core vote but, fuck it, why not?
  3. We’ll hear more bullshit about “fiscal credibility” being needed to persuade swing voters. This is what we got last time. There were three candidates who, to varying degrees, accepted the prevailing logic of “we need to cut spending but in a nicer way” and one who questioned this for the complete horseshit that it is and all but took the other three out and horsewhipped them as a result. The idea that swing voters can only, only, be swayed by notions about the deficit (as opposed to, for example, public services, the need for an actual industrial policy and the fact that deficit obsession demonstrably hasn’t worked). I predict that we’ll get more of this shit and it will go down exactly the same way it did before.
  4. Eagle will get smashed to pieces. Unless both 2 and 3 are false then this will probably be the case because she won’t have actually thought about who she needs to sell herself to. The membership are in absolutely no mood to have another candidate who wants to “meet in the middle” with regards to policies after the party has used this strategy in multiple elections with diminishing returns, culminating in 2015. Corbyn has not had many returns on his strategy either, but at least it’s one that the membership can nod along with – and, ultimately, they are the only people who actually need to be persuaded in any way in this contest, doe-eyed appeals about all the people we’d be leaving behind by not electing Eagle who would inevitably win an election of course because she isn’t Corbyn aside.
  5. Nobody of any consequence will learn a single lesson from any of this. The result (if as described in number 4, with its necessary dependents 2 and/or 3) will be blamed on entryism or just the membership being idiots if Corbyn wins again. That Eagle wasn’t an appealing candidate, that she wasn’t in tune with what the membership wants and Corbyn is, that her strategy for winning an election would be the same basic one that has lost us elections twice on the trot, that she’s made herself look like a buffoon to anyone who follows Labour at all with the “will she won’t she” game…  all of these far more plausible reasons why she might lose will be completely dismissed if Corbyn wins, because it can only be because of SWP entryists, Momentum or because the membership are just fundamentally thick.

I genuinely hope I’m wrong on some level. I hope that Eagle has enough nous to know who she’s pitching herself to – 600,000 people (and counting) who aren’t in hock to Corbyn because of some strange Marxist-Leninist personality cult but because he actually speaks a language they understand, shares the same concerns they do and is quite vocal about wanting to do something radical about it rather than tinkering around the edges of a system that is failing people. I hope that rather than considering these people – many if not most of them long term Labour party members – a write off and generally just not worth engaging with in any way, she will actually properly listen to them and think about what motivated them to vote Corbyn last year and what could maybe be done to win them over to her side.

It’s true, of course, that there is some personal loyalty to Corbyn the man in play – unlike some, I don’t automatically consider this evidence of a “personality cult”, I consider it to be because the things he says are relatable to so many people and he appears to them to be the only one saying them to any great degree. Some people will dig their heels in and will see the entire thing as an excuse to get rid of a leader the PLP don’t agree with – fair enough. Let them, it’s as much of a legitimate choice as just wanting Corbyn gone no matter what. But just assuming anyone who voted Corbyn doesn’t have a point, can’t be persuaded and won’t vote for anyone else because they’re part of the cult is never going to work – if you can’t persuade your own party, how the hell do you expect to persuade the wider electorate?

I’m pretty confident that all of the things 1 through 5 are going to happen. Eagle will run, she’ll run as the “concede and move on” candidate, she’ll crash and burn and it’ll be Corbyn’s fault for having a fan club and not hers for not motivating people. But I hope I’m wrong. (I’m also working under the assumption that most horses I bet on tend to end up as glue, so if Eagle suddenly swings to the left instead and wins you’ve got me to thank.)

Chilcot

I don’t especially have much to say on Chilcot, but goddamn am I going to try and talk about it anyway.

Iraq was the first actual political event which properly motivated me to try and take an interest. I was 13 when the drums started beating and almost immediately, the whole thing seemed like intuitive bollocks. Why are we preparing to bomb this place? It hasn’t done anything to me, to us. Why are we doing it? For oil? For prestige? Why are we getting involved in it? I pissed off basically everyone 13 year old me knew who wasn’t already pissed off with 13 year old me by constantly talking about Iraq and what a load of complete shit it was – that we, the United Kingdom, were going into a pointless conflict that would just cause upheaval and bloodshed for no good reason. The only people that seemed to be talking sense at the time were Charles Kennedy’s Liberal Democrats and the Stop The War Coalition, whose “Not In My Name” poster I proudly displayed on my bedroom wall. (I still thought George Galloway was a penis, mind.) I don’t have any copies of the shit I posted online on various awful, abortive blogs about the affair, because when I was 13 I was a fucking annoying idiot and I want to bury basically anything I wrote from before the age of 18 in the same fashion as high level nuclear waste, but I wrote about it constantly. I slept with the TV on on the night of the 19th March and vividly remember waking up very early in the morning of the 20th to see rockets hitting Baghdad. The absolute stupidity of Tony Blair and most of the Labour party in nodding through this absurd war which served us no purpose and which only had the capacity to cause horror in the world is something that was a formative moment in my life and my political opinions; I was a Liberal Democrat (and briefly a member of the Greens) from that point onwards, until making peace with and joining Labour for the first time some time after the 2010 election. The point being, Iraq was probably the defining moment for me in terms of thinking about and being interested in politics, and in having such strong opinions – as far as I was concerned, Iraq was an awful, pointless mess and it was never going to end well at all.

That was 14 years ago. The Chilcot report came out today and essentially confirmed all but the more contentious aspects of what the anti-war crowd said about the Iraq saga – that the war was pointless, that we’d done basically nothing to avert it, that Blair was hell-bent on going into it for whatever reason, that the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was at best sensationalised and that, most damning of all, Saddam Hussein was no imminent threat to the UK. This is the ultimate tragedy and the real thing that makes me sick to my stomach; that we’d wasted time, resources, money and and lives – actual human lives, of all creeds and colours – bombing the ever-loving shit out of a country that posed us basically no threat whatsoever. That country may have been led by a ruthless, dictatorial cunt who was worth less than the noose that they hung him from, but he was a ruthless, dictatorial cunt who, in the final analysis, couldn’t have even dreamed of killing as many Iraqis as our pointless, quixotic war did in his loneliest, most despotic fantasies, and looks like Shami Chakrabarti next to the fanatical cunts that are ISIS who took advantage of the resulting power vacuum in order to build up a base from which they could spread to other countries and, irony of ironies, actually pose a threat to us. Imagine that. And we called it. The late great Charles Kennedy, the millions who marched in Stop The War demonstrations up and down the country, right down to prickish 13-year old me with his shit blog; we called it, and there is absolutely no pleasure to be taken from this fact, since by being right all it means is that we predicted correctly suffering, death and misery on an immense scale. I’d rather have been wrong.

Blair, on television today after Chilcot finally delivered the killing blow to his already sordid reputation, didn’t have the common decency to cry even fake crocodile tears for the hundreds of thousands of people his actions – their motivations disputed but ultimately irrelevant – pointlessly slaughtered, and the millions more they’ve affected through consequence. He still thinks the war was a good idea, that it was right to do; he is so tragically, catastrophically wrong that it’s almost comical, and so deep in denial I doubt he could ever be retrieved. It calls into question his grasp on reality if he can see the horror and misery the invasion of Iraq that he was such a vocal cheerleader for has caused and somehow come away thinking it was still the right thing to do. It instead fell to Jeremy Corbyn, someone who vociferously opposed the war from the start and was, indeed, high up in Stop The War, to apologise in a dignified and sombre way on behalf of Blair’s party for the misery the whole sorry saga caused to Iraq, to our armed forces and to the country as a whole. Thus the upshot of the Chilcot Report, the final result, has been that the man with all of the culpability acknowledged and apologised for none of his poor decisions, while a man with absolutely none did so for him. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like justice has been served, and although nothing will bring the thousands of dead back, it feels like we could probably do more to atone for them.

The “Awful Middle Aged Woman Who Andrea Leadsom Looks And Sounds Exactly Like” Trilogy

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, which you should, then you won’t be aware of the fact that sometimes I go slightly crazy and post long, incoherent rants. This magical occasion doesn’t happen very often, but it’s worth following just on that proviso.

The main thing is that one day, I realised who Andrea Leadsom, the Tory leadership candidate who appears to be there merely to make Theresa May look better by way of comparison, looks like. And she looks like this.

Andrea Leadsom: A New Hope For A Non-Dented Waitrose Duck A L'orange
Andrea Leadsom: A New Hope For A Non-Dented Waitrose Duck A L’orange
Andrea Leadsom - The Demise Of The Cheque Guarantee Scheme Several Years Ago Strikes Back
Andrea Leadsom – The Demise Of The Cheque Guarantee Scheme Several Years Ago Strikes Back
Andrea Leadsom - Return To The Country House Full Of Posh Inbred Cunts
Andrea Leadsom – Return To The Country House Full Of Posh Inbred Cunts

You may notice that these posts get longer as we get further into the trilogy. This is because thinking about Andrea Leadsom seems to inspire more bile the more I do it. I first heard of her in the BBC EU referendum Question Time event and am sorely depressed that I have ever had to hear her again.

I can’t be the only one who thinks of the above when I see or hear her though. Can I?

Poor bloke

Having seen the video of Jeremy Corbyn being asked whether he’s “running away from the media” while refusing to take questions from journalists and becoming, temporarily, a pub brawler for what I presume is the first and last time in his life, and coupled with the reports that he wanted to stand down as Labour leader but was convinced not to, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor fucker.

Despite my repeated assertion that he’s shit at politics and messaging and that if a better left-wing option pops up I would vote for them in his stead, Corbyn to me comes across as nothing other than a genuinely decent, pleasant, well meaning and overall nice person; someone whose socialism is born purely and solely out of a wish for people to be happy, safe, well-fed and living in peace together. You can say that’s naive and utopian if you want to, and to an extent I’d agree, but I get the sense that it’s heartfelt and that he wants to try and realise that vision somehow – and again, you can say he’s inept at actually trying to realise that vision, and at best naive himself about some of the associations he’s had, but his heart is very much in the right place. Even his worst enemies tend to describe him as “decent”. He doesn’t even eat meat for fuck’s sake.

In response to his pursuing this well-meaning if far-fetched ideal, Corbyn has sustained an enormous shit-slinging campaign – some of the shit deserved (describing Hamas as “friends” and praising them as a force for social justice) some of it much less so (such as his supposedly comparing Israel and Da’esh this week, which he simply wasn’t on any level as is immediately evidenced by the context and the actual words he used) and some of it, as he’d possibly admit, brought upon himself (why Seumas Milne?). Most of the MPs in the Labour party have all but turned against him, the media have barely given him a fair hearing at all and a significant proportion of the party membership want him gone, even while the party’s actual electoral performance in actual electoral contests hasn’t measurably suffered to any great extent while he has led it. On top of this, he has been blamed even for Britain leaving the European Union through being a secret supporter of leaving it, which would necessarily mean that he is both unpersuasive for the cause he went up and down the country promoting (remaining) but also remarkably persuasive for a cause he didn’t espouse at all (leaving).

Corbyn, someone who even his detractors seem to think is a genuinely good person underneath it all who I doubt could or would ever hurt anyone, has spent a year now being vilified as a trot, a communist, dishonest, a cult leader, an idiot, a disaster, the ruiner of the Labour party, an anti-Semite, a racist and now, absurdly, personally responsible for an enormous political and economic catastrophe. Given all of this pressure on someone who has had no executive experience whatsoever, whose media training has been shambolic to non-existent (partly because he idiotically chose a tankie fuckwit to be his director of communications, in fairness) and whose apparently genuine positive and hopeful idealism has somehow not given way despite the litany of people he thought were his friends lining up to kick him squarely in the balls, I don’t especially blame him for looking like he was going to lamp someone who implied he was “running away” from a media that has, in large part, given him anything but a fair hearing and in many cases has taken perfectly innocuous statements out of context in order to make him look bad. So, despite being lukewarm on his leadership, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor bloke on a personal level. No wonder he wanted to stand down; if I’d been him, under that sort of pressure and under these sorts of conditions, I’d have been up a clock tower with a rifle three months ago, and to merely turn around and tell the questioner to contact his press office if they want an interview in these circumstances strikes me as a sign of having the patience of a saint.

The Bay of Marrows

I am, after all this time, quite willing to say that with a couple of caveats I’d be happy for Jeremy Corbyn to go as Labour leader. Quite frankly, the man is shit at politics; principled, decent and with lots of good ideas, but unfortunately he’s about as persuasive as a damp rag and I can fully understand why the parliamentary Labour party have lost all patience. As much as he is principled, principle is not enough to win an election; if that were the case then we would not currently be on day 5 of the post-referendum shitheap where Nigel “Schoolboy Fascist” Farage gets to strut around like, well, like someone who after his performance earlier this week richly deserved to have his teeth smashed in by the rest of the European Parliament, to be frank. There is nothing wrong with principle, and there is nothing intrinsically laudable about pragmatism either, but principle without paying basic attention to how you come across in public is pointless and self-destructive, especially when you’re the leader of the opposition. Principle also does not mean that you must necessarily spout your unvarnished views whenever asked – one wonders how much better things might have gone in PR terms if Corbyn had simply changed the subject rather than allowing interviews to get lots of lovely shots of him dragging up an all-but-settled question like the Falklands as if it actually meant anything.

I say all this despite arguing, quite forcefully, that there is a good reason for his popularity and why I can’t quite loathe the man; because he’s the only person in the room arguing so coherently for the actual solutions to Britain’s problems rather than simply doubling down on free market “ignore the problem and it’ll go away” non-fixes for problems, and not willing even slightly to switch to blaming immigrants or immigration for the country’s problems. Besides his neither-here-nor-there supposed appreciation for the IRA and his deeply questionable comments regarding Hamas (it is worth listening to the full quote on this – he goes beyond calling them “friends” and describes them as “bringing about long-term peace and social justice”, which is certainly one way of looking at things) I find it hard to disagree with much of what he says. However, my support for him has and had nothing especially to do with him as a person, it was for his views on domestic politics and his articulation of how to solve a lot of the deep issues within our society – inequality, the steady erosion of worker’s rights and a lack of government investment. If Andy Burnham had said the same things in the same way with the same amount of conviction I would have voted for him in the leadership election without a single concern. But he didn’t, so I didn’t.

Which brings me to the rub of this “coup”, a coup that makes the Bay of Pigs look positively masterful. This coup is the shittest coup that has ever happened, ever. It is barely worth the title. Leave aside any ideological qualms, about “Blairites” attacking the principled Mr Corbyn or whatever; it’s just incompetent. No wonder voters think we can’t run a piss-up in a brewery when our supposed political heavyweights can’t even boot a demonstrably incompetent old man out of the big chair. Corbyn has basically outmaneuvered them all by simply existing, not resigning and by having the support of the majority of the membership, possibly being the first sitting Labour leader to have retained his position simply by inertia. Barring some sort of shift, or him finally deciding he’s had enough of this shit and resigning (and I honestly couldn’t blame him if he did) he is essentially in situ as leader of the Labour Party until he chooses to be otherwise, and that simply isn’t going to change unless the PLP change tactics.

It’s telling, in fact, that the chief failure of this coup, which I’m going to call the Bay of Marrows affair for no reason other than that it personally amuses me, is that it is a coup in favour of nobody. One could make a very persuasive argument that Corbyn isn’t going to win us an election, but then who is? The Labour brain trust is so depleted at this point, with no Ed Balls to fall back on, Andy Burnham running for Manchester mayor and Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall both a busted flush after 2015, that there isn’t any obvious replacement. Angela Eagle is being floated as a replacement – to tell the truth, I have little against her, but electoral Viagra she is not. The idea that the entirety of the problem facing Labour is Corbyn alone, and therefore that job #1 is to get him gone before we actually try and find someone to replace him speaks to the complete failure to consider what it actually is that the MPs are trying to achieve. They have yet to provide a decent answer to the question, so concisely yet so comprehensively answered by Corbyn, of what they think the Labour Party should be intrinsically for or what they want it to argue in favour of. Much is said about reclaiming Labour “heartlands” in the north and north-east but it is difficult to see them doing so without also repulsing the membership, since it’s difficult to see exactly what a segment of the population that has drifted towards the wink-wink-nudge-nudge xenophobes’ party Ukip could be lured back with other than shifting enormously to the right on immigration. As I’ve said to basically anyone who’ll listen, treating these as our core voters is absurd since they have demonstrated no recent willingness to vote for us, and repelling our actual reliable core voters (the urban working class and the university-educated middle class) in order to attract such people seems fruitless.

It is surprising that they are even bothering to field a leadership candidate at this point, since it is all but guaranteed that Corbyn will win any ballot, and the timing is nowhere near apropos. The membership, rightly or wrongly, are enraged by this pisspoor attempt at a backstabbing, especially the considerable post-Corbyn intake, and are not pleased that it is happening immediately after the government has shat the bed and is extremely weak. In any contest they are likely to support him in droves, since oddly enough when you’re the only person in politics who seems to speak to peoples’ concerns (as Corbyn is for a great many people, especially younger people) you tend to amass a bit of personal loyalty. It’s easy to dismiss that as being a “personality cult”, and indeed placing all of your hopes into one man is not a clever thing to do, but perhaps some reflection is needed on why so many people feel that way rather than simply dismissing them as cultists, communists and former SWP members (did the SWP even have that many members?). The only hope for any potential replacement leader, be that Eagle or whoever, is to understand exactly why people feel that way and provide a way forward for them, without entering into any misguided attempts to try and capture the Ukip vote by shifting far to the right on immigration or to wholesale row back on Corbyn’s platform back to one with a focus on the public finances above all else, neither of which will ever get past the membership and wouldn’t have done before Corbyn was leader either. The membership is in absolutely no mood to go back to that and trying to drag it back that way will lead to whichever candidate espouses it being crushed; all that will do is lead to one more MP out of the count for the next inevitable challenge.

That said, I have absolutely no faith that whoever this mysterious challenger is is going to think that far ahead. They are going to try to recapture the mystical core Ukip vote and the membership will tell them where to stick it. We will then get another six months of this psychodrama, all while the government we should be opposing has essentially fucked off and left an enormous hole where it should be. I genuinely, truly, hope it doesn’t turn out that way; that Corbyn is challenged by someone with some political nous who also accepts that he won the leadership for a reason and that there’s also a reason he’s so vociferously defended that isn’t that his fans are all Trotskyists. I hope we end up with someone who actually listened to what Corbyn’s supporters were saying, took it on board and came up with something to inspire them to vote for a more politically talented candidate, and had the membership respond in kind. I would be more than happy to vote for this alternative candidate, whoever that may be, if that was the case; if such a person doesn’t turn up, I’m sad to say I’ll probably hold my nose and vote for Corbyn again, with a far heavier heart than I did last time, simply because the PLP will simply have learned nothing from the drubbing their chosen candidates got last year.

You reap what you sow

For years, the British left (or at the very least, a large swathe of it) has been quite clear on identifying a lot of the discourse around immigration, or even the fact that there has been so much discourse around immigration, as racist and xenophobic. We have had years of callous stories about asylum seekers barbecuing swans in the Sun, pictures of menacing queues of olive-skinned faces in the Daily Mail scaremongering about Eastern Europeans coming to take our jobs and ruin our lives. We have had a general climate in which “immigrant” is a snarl word, where bald assertions that immigrants have taken jobs and housing that rightfully belong to British citizens go completely unchallenged, feeding into a prevailing narrative that “immigrants have ruined the country”. All along while this has been happening, the left has been quite clear – you cannot do this without consequence. The media cannot build up peoples’ fear of immigrants without there necessarily being some reaction against people from abroad, or who appear to be abroad. You are not fomenting a proper debate over public policy, what you are stoking is racism, the belief that these people are not worthy, are worth less or are intrinsically worse people than British citizens.

We’ve watched as Ukip has gone from a tin-pot party of cranky retired colonels into a major fighting force with some 16million voters. They have talked a good game about sovereignty, about pulling back “control” (of what?) from an unaccountable Brussels elite, but their bread and butter has been immigration. When Farage made comments to the effect that he wouldn’t want to live next door to Romanians and that many migrants had been “forced into a life of crime”, there was uproar, but nothing really changed. This is the tone his party has taken, consistently, to a level that seems so incredibly obvious at this point that I’m not sure any further citation is necessary. He has been given free platforms by major broadcasters, newspapers and others to spew xenophobic rubbish on a daily basis, a platform which isn’t justified by either his reputation as a thinker (he’s a famous idiot), his party’s support (it had basically none before 2013) or his representation in Parliament (he’s never been elected to it), and has used these platforms to – if not out and out call for extermination, he’s stopped short of that – at the very least set the tone that immigrants are the problem, immigrants are a problem to be solved. He talks about implementing a “points-based immigration” system (which we already have) without specifying the many details – namely how you allocate the points, which is the most crucial thing since it speaks to the actual effects of the policy and who would be allowed into the country into it.

And all along, while that was happening, the left were clear; this man is not serving any actual public purpose, he’s not articulating any amazing new thoughts; he is stirring up xenophobia. He is putting things into a simple us-versus-them dichotomy and he is not getting anywhere near the level of challenge he should do. He can’t be silenced, it’s his right in a democratic society to speak, but by giving him repeated airtime on Question Time and on otherwise serious news programmes in complete disproportion to his actual support or relevance he has been given a platform to blow dog-whistles. This will have consequences. We should not be legitimising xenophobia by giving it a friendly, cheery, pint-swilling face. Nor should we believe his bullshit about the “points-based” system and think he’s not xenophobic – that’s not a policy proposal, it’s a buzzword, and he can’t give any coherent explanation of how it would work. People will listen to this idiot and think “you know, he’s right, since the immigrants came things have got worse” and then we’ll be going down a road we can’t come back from if we don’t explain that it’s not the fault of immigration, it’s the fault of government policies and try and put this all to bed once and for all. Please, rethink.

We’ve watched as this referendum campaign descended straight past the sewer and entered the pit. Do I really need to go over this again? Enormous queues of refugees portrayed, with a wink and a nod, as people coming to the UK. The official campaign for leaving the EU scaremongering, blatantly, about Turkey (oogabooga Muslims!) joining the EU, something that is vanishingly unlikely to happen, as being a route for millions of Turkish people to inevitably come to the UK. Farage, again, talking incessantly about freedom of movement as if it is a one-way street where swarthy foreigners travel here to steal jobs and claim benefits. And the left piped up, again; stop. This is not going to end well. You are stirring up hatred for a cheap political end, and once you have stirred that up it will never settle down. Please, think about the consequences.

Throughout all of this, the reply has come back loud and clear. Stop calling us racists. We have legitimate concerns about immigration, and we’re sick of being called racist for expressing them. Ignore that our manner of speaking is racist, that our concerns (that our lives are being ruined by foreigners) are intrinsically racist and that they aren’t borne out by any evidence other than our own prejudices. Listen to our legitimate concerns and don’t shout us down as racist to silence us. The political parties (with the notable exception of the Greens and the Lib Dems) have gone along with this, and in Ukip actively encouraged it; feeding grievances then not only with the foreigners themselves, but with the lefty metropolitan liberals who call them racist rather than listening to their legitimate (racist) concerns. The broadcasters went along with this too, and gave airtime to the legitimate concerns/racism. The newspapers have been printing these legitimate concerns for years, so they continued to do so, only now with the added tone of someone suffering unjust persecution – persecution for standing up for their country by elites who don’t understand what life is like for some people in areas with high immigration (never mind that you can understand what life is like for them without believing that immigrants caused all their problems).

Suddenly, on Friday, after 52% of voters elected to leave the EU, it was as if a boil had been lanced. A sudden, severe, and noticeable uptick in reported hate crimes, ranging from the minor (foreigners being shouted at to “go back home” in public settings) to the severe but mercifully rare (actual, random physical violence) has evidenced that casual prejudice and hatred of foreigners is now not only prevalent in our society, but thanks to the fact that the prejudiced think more than half the country is on their side, it’s now believed to be socially acceptable. Most of the accounts that have been publicised in the media and seen on social media have all been in public, with people suddenly almost proud to be vocally telling some poor soul they’ve never met before to get out of the country, and feeling bold enough to be able to do so in public without fear of censure or argument. The country is with them! The country voted with them! They want the foreigners gone too!

(I should make the obvious point that not everyone who voted or campaigned for leaving the EU is racist, or that wanting to leave the EU isn’t racist. However I should also make the equally obvious point that if you’re racist, you probably voted to leave the EU.)

Suddenly, at long last, the mask has slipped. Sorry, guys, but the left called it all along. It was never about jobs, housing and public services. It was about base racism and fear of foreigners all this time, and by pretending it was anything else, by pretending it was in some way a legitimate reaction to peoples’ circumstances, you’ve legitimised hatred. By political campaigns, including Vote Leave, trying to use these “legitimate concerns” to win elections they’ve fed the beast until it got too big for them to handle because they cynically never called out the “concerns” for the misdirected bullshit that they are. And why would they? Blaming immigration for peoples’ inability to get jobs, housing and medical treatment shifts the blame from the Government whose policies have caused those things. It’s a handy scapegoat, right up until the point you realise that by stirring up those feelings of grievance all you’ve done is created a significant number of people who blame foreigners for all their ills. And the left called it. We’ve been saying all along that the stances taken by media, by politicians, by public figures are feeding into resentment against and hatred of immigrants on flimsy grounds and that we need to do something now in order to stop it from spiralling out of control, but we were just told that we should stop calling people racist.

Well, I’m sorry, but that ends today. I’m not going to pull punches about calling racists racist, and that is what these people are and should be called – racists. We should have been bolder in doing so before. We should be in the future. And we shouldn’t allow it to be shouted down, when true, with cries of “legitimate concerns”. Because that doesn’t legitimise the concerns, it legitimises hatred.