Category Archives: British Politics

Tony Blair’s strategic move to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

Contrary to popular opinion, Tony Blair is not an idiot – idiots don’t win three general elections. Furthermore, Blair isn’t out of sync with the British people either. A classy manipulator, the former prime minister used his anti-Brexit speech not to orchestrate an uprising against Britain’s departure from the European Union, but to strike a blow closer to home.

Blair’s move is a bold and strategic effort to oust Labour leader and destructor Jeremy Corbyn, by dousing petrol on an already rip-roaring fire.

There’s no coincidence that he gave his high-profile whinge less than a week before two crunch by-elections – one in Copeland, the other in Stoke-on-Trent. The former went 62 percent for Leave while the latter chalked up a whopping 70 percent Brexit vote. Both are, at least for a few more days, Labour-held constituencies. If Blair has his way, neither will be come 24 February.

Why does Blair want Labour to lose? Because two by-election losses by a party in opposition would undoubtedly spell doom for their leader, especially as a Stoke-on-Trent Central defeat equates to a UK Independence Party and Paul Nuttall triumph. With UKIP promising to leech on Labour’s northern, working class vote, a Stoke win would knock the first brick from the wall.

Bookmakers have Copeland trending towards the Tories, while Labour are narrow favourites in Stoke following Nuttall’s Hillsborough gaffe, which is appropriately now old news. In 2015, the combined UKIP-Tory Stoke vote bested Labour, making a purple heist and a first home-grown UKIP parliamentary win realistic.

Blair has no stock as a positive influence – you’ll struggle to find a more loathed British politician, and he’s not blinded by narcissism enough to be unaware. However, being loathed brings a few benefits, not least Blair’s ability to be a negative influence.

With more than two decades’ experience in understanding and capitalising on the public’s psyche, Blair, like President Donald Trump, knows exactly what to say to get exactly what he wants. Give it a fortnight and no one will care what this political has-been said, but for the next few days it’s juicy content.

What better Brexit rallying cry than a detested ex-PM who wants to thwart the will of the British people? It’ll likely be even more effective in Stoke, since immigration concerns are invariably blamed on Blair and Labour. Brexiteers are already cashing in, their obvious narratives sure winners. We may even see a Blair piñata before the show’s over.

It’s unlikely there’d ever be an era suited to a Blair comeback, but you won’t find tougher than this anti-establishment one. But Labour rightly realise that Calamity Corbyn has to go, and anything which can bring that reality closer will be secretly cheered – there’s no way Corbyn critic Tristram Hunt wasn’t aware of the implications when he resigned from Stoke either.

For all the talk of a strong democracy having a strong opposition, the last thing Conservatives and Brexiteers need at this moment is Corbyn’s resignation. His haplessness gives Theresa May and her government the necessary breathing space – and huge polling lead – to handle the country’s trickiest negotiations in generations.

An effective opposition would be primed to cash in on perhaps inevitable Brexit fallout with their vision for the nation. Instead, Corbyn, a closet Brexiter who choked and campaigned to Remain, took months to try and establish his party’s position on the issue – not helped by a poorly-timed leadership contest – before leaving many incandescent after giving May a “blank cheque”.

For Labour, the party’s survival is much more important than backlash from Moany Tony’s speech – short-term pain for long-term gain. If Blair’s blathering compromises Labour next week, Corbyn could be out soon after, starting a difficult but not impossible search for a talented leader in a talentless party.

Brexiteers should hold off on the celebrations for now.

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Why I stopped listening to LBC

LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation) does pretty well for itself these days. The UK’s most popular speech radio station has cashed in on the glut of wannabe politicos, who’ve relished in the social media boom to believe they’re more important than they actually are.

If you regularly muse on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr (okay, nobody serious uses Tumblr) you’re guilty of said self-obsession – I know I am. I wish I wasn’t such a narcissist.

One of the most ignored “isms” on the rise, narcissism isn’t shunned because there’s a lot of capital to be made from it. Narcissists tend not to be the smartest eggs but they do fancy themselves, which plays right into LBC’s hands.

LBC loves a narcissist, even more so if they’re an unintelligent one with a big ego, as they can bring in their own big ego host to slap them down, knowing they’ll “win” an argument purely on their debating savvy acquired from hours of droning behind a microphone.

Now, I should point out that it’s not ubiquitous and there are some long-term regular callers who sound thoroughly decent, but they are becoming few and far between.

When you ring into LBC – as I regrettably did on three occasions to talk about the electoral system, the European Union and fat people – you get pre-screened to see whether you’re up to the task. Qualifications, however, seem not to include being smart or having anything original to add to the conversation.

I’m a bit outlandish, a rabble-rouser – you have to be unique, controversial or simply an arse to write for a living nowadays (a combination of all three helps – so I, unwittingly, fit the bill perfectly.

“You simply must hear what this caller had to say about the EU,” their clickbait professional will tweet out. Having a broad Somerset accent would have only added to the circus-like theatre. While none of my calls ever received an ego-satisfying “OMG LISTEN TO THIS” tweet, LBC is usually good for a couple a show. Let’s have a gander at their recent ones:

On 30 January, Iain Dale – who, in fairness, hosts an enjoyable weekday show between 4pm and 7pm – was put up against a fact-free Floridian Trump supporter.

Indeed, Dale himself said that the caller didn’t know what they were talking about. Surely this would have been apparent during pre-screening and they would have recognised this and denied them a spot on air. But no, Sherri from Clearwater, FL, was the perfect low-information Trump fan that they could exploit for, well, not knowing very much.

And then they struck the motherlode – Sherri cut the call. Crazy radio moment: tick. Trump advocate looking like an idiot: tick. Viral material: tick.

If LBC aren’t parading a wacky caller, they’re chucking out bait masquerading as a question to get one on the line.

James O’Brien’s “unmissable reaction” to something – usually Trump or Brexit – will be tweeted, or a deliberately wild quote from new and newish LBC provocateurs, Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins, will be posted. Follow their Twitter feed for a fortnight if you suspect me to be nit-picking.

Don’t get me wrong, radio is better than the telly in the UK as you can say more and get away with more – it’s what makes Fox News and MSNBC appealing to conservative and liberal Americans. Opinionated news and bashful debate is much more attractive than beige reporting which you probably think is biased against you anyway.

That’s why LBC is fun for a bit. If you’re a politics addict – and right now, how could you not be? – the station is mighty enjoyable, at first. But after a few weeks or months you see the flaw: there’s not a lot else to do it.

Listening to LBC’s “debates” will do nothing to improve your knowledge of a topic. With hosts firmly on the Left, staunchly on the Right and a few floating in the centre, there’s not an overall bias issue, just a quality one.

You’ll either be subject to a few minutes of caller-presenter love-in, or a deliberately aggressive battle between two hotheads which is remembered more for insults than substance.

There’s nothing surprising about absurdity on LBC, it’s a stock trait. And once you’ve clocked that they don’t only welcome it, but pre-plan the chaos, the novelty erodes and so does the will to listen.

At least that’s what happened with me.

The tampon tax is ridiculous, but once again, almost everyone has missed the point

While under no illusion that my comments are about as significant as a farting gnat, I feel it’s my duty to opine to you all once more in the hope that you will one day realise I was right all along (a bit too Milo?).

Yes, the latest hoo-ha sweeping the nation (sorry, social media) is the tampon tax, which in the space of 48 hours has descended into one big bloody mess. In a rare case where feminists, Eurosceptics and anti-taxers meet, the Great British Public is united at the ridiculousness of it.

The idea that an additional tax should be levied on women because they have periods is illogical, although the logic for defining its illogicalness is rather weak.

Many, including the greatest female heroines of our time – yes, you, Stella Creasy – have wasted little time in waging war. In their attempts to look more self-righteous than the folk next to them, proclaim: “They should be free!” before continuing to blast the patriarchy and the man – because it’s always a man – who would have imposed the tax initially.

This, of course, is nonsensical. It’s not the role of the state to subsidise tampons, no more than it is for the government to pay for condoms, toilet paper, shampoo or any essential. The case that this is only a female problem doesn’t hold up to scrutiny either unless you are to address every disadvantage males are at in society.

And, as you all know, nothing is free anyway. By declaring that something should be “free”, you simply demand that somebody else should foot the bill. That doesn’t however mean that the tampon tax is right. It isn’t.

So, what is the root cause of this temper tamptrum? Surprise, surprise, it’s the European Union. Yes, thanks to being a member of the failing political union which gives us access to a declining trade area – and one that is in the midst of a haplessly-handled migrant crisis – the tampon tax is unavoidable.

As a result of EU regulations, our unsovereign nation is unable to lower the VAT rate on sanitary items below 5 percent. And, to achieve any change, the agreement of all 28 member states would be required. Quite simply, the entirely unelected European Commission which proposed this absurd legislation overrides anything which Westminster may desire.

However, despite this evident unnecessary Brussels interference, the Labour Luvvies and co. will quietly sidestep this issue, and God forbid would they consider that our EU membership is riddled with negatives. As well as going against the party line – although we all know Jeremy Corbyn is a closet Eurosceptic anyway – it’s also a trickier horse to flog. Having a crack at the patriarchy earns far more retweets and likes than a pop at EU meddling could ever dream of – trust me, I know.

And, amusingly, the first party to bring up the crazy tampon tax was UKIP. More in common than you once thought?

But perhaps more than anything, that the tampon tax is symbolised as one of the biggest indicators of sexism in society is a symptom of ugly modern feminism. In the Western world, we have reached a situation where sexism is no longer an issue. Rude tweets, tampon taxes and “lad culture” are – I would hazard an educated guess – not problems which Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and the like were fighting for.

However, there are plenty of injustices taking place around the world which modern feminism shuns. Female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings go unnoticed, largely because tackling them would require feminists to remove themselves from Twitter, get their hands dirty, and risk “offending” horrendously backwards cultures.

These women face genuine oppression, but their plight is forgotten. It doesn’t have the social media sellability that the attention-seeking Caitlyn Jenner has.

The tampon tax story has many similarities to a play in the horrifically patriarchal sport of golf. The sweetly struck shot came so close to glory, zoning in on the pin, but ended up pinging off the flag and into the rough. Instead of highlighting the actual problem, the point, once again, has been badly missed.

Must be the time of the month.

I saw the personal attacks, and I hated them

I saw photos in the Daily Mail over the weekend of defeated Labour hopeful Ed Miliband smiling with his family. Finally, the politics had been stripped away, the bacon sandwich gaffes gone, the “Hell Yes” jibes forgotten and even the infamous Ed Stone banished for all time.

I saw a man who had suffered vitriolic attack after vitriolic attack. A man who I vehemently disagreed with on a political level, but a good person, undeserving of the bile flung at him. There was something very American about this election – where the cornerstone of every bid is negativity – something that is profoundly un-British.

I saw someone who was standing up for what he believed in. Now, I’m not quite sure what that was – I think one of Labour’s biggest failures was that they were unclear on what, and who they were trying to attract – but again, the politics of it is irrelevant. His seemingly sturdy stance on ruling out an alliance with the Scottish National Party was also commendable. He went so far that had he backtracked in order to gain power he would have been an outright liar; something I think Miliband tried valiantly, if unsuccessfully to achieve.

I saw a man who fought an election with dignity, and to be attacked without relent for who he was, and not what he stood for was wrong. Our country is one of the world’s most proficient in the art of mocking, and long may that continue, but as the election wore on, the smokescreen of satire became increasingly transparent, it was no longer pure comedy.

I saw a man who also got things wrong. His unerring, robust defence of Blair and Brown’s premiership on the subject of overspending was a poor move. When the crunch comes, taking a left jab instead of risking a more punishing right hook is sometimes just common sense.

I saw what a nasty place our politics has become. While the Right obsessed over Miliband, the Left spewed hate over Nigel Farage. Neither side were at all justified in their actions. When all is said and done they are real people with real families. Yes, by standing for public office you throw yourself into the cauldron of scrutiny, but I am not sure what political capital can be gained by such personal abuse. Both wing’s willingness to partake in such methods make them equally culpable, it is not a matter of who was worse, but I would hope that such unpalatable tactics are never indulged in on these shores again. Of course, if a party tries to go down such a route by all means they are entitled to. But perhaps the opposition shouldn’t fight fire with fire, but bring the hosepipe out instead.

I saw the mistakes I made as well. Too often I criticised Miliband for being Miliband, when there would have been more weight attacking him as the leader of Labour – it’s not like it would have been difficult. To the credit of the UK Independence Party, the abuse they suffered did not lead them to be similarly vile to their opponents. And Farage also commented on multiple occasions that the media’s assault on Miliband was unjust.

I saw the #Milifandom. The army of teenage girls who switched their attention away from Niall and Harry, if only briefly. Naive and keen on Labour’s policies, probably; but they too touched on the unfair treatment Miliband received, and in their own way tried to deal with it.

I saw someone who, deep down, I think is a good person. And whatever he does next, whether it be continuing to serve as a Member of Parliament for Doncaster North following the five years he has just been elected for, or whether he finds enjoyment in a life away from politics, I hope he finds happiness. I truly do.

Are you really all Charlie?

The outpouring of support for freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo after the horrific Paris attacks would be so much more heartening if it were not for the hypocrisy or naivety – perhaps both – of so many who have proclaimed.

“Je suis Charlie” is the slogan. And a very good one it is too. I am confident I can use it since I make no effort to silence opposing views, no matter how much I abhor them. But the thousands who recently signed a petition to have Katie Hopkins arrested for “offensive” Twitter musings, or those who shout down any attempts of those who express the failures of multiculturalism have no business in calling themselves Charlie.

In addition, Nigel Farage was condemned by British politicians for his comments on just that, the failures of multiculturalism. He has been accused of making “political capital” out of the attacks by the Westminster cartel. I ask, when should such matters be discussed? Since politicians have done their utmost to avoid talking about them for many years, evident from the backlashes now seen in the polls, backlashes they deem to be “protest votes”.

Rest assured, the people who want the likes of Mrs Hopkins arrested, would never have affiliated themselves with the work of Charlie Hebdo before the massacre. I doubt very much whether they fully understand it now. It is nothing more than a bandwagon to portray their apparent liberalism.  For these “liberals”, freedom of speech ends the moment they hear views they don’t like. The tolerance they preach soon morphs into something more akin to an agitated toddler in a pram. Charlie? Non.

Nor do the French government have the right to call themselves Charlie. Within 48 hours of the initial attacks, President Francois Hollande was already seeking ways to ban Marine Le Pen’s Front National – the same party Charlie Hebdo regularly mocks with their cutting humour – from joining the solidarity marches in the French capital on Sunday in a display of both incompetence, and supreme ignorance. The newfound desire to press home the importance of freedom and liberty appears not to have lasted long.

The BBC. Well they’re not Charlie either. Live on Question Time, host David Dimbleby said: “Due care and consideration must be used regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence, the Prophet Muhammad must not be represented in any shape or form”. The public broadcaster, which is supposed to act in the interests of those who fund it, have taken it upon themselves to silence free speech via the form of censorship wherever they see fit. Is this a North Korean tribute act?

The British media have also let themselves down. Immensely. Instead of plastering the most controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons over the newspaper front pages in an act of defiance, they meekly surrendered by not doing so. This form of cowardice is a sign of defeat – the hatred and fear spewed by the extremists serves to grant them the censorship they so desire. I highly doubt any decent practicing Muslim would protest against the necessity for the media to preach their right to free speech – indeed it is the honest Muslim who also suffers when the radicalised commit these acts.

Satire, as heinous as it may come across at times, is ultimately, just satire. The ability to mock and poke fun is essential to a free society, and wavering to those who look to block it is a grave injustice. Britain to an extent has already given in – there is no magazine published on these shores comparable to Charlie Hebdo. You may be offended by what satirists say, you may not think it’s “right”, but neither of those mean it shouldn’t be allowed.

The solidarity shown by the European people for their liberty in the wake of the attacks cannot fail to instill hope. But we must all heed our own words. To everyone who has considered themselves Charlie, ask yourself if you really do believe in all true freedom of speech entails. If you do, go forth. If not, I invite you to travel to any oppressive country which shares views similar to yours. I’ll even pay your air fare. One way, of course.

Miliband could be in trouble in Doncaster North

UPDATE: A recent correction from Lord Ashcroft showed Labour’s share of the vote in Doncaster North was actually 54%.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how best the Conservatives could tackle the Labour threat in the north of England. Quite simply, they should stand aside.

The latest round of constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft today rather eloquently proved my point, that very method could hit Labour where its hurts most – in Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat.

The Labour leader has failed to connect with many typically Labour voters and nowhere is that more apparent than in his own constituency. Today’s polling revealed whilst Miliband is leading on 40%, the UK Independence Party and the Tories are not without range, reaching 28% and 23% respectively.

Let us hypothesise. Imagine the Tories decided not to field a candidate and urged all of their voters to back a UKIP candidate. The combined figure between the two parties today tallied at 51%, which would be more than enough to unseat Miliband.

Conservative voters in the North must surely realise that whilst their own party has become something of a toxic brand and is of little threat to the Labour-dominated heartlands, the purple and yellow brigade is. The Heywood and Middleton by-election in October saw UKIP get to within 600 votes of snatching the seat.

If the Conservatives are realistic and make the bold decision to lose a battle to win the war, they may just be able to wreck Labour and Miliband’s aim of reaching Number 10.

Miliband’s failure to connect with his own voters could have devastating consequences.

FARAGE STRUGGLING IN THANET SOUTH

It wasn’t all good news for UKIP today though with an Ashcroft poll in Thanet South revealing party leader Nigel Farage is lagging five points behind the Conservative candidate.

Polling after the European Elections had Farage holding a narrow lead, but a lack of appearances in the constituency over recent months could be swaying voters away from the charismatic leader.

In Farage’s defence, he is the leader of a party which in the past three months has seen two Conservative MPs defect, force by-elections and duly reclaim their seats in the House of Commons. It has been a busy period.

Statistics also noted that 49% of Farage’s support in the Kent seat comes from previously non-voters, who are notoriously harder to get to the ballot box on election day.

It’s still far from a lost cause though with the margin very narrow. The Conservatives lead on 34%, UKIP are second with 29%, whilst Labour are trailing in third on 26%. UKIP will of course be plowing copious resources into Thanet South in the run up to next May, with the seat being a must-win for the party. It will be one worth keeping a very close eye on over the next few months.

CLEGG ALSO IN TROUBLE

Not much is going right for Nick Clegg these days and the Liberal Democrat leader has found his lead slashed to a mere three points in Ashcroft’sSheffield Hallam poll.

Clegg is narrowly ahead on 31% with Labour second on 28%. The Tories come next gathering 19% while UKIP and the Greens picked up 11% and 10% respectively.

If the Lib Dems are to bow out next May, their leader could well be going with them.

A masterstroke or just a bit Reckless?

Nigel Farage and UKIP produced another promised earthquake on Saturday with the defection of Conservative MP Mark Reckless – culminating in him standing down and triggering a by-election in his Rochester and Strood constituency.

Reckless becomes the second Tory MP to defect to UKIP in the past month following Clacton’s Douglas Carswell in late August. Carswell also stood down and called a by-election which will be held next Thursday where he is widely expected to become UKIP’s first elected MP.

MP defections aren’t all that unusual – many have “crossed the floor” over the years – but these two are extremely significant. Both Carswell and Reckless have seeked the permission of their electorate to represent them under different colours in the form of a by-election – something that hasn’t happened for decades. Not to mention that UKIP currently have no representation in the House of Commons.

Unlike Clacton, the stakes are much higher for both the Conservatives and UKIP in Rochester and Strood. Carswell has built up a firm following over the past 10 years and Clacton has been labeled one of the most receptive constituencies for UKIP in the country. Reckless will not be afforded this luxury. He was only elected as an MP in 2010 and the seat has a near 10,000 Conservative majority. Moreover, Rochester and Strood didn’t originally feature in UKIP’s top 250 target seats.

Many Conservative activists in the area feel betrayed by Reckless, who had previously told them that he would not be defecting. The reception Reckless has received on return to his constituency hasn’t been as welcoming as Carswell’s according to the media anyway. Yet his decision to call a by-election instead of just sitting under a UKIP banner is a noble act. He could very well lose, although I imagine that he has research telling him he has a strong chance of re-election.

A loss in Clacton for the Conservatives could be brushed aside as something of a one-off. Indeed, Carswell is seen by even his former party as something of a one-off, albeit somebody who has commanded a great respect. But if Reckless carries Rochester and Strood, the Tories UKIP headache will develop into a severe migraine. Potential other Tory defectors – Farage assures us there are some – may think they’d be better off on a UKIP ticket next May.

And you wouldn’t blame them. Staunch Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party are surely only still there because of the 2017 referendum promise. It’s clear that David Cameron has no intention of pulling the UK out of the European Union. If he is still in office in 2017, he will claim some bogus renegotiation before begging everyone to vote to stay, in a campaign that will be based on fear.

For UKIP, a win in Rochester and Strood is the only option. A failure and momentum is halted, other potential defectors will become doubtful over whether they could hold their seat standing as UKIP. However, if they win it will be something of a game-changer and their biggest success to date. The likelihood of more defections will increase and belief that UKIP may win enough seats in Westminster to hold the balance of power next year will strengthen. The prospect of one or two UKIP MPs could genuinely develop into 10 to 20 – particularly if Cameron maintains his weak stance over the EU.

Early betting has Reckless around a 1/2 favourite to win back his seat but much will remain a mystery until some opinion polls are released. Expect the Tories to plough millions into this by-election as they did in Newark back in June. They will believe that winning here is very possible, as much as it is a necessity. Staving off the UKIP assault here would be a major boost.

Yet something tells me the UKIP juggernaut will roll on and that Reckless will win. For those whose priority is Europe, they are the only option. Cameron has kicked the issue into the long grass for far too long, and the only thing that would keep a genuine Eurosceptic with the Tories is the fear of letting Ed Miliband in to 10 Downing Street.

But Labour are also threatened, many Old Labour voters are flocking to UKIP in their droves despite the notion that they are a right-wing party. UKIP’s recent conference aimed to appeal to those Old Labour people, and if they could win the by-election coming up in Heywood and Middleton, UKIP will be as much a Labour problem as they are a Tory one.

The Establishment as they are so often labelled these days are extremely worried. Farage has teased further defections, with another potentially coming on Wednesday, when Cameron will give his conference speech to the Conservatives. No one knows when they will happen, who they will be, and the impact it might have. We are in very exciting times.