Five Quick Thoughts On The General Election Result

The waning influence of the newspapers has been exposed for all to see

Here are five thoughts I had while watching the election results last night and this morning.

1. The Conservative Party’s coronation of Theresa May as their leader last summer looks, with hindsight, to have been a mistake. Mrs May only had to win over her fellow MPs and not party members. She did not have to do any debates or unpredictable public appearances. Had she done so, her weakness in this area may have been exposed. Or, if you prefer, her experience of a months long leadership campaign against Andrea Leadsome might have made her a more confident campaigner in 2017.

    Continue reading “Five Quick Thoughts On The General Election Result”

Jeremy Corbyn Is Not Doing His Job And Should Resign

The Leader of the Opposition is not leading the opposition. He has turned a tautology into an oxymoron.

Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP has two jobs and two job titles. First, he is Leader of the Labour Party, a position to which he was elected by a majority of those eligible to vote, in every voter category (members, registered supporters, affiliates).  If that were the whole story then a leadership challenge would be completely undemocratic and wrong.

However, Mr Corbyn is also Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.  This is not some ceremonial title you get when elevated to a particular position, like Lord of the Isles or Second Lord of the Treasury. Instead it is a post that fulfills a crucial rôle in our democracy, scrutinising Government actions and Bills on behalf of the entire country, including people who did not vote Labour.  Just as the Prime Minister (First Lord of the Treasury, by the way) is accountable and answerable to everyone, so too is the Leader of the Opposition. Continue reading “Jeremy Corbyn Is Not Doing His Job And Should Resign”

The Typography of Labour Resignation Letters

Apparently, Tweeting a copy of one’s resignation letter is now A Thing.

This tweet of mine garnered a few fav-hearts and re-tweets, which suggests that this is the sort of thing people are interested in.

Of course, the content of the letters is the really important part, so far as the authors are concerned. But design and presentation is incredibly important, despite being 99% Invisible when done right. We can gather some insights into the thoughts of the authors by how their resignation letter is laid out.

I compiled a Storify of a couple of dozen Labour Shadow Cabinet resignation letters, and added comments about their design.  Continue reading “The Typography of Labour Resignation Letters”

A Terrible Day, But We Will Regain Our Optimism

It is part of our political and social history and should loom large in our collective consciousness.

I posted this yesterday evening on Facebook.


The TV news reports about the death of Jo Cox have actually been quite sober. Reporters have refrained from speculating on the motives of the alleged killer. It’s very easy to find a picture of a suspect from friends or family, but the media have declined to grant this man notoriety. Instead they have focus on the life and achievements of someone who was by all accounts remarkable.

During the obituaries, two almost irrelevant facts jumped out at me. She was 41 and only 5 feet tall. These incidental traits are also shared by the person I woke up next to today, just as Brendan Cox must have woken up next to his wife this morning. A rush to get the kids ready, a piece of toast grabbed out the door, and an expectation that we will all see each other again in a few hours. We all did that this morning: me and my family; Jo and Brendan Cox and their kid; You and yours.

And now she is gone, and he is having to tell his kids why.

This is not like getting cancer. This is not like a car accident. This is not like the unexpected death of a pop star, however influential. We do not know whether the killer is mentally ill or whether there are deeper and more sinister reasons for his actions. But this is an act that has emerged from our society. It is part of our political and social history and should loom large in our collective consciousness.

In a blog post that is being wildly shared on social media tonight, Alex Massie says he does not remember feeling as bad about the country as he does tonight. I think 7/7 comes close.

It is indeed a terrible day but I am bizarrely confident that we will regain some optimism. And the reason I think that is because of how quickly we have seen an outpouring of solidarity, and affirmation of ideas of love. Led by none other than Brendan Cox, who put love for family and the human dignity at the centre of his astonishing statement this afternoon.

Led by none other than Jo Cox, who spent her life seeking to make the human experience better for others.

Corbyn

Now Jez has been elected, can these supporters remain invigorated, and be mobilised towards long term political activism? The thing that makes me optimistic that they can is the election of Tom Watson as Deputy Leader.

in the end, I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election.  I was just too worried about the issue of electability, and therefore the need to show economic competence to the wider electorate. I did not think that potential was something Corbyn adequately conveyed during the campaign.  If Labour lose the 2020 election I think the Conservative programme will become too entrenched with deeply unpleasant and inequitable consequences for our society.

So instead, I chose Yvette Cooper.  Friends and family have derided her for being boring and equally un-Prime Ministerial, but I disagreed.  Her speech on immigration late in the campaign was passionate, and when I saw her speak in person (a couple of years ago) I was mightily impressed.  I think she could have found a way to restore Labour’s economic credibility.  I think she was – and is – electable.

I won’t deny that I was also keen to see a woman elected Labour leader, although I don’t think identity politics should trump policy.

None of that came to pass, however, and Corbyn was the overwhelming preference of party members and supporters. And yesterday a friend sends me this message:

Btw – am seriously thinking about joining the Labour Party now that Khan is mayoral candidate and Corbyn is at the helm. Are you not excited?

Yes, I am. Continue reading “Corbyn”

How would Corbyn govern?

With Jeremy Corbyn ahead in the polls and expected to win the Labour Leadership contest, there is plenty of discussion about how he would behave as leader and (possibly) Prime Minister.  For example, The Mail on Sunday has published a frankly hilarious piece of mock futurism by David Thomas: ‘The 1000 days that destroyed Britain‘ warns of blanket re-nationalisations, the abolition of the Bank of England, and—worst of all—a gender balanced Cabinet. 

But surely the best indicator of how Corbyn would govern is to look to the record of another member of the ‘Awkward Squad’ who won power: Ken Livingstone.
Continue reading “How would Corbyn govern?”

Could Corbynism compromise with Blairism?

And actually, an offering that is slightly ideologically incoherent is probably for the best, because very few people actually have a consistent political world-view.

The thing that irritates me about the Labour Leadership campaign is the Manichean approach adopted by everyone. We hear talk of schisms and splits and the “soul of the party” as if Corbyn is presenting such a different vision for the party that the Venn Diagramme of values and polices has no overlap between him and the other candidates.

This cannot, in reality, be true. But what troubles me about the overall tone of the debate is that it has made me doubt whether the losing faction, whichever it may be, will work with the person who wins. Continue reading “Could Corbynism compromise with Blairism?”

Liz Kendall as a Quick Case Study on Political Persuasion in the Digital Age

My advice to all political campaigners is therefore to produce videos that show your candidate speaking to supporters

On Monday, Labour Party members received an e-mail from Liz Kendall in their inboxes: an open letter.

You probably think I’m writing to ask you for your vote in the upcoming election for party leader.

And I am.

But what really matters for our country and our party is another election – the one we’ll fight together in 2020.

By then, our country will have suffered under five more years of the Tories.

&cetera.  I was a little underwhelmed by the text, to be honest.  The values she lays out do not seem to delineate Kendall from other candidates, or even the other parties.  “End inequalities” and “eliminate low pay” are policies that Labour surely shares with the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SNP.   Conservative Party Leadership Candidates probably would not put these issues at the top of an appeal to their members, but it would be difficult to find a Tory MP that disagrees with either.  However, “we need a more caring society”, “We must share power with people” and “We need a future of hope for all our young people” are phrases that would make their way onto a Conservative membership e-mail.   Only once in the e-mail does Kendall explain a policy difference between her and anyone else (on inheritance tax).   So the aspirations and goals, worthy though they are, seem rote when stated by themselves. Continue reading “Liz Kendall as a Quick Case Study on Political Persuasion in the Digital Age”

Anyone calling for candidates to drop out of the Labour Leadership race is an innumerate idiot

A quick point, if I may: You know how Jeremy Corbyn is now 20 points ahead of his rivals, and some people are urging the lesser candidates to consolidate behind a single Anyone-But-Jeremy candidate?

That’s stupid and wrong.

Its stupid because the election is being conducted on an Alternative Vote system.  The electors rank the candidates in order of preference.  The candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and their votes are divided up amongst the remaining candidates.  That process is repeated until one candidate has a majoirty.

Mathematically, that is exactly the same as if the lesser candidates had pulled out… but with one important exception: its more democratic.

The ‘drop out’ suggestion is also morally wrong.  With the AV system, each elector gets to express a preference for who drops out and in what order.  That’s far better approach than a candidate being peer-pressured or media-pressured into dropping out mid-campaign, which is anti-democratic and makes the entire contest a hostage to bad opinion polling.

The fact that people are calling for the poorly polling candidates shows that they are stuck in a First Past The Post mentality, even though the election is being run with more sophisticated and fairer rules.

What if it’s all just cyclical?

More banter from the political past today as John Prescott criticised Tony Blair’s “get a transplant” jibe.

Meanwhile, Margaret Beckett has somehow branded herself a ‘moron’ because she was one of Jeremy Corbyn’s sponsors, nominating-but-not supporting him so the Labour Party could have a debate.

Well, a debate is being had.  A wider range of policies are being debated and the other candidates have found they are unable to triangulate their way to a victory on points. The contest is going to be far more interesting than any that has gone before and—here’s a radical thought—it could be that this moment of public disunity and ill-tempered argument could end up strengthening the eventual winner. Survival Of The Fittest, Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, &cetera.
Continue reading “What if it’s all just cyclical?”