Tag Archives: Tories

Are the Tectonic Plates of British Politics Shifting?

Jonathan Calder thinks nobody knows anything about British politics any more.

In April I wrote:

“That party membership is such a minority taste now suggests that the 19th-century model of political parties we still embrace is hopelessly outdated.

Yet no politician has the vision or overweening ambition to wrench it apart and allowing something more attuned to our needs today to take its place”.

Party membership is growing again, so I was wrong about that. But maybe the tectonic plates really are moving.

Already, Remain and Leave across the UK, and Yes and No in Scotland, seem more vital and more coherent identities than the old party labels.

There is a high probability of a significant realignment happening within the next few months, and not just on the left. “Left” and “Right” no longer describe the real political faultlines in England, the big divides are more cultural than economic.

Labour is fundamentally split between its middle-class activist base and its working class roots to the point where there is no reason to exoect white working-class small-c conservatives to vote for a party more concerned with middle-class identity politics. And that’s before you throw the cultish behaviour of the old-school hard-left into the mix. Do you really expect people in Rotherham to support a party who seem to care more about Palestine and Venezuela than the north of England?

The Conservatives are just as split, between neo-liberal internationalists and little-England social conservatives, with cultish Randite libertarians mirroring Labour’s Trotskyite left. It may be that Theresa May will win the leadership election and hold the party together in the short term. If Andrea Leadson wins, all bets are off, and the chances of the party splitting are high.

The Liberal Democrats are seeing a surge of membership as one party who do still have a coherent idea of what they actually stand for. But in the longer term will liberal values be served by a small dedicated party, or as a faction with one of the new parties that may emerge from the breakup of Labour and the Tories?

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Nick Cohen takes on the Right

Nick Cohen has long been a scourge of the regressive tendencies of the post-modern left, but with The English right’s Putinesque conspiracy theories he turns his guns on the equally regressive right.

Vote Leave is not a fringe organisation, like UK Against Water Fluoridation, or The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The Electoral Commission decided in its wisdom it was respectable enough to lead the official Brexit campaign. Whether it is Michael Gove or Boris Johnson, a Vote Leave politician will be the next leader of the Conservative Party one way or another, and hence our next Prime Minister. The darkness on the right of politics is about to cover the land, and it is worth peering into the murk before it descends.

The way they’re tried to bully ITV and Robert Peston threatening “consequences” once they’re in power is the sort of thing you expect from the rulers of a tinpot dictatorship, not from those who aspire to lead a major democracy.

Yet more confirmation that Boris Johnson’s persona as a lovable rogue is completely fake, and he’s actually a nasty thuggish little man. And it’s a reminder that the whole referendum debate that’s putting Britain’s future at stake is really a proxy war for the leadership of the conservative party.

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Cecil Parkinson

There is a marked contrast in my social media feeds between the reactions to the deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie and Glenn Frey, and the death of Cecil Parkinson.  The former was filled with recongition of their artistic legacies, and personal memories about what their music had meant to people.

With Cecil Parkinson it’s all about the appalling way in which he treated his former mistress and illegitimate daughter.

Though the report in The Telegraph, which I won’t like to, makes want to throw up.

Miss Keays, an embittered woman, who bore Mr Parkinson’s daughter, Flora, repeatedly claimed that he had reneged on a promise to leave his own wife and marry her.

Ugh. When feminists talk about “The Patriarchy”, this is the sort of attitude they mean.

The super-injunction he managed that prevented any media mention of the existence of his daughter until she reached the age of eighteen was completely unprecedented.  According to some reports she could not even appear in school photographs or partocipate in school events. Strong evidence that he was an awful man.

Lemmy, David Bowie and Glenn Frey all contributed to making the world a better place.  Can the same be said of Cecil Parkinson?

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Mark Clarke, the Tory Requires Hate?

The story of Mark Clarke and his bullying of young Conservative Party activist Elliott Johnson to suicide is horrifying. While I’m sure there are people with a sense of schadenfreude at internal problems within the Tory party, that’s an entirely wrong reaction. Anyone with a shred of empathy should feel for Elliott Johnson and his grieving parents. It’s not as though destructive bullies are confined to any one party; look at the behaviour of the late Cyril Smith in the Liberals. Politics is particularly vulnerable to these sorts of charismatic sociopaths, and all too often people overlook the harm these sorts of people can do.

I am struck by the parallels between Mark Clarke and the individual within the Science Fiction community who went under the name of “Requires Hate”. Both showed the amount of damage a manipulative sociopath in a position of influence can do to an organisation or community.

There are differences of course; Clarke was a public figure and some of his bullying took the form of public confrontations, while Requires Hate was an anonymous internet presence whose true identity wasn’t publicly known at the time.

But they had a lot in common too. Clarke embedded himself in a influential position in a estabilshed power structure, while Requires Hate constructed an extensive web of acolytes and sycophants in a community that lacked a formal hierarchy. Both used malicious false allegations and threats of blackmail as a weapon, and both ruthlessly gamed the rules of the social systems they were part of. And neither would admit their wealthy and privileged backgrounds; Clarke spun a fiction about growing up on a council estate, while Ms Hate wore her minority status on her sleeve while neglecting to mention that she was a scion of one of Thailand’s most wealthy and powerful families.

It’s easy to say that organisations and communities should get better at seeing through these sorts of people, but that’s far easier said than done. It’s much harder to spot a bad actor when they appear to share your own values.

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Are they making it up as they go along?

Tories Lorem Ipsum screenshot

“We’ll tell you what our policy is once we’ve finished the website”


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What The Liberal Democrats need to do now

So the Liberal Democrats, to nobody’s real surprise, did very badly in last week’s local government elections.

Part of it is down to the fact that government parties always do badly in mid-term council elections, and this is a new experience for the Liberal Democrats having not been in government before. It’s unfair on hard-working local councillors who lose seats through no fault of their own, but sadly that’s the way that it is as long as voters are more interested in “Sending a message to Westminster” than they are about electing a local council over local issues.

The Tories did badly as well. Nadine Dorries, recently described as the “Tories’ equivalent of Lembit Öpik”, is taking of leadership challenges, and demanding the return of traditional Tory values of anti-Europeanism and homophobia, oblivious to the fact that the Tories didn’t actually win the last general election, which is precisely why we have a coalition government.

Some sectarian Labour types are gleefully prophesying the end of the Liberal Democrats altogether “So that we can get back to proper two-party politics”. But The Liberal Democrats are not going to disappear any time soon, no matter what the tribalist wing of the Labour party would love to happen. It’s precisely because of their tribalist machine-driven politics that a party like The Liberal Democrats are necessary in the first place

But I do think this may well mark the turning point in the coalition.

The coalition hasn’t worked as well as many people had hoped. LibDem blogger Jonathan Calder, who enthusiastically supported the coalition in the early days rightly says

It was inevitable that the Coalition would run into trouble. One of the constituent parties had long been out of power, had leaders with no experience of government, and hordes of backbenchers and activists with bizarre views and little concept of party discipline.

I’m talking about the Conservatives.

To quote a former US president, “It’s the economy, stupid”. And the Very Big Stupid in question is Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, whose policies have failed in a way just about everybody but himself had predicted. If there is one thing Nadine Dorries is right about, it is that it’s time for him to go.

George Osborne is facing a double-whammy here. Not only is he hopelessly compromised by close association with the Murdoch clan in the still-unfolding scandal which may yet engulf the Prime Minister himself, but he’s proved himself spectacularly incompetent at his job. And the entire country is paying the price.

The way he allowed himself to be “intellectually persuaded” by ideological nonsense about Laffer Curves shows far out of his depth he is. Osborne doesn’t just not know the price of milk, his understanding of economics is reminiscent of the typical 17-year old libertarian troll on the internet. He comes over as a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action; he understands so little he doesn’t realise how little he understands.

At this point, the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have reached the point where they have nothing to lose from rocking the boat. The price of their remaining in government must be the removal of George Osborne as chancellor, and his replacement by someone who is both experienced and a pragmatist rather than an intellectually-challenged ideologue.

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