Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking ahead to 2017: Will 2016 be remembered as the year of revolutions?

Source: Tome magazine.
It's been a month since the election, and I still can't really believe it. Donald Trump. Leader of the free world. What does that label even mean anymore?

It's also that time of the year when we're all getting asked to prepare for christmas and the new year. New year's resolutions, christmas presents, etc. Yet I can't help but want to look back on an eventful year and ponder (Or worry about) the year ahead.

Are Trump and Brexit really the peak of the strange, anti establishment movements sweeping the West, or is there more to come? My fear is that the answer to that question is the latter. In France Le Pen is likely to reach the final round. In Italy populist eurosceptics are likely to win the next election. In Germany, Angela Merkel, so often hailed as a champion of tolerant, liberal values now backs populist measures such as banning Muslim headscarfs. And so on.

In the future, we may look back on 2016 as being the start of the populist revolutions sweeping the developed world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Trump is POTUS..What happened? What happens next?

Well. I didn't expect that. No one expected it.

Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. He is the leader of the free world. A man who insulted literally every minority demographic, women, Muslims, Jews, you name it, is now POTUS elect.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that the old "Third way" of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair is on life support, if not dead totally. The whole electoral strategy of the third way was based on chasing wealthy suburban and urban voters, but abandoning white working class voters and those in rural areas. We now see the consequence of working class and middle class America being left behind by the establishment. Donald Trump achieved a 16 point swing with the low paid-and won key blue collar states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton was the last serious champion of a managerial, economically liberal, establishment politics.

A narrative has been festering since the election, encouraged by the same media establishment that could not predict Donald Trump winning, that all of those who voted for Donald Trump were racist and that his election was driven primarily by white supremacy. In reality, white supremacy does not adequately explain the shift that was described above. There is no doubt that a significant minority of Donald Trump supporters are indeed deeply sexist and racist, but also there are many thousands of voters in the U.S Rust Belt who voted for Barack Obama but this time voted for Donald Trump. It does not explain why these trends are being replicated all over the developed world, from the USA, to the UK with Brexit, to Spain with the rise of Podemos, to France where right wing populist Marine Le Pen may win the elections next year, to Australia where the populist One Nation achieved their best ever election result. All of these trends were driven by working people rejecting the establishment political parties and opting for something different. Something deeper is happening-a rejection of political elites and a rejection of a particular brand of social liberalism that has left millions of workers behind.

The most striking statistic of this election for me was from the exit polls in Wisconsin, a rust belt state which Obama managed to win comfortably in 2012. Nearly 40% of those who voted for Donald Trump had a deeply unfavorable view of their candidate-but they still voted for him. Undoubtedly there were many who did not like his comments about Muslims/LGBT people/Women/Latinos/Insert minority group here, but still voted for him because they wanted change. That has to be recognised.

What happens now is the ultimate question. I personally suspect that Donald Trump will likely U-Turn on many of his more extreme policies. He has already indicated that he would soften his positions on immigration, and the Muslim ban which he had proposed during the campaign. He is however likely to push his messages on trade, on economics and healthcare hard, and he will likely clash with the Republican establishment on many of these issues. For his part, vice president Pence is likely to push deeply regressive policies that will attempt to reverse many of the social gains of the Obama years, especially on abortion and gay marriage.

The real question now is how the Democratic Party responds. The Democratic Party establishment is in disarray, and DNC chair Donna Brazille is likely to be replaced by Keith Ellison, who is from Minnesota. It is likely that the progressive wing of the party, who have blamed Hillary Clinton squarely for the loss of the rust belt, will try to take control of the party. Time will tell about how successful or not they will be. Many Democrats are already looking to blue collar populists for 2020, such as Sherrod Brown.

Whatever agenda Donald Trump pursues, have no doubts that this is a very dark time for centrists and those on the left. All sides of both the British and American left need to seriously examine their appeal and message to blue collar workers. Otherwise, Donald Trump could win again in 2020, and that would be a disaster for America and the world. Serious thought is needed.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Team GB Manchester Parade: Liveblog

15:35: Hello and welcome to this liveblog about the Team GB victory parade in Manchester.

15:42: The Parade isn't scheduled to start until 16:30, but plenty of people are already here.

15:50: Oh dear, looks like it's going to rain. The parade hasn't even started yet. I hope everyone has brought their brolly...

15:55: Lots of flag sellers around the parade area!

16:00: Today's parade is being kindly funded by the National Lottery.

16:05: A reminder about why we're celebrating. Team GB managed to achieve a truly astonishing result in Rio. Despite China having an astonishing 16 times the population of the UK, Team GB managed to pip them to 2nd place in the medals table, behind only the United States. The Paralympic team did nearly as well.

16:09: The route. The parade starts off near Castlefield, next to the old Roman Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry, and will go through the city centre.

16:19: The parade, drummers, schoolkids and all, is finally starting to move.

16:30: Here come the coaches! A few snapshots of the athletes:

16:33: Some lovely and very ecstatic looking drummers here...

16:40: Let's not forget the Paralympians too. They did a fantastic job.

16:42: Loads of other lovely stuff on display here..

16:50: Everyone is now following the parade from behind!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Royals visit Manchester University: Liveblog

Source: MEN
14:02: Hello, and welcome to this liveblog about the visit of the Royal Family to Manchester University. Prince William and Kate Middleton have this morning visited the cenotaph at Manchester Town Hall, and will shortly be making their way to the Graphene Institute at Manchester University.

14:03: The visit to Manchester comes at a turbulent time for the country in general, with Brexit on the horizon and continued public spending cuts.

14:10: A picture from yours truly of the earlier cenotaph parade at the town hall. A nice large crowd had gathered to greet the royals.

14:20: Many people have questioned the use of public money on the monarchy, especially at a time when there are austerity cuts and general reductions in public spending. However, a recent poll by YouGov found that the Monarchy was supported by all sections of British society. 68% of respondents said it was a good thing, with just 6% disapproving.


14:32: A significant crowd is starting to gather to greet the Prince and Kate Middleton.

14:38: Rachel, 19, studies Physics at University of Manchester: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet our royal family!" She says she has been waiting here for 2 hours just to get a glimpse. Monarchy fever?

14:0: This is the building known as the "National Graphene Institute", a leading scientific research centre. Prince William and Kate have already gone inside. 

14:45: Kate Middleton and William walk out to greet a jubilant crowd.

14:48: Huge crowds here, probably more than a thousand people. 

14:50: From anecdotal evidence, it looks like most of the people here are foreign students, and some have even come from other countries. The Monarchy contributes about a £Billion to the UK treasury, according to some estimates.

15:03: William and Kate just drove past, waving goodbye to the crowds. Here are a few other pictures:

15:04: So, that ends what was a very successful royal rally. I will be closing this liveblog. Have a good day!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn re elected. What next?

Source: BBC

So, Jeremy Corbyn has been re elected as leader of the Labour Party with 62% of the vote, up from 59% last year. His opponent, Owen Smith, congratulated him and said he hoped that he and Mr Corbyn could work together in the future. What happens next is the million dollar question.

The immediate aftermath of the leadership election is the start of the Labour Party conference, which has been taking place today. This is largely being seen as an attempt to put on a show of unity for outsiders, but in some of the fringe events, tensions are already beginning to re-emerge.

In today's Progress fringe, for instance, Tristam Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke Central, compared Corbyn to Militant, the radical leftist group that controlled Liverpool council in the 80s, and said that he did not do enough to oppose fascists such as ISIS. At a Momentum fringe, Jackie Walker, the vice chairperson of the organisation, said that anti semitism in Labour was being exaggerated and was being used to undermine the leadership. Other radical leftist groups were allegedly distributing leaflets calling for the mass deselection of MPs perceived to be on the right of the Labour Party.

It seems impossible to predict what will happen next with certainty. Corbyn may be buoyed by his increased mandate and may be set to pursue divisive policy changes, such as the forced mandatory reselection of members of parliament, and shadow cabinet elections by the membership, rather than MPs. Equally he may also decide to be more cautious, and come to a compromise. A "Non aggression pact" being promoted by Tom Watson and others suggests that rebel MPs should stay quiet about their dislike of Mr Corbyn and that the shadow cabinet should be elected by MPs, in return for Corbyn agreeing not to pursue the afforementioned policy changes.

The one thing that Mr Corbyn does seem to be pursuing is the removal of party staff who disagree with his leadership. Squarely in the firing line is general secretary Iain Mcnicol. Mcnicol made his thoughts clear today when he declared on the conference floor that Clause I socialism would win the day-a direct reference to the main argument of MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn's leadership, due to his perceived interest in extraparliamentary politics rather than in parliamentary socialism. Jenny Formby, the political director of Unite, is reportedly being lined up for the general secretary position: She is close to both Len Mcluskey, Corbyn's main union ally, and the leadership office itself.

Due to the continued divisions that are already evidently present, just a day after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election, it also looks unlikely that the civil war in the party will stop: Many MPs may well return to the shadow cabinet, but some members of parliament such as Jess Phillips have declared that they will continue to actively oppose his leadership. Such MPs are likely to be targeted most heavily by the Momentum group for deselection.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether or not Labour can pull itself together again, though the early signs are not positive.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Why the 2016 Labour leadership election was totally pointless.

Source: The Mirror

This whole leadership election, in my view, was totally pointless.
Neither candidate looked like they could really grasp the scale of the electoral challenge now facing Labour. And here's why:

Whenever there is an internal schism within the Labour Party, it is not because of mere internal disagreements, but also because of external factors. In the early 1930s, when the social democratic and radical left factions of the party ripped each other apart, that was because of the legacy of the first Labour government and the fact that we had just been kicked out of office. In the 1980s, the arguments were caused by low poll ratings for the party, and a general swing to the right that was occurring across the developed world. The civil war again started once Labour had been kicked out of office in 1979. This time, in the 2010s, the argument has been triggered by a mixture of the same. Labour was kicked out of office in 2010. The election of Ed Miliband in the immediate aftermath, a compromise leader who was just about able to keep the party united, satisfied none of the factions. Therefore it was inevitable that when he lost the general election, the "soft left" collapsed and the blairite faction and radical left once again had the chance to rip each other apart. The threat that Labour faces this time, however, is far more serious than it has ever faced before. In the 1930s, Labour was growing as a party. It had no major rivals, with the old liberal party totally disappearing. It had a guaranteed future even if it was kicked out of power. In the 1980s, when Labour slumped to a terrible, terrible defeat, working class Wales, Scotland, and the North of England remained solid for Labour. Though it would take the party another 14 years to get back into power, there was a solid foundation of support to build upon.

Now, however, the situation is different. The "Core vote" of the Labour Party itself is slowly abandoning Labour. Labour slumped from 48% of the vote in the C2DE demographic to just 30% in 2015, and that number is now continuing to decrease all the time. In Wales, Welsh Labour managed only 32% of the vote in the Welsh Assembly elections, its worst ever result while in opposition in any Welsh election. In Scotland, the Labour Party has all but been vanquished, and in England, especially the North, a combination of right wing populism and increasing apathy of workers from established politics looks set to hand many of its heartlands to UKIP or (In larger numbers) the Conservative Party. Simply put, there is a divide that now exists between social democratic parties in Europe and the people who they used to represent. The reason social democracy is in crisis is not because of a simply left or right agenda, but primarily to do with issues of identity. Parties of the left have slowly become increasingly liberal, and have slowly become more concerned with identity issues and liberal politics than economics, thus alienating them from the traditional working classes, who have historically tended to be slightly more conservative than the norm.

There was some interesting research in the New York Times recently about the difference between the support which Donald Trump, the right wing populist candidate for American president, received from unionised and non unionised workers. The NY times found that unionised workers were far more likely to support the Democratic Party and far less likely to support Donald Trump than non unionised workers. This trend held up across all demographic, educational and income groups. What sustained parties of the centre left and left in the 20th century was the growth and maintenance of massive trade unions, and public services such as council housing. Today, everything that social democratic parties were built on has evaporated. The unions now represent a slowly decreasing proportion of public sector workers, and are basically non existent in the private sector. The miners of the past are the retail workers of today, most of whom have no cultural connection to the left as their parents may have had. It is this, combined with natural cultural resentment and economic fears, which is driving these voters who "Should" be Labour or of the left in the rest of Europe to the populist right.

 I have been longing to write this rant for the entire leadership election, but I have held my tongue. Reheated Milibandism that is preached by Owen Smith will not win us the next election. How is Owen Smith going to go to Nuneaton or to Sunderland, both places which backed Brexit by huge margins, and tell your average voter that he thinks that the vote they cast on June 23rd is invalid, and that they are stupid, and therefore a second referendum on the EU is needed?

Neither will reheated Blairism. The left has a point when it talks about the "Missing 4 million" mainly working class and lower middle class voters who abandoned Labour between the course of 1997 and 2010-this is not, however, due to a simple economic reason but due to the liberal positions of the Blair government on migration and the widening gulf between New Labour and ordinary people.

To rebuild from what is inevitably going to be a pretty big defeat on Saturday, the centre left needs to take a look at itself, ask itself what its purpose is, and then move forward to create a social democracy of the 21st century. One that is open and internationalist, but is also patriotic and open to different cultural tradition. A centre left that is not an apologist for globalisation, but a centre left that focuses on redistributing the benefits of it and mitigating the negative effects.

Monday, 4 January 2016

The art of Clegg Baiting

Clegg (Pictured above) is an unpopular figure

Recently, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across an ad by the self styled "Vote leave" anti EU campaign. Seeing the ad in itself was not something that was unusual, but once I actually stopped to take a look at it, I found something very interesting.

The image above shows the ad from "Vote Leave" it pictures Clegg holding up the infamous pledge he made to vote against tuition fees, with a caption by the Vote Leave campaign implying that we should vote to leave the EU because Nick Clegg voted in favour of tuition fees,

This is not the only instance of the new phenomenon that I like to call "Clegg Baiting".  There are numerous instances of various organisations using Nick Clegg as the ultimate image of dishonesty. Nick Clegg is used by political organisations whenever they want to discourage members or supporters from doing something. It seems to have become an art form....