The Uncuts: 2014 political awards

Politician of the year – Alex Salmond

The loss of the independence referendum was meant to be the end of the SNP. The Scottish public gave their verdict and the SNP’s raison d’etre was rejected. Cue internal ructions and a nationalist collapse.

That’s how it was meant to be.

But it wasn’t, largely because of Alex Salmond.

He made mistakes in the independence campaign – notably over nationalist plans for the currency – but Salmond’s easy charm and force of personality helped make the race much closer than many expected.

And following defeat, standing down as leader, his legacy to the SNP is to have taken them to the brink of holding the balance of power in next year’s Westminster election.

If the SNP register a general election result even vaguely in line with their current poll rating, then under Alex Salmond’s leadership, the Scottish nationalists will have fundamentally transformed British politics.

The SNP will have usurped the Liberal Democrats as the third party and Scottish independence will be a real prospect just a few months after it was meant to have been decisively rejected.

No other party leader or MP will have had such a profound impact and for these reasons, Alex Salmond is Uncut’s politician of the year for 2014.

Media misjudgement of the year – Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip

The common media narrative about Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip would not be out of place in a Mills and Boon novel. Charisma, personality and star quality are meant to be the Farage hallmarks.

He certainly generates good copy and has helped filled countless columns and reports with newsworthy content.

But away from the day to day photo-opps in pubs and quotable one-liners, Nigel Farage has made a catastrophic error. Through his words and actions he has helped confirm Ukip’s biggest negative, toxifying Ukip as the party for racists.

At the start of October, at the height of the largely positive publicity around the Clacton by-election, YouGov polling found that 55% of the public believed Ukip to be more likely to have candidates with racist or offensive views, while 41% believed the party to be racist (41% believed it not to be racist).

In a general election, Ukip’s vote will be squeezed as the choice is polarised between Labour and Conservative and being seen as extremists will amplify this effect.

In the biggest domestic election held this year, when millions voted in the local elections, Ukip’s national equivalent vote share actually fell compared to last year – from 23% to 17%.

Nigel Farage’s main task this year was to detoxify Ukip and make them a viable choice for all voters. By failing to redefine Ukip as an optimistic, unprejudiced party (along the lines that Douglas Carswell clearly wants to), Nigel Farage has ultimately doomed them.

Gaffe of the year – George Osborne for the Autumn Statement

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement is the political equivalent of the loud celebrations of AC Milan when 3-0 up at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final, the fatal conceit that opens the door to wounded opponents transforming into glorious victors. 2010’s “emergency budget” was Paolo Maldini’s goal in the first few minutes of the final, establishing an early advantage grounded in Conservative credibility and Labour profligacy. Everything Osborne has done since then, akin to the brace of Hernán Crespo goals that drove home Milan’s first half advantage, has sought to reinforce these perceptions.

Janan Ganesh’s biography revealed that one of Osborne’s political rules is that oppositions do not win the credibility necessary to form governments unless they match the fiscal plans of the incumbent government. By committing to spending plans that result in the OBR reporting that the state, as a percentage of GDP, will be smaller than at any time since the 1930s, Osborne overplayed his hand in trying to tempt Labour to break this rule.

The public have broadly accepted the necessity of fiscal belt tightening but Osborne now threatens the bone with the belt. People wonder whether it’s necessary to reduce the state to this skeleton. Osborne’s too clever by half move has benefited Labour, who are back in the economic game, and he’s left to hope that Ed Miliband is no Steven Gerrard.

Chutzpah in the face of political meltdown – Mayor Lutfur Rahman of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Last month, auditors PwC finally published their report into Rahman’s abysmal running of the council, which was, predictably, damning.

On the subsequent despatching of the men from the ministry to run Tower Hamlets’ finances – given that PwC had concluded that Rahman’s team was not fit to – the man himself jauntily concluded that there were “flaws in processes” which were “regrettable”. In fact, he appeared delighted that there was “no evidence of fraud or criminal activity”. So that’s all right, then.

It also produced this irony-free gem from the redoubtable Rahman, following Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles’ blistering attack on him in the Commons:

“Given that Tower Hamlets Council is one of the highest performing local authorities in London, and the wider UK for service delivery to our residents, I am surprised at the Secretary of State’s comments today in the House of Commons.”

That’ll be you, and nobody else, mate.

The barefaced liar of the year award – Vladimir Putin

Vladimir “Invade Ukraine? Moi?” Putin, wins for his consistent denials of Russian troops being present on Ukrainian soil, despite being caught on camera by both OSCE and NATO. Yes, following the departure of the last Western journalists after the Sochi Olympics, the macho Russian leader decided it was time to get on with restoring his country’s Soviet-era empire by first invading the Crimea region of Ukraine and then pretending not to invade its Donbass region.

The Uncut jury was also insistent that this prestigious award is to be shared jointly with Putin’s English-language TV station, Russia Today, for its defiance in the face of, er, facts and, generally, loyalty to its leader in keeping to his story about Russian “volunteers”.

The pissing away virtually limitless oil wealth award – Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro

After the death of his mentor Hugo Chávez, chickens have come home to roost in a country struggling to supply basic household goods to its population such as, memorably, toilet paper. Yes, that great experiment in modern pseudo-democratic socialism, so loved by the British radical left – Owen Jones and Diane Abbott being two “observers” at its deeply flawed 2012 election – is hitting the buffers. Inflation is currently running at 63% and a default on its debt payments during 2015 looks a racing certainty. All the more extraordinary when you think that the country is home to the world’s largest oil reserves.

Civic pioneer of the year – Sir Richard Leese

Soon after the 2010 general election, Paul Richards published Labour’s Revival: The Modernisers’ Manifesto. It begins with a quote from G. D. H. Cole. “To my mind, there have always been two fundamental cleavages in socialist thought – the cleavage between the revolutionaries and reformists, and the cleavage between centralisers and federalists.” The Fabians have been bastions of the centralising tendency. This year concluded with the Fabians acknowledging that one thing they’d learnt from it is that we’re all localists now. Or federalists, in Cole’s terms.

If the Fabians are prepared to say as much, Labour is squarely a party of reformers and federalists. We’ll leave the revolution to Russell Brand and the centralising to the dusty history of the Fabians. The party of bottom-up change that Labour has become has been forged by those making this change, Labour councillors who have continued to improve their communities in difficult times.

No one has been more of a pioneer in this regard than Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council. “What Manchester was the first to do,” Leese told Prospect earlier in the year, “was to recognise the importance of scale and of operating as far as possible within the boundaries of the functional economic area. And it’s now over a decade since we had the first Greater Manchester strategy — the 10 local authorities joined up to agree a joint economic strategy and joint action to deliver it.” This success was this year rewarded by George Osborne with an unprecedented devolution of additional powers and budgets to Manchester. The Adonis Review charts a course for Labour to go further in this devolutionary direction.

We are all localists now, especially Adonis and Osborne, two leading thinkers of two different parties. As cities seek to adapt to this new era, with varying degrees of success, the utility of Leese’s leadership becomes more pronounced. Both to Labour’s ideological renewal and urban renewal of cities that remain crucibles of immense, though as yet largely unrealised, potential.

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12 Responses to “The Uncuts: 2014 political awards”

  1. The Targe says:

    I shake my head in dismay when those on the left hail the rise of the SNP and Alex Salmond in Scotland as the saviour of Westminster Labour. Some commentators have seemingly written off Scottish Labour and instead place faith in the SNP carrying Labour into government. The SNP will, I expect split the left, the Greens may well contribute to that process as the election campaign heats up. Time will tell. Bring on the ‘Chaos Election’ of 2015.

  2. swatantra says:

    The Media love building people up and then tearing them down; and no doubt that is the fate awaiting NF Nige Farage next year. The UKIP Project is already begining to unravel with Carswell may be thinking of defecting back to the Tories, and UKIP providing a safe haven for facists. Surprised no mention of Ken Livingstone in that bit about TH, and the shabby nature of S American politics which also has Ken’s fingerprints on them. Obama is to be credited with bringing Cuba in from the Cold, but we should be cautious in condemnning Putin; a weak Russia is a dangerous Russia, for the whole World, and Crimea belonged to Russia anyway. And no Award for Israel? the fount of most of the worlds problems?

  3. Landless Peasant says:

    “Farage’s main task this year was to detoxify Ukip and make them a viable choice for all voters.”

    LOLOLOLOL All voters except ones such as myself who are opposed to Nationalism.

  4. Stephen Hildon says:

    It is strange that despite all these Russian troops that are supposedly in Ukraine, that none have been captured.

    How was the Venezuelan presidential election in 2012 “deeply flawed”?!

    If heavily investing in education is “pissing” away wealth then you just have to wonder what Rob thinks it should have been spent on? Helping invading Iraq?

  5. John Reid says:

    Landless Peasant, the comme t was his task, not what he had done, regarding Nationalism, I know Ukip have Said they’re prepared to see more devolution for Scotland and Wales, and that those policies are supported by the Welsh and Scittish nationalists

    When we had the Welsh assembly, and Scots parliament 15 years ago, were you and other anti nationalists, against those parliaments?

  6. Surely Tony Blair should win an award for just about any of interventions last year. Now what we call that award?

  7. Surely Tony Blair should win an award for just about any of his interventions last year. Now what we call that award?

    *Corrected for the missing word.

  8. Tafia says:

    Landless Peasant – if you vote for a mainland party* then you are voting for UK nationalism.

    (* I say mainland because Labour, Conservative and LibDem do not exist in Northern Ireland – bizarrely making UKIP more of a UK party than the big three)

  9. CD13 says:

    A disastrous year for Farage. Another year like 2014 and Ukip will be on 50%. But the important people will hate them, so that’s all right.

  10. Landless Peasant says:

    When it comes to Nationalism I’m with Bahá’u’lláh, who said that “the earth is one country and mankind its citizens”, and also firmly behind the International Socialist Tendency;

    Nationalism is the enemy of mankind.

  11. Tafia says:

    When it comes to Nationalism I’m with Bahá’u’lláh, who said that “the earth is one country and mankind its citizens”, and also firmly behind the International Socialist Tendency;

    Nationalism is the enemy of mankind.

    Jesus christ almighty – jhe’s still a f***ing student.

  12. Kevin T says:

    You say UKIP is “toxic” because of its alleged racism. How toxic is that compared to parties which have have had prominent members involved in paedophile rings and which have helped covered those matters up and helped the members in question go scot free to protect the party’s image? I know the left gets particularly inflamed about racism but I would suggest that dredging up various local councillors’ stupid comments about minorities will not hold a candle in most people’s views (black or white) to MPs molesting kids. What is the anti-racist left’s message going to be at the election? “Don’t worry about the nonce rings. UKIP don’t like foreigners!” I’m not sure that’ll go down well.

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