Posts Tagged ‘Dan Hodges’

Leveson: the celebrity sham-trial

23/11/2011, 08:04:36 AM

by Dan Hodges

This will already be the hundredth article that you have read about her. She began the week as anonymous junior barrister Carine Patry Hoskins. Now she is the woman on the left, the vivacious/doe-eyed/comical (delete as appropriate), star of the Leveson investigation into phone hacking.

The unfortunate Ms Hoskins will no doubt  feature in the film of the book of the judicial inquiry. Indeed, both she and Hugh Grant will probably play themselves. Or if it is directed by David Lynch, each other.

Our brightest students will study her and the interrelationship between the courts, press, politicians and social media. “Monday, 21 November 2011 was the day the Twittersphere began to devour its own. Discuss”.

She will become the subject of debates about the law, feminism, class, love, longing, celebrity, privacy, voyeurism and the wisdom of cameras in the court room. Though I suspect that after yesterday there is about as much  chance of the latter as Ronnie Biggs finding himself called to the bench. “What does the woman on the left tell us about…” headlines are set to assail us from every side.

This is what she tells us. She tells us Leveson is a farce. (more…)

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These days the attack dogs are too nice. Where’s the modern Peter Mandelson?

09/11/2011, 07:30:56 AM

by Dan Hodges

Michael Dugher is not the new Peter Mandelson. We know this because last week Dugher told us so.

He didn’t just come out and issue a bald statement to that effect, obviously. That would just have been plain odd:

“Which senior former Labour politician aren’t you going to be tonight Michael”?

“Well, tonight Matthew I’m not going to be Peter Mandelson”.

No, the new shadow minister without portfolio was responding to a tweet from  “eyespymp”, the voyeuristic web site that tracks and broadcasts the movement of our Parliamentary representatives as the go about their daily lives.

According to our eyespy eavesdropper, Dugher was overheard “telling someone he’s going to be ‘Ed’s Mandelson’”. To which the member for Barnsley East responded with a characteristically blunt: “Load of bollocks. I’m currently at home with my kids”.

The kids’ gain is Labour’s loss. A new Peter Mandelson is exactly what we need. A Prince of darkness. Master of the dark arts.

Ed’s got lots of masters of the pastel-coloured arts. Tom Baldwin is an accomplished spinner. But he’s not a real attack dog. He tries. He affects a kick ass, access denied, off the guest list, card marked, co-operation withdrawn, lead-lined boots demeanor. But his heart’s really not in it. He’d hate anyone to know it, but he’s actually quite nice.

Then there is Stewart Wood, another shadow minister without portfolio, who is Ed’s “political mastermind”. Wood has a sharp mind, and a few tricks up his sleeve. He’s got a reputation in Westminster for being a straight shooter. Though if he has to, he knows how to bend the odd bullet round the wall. But he’s also got a serious flaw. Again, he’s quite nice. In an interview he gave to Suzie Mackenzie, Gordon Brown’s biographer, Mackenzie recounts:

“Wood acknowledged that the routine rudeness – the ‘just Gordon’ behaviour – had begun to trouble him. It became ‘more important’ after Brown became prime minister. He suggested that the ‘apologies’ they made for Brown had gone on too long. ‘How you deal as an individual with human beings is a core part of the job’, he said”.

How you deal with human beings? That’s all very good. But it’s hardly Prince of Darkness material is it?


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Matthew Collins’ war against hate

21/10/2011, 08:01:56 AM

by Dan Hodges

Matthew Collins is a Nazi. And a good friend.

Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. He used to be a Nazi. Back when he was young and angry and felt he was slipping off the world.

When I was young I was into a bit of politics and football and girls. This is what Matt was into:

“The little old ladies attempted to flee in terror but they had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. They were forced to cower together against the walls in united agonised anticipation of their bloody beating. Their own chairs were raised in slow motion against them. This was going to be a bloodbath”.

It was. And Matthew Collins perpetrated it. The description above relates to an attack he was involved in on a group of Asian pensioners at Welling library, in 1989. He was 17, and a member of the BNP.

The story of Matthew’s brutal assault is recounted in his new book Hate. I’m not usually into reviewing or plugging books. But you should stop reading now, shut down your computer, walk out the door, find a bookshop,  buy it and read it. Then you should  think about it.

Hate is about Matthew Collins’  journey; one that began that day in Welling, continued with his “defection” to the Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, and ended with him being in the forefront of the Hope not Hate campaign that saw the BNP routed from Dagenham and Nick Griffin subjected to his grotesque and glorious political humiliation. At some point over the next few months, the BNP will cease to exist as a political party. Its destruction will have been brought about, in no small part, by Matthew.


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Captain Miliband’s redoubt: deft, ruthless, doomed.

11/10/2011, 01:00:23 PM

by Dan Hodges

Strange. There I was sitting by the phone, waiting for ennoblement and a fast track onto the Labour front bench, and nothing. Not a peep. Our leader really does have a ruthless streak.

That glaring omission not withstanding, last week’s reshuffle already had the potential for disaster. Following the catastrophe that was party conference, which included an admission from Ed Miliband that he doesn’t even know the name of the guy who’s likely to be heading his party in Scotland, you half expected to wake up to find Chaka Khan had been asked to join the shadow cabinet.

Reshuffles in opposition, particularly those early in a parliament, always have a bit of a deck chairs on the Titanic feel about them. But coming so soon after Miliband’s conference speech vanished with all hands beneath the dark waters of the Mersey, this was more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Carpathia.

To be fair though, Ed Miliband managed to conduct the first independent appointments to his shadow cabinet with a degree of political finesse. The ambition to strike a balance between youth and experience was realised. Key appointments, Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Michael Dugher and Liz Kendall, are all media savvy operators who have managed to demonstrate over the past twelve months that some substance lies beneath their greasepaint. And the delicate political balance between former Blairites and Brownites has been maintained.

Some have argued the promotion of Dugher, Jon Trickett, Stewart Wood and Tom Watson is evidence of a Brownite ascendency, but that is to overstate the case. “Dugher’s  a sensible politician”, said one Blairite shadow cabinet insider, “and more importantly, he’s a nice guy. We can have a decent relationship with him”. Although viewed less warmly by the Blairites, Wood and Trickett have been established members of Milband’s inner-circle since the leadership election, whilst Tom Watson now exists on an ethereal plain, far above the hum drum daily politicking of Westminster.


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David Cameron and his party are undergoing an estrangement

06/10/2011, 01:00:36 PM

by Dan Hodges

Something isn’t right with the Tories. They are in government. They have been forced to share some of the spoils of their 2010 election victory, but victory was still theirs.

Their political position is sound. Having spent the past year trying to find some direction, Labour has dramatically struck out towards the electoral wilderness. The Liberal Democrats continue to passively fulfill their role as human shields. Cuts, riots, wars, economic stagnation; all come and go with the opinion polls registering concern, but little sign of open revolt.

And yet the Conservative party isn’t happy. Or rather, it is not content. It may no longer be the nasty party. But it is the greedy party. It wants it all. And it wants it now.

Standing in the queue to enter the Manchester arena, you could sense it. Impatience. Not directed at the diligent G4S security staff, but at the political gods. For a party whose members believe they were born to rule, being forced to share power is in some ways  a more cruel fate than not having power at all.

Actually, that is an unfair caricature. Looking at the Conservative delegates they did not look all that dissimilar to their Labour counterparts. Perhaps there were a few more blazers, a little more Laura Ashley and salmon pink. But these were not masters of the universe. Just fairly ordinary men and women imbued with a sense of destiny and self-importance.

They feel this should be their time. The global economy is in crisis. The international picture an unsettled one. There is unrest on our streets. The unions are mobilising. There is a overwhelming sense of a society in moral decline. But they are being hampered.

Hamstrung by an electorate that did not have the foresight to ensure the natural order was fully restored, and partners in government who lack the strength and courage to steer the ship of state through treacherous seas. (more…)

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You need more than courage to win

30/09/2011, 01:34:08 PM

by Dan Hodges

We have to understand. We need to grasp what has just happened to the Labour party.

Ed Miliband did not have a bad week. He had a grotesque, cataclysm of a week.

When the Leader of the Opposition finds himself having to rebut charges he’s “weird” you know something is amiss. But if you spend the whole of your own conference rebutting you know the wheels are detaching. And by Thursday morning there were more wheels bouncing around Albert Dock than a formula one pit lane.

Rebutting the idea the NEC was going to move to have Tony Blair indicted for war crimes.  That the party intended to licence journalists and kick out onto the streets those it caught misbehaving. That Ed Miliband planned to march into the Big Brother house and evict the lot of them.

And they were just the noises off. The fact Labour’s leader has no idea who his Scottish counterpart is was a mere footnote. The rapid unravelling of the tuition fees pledge a long forgotten irritant.

Just to put things into context, here are the responses from three shadow cabinet members to Ed’s speech on Tuesday. “I don’t understand what he was doing”, said one. “I feel physically sick”, said another. “I’m in shock”, said a third.

Those are members of a Labour shadow cabinet. Not minions of the Murdoch Empire, or Cameron cronies. Nor are they cartoon Blairites. They are serious politicians who want to see their party back in government. And they were, literally, in despair.

I just cannot understand Ed Miliband. He did not suddenly roll into town on a turnip truck, but worked at the very heart of the New Labour project. He may not have been a fundamentalist, and he saw at close hand the excesses and psychodramas.

But he is also a serious politician. He knows full well how an attempt to label elements of the business community as “predators” will be branded. What it means for a leader of the Labour party to turn his back on “consensus” politics. How, after a year of trying to cleanse the “Red Ed” stain, a speech which involved sticking two fingers up at the British establishment would be received. (more…)

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The undead Nick Clegg starts to stir…

23/09/2011, 12:00:41 PM

by Dan Hodges

Ed Miliband has a nightmare. Forget the sleep apnoea;  this is what really keeps him awake at night.

He is walking along the corridor of a dark, abandoned castle. He turns a corner into an imposing room. Like the rest of the castle, the room has been ransacked by  angry villagers determined to wreak revenge for the evil that once dwelt amongst them. All that is left is a large black table. Upon the table sits a coffin, lid open.

Ed inches closer, torch flickering. He peers in. Inside there is a pale figure, eyes closed, dressed in a dark morning suit. It wears a gold tie.

Ed is initially gripped by fear. But as the moments pass the fear recedes; replaced by a strange feeling of empathy. Then sympathy.

Poor Nick Clegg. What he did was wrong. So very, very wrong. But he has paid the price. The price exacted from all politicians when their public turns upon them. Now, at last, he has found peace…

“Hello, Ed. I’ve been waiting for you”.

Dear God, he’s alive! He’s sitting up! He’s…

“You’ll find it’s not so bad in there. You have time to stop and think. To come to understand where it all went wrong”.

Ed turns, tries to run. But his feet are like clay. Clegg is out of the coffin now advancing towards him, cape spread wide. He can see razor-sharp teeth glinting in the moonlight; a cold, piercing stare reaching out from dark, empty eyes.

And somewhere in the distance he hears a laugh. A cruel laugh. He knows that laugh. It is David Cameron’s. Then there is silence.


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Good home offered to custard pie throwing entryists

13/09/2011, 09:08:25 AM

by Dan Hodges

Recall the name of  the leader of the Militant Tendancy? Me neither.

We remember Derek Hatton, of course. All sharp suits and scouse wit. But he wasn’t the leader. Hell, he wasn’t even leader of Liverpool council.

That’s the thing about political entryists. They’re sneaky like that. They don’t hold formal positions, or hold elected office. Wear name badges and carry business cards; “Hi, I’m Derek, I’m here to infiltrate you and divert you from the path of moderate democratic socialism. Please enjoy the canapés”.

In fact, many of them don’t even think of themselves as entryists at all. They’re just honest to goodness “new members”.  A bit of fresh blood and innovative thinking for a battered and beleaguered movement.

I’m a bit of an entryist myself. A “Blairite” or a “Thatcherite”; apparently they’re interchangeable. I know this because people tell me so every time I write something outrageous, like suggesting we should try and get more seats at the next election than the Tory party. (more…)

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A statue of Peter Hain?

07/09/2011, 10:02:59 AM

by Dan Hodges

Can’t we just build Peter Hain a statue? Whack up a giant bronze monument to him slap bang in the centre of Neath and be done with it.

Refounding Labour started life as a good old fashioned vanity project. Peter’s reward for services rendered to Ed Miliband during the Labour leadership campaign. No more, no less.

Fair enough. Such baubles are handed out regularly. Part of the currency of politics.

But then things started to get out of hand. First the process, which was supposedly being driven by Labour party members, was outsourced to private contractors. Then some strange rumors began to circulate about what was emerging behind the closed doors of this open and inclusive consultation.

Non party members were to be given some say in superficial areas of the party’s activity. Like deciding its leader and its policies. At the same time, the role of the trade unions was going to be diluted.  The collegiate nature of this part of the  conversation was underlined by the “insider” who told the papers, “the union leaders are playing hard ball but they need to wake up”.

Members of the PLP were informed that plans for an elected party chair had been dumped. Calls for the refounding Labour submissions to be published were, in keeping with the transparency of the exercise, repeatedly rebuffed. It emerged that party conference was going to be ordered to either endorse the recommendations in their entirety, or reject them.

Then on Monday, via that traditional form of internal communication  – a leak to the Guardian – Labour members learned how they’re planning to transform their own movement. According to the report, the  party’s traditional aim, “to maintain elected office”, is now deemed outdated. Instead Clause 1 of the constitution will be re-written to “explicitly put the principles of community organising at its heart”.  An army of 2,000 “community organisers are to be recruited before the next election, and movement for change affiliated as a socialist society. At the heart of all this is the radical idea of “making formal [the Labour party’s desire] to be attractive to a far greater range of people”.


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Ed’s not that daft – but we didn’t know that

01/09/2011, 12:00:37 PM

by Dan Hodges

False alarm. Stand down.

Ed Miliband is not going to start attacking the government for being too harsh on rioting arsonists. There will be no call for a blanket amnesty for illegal migrants. Or for benefit fraudsters.

The Woodward memo, a sort of stamped and self-addressed Zinoviev letter, certainly caused a bit of a flap. “Labour’s new line of attack on David Cameron revealed”, exclaimed the Observer. “The opposition believes the prime minister has abandoned the centre ground in recent months to adopt a more orthodox conservative stance on issues such as law and order, immigration and welfare”. “Labour’s new strategy will highlight the Conservatives’ most popular policies”, reported Conservative Home, gleefully adding, “We’re not making this up”.

Well, they were to an extent. “It’s not a strategy document”, said one Labour insider, “it’s an assessment of where Cameron and the Tories are. It provides analysis but it doesn’t advocate a line of attack”.

That statement is certainly borne out by the sections printed in the Observer. Woodward’s document is heavy on psychoanalysis, but light on prescription:

“Analysis of Tory party policy, carried out over the summer, convincingly demonstrates the Conservatives are shifting to a distinctly rightwing strategy, in both their chosen focus on issues and their solutions… Cameron clearly recognises some of the danger he faces in his repositioning. He is still seeking to separate himself out from a toxic Tory brand and has assumed a presidential role and style”. (more…)

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