Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

The Tory taste of death

28/04/2017, 02:20:10 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We’re having so many elections that Lynton Crosby is usurping Kylie Minogue as our most ubiquitous Antipodean. Painting campaigns in primary colours of risk and security, Better the Devil You Know is his favourite Kylie track.

So starkly are risk and security contrasted that it rapidly descends to Eddie Izzard’s cake or death sketch. This time the “security cake” is made of Brexit, Ed Miliband’s energy price cap, and Philip Hammond’s dearth of fiscal plans. If your pallet is trapped in May 2015, this cake will taste of what we were told was deathly risk. Then security supposedly meant EU membership, opposition to the energy price cap, and George Osborne’s austerity justifying fiscal plans.

Crosby now sells a confused security composed of what he recently told us was risk. Unknowable risks at that. We are not being asked to vote for Brexit but for whatever Theresa May, after a highly complex negotiation with the EU and its member states, decides Brexit means. As fiscal prudence has been redefined as whatever Hammond deems it.

Blank cheque Brexit, aligned with carte blanche fiscal policy, is no security at all. Making this understood is now the task of Labour PPCs.

Robert Harris, writing not long before the election was called in the New Statesman, “can’t quite understand how the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party can sit there day after day, month after month, year after year, knowing that they’re simply heading towards a kind of mincing machine at the next election.”

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Uncut Review: A United Ireland, why unification is inevitable and how it will come about, by Kevin Meagher

20/03/2017, 10:22:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Before there was a United Nations, before there was a United States, before there was a united anything, there was a United Kingdom.”

Bob Geldof delivered these rousing words to a rally in Trafalgar Square in 2014, organised to encourage Scotland to stay in the UK.

Will #indyref2 also see similar English outpourings of fraternal expression toward Scotland?

There must be more risk this time around that England shrugs its shoulders. Certainly, in the event of a referendum in Northern Ireland on its status within the UK, it is hard to imagine Unionist rallies springing up on mainland Britain.

“Where Scotland is seen to be an opportunity worth holding on to,” writes Kevin Meagher in A United Ireland, why unification is inevitable and how it will come about, “Northern Ireland is quietly regarded as a problem eventually worth jettisoning.”

Britain, as Meagher titles a chapter, is just not that into Northern Ireland. Whatever affinity the English retain for Scotland, it dwarfs Northern Ireland kinship – a place that feels faraway, with alien customs and obsessions.

Opinion in Northern Ireland itself, not on the mainland, will determine its future. Meagher assembles the economic evidence that it would be richer within the Republic of Ireland. And the stark divergence in social attitudes between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In spite of these economic and social drivers, there remains, of course, a majority community in Northern Ireland defined by loyalty to the UK.

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Jam-eaters will decide Copeland. Based on her trip north, Theresa May has clearly never heard of them

18/02/2017, 10:30:26 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is easy to poke fun at Cumbria. The land that time forgot. Northern accents that can’t quite be placed – “I thought you were from Yorkshire”. Withnail and I going, “on holiday by mistake”. Lots of sausage. Little hip and happening.

Most people in Cumbria, I feel, look at Millom, a town of 8,000 people in the south of Copeland, scene of one of this week’s byelections, as the rest of the country looks at Cumbria – far-flung, incomprehensible. “It is,” I was once told by a friend from Workington, “a funny place, Millom, isn’t it?” Millom, in turn, redirects this perception to Bootle, a nearby village.

“What is it that you don’t have in Bootle? Electricity?”

Coming from Bootle, I grew accustomed to mocking enquiries such as this in the Millom schoolyard. At least, no one called me, “bad Bootle UKIP meff”. That is Paul Nuttall from Bootle, Merseyside – a more gritty and urban place.

The sitcom Porridge is set in a prison just outside Millom. A hapless guard bemoans losing his wife to, “the bright lights of Workington”. A lag, played by Ronnie Barker, sympathises that he, “can’t compete with that”. As much as the canned laughter indicates that the rest of the country find the notion of a cosmopolitan Cumbria oxymoronic, the Millom prison guard and my Workington friend would see themselves as coming from different places.

While there is a rivalry between Whitehaven, very much in the Copeland constituency, and Workington, a town just north that gives its name to a separate seat this side of the boundary review, they’d see each other as fellow jam-eaters and Millom and Bootle as remote outposts.

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We are a European country

06/02/2017, 10:33:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The wealth of the UK depends much more on European trade than with any other export market. Our prosperity, much more interwoven with continental prosperity than with prosperity over any other geography, is used to finance public services that are discernibly European in their scope and coverage. Popular support for such public services rests upon values that are more akin to those held elsewhere in Europe than beyond.

We are, in other words, a European country. Europe is not the EU. But the EU is the key organising unit for the advance of shared economic and political interests within Europe.

The challenge for the UK, outside of this organisation, is to sufficiently maintain the GDP growth that we have enjoyed within this organisation to continue to fund public services to the extent that public opinion requires. While the UK is exiting the EU, trade with other European countries is so vital to British economic performance that relations with the rest of Europe will continue to be key to this challenge.

It has long been said that the UK wants Scandinavian public services on American taxes. It has never been said that we want Singaporean public services on Singaporean taxes – with much more limited Singaporean regulation to boot. Yet the prime minister – with zero democratic mandate for this position – places this threat above both our EU partners and the British people.

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May and Trump are in charge – but voters’ wallets still rule

23/01/2017, 07:15:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Trump’s inauguration. May’s speech. We are told that Trump is a protectionist and May is for free trade. But they both reject the social market that characterises the EU, making it a golden shower of a week for internationalist social democrats.

The market comes via trade within the EU, while the social is injected by having this occur above a floor on workers’ and consumers’ rights, as well as protections for the environment and other public goods. “We would be free,” threatened the prime minister, “to change the basis of Britain’s economic model.” The social dimension of the EU model would not endure any transformation into Dubai-on-Thames. Nor, according to a former head official at the Treasury, would the NHS.

It is also the market, not the social, that attracts Trump – perhaps better described as a mercantilist than a protectionist – to a trade deal with the UK. He wants a wall on the Mexican border but he doesn’t want, in contrast to a pure protectionist, to wholly encase America behind trade walls. He does, though, seem to view trade as a zero-sum game, not a win-win exchange. And he eyes a win for America in a negotiation with a UK to be stripped of EU social regulations and looking for friends after politically detaching ourselves from our European partners.

Trump perpetuates the myth that America has ever put itself anywhere other than first. Pumping, in today’s money, around $120bn into Europe via the Marshall Plan, for example, wasn’t just about compassion for a continent on its knees after World War II. It was about minimising the risk of American blood being spilt on European soil, opening up European markets for American goods, and creating a European bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic.

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Big match preview: The Clinton vs Trump debate

26/09/2016, 11:14:12 AM

by Jonathan Todd

No matter what happens to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, no matter whether Brexit is soft or hard, no matter whether secondary modern schools return or not, these all pall next to the consequences of President Trump.

Nearly half of Trump’s supporters expect him to detonate a nuclear bomb. No one should sleep easily. Especially not in the Baltic states, where the closeness between Trump and Putin is particularly troubling.

As a Trump adviser, with extensive business interests in Russia, is suspected of holding clandestine talks with Putin officials, it is not hard to imagine President Trump failing to trigger a NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. This would be part of a broader drawing back of American troops from Europe and the shrivelling of the NATO.

The consequences in the Pacific are also likely to be dramatic. US trade war with China. Ending the military protection that the US provides Japan. Heightened tensions, both economic and militarily, between the historic rivals of China and Japan. After throwing oil on these fires, President Trump can hardly be expected to be an effective firefighter.

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Why things are not as bleak as they look for social democrats

30/08/2016, 06:02:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Uncanny. That is what Nigel Farage says of the supposed similarities between the EU referendum and the US presidential election. This is not a comparison exclusive to him. Far from it. The excellent Gideon Rachman has made it as articulately as anyone in the Financial Times.

“This similarity is more than an unfortunate coincidence. I would point to three parallels between Brexit and the Trump phenomenon that should worry the Clinton campaign. The first is the potency of immigration as an issue. The second is the way in which the Trump and Brexit campaigns have become vehicles for protest votes about economic insecurity. The third is the chasm between elite opinion and that of the white working class.”

On immigration: In the race for the Republican nomination, Trump favoured a “deportation force” to eject the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented migrants living in the United States. No more. Trump is watering down his position because he has, finally, twigged that it is a loser.

On economic insecurity and the white working class: up to a point, Lord Rachman. Nate Silver has exploded the myth of Trump’s “white working class support”. Similarly, having reviewed the evidence, Zoe Williams has concluded of Brexit that: “The very most we can say is that leave had some popularity with the disaffected and the disenfranchised; but it was not limited to that group, and the people who swung the vote were affluent, older southerners.”

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The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies

09/08/2016, 06:26:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson and Will Straw, unsurprisingly, questioned the focus given to the EU referendum by Jeremy Corbyn on Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit documentary. Given Brexit’s slender victory, a more dedicated Labour campaign may have kept the UK in the EU.

We will await the extra £350m a week for the NHS that the Brexit campaign allowed us to believe would be forthcoming. Not once do I recall Corbyn exploding this myth with, say, the fierce clarity of Ruth Davidson at the Wembley debate on the EU referendum. Only the tediously tribal wouldn’t concede that Davidson is impressive. At the same time, however, it is lamentable that a Labour leader can so pall next to a Scottish Tory, a supposedly extinct bred reborn as the most coherent opposing voice to the SNP hegemony that Corbyn was supposed to shatter.

Rather than Scottish recovery, it feels more like the Labour weaknesses that the SNP have ruthlessly exposed will creep south. Brexit asks questions about the future purpose of UKIP, a party dedicated above all to this end, but also exposes a divergence between Labour and many of our traditional supporters in the north of England and the Midlands, which UKIP might be recalibrated to capitalise upon.

Theresa May will look at Labour’s loosening purchase on these regions and spy opportunities for Tory advance. As May looks north, Corbyn tacitly endorses attempts to deselect Peter Kyle, one of Labour’s few MPs in the south outside of London, providing little sense of a lifting of Labour’s traditional southern discomfort.

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It is time to stand for centre left values

14/07/2016, 04:04:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The responsibilities of moderate Labour are so much bigger than mere party tribalism. They are to our country, our consciences and – in the face of ISIS, Putin and Trump – our civilisation.

My conscience would happily rest with the end of Labour if it helped save our country and civilisation. “Histrionic” is a word that has been thrown about lately. And maybe I’m being so.

Perhaps not, though. I believe the UK is going through its biggest crisis of my lifetime. We are a country fracturing on every axis. Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. An unexacting bar.

Theresa May, regrettably, is not up to the challenges of her office. Which include acting to preserve the institution that has helped bring Europe its longest period of peace and prosperity, while also exiting it in a way that does least harm to our economy and society. And I focus on harm minimisation because, kids and grandparents (for it is the baby boomers who must eat their young), we’ve been sold a pup by unaccountable, fly-by-night charlatans.

People are angry now but they’ll be more so when they find no economic nirvana awaiting. Some take out their frustrations on immigrants – who the prime minister, pawns to her as gunboats were to Palmerston, struggles to reassure.

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Labour: Stop meeting. Start leading. Or others will

05/07/2016, 10:06:50 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are decades where nothing happens,” according to Lenin, “and there are weeks where decades happen.”

We are living weeks of decades. At least the Great British public are. In contrast, Labour, with its Leninist conclave nominally at our helm, are having some meetings.

Meetings about meetings. Paranoid bunker meetings. Rousing, Kinnock-fuelled PLP meetings. Nice that Neil’s still got it in him. But just a meeting.

But some meetings don’t happen. Like between our leader and deputy. Portland Communications, newly rumbled and keen to appear even-handed but doubtless driven by dastardly capitalist motive to showcase a client, have given them both brain reading technology.

This means that they are constantly meeting, even when they are not meeting, but never, decade after decade, saying anything relevant to a population crawling into a new, disconcerting era.

Change so bewildering that a politician who struggles to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK, against a backdrop of intimidation to such people, starts to appear the least bad PM option. Better than the “political psychopath” who did as much as anyone to induce this Brexit catastrophe. Preferable to the new Iron Lady – who, as the Remain frontrunner is intensely scrutinised, might win to satiate the Tory thirst for a Leaver.

No matter who the next PM is, they have no mandate for the terms upon which the UK leaves the EU. The Leave campaign – on a false prospectus that no one is held to account for – won a Brexit mandate.

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