Posts Tagged ‘Russell Brand’

Five dangers for Labour as the finish line approaches

06/05/2015, 10:10:03 AM

by Rob Marchant

And so the election goes down to the wire.

A shaky start for Labour; then two very good weeks; and now a late push by the Tories takes us to the photo finish. The Tories look better for winning the most seats; but Labour seems to have a better shot at forming a government.

It seems that the slightest gust of wind may decide who forms the next government. But for that very reason, both parties must tread very carefully. Here are a list of five dangers for Labour as the finish line approaches.

One: UKIP collapse and last-minute swings to the Tories

While we might, as good left-wingers and non-xenophobes, be delighted to see Nigel Farage apparently getting his comeuppance, we should be careful of what we wish for. Most of the votes which disappear from the UKIP section of the ballot paper reappear as “X”s in the box marked The Conservative Party. That is, UKIP’s collapse is highly dangerous for Labour.

As Lord Ashcroft’s final round of polling in marginal constituencies shows, there is a clear swing back to the Tories, where Labour was far ahead for most of the last year. The pattern is exemplified by Croydon Central: in six months, there has been a ten per cent swing from Labour to Tory, nine of which can be attributed to a collapse in the UKIP vote. Many more cases like that and Labour is in deep trouble.

What can Labour do? Not much. Get out the vote, and cross our fingers.

Two: the SNP

Not before time, Labour has finally started to hit the SNP where it hurts: in the fundamental futility of their message, that another referendum is more important than solving Scotland’s problems. And the thuggishness of some of their supporters, on- and offline.

But they still have the capacity to hurt Labour a lot – in fact, were it not for the SNP’s unexpected surge, Miliband would probably be measuring up the rooms at No. 10 for furniture as we speak.

What can we do? More of the same. We will not do well, but we may avoid a wipeout.

Three: poor judgement calls

Some have argued that Ed Miliband being interviewed by Russell Brand, a comedian noted for previously urging young and impressionable people not to vote, was a good way to tap into his millions of Twitter followers and YouTube viewers, and claim their votes.

It was not. It was no more a good idea than Neil Kinnock appearing in Tracey Ullman’s video of “My Guy” in 1984 (lovingly preserved on YouTube here). It is always a temptation for politicians to try and borrow celebrity glamour, and sometimes it can work. But it must be managed.

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Labour must overcome the Terrible Simplifiers

16/09/2014, 09:42:16 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Ben Watt recently won best “difficult” second album at the AIM Independent Music awards. In the chorus to the album’s closing song he sings that “the heart is a mirror where it’s easy to just see yourself”. One of the verses tells of a redundant man undertaking childcare and domestic responsibilities, while his wife is the bread winner. All this man can see in his heart is the pain of redundancy, which distorts his relationship with his wife, causing him to see her as a threat to his sense of himself.
We are awash with pain: the economic pain of unemployment, struggling to get by and dead end jobs; the social pain of loneliness, dislocation and addiction; and much else besides. All of which breeds anger and takes potent form in the politics of grievance.

This fits snugly and powerfully within the essential political narrative. The elements of this narrative are a critique of the status quo, a vision of a better alternative and a route map for moving from the status quo to this alternative, often accompanied by identification and condemnation of those who frustrate this transition.

Grievance politics trades on anger with those supposedly forestalling a better world: the EU that denies the ale sodden, sunny uplands of UKIP; the English oppressors of the Scottish. UKIP and the SNP, though, converge on a shared enemy: Westminster and the political class. The faraway elite chain us to the Brussels cabal; conspire against the Scottish.

These claims are ridiculous and are mocked. Daily Mash reports on a UKIP councillor being proud to announce “that Doncaster will be freed from the yoke of EU membership with immediate effect” and on a film called 12 Years a Scot, “the brutal but uplifting story of Brian Northup, a free man who at no point is forced to work on a plantation”.

When trust in Westminster is at an unprecedented low and the pain of everyday lives feels unending, unendurable and beyond the capacity of these mendacious leaders to eradicate, what is absurd – that the EU is an oppression, that the Scots are oppressed by the UK – gains traction. These kind of all encompassing narratives are not alien to Labour’s history.

Clause 4 socialism, for example, explained all our problems in terms of private ownership and saw all our solutions in its elimination. In the belly of the Labour Party, we always knew that this violated what David Mitchell later proposed as a liberal tenet: the instinct to offer, “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”. Tony Blair’s revision of Clause 4 communicated to the wider electorate recognition of this.

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It’s not a new politics we need, it’s a new electorate

13/01/2014, 10:32:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I wrote a piece a while ago criticising the Welsh Assembly’s controversial proposal to introduce “presumed consent” for organ donations. In the comments section, without it seemed a hint of irony, someone wrote “Let’s start harvesting the organs of MPs”. It’s not clear whether they meant while they were still alive (I suspect they did) and probably with a rusty butter knife.

An all-too-familiar vignette from the dysfunctional frontline between the governed and the governing in our cynical, sour, clapped-out democracy? Alas so. It seems we’ve now moved beyond mere suspicion of our MPs. Frankly, we’ve moved beyond despair. We now want to cut them up for spare parts.

A recent ICM poll found 47 per cent of us are “angry” with politicians and a further 25 per cent of us are “bored” with them. A derisory two per cent are “inspired” by what’s on offer; hardly a blueprint for a system of popular legitimacy. The elastic has snapped and this sorry state of affairs – all cold-blooded contempt and disinterest – now seems to be permanent; the default setting of a mistrustful, disappointed public.

For optimists like Ed Miliband, the answer is to create “a new politics”. But what if we’ve got this totally wrong? What if we’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope? What if what’s needed is, in fact, a new electorate?

The one we’ve got isn’t fit for purpose any more. We’ve become a nation of the wilfully ignorant, not borne from a lack of opportunity, but from too much of it. We no longer read enough proper newspapers or watch or listen to enough news. Despite the infinite opportunities to do so, we simply don’t follow current affairs like previous generations did. Ignorance isn’t so much bliss, as standard.

That same ICM poll shows that 86 per cent of us recognise that politicians’ decisions are “fairly important” or “very important” to our lives, but we have simply lost interest in following how and why they are made. More precisely, we have abdicated our responsibility for knowing. We’ve opted out.

We don’t ‘do’ big ideas any more. We don’t understand what’s being done in our name or the alternatives on offer; and, it seems, we don’t really want to. And what we don’t understand we discount. We’re a people hiding our deficiencies as citizens behind our worship of sport and celebrity trivia. Most under 25s couldn’t tell George Osborne from Sharon Osbourne.

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