Why Labour shouldn’t let the Tories off the hook…

“If there be no Opposition, there is no democracy.”

Sir Ivor Jennings, constitutional expert.

The struggling Tories recently made a plea for some collaboration from Labour. With the Government engaged in the awkward process of Brexit, it might seem that Labour should put the troubled country first and engage with their traditional adversaries. Most Labour supporters can see this is a risible idea, but swing voters may be confused about why the party should remain resolutely opposed to the policies of the Tories.

The truth is that the Brexit process is unlikely to go well regardless of Labour’s tactics. Working with the Tories would only serve to discredit Labour. Nor is it clear that Brexit is the biggest issue facing the UK. Terrible inequality and mounting environmental problems are major difficulties for British capitalism.

The inadequate Taylor Review was short on substance and the Tories are ideologically hostile to a regulated labour market. As a consequence, Labour has to try even harder to represent struggling employed and unemployed people. Cooperating with the Tories would lead everyone to think ‘they are all the same.’ Labour moderates who do not recognise this fact have learnt nothing from the Corbyn surge.

Brexit: the costs of illusory independence

Experienced economists like William Keegan are convinced that Brexit will make ordinary British people poorer. Liberals might recognise that EU citizens may be unfairly inconvenienced by the complex process of disentanglement. Socialists may be aware of the interdependence of modern economies.

While the referendum result has put the Labour Party in an awkward position, it does seem that any stampede for Brexit may be regretted in time. Of course, the nuanced position in the manifesto was designed not to upset the electorate. And it is vital to present a united front to the public.

Nevertheless, there is the urgent question of state capacity. Contrary to the rhetoric of British patriotism, the current state seems to lack the collective authority, talent, resources and tact to make a success of Brexit. These weaknesses could be more apparent than real. Perhaps there is simply a lack of state cohesion. However, the longer the perceived incompetence continues the less viable the policy of Brexit will appear. Just because people have participated in a flawed referendum, it does not mean that they should be punished for being misled. This implies that the Labour leadership would be wise to consider adjusting its policy in the next manifesto.

Cameron by Francis Elliott and James Hanning

This thorough text is a valuable reminder of how important PR has been to Tory success. It charts the early fluctuations in the fortunes of David Cameron. It was written when it was just about possible to believe that the Conservative Party had a feeling for the green agenda.

It is hard to believe that Theresa May is the Prime Minister when reading this book. It was a blunder to associate the word nasty with her party. There must have been a more delicate way to tell the Conservatives that their brand needed an update.

May is being framed in a presidential way in the current election. While this strategy may deliver results short-term, the voters may be more inclined to blame her if things go wrong later. With the environment under increasing pressure, the Conservatives may eventually regret their utter neglect of green issues. May has the advantage of not being as aristocratic as Cameron, but her rush for grammar schools might make some modern Tories nostalgic for his more moderate values. As the writers observed:

“In delivering the Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture in March 2005 he explicitly rejected ‘ideological politics’ in favour of ‘practical conservatism’.”

In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

Oscar Wilde

This colourful tribute to the slow movement is worth savouring. In the UK, many economists are obsessed with the puzzle of low productivity. It has become quite common for people to eat their meals standing up. Speeding on the congested road network is not unusual, while some motorists use a mobile as they drive. Multitasking is widely praised and technology has arguably become a substitute for religion.

However, slackers everywhere are rejecting the rushed excesses of modern capitalism. Walking, cycling and slow reading have acquired new followers in recent years. Middle class parents are often tempted by home schooling. Above all, slow cooking has been revived as the huge costs of fast food have become evident.

Carl Honoré is a competent journalist with a great sense of humour. He recognises how hard it is to ditch our unfortunate habits. His humility makes this an ideal text to take on holiday. Nevertheless, its simple lessons should never be forgotten. There is nothing wrong with making slow progress.

Media misrepresentation? The Love Activists on Merseyside

“The Love Activists are well known on Merseyside after occupying the old Bank of England building on Castle Street in April and May 2015. That occupation, which the Love Activists said was in protest over a perceived lack of support for the homeless and government austerity, was said to have cost the taxpayer £120,000 to police and resulted in an estimated £25,000 of damage to the Grade-I listed building, which is still empty, as well as legal costs for the owners.”

 

A recent article in The Liverpool Echo has served as a reminder of possible media bias against the young. A few days ago, a group of Love Activists occupied a former bank in Hamilton Square in Birkenhead. The young people were protesting against homelessness and environmental degradation. A proper interview could have illustrated the idealism and courtesy of those involved.

However, a journalist chose to refer back to an earlier protest which took place on the other side of the River Mersey two years ago. The journalist alleged that the Love Activists are “well known.” No evidence was provided to support that specific contention. Further, the journalist omitted to refer to statistics about actual homelessness. According to official figures, the problem has worsened for the last six years. Since 2010, homelessness within England has increased by over 50 per cent.  While the journalist mentioned controversial numbers about a perceived protest cost to “the taxpayer”, they failed to provide data about the social context which prompted both occupations.

A lack of balance has caused many citizens to become sceptical about the standards of the national media. A journalist for The Sun has recently got into trouble for perceived racism against a footballer. The Guardian has been much criticised for a seeming absence of fairness towards the leader of the Labour Party. While it may be inaccurate to talk up ‘fake news’, it could be really complacent to believe what we read uncritically. The apparently hostile attitude of The Liverpool Echo towards socially concerned youth is arguably evidence that local media can be as lacking in compassion as the contributors to national newspapers.

Chavs by Owen Jones

“So, to begin with, workers need to reclaim a sense of pride and social worth.”

With this patronising statement, Owen Jones revealed that he had an attitude about what was good for working class people. Having conducted copious interviews with the great and the good, some of their entitlement had probably rubbed off on the young man. Mr Jones didn’t want working people to be misunderstood, but he assumed a priori that ordinary people lack pride.

Nevertheless, Mr Jones was aware that many workers have pride. Unfortunately for him it was not always the type of pride which appealed to him. This is because it was patriotic and could be manipulated by the right. However, he made insufficient intellectual effort in this text to get to grips with what was happening. When researching support for the appalling BNP, he failed to discover a single one of their voters. Hence the reactionary opinions of a section of working people became a matter of mysterious speculation.

It is thus entirely predictable that Jones has turned against Jeremy Corbyn. He is a commentator of the virtual world who spends too little time listening to the views of working people. He likes to generate a debate, but does not understand loyalties which may be hidden in his polemical narratives.

The Impartiality of the BBC and Andrew Marr

“what’s not recognised is that the role of the liberal intellectual establishment is to set very sharp bounds on how far you can go.”

Noam Chomsky

Today, the liberal journalist Andrew Marr gave the Prime Minister of the UK quite a tricky time. He asked Theresa May questions about the apparent limitations of the British nuclear deterrent. In particular, he pressured the Conservative leader to say if she had known about a specific malfunction prior to a debate about Trident renewal.

Marr was arguably restoring faith in the institution for which he works. After it had been revealed in the press that a different BBC journalist had misled the public about the views of Jeremy Corbyn, it was important for the state media that its reputation for political neutrality was regained.

However, citizens should not be manipulated by this turn of events. Marr could have been called Red Andy at university, but his role here was seemingly a conservative one. When May made a rhetorical gesture toward a country that works for everyone, he might have questioned her sharply about food banks, international inequality, environmental degradation, regional problems, and democratic deficits. By posing calmly as an unbiased interviewer, he allows the political class to maintain business as usual.