A new year heralds change – 2013 will see new heights of human achievement, new lows of tragedy, new inventions and discoveries, new works of art and new ways to move the spirit.
What it will not see, it seems, is a new commitment to accuracy from John Prescott. In the history of scientific endeavour, few leopards have been discovered with less changeable spots.
This morning the good Lord – turned Sunday Mirror columnist – tweeted:
Coalition prepares to mark mid-term review twitter.com/johnprescott/s…
— John Prescott (@johnprescott) January 7, 2013
Unfortunately for Prezza, that photo – much used by the lefty twitterati in recent months – is from September 2004, as reported here.
That means the bubbly was being delivered not to George Osborne or his Coalition colleagues but to Gordon Brown, at a time when John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister. Either Prezza knows the photo is from the wrong administration and is deliberately misleading his 167,000 Twitter followers, or he has mistakenly picked it up from somewhere else.
Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the latter. The only recent, mainstream use of the picture was in the Daily Mail last year, accompanying a story that the Chancellor intends to introduce a green tax on chilled champagne. The tax will supposedly be called the “Thermal Reduction Initiative (Champagne)”, or “TRIC”. Published under the byline “Pru Cremier”, the story was published on…April the 1st.
Oh dear, John.
There was understandable anger at the news this week that t-shirts urging people to dance on Margaret Thatcher’s grave were on sale at the TUC Congress. While disgusting, sadly it’s nothing new that the hard left have some pretty unpleasant opinions – as I’ve reported on this blog in the past.
What is more worrying is that the organisation selling the t-shirts, the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, is apparently taxpayer-funded and closely tied to parts of the political establishment – far from being the independent loons the media reports have so far portrayed them as.
Take the following items as evidence:
– According to the DUWC 2011 Annual Report, their Chairman is Cllr Graham Baxter MBE, the Leader of North East Derbyshire Council, who uses his introduction to the report to rail in a partisan way against the “Tory County Council”
– On page 8 of the same report, the “Fundraising” section lists money received from Bolsover District Council, North East Derbyshire District Council and Chesterfield Borough Council, as well as grants from no less than 11 County Councillors
– The Summer 2012 edition of their “Solidarity” newsletter headlines on a new campaign launch attended by Dennis Skinner MP and Natascha Engel MP, and thanks 5 County Councillors for the allocation of their 2012 taxpayer-funded grants
The DUWC may well do a lot of valuable work – certainly you can see the potential for an organisation offering impartial advice to jobseekers. However, it seems they’ve crossed a line a long time ago from helping unemployed workers to campaigning on a party political basis in a rather unpleasant way.
Until they go back to focusing their efforts on their proper, worthwhile mission, it is surely inappropriate for them to be using taxpayers’ money for partisan campaigns.
There is a fascinating internal struggle going on within the Labour Party at the moment. The GMB Trade Union declared their intent to ban Progress, the arch-Blairite pressure group, from the party, and appear to be well on their way to doing so.
Atul Hatwal’s Labour Uncut article on the topic drew attention to some of the factions on the hard left of the party who aren’t coming in for the same kind of criticism allotted to Progress. So I wandered over to the website of the Labour Representation Committee, a leftist pressure group who quite cheekily took their name from the original name of the Labour Party itself.
There I found this remarkable gem of a blogpost, identifying the LRC – which is chaired by John McDonnell MP – as an eager ally of the Assad regime in Syria. Which, at a time when Assad is murdering civilians by the thousand, is pretty classy.
It’s worth reading the whole piece as a classic case-study in deluded, old-school leftism, peppered as it is with references to “world capitalism and imperialism”, “bourgeois nationalism” and “the world masses” (whose official spokesman is, of course, taken to be Cuba).
For now I’m going to give you just one staggeringly brilliant quote:
“Sensing its end coming near, capitalism prepares for war not against Syria, or Iran, but against the USSR”
Err, against who?
It’s bad enough having Parliamentary representation for a group that harks back to the beliefs of the USSR, but it seems the LRC think the Evil Empire still exists. If their campaign to save Bashar Al-Assad’s skin is motivated by a desire to preserve the Soviet Union, then they may be in for a nasty shock next time they look at a map…
++ Update ++
Though Cowards Flinch has done some digging into the backstory of Marie Lynam, the LRC blog author (who the LRC’s leadership are desperately trying to distance themselves from in the comments below), and points out that she is apparently a member of the Fourth International Posadists.
The Posadists are a really hardcore Trotsykite
cult clique who are actually odd enough to have their own Fortean Times article – thanks to their ideological leader’s weird beliefs, which included campaigning for a nuclear war as soon as possible and the idea that UFOs were sent by an alien socialist utopia.
In that respect, they’re kind of like the Scientologists, except they believe in taking everyone’s money rather than just that of their own members. Should the LRC really have Posadists blogging for their site?
The way MPs use their taxpayer-funded expenses and facilities is an area the public are understandably concerned about. The MPs’ expenses scandal was a disinfecting burst of sunshine into some pretty dingy corners of Westminster and led to a welcome clear-out of some representatives of the people who saw the rules merely as recommendations.
One element of the rules which is long-standing and extremely clear is that MPs’ Parliamentary resources (staff time, computers etc) is explicitly and solely for use in their Parliamentary duties. As the Members’ Handbook puts it:
“These facilities and services are provided in order to assist Members in their parliamentary work. They should be used appropriately, in such a way as to ensure that the reputation of the House is not put at risk. They should not be used for party political campaigning or private business activity.”
Apparently not all Members are so keen on this rule.
Last Wednesday, the following email was sent out by Julian Bell, researcher for Virendra Sharma MP, apparently to all members of their constituency Labour Party:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: BELL, Julian <BELLJG@parliament.uk>
Date: 28 March 2012 13:48
Subject: Dr Onkar Sahota’s GLA Campaign Launch – This Saturday 7 untill 10 pm at the Dominion Centre, The Green, Southall, UB2 4BQ
The Mayoral and GLA campaign has now entered the legal short stage and there are only 36 days to polling day on 3rd May. With their budget for millionaires and a Tory Councillor being suspended for a racist blog they really are the same old Tories. Tory Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes are no different and there will be no better chance than now to kick them out of office.
In order to do just that and to launch Dr Onkar Sahota’s campaign for Ealing and Hillingdon we are holding a campaign launch and fundraising meeting this Saturday 31st March at 7 pm at the Dominion Centre, The Green, Southall, UB2 4BQ. Please come along and give Onkar your support. Bring along other Party members and enjoy an evening of politics, food, drink and socialising. Don’t forget to bring your cheque book.
Steve Pound MP
John McDonnell MP
Virendra Sharma MP
Cllr Julian Bell
Cllr Mo Khursheed
As you can see, it is from a Parliamentary email account, written by a Parliamentary researcher and yet is a highly partisan invitation to a party political election campaign event, which doubles as a party fundraiser. There can be no doubt this is a breach of the very clear rules of the House of Commons.I’ve always thought the MPs’ expenses scandal was unlikely to be the last we would see of MPs abusing their position – but I didn’t necessarily expect it to start again so soon. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is unlikely to be very pleased about this, I suspect.
Police are still investigating an alleged assault in the Strangers’ Bar last night.
Reports of violence in the House of Commons are mercifully rare, but this sheltered life does lead some MPs to be woefully ignorant of how common and terrifying such occurrences are for their constituents.
I was pleased to see from Hansard that at least one MP has done fact-finding patrols with the police to find out how such problems arise outside Westminster:
“I go about my constituency occasionally with the cops on a Friday or Saturday night. We see a bit of violence in the streets and recognise where it comes from, what is happening and who the bad guys are—who has been caught up in things because they have drunk too much and so on.” – Eric Joyce MP, 31 March 2009
One expert interviewee featured condemning the current Government for allowing the problems to continue after the 2010 election was Matt Cavanagh, introduced as a former “Government immigration adviser”.
Now, Matt Cavanagh’s critique may well be right – the Coalition evidently didn’t ask the right questions that would have uncovered these failings in May 2010. But shouldn’t some criticism – perhaps the bulk of it – go to those who oversaw these security breaches opening up in the first place?
Vine reports that the holes in our borders first began in 2007/8. To prevent such a thing happening again, we surely need to know how the problem first emerged.
But who could Newsnight have interviewed about such a thing?
Perhaps we should look at Matt Cavanagh’s full tagline on Newsnight – which was, err, “Government immigration adviser, 2003-10“.
It was fair enough to interview Cavanagh and ask him about the Coalition’s role in allowing the scandal to continue. But why wasn’t he asked about how the problems allegedly started on his watch?
Famously, Peter Mandelson once said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes” – the phrase summed up the embracing of aspiration which proved to be one of New Labour’s key steps to electoral success.
So it’s interesting that he has now apparently abandoned his state of intense relaxation and is instead jumping on the bandwagon of being twitchy about income inequality and critical of the aspiration which he once embraced.
It’s convenient for him that this change of heart has come about in 2012 – long after he himself became “filthy rich”.
No-one knows quite how much he earns, though high six figures or even seven figures a year are often touted. We do know that his latest house is worth £8 million – more than enough to count as filthy, one would have thought.
His spin today is that this is because economic and political circumstances have changed. But isn’t it really just the same old story, that he’s the kind of person who embraces aspiration when he himself is aspirant, but promptly does his damnedest to pull up the ladder once he’s at the top of the pile?
The master strategist was part of the group around Tony Blair who recognised that being tough on crime, welcoming towards aspiration and positive about enterprise is the foundation of electoral success in Britain. If even he is abandoning that thinking – largely because he is now rich enough to afford to – then the Opposition are in real trouble.
The success or failure of political campaigns rests on a lot of different factors. Many of them are solid things – do you raise enough money? Do your team work harder than the other side? Are your ideas coherent?
But there is another factor which is just as important, or potentially even more important. There’s not really a specific word in English for it, so let’s call it mojo.
When you’ve got mojo, you’re unstoppable. Everything you say comes out well, everything you do is well received, and you just seem naturally destined to win. Everything you touch turns to gold. Barack Obama had mojo in the 2008 Presidential election campaign.
Of course there are material things supporting this – the hard work is still being put in, the good team still need to be there and you still need to fundraise – but there’s an element of magic about it as well. Some politicians are touched with it for their whole careers – Tony Blair, for example – some people will get it at a crucial time only for it to vanish later, while others may see it crop up intermittently through their whole lives.
It’s when you have the opposite of mojo that things get really interesting.
I’m not talking about a simple absence of it – the vast majority of politicians are, for the vast majority of their careers, lacking it and instead forced to rely on hard bloody work alone.
I’m talking about when you are in active possession of anti-mojo. When you’ve got the Black Spot. When you’re cursed.
You won’t find politicians who have had anti-mojo for their whole lives. If they did, their careers would never have got off the ground in the first place. Instead, it strikes one day, and can prove impossible to shake off.
These unlucky souls are in real trouble. They can have the money, the team, the elbow grease, even the ideas, but everything they touch goes horribly wrong. Bungles are made. Fate intervenes to destroy the best-laid plans (remember Gordon Brown’s literally car crash poster unveiling?).
If it was a patch of bad luck alone, it might be possible to keep your head down and wait for it to pass. In ordinary life, I suspect this happens to most people at one time or another and they survive. As a political leader that’s almost never possible.
Instead, the problem becomes self-reinforcing. Your misfortune, incompetence and absurdity become a media and social theme. After the first obvious incidents occur, people start looking out for them. You swiftly become the laughing stock of the lobby, and then of the public. When this happens, the prognosis is almost always terminal. Needless to say, this is the political comms person’s nightmare – how do you manage the reputation of someone the Universe appears to have taken a dislike to?
Ed Miliband may well have reached this point in the last week. Never the most naturally comfortable or suave politician, his slow handling of the Diane Abbott furore swiftly developed into an out and out collapse in respect through his “Blackbusters” tweet.
Today, you can see the results. When for whatever reason he kept lobby journalists waiting for over half an hour for his much-trailed (and much rewritten) 6th relaunch speech, they went public and started taking the mick out of him on Twitter. (See here, here, here, here, here and here for examples). Then the BBC accidentally captioned him as “David Miliband”.
It’s not just that he’s a leader in the Twitter age – it’s that his anti-mojo has got so bad that the lobby don’t respect or fear him. When it feels natural to the nation’s political press that they can mock you in public, you’ve got a serious problem. When you lose respect to a degree that even the ordinary politeness any Briton would show to a stranger isn’t accorded to you, then that is incredibly hard to overcome.
It’s safe to say Ed Miliband was not born to be a man touched for all his days by the magic of political mojo, but there was a chance he could have been one of those politicians known for achieving through hard work what had not been gifted to him by sheer pazazz. Instead, he’s become infected by a truly severe case of anti-mojo. 2012 is barely two weeks old, but his leadership is already in serious, serious trouble.
The Trade Unions are large-scale consumers of taxpayers’ money. They eat tens of millions of pounds on the supposed basis that they are strapped for cash and ordinary taxpayers somehow have a responsibility to pay for their political campaigning and fat cat bosses. In 2009/10 their subsidies totalled a remarkable £85.8 million of taxpayers’ money.
But are they really so hard-up that they need the public to be forced to bolster their funding?
The GMB, for one, apparently has plenty of cash going spare. It turns out that they sponsor their own, err, Ice Hockey team – the Nottingham Panthers. Or, to give them their full and official title the GMB Nottingham Panthers.
What public good does it serve for the GMB to splash cash in this way? For that matter, how does it serve their members to dish out sports sponsorhip?
If they can afford to become the name and shirt sponsor for a sports team, then they clearly don’t need so much support from the ordinary taxpayers of this country.
Of course, in return for their subsidy from hard-working taxpayers, the GMB is repaying us by going on strike on 30th November.
Any GMB members unsure to do with this extra day off need not worry, though – they can always go to see their pet team the GMB Nottingham Panthers play away against Cardiff Devils on the same day…
Peter Mandelson has been industriously digging himself a hole over the Eurozone crisis. Normally a fervent debater and a nimble performer when it comes to picking his words carefully, he got a bit of a shoeing from Paxo on Newsnight last night.
It can’t have been comfortable for the Prince of Darkness, but there are further troubles ahead if he sticks with the line of attack that he has chosen.
We’re choosing to be outside [the Eurozone] and not showing up at those Councils and bodies where the decision-making and economic discussions of the Eurozone are taking place
The problem he faces on this one is a curmudgeonly, sociopathic Scotsman called Gordon Brown. Back when Brown was Chancellor he was notorious for not bothering to attend the meetings of ECOFIN – the council of EU Finance Ministers. When the group met, McAvity Brown more often than not was nowhere to be seen.
Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, has not been to Brussels for a single meeting this year….Mr Brown has the worst attendance record, going to barely half the meetings since 1999. In 2004 he made it to a little over a third of meetings.
The difference between then and now is that while today’s Government are refusing – rightly – to take part in building a new Euro bailout package, which would be as expensive as it would be unpopular, back then Brown was skipping the very meetings which sowed the seeds of the current Eurozone crisis.
Around that table in the late 90s and the early years of the 21st Century a consensus developed that it was acceptable for the vast majority of Eurozone countries to brazenly breach the Stability and Growth pact, running huge deficits and piling up vast national debt mountains.
Now that is crashing down on all our heads leaving Britain, Europe and even the whole world to pay a heavy economic price.
Brown opted out of those meetings, passing up a chance to warn of the consequences of the Eurozone countries’ actions. Then, of course, Mandelson went on to help him limp on as Prime Minister for three miserable, costly years.
Does the good Lord really want to start this argument?