Archive for September, 2016« Older Entries |
Friday, September 30th, 2016
As left and right squabbled in the Liverpool conference centre, at Momentum’s festival down the road a new, modernised movement was taking shape
Anyone expecting the revolution will surely have walked into Liverpool’s gleaming Convention Centre and wondered where it was. The Labour party conference might now be Jeremy Corbyn’s domain, but it was all surprisingly familiar: a great wall of men in dark suits, fringe meetings with titles like “What’s ahead for consumers in a digital future?” – and, by way of a cruel pantomime, the disoriented sons and daughters of the Blair-Brown years, still wondering how to respond to what has happened – and, on the evidence I glimpsed, not getting much further than mouthing such tired tropes as the need for “an over-arching narrative”.
In glaring contrast, the most fulfilling and enjoyable event in Liverpool was The World Transformed, the five-day “festival of politics, art and culture” put on across town by Momentum. Here, most of the sessions – spread around a church-turned-arts centre, which felt as homemade and human as the official conference was cold and alienating – were designed to allow as much participation as possible, and thereby spark the maximal level of debate. You could tell something exciting was afoot by the hubbub that extended from the tiny reception area out into the street, and beyond.
The two strands embroiled in the fighting will have the least to do with what emerges from the mess
Friday, September 30th, 2016
Catch up on our discussion looking at whether Labour can win under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership
We’re going to close comments shortly – thanks for taking part in the debate today. We’ll have another one next Thursday lunchtime.
The Labour Party will not win the next general election, but that isn’t the right way of looking at the problem. Labour is in the midst of the same crisis as its sister social-democratic parties across Europe, with one twist: as evidenced by all those new members, it is also home to the kind of new, insurgent politics we’ve seen with Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US etc. Time spent this week at Momentum’s A World Transformed event in Liverpool reminded me that a great deal of Labour and the left’s future lies with some of the people involved (I’ve written a column about this, out later today), but a watershed moment is probably going to be a long time coming.
As things stand, most of what we know takes the form of negatives: that the politics of New Labour are dead, that Labour is dangerously estranged from its old working class base, that the party is pretty much finished in Scotland. What happens next is unclear: my own belief is that it will have involve Labour embracing changing the voting system, creating a politics beyond work and the worker, and understanding that amassing a critical mass of support will involve other forces and parties. All this will take time.
Can Labour win without electoral reform? Certain prominent Labour MPs have been convinced of the merits of proportional representation, and Chris, a reader from Exeter, thinks Labour needs to be thinking in terms of a progressive alliance.
The future of British politics is coalitions and he can lead a combination of Labour / Lib Dem and Greens with support from SNP. He can reach out to those who are outside the current voting patterns and disenfranchised – which is a far greater number is the vote for 16 year olds can be passed.
What really needs to change is our voting system so it takes account of proportional representation. A system where a government is formed out of 40% choice is not representative and also unfair to smaller parties
Thanks everyone, we now have 10 minutes left to discuss. Please get any final points in while you can.
Looking at the Labour party in its current state – confused, conflict-ridden and in desperate need of coherent strategy – it would be easy to assume that electoral success is off the cards for the foreseeable future. Certainly, current polling suggests the party is on track to lose dozens of seats unless something changes.
It’s fairly widely accepted that Labour is in need of some new ideas for the 21st century. Encouragingly, these issues do seem to be being discussed. The Momentum conference fringe event was buzzing with energy and many speakers were tackling difficult topics such as automation and the possibility of a citizens income. Many politicians are also keen to explore similar themes, Jonathan Reynolds MP immediately springs to mind.
How will the triggering of article 50 affect Labour’s chances? If Labour are to benefit from Conservative turmoil over Europe, what line should the party take on negotiations? Jamie, 37, from Sheffield, sees opportunities:
Corbyn undoubtedly needs to reach out to the political centre. But we should not underestimate the trouble brewing for the Tories. This is Theresa May’s honeymoon period but already the cracks are beginning to show. Brexit, specifically the failure to trigger article 50, is a time bomb waiting to go off for the Conservative party. With a slim majority, a Eurosceptic rebellion could see off this government at any moment.
A Labour majority is difficult to imagine. But a coalition with Labour as the largest party? Entirely achievable.
A more optimistic view from a commenter, who believes the terms of the debate – particularly on austerity – have shifted to the extent that Labour’s only viable future is one where it tacks to the left.
Before Corbyn, Labour is going the way of PASOK in Greece – a pro-austerity embarrassment of a Party surviving on the remembered fumes of the Trade Union movement. Since Corbyn became Labour the membership has doubled and the Party has shifted the debate inexorably to the Left. Austerity, as a proclaimed intent, is finished. Not even the Tories can promote themselves as the Party of inequality and free enterprise. Of course, it’ll take time for the ideas which have reclaimed the Labour Party to percolate outwards, and it won’t be a smooth transition as the Right doing everything in their power to stop Labour, but it’s a start of something better.
Readers responding to our form have been making the point that until Labour moves public opinion on key narratives, it’s going to be very difficult for them to make electoral headway. How can the party develop a reputation for economic competence when many voters still blame them for the 2008 economic crash?
Here’s the view of Martin, a registered Labour supporter in Sheffield:
The SNP have shown that the country is ready to elect an anti-austerity government. A government that actually provides excellent public services will find a public willing to bear the cost up to point.
There is a lot that needs to go their way – but I still feel that the main challenge is to change the narrative on the economy. Until we can change the narrative that investment can be positive for the economy, or that cuts aren’t effective in dealing with debt it will be difficult to get anywhere with undecided voters.
This is an interesting comment – making points about the fact that Jeremy Corbyn spent his career on backbenches. What do you think? Is he not very good at preaching to the non-converted? Or is he a man of the people?
No one would think of appointing a CEO of a major company who had no experience at a relatively senior management level, yet this is what the Labour Party has done with Jeremy Corbyn – and Leader of the Opposition is at least as demanding a role as leading a global corporation in terms of the organisational and negotiating skills, strategic vision, stamina, drive, pragmatism and media savviness required.
Corbyn looks like what he is – someone who has spent his entire career on the backbenches, free to follow his own principles and unaccustomed with the burden of having to make compromises and prioritise. And who is now out of his depth.
We’re trying out a new poll tool. Let us know what you think in the comments – and don’t forget to vote!
A commenter below the line makes the reasonable point that it’s all far too early to tell. Given the upheavals seen in domestic and international politics over the past few years, predicting the 2020 election is very difficult – particularly with the full effects of Brexit still to come.
The next election is most likely three and a half years away during which time we will experience the unprecedented upheaval of leaving the EU. There is also issues around boundary changes, scottish independence, the relevance of UKIP, whether labour can resolve their internal issues and divisions within the tory government. So on that basis nobody can say that Labour are not going to win the next election.
In the run up to the 2010 election the tories managed to paint the 2008 crash as caused by Labour and argued they were not economically responsible, yet could not win outright power. And against Gordon Brown of all people.
During the 2015 election campaign the tories maintained the argument, cast Ed Miliband as the son of Britain hater, glorified their own work on the economy since 2010, scapegoated the Lib Dems and saw the SNP all but obliterate Labour in Scotland, yet only managed a 17 seat majority.
Who wins the next election is pure guesswork, mine is that nobody wins outright.
Possible path to victory.
1. An electoral pact. The right win because they always vote together as one big monolith. Our turn. The scare of a small handful of Tories going over to UKIP was enough to panic Cameron into a Brexit referendum. I’m in a supposed Tory safe seat but the truth is that if you counted the Lib Dem and Labour vote together, we would comfortably win. That’s repeated up and down the country. An electoral pact means not standing candidates against the most likely to win. It also means people can vote strategically yet maintain allegiance with the party of their conscience.
2. Stand a Labour candidate in Northern Ireland to recover ground lost in Scotland
3. Try and win over the 40% of non-voters.
4. As far as immigration is concerned, it really isn’t rocket science. Saying Labour will build 60k new council homes a year is great but it is also arbitrary. Labour should go a bit further and say “we will institute whatever policy is necessary and build however many homes are required to make sure that house and rent prices don’t outstrip wages, and if we can’t achieve that, we’ll look to reduce immigration”
One repeated criticism of Corbyn’s electoral strategy is that he doesn’t do enough to reach out to the centre: the kind of voters with no fixed political allegiance, the kind of voted for Blair in 1997 but were more convinced by David Cameron in 2015.
One ready, a 46 year old Labour member from Brighton, got in touch to say there’s another way of winning: by reaching out to those who don’t currently vote.
At the moment more that 35% of the eligible voters in the UK don’t vote. This is equal to or more than the number of eligible voters that voted Tories to win the last election. Most of these people are mostly not taken into account by pollsters. In my view, Corbyn is connecting with this group of eligible voters. If he can bring them into play in a large number, together with the traditional labour voters that remain loyal to the party, he has a credible path to victory.
An interesting comment from a reader below the line who suggests Corbyn does something to surprise voters.
For Corbyn to win he will need to do something big to convince enough Tories, Liberals and swing voters to vote for him – that’s just the mathematical reality. It will be painful for him and his loyal membership perhaps, but he’ll need to have at least one or two proposals that make this voting group sit up and say ‘wow, I wouldn’t have expected him to say that!’, it’s called cognitive dissonance and is used in advertising to cut through a crowded market place and change brand perceptions.
New Labour understood this; the end of Clause 4, being relaxed about the filthy rich, keeping to Tory spending plans for two years, and making the BoE independent all raised hell in the party, but were highly effective in changing damaging perceptions very quickly and forced the wider electorate to reconsider the brand. There is a downside of course; he will get slated by many on his own side and that hurts, but he has their votes already, he needs to hold his nose and put forward policies that appeal directly to the voters of his opposition.
In a year when Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House has moved from ugly fantasy to likely outcome it would take a very rash old political hack to say without reservation: “Labour cannot win a general election with Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.”
That’s what I think, of course. I do so on the basis of 40 years watching mainstream British politics from a ringside seat inside what my Twitter detractors routinely call the “Westminster bubble” – as if Momentum activists or Ukip Brexiteers don’t live in a tiny confirmation biased bubble of their own.
Comments are now open. For those without a commenting account, there’s also a form you can fill in at the start of the live blog.
We’ve been hearing from Labour members on whether they think the party can turn around its electoral fortunes – keep the views coming, though we’re happy to hear from non-Labour members too. What would it take for you to vote for the party under Corbyn, and what put you off voting for them in 2015?
On opinion, we hear from a Labour member who vows to be more engaged in communicating the party message.
Our engagement isn’t just about reassuring the Labour faithful. The polls are a stark reminder of just how much work there is to do. We must turn the party into a movement that can be radical, and can win. As Corbyn said in his speech at conference, this wave of new members is in fact a “vast democratic resource” – not, as some people see it, a threat.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave his keynote speech to conference on Wednesday, relaunching his stewardship of the party by outlining his agenda for the country under a Labour government.
Responding to critics who accuse Corbyn of being more interested in campaigning than the more complicated and compromise-strewn business of winning general elections, Corbyn said:
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
This is a triumphant oral history of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge, a timely account of 1970s-80s musicians who fought against bigotry and Thatcherism
In the penultimate paragraph of this triumphant book, the writer and radio presenter Robert Elms casts his eyes back over four decades of British history, and comes to an equally triumphant conclusion. “Thatcher might have won elections, but culturally we won,” he says. “Look at Britain now: it’s a society where racism is absolutely frowned on; where gay marriage is accepted. It’s totally different from the Little England that Thatcher tried to hold on to.”
I read those words on the same day that police in Milton Keynes announced that they were looking for a man who had “racially insulted” a pregnant woman, before kicking her in the stomach and causing her to lose her child. My copy of Walls Come Tumbling Down had arrived just as reporters were being dispatched to Harlow, in Essex, to report on the murder of a 39-year-old man from Poland called Arkadiusz Jóźwik. And as I took in a story that stretches between the late 1970s and the end of the 80s, the Britain of 2016 – the Brexit vote, the years of resentment that fed into it, and the acts of hate that have happened since – inevitably blurred into what I was reading.
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Look back at our discussion of the week’s biggest stories, with views from our journalists
Thanks to everyone who was involved today. We will leave comments open for the next hour or so, and encourage you to continue the discussion. Look forward to talking more next week.
My favourites are videos that take me into worlds I otherwise wouldn’t have a hope of entering because of profile, distance or affordability. This week’s turned out to be a surprise hit from the Guardian’s Iman Amrani. A gem of an Insta Story for a delicious 24 hours only, at a street art event in Algiers.
It’s strength, as well as the access, was its immediacy. Information accurately and beautifully conveyed in a short slice of life from a country whose street art is rarely seen in our mainstream media. The power of a smartphone in the hands of someone informed and creative enough to know where to point it.
It’s the time of year when another cohort of fresh-faced yoofs will be arriving at their campus halls lumbered with dried fusilli, booze, posters, and all the other studenty cliches. These will be happy days for many, but it won’t be smiles all-round. Academic pressures, coupled with the first-time move away from home, can cause or exacerbate problems with mental health. It’s an emotive issue that affects everyone at some point, so it felt important that our latest student blog addressed this darker – and increasingly prevalent – side of university life from first-hand experience, with an appeal for improved counselling support services.
Many commenters said they could relate to the story, while a debate has ensued: to what extent are university staff responsible for students’ mental wellbeing? At what point is it more appropriate for a GP to step in?
The number of students seeking counselling at university has increased by 50% in the last five years, according to figures obtained by the Guardian. It’s a worrying statistic, although it’s noted that the rise is also down to the fact people are more openly talking about mental health, and seeking help as a result. What is clear is that young people are now under great pressure, and it’s something we need to take seriously. How can we improve mental health issues at university? What do you think is driving this? Share your views with us.
What one song defines who you are? It was a question posed this week by the dating app Tinder, who announced their partnership with streaming service Spotify. Not only will it sync users to others with similar listening habits, but it now allows you to pick a “personal anthem” – a song that reflects you.
It seems like a smart segue, but in actuality it poses all sorts of problems given the loaded nature of music. Some songs which give the illusion of romance are actually about far more sinister prospects (The Police’s Every Breath You Take, You’re Gorgeous by Babybird). I’d presume anyone choosing an earnest, credible song would be totally self-important and prone to asking “What you thinking?” during moments of silence. Anything genuine – ie whatever is in your head – might be too revealing.
It’s been a story that’s shocked many, but how newsworthy is it really that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have split? Tell us what interests you – or doesn’t – about this story? How should newspapers report it? What about how Jennifer Aniston has been embroiled in it?
Last week we launched our documentary strand with our new film Gun Nation, which is a troubling look at gun owners in the United States.
When the film-maker Zed Nelson approached me with the idea of revisiting the subjects of his photo book from 16 years ago, I was excited by the prospect of getting access to these people, who would normally be suspicious of speaking on camera to an organisation like the Guardian. Zed and the editor Noah have done a brilliant job of letting us hear them speak, occasionally challenging them, but approaching them from a perspective that they must surely want a solution to their country’s cycle of violence too.
A couple of your views on gun ownership here
I’ve yet to hear a sensible reason for a civilian owning an assault weapon. Americans can own as many firearms as they like – just restrict the supply and purchase of ammunition. The Second Amendment of the Constitution says nothing about the right to bear loaded arms.
As a nice liberal Brit, I deplore the ease of access to guns in America, but as someone who has fired several in my time, it gives you a hell of a rush and I can certainly see the attraction
What do you think? Does it shift your perspective to think of gun owners like any other kind of passionate collector or hobbyist?
If it were true that all guns were kept as non-functioning museum pieces (and a lesson as to how dangerous they are for future generations) I would be fine with that. However this is far from the case of course.
This week I wrote about a new study estimating that just 3% of Americans own half the country’s guns. These “super-owners” – about 7.7 million Americans – own an average of 17 guns each.
This may sound like a lot. But the super-owners I interviewed convinced me that it’s really not that many.
Each week we ask our team of moderators to highlight a comment thread they particularly enjoyed. This week, you offered many interesting perspectives on a radical idea to save the planet by bioethics researcher Travis N Rieder: to have fewer children.
Absolutely; two kids per couple to ensure a steady population and, let’s be honest, two of the little swines are enough for anybody.
The trouble is that whilst we have superstitions that encourage people to have loads of kids or which prohibit contraceptio, and societies that favour male offspring over female, then this ideal will be difficult to achieve.
Or perhaps longer gaps between the generations? People having kids in their 40s now rather than in 20s. During the next century that’ll make a significant difference.
A question any prospective parent has to consider is what kind of life they can provide for the child.
Global warming is taking away any parent’s control in this matter.
One reader seems to have – quite delightfully – got their stories mixed up …
This is a controversial topic, and views have often become heated in recent days.
However, if you ask me, the moderate Paul Hollywood has opted for power, and the chance to improve ordinary baker’s lives, rather than ideological purity. By contrast, Mary Berry has merely sacrificed power for principles. So much for the kinder baking.
I really enjoyed this piece about rats by Jordan Kisner this week. In it there are lots of facts about rats, but also the incredible story of a scientist working to make them infertileto rid them from our streets and sewers. To get you going, though, some myths to dispel …
There are no “super rats”. Apart from a specific subtropical breed, they do not get much bigger than 20 inches long, including the tail. They are not blind, nor are they afraid of cats. They do not carry rabies. They do not, as was reported in 1969 regarding an island in Indonesia, fall from the sky. Their communities are not led by elusive, giant “king rats”. Rat skeletons cannot liquefy and reconstitute at will.
You’ve been sharing your views on Jeremy Corbyn after reading John Harris’s thoughts earlier.
I’m of the opinion – I think – that all this discord is a sign of a party fighting its way through an unavoidable crisis, and very little will become clear within the next five years.
I think I agree – however I think it will take less than 5 years, because I think that the acolytes will most definitely go for full control with de-selections and that will force the issue to a more rapid conclusion than might be imagined.
The PLP know Corbyn has to be allowed to fail , there is no point challenging him at all , and that really is the case . A reading of the serenity prayer may help them out.
Corbyn has strengths and he has weaknesses, like all of us. His strengths are considerable. More than doubling Labour party membership in a year so the party is now the biggest in Europe, enthusing and giving badly needed hope to hundreds of thousands, having consistently made the right call on key issues as Ronan Bennett pointed out in a recent piece, and refusing to respond to endless personal abuse received not only from the Tories but, shamefully, his own side. If his PLP would notice and respect these considerable and actually remarkable qualities, and give him assistance where he is weaker, rather than the persistent undermining that has gone on so far, the Labour party would start looking like a party of government again
What does a Corbyn win mean for Labour.
It means they have to knock on the doorsteps of Middle England and explain to the voters why they are stuck with a leader that enjoys a 172 vote of no-confidence from his own MPs.
John- there is so much bad blood I am not sure detente could work. As soon as this calms down it’ll flare up again. I honestly think there needs to be a split in the party. The Corbyn camp will go as a ‘mass movement’ (although I honestly think they’ll get a shock in a GE as they find the mass support is sizeable as far as a movement goes, but a tiny percentage of the mainstream).
The ‘professional’ wing of the parliamentary party are also goosed. They cannot realistically work with the grass roots any longer.
The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee also gives her thoughts on the Labour leadership battle.
It looks as if Labour will be no better off when the leadership result is announced tomorrow. Following a Tony Benn dictum, Jeremy Corbyn used to demand a leadership ballot every year – and now he may get it. The party is so deeply and permanently divided, I see no way the two sides can come together until some other leader emerges more or less acceptable to both. If Owen Smith manages to get over 40% it will count as a success for non-Corbynites, but it will show how far the name “Labour” houses two quite different parties now. Many members warn they will quit, but democracy always rights itself in the end. Some day, goodness knows when, the Conservatives will over-reach and fall. But maybe not for years – so that’s cold comfort.
Labour’s bitter leadership contest is set to come to a head this Saturday, with the result of the ballot due to be announced. Here, the Guardian’s John Harris talked about what we can expect.
Popular this week was a documentary on Donald Trump supporters, with the Guardian’s Paul Lewis interviewing a variety of people in Ohio (including Kathy Miller, who was chair of Republican presidential candidate campaign in Mahoning County). Great lines include Miller saying that there was no racism in the US until Obama.
It’s Friday (pause for cheering) and as usual we will be discussing all the week’s best comment and news this afternoon.
This is a space for our readers to come together with our journalists, and talk about the biggest stories, best photographs and videos, and anything else that’s on your mind.
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
All over the west, the left is in crisis. It cannot find answers to three urgent problems: the disruptive force of globalisation, the rise of populist nationalism, and the decline of traditional work
Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll:
The Ultimate Guide to the Music, the Myths and the Madness
"The Dark Side of the Moon":
The Making of the "Pink Floyd" Masterpiece
So Now Who Do We Vote For?
The Last Party:
Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock
Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock
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