Thoughts on recent news
We’ve got another month or so of the Labour leadership campaign to go. Leftwing MP and longtime dragon-fairy-Twitter-follower Jeremy Corbyn has been polling consistently highly so as to worry the Labour establishment. As an outsider, it’s been fascinating to watch those so used to being in control responding with such panic – such as Tony Blair here.
Mr Corbyn continues to speak to packed out halls, and the noise on social media continues to be mainly pro-Corbyn. At the same time, some of the personal abuse being thrown has been very unpleasant. Credit to Mr Corbyn for publicly stating he doesn’t do personal abuse. It might be an idea to remind some of his supporters of his stance too.
For me, the big unknown remains the Labour members & supporters who don’t follow politics as closely as the very active members or those in the social media bubbles. I’ve yet to see any detailed polling done that allows for those that don’t use the internet or mobile phones.
A period of bridge-building?
Whoever wins, Labour will need to go through some sort of reconciliation process given some of the vitriol that’s been unleashed. Given the continued high polling & raised expectations, if Mr Corbyn doesn’t win, will his supporters feel ‘robbed’ in the way some of David Miliband’s supporters did back in 2010? If Mr Corbyn wins, what place will there be for the likes of Liz Kendall and those on the ‘Progress’ wing of the party? Will they, in such a situation be tempted to split – leading to 1981 all over again? Is the era of two-party politics over, as Professor Colin Talbot asks here? Note Prof Talbot’s comments on a Mr Corbyn leadership & the challenge of filling shadow ministerial posts.
“Why are we not seeing more celebrations from Labour over their membership rise?”
I asked this on Twitter
As others tweeted, this huge membership rise can’t be attributed to ‘entryism’ from the far left alone. As Michael Crick tweeted:
i.e. there simply aren’t enough people in the old established far left to account for such a rise, even though paper sellers may be conspicuous by their presence at Mr Corbyn’s rallies. My hunch also is that there are enough Labour Party loyalists in grassroots constituency parties who experienced the 1980s that they’d be able to spot entryist tactics by new members (who may be familiar faces locally anyway), and see them off.
“Isn’t it fun giving a fright to people in power?!?”
I’ve seen various tweets expressing a desire to do the complete opposite of what ‘Establishment’ figures & organisations are recommending – whether politicians or newspapers & their columnists. At the same time, there will be greater public policy scrutiny of Mr Corbyn’s policy platform as well as greater scrutiny of those he’s shared public platforms with over the decades – as Ivan Lewis MP has done here.
“Won’t the Tories be laughing at what’s happening?”
This is where I agree with Prof. Talbot in the second half of his post here. David Cameron tied himself up in knots with the commitment of an EU referendum – a cheque that the electorate subsequently cashed, but one that did not entirely do away with UKIP given their 4m votes in 2015 (despite only 1 seat) and their victories in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Does Cameron really want to be the person leading the ‘Out’ campaign? (Or will he stand down as leader just before the referendum and leave it for his successor to sort out?) Either way, in 18 months time the Conservatives could find themselves split over Europe at a time when society has had to absorb further cuts to public spending. The problem the pro-EU campaigners have is the EU as an institution isn’t covering itself in glory over Greece, & is also failing again over international migration.
‘A bit o’ fencin, a bundle of sniffer dogs and some burly chaps – job done…’
Only, it’s not.
The international migration crisis from the Middle East & North Africa for me has been a long time in the making. Ever since the 1997 election I remember the newspaper headlines being an almost daily deluge of inflammatory headlines about immigrants & asylum seekers. William Hague let the genie out of the bottle in the late 1990s as a policy he could embarrass Labour on, which in part led to the rise of UKIP following Robert Kilroy-Silk’s intervention in the 2004 European Parliament elections, & UKIP has been around ever since.
At the same time, with the ascension of the 10 ‘new’ EU states, eight of which were former Warsaw Pact countries meant that the free movement of people (one of the founding principles of the EU) was extended to these new countries. At the time, the UK, Ireland & Sweden were the only countries that did not place any restrictions – not least because their economies were booming. The big mistake Labour made was not ensuring there was a corresponding increase in resources for public services in the areas that people moved to. (Combined with measures to regulate the banks and take the pressure off the property bubble).
What I’ve not seen – and what I think would be fascinating, is a widespread study of people’s experiences of moving from Eastern Europe to the UK – both those that stayed temporarily & those that settled. For example, children that moved to with their families from Eastern Europe to the UK at primary school age & stayed here may well have just picked up their A-level certificates. We hear from the newspapers & their columnists, but what about the people who lived the experience?
Power vacuums in North Africa and the fallout from the Iraq War II
Unlike in 2004 with the expansion of the EU which was agreed by politicians and governments, what’s happening in the Mediterranean seems to be showing politicians and governments at their most powerless & impotent. The most striking thing in all of this for me is the complete absence of international leadership. It’s as if both national governments and international institutions have been hollowed out to such an extent that no one has the competency or authority to get a grip with the situation in the way perhaps The Marshall Plan did in the late 1940s onwards.
Perhaps stung by past interventions, there seems to be no desire at an international level to take action / provide support for those areas & countries that people are leaving. The problem is that history is littered with failed ‘development’ programmes. Having had a strong ‘development studies’ component part to my economic degree, I found this article fascinating reading. The final few words of that article: “As outsiders, we don’t necessarily know what’s best.” But then, how many public policy types have for example gone out to where the migrants are and conversed with them? This is what Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron MP has done, as have Green Party deputy leaders Shahrar Ali and Amelia Womack (the latter who I interviewed in Cambridge earlier this year) went to do in Calais. They joined their French counterparts on the visit. (See a video here).
These were their words before they made their visit. It’ll be interesting to see what impact their visit will have on their parties’ international policies at next month’s annual conferences. Would Labour politicians have done similar if they weren’t in the midst of leadership campaigns?
My point however, remains. International problems require international responses. Nation states, the EU, the UN and other international organisations have found themselves wanting in the face of this. What I think is really sad is that UK politicians – in particular those in government – have been nowhere near attempts at finding credible solutions. Instead, Mr Cameron uses terms like this, and his Foreign Secretary, this – having failed to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the problems, let alone showing any substantive foreign policy responses that might deal with it.
A failure of leadership?
Where is the EU-co-ordinated relief effort to help the public authorities on the Greek and Italian islands? Where are the high-profile co-ordinated UN missions to provide relief & support in those areas where migrants are coming from. Why isn’t the mainstream media pinning down ministers and asking them these difficult questions?
Where is the co-ordinated EU response supporting Greece? Where is the co-ordinated EU/UN response in those countries that m