Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three reasons why Milne's appointment was wrong, wrong, wrong

You'll have heard by now that Seumas Milne has been appointed executive director of strategy and communications for the Labour party. This is a disastrous decision for (at least) three reasons.

1. He has no expertise whatsoever on strategy. Shouldn't a director of strategy have some experience of, you know, strategy? What is the point of the Labour Party if it can't get elected? Has Milne ever been involved in a strategy that got someone elected to public office? (Rather, than, say, to the executive of the National Union of Journalists?)
2. He hasn't got much more expertise on communications. True, he's earned his living as a journalist all his adult life. But only three publications he's worked for are Straight Left, a Communist Party weekly, The Economist and The Guardian. In other words, his communication has overwhelmingly been with the already converted middle class left. If Corbyn is to usher in a new form of politics, he needs to reconnect the Labour Party with "ordinary" voters, with those who don't vote and those who've drifted to UKIP and the Tories. How can you do this, if your career is wholly within the activist bubble? This is a dreadful signal that Corbyn's Labour does not want to reach out to the ordinary working class people who make up the majority of the unconverted, but to mobilise a social movement.
Footnote: Many of Corbyn's left-wing domestic policies do resonate with voters outside the bubble; his foreign policies, with which Milne is closely associated don't:
YouGov for Prospect, via John Rentoul

3. His own views are just appalling. I won't bother to exhume all of the awful things Milne has said in his columns - on whether Lee Rigby's killers were terrorists, on whether Stalin was good for gender relations, on whether Milosevic deserved to be tried for war crimes, on whether we provoked Putin to invade Ukraine, on whether the UN-verified mass chemical attack on Ghouta happened, etc - because the right-wing press will be combing his easily accessible Guardian archive as I write and we'll be seeing plenty of this, making any leftists with a moral compass squirm with shame.
Further reading:
I also went through old links mentioning Milne on this blog. Here are some nuggets from the archive:

Friday, October 09, 2015

Twlldun: The socialism of fools

This is a guest post by Twlldun, republished with permission, from It was posted during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. I have added a couple of hyperlinks, plus the extra links at the bottom of the post. Since then, more allegations have been raised about the protests at the Tory party conference, as summarised in Sarah's post here.

It’s 2012 and Tower Hamlets council – which, as you may remember, was at the time run by a dubious group with links to Bangladeshi Islamists – orders the removal of this mural:

It’s not really hard to guess why. I mean, even the most charitable of us could see that a picture of a bunch of large nosed businessmen sat around a table made from the bodies of the poor, plotting their rule of the world, may be a teensy weensy bit “problematic”, as I believe the kids have it.

The artist in question – in true tabloid terms – “takes to Facebook” to angrily protest it being taken down. And in the thread of comments that follows, a voice pops up. An MP from a near-by constituency.

Now. Leaving aside the congestion of this paranoid stoner’s work with Diego Viera, the thing that stands out for me here is the opening – “Why?”.

When the Labour leadership election was in full swing, a lot of people misidentified as “Blairites” or “neo-liberals” (the latest meaningless buzzword that seems to encapsulate “everything I don’t like”, like its comrade-in-arms “Zionist” but with the racial element removed) asked some serious, hard questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s associations.

We – because I was one of that motley group of voices – were accused of accusing Jeremy of being antisemitic. But the truth is, I wasn’t accusing him of that. I don’t know many who were. My accusation – which ties into the “Why?” here – was a lot more simple. We were concerned that he didn’t know what antisemitism was. He didn’t acknowledge its existence when it came from sources he viewed as “progressive”. To him, antisemitism is Mosley marching through Cable Street.

Such a blindness may be excusable in any human being – it can mark you out as ignorant, or a naive holy fool rather than malign. It’s a flaw in an elected politician. It shows lack of judgement to a serious degree.

And it’s a huge flaw in an elected politician who has made as his foreign policy cause the one area that (as well as the decent and honest, or – as Anthony Julius describes them in his “Trials of the Diaspora” – the rational enemies of Israel – i.e. those who have a legitimate connection to the conflict and have cause to be *on the other side*) lures in Jew haters of all stripes. If you want justice for Palestine to be attainable, you have to put a firewall between the racists and the cause. Both as a moral consideration and as a tactical one.

But, as the stories show and the above illustrates, Jeremy isn’t very good at recognising that.

Again, this wouldn’t be a huge issue. All political parties have their outliers, their cranks and seers, their wild-eyed men of the back-benches, their awkward squad with awkward associations and awkward views.

But what is infuriating, for me, is that on being told of this, the Labour Party members dismissed or glossed over it. Ignored it or pretended it wasn’t an issue. And elected him. Made the decision that it’s support of Corbyn’s economic proposals could override any other considerations.

Today, there’s a protest march in Manchester. The usual assembly of union members and fringe groups are there, proclaiming a message that I in large part agree with. Protesting cuts and talking about public service. 13 year old Morgan is there with this banner:

What strikes me most about this is not Morgan. Look, he’s a 13 year old boy with silly reductionist ideas of the world. Fine. We were all stupid at 13. But he made this banner. His parents watched and let him. And let him leave the house. People are helping him carry it. People are standing around it. Nobody is saying to him “HANG ON, Rothschild bankers? LAD!”.

Excuse it all you like. Until the left accepts that it glosses over antisemitism in its ranks, that it turns a blind eye, or makes some hand-waving justification, until the left wakes up to this shit, then it betrays the morals that it claims to stand for.


Bob adds:
I like the way Mr Corbyn compared a minor graffiti artist with the great Uruguayan footballer Diego Viera, rather than Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.