Posts Tagged ‘elections’

Are the Liberal Democrats taking this allegation of anti-Semitism seriously?

May 26, 2010

In yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman (a gent of Jewish extraction) started off his response by slamming the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories. Maintaining this Lib Dem-bashing theme (here here), Sir Gerald accused his Liberal Democrat opponent in the recent election of trying to use anti-Semitism to win votes:

I say something else to the Liberal Democrats: they will have to indulge in some internal house cleaning. Their candidate against me at the general election, Qassim Afzal, went round the constituency to mosques and other places where Muslims gather, telling people to vote against me because I am a Jew. That is what their candidate did. I was told that again and again by Muslim voters. My Muslim voters are possessed of a decency and generosity of spirit utterly alien to the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency, because they organised for me as they never had before and voted for me in many thousands.

The incidents that took place in my constituency as part of an anti-Semitic campaign went on and on. One of my constituents, a Muslim, told me how the Liberal Democrat candidate Qassim Afzal came to his house, which had a poster of mine in the window, and said, “You cannot have a poster in your window of a Jew. Take it down.” I told two Liberal Democrat Members before Parliament was dissolved that that was what their candidate in Gorton was doing. They were horrified. They said that they would bring it to the attention of their leadership. I do not know whether they did. I do know that their Liberal Democrat candidate, against the decency and humanity of my Muslim constituents, went on conducting an anti-Semitic campaign right through to polling day.

I say to the Liberal Democrat leader, now the Deputy Prime Minister, that if he did not know about that before, he should have done. His MPs told me that they had told him. He knows about it now. I will wait to see what he does to deal with an overtly anti-Semitic candidate who fought an anti-Semitic, and personally anti-Semitic, election campaign. If the Deputy Prime Minister does not take swift action to deal with that person, I will know that he accepts that anti-Semitism is a run-of-the-mill form of campaigning by Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] Well, it is up to him. That is what their candidate did, disgusting thousands of Muslims in my constituency. It is up to the Liberal Democrats to decide whether those are acceptable campaigning tactics.

The thing is, Qassim Afzal is not just an ordinary Lib Dem (if such a thing is possible…). He has been a Lib Dem candidate in many previous elections and a Lib Dem councillor. Plus he sits as an elected member on the Federal Executive of the party alongside Clegg, Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and other bigwigs.

His website is quite amusing. He seems quite a, um, character. I couldn’t be bothered to trawl through his 9 page CV to establish if he’d ever been a member of an anti-Semitic organisation. Hopefully the Lib Dems will themselves investigate to see whether such a prominent member of their party engaged in these disgusting anti-Semitic tactics, as Kaufman claims.  

Who would have though defeat felt so fine?

May 10, 2010

Labour lost its parliamentary majority and had its share of the popular vote reduced to a 1983-like level. Labour’s (probably) on its way out of government and the Tories on their way in. So how come this defeat  doesn’t have me bawling like a baby?

Firstly, low expectations. There were moments during the campaign when it looked like there wouldn’t be much of a Parliamentary Labour Party left after May 6 and that we’d be coming in third behind the Yellow Peril. Therefore, retaining 258 Labour MPs seems extremely healthy. The number of people who actually voted for us may be abysmally low by historic standards but at least we got a million or so more than the Lib Dems!

Secondly, Cameron’s failure to win. Even after Labour have been in government for 13 years and have therefore managed to annoy/disappoint just about everybody in at least one way; even after Labour have taken the country into a massively controversial war and a seemingly unwinnable one; even after the country went into recession whilst the Prime Minister was the bloke who had been in charge of managing the economy for the previous decade; even after years of the most widely read newspapers running headlines like ‘Labour surrender the Crown Jewels to pregnant teenage asylum seeking gypsies because of EU regulations and the Human Rights Act’ on a daily basis…

…even after all that Cameron’s Conservatives can’t get themselves a majority in the House of Commons. Pathetic!

Thirdly, there’s a feeling amongst some Labourites that now would be a better time than most to enter a period of opposition. Implementing massive, Armageddon-like public spending cuts isn’t going to be fun. It’s not the reason why we joined the party. Accepting that losing office is inevitable in a functioning democracy, why not just accept that the Conservatives should now be given a chance? Bonus – the fact that the Tories lack a Commons majority and may have to team up with the Lib Dems may constrain the heartlessness of their spending cuts (way too optimistic here?).

Fourthly, because despite everything that the opinion polls suggested was going to happen we kept the red flag flying in my ‘hood (Islington South and Finsbury). It proves that with a good candidate, with a good local team of campaigners and with good principled policies you can achieve a good result, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Catch up

April 18, 2010

Have been ridiculously busy with election-madness. Hopefully there’ll be more time to write some posts this week. Anyway, here’s a brief summary of Jako thoughts:

  • There was very little media mentioning of Gideon Osborne humiliating himself at the Tory manifesto launch. A journalist asked Cameron about his commitment to the environment and green taxes. Cameron said a question about green taxes should be answered by the Shadow Chancellor. Said Shadow Chancellor could be seen desperately flicking through the Tory manifesto, with other Shadow Cabinet members passing him notes on what to say. Talk about a total failure to master one’s brief. Pathetic.
  • Labour’s manifesto was nowhere near as radical as I’d have liked. Not much of great excitement to promise voters that a Labour fourth term would bring. Instead we have to talk about all Labour’s previous achievements like tax credits and child trust funds – themselves quite complicated to explain – and emphasise the importance of defending these from Tory/Liberal cuts.
  • Although saying that, we can hardly establish a clear dividing line on investing in public services versus cuts when spending squeezes are already affecting parts of the NHS (hence the very unhelpful argument over the Whittington).
  • Mentioning the Liberals, this poll nonsense is a total fricking disaster for us round here. Awful. A potential calamity. I appreciate that it makes the election more interesting but I really could have done without the hassle! I also wholly reject the idea that Clegg performed especially well at the debate on Thursday. I just think that his job was fundamentally easier in that he could easily capitalise on disillusionment with the two biggest parties.
  • Clegg’s attacks on the “old politics” of the “old parties” is so nauseatingly ahistorical. Let’s not forget that the last time the Liberals formed their own government (1911-1915) they took us into a horrendous bloody war in which nearly a million Brits died. Just like with Iraq, the party with the most number of anti-war MPs was Labour.
  • Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe made us all laugh when he said Nick Clegg was “seriously impressive”. But now we all have to take this…seriously. I can even understand the appeal of the Lib Dems. They talk about equality, which my party does not do enough. And Vince successfully gives the impression of being genuine and competent. He is certainly more inspiring than Darling and infinitely preferable to Osborne. But all I have to then do is remember that a local level they are fairly reactionary and unpleasant and that a lot of their ‘progressive’ sounding arguments aren’t built on solid foundations.
  • I was disgusted to be wearing a Smiths t-shirt on a day when David Cameron once again told the world that he’s a massive Smiths fan.

Debates

March 2, 2010

So, we’re definitely going to be treated to a series of televised leaders’ debates during the upcoming election campaign.

I don’t like how the focus on the leaders personalises politics. I can see the importance of these sorts of debates in the American presidential system, but it should make less constitutional sense over here.

However, I am still looking forward to them. In this day and age where the population is spoilt for televised choice it is ridiculous to say that voters should watch Prime Minister’s questions on BBC Parliament if they want to see how the party leaders perform against one another.

I also think there’s a high probability that lots of people will get mixed up between David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The two men look the same and sound pretty similar on many policy issues. This could confuse anti-Labour voters when they get into the polling booth. Excellent.

Why would Nick Griffin become Lord Griffin of Barking anyway? He was born in Barnet and lives in Wales.

November 26, 2009

A certain Labour MP seems to be arguing that we should oppose reforms such as increasing use of proportional representation and democratising the House of Lords because the result will be “Lord Griffin of Barking”.

PR and an elected second chamber = More Nazis in the legislature, apparently. So shame on anyone who wants such reforms.

Tom Harris thinks the retort to his characteristically sophisticated argument will be “Ah, you can’t stop the BNP by gerrymandering the electoral system. You have to beat them with argument”, to which he replies “And how did that work out in the European Elections?”

If Mr. Harris had been reading his copies of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight (or even if he had just spent more than 5 minutes thinking about the issue) he might appreciate that anti-fascist activism doesn’t simply rely on trying to stop the BNP through having better arguments than them. In-fact, relying solely upon such a strategy (as many advocates of platform-sharing seem to be) is pretty useless.

Far better to have A) mainstream parties offering popular policies that retain the support of enough people in communities vulnerable to the BNP so that the fash find it harder to get elected and B) mainstream parties campaigning hard on the ground and keeping in close contact with the voters in those communities so that the fash find it harder to get elected.

So basically Tom Harris’ arguments are tosh and he’ll have to do better to justify his sneering at supporters of reform.

Why ‘Against the Odds’ should not be in the running.

November 14, 2009

 Last week LabourList published an article  calling for the short film ‘Against the Odds’, which was shown at Conference, to be Labour’s next party political broadcast. Several hundred Labourites have joined a Facebook group in support of this proposal. 

‘Against the Odds’ can be viewed below:

Whilst I am someone who gets very excited about Labour history and who also likes the idea of a positive, upbeat video that reminds people of the party’s achievements over the years, I think there are some obvious reasons why ‘Against the Odds’ would not make a suitable PPB.

It concentrates on the past and does not mention any current or future policies. Surely one of the principal points of a PPB is to reinforce voters’ awareness of what the party is doing and what it plans to do. Considering the state of the economy and other pressing issues that Labour urgently needs to win voters’ trust on (public services, crime, immigration, the war in Afghanistan), it would be ridiculously self-indulgent to use a whole PPB to bang on about good ol’Labour opposing Mosley in the 1930s and Apartheid in South Africa. Even if voters – like Labour Party loyalists – do get a warm fuzzy feeling out of seeing images of Bevin, Bevan, Wilson, Kinnock et al (please note how unlikely this is) they may still think at the end of the broadcast: “Well, that was nice but I’ve got no idea what Labour is going to do to help me find a job today”.

We are now living in the longest period of continuous Labour government ever. It may therefore seem a tad desperate for a Labour PPB to contain so many references to the achievements of the past. After 12 years of Labour in office, shouldn’t this government have secured enough popular reforms that it can stand on its own record rather than having to hold up the establishment of the NHS in 1948 as a reason why today’s voters should stick with the Labour Party? I know this is related to the first point but it’s so important that it needs reinforcing! Talking almost entirely about the party’s past in a PPB reeks of lacking confidence in the party’s present and of lacking ideas for the party’s future!

The corniness factor of the film is pretty high. Maybe that isn’t in itself a massive problem (plenty of reasonable successful PPBs have been a bit cringeworthy) but some of the schmaltz of ‘Against the Odds’ would be vulnerable not only to mocking but also to serious criticism – I’m thinking especially of the reference to the “true Brits” at 2:08. The press would inevitably compare this to that dimwit Sarah Palin’s moronic claim that Republican voters represented the “real America”. I can see the Tory press and blogs easily establishing a meme along the lines of: ‘Controversial ZaNuLabour broadcast says that only Labour supporters can be considered “true Brits”‘.

To be pedantic: some of the history isn’t on very firm ground. Although Labour members did join in the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, the official party line was that people should stay away from the anti-fascist demonstration. To be ultra-pedantic: for some reason the third image in the film is a photograph of the moment when it was declared that Labour-turned-National Government Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had lost his parliamentary seat to Labour candidate Emanuel Shinwell in the 1935 general election. Yes, MacDonald turned traitor, but spitting on his memory is unnecessarily vindictive. He did much to help build up the early Labour Party and was Labour’s first Prime Minister, after all.

I am willing to change my mind about ‘Against the Odds’. If focus group research, for example, suggests that voters respond positively to the film then obviously everything I’ve written here is wrong. Also: if the party does not have enough money to make a better PPB then ‘Against the Odds’ would be better than nothing.

However, I think Labour has to do better than this. In the LabourList article it’s suggested that “perhaps we need a little less ‘head-ruled’ campaigning and we should let the heart take over for a while”. That’s not going to work. If we take politics seriously and genuinely want to try to win the election rather than just feel good about ourselves then we need to put voters’ concerns at the heart of our campaigning strategy. I don’t see how ‘Against the Odds’ does that.

At best ‘Against the Odds’ being broadcast would probably be a non-event that wins precisely zero votes for Labour but maybe reinforces the enthusiasm of some party activists. At worst the broadcast could actually turn more people against us as we offer them an idealised version of the party’s history rather than a popular policy programme designed to address the issues of today. 

Analysis of the voting figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential election

June 21, 2009

Chatham House and St Andrews’ Institute of Iranian Studies have published a preliminary analysis of the numbers.

The Iran boffins have been comparing figures from the recent elections with results in 2005 and with statistics from Iran’s 2006 census. Here is a summary of their number-crunching:

  • In two conservative provinces a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.
  • Previously stark variations in regional participation have almost disappeared.
  • In a third of all provinces the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all conservative voters, and all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters.
  • In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates and Ahmadinejad in particular were unpopular in rural areas. It is a myth that Iranian rural voters are staunchly conservative and pro-Ahmadinejad. His enormously high support in rural provinces this year defies past results.

It all looks extremely suspect.

Down with the dictator!

Results in Islington

June 8, 2009

The Labour Party – 12,428

The Green Party – 8,551

Liberal Democrats – 8,167

Conservative Party – 6,170

United Kingdom Independence Party – 2,639

British National Party – 1,488

So not too bad considering the devastation for Labour across the rest of the country.

More people voted for UKIP than Labour. We were beaten in Scotland by the nats. Second to the TORIES in WALES. We came behind the Cornish Nationalists in Cornwall. And that’s not even mentioning the fash bastards now going to the European Parliament to represent the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Awful awful awful. By the way, have you seen this new blog on the block?

Andrew Brons MEP

June 8, 2009
  • 1960s – Member of the National Socialist Movement. Yes, as in Nazism. So when the fashionable thing to do was to grow your hair and start talking about peace and love, Brons was actually celebrating Hitler’s birthday and was a member of an organisation that used to go around firebombing synagogues.
  • 1970s – Member of the National Front.
  • 1980s – Active in the National Front’s policy unit (presumably quite an easy job where you just have to come up with different ways of saying ‘Rights for whites’ and ‘There ain’t no black in the Union Jack’)
  • 1990s – Concentrated on career as a lecturer.
  • 2009 – Elected as a BNP Member of the European Parliament.

Sick to my stomach

June 7, 2009

The view at 2300hrs

I am watching the BBC coverage of the election. Only the North East has yet declared, but the BBC is predicting that the BNP may have won a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber.

I am a grown man, and I am literally fighting back tears. It gives me such a feeling of deep shame to think that our country will have any representatives who are Fascists.

The failure of mailstream politics in general – and, if I’m honest, Labour in particular – is laid bare here.


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