In the short term, it’s possible I’ll be a tiny bit better off, because the largest single day drop in the value of sterling now makes my few American book sales worth more. Of course, that’s going to be a tiny consolation when the inevitable slash and burn budget does its best to take away what’s left of everything that’s good about this country.
If anyone wants to set up a Kickstarter or Patreon that will ensure David Cameron doesn’t go a week without getting at least one email or letter that’s just a picture of a pig, I will try to scrape together some money to back it.
And if any Brexiteer wants to sneer and call me a bad loser, I’ll know that, if the tables were turned, they would have spent the day throwing the biggest toddler tantrum ever, whilst claiming that MI5 had stolen the result in some pencil based conspiracy.
As the Labour Party is trying to tear itself apart rather than pick a new leader, it seemed like a good time to read up on their greatest Prime Minister*.
At times, this book felt like it was a satire on the current state of British politics, dressed up as the biography of an unjustly forgotten politician. There’s the tyranny of charity- the way the ‘Big Society’ could never work because the donor gets to decide who the deserving poor are, and punishes anyone not behaving the way they are expected to. Inequality propped up by the system (and Tory support for that system). Other Labour PMs who were more interested in having the post on their CV than doing anything useful with it. The big egos with talents that don’t match up, who think they should be running the party rather than the quiet little man who’s a little too far to the Left for their liking. (They failed, and the little man oversaw the creation of the NHS, welfare state and much more.) Trouble with the unions and even, after losing the 1951 election, a vote from the membership that had the Party establishment crying that there had been a (non-existent) Communist infiltration.
Clement Attlee was a son of an upper middle class family who seemed destined for dissatisfied normality, until he started doing charitable work in the East End. Appalled by the inequality he saw there, he shifted, gradually, to socialism and, eventually, membership of the Labour Party. Never the greatest public speaker, he nevertheless garnered respect for his organisational abilities, commitment and fairness.
Attlee quietly worked his way to leadership, outmanoeuvring the more flamboyant candidates who believed they had an automatic right to the post. He acted as deputy to Churchill in the Second World War, and surprised many by becoming Prime Minister in 1945. His one full term in power (the second saw a vastly reduced majority and the Government fell apart due to party infighting) changed the nation drastically. Despite terrible finances- exacerbated by the behaviour of the USA- the NHS and welfare state were created, and key industries nationalised. Everything the Tories have been trying to destroy ever since was created between 1945 and 1948.
After defeat in the 1951 election, Attlee stayed at the head of the Labour Party, something that would never happen nowadays. He remained in place until he could be sure that his role would go to someone on the Left of the party, understanding how bad a drift toward the Tories would be in the long run. In retirement, he quietly faded away, so that most of us, nowadays, know very little about him.
Attlee himself didn’t help much in preserving his memory, either. He kept no diary, and wasn’t given to long winded explanations of his stances. As portrayed in this book, you could almost think of him as the biggest of egos in a profession full of big egos. Unlike the others, however, this ego wasn’t tied to an insecurity that needed everyone to know how great he was. Attlee was always confident of his own decisions, and rarely felt the need to explain them. He comes across as a man so confident that he barely cared what others said of him.
The introduction of the book says it was written in 1997. Still, it managed to get in some barbed comments about the Blair style of leadership, even at that early stage. But if it was a sly satire written about the state of the nation in 2015, the message would be fairly obvious. It’s the little man, with the unfashionable ideas and poor presentation skills, who could be the one Labour really needs if it is to survive and prosper**.
*Sure, Blair was PM for much longer, and did achieve some good, but he didn’t change the country as drastically and positively as Attlee. And let’s not get started on all the negatives tied to Blair’s time in power.
** I’m a member of the Green Party. I’m most interested in Labour as the party we’re replacing, ideologically, as it slides to the Right and makes itself irrelevant as any sort of opposition.
Now, the 1980’s generation who served in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet was not exactly the epitome of political talent, but the Labour Party of the time would have seen today’s successors to Norman Tebbitt, Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe et al as dream opponents by contrast. Yes, the modern Tory Party is as mediocre as it has ever been, not only intellectually, but also in terms of moral fibre. With the odd exception here and there, today’s Tories are neither intelligent, nor ethical, nor courageous. Defeating them therefore, for anyone with a half-decent brain, really should just be a matter of holding one’s nerve.
For what it is worth, I do think there are some half-decent minds in the higher echelons of the current Labour Party. I would probably not accuse the likes of Harriet Harman, their fill-in leader, or Andrew Burnham, their present ‘pin-up boy’, of being dim-witted. But I do seriously question their nerve. We need only examine their public behaviour during the run-up to the forthcoming leadership contest to see their shortcomings.
Unlike the polls that the papers and TV news always report on, Vote for Policies is an assessment of what policies the people of Britain would vote for. It’s possible I’m biased- because Green policies are much more popular than the polls would have you believe*- but I think the site’s results should be part of the wider media coverage of the election. Rather than seeing what today’s message failure has done to Ed or Dave’s popularity, how about seeing what people think of their policies.
Take the test, it could be enlightening. Also, it has now been brought up to date with all the released manifestos.
*As I write this, the Green Party is third, after Labour and the Lib Dems. Add the Scottish Greens to their rating and they edge, just, into second place.
Jamie Reed is the MP for Copeland, which is where my parents live. His blog is relatively new, so I’ll give it a bit of time to grow. Wikipedia tells me he declared himself a Jedi in his maiden speech, so he can’t be all bad. I may have fallen out of love with Labour, but I’d support him for the Copeland seat in the coming election. Tory polling puts them a close second and the BNP a distant third but with enough support to be disturbing. Copeland may be 99.3% white, according to this list (nearby Allerdale and Eden are even whiter) but that’s no excuse for supporting the racist moron party.
The Tory candidate for Copeland is Chris Whiteside. He’s a Conservative, so I took an immediate dislike to him. But we’ll see how he fares over time.
John Redwood used to be referred to as the Vulcan. It wasn’t just because of his elongated and Spock like face, but because he was supposedly a man of great intelligence. Sadly that vast intellect isn’t in evidence when he posts nonsense like this about climate change. Rather than finding out about the subject he’s latched onto the talking points which conform to his ideologogy and prejudices. His specialist area is economics, I believe. Let’s hope he actually investigates and thinks about that before opining. Hope, but, on the evidence, don’t expect.
Stewart Cowan is a Creationist and homophobe (and possibly a few other things, I’ve only been reading since yesterday). I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about. It may be borderline classing this one as a political blog, but I found it through a comment on Jamie Reed’s blog and decided it should be included here.