Friday, July 24, 2015

The Weekly Diary: A Week in the Life of Labour

Monday 20th July
The Labour Party faces a crunch moment: does it oppose the Welfare Bill or abstain?
Acting Leader, Harriet Harman, has called for an abstention because Labour, in the face of an unexpected Tory majority, is more concerned with taking stabs in the dark to see whether this was why people didn’t vote their way, than it is with representing the people who actually did vote for them.
There are rebels, most eloquent of which is John McDonnell who says to a surprised House “Let me be clear: I would swim through vomit to vote against this Bill, and listening to some of the nauseating speeches supporting it, I might have to.”
He and 47 other Labour MPs did just that, though they sailed over the regurgitated sea on a raft made from discarded Labour manifestos.

Tuesday 21st July
The Government went on to win the vote on the Welfare Bill by a majority of 184. Which sounds comprehensive, until you consider that the number of Labour MPs who abstained was 184. A close shave there for John Bercow, who was spared from having the casting vote and being forced to do something that would benefit David Cameron.
Of the 184 abstainers, 3 of them are running for the Labour Leadership. No prizes for guessing which of the four contenders was the odd-one-out.
Jeremy Corbyn received some very favourable accolades from left-wingers for his defiant and principled stand.
“Not to worry,” says Margaret Beckett who nominated him for the ballot without wanting him to succeed. “He’ll never win. Never.”

Wednesday 22nd July
Guess what? A shock poll has Jeremy Corbyn on course to win the Labour Leadership.
“Polls?” bellows Harriet Harman. “We’re not going to pay an attention to polls! Lousy, hope-raising, dream-dashing polls!”
“I don’t know,” says Tristram Hunt. “We can’t take the risk of letting this happen. We can’t have a leader that hardly any of the Parliamentary Party supports. We’ve tried that and we ended up in the proverbial, and he ended up in Ibiza. We need to bring out the big guns.”
“Very well,” sighs Harman. “I shall summon him.”
She takes a wadge of £50 notes out of a draw and throws it into the air, and within seconds Tony Blair is there like a demented parrot repeating “Can’t win from the left! Can’t win from the left!”
And so, with bank details exchanged, Tony goes, rather appropriately, to Chartered Accountants’ Hall, for whom he generates a lot of work, and tells the think tank Progress that Labourites who say that their heart wants to be with the sort of leftism Corbyn represents, should get a “transplant”.
Ah yes. Tony doing what Tony does best: pouring oil on the waters. Oil being the operative word.

Thursday 23rd July
It’s all happening now. Firstly, people are urging Liz Kendall to drop out because they want as wide a debate as possible. Sorry – I misheard that. Apparently, it’s because they want her to release her support to stop Corbyn. Which will happen anyway because it’s an Alternative Vote election, and there isn’t a person in the country who would vote for Kendall first and Corbyn second. Apart from maybe Liz herself for, as we all know because we saw it in The Guardian, she’s a Tory Trojan Horse.
Then another grandee comes in attempting to clear the air, which was a good idea. Shame the only one to hand was Lord Prescott.
He was on The Today Programme (and I quote exactly here1): “I thought what Tony said was absolutely staggering though I have a lot of respect for Tony Blair I worked for him for years but to use that kind of language is just abuse, and to suggest that someone should have a heart transplant, and Tony said it put a lot of people off voting for us and on the doorstep it was Iraq what stopped people from voting for us, and I just want everyone to calm down!” he rattled off at a furiously calm pace.

Friday 24th July
Surely all has been said now, as Ken Livingstone wades in by claiming that Corbyn can become Prime Minister.
“If I didn't think Jeremy could win, I wouldn't be backing him,” said the former Mayor of London.
Thus speaks a leftist who lost in the most Labour sympathetic city in the country to Boris Johnson, twice. So he knows what he’s talking about.
Corbyn continues on his merry way, but must surely be fearful he might win this thing. After all, he never intended to.

1Quotations may not in fact be accurate, but the tone is.

This will be the last Weekly Diary for the summer. We will be back in the autumn on the new website, entitled North by North Westminster.

Events depicted may differ from actual events. In fact, this is a work of fiction, with some facts. But mostly, it's nonsense.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Weekly Diary: July 13th - 17th

Monday 13th July
Trouble at mill for Labour. No change there then, but today’s particular example concerns benefit cuts. Acting Leader Harriet Harman has said that Labour will oppose measures including cuts to Child Benefit and the reduction of the Benefit Cap, saying “We cannot simply say to the public you were wrong at the election”.
Well, three of the leadership candidates disagree saying that Labour must stand against Tory cuts, whilst the other candidate says that Harman is entirely right. You will be unsurprised to learn that the latter is Liz Kendall, whose admirably honest campaign is beginning to look more and more like the kamikaze charge at the end of The Last Samurai.

Tuesday 14th July
As Labour continues to drift listlessly, the SNP are taking on the mantle of unofficial opposition. First, their 20 year-old MP, Mhairi Black, delivered the only effective response to last week’s Budget. Now they have declared that they will vote on fox-hunting, thereby delaying the vote as it raises the prospect of a defeat for the Government: if the Government can be defeated on a free vote, that is.
This means they will vote on a law which will not effect Scotland, and on an issue that Nicola Sturgeon specifically cited as one the SNP would not vote on before the election. But such inconsistency doesn’t matter for two reasons:
1. Fox-hunting is still opposed by 51% of the country.
2. Ms Sturgeon walks on water.

Wednesday 15th July
It is easy to get distracted by the Labour Leadership right now, but we forget that there is another race going on that no-one is paying any attention to.
I refer of course to the Conservatives. After all, no-one could get distracted by the Lib Dem Leadership. Not even Norman Lamb.
Big figures in the Tory party are currently fighting a cold war with each other, waiting for the moment when David Cameron goes to his dream career of chillaxer who doesn’t watch football.
Today saw the clearest potshot yet when Theresa May refused to allow the use of water cannons in England and Wales. Which is a little awkward because Mayor of London and fellow Cameron-vulture, Boris Johnson, authorised the Met to buy three last year.
May even raised questions about the quality of the water cannon Boris purchased. It transpires that Boris bought them at a reduction, because they were being phased out by the Germans. That’s right: they were crowd-control too cruel for the Germans.
Johnson, doing his best impression of Del Boy, said it had been a great opportunity to buy them on the cheap. Great work again from Boris, because when you’re dealing with technology that has been known to blind someone, you want to do it half-arsed and cut-price.

Thursday 16th July
And so it was that Tim Farron became Lib Dem Leader. Good. The suspense was barely registering.
Far more suspenseful, all of a sudden, is the Labour Leadership Contest, because it transpires that Jeremy Corbyn has a real chance of winning. According to the New Statesman, Corbyn may be able to get enough second preferences to pull off a surprise coup.
Which would be a disaster. Not so much for Labour but for Jeremy Corbyn, who has hitherto been so unexpectant of victory that he’s been canvassing to get a place on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Nevertheless, he’ll never be Prime Minister, and we all know why: we haven’t had a bearded PM since the Marquess of Salisbury in 1902.
Oh – and the country just isn’t that left-wing. That too.

Friday 17th July
On a quiet Friday, one decides to look back at the week just gone by and it becomes apparent that I have been completely out-satirised by the Labour Party. What started on Monday (see above) just got worse and worse, all as Harriet Harman attempts to navigate waters she doesn’t seem to understand.
What sort of a statement is it from an opposition leader – “Acting” or otherwise – to say that we can’t tell the public that they are wrong. That is a key aspect of leadership in a nutshell, but by all means play to our inferred tune. By all means, don’t say anything that may be possibly unpopular, and absolutely, definitely don’t say what you think is right.
As if to counter-balance this, the Labour Party voted against certain welfare reforms in the budget, thereby allowing the Prime Minister to claim that they were fighting the Living Wage.
It is a sign of a party which is not just rudderless but in total disarray that such a characterisation was able to be put to them, and response came there none. It has recently been said that they lost the election just passed in the equivalent period five years ago: leaving a vacuum which allowed the Tories to cement their narrative on Labour overspend.

Well, if that was a vacuum, then this is the abyss.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Weekly Diary: July 6th - July 10th

Monday 6th July
Well, the Greeks only went and voted “No” on the referendum, a result that we were assured would only lead to their untimely ruin. Perhaps it will be so, but today we see the media trying to justify the build-up they gave to Armageddon, when it turns out to be just another day. So, it’s wall-to-wall coverage of journalists attempting to get us excited/terrified by the fact of not much happening.
Meanwhile, the BBC is going through the awkward process of examining itself after the Corporation agreed with the Government that they will take over responsibility for free TV licences for the over-75s.
In the privately negotiated deal, the Government gets a significant cut in the welfare budget without having to incur any backlash, whilst the BBC get a delightful £500mn blackhole in its finances, and all the blame should they have to vary the policy at a later stage.
Every BBC Director available is on hand to tell us that this is a “good deal for the Beeb”, clearly having taken advice from the PR form that advise

Tuesday 7th July
With so much terrible and unpredictable news of late, it is comforting to have something which is important, but reliably dull and uneventful.
And so to the Labour Leadership Contest. Today, there was a controversy. If by controversy we mean a storm in a tea cup. Labour MP Helen Goodman has backed Yvette Cooper with an apparent backhanded swipe at Liz Kendall.
In a blog for the Huffington Post, Goodman wrote: “Much more important to me than being an MP and shadow minister is that I am a mum… That's why I'm backing Yvette Cooper to be the next Leader of the Labour Party. As a working mum, she understands the pressures on modern family life.”
Kendall supporters have expressed dismay that anyone should attempt to use the fact that their candidate is childless against her, even if it was implicit.
It is rather astonishing that anyone should write and declare that the clinching argument for a female candidate who has been an MP for 18 years, a Minister in the Government and in the Cabinet for 11 years, and a Shadow Cabinet Minister for 5, is that she is a mother.
Now that’s progressive, left-wing politics.

Wednesday 8th July
Budget day, and it’s the usual mixture of a little bit of good news, and an awful lot of grizzly news. Chancellor George Osborne has made a habit of pulling a “rabbit” out in his budgets, and this time he needed to. Amidst the abolition of housing benefit and university maintenance grants for young adults, and other policies which penalise young people who bear exactly zero responsibility for the deficit, this year’s bunny was the introduction of the Living Wage, a policy which he has taken from his great political idol, Ed Miliband.
So delighted by the announcement was Iain Duncan Smith that the Quiet Man roared and cheered and gyrated in the Commons as if he were David Cameron on the terraces of Upton Park, or Villa Park, or whichever football stadium the PM most recently passed on a helicopter.
Moments later, Duncan Smith thought: “I hope the left-wing press won’t use my celebration of this measure to imply that I’m happy about all the others which cut welfare.”
He checks Twitter, before muttering “Oh crap”.

Thursday 9th July
A tube strike in London always sorts the wheat from the chaff when it comes to social media socialists. There are those who stand by their principles; those who are marching now towards Embankment, Monument and Edgware Road singing the Internationale.
However, there is a significant number of Facebookers and Tweeters who vacuously chant every Labour slogan and demonise those uncaring tossers who think differently from them, who all suddenly go a bit Mrs T when their comrades decide to use industrial action and inconvenience them.
Well, it’s nice to know that the Labour party represents the very soft wing of their party, with the figure of Khalid Mahmood, who liked the following post on Facebook:
He claims this was an accident, and I’m sure that we can all sympathise. Who amongst us hasn’t, from time to time, publicly supported an unequivocal statement which is the absolute opposite of what we supposedly stand for? It’s the Freudian slip of the digital age.

Friday 10th July
And so we come to Armageddon day. The Greek government has reached the absolute final deadline and has submitted one last proposal in an attempt to reach a deal with its creditors.
After the referendum delivered a stonking rejection of everything that was on the table, Syriza has spent the week hammering out their terms and have delivered… a very similar deal to the one they successfully campaigned against last week.
So, a 60% mandate is almost completely ignored, and the Greek people have lived through an extra week of turmoil and no money for absolutely no good reason.
It seems that democracy in its birthplace is worthless; and absolute democracy is so, absolutely.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Weekly Diary: 29th June - 3rd July

Monday 29th June
It may have been noted that the crisis in Greece has not been covered on these pages, largely as it is difficult to make light of the crumbling of an entire nation into a pit of misery and despair. However, now we can no longer ignore it. The deadlines are being reached, there is no resolution to the crisis, the banks are shut, and there is no money left. The Grexit seems increasingly inevitable. This story must be talked about.
Although, today is the first day of Wimbledon. So, we’ll probably talk about that instead.

Tuesday 30th June
Exciting news from the world of opera.
No, really.
Well, sort of.
At last night’s first night of Guillaume Tell by Rossini at Covent Garden, there was booing mid-performance from outraged Frasiers and Nileses at an unexpected rape scene, which involved nudity and violence.
Well, of course it did. It was a rape scene.
The audience wasn’t having it. One critic on Newsnight said “I was repelled by the rape scene.” Well, of course you were. It was a rape scene. If you hadn’t been repelled, I would have been worried.
The director has admitted that it was probably a mistake not to warn audience members, some of whom were children, that there would be nudity and violent rape in the production. D’ya think?
That aside though, a fair bit of the coverage seems to represent people who were upset because they didn’t want to be confronted with rape at all, and certainly not at Covent Garden, at the height of the season. It’s enough to put you off your Veuve Clicquot between acts.

Wednesday 1st July
The hottest July day on record and the tabloids have no idea about what headlines to go with. The Guardian ran a heatwave live blog which, very fittingly, suffered meltdown when the servers overheated.
One of the reasons for the heat was not in fact the sun but the searing rage of Boris, who is furious that the Airports Commission has recommended the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. Boris has sworn he will lie down in front of the bulldozers if the decision is taken to build it, making Cameron’s choice on the matter extremely easy.

Thursday 2nd July
England’s Women Football Team have recently done very well at a World Cup. So well, in fact, that we were beginning to doubt if they were English. Well, we were heartily reassured of their nationality when they lost unluckily in the semi-finals to Japan.
A freak own goal from Laura Bassett saw the end of the Lionesses, as she managed to loop the ball in-off the post as she performed a sliding block several yards from and to the side of the goal.
It was devastating stuff, and goes along with the men’s many agonising disappointments, but none of them quite had this level of bizarre misfortune. See, even when it comes to crashing out because of a slice of luck, our girls trump our boys.

Friday 3rd July
It is time to enjoy the heady aroma of Trump Corner, as we check in on the most ridiculous Presidential Campaign since Rick “Ooops” Perry decided to have another crack at it. Trump is under significant pressure to apologise for comments he made concerning Mexicans, where he described them as “drug dealers and rapists”.
This is a particular problem, as the Latino community are essential to any Republican attempt to regain the White House, as former Governor of Florida and current candidate Jeb Bush realised when he simply described Trump as “wrong”.
On the other hand, the Irish-Italian-Canadian-Cuban candidate Ted Cruz said “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s brash. I think he speaks the truth.” Bold words. Bold, needless words from a Latino man who has just said that the person who described Mexicans as drug dealers and racists “speaks the truth”.
In short, on this evidence of political nous, we can expect it to be another Bush on the ball come November 2016.