Paris, Syria, Conspiracies and Facebook

Sitting watching the horrific attacks in Paris on a TV screen in central London I cried. Real tears. Tears of sadness and of anger.

I was lucky. I went to bed. I woke up. We now know that over 120 people weren’t as lucky.

Families, friends and loved ones – lives changed forever.

People attending a football match. People attending a rock concert. People living an ordinary life. People simply going about their business were slaughtered. Whatever your religious or political beliefs this is cold blooded, brutal murder and has to be condemned. Right?

Like many others I took to social media. I did a simple thing, something that many others did. I changed my facebook profile picture to show support. Not a brave thing to do. Not a dangerous thing to do. But it was something that I was able to do. I had friends on holiday in France and I have friends living in Paris. By changing my profile picture I hoped that in some small way they would know they weren’t alone. If they logged onto Facebook I hoped that they would see that I and others were thinking of them.

My Facebook profile - a small thing to do but a friends in France said such things help
My Facebook profile – a small thing to do but a friends in France said such things help

Then the usual things happened. People shared stories. People posted that they were safe. It was feel good stuff in a time of devastation. It wasn’t much but I think it does more good than harm and in such difficult times even tiny gestures matter.

Then something else happened. There is always an uglier, darker side to social media. Before the bodies had been counted. Before families and friends knew if their loved ones were safe the conspiracy theorists were wide awake and filling social media with their crazy, obsessive and insulting theories.

You know the format. First blame Blair and Bush (they are aliens in a human form). Then quickly tell us that 9/11 was one big, giant hoax. It never really happened. A bit like the moon landing

I usually laugh and look away. This time I couldn’t. Why at such a time would anyone think to interrupt grieving and shock with such nonsense?

Whack! Then it arrived. Paris was a false flag operation. It was all the fault of the Israelies! ISIS is an Israeli operation in the mixed up mind of the conspiracy theorist.

I felt sick.

This isn’t political hatred. It is an illness. A disease. But above all the timing of the posting of such crazy theories was offensive and plain wrong.

But back to Paris.

I could look back and mention the awful political stunt pulled by Ed Miliband on August 29 2013. But I won’t because I have done that before and will probably do so again in the future. But you can’t blame anyone for this other than the people who planned and carried out the murders.

I don’t know what the answer is but I do look to our political leaders to offer up solutions. My politics are Labour, not as tribal as I used to be but still Labour.

It is Monday afternoon and I switched on the TV.

Jeremy Corbyn was being interviewed. I wanted him to do well. I was almost trying to channel words into his brain.

He said: “we must try and go about our daily lives. Do the things we always do. Obviously being more vigilant”

I smiled, relaxed and sipped my tea. And then…

He added:
“I am awaiting confirmation of the legality of the drone strike that killed Emwazi”

I glared at the TV…

He continued:

“Of course I wouldn’t be happy with a shoot to kill policy on our streets”

I waited for the follow-up of “but we live in dangerous times and if fatal force has to be used to prevent an attack or save lives then so be it”

But instead I hear:

“Such an approach could often be counter-productive”

You can read more and watch the BBC interview here

I growled.  I turned off the TV and stared at my Labour Party membership card.

No one I have ever met “likes” a shoot to kill policy but if a terrorist is armed with a gun and is intent on killing then fatal force is often the only option.

Wounding a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his/her body doesn’t stop them activating the bomb. Again fatal force is necessary to prevent even more deaths, protecting us and those whose job it is to keep us safe.

Corbyn or any political leader worth voting for must recognise and say that. To say anything else is both politically stupid and dishonest.

Update:

Jeremy Corbyn clarified his position today (17/11/2015)

“As we have seen in the recent past, there are clear dangers to us all in any kind of shoot-to-kill policy. And we must ensure that terrorist attacks are not used to undermine the very freedoms and legal protections we are determined to defend. But of course I support the use of whatever proportionate and strictly necessary force is required to save life in response to attacks of the kind we saw in Paris.”

Whatever you are doing, stay safe.

The day the music died

Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is. I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses.

It is 2018 and the music scene in England is in crisis as a new craze continues to sweep the land.

Once the envy of the world the scene had changed from being a mix of the very best of all genres, showcasing some of the most talented performers seen for generations. It was a change that crept up on us, almost without anyone noticing until it was too late.

Much has been written about the reasons for the collapse, some blame introduction of modern electronic techniques at the expense of traditional instruments, others point to the use of foreign session musicians.

Eventually the big names left centre stage and the artists left behind spent hours tuning and retuning their instruments. It was as though they were either refusing to play or couldn’t remember the chords to the successful songs.

People started to drift away when gig after gig turned into experimental music sessions consisting of half finished songs and rambling poetry.

To fill the gap came a smooth jazz combo called The Cameroonies – they made little if any pretence to care about their music. They just knew that it was steady, familiar and was safe to listen too. Never headlining concerts and any public appearance were kept to a couple of back numbers.

But the live music scene refuses to go away completely and venues are packed to the rafters, with young, old and not so old, cheering a band who play only 1979 Bee Gees covers. Music they would never buy, they never play it at home but the live gigs are always packed.

The Corbynistas are fronted by a fresh faced disco dancer known as OJ, he dances and throws shapes. Traditional, tired dance moves but he gives them a modern twist. The crowd call out for more. And not wanting to let them down he dances all night… All night long.

At the end of every show a much older man, the founder of the band, Jez, boogies and shimmies across the stage and the whole place joins together in a non ironic version of Tragedy.

NME writer Dan ‘Jive’ Hodges screams in his weekly column, on a daily basis that “People still prefer to slink off home and listen to the smooth Jazz of the Cameroonies” He hates the Corbynistas. Every chord. Every dance move. He refuses to even tap his foot.

But that doesn’t explain the packed crowds that fill every venue the Corbynistas play.

Meanwhile in a pub in her home town ‘Lil Liz, once tipped as a chart topper belts out heartbreaking Country Hip Hop fusion tunes to four guys in their early thirties, they gaze adoringly, with tears streaming down their faces as her voice breaks and she runs off to the changing room (in reality the ladies loo), the guys stand and cheer but their spirit is clearly broken. But they will be at the next gig. And the one after that. They still say the big life changing chart topper is achievable. But they also know, deep down that it is now hope rather that belief that keeps them going.

‘Lil Liz, away from the eyes of her four fans, wipes a tear from her eye. She knows that her longtime promoter (and more importantly the man who provides the money) is looking elsewhere – his empire of dance-halls is being squeezed out of the market by the retro Bee Gees stuff. Her last single didn’t make the top 50. She knows that her music’s time will come. Her fear is that it won’t be her fronting the band.

The real issue is that venues simply won’t give you a gig unless you are approved by the venue scrutinisers.

They have been taking an interest in happening in deepest, darkest Kent and there are rumours, ugly rumours that an alternative, to rid the music venues of past their sell by date tribute bands, is beginning to take shape.

At the forefront of this movement are two blokes, real bruisers from yesterday year: Damian and John, fronting a band called the Double Macs. They used to be backing musicians in a successful band – the TBGBs but now they have stepped out of the shadows… And boy are they angry.

Their music consists of snarling lyrics laid over an upbeat tempo… To add to the sound they have a bagpipe player standing on the corner of the stage, he doesn’t appear to do much but he is there. Some say that his being there is a coded message, others say that the band can’t play a note without him.

To the right and rear of the stage, away from the spotlights, sits a man behind a piano, smiling. His name is Peter and all he does is sit behind his piano and smiles. Occasionally he grimaces but mostly he smiles.

The crowd senses something is happening but a history of false dawns and broken promises has left them jaded and cynical and they aren’t ready for the merchandise that is being sold on the door. Better not sign-up too soon seems to be the order of the day.

A heavy, furious baseline kicks in and John Mc spits out the opening lines of the almost trance inducing ‘take me to the centre ground’ …

Then the venue scrunisers arrive.

The venue scrutinisers are responsible for granting venue licences under the watchful eye of Corbynista promoter Big Len McC. Stories abound that venues playing anything other than ‘approved music’ often lose their licences.

It is said (in a whisper between friends) that back in the day McC was a real music fan, but no proof exists. It is almost as though pre 2015 he has no back story.

Big Len is followed around by a moody northerner. He was in the same band as ‘Lil Liz years ago but he decided to go his own way and has been linked with almost all new trends. He now dismisses his early career and a ‘youthful, musical indiscretion’. People in the business say he is bitter and broken and follows Big Len as he has nothing else to do. Any mention of ‘Lil Liz in his earshot is ill advised.

In Scotland the scene is very different with a varied music scene keeping them dancing. But this tale isn’t of Scotland. Or Wales. It isn’t really about music. It is about a feud that shows little, if any sign of ending.

Back in the toilet, doubling as a changing room, ‘Lil Liz answers her phone… It is a voice she hadn’t heard for a while. Hi Tony she says nervously.

She slips out of a back door unnoticed and hails a taxi – she heads for Kent!

To be continued

Clowns to the left of me… Jokers to the right

Here I am – Stuck in the middle with you…

These words probably sum up the feelings of most rank and file Labour Party members right now.

When Gerry Rafferty sat down to write this song I doubt he ever thought, even in his crazier moments, the life it would take on.

Many will remember it from Reservoir Dogs, where Michael Madsen tunes into a radio station that begins playing the song, he then proceeds to mutilate the police officer he is holding hostage.

Obviously we aren’t talking about such blood and gore here but the song remains the same.

Each day brings yet more nonsense. On the left we have the Clowns screaming to purge Labour MPs such as Mike Gapes and his supporters from the Party and on the right we have the Jokers screaming Corbyn must go and go now.

The simple truth is both the Jokers and the Clowns need to calm down.

With each tribal attack they are the ones making us appear more and more unelectable. With every ‘purge them’ or ‘go now’ scream they are bringing about the very thing they claim not to want; the destruction of the Labour Party.

But perhaps they, like Michael Madsen, are enjoying the slaughter.

They are the ‘blame zombies’ constantly looking to blame each other for everything. They roam social media looking for fights. If they can’t find one and the streets of Twitter are quiet… They start one. Like two gangs strutting around their home estates, they venture out to launch an attack. “Piss off to the Tories” scream the Clowns . “Have you seen this from 1985?” scream the Jokers.

Then they run off home to bed, only to awake the next morning, ready to patrol the blood filled streets calling for unity. But of course it is unity on their terms. Terms they know the other side can never agree to.

Far away from the world inhabited by these two gangs, the cuts start to bite. The steel plant closures in Redcar, with thousands of associated job losses threaten to destroy communities. The cuts to tax credits hit families hard. Funding for Sure Start Centres dries up.

Of course the Clowns and the Jokers care. They hate what is happening. They really do.

But you won’t find the Clowns and the Jokers joining up to oppose the cuts. Their fight continues to be with each other.

The Jokers still still haven’t accepted that Corbyn is leader and blame his victory for everything. For their part the Clowns want total victory and cannot rest until the Jokers are defeated.

Enough of that and back to the song I started with:

I’m trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see it makes no sense at all.

I voted for Liz Kendall in the leadership ballot and Jeremy Corbyn was my least favoured candidate. My preferred candidate lost. That sometimes happens in elections.

There will be times when I disagree with the new leader. There will be times when some Labour MPs rebel. But most of the time the Parliamentary Labour Party will be united against the Tories. Holding them to account and fighting bills in committee, line by line.

And I will be hoping they succeed and build a credible opposition.

Back to Resevoir Dogs.

Maybe Mr Pink was right “I mean everbody panics, everybody, things get tense, it’s human nature to panic, I don’t care what you name it you just can’t help it.”

But whatever you call it. It has to stop now.

Corbyn is leader and that is a simple fact. He has been leader for six weeks. The first elections with him as leader are in May. The next general election is in 2020.

Sometime between May 2016 and May 2018 a decision to get rid or keep will need to be taken, to avoid another ‘sleepwalking to defeat’ disaster as happened under Ed Miliband.

Until then the Jokers and the Clowns should be mostly ignored.

Swing Voters, Haters and A New Kind Of Politics

Harold Wilson said in the 1960s that “a week is a long time in politics” and this week, more than any other in recent times, is a rather good reason for those words to be remembered and etched into the minds of us all.

It was a difficult start to the week for the Labour Party with the Shadow Chancellor or as he known to some, the people’s chancellor, John McDonnell (TPC) announcing an astonishing u-turn. After initially saying that Labour MPs should support the tories Fiscal Charter, on the eve of the vote he declared – “we will vote against it!”

Confusion reigned and even the mild mannered Ben Bradshaw was heard to utter the F word. This was not a good start to the week and such was the confusion on social media ‘the haters’ decided not to question the politics of such a u-turn but instead hurl insults at Mike Gapes MP for suggesting that the whole thing was a mess.

In a fine political move TPC accepted the blame for the confusion and 21 Labour MPs decided to abstain. That should’ve been the end of the story but inexplicably someone decided that putting Richard Burgon MP (shadow city minister) in front of a TV camera was a good idea. I watch a lot of TV interviews and have also helped prepare people for them. I winced. I gasped. I had a stiff drink. It was awful, but judge for yourself.

Burgon Interview Shambles

This one interview summed up for me, in just a few minutes, what a bad place we are in.

TPC if you ever read this blog post please make sure that Mr Burgon is never allowed to do anything other than buy biscuits or make the tea and even when doing that, he has clear instructions on how to plug the kettle in.

Next up came PMQs I wrote a bit about Corbyn’s first outing at PMQs here. I was looking forward to it. Not to see Corbyn fail but to see how his new approach worked. I was hoping it moved up a gear.

I wasn’t disappointed. The “People’s Questions” had a new element – the political follow up. Corbyn looked relaxed and at times Cameron looked frustrated. The Tax Credit Cut bullet hit home.

The only downside was the behaviour of a couple of backbenchers – I guess old habits die hard. I enjoyed seeing Angela Eagle and Tom Watson, sitting expressionless alongside Corbyn. No hand gestures, no jeering… Just staring. It was much better. Then of course the media followed up on the issue – a good day at the office for Labour (and Corbyn).

Monday had ended in gloom Thursday started with a hint of sunshine breaking through…

Having stopped watching BBC Question Time a while back, believing that sticking pins in my eyes is a less painful experience, I relented and settled down in front of the TV. The panel was average. The audience, as usual a bit random. And Rod Liddle was being Rod Liddle. But then… BANG!

An audience member appeared to start shouting before the microphone reached her…

She tore into Tory Minister Amber Rudd and told her: ‘I thought you were going to be the better chance for me and my children.’

‘I voted for Conservatives because I thought you were going to be the better chance for me and my children. You’re about to cut tax credits after promising you wouldn’t.’

The tears visible in her eyes, she continued: ‘I work bloody hard for my money, to provide for my children to give them everything they’ve got – and you’re going to take it away from me and them.

‘I can hardly afford the rent I’ve got to pay, I can hardly afford to pay the bills and you’re going to take more from me. Shame on you!’

Rudd couldn’t answer. She look around for help. There came none. No hiding place. Nowhere to run.

A video of the exchange can be found online and by following the link

Look at the picture below. Memorise it! It shows the reality. The pain. All caused by bad policy making decisions.

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So on Friday morning I should’ve been running around with new found energy and ending the week knowing that it was possible that a bit of the gloom had lifted. But sadly there is always something to bring me back down to earth. And as is often the case these days Twitter provided the blow.

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Many others on Twitter thought the same – It is so depressing to think that some don’t understand that we need to win back voters like the woman on Question Time not pin the blame for a Tory government on them.

We have to reach out to them. We have to accept at the last election and possibly the election before that we didn’t speak for them. We didn’t win their trust.

It was us who let them down and until we realise that, we do not deserve to win back their support!

Which Side Are You On?

I will start this post with a confession. I was a huge Billy Bragg fan.

No matter what the issue; love, society, UK or world politics his lyrics spoke to and for me. The anger, the passion and the simple stories for the most part kept me going through the 80s. I admit I listened to other music but for my politics and to soothe my oft broken heart, Billy was my anchor.

I don’t know what happened. I still listen to his music. I still think it is hard to find lyrics to beat for sadness and understanding the following from Levi Stubbs Tears:

One dark night he came home from the sea
And put a hole in her body where no hole should be
It hurt her more to see him walking out the door
And though they stitched her back together they left her heart in pieces on the floor.

But I have moved on so enough for now about me and the 80s.

UK politics is in a tough place. Each day we hear or see more allegations, insinuations or facts about politicians I won’t link to any as they are easy enough to find. It seems as though Jeremy Corbyn has offended half, if not more, of the world since the day he took his first breath. Every utterance, every  demonstration is held up to prove that he is unfit to not only be Prime Minister but after serving 32 years as an MP he is apparently now not fit to be an MP.

After finishing the things I had to do after the Labour leader and Deputy Leader election results had been announced I wandered through the backstreets of Westminster and saw Billy Bragg standing by a TV camera. The following exchange took place:

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A little bit of me died. Not through embrassment as it probably should’ve but the realisation that old school politics had been replaced by quick soundbites on a rolling news programmes.

Thinking back to 1982, the Tories, tried to tag Tony Blair as a leftwinger, an anti-European with CND sympathies in the by-election contest in Beaconsfield and look what happened.

But away from Blair and Corbyn other Labour heavyweights flirted with various leftist organisations and then mainstreamed or matured.

Of course critics will claim that Corbyn never mainstreamed or matured. I am not suggesting he is a leader of the quality of Blair. I guess I am saying to be wary of Tory claims and smears.

All or some or none of what is written may be true. He certainly has views that I don’t share but that doesn’t automatically translate that he is always wrong.

So a month from his election as leader we are still seeing awful headlines and needless mistakes in strategy.

I don’t think he is helped by some of those around him, whose advice appears to be “look there’s a fire, go and put your arm in it”

Now back to the title of this post. These days my time is spent avoiding becoming angry, although I will admit to the odd tut or sigh. I really am trying to understand what is happening.

I had real issues with the position adopted by the Miliband led PLP and the last vote on Syria. It broke my heart. I cried. I felt that Miliband had put point scoring above the lives of Syrians. It was a personal political low point for me. I felt deserted and alone.

A few friends and comrades kept in touch. I drifted. I ranted. I probably upset a few people.

Time moves on and so did I (again). I decided to forgive but I cant forget.

Then at the weekend Jo Cox MP was reported to be in talks with the government to secure cross party support for intervention. I cheered. I tweeted. I smiled. This was an indication of adult politics. A new kind of politics.

But the joy and the celebrations didn’t last long.

Diane Abbott (shadow Secretary of State) tweeted

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I assume that this was without seeing any of the plans. Without knowing what diplomatic efforts were included. It was simply us against them. Left against right.

It was and is plain wrong.

It was wrong too when Diane Abbott (remember she is now a shadow cabinet minister) giggled her way though questions on Labour’s economic policy on the Today Programme this morning.

When Labour has the 8:10 slot on Radio 4 to prove it can be trusted with the economy after a change of tack… It shouldn’t be played for laughs.

So back to Billy Bragg

I’m bound to follow my conscience
And do whatever I can…

This post has been the most challenging and perhaps depressing for me to write. I feel a real sense of detachment. The loud noises from the far left and the right do not speak to or for me.

I want a new kind of politics where politicians are allowed to work together where possible without being labelled as ‘tories’. Where we aren’t stuck within childish, confines decided upon by Diane Abbott.

My hope is that the Labour leadership has a quiet word with Diane, their self appointed Twitter troll. Surely she doesn’t have an agenda designed to provoke a split?

The country is crying out for a grown up, responsible opposition and what they are getting is a self absorbed group engaging in 140 character insults?

I am on the side of a new kind of politics – are you?

A Mandate. Protests. Eggs and Spitting.

On Sunday I stumbled upon a debate on Twitter. The type of debate that 140 characters encourages. I opened my bag of popcorn and sat watching and reading.

One person was arguing that elections gave leaders a mandate to lead and that mandate should be respected and critics should shut up.

Another added that if you can’t accept the leaders mandate you should stay quiet or leave.

On Monday Lindsey German (stop the war campaign) speaking at the People’s Post rally in Manchester also added her tuppence worth to the mandate debate when she declared (aimed at the shadow cabinet) “Corbyn’s got a mandate. Agree with what he’s doing or shut up” I guess she brings an interesting approach to the debate and discussion table.

But back to the Twitter debate.

A brave soul (not me before you ask) asked if mandates were important and if we should simply accept them and what they produce.

“Of course. It is called democracy!” Came the reply.

At this point I almost choked on my popcorn… a trap had been set. A cunning trap.

Then came the words. Typed I think with a mixture of glee and triumph.

‘Well these demonstrators in Manchester. Why don’t they just shut up. The Tories won the election. They have a mandate.”

I hoped the response would be a smiley face or an acceptance that mandates didn’t mean ‘no criticism’

But when the reply came it was vicious, and abusive. Apparently a mandate isn’t a mandate unless it is a mandate you supported or voted for.

Of course people will argue about the different voting systems and the turnout but if you win under the rules set. You win. If you win, you can claim that you have a mandate. It really is that simple.

But moving on and looking at the images of protesters spitting at and egging people attending the Conservative Conference in Manchester I started to think about protests, mandates and the current state of UK politics. Egging isn’t a new thing; John Prescott, Ed Miliband, Ruth Kelly and others have their stories to tell.

Throwing eggs at people isn’t a protest it is an assault regardless of the target.

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But spitting? A nasty, vile act and potentially a health risk. When did that become a political protest?

If egging and spitting weren’t enough, reports quickly followed of sexist name calling and reported rape threats – this isn’t protest it is a sickness. A nasty sickness that slowly invades, and respect and democracy are the first things it kills.

For every egg thrown, with each spit, with each scream of whore, with each rape threat, the message of those bearing the brunt of the cuts is drowned out and the cry of those facing a real drop in living standards because of cuts to tax credits is never heard.

And that is wrong!

And then follow the attempts to blame Jeremy Corbyn. They are crazy, he cannot be blamed for the actions of a few idiots just as a former leader of the Conservative Party could not be blamed for this:

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But by agreeing to speak at a rally in the same city as the Conservative Party Conference he allowed, almost encouraged, the link to be made.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because whenever a Labour spokesperson appears on TV they are asked to condemn the behaviour and before they can utter the words “the people suffering because of…” They are instead talking about the loutish behaviour of a tiny minority.

I talked about politicians saying sorry here and it is always difficult but in this case it is a nonsense but the outcome is as predictable as ever.

And again the real issues are lost.

It is possible that the recently deceased Denis Healey was right, in 1983,  when he said:

“The election was lost not in the three weeks of the campaign but in the three years which preceded it…in that period the Party itself acquired a highly unfavourable public image, based on disunity, extremism, crankiness and general unfitness to govern”

And if Manchester this week, is anything to go by efforts to give Labour a highly unfavourable image have started in earnest.

I started this blog to record my thoughts on the new politics promised by Jeremy Corbyn and of my efforts to understand what is happening. I thought I was actually making progress. Then this happened:

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I am glad that I am not a member of the CWU and I am sure that Pullinger’s view isn’t shared by Jeremy Corbyn and I sure as heck hope it isn’t part of a new politics.

Thanks for reading and remember eggs are for eating not throwing.

A New Kind Of Politics, dungarees and broken hearts

With one Party Conference left, journalists, lobbyists and a few others will be moving from the sea and pebbles of Brighton to the bright lights of Manchester. Most people involved in politics attend one conference a year but this group attend three (possibly six if you include UKIP, SNP and Plaid) how their feet, ears and livers must be yearning for home. It is the journalists who tirelessly interview, doorstep and dance the night away who ensure that the messages, gossip and disagreemeets from each conference are appear on the pages of our newspapers and on our TV screens (and of course if you don’t trust the ‘MSM’ your favourite citizen journalists or bloggers, as they were once called, make sure only stuff you agree with gets into your newsfeed).

Away from the people above for most delegates returning home is a case of settling down back into a routine that will include meetings, leafleting and arranging accommodation for next year. But for Labour delegates returning home this year is possibly different. Something has changed. They have been told that a “new, straight talking politics” is what they have to deliver. Some are without doubt enthused others are to be blunt confused.

The following is the first leaflet I saw under the new kind of politics leader:

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Such a positive message extolling the values of the new leader!

An enlarged membership and supporter base should lessen the load of those delivering leaflets, after all ‘many hands do light work make’ CLP meetings will see increased attendance, and it is possible that even the most difficult areas for Labour will see lively campaigns and new councillors elected.

I remember, not long after the 1992 election, arriving in the North West to start a new job. I had spent the 80s on picket lines, shouting against the unfairness of the Thatcher government. Travelling across England to support various comrades in their struggle. I probably made too many speeches to Trade Union Conferences. I was angry. I also wore dungarees and in the early 80s, a white boiler suit. Almost every week would see me arguing for change. Not just change in my local area but change in Nicaragua, in Chile, and of course South Africa.

Wapping became part of my social life. In my world things were simple: If Thatcher supported it then very obviously it was wrong. And each year the bloody voters failed to understand. I shouted louder and generally the losses became bigger.

Me, and my small band of comrades, in leafy Surrey were outraged. We marched, we sang, we organised and we did manage to do some really great things locally. But when it came to turfing out the tories we always failed.

I started to wonder: what if the electorate simply didn’t want a revolution? What if compulsory political summer schools weren’t the answer?

My anger remained but I became tired of losing. Away went the dungarees. I embraced a new kind of politics. The politics of winning,  not winning for the sake of winning, but winning to make a difference.

So back to my new life in the north west.

The office was in Bury. On arrival I was told “this is a good, solid Labour town. You will love it here.”  It came as quite a shock to me, a southerner who believed the North was all labour voting territory, to find that this good, solid Labour town had just decided to vote out its Labour council and had returned two Tory MPs since 1983, presumably because Labour wasn’t left wing enough. My political education had begun and it was hard. Things I had accepted without questioning were shoved brutally into the ‘not true box’ and to be very honest I struggled. How could I have been so wrong on so many domestic issues.

1997 and a new politics changed the political landscape in Bury and across the UK. Ivan Lewis was elected to represent the good people of Bury South and continues to do a sterling job. Bury North is a different story that involves winning, an MP going to jail and more recently a narrow defeat for my old colleague and mate Jimmy Frith. In 1997 the new politics on offer enthused a country. Labour won parliamentary seats where we had mounted only a low key key campaign with resources diverted to more winnable marginals. I remember taking phonecalls to confirm results and someone shouting ‘can you confirm that Tim, we can’t possibly have won there’ but we had and a new politics was born.

So I am willing to listen and learn. I am one of the 4.5% who voted for a different person. Not because I think Jeremy Corbyn is the devil, he obviously isn’t and neither is he evil, but because I want a type of politics that wins elections. Not the type that promises everything but eventually delivers nothing but broken hearts and shattered communities.

Of course there are things he says (or doesn’t say) that I find offensive but he has said he is up for a debate and already he accepts the party position on trident, tuition fees and MP re-selection so it would be stupid for me not to join that debate.

As I learn, I hope to understand the appeal of Corbyn and apwhat it is that people are enthused about.

In an earlier post I mentioned Jeremy Corbyn’s first Prime Ministers Question Time. His approach was different and he called for an end to “Punch and Judy” politics. I said that this was a good start and it was something he tried to talk about at conference.

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Maybe it is part of what is happening and even the tory master strategist George Osbourne has issued a warning to their conference not to sneer at or ridicule Corbyn.

I am still a doubter but remember I once wore dungarees.

Maybe you have a view on what I have said, don’t be shy I am all ears.

I Went To The Seaside And A Man Spoke (and people loved him)

Well another lovely day in Brighton. The sun was shining and people were smiling. I really mean, everyone was smiling.

The morning was a bit of a distraction and lunch dragged on and on but at least there was cake. People started to assemble outside of the conference hall and queued for hours (possibly less but it was a big queue and it was there for ages).

The chat was happy chat and an excited buzz was in the air. A few support acts spoke but people were here for the main act. Then a young woman from Islington spoke and she captured our hearts. She was fantastic with a great story to tell.

Then Jeremy arrived. The applause was warm and perhaps caught up in the moment he starting clapping into the microphone and for a moment I thought he was going to clap forever…

Thankfully he didn’t. He started to tell some jokes and to be frank he is an awful joke teller. But we weren’t there for the jokes.

I wondered for a second if he was going to sing… Thankfully he didn’t. He spoke and spoke and spoke. And it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t the greatest speech I have ever heard. It lacked structure, the messages were slightly confused and he read out a prompt from the autocue but it wasn’t the worst speech ever heard at a political conference.

He said he wanted a “kinder politics” he said “being born poor shouldn’t mean that you were always poor” He preferred peace to war and wanted a society where people didn’t just walk on by.

And conference loved it.

I must admit that I thought the delivery was average at best. The messages were confused and contradictory but people really loved it.

To bring me down to earth I was reminded an hour later that conference also loved Michael Foot.

I am still attempting to understand and I’ll admit that I am struggling. But with each day that passes I learn a little bit more.

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A Day At The Seaside

So a trip down to Brighton and what a day. The sun was shining and people were wandering along the seafront. It was glorious.

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But I didn’t go for the weather I went to witness the much hyped lurched to the left. I wanted to smell the revolution for myself. Instead I caught the odd whiff of vinegar and saw people chatting and smiling. Sure there were people I hadn’t seen before and one or two who I see every year were depressed and talking about the sad demise of the party I love.

Other than that I saw shadow cabinet ministers walking about without anyone really showing interest. I saw the new leader having a quiet relaxed lunch without a camera or journalist in sight.

I met ex colleagues and old friends. I also met a couple of people from Twitter. I listened to a couple of speeches. I walked outside to sit in the sunshine and joined a table of journalists who were chatting about football. It was all a bit weird. And then it hit me.

We are totally irrelevant. There was no buzz. No talking about the most important speech of Jeremy Corbyn’s life and little mention of the shadow chancellors speech that had taken place less than two hours previously.

The fact that we are irrelevant isn’t Jeremy’s fault. It is the fact that we are five years out from the next General Election and we have to find our mojo and more importantly create a message. It will be a long hard struggle and it won’t be won by splits, rows or people leaving.

As I saw former cabinet heavyweights walking around without, seemingly, a care in the world – it hurt.

But the sun was shining and I had a good chat and enjoyed catching up with friends.

So tomorrow we have Jeremy’s ‘conversation with the nation’ I hope it creates a buzz or sparks some interest. We desperately need it.

But these are early days and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions too quickly. Most delegates were probably selected long before Corbynmania rode into town and perhaps next year will be the showdown everyone expected.

But I think the lesson I have from today is that everything has changed but nothing has changed at all.

On the plus side I have a bit of a tan.

Message To The World: Conference Is Just Another Bubble

As Labour Conference 2015 starts this weekend it is already clear that the party and its new leader will be subject to wall to wall media coverage and that is only to be expected, we are after all the official opposition in parliament and the new leader has, to say the least, a bit of a backstory. If you believe some stories you are probably expecting him to arrive in Brighton wearing a goats head with a smell of death about him.

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He is, we are told almost daily, an 80’s throwback. Completely unelectable and a threat to national security. Roughly translated this means that he is a gift to lazy journalists and bloggers looking to make a name for themselves. Of course he could be all of those things. Or perhaps something completely different.

Party conferences are strange things with the faithful troops travelling hundreds of miles to listen to keynote speeches, mingle with political giants and spend quite a lot of time in the various bars. But with a new leader they also become both a wake and a wedding reception, in one venue.

On one side of the room you will have the sad faces of the wake, often angry at their loss on the other the happy, singing crowd who have witnessed the wedding of their dreams.

There is also a third group, those poor souls arriving at the venue hoping that it is the same as the last time they came. Their memories are of jokes about tories, bumping into that ‘nice bloke from the telly’ and of course a photograph with John Prescott.

But this year will be different in many ways whilst remaining exactly the same. Every word spoken will be analysed and any dissent heralded as the start of a civil war.

Every vote will be portrayed as a disastrous jump to the left or the beginning of the end for the new leader. Unless of course it can be interpreted as the death of Blairism.

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My advice to to the new leader is be yourself, avoid walking on beaches. And if you see a camera make sure you don’t have a banana in your hand.

Of course you will have to tour the exhibitors stands – refuse all offers of leaflets, badges and balloons for they will all come back to haunt you.

Above all listen to Labour Party staff (but most of all the press officers) they are both your friends and your only chance of surviving the crazy  alternative bubble.