et maintenant nous sommes vraiment foutus caduc

Labour recriminations begin as Tories demolish ‘red wall’
Ben Quinn, Esther Addley, Groon, Dec 2019

Corbyn loyalists were already laying the ground to defend his project, as the previously becalmed hostilities of Labour’s civil war started up again. Jon Lansman, the founder of the grassroots campaign group Momentum, asked on ITV:

It’s all very well saying the policies have been rejected, but how do you explain the fact that the poll says in Putney there’s 85% chance of a Labour victory?

Sitting beside him in the ITV studio, the shape of recriminations to come were laid bare by the angry comments of Alan Johnson, a senior minister in the Blair and Brown governments, who said that he wanted to see Momentum “out” of Labour. Describing Corbyn as a “disaster” on the doorsteps, he added:

Everyone knew he couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag.

Jonathan Freedland implicitly rolls the defense of Nazi Israel into his Blairite, social-democrat NATO realism:

This is a repudiation of Corbynism
Jonathan Freedland, Groon, Dec 13 2019

We can skip the first stage of grief. A result like this leaves no room for denial. Let’s move instead to the next stage: anger. We can feel a deep and bitter fury at what five more years of Boris Johnson will mean; at what his government, armed with such a mandate, will do. It will allow him to pursue a hard Brexit, to cosy up to Donald Trump and to trample on our democratic norms and judicial restraints. It will risk the union. It will allow him to ignore the poorest and most vulnerable, the children going to school hungry, to abandon the people whose lives and communities have been made thin by a lost decade of austerity and shrunken services, a decade that will now stretch like a prison sentence to 15 years. We can be angry at the Tories for winning this election, but we must feel an equal rage for the people who let them do it. I am speaking of those who led the main party of opposition down a blind alley that ended in Labour’s worst election performance since the 1930s, a performance that broke new records for failure. Look upon the scale of that calamity: to lose seats to a government in power for nine lean years, a government seeking a fourth term that is almost never granted, a cruel government so divided it purged two former chancellors and some of its best-known MPs, led by a documented liar and fraud. A half-functioning opposition party would have wiped the floor with this Tory party. Instead, Labour was crushed by it.

The leadership’s defenders wasted no time in blaming it all on Brexit. To be sure, Brexit has convulsed our politics and made Labour’s electoral coalition perilously hard to hold together. But pause before declaring that this was the Brexit election: in fact, the NHS overtook Brexit as voters’ top concern. The trouble was, voters trusted Johnson on the NHS more than they trusted Jeremy Corbyn. You read that right. Which brings us to a core point that those culpable for this disaster would rather you didn’t contemplate. Like anyone who travelled the country and listened to voters, candidates and canvassers, I heard with my own ears the Labour voters who said they couldn’t back the party this time, not because of Brexit but because of Corbyn. Indeed, Brexit was often cited not for its own sake. Little of this campaign was spent debating customs zones and trade agreements, but rather for its confirmation of their view that Corbyn was irredeemably “weak.” This problem did not wait until the election to reveal itself. The polling data was clear and voluminous on this point long before the election. Corbyn is the most unpopular opposition leader since records began. And though we may not like it, we know that voters’ assessment of the party leaders plays a huge part in their decision. Labour knew it and Corbyn knew it. Those appalling numbers were not state secrets. His admirers always describe him as a selfless, almost saintly man, devoid of ego. So why didn’t he take one look at his own ratings and say, “I am clearly a drag on this party’s prospects. Those who need a Labour government have a better chance of getting one if I step aside.” Not a chance. Corbyn’s own vanity was too great for him even to consider such an act of self-sacrifice. Instead he was encouraged by his own devoted legions of supporters, for whom the idea of a change of leader was heresy. In their mind, it was better to lose under Corbyn than to have a shot at winning with someone, anyone, else.

Perhaps it was too much to ask that he make way for a candidate less sure to repel the electorate. But he made this a presidential campaign, his face everywhere, other Labour heavyweights banished from the airwaves. In their place were factionally approved nodding dogs such as Richard Burgon. Never mind that they were bound to be useless, what mattered was that they were loyal to the ruling clique. Of course, this relates not just to Corbyn but Corbynism. For the last four years, Labour has been in thrall to the notion that it’s better to have a manifesto you can feel proud of, a programme that calls itself radical, than to devise one that might have a chance of winning. Some even argued that “win or lose,” Corbyn achieved much simply by offering a genuinely socialist plan, in contrast with Labour’s 1997 offer, which was so boringly modest and incremental. Well, guess what. Labour’s “radical” manifesto of 2019 achieved precisely nothing. Not one proposal in it will be implemented, not one pound in it will be spent. It is worthless. And if judged not by the academic standard of “expanding the discourse,” but by the hard, practical measure of improving actual people’s actual lives, those hate figures of Corbynism, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, achieved more in four hours than Corbyn achieved in four years. Why? Because they did what it took to win power. That’s what a political party is for. It’s not a hobby; it’s not a pressure group that exists to open the Overton window a little wider; it’s not an association for making friends or hosting stimulating conversations and seminars; it’s not “a 30-year project.” Its purpose is to win and exercise power in the here and now. It is either a plausible vehicle for government or it is nothing. That was beyond the reach of the faction ruling Labour. Not for them the electoral basics of reassurance and credibility. They came up with a manifesto more stuffed with giveaways than Santa’s grotto, and about as believable. The voter who quite liked the extra sugar in their tea represented by, say, free tuition fees, gagged when the sweetener of discounted rail fares, Waspi compensation, free broadband and a promised £6k7/yr to every family were all spooned into the cup.

Labour’s ruling elite forgot that parties of the left are held to a higher standard than those committed to the status quo: to change people’s lives and spend their money, first you must win their trust. That obligation is even spelled out in Labour’s constitution, which insists that “Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern.” Instead, the leadership clique dragged around their 1970s baggage and arcane ideological obsessions. The anti-Semitism arose not by accident, but as the inevitable outgrowth of a strain of left conspiracist thinking that marked them out as cranksm unfit to run the country. To warn of this danger and sound the alarm was to be instantly howled down as a Blairite, a centrist, a red Tory. On social media, a group of outriders policed the conversation, unleashing a pile-on of mockery and denunciation on anyone guilty of pointing out that the emperor seemed to be unnervingly lacking in clothes. Then they affected surprise when those they’d told to “fuck off and join the Tories” didn’t come running to help. The tragedy of this is measured in the idealistic young volunteers who signed up for a new and necessary movement in 2015, but whose faith was abused by a clique of hard-left sectarian dinosaurs, and most important, it is measured in the millions who needed a social democratic government and now won’t get one. The question now is, how long will it take to draw the obvious conclusion? You might have thought that the experience of the 1980s, of four defeats in a row followed by a march towards electability, had been education enough. We’d seen this movie before but it seems we needed to see it all over again. We’ll have a clue whether it’ll take a fifth or sixth defeat for the penny to drop when Labour selects a new leader. Will it look for someone who ticks all the ideological boxes, who’s as sound and “radical” as Corbyn, or will it look for someone who can win? Underneath that is a larger question: are you in politics to control the Labour party, or to win power? If the honest answer is the former, then get out of the way. Go back to your student unions and your pub meetings and give Labour back to those who seek the power of government and are fit to wield it.

Strong stuff from the great Craig Murray of Scotland (and once of HMG Diplomatic Service):

Craig Murray, Dec 13 2019

It is very difficult to collect my thoughts into something coherent after four hours sleep in the last 48 hours, but these are heads of key issues to be developed later. I have no doubt that the Johnson government will very quickly become the most unpopular in UK political history. The ultra-hard Brexit he is pushing will not be the panacea which the deluded anticipate. It will have a negative economic impact felt most keenly in the remaining industry of the Midlands and North East of England. Deregulation will worsen conditions for those fortunate enough to have employment, as will further benefits squeezes. Immigration will not in practice reduce; what will reduce are the rights and conditions for the immigrants. Decaying, left-behind towns will moulder further. The fishing industry will very quickly be sold down the river in trade negotiations with the EU. Access to fishing is one of the few decent offers Boris has to make to the EU in seeking market access. Most of the UK fishing grounds are Scottish. His Brexit deal will take years and be overwhelmingly fashioned to benefit the City of London. They will not build any significant portion of the hospitals or other infrastructure they promised. They will do nothing effective about climate change. The NHS will continue to crumble, with more and more of its service provision contracted out, and more and more of its money going into private shareholders’ pockets, including those of many Tory MPs.

There is zero chance the Conservatives will employ a sizeable number of extra nurses: they just will not be prepared to put in the money. They will employ more policemen. In a couple of years’ time they will need them for widespread riots. The disillusionment will be on the same scale as Johnson’s bombastic promises. These were simply dishonest promises. The Establishment are not stupid and realise there will be an anti-Tory reaction. Their major effort will therefore be to change Labour back into a party supporting neo-liberal economic policy and neo-conservative foreign (or rather war) policy. They will want to be quite certain that, having seen off the Labour Party’s popular European style social democratic programme with Brexit anti-immigrant fervour, the electorate have no effective non-right wing choice at the next election, just like in the Blair years. To that end, every Blairite horror has been resurrected already by the BBC to tell us that the Labour Party must now move right – McNicol, McTernan, Campbell, Hazarayika and many more, not to mention the platforms given to Caroline Flint, Ruth Smeeth and John Mann. The most important immediate fight for radicals in England is to maintain Labour as a mainstream European social democratic party and resist its reversion to a Clinton style right wing ultra capitalist party. Whether that is possible depends how many of the Momentum generation lose heart and quit.

Northern Ireland is perhaps the most important story of this election, with a seismic shift in a net gain of two seats in Belfast from the Unionists, plus the replacement of a unionist independent by the Alliance Party. Irish reunification is now very much on the agenda. The largesse to the DUP will be cut off now Boris does not need them. For me personally, Scotland is the most important development of all. A stunning result for the SNP. The SNP result gave them a bigger voter share in Scotland than the Tories got in the UK. So if Johnson got a “stonking mandate for Brexit,” as he just claimed in his private school idiom, the SNP got a “stonking mandate” for Independence. I hope the SNP learnt the lesson that by being much more upfront about Independence than in the disastrous “don’t mention Independence” election of 2017, the SNP got spectacularly better results. I refrained from criticising the SNP leadership during the campaign, even to the extent of not supporting my friend Stu Campbell when he was criticised for doing so (and I did advise him to wait until after election day). But I can say now that the election events, which are perfect for promoting Independence, are not necessarily welcome to the gradualists in the SNP. A “stonking mandate” for Independence and a brutal Johnson government treating Scotland with total disrespect leaves no room for hedge or haver. The SNP needs to strike now, within weeks not months, to organise a new Independence referendum with or without Westminster agreement.

If we truly believe Westminster has no right to block Scottish democracy, we need urgently to act to that effect and not just pretend to believe it. Now the election is over, I will state my genuine belief there is a political class in the SNP, Including a minority but significant portion of elected politicians, office holders and staff, who are very happy with their fat living from the devolution settlement and who view any striking out for Independence as a potential threat to their personal income. You will hear from these people we should wait for EU trade negotiations, for a decision on a section 30, for lengthy and complicated court cases, or any other excuse to maintain the status quo, rather than move their well-paid arses for Independence. But the emergency of the empowered Johnson government, and the new mandate from the Scottish electorate, require immediate and resolute action. We need to organise an Independence referendum with or without Westminster permission, and if successful go straight for UDI. If the referendum is blocked, straight UDI it is, based on the four successive election victory mandates. With this large Tory majority, there is nothing the SNP MPs can in practice achieve against Westminster. We should now withdraw our MPs from the Westminster Parliament and take all actions to paralyse the union. This is how the Irish achieved Independence. We will never get Independence by asking Boris Johnson nicely. Anyone who claims to believe otherwise is a fool or a charlatan.

Classic Dom clicks his fingers and the celebrations begin
John Crace, Groon, Dec 13 2019

Dominic Cummings. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe

Dominic Cummings shuffled his way through the crowd of Tory activists before merging into the shadows to one side of the Mountbatten room in the QE II Conference Centre.  This was how he liked it. To be both seen and unseen. This was his victory. Boris Johnson was just his amoral, frontman clown. He knew it and Boris knew it. Without Classic Dom, the prime minister would be a nobody. Elsewhere, Dom’s Praetorian Guard prepared the room for the start of the impromptu 7 am campaign celebration. One minder barked:

Can you move off the platform? You’re a health and safety risk.

There was no one within three feet of me. I replied:

I thought the whole point of Brexit was that we were going to deregulate this sort of thing.

The joke didn’t land well. It had been a long night. When all the faithful, many of whom were still pissed having been on the lash ever since the exit poll was declared, had been herded into position, Dom clicked his fingers. The show could begin. Moments later Needy Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid and James Cleverly were brought out as human wall-paper, before Michael Gove was sent on as warm-up act. Dom, Mikey and Boris was quite the Vote Leave reunion. Only this time the acid trip had been rather more fun. Gove tried his best to be statesmanlike as he addressed the nation. Tricky for someone whose insincerity is now second nature. He didn’t make it any easier by making vague promises to give more money to towns he clearly hadn’t heard of before yesterday. And insisting that the Tories were now a One Nation party when it had just kicked out its entire cohort of One Nation MPs immediately before the election was just taking the piss. But Mikey saved the best till last. Boris was the right man to lead the country, he said. No one had ever admired Johnson more than him. He was not worthy to kiss his feet. In fact the only reason he had twice stood against him for the leadership of the Tory party was to show up just how useless he was in comparison to the magnificence of Boris. There is no bum into which Gove won’t thrust his nose.

Then it was Johnson’s turn. “What will we be able to do?” he asked. That question was rhetorical. Because the real answer was that he would now be able to do whatever the fuck he wanted. The World King was in business. Though the one problem with being able to do whatever you believe in, is it rather requires you to believe in something first. And Boris has never really believed in anything but himself. And only then as a series of bodily impulses catapulting him from one crisis to another. He said he’d get Brexit done but he still hadn’t a clue how. Or why. And one of the problems of a landslide majority was that now there was no one left to blame. He would be responsible for whatever shitshow Brexit inevitably turned into. More people had voted for an anti-Brexit party than for a pro-Brexit one, so the country was just as divided as it had ever been. The idea of healing was a sick joke. Besides, he’d never thought for a minute that Brexit was a good idea anyway. It had just been a means to an end. To get him right here, right now. So he’d better try to enjoy it. Though best not to look as if he was enjoying it too much. Now was the time for a show of humility. To keep it low key. To at least look as if he was grateful that so many people had voted for him, when in his heart it just felt as if the natural world order of privileged entitlement had been observed. Boris mumbled some thanks to Labour voters for overlooking his dishonesty, racism and homophobia and promised he would try to do rather better at repaying their trust than he had in any previous relationships. A fresh start and all that. Or maybe not. Dom gave him the eye and he swiftly wrapped things up. He had no idea what came next, but something would come to him. It always did. The trick was to stay one step ahead of exposure.

Back home in Islington, Jeremy Corbyn was equally bewildered at the way the night had turned out. More in sadness than in anger, the Labour leader tried to explain how the real victim of his party’s failure had been him. He was the misunderstood Messiah. A man out of time. Too good for this world. Just give him another 1,000 years and the country would come to realise the salvation that had been offered in his party’s manifesto. His one regret was that he had not been even more radical. Perhaps then the people might have seen the light and not been distracted by Brexit. Corbyn sighed, willing his stigmata to bleed. It was time for him to move on. Though not quite yet. A period of reflection on the divine mysteries of his complete uselessness was required. Replacing someone as enlightened as him could not be rushed. Someone who would take the road less travelled of making the party unelectable for another 10 years. So why not give the Tories a free ride for several months while Labour tore itself to pieces? There was madness in his method. As Johnson nipped off to see the Queen – he’d lied to her once, he could lie to her again – and prepared to make another largely untrue statement outside Downing Street, Cummings quietly congratulated himself. He was the disruptor in chief. The man who tore things down. And his crowning achievement was to install an impostor as prime minister. Classic Dom.

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