Corbyn and the house of mirrors

Jeremy Corbyn

“Hang on a minute lads. I’ve got a great idea.” This is how the classic 60s film The Italian Job ends, on a literal cliff-hanger. After successfully stealing some gold, Micheal Caine and co. are in a coach hanging off the edge of a cliff, with the stolen booty at the end which is above thin air and the gang at the other. As Caine edges towards the gold, the coach tilts dangerously over the precipice. We never find out what the great idea is.

This is the same dilemma as the Left faces: how far is it possible to get to the golden ideals of socialism without going too far and throwing yourself off the cliff into electoral oblivion. Jeremy Corbyn, who looks set to be Labour’s next leader, is offering the party a chance to run straight at the gold. Continue reading Corbyn and the house of mirrors

Shotgun Lovesongs, Nickolas Butler – a review

Barneveld, Wisconsin - 101109

Nickolas Butler started writing Shotgun Lovesongs racked with loneliness in an uninspiring rented room in a woman’s house away from home. It’s exactly how one of the protagonists of the book, musician Leland Sutton, writes his first album, also called Shotgun Lovesongs. The book and the album also share a key motif: the awe the artist has for where he calls home. Butler grew up in a Wisconsin town called Eau Claire, which in the book is next to the fictional town of Little Wing where Leland (or Lee) and his friends come from, and where most of the action is set. (Incidentally, Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon is from Eau Claire and went to school with Butler, and so is perhaps a template for the character of Lee.) Continue reading Shotgun Lovesongs, Nickolas Butler – a review

Short book review – Meltdown by Ben Elton

Ben Elton’s 2009 book Meltdown is the story of the rise and fall of a City trader and his rich university friends. It is, as becomes apparent quite early on in the book, a story of the New Labour years from the view of the upper-middle class: the easy money, the convenient ability to earn bucket loads of cash while easing liberal guilt by telling yourself you are doing something which helps others, and the expectation that everything inevitably will continue getting better. Continue reading Short book review – Meltdown by Ben Elton

Labour’s dilemma

Miliband, Ed (2007)

This article was published on Palatinate

After sudden, brutal, unforeseen disasters we seek answers in order to tell ourselves it will never happen again. We expect to be able to halt nature, that with enough will we can protect ourselves from a callous and uncaring world. After the Labour Party’s defeat, as crushing as it was because it was so unexpected, the temptation is there to prescribe a remedy to cure all ills. The SNP’s tartan tsunami washed away the likes of Douglas Alexander, the party’s election chief. UKIP’s purple tornado swirled across left-behind areas of the country Labour would previously have called its heartlands. Meanwhile, Labour could not thaw through the Tory vote in the South, which remained blue as voters gave the prospect of a Miliband government an icy reception. Now that the battle is lost, the war has broken loose within Labour about how to win lost votes with a shift to the right, or the left; or away from metropolitan values or towards them. Continue reading Labour’s dilemma

General Election 2015: The perils of nationalisms

This article was published on Shifting Grounds Nationalism is not really about your own nation at all. If the world were one nation, the term would not exist. It relies on the other. It defines itself not on its own terms, but by comparing itself with the outside, with the enemy.

All nationalism is nationalism whether it is left-wing or right-wing, whether led by Hugo in Caracas, Marine in Paris, Nigel in Kent, or indeed by Nicola in Edinburgh. It relies on mythology and narrative; a semi-fictitious story to unite an imagined community, with the rough contradictory edges smoothed away.  Continue reading General Election 2015: The perils of nationalisms

The UK election from Spain

Two big parties struggling to cope with the exit of bipartisan politics, widespread detest of the elites, a ruling conservative government claiming the economy has turned around, arguing against the left who focus on inequality and unrestrained power at the top… there are several similarities between politics in Spain and the United Kingdom in what is an election year for both.  Continue reading The UK election from Spain

Yes we can?

Madrid - Podemos - La marcha del cambio - 31012015 120309

Imagine if the United Kingdom had been affected rather differently by the economic crisis. Imagine if we had been so badly hit that 54% of the country had moved to an inferior social class, while over half of young people were still unemployed. In this imaginary United Kingdom students are desperate to emigrate and work elsewhere in the EU to escape.

Meanwhile, in a series of corruption scandals, the governing Conservative party is going to court and has seen its treasurer sent to prison in relation to allegations of secret illegal slush funds used to pay for party headquarters, campaigns, and even the Prime Minister’s clothing. The Labour party has faced its own accusations about regional politicians and dodgy use of local government funds. Continue reading Yes we can?