The BBC's Labour prism?

Glasgow East, Tory cycling and Moses Obama on tour

The Nats are biting

The Scottish Government faced the British Government and won - when the SNP candidate, John Mason, emerged victorious in the Glasgow East by-election, early in the hours of Friday morning. But while nationalists got some hard-earned sleep, Not a Sheep complained bitterly that the BBC’s coverage of the by-election was seen “through a Labour prism”.

Seeing it through a Labour prism, On Liberty Now asked:

“Is it now time for Gordon Brown to call a general election, lose, have the Tories get tainted with the economic downturn and then David Milliband can walk into Downing Street in 2013?”

As dawn broke over Glasgow, Tartan Hero was off to the victory photo-call…

Serbs him right

The arrest of Bosnian Serb sociopath Radovan Karadzic, who had been posing as a cross between Rowan Williams and Gillian McKeith, has brought a sliver of light into our dark world.

Harry’s Place carried an interesting profile of the man, by former New York Times Balkans reporter, Daniel Simpson. He touched upon some of the circumstances that allowed the former Republika Srpska president to lie low for some 13 years:

“The weather-beaten folk he went to ground amongst had been reared on tales of centuries of relentless oppression. Even if they loathed the man they loved his cause: the avenging of bygone misfortunes, by wanton aggression if needs be.”

While Sarajevo celebrated, Euro-collaborative blog Kosmopolit wondered what the future held for Serbia. Setting out a ‘to do’ list for its pro-western government, the blog pointed to progress in the Stabilisation and Association Process, recognition of Kosovo, acquisition of status as a an EU candidate state - and the arrest of Karadzic’s charming former associate Ratko Mladic, as well as the ex-president of the breakaway Republic of Serbian Krajina, Goran Hadzic.

A blog entitled Finding Karadzic had been tracking news coverage of the hunt for Karadzic online the past four years, and reflected:

“The world is a better place today than it was yesterday. Those of us interested in international criminal justice sometimes grow weary at the unfairness and impunity that are often the end results of the worst misconduct in the world by some of the worst people in the world.”

The blog also helpfully provided a link to PSY Help Energy - Karadzic’s Uri Gelleresque cashcow of a site flogging daft notions to credulous Belgraders.

Fascinatingly, TechCrunchIT touched on the role that the web may have played in Karadzic’s capture, speculating that: “a technology trail was traced either through a cell phone or an IP address,” and wondered whether an online email account had given the big-haired bastard away.

What have we learned this Week?

Cycling is a hot-button issue. Ed Vaizey opined that cycling was a conservative mode of transport (“utter bollocks” according to liberal Wit and Wisdom) while some unhuggable hoodie nicked Dave Cameron’s cycle from outside Tesco.

Strolling through Westminster on Thursday morning, a straw-mopped cyclist flashed recklessly past me. The workmen digging up the road cheerfully cried “hello Boris!” – but the demon blond cyclist might just as easily have been newstatesman.com’s peddle-driven editor.

Across the Pond

Moses Obama took his mighty staff on a tour of the Holy Land before addressing a million backpack-wearing Germans, while back on the home front McCain was whinging about the media. Fred Stopsky advised him to can it and quit while he’s ahead.

Videos of the Week

To celebrate the absolute and final conclusion of the wearisome Thatcher state funeral debate (“only if she’s still alive!” “Only if it’s subject to compulsory competitive tendering!” “Only if I can wear my Red Wedge t-shirt!”) – here’s a round-up of the best pop videos which are lyrically disrespectful to Thatch.

Elvis Costello was keen to Tramp the Dirt Down, while the Beat similarly demanded that she Stand Down. Angelic Upstarts shouted for an answer, The Style Council shouted to the top, and said ”thank you Maggie Thatcher”, (but very sarcastically), while Tears for Fears damned that “politician granny with her high ideals” and the Specials got ”left on the shelf”.

Quote of the Week

“Was there Kool Aid in the water which created this monster? No there was a cultural meme, a blindfold if you will, which occluded not only his sight but that of the greater Butcher of Belgrade, Milosevic.”

Canadian Catholic blogger, Theology in the Vineyard.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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As long as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour opponents are divided, he will rule

The leader's foes have yet to agree on when and how a challenge should take place.

Labour MPs began plotting to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader before he even held the position. They have not stopped since. From the outset, most regarded him as electorally and morally defective. Nothing has caused them to relinquish this view.

A week before the first major elections of this parliament, Labour found itself conducting a debate normally confined to far-right internet forums: was Hitler a Zionist? For some MPs, the distress lay in how unsurprised they were by all this. Since Corbyn’s election last September, the party has become a mainstream venue for hitherto fringe discussions.

Many MPs believe that Labour will be incapable of rebuilding its standing among the Jewish community as long as Corbyn remains leader. In the 1930s, Jewish support for the party was as high as 80 per cent. “They handed you your . . . membership just after your circumcision,” quipped the father in the 1976 television play Bar Mitzvah Boy. By the time of the last general election, a poll found that support had fallen to a mere 22 per cent. It now stands at just 8.5 per cent.

Corbyn’s critics cite his typical rejection of anti-Semitism and "all forms of racism" (as if unable to condemn the former in isolation), his defence of a tweet sent by his brother, Piers (“Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine”), and his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”. The Lab­our leader dismissed the latter remark as a diplomatic nicety but such courtesy was not displayed when he addressed Labour Friends of Israel and failed to mention the country’s name. When challenged on his record of combating anti-Semitism, Corbyn frequently invokes his parents’ presence at the Battle of Cable Street, a reference that does not provide the reassurance intended. The Jewish community does not doubt that Labour has stood with it in the past. It questions whether it is prepared to stand with it in the present.

MPs say that Labour’s inept response to anti-Semitism has strengthened the moral case for challenging Corbyn. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of how the fear of “enormous reputational damage” had pushed him to the brink of resignation. As the New Statesman went to press, Corbyn’s first electoral test was looming. Every forecast showed the party on course to become the first opposition to lose council seats in a non-general-election year since 1985. Yet Corbyn appeared to insist on 3 May that this would not happen, gifting his opponents a benchmark by which to judge him.

Sadiq Khan was projected to become the party’s first successful London mayoral candidate since 2004. But having distanced himself from Corbyn throughout the race, he intends to deny him any credit if he wins. Regardless of the results on 5 May, there will be no challenge to the Labour leader before the EU referendum on 23 June. Many of the party’s most Corbyn-phobic MPs are also among its most Europhile. No cause, they stress, should distract from the defence of the UK’s 43-year EU membership.

Whether Corbyn should be challenged in the four weeks between the referendum and the summer recess is a matter of dispute among even his most committed opponents. Some contend that MPs have nothing to lose from trying and should be prepared to “grind him down” through multiple attempts, if necessary. Others fear that he would be empowered by winning a larger mandate than he did last September and argue that he must be given “longer to fail”. Still more hope that Corbyn will instigate a midterm handover to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, his closest ally, whom they regard as a beatable opponent.

Those who are familiar with members’ thinking describe many as “anxious” and in need of “reassurance” but determined that Corbyn receives adequate time to “set out his stall”. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of being “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” – that is, “a Labour Party membership which is ardently Corbynista and a British electorate which is ardently anti-Corbynista”. In their most pessimistic moments, some MPs gloomily wonder which group will deselect them first. The possibility that a new Conservative leader could trigger an early general election is cited by some as cause for haste and by others as the only means by which Corbynism can be definitively discredited.

The enduring debate over whether the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged (the party’s rules are ambiguous) is dismissed by most as irrelevant. Shadow cabinet members believe that Corbyn would achieve the requisite nominations. Momentum, the Labour leader’s praetorian guard, has privately instructed its members to be prepared to lobby MPs for this purpose.

There is no agreement on who should face Corbyn if his removal is attempted. The veteran MP Margaret Hodge has been touted as a “stalking horse” to lead the charge before making way for a figure such as the former paratrooper Dan Jarvis or the shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle. But in the view of a large number of shadow cabinet members, no challenge will materialise. They cite the high bar for putative leaders – the endorsement of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs – and the likelihood of failure. Many have long regarded mass front-bench resignations and trade union support as ­essential preconditions for a successful challenge, conditions they believe will not be met less than a year after Corbyn’s victory.

When Tony Blair resigned as Labour leader in 2007, he had already agreed not to fight the next general election and faced a pre-eminent rival in Gordon Brown. Neither situation exists today. The last Labour leader to be constitutionally deposed was J R Clynes in 1922 – when MPs, not members, were sovereign. Politics past and present militate against Corbyn’s opponents. There is but one man who can remove the leader: himself.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred