Nobody leaves Ming in the corner

Dancing lessons, life meaning life and the chances of being ethical and working in the media

Dear Marina,

I am having difficulty understanding the difference between a two-step and a fox-trot, I am not sure I have the confidence for jive and this modern break-dancing looks simply too dangerous. All I know is I like to lead from the front. Can you please help.

Best regards,

Wurzel Fortesque-Smythe, 3rd Earl of Little Snodgrass.
PS: My Roller is at your disposal on election day.

I urge caution to any man choosing to lead from the front. The obvious dangers are stepping on toes, being caught on the back foot and leaving those you hope to lead behind.

If for example you so desired to lead a woman such as myself, you must take me gently but firmly into your arms and guide me. Since it is the woman who moves off backwards, one could say, strictly speaking, it is the woman who leads the way.

But the woman does so with charm and feminine foresight. She is ready to override a man’s urge to veer either left or right should she sense she’s about to back into the competition.

This would be too confusing for the judges and would split the vote.

You are right Lord Snodgrass, to be suspicious of the modern dance moves. There is no consistency to the rhythm, the footwork is lazy and the choreography too predictable.

If I were to choose my perfect dance partner to ensure competition gold, it would have to be none other than Sir Ming Campbell. He has enormous appeal with younger audiences who, responding to modern media coverage have seized ownership of this once deemed old fashioned dance form. At the same time his neat footwork and sartorial good taste has older generations gasping at his nimble footed elegance.

Tony and Dave, by comparison are but a confection of tulle and sequins with two right feet apiece. No wonder the judges get confused.

In short sir, whether exemplifying the fox trot or taking the opposition on a merry tango with his military two step Ming is an inspiration: his enormous talent for guidance has enabled his growing troupe of women to lead the way.

You might argue if we ain’t got that swing, this don’t mean a thing, but I’m optimistic the judges recognise class when they see it and we’ll sweep the floor with the opposition come May.

PS: Having mothballed Ming’s jag, I think it best we don’t avail of your Roller to provide lifts to the polling station. Chris Huhne is loaning us his Toyota Prius instead.

Dear Marina,

This week Amnesty criticised Iraq for its growing use of the death sentence. A report says that since 2004 at least 270 people have been sentenced to the ultimate punishment and that trials frequently are unfair. Now clearly no-one thinks people should be executed unless we can be absolutely certain of their guilt but surely society can choose that an Ian Huntley or Rose West be hung or shot? Are there ever circumstances in which you would support the death penalty?

IDS Essex

Hmmm. 270 death sentences since 2004. You do realize America puts down 114 prisoners a year? It would be more, but there’s a debate in progress as to whether the lethal injection is cruel, in that the recipient might die in some pain. Hence a 3366 prisoner backlog – mostly black Americans - on Death Row in the States.

In Iraq meanwhile they appear to have averaged less than 100 executions a year in a country where 200 died just this week at the hands of the insurgency.

The Iraqis appear remarkably restrained in their use of the ultimate judicial tool by comparison to the occupying forces.

Here in the UK we first need to address our sentencing shambles. When does life ever mean life? Never it seems. Evil people do evil things, get life and get out in seven years.

Should we ever introduce the death penalty here, it’s unlikely given the current form, that death ever actually mean death. It would probably mean you get the noose round the neck and the chair kicked out, to be replaced by slightly lower wobbly stool. You’d break your neck but it wouldn’t actually kill you. Later you’d be released – but don’t expect them to adapt your home for wheel chair use.

Lock up the worst offenders and throw away the keys, I say. Life should mean life. So say the Liberal Democrats too – the toughest party on crime and disorder right now. Okay that’s not difficult since we’re the only party with policies on the subject.

And in a recent street survey in my area carried out by myself and my exellent LibDem team, 95% of respondents agreed!

Anyone wishing to know more about Liberal Democrats and our tough action on crime should go to www.wecancutcrime.com or www.homeofficewatch.com

Dear Marina

I’ve got a dilemma. I like to treat people decently, keep promises I make but I also want to pursue a career in the media! What would you do?

S, Manchester

I have just signed 700 letters to local postal voters. I still have to deliver them. My wrist is stiffer than a lonesome Bonobo monkey’s.

So I’ll keep this brief. I have never had any trouble treating people well, keeping my pledges and combining it with a media career – and I’m a single mother.

If you can’t see a way forward, apply for job at the Daily Mail or join the Conservatives. Or do both!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.