Not Bright's blog

Martin hands over his blog to a guest writer - the author of the hangbitch.com blog

Whose riding who? The bloggers and the mainstream take turns.

I laud myself as independent journalist and blogger. I'm quieter about that fact that I'll also shag anyone for mainstream attention.

Here's my riveting story: I launched my half-assed journo's careers as a mainstream columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald about ten years ago. I was selected for that lofty office because of my gender and youth credentials (this was the mid-1990s, when young, and so-called stroppy, women were all the thing for some reason. I think the emphasis was on the 'young.'). I followed the well-worn road of the wannabe-edgy-but-wannabe-mainstream media slag – ie, did a turn as a hooker and wrote about it, pissed away a book advance, stormed out of the Herald, sloped off into PR for the money, etc, etc. Yawn.

Time to move countries, I thought.

Life in the UK has been all a media fiend could have hoped. The bloggers loathe the mainstream, and base their days around the stories that the mainstream generates to kick-start long discussions about the mainstream's uselessness. The mainstream hates bloggers, because they say what they like about the crap that others write, and have cool fans. I knew there'd be a place in this excellent structure for me.

I decided I wouldn't make much of a blogger, because I'm not so brilliant at taking a stance, or sticking to it - especially if there's power and/or money involved, as you'll see. I thought it was time to get back to honest old reporting. I kicked this about it a bit, and decided to elect myself as reporter for the passionate citizens of the Left.

First, I set up a website for the United Left in Unison – an uplifting experiment in collective publishing that lasted a record six months before the heinous implosion - I was chucked out of Unison conference for publishing to the site on a union computer, and then sort of chucked out of the United Left for hating the SWP.

I set up a website at http://www.hangbitch.com and started covering the union and industrial action scene, and John McDonnell's campaign for the Labour Party leadership.

There were two big pluses to covering this campaign. The first was that it was unexpectedly interesting. People at McDonnell meetings were talking about the NHS, adequate pensions, and decent terms and conditions at work. The second plus was that nobody else was doing it. That's when I decided that the time might be right for a journalist such as myself - a person with nothing but exclusives, if you will - to stand out in her empty field.

In other words, I thought it was time to start sniffing round the mainstream.

I found Martin Bright's blog via another blog and left my website address in his comments section with a half-witted comment about debate on the Left around it. He followed that link to my site and emailed me from it. I sent a cute little email back.

Pretty soon, we were parked around a couple of wines in a bar in Victoria, trying to work out who best could use who. He agreed to feature my website on his, and I agreed to submit a story about the future of the Labour party based on interviews with its young members. I only told my partner, my parents and 8,000 of my closest friends. And so the thing has grown. The young Labour members I've interviewed have written about being interviewed on their blogs. A story turned up on the indymedia site, asking if the New Statesman's link to the hangbitch site meant the New Statesman had taken a turn to the kooky Left. People went from there to the New Statesman to find out for themselves, and then came to my site to confirm. The number of visitors to my site has quadrupled. The story's not even finished, yet I feel like it's been out for years. As Clive James would have said, it's the best story I never wrote. Weird.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.