Tag: Labour party

The curious world of Owen Jones and British socialism

Owen Jones is one of the most successful writers in Britain yet he does not actually like writing. “I never wanted to be a writer,” he has written, “I don’t particularly enjoy writing, in lots of ways I’m not a very good writer.” The honesty is endearing. Still, how grim to see one of our most renowned columnists admit that writing is “a means to an end”. Where is the love of language that inspired such commentators as Mencken, Waugh, Hitchens and Cockburn? What does it say about the reading public that a man for whom writing is a mere propaganda tool has reached such heights?

Jones appeared almost from nowhere, with a slim, fresh-faced appearance and cheerful, down-to-Earth style that earned him a following above that of wordier, angrier leftist commentators. His books Chavs and The Establishment became bestsellers and he is one of if not the biggest attraction of The Guardian with his videos and columns.

The honesty that I mentioned is real and admirable. The problem is that it exposes weaknesses that – well – are not.

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Labour’s manifesto and Marxism’s rotten heart

After the shambolic leak of Labour’s draft manifesto, Comrade Corbyn launched the party’s manifesto to the public in Bradford on May 17, to rapturous applause from the party faithful. As one would expect from Corbyn and his team’s track record as apparently cuddly socialists, it’s an incoherent grab bag of policies designed to massively expand the role of the state in people’s everyday lives, supposedly in an aim to help people, all the while chipping further away at the now rather eroded foundations of freedom and liberty that British society was founded on.

Not only was the leak shambolic, but the big release was also as full of holes as Corbyn’s cardigans. His spending plans would cause the UK’s debt to explode by £250 billion (US$325 billion) and would see the government aiming to spend an extra £48.6 billion (US$63 billion) per year. Indeed, the chaotic nature of the unveiling was elevated to levels of parody by the fact that even though the manifesto – titled “For the Many, Not the Few” (ruin for the many, not Corbyn’s nomenklatura few) – claims to use an economic model entirely devised by world-leading economists, the policy of levying a tax on offshore company property actually relied in part on a database created by the current events and satire magazine Private Eye.

Policy proposals include free childcare for all 2-4 year olds; a fat-cat tax on city banks and the super-wealthy that would be worth 2.5% of incomes over £330,000 (US$428,000) and 5% of incomes over £500,000, and a raise in the corporate tax from 19% to 26%; nationalisation of the railways and water industries; re-nationalisation of the postal service; a new 45p tax threshold for incomes of £80,000 (US$104,000) a year and over and 50p on incomes of £123,000 and over, which would affect 1.3 million people who would end up paying £5,300 (US$6,900) more in tax. According to IFS estimates, the tax burden could increase to 37% by 2022 under a Labour government, dragging us back not the 1970’s but the 1950’s, when Britain was a bombed out shell living on debt and US subsidies. Labour says all its plans for spending, borrowing and taxing are fully costed, but as Matthew Lynn points out, this view seems to belong in another reality.

To conclude the economic arguments against the Labour manifesto, none of Corbyn’s sums add up. The Labour tax plans would actually bring in less tax revenue, and would only raise £20bn-£30bn, leaving a potential shortfall of £28.6 billion (US$37 billion), to be covered by guess what? More borrowing.

The fact is, higher tax rates and stifling economic intervention would lead to poorer economic growth, which in turn would result in lower revenue and adding to the shortfall. One can see how £250 billion more in debt suddenly looks frighteningly realistic.

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The madness of calling for a No Fly Zone in Syria

The Labour MPs in Britain and assorted bleeding heart Twitter liberals called again for a No Fly Zone in Syria. One might have wondered that this insanity is over, but no…like a Phoenix it comes up every time there’s a bombing raid in Aleppo.

Unfortunately, Labour’s plan had zero specifics on how the NFZ would be achieved. Nothing on how to do it. Nothing about security dilemma or escalatory spiral. Nothing on why should we do it anyway, other than to “save Syrians”. Or what British interest would it achieve. Nothing about if a Western plane gets shot down, should we counter escalate, or climb down.

Here’s a simple war gaming simulation for all the Twitter bleeding hearts. Let’s go on to impose a NFZ in Syria. We try and knock out C4ISR. The Syrians delegate their anti-air ops to the Rus. The Russians come with fighter escorts, or worse, the Russians shoot down a Western jet. The Russians then say it was rebels or ISIS that shot it down. Should the West escalate? Climb down? If they climb down, what about perception and resolve? What if there is asymmetric escalation? Proxies attacking Western interests in other places? What about mission creep? If you haven’t done these aforementioned threat assessments and are calling for NFZ or intervention, you’re insane. Leave it to the pros. If you still want to take risk of escalation with Russia over Syria where there’s no long term geo-strategic interest, you’re an idiot. 

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PODCAST: Let no one say Politics is boring…

Tweets that didn't age well.

Tweets that didn’t age well.

 

What a week, and it is not even Thursday!

I have written about politics since 2008, covered US, NZ, Indian, Fiji, and British elections, fair to say, I haven’t covered a week like this, as a columnist. And the week is not even over yet.

British politics just officially out Game of Throned, Game of Thrones.

CmM3S0KWIAAaDsDTo sum it up, Boris is out of Tory leadership as he realised, that he got outplayed by Michael Gove. For all his Roman scholarship, he never saw that coming. So, he is now dodging the bullet, putting himself in a kingmaker position, wait for Theresa May or Gove to come for his support, positioning himself for the ultimate leverage, and wait for the next person to clean up the mess. Boris lives to fight another day.

Michael Gove and Theresa May in, Labour is turmoil, and Brexit a fact, as Cameron wants India, China and US to replace EU investment and partnerships with UK.

And it’s not over yet! Listen to me here…and watch this space for more to come!

Why Sadiq Khan just might be the hero UK Labour needs right now

I was in London over the weekend, on the eve of Sadiq Khan’s victory, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, charismatic, suave and secular, was elected the Mayor of London, after a grueling and ugly campaign against the former mayor Boris Johnson supported, Etonian Zac Goldsmith. Aristrocratic and uptight Goldsmith, started the campaign after accusing Khan of being an Islamist sympathizer. It wasn’t easy for Labour, being beset with internal squabbles and a bland leadership, which almost relegated the party to a sideshow and a mere spectator in the ongoing Brexit debate, where the biggest arguments are happening between and within the Tory ranks, between PM David Cameron who is supporting an In campaign, and the rebels led by Boris Johnson. Boris was also an extremely popular mayor, having overseen London turn to a financial capital of Europe beating Frankfurt, and host a tremendously successful Olympic games.

But Goldsmith, compared to the erudite Boris, was an obnoxious candidate, smug and cold and boorish, and that reflected in the campaign when he tried to gain on the xenophobic and anti-migrant sentiment with a streak of racism against Khan. It didn’t help the Tories as they are themselves in a civil war, and Goldsmith is in the Brexit rebel club, alongside Johnson, which means he didn’t have the full backing and support and groundwork help and effort from Tory volunteers.

In this toxic scenario, Sadiq Khan is a whiff of fresh air. Son of Pakistani immigrant of humble and modest origin, he is a brilliant speaker, and is considered an able administrator. He is also the modern pragmatic wing of Labour, and alongside Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall, is considered as the future leadership contenders.

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Barry crashes the Brexit party!

So, this happened.

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If you’re living under the rock (or you’re American) then you probably don’t know that UK is heading for a Brexit vote in a month, a situation, where ideologies are blurred and a civil war is raging.

In that moment, enter Barack Obama with the casual Chicago game. Now, say what you may about this guy, or his politics, but one has to admit, he is perhaps the greatest and the most gifted extempore speaker of his generation. Well, maybe Bill Clinton, at his prime, not at his diminished stage like now, was better than Barry. But anyway, he changed the game, in a way David Cameron couldn’t have imagined, and the backlash from the “out” camp was severe. Socialists were livid that an American President is dictating another country how they should vote. Rebel Conservatives and ultra-right wingers are livid as well.

Some of them do have a point. Without going into the merits of BREXIT, it is unbelievable to think any country, or even the British PM urging Americans to sign and ratify UNCLOS, or form a borderless union with Mexico and Canada, or join AIIB led by China. Not going to happen. Ever.

Also, curiously, this campaign has divided the left. I mean, by definition, if you’re a red-blooded Marxist, you should be against a free trade espousing, neoliberal, hegemonic union, which dictates economic policies of small countries, crushes left movements like Greece, and throws its military weight around, right? 

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