Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Over the weekend, union leader Len McCluskey and millions of others watched, horrified, as their beloved Ed Miliband committed political suicide... or so it seemed.

McCluskey stood in the street and saw – he swears he saw – Miliband throw himself from the heights of a two- or three-point lead in the opinion polls and fall, fatally, onto the pavement of austerity.

A sudden throng of spin doctors prevented McCluskey from reaching Miliband’s broken leadership, but an autopsy performed by Ed Balls confirmed that Labour’s public-spending strategy was indeed dead, having sustained a lethal series of cuts.

And yet...

Why would Miliband have jumped, just as his arch-enemy Cameron’s plans to lay the country waste with a few short lines of economic policy were becoming exposed as a sham? Were other sinister figures putting pressure on him? Had he been told that Blairite assassins stood ready to kill his dear Labour party if he didn’t sacrifice his own position?

And then there’s the question of whether Miliband really did it. Surely he would have avoided such a grim ending at all costs. And surely a genius who can become party leader despite getting fewer votes from the party’s members could think of a way out of a pickle like this.

Could Miliband have put a mask of his own face onto the body of a suspiciously overhyped former “senior adviser” who disappeared from the Labour party that same weekend?

Could Balls – known to have a soft spot for stimulus spending – have faked the evidence?

Could there be a clue in the Labour protestations that their acceptance of cuts is about what happens after the next election, not before? Could Harriet Harman’s “we're not accepting austerity cuts; we are totally opposed to them” give the game away?

Could Miliband’s estranged older brother be somehow involved?

Could McCluskey have been drugged to distort his perception of reality?

Only time will tell.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Miliband the misfit

The E4 show Misfits is about a bunch of teenagers doing community service who acquire superpowers, which they use to fight crime, have sex and learn valuable life lessons.

(Spoiler alert.)

One of them is an awkward boy called Simon. A major part of series 2 and 3 is that a version of him from the future travels back in time. He’s far more self-assured and capable than the earlier version, and one of the other characters – a girl called Alisha – falls in love with him. Alas, he (future Simon) dies saving her life.

The earlier version of Simon is also impressed by his future self, and vows to become more like him so that eventually he can go back and save Alisha – who he has now fallen for, and who transfers her affections over to him.

Simon gradually develops the skills, courage and self-confidence of his future self, but then another tragedy strikes; he sees Alisha killed in front of him and is unable to help. He decides then to travel back in time to be with her again, creating a doomed temporal loop in which he inspires himself to discover his inner strength, wins his love and then fails her.

I only mention this because Ed Miliband said at the weekend:

You discover things about yourself in this job, which is that I am someone of real steel and grit, which is why I stood for the job in the first place.

Simon the self-inspiring Misfit. Not to be confused with his brother David.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The great Diane Abbott tweetgate scandal of 2012

Here’s the exchange, as reproduced by the BBC:

Bim Adewunmi: I do wish everyone would stop saying 'the black community' though. WHICH ONE?
Bim Adewunmi: Clarifying my 'black community' tweet: I hate the generally lazy thinking behind the use of the term. Same for 'black community leaders'.
Diane Abbott: I understand the cultural point you are making. But you are playing into a "divide and rule" agenda.
Bim Adewunmi: Maybe. I find it frustrating that half the time, these leaders are out of touch with black people they purport to represent.
Diane Abbott: White people love playing "divide & rule" We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism
Bim Adewunmi: I don't advocate 'divide and rule'. But I wish we could deal more effectively with issues without resorting to monolithic view.
Diane Abbott: Ethnic communities that show more public solidarity & unity than black people do much better #dontwashdirtylineninpublic

I should start by declaring that my general opinion of Diane Abbott is pretty low, although my estimation of her importance is also pretty low. I find it hard to get worked up by this.

Still, on the offending phrase: I don’t quite grasp the mental process that starts with wanting a quick and clear way to describe people who seek to weaken black people by turning them against each other, and ends with choosing “white people” rather than “colonialists” or “imperialists” or “racists”.

Nonetheless, I’m sure she knows full well that there are loads of white people who don’t fit that description. My best guess is that she was aiming to be a little cheeky in the vague service of solidarity-building, in the way that Harriet Harman might make some semi-serious unflattering overgeneralisation about men to make the sisters nod along.

If so, it’s still unpleasant and it’s still untrue – I go along with Russell on “the superior virtue of the oppressed”. But the idea that any white person has in any way been harmed by this tweet is just ridiculous. At the very outside you could argue that impressionable young black people might read it and as a result take more of an ‘us vs them’ outlook towards all white people, but I think that’s stretching it well past breaking point.

My real beef with what Abbott said is precisely because of the “context” that she protests her tweet was taken out of. I don’t like the way she rejects Bim Adewunmi’s point.

Questioning the merits of a set of “community leaders” (black or otherwise) is not on any meaningful continuum with the tactics and values of 19th-century colonialism. And the suggestion that black people shouldn’t criticise their so-called “community leaders” for fear of being seen to “wash [their] dirty linen in public” is depressing.

But then, there are far more depressing things to do with race. And yet this is the issue we’re all yelling about this week. Well, it’s easy, isn’t it? We know how to do ‘somebody said something and people say they’re angry at her and other people say they’re angry at them and now I’m going to say something’. We don’t know how to make society more just and people less prejudiced. Well, I don’t, anyway.