The Dirty Dozen. Why Corbyn’s Labour (worryingly) might win.

I wrote Prime Minister Corbyn, A Strategic Masterclass  18 months ago before Brexit, before May before Trump … and it is, in my mind highly prescient.

 

All my UK friends look at the polls and see the Tories are nailed on to win the forthcoming election. Here’s my 12 supplementary thoughts.

1. Don’t be so sure of the polls, as being in the USA for the past year Polls are national. Votes are local and not distributed equally.
2. Miliband was a disaster, electorally, motivating neither the left or right of the Labour Party. The Left IS highly motivated and alienated non-voters MAY return to Labour. Where will the working class UKIP vote go?
3. Theresa May is not David Cameron, who was a great communicator and an electoral asset. May, for now, is neither and there is little evidence that she will flip to being a charismatic campaigner for the media age.
4. There are very good Labour MPs (that want to part of a Labour Party, just not ‘this’ Labour Party) that will command a personal vote and hold key constituencies. There will not be a Labour collapse.
5. There are 29 Tories under Criminal Investigation- ‘All politics is local.’ said Tip O’Neill.
6. The Liberal Democrats will not face the same wipeout – and in my view will take votes from pro-European Tories as well as metropolitan Labour. There will be an Anti-Tory tactical vote in many areas.
7. The SNP may form a coalition with Labour, making a majority easier, post election.
9. In 1983 there was an SDP taking votes from the centre Left. These centre left voters have 2 choices. Hold your nose and vote Tory or hold your nose and vote Labour. How will this split on election day?
10. Six weeks is a long time in politics. Who knows what the USA/China/ Korea/Iran/Syria/France foreign policies will look like when the UK votes this summer.
11. Brexit is the biggest public event since WW2. Churchill is the greatest ever Briton. Churchill lost 1945 to a “sheep in sheep’s clothing” promising a radical left agenda.
12. Trump had 1 national newspaper endorsement and was a figure of media ridicule. He is The President of the USA.
It ain’t over, ’till it’s over.
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Trump 3:16 says, I Just Whipped Your Ass

If you get the headline, there is no introduction needed, if you don’t, let me explain.

Back in March, deep in Republican Primary season, I gave a message to all those that read my column; Donald Trump is following WWE Wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s strategy.

https://oliverlovat.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/donald-trump-the-smackdown-strategy/

Quoting Wikipedia, Austin was “a disrespectful, beer-drinking antihero who routinely defied the establishment and his boss, company chairman Vince McMahon; this persona of Austin’s became the “poster boy” of the Attitude Era, a boom period in WWF business in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was one of the biggest factors in helping the WWF win the ratings war against their competition, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Several prominent industry figures, including McMahon, have since declared Austin to be the biggest star in WWF/E history, while stressing that he surpassed the popularity of Hulk Hogan.”

He was neither a gifted wrestler or a great communicator, but he was one of the most supported personas in wrestling, despite being a heel, or “bad guy”. Confounding the management of the time, he would regularly get the crowd’s support against the face or “good guy” and the authority to which they represent.

Screen-Shot-2015-08-11-at-10.17.57-AM

So how does this lead to Trump?

It transpires that Trump was emulating Austin’s strategy two-fold.

  1. Austin’s most vocal and passionate supporters were the WWE’s core fans in America’s heartlands; gain white, working class, typically non-college educated voters, and judging by the exit polls of last week he achieved this:
  • 58% of white voted Trump
  • 53% of over 45s voted Trump
  • 51% of High School educated and 52% of some (but not college) education voted Trump
  • 62% of Small city or rural Voted Trump
  • 58% Protestant or other Christian
  • 61% of Veterans
  1. Austin was neither a heel or a face, but his “own guy”.

Donald Trump did not win the election as a Republican. He did not run in the Republican Primaries as a Republican, he ran as an Anti-Republican, and with the Republican brand, he ran as an anti-Establishment candidate. The voters are his, not the party’s.

Like Steve Austin, he (Trump) has ridiculed his opponents in the crudest and most obvious ways to make them become irrelevant and small compared to him. With Cruz and Rubio, expect the same standard stereotyping as seen previously, and against Hillary Clinton a new wave of sexism and misogyny not seen in public debate for decades. 

And like Steve Austin, he has changed the Republican Party through insurgency; the traditional rules of politics do not apply. The voters are his and not the Party’s.

I can’t believe that nobody from the Democrats watched the WWE in the 1990s. There was a pattern that when “the Establishment” or the management objected to his behaviour, Austin’s support grew. When the WWE uncovered a talent, branded it the “next big thing” the fans resisted being told who to support.

The more Hilary was endorsed, especially by the shiny pop stars of the moment, the greater the antipathy towards her grew. This is a real insight into the voter psyche, the same as wrestling.

So well done, The Donald, you knocked out all the opponents and you have won the King of the Ring.

 What Happens Next?

The campaign was run like the build-up to a Wrestlemania, but now the main event is over and the belt passed, The Donald’s face said it all, he is now the President of the United States of America. The Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful army. This is not a game anymore. This is Bigly (or Big League, as I am told is the full meaning).

Since I started this piece, there have been articles posted suggesting that Linda McMahon, the actual establishment figure that Austin rallied against is to join Trump’s Cabinet!

The one problem Steve Austin had was he found it difficult to appeal outside his core (but large) white USA audience, so while he was an undoubted megastar in WWE terms, he lacked the cultural crossover that a Hulk Hogan, Undertaker or The Rock managed to achieve. And this may be his ultimate problem.

Trump has successfully created this position where he challenges the establishment. Now he is the establishment, and it is a careful balance to maintain the level of managing anger against the other and making change.

There was chatter in the media this week of asking who could beat Donald Trump? Someone that is multi-ethnic, a good speaker, popular, handsome, thoughtful, politically engaged and articulate?

Who did the media suggest?  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the same guy who ended the reign of Steve Austin a decade ago. I kid you not.

Johnson said, “I wouldn’t rule it out. It would be a great opportunity to help people, so it’s possible. This past election shows that anything can happen.”

So, we conclude 2016 with the knowledge that, politics in the second decade of the 21st century is wrestling without the ring. There is a curious scent in the air.. who knows what’s cooking…

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OL  NOV 16

The Jewish Trade Union: How the United Synagogue is Destroying Anglo-Jewry.

In Las Vegas, I have participated in more Jewish events and ceremonies in the past 18 months than I had in the past 18 years in the UK. Next month something remarkable, but yet unremarkable will happen. Like all the males (and none of the females) in my family, my daughter will be called up to read the Torah on her Bat Mitzvah. If we had not moved to the United States and joined the Conservative movement and stayed in the United Kingdom, this great event would not have happened, and there is one reason why; The United Synagogue is preventing modern Anglo-Jewry from embracing change that is going on throughout the Jewish world.

(Edit – To be clear, if I had been a member of a Reform or Conservative Synagogue in the UK or Israel, my daughter could have been called up to the Torah; it is just the Orthodox Communities that discriminate against women in matters of religious practice.)

I must add as a preamble, I mean no offence to the leadership or followers of the United Synagogue who may read this, both lay and spiritual. However, I feel that you are either misguided, or in taking the actions that you are, you doing are causing harm to wider Anglo-Jewry (and either don’t see it, or don’t care.)

 A very brief overview of Anglo-Jewry

For my non-Jewish friends reading this essay, there has been a documented Jewish presence in Britain since the 11th Century, but the ‘recent’ phase of “Anglo-Jewry” began with Cromwell in 1656. Mass Jewish immigration to the UK was an outcome of persecution and economic migration from the turn of the 20th Century to the Second World War. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of British history would appreciate the Jewish influence in British life; from fish and chips to Marks and Spencer, from Bud Flanagan to Alan Sugar, the Jewish influence in public life and culture has been unmatched by any other immigrant community. Britain has been good to the Jews, and the Jews have been good for Britain. The Jews of 1670 were different from 1870 and 1970 and there have been multiple types of Jews from merchants and traders who mingled with the highest of classes to destitute refugees, spending what they had to achieve passage to the shores of the UK.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) regularly reports on issues relating to the UK Jewish community and in 2010 they reported the composition of the UK Jewish community was as follows:

1

In a more recent study the JPR highlighted the following about Jews in Britain:

  • 57% of respondents attend a Friday night meal most weeks;
  • 49% frequently light candles at home on Friday night;
  • Synagogue attendance is associated with type of affiliation, among other variables (such as gender, geography and so on). For example, over half (53%) of respondents who self-identify as ‘Orthodox’ attend synagogue, compared with a third (32%) of those who identify as ‘Traditional’ and just one in ten (11%) of those who are ‘Secular/Cultural’ Jews. Similarly, men are more likely to attend synagogue services weekly or more often than women.

What does it mean to be Jewish?

Most people see Judaism as a religion – it is. But Jewish identity is not religio-centric.

Today, there is an entire Jewish State where the Jews who go clubbing on a Friday night are as Jewish as those who study text from dawn to dusk. Everyone is entitled to live as Jewish and be as Jewish as they feel. There is no judgement placed in the Jewish State.

But this is different in the UK. The JPR undertook the study on Jewish identity today. Their findings are below, but it is worth noting their commentary:

“The most important beliefs are those associated with ethical and ethno-cultural themes. For example, the idea that ‘Strong moral and ethical behaviour’ is important to being Jewish is near universal (92%) and is the top item in this list.

2

And for me this is the contradiction. My Jewish values are strong. I consider myself ethical, moral and rational. I have a strong collective memory, I want the best for my society, my community and my family. All of the top 11 of the JPR’s list have core resonance, and this is why I am writing this piece. I am a proud Jew and a proud Zionist, the modern incarnation of the Jewish Nation.

 

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Rabbi Mirvis (Chief Rabbi of The United Synagogue)

The United Synagogue – The Orthodox Jewish Trade Union

The United Synagogue (US) was founded in 1870 and is the home of mainstream Orthodox Jewry, perhaps what the Jewish community would once define as Traditional.

The US elects representatives, which in turn appoint the Chief Rabbi of the US, who is possibly the most visible Jewish religious figure in the UK.

To those outside, it is very much like a Trade Union. It serves its members, and seeks to find ways that those on the outside do not get the same rights as those who are inside.

Membership eligibility is based on genetics; those that are deemed to be halakhaly Jewish (by having a Jewish mother) are automatically eligible to be accepted as Jewish, or an expensive and time-consuming conversion process. This same policy in terms of admitting to the US’ schools has been determined racist by the UK Supreme court (R (E) v Governing Body of JFS [2009]) but still exists for membership of the United Synagogue as it is a religious organisation and doesn’t require state funding.

Like a Union, it has a hierarchy, some cliques and the leading members are motivated by a particular ideology and theology.

Theologically, the United Synagogue is a blend of traditional Orthodox Judaism, which is rejectionist of modern life, and Modern Orthodoxy, which seeks to synthesise modern scientific truths and traditional Jewish laws, and was advocated by the likes of Rabbi Hirsch and Rav Kook, the latter encompassing Zionism into the mix. The Orthodox Rabbinate has juggled with this for the past 30 years.

The US is a traditional, conservative movement. It is a broad church (from bearded scholars who speak with heavy accents to clean shaven people who visit synagogue once a year). It believes in unbending adherence to the interpretation of halakhah, which is where it differentiates with the Reform and Conservative movements.

In order not to mislead in any way, I quote:

The Word “halakhah” is usually translated as “Jewish Law,” although a more literal (and more appropriate) translation might be the “path that one walks.”

 Some non-Jews and non-observant Jews criticize the Legalistic aspect of Traditional Judaism, saying that it reduces the religion to a set of rituals devoid of spirituality. While there are certainly some Jews who observe halakhah in this way, that is not the intention of halakhah, and is not even the correct way to observe halakhah.

 Halakhah comes from three sources; from the Torah, from laws instituted by the Rabbis and from long standing customs. Halakhah from any of these sources can be referred to as a Mitzvah…..A mitzvah that arises from custom is referred to as a minhag. Mitzvot from all three of these sources are binding, thought there are differences in the way they are applied”

 What Orthodox Jews – and by extension, the United Synagogue – believe, is that halakhah is the set of laws in which you “should” live your life. If you do not obey these laws, you will not be fulfilling your legal responsibilities as a Jew.  One should keep Shabbat (that is no turning on lights, getting in a car, watching TV etc.), one should keep a kosher diet, so no McDonalds, KFC or ‘Treif’ of any kind and certainly no inappropriate contact (like sitting next to, touching, or even talking to) with those of the opposite sex, especially during the service of prayers.

As the most established and venerated religious organisation, the United Synagogue administers many of the political and social instruments of British Jewry that have evolved over time:

  • The US runs the London Kashrut division of the Beth Din, which oversees restaurants and food manufacturing to ensure it meets the kosher standards that allows its members to be able to eat there based on the laws it advocates.
  • It has a strong social and pastoral network that supports its members.

However, there are other rules:

  • If you want your marriage to be recognised as a “Jewish” marriage in the UK, the couple must meet with a US representative and be married by a US affiliated Rabbi or representative. There is a fee for this.
  • If you want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery (and for many people, near their deceased family) one needs to be a member of the US and pay their dues.
  • If you are not born halakhaly Jewish the US will not recognise you or your children (if you are a female) unless you convert under a US framework or certain Orthodox conversions in other countries (but not all countries’ Orthodox conversions). This sees people accepted as Jewish in some countries and communities, such is Israel or in the USA, but non-Jewish in the eyes of the United Synagogue in the UK.
  • Many traditional synagogues in the UK are United Synagogues. They follow a similar service led by a Rabbi or Cantor. The men and women are segregated and in many communities this is either by being on a different level or a physical separation barrier between the men and women, such as a net or sheet. Women cannot play any active role in a US service that men are active in, including reading from the Torah or taking the lead in prayer. In recent years the halakhah was challenged, and in fact some interpretations allow women to take on non-religious leadership roles within the community. (The halakhahic interpretations are still remarkably sexist in my view, e.g.: http://askrabbihassan.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/can-woman-be-president-of-synagogue.html)


So, You Don’t Want Their Rules, Then Don’t Join Their Club.

The correct and often heard response to my criticisms in the Jewish world is the statement above, one which I have some sympathy with. If one doesn’t like the rules, don’t join the club, but be aware, when you are out, non-members – including your children and in some cases your family, will be denied the rights that you have had.

However, despite this ultimatum, the evidence shows that much of the Jewish community has walked away from the club:

3

The graph above comes from the JPR. It highlights the changing affiliation of UK Jewry. 20 years ago I – like many of my peers would have come from a traditional background; the implicit meaning is that we belonged to the United Synagogue and did Jewish things. The JPR’s analysis is worth highlighting:

Examination of these data reveals a considerable amount of dynamism or ‘switching’. For example, whilst a quarter (26%) of the sample is currently Traditional, two out of five (40%) said they were raised that way, indicating considerable movement away from Traditional. The net loss amounts to over a third (34%) of the ‘Traditional by upbringing’ group. To some extent, this is the continuation of a pre-existing trend: JPR data from over a decade ago showed that while 37% of respondents were currently Traditional (in 2001/2002), over half (53%) said they had been brought up that way. In contrast to the Traditional group, the category which has gained the most ‘newcomers’ in the present survey is Secular/Cultural: the proportion that is currently Secular/Cultural (a quarter (24%) of the sample) represents an increase of well over half (63%) relative to the proportion with a Secular/Cultural upbringing. The loss of one in three formerly ‘Traditional’ adherents has broader significance .. In absolute terms, its loss is equivalent to 15% of the entire sample, but perhaps of greater significance, Traditional is the only category exhibiting any kind of upbringing-to-current decline. In other words, this switch away from Traditional is suggestive of a shakeout of the middle ground within the British Jewish community, since the category Traditional has customarily been seen as the placeholder for centrist or ‘middle-of-the-road’ Orthodox Judaism.

Let us analyse these numbers some more. Based on the 2011 Census which measured 263,346 Jews in the UK:

  • 23,701 British Jews have become secular, despite having a non-secular upbringing.
  • 36,868 no longer define themselves as traditional (as the JPR points out, United Synagogue affiliated)
  • 6% of the United Synagogue “Members” have left the United Synagogue in their lifetime.

In other words – the United Synagogue has done a truly spectacular job of turning Traditional Jews and their members into Secular Jews, and on to other streams of Judaism.

Let me make this clear – I have no problems or issues with anyone belonging to any organisation they wish, expressing their faith, or praying to any God they wish to.

However, as a Jew with a passion for Judaism, I have personal objections to the way the United Synagogue operates and is damaging Jewish life and attitudes to Judaism – and it seems that 42% or 110,000 of British Jews may agree with me and share my concerns:

  1. I do not wish to be a member of an organisation that denies my daughters the same rights that a son of mine could have.
  2. The segregation of men and women for worship – for whatever reasons – is not acceptable.
  3. Awarding participatory rights to people on the basis of maternal genetics is morally abhorrent, racist and illegal in every other walk of life.

Now these are personal issues I have and aware I am talking to a wall if trying to address these within the United Synagogue.

‘Modern’ concepts such as equality cannot be met by the US without a radical reinterpretation of the halakhah. The power structure and inequality is fundamental to the ideology of the US, which is neither brave nor visionary enough to seek to challenge these ‘orthodoxies’ without fracturing the organisation.

Even the United Synagogue’s own “man made” laws on burials and marriage, are tantamount to blackmail. You have to join the US, or they won’t give your children the right to communal infrastructure (which has evolved over generations, much of which was instituted by those who would be abhorred by the current US stance on many issues) or you the right to be buried near your parents. Yet, despite the punitive measures, tens of thousands of congregants have abandoned the US, such are their objections.

I deeply resented the policy positions of the US at the time of marriage 15 years ago and only acquiesced for the sake of family unity, however my position has hardened as I have aged.

“ But will your grandchildren be Jewish?”

“Will your grandchildren be Jewish?” the United Synagogue asks, with the implicit suggestion that the only way to guarantee this is to align with them.

Where the US was once the establishment that held Anglo-Jewry together by lack of alternative, today it seeks to preserve its position by a degree of incentive, but also blackmail, coercion and guilt.

By holding the legacy position as the beneficiary of said infrastructure, it forced Anglo-Jewry to be a community of livers, liars or leavers.

There are plenty of people who live by the principles of Orthodox Judaism – modern or traditional. That is their prerogative, but cannot do so as I cannot reconcile what I know and have evidenced and what I am told are key tenants of Judaism. I would ask them that if they would want “their” granddaughters to have the same rights as their grandsons?

In any society where a law is set, the society obeys the law or changes it. However, there is a problem here. Many (and probably most) Jews around the world do not accept the laws of halakhah as compatible with what we now know to be true, but in order to remain part of the ‘ United Synagogue community’, we either find laws to get around the laws we don’t like, or for those who do not want to live their life by Torah Judaism, must lie and break these laws.

In mainstream United Synagogue life, the overwhelming majority of the members just lie or break those laws, with the tacit acknowledgement of the institutions who turn a “blind eye”.

Across the land, Jews drive to synagogue, they go to football after the service, they watch TV. They lie. They lie to the Rabbi, to the community or their loved ones, yet, they choose to remain part of the United Synagogue or they lose their rights. From my experience, when we lie it causes guilt and doubt. I would not want my children to lie to me, or me to lie to my family, however to live in anyway secular or traditional and adhere to United Synagogue practices, we have become implicitly, mass liars. On a human level this makes me deeply uncomfortable that our “moral compass” is tacitly complicit in this.

Most Jews want to identify as Jewish. They just don’t want the lies, the bullying, the sexism and the racism of the United Synagogue. The US has failed Anglo-Jewry by behaving like a Trotskyite Trade Union, or the Labour Party’s Leadership office, waiting for the latest position from the Chief Rabbi, and condemning other voices as sell-outs, deviants, heretics and those wishing to perverse the true faith. But by condemning the outsiders – even if you yourself are not fulfilling the laws as set out – and remaining a member of the United Synagogue, you are absolved, as you are a “better Jew” than one that challenges the convention.

It may not be too cynical to even state that the US cares more about maintaining its powerbase and seeking ideological purity, rather than the community, society or indeed wider Jewish people – and with over £80m of assets, the US could have made a very big difference to the lives of many in the Jewish community.

Just like the Trade Unions, it isn’t working; membership of the US is haemorrhaging.

They have lost over 20% of Anglo-Jewry in a generation. The United Synagogue as a spiritual figurehead is bankrupt in legitimacy and longer sustainable for a 21st Century Jewish Community. The US must accept and recognise its role in damaging Anglo-Jewry over the past generation.

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The Way Forward.

We are members of a Conservative Synagogue in Las Vegas. Tonight, we are going to a Kollel event, which is an Orthodox community, held in Temple Sinai, a Reform Temple. This would not happen in the UK. Why is it that the United Synagogue cannot not accept the legitimacy of other streams of Judaism when in the USA there is open cooperation?

There is nobody here telling me I am less Jewish, or my expressions of Judaism are less valid than any other as I believe in gender equality as a truth.

In America there is a workable infrastructure for the Jewish Community (and the UK owes a debt of gratitude to the likes of Limmud and JW3 for trying to unite rather than divide) but If there is to be a viable future for Anglo-Jewry, it has to be like that of America; positive, engaging, open, honest and truthful. People WANT to join particular communities and not feel bound to, as the consequences are seen above, people will vote with their feet.

There we have it. The historic guardian of Anglo-Jewry is the United Synagogue, but behaves less like a trustee and more like a Trades Union. It is time for it to open up and let go.

OL November 2016

 

 

The Party’s Over. My Thoughts On The Death of The Labour Party.

Some background:

As a student 20 years ago at university we had a small, but vocal radical Islamist minority, separate from the Islamic Society and organised behind name of Hizb-ut Tahrir, a group which rallied at lunchtime outside the Students Union, waving flags, chanting slogans such as as “Death to Zionists and Gays”, while the Union generously paid for their participation in advancing student life!

As an activist, I spent time in the Union of Jewish Students office, researching and compiling a dossier about radical Islamist groups which we felt to be a danger to campus life and the community in general. The report was presented the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, calling for the outlawing of Hizbu-ut and a similar splinter group, Al-Muhajiroun. This was dismissed. In 1997, NUS passed a motion banning these groups from campus and the groups were eventually made illegal in 2005 after the 7/7 bombings in London. The groups may be gone, but the ideology hasn’t.

Also as a student I was elected to the NUS NEC where along with others, I co-convened the NUS anti-racism campaign. As a sabbatical officer in 1998, I worked with the UJS to research hard left groups and try and understand their thinking, their ideologies and their strategies.


tony-cliffTony Cliff


I found the hard-left, as a whole, slightly charming on the surface, but deeper down quite threatening. It was a collection of cranks, social misfits and crusty relics living in a parallel universe, where conspiracy theories were reinforced by collective groupthink. Splinter groups were established on the basis of what some people thought Trotsky may have believed in the 1920s, verses those who believed Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s. If you challenged or dissented with the absolute certainty of the leadership you were an enemy and faced purging.

What was fascinating was a near swivel-eyed obsession with Israel and Palestine. Partly due to some of the dominant founders of the groups, such as Tony Cliff, (born Yigael Gluckstein) who was the founder and leader of the Socialist Workers Party, and Michael Kidron, Cliff’s brother in law, who were both active Zionists before rejecting that ideology. The Zionist occupation of Palestine was debated at every opportunity. Most argued that a Jewish State should not be allowed to exist at all, while others saw it as necessary response to Nazism and a limited state alongside a Palestine.

One of the main differences between the hard-left groups was how to achieve the revolution.

For some it was violent overthrow of the Government and the institutions of power, while others took the entryist approach through infiltration. Their endless and facile debates on class struggle and global realignment were totally pointless as their strength to achieve these goals was limited.

I have theories why the hard-left grew again in the UK, which include a confluence of tuition fees, the Iraq war, perceived inequality and of course the financial crisis; after every major global shock, there is a delayed social response. Across the globe there is the polarising of politics and the UK is no exception, but there were still so few Trots/Marxists/Leninists/Maoists to really forge that revolution, despite controlling several Trade Unions via the entryist route.


RSDr Richard Stone OBE


Back in London in 2001, I worked at The Stone Ashdown Trust for Dr Richard Stone, a true gentleman with great morals and a brave social justice campaigner against racism. He was central to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry coining the concept of institutional racism and an advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone (For those that do not recall, Ken ran as an Independent to the office of Mayor against the Labour candidate). On occasion I would both accompany or replace Richard at meetings and committees with the likes of Ken and Diane Abbot. There is nobody in the UK who has done more to advance Jewish-Muslim relations than Richard Stone, and I am proud to have been part of his work.

I sat as co-chair of Alif-Aleph a Jewish Muslim dialogue group which we set up, holding dozens of events and meeting many people from the various Muslim communities. I served on the Executive of the Jewish Labour Movement and the Zionist Federation of the UK.

I think I hold pretty good credentials as an anti-racist, a Zionist and as a member of the Labour Party, and never found my views to be in conflict.


150819-jeremy-corbyn


The Iraq War and Gaza conflicts were the catalyst to bring together the anti-west hard left, and the Muslim communities of the UK, finding common enemy in Israel, the establishment forces of Blair and Brown’s Labour Party and the Conservative Party that supported Israeli actions against Hamas. Although there is very little that unites these two disparate groups, in fact that with any normal scrutiny the two are ideologically poles apart, the issue of Israel/Palestine is only focal point – and such is the hatred of Israel and Zionism it blinds the hard left to other aspects of radical Islamism.

It is not unique for two diametrically opposed groups to align for electoral or political interest. In coalition Governments across the world, ideologically opposed minority parties work together, such as in Israel, where secular and religious parties sit around the same cabinet. On a grander level, let us not forget that Communist Stalin and Fascist Hitler had a pact in the 1930s prior to the war.

Having had many conversations with British Muslims about Israel, I can confidently state that there are not many that one would define as pro-Zionist. I understand this. There are many Zionists that view the Arab world as their enemy. Some are ambivalent to the cause, but most Muslims believe the conditions and situation of the Palestinians is the fault of the Zionists, while many Zionists also accept that the Palestinians’ plight is terrible, but is due to a failure of their own leadership and political expedience of other Arab countries to isolate Israel diplomatically.

Irrespective, finding a common enemy in Zionists, the hard left turned a blind eye to the overt racism of radical Islamism and even some of the more moderate voices (which by traditional definitions were outside the established conventions of acceptability) in order to form electoral partnerships. Initially seen in London by the likes of Respect led by George Galloway, Ken Livingstone in London and Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, but also in many of the Muslim dominated cities in the north. With evident electoral successes, the convergence between the Muslim communities and the hard left is growing.


ed


As I have written previously, in my view Ed Miliband is the worst leader in Labour’s history. By appointing known members of Livingstone’s team to key Labour positions and changing the party rules to actively enable entryism, he reconstituted the Labour Party as a vehicle for the left, and then ran away. The clique of Marxists took their chance. It is a strategic masterclass and the opportunity that many on the hard left had been waiting for and hoping to engineer their whole careers.

One should also note that many institutions throughout the left, from Trades Unions to the Labour Party are now dominated by the small number of people that share this radical Marxist ideology both in membership and in leadership.

I need not dwell on the fact that much of the new membership of the party was once clearly anti-Labour, however it saw fit to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Leader. If Ken Livingstone had been an MP in 2015 it is undoubted that he would now be the Leader of the Labour Party, as would Fidel Castro, Yassir Arafat or Gamal Nasser. Labour’s most successful leaders, Attlee, Wilson and Blair would not get a hearing.


There are several statements that must be addressed in the context of last week’s events:
  1. Zionism is the the right of self-determination for the Jewish people and a belief in the right of existence of the State of Israel.
  2. Much of the hard left, for reasons outlined above do not accept this, so while as individuals they do not believe themselves to be anti-Semites, they singularly deny the Jewish people rights that other nations are afforded.
  3. The critique of “criticising the policies Israeli Government” is a fallacy; the hard left denies  Israel’s right to exist.
  4. Many of the new members to the Labour Party are anti-Zionist, some are clear anti-Semites.
  5. While most British Muslims detest and fundamentally object to the platform as advocated by radical Islamists, there is still significant support and tolerance of these radical groups. Sometimes the anti-Semitic messages filter through.
  6. The realpolitick of embracing many previously anti-Labour members into the Party, many with values that are in conflict with the traditional Party members, means that there is an ideological clash that cannot be ignored.

corbyn_palestine


If Corbyn’s Labour Party cannot accept the statements above, they must, or they do not understand the problem.

Calls for “Party Unity” led by Corbyn, Abbot and the Trade Union entryists is as absurd and illegitimate as saying Hitler, the man behind the tens of millions of deaths, creating a pan-national infrastructure to gas and burn the largest number of people in the most efficient way possible, was a believer in Jewish self-determination in Israel, and justifying that position as the view of the Israeli Prime Minister. Who would be so pernicious and wildly illogical?

Reading blogs and tweets I am left in despair. The same moronic and malevolent conspiracy theories that were the preserve of the extremists on campus now appear to be mainstream discourse. The extremists have become the establishment.

I have no idea if members of the party are seeking to replace Jeremy Corbyn, but they should want to if they want the Labour Party of the last 100 years to survive as it was. However as it stands, there cannot be a coup within the Labour Party- that time has passed.

The Party is over. It is morally bankrupt, and if not for the support of the Trade Unions, would be financially bankrupt.

Today’s Labour Party is past the point of relevance, the brand alone is all that keeps it together. With the alliance of the hard left and the new extremist party membership talking to itself, all moderates can hope for is that it will become as irrelevant and as divided as the SWP and Marxists were a generation earlier. If it continues, the effect will be an expansion of extremism, conspiracy theories and anti-semitism as we have seen since Corbyn’s election last year.

No sensible person can want Labour to win power at the moment, yet moderates are powerless to make change. If anyone believes that the Labour Party is the best way to affect positive change in society, they are misguided.

It is time for anyone who cares about the future of Britain to let the Labour Party die – and hope that it does so, quickly.

 

Donald Trump: The Smackdown Strategy.

It has been fascinating watching the recent Presidential selection cycle in the USA.

On arrival, I started asking people who they were looking for as a Presidential candidate – and a surprising number of people I spoke to said, “anyone but Hillary” and Donald Trump was the person they would like to vote for. Several are serious, successful, thoughtful people whom I respect the opinions of – so it isn’t just the disenfranchised.

As a European coming to America, I was genuinely ambivalent about Trump. His candidature did not seem serious, despite the number of people who felt he was a legitimate political figure. Like many, I saw him as a celebrity critique insurgent, like Russell Brand in the last UK election; a man with support, who lacked credibility other than to inspire the disaffected and marginalised in society. His campaign made no sense. “I’m richer than these guys so I am right and they are wrong. These guys are hopeless, ugly and stupid. I will beat them to a pulp.” His policies were, “I am a tough guy and I will stop the bad guys who are foreigners, weak liberal elites, the establishment who are keeping “us” down.”

I didn’t get it.

Surely Presidential candidates are the peak of American society, experienced leaders with decades of public service serving as VP like Nixon (and Senator of California) and George H W Bush (who also headed the CIA). We want to elect the best among us, like Truman and Wilson, educated men with a firm moral compass needed  to make the hardest and most difficult decisions. Or we want the most congenial leaders, like Reagan, Roosevelt and Clinton who use charm and personality to bring people together. We want military heroes like Kennedy and Eisenhower, (among many) both of whom had demonstrated leadership in the battlefield. Even when we need the dirty stuff done, Presidents like LBJ have a firm grasp of the real world having been a teacher and public servant.

Donald Trump is none of these and unlike any other candidate.

As a student of the post-war American Presidency, I looked back at similar campaigns and the closest candidate is Barry Goldwater in the 1964 campaign. Goldwater was a southern businessman and politician, and perhaps the godfather of the southern conservative movement, of which Ted Cruz is now the flag bearer of. His policies are not so similar to Trump, but his positions were just as polarising. His bullying criticism of the Republican elites and hounding of Nelson Rockefeller, the grandest of grandees, has some similarities, but Trump is no Goldwater.

Goldwater, for all his opinions was a committed public servant, a thinker and had great rectitude. And, as we know, Goldwater lost the 1964 election by a landslide against LBJ.

And then it hit me today. Donald Trump is not following a traditional political strategy at all, he is NOT Goldwater, or anyone else. His campaign is a wrestling narrative and November the 8th is Wrestlemania. He is playing the playbook of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a 1990s character from the WWE.

Wrestling as Life

Back in the 1980s and 90s I was a wrestling fan. Each “character” represented a segment of American life.

Hulk Hogan was the bronzed all American super-hero. Roddy Piper and Jim Duggan, the American everyman, Sgt Slaughter the turncoat, Andre the Giant, The Iron Sheikh, Nikoli Volkoff, the foreign bad guys (who became good guys depending on prevailing US Foreign Policy!).

However, something strange happened in the late 1990s. A wrestler, a bad guy, Steve Austin, after winning a match against former “hero” Jake “The Snake” Roberts (below) came up with a persona where he took on the good guys and denigrated their personas.

Because of his character’s “personality”, nobody owned him, he said what he wanted and drank beer after a fight against the rules. The ruder and more obnoxious he became, the more people loved him.

As his popularity grew, the WWE created more “establishment” figures to try and stop him, to the point where the WWE created a long running feud – as part of the storyline –  with the owner of the WWE Vince McMahon. The narrative was that the WWE as a company wanted to stop Austin, but buoyed by his grassroots support, Austin became more and more popular and won the day.

Steve Austin remains one the most iconic wrestlers in history. There were many better technical wrestlers, many more articulate and charismatic speakers, but few who managed to win as much popularity and adulation.

Austin not only earned top billing, but changed the medium of wrestling away from the black and white narrative of good guy-bad guy, but shifted the entire wrestling business to a new phase known as “Attitude.”

After injury, Steve Austin’s appearances became less frequent, but Donald Trump, a long term supporter of WWE started to appear as a guest and latterly as a character, involving himself into storylines, ultimately becoming one of Steve Austin’s victims in the Wrestling ring.

It is clear to me, that Trump has copied Steve Austin’s strategy.

Like Steve Austin, he has ridiculed his opponents in the crudest and most obvious ways to make them become irrelevant and small compared to him. With Cruz and Rubio, expect the same standard stereotyping as seen previously, and against Hillary Clinton a new wave of sexism and misogyny not seen in public debate for decades. 

And like Steve Austin, he has changed the Republican Party through insurgency; the traditional rules of politics do not apply. The voters are his and not the Party’s.

So stop talking about historical precedent or anything else that has gone before. The fight for the Republican Nomination – and indeed the Presidency – has roots in WWE and not historical political strategies.

Opponents better hit first, and hit hard, as taking from Steve Austin’s signature move, it only takes a second before they are hit by the Donald Trump Stunner – and there is no getting up when knocked down.

OL March 2016

 

 

 

Reaching For The Stars..And The Starbucks

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It has been well documented that the sustainable success of Las Vegas over the past 20 years has been due to the rise of non-gaming revenues rather than gaming revenues. Non-gaming revenues account for c.64% of the total. Indeed, even with recent declines, Macau’s gaming revenues are over 6 times those of Las Vegas, but their non-gaming revenue is under 10%.

Developing the non-gaming offering has proved the saviour of Vegas, but this has not been easy or straightforward and the lessons of the operators here are worthy of some detailed examination.

The Starbucks Phenomenon

There are over 30 Starbucks coffee shops on the 4 miles of the Las Vegas strip; the latest, if blogs are to be believed, will be near the front of the Cosmopolitan. If he stood at the front of this unit, Tiger Woods could probably drive a golf ball into 3, and possibly 4 other units serving Seattle’s favourite coffee, pastries and sandwiches.

Starbucks has done well out of Las Vegas and the alignment is obvious; visitors – whether convention customers with limited time or tourists looking to log on to the free wi-fi – want their coffee the way they like it. Starbucks is the ubiquitous brand that helps in low-impact decision-making and is no more than a couple of hundred yards away from heavy population centres in every major city, always ready to meet the customer needs.

However, the roots of Starbucks’s dominance on mass-market Strip customers are not their own and one needs to look back 30 years to see the beginning of the brand story.

RIV 1984

It Started At The Riviera.

Dr David Schwartz of the UNLV Center for Gaming Research calls it the “Burger King Revolution.” In 1984 the then General Manager of the Riviera looked out of his window at the juxtaposition of the offer of a $2.99 buffet at Circus Circus and the line that formed outside the standalone McDonalds unit that had opened on the Strip. He concluded that from the customer’s perspective, the value proposition provided by a branded burger sold at a premium was greater than a subsidised buffet. On this basis, how could the Riviera capture the customers who had walked outside Circus Circus for lunch, and get them to come in to the Riv?

The GM, Jeff Silver, approached Burger King, and against the wishes and instincts of casino executives, gaming commissioners and industry experts, opened a Burger King at the front of the Riviera Hotel. This was the first fast food franchise to open in a Las Vegas casino and within 12 months this was the highest grossing Burger King in the company’s portfolio.

In 2015 White Castle, purveyor of square burgers in a white bread bun, opened their first branch in Las Vegas, but within 24 hours it had closed its doors. Not for violence or construction issues, but with an estimated 4,000 visitors per hour, the unit had simply not anticipated demand and had run out of stock.

 

WHITE-CASTLE-LAS-VEGAS-CLOSES

Food and Beverage

In 2007, the average Las Vegas visitor spent $254.49 on food and beverage, but by 2014, this had increased to $281.88. In a period where expenditures of lodging and gaming budgets had fallen 27.3% and 4.6% respectively, the increase in F&B spend of 10.8% is quite remarkable.

In further analysis between the ‘gaming visitor’ and ‘non-gaming visitor’s’ expenditures, the gaming visitor’s non-gaming expenditure had risen from $139.41 to $147.96, but the non-gaming visitor has risen from $201.15 to $254.60. Quite simply, the non-gaming visitor’s budget is increasing faster.

Breaking this down further, per available room, food sales total $34.24 per day and beverage Sales total $20.82. So where the ADR of the Las Vegas hotel room in 2014 was $116.73, the spend on F&B was $55.06 – slightly over 47% of room rate!

At last count, there were over 700 food and beverage options on the Las Vegas Strip.

Operating models

There are three operating models for food and beverage on the Strip. The first is the fully leased model, where the retailer leases the space from the casino resort (or landlord) and operates independently. Secondly is an incentivised lease, where there is an outsourced model where there are opportunities for shared revenues, so a retailer may have a rent, a turnover provision and a management agreement, and points of revenue are carved out across the operating business. The final model is where the casino operator operates the food and beverage outlet.

Of course there are various advantages and disadvantages to each of these. Steve Wynn makes a point that his businesses have always operated their own food and beverage – and that the non-gaming revenue has historically been higher than their gaming revenue, but that comes with operational risk, higher costs and the inability to bring in brands that customers have resonance with.

On the other hand, other properties have been able to bring in external brands that their customers value and align with the property. The likes of STK at the Cosmopolitan, Gordon Ramsey at Caesars and Yardbird at Venetian have all been great successes, with the resorts gaining increased visitation, revenue and brand equity through alignment, without taking operational risk or making significant expenditure.

For those of us who study strategic marketing in Las Vegas, this is a fascinating area.

Strategic Competitive Advantage

As regular readers will note, my core work is on strategic competitive advantage within casino resorts, for which there are two factors – location and loyalty.

Assuming location is nothing that a management team can change once the asset has been built, the challenge for management is in building customer loyalty.

However, the core product of gaming is not differentiable by price and in any meaningful way by product. Indeed, in the rooms and customer experiences, all the major operators offer similar customer centric experiences.  In the area of functional loyalty, customers are loyal to particular aspects, experiences and brands that they identify with.

As we notice with the Riviera back in 1984, certain customer segments want brands, which reinforce preconceived experiences and allows for an instant alignment for the customer to relate to in the crowded Las Vegas market.

The food and beverage offering is one of the key ways in which operators can differentiate their offering; research suggests that 60% of Las Vegas visitors see the range of dining options as either key or important in influencing their decision of where to stay when in Las Vegas.

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The Dilemma

Caesars’ new Linq hotel has seen a successful relaunch, with increased occupancy and rates that average at over $100 per night. The Linq promenade has been an experiment of bringing brands for the Millennial customer into one place. Some original, like Guy Fieri’s diner and Purple Zebra, but others like Yardhouse, Flour and Barley and, of course, Starbucks have supplemented this range.

With over 40m visitors, Las Vegas is certainly the place to be for entertainment and there is a proven market for global food and restaurant brands ready to advance on the Las Vegas market- not just in the low impact decisions such as fast food and coffee, but the F&B super-brands and celebrity chefs which feature in all the places that the chic set like to frequent. Moreover, it is clear that by bringing in the external brands, this is an easy win for the operators.

For every Burger King and White Castle, Nikki Beach, Bagatelle and the entire SLS, prove that a strong brand does not guarantee instant success, however with alignment, it certainly de-risks the operation.

For me, Las Vegas has flourished because that it is a hub of innovation and uniqueness where the high margin gaming revenue has allowed developer’s imaginations run riot and people to take risks– where else can you dine with Picasso paintings or overlooking a fountain dancing to Sinatra?

Without the creation of these unique and special experiences, Las Vegas will just become another corporate shopping mall, with the best of the rest coming to town to scoop up a bit of the action.

Originality works when you understand your customer, look at Downtown Las Vegas, with Oscar’s at the Plaza and Siegel’s 1941 at the El Cortez, which note their customer’s needs and play to the strengths of the properties in questions.

Since moving to Las Vegas, I have been working with operators to understand their market and customer and help develop appropriate strategies for competitive advantage.

Las Vegas of 2016 is very different from Las Vegas of 1984.

My message to operators is this, by developing a unique brand and experience, you are creating a real strategic advantage for you and your business in this most competitive environments. It is worth the effort. Except in the area of coffee – people just want Starbucks!

Prime Minister Corbyn: A Strategic Masterclass.

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At the moment we are in the middle of the most fantastic, the most brilliant strategic campaign we have ever seen. It is the takeover of a country by a small band of committed campaigners. 

One of the things I am supposed to do as a strategist is to try and see what has happened, analyse, interpret and identify what is coming next.

As many of you know, I was a member of the UK Labour Party for many years. A number of my friends who are not as political as I am (or was) have asked me to try and give a summary of what is going on in UK politics. Now living in the USA, I am not in touch with the people directly or have any particular insights, but can take a strategic overview knowing some of the people from the past and their characteristics.

Other than declaring everyone in the UK has gone mad, I have kept my political thoughts mainly to myself, since Corbyn’s election victory.

So, as an outsider, this is my analysis of what has gone– and will happen next.

Phase I

It started with Ed Miliband – elect an unelectable candidate, get an appropriate legacy. As well as being seen as incompetent in hindsight, (a charge leveled at the time) Ed played the role of‘ ‘useful idiot’ to his supporters and changed the rules of the Labour Party, allowing some self-serving trots, radicals and militants that had been outcast from grown up debate back into the Party under the banner of democracy. These people had zero affinity to the Labour Party and mainly contempt since their expulsion three decades ago.

During Miliband’s tenure, traditional members had either left the Party as they couldn’t justify supporting the unelectable and completely wrong-headed Miliband as leader, which was compounded by him resigning mere hours after defeat. Our Ed left a leadership election to be conducted by people who knew he was unelectable and completely wrong on a host of matters, but couldn’t say so as they had advocated those same positions only weeks previously!

From a strategic view the issue was brand failure: “Labour” was tarnished under Miliband, and the only candidate in the election who had an visible alternative to the failed brand was Corbyn. He was the ideological differentiator. He brought loyal customers and members to vote for him, through his decades of campaigning with the same bunch of trots, communists, radicals and militants that he had befriended over decades.

JCPhase II

“Corbynistas” are the“Paperback radicals” who thanks to the internet, now have a voice. These people are committed to radical societal change and have a sense of self-righteousness that others do not possess.

Not all have malice. Many are honest do-gooders who are bound by joining a campaign in good faith, such as Stop the War or the ANL before they were hijacked. These campaigners, guided by professional agitators and organisers, rallied together to elect Jeremy Corbyn – perhaps the most disloyal Labour MP in Parliament,  supporting ideological Stalinst/ Lenninist/ Trotskyist and anti-western groups wherever they rise – who has run nothing in his life and achieved nothing of note in 30+ years in Parliament.

The ability to use these supporters to act as product advocates is a tool of modern marketing – and this campaign used it very well. Like Donald Trump, they harnessed non-traditional media to influence circles of people to join and share in the movement, and once they have chosen a brand or ideal (and NOT a candidate) they are aligned to that.

JC KLPhase III

With comrade Jeremy elected at leader, he appoints

  • A cadre of old political lefties, left over from Michael Foot’s 1983 campaign to his cabinet,
  • The political infrastructure booted out of City Hall by the electorate along with Ken Livingstone,
  • A bunch of former student radicals – that have either been “organisers” for leftist groups and who were generally unemployable in the real world.

Immediately post election, we see talk of “open conversation” and “new politics”, which state their brand to the general populace. To those who know these guys, this can only be described as Orwellian.

This clique has views completely at odds with the country, Parliament and the traditional Labour Party membership, and between them have done or achieved very little of meaningful value, yet they are united as they know that they have a mission and a common purpose. This was true for NASA landing a man on the moon, or Steve Jobs building Apple. This group have waited and plotted for the opportunity to capture the Labour party, this is their life mission and they have been handed the keys to the car.

Their brand message has to be inclusive and open to demonstrate validity and opportunity. In reality it is nothing like that.

history-of-shavingPhase IV

As I write, I consider this to be the beginning of Phase IV, which may last 2-4 years. A period of definition and consolidation of brand, and control of message. Within weeks, after securing control of the Labour Party apparatus and message, they will start to proclaim and denounce.

After a short period, Corbyn will appoint a second group of loyalists from the left (maybe Ken himself) to key, visible, public and political positions and to organise within the campaign group, Momentum. This group will act like a support group throughout the UK, building membership and acting as a national campaign, outside the Labour Party, like the SWP, Stop The War or any other such campaigning group – but the single issue is keeping control of the Labour Party. They will demonstrate and agitate.

Next, this core group consolidates locally and selects Labour candidates – possibly deselecting MPs, with Momentum acting as the independent, anonymous attack dogs, restating ideological purity alongside the improvement of roads, streets and boycotting Israel, The USA and any country that does not fit into the global ideological view of the group.

Momentum on the outside and Corbyn’s cadre on inside change the rules of the organisation and forcibly exile the non-believers, not forgetting, those non-believers on the “Labour inside” are more dangerous than the enemy!

We can see this already – if people as talented, decent and wholeheartedly Labour as Mike Dugher, Pat McFadden and Yvette Cooper are seen as “disloyal and incompetent” and ostracised from the core. The Labour party will become an ugly, horrible, sectarian place to be, unfit to oppose, never mind govern.

Think Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and for those without the detailed history of Leftist dictatorships – Animal Farm – however in this analogy,  there is a case that Corbyn is “Snowball”; and the worse “Napoleon” is yet to come!

We have seen a successful brand shift –  From a tiny start, this small group of ideological extremists have taken over one of the great parties of UK politics. Some say that there is a small window left at time of writing for Labour parliamentarians to stop this coup, however, I do not think they can. As the core customer will have changed and the brand and identity of The Labour Party has been repositioned.

bfYsWLVPhase V

“Shit Happens!” as they say over here in the USA.

Maybe a NO vote on the European referendum leading to Brexit, maybe a second Chinese financial crash or US driven economic shock that ripples to the UK. Maybe it is a financial or sex scandal in the Conservative party that brings the party crashing down. Perhaps maybe an ideological fracture of the Conservative Party itself over a new leader, but whatever this exogenous shock may be, under a certain set of conditions THIS Labour Party, led by Corbyn, or Ken Livingstone or another revolutionary leftist could become a Government, and with control of Parliament, can make radical change – which is their agenda!

Conclusion

We have seen a “Shock and Awe”, strategic masterclass from the Leninist school of revolutions; the once unthinkable takeover of the Labour Party by the “loonies” is complete.

A combination of the unseen geniuses sitting in the backrooms of Westminster, who have honed their skills in NUS, in hijacking campaigns for the SWP, Left Unity or Socialist Organiser /Action/whatever trade union, and the Jar-Jar Binks levels of incompetence and naiveté of Ed Miliband in have allowed this takeover of the Labour Party.

The Unions and campaigning groups that support and organise around Corbyn have built a diverse and well resourced campaigning body that can build a presence in every constituency – by using both positive and negative campaigning methods – as we have seen by the intimidation tactics schooled in the coal face.

It is brilliant. It is fascinating. It is terrifying.