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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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.

 

Electile Dysfunction Disorder

Bits of me are not working correctly. Maybe it is my age or lifestyle over the past 20 years, but I have a problem.

As a strategist I love elections and political campaigns.

Like the columnist and politician, Daniel Finkelstein, I mark key life events around general elections, but his is the first general election since 1992 where I have not campaigned. In fact I will be out of the country on election day and will not be able to vote.

In 1997, I was in the middle of my Undergraduate degree. After graduation many of my contemporaries in student politics moved in to polling, policy and politics – as did I.  Five years ago I was undertaking an Executive MBA where my main focus was strategy. Subsequent to finishing this, I have continued to research and advance my thinking in the area of Strategic Marketing and approaches to customer loyalty – which I suppose is the aim of political parties in campaigning season.

I have met with senior politicians of all stripes in the past 5 years and shared some of my insights with them, so I think I have an understanding of what goes on both on the ground and in the sky.

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Strategists and the Message

Ideological philosophy is not enough to win an election – indeed it is arguable hasn’t been for decades. Voters are looking at their political parties to present a competent, coherent and credible strategy for government and have it communicated.

A strong political strategy starts with understanding the core values and needs of the electorate and providing a policy response.

Philip Gould’s The Unfinished Revolution features this insight from Tony Blair:

“One of the most common fallacies in Politics is that you can have great communications and lousy policy and win. You can’t. People may admire the campaign, but it won’t prevent defeat. The 1987 election was a classic of this genre… Owing to Peter Mandelson’s brilliance, the campaign was stunning. We still lost by a landslide.”

Political strategists poll. In Netflix’ series House of Cards, everything is polled, from the colour of the candidate’s spouse’s hair to the use of keywords in speeches and the same is true in reality. Political strategies are created in two ways, either top down or bottom up, however even the most patrician of strategies must try and understand the voter.

Watch old party political broadcasts (I am sad enough to be an owner of the old VHS tape acquired from Politico’s Bookshop, back in the day). This was top down politics, from all parties, but with the advent of targeted polling, big data and the ability to customer segment, all political strategies now have an element of bottom up, even if they are really top down. Segmentation by not just demographics, but also psychographics.

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It strikes me that the Conservative Party’s entire election strategy is based on three tactics:

The first is the appearance of economic competence. This is nonsense. Yes the economy is improving, but after a sustained period of recession, it was difficult not to get growth, and they nearly managed that! There is a collective short memory and the coalition’s economic strategy did a 360 turn and when the cutting didn’t work, they shifted to spending to stimulate. So when the monetarist strategy failed, they went back to Keynesian-lite. They implemented the policy that they opposed when it was proposed by Labour.

Secondly, the opposition leader is unfit to govern. I comment on this below, but by painting the opposition leader as weak, then ruthless, then “red” even that strategy is comical. This is an import from the USA and Australia, however the big difference from those countries and indeed past elections is that this is no longer two or even three party politics. Indeed the last national election was won by UKIP, the SNP are the largest party in Scotland. Negative campaigning directly against a leader is becoming a zero-sum-gain as the Conservatives reinforce perceptions of their nasty side.

Finally, Identify swing voters in marginal seats and bribe them with things that will make them money. So far we have seen Conservative plans to freeze rail prices, but criticise Labour for calling for an energy freeze, to criticise Labour for unfunded promises, but promising an unfunded amount to the NHS, but worst of all, by promising renters the right to buy from private companies with state money is a scandal, if not illegal! It is like saying a Government will force McDonalds to give free food to all hungry people!

Over the past decade the Tories have hopscotched from “Are you thinking what we’re thinking”, which never really meant anything, other than appealing to people’s fears and concerns, to this opportunistic bag of tactics, rather than a coherent strategy.

Today’s Labour is very similar. Everything is polled and analysed. Labour had had time and resources to build a map of Britain. However when creating the policy responses to Britain’s problems, the response is not strategic, but tactical. And tactically wrong.

The Liberal Democrats will struggle, how can a political strategy sustained for decades as the opposition campaign as incumbent?

The SNP, UKIP, Greens and others fall into the category of identity politics, which I have written about earlier. To counter this strategy it is very difficult as the premise of debate is not even as the vote isn’t about power or even policy, but identity.

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Why I Left The Labour Party

When I cancelled my direct debit late last year, I felt, to paraphrase President Reagan, “I didn’t leave the Labour Party, the Party left me.”

Fairness, equality and social justice, not to mention opportunity, meritocracy and social mobility remain as core to my identity as they always were, but the leadership of the Labour Party no longer had resonance with me. What I saw was opportunistic, ignorant and a lack of judgement on issues that were of key importance to me.

Specifics? Well, first of all is the rejection of the Blair Government. Britain was transformed under Tony Blair’s leadership. The cities were renewed, London became a key global city and opportunities for people from all backgrounds became enhanced. The response to this from the leader was some kind of rejection, perhaps embarrassment. When the financial system collapsed, the Government supported it. If it had not, then everyone – except the most wealthy – would have been wiped out. This is the reason for the increase in the national debt. Britain got better after decades of neglect and in crisis, the Government stepped in to save ordinary families, their savings and their pensions.

Phrasing the debate as rich versus poor, bashing Stephen Hester at RBS (who did an exceptional job) and the financial sector is the politics of envy. Quite frankly, if the rich got richer, I don’t care – as long as they pay their taxes. Incidentally, I have some support for the “non-dom” argument, not that those who are not domiciled in the UK should have to pay tax on foreign earnings, but how the status of non-domiciled people are determined; that a tax benefit is inherited on a hereditary basis is nothing short of farce! But that is not the way that it is being sold, it is a “them and us” argument, which is not palatable in my view.

Likewise, the producers versus predators rhetoric is also misleading as efficient financing and capital structures are business strategy and not a matter of morality or Government. It is the role of business leaders to maximise returns for their shareholders – including the millions of investors and pension holders – and to form and shape their company’s ethics to the point that CSR is a core part of what they do, but it clearly not the role of the Government.

For over 20 years I have been aware of the rise of radical Islamism, a vicious, fascistic doctrinal movement that is in diametric opposition to the liberal views of modern society. It makes me sad to say this, but throughout history, there is no evidence that a liberal response to this type of evil works (please see my earlier post on Chamberlain).

As tens of thousands of Yazidis were murdered in Syria, what did the Labour leader do? When thousands of radical Islamists hijacked the cause of the Palestinians in Gaza and called for the murder of Jews on the streets of London, what did the Labour leader do? When a Member of Parliament leads a charge to recognise a terrorist backed State, what does the Labour leader do?

Labour took polls, it found bandwagons and the leader jumped on them. These gross errors tell me more about the Labour leader than any campaign. I don’t think he is weak or stupid or indecisive or uncharismatic or anything else thrown at him. I think his lack of real world experience does not give him the perspective to have good judgement and as a result is just plain wrong on the issues that matter to me.

As alluded to, Labour needs to keep the core base in tow especially in those key marginal seats, which includes a large amount of British Islamic votes. Labour’s leader’s response to Islamic radicalism and the Middle East tells me his thoughts are about more about those votes than mine.

I support the Labour Party and wish them well. But I cannot pay money to be a member of an organisation, which has a leader with such poor judgement.

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Analysis

I remember in 2010, I spent the day leafleting in a marginal, but winnable constituency with a first class Labour candidate. By 5pm news was filtering in that Gordon Brown had called Gillian Duffy a bigot when a microphone has been left on him. The Conservatives held the seat, Labour lost a great potential MP.

I am not a pollster with insights other than what is printed in the media.

A million things could change and what I write could be irrelevant as soon as I publish, but as I stand, with three weeks of campaigning to go, this is my reading.

Tony Blair claimed of David Cameron’s Conservatives, that “If we can’t beat this lot, we don’t deserve to be in politics”. He was right.

Labour will not win this election. They don’t deserve it.

Neither do the Conservatives.

The electorate is far more sophisticated than of yesteryear. I don’t believe that their argument surrounding economic competence is such a major driver as the Conservatives want it to be. Ed Miliband is proving he is not a weirdo now that as he has direct media exposure and on reflection voters see right through the bribes on offer as they can’t reconcile the language of “austerity” with unaccounted giveaways. This is bad strategy.

Labour has the best candidates and the best communication. However, their strategy is flawed.

Creating a strategy to win an election is about understanding needs and providing the policy response that works. Neither party has provided a clear policy response. The Conservatives are cynical. Labour’s leader has demonstrated terrible judgement.

This entire election campaign is dysfunctional. I am not enjoying it.

I am delighted to have no emotional investment in this election campaign and even happier to be abroad for the final weeks of it. However, I don’t think it will be long until we will be having another one, hopefully with a different dynamic and different outcome.