5 September 2019
Diary of a Corbynista
Before the Storm
by Don Urquhart
Here’s a Diary entry from January:
We have just got round to seeing Brexit: The Uncivil War, which focuses on Dominic Cummings and his influence on the referendum outcome. I was not convinced that the key to his success was some kind of algorithmic identification and manipulation of people who had never voted before. It was when he stood on the table and enjoined his followers to shout 350 million and Turkey at every opportunity – a master class in how to win an election in a country run by third-rate politicians.
When GLA member Andrew Dismore caught Boris Johnson out over running down the London fire service, all that his Eton and Balliol suavity could come up with was Get Stuffed!
I doubt very much whether that will work with the EU negotiators, however far down the food chain they might be in our hero’s eyes.
Yesterday we discovered two of the mantras mandated by Dominic Cummings:
is the Scotsman’s headline.
The turbocharging was in full throttle as Sophy Ridge invited new Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak to share his vision. He also introduced the second mantra “undemocratic backstop” which will be an old friend by the end of the campaign.
In her i column today Baroness Cavendish examines the challenges faced by Prime Minister Johnson. One of these is the need to master detail for the first time in his life:
Mr Johnson will not be able to wing PMQs, despite facing a poor adversary in Jeremy Corbyn.
Well this “poor adversary” has seen off two Tory leaders – her old boss Cameron and Theresa May, both of whom, in their different ways, specialised in ad hominem attacks on the Labour leader. When the dust settles and Johnson has also been disposed of we will be able to accurately assess the quality of the sustained propaganda barrage against the man.
If Dominic Cummings is looking for populist issues that his man Johnson could offer to spend money on he could do a lot worse than study the valedictory speech of Jon Boutcher, the retiring chief constable of Bedfordshire.
He nails austerity as the primary cause of rising crime figures:
Twenty thousand more police officers is essential, but to allow those police officers to do the job the public want, don’t distract us by us having to repair and look after those that are not adequately supported because of the lack of investment in their public services, particularly mental health provision. We need to repair the social fabric.
He said the “conveyor belt” of the criminal justice system was not working and significant numbers of offenders could be diverted from crime with a bigger investment in social services, education and mental health. Picking up demand from the crumbling mental health system was a big issue for policing, he said, and from the education sector, with schools excluding children who end up on the streets.
The BBC reports that Frank Field, Chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, has written to Government Ministers, asking for immediate action to feed the millions of children who receive free school meals in term time.
The Committee suggests that while poverty rates are much higher in households where no-one works, almost one in 10 households with children where all adults work full-time are in poverty.
Mr Field said the government had no effective strategy to increase the life chances of poorer children and had failed to recognise the “unacceptably bleak picture emerging as it shreds our social safety net.”
Yet another opportunity for Mr Johnson to make a jam tomorrow gesture.
The Scotsman reports that Liz Truss plans to set up 10 free ports in the UK.
Chatted with a parliamentarian who has bought into the “Corbyn is weak” narrative. He bumps into that ghastly Wykehamist Milne on a regular basis. On this he rests his case.
Anne McElvoy in the Evening Standard spent a whole page telling us how ineffectual Corbyn is. What do you expect from a Tory writer in a rag edited by Osborne and owned by a billionaire Russian oligarch? They give this away free to millions of commuters. It’s probably the main reason Johnson was elected in London.
We are fighting this media oligopoly representing the 1% soiling themselves at the prospect of a Labour government.
Watching Labour MP’s and supporters on Twitter can be very frustrating. Usually it is around the Corbyn issue. Here’s what I tweeted in reaction to a typical exchange.
Please work together to kill no deal Brexit.
When that’s done go back to knocking spots off each other if you must.
My Twitter reaction to the turbo-charged antics of Prime Minister Johnson:
Cummings has told him to make a bullshit announcement every day.
Here’s what I tweeted to the Prime Minister in reaction to some prison reform gimmick:
Cummings is focusing you on white English nationalist voters. I believe there is a majority of decent people who have not succumbed to the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner propaganda put out by the Mail, Sun and Telegraph among others and that you will be defeated.
Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, was the central character of 24 which ran for 8 series between 2001 and 2010. Jack was a US government employee who specialised in saving the world from destruction in a 24 hour timeframe. I was a totally invested fan and worried with Jack through countless moral dilemmas. On one occasion he had this rather pleasant chap in custody who knew the whereabouts of some Middle Eastern scoundrel but was not dobbing him for some long forgotten reason. I got to the conclusion some time before Jack – he had to torture the information out of the chap. Then I was alarmed that this flew in the face of every pronouncement I had made about extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo and the like.
I was reminded of 24 yesterday when watching the last episode of the third series of Stranger Things, which is a gripping saga about the people of Hawkins Indiana in their struggle against evil forces that abduct and invade the bodies of local people. There is a small group of heroic youngsters trying to sort this out at great risk to themselves. At one point the focus of activity is under the mall in a network of rooms and tunnels with some futuristic machine being driven by people called The Russians. There is no doubt that The Russians are up to no good. The local Sheriff, Jim Hopper falls into the role of stopping The Russians’ machine which through some hard to follow process would send the forces of evil back into a hole in the wall. Jim is challenged timorously by four Russian guards and proceeds to blow them away from close range with his trusty semi-automatic. This troubles me because it is primarily a show for kids and here’s the hero shooting people indiscriminately. Was it OK because they were Russians?
Then in the “real”world we had our Prime Minister cosying up to John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish National Security Adviser, who told him and us of the President’s enthusiasm for a trade deal with the UK.
And on Newsnight there was Fred Fleitz, Chief of Staff in Trump’s National Security Council twice condemning the EU as a left wing organisation, giving me visions of a Trump/Johnson trade deal that works great while there is a right wing government over here.
24 and Stranger Things make for wonderful television but they are born of a brutal right wing insular culture which our Government will get us sucked into unless we can stop it.
The arrival of Yellowhammer in the public domain makes clear that a no deal Brexit has dire consequences beyond the wildest imaginings. “Project Fear on Steroids” was the dramatic reaction of Sir John Redwood MP. Kwasi Kwarteng MP was today’s sacrificial virgin sent on to the airways (Sophy Ridge) to intone the chanting of Brexity mantras in a lusty but unconvincing manner.
Hannah Richardson reports for the BBC:
Austerity will provide one of the major battlefields for the coming General Election. Johnson’s pitch will be “look at all the lovely money we are promising for this that and the other”. Labour will focus on the 9 year track record.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner has published a report entitled Bleak Houses which should provide input to Labour’s campaign.
We are told that more than 210,000 children are estimated to be homeless, with some being temporarily housed in converted shipping containers.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said anyone who feels they have been placed in unsuitable accommodation should request a review.
Twitter is buzzing with the infighting among Johnson’s opponents the day before Corbyn tries to achieve consensus with them. Here’s my tweet:
Labour and LibDems knocking spots off each other is straight from the Dominic Cummings playbook. If we can’t cooperate Johnson gets his nodeal Brexit.
The opposition leaders meet today. Here’s my tweet:
To stop nodeal JC has to convince a majority of MPs to support VONC. To establish who runs the process as interim PM MPs supporting VONC should have a free vote. It is the democratic way. I fear tribalism could kill attempts to stop nodeal.
Not everyone agreed:
Bollox…..I’m not having a moron like Harriet as interim PM…
If you want to stop Corbyn more than stop no deal, then that’s what you’ll do. Stop making excuses to blame JC.
Very heartened however by the following:
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On Newsnight Richard Tice told us that MPs were seeking to sabotage Brexit. When Kirsty challenged that people did not vote for no deal he told us that the referendum just asked Leave or Remain.
When she asked him whether he would support the May Withdrawal Agreement without the backstop, he said that he would not as it did not represent a true Brexit.
If we are tired of anything related to Brexit, it is people telling us what Brexit really means.
Winston Churchill is a hero of Prime Minister Johnson. He wrote a hagiography: The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History.
Many are the commentators who have drawn parallels between the two of them. The event I find most promising in Churchill’s career is the failure to capitalise on his greatest achievement with a win in the 1945 General Election. If Johnson succeeds in his do or die Brexit let’s hope he emulates his hero at the ballot box.
More fun with Twitter:
Cummings to Johnson: Say we’re having more discussions with the EU about a deal (yes, I know it’s nonsense, but do it anyway).
Cummings to Johnson: Go out and do a bleeding heart performance about closing down parliament so you can save schools, NHS and whatever…
Cummings to Telegraph: Make it look as if Corbyn is inciting violence on the streets and you Newsnight and Today programme make sure you plug it.
We should have a sweep on which Tory MP has the longest filibuster next week to frustrate the anti no deal motion.
Johnson is offering electoral bribes on a conveyor belt. Billions are promised for some hastily concocted agenda of public service improvements. It is like 1951 but worse – Churchill had character and integrity.
It would be nice to think of Prospect Magazine as a monthly hard copy version of Shawsheet. It professes political independence and will happily publish divergent views as long as they are well-expressed and factual. This month’s edition has an erudite piece from Peter Foster tracing Brexit history from the referendum right up to Johnson’s speech yesterday.
I was most struck by his concluding paragraph. Given the corner Cummings and Johnson have backed themselves into, the PM’s ruthless advisor might not be beyond fomenting a red scare to accompany a Zinoviev letter style election.
Johnson may think civil unrest is a manageable risk that will gradually subside. Perhaps that assessment will prove correct; but then again, perhaps not. If not, then, as David Cameron observed of Brexit, “You could unleash demons of which ye know not.”
Yesterday MP’s voted to seize control of the parliamentary agenda today, planning to pass a law to force Mr Johnson to delay Brexit until 31 January unless MPs approve a new deal.
It is all very confusing. Is this what Johnson has been planning all along so that he can go to the country with a People versus Parliament manifesto?
If you are picking winners and losers it seems that Dominic Cummings comes into the latter category as he is reported to have described the “negotiations” with Brussels as a “complete sham”. If he is on the way out the biggest winner might well be Sir Lynton Crosby keen to see a competing dark arts practitioner sidelined. The Guardian reported him recently as working with the PM on election strategy.