Between the Terror and the Tinsel

The post-Election, pre-Christmas phase is an odd one. “It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the “Waitresses” jostle with a feeling of impending doom and soaring levels of avoidable personal debt. Climate talks fail again in Madrid as the neighbours crank up a huge illuminated Santa-as-Homer Simpson. The inevitable slew of “controversial” Tory MPs take their seats including delightful people like the lovely: Brendan Clarke-Smith the new MP for Bassetlaw who said food banks were a “political weapon” and it was “simply not true” that “people can’t afford to buy food on a regular basis”; Anthony Browne a former aide to Boris Johnson, who has previously blamed immigrants for bringing germs and HIV to the UK; and the delightful Sally-Ann Hart (the new MP for Hastings) who came to prominence when it was revealed at a hustings that she had claimed some people with learning disabilities should be paid less than the minimum wage because they “don’t understand money”.

It’s all a bit more Golden Dawn than New Dawn.

Double-speak is swirling around us like snowflakes in a snow-globe.

Johnson has apparently “united the country”. Which one we’re not told.

He has formed something called “the People’s Government”. The Tories and their media outlets are getting over-excited because they’ve never met anyone north of Shrewsbury before.

It all echoes the words of Steve Bannon who has hailed the British election as a ‘victory for populism’ and claimed that “We’ve turned the Republican party into a working-class party.”

The Conservative Party we’re told has been ‘re-made’ now and somehow, after ten years in power, the same party offering more extreme versions of their economic violence are a new start and a “breath of fresh air”.

The media seems to be run by and for people that are extras from Made In Chelsea.

Witness Olivia and Sienna telling us, “it’s not that the Conservatives massively lost Scotland … its just that Ruth Davidson massively won it.”:


Even the dire Simon Schama gets it saying: “Brexit England to anti-Brexit Scotland: we are proud nationalists but you are scurrilous separatists”.

It’s all quite confusing.

Meawhile, the Labour Party autopsy is quickly descending into civil war. Anas Sarwar is NOT happy about the idea of young Labour activists questioning the eternal party line to oppose democracy at all costs.

He throws some shade writing:

I see some “key figures” in Scottish Labour” are jumping to join the false choice of Boris’ Britain vs Sturgeon’s Scotland. This does nothing to reject the divisive visions of both & hold together those that believe in the principles of unity, solidarity, equality & redistribution.”

I don’t think that’s what they’re doing at all.

Confusingly he adds:

I think we need a genuine period of reflection and some humility from those who led us to our worst EU election result and worst General Election result in living memory.

The humility dear reader, is not his, nor is the reflection.

Adam Ramsay in Open Democracy (‘Don’t blame Corbyn or Brexit: Labour failed to rage against the hated political system’) writes:

“The idea that Corbyn’s personal popularity was the problem, just like the idea that Ed Miliband’s personal popularity was the problem, or that Gordon Brown’s was, fails to take account of how public opinion is formed. Any Labour leader running against the powerful institutions of the country would be pilloried by the media. The outlets that mocked the Jewish Ed Milliband for looking weird (read ‘foreign’) when eating a bacon sandwich, and smeared his refugee father as hating the country, didn’t skip a beat when they smelt a whiff of an anti-Semitism scandal around his successor.”

Well yes, but we knew that.

The historical record is clear. The UK media’s slating and smearing Labour leaders goes back decades:

Michael Foot – Commie, too old
Neil Kinnock – Welsh Windbag, too ginger
Gordon Brown – One-Eyed Scottish Git
Jeremy Corbyn – Commie, anti-semitic commie

Tony Blair was acceptably poltically anodyne and crucially his Scottishness was acceptably imperceptible.

But Labour knew this. Given this ubiquitous hostility, a naive plea in the backwash doesn’t really work.

James Butler’s piece (in the free for a month LRB) ‘Labour’s Defeat’ is insightful. He writes:

“There wasn’t an obvious way for Labour to have won this election. The usual bromides will be offered up: it was Corbyn, no, it was Brexit, no, it was the manifesto, no, it was the press, no, it was credibility. All of them are in various ways true, but in all ways only partial: attitudes to Corbyn have hardened considerably since 2017; Brexit blew open a long persistent crack in Labour’s voter base; the press is execrable and even harder to deal with in the digital era. The manifesto was a bold attempt to grapple with the problems of the 21st century, and many of its policies are extraordinarily popular, but it was a document presented as if to allies, rather than to a sceptical electorate uneasy with its trust.”

This seems right. It was tactical naivety and lack of nous, rather than policy that scuppered Labour.

But equally the idea that it beckons a return to Centrist Normalcy for Labour’s future seems equally misplaced.

He continues:

“Anyone who claims that Labour’s leftward shift was the product of a cultish devotion to one man, and will disappear on his departure, doesn’t understand its origins or its implications. The party now has a campaigning left-wing membership that’s serious about climate change, public ownership and defending migration; no successor to Corbyn will be able to abstain on welfare bills, or promise to cut ‘harder and deeper than Thatcher’. Many who have always opposed such politics will declare it toxic, and inimical to victory ‘from the centre’. But the electoral wasteland confronting the avowed centrist parties in this election suggests that wasn’t where Labour’s lost vote went.”

Whatever happens as Labour realigns and reflects at both a UK and Scottish level it is likely to be along left-right lines and commitment to self-determination.  Beyond the endless vague re-treads of ‘Federalism’ and ‘reforming the House of Lords’ ad nauseam  there are very healthy signs of genuine dissent and discussion within the grassroots of the party.

People like this former No voter, Ali Craig, who explains “It is not for Scottish Labour to decide what is and what isn’t a mandate in favour of a second referendum that lies with the Scottish Parliament …”

The look on Frank McAveety and Pamela Nash’s faces is priceless.

The shifts taking place in Scotland in the wake of the Tory victory are hugely significant and to be welcomed. They may be a process rather than an event but the significance of Labour party members calling for changes shouldn’t be under-valued. As Michael Gray writes: “If we can’t show empathy with Labour activists who feel devastated by Labour’s defeat we will find it hard to build the Scotland we all need.”

As we face the reality of people like Brendan Clarke-Smith, Anthony Browne, Sally-Ann Hart  – and their many colleagues – it’s worth reflecting on how to act collectively and individually.

Now is the time for a new open movement to broaden the thinking and appeal of the arguments for self-determination, ditching toxic tribalism and opening the door-way to a huge rally and march in Glasgow on the 11th January. The potential for a cross-party consensus on the right to a referendum, and a re-envisioning of the common ground to stand against the agenda being set by Johnson’s incoming government is huge. In dark times there is hope.

Unity, solidarity and openness should be on our Christmas Lists this year, along with the ability to listen.

If we are faced with an Anglo-British ‘One Nation Conservatism’ we should think of ourselves as ‘Four Nation Socialists’.



Comments (30)

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  1. kate macleod says:

    A recent article reprinted in the guardian on tony blair’s old seat discussed the strong occupational roots of men in surrounding areas not only in mining (past) but more importantly the military (past and present). It strongly linked regional employment in military occupations to aversion to corbyn.
    One interviewee particularly resented the bloody sunday charges against a former soldier and corbyn’s sympathy with irish and other ‘terrorist’ interests that are not those of british soldiers or british colonialism seemed to be the core of why the man despised him. probably corbyn’s opposition to the iraq war was another anti military black mark against him,but i don’t think it was discussed.

    Possibly for many former soldiers corbyn the ‘terrorist’ /irish reunification sympathizer and corbyn the anti imperialist are regarded as being words for the same thing , the same fit between terrorist and anti imperialist can operate for a working class man as for the tory elite or a royal, and not just as a media fit up. there seem to be members of the english working class with a real committment to and financial /employment interest in british imperialism for whom the essential reason for despising corbyn as ‘weak’ are about his refusal to uphold reactionary values. So when these voters were not offered what they wanted there was no ethical problem there. no decent human being can offer working class military families what they want to make a living if involves more imperialist wars, no consequences, less human rights, british exceptionalism. There are real working class reactionaries who are not dupes insofar as ruthless short term self interest is concerned. i believe one of the reasons some people couldn’t vote for corbyn was ‘pearls before swine’.

    1. James Mills says:

      I wonder if many of these ex-military types who opposed Corbyn pondered for a moment on the number of ex-soldiers who are homeless in the country they ”fought for ” , many suffering from PTSD and receiving little or no help from a Tory Government which professes to be the Party for the Armed Forces !

    2. John Monro says:

      Thank you. Some interesting points. Labour supporters can be just as “traditionalist” as any arch Tory. Flag waving, xenophobia and jingoism can be par for the working man’s philosophy as much as any Burnsian “a man’s a man for a’ that” – as the Tories have made expert use of in this last election. Brexit itself is a perfect example. . And of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s background is not exactly as one of them, is it? That loyalty didn’t feature. Not that traditionalism is necessarily harmful. Indeed it’s the loss of some of the traditional high- Tory values of noblesse oblige and a caring paternalism (now derided) that’s most noticeable about the nasty right wing stance now to the fore in that party. I grew up with post war Tory governments, its leadership had fought a war alongside the British tommy. They were part of the same team, facing the same existential threat. Despite their different backgrounds, they did, I think, represent a common humanity. The class war became muted. Those Tories boasted as to how many council houses they’d built. That disappeared with Thatcher, and has become ever more extreme. The Boris Johnson leadership will come most obviously to replicate the truly toxic and corrupt Republican party values – in fact the Republican Party’s tame poodle in the UK, while US corporations and money are allowed to rape the country (hopefully just England) .

  2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    This is a brilliant and hopeful summary of where we find ourselves and how we might move forward. Thanks, Mike. See you in Glasgow on 11th.

  3. Jo says:

    “The UK media’s slating and smearing Labour leaders goes back decades:

    Michael Foot – Commie, too old
    Neil Kinnock – Welsh Windbag, too ginger
    Gordon Brown – One-Eyed Scottish Git
    Jeremy Corbyn – Commie, anti-semitic commie.”

    Yes, previous Party leaders had a bad time with the media but Corbyn’s experience was way beyond that and very, very different.

    I’ve never seen anything like it personally and I’ve been following politics for more than forty years now. The treatment of Corbyn is unprecedented. We need to be absolutely clear on this and not attempt to water it down.

    The media’s greatest friends during a four years+ crusade of sheer hatred were a fifth column within the PLP supported by former Labour people outside. This group worked with the media constantly throughout the period, hand in glove. That is an established fact.

    I hope that one day, soon, someone will put together the mountain of evidence to prove what was done. Even if you are of a different political persuasion, it matters to recognise what happened.

    I see Johnson has announced that a law will be passed stating that, come hell or high water, there will be no extension request if no final deal is struck in 12 months. The BBC and others are spinning this as evidence of his “commitment”. No one, as yet, seems to have realised it also means that if there is no deal by then the UK is out without a deal. (Well, they do realise, but facts are such a nuisance.)

    1. James Mills says:

      We can’t really take this ”commitment ”seriously until he vows to ” die in a ditch ” if it doesn’t happen !

    2. Wul says:

      Jo: “I see Johnson has announced that a law will be passed…”

      I have heard that the proposed amendment also includes removing EU-equivalent workers’ rights from the existing “deal”, but not been able to confirm this.

      Seems it’s full steam ahead for no deal. ( I expect attacks on the Judiciary (“enemies of the people”) probably somewhere in the pipeline too)

      1. Jo says:

        Yes Wul.

        That Bill he withdrew because MPs asked for more time to scrutinise it, is now being amended and will be passed without a doubt on Friday. Well he has that big fat majority now. No workers’ rights required. The ayes will have it.

    3. florian albert says:

      ‘the treatment of Corbyn is unprecedented’

      This may be true but it is also true that – for a leader of the Opposition – Corbyn’s conduct was equally unprecedented. No previous such leader gave support to an organization IRA/Sinn Fein involved, at that time, in killing British soldiers – and MPs and others; no previous leader viewed an organization (Hamas) committed to the destruction of Israel as friends and no previous leader allowed anti-semitism to become a major – or even a tiny – problem in the Labour Party.

      ‘ a fifth column within the PLP’

      These individuals might equally be described as sensible people determined to prevent Corbyn driving the Labour Party over the cliff.
      Mary Creigh, who fits the ‘fifth columnist’ bill, described Corbyn tonight as ‘ without honour, without shame’ and having a form of ‘preening narcissism.’

      My money is on Mary Creigh’s description; more importantly, the voters agreed last Thursday.

      1. florian albert says:

        Sorry; Mary Creagh

      2. Arboreal Agenda says:

        But Corbyn is not without honour. It’s nonsense. Anyone who has followed his career knows this. So anyone saying it is both lying and not someone we should pay any credence to whatsoever. Corbyn is one of the most principled and decent politicians around at the moment and yet he is vilified on virtually all sides. That says a lot about our political and media landscape and how utterly skewed and unreliable it is. As for ‘shame’ he has nothing to be ashamed about. Sorry yes, he failed, and he clearly is sorry, but there is no shame. The shame is for those who lie and continually undermined him, especially from within.

        1. florian albert says:

          I can’t avoid wondering why anti-semitism became a problem under the ‘principled’ Corbyn, when it had not been one under a long list of previous Labour leaders, who were a mixture of the good, the bad and the indifferent. This evening, even Owen Jones accepted in The Guardian that the anti-semitism of ‘a minority’ in the party was ‘real.’

          As for Corbyn being ‘continually undermined’, that is misleading. At first, the PLP was actively involved in this. However, their attempt to replace him failed and they accepted that he would lead them into the next General Election. After that Corbyn ‘owned’ the Party. When he led it to a disastrous defeat, he owned the defeat too.

  4. Hamish100 says:

    Oh, dear Wings twitter account apparently blocked following Offensive language I believe or worse?
    How dare this happen bleats the WoS site. I’m still blocked from WoS. My crime? Supporting the First Minister, SNP and arguing against a Wosit political party. Double standards by Wos? They join their pals in Labour, Tories and Lib dems who have no conscience when they claim their is no mandate for a reverenda.

  5. Kenny Smith says:

    Great article Mike but I would have liked a bit more focus on last night’s programme. I just happened to wander onto it because iv stopped watching these shows now. I thought John McKay was a little weak in pressing Mcveatie and Nash. They can scream no mandate and talk about vote share all they like, they lost. If no is a shoe in then let’s have the vote. These two and the Tory muppet that was on before trying to say Holyrood elections in 2021 there must be a mandate, why what makes that more legitimate, McKay said nothing. In truth I actually think no would stand more of a chance the sooner its held because the longer the tories just say no and inflict Boris on us the higher the chance of a yes vote. You were right though Nash’s face was priceless.

    1. Thanks Kenny – I didnt see the programme last night or I might have said more – I was out playing football in the cold

  6. Kenny Smith says:

    Sorry I forgot to add when talking about who should be the new leader the young lad mentioned some no mark because she is a socialist. Then Pam Nash twisted face said they are all socialists because they are in the labour party, I nearly fell off my chair, honestly, does that include the Knight of the realm sir Keir Starmer!!!!

  7. w.b. robertson says:

    strange how the mainstream media get the blame…at a time when fewer and fewer read the papers and more and more consume the so called news on the various sources of the social media! ( particularly the young voters.) I wonder how Attlee ever won the landslide in 1945 or a certain Harold Wilson or indeed that other smoothie Tony Blair ever were victorious in later decades? The bottom line is that the punters are not stupid. And they have spoken.

    1. The mainstream media includes the tabloid press the broadcast media and the social media accounts of the senior Editors plus the Lobby. The grave concern for how these bodies operated was widely shared across the political spectrum.

    2. Wul says:

      w.b. The newspapers all have web sites, their reporters all have social media accounts ( often much more loudly subjective and biased than they would ever dare to be on TV or in print). The BBC has a web site and 24hr social media output, as do all broadcasters. There are not two separate worlds of media or separate consumers (apart from some older people who stick to TV & print)

  8. SleepingDog says:

    I remember Steve Bell in one of his old If… cartoons describing Conservative policies along the lines of “as fresh as a stale shit sandwich, although not quite as wholesome”. As then, now. I agree about the vacuous, amoral “centre” in UK politics which seems a business-as-usual contrivance largely intended to damage Labour at the moment while benefitting the anti-socialist parties.

  9. Hamish100 says:

    The level of ignorance shown by the 2 English paper reviewers I think just emphasises the state of the English education system. Sadly, the BBC interviewer seemed to have the same level of ignorance about Scotland judging by her inaction.

    How on earth can they be reeducated?

    1. Jamie MacDonald says:

      Ye canny Hamish ..
      yer wasting yer time man..

      It should be people who are experiencing life and work in Scotland that get to talk about Scotland in these slots.

      How ridiculous is it when one country has reacted in a totally different way to the other in the election that they still think they know exactly how we feel -and they will tell us how we feel too!

      Total farce..
      Or tragedy?
      Mike is right, all very confusing..

  10. Wul says:

    Topically, BBC Radio 4’s “Making History” programme today featured “Nationalism”.

    After brief definitions of “Nationalism” V “Patriotism”, we visit Nazi Germany where Grimm’s fairy tales were used as propaganda. Then we’re off to Stalin’s Communist Russia where Peter and the Wolf promoted Bolshevism.

    Final stop Scotland to hear about education under the SNP Government. We hear from a Senior Lecturer at Aberdeen University’s School of Education and History (and History text book writer) who has “Massive experience” and our presenter “…can’t think of anyone better to tell us what has happened recently in Scottish education”.

    Senior lecturer bemoans the current state of history teaching under SNP but impartially tells us that a Lab/Liberal Govt. introduced the changes, but that we now have an SNP Govt. and “…clearly the [SNP] government have significant influence on education system and will want to promote certain aspects of it. It wouldn’t be awry for us to say that the ultimate outcome for the SNP is independence for Scotland, so that is going to be an element of what they want to promote within education”

    After criticising moves to teach history from a Scottish perspective, our Scottish expert then tells us he is, in Scotland, having to carry on some of the work he did in war-torn Balkan countries trying to move the education system from nationalism towards improving the country. For balance, the programme makers asked John Swinney (SNP) for an interview but he was unavailable, and a bland departmental statement was read out instead. (presumably no other History education experts were available in Scotland)

    We do visit England (fleetingly), where searching for “Anglo Saxon” on Google can yield nasty results from USA-based white supremacists, who have hi-jacked the term for their own nefarious use. Our resident presenter/expert reassures us that, although the term may be used by “American Nazis” ( and “The French” use it pejoratively about the English) when used “…by say, a British archaeologist, it has a very clear meaning, that is broadly understood to mean the period between the end of Roman occupation and the coming of the Normans”.
    We learn that “Early English” has been proposed by some as a less inflammatory and loaded term, but mainly by academics “speaking from America with a cloth ear for the situation here in Britain”.

    We finally learn that Scotland and England didn’t even exist at one time. So…y’know. Get over it.

    If you want to learn more about your own Scottish Nationalism, and what makes you tick, go here:

  11. Alistair MacKichan says:

    “Four Nation Socialists” would be campaigners for egalitarianism in each region of the UK. Solidarity goes across regional boundaries, from Highland and Islands to Central Belt to Borders to Northern England to Middle England to Southern England to Wales and the West Country to Ireland to Britanny to Catalonia to the hills and lowlands of Venezuela, to Gilgat Baltistand and the regions of Kashmir….. there is no end to solidarity with those whose campaigns for social justice are real, heart-felt desires for liberty from colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation by governments and corporations etc. The unity in struggle is real, but the national borders only define the oppressors, not the oppressed. Internationalism for socialists is a state of mind that embraces the cry for liberation from economic hardship wherever it is imposed upon societies. So we are “All Nation Socialists”, and our socialism as Scots is real in support of the socialism of English, Catalans, and Venezuelans. There never was a need for Scottish Socialists to support the authoritarian “Union”. Why did they ever do it?

  12. MMT is right says:

    Jonathan pie nails it.

    Not that the liberal middle class will understand a word of it.

    Hilarious !

  13. MMT is right says:

    Spiked poked fun at you all for 3 years.

    What was hilarious was the liberal middle classes didn’t even know they were the butt of the joke.

    Then Spiked Sat back and waited for the cards to be played from the liberal deck of cards.

    The racist card, the thick card, the Workington man card, the gay card, the bi sexual card, any sex card. The list goes on and on.

    The Internationalist card. You know the one. The card that says Scotland will save the EU and the world as Scotland is different and the EU and the world will treat Scotland different and listen to Scotland and give Scotland different fiscal rules than everybody else.

    Liberal middle class art degree mob with their delusions of grandeur.

    It is hilarious, especially when you were warned about it so many times.

    1. Koch-funded Spiked you mean?

  14. Carl Potts says:

    The best analysis of Labour’s defeat I’ve seen post-GE 2019, The press quite deliberately set out to make Corbyn politically toxic since he won the leadership contest in 2015 ask any Labour activist and Corbyn was a major factor on the doorstep, Labour’s failure to adopt Open/Mandatory reselection means we have a PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) completely out of whack with the grassroots(I think this holds true with Scottish Labour who are IMO lions lead by donkeys) plus a centrist PLP and Blairite rearguard such as Adonis, Mandelson and Kinnock Sr ( still a windbag), any anti-Corbyn MP is almost guaranteed a place on the BBC sofa, the worst offenders enjoying the full support of the Murdoch empire. the MSM is keen to promote the manifesto was too left-wing narrative as a genuine alternative to neoliberal austerity upsets the Westminster applecart post-Thatcher, the centrist PLP pushed for a second referendum/peoples vote which was politically toxic in leave voting areas so between those factors it’s no surprise Labour were defeated

      1. Carl Potts says:

        you’re very welcome, it’s nice to see it’s not just me who regards the Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping as THE stand out Christmas track

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