Sep 052013

If there is something I still admire about our North American friends – I mean, the USA bit and its colonial-like ability to teach us all about what they aspire to – it is their boundless optimism that everything has a fix.  In fact, the original philosophy of this blog you’re reading right now was precisely that: if only we think hard enough – where thinking hard enough we assume is possible – a solution to any problem will always be found.

I stumbled across a wonderful blogpost by Ben Cobley yesterday, on the subject of philosophising and how Western culture is creating the very conditions for relentlessly excessive thought – the kind that people suffering from depression manifest – to become far more common.  It’s called “A few thoughts on depression, and philosophy”, and, amongst other things, it touches on the link between our latterday consumer society and the trust that used to bind us:

[...] [Alastair] Campbell wrote a little book called ‘The Happy Depressive’, exploring his own experiences and depression as a public policy issue.

I won’t go into that book in detail here because I want to take a brief look at depression from a different angle, but one quotation wouldn’t go amiss:

“In the US, trust in other people being ‘nice’ has fallen from 60 per cent to 30 per cent in fifty years. It is the same story in the UK. In 1959, 60 per cent of people felt other people could generally be trusted. It has now halved. [Professor Richard] Layard [a Labour peer] believes that decline has matched the rise of consumerism which has been accompanied by a rise in the obsession with status, and envy of those who do better than us.”

This, if true, is a dreadful state of affairs.  Whilst I have no way of corroborating the stats, at my own anecdotal level there seems little wrong with the assertions.  The rise in mental ill health in Western societies has matched the introduction of neoliberal economic and sociocultural attitudes.  That there should exist people and institutions determined to make societies work to their own particular benefit at the expense of the poor and already highly disadvantaged should clearly not surprise us.  And that these individuals and entities should cover their backs by arguing it’s a natural state of affairs mustn’t lessen our resolve to fight back.

For here is where perhaps I diverge a little from Cobley’s space.  As he explains on his About page in relation to standard perceptions of the remorseless, monolithic and unremitting Left:

What especially interests me is the censoriousness and opinion control that is so pervasive on my side of the political fence. It seems that, far from being a free-minded and free-thinking Left, we are stuck in a denuded, conformist and also rather boring rut.

I believe the Left should be generous and welcoming, open and tolerant, but also committed and ethical in the way it behaves. I am against ideologies like neoliberalism and ‘Vulgar’ Marxism, and also some of the forms that have emerged around the politics of identity, including strictly deterministic versions of feminism. Ideologies like these offer simplistic, all-encompassing explanations about the way the world is while setting different groups in society against each other.

They give people an excuse to stop seeing, hearing and thinking for themselves.

And with this, I find myself disagreeing very little.  But interestingly – or perhaps (I’m beginning to wonder) I should say even coherently, in the light of the above data on Western mental-wellbeing – he also chooses to quote from Karl Popper in the following way:

“If you know that things are bound to happen whatever you do, then you may feel free to give up the fight against them.” ~ Karl Popper



Yes.  Now, as I write, I can see why Cobley chooses this quote.  The choice and option to do something others might not understand often takes away the need to act in such a way.  To feel free to give up the fight against something quite overwhelming serves to empower us, just as freely, to continue such a fight.  On the other hand, to exhort one to fight – remorselessly, monolithically, unremittingly – often traps the person who should feel liberty is their goal in an emotional and political ambush of terrifying incoherence.

Only yesterday, Paul Cotterill tweeted thus:

Sick of Labour HQ emails telling me I must “fight” for stuff. Using a word devoid of actual meaning hinders organisation & solidarity.

And this:

Re Lab’s use of “fight”: The misuse of language in idle talk, in slogans and phrases, destroys our authentic relation to things (Heidegger)

That, I suppose, is what both Paul and Ben are getting at in their different ways – and where, perhaps, we might argue libertarians do have a point after all.  In whatever we do, we must feel free to choose.  That sense of choice – for the good and the bad – is what makes us these mysterious human beings living this mysterious life.  And the Left, if it wishes to track such behaviours, to maintain its primary connect with all the human beings it is looking to serve, must surely not forget the importance of that concept of choice.

Not just the more obvious choices such as which schools, GPs, medical treatments and social services.  No.  Far more importantly, for the persistence of vision all political groupings must maintain, is the recognition that humanity itself will inevitably tend towards one way or another of behaving.

The political question is not only identifying that way, though.

It’s also working out how to promote the way that least bends us out of natural shape.

What the neoliberals have managed is to promote ways that benefit their narrow interests – whilst claiming at the same time that these ways are inherently human.

What we need to do, as free progressives if you like, is accept that social engineering is the name of their/this game – and in this inevitable knowledge begin to understand that the pendulum of battle must swing back sooner or later.

And sooner, if we choose never to give up.

That is to say, by ignoring most of the current remorseless, monolithic and unremitting Left – and, in turn, by following Popper’s advice.  For only then shall we be truly human.

And only then shall our politics be truly accurate.

Mar 042013

Yesterday, I argued:

The Welfare State is the way to make our society less inhumane.  It’s in our grasp – but it is a choice.  We can spend considerable resource on allowing the fortunate to further concentrate their good fortune – or we can deliberately decide to give the less fortunate the consideration, charity and kindness most belief systems have tended to argue should be made forthcoming.

But what we have to accept is that, either way, it’s a choice.  If we choose to fashion a world where we must walk on the other side of the road from that homeless man who dies at the doorstep of a bungalow, we can.  We will do so, I am sure, in order that ambitious alpha men and women can – amongst the disasters they also commit – achieve what they undoubtedly do.  And this is clearly an act of socioeconomic decision-making at the highest level, committed by coherent men and women.  It is a freely-taken decision. It is an unforced decision to let some people live better at the expense of others.  It is a statistical calculation of risks that approves of achievement at the very top, even as it judges society will not rise up in arms and disintegrate as a result of the anonymous homeless dying distastefully in the streets.

If, on the other hand, we opt to help such homeless people – if our goal is to create a socioeconomic environment where this kind of action is prioritised over other, more aggressively innovative, behaviours – we may create, again entirely consciously and deliberately, a society where survival is ameliorated for a far greater number of our souls here on earth, even as achievement measured objectively loses its bleeding edges.

I repeat these words today, because – on further consideration – I believe we on the Left must accept there are upsides on both sides of the argument.

Of course, the game all politicians end up playing is TINA.  It makes the absurd seem acceptable.  It makes the ridiculous seem reasonable.  Occasionally, it voices a truth of sorts.  But only very occasionally.

The truth in our days – so where does it lie?  “Lie” as in “located” – or “lie” as in “untruth”?  Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell which process takes precedence.  If something is partially hidden from view, it may appear to be quite something else – without anyone actually saying it is.  Politicians aren’t really professional communicators.  More exactly, they are professional obfuscators.  And what’s rankly unfair is when they say we have the politicians we deserve.  We don’t.  We – the ordinary people – have busy lives to live.  We have relied on the supposed integrity of those who made it their (uncertificated and untitled) profession to run our stately affairs correctly.  We were mistaken.  We now pay the consequences for our mistakes.  But we are not deserving – in any way – of such individuals.  We are simply the very sorry victims.

There is no alternative?  Don’t believe anyone who ever says this.  There’s always an alternative – even as obfuscation and clever smoke-and-mirror tactics confuse the partially attendant voters.  The alternative today is as it stands in my quoted paragraphs above.  We can proceed with ever-greater concentrations of wealth, so that there are magnificent pockets of technological prowess in some lucky parts of the planet.  Or we can take a different fork in the path, where technological prowess has its place but where – also – people’s finite natures, which is to say their existences as perishable goods, count for something significant when we prioritise our politics and our economies.  It’s not even a fork in the path.  It’s maybe just a deliberate slowing-down of pace.  The path will be the same – it’s just the number of people you take with you that changes.  And if we leave behind us the sick, disabled and elderly as flesh-and-blood flotsam to die in solitary pain?  We will be no better than the ants.

Which is not to say being like the ants doesn’t have its upside.

This, this very point, is what the Left, what Labour in the UK, must begin to get its head round and accept.  The Right are charging on with the corporate capitalist way – and we are reacting as if there is no need to choose at all.  We can have full-throated corporates at the same time as a Welfare State.  We can launch a rocket to Mars next year and save the young children living in mould-infested social housing.  We can continue to devise evermore clever mobile phones and make the homeless a hot lunch for Christmas.

If truth be told, however, we cannot do it all.  And we have to be honest with our voting public about this: we have to be honest if we want the circles to square.  Under the Left, you won’t get everything which comes with massive concentrations of wealth.  Consultative models of organisation cost more, take longer and need more training to put into practice.  A top-down CEO-dominated hierarchy can (though not always) take key decisions remarkably quickly.  And we on the Left have to be honest about the implications.

If you vote for the Right, those of you who are fortunate to benefit will get better phones, more brand-new gadgets, cooler cars and technological wonders which will serve to turn your heads.  If you vote for the Right, you’ll get all this and more.  Holidays will be wilder; sex will be safer; lives will be longer; music will be cheaper.

The downsides?  The homeless will continue to die on the steps of bungalows.  The mould will continue to contaminate the lungs of hundreds of thousands of children.  Some people will suffer the consequences of entire lifetimes of poorly-paid work.  Some people will never know a holiday.

But that’s the choice.

And if you vote for the Left?  What will you get?  I’m not entirely sure how to answer that one.  I’m not entirely sure it’s been entirely tried.  But where it was tried most notably – at least in England – was under Tony Blair’s New Labour.  Yes.  Top-down impatience ruined its trajectory.  The Iraq War intervened and saved the Tories from imminent extinction.  And we all know and remember how we felt about certain policies – especially as the implications and consequences of public-private partnerships, and, in general, New Labour’s pick-and-mix way of engineering ideology, have now led us logically to the summary privatisation of so many good and sensible British socialist institutions.

If you vote for the Left – a certain kind of Left (perhaps a Left which could learn from the errors Blair refused to cast aside) – you might not get an iPhone as snazzy as under the Right; you might not get a car as gloriously unsustainable as full-blown and unabashed corporate capitalism might aim to provide you with; you might not even get a lifestyle as chic and as generous as your supposedly libertarian ideals of hedonistic freedoms would lead you to expect.

But what you would get, at the very least, is a Left that tried to save the homeless; that aimed to free the enslaved; that fought to give finite lives the recompense almost all belief systems believe is their right; that, in essence, chose to take not that fork in the path they’re trying to frighten us away with but – rather – that kindness which gives the seat on the train of grace-saving thoughts to as many human beings as possible.

Before they die.

That’s the Left I’m looking at, from down here in the dirty dirty.  That’s the Left I’m looking at, from a position of relative disadvantage.  That’s the Left I’m looking at – when I’m looking at the Left I want to see.

The Left which honestly recognises the upsides and downsides on both sides of the argument – and, in doing so, is able to deliberately, openly, sincerely and directly put the choice to that public whose final say will always be sovereign.

No fork on the path of progress – not this time.

Just a humane gathering-together of those whom the Right has – equally artfully – chosen in its wisdom to discard.

Jan 212013

Chris makes me feel utterly inadequate today.  As a member of the soft left, I am fairly in his sights:

[...] it’s the centre-left who are the utopian dreamers, and we Marxists who are the realists.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Political activists, and especially career politicians, are selected for the optimism bias; you don’t go to all those dull meetings unless you think (conventional) politics can achieve a lot.

Of course, it’s not just the soft left who suffer from the condition.  As he goes on to point out (and closer to my heart and own personal experience):

And it’s not just mainstream politicians who are the dreamers whilst I’m the sceptic. Stock-pickers who think they can beat the market and CEOs who think they can successfully control ther fate of huge organizations are just like centre-left politicians, exaggerating what they can achieve in the face of powerful and complex market forces.

But it’s his conclusion that really knocks me sideways – and makes me wonder if there is any point in (figuratively) continuing (the bold is, wearily, mine):

As it is, the question “what can politics achieve in a capitalist economy?” is rarely posed, let alone answered, by the centre-left. And until it is, they are likely to remain Isobel Crawley-type figures – perhaps doing a little good, but not challenging basic socio-economic inequalities, and leaving poverty and their own privilege largely unchanged.

(I had to look up the reference to Isobel Crawley, by the way.  You might guess which popular upper-class soap I haven’t found myself entangled by.)

So Chris argues we do a little good – but fail, at the same time, to “challenge” the basic socio-economic inequalities.  And yet what does this word “challenge” imply?  Verbal and/or physical violence of some sort?  Or a “democratic” “battle” within the confines of a capitalist discourse he so rightly condemns?  What, indeed, can politics achieve in a capitalist economy?  Especially the kind of capitalist economy which most of us now labour under, where politicians and business leaders interchangeably operate to the benefit of their own pockets, interest groups and mercenary aims?

What, then, is the alternative to violence of some sort or another?  Is there, indeed, anything not countenancing bloodshed which could do more than does the soft left already?  My mother has a solution, of course – consistently held: if only we loved each other more, we might achieve the change we are looking for:

It is so distressing to read about the injustices so blatant that the only understanding I can glean from this ‘world’ is that when the money – mammon – is the only goal to achieve in the world, there is no room for love and compassion towards people! The Judeo-Christian ethic has been eroded and something else has to be put in its place and we have got ‘it’ now: greed, avarice, selfishness – it has many facets but it is the one and same thing! Let us return to the God that we have abandoned for false gods! [...]

So on the one hand we have my mother – half of my upbringing, in fact.  On the other, we have people like Chris – the other, far more logical, side of my character.  Yet, whether we reach our conclusions through faith or whether we reach them through science, it seems – right now – that the conclusions are becoming pretty much the same.

That awful situation where one is torn between logic and love?  There’s no bloody difference any more.  Society and politics are as shitty as they have become not because society and politics are shitty.

No.  That, my friend, is not the explanation.

My mother calls it “mammon”.  Chris calls it “capitalism”.  Either way, and whatever label you use, it’s hurting us more than it ever did in the past.

In fact it’s not our institutions which are failing us so much as our underlying, and practically unperceived, system of capitalist behaviours.

And so I ask for a solution – a way forward for my own small world.  I’m ready, as per my cowardly character, to be patient, meek and mild: to await the beneficence of the powerful even.

At least to a degree.  At least for a while.

Yet the examples continue to hurtle past our eyes.  This awful story from yesterday, for example:

The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.

The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.

As the charity goes on to say:

“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. [...] We’re anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.

This is the shit that is going down these days.

This is what creates the real pain and manifest anger.

So one final question to be going away with this evening: is there any kind of lesson to be learned when my mother’s love and faith reach the same conclusion as Chris Dillow’s perspicacious and rational mind?

And is there anything apart from violent civil conflict which will succeed in changing anything soon enough for the majority?

Sep 072012

Whilst we simply struggle to survive, and whilst our top-flight politicians argue we must – instead – aspire (more here), battling each other violently we find – in both the US and UK to an evermore similar extent – those terrible two sides of the dialectical fence.

Obama versus Romney.  Cameron versus Miliband.  The Democrats and Labour versus the Republicans and the Tories.  And in all this violently public disagreement, the rest of us – society and civilisation in general – are losing the capacity to apply rational thought to the needs and threats of our century.

These are two sides clearly blinded, not by their own ideologies – but by a terrible fear and hatred of the other’s.  No wonder they screech as they do: they do not act out of a desire and intention to gain a better life but out of an awful fear of losing the one they treasure.

How can you build a confident society on the foundations of fear?  Wouldn’t it be so much better if opposing politicians and parties were able to value their opposition – as human beings, logical thinkers and masters and mistresses of the agreed-upon possible?  Wouldn’t it be a grand improvement on everything our political classes currently bring us for voters, politicos, enablers and leaders to be able work to add to the whole world rather than keep from the majority?

This concentrating capitalism is wrong.  There is plenty to go round.  There is plenty wealth to revolve around our communities, peoples and families – if we only choose to do so.

That is our real and only enemy.

It is a concentrating capitalism we must really aim to vanquish if we are to rescue our century from the stupid.

The stupidly concentratingly self-centred and inefficient rich.

And for their brutal incompetence above any other reason or motivation.

For we, as aghast spectators, are not even mainly jealous or envious of their riches.  Rather, we are revolted by their inability to do their job well.  And that is the real motive we have for demanding profound and long-lasting change to a model which is clearly not only damaging people but also – just as manifestly – wasting sensitive and hardly infinite resource.


A curiously contrary postscript to this post: if, as I suggest, both sides do fear the other more than they value themselves, does this not mean they half-wonder and half-believe that their dreadful opposition and enemy might occasionally be right in what they argue?  And if so, does this also not mean we are losing opportunities on an industrial scale for a constructive collaboration between both?

What fear can do, even to the expensively educated … and – meanwhile – those who have most to lose (the wealthiest, I mean), lose least.

Apr 072012

Amazon’s been in the news the past couple of days.  First, this story from the Guardian brought to our attention the fact that it allegedly paid no corporation tax on UK sales even though such sales generated billions of pounds.  It would appear, however, and this is something I shall focus on in this post, that the profit margins on the income generated are generally around 3.5 percent.

Compare that with Apple’s massive cash mountain of more than $80 billion and it does take the edge off some of the allegations.

But then, on the other hand, Amazon has always been known for aiming for market share above early profits: destroy the competition first has always been the promise; the benefits will surely come later.

Today, then, we have Tim Waterstone, of the British bookstore chain Waterstone’s, saying this kind of thing of his main competitor:

[...] No trader has ever been so successful in its concentration on consumer pricing – all this impervious, of course, to the broader considerations of the overall welfare of the industries in which it is operating. It’s all so simple. Make and build your brand on a reputation for absolutely rock-bottom pricing. Do this single-mindedly and ruthlessly. Even say it upfront, insultingly and aggressively, in your advertising – go, Mr Consumer, go to Harrods or wherever it is, inspect and admire the goods, then come home and buy them from us. Online. At a deep, deep discount. And fuck Harrods or whoever it is for their trouble. More fool them. And more fool Waterstones. Go and browse through all the books there, in Waterstones, or Daunt’s, or your lovely Topping stores, then put them back on the tables (fingered and soiled) and order those you want from us. Why pay more? Why worry about the consequences?

And I can sincerely feel for what Mr Waterstone expresses with such clarity.  Even as I am a pretty gung-ho Amazon consumer.  I began to use it when I lived in Spain and couldn’t get English-speaking books locally.  When I came back to Britain, continuing to use it was a natural progression – a progression someone who loved the Internet really couldn’t resist.

But, even so, I can see from the bitterness of the above passage what Amazon has done to a whole industry of honourable individuals.

There was no industry in the world more dependent on its different elements for its good functioning than the publishing industry.  And now people like Amazon, and Apple too, are integrating massively so that all potential for making a living lies entirely in the hands of single companies.

We no longer need editors; we no longer need typesetters; in an age of e-books we no longer need bookbinders; we no longer need printers; we no longer need designers; all we need are the individual creators prepared – probably unbeknownst to them – to sign away the future of all traditional diversity.  In the name of empowering the authors, we destroy the ways and wherefores of a profoundly rich and complex sector.


What I am more worried about, however, is that 3.5 percent profit margin.  Even if Amazon did pay corporation tax in Britain on the sales its Luxembourg arm is responsible for, on such a margin how much of what Amazon moves would actually  end up in the pockets of the interventionary state so beloved of democratic socialists?

So what’s happening here then?  What are the wider implications?  Essentially, in our latterday capitalism consumers have taken over from schoolchildren, teachers, parents, patients, doctors, nurses, police officers, social workers, council workers, councillors pensioners, MPs and a whole host of other interested parties.

Our economies no longer function for the benefit of wider societal needs and justifications.  Large companies like Amazon have realised, whether consciously or unconsciously, that, by dropping their prices to the lowest rock-bottom levels which Mr Waterstone talks about, they can not only guarantee their futures on the killing-fields of corporate engagement but also remove all need to hand over any cash to the state.  In fact, it will soon become unnecessary to avoid paying tax.  Corporations will generate enough profit to keep going but not too much to have to contribute to the public sector.

Perhaps, in their terrible wisdom, this is what the neoliberals have seen – and what the rest of us are refusing to recognise.  In such a way, the state will, indeed, run out of cash – not because capitalism finally fails but because, rather, human beings in the guise of any other role but that of consumer will die a long-drawn-out death akin to the dinosaurs of old.

The only transaction which will work in this brave new world will be that of business to consumer.  As long as your needs refer to consumer needs, you will benefit mightily from such a dynamic.

The problem is if you will ever be a worker for one of these businesses; or a person in need of medical support you can’t afford; or a child in need of a soup kitchen which doesn’t exist.  Then, of course, you will miss the Welfare State – a state which no longer exists because our economy only cares any more about consumers.

This may be part of how and why the Welfare State is all of a sudden being disembowelled.  Those who are organising it, whilst certainly looking to fill their own already deep pockets, may also see the dangers of the Amazon dynamic to their ability to control the heaving masses: if we don’t sort out some way of engineering support services in a world where 3.5 percent profit margins become the norm, the recent demonstrations across Europe and the US against the injustices of the current crisis in capitalism will be but a harbinger of much worse times to come for these ruling elites.

We on the left, for example, may see the destruction of the NHS as the worst betrayal of all that we have held most dear in a society where common interests used to structure how we distributed resources.  On the other hand, those on the right might actually be looking to salvage from what they see as the unstoppable juggernaut of their own unfortunate economic history a modicum of society-protecting humanity.  Even if this is simply to protect their interests as that ruling elite.

Do try and be charitable about this, folks – at least for a moment.  The situation is becoming so grave we really do need to think a little laterally.

There is, of course, an alternative – there always will be.  In this case, to understand the Amazon dynamic for what it is – and change society so that our economy doesn’t only serve and contemplate the interests of the customer.

“But the customer is king,” I hear you say.  Well, perhaps we have lived this cliché for far too long.  A society where the customer is king and the king reigns above and beyond the interests of everyone else is a society ripe for considerable upheaval.  And the consumer society – the society where the customer is the most important driver of almost everyone’s interests everywhere – is surely approaching such a moment.

It is time we rethought society profoundly.

The question is whether anyone’s capable of understanding that it’s actually there to be rethought.  Before it becomes too late to rethink it.

Mar 282012

I’ve just had a disagreement about the lentils I prepared today.  I used black pudding to flavour them instead of chorizo.  One member of my family was decidedly unimpressed – quite before even trying the dish.  I’d already removed the offending substance from the final presentation in anticipation of such a complaint.  It was the little pieces of black pudding that had split off from the main body – and that I’d therefore been unable to remove – which drew their immediate attention and disapprobation.

Which led me to wonder, as it does if thinking is what you do, whether the world isn’t divided up into two kinds of people: those who are hard-wired to resist any sign of difference and those who are hard-wired to embrace it.

Yes.  Just in that sentence you can see I uncover my own preferences.

I love new food; strange shapes; peculiar people; wacky opinions; unusual combinations of colour; curious furniture; patterned rugs; wallpapered walls; decorated ceilings.  People I live with, however, do not.

It’s not always easy for either side.

Translate this issue to the politics which separates us.  If our instincts are so very opposed – some of us just loving the challenge of permanent flux, others just loving the consistency of permanent perpetuation – how can we possibly even begin to construct the kind of ground we could share in order that we might successfully and productively debate?  And never mind the people who claim to be on the same part of that infamously two-dimensional political spectrum.  Surely more important and more confusing is the state of the people who manifestly occupy a space within the same political grouping and yet, all the same, appreciate difference in the different ways I have described above.

This, of course, may explain why Blairites are seen with grand suspicion by the rest of us.  Or, indeed, why so many different colours are beginning to make their solid appearance in what is rapidly becoming a coalition of rainbow-like proportions at the heart of the British Labour Party.

The question is really whether we want to reach out to people who use the same processes to think or who simply reach the same conclusions.

In my case, I have recently requested that I be allowed to join the Labour Left grouping – after assuring myself it does not aim to become a party within a party.  I am already a member of the Fabians and – outside Labour politics – a recent paid-up supporter of Open Rights Group.  I am also an associate member of the trades union Accord.  In all these cases, I suspect I have joined because they are organisations which have reached the same conclusions as myself on subjects I think are of societal importance.  But in the vast majority of these cases I honestly and sincerely suspect that very few of their representatives use the same processes to think I am most familiar and comfortable with.

Long-term, Blairism has added very little to Labour – except a thirst to win at all costs.  It also, however, thought as I would – even as the conclusions it reached were probably, in most cases, unhappy for me.  Some people who see how I write and act without clear commitment might assume that I’d be better off seeing my destination in Progress – and that anything else was just a journey.  I don’t think that’s fair, though. And I’ll explain why.

A perfect grouping for someone like myself?  Where magpie minds can freely consider all and every issue entirely on its merits and from scratch.  Where tribalism guarantees association with a grouping but does not limit the right to non-conformity.  Where brainstorming and ideas generation are part and parcel of every single day.  Where communication is not tacked on at the end but informs the whole process from the very beginning.  Where organisations do not consult or listen in one direction from the top to the bottom but aim, instead, most importantly, to engage and dialogue in multifarious and multicoloured direction.  Where a proper appreciation of the needs of volunteer supporters and their lives is clearly couched in the language of such sensitivities.

And finally, where the concept of leadership – devolved to all levels of action – constitutes enabling and facilitating over expressions and instincts of impositional frustration.

Perfection doesn’t exist, of course – but at least some of the above would be pretty welcome!

We will, of course, as time goes by, see how all this develops.

As well as, most significantly, what real and lasting impact left-leaning voters and supporters of Labour might now be able to properly engineer.

Mar 182012

Over at Labour List today, Sue argues we lefties should get a grip:

I don’t like the current Labour position on welfare, I’m almost constantly head-desking whenever they issue a press statement, I do realise they set a lot of these “reforms” up and I worry about the possibility of an election any time soon – they clearly couldn’t run drinkies-in-the-proverbial right now, but on the whole – on the whole – get a grip lefties. 

Start defending our record. Accept the bits we got wrong and move on, but for goodness sake, anyone claiming “They’re all the same/Triangulation/They’re worse than the Tories/I’ll never vote Labour again” might want to ask themselves just how long they’d like to keep this cabinet of millionaires. And just how much we’re going to allow them to get wrong before we unite and fight.

It’s funny – or perverse; whenever someone argues we should jack in political parties I find myself beginning to disagree, but whenever someone comes to me saying the primary responsibility of us lefties is to unite … well, I really can’t help reacting rather negatively.  Yes.  I agree with Sue that we should get a grip – the question is who gets to get the grip and precisely on what.

Unable, in a first instance, to answer this question, I thought I’d carry out a thought experiment to see if that would help.  A list of personal positives which I would be prepared to attribute to Labour:

  1. when I came back to Britain in 2003, I was in a serious state of mental ill health – the NHS managed in the end to help put me back together again;
  2. my children received a better education from the time they rejoined me in England than they almost certainly would have done in Spain had they stayed – they are now bilingual, the eldest is studying Mandarin Chinese and Russian at university, the middle one wants to go abroad to study film and the youngest is already considering proactively how she might get jobs once she is sixteen;
  3. my wife regained confidence in herself and her own ability as a teacher due to the then relatively buoyant labour market – little by little, she has achieved a certain degree of stability and self-respect;
  4. I have finally managed to get to a position where I can see I may be able to earn my living from writing via the Internet – something I dreamed of since 2002 and which would make my life entirely fulfilled if I achieve my goal;

These are all good, big and life-changing moments which allow me to see Labour – even New Labour – through a positive prism of perceptions.  However, I have to say that at least one of them – my mental ill health – was in part due to the lies and obfuscations which surrounded the process leading up to the Iraq War.

I lost my faith, during that time, in much of what could be reasonably expected of party politicking – I still resist, for example, at a local grassroots CLP level, to get involved with active politics.  In part I do feel it has something to do with this back story.  A story of political innocence being taken advantage of by those who know how to manipulate sincere emotions for their own personal benefit.

So many big positives for me in a little under a decade of living under New Labour – even as the primary one which brought me back to Britain was the massive negative of a questionable and bloody political process.

If I, as a relatively unpractised leftie, do need to get a grip as Sue suggests, then I might be inclined – in the light of all the above – to suggest the grip I really need to get is over a political party which doesn’t know how to communicate; doesn’t understand that consultation is nowhere near a proper dialogue of equals; and is riven with the triangulatory instincts she blithely tells us to ignore.

Here, then, is where Los Indignados can teach us more than one lesson: in order to unite around positions and policy, you first have to agree on process and procedures.  Without due agreement on the latter, no progress shall ever be sustainably made.

Do not, then, as a leftie who needs to get a grip, simply exhort me to hate the Tories and fight the good fight.  I don’t want them to define how my politics will function any more than you want them to define how the country will function.  And if we give up on truly empowering process and procedures before we’ve even really started, if we refuse to learn the lessons other groups and organisations springing up across the world can teach us, we shall remain anchored in a past that will become – by itself and not because of the Tories – evermore irrelevant, ineffective and ineffectual to a proactive and generally empowering producer-consumer society such as ours could become.

If the Tories manage to force us to limit our ambitions to creating a New Labour (II), they will have won a long-term political battle without us even having cared to engage.  Just as the terrorists of 9/11 created a generation of fearful legislation and terrified citizens, so the Tories may yet achieve their goal of turning us lefties, those of us who supposedly need to get that grip of Sue’s, into a wearisome terracotta army of conservative instincts ready to continue implementing the philosophies which Tony Blair so carefully set up and entrapped us all with.

As a Lib Dem acquaintance of mine (yes, it’s possible for a leftie like me to have one) quite rightly said to me recently, the NHS bill we’re so desperate to get dropped had its foundations laid by New Labour in 2006’s National Health Service Act.

If we really want to get the current bill dropped, and I am sure we can all agree we do, we should surely also campaign to unravel the straitjacket of philosophies which Tony Blair was directly responsible for – and which have led to Lansley’s moment of awful glory.

Meanwhile, dear Sue, we should surely remember that “getting a grip” can just as easily mean subjugation as empowerment.

And remembering thus, act accordingly.

Feb 202012

I had an exchange with Anthony Painter on Twitter today.  It got me thinking.  Especially his last couple of tweets.  First, referring I think to my criticism of the right’s stewardship of Labour for more than a decade:

@eiohel But if you are going to proceed with some sort of emotional populism instead the mistakes will be even greater.

And second, when he said something I absolutely agree with:

@eiohel As I say, when rationality and emotion coincide then there is change…..

The question that arises – of course – is why they don’t coincide.  And that was the issue I was really interested in; an issue which – in the event – I was unable to get across.
Both of us, I think, were being forced a little unhappily in the exchange into a simplistic definition of the right versus the left.  Painter’s rationality thus became a kind of synonym for the right; my emotional call to understanding and relating to how people felt a kind of shorthand for the left.

Of course, such labelling is very limiting and hardly constructive.  It sort of leads to the semi-sloganising I certainly fell into the trap of committing.

I do however strongly believe there is an issue here which needs to be explored.  If emotion in the Labour Party drags us so often away from Painter’s rationalism, surely we need to ask the question why.  It is not enough to say it is the case – and then accuse the left of being inward-looking and entirely to blame. 

The right, after all, was in command of millions of members, supporters and voters whilst Blair was in power – what then was their legacy; what then was their responsibility?  How did they deal with what people really felt?

And are you really telling me that Blair’s popularity wasn’t a case of emotional populism – at least on the very surface of the beast?


Simply put, I would find myself arguing – from the perspective of the critical left – that the left are where they are in Labour because the right have always divorced themselves from the personal impact on real people of their rationalism.  Labour’s left is therefore overcompensating heavily for the absolute lack of a trustworthy emotional connection between voters and right-tending leaders.  When the right do use their emotions, it is fabricated and calculating.  The voters love it; the pundits call it realism; the commentators lap it up; and the disjunction between left and right is thus consecrated in a wilful act of political abandon.

The only sustainable solution to the dichotomy between right and left is for the left to be allowed to let go of some of its attachment to fiery emotion.  And this can only happen when the controlling right learns to convince the rest of us that it really doesn’t believe its message-massaging rhetoric. 

What then would be our response on the left?  To work to move the wider political environment leftwards.  An absolute priority now in the light of the fact that the Tory right has been so good at doing the opposite. 

Yes.  Our leaders can only effectively operate within the habitat and DNA we generate at the grassroots.  If little by little we can convince the many constituencies in the country that some of what we believe in – on the NHS, on education, on crime, on immigration, on identity, on communities, on Europe and on the Union – is worth listening to and taking onboard in some gentle and persuasive way, perhaps in a generation it will be possible to chip away at that monolithic right-wing façade which bewitches so many climbers of greasy poles and excises their ability to remember the daily grind of poverty.

We can be truly emotional and truly rational – but only if right-wing Labour accepts its errors too.

And part of that acceptance must contemplate an admission that where we are now is not because of a failure of nerve at a crucial moment in the past decade on the part of Labour’s rational thinkers but rather – quite precisely – because of what, of everything they did, our erstwhile leaders believed they managed to do most right.

For what they believe they did most right is what has made Andrew Lansley’s NHS bill come almost into being; is what has brought about the slavery that is workfare; is what has led to the evil of benefits being cut for the benefit of the awfully rich …

So before you accuse the left of being inward-looking, examine how you yourselves created the conditions that have allowed such anger to flourish and justify itself.

And then maybe emotion will weigh rather more appropriately for you.

And then maybe we can begin to rationally talk.

Feb 192012

Paul says the following today:

Labour should be a boring party that chases votes around the centre ground.

He then goes on to underline his point thus (the bold is mine):

The job of the left is to drag that centre-ground leftwards. The big unions that finance Labour waste so much money paying for office space when they could be running campaigns that no politician can ignore.

So can you live with this as a definition of what our relationship to Labour should be?

I think I can.

And I think I might.

For the contrary – that is to say, dragging the centre-ground rightwards – is exactly what the mirror image of the left has successfully been doing for decades now.

Paul either accidentally or unerringly has stumbled across a formula – a magic bullet, if you like, of political positioning – which might finally allow us to learn to love Labour in very many of its manifestations.

At least enough to be able to work with it constructively without rejecting our principles in consonance with its less principled instincts.

Two open fronts then?

Why not?

The more, the healthier …

Perhaps we can’t consolidate our many disparate voices around reinventing a party which attracts a winning combination of voting constituencies.  Perhaps that does need to be left in the hands of the practised and practising professionals.  But what we can do, if we so choose, through our many and varied individual actions on the ground, is fight in as structured and organised a way as we are comfortable with – in order to re-engineer where that centre begins to naturally settle.

It will probably take a whole generation – but if we can let it be known it is our long-term objective, the practised and practising professionals may discover that sooner or later some of the pressure they are under to conform with right-wing ideologies begins to become less of an urgency than it might have been.

If we are prepared to let them massage the message and they are prepared to notice, understand and take advantage of our efforts to move the centre leftwards once more, then perhaps a movement built around Labour will one day be just as equally possible all over again.

It does of course depend on whether our politicos are prepared to enter a new kind of contract with what in traditional terms could be seen as a splintering progressive community.

Anyone with real power out there who understands what I’m trying to get at?

And who doesn’t actually believe in all this neoliberal obfuscation?

I wonder.

Feb 042012

Chris picks up on David Miliband’s deservedly resonant piece in New Statesman the other day in the following way:

If you ignore the mindless tittle-tattle, David Miliband’s New Statesman article raises a genuine issue: what should be the left’s attitude to the state? He writes:

The weaknesses of the “big society” should not blind us to the policy and political dead end of the “Big State”. The public won’t vote for the prescription that central government is the cure for all ills for the good reason that it isn’t.

As I pointed out in my own post on the subject, David Miliband has done everything since losing the leadership election to deserve our attention – at the very least in articles and interventions such as the one under discussion. 

I have to say there are very few things I now miss about Blairism – but one thing I definitely miss at the moment is that feeling that following trains of thought to unpredictable places had a natural place and right to exist in the Labour Party.  As an example of this, I saw Miliband (D) at an Intelligence Squared event last year – and I have to say whilst not entirely convinced by what he said, I was entranced by how he moved from one point to another.

And we need more of that eloquent intellectualism – not to use it to triangulate our enemies out of existence as in New Labour times (which is why such approaches have such a very bad name in our body politic at present) but, instead, to search out new ways of understanding our relationship to the universal themes of individual freedom, socialisation, survival and support of the strongest and the weakest – as well as the more traditional aspects of modern life which tend to occupy our leaders: economic and political organisation 

In any case, good politics is always more a case of reinterpretation over pure invention.  Blair wasn’t really original – he just gave the impression of being authentic.  And people value that – at least as a starting point.  It helps to build on the past, on previous foundations – something our most recent generations of politicians really haven’t cared to productively contemplate.

So what I do miss Blair for is that sense of authenticity and roundedness.  For that, I really do. 

I also agree with Chris that Miliband (D) should be allowed to be heard – mainly because if he is permitted his voice, the left will be on the road to a recovery of sorts.  Prioritising the bright and breezy generation of ideas over their dusty and technocratic classification is always a good sign.  And right now, we on the left need as many good signs as they can throw our way.

As Chris concludes:

Granted, David’s analysis and solutions here would be rather different from mine. But he is posing a good question. The tragedy is that, in our anti-political political culture, this question will be ignored.

It is up to us, then, to ensure that exactly this must not happen.

Feb 012012

This, from a Policy Network email I’ve just received, is jolly optimistic and I’m not sure whether it corresponds to an entirely measured assessment of where the left currently finds itself – but, anyhow, as a matter of record, at this miserable time of year, the narrative it weaves is certainly eye-catching and upbeat:

Something is happening on the political left. Having spent much of 2011 adrift in the shadows of missed opportunities, social democrats are back with a new self-assurance. Gone is the fear to take on vested interest and market domination. Instead, confidence has returned in the ability of centre-left politics to change society through the power of collective action.

Barack Obama has used his State of the Union speech to target the rich and corporations with too much power; French presidential front runner François Hollande has passionately taken aim at the world of finance; and UK Labour leader Ed Miliband can claim success in shifting national political debate onto the terrain of “responsible capitalism.”

A lasting paradigm shift beyond the economic orthodoxy of the past thirty years is as yet far from evident. But positive signs are emerging. For instance, public opinion in the US, once the great bastion of unbridled competition and admiration for wealth, appears to have shifted to widespread resentment of inequalities of income and wealth. This is echoed across Europe where austerity, unemployment and low growth are taking a heavy toll on living standards.

The inability of centre-right governments to deliver adds to the sense that social democrats have a new opportunity to be heard. In particular, the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone has opened up a new space for the centre-left to advocate a different, more credible and effective way out of the current mess. But this call for “responsible opposition”, especially in countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, France and Italy, speaks to the tightrope that all political parties must now walk: balancing long-term credibility with popular politics in straightened economic times.

The Swedish social democrats have begun the year by appointing a new leader for this tricky balancing act. 2012 will reveal whether this new found buoyancy is indeed a sign of a great awakening on the centre-left.

The same content with pertinent links can be found online at the moment here.

Jan 232012

That’s the issue to hand, isn’t it?  How to empower the poor.  The right obviously believe that what the poor really need is a good kick up the backside; and according to such theses, we need, as a society, to put the frighteners on them all so that – out of thin air – they will somehow manage to magic themselves better jobs, better schools, better housing and better lives.

On the other hand, the left are looking to implement ameliorative policies which, little by little, succeed in providing a better environment first – an environment which, so the argument goes, will lay the foundations for future success. 

The left say that without the environment, everything is unfair.  The right say that without the fear, nothing ever gets done.

But surely what we all need to do is sit down round that inevitable negotiating table – for a battle and war of sorts it has certainly been to date; and then proceed to ask the poor how they actually see the situation … how they would best like their lives to pan out.

Instead of grandly doing and undoing prejudiced generations of political guesswork, how about we truly empowered the very people at the centre of it all?  Give them the control and hold over the very levers of power.  Directly.  Without prejudice. 

Without political grandstanding.

Give them – for the first time ever, that is – both the right and holy duty to actually decide what gets down, how and why.

And in the process, remove both fear and amelioration from the equation that is poverty on this planet.

Jan 232012

There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Coalition thinking which the left is failing to clearly define; an unenunciated contradiction which – as a consequence – is serving to confuse us all.

On the one hand, Cameron & Co don’t believe in a benefits society and – instead – claim to believe in what we might term an initiative society.  On the other hand, however, their sponsors are massive corporate institutions – accustomed to a ready supply of wage slaves who know their place and are accustomed to staying put.  So whilst the government suggests in its spin we should all become entrepreneurs, the reality is that in its policy it is orientated towards making labour cheaper and more plentiful – that is to say, anything but entrepreneurial. 

If my thesis is right, the benefits mentality isn’t even primarily engendered by the state but, rather, by the millions upon millions of workers who spend their lives ensconced in a corporate cocoon of bonuses, pensions, career ladders and perks.

And if that’s not a benefits society, I really don’t know what is.

In a perfect Coalition world, what the Tories and their supporters are looking to achieve – then – is a) for no one to claim benefits; b) for the privileged to maintain their position as entrepreneurs at the top of the hierarchical pyramid; and c) for the wage slaves to earn just enough to keep them content, politically neutered and docile – as well as out of the horrified public view which some mainstream media, even under such a regime of political duplicity, are still currently prepared to contemplate.

And until the left is able to reveal this reality in a punchy and convincing way, the dissonance created by naked “do as I say, not as I do” politics – visible primarily on the right end of the spectrum but with an increasingly hearty support on the left – will continue to leave the progressives falling violently between two stools

Two stools which are allowing the Coalition to get away with ruddy murder.

Jan 142012

This tweet which came my way just now lays bare how corrupting and irrelevant to ordinary people’s needs political parties have now become:

As @umairh said the other day “politicians are cowering middle managers for a growing global plutocracy” Politics must change Not the party

Meanwhile, Chris explains clearly what he thinks is wrong on the separate matter of ideology in film funding:

However, when an intelligent man says something so silly, something must be at work. That something is ideology. What we see in Cameron’s remark is an extreme manifestation of managerialism – a belief that something unpredictable (the public’s film tastes) can in fact be foreseen in advance by experts in government.

And he concludes thus:

In this sense, managerialism is a truly powerful ideology, as its blinds its possessors to the fact that it is (to say the least) a partial and contestable view of the world.

I would go further.  Managerialism, as thus defined, and I am pleased to stumble across such an understandable definition so unmumblingly phrased, is a prime example of an ideology which claims to be outside ideology.  Blair and New Labour’s magpie-like Third Way – extraordinary button-pressers who managed to convert us all into robotic responders to the encouragements and even impositions of nudging policy-making and statements – are in this sense true sons and daughters of capitalism: the prime anti-ideological construct in all our societies.

And all, also, clearly prime examples where politicians choose the cowardly road of not taking obvious ownership for re-engineering entire societies.  A lesson which Cameron has learned rather well (more on similar lines from myself here).

As the tweet above so significantly indicates: “Politics must change Not the party”.  If Labour can only win elections by reproducing exactly the same relationships between wealth and poverty the Tories are so astutely pursuing – and in such a coordinated way – we have to decide whether the problem is our political leaders or, actually, the system within which they are obliged to operate.

Don’t blame the leaders, then; blame the systemic duties, constructs, processes and procedures those at the very top have become so accustomed to forcing upon us.

For the Left’s leaders have their hands tied just as much as any wage slave out there.

Which is why it’s now time for politics – not political parties – to be in our intellectual crosshairs.

Jan 032012

There are some quite superlatively excellent evidence-based blogs out there.  From the precise idiosyncrasies of Though Cowards Flinch to the focussed pedagogy of Stumbling and Mumbling; from the persistent ideologies of Norman to the breadth of vision of Liberal Conspiracy; from the self-proclaimed champion of the genre Left Foot Forward to the occasionally explosive but always clearly fashioned coherences of Shuggy … all in all, these bloggers and many more I have neglected to mention this morning strive to pursue logical trains of thoughts with evidence clearly to hand.

Yet one of the plagues of our modern society and Western civilisation – a plague which has led to recent white-collar crime, economic misery and an emptying of the public coffers in the interests of a painful socialism for the rich and already wealthy (a socialism which I am afraid a lost generation will have to end up paying for) – is precisely the kind of Chinese walls of specialisation which evidence-based blogging is simply one more unhappy example of.

The whole financial services sector, built as it is on the backs of heavily corporate structures (and their corresponding intensely separate divisions of labour), failed to have that keen overview of its highly specialised areas of functioning which might otherwise have avoided the disastrous decline of its solvency and effectiveness.  And the very fact that this is a paradigm for the rest of Western civilisation – those fragile links between complex machines which serve to make our society function so tenuously – doesn’t seem to have struck anyone usefully in power for the moment: everyone continues blithely on in their corresponding silos of ingenuity, as if nothing untoward had happened in the last five years – or, perhaps, as if anything that might have happened was nothing more than a simply unpredictable and unpreventable Act of God.

And so to our dearly beloved evidence-based blogging.  Whilst incredibly perceptive, accurate and effective on the terms it cares to perform, no one can argue with the following reality: all the time, it is operating in the context of the agenda the right has been setting for years.  In specialising in the process of rebutting any and every right-wing incoherence, it leaves little time to re-imagine the future in any other way.

What we are missing, then, from the modern didactic left-wing landscape, is a space where the futile and barren puerilities of our political right are left to suppurate in their own sour juices; for by choosing to rebut each and every one of them, and by a contamination and pollution through an almost physical contact, we have become as futile, barren and sour as they have shown themselves to be.

And if we continue to specialise in a detailed deconstructing of the enemy, whilst this will allow us to have the intellectual satisfaction of preaching the truth to our converted, the future which should surely belong to the imagineers in society will revert to the conservatives and their capacity to set a course of inimitable and tragic thought.

However two-dimensional, lacking in creativity and ingenuity that course might be.

Perhaps it is not time to discard evidence-based blogging entirely.  But what we do need to add to the mix is an editorial mission to combine reactivity with pro-activity; reaction with action.

Not a hoary old desire or instinct to triangulate the opposition out of existence but a truly intellectual impulse to pursue a series of better truths: a mission to make the world a better place for everyone who treasures coexistence; an ideology which consciously accepts that to progress, certain ways of thinking must be visibly disregarded.

Not for the first time in history does being right mean being wrong.

It’s time for us now to recognise and accept this reality.  As well as, in the light of such recognition, act in a coherent consequence.

Even as our moral philosophies have – to date – encouraged us to respect almost everyone.


I saw Brian de Palma’s “The Untouchables” last night – and wonder if its message is weighing heavily on my soul today.  Chicago in the Thirties was an evil place of physical danger.  Western civilisation in the early 21st century is simply an awful place of morally unacceptable decisions.

No comparison, right?

No comparison.

Nov 252011

Sunny, quite reasonably, makes the following points:

My concern is that the Labour party (along with other left orgs) is incoherent on the Eurozone crisis.

Here’s what I’d like to see:
- a clear narrative on what was behind the crisis, feeding into a broader narrative;
- where the Conservatives are making a mistakes on approaching the crisis;
- what needs to change across Europe, going forward. What regulation is needed to ensure banks are not exposed like this again? (this is a bank debt crisis, not a sovereign debt crisis)

When (if?) the crash hits full force, Labour need to be sharpening their narrative not developing it from scratch. Maybe it’s out there already, buried in the mountain of press releases on the Labour website.

Maybe it’s just me who can’t see it. But frankly, I don’t see much discussion about what is likely to be the biggest crisis for the last 80 years.

I think, however, the issue goes much wider than left-wing organisations without too much foresight.  As I pointed out back at the beginning of September:

This morning I attended a business briefing conducted by the Bank of England’s Agent for the West Midlands.  The overview given of the latest Inflation Report was cogent, well argued and intelligible.  The questions, from sensible business-people, were measured and contained – so it was that everyone behaved themselves, as of course was expected.

And yet … and yet … questions of a different nature hang in the air.  No one is promising anything; no one expects anything to be promised.

An abyss, or not, is perceived so very genteelly. 

And so it is that there seems to be an inability by those at the top, at least at the top of this pyramid, to transmit any sensation that their responsibilities go beyond sitting down every month with a blank sheet of paper and planning the actions for the following month.  Everything else, apart from this monumentally important but monumentally limited act, is subservient to the actions of politicians and their cohorts of advisers.

At least, we may observe, in the field of Bank of England economics.  In fact, even the eurozone crisis does not seem to be factored in as such.  Why?  Because, like other recent shocks (energy, VAT hikes and the like), it is by its nature unpredictable.  So let us proceed – and proceed blithely (for that is the adverb that comes soonest to my mind).

And do not dare to express a political judgement, for that is the job of our political masters and mistresses.

And when politicians, on all sides, either refuse or are unable to have a considered opinion on a matter as complex and profoundly dangerous as the eurozone crisis, the technocrats simply follow suit.

As I point out, it was the Bank of England’s own Agent for the West Midlands who almost proclaimed the virtue of not factoring in the manifestly unpredictable.  And so if the most important financial body and instrument of our economy decides to have virtually no opinion on an issue Sunny describes thus …

I don’t really know how to say this in any other way: the Eurozone is in the midst of a long, drawn-out train crash of epic proportions. Follow it closely enough and you can almost see every sheet of metal rip like paper and huge objects smash into each other with terrifying force.

… how on earth, then, can anyone else care to make sense of what’s going on?

The problem isn’t just left-wing organisations.  Unfortunately, it goes far wider than that.  The problem is our own damned stupid legacy of proud island race. Used to seeing Europe as the Continent and not a frame we find ourselves part of, we happily use it as the goal of the vast majority of our products and services without thinking it important to play as big a political part as possible.

This is abdication of all sensible government, of all sensible politicking.  Here, our politicians – everywhere – have failed us quite dramatically. To paraphrase Sunny’s headline: what in God’s name were our politicians thinking when they decided you could do business with Europe without doing politics?

And it won’t only be the whole of the left that will find itself put back a generation.  It’ll be the whole of a generation … and more besides.