Posts Tagged ‘politics’

I don’t really know what I’m doing here“.

Irrespective of how much money he was on, it was a bit much to make Roy Hodgson conduct a press conference the day after he’d resigned as England manager. What was all that about? His legitimacy evaporated when his exciting young players failed to beat (or even compete against) Iceland. He forfeited the authority due to him by virtue of his office when he read out his resignation statement at a press conference after the final whistle. And yet the very next day he was seemingly required to face the press once more in his capacity as…well, no one was quite sure.

It was a strange coda to a curious chapter in England’s footballing history, and very much in keeping with one of the weirder weeks in England’s and the UK’s political history. After all, the day after Hodgson briefed the press as a resigned England manager, David Cameron took Prime Minister’s Questions as a resigned PM across the dispatch box from a very much not resigned Leader of the Opposition whose parliamentary party had just rejected him 172-40 in a vote of no confidence and whose Shadow Cabinet had pretty much all quit in protest at his leadership.

It seems to me that the concept of mandate is central to the current power struggles in the Conservative and Labour parties. In this post I want to explore the different types of mandate being claimed by the various actors in our contemporary drama and suggest some possible ways forward for Labour and for the UK in its relationship with the EU. Executive summary: some people are going to have to grow up.

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The first rule of Question Time is “don’t watch Question Time”. The second rule of Question Time is “don’t go on Twitter during Question Time”. Despite observing these rules assiduously I couldn’t help but hear about the key moment of this week’s EU referendum special. Seemingly channeling Michael Gove’s recent claim that the people of Britain “have had enough of experts“, a member of the Question Time audience attacked the Prime Minister for “relying on experts” to make his case for remaining in the European Union.

Imagine! Those dastardly experts with their insidious expertise – who would want to listen to them?

But perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. For a start, the audience member was actually making a quite different point to the one assumed by his appalled Twitter critics. If you click on the link above and take the time to listen to him he is actually arguing that the Prime Minister’s choice of expert – in this case the Governor of the Bank of England – has been proven wrong in the past. The man was engaging in critical thinking about the provenance of knowledge. No wonder he went down so badly on social media.

More broadly, I think the Leave campaign’s perceived rejection of expertise illuminates a key tension in our ideas about democracy. In this post I want to explore the idea of common sense, and consider its relationship to the EU referendum.

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One year and one day ago I published the first entry on this blog, a long piece about the nature of democracy. There are sections of the essay that I no longer recognise and would not now defend (it’s been a long year), but I quite enjoyed the bit about the Labour Party.

I sketched a brief roman â clef about what might happen to someone who joins the party for good reasons, only to become engulfed in partizan point-scoring for the rest of their days.

Over the past year it has become all too clear that this phenomenon is far from being unique to Labour, particularly in Scotland. But a year after I started this blog, and on the day of Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership election, I want to revisit the relationship between political ideas and the party machine. It seems to me that the election of Corbyn might do some good here, albeit not in the way his supporters perhaps imagine.

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In my opinion, much of what passes for public discourse these days can be characterised as antipolitics. In this post I’m going to deconstruct four images from modern life, which bring the shape and definition of antipolitics into focus. I’ll start with an image from British politics, before narrowing my focus to Scotland and then to Glasgow. I’ll then finish up by looking at a familiar trope from the world of social media. In the process I hope to convince you that much of the recent public activity people highlight as exciting and positive is actually the very opposite of politics.

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Something about the General Election outcome has been nagging away at me since Friday morning. Something about the unexpected starkness and decisiveness of the result.

If you’ve ever discussed politics in the pub you’ll no doubt have found yourself entering the realm of speculation. What if this happens in the future? What if that had happened in the past?

I think the 2015 result looks like something you might dream up after a few pints. It looks like a counterfactual.

What if the SNP win basically all seats in Scotland? What if Cameron actually wins a majority? What if UKIP win 4 million votes and almost no seats? What if the Labour vote flatlines?

You may remember the Sliding Doors, a film which imagines two entirely different outcomes based on whether someone does or does not make it into a crowded Tube carriage. This election is a real life Sliding Doors moment.

As Labour try to pick up the pieces of their disastrous result, the party needs to see the clarity of its new circumstances as a blessing. Labour didn’t make it onto the train – so we’re all now actually in that alternative universe in which the Tories won outright and the SNP dismantled Labour’s Scottish power base.

So how did we get here? As ever, it was through a combination of accident and design; through a series of Sliding Doors moments, all of which might have gone differently. In this post I want to explore some other turning points that helped create our new reality.

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One of the features of the 2015 General Election has been the attention paid to parties in what we might once have seen as the second tier of parliamentary importance. In the likely absence of a clear majority for any party, speculation abounds on the potential for the Lib Dems and/ or the DUP to act as Westminster kingmakers, or for the SNP to adopt the intriguing role of king-slayers.

But there is a further tier of electoral activity that has, understandably, been somewhat deprioritised during this election campaign: the independent candidates and fringe parties. In this post I want to share my love for the mixture of mavericks, seers and occasional bastards who, for me, embody the true democratic spirit.

You can tell a lot about an election from the patterns of participation in it by outsiders, and I think #GE2015 is no different. Interested? Read on. (more…)

I don’t have much of a track record as a tipster – the horse I backed in last weekend’s Grand National exceeded my expectations simply by not dying – but even I feel emboldened to hazard that the SNP might do quite well in next month’s General Election.

The polls suggest the SNP will win a majority of Scottish votes and almost all available seats. On the face of it this looks like a deep political consensus, but in reality I don’t remember our political culture ever feeling so divided.

In this post I explore post-referendum polarisation and unpick some of the myths that have come to be accepted as reality by large swathes of the electorate.  (more…)