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The Saga of the Fighter

Tony Blair: Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff edge (Tony Blair, The Guardian, 8/13/15)

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation. If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even intrigued. But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they stand a hope of winning – the public mood will turn to anger. They will seek to punish us. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of our self-indulgence.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new. This is literally the most laughable of all the propositions advanced by his camp. Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons.

Even more so today, they do not think their challenges can be met by old-fashioned state control as the way to personal or social empowerment; they do not think breaking up Nato unilaterally is sensible; and they realise that a party without a serious deficit-reduction plan is not in these times a serious contender to govern them.

What is Jeremy Corbyn’s programme for government? (BBC, 8/14/15)

Mr Corbyn has also said he would consider introducing a “maximum wage” to cap the pay of top executives and he would renationalise the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Bank of England would be allowed to print money – People’s Quantitative Easing – for “new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects”. Mr Corbyn says this would create “a million skilled jobs and genuine apprenticeships” with knock-on boosts for the supply chain. {…}

Mr Corbyn has called for a “radically different international policy”, based on “political and not military solutions”. In the Middle East, Mr Corbyn says you have to “talk to everybody” to secure peace. He would look to withdraw from Nato and is opposed to air strikes against so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. {…}

A National Education Service, following the NHS model, would be established. State-funded academies and free schools would be forced to return to local authority control. Mr Corbyn would look to end public schools’ charitable status, although he accepts this would be complicated and may not happen immediately. Tuition fees would be scrapped, at a cost of £10bn, and replaced with grants. His 10-point plan also pledges universal childcare. {…}

Rent controls in places like central London would be introduced to help families on benefits to pay their rent. Mr Corbyn has also called for the right-to-buy scheme, which allowed tenants in council and social housing to purchase their homes at a discount, to apply to those living in privately-rented accommodation, although it’s not quite clear how that would work. By 2025, he is promising “decent homes for all in public and private sectors”. {…}

Britain’s railway network would be renationalised. He is opposed to the HS2 scheme linking London with the north of England, claiming it would turn northern cities into “dormitories for London businesses”. {…}

Energy companies would be renationalised. Mr Corbyn has said he would be “much happier” with a “regulated, publicly run service delivering energy supplies”. There would be a moratorium on fracking, which Mr Corbyn has called “dangerous to the environment”.

How Jeremy Corbyn became the Labour frontrunner (The Economist, 9/10/15)

BRITAIN’S opposition Labour Party will announce the result of its leadership election on September 12th. Both the polls and the betting odds suggest that Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran of Labour’s far left and a record-breaking opponent of his own party in parliament, will win. That threatens a damaging row. Only 20% or so of Labour MPs are thought to want Mr Corbyn as leader. Having lost badly earlier this year under an unpopular, leftish leader, Ed Miliband, they are united in not wanting to repeat the mistake. So how did he become the frontrunner?

Mr Corbyn’s path so far has been smoothed by a series of accidents. He entered the race at the last minute, scraping half of his 36 nominations from fellow MPs who had said they would not themselves vote for him, but were uninspired by the rest of the field and wanted a more lively “conversation” among the party. Unexpectedly, that conversation turned out to be almost exclusively about Mr Corbyn, who surged ahead among the wider party “selectorate” of party and union members. That is one accident. Another is that, as a result of new election rules introduced last year, MPs are now largely powerless to stop him. The new system abolished Labour’s electoral college, whereby three groups—MPs, unions and party members—all counted in equal measure towards the final result (see chart). This time, all votes are counted individually, which means the MPs’ votes are just 232 among some 550,000 in total. Nomination being the only power MPs still have, using it to nominate Mr Corbyn now seems especially frivolous.

Marx admirer Corbyn elected UK opposition Labour leader (Reuters, 9/12/15)

Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran left-winger who professes an admiration for Karl Marx, was elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party on Saturday, a victory that may make a British EU exit more likely and which one former Labour prime minister has said could leave their party unelectable.

Greeted by cheers from supporters in the room and hailed by radicals across Europe, Corbyn’s triumph opened up the prospect of deep splits within Labour with some fearing he will repel voters with radical policies that include unilateral nuclear disarmament, nationalization and wealth taxes.

“Things can and they will change,” Corbyn, who when he entered the contest was a rank outsider, said in his acceptance speech after taking 59.5 percent of votes cast, winning by a far bigger margin than anyone had envisaged.

“I say thank you in advance to us all working together to achieve great victories, not just electorally for Labour, but emotionally for the whole of our society to show we don’t have to be unequal, it doesn’t have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable,” the gray-haired, bearded 66-year-old said.

Labour frontbenchers rule out serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet (The Guardian, 9/12/15)

A victorious Jeremy Corbyn vowed “things can and will change” as he was handed the clearest electoral mandate of any Labour leader, but he also faces the challenge of forming a shadow cabinet after at least seven members of the party’s frontbench indicated they would not serve under his leadership.

Yvette Cooper led the group of shadow cabinet members declaring they could not serve under his leadership in the hours after it emerged that the MP for Islington North had won 60% of the vote in the first round, winning in every part of the electoral college including among party members.

Their decision is a risk, because if Corbyn has a political honeymoon, they may find themselves marginalised in a party otherwise united behind its new leader, who won a slightly higher share of the vote in the first round than Tony Blair did in 1994. {…}

The new leader now faces the task of constructing a broad-based shadow cabinet, pulling out of a major TV interview with Andrew Marr on the BBC on Sunday to start the process. Within two hours it was clear that Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds, Tristram Hunt, Chris Leslie and Liz Kendall as well as Cooper would not serve under his leadership.

Corbyn Quiet As He Forms ‘Top Class’ Team (Sky News, 9/13/15)

The immediate resignations of a string of senior figures underlines the task Mr Corbyn faces uniting the party behind his anti-war, anti-austerity platform.

After his resounding victory in the party’s leadership contest, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Shabana Mahmood ruled out being part of his frontbench team.

Shadow chancellor Chris Leslie and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna are also expected to go.

Len McCluskey, boss of the UK’s biggest union Unite and key Corbyn backer, says he is not concerned about the resignations.

He told Sky News the new team will be “top class” and “maybe the best we’ve had in a long time”.

“There’s no need for any of us to lose sleep over this,” he said.

Yes, Jeremy Corbyn actually is the most dangerous man in British politics (Alex Massie, The Spectator, 9/13/15)

No, Nicola Sturgeon does not have much reason to be worried about Jeremy Corbyn. But the rest of the country does. To borrow from the tabloids, Corbyn is The Most Dangerous Man in Britain because, though no-one in London seems to appreciate this, he could be the man whose leadership of the Labour party leads to the end of Britain as we know it.

Now I know people in England have tired of Scots banging on about the constitution. And I know that some things don’t have to be viewed through the prism of the constitution. Nevertheless, it’s a much more important issue than anything anyone says about trains. Or the health service.

Corbyn tells the Herald today that he’s not a Unionist, he’s a socialist which, frankly, does not come as much of a surprise. Everything we know about Corbyn’s worldview leads one to suppose that, had he been in Scotland last year, he’d have voted in favour of independence. That, after all, is what many, perhaps even most, of his fellow-travellers on the far-left did. Not, of course, that Corbyn has demonstrated any interest in this subject, one of, I remind you, considerable importance, at any time in the past. His constitutional thoughts have been confined to a long-standing support for a United Ireland.

In any case, the problem – for Corbyn and for Labour – is not Scotland, it is England. And the Union can be lost in England just as surely as it can be in Scotland. Even now, this is something of which too few people in London seem aware.

Jeremy Corbyn: is he really unelectable as prime minister? (The Guardian, 9/12/15)

1. “Leftwing” is a catch-all label that covers many aspects of Corbyn’s politics, some of which are more popular than others. Corbyn is happy to call himself a socialist, and no one has objected to him being called leftwing. It is not always a helpful phrase, however, and his supporters have objected to him being described as far left because it implies he is extreme, and at the margins of public opinion.

In some respects he probably is, but in others he isn’t. His support for expansionary economic policies has more mainstream support than is commonly assumed and some of his ideas, such as nationalising the railways – a policy often dismissed as irresponsible lefty wishful thinking – have overwhelming popular support.

2. “Leftwingers” can win, but it does not happen often. The Blairite rule that Labour loses general elections when it heads left has generally been true in recent years, but Ken Livingstone offers Corbyn some hope, as he said himself this morning. Dismissed as being on the lunatic fringe, he won two elections as London mayor and ran the capital very effectively.

It is interesting to speculate on what would have happened if Corbyn had stood for the mayoral nomination. While his chances of becoming prime minister may seem remote, given the support he is attracting now, if he had entered that contest he would probably be a dead cert to replace Boris Johnson next year. {…}

4. A lot depends on how well a leader can change public opinion, and as yet there is little evidence that Corbyn will be a great persuader. He has, of course, had a remarkable election victory, but that does not seem to be because he has changed minds. As he has suggested himself in interviews, it is more because he became an outlet for voters fed up with the Labour establishment who had at least found a candidate who represented their views.

He has shown little interest in what a Labour leader might have to say to win over voters who don’t already agree with him. Indeed, his victory speech on Saturday was notable in that it contained almost nothing aimed at appealing to the classic, middle England floating voter.

5. Corbyn’s “expand the electorate” strategy may be flawed. Asked how he could win an election with his policies, Corbyn has highlighted the large number of votes Labour could win by mobilising a leftish coalition of people who either did not register or turn out in 2015, or who voted for other progressive parties because they found Labour uninspiring.

It is true that there are plenty of votes in this pool, but a Fabian analysis looked at this strategy in some detail and concluded that the prospects of it providing a route to electoral victory were bleak.

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157 thoughts on “The Saga of the Fighter

    • Well, his work was largely done. He helped make Labour far closer to the Tories, legitimizing many of their actions.

      And now he’s in a well-earned and cushy ‘retirement’, where he cashes in bribes gets paid large sums of money for doing squat.

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      • There isn’t always a political solution available to international problems. This doesn’t mean that there is a military solution but many times there isn’t any solution what so ever.

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        • Added to that, I think a “military solution” is a “political solution” in many senses of the latter term. That said, I think I know what Corbyn is getting at, and at least on the surface it sounds right. But I hear “political” vs. “military” bandied about so much that my pedants’ mind sometimes gets annoyed.

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          • I know what Corbyn is getting at to but it is based on the fallacy that deep down everybody is rational, kind of wants the same thing, and through debate and negotiation we can reach a settlement that basically leaves everybody happy.

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                  • Take the Falklands War. It cost the UK about two billion dollars; the population of the Falklands at the time as about two thousand. The UK could have paid each Falklander a million dollars to relocate, sold the islands to Argentina, and come out ahead by the purchase price as well as the lives of over 250 troops. But that wouldn’t have been honorable.

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                    • The residents of the Falkland Islands did not want to move and saw themselves as British though. We could argue that paying one side to move somewhere else would be a much more practical solution in any ethnic or national conflict over land. Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, and more could be solved this way. People tend to get very emotionally attached to the place they see as home though.

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                      • I’m sure there were estimates available about how much each day of war cost, figuring combat pay, fuel usage, ammunition expended, medical costs, etc. The war lasted two months, which seems like a reasonable estimate.

                        Of course, now they’d have had to multiply two numbers.

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                        • I can think of at least one current situation in which spending a massive amount of money to relocate some people (much more than 2,000, but still perhaps doable) could solve some pretty nasty problems and probably save money in the long run. I doubt if the principals would go for it, however.

                          None of which means it’s a bad idea, or that paying the Falklanders to move would have been a bad idea. It’s mostly just a reflection on the likelihood of that happening. I doubt if Thatcher could’ve done that without her party voting no confidence and forcing an election, or compelling her to surrender leadership of the party. Not that I know enough about UK politics to speak knowledgeably about such things. Maybe Brit could tell us what he thinks?

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                          • It was a long time ago, and history has been rewritten a few times since then. And I was ever so much younger then. But here goes!

                            The Labour party manifesto of 1983 is known as the longest suicide note in history. Withdrawl from the EU*, scrapping nuclear weapons, wearing donkey jackets to the Cenotaph, the list goes on. But despite the Labour party having taken a definite left turn, for the first part of the new Tory government’s first term in office, the Conservatives were not popular. A fetishisation of restricting physical money in circulation*** aimed at getting inflation back under control had plunged the country into recession and people were not happy.

                            The Falklands War changed all that. It smothered political debate and establish Margaret Thatcher as a strong leader. I think she saw and took her opportunity – just as the junta ruling Argentina had invaded to shore up their own failing support back home. Most of what we think of today as “Thatcherism” only really emerged after the 1983 election.

                            Without the invasion, I suspect we would have negotiated a handover of the Islands – there had been some discussions, and it was later Thatcher who peacefully agreed the handing back of Hong Kong to China**** and whose Nationality Acts restricted rights of British nationality and entry for citizens of colonies.

                            But to be honest, and leaving aside all political calculations – once the Falklands had been invaded, I don’t think there was a serious option other than fighting to retake them. It is simply not possible for a state to just shrug its shoulders when invaded if it wants to maintain itself as a serious power in the world. The cost of fighting might be more than it is “worth”. But once you start paying the Danegeld, you’ll never get rid of the Dane.

                            So to your point, Gabriel Convoy, yes, Thatcher would never have survived if she’d meekly let Argentina take the Falklands. But more to the point, I don’t think any leader of any UK party would have survived that.

                            *Yes, the EU was seen as the “Bosses’ Europe”. Times have changed as the Overton window has moved rightwards. Almost as fascinating a story as what happened in Scotland is how the single market reforms aiming to remove differences in employment law which might distort the single market are now seen as restrictions on the free market/vital protections for workers (delete according to political preference). Hence the left now tends pro-European (the pro-business side because single market, the pro-worker side because European mean more worker friendly than UK and thus EU law offers more than UK might left to its own devices) and the right anti-European (because the Europeans are all foreigners with strange concepts such as human rights, which of course is totally un-British**)
                            **The ahistoricity of which is just mind-blowing. The European Convention on Human Rights, derided by the anti-European right, was actually a British plot to impose British fair play on those continentals.
                            *** There is a Stainless Steel Rat novel that refers to an ideology “known as monetarism that destroyed whole civilisations.”
                            ****I know it was different – the lease was up.

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              • “It’s more based on opposing the fallacy that there are military solutions to every problem and that they should be the first resort.”

                Seconded. The standard counter of picking some case where there was a military solution which should have been used is analogous to a doctor who’s only remedy is euthanasia.

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              • I’d argue that every diplomatic problem has a military solution. What is rare are cases where that military solution is to optimal one. I’d further argue that even in the rare case where the military solution is the optimal one, it should be recognized that it is, at best, the least bad solution, rather than a good one.

                Basically, a military solution is evidence that either one side of the discussion has royally screwed the diplomatic pooch, or one side is not actually interested in a non-military solution.

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        • It reminds me of Adam Smith’s chapters on war in The Wealth of Nations. He was opposed to government borrowing because he believed it would make waging war too easy and voters would be too supportive of wars if they didn’t have to pay for them up front.

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              • I’m still curious as to how much support there would have been if the war had been sold honestly.

                “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the Inspectors currently crawling all over Iraq are reporting the only WMDs they can find are the totally useless remnants of the stuff we sold them. And really, we’re going to war here because Wolfie and his boys say it’ll be cheap and easy and basically make us look like tough guys. Trudging around mountaintops in Afghanistan just doesn’t let us use our big, impressive stuff enough and we need to show the world we’re still boss”.

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                • It was the Pottery Barn Doctrine that did us in.

                  It would have been easy for us to go in an topple the gummint.

                  To go in and recreate the society would have required colonialism.

                  Which just will not do in the 21st Century.

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                      • From the Guardian, 10/14/2001:

                        President George Bush rejected as “non-negotiable” an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan.

                        The Taliban also said they’d round him up and turn him over to a third-party nation if the US presented evidence linking him to 9/11 … aaaaand! …. stopped the bombing. Dubya responded by saying “turn [bin Laden] over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over.” He added, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”.

                        So, basically, we were already bombing Afghanistan and turning him over was offered leverage to stop the bombing, an offer the US rejected. Which is about the exact opposite of what you just said.

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                              • Why yes, as a matter of fact, more than one, and at some point or another all of them. On the other hand, I do not pretend to have maintained ideological consistency over the course of my life.

                                There are wars or other military actions that I have both opposed and supported, or that I would have supported at one point in my life, but have opposed at another. There also have been wars or other military actions that I opposed or have judged ill-conceived, or whose necessity or justification I have doubted, but which, once started, I considered better won than lost. Nor can I pretend to have held the same view of every war or other military action at every point prior, during, and after.

                                Eventually, I stopped approaching such questions as though my support or opposition mattered to anyone, or in any practical sense in relation to whatever war decisions, anyway, and I became more interested in investigating the historical over-determination of military conflicts, and the assumptions, preferences, and intentions underlying representative statements or positions for or against.

                                (Incidentally, I’ve never seen from Chris a basis for supporting the American intervention against the Barbary pirates, and I suspect that, on balance and in consistency, he would have had to oppose the American Revolution itself.)

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                          • When we initially asked, Afghanistan asked for evidence. We refused, repeated the demand, then started bombing. Until we were bombing, they responded to our demand with one request: evidence. When we started bombing, they added the request that we stop bombing.

                            The Taliban were, and are, a repressive, illiberal group who use violence to wield power backed by religious claims, and they are especially bad in their violent repression of women. This, and the lack of international recognition it produced, along with what essentially amounted to carte blanche in much of the world’s eyes, is the only reason we got away with ignoring their perfectly reasonable demand.

                            We can debate about whether a decade and a half of war and terror in Afghanistan is better or worse than Taliban rule, but what we did was just only in a world in which might makes right, or one in which every humanitarian crisis warrants military intervention. I know most of the supporters of that war don’t believe the latter. I’m afraid many implicitly believe the former.

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                                • It’s not clear, by the way, that the Taliban had the ability to turn bin Laden over. Not only were they already fighting a protracted war in one corner of their country (against war lords we ultimately helped to topple them), but bin Laden occupied a relatively sparsely populated and difficult to access area with a force that even we had trouble with once they took to the hills. What were they gonna do that we couldn’t? Ask him nicely?

                                  I suspect the best they could have done is told him to leave, at which point he and his followers take to the hills and move back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan while we hunt for them.

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                                  • “I suspect the best they could have done is told him to leave, at which point he and his followers take to the hills and move back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan while we hunt for them.”

                                    Which, please note, was precisely what happened after we told them to f*ck off.

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                              • It’s tough to say, though their repeated attempts to compromise suggest that they may have. It certainly suggests that it would have been worth trying, if only to avoid a protracted conflict (even at the time there was talk of a conflict in Afghanistan potentially lasting many years). We chose not to even try, and therefore to initiate what turned out to be a very, very long and bloody conflict.

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                              • I think the question is, would the Taliban have accepted any evidence we offered?

                                The issue isn’t their acceptance of the evidence (as sufficient, say), but rather the failure of the US to offer any. Under the AUMF (and I’m working from memory here!) the US congress authorized the use of military force against nations known to harbor terrorist cells linked to 9/11 and AQ. So the failure to provide evidence amounted to a unilateral and non-negotiable determination that the Afghani government was guilty of aiding terrorists, a claim that was then, and still is to some degree, disputed. For example, back then there was much debate about whether or not the Taliban were actually aiding OBL given their lack of resources and the remote location OBL was hiding in (not to mention whether or not the Taliban gummint had the capabilities necessary to actually capture OBL in any event).

                                So whether or not the Taliban accepted the evidence isn’t nearly as intersting an issue (or question) as the failure of the US to provide any. It turned what would have been a (potentially!) legitimate use of military force into an act of pure aggression.

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                                • And to add to that a bit: part of my anger about the whole mess, and why I misremembered the timeline but remembered so clearly what I linked to above – Bush rejecting the Afghani offer to turn over OBL if the the US stops droppin bombs – is that the demand to turn over OBL amounted to a constructed pretext for invasion. The demands were non-negotiable and the bombings will continue till morale improves.

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                                  • It turned what would have been a (potentially!) legitimate use of military force into an act of pure aggression.

                                    And

                                    is that the demand to turn over OBL amounted to a constructed pretext for invasion.

                                    Precisely! The people wanted blood, so we gave it to them, regardless of whether the blood we were shedding would make us safer.

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                                    • “Precisely! The people wanted blood, so we gave it to them, regardless of whether the blood we were shedding would make us safer.”

                                      IMHO, that’s why a lot of Americans supported the Iraq War.
                                      They had killed some of Us, and we must kill a bunch of Them to teach them a lesson. It doesn’t really matter which Them we kill, and those Mountain Them are not satisfactory (and the Saudi Them who *did* support OBL have too much oil to bomb).

                                      Key: Them is code for a word starting with ‘n—–‘; Us is code for a word starting with ‘whi–‘.

                                      It’s perhaps unfair of me, but the standard I use to judge if people had that motivation is to see what their reaction was as a war of ‘liberation’ turned into a bloodbath.

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                                • Isn’t letting a terrorist and his minions hide in your country giving them aid? I think it is. If the Taliban didn’t have control over OBL or couldn’t get him then why ask for evidence of his guilt? Just say upfront “we don’t have him.” Becasue it was a ploy to see how much stuff, money, etc. they could get out of us. They misjudged us and paid the price.

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                                • I’m curious, given that the Taliban weren’t even the legitimate gov’t why should we have given in to their demands of proof or barginied with them? Or they could have turned him over to a third party like the Swiss or maybe submitted the issue to the international court of justice?

                                  As for saying that “It turned what would have been a (potentially!) legitimate use of military force into an act of pure aggression,” that’s just BS.

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                          • And we were already bombing Afghanistan at that point, yes? So notme’s logic is backwards, even on your account.

                            Alsotoo, the initial request demand to turn over OBL was met with a demand for evidence of his guilt. And we know how well that went over…

                            Here’s a linky to the 10/14/2001 Guardian article I quoted from.

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                            • How is my logic backwards? We asked/demand (whatever) and they didn’t give him up. If you really think all they wanted for OBL was “evidence” then you are naive. They wanted to turn the discussion into a drawn out negotiation for him. We weren’t willing to play that game. They mistook our demand as the opening position for a negotiation and seriously misjudged us.

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                      • “On top of the psychic cost of saying “well, you know what, maybe Saddam *IS* a bad guy but at least he’s better than Democracy.””

                        Anybody paying attention to the actions of the US government for the past – well, century at least – knew that that was the standard policy.

                        I had a joke during the Iraq War that the US government’s record for creating democracy was 100% – Germany and Japan – the only two times that the US government wanted to do so.

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                    • The thing is, the mess in the ME and the Taliban are pretty much entirely unconnected except for George Bush.

                      Iraq was just an entirely optional mess we made. Like bonus disaster, because we didn’t have enough at the time.

                      And now, of course, people are screaming at us to do something — said something generally being ‘freedom bombs’ — because that worked out so well.

                      My cousin’s in the Army. I’m really not keen to see him get deployed because some people think we should be seen ‘doing something’.

                      Some problems don’t have solutions.

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                      • Iraq was just an entirely optional mess we made.

                        Here’s what Bush had to say about invading Iraq:

                        “Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in “mission creep”, and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. … We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome.

                        Bush I, that is.

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                      • Was I that unclear? By “worse than the Taliban”, I meant ISIS, who truly are.

                        One of the reasons the Taliban was able to rule Afghanistan, is that brutal as they are, they’re not on the whole corrupt. They didn’t rape, loot, or pillage, which made life under them preferable to life under whichever warlord had taken your hometown last. ISIS appears to have no such qualms.

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                        • You weren’t unclear. I was just stating that we created the conditions for ISIS ourselves. We casually kicked apart the balance of power in that part of the world, for no reason whatsoever. It wasn’t even connected to 9/11, none of the stated rationales held water.

                          We just broke it for funsies.

                          And there’s basically nothing we can do about it except watch it all burn.

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                  • “To go in and recreate the society would have required colonialism.”

                    We actually did that – do you not remember the Coalition Provisional Authority?

                    The thing is that it didn’t work.

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            • My cynical side says it is because Syria is not the push over that Libya was given their support from Iran and Russia, not to mention the fact that Syria doesn’t have the oil that Libya does so its not worth it. Direct intervention is one one thing, I don’t understand why he isn’t doing more to help the moderate rebels. That is what really stumps me.

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              • I hear ya on that last part. I heard some Smart Folk talking on NPR about Russia’s increased influence in the region and the proposed rationale was that the Russians are trying to eliminate the moderates on the assumption that, once gone, the US will be compelled to support the established Assad regime (rather than ISIS). I don’t know enough to say whether that’s bonafide or not, but it sounds plausible.

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              • What “moderate rebels?” Trying to figure out who is moderate by our standards in that area is a fools game. Not only is our definition of moderate not that useful there our intell is really really poor. We don’t have a good way of figuring out who is the best of the lot, what their capabilities are and where their loyalties lay.

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                • It could be (and this certainly would be par for the course) that the “moderate rebels” are entirely a creation of the US. IF so, then there wouldn’t be very many of em. Maybe even none!

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                  • Yup. ISIS is surely some evil mama jama’s but we don’t have many good proxies in the area nor is it worth putting our troops there. Iran is doing some good work against ISIS through their allies. However it isn’t possible to be both against Assad and ISIS at the same time. You can’t fight against both sides or to put it another way, one of those sides is going to win.

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                • Greg:

                  Of course our intell over there is poor. The obama admin hasn’t invested the necessary resouces to do so. First you actually have to make an effort to do somehting before your throw your hands up and declare that things a fialure.

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                  • Of for fishs sake. We can’t just magically create intell networks. Our intell in Irag and Afghanistan, after years, was often poor. You can’t just plop down in country and have dozens of reliable informants and channels of info. Especially countries, like Syria, where we aren’t welcome and haven’t been for years. There is a reason we have always like tech intell, it is easier than developing spys and informants which is notoriously hard. Like super hard and even when you have them you still aren’t sure if they are playing you or how much they know. In the ISIS areas there is complete chaos and someone is supposed to make a solid intell network out of that???

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              • “I don’t understand why he isn’t doing more to help the moderate rebels. That is what really stumps me.”

                Last time I heard, those ‘moderate rebels’ included Al Qaida and future ISIS guys.

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      • I suggest a Palinism to better capture the Obama Admin’s incompetence: “blithering. ”

        Edit: D’oh! That’s already a word! And “dathering” sounds like something young ducks do. Oh well. Palin’s clearly better at this stuff than I am.

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  1. Painful. We’re back to longest suicide note in history territory. I understand its incredibly frustrating to partisans, but there’s a difficult balancing act between aiming for the median voter and trying to shift that median voter’s perspective. Bringing back Clause IV, renationalizing, and withdrawing from NATO, taking away private schools charitable status, that isn’t where I think the British public are at this moment. Or where they will be in the near future. (And that’s presupposing those are good ideas…)

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    • I’ve seen other people bring that up. The counter I see to people saying Corbyn is another Foot in the making is pointing out that the far more moderate Neil Kinnock lost the 1987 and 1992 elections for Labor. Though Labor gained 20 seats in 1987 and another 40 in 1992.

      Thoughts?

      Blair’s victory in 1997 was because of several years of Tory incompetence and scandal especially with John Major being a light-weight.

      Now I don’t think Cameron is a light-weight though.

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        • I think you see similar dynamics in sections of the Democratic Party but not with enough passion for a variety of reasons.

          There has always been a split in Labour between “Left-wing Labourites” and “Right-Wing Labourites.” This has caused the party to go to exile and destruction before. Labour won elections during the 1920s and Great Depression but the party split itself because Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden went right-wing and found themselves seen as traitors by the base. IIRC they are still seen as traitors.

          Nye Bevan would always argue with Hugh Gaitskill and was part of the “keep Left” faction. Bevan famously quit the Cabinet when Gaitskill introduced prescription charges to NHS.

          So in part, this is old hat for Labour.

          I think the reason you don’t see this as much in the Democratic Party is that the really far left still expresses a general disdain for the Democratic Party. There is a disconnect on economic issues between some of the party elite but not as much disconnect as you see between a good chunk of the GOP base and their elite.

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          • The Democrats also hold the presidency, and believe (not completely without reason) that it’s not their fault they don’t have congress but that of a flawed system. It’s just different being in power and being out of power when it comes to these things. The GOP was still in power between 2007-08, but the writing was on the wall. Labour is not only completely removed from power, but they don’t even have pat answers as to why. They can’t even blame the results of the last election on the SNP or splitting the vote with the LDP. They just flat lost, making it harder to face.

            If HRC wins, though, I expect to see more tension though of a different variation. Depending, in part, on how she wins. At some point, I believe the less moderate faction of the party is going to want results and “Not Republican” isn’t going to be enough. (Nor, past a certain margin of victory, should it be.)

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              • Romney also got more votes in 2012 than McCain did in 2008. But 2012 was a thorough loss all the same.

                Labour, like the Conservatives, benefited from the collapse of the LDP. And they lost an election they went into believing that they would win. And they lost thoroughly.

                Even worse, they lost in such a way that it’s not even clear what the path to victory is. The left wing of the party says “We can’t win without the SNP!” and the moderate faction says “We wouldn’t have won with them, either.” And while the latter is factually and indisputably correct, the former isn’t wrong. And while the former has a point, the latter is factually and indisputably correct.

                The only thing that’s certain is that, unlike the Democratic Party and the Tories, the coalition is broken.

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                • What the actual election result was is complicated. The Government majority was cut to much smaller – but for the SNP Labour would have run the Tories very close. And if the numbers had been slightly different, there would have been an SNP Labour coalition whatever Ed Milliband said before the election.

                  The Tories gained seats because they took them from their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, who were basically wiped out. This ironically put Cameron in a stronger position than before the election because he no longer needed to rely on the Liberals.

                  So although it was a triumph for the Conservatives, it was a closer thing than it looks.

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                  • Brit, for what it’s worth, by “thorough” I wasn’t meaning to suggest a blowout. I just meant that it was lost on every dimension. Popular vote? Lost. Seat vote? Lost. Seat vote including SNP? Lost. Right-leaning party votes vs left? Lost (possibly by a lot, depending on where you place the LDP).

                    There isn’t any relatively easy “if only” that doesn’t involve actually winning over people who wanted Cameron to win or boosting turnout by a very considerable degree.

                    The US comparison (to the extent there is one) would be that Romney didn’t lose the popular vote by a remarkably high number, but he lost almost every state that mattered.

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          • After World War II, I thought that the main difference between left and right-wing members of the Labour Party were what they thought about the Soviet Union and Communism. The right-wing Labourites were those that could not abide by the Soviet Union and were firmly in the Pro-American side of the Cold War. The leftists ones had a big soft spot for it.

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          • “I think the reason you don’t see this as much in the Democratic Party is that the really far left still expresses a general disdain for the Democratic Party. ”

            IMHO it’s because the Dem leadership has c*strated the left (let alone far left) for decades now.

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      • Blair’s victory in 1997 was because of several years of Tory incompetence and scandal especially with John Major being a light-weight.

        I think this massively understates Blair’s achievements. Especially since Blair won three times and stands as the longest serving Labour Prime Minister. I think he has it exactly right when he outlines the difference between being a party of protest and a party of government. Unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from NATO… and is Labour going to make inroads into Middle England with the anti-private schools stuff? And that’s speaking as someone who’s thinks well of the Labour Party and its social democratic point of view.

        As party leader, and prospective PM, you’re trying to hold together a coalition, a bunch of talented potential frontbenchers ruling themselves out doesn’t make for a good start for Corbyn. To me, Yvette Cooper (Guardian-endorsed fwiw) was the right choice and Corbyn was the self-indulgent choice, and I don’t think the British electorate will reward that.

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        • Blair won elections it is true – but what is his lasting legacy? A shifting of the political centre to the right. Cameron is now able to do things unthinkable for Thatcher or Major (eg post office privatisation).

          Constantly, the refrain of the anti-Corbynites seems to be “this means the Tories will occupy the centre ground”. Of course, what that actually means is “the Tories will shift left”. Many Labour party members might see that as a good option. Their concern would be that the other 3 candidates would have pushed the Overton window rightwards as they competed for Tory votes. (And probably then still lost – to be honest, none of them looked credible as Prime Ministerial material, certainly all weaker than Ed Milliband).

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          • what is his lasting legacy?

            With the proviso that, I only lived in the UK for a few years, and I’m not old enough to have firsthand experience of some of these things beforehand, I’d say improvements to the NHS and cementing the NHS’ place in UK life. The hospital my grandmother was treated at, for instance, was either new or freshly rebuilt. Another hospital another family member was treated at, was also pretty impressive (both facility-wise as well as doctor/nursing/staff wise). Away from my firsthand experience, if I recall correctly, NHS wait times fell dramatically during the course of Labour rule.

            I’d add that Building Schools for the Future made a substantial, positive impression on me and, as far as I can tell, that’ll leave a substantial legacy. I recall interviews with students saying that receiving a new school meant something for them and their education.

            Their concern would be that the other 3 candidates would have pushed the Overton window rightwards as they competed for Tory votes.

            So, I’d trade a risk of shifting the Overton window for Labour wielding actual power. In part because you can’t really plan completely for government, events just pop up. Bush and Obama certainly didn’t plan to face the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, or 9/11 or Syria, or Libya… Being in power lets you shape how the nation will respond to the crises that inevitably emerge. And especially in the UK system, being out of power is a particularly stultifying space. In the US there’s all sorts of deference to Senators and bipartisanship can carry value. In the UK, being out of power isn’t worth much at all.

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            • NHS and education as Blair’s legacies? Not examples I would have chosen.

              The NHS has been embedded deep in the UK psyche for far longer than Blair. What he brought into in was massive expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, or Private Public Partnerships. These were ruinously expensive schemes that brought a degree of private investment in to the NHS while locking us in to large future payments.

              To take the new shiny hospitals example. A local hospital to me needed a bit of modernisation – about 10 million pounds worth of investment. However, the government wouldn’t spend that much on modernisation. What they would do is knock down the old hospital and put 20 million of public money alongside 30 million private money (the figures not exact – my memory not that good – but accurately illustrative) to build a new, smaller, hospital. (They needed greater expenditure to get the private sector interested). So yes, great new facilities built, but we could have had just as good or maybe better for less public money and without the mountain of debt. Trying to pay off these contracts is now seriously straining the NHS.

              The NHS is still a wonderful system, providing much better value for money than the US one*, but Blair made it that little bit worse and more of a tool for lining the pockets of private firms rather than treating the public.

              Education was similar with the bringing in of the private sector to provide provision at greater cost and the occasional educational catastrophe.

              On the powerlessness out of power thing – I used to think that way. I’ve realised over the years that it’s more important to frame the debate. There’s no point gaining power if you give away the point of gaining power. And it’s not as simple as Team Good vs Team Evil. Team Evil can do good things if properly influenced, and Team Good can do great evil if it thinks good people will vote for it regardless.

              Even the Tories at the height of their power could not, in the end, impose the poll tax. The big exception is the Iraq war, where the public was never fooled, but the politicians carried on regardless. And that was only possible because Labour and Conservative leadership were united in their desire to do whatever the US wanted.

              There was a famous poster after WWII for Labour – “We’ve won the war, now win the peace”. Just after the 1997 election, I saw a version put out by a Blairite thinktank “we’ve won the election, now win the second term”. I was struck by the poverty of ambition compared to the original.

              *Seriously, I cannot believe the healthcare debates that seem to go on in the US. They seem to require a complete denial of reality. I seem to recall at one time adverts in a US campaign claiming that if the US has UK style healthcare, Stephen Hawking would never have been allowed to live. Hawking is, of course, British. In fact, on one occasion he fell seriously ill while in the US, and US healthcare provider suggested he wasn’t worth saving – too expensive.

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                  • I like to tell people that the US actually has a very expansive welfare state, it’s just focused on transferring from young to old instead of from rich to poor.

                    It doesn’t help that the US healthcare system is basically funding the world’s medical R&D either.

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                    • Is there actual evidence that the US is funding the worlds medical R and D. I’d be interested to see it and where the funding comes from. We spend heavily on uni science in many areas, we are certainly leaders in a variety of sciences.

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                        • A million years ago, I tried to do an analysis of Nobel Prizes (in Medicine). I, essentially, wanted to figure out what proportion of prizes were won by the US, look at the numbers, compare them side by side with the prizes won by other countries, then be able to ask whether the US has a disproportionately large number or a disproportionately small one.

                          I ran into a lot of problems. Let’s say you’ve got three scientists who won the prize and their nationalities are US, US, Switzerland (see 1978). How do you weigh that? Let’s say that you’ve got a prize that went to two scientists who were both US (see 1985). Do you weigh that differently than a single guy from Japan winning one (see 1986)?

                          Then I ran into issues where the team members were from foreign countries but did their research in the US.

                          I had no idea how to even think about weighing that.

                          And then when I considered how Nobel Prizes were kind of a dumb way to measure in the first place, I gave up on the idea entirely.

                          I still think that there must be some way to measure this sort of thing, though. Maybe not get precise numbers but qualitative blobs that we can compare to each other.

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                          • Among the other complications is that the category is “Physiology and Medicine”. Early winners were largely for medicine — treatment of various diseases. Looking at the list you provided, it’s almost exclusively physiology these days, with a heavy emphasis on protein chemistry and cell-level biology.

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                    • Matt Yglesias came to the same conclusion, the American welfare state is based on helping the elderly rather than the young or the poor and that is why it is most expensive. A big reason for this is that many Americans believe in the concept of earned benefits but are uneasy but what they consider entitlements. Social Security and Medicare are seen as the just rewards of working hard. Likewise, the minimum wage has a lot of support because it is tied to an actual job. Medicaid has much less support because it is tied to being under a certain income level and being unearned.

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            • You want irony, Blair’s legacy might just be the destruction of the Labour party in Scotland. Without his government calling a devolution referendum there wouldn’t have been a Scottish parliament for the SNP to win and show what they are like in power and that would have made anything like the result for Westminster this year much harder.

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  2. Well you beat me to the punch while posting about Corbyn.

    A few months ago Kevin Drum posted a study about how American politicians in both parties underestimate the liberalness of their constituents.

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/chart-day-politicians-dont-know-their-own-districts-very-well

    I wonder how much the same thing is true in other countries especially Anglophone countries like Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

    There seems to be a general disconnect between the “elites”, broadly defined as the people running the party and/or the opinion journalists who write propaganda (er essays) in support of left or right policy and the base. In this case, the base said it wanted a more left politician than the elites found electable.

    This reminds me of an article from a few years ago about the rise of the global elite who might be more connected to themselves than they are to their fellow countrymen because most of us don’t make 6-7 figure salaries, most of us don’t hang around Jackson Hole and Davos, and spend good portions of our day flying international business class. We spend our days in offices and driving and then eating dinner with our friends and families and communities. Most people including in left and allegedly more cosmopolitan areas like SF and NYC spend most of our times in our communities. Cities it might get more hyper in because you can get most of what you need without getting in a car.

    As for Corbyn’s policies, there are people who make similar calls in the United States but they tend not to be politicians. There is a growing number of essays I see that expresses anger at Harvard’s 36 billion dollar endowment and wonders if we should tax it but acknowledges the trouble. There are wonks who write essays expressing anger whenever Harvard or similar institution gets a huge donation and sees that stuff as pure vanity on part of the donor. I am not fond that he called Hamas and Hezbollah friend
    but he probably has a point that a peace process involves talking to everyone. I don’t necessarily disagree with him on allotments (I think this is Brit-speak for community gardens), cutting defense spending on expensive programs like Trident, and other policies.

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    • Many historians argued that one reason why monarchy and the aristocratic social group went into a steep decline in the late 19th and early 20th century Europe were that they were an international class of people during an increasingly nationalist age. Most members of the various royal and aristocratic families were more like to marry a foreigner of royal and noble blood than a countrymen less than stellar status. They had similar lifestyles, educations, hobbies, interests, career paths, and forms of wealth. Any parallels to the current international elite is probably coincidental.

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      • Post-nationalism and trans-nationalism are often perceived as a luxury of the elite by people who are not elite.

        A lot of people argue that nationalism is a tool that the elite use to keep everybody in line. I am pretty sure that stopped being the case at some point, and that nationalism became something that nationals (at least developed world nationals) insisted upon.

        (I should note that “elite” here is more a reference to financial and cultural elite. The government itself responds to the people insisting on the respect of national interests.)

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        • The origins of patriotic or national feeling are murky. You can find advantages of top down or bottom nationalism across the world. German nationalism was a bottom up kind because most of the German monarchs would have rather been a big fish in a small pond rather than risk losing their little states to a greater national identity. Japanese and Thai nationalism were top down affairs, deliberately cultivated by the leaders of the two countries in order to fight off Western imperialism and encourage people to get on the modernization projects. American patriotism seems practically organic and spontaneous in it’s creation.

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      • James K:
        Degraw

        Bear in mind that the UK Labour party grants a large amount of say in party leader selection to union delegates, so this may simply reflect their influence as much as the preferences of the base.

        This is no longer true – the system was changed. Individual members of some unions got a vote it’s true, and voted overwhelmingly for Corbyn, but 49.6% – more than twice his nearest rival – of party members voted first preference for Corbyn.

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  3. TB:

    These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work.

    It’s quite clear that Tony Blair doesn’t want to say that *he* doesn’t think they will work.

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    • That’s another parallel with the GOP situation. The establishment and moderate factions spend too much time arguing “X will cost us votes” rather than saying “X is wrong”… nowhere in Blair’s piece does he really talk about his course being the best one. Likewise, it’s only recently that I have been seeing anti-anti-immigration Republicans talking about how immigration is a good thing rather than that being anti-immigration will hurt election prospects.

      I understand the inclination, but I think they end up ceding ground they do not really wish to cede.

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      • Long time reader, first time poster. Love the community you have here, and finally posting as your all talking about a political scene I know better than you… though doubtless I’ll subject you to my ill-informed thoughts on US politics at some point.

        Will Truman:
        That’s another parallel with the GOP situation. The establishment and moderate factions spend too much time arguing “X will cost us votes” rather than saying “X is wrong”… nowhere in Blair’s piece does he really talk about his course being the best one. Likewise, it’s only recently that I have been seeing anti-anti-immigration Republicans talking about how immigration is a good thing rather than that being anti-immigration will hurt election prospects.

        I understand the inclination, but I think they end up ceding ground they do not really wish to cede.

        This is the absolute key to understanding what went on here, along with the total charisma bypass of the other 3 leadership candidates.

        Basically, you had one candidate who stood on his principles, whatever one may think of them – and they are principles in accord with basic Labour ideology, if not practice when actually in office (including pre-Blair). And three who droned on about the need to attract Tory voters. So not even arguing the merits of their policies – they implicitly conceded that Corbyn is right, it’s just those stupid centre voters won’t vote for him. Which is actually pretty insulting to those centre voters. And characterises politics as being about trying to pull the wool over the eyes of voters so you can get into office and do good that those stupid voters wouldn’t support if you were upfront about it. Which does not appeal to party members who generally actually believe what they are doing is right.

        Plus then the charisma bypass – none of the other three candidates looked like leaders, let alone Prime Ministers. Corbyn, even if not looking like a Prime Minister, looks like a leader – whatever else you say, he beat the establishment here.

        Final point of information: the union block vote is gone. Individual union members of affiliated unions could vote, as could party members and anyone who paid three pounds to be a “supporter”. Corbyn won outright among union members and supporters, and got 49.6% on the first round among members – his nearest rival got less than half that. So he won convicingly, and it wasn’t about unions or ringers signing up as “supporters”.

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        • Thanks for speaking up, Brit! I’m hoping Matt also chimes in. While you’re here, I have a question. Would you agree or disagree with the following statement:

          Substantively, Ed Miliband was no different than Tony Blair.

          And why would you agree or disagree?

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          • Will Truman:
            Would you agree or disagree with the following statement:

            Substantively, Ed Miliband was no different than Tony Blair.

            And why would you agree or disagree?

            The statement is wrong. Totally wrong.

            I’m not totally sure what “substantively” means and if it means policy-wise or just in general, but it’s wrong either way. Totally.

            Ed Milliband was not a great reformer like Tony Blair. Blair was highly ideological and pushed his own brand of centre-right politics* from the first. Ed Milliband believes in things, like justice, equality, fairness, tackling poverty, but is not an ideologue.

            Personality-wise, Milliband just comes across as a nicer person. (There was a lot of nonsense about him stabbing his brother in the back by taking the leadership when David was the annointed heir, but he won an election rather than seizing power in a bloody** coup). And there wasn’t the same internicine warfare (see: Blair-Brown) as a result, which was all about people, not politics (indeed, once Brown got into power it was apparent he hadn’t got a clue as to what he actually wanted to do with it). There was a lot of political carping from the Blairites, however, who thought Ed was too left (see below). However, a similarity is he failed to nurture effective talent any better than Blair, which is why there was such a paucity of successors.

            Policy-wise, Ed did not seek to seriously challenge the shift in the centre-ground of British politics, but tended to the centre-left of it. His defining policies, however, are all different from what Blair would have done. All of them he seemed to fall into by happenstance, rather than by masterplan, but they show his instinctive positions as totally different. The two big ones that spring to mind are:
            1: Syria. By vacillation, it seems, he actually managed to trip Cameron up and stop him going to war. Blair would have been pushing for more and bigger intervention.
            2: He forced the Murdoch press into temporary retreat (all ground now recovered) over the phone-tapping scandal. Blair would never have said a word against any Murdoch activity.

            So yes, just wrong. Although despite disavowing the glaring (I don’t think there’s anyone left in Britain arguing the Iraq war was a good idea, no matter where they are on the political spectrum) errors of the Blair era, and tacking slightly left (certainly more than the Blairites were comfortable with) Milliband never seriously challenged the overall post-Blair consensus.

            *Footnote for American readers: My definition of centre-right here is based on 1980s UK politics, because that’s where Blair (and Corbyn!) came from. I’d place him slightly to the right of Obama, but definitely on the left if he were in the US.

            **Footnote for American readers: Brits use the word “bloody” literally quite a lot in contexts like these. Contrary to what you might think from US television, it is actually quite a strong swear word when used non-literally and will generally be avoided except among close friends or as an F-bomb. And don’t get me started on the other b-word, which basically should never be used. Ever.

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            • I’m actually not sure what the other “b-word” is (bastard?), but as an American I remember being quite surprised to learn than “bloody” was in fact considered fairly strong language in the U.K.*

              Then, I learned that the “c-word”, which is one of the few taboo swearwords left in the U.S., is deployed very liberally (particularly in Scotland), and often just means “that guy over there”.

              *Of course, I was getting all my knowledge of English-as-spoken-in-the-U.K. from sources like Monty Python and The Young Ones. So words like “bloody” and “bastard” seemed like they must be commonplace and unremarkable.

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  4. I don’t really know, but a lot of this sounds considerably overheated to me. It seems like a dash of “Let’s-Watch-And-See-What-Happens” maybe in order before arriving at quite the tenor that Blair got himself to weeks before the election even happened.

    That said, all of these people saying this about their own country’s politics probably militates against giving much weight to this view from me. But then OTOOH, would we say the same thing every time a bunch of people get esp Italy exercised about a development on our own side of the pond?

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  5. and the gang (like Kool and the Gang but with less rhythm)

    Here is an interesting take from Vox:

    http://www.vox.com/2015/9/12/9314975/jeremy-corbyn-david-cameron

    I think this shows the differences between how and are seeing the situation.

    The Vox piece (via a Neil Irwin tweet) argues that the Tories have largely ditched their hardliner status of the Thatcher days and are basically a socially moderate and slightly fiscally conservative center-right party. I’ve seen other British journalists commentators like June Thomas notice that many liberal Democrats would probably line up with the Tories quite well. The very moderation of the Tories causes a crisis in Labour because they don’t know how to react. A failure of democratic politics is that you need to win seats and you don’t win seats by always going along with the opposition. So this caused Labour to go back to an older form of Labour government.

    Likewise the Democratic Party would be thrown into chaos if the GOP came out for marriage equality, started believing in climate change, abandoned tax cuts for the wealthy, and believed in government mandated health care starting tomorrow.

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      • And there is still a part of the Democratic base that strongly hates Clinton for all the triangulation and does not want to give him any credit.

        The people I know who hate Clinton most over DOMA seem to be heterosexual and well off progressives/lefties. My LGBT friends seem to have largely forgiven Clinton for DOMA if they were ever angry at him.

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        • Well, when sitting off in the political wilderness it’d be some consolation to have a whole national party sitting there with you. The party left the economic left in the wilderness and let Clinton and the DLC lead them back into power (from an economic left perspective by selling their souls to capitalists).So it’s not hard to understand why an economic leftist would hate them for it with a passion most hot (ironically I suspect the GOP hated Clinton for the same damn reason just from the other direction).

          In my own gay circles DOMA and DADT don’t seem to hold a lot of weight. DADT is seen as a desperate disaster aversion refuge after Clinton sought and failed to reform the military’s anti gay policies. DOMA (in my circles at least) is viewed as having been inevitable once noise started being made on the marriage front and Clinton’s part in it is viewed as either craven or pragmatic political realism. It’s hard to hold grudges over that.

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          • The thing is, , I’ve got a lot more sympathy for the things Clinton had to do because not only was it politically popular, but there was also a push for it (ie. crime bills, welfare reform, DOMA/DADT) then the things that there was no popular push for and weren’t all that politically popular (Glass Steagal, giving the OK to media consolidation, NAFTA, etc.)

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            • Yes, I have heard the argument submitted many a time that DOMA was simply necessary to defuse the push for a constitutional amendment and DADT, well, DADT was an any port in the storm damage control effort. I’m naturally inclined to be Clinton sympathetic so of course those lines resonate with me but then again they would.

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    • I see what you are getting at but yes.

      Parties are defined by their past traumas, just like generals always fight the last war. Labour’s trauma was the long period of being in the minority from 1979-1997.

      However, there might always be a disconnect between the base and the leadership. Until something corrects every now and then.

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            • Well the press in the old country has always been a tad hyperbolic, God(ess?) love em.

              But tell me Brit, republican, monarchist or indifferent? I swear I’ll not be hateful if you and I disagree on the matter.

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              • North:
                But tell me Brit, republican, monarchist or indifferent?

                Can I choose a fourth option?

                On the one hand, having supreme executive authority vested in someone based on who their father was seems inherently ridiculous*. On the other hand, we all know that, so it’s not like we’re going to give them any real power.**

                On the gripping hand, this power is effectively vested in the Prime Minister, but in reality his power reaches precisely as far as Parliament will allow it.

                Overall, while the UK (and EU) system is flawed in many ways, it is better than many others out there, and getting rid of the monarchy is not top of my list of necessary reforms.

                *A few years ago Prince Charles, unhappy with one of his minions being a bit uppity, wrote a letter which leaked in which he deplored modern society which made people think they could achieve anything – like be head of state – no matter how unsuited they were. As opposed to his extensive qualifications of being his mother’s eldest son, I suppose.
                **I do worry though that our somewhat deferential politicians actually pay attention to Charles’ “black spider letters” given the great efforts to keep them secret.
                .

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                • I just want to say thank you for your analysis and by choosing to use the phrase “gripping hand” you have proven without a doubt that you are at home here!

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                • As a New Zealander I feel similarly about the monarchy. I think Queen Elizabeth has done a sterling job maintaining the legitimacy of the monarchy, primarily by ensuring it doesn’t try to actually do anything. I do have some concerns that Charles doesn’t understand this.

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  6. I have heard some left-wing points coming from Britain that claims Corbyn’s leadership may save Labour in Scotland. I imagine they are in for a disappointment as the Scottish left remains with the SNP regardless.

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    • I honestly don’t know which way this is going to go. The SNP has had violent swings in support over the last couple of decades, primarily based on whether Alex Salmond was leader or not. When he retired the first time, the SNP moved right under new management and promptly plummeted. This time, he has been followed by someone more clearly in his own mould of appealing to the left.

      Nationalism is strong in Scotland, but support for independence is not. The Conservatives appear to have in the last election finally embraced the objective of driving Scotland from the Union, having realised that years of neglect and incomprehension have destroyed their chances under first past the post.*

      Labour had grown fat and corrupt from years of lacking effective opposition. But I don’t think the underlying sentiments of the people have changed much. Under Burnham, Cooper or Kendall, I think things would have continued as heretofore, and probably the SNP consolidated. Now the game becomes interesting – I think Sturgeon missttepped by suggesting Labour now unelectable for electing Corbyn – who on the totemic issues such as Trident is closer to the SNP positions than any other contender was. A bit too transparently self-serving.

      *Lots of people still vote conservative in Scotland, just not enough and not concentrated enough to get significant representatives elected. It’s a funny turn of events, from a country that used to be seen as inherently conservative (and the SNP as the “Tartan Tories”). A story in itself is the tale of the poll tax and the strange death of Tory Scotland.

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      • Good context. I worked for the Labour Party in Scotland while a graduate student there (the election that found the Tories/Lib Dems in power). While my experiences with Labour/SNP voters were limited to those around Edinburgh (one of the few Labour seats healed after the SNP tsunami last election) one could see that there was a significant cultural divide between the party and the constituents.

        Perhaps the SNP just seemed more exciting and new, but I can’t imagine Corbyn reversing those preconceived notions.

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  7. What I found funny was the idea that Corbyn is somehow uniquely unelectable compared to the others, who apparently thought they could replicate 1997. Totally ignoring, in my opinion, the reasons for the 97 victory, which were not the awesomeness of Blair’s ideas but:

    – Blair’s personal charisma and Major’s lack of it
    – The advantage of a ‘new’ image against a Tory party people had just got bored with after nearly two decades

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    • I agree, but would also add

      – Major won the 1992 election on the basis that Labour would destroy the economy. Then came Black Wednesday, and Major was dead man walking from that point on – but still had nearly his full term to serve out. A donkey in a red rosette could have won in 1997 – not by as much, perhaps, but it would have won. It makes one think about how things might have been if that had happened 4 months before the election rather than after.

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  8. Pingback: Primaries Are Terrible, Exhibit B (A Rant) | Hit Coffee

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