Sunday, 17 January 2016

Just a Small Blog Hiatus

You probably know by now that Pat has been promoted to Shadow Europe Minister. It is a great job for her to take on leading up to the European Union (EU) referendum and I know she will be fantastic at it.

I am writing this post to pass on that my blog activity will slow down. Let me explain why and, by the way, it's completely my choice. The press will now look more closely at everything and interpret comments more than ever, particularly anything to do with the leadership or the gossip surrounding the PLP. It's simply not worth me encountering problems because my views expressed on this blog are rehashed as comments made "by a Pat Glass spokesperson." I'm not sure that would ever happen, but I'm not taking that chance especially at such an important time. We've had a glimpse of that in North West Durham already and you probably know what I mean. It was a warning of what can happen. For the few that read my stuff, I hope you understand.

The issue of us remaining in Europe is important. For the record, I will be voting for the UK to remain in the EU.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016: A Defining Year for Labour

In my final post of 2015 I am going to look at what 2016 might mean for The Labour Party. Before I do, let's look at the political lessons of 2015. Perhaps the biggest lesson of 2015 is not to predict anything as it's most likely wrong, but let's have a go anyway.

2015 saw the General Election deliver a Tory majority when even the most ambitious Conservative expected, at best, a strong minority government where they were the largest party. The polls got the result quite wrong, although they got a lot right regarding the collapse of the Lib Dems and the SNP gains across Scotland, a point I have made in previous articles. As we welcome 2016, there needs to be an urgent discussion on the influence and use of polling for future elections. I believe a line was crossed where the opinion polls significantly altered public opinion and thus, the election result itself. Polls should indicate the trend of public opinion but they should not be a massive factor in forming it.

2016 is shaping up to be a huge year in Politics. We expect David Cameron to announce the date of the EU Referendum soon which will immediately intensify the already fierce debate. What may be lost in that furore is the boundary review. Analysis is already underway as the boundaries will be based on the electoral roll as it stood on December 1st and the number of constituencies (and thus MPs) will drop from 650 to 600. This could lead to a serious constitutional problem where it is almost impossible for a Labour government to win without a monumental swing in our favour. It will also mean potentially difficult selections for sitting MPs and far fewer chances for new candidates to emerge. May 2016 will see the Police and Crime Commissioner elections and in many areas (not County Durham) local authority elections will take place. The speculation surrounded how will the Labour vote stand up and will Jeremy Corbyn's appeal go much further than the strong support he enjoys from grassroots will finally get some facts to back up or lay waste to the differing opinions on his progress or otherwise. For a Labour member, this is perhaps most interesting, whilst noting that our focus should always be on opposing the Government.

If the media are to be believed, Labour are perhaps as close to a serious split as they have been since Jeremy Corbyn became Leader. The standard filler piece for any journalist at present who needs to fill some space either online or in the printed press is to question Shadow Cabinet members and look for any subtle sign of trouble for Corbyn. To oppose Corbyn is to be accused of either wanting a split or worse still, being a Tory, although what they really mean is not being on the left. They have short memories. They have forgotten that during the Blair years, also known as the only years we have ever been in power since Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister on and before 1979, there was always the hard left members of the party that disliked the compromises we made to win power. The kinder politics we apparently stand for seems to only apply to those who agree with the views of the Leader. Personally I really hope we make progress towards a more tolerant approach to differing views in 2016.

I've no doubt that Corbyn is sincere in his wish for a more tolerant approach to differing opinions. This was admirably demonstrated by Corbyn himself when he allowed Hilary Benn to speak in favour of military action at the vote on Syria, which led (not necessarily because of Benn's excellent speech) to 65 Labour MPs voting with Benn. Few seem to have noted that even if Labour voted as one solid 'No' vote, it would not have affected the result. Majority matters. Corbyn wins my praise, but then I read the Facebook pages where the 'Yes' MPs stated their position on the free vote and received truly horrible abuse. This exposed the nasty underbelly from apparent Labour supporters that transact such justify the abuse towards these MPs whilst agreeing with Corbyn's wish for a kinder politics. Their vitriol came despite Corbyn authorising a free vote so Labour MPs could vote as they wished. This has not stopped the media in fanning the flames of speculation that Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle will be removed from their senior Shadow Cabinet positions and replaced with core Corbyn supporters like Diane Abbott.

As interesting as gossip always is to read, it is worth a moment of perspective in observing that Corbyn must have had detailed discussions with his Shadow Cabinet members before appointing them and thus he would have been well aware of their concerns and even opposition on a range of his ideas. The scenario that played out was surely no surprise to him, at least it should not have been, so I feel the media selling this as a huge split is overblown. Corbyn knows his support has never came from Labour MPs, but he will also be very aware that with his power base elsewhere than with his elected colleagues, he will need to maneuver very carefully if he is to manage both their concerns and the open goals this presents to the media. Each time a vote occurs there is a risk of the media focuses more on Labours internal discussions rather than the policies and we should not given the Conservatives such an easy ride as that. Corbyn knows that asking the Labour MPs to fall into line on every vote will be tricky because rebellions will occur and do occur for every party.

So how will it resolve? I do not have the answers, but it is a massive worry for 2016 that Labour might be so focused on internal political struggles our focus does not sit where it should which is to be an effective opposition.

Whichever issue interests you most, whether you prefer the EU debate, constitutional change or good old internal battles, 2016 is looking like being a very interesting year for politics. It could be a very good year for Labour if we get very encouraging results in May 2016 or it could be very bad year if the Labour MPs fall out in a big way and wholesale changes are made to the Shadow Cabinet. I believe that there should be no rash decisions made until the results in May are known. The proof of the pudding is in the eating after all. There is too much rhetoric and speculation, so we need cold hard and irrefutable electoral feedback before we start judging the new regime. There is a time for harsh judgment, but not yet and not based on flimsy speculation. If the results are not good in May there would always be tough questions for the Leader to answer, but in the meantime we need to keep working hard to make it work and stay loyal. No-one, however, will be more aware than Jeremy Corbyn that there could be fireworks ahead so we need all hands on deck and not just Facebook warriors talking to themselves to win over the public to cash in on our apparent popularity. Despite it's complexities politics can be a very simple game, when it all boils down to it you either win or you don't. The rest is just noise, however well-intended.

I wish you all a very Happy and successful New Year.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Other Politics Documentaries

In my final YouTube collation for the moment, here are four other Politics documentaries that you should watch. I know you will enjoy them. They are varied in political positioning but very interesting in their own right.

Heath vs Wilson: The 10 Year Duel

This BBC Documentary charts the political and personal struggles between Harold Wilson, Leader of The Labour Party and Conservative Leader Edward "Ted" Heath. They say styles make fights in Boxing and certainly Heath's very professional approach, a typical Tory grandee and Wilson's more "of the people" approach, saw a clash in styles and most other things. The documentary looks at their feud, the events that surrounded their battles and the elections they contested.

Gladstone & Disreali

Long before Heath and Wilson, at a time when seats were bought and not democratically earned, Gladstone and Disraeli were the political heavyweights of the mid to late 19th century. This BBC documentary looks at their lives and their lifelong feud for political power.

Mandelson: The Real PM

The third wheel in the reformation of Labour into New Labour under Blair and Brown, Peter Mandelson had a well-known love of status and his revelling in his nickname "The Dark Lord" after he joined the House of Lords. Obtaining high office during Neil Kinnock's reign behind the scenes, he became a Chief Strategist under Blair, before becoming MP of Hartlepool in 2001. Devastated by twice being fired by Blair, who Mandelson was both politically and personally devoted to, he returned to government prior to the 2010 General Election to work for bitter rival Gordon Brown. This documentary looks at the time prior to the 2010 election, where Mandelson had amassed a string of top level government jobs and titles.

Churchill (1 of 4) Renegade and Turncoat

This four part documentary from 1992 discusses the life and political achievements of Sir Winston Churchill.

Churchill (2 of 4) To Conquer Or To Die

Churchill (3 of 4) The Beginning Of The End

Churchill (4 of 4) Never Despair

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas for 2015!

I would like to read all (both!) of my readers a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the day and remember, it's not just about enjoying one day but as many of your days as possible!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Campbell Diaries

Alastair Campbell was so effective as Tony Blair's Director of Communications, many people think Campbell invented spin doctoring, or media manipulation. We forget that Campbell's reign ended before the era of the political blog and website satire came to the fore, although Campbell himself has a very active and popular Twitter account. His books "The Campbell Diaries" have chronicled his time in office alongside Tony Blair and have been released in book form. This series, produced with Campbell, provides a unique insight into New Labour and his personal battles with depression and his fight against the BBC over claims that he personally "sexed up" the "dodgy dossier" that led to parliament approving that we go to war in Iraq in 2003. I found (and find) all three episodes very interesting television.

The Alastair Campbell Dairies - Episode 1 - The Other Man In The Room

The Alastair Campbell Dairies - Episode 2 - Into The Firing Line

The Alastair Campbell Dairies - Episode 3 - In Power: Politics and People

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Tony Blair on YouTube

Loved to a crazy degree then hated equally as vociferously, Tony Blair's name stirs emotion whether positively or negatively. Like Margaret Thatcher, he made an impact. Like Thatcher, his legacy is under scrutiny, particularly foreign policy. Enjoy these documentaries. The Blair Years was a three part series.

The Blair Years 1

The Blair Years 2 (War on Terror)

The Blair Years 3 (Blairs Last Day In Office)

In the following series, another detailed look at Blair's decade in power.

The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair 1

The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair 2

Tony Blair's Political memoir was extremely candid and far from the fact based thome often offered by former leaders. In the following video which was recorded as he promoted his book, Tony Blair discusses his political career.

Tony Blair: A Journey - My Political Life

Friday, 18 December 2015

John Major on YouTube

John Major's Premiership is often lost in history due to the huge impact of his successor and predecessor Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher respectively. But it is worth watching and learning about as he managed a very small majority, organised rebellion, Black Friday and constant internal wrangling within the Conservative Party over Europe. Here are the documentaries that discuss these years, excuse the bizarre intros from the channel owner!

Major Takes Over: Part 1 of 3

Major Takes Over: Part 2 of 3

Major Takes Over: Part 3 of 3

After Labour won in 1997, the BBC produced "The Major Years". Here it is, in 5 parts.

The Major Years: Part 1 of 5

The Major Years: Part 2 of 5

The Major Years: Part 3 of 5

The Major Years: Part 4 of 5

The Major Years: Part 5 of 5

In recent years, John Major has remained politically active. Here he is in September 2012 discussing Politics with Dominic West.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The End of the Round Pound

Today is the final day that the current circular £1 coins will be minted. But do not expect to see the new 12 sided pound coin in your change any time soon, they will only begin circulation in 2017. Things could "happen" by then of course (remember our Queen is 90!) but to give you a taste of the new design, here is a picture of the new coins issued by The Royal Mint:

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Other Thatcher Documentaries

We will move on to look at other Prime Ministers including John Major, Tony Blair and Winston Churchill and I will link you up with other documentaries you will enjoy watching. Here are a few Thatcher documentaries that serve to record some analysis of her. Some are positive, some are negative and more critical. The most compelling I find are the ones where Thatcher herself fights for her legacy. She always comes across as tyrannical in parts.

Margaret Thatcher: Life, Love & Letters

Probably an attempt to soften some of the hatred for Thatcher when she left office, this documentary focused on her background, her Education and her regular correspondence with her sister which continued until she obtained high office.

Thatcher: The Downing Street Years: Part 1

Thatcher: The Downing Street Years: Part 2


Thatcher: The Downing Street Years: Part 3

Thatcher: The Downing Street Years: Part 4

This four part series is the most powerful series for me on Thatcher. It is probably the closest to her own definitive account of her time in office. Thatcher talks with candour and steel about her legacy.

Margaret & Denis Thatcher

In his first and only interview with daughter Carol shortly before his death, the first and only male consort of the Prime Minister, Denis Thatcher, discusses his life with Margaret Thatcher as she lead the country amid huge unrest and derision.

Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister

There are a number of documentaries that were broadcast after her death. Here is one of them.