Tag Archives: Opinion

There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it

It would be great if this Brexit nonsense could be stopped, but I am not very hopeful. A lot of people seem to think that we will suddenly be in some sort of “little England”  eutopia.  I will be the first to congratulate them if it works out that way but I don’t think it will.

Why are we cutting ourselves off from the rest of Europe and its moderating effect?

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This article titled “There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it” was written by Tom Kibasi, for The Guardian on Monday 31st December 2018 15.47 UTC

If it was the season of peace and goodwill towards all, then politics failed to get the memo. Not only did hostilities continue through the Christmas period, some of the main protagonists announced in advance that they were incapable of taking a break. If anything, the holidays provided more opportunities for irate, booze-fuelled Twitter rants. One particular object of ire was Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas interview in the Guardian, where he appeared to dash the hopes of many on the left that Labour would immediately become the party of remain.

As the political class sobers up in January and returns to Westminster, it will become apparent that little has changed. The size of the majority against the prime minister’s deal will have diminished but – as No 10 briefed in the run-up to the internal confidence vote in her leadership – it only takes a majority of one. Bizarrely, Downing Street has chosen to amplify the threat of no deal by announcing more money and even the deployment of troops. But this strategy seems set to backfire: it will only give comfort to the European Research Group hardliners that there can be a soft landing to jumping off the cliff edge.

It makes sense that Labour should seek a general election because its critique of the government goes well beyond the handling of the Brexit negotiations. From an electoral perspective, there are more marginal constituencies that backed remain than marginals that supported leave. It is an open secret in Westminster that a new centrist party is readying to launch and, together with the Liberal Democrats, could form a repository for enough remain protest votes to deny Labour a majority if it were to go into a general election promising to deliver Brexit. It has never been apparent why Labour should fear losing leave voters to the Tories more than losing remain voters to other parties.

While it is true that many Labour constituencies voted to leave, for many of these voters Brexit is a far less important issue than stagnant wages, large class sizes and lengthening NHS waiting times. Moreover, many of these areas are strongly tribally Labour, and what has changed since 2016 is that Brexit is now “owned” by the Tory party. Crudely, many of these voters hate Tories more than they want Brexit. For all these reasons, it is inconceivable that Labour would go into a general election without a promise of a further referendum with a remain option.

Yet in all likelihood the government would win a confidence vote even if it had lost the vote on the deal. With May’s deal defeated, a general election ruled out, and no deal a calamity, there would be few options left. One option could be for a renegotiation of the political declaration (rather than the withdrawal agreement) but a closer economic partnership would probably see May lose as many Tory MPs as she might be able to persuade opposition MPs.

Even if the political declaration were to be tweaked, it would not be binding on May’s successor—making it politically dangerous for Labour to endorse.

So after the meaningful vote, Labour may be confronted with a choice between no deal and a second referendum. In all likelihood, pro-European MPs will put down an amendment to the finance bill requiring a referendum as a condition of the government collecting tax. Labour may have little option but to back a second referendum if it is to protect the country from no deal which it rightly believes would be a disaster. In this scenario, Labour will want to remind the public that they are being forced to the ballot box again as a result of May’s failure to negotiate a deal that parliament could support, not because of the choices made by the opposition.

That’s why there have been many credible reports of No 10 and Conservative central office ramping up preparations for a second referendum. Paradoxically, it may be that Downing Street is talking up no deal precisely in anticipation of a second referendum – so that it can claim that it was willing to go ahead with no deal but that Labour forced a second referendum. Whatever the manoeuvres, the public are likely to conclude that the government is responsible for the failure of the Brexit project.

With more than 80% of Labour members wanting to remain in the European Union, Labour would plainly back remain in a future referendum. While the remain and leave blocs have proved more resilient than many anticipated, there has been an important shift towards remain, and even more so when offered against the specifics of either May’s deal or no deal rather than the undefined leave option. Corbyn has been repeatedly criticised for his lack of enthusiasm for the EU; but this may prove to be a decisive advantage. It is mildly Eurosceptic voters who need to be persuaded, and Corbyn could speak authentically to this group about the balanced case for voting to stay in the EU.

Crucially, the most significant group of swing voters in a future referendum are working-class women – this group has been hit hard by austerity and Brexit is not their top issue. These are precisely the same voters that Labour needs to win a general election. If Labour’s second referendum message of “vote remain, let’s rebuild Britain instead” can convince them in 2019, it could build the momentum for a Labour victory in the next general election too. And it would smash the generational project of the right, leaving conservatism in disarray.

If there is a second referendum, only Labour can win it – and winning it might be Labour’s path to power. All of this will be determined in the coming weeks. It’s time to take a deep breath.

• Tom Kibasi is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He writes in a personal capacity

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Money can’t buy happiness? That’s just wishful thinking

I know when I don’t have any I can be very stressed, but who would have thought it.
For me money only represents security.

For others I suppose its different. What I do find most unpleasant is the undue influence unelected people with money have over others. It’s all about the power?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Money can’t buy happiness? That’s just wishful thinking” was written by Ruth Whippman, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 17th May 2016 18.04 UTC

Money can’t buy happiness: it’s a rarely questioned truism. It also tends to be most enthusiastically embraced by those who have never gone without it. “I’ve tried hard to care about money,” Chelsea Clinton once humble-bragged, “but I couldn’t.” No matter how attached we are to the idea that money can’t buy happiness, though, the research shows almost the complete opposite.

After community and social relationships, the association between income and wellbeing is one of the most robust in the happiness literature. And a new study demonstrates just how deep-seated that psychological link is, how intricately our financial circumstances weave their way into our psyches.

Money doesn’t just shield us from obvious daily stresses, this study tells us, but can actually buy us the most basic of our psychological needs – human connection. The higher our income, the less likely we are to experience loneliness.

This study builds on a wide body of research giving a similar message. Although money is clearly no guarantee of contentment, and there are anomalies in the data, as a general rule, the better off we are financially, the happier we are.

But yet we still restate our fridge-magnet mantra about the irrelevance of money to happiness over and over again, a cosy boast of our lack of materialism. And in recent years, with the advent of the highly influential “positive psychology” movement, this idea has been given a new academic respectability.

Positive psychology – the study of happiness and how to improve it – is an academic discipline less than 20 years old, and one of the fastest growing and most newly influential in the US. Positive psychology professors have been contracted to advise everyone from corporate America to the British government, and the field has spawned an entire industry of self-help books, coaching, courses and consultancy.

Right from the start, the basic philosophical underpinning of most of the positive psychology movement has been that our circumstances (including our financial circumstances) are of minimal consequence to our happiness. Instead, what really matters is our attitude. In this worldview, with the right techniques and enough emotional elbow-grease we can “positive think” our way out of almost any adversity.

Often using small or methodologically flawed studies as evidence, positive psychologists restate over and over the claim that money is of minimal importance to wellbeing. “Increases in wealth have negligible effects on personal happiness” writes Professor Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania in his seminal positive psychology book, Authentic Happiness.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert discussed a similar idea in his wildly popular TED talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, now viewed over 12 million times. He quoted as evidence a methodological train-wreck of a study from the 1970s that suggested that a small group of lottery winners were no happier than a group of paraplegic accident victims. (Although Gilbert graciously later admitted that the study actually didn’t even really show that much.)

Positive psychology’s insistence that our circumstances matter little to our happiness, and relentless focus on individual effort has an ideological flavor – a kind of neoliberalism of the emotions. And perhaps this philosophical bent isn’t surprising, given the positive psychology’s history and its key financial backers.

A large part of positive psychology’s academic research has been bankrolled by an organization called the Templeton Foundation, a group that has provided millions of dollars in funding to most of the major positive psychology research centers in America. While the Foundation is ostensibly politically neutral, its founder and director until his death last year was Sir John Templeton Jr, a lavish rightwing political donor, who over his lifetime gave millions of dollars to the Republican party and various anti-government rightwing political causes.

From the start, the Templeton Foundation set the intellectual scope of positive psychology’s remit by overwhelmingly funding projects designed to demonstrate the importance of individual effort to happiness via optimism, gratitude exercises and the like, and all but ignoring the impact of social context.

The narrative of the irrelevance of money to happiness has, unsurprisingly been enthusiastically received by corporate America, some of the best customers of the positive psychology movement, who have eagerly replaced pay-rises with “workplace happiness training”, unionization with positive thinking.

But it’s a dangerous story. Money matters. And most of us have a lot less of it than we used to. For most workers, real income has barely shifted for decades, and more than a quarter of working Americans earn what are officially classified as “poverty-level wages”. Forty-six million people in the US live below the poverty line and even the middle class is in financial crisis. Nearly half of Americans would struggle to find 0 in an emergency. Money isn’t a fringe issue to our wellbeing. It’s at the very heart and soul of it.

And instead of being embarrassed to admit that, we should be shouting it from the rooftops, printing it on our fridge magnets and using it as a rallying cry for social action. Money makes us happy! Suggesting otherwise doesn’t make us spiritually enlightened or morally superior. It makes us clueless.

Ruth Whippman will be speaking at a Guardian Live/Somerset House event How to be Happy on 1 September.

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Mindfulness therapy for mental health problems? ‘It’s more useful than drugs’

Well now, I have had the drugs and they worked for a while, but they don’t permanently fix the problem. 

Personally I have tried everything from self-hypnosis to mediation and these techniques work for a while,  but the effectiveness tends to be temporary. Having said that, anything that works even for a while has got to help .

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Mindfulness therapy for mental health problems? ‘It’s more useful than drugs'” was written by Sarah Marsh and Guardian readers, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 18th May 2016 08.30 UTC

Many people, in an attempt to de-stress, have tried some form of mindfulness – the practice of sitting still and focusing on your breathing and thoughts. But does it work? And in what circumstances?

A new study has raised hope for its use in treating mental health problems. The biggest review of the practice by researchers at Oxford University found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) could help to combat depression as effectively as drugs.

The University of Oxford’s department of psychiatry, the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, also released research last year that found the MBCT course reduced the risk of relapse into depression by 44%. It adds to emerging evidence showing its effectiveness for treating generalised anxiety disorder and other mental health conditions.

As part of mental health awareness week, the Guardian posted a callout asking for those with mental health concerns to share their views on the effect of mindfulness on their wellbeing. More than 200 people responded.

Gina Rose, 51, from Basingstoke, who attended an MBCT course through the NHS, replied, saying that she used to get completely overwhelmed by her thoughts, succumbing to fear and depression caused by a childhood trauma. “Mindfulness didn’t take away these feelings completely, but it made them not overwhelming,” she says. “Over time, as I saw thoughts arise I acknowledged them and worked on self-compassion for having them in the first place. All this meant was that I didn’t end up feeling like death whenever depression came knocking.”

Kyle, 56, from London, was introduced to mindfulness in 1991 by his therapist, during a period of anxiety and depression. “It had a surprisingly rapid effect on me, and then levelled out to a steadier climb. If you’ve been breathing badly, with anxiety, you’re causing adrenaline to course through your nervous system, creating a mind-breath-panic feedback loop. This escalates to the point where it is enervating and exhausting. The gain from slowing down and being conscious of your breath was almost immediate.” Once this was achieved, Kyle could explore the reasons for his anxiety.

Mike, 56, from London, was recommended mindfulness meditation by a counsellor to help deal with a generalised anxiety disorder, and found it more effective than antidepressants. “It won’t work for everyone, no doubt, but I have anxiety that isn’t very severe. It certainly makes sense that spending 10 minutes a day relaxing and focusing on your thoughts, feelings and sensations would help you feel more present. I found it more useful than the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) I was prescribed by the NHS, in any case.”

Not everyone had such positive experiences. Tom, 42, from Lancashire tried dance-based mindfulness through the NHS, and also experimented with breathing techniques. “My mind always slipped back to listening to the music, and the lyrics. Breathing exercises make me more anxious … I seem to be unable to meditate. My mind is very busy, and I just end up thinking about how I should be meditating, with all sorts of other thoughts whizzing by as well.”

Tom feels that when mindfulness fails, the blame is often placed on the person who is practising it. “‘Don’t you want to change?’ That’s what I kept on being asked. Of course I do, but I know where my mental health issues come from. I have been through some very traumatic experiences, and I need to tackle them.”

For some, mindfulness not only doesn’t work, it also may make the problem worse, an issue raised by psychologists Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm in their book, The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?, which argues that we need to look into the “dark side” of mindfulness.

Huck, 54, says that with practice, the mind is freed of both positive and negative thought patterns. This can allow problems to be put into a broader context.

But, he adds, the vastness of the mind can have a depressing effect on some. “This is because when we slow our thoughts down, they may play out in a more detailed and specific way. This can be useful with positive thoughts, but it can be damaging when we are in a depressed mood. The tone can become self-destructive and a sense of hopelessness may emerge.”

Helena, 52, from Ireland, says that if someone claims that it makes them feel worse, they shouldn’t be told by their psychiatrist to persist. “This happened to me. Also, I was made me feel that if I wasn’t feeling better, it was my own fault for not sticking with it. Ironically, I believe mindfulness should be started when a person is well. Or at least well enough to endure some psychic discomfort.”

Some also wonder whether mindfulness is more effective for certain mental health issues. Ian, 40, from Nottingham says: “I’d recommend it to recovering and recovered people to maintain good times and as a coping strategy but people have to be quite stable, mentally strong and with other forms of support in place. It’s not for people in acute states, in crisis, going through major stresses or in severe depression.”

Annemarije, 18, from Derby, who has tried mindfulness through the NHS as part of CBT, says: “It can help with neuroses like anxiety, depression and maybe obsessive compulsive disorder, but it might be tricky to apply to people who suffer from illnesses that feature psychosis. If my dad (a bipolar-schizophrenic) can’t be bothered to take his pills now and then, I’m not sure if he’d be up for sitting down and practising mindfulness.”

Despite the fact that some struggled with mindfulness (or it simply didn’t help with their issues), the overall message was that if you are given proper support then you have a higher chance of finding mindfulness beneficial.

Many of those who replied to us stress that a good teacher is essential, something noted in this year’s mindfulness all-party parliamentary group’s interim report, Mindful Nation UK.

Tracey, 46, from Bromley says: “The UK guidelines for mindfulness teachers requires rigorous and committed training. If the teacher doesn’t adhere to these guidelines then mindfulness in mental health will not be effective.”

There was also a general consensus that you should approach mindfulness as a tool for recovery but not see it as a cure-all. Dr Sarah Maynard, 33, from Tunbridge Wells, says: “The difficulty comes when people think it is a panacea. As with any therapeutic approach it is not right for everyone, and not right for people in the midst of significant problems … Mindfulness is not something we can simply ‘plug into’ to fix ourselves, it’s a fundamentally different way of approaching our difficulties and our lives, and is a practice that takes time to develop. Eight-week courses run by appropriately trained providers are the perfect opportunity to develop understanding and practise this approach.”

Jeannie Mackenzie, 65, from Scotland, describes it as a significant aid in her toolbox, which can “help us stay well, along with good food, exercise and connection with others”. For others, it can also be used alongside medication or other forms of therapy.

The most important thing, though, as pointed out by nearly all respondents, is to follow what feels right for you. Craig, 46, from London, says: “There is no doubt in my mind that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for dealing with personal issues and managing stress, but it’s only one of many techniques and strategies for coping. A walk in nature, time with friends, a gentle run or reading a good book can achieve very similar results … People need to adopt a strategy that best suits their personality and the issues they face, which calls for a certain amount of trial and error.”

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Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe

An interesting perspective.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Two tribes go to war and neither the red nor the blue chief is safe” was written by Andrew Rawnsley, for The Observer on Sunday 27th March 2016 05.04 UTC

Napoleon wanted generals who were lucky. Napoleon would have liked David Cameron. He became Tory leader when Tony Blair’s electoral magic had faded and his days were numbered. Lucky Dave then fought the 2010 election against a Labour party that had been in government for 13 years and was showing its age.

His rival for the premiership had presided over the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s and, on his own account, Gordon Brown was not a politician suited for the television age. When Mr Cameron failed to parlay those advantages into a parliamentary majority, he borrowed one from the Lib Dems, who did sterling service sustaining him for five years while destroying their electoral base in the process.

He gambled the United Kingdom with a referendum on Scottish independence. Labour did the heavy lifting to keep the UK intact and its reward was to be toxified as Tory collaborators in the eyes of many Scots. The devastation this wreaked on Labour support north of the border played to his advantage at the 2015 election by allowing the Tories to scare English voters with the thought that a Miliband government would be a marionette of the Nationalists. Lady Luck also smiled on him when the pollsters, by calling the election wrong, helped smooth his path back to No 10.

I don’t put all this down to blind chance. That would be to underestimate Mr Cameron. He would not be approaching his sixth anniversary at No 10 were he not highly skilled at exploiting the opportunities that time, chance and opponents have presented to him. Like all successful leaders, he has made the most of his good fortune.

The trouble with luck is that she eventually runs out. She seemed to be bidding farewell to this prime minister last weekend. He had been hit with the most dramatic and damaging resignation of his premiership when Iain Duncan Smith quit the cabinet in a fit of vitriolic vapours. By Monday, the budget was unravelling faster than you can say fiasco and George Osborne had gone into hiding. Mr Cameron had to face the Commons that afternoon. This should have been a horrible experience for him.

Yet still he was in luck. Good fortune smiled on him in the bearded guise of his main inquisitor. His prayers for relief had been granted by St Jeremy, the patron saint of prime ministers in peril. Presented with a priceless opportunity to skewer the prime minister and take apart his claims to lead a one-nation government, Mr Corbyn decided the most effective approach was not to mention the self-defenestration of IDS and his excoriating attack on the cabinet which he had just left.

The Labour leader did not, as some have had it, kick the ball over the bar. He didn’t even try to connect his foot with the ball. I am still trying to fathom why not. Had no one told him that a significant element of the job description of leader of the opposition is to, well, to oppose? Was he too preoccupied drawing up lists of suspected traitors among Labour MPs to prepare for this important engagement at the dispatch box? Was he too busy tending to his allotment and nurturing his marrows to have watched any news? Maybe I am over-thinking this. Maybe he is just hopeless.

If that performance had Labour people looking on in stunned disbelief, there was worse to come two days later at prime minister’s questions. By then, Mr Corbyn had managed to find out that a member of the cabinet had resigned. But it was too late. Bringing it up 4 8 hours on only served to remind everyone that he had failed to stick the ball in the net two days earlier. On top of which, someone on his team carelessly lost a list which divided Labour MPs into five categories of loyalty and opposition to the great helmsman of Islington. The list fell ino enemy hands. So we all now know that his chief whip is designated “hostile” and so is Labour’s candidate to be mayor of London. “Core group negative” includes Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson, the leader of the Labour In campaign.

The Tory leader used the exposure of the list to crush the man opposite. “I thought I had problems,” he jeered after saying they could put him down as “core support” for Mr Corbyn remaining as Labour leader. A half hour that ought to have been torture for the prime minister turned into a humiliation for his opponent.

The most devoted of Mr Corbyn’s followers will say that this mockery shows that the Tories are frightened of the Labour leader. Let me try to break this as gently as I can. The Tories really, really are not scared of Mr Corbyn. Most Tories are more likely to lose sleep worrying about whether they put out the cat than they are about the Labour leader. For reasons I will describe in a moment, the Conservatives would be better served, and so would the country, if they were a bit more frightened of Labour. The other thing people will say is that parliamentary knockabout excites only people who live in the “Westminster bubble”. No one “in the real world” cares about this meaningless theatre.

I agree that it is theatre, but it is far from meaningless. Parliament still matters for holding the prime minister to account. It matters more under this prime minister because he rarely deigns to grant substantial interviews with heavyweight media interrogators and only holds news conferences when he has absolutely no choice. The prospect of being tested by the leader of the opposition should, at the very least, make a prime minister nervous. It should keep him on his toes. Since he started facing Mr Corbyn, Mr Cameron clearly finds PMQs so effortless that the ease with which he cruises through them must embarrass even him. It also matters because how the party leaders perform in the Commons influences how the media rate and report on them and that plays its role in shaping public perceptions. It also has a significant impact on the morale of their parliamentary troops. At the end of that PMQs, you didn’t need any lists to tell you what Labour MPs thought about Jeremy Corbyn. It was written on their funereal faces. An encounter which should have united them in exploiting the government’s divisions and disarray turned into an occasion in which the Tories roared on their man as he ridiculed the Labour leader.

My first column of this year remarked that it is highly unusual for both major parties to be doing the splits at the same time. As this year grows older, things are getting even stranger. We now have a feedback loop in which the divisions in the Labour party feed those among the Tories and vice versa. Whatever their manifold and manifest differences, one thought unites nearly all Conservatives – that the next election is as good as won for them. This is encouraging Tories to think that they can behave however they like without fear of punishment at the ballot box.

The empty space where an effective opposition ought to be is an incitement for the government to be complacent, cocky and slapdash. That arrogance has consequences, as we saw with the budget. At the same time, absent an opposition that they fear, Tory discipline is breaking down. The prime minister’s internal opponents are emboldened to be more aggressive in their rebellions against the Tory leader. The language exchanged about Europe becomes more poisonous. It lessens the chances of putting the Conservative party back together again on the other side of the referendum.

In normal times, we’d expect this to have a positive effect on the opposition. The spectacle of Tories tearing into each other like a feral bunch of ferrets ought to be uniting Labour in a conviction that the next election is winnable for them. In these extraordinary times, Tory division has the opposite effect. It is not bringing Labour together; it is amplifying Labour’s internal turbulence. Labour MPs see a Tory party which is bitterly split and despair that their own leadership seems utterly incapable of profiting from the opportunity that it ought to present to them.

A few Labour MPs have broken cover and openly called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Many more talk privately of an attempt to oust him once the EU referendum is over. Whether this will come to anything, we will see, but I would caution Mr Corbyn not to place too much reliance on that list as a guide to the mood in his parliamentary party. It has Labour MPs down as neutral or friendly who are, to my knowledge, hostiles.

While talk of toppling their leader grows on the Labour side, regicide is also on the minds of a significant number of Tory MPs. Among them, there is much chatter that David Cameron will face a leadership challenge after the referendum, whether he wins it or not. It is possible that, before year’s end, there will have been attempts from within both the major parties to oust their leaders. What would once have seemed wildly improbable is now quite easily conceivable. The terra becomes yet more incognita.

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Iain Duncan Smith has revealed the empty truth of compassionate conservatism

I am convinced that IDS has some sort of personality disorder. The level of apparent  cognitive dissonance is a bit weird. But what do I know?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Iain Duncan Smith has revealed the empty truth of compassionate conservatism” was written by Suzanne Moore, for theguardian.com on Monday 21st March 2016 11.14 UTC

Are we to accept that awful croaker, Iain Duncan Smith, as some new martyr in the fight against austerity? Clearly the man who lied extensively on his CV is still in the business of self–delusion. His sudden realisation that the government was bearing down on the weakest in society, those who were never going to vote Tory anyway, has woken him from his slumber. The rise in food banks, the huge rise in homelessness, the suicides of those being sanctioned, the disabled suffering because of bedroom tax, the end of EMA, the long and continuing attack on single parents, predominantly women and children – he was just fine with all that.

But this latest budget he finds a bit cruel. It’s a contextual thing, taking from the disabled to help people selling off second homes looks, I don’t know … biased? What has been so enjoyable about this weekend is watching the effect of IDS’s (In Deep Shit his mates call him) flesh wound on George Osborne. What a bleed out.

Osborne, the arch-strategist whose dream is to lock in the Tory vote for generations, has looked more and more detached lately. This is why he is everywhere in a hard hat and hi-vis jacket. These are the signifiers of growth, a growth that is not happening. He is playing dress up. The public instinctively know this.

His “skivers” rhetoric does not work so well when applied to people with MS, just as Jeremy Hunt’s demonising of junior doctors as money-grabbing militants does not tally with people’s actual experience. We go to hospitals. We see who works hard. Hunt and IDS are loathed and they use faith bizarrely as a counter to compassion instead of its partner. Duncan Smith’s universal credit has been unworkable and unravelling for some time. His conscience has been pricked by this failure as much as anything else.

Where, I wonder, does this leave the creed of Cameronism itself? For a while it has seemed little more than an extension of Thatcherism with some gay rights thrown in. This is we are told is “compassionate conservatism”. I once followed William Hague around America (a young Osborne was there too) as he was learning compassionate conservatism from people like George Bush and Henry Kissinger. One of its key tenets is decentralisation from the state alongside the idea that only markets can generate wealth and freedom.

Yet this is not what Osborne has done at all. He is centralising power like crazy. Why is he interfering in school days, taking power away from local authorities, ending parent governors? This is a power grab and increasingly it exposes the end of any compassion that may have existed within the party leadership. Austerity no longer makes sense even in terms of his own logic. This is an ideology of callousness. And it is brazen.

Cruelty as George Eliot said requires no motive outside itself. “It only requires opportunity.” This is the legacy of Cameron.

So I don’t buy IDS as the tin man who has finally found a heart – yet somehow the curtain has been pulled back on the Wizard Oz-borne. An illusionist whose tricks are hollow. Cameronism is equally exposed as a belief system with no vision beyond keeping the show on the road. We may indeed be back in Kansas.

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The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all

There’s always hope, though I am not sure how much.
You have to have faith in something though. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view on Labour’s byelection win: not such a bad week after all” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 4th December 2015 19.05 UTC

Labour retains safe Labour seat in Lancashire heartlands byelection. No story there, then. Except that, in the case of the Oldham West and Royton byelection, there undoubtedly is a story. This has been a torrid back end of the year for Labour. Splits, bad blood and bad headlines have cooked up such a witches’ brew for Jeremy Corbyn’s party that the expectation on all sides, based on doorstep evidence, was of a Labour slump and even perhaps a loss to Ukip. Early editions of the Daily Mail on Friday were so confident that they ran a pre-declaration story headlined “Corbyn effect costs Labour thousands of votes.” But, let’s be honest, no one else saw evidence of a big Labour win coming.

It is true that the Labour vote fell this week in Oldham West compared with the general election. But so did everybody else’s. That’s because turnout as a whole went down from 60% in May to 40% on Thursday, sadly typical for a modern byelection. What matters though, was that Labour’s share of the vote actually went up – by seven points – not down, while the Conservatives fell by 10 points and Ukip, supposedly the great threat to Labour this week, managed only a small increase while still ending nearly 11,000 votes adrift of Labour’s new MP Jim McMahon.

That’s a good bankable win for Labour in anyone’s money. Mr McMahon’s success puts him into the top 20 Labour shares of the vote in Britain and gives his party a much-needed electoral fillip after a grim time. The flip side of it is that it’s a bad loss for the challengers, Ukip and the Tories, never mind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, all of whom might have persuaded themselves that Oldham West might offer them something. The gas has gone out of Ukip’s balloon, at least in Lancashire, while George Osborne’s party has no electoral dividend to show for all his northern powerhouse-building.

It’s a mistake to pretend that Labour’s win is all that unusual, though. By a coincidence, the first byelection of the last parliament was in neighbouring Oldham East and Saddleworth in January 2011. Labour successfully put up its share in that byelection too, by a meaty 10 points, while the Tory share halved. It was a reassuring win for Labour’s new leader Ed Miliband, whose party mostly did well in byelections for the next three years. But like most byelections in the early part of a parliament it said little or nothing about the 2015 general election result when it eventually came. There was a long way still to go, then as now.

Mr McMahon was clearly an excellent candidate in a crucial contest for his party. Talented, local, competent, well known in an area where he is the council leader, he was nobody’s callow besuited candidate from Westminster central casting. These things probably mattered more than that he was on a different wing of the party from his leader. Labour’s factions will argue long and loud about whether Oldham was a victory for Mr McMahon or Mr Corbyn. Their respective conclusions will reflect their respective prejudices. The truth is surely that, between them, they did enough to allow the Labour brand to win once more.

Real votes matter more than opinion polls. Yet each of them is important. Labour can draw comfort from Oldham West. But it has to beware the message of a poll this week which showed, first, that the voters grew more doubtful about air strikes in Syria as Wednesday’s Commons vote drew near but, second, that Mr Corbyn’s job ratings have fallen sharply since he took over in September. Mr Corbyn now has a net approval rating of -41, compared with -8 in September. David Cameron, by contrast, has a rating of zero, with voters evenly divided. That should be cause for Labour concern.

Still, we should not be hypocritical. If Labour had lost Thursday’s byelection, this editorial and this weekend’s political talk would all be about Mr Corbyn, especially after a searing week at Westminster over Syria. His leadership would be on the line. The profiles of Hilary Benn would be being burnished. So if defeat for Labour would have been bad for Mr Corbyn, it surely follows that victory for Labour must be good for him. His leadership is therefore not on the line right now. In Oldham at least, Mr Corbyn was not the issue in the way his opponents and critics might have imagined. On Wednesday, Labour MPs went along with majority party opinion and supported him on Syria by two to one. This tells us something, perhaps not too much, about the future. Nevertheless, the Labour leader can undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief this weekend. And so can his party, at least until next time.

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