The Daily Smackdown: Sore Loser John McTernan Doesn’t Understand Bullying

John McTernan - Labour Party - Jeremy Corbyn - Bullying

Everyone in the Parliamentary Labour Party is a grown adult. Accusations of “bullying” by Jeremy Corbyn are nothing short of pathetic

John McTernan dials up the centrist Labour victim complex yet further, with a whiny piece in the Telegraph moaning about the supposed “bullying” of Labour MPs by Jeremy Corbyn:

It has long been a watchword of the labour movement that “an injury to one is an injury to all”. The PLP have to put that into action – starting with the Shadow Cabinet. If any frontbencher is moved, let alone sacked, because of how they voted over air strikes on Isil then the entire Shadow Cabinet should resign in solidarity. Immediately. Without hesitation. And the rest of the PLP should refuse to fill the vacancies. Well, at least the nine out of ten who didn’t vote for Corbyn.

[..] To work this action has to be like a successful strike – well-organised, widely supported and ruthlessly executed.

Yes. John McTernan, in his latest foot-stomping tantrum, is seriously invoking the language of industrial action and trade unionism to argue for the continued privilege of Labour’s centrist political-bots to set the tone and direction of the Labour Party, even though their faction overwhelmingly lost the recent leadership election.

Don’t be deceived by McTernan’s claim that this is all about the Syria vote. If a reshuffle does indeed occur – and it should – it will be just as much a response to the two-facedness of those shadow cabinet members who willingly chose to serve under Corbyn and profess loyalty to his face, while briefing against him anonymously to the media.

And take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of Labour’s centrists – generally those people furthest removed from the party’s roots in the trade union movement, fully paid-up members of the political class – now invoking the language of collective struggle in an attempt to preserve their loosening grip on power and influence within the party.

Having forged careers based on centrist triangulation and studiously ignoring the trades union or anyone with old-fashioned socialist views, these pampered princelings now have the nerve to elicit sympathy by painting themselves as victimised underdogs, humble workers being oppressed by the tyrannical Corbynite managerial class.

This is yet further proof that centrist Labour is still nowhere close to understanding the reasons for their defeat and rejection by the wider leftist movement.

The John McTernans of this world would still seek to make a virtue out of the fact that they stand for nothing save the acquisition of power, and that to them, even the most fundamental political or ideological belief is ultimately negotiable in the quest for votes. And they are terrified that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party will usher in a new era, whereby politicians are actually expected to believe in something and seek to persuade and convince the electorate, rather than slavishly flattering voters and tilting with every passing opinion poll.

That’s why we are now seeing this hysteria about supposed “bullying” by Jeremy Corbyn. Never mind that it is the ranks of unhinged activists online who are doing the “bullying”, and not the mild-mannered Corbyn. It serves the interests of John McTernan & co. to conflate the two – to make Jeremy Corbyn personally responsible for the behaviour of every single online troll, and claim that the unpleasant abuse on social media is somehow being coordinated from the Leader’s office.

This blog disagrees with nearly everything that Jeremy Corbyn stand for. But the only thing worse than Corbyn’s socialist policies is the attitude of the self-entitled Labour centrists, who – despite comprehensively failing to articulate a political vision of their own – still arrogantly expect to get their own way.

Only the warped and self-important mind of John McTernan could cast Labour’s centrists-in-exile as the plucky underdogs, and Corbyn’s small band of loyalists as the cruel capitalist oppressors. The rest of us will see this hyperbolic nonsense for what it is.

Jeremy Corbyn bullying

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The Daily Smackdown: Darcus Howe’s Authoritarian Attack on Oliver Letwin

Nobody can call themselves a civil liberties campaigner while suggesting that unpleasant speech should be criminalised

It was only a matter of time before the frenzied condemnation, Tory-bashing and virtue-signalling which met the publication of a controversial Thatcher-era memo from Oliver Letwin and Hartley Booth turned into suggestions that law enforcement should get involved.

Step forward “civil liberties” campaigner Darcus Howe, who – seemingly forgetting what civil liberties are – decided to weigh in against Letwin.

The Guardian reports:

Civil liberties campaigner Darcus Howe has condemned remarks about black communities made in the 1980s by the prime minister’s policy chief after the Tottenham and Handsworth riots, describing the comments as “bordering on criminality”.

Oliver Letwin was forced to issue a statement apologising for any offence caused when a confidential memo from 1985 was released by the National Archives in which he blamed unrest on “bad moral attitudes”.

In a confidential joint paper, Letwin, who is now MP for West Dorset, and inner cities adviser (and later a Conservative MP) Hartley Booth, tell the then-prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, that “lower-class unemployed white people had lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale”.

The men warn Thatcher that setting up a £10m communities programme to tackle inner-city problems would do little more than “subsidise Rastafarian arts and crafts workshops” and that any help would only end up in the “disco and drug trade”.

“If a black man had said something quite like that he’d have been called into Scotland Yard and and he might be charged with incitement to riot. It is bordering on criminality,” said Howe, who was a prominent figure in black rights campaigns in the period the document was written.

Let’s be clear: Oliver Letwin’s words, and the sentiment behind them, were reprehensible. And yes, they were far from an isolated case, just as elements within the Metropolitan Police were once institutionally, unabashedly racist.

For all the necessary good that the Conservative government did to turn Britain around in the 1980s, we should not deny that some decidedly unsavoury elements – as typified by the arrogant, cloistered high Toryism displayed by the youthful Letwin – also rose to power on Margaret thatcher’s coattails. And yes, this included some high-handedly ignorant and unreconstructed ideas about race, as the Oliver Letwin memo reveals. On that much, there should be no argument.

But to draw such fresh outrage from a decades-old incident as some are now doing – or to make impetuous calls for Letwin to resign or even face criminal charges, as Darcus Howe is openly hinting – would achieve nothing, and change nothing about the past.

Oliver Letwin may be guilty of having held some unpleasant and ignorant views on race back in the 1980s, but there is no suggestion that he has at any time practiced discrimination on the basis of race, committed acts of violence or even said anything which might be considered a “hate crime”, even by Britain’s low standards of evidential proof.

Besides which, what is the statute of limitations on having once expressed some nasty – but at the time commonly held – political or social ideas when serving in public office? Are people to be permanently disbarred from public life for ever having said or thought the “wrong” thing? And are we so pathetically naive that we expect those politicians who pass our stringent tests to be anything other than those who are smart enough not to get caught, or to commit their deepest and darkest thoughts to paper in the first place?

The Left have a dangerous tendency to weaponise race and social issues, focusing so much on dealing out instant political death to anyone who treads on one of their verbal land mines that they fail to actually deliver the “social justice” they so ostentatiously seek.

And the hysteria surrounding Oliver Letwin’s 30 year old memo is just another example of seizing any opportunity to bash the “Tory scum” (how much more lenient would people be had, say, John McDonnell uttered a similar sentiment back in the early 1980s?) while failing to do any serious policy making of their own. After all, how much easier is it to cry “racism!” than it is to stand before the electorate with your own newly minted policies designed to deliver true equality of opportunity for all Britons?

But worst of all is the predictable irony of a so-called civil liberties campaigner making dark threats about criminalising speech. Any civil liberties campaigner worth their salt knows that the battle for free speech is won or lost at the margins – that the battle will be fought not over pleasant small talk about the weather, but over rude or intemperate speech which may be very offensive to some very vocal people.

Oliver Letwin expressed some truly unpleasant thoughts in his recently unearthed memo, and Darcus Howe is free to criticise him for it as much as he pleases. But if Darcus Howe or anyone else want to include threatening musings about “criminality” or being hauled in by Scotland Yard in their howls of outrage, they should take off the white hat of virtue first – and stop pretending to care about civil liberties.



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The Daily Smackdown: Cynical Bishops Exploit Terrorism For Publicity

BBC Religion Television

Who will condemn the bishops for exploiting our fear of terrorism in their grubby bid to preserve taxpayer funding of the BBC’s religious output?

The Church of England is very upset that the BBC is considering cutting the amount of taxpayer money it spends on (predominantly) Christian television output.

From the Telegraph:

A spokeswoman confirmed that the BBC was planning to “look at ways we can reduce costs” as it faced “huge financial challenges” but added that cuts would come from across the corporation.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, the Church of England’s lead spokesman on media issues, said the move could threaten something which was “fundamental to our public life”.

“It seems to me that religion has already taken a hit,” he said.

“It has already been reduced certainly in terms of its scope as an independent part of the BBC, at a time when we already need – as everyone acknowledges – more religious literacy in the nation.”

Nothing unusual there. The Church of England is a well oiled lobbying machine, and any private organisation lucky enough to have a bloc of 26 unelected representatives sitting in parliament to influence our laws in their favour would be foolish not to make good use of them. Thus it is no surprise that the unelected theocrats of our state church have been hard at work speaking out against the BBC’s planned actions.

But the fact that the Church of England’s behaviour is understandable does not make it any less reprehensible. Firstly, because it makes a total mockery of the idea of the BBC as an independent broadcaster. Nobody seriously believes that an organisation whose budget is nearly totally dependent on taxpayer money can be truly independent, but the fact that the Lords Spiritual are now actually speaking in parliament about the internal decisions and strategy of the BBC makes any pretence of the BBC’s impartiality or the government’s non-involvement utterly ridiculous.

Worse than this, though, is the flimsy rationale now offered by the bishops as a pathetic excuse for more taxpayer funded religious programming:

Bishops have warned the BBC it risks turnings its back on efforts to tackle extremism and aid integration by slashing spending on religious programming.

[..] The first female cleric in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, remarked that the decision had presumably been taken “to reduce the possibility of offending people with too much God stuff over the holiday”.

It is good to see the newly enobled Rachel Treweek, my Lord Bishop of Gloucester, is wasting no time in rolling up her sleeves and interfering in our national democracy as generations of theocrats have done before her. She will be making the home team very proud. But unfortunately, she and her fellow Lords Spiritual are talking nonsense.

The argument that cutting the amount of taxpayer money devoted to religious television and radio programming on the state broadcaster is somehow a threat to anti-extremism efforts is as ridiculous as it is unfounded.

More moderate Christianity on TV will not result in less Islamic extremism on the margins of British society. And pontificating, busybody bishops who abuse their parliamentary platform to suggest otherwise should provide evidence for the supposed link, or else retract the claim and admit that they are simply exploiting serious issues of national security in a cheap ploy to gain more taxpayer-funded airtime.

The real issue is not so much the pull factor of extremism as the push factor of the alienation of too many young Muslims from British society. It’s the fact that we have living among us too many self-segregated societies comprised of people who hold the same passports as us, but look upon us – and the enlightenment values of reason, education, liberty and democracy to which we try to adhere – as alien and unwelcome. By failing to inculcate a strong and inclusive sense of Britishness, out of craven fear of causing offence, we provide the Islamist recruiters with easy fodder.

Do my Lord Bishops of Gloucester and Norwich (flowery titles for a bygone age) seriously believe that the kind of alienated youths and their families who are now quietly slipping away to ISIS in Syria or seeking out radicalising materials online are the same type of people who tune in to BBC Two at six o’clock in the evening, ready to be reached out to and placated with a documentary about public spirited imams, rabbis and priests working together to open a new community centre? What nonsense.

The people most in need of the BBC’s moderate religious programming and generally liberal worldview are those whose eyes are glued to YouTube videos of anti-American 9/11 conspiracy theories or seditious social media conversations on their smartphone screens. More government intervention – be it through Prevent or the BBC – is not going to make meaningful inroads to these people. The only lasting solution must come from the bottom up, a revitalisation of patriotism and pride in Britain, and the promotion of a common British identity which transcends racial divides (rather than revelling in a multicultural dystopia which sees groups living side by side but separately in parallel, alienated lives.

Do the Lord Bishops have anything meaningful to say about that? No, they do not – perhaps with the exception of the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.

This is in no way intended as an attack on religion, or on the Church of England (so long as it stays within its own boundaries and stops trying to play an undue role in our public life). I grew up watching Songs of Praise on a Sunday, and have happy memories of doing so. But it is not right for general taxpayers of an increasingly secular country to continue funding religious programming using a model that invites some appointed bureaucrat or another to choose which religions or denominations are to be favoured above others.

Perhaps the Lords Spiritual begin to grasp this. Perhaps they are grasping at these increasingly ludicrous excuses for their continued influence because deep down, they realise that they have no place in the government of a twenty-first century democracy.

But if these are the death throes of theocracy in Britain, they are still very offensive indeed. Claiming that the BBC should continue to spend taxpayer money on religious output favouring the established church because failing to do so will unleash more extremism – and note how the bishops cannot bring themselves to utter the name of the religion from which that extremism currently emanates – is cynical and manipulative, playing on the fears of British people just to win more free promotion.

I have never expected much from the Church of England’s upper hierarchy, or their antidemocratic parliamentary delegation. But this is low, even by their rock-bottom standards.

First female bishop to sit in House of Lords

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The Daily Smackdown: Toby Young’s Misguided Invitation To Dan Hodges

Dan Hodges - Labour Party - Defect to Conservative Party

Not so fast, Toby Young. Dan Hodges is an honourable man, but he has no place in the party of Margaret Thatcher

It wasn’t the first time and it probably will not be the last, so understandably you may have paid little attention when Dan Hodges quit the Labour Party this week in disgust at the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the behaviour of his supporters.

Hodges departed again this week, firing this parting shot:

I’m done. Yesterday I cancelled my direct debit to the Labour Party. “Why don’t you just sod off and join the Tories”, Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters regularly ask anyone who dares to challenge their rancid world view.

I won’t be joining the Tories. But I am sodding off.

Fair enough. Dan Hodges has legitimate, irreconcilable differences with Jeremy Corbyn – both his policies and the way in which he runs the party (though Hodges’ sudden sensitivity to supposed bullying from the Corbynites seems a little odd coming from someone who was only too happy to get scrappy in his past life as a political campaign manager).

But clearly Dan Hodges and Jeremy Corbyn have very different visions of what the Labour Party should be, and nobody should fault Hodges’ decision to quit. I made the conscious choice not to re-join the Conservative Party when I returned to Britain in 2011, out of disgust with the centrist course plotted by David Cameron and an unwillingness to associate myself with the record of the coalition government, and so I’m certainly not preaching any kind of “stand by your man” dogma.

And now, inevitably, the offers to Dan Hodges to come join the Conservative Party are coming rolling in. At first, these were mostly coming from mocking Corbynistas on social media, rejoicing that a turncoat “Red Tory” like Hodges had finally gone (again). But then the mocking from the far left was replaced by more earnest offers from the supposed political Right.

Foremost of these offers came from Toby Young, Hodges’ colleague at the Telegraph, who wrote an open letter attempting to woo the ex-Labour columnist into the Tory fold. This letter is well-meant, but utterly misguided and counterproductive, as we shall see.

Toby Young begins:

On all the biggest political issues facing our country – what to do about the Islamic State, tackling the deficit, the renewal of our independent nuclear deterrent, education reform – you and the other Labour moderates are far closer to the leadership of my party than to Labour’s. I think that’s even true of the NHS, given that the health budget has increased in real terms year-on-year since David Cameron became Prime Minister. The commitment to increase spending on the NHS even further in the Autumn Statement surpasses anything promised by your party. And, as I’m sure you know, the minimum wage is set to rise faster under this government than it would have done under Ed Miliband, assuming he’d stuck to Labour’s manifesto.

And it’s true – Dan Hodges does hold refreshingly realistic perspectives on tackling ISIS in Syria, the deficit and Trident. When it comes to fundamental issues of national security, as all of these are, people from the Left and Right are often united.

More worryingly though, when it comes to trampling civil liberties in pursuit of an unattainable degree of security, both he and Theresa May are on the same page. And if Dan Hodges actually believes that throwing more money at a fundamentally broken and outdated NHS model is a good thing, then there is great crossover potential there, too. I’m just not sure that this is a good thing, as Toby Young seems to believe.

Young continues:

Indeed, on all the most important aspects of Osborne’s economic policy, the Labour moderates are much more closely aligned with us than you are with John McDonnell, not least because it’s virtually indistinguishable from the policy set out by Alastair Darling. In this respect, as in so many others, the Prime Minister and his Chancellor are the heirs to Blair.

Toby Young clearly meant this to be a bright and positive pitch to Dan Hodges to jump ship. But by hammering home the similarities between George Osborne and Alastair Darling and their remarkably similar (in practice if not in rhetoric) approaches to deficit reduction, all he manages to do is reveal just what a weak and ineffectual supposedly conservative government we currently have – Blairites with a patrician Tory façade.

Young concludes:

If your only hope of improving the lot of the least well-off is to persuade the Conservative Party to be more compassionate, then shouldn’t you do exactly what you’ve been urging the leadership of your own party to do? Say to hell with ideological purity and strike a bargain?

[..] I also think that, in time, many people on my side will come to see the value of a Blairite faction within the Conservative Party. Some of us are already worried about the corrosive effect that a lack of serious opposition will have on the government and would welcome a proper challenge. If that’s not going to be provided by Labour, then it must come from within our own ranks. Those of us who style ourselves “modernisers” will regard you as natural allies. In my mind’s eye, I can already see Lord Finkelstein standing at the other end of the welcome matt, bottle of champagne in hand.

So come on over, Dan. You already have many friends in the Tory party,including the Prime Minister, and I’m sure you’d quickly make many more. I think we’d be lucky to have you.

Unfortunately, in his rash invitation to Dan Hodges, Toby Young is falling into the same trap as David Cameron’s woolly “One Nation” model. Sure, it may be possible for the Tories to eke out a couple more narrow election victories by becoming so blandly inoffensive and unrecognisable that a sufficient number of the most bovine voters grunt their approval. But these narrow victories, like David Cameron’s “miracle majority” of twelve, provide a mandate only for the dull, technocratic management of Britain’s public services. Essentially they elect a Comptroller of Public Services – someone to kick when the trains don’t run on time or NHS waiting times get too long – not a world leader.

Convincing majorities – margins of the sort that allow radical changes to the country like realigning foreign policy, rolling back the remaining vestiges of the post-war settlement and delivering a smaller, more effective state – don’t come from pretending to be sufficiently like the Labour Party that it tricks a few wavering voters into switching sides. They come from articulating a vision so clear, so exciting and so blazingly inspirational that people vote as enthusiastic citizens inspired by the message, not self-interested consumers voting based on fear or greed.

A Conservative Party that is tame and toothless enough to accommodate someone like Dan Hodges would by definition be of the former type, not the latter. The mere fact that Toby Young is able to make his offer with a straight face proves that there is not currently a cigarette paper’s worth of difference between Blairite Labour-in-exile and the Cameron Conservatives, a party which enthused the electorate with their vision so much that they are perpetually just six defections away from defeat in the House of Commons.

In 1968, over a decade before she became prime minister, Margaret Thatcher warned in a speech:

There are dangers in consensus; it could be an attempt to satisfy people holding no particular views about anything. It seems more important to have a philosophy and policy which because they are good appeal to sufficient people to secure a majority.


No great party can survive except on the basis of firm beliefs about what it wants to do. It is not enough to have reluctant support. We want people’s enthusiasm as well.

Many supposed conservatives and Tory party members seem to have forgotten that lesson – the essential truth which delivered three terms of a Thatcher premiership, saving this country from seemingly inevitable decline and irrelevancy. David Cameron and George Osborne, both old enough to reap the fruits of Thatcherism without having really understood why it was so necessary, seem never to have absorbed this lesson in the first place.

Announcing the defection of Dan Hodges to the Conservative Party – having David Cameron welcome him at the door of Number 10 Downing Street with a big bottle of champagne and a basket of pears – would be the ultimate triumph of One Nationism. It would complete the transformation of the Conservative Party, underway since Thatcher left office, from a party of some ideological coherence to a well-oiled and finely calibrated PR machine, excelling in being all things to all people. An intelligent but soulless hive mind of people who quite fancy being in power, and who are content to say anything or compromise on any conviction in order to keep it. Thus, David Cameron will go down in history as the twenty-first century version of Ted Heath.

I don’t think that this is good enough. A Conservative Party sufficiently bland and uncontroversial that it might appeal to Dan Hodges, even on his most jaded day, is not one which I could bring myself to vote for at the ballot box. It’s not good enough for me. But way more important than that, it’s not good enough for Britain. This country is crying out for real leadership, a renewed sense of national purpose, and the re-imagining of the state and its role in our lives. Monolithic institutions like the broken welfare state and “our NHS” (genuflect) – fraying anachronisms from the post-war consensus – need to be redesigned from the ground up, with their blind apologists and vested interests dragged kicking and screaming into the new century.

But if Dan Hodges is walking around with a Conservative Party membership card in his wallet by the time 2020 rolls around, it’s all over. None of this essential conservative reform will happen. Not because Hodges is in any way a bad person, but because he is Labour to his core – and a Conservative Party which provides a political home for him is quite simply no longer a conservative party at all. They will defeat Labour and win a third term, sure. But their voter coalition will be so broad and so lacking in common aspiration that they will be even more rudderless and scattershot in government than they are today.

I’m almost certain that I know who Toby Young would pick if he was forced to choose, but I’m going to make the ultimatum anyway, because I care deeply about the Conservative Party too, and I am deadly serious about this.

Toby Young: It’s Dan Hodges or me.

Toby Young - Dan Hodges - Defect to Conservative Party

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The Daily Smackdown: Labour’s Pitch For Power Is A Child’s Temper Tantrum

Labour - Save Our NHS

Thus far, Jeremy Corbyn’s elevator pitch for power would be more at home in the school playground than the adult political debate

When your core political argument and pitch to the electorate can be easily summed up in crayon by a seven year old girl, it’s time to develop a more robust vision for government.

A first good step for Labour to take would be to stop fomenting or tacitly condoning behaviours like these, from activists and supposed supporters:

Shouting “Tory Scum” at opponents

Vandalising war memorials

Shrieking about nonexistent human rights abuses

Physically threatening MPs

Being insufferable online

Pretending that there will be no offsetting behavioural consequences to dramatic tax hikes

Stubbornly believing in the magic money tree

I’ve written before about how, in their incoherent rage at the supposed transgressions of the Evil Tories, the Left are in great danger of becoming the British left wing equivalent of the American Tea Party – morally certain, impervious to facts, intolerant of the slightest internal dissent and quick to anger when contradicted by outsiders.

Where the Tea Party blindly venerate the US constitution (though they read it selectively, and from a highly originalist perspective) and would see the federal government shrunk back to its nineteenth century bare bones, the Corbynite Left venerate “our NHS” (genuflect) and the other monolithic edifices of the welfare state stemming from the socialist post-war consensus.

Neither seem very comfortable living in the present. And the worst excesses of both would be more at home stapled to the wall of a primary school classroom than reported and printed as serious ideas in the pages of a national newspaper.

Tory Protests

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