Diary

ConHome Diary: Seumas' Power Grab, Crispin's Poppers & Margaret's Ostrich

22 Jan 2016 at 14:13

The appointment of Seamus Milne as Jeremy Corbyn’s Director of Strategy raised many eyebrows at the time. A Labour friend of mine who knows about these things told me: “Within a few months he’ll have complete control, you just watch the purge of anyone who dares to confront him”. On Wednesday night it emerged that Corbyn’s popular director policy had quit after a bruising encounter with Milne over the fact that Corbyn had announced policies in his Fabian Society speech on Saturday without even consulting Coleman. Next on the hitlist is Corbyn’s chief of staff Simon Fletcher, who has also been completely sidelined by Milne. Make no mistake this is a power grab right out of the Trotsky political handbook, which tells us that in order to implement permanent revolution you have to grab all levers of power within an organisation and be ruthless about it. Many Labour MPs profess to be horrified by Milne’s approach to his job, and several have told Jeremy Corbyn of their concerns, but as far as the leader is concerned he can do no wrong. Carry on comrades!
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Those of us who considered Donald Trump a joke candidate are having to rapidly revise our views. He’s still there and shows no signs of departing the field. Indeed, he is consistently topping the polls. This week he received the endorsement of the completely batshit crazy Sarah Palin. I say that as someone who thought she was rather refreshing when she first arrived on the scene and defended her against a concerted media onslaught. No more. Her performance in front of The Donald and a hysterical Iowan crowd proved once and for all what a narrow escape the United States had when John McCain failed to beat Barack Obama. And the thing is, her screeching was scripted. She was reading from notes. Trump, standing behind her on the stage, didn’t quite raise his eyes to the skies but you could tell that even he was thinking “this woman is off the scale”. The fact that she is the darling of the Tea Party tells you all you need to know about it. Tim Montgomerie, who is now covering the US election for The Times, has tweeted that he couldn’t support either Trump or Cruz, even though previously he has supported Rick Santorum who may look and sometimes sound very moderate but is actually just as reactionary as Trump and Cruz.
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The Democrats are also having their issues. Hillary Clinton is by no means home and dry and is being seriously challenged by Bernie Sanders, the US equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn. I interviewed Bernie’s Oxford based brother, Larry, this week, a very genial cove who is equally as left wing as his sibling. In New Hampshire Sanders is tipped to run Hillary very close. If he could beat her he could really get what George Bush Snr used to call ‘The Big Mo’. I struggle to believe that there is a serious possibility of the presidential election being contested by Trump and Sanders, but you never know.
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Back in 2005, Lord Ashcroft published his analysis of where the Tories went wrong in the 2005 election. It was called ‘Smell the Coffee’. It was avidly read by everyone. It was well researched and didn’t pull its punches. Contrast that with the meek effort by Margaret Beckett this week. She had been tasked by Labour’s National Executive Committee to write a report explaining why Labour lost and lost to badly. To be frank, her report was a joke. It was short on explanation and long on bleating. It concluded that Ed Miliband was a good leader and done little wrong. It was all the fault of the dastardly media who gave him such a hard time. Imagine the derision that would have been heaped on Lord Ashcroft in 2005 if he had made similar claims about IDS and Michael Howard. They too faced a hostile media, but no one seriously believed that was why the Tories lost. The second people to blame for Labour’s loss were the ‘evil Tories’ who managed to bamboozle the stupid electorate. So in short, very little of it was Labour’s fault. There was little coffee smelling going on in this report, but the smell of bullshit and ostrich dung was very evident. Labour will never make electoral progress if they don’t confront their failings at the election, let alone the consequences of what they did in the ensuing leadership election.
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Unlike Crispin Blunt I have never used, or felt the need to use ‘poppers’. I’m not sure how wise it was of him to tell the House of Commons that he was a popper user, but he had right on his side in his argument that their use shouldn’t be banned. Yet another example of government taking it on itself to ban something which is completely harmless in order to make itself look tough.

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