Thursday 24 September 2015

On Anthems

Pig note: Last week's anthem scandal seems distinctly tame in comparison to the new story involving David Cameron and a farmyard animal. The Cameron story is hilarious, but he won't be running to be Prime Minister in 2020, and Corbyn presumably will.

In one of his first official engagements as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn caused much consternation by refusing to sing God Save The Queen. The outcome says a lot about both the national anthem and Corbyn, most of it not very good.

Corbyn stood in what he described as "respectful silence" during the national anthem at a service commemorating the Battle of Britain. When questioned about it, Corbyn conspicuously avoided committing himself to singing the anthem at future events, instead saying he would "play a full part" in them. Labour party spokespeople claim this means he will in fact sing the anthem; but considering how chaotic Labour's communications have become, I am disinclined to take them at their word.

The usual suspects have said and written a great deal of overheated nonsense about Corbyn's silence. It doesn't mean he loves his country any less than they do. What it does indicate is Corbyn's complete lack of interest in media strategy.

At the time of this event, Corbyn had been Labour leader for less than a hundred hours. He was still introducing himself to the great majority of voters, who don't follow politics closely. A lot of people wondering who this Corbyn chap is, and what he's all about, would have encountered this:

Image source: The Guardian

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Youthful Indiscretions

Following the allegations concerning David Cameron and a pig's head, the youthful indiscretions of some other world leaders have come to light:
  • Angela Merkel (Germany), age 19: Didn't put the correct number of stamps on a form.
  • Francois Hollande (France), age 10: Enjoyed eating a Big Mac.
  • Stephen Harper (Canada), age 12: Overdue library book.
  • Joe Biden (USA), age 23: Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
  • Barack Obama (USA), age 15: A prank which became known as "the pineapple incident".
  • Vladimir Putin (Russia), age 6: Showed mercy to a defeated enemy. Never again.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Leadership Box Office

Just how much has the Labour leadership contest enthused the public at large? To put its popularity in perspective, let's compare the contest to something a little more colourful: The cinema.

Lights, camera, action!
Image source: WYPR Maryland

Monday 14 September 2015

In Praise of Sadiq Khan

Overshadowed by the hulaballoo surrounding Jeremy Corbyn this weekend, Sadiq Khan was chosen to contest the London mayoral election for Labour in 2016. Not being a Londoner, I hadn't paid much attention to that contest; but Khan looks like the sort of Labour politician I could get behind.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and the NFL

Voting has now closed in the Labour leadership contest, and we will know the results on Saturday. This week also sees the start of a new season for American football, in the National Football League. I have realised that Corbyn's supporters remind me of British NFL fans.

The NFL has a devoted following in the UK. In 2007, the league played its first regular season match in London's Wembley Stadium. It has played there every year since, increasing the number of matches to two in 2013 and three in 2015. The NFL has no difficulty in selling out the 90,000 seats at Wembley.

I've been to one of these games, and they're great fun. The atmosphere is fantastic; it's not just supporters of the two teams who are playing, but fans of any other team who just want the chance to see a live match. It's ninety thousand cheerful and good-natured fans, united by their love of a game played with an egg-shaped ball by men in helmets, shoulder pads, and very tight trousers.

These are just the paying customers; many more are watching at home on television.

NFL at Wembley: Oakland v Miami, October 2014.

Here's the thing, though: No matter how great the passion and enthusiasm of the fans, the NFL is not poised to take over the UK. It is strictly a niche interest. Football, rugby, and cricket will enjoy much greater popularity for the foreseeable future.

I think you can see where I'm going with this. No matter how fervently Corbyn's supporters want him to win the next election, it doesn't mean he can or will. To the typical British voter, Corbyn may turn out to be as incomprehensible as an NFL match, and considerably more alarming.

Relying on Corbyn to survive the inevitable monstering from the media and Conservative party; unite the parliamentary Labour party, whose views of him range from deep suspicion to open hostility; turn out a massive army of left-wing support, without simultaneously inspiring the not-so-left-wing to turn out and vote for other parties; and do it all with a reheated version of early 1980s leftism, seems wildly optimistic to say the least.

If Corbyn wins the leadership contest, we'll have the chance to find out. Either way, I'm looking forward to a great NFL season; the Green Bay Packers are looking good this year.

Edit: This is the 200th post on my blog since March 2014. Huzzah!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

A Lion Is Not A Leader

"A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about." — Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XVIII
Jeremy Corbyn's campaign for the Labour leadership has made me think about the above passage.

Machiavelli is notorious for his cynical view of politics, as a brutal contest in which victory goes to the most ruthless and crafty. I imagine he would have approved of New Labour; particularly the dark arts of spin and message control, practiced by the likes of Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. Corbyn makes no secret of his disdain for these methods.

One doesn't have to be a fully paid-up disciple of Mandelson or Machiavelli to recognise that firm, unbending principle is not enough. A successful leader must be able to negotiate, compromise, and evaluate complex details. It is insufficient to be a preacher; one must also be a salesperson, a judge and a diplomat.

Friday 4 September 2015

Cute Cat Friday 2015-09-04: Belle

Life is full of puzzles.

Photo credit (and jigsaw) belong to my lovely wife.

Size matters: The Labour electorate

There are two philosophies for deciding who gets to choose a party leader. Labour has chosen a confused mixture, which seems likely to have the flaws of both and advantages of neither.