Thursday, August 26, 2010

Labour leadership: four gambiteers and none worth an X

I'm quite depressed and pessimistic about the prospects for the Labour Party at the moment. As far as the leadership contest goes, I'm almost-but-not-quite adopting the Derby County v Leeds United approach (hoping they all lose). Mil perfectly encapsulates my view on this here. Likewise, I don't think that pyramids are a very sustainable management model for political parties any more, and I don't think the Labour will sustain one very successfully for very long.

I keep getting e-mails saying 'Join my campaign against....' this and that and I made a mental note early on not to vote for anyone who imagines themselves at the head of some parade with the rest of us just anonymously plodding on behind. This only leaves me with Diane Abbott to vote for as far as I can see and - with all due respect to her - I don't think she's ever been under any illusions about actually winning the contest.

None of these four boys have ever been in a fight in their lives. They were all parachuted into safe seats by a party leadership that prized compliance more highly than anything else. If anyone imagines that Labour can beat the Coalition in an election by using some clever fix that puffs up some Union General Secretary here, and ensures that some Regional Secretary will fix them there, then they are in for a very large disappointment.

And if anyone really imagines that Ed Milliband's pitch as 'the left candidate' is any more than a bit of short-term chessmanship, I hope they will have a stern word with themselves next time they look in the mirror. I've not seen any attempt to address the question of how Labour renews it's historic mission to promote collective action or to improve the participation of the widest section of the population in their own governance. The questions haven't even been broached. There's no politics on offer really. Politicking isn't the same thing. I've seen little evidence that any of them have any convictions that couldn't reasonably be described as a short-term gambit.

The nearest thing I've seen to an impressive statement was Ed Balls Bloomberg speech - admittedly, a good fine sweep over the issues of the day. He's a good columnist. But having met the bloke (admittedly, a long time ago) he's also an arrogant and charmless tosser who wouldn't be capable of any form of policymaking that doesn't involve some tablet of stone authored by himself and imposed by way old-fashioned arm-twisting. Expect years of bickering and backbiting if he gets anywhere near the new frontbench (as I'm sure he will).

I've not seen anything conversational in any of the candidates. I've not seen any pretense that the party itself may have more brains or experience as a whole than any of these Sonnenkind can draw upon from within their small circle of temporary allies.

We do need a leadership contest. We need the concept of leadership - as it is currently understood - to be contested and defeated. New Labour's approach to leadership was based upon a crude and self-serving notion of what was possible within the confines of a hostile media. It involved everybody conniving in the pretense that a single line that united the party could be pushed out to a credible media.

We are like every other party. We're not united. We never will be. We're a loose alliance of people who would object to each other being in government slightly less than we object to Cameron or Clegg. The other parties are identical in this respect - the only thing that changes is the identity of the hate-figures.

We need people in leadership positions who are prepared to do the dirty work of running towards arguments rather than away from them. The Tories didn't even win the election and they're acting as though they've got a 150-seat majority. Unfortunately, we've had a set of processes within our party for nearly 20 years that wrung anyone with this sort of backbone out of frontline politics.

That's why I'm pessimistic.
I suppose Ed Milliband's shallow and unconvincing pitch to renew party democracy (it was so flimsy I didn't get beyond the first para - can't even remember where now) should appeal most, but I really can't imagine I'll vote for any of them at the moment.

At this rate, Diane will probably get my X as I labour under the illusion that it will somehow send a message to someone somewhere.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I've just seen that - for particularly problematic fixtures - clubs are starting to get more creative than ever in trying to minimise the risks around football games.

The deal that Leeds United have with Millwall now is that Lions fans can only buy vouchers for the game. They have to exchange them for tickets at a designated motorway service station (to ensure that they don't travel by train).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Projecting disappointment

I've just seen this on the Wikipedia page about the late Syd Barrett:
His sister denied he was a recluse or that he was vague about his past: "Roger may have been a bit selfish—or rather self-absorbed—but when people called him a recluse they were really only projecting their own disappointment. He knew what they wanted, but he wasn't willing to give it to them."
A few weeks ago, there was a thread on Slugger about Van Morrison and how his relationship with his audiences can often be abrupt and uncooperative. If you turn up to one of his gigs expecting a particular approach to his back catalogue, and that's not the one he's prepared for you .... well, tough luck.

The thing is, no-one would expect to go to see - say - Captain Beefheart (below) - and know what they're getting beforehand.

Van's (or, rather, his audience's) problem is that his recordings are, for the most part, serious attempts to do something interesting as well as sell-able. Unlike most musicians who have the capacity to do this, almost of Van's stuff has a large mainstream appeal. Some bits may disappoint the more critical fans, but none (I suspect) irks the larger less discriminating audience. It's the ease-on-the-ear of the recordings that creates the tensions with the audience, if you get my drift?

I saw him recently at the Hop Farm festival and it was almost heart-stoppingly good and memorable. It was quite a 'band-leader' experience in an odd way - he went around getting different musicians doing different things - pointing at them and conducting them and directing the show - I really think a lot of it was improvised.

There was one great bit in 'Baby Please Don't Go' where he pointed to the guitarist (who looked like he may not have known the song!) played the middle-8 riff to get him to pick it up (see almost at the end of the video I've found - below - 5 mins in), and then he pulled the harmonica out and played that part himself. He then took it into Mose Allison's Parchman Farm and the band looked like they were keeping up with him a bit - in a good way.

It was quite blissed out stuff a lot of time and he finished on 'In the Garden' with that 'no Guru, no method....' built up to a chant.

No encore or anything and as soon as he finished his vocal he was off the stage leaving the band to finish the set for a few minutes. I had friends who were working backstage and they said that as soon as he was off, he was into the waiting car and heading for the airport - probably on the motorway as his band played the last note.

Oh, one final thing: I was going to use this John Martyn video to make another point in this post but I've decided that the post (unlike the video) isn't worth showing to you (though you'll have to excuse the racial slur on the Irish at the end):