NGO Dystopia: The Tony Blair Institute for Change

Tony Blair

This was the place we reached; the ditch beneath

held people plunged in excrement that seemed

as if it had been poured from human privies.

And while my eyes searched that abysmal sight,

I saw one with a head so smeared with shit,

one could not see if he were lay or cleric.

I’ve been pondering theology of late.

If there is a God, and the medieval Catholic conception of hell is broadly correct, which circle of the inferno would be reserved for Tony Blair?

Perhaps the most appropriate would be the higher levels of the Malebolge (evil ditches) where panderers, seducers, and flatterers are sent to be eternally immersed in human excrement, the ocean of urine and faeces representing the false flatteries and empty words they secreted in life?

Or maybe he would be more at home in the frozen lake of Cocytus, the circle of traitors, forever encased in freezing ice for his pre-mortem treasons?

No? What about the leprous pit reserved for falsifiers, diseases upon society, who are themselves afflicted with a panoply of hideous afflictions too numerous to mention? In this circle, some of the afflicted lie prostrate while others rampage through the pits, tearing their fellow denizens to pieces. This is fitting. It would give Blair a taste of life in post-invasion Iraq.

The problem with Dante is that, having never met Tony Blair, he failed to specify whether the nine circles of hell could be arranged in an infernal Venn diagram in order to accommodate the former PM.

Alas, an irreconcilable materialist, I can only indulge these fantasies for so long. There is no Hell (although there is a Hague).

The thing that provoked these eschatological quandries was, of course, Bliar’s return to the spotlight, mainly to protest Brexit and ineffectually warn the Labour Party against the dangers of Jeremy Corbyn. Having been proven wrong about Corbyn, WMDs, and everything else of significance ever, has not dented the grimacing little toerag’s self-confidence. In fact, this week he declared ‘a new sense of mission’ (sending chills up the spine of Iraqis everywhere) and declared, in essence, that Brexit could be reversed, just so long as the UK was able to secure immigration controls. This is, of course, a load of old bollocks and, moreover, suggests that the only solution Tony Blair can offer to the pro-globalisation centre he claims to represent is a larger consignment of those ‘Immigration Controls Now’ mugs from the 2015 election.

Why does he bother giving this sort of advice? Who’s listening? Some, astonishingly, still are. One would be shocked to learn how many see Blair as their neoliberal saviour, the one man who can point a way forward for them in a world that they lack the intellectual apparatus to comprehend. Indeed, it’s a remarkable feature of some of the more out-of-touch amongst the hysterical windmill-tippers of the collapsing centre that they are all so firmly committed to the delusion that Tony Blair is popular, a strange notion that we have seen expressed or implied by various dumdums in recent months.

Unfortunately for the likes of Bill Emmott, still firmly in the denial stage of neoliberal grief, their emperor is very, very naked. In the words of Matthew Norman, he is fighting a war against his own irrelevance. This dismissal is not entirely accurate. Blair is not only struggling against irrelevance, but also contempt. One third of the British public want Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes, while more than half will ‘never forgive him’. These are the sort of opinions normally expressed about Liberian warlords, rather than European heads of government.

But if the public revile you, and even your own potential support base are wisely trying to avoid any association with you, what then is to be done?

Luckily, beneath the surface of formal politics, of elections, campaigns and parties, there is a fetid underbelly of think-tanks, NGOs and other forms of subterranean political or semi-political activity. The advantage of this sub-system is that, unlike the overt world of parliament and parties, where one has to go through the trouble of actually winning support from real humans, NGOs and think-tanks usually require only a big pile of money and a suitably inclined sugardaddy. This, after all, was the funding model of the crisis-ridden Blairite coven known as Progress and the preferred modus operandi of Right-Libertarians, the latter of whom have always struggled to carve out mass political support but don’t face much trouble in convincing individual plutocrats that driving licenses and age-of-consent laws are acts of Orwellian tyranny.

It’s no surprise then than Blair decided to descended into this spongy morass, his many millions of pounds proving a more than adequate replacement for any support outside of the Economist staff-room.

Tony Blair, twice as bad as most terrible people, in fact had two such projects, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (not including the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women), which have now been scrapped and streamlined into one organisation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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The now-defunct Tony Blair Faith Foundation appears to have been staffed entirely by people born without the ability to comprehend irony (or morality). A quick glance at their ‘about’ page causes one’s eyes to roll with sufficient vigour to power the electricity grid of a small, provincial city.

We provide practical support to counter religious conflict and extremism in order to promote open-minded and stable societies.

See the sterling work our patron has accomplished in Northern Mesopotamia.

Over recent years we have witnessed deplorable acts of violence in the name of religion.

And in the name of an expansionary liberal interventionism / phantasmic WMDs.

Conflicts between and within religious groups in countries across the world continue to rage, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands and displacing millions of people.

These conflicts have nothing whatsoever to do with our founder, who is just lovely.

Those who distort religion for these ends are prepared to fight without hesitation, kill without mercy and die without regret.

As is Tony Blair himself.

Actually, that’s slightly unfair. Tony Blair may be willing to ‘fight without hesitation’ and ‘kill without mercy’ (by getting other people to do it), but I don’t think he would ‘die without regret.’ This would severely underestimate both his cowardice and smug sense of self-importance. I could go on, but the fact that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation put the following graphic on their website without the smallest hint of irony is a fairly shocking indictment of everyone involved.

graph

The new Tony Blair Initiative for Global Change, presumably looking at the changes Tony made to Iraq and thinking ‘more of that will be good’, is even worse than the organisations that preceded it. One of its most striking features is just how obvious it is that the group is how little effort it makes to pretend to be anything other than a mouthpiece for Blair’s half-baked opinions and pronouncements.

A quick run through the organisation’s latest pronouncements makes this pretty clear. They include a podcast on how the ‘centre-left’ has to be a little bit racist in order to combat populism (astonishingly all the participants suddenly arrived at the same position as their boss, at the exact same time that he announced his opinion) and positive coverage of a conference love-in where Blair announced that he ‘can see a peaceful way through to the future in the Middle East.’ Tony Blair announcing that he can see a peaceful way through to the future in the Middle East is a bit like a convicted sex offender declaring that he can see an inconspicuous means of entering a school playground.

The saddest thing is that someone who isn’t Tony Blair had to write and post that press release.

So what exactly is the point of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, other than as a comfort blanket for a retired crypto-Thatcherite mass murderer? Let’s investigate the about section and see.

We are a team of 200 people united by the desire to face the hardest challenges across the world today

These challenges include:

  1. Attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of Tony Blair, who is less popular than venereal disease.
  2. Occasionally having to spend time in the company of Tony Blair.
  3. Looking in the mirror and knowing that you work for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
  4. Navigating those awkward situations at parties where someone asks you what you do for a living, you tell them that you work for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and then they inform you of the fact that you don’t deserve to live.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to making globalisation work for the many, not the few.

Take that Jeremy Corbyn!

Also, given that Blair has come out in favour of immigration controls (but not capital controls), it is actually the case that he is, in a very literal way, in favour of making globalisation work for the few not the many.

We offer new thinking and new approaches to addressing some of the most intractable problems leaders today are wrestling with.

‘Do more PFIs and bomb some places’

The Institute works to provide policy and strategy in support of a vision of globalisation designed to improve the well-being of the people, economically, politically, and socially. Our focus is on tackling the big challenges which hold such a vision of globalisation back:

And these are?

Poor governance which stops the benefits of globalisation being shared because countries cannot build the institutional strength and resilience to transform their situation and deliver for their people

Yeah, start running your governments like our friend Nazarbayev and you’ll be grand.

Conflict which entrenches sectarianism and paralyses progress, particularly in the Middle East

Ladies and gentlemen, a thing which was written and then posted unironically.

Western politics which is in urgent need of a new agenda to provide radical but sensible answers to the new challenges presented by globalisation, technology, and the rise of a new false populism.

Tell me more.

The Institute will draw on the best ideas in both public and private policy spheres, and drive forward practical solutions to some of today’s global challenges.

We are focused on the big policy challenges that globalisation presents to today’s leaders, and aim to revitalise the centre ground through a corpus of new thinking.

So far, this new thinking has consisted of claiming (falsely) that significant immigration restrictions can be imposed within the confines of the EU. In true Blairite fashion, ‘new thinking’ essentially means telling bald-faced lies.

We aim to articulate a vision of liberal democracy that can garner substantial popular support, and to push back the destructive approach of populism which offers anger but no real answers.

Populism, conveniently, is never actually defined. So whether or not it can deliver answers is impossible to say. We don’t know to whom is being referred, though I have my suspicions.

This new populism may differ in some respects between left and right, but what is remarkable is the convergence between them, especially around isolationism and protectionism, in what is an essentially closed-minded approach to globalisation and its benefits.

This is yet another example of ‘People advocating the abolition of tuition fees and people who want to build gigantic border walls with Mexico are the same’, a morally retarded line of reasoning that only the sort of shameless, semi-sociopathic sycophants who work for the Tony Blair Institute for Change could possibly adhere to.

We are not a think tank. We are a non-party platform to inform and support those in the active front line of politics, and help them counter short term solutions based on a false ‘populism’. Our purpose is to provide radical but sensible answers to people’s concerns, and create a fact-based dialogue, not one in which emotion supersedes fact.

Where are the WMDs you ‘fact’-loving fuckwits who are lapdogs for the world’s most infamous liar?

Christ. By the way, if any of this sounds appealing, the Tony Blair Institute are hiring. They are looking for a Research Associate, Institutional Funding Manager and a Head of Events and Visits.

If you are considering applying for any of these positions then hope your parents are sufficiently ashamed of you.

So what is the actual purpose of the Tony Blair Institute for Change?

In the real world, Tony Blair might be a unique combination of irrelevance and pariah, but Tony doesn’t have to live in the real world. In the offices of the Tony Blair Institute for Change he can live in a much better world, one of his own creation, surrounded by well-paid lackeys who tell him exactly what he wants to hear, no matter how imbecilic. In this plush potemkin village, he is still important. All he has to do is look up at his name on the wall, at his own sleek website, and comfort himself with the delusion that he still significant, still on a mission, with a mission statement and everything.

Maybe, just maybe, you’re one of these lackeys. Maybe your job is to shred copies of the Chilcot report to reduce the chances of the boss encountering one in the wild. Maybe you just whisper nice things into his ear while pouring his coffee. Maybe you give PR advice to central asian kleptocrats. Maybe you just do part-time secretarial work.

You are the worst person ever.

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Verrit – Best Of (So Far)

hell

Jean Paul Sartre once claimed that ‘Hell is other people’. This is only true if those people are associated in any way with the bizarre media, er, thing that is Veritt. The concept behind it is nonsensical. It’s explicitly aimed at Clinton voters and provides ‘veritts’. Veritts are like tweets, but they contain a citation. They are the answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.

The site is essentially comfort tweeting for frustrated fans of the Clinton campaign (who are not a particularly significant force, given the fact that she is currently less popular than the unprecedentedly unpopular head of state who defeated her). Hillary herself makes plenty of appearances, spouting an endless stream of banalities. Joy Ann Reid, who once accused me of being a Khmer-Rouge sleeper agent from Mahdist Transnistria, also makes an appearance. So too do random pieces of patriotic gibberish. In short, it’s a fungal dystopia.

To be honest, Alex Nichols has already done a fairly good job of interrogating the tangled (and sad) career of the levantine shyster behind the site so I don’t really need to give much background, except to present my favourite verrits, which collectively represent an unconscious auto-critique of the Hillary Clinton campaign and everything it stands for.

verritkennedy

This is factually inaccurate. The hottest places in hell are reserved for Kennedys.

verritianeman

Why do they list Time Magazine (not any particular issue of Time magazine, just Time Magazine) as a source and not, say, the widespread, acknowledged consensus of everyone who isn’t directly employed by the Chinese state? Does Daou believe his audience consists entirely of shockingly uninformed and naive Cantonese farmers?

verritceo

The most neoliberal thing ever produced by anyone, brought to you by people who claim that neoliberalism doesn’t exist.

verrutruman

America was built on slaves, high-fructose corn syrup and a desire to keep Spaniards out of Virginia.

verrit1

I could say this every day forever and never be wrong. Why even bother providing a citation for something so fucking banal that nobody would ever dispute its veracity? Also, if Hillary Democrats are the heart and conscience of America then the whole place thoroughly deserves to be nuked.

verrit2

‘Vote Goldwater’ – Also Hillary Clinton

PS: Don’t plagiarise the Style Council

verritmob

Hillary will secure them accommodation by billeting them in Homs.

verichism

Unlike during the first quarter of 2014 when women’s ‘idealism and determination’ were completely unnecessary.

RRE

I was afraid that she would lose the election despite the fact that the opposing candidate was a raging orange id. I was correct. Also, nobody tried to kill her. Nor has anybody ever been rushed to hospital with a severe case of terminal detraction. ee2.JPGYou’re right. This captures perfectly the feeling of Hillary Clinton after having endorsed Veritt.

One of the more amusing features of the site is the fact that much of it consists of high-concept vaguebooking. This has become particularly pronounced as a result of the clusterfuck of derision the site has (justifiably) attracted. More recent tweets are literally just ejaculations of self-pity.

verfuck

To give some context here, Audre Lorde was an outspoken black, lesbian feminist during the 1950s. Verrit are implicitly comparing the experience of being a bitter and confused Hillaryman with that of being Audre Lorde.

This is almost certainly the peak of centrist self-pity, but these eejits never grow weary of out-cretining each other.

Pokemon go fuck yourselves.

Jupiter Descending: Race Scientist Lara Marlowe on Macron’s Fall from Grace

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It’s been a rough 100 days for Macron, whose fragile popularity is already plummeting, something that many saw coming from a long way off. Others, however, who saw their messiah in the vacuous MBA-cliché spouting tool, are struggling to come to terms with reality. Enter Lara Marlowe.

She starts out promisingly enough.

As Emmanuel Macron approaches his 100th day in office, hope that he would reconcile the French with both each other and free market economics is fading.

Yes, but how could this be?

The French president has made strategic errors, particularly in communicating his vision

This is unsurprising, given his vision is too complex for us mere mortals to understand anyway.

But his fall from grace is due more to his compatriots’ character.

Uh, what?

There is, alas, a great deal of truth to stereotypes about the perennially dissatisfied, ungovernable French. The desire to “burn what one has worshipped” is a national trait, recorded at the coronation of King Clovis in the fifth-century.

Yes, this is the level of analysis we get from Lara Marlowe. The only possible reason the French could possibly be turning against Macron is because of some mysterious, unchanging national trait that is so pervasive that it can be traced back to the coronation of a fifth-century Germanic warlord. I must admit that I find it a bit difficult to square the circle of how a ‘perennially’ ungovernable people managed to maintain the status of a major European power for more than a millennium, but I’m clearly not as informed as Lara Marlowe, who has personally measured the skulls of thousands of Frenchmen.

skinner

Other ‘perennial’ French traits include a genetic desire for long-haired monarchs, wide streets, and armies led by teenage girls.

It is (surprise, surprise) the left who face the brunt of Marlowe’s ire.

François Ruffin, a documentary film-maker turned parliamentary deputy, competes with Mélenchon as Macron’s most vociferous opponent. Ruffin published an open letter in Le Monde two days before the election. “You are hated. You are hated, You are hated,” he wrote. “I hammer it home because … with the bourgeoisie that surround you, you are socially deaf.”

Francois Ruffin’s words should be tattooed on the inside of Lara Marlowe’s eyelids.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left Insoumis or “unbowed” movement, exploited class hatred against Macron during the campaign, addressing him as “Monsieur le banquier”.

But why would anyone have any reason to be suspicious of bankers? The hoary old cliché of the left talking about class warfare while the right practice it is no less true for being hoary and old. In fairness to him, Macron usually does manage to conceal his own class hatred beneath empty rhetoric, except when he doesn’t.

Marlowe has learned well from the Hillary Clinton school of insinuating that your opponents are sexist in order to avoid debating policy, something which she employs in order to discredit the left. (Also worth noting that neither Le Pen nor her party are mentioned in the article. For Marlowe at least, the real threat is Melanchon.)

This week a virtually unknown actor with links to the far-left launched a petition demanding a referendum on Macron’s desire to “write a job description” for the first lady Brigitte Macron. Some 300,000 internauts turned a non-issue into a cause célèbre.

Macron’s opponents misogynistically tried to use his wish to define his wife’s role to harm him. Do they expect Brigitte Macron to remain unseen and unheard in republican purdah?

Here Marlowe is just being brazenly misleading. As it stands, the president’s wife is entitled to an office, advisors and a wide range of other benefits. Moreover, they have wide scope to use their prominence as they wish. Creating an official position for an unelected spouse, while simultaneously clamping down on nepotism within government, reeked of hypocrisy and arrogance.

Macron’s plummeting popularity results largely from his determination to comply with the EU’s 3 per cent cap on deficit spending .

Wait, I thought you said it was because of the Merovingian dynasty or something? Opposition to arbitrary deficit targets and a disastrous continent-wide austerity program (one that even the IMF has criticised) seems like a pretty sensible reason to reject Macron, the guy who’s implementing them.

This austerity program is at the centre of everything. It’s the reason why Hollande’s support, and that of his party, completely and utterly collapsed. More worryingly, it is at the core of the recent successes of the far-right .Why on earth did Marlowe, or anyone else, think that having the same basic policy program implemented by someone younger and more photogenic would make them any more tolerable? I mean, really, was this the whole plan?

The piece concludes on a petulant note:

It all adds up to a catalogue of petty, often disingenuous, grievances. The world envies France its brilliant, dynamic, young president. The French appear determined to destroy him.

No, Lara Marlowe envies France its ‘brilliant, dynamic, young president’ and resents those who will actually have to endure his rule for not being excited about the prospect of their economy and society being gutted by doomed-to-fail neoliberal policies.

It’s clear for Marlowe that the people have forfeited the sun-king’s confidence and can only win it back by redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier then for Macron to dissolve the people and elect another?

What Liberal Britain Needs: A Blank Manifesto and a Can-Do Attitude

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Alas, neither boat sank.

The heading above is not (just) me being sarcastic, it is essentially what Janan Ganesh is arguing for in the Irish Times. More specifically, according to the Financial Times mainstay, what Liberal Britain needs is a ‘single-issue anti-Brexit party.’ I had never heard of Ganesh before today but the simple fact that he describes himself as a ‘Portillista‘ provides more than enough evidence for me to state, with some degree of confidence, that Janan Ganesh is the worst person who has ever lived, including Michael Portillo.

So what does this young man who, as a teenager, almost certainly had posters of Margaret Thatcher on his bedroom wall, have to say about the current crisis in which the liberal centre finds itself?

When commentators, financial markets and betting exchanges fail to predict the course of political events, it can be fruitful to consult less obvious sources of wisdom.

Actually when commentators, institutions etc. consistently fail to predict the course of political events it’s probably time for them to fundamentally reconsider their underlying ideas, beliefs and assumptions. Alternatively, they can become a newspaper columnist and continue being wrong until time stops. Personally, I would prefer the latter. Otherwise there would be no point in this blog’s continued existence. Ganesh posits a third option.

Interested hobbyists from other lines of work can be illuminating because of, not despite, their distance from the action.

This is quite a sensible statement. What the previous period has shown is that the London-centered bubble of the media commentariat is far removed from the realities of British society. Something as simple as a conversation with a taxi-driver or a checkout assistant could be genuinely eye-opening for someone like Ganesh.

The most useful insight into politics I have heard this year did not come from a practitioner or analyst but a conversation with the creator of an American television comedy that most readers will have seen.

Now here’s a man with his finger on the pulse. Also, fair fucks to Ganesh for successfully name-dropping without actually mentioning any names.

And it pertains to the question that arises whenever politically active Britons of a liberal bent convene and the pleasantries are out of the way.

‘What’s your favourite episode of the West Wing?’

What chance of a new movement – one that cuts a path between the rampant right and left?

Er, you mean the Lib-dems? On a side note, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance at play when you can simultaneously describe yourself as a ‘Portillista’ *vomits into a kettle* and also not regard yourself as being on the right. Maybe he’s specifically referring to the ‘rampant’ right, who are more ‘rampant’ than the Portillistas? I digress.

The entertainer, who is sympathetic to the idea, and wise to what it takes to earn a mass audience, has a theory. No new movement can amount to much unless it is defined by an individual personality or a single proposition. As soon as it aspires to breadth, it will start to lose supporters and momentum. That phase must be put off until the project has enough life of its own to withstand the fractures.

But what proposition? What individual personality? And if the answer to the latter is a British Macron then you’re a complete idiot who needs to stand in the corner and have a long, hard think about the decisions you’ve made in life.

Emmanuel Macron’s election as president of France was the ultimate example in recent years of personal force as the way to a new political order.

If I didn’t know any better I’d swear Ganesh hadn’t read this blog. Putting aside this absurd notion, I would direct him to the fact that the Jupiterian Sun-King’s popularity continues to plummet, a sign that having disastrous and unpopular austerity policies imposed by a telegenic narcissist may not be much of a way to establish a ‘new political order’ (by which young Janan means the existing economic order).

On the sound assumption that Britain has no immediate equivalent of him [Thank Christ – TPM], the prospects of a similar change in our politics hinge on the second model. The one-issue movement.

Here we go.

A new political grouping has been in fitful gestation since Britain voted to leave the EU.

I too am excited about the resurgence of Cornish nationalism.

Uncomfortable in their own parties, a few Conservative and Labour politicians have probed the idea in discrete settings. Donors are primed with start-up capital. Tony Blair has improvised a role as a curator of these forces, and at times as their frontman.

So, the basis for this new centrist movement is a bunch of unpopular MPs, Lord Sainsbury and one of the most hated public figures in the United Kingdom? Leaving aside these small issues, what evidence do you have that there is any political appetite for this putative movement outside of the Financial Times staff-room?

An electorate that has withheld a decisive win from any party since his own days as prime minister is plainly open to some disruptive entrant to the market. If it shows promise, Liberal Democrat MPs might subsume themselves into it rather than stagger on as a futile dozen.

Is it? What exactly is it about the significant increase in votes among both main parties to the disadvantage of the smaller parties that suggests any desire for a new political force? Moreover, how does Ganesh not see any contradiction between suggesting that there is an appetite for a centrist, anti-Brexit party while referring to the actually existing centrist, anti-Brexit party as a ‘futile dozen’?

For all this, the breakthrough never comes – and not because Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system stymies the new. The project never gets that far.

Yes, for much the same reasons that ‘Krugmania’, my proposed wrestling tribute to the economist Paul Krugman, never secured any support; they’re both stupid ideas.

The trouble begins earlier. To avoid caricature as pro-European monomaniacs, and to let their restless energies roam, the people involved aspire to stand for something broad: political moderation in an age of extremes.

Jesus Christ, this is a fucking Carl Digger tweet.

This requires them to have policies, or at least first principles, across the full spectrum of government business. But each time a putative party settles its view on, say, fiscal policy or healthcare, it will alienate some of its original and potential supporters. It also loses definition.

Yeah, that’s the problem with political parties; the ‘politics’ bit.

Before the project has a single achievement to its name, it is bogged down in matters of internal theology. It becomes a paradox: a fissiparous political party with no MPs.

Or policies, or support, or membership.

“The moment you decide,” Blair writes in his memoirs, “you divide”.

Like when Blair invaded Iraq and divided loads of Iraqis from their internal organs.

He might not know how right he was. To avoid dividing into smithereens, the new movement he wants to midwife into existence must reduce its decisions to just the one. It must be an anti-Brexit force and, at least for a while, nothing else.

And how the hell is that going to work?

People could join without having to air their views on other subjects, much less reconcile them with those of other members. There would be no manifesto to honour or breach, no vaporous commitment to “new politics” or “radical thinking”, just a single cause of extreme salience. It is possible to overrate the importance of ideas in politics.

Only a man with no ideas whatsoever could downplay the importance of ideas in politics. So what Liberal Britain needs then is a single-issue party with no policies aside from overturning the ‘leave’ vote, something which is unlikely to happen for years, if at all? These people who join without having to air their views on other subjects, what happens when they finally actually have to take positions and agree on policies? Do they just suddenly stop having opinions about things besides Brexit and come together in mindless unity?

The problem is too much substance, not too little.

The fact that Ganesh can write this sentence and intentionally publish it without being overwhelmed with shame and self-loathing says everything you need to know about him.

A broad political party would struggle to even describe itself. “Centrist” means less and less when a single voter can have a dog’s breakfast of left and rightwing instincts. “Liberal” would alienate big-state social democrats. “Progressive”, a word that rather assumes unanimity on the ideal destination for society, is even worse. “Anti-Brexit”, on the other hand, is unmistakable. Even voters who despise the new outfit would understand the point of it.

Are you sure? I mean, I despise this entirely hypothetical outfit and yet can’t really understand the point of it. Then again, even people kindly disposed to a movement against Brexit would probably be equally perplexed. Sooner or later this conversation will happen:

Ganesh: Hello there my good man, how do you feel about Brexit?

Remain voter: Not too good to be honest, I was very strongly in favour of remaining in the European Union.

Ganesh: Have you thought about joining an anti-Brexit political party?

Remain voter: Oh, like Labour?

Ganesh: NO! NO! I mean a party that want a new referendum as soon as possible. Or even to just ignore the result entirely.

Remain voter: Oh, like the Lib-Dems?

Ganesh: NO YOU IDIOT! NOT THEM! *Ahem* I mean, would you consider joining a brand-new anti-Brexit political movement?

Remain voter: Er, maybe, I guess? What are its policies on things besides Brexit?

Ganesh: *stares vacantly*

Remain voter: You alright mate?

Ganesh: *runs away*

Remain voter: What a strange man. I hope nobody ever gives him and his half-baked opinions a platform in a reputable international newspaper.

This is probably one of the most deluded things I’ve ever read, and I follow The Flat Earth Society and Louise Mensch on twitter. The fact is that most remainers accept the result and only a hardcore minority wish to go against the democratic wishes of the population. Moreover, the electorate has moved on. The question isn’t whether or not to accept the result, but what kind of place post-Brexit Britain is going to be.

This then, is how low ‘Liberal Britain’ has sunk. In diagnosing what liberal, centrist Britain ‘needs’, Ganesh argues for a party with no ideas or policies that refrains from using the words ‘centrist’ or ‘liberal’ to describe itself.

How low the mighty have fallen.

Alison O’Connor’s Erratic Empathy

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It’s been a trying week for Alison O’Connor, who discovered twitter is mean, a fact that should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever been on twitter. More specifically she is referring to the fact that people responded to this particular tweet with mockery and derision.

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The Jobstown verdict, in which a jury found people not guilty of a silly charge for which there was no evidence (aside from the fertile imagination of crooked cops), has been causing a more general furor among the commentariat. Having ran through a number of possible explanations for how a jury didn’t reach the ‘correct’ verdict (a number of long-prison sentences for causing a government minister to be delayed slightly), they eventually decided on two explanations:

1. The charges were too severe (because they failed to stick).

2. Them social medias is killin’ the judicial systemz (by depriving broadsheet journalism of its monopoly on trial coverage).

It is the existence of social media that concerns O’Connor, whose screed begins blandly enough:

I have always felt that the privilege of being a journalist is that you get to write things that are read by an audience, or if you also broadcast, to say things publicly.

I’ve always felt that the privilege of being a Sheffield Wednesday midfielder is playing in the middle of the field for Sheffield Wednesday.

Alison continues:

But what ended up happening that day in Jobstown was good old-fashioned bullying, just as it is online. There it is an opportunity to express utter contempt for those who do not hold the same “pure position” as they do. To describe it as political expression is nonsense.

A key part of the approach by the militant wing of this protest group was an exceptionally successful campaign to utterly dehumanise Joan Burton. By doing so it made it perfectly alright in the eyes of these people to put the former tánaiste through such an experience.

This experience was being delayed for a few hours in a car, while surrounded by a battalion of Gardaí, with air support. This strikes me as being a fairly liberal interpretation of dehumanisation.

How was she not to know that things might not get out of hand and that the car could not have been overturned?

Yes! Moreover, how was she to know that none of the protestors were suicide bombers? Or that Paul Murphy wasn’t about to rip open the door with his teeth in a bid to devour the women within?

Seriously though, the 180 Gardaí would have been provided some fairly strong re-assurance that the car wasn’t in danger of being overturned.

However, it’s not just Joan Burton who is feeling the brunt of the bullies, but Alison O’Connor herself, who was subjected to a series of accurate descriptions of Alison O’Connor.

The replies covered a wide range. I was called an asskisser, poor little snowflake, unable to handle it, an ignorer of perjury, a liar, a victim, part of the MSM conspiracy (had to look that one up, it’s mainstream media apparently), an attention seeker (trying to get myself on the radio or television), smart arsed, privileged, naïve and unable to see outside my own privileged social set.

All of these things are entirely correct, except for the existence of a mainstream media conspiracy. Most Irish media commentators are so firmly practiced in the art of sycophantic group-think that a conspiracy would represent a needless formality.

The article ends on a defiant (albeit childishly petty) note:

Anyway the good news is I’m off on holidays for a few weeks. Needless to say, given my privileged position, the vacation involves a private yacht, casinos and a bevy of servants. In the event I think I may well take the advice of one of the many who tweeted me in the past few days. It was: “Get off Twitter if you can’t ignore the nutters.”

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There really is little of note in this article. O’Connor is such a blandly typical mouthpiece of orthodoxy that she could be replaced with an algorithm and nobody would notice the difference. However, two things did catch my eye, in the course of what was largely a self-indulgent whine, which are significant in terms of the off-hand, dismissive way in which she mentions them. The first is this:

There are many questions to be asked about the trial, chief among them the decision by the DPP to bring charges of false imprisonment which potentially carried a life sentence. Those on trial have been cleared of the charges, and they were a heavy weight for those six men to bear in the intervening years.

Why then does this, a years-long trial in which bogus charges were inflicted on six innocent people, largely as a result of Garda perjury, merit only one throwaway paragraph? While a heated protest in Tallaght, and people making fun of Alison O’Connor, is deemed to require an entire, indignant column?

None of this is not to ignore the true suffering of the people in Jobstown and other places like it during the austerity years, and their legitimate desire to protest about what they had to disproportionately endure.

It absolutely fucking is. Indeed, to get a real insight into O’Connor’s feelings towards places like Jobstown and the right of their inhabitants to protest one should instead look to this 2015 column, written at the height of the anti-water charges movement:

The anti-water-charges movement has ‘jumped the shark’ in the sincerity of its protests. That is the phrase that comes to mind as I observe the antics of some of the protesters, who have brought the movement into disrepute. I just wish they would shove off and let people, including those employed by Irish Water, or our democratically elected representatives, get on with their business.

This paragraph, in a way, cuts through the bullshit and shines a light onto O’Connor’s real views. Despite a half-hearted, and entirely rhetorical, acknowledgement of the suffering that places like Jobstown have suffered at the hands of austerity, those plebs should ultimately know their place well enough to ‘shove off’ and let their betters ‘get on with their business.’

One of the defining tropes of a declining neo-liberalism is its entirely managerial nature in which politics becomes a competition between competing brands of the same politics. Beyond this ‘debate’ there lies an ecosystem of vapid pundits, the Noel Whelans and Alison O’Connors of this world, who derive their lifeblood from commenting on this shallow, tedious game.

Places like Jobstown really don’t enter into this world (nor, of course, do most places or people). Indeed, for people like O’Connor, Jobstown or Knocknaheeny are every bit as strange and exotic as Timbuktu or Kyrgzstan. When they do enter the world of politics, they are vilified as ignorant bullies who need to ‘shove off’ and let the middle-class managerial elite get on with the job of governance.

Alison O’Connor’s political utopia is a small room wherein she and her buddies discuss the sock decisions of a handful of enlightened despots.

 

Kathy Sheridan and the Modern Prince

Kathy Sheridan, Irish Times Liberal-about-town and crusader of the collapsing centre, responsible for gems like this, is reacting to the Grenfell tower disaster and the UK election. She has some thoughts.

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The hot take is quite simple: Corbyn and May, bemoans our Kathy, are two sides of the same coin. Given their clearly different political visions (as demonstrated by the fact that they both produced manifestos saying exactly what they intended to do) it’s unclear what exactly she means by ‘two sides of the same coin’. Indeed, the UK election may have seen some of the most clearly defined political and ideological battle-lines since the 80s. Let’s soldier on and see if she can make herself clearer.

The sub-headline reads: ‘Labour leader may have handled the Grenfell disaster better but he is flawed too.’ I don’t deny this is true but it’s sufficiently banal that the names and actions could be replaced with anything else conceivable and still more or less make sense:

  • Morris might have eaten more sausages than Seán but he is flawed too.
  • Sinéad O’Connor may be a better singer than former Finnish president Tarja Halonen but she is flawed too.
  • Cats may have more fur than Irish Times Columnists but they are flawed too.

Some light could possibly be shed on all this by examining her column from the previous week, in which she attributed May’s election disaster to her own personal failings. An element of truth in that certainly, but the defining feature of the election was policies not personalities. For a centrist who imagines politics simply to be a matter of following the rules and doing just enough to sell neo-liberalism to the great unwashed this may be unimaginable, but it is what happened. Tellingly, her post-election piece contained the following.

If your pig-headed, 14-year-old with the edgy boyfriend took the family car and crashed it into a wall, you would probably be teary eyed at her contrite apology and her promise to ditch the boyfriend and consult all round before indulging in any further japes with family property.

. . . May, a grown woman, did that to a country.

Not sure what to make of that but it’s telling that nowhere does Sheridan mention the Labour Party, manifestos or policies, the latter of which she likely considers ancillary unless they relate to EU membership.

Incidentally, if my pig-headed 14-year-old with the edgy boyfriend regularly wrote the sort of muck that Sheridan does she’d be sent off to boarding school. You’ve been warned Sorcha.

This week’s column comes out fighting, or at least shouting. The central claim being a (kinda) defence of May’s refusal to visit Grenfell residents and an attack on the comparably positive reaction to Corbyn’s handling of the disaster.

You can only admire the stamina of Jeremy Corbyn. By the weekend, the 68-year-old had surely hugged the entire populace of north Kensington and environs. His characteristically hangdog persona exuded humility, tears and empathy – and something new. Still jubilant from losing the general election to the Tories less catastrophically than expected, he walked among his people under showers of pixie dust, as the world’s media – the ones not busy struggling to decode the DUP’s DNA – scrambled for a look at the man who had defied all predictions of extinction. Zero to hero in a few weeks.

Perhaps reflecting on how the media (i.e you) were so utterly clueless with regard to what was going on in UK politics and society may prompt some self-examination, Kathy? Or maybe we just need a British Macron. Yeah, we need a British Macron. He’ll be called Mr Hamish Shirewood-Macronington and he’ll sort all this out.

By the way, notice how she dismisses an election which saw Corbyn’s Labour Party gain its biggest vote increase since Clement Atlee by using the (already-tired) trope of ‘Hate to break up the party guys, but he did lose’? Even the people employing this shite don’t really believe that the election was anything but a triumph for Corbynism. In Sheridan’s case the fact that just one week ago she wrote a column excoriating May for an electoral disaster would suggest that, on some level at least, she understands that it was the opposite of a disaster for the main opposition party. Or so one would hope.

Meanwhile, Corbyn’s lifelong avoidance of power has rendered him untouchable. The beauty of fashioning long, political careers out of protest and making the right noises while avoiding responsibility and consequences have nothing to fear from angry voters. So Corbyn can slug it out with the queen in the empathy stakes and bask in the contrast with scaredy cat May. Right now, he owns the hugs and tears territory because he seems sincere but also because he remains untested.

Lately Corbyn has been avoiding power through the unusual means of aggressively attempting to become Prime Minister. It’s also worth noting that to your average empty-headed centrist cliché-peddler, the very notion that articulating, arguing for and working towards a political vision consistently, and then refusing to compromise on that vision by stampeding to the Blairite centre (de-regulating banks, selling off the NHS and bombing Iraq along the way) can only be understood as a bizarre form of careerism. If anything, Corbyn’s consistency is precisely why people like him. They like his politics. They voted for those politics. They did so because the politics of the neo-liberal centre have been tried and they have failed spectacularly. Again, this is an idea utterly alien to someone like Sheridan who sees politics in fundamentally managerial terms. The neoliberal rules of the game are always the same. Until, of course, the rules get thrown out the window by the electorate.

We look at political leaders and fantasise about what a composite of them might be. Someone with dignity, energy and a well-stocked mind; someone who listens without ego; who has the moral authority to change course from a cherished goal, humble enough to admit it and to explain why; someone who does not pull moronically transparent strokes or patronise the people with simplistic narratives. Someone who is cunning, yet steadfast and decent; who instinctively recognises the boundary between building warm relationships with world leaders and licking their toes; who plays a long game and is incapable of putting party before country; someone who doesn’t feel the need to be a gas card, to have a quip for every lad up a ladder, or to have a pint with every voter. Someone who doesn’t want to be our new friend; someone who seeks not to divide but to appeal to our better selves; who engenders hope and a can-do spirit by fostering quality and fairness in everything they touch, beginning with housing, jobs, education, healthcare and laws that favour the greedy. How hard can it be?

Actually, most people don’t give a shit about any of that. In the UK, people voted en masse for policies and manifestos, not amorphous leadership qualities. They’re a lot smarter than you give them credit for, Kathy. It’s the commentariat who are fixated on managerial leadership and PR spinnery. Luckily, that commentariat looks increasingly sad, discredited and irrelevant.

Incidentally, I can imagine quite a few broadsheet columnists reading out that last quoted paragraph, looking at a Macron election poster and masturbating furiously.

We can dream. More realistically, maybe, the question is less about what we want or expect from our leaders than what we can do to protect ourselves from them when they turn bad. Checks and balances were supposed to protect America and Britain from autocratic leaders. How’s that working out?

Reasonably well.

It goes without saying that neither of Sheridan’s columns since the UK election are worth reading. They contain little in the way of analysis and are incoherent in their fury. They are also just incoherent. Indeed, as political developments take place that are just utterly beyond their already-frayed intellectual apparatus, the cretinous centre seem increasingly unable to respond with anything but inchoate dismay.

This isn’t so much an opinion piece as a temper tantrum by a liberal struggling to make sense of a world she simply can’t comprehend anymore (and never really did).