Showing posts from April, 2013

Is Labour capable of being a One Nation party?

Unite union baron Len McCluskey’s latest declaration of war on ‘Blairites’ in the Labour Party doesn’t exactly promote a vision of Labour as a ‘One Nation’ institution committed to healing divisions in society. That is precisely the point. The politics of the major unions affiliated to Labour remain consciously and resolutely antagonistic and divisive, committed to the Marxist-Leninist model of institutional capture (albeit with compromise).   As McCluskey himself refers to it in the New Statesman interview though, the practice of centralised capture and control is not restricted to the big unions: Tony Blair and New Labour practised it ruthlessly to exercise control over the party. Peter Watt, the Blairite former general secretary, explained it openly recently: “There was an understanding that controlling process meant controlling the party.  Conferences, policy making and of course selections were all ruthlessly managed.” Watt has changed his mind on fixing

Thatcher, Miliband and the dangers of ideology

As I wrote in my first posting explaining why I set up this blog, “I am against ideologies like neoliberalism and ‘Vulgar’ Marxism, and also some of the forms that have emerged around the politics of identity, including strictly deterministic versions of feminism. Ideologies like these offer simplistic, all-encompassing explanations about the way the world is while setting different groups in society against each other.” Among other things, Margaret Thatcher’s death has given us cause to reflect on the first of those; neoliberalism: as the crucial economic component of Thatcherism. In his generally excellent response * to Margaret Thatcher’s death in Parliament on Wednesday 10 th April, Ed Miliband said something on ideology which made me bridle a bit:   “ What was unusual, was that she [Thatcher] sought to be rooted in people’s daily lives, but she also believed that ideology mattered. “ Not for her the contempt sometimes heaped on ideas and new thinking

Some Reflections on Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

One evening not long ago I happened to sit down on the Tube next to a woman who was reading Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure . Since I had been thinking about reading another book of his for a while – after picking up a collection of hardbacks from a charity shop for eight quid one day – I asked her what she thought and we had a nice chat. She was reading Jude with her book club and was clearly quite moved by it. Since I like a bit of serendipity and my choices being made up for me sometimes, Jude was the volume I plucked off my bookshelves when I got home. It is, particularly in its tumultuous second half, a remarkable book – with Hardy’s characteristically rich and lively writing allied to a keen sense for how human life and social convention wrap themselves around another with sometimes troubling consequences. Originally published in book form in 1895, Jude also speaks to a time of rapid social change, which often makes itself evident as the book reaches