The end of party politics?

Possibly. Today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Chancellor announced so many billions – or was it was trillions – of pounds of infrastructure projects that one would have that it was John McDonnell who was delivering the budget. The world has turned on its axis.

Non-Tories haven’t grasped what is going on here. In the pursuit of his legacy, Boris Johnson is gobbling-up the centre of British politics. Such policies are straight out of the Labour textbook. The former Red Wall constituencies are going to love it. Nobody is asking: where is the money tree?

How will the other parties react? Slowly, I imagine.

For non-Tory parties, their potential areas for policy/brand differentiation are:

  1. Brexit – it will rear its head when the inevitable shock happens of our true departure. It will be an omnishambles, so any party which was anti-Brexit will be regarded as Mystic Meg.
  2. Social care – which needs fundamental rethink. My view is that families will start to live closer together, with more families sharing large properties. Just watch this develop.
  3. Constitutional reform – few people – on all sides of the Brexit debacle – believe that our unwritten constitution has worked well over the last few years, and therefore crave voting reform. With their stonking majority, the Tories won’t want to change anything, but they will be on their own.
  4. Prison – we all know that it rarely works as a deterrent, and mainly serves as a school to produce ever-hardened criminals. A liberal, progressive party can steal a march here. Thanks to the Tories, the justice system is on life support. We are all impacted from high crime levels.
  5. Public ownership of utilities – still popular most of the electorate, though an anathema to the Tories, even though the Tories have now taken a rail franchise back under public control.
  6. Environment – as the climate gets crazier, and climate change-deniers dwindle, the climate crisis will become of an election issue. The Tories haven’t taken it seriously: it simply isn’t in their DNA. As we approach the key date of 2030, the environment will come to the fore.

Justifiably, non-Tories will crow that the spending bonanza announced by our school prefect-like Chancellor is akin to Tony Blair’s decimation of Clause Four in the mid-90s – i.e. the true Tory colours will come through in due course, as they did when Corbyn re-took Labour. Let’s not forget that it took two decades for Labour to revert to type. How long will it take the Tories to revert to type? And will they? Will the Tories govern as One Nation Tories?

And what will opposition parties do to differentiate themselves? If the Tory strategy on COV-19 leads to more deaths than in other countries, party politics will not be dead as the Tories will be out of power for a generation.


The politics of coronavirus: are right-wingers coronavirus sceptics?

(For context, I’m writing on the day that the international stock markets collapsed, at a similar level to the 2008 decimation, all because of COVID-19. Italy has just quarantined the whole country.)

Like most, I have taken a keen interest in the spread of COVID-19, for countless reasons: I’m a parent; I have elderly parents; my firm looks after hundreds of clients, many of whom may pass; and as a business owner, 1/5 of my colleagues are likely to be off sick. It would, therefore, be grossly negligent not to be appraised of the facts.

Quite simply, the spread of COVID-19 has the potential to be as dramatic, as impactful, as a world war. It could be our generation’s worst hour. To write that – that which is clear to me and many – is likely to get me lampooned as some sort of fool; someone who has drunk the COVID-19 hysteria kool aid. I haven’t.

What has become clear to me – from the news, from social media and from my social circles – is that, generally, people with right-wing politics tend to take a different position on what precautions to take, than someone who would describe themselves as not right-wing. I’m careful not to describe this second group as “left-wing” – they are just not right-wing. It’s fascinating! And I don’t think that right-wingers are purposely being objectionable.

Some common right-wingery responses:

1. COVID-19 is no worse than flu – something with Trump has today tweeted, even though the death rate from flu was previously unknown to him.
2. I’m not washing my hands: how dare you tell me what to do.
3. It’s all fake news.
4. Experts – what do they know?

But why? Why do right-wingers – though not all – take such views? And is it deliberate – i.e. are right-wingers asking themselves – “I am right-wing, so this is my position?”


Corbyn, Trump and the Cult

Politically, Corbyn and Trump are of course diametrically opposite. (I backed Corbyn in the leadership election of 2015: I was swayed by his political history and the inevitable avalanche of support which would make the Labour Party a social movement again, financially strong, with hundreds of thousand of leaflet-deliverers and Facebook warriors.) But there is an unfortunate similarity between the two groups of followers, which requires discussion.

Until this recent leadership election, no labour leadership campaign in my lifetime was so personality-driven, so…. cultish. Like the relationship between Trump and his cult, who refuse to see his many flaws, for Corbyn’s arch-followers, he can do no wrong.

Sure, there are many Labour Party members who run logical arguments as to why Corbyn is the right person to lead the Labour Party – and I respect that, though I forcefully disagree. Alarmingly, however, there is a cohort of Corbyn followers who will support him like disciples – many of whom are new to politics, hanging onto to his every word. “If Jeremy loses the leadership, I shall leave the party”, they say. No great loss there. Corbyn has politicised these (misguided) people – and they will climb over broken glass to attend his rallies. These people will decide the fate of this country, and it makes me sad/mad.

Not only are there newbies to the Labour Party – who have never knocked on a door(but please do stay for the long-haul, if this is you) – who follow Corbyn in a lemmings-like way, but there are the armchair Ches, politically educated/brainwashed by radical communists, who spell the deepest trouble. I have evidence that many of these members would rather the Labour Party was pure in its pursuit of a socialist/communist utopia and lose the next general election, than have more moderate (and electable!) Labour Party and win the next general election because, they say, it is all part of a greater plan to convert the Labour Party into a revolution-leading vehicle. Ergo, some members would rather have the Tories in power than Labour. This is intellectually, morally and politically bankrupt thinking. Please leave. Now. You know who you are.

And what many of the Corbyn cult have missed is that Corbyn has won, even if Corybn loses to Smith. As compelling evidence, to woo the Labour electorate, Smith is trying to out-Corbyn, Corbyn. The Labour Party has, therefore, irrevocably changed for the better, in terms of its political direction and its membership: all Labour Party policy for the next decade will have a socialist tint for the first time in a generation.

The only question for the Labour Party membership is this: which potential leader is most likely to be the next Labour PM. The answer is not JC.

My money – if I gambled – is on Corbyn, because of his cult. As one member quipped: “The only hundreds and thousands at a Smith rally are on the ice creams.”

Andrew Gray is the owner of and and is writing in his personal capacity.


The Genius that is Capitalism

Like it or not, capitalism is genius. And all geniuses are flawed. In my favourite – though rarely-referenced – tranche of Marxism, Marx declares that, “Crime produces locks, jails, police, locksmiths, judges, lawyers, and jail keepers.” And, he goes on to say, crime produces the teachers to train the jailors, and the police, locksmiths, judges, and lawyers and so on. And, he says, crime creates those who produce the books for the jailors, police, locksmiths judges and lawyers. And so on.

Of course, KM’s point is that capitalism is always developing; and that even crime – the scourge of all societies – has value in a capitalist society.

To prove his point, in each disaster, in each war, people find a way to profit. Because, I think, the urge to compete with our neighbour is deep-rooted, forever part of our collective DNA.

Brash Boris Johnson put it succinctly in his Thatcher lecture in 2013 when he said: “I stress – I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

I hate this sentence to my core, and crave significant income redistribution, but I fear that Boris is right.

I am reminded of the current San Francisco thinking: To be successful we should surround ourselves with people more successful than we are; but to be happy, we should surround ourselves with people who are less successful.

In some ways, I marvel at humankind’s uncontrollable pursuit of money. It seems, well, human. But so is humankind’s lust for violence, and we can – and must – be better than that.


The Lords Resistance Army

Let me entertain you with an alcohol-caused, name-dropping anecdote. A few months ago, at the Labour Regional Conference in Leeds, at an hour well past Anne Widdecombe’s bedtime, I was at the bar next to Paul Routledge.

‘Mr Routledge,’ I said, ‘You should write an article about my CLP.’

‘Where’s that then?’ he said, curmudgeonly.

‘Harrogate and Knaresborough,’ I said, much too happily.

Mr Routledge sank his pint, wiped his mouth and said: ‘That shouldn’t take too long.’

Very funny. Not true, though. Let me return to this.

The other day, like every other Labour Party member, I received an email from a Lord: I hope that this never happens again. The Lord was, of course, Mandelson. That same day, I found that most of the billboards in my town of Harrogate had been bought by the Tories. To compound my misery, over the last few weeks, my wife and I have received innumerable Tory leaflets, all printed in Peterborough. My poor wife has even received direct mailings from the Queen’s relative, Cameron, and, what made her really cringe, was a letter from Mandelson’s holiday chum, Osbourne.

What is now clear is that, with the Tories chucking so much money at the election in my town, it’s highly likely that another Lord – Ashcroft – is bankrolling it. And if conclusive evidence was needed, last week, Ashcroft’s sponsor, 14-pint Hague, was up here, too. We’re becoming like a 19th Century rotten borough.

For those unfamiliar with my town, Harrogate is the home of the other BNP MEP and former leader of the National Front, Andrew Brons. Ours is a prosperous North Yorkshire spa town – with a spring so good that Marx came here in 1873 to ‘take the waters’; had he decided to make Harrogate home, Das Kapital would never have been written, but his kids wouldn’t have died so young.

Since 1997, our MP has been the begrudgingly popular Lib Dem, Phil Willis, who is standing down this time bequeathing a 7,000 majority to his aide. But why is Ashcroft targeting what looks like a safe Lib Dem seat? Because Harrogate is a bellwether: when we go blue – because we never go red – the country goes blue. Norman ‘high-unemployment-is-a-price-worth-paying’ Lamont, now-Lord, tried standing here. Lord Lamont lost in 1997, never to be seen again. This time’s Tory challenger is, like Cameron, a marketing executive, and leader of the mean Tory-run council.

But how can Ashcroft buy an election? Because Labour has its sponsors, too. Ever since Ecklestone’s cheque wasn’t cashed, New Labour has been obsessed with the super-rich. And with New Labour’s deliberate destruction of our base, we’ve had no choice but to hire ourselves out, with another Lord – Levy – charged with raising the dosh.

In the same way that, after 18 Tory years, the country reflected their malicious design, so, too, today, to a lesser degree, does this country reflect the New Labour project. After thirteen years of parliamentary carte blanche, we could have sorted out party funding to make sure that rich men can never buy an election for the Tories again; and it’s for this reason that my wrath is not directed at Ashcroft, but at New Labour. We could have stopped Ashcroft buying my town’s seat.

Somehow, those in the higher echelons of our party must have swallowed the Lib Dem’s manifesto lie that the trade union funding of Labour is comparable with that of Ashcroft. It isn’t. We should be proud that so many trade unionists choose to support Labour. The unions are our foundations; we become unstuck when we forget the origins of our movement.

Come on, we should have had a Labour Government bent on democratic reform. Let’s face it, Labour’s main expenses culprits and those recently ensnared by Channel 4 – Hewitt, Hoon and Byers – are all Blairites. And, lately, with safe seats up for grabs, the democratic mechanisms in our party have been trampled on by the top to ensure a shoe-in for a minister’s buddy – like Mandelson’s mate in Stoke. My party card states that we are ‘a democratic socialist party’. Not anymore.

What’s more, Labour’s high priest – Maddelson – an undeniably intelligent strategist, who once understood the media, hasn’t grasped that elections are popularity contests, and he isn’t popular in our party, let alone with the electorate. For political anoraks of the left, our bedroom walls should be plastered with posters of our political heroes of the day: they are not.

So, Mr Routledge, what is worth knowing about my CLP, is that our members have good politics, good judgement and we are resisting Lords, whatever their political affiliations.

I close with this, the Burmese people, who I am particularly fond of, have an apt expression for a time like this: Only your real friends tell you when your face is a dirty. Britain isn’t broken, but the Labour Party certainly is.

Andrew Gray is the Chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough CLP, and the views expressed here are his own.



I find the recent Wikileaks saga most conflicting. The data dump will have the effect that diplomats will rarely write candidly for fear that their words will end up in The Guardian. Diplomats are the oil in the international system. It is impossible to know what damage, if any, has been done or will be done.

On the flip side, we should never forget the first Wikileaks release, Collateral Murder, available here. If you haven’t seen it, I can tell you that it is footage of the pilots of a US Apache helicopter executing civilians and journalists. When the US authorities were asked how two reporters had died, the US lied and then obfuscated. Thankfully, the footage was leaked and those who lost loved ones will know the truth: they were mown down by trigger-happy Americans in an illegal, immoral war.

Make your own mind up of the video: you should know what our combatants are doing in your name; the pornography of war should be seen. If you support the war, you should see the impact of your actions.

So, the Wikileaks releases has made it harder for our representatives to mislead, and who can be against that?