Corbyn’s dire polling figures give Tories (and the SNP) huge political latitude

Yesterday there were five council by-elections in which both Tories and Labour stood. The overall swing to Conservatives was estimated at 3.8%. Hardly definitive judgement on Corbyn’s leadership, but at a time when the Tories are running a horse and cart through the benefit system hardly grounds for optimism either.

And the bad news for Labour doesn’t end with a few parish newsletter items from a handful of seats either. Stephen Bush in the New Statesman highlights boundary changes that could truss the Labour Party in England for a generation or more:

Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote. A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.

A bad time to lose Scotland to the nationalist SNP, Labour is also getting outflanked by an increasingly narrow English nationalist and anti immigrant rhetoric south of the border which pours out of the front pages of the Daily Mail.

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  • Ernekid

    Lets remember that it’s over 4 and a half years till the next election. That’s over 4 years of Tory f##k ups. That’s 4 more years of tax credits cuts, steel plants closing, the NHS and the BBC being under constant attack. The conservatives are going to make themselves very unpopular very quickly just look at that shitehawk in parliament who filibustered for 90 minutes the other day so carers couldn’t get free hospital parking. The mainstream media led by the Tory media barons have portrayed Jeremy Corbyn to be a mixture of Pol Pot and Genghis Khan. When people realise that’s he’s actually quite a affable old chap with a subscription to Rail Magazine they’ll start to think about him again. Corbyn made Cameron look like a prize fool at PMQs when he asked the same question 6 times and failed to get an answer. It’s canny politics.

    Anyway The way things are going now it’s fairly reasonable to predict that there will likely be another form of financial crisis before 2020. The global market is already slowing down and the fundamental conditions that led to the last crash still exist. Couple that with almighty civil war brewing within the ranks of the Tory Party over the upcoming EU referendum things aren’t exactly rosy for the Tories.

    In 2020 it’s likely that either George Osborne or Boris Johnson will lead the Conservatives. George Osborne is like a Dickens Villain mixed with a shark. He has black soulless eyes and the haircut of a Roman emperor. Boris is like an old English Sheepdog in human form. If he had any real sort of power he’d be a British Silvio Berlusconi.
    Don’t write Corbyn off yet.

  • Mark

    That also means there are 4 years for more Corbyn f### ups. Every day, for decades, Labour bleat about the NHS under the Tories, yet it’s still up & running, with more scandals happening in the ‘Labour years’,
    Unless Labour ditch current policies they’ll never be trusted with the economy, again.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.”

    Perhaps this is because Corbyn is looking for serious political solutions for social problems, rather than simply getting PR companies to identify what any politician needs to say to get target audiences to vote for you:

    Now that the economy has become in essence global, no government that has not crafted its policies to the hidden needs of those monopolising wealth privately will ever be given the media support that influences what people think they need from a political party. I’ve little faith that Corbyn, no matter how right he may be about what will regenerate a genuine community, will ever be able to overcome the newly minted respectability of selfishness and greed that political marketing has pin pointed as what drives voters nowadays.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, I’d be very happy with a Tory government “McMillen style” straight from the early sixties. One that agreed with most of social policy Corbyn now advocates, and had some sense of responsibility for the country rather than simply crafting policies in the interests of the banksters and other financial Globalists. Blair (“My greatest achievement”: Thatcher) and his “Labour” government were entirely the product of PR, not politics. See the link on my posting above.

  • Ernekid

    You’re a fool if you think that the NHS is safe with the Tories. They’ll slowly chip away at it until there’s nothing left. The death of universal healthcare by a thousand salami slicing cuts. Just look how they are treating the Junior Doctors the people who will be treating a lot of people in the future when they reach their older years.

  • 23×7

    Osbourne is unelectable. They will have to choose Boris, who’s an idiot.

    There will be plenty of other screw ups to follow tax credits because the Tories never expected to get a majority. This is why we had the bare faced lies by Cameron on tax credits. They are completely unprepared to take the steps necessary to achieve their stupid deficit elimination target and will inevitably screw up.

    The actual next crash could be triggered by an EU exit. We also have the NHS which will only get worse under the current mob. Trident renewal in an era of austerity presents another Corbyn opportunity.

    I’d say steady as she goes for Corbyn and await the inevitable open goals that will be presented by the Tories over the next few years.

  • leoinlisbon

    Jeremy Corbyn is ‘quite a affable old chap with a subscription to Rail magazine.’
    You make him appear almost as much a vote magnet as Michael Foot.

  • Robin Keogh

    Latest com res poll has tories down one point to 38 percent, labour up 3 points to 34 percent. The cat must have been just asleep.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I can only hope you are right, 23×7, and Jeremy can against all expectation beat the PR machines that support Cameron and his courtiers, and minimalise the impact of their “schoolboy whopper” screwups. Oh, but don’t expect your comments to go entirely “unrebutted” if Cameron’s close personal friend Mathew Freud (“Freud Communications”) has any say in the matter. I quote Wikipedia:

    “In 1999 Leapman reported in The Times that Freud Communications had offered an Internet brand management service to its clients. This would “scour the Net for references to its clients” and if they were criticised, “the agency would use rebuttal tactics to minimise the potentially negative impact of online inaccuracy”.

    In 2007 PR Week ran a story documenting the use of WikiScanner to track anonymous edits and link them to organizations through their IP addresses and found that “Freud Communications’ London office was caught making edits on behalf of clients.” ”

    I will await your next posting (re-edited) to support Boris and his master with interest…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The half dozen times I met Michael Foot in the 1980s, Leo, revealed a brilliant and erudite man in full command of the facts of what skulduggery was going on in the Thatcher politbureau. Do not trust the media, or more particularly the PR handouts from Conservative Party HQ which they now usually employ, to inform you regarding the merits and abilities of non-Conservative political figures, after all these PR boys succeeded in making even Thatcher look surprisingly good to the gullible many.

  • Turgon

    It is far, far too early to tell. Corbyn has done much better than expected at the likes of PMQs.

    However, there are major problems especially regarding his social views. UKIP have already said they will push the patriotism angle hard in the by election caused by Michael Meacher’s death. They could easily overplay that but although often quite reticent about it the British are patriotic and Corbyn’s lack of enthusiasm for the military, the monarch etc.may be problematic.

    To my mind he has got the changes Labour need half right: he has moved to the economic left where they is a major untapped potential – his economic policies are far from hard left if viewed in an historical context. However, he is at least as socially left as New Labour who were too left for many of their population.

    We have not tried a Blue Labour / Patriotic Socialism type of politics for decades and maybe it is time to look back to Bevan, Attlee, Callaghan, Shore, Castle et al

  • MainlandUlsterman

    do write Corbyn off. He’s not the devil incarnate, and you’re right that people won’t buy that kind of character assassination. He is affable. But:
    – he does not come across as prime ministerial
    – his judgment on some big issues looks poor, irresponsible (e.g. Trident)
    – he’s shown stunning naivety in his dealings with some of the world’s most notorious sh**heads – Putin, Hamas, the IRA – that makes people feel he wouldn’t defend Britain’s interests properly and would bend to aggression out of misplaced Western/British guilt
    – because Labour MPs who didn’t support him were silly enough to nominate him and allow him into the leadership race, it’s screwed up party unity, with a leader who does not command the full support of his own MPs. His only way to deal with it is allow very loose party discipline, a free-for-all on policy. It’s just a bit funny now, but come an election, it will look shambolic, rubbish.
    It isn’t going to work.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    decent man but not credible as a national leader – Foot that is.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You can say this, MU, after we have steadily moved from the heady days of mediocre actors mouthing lines (Ronnie Reagan obviously, but certainly Thatcher too) to scraping the barrel with even less credible sound bite men like Blair, and now a really unmemorable light weight like Cameron. So, after this, you can still say Michael Foot was “not credible as a national leader”………

    Just how low do we have to go before the cobweb obscurations of the Murdoch press’s characterisations of the poor man can be seen for the malicious misrepresentations they always were.

  • chrisjones2

    Labour have gerrymandered the boundaries for years. They wre due to be reformed in the last Parliament but the Lib Dems scuppered that because their proposals for PR voting were destroyed by the electorate (The Bastards)

    So Labour have been living on borrowed time for at least 5 years and now face a perfect storm of reduced winnable seats, a collapse in support and a loonie left leader

    Let me predict – a Tory Government in power for at least the next 3 elections

  • chrisjones2

    “he’s actually quite a affable old chap with a subscription to Rail Magazine”

    I am amazed that you seriously think that makes him electable!! Or fit for office!!!

  • chrisjones2

    …as reliable as the SF poll last year that had you wetting your drawers Robin

    …and in terms of seats there is a disconnect with %s at polls as you well know

  • 23×7

    Not electable? Corbyn seems to have a 100% record of getting elected. Repeatedly elected as an mp, elected as leader of the party on a landslide.

  • Robin Keogh

    lol, I dont think I have wet my drawers since I was 5 years old and given the reliability of polls after the last UK election I doubt any poll will cause me to lose control of my bladder. However as the topic referred to polling results I thought I would add the com res info for general consumption. The only poll that counts is the vote poll.

  • Nevin
  • Robin Keogh

    Oh I know Nev. Sure I am dizzy watching SF numbers bounce up and down here. Seems to be the same for parties over in the UK also.

  • Greenflag 2

    Or there may be another Cable St event in light of the continuing stranglehold which the City retains on the Tory Government and the previous Labour administrations .

    The City (Globally ) is the new Fascist Corporate state aided and abetted by politicians of all parties . Another 2007/2008 event which is not discounted yet will bring the house down and I don’t mean just the residential variety .

  • Greenflag 2

    Oswald Mosley was a patriotic socialist until he evolved into a black shirted fascist . Good job for Britain and the world that the Jews and Irish and Londoners of the East End stopped Mosley in his tracks with bricks and chamber pots . When dealing with fascism theres no alternative but violence . People in NI should understand that. as while not a fascist state 1920 to 1972 it was as near as dammit .

    The British Labour Party in the 1930’s did not support the East End people so they eventually looked to others and themselves to do what had to be done at the time .

    We live in different times but the fundamentals remain the same .

  • Greenflag 2

    They may not even survive one term . Here’s a precedent from

    ‘The new term of parliament saw Major gain a new opponent in John Smith
    However, a series of events soon followed which made a fifth successive Tory election victory appear unlikely long before the next election was even on the political horizon.

    The pound sterling crashed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism after chancellor Norman Lamont had invested heavily in trying to keep it there, adjusting interest rates four times in one day as a desperate measure. This, which occurred on 16 September 1992 and became known as Black Wednesday, left the Tory government’s reputation for economic excellence in tatters. Labour was soon ascendant in the opinion polls.
    Tory feuding on Europe and the government defeat on the Maastricht Treaty further dented the government’s popularity, as did a series of scandals involving MP’s.

    The 21-seat Tory majority was gradually eroded by resignations as well as a string of by-election defeats, and by the turn of 1997 they were without a Commons majority.

    Deja vu for the Tories yet again.and now they start with a 12 seat majority instead of Majors 21 ?

    You could almost rewrite the Wiki extract by updating the name changes since Major’s time ,

  • chrisjones2

    We agree on that ………

  • chrisjones2

    Fancy a fiver on it? See you back here in 2029?

  • chrisjones2

    “When dealing with fascism theres no alternative but violence . ”

    Really? So you don’t believe in the rule of law then

  • Greenflag 2

    As long as the law does not impinge on my rights and freedoms as a human being . As for Fascist / Nazi / Communist law – no thanks . They can only be defeated by violence . Sometimes the law is an ass and idiot laws have to be repealed like many of those in South Africa and like some of those in Northern Ireland pre 1968 or in the USA’s Southern States pre 1965 .

    Its better of course for everybody if those in power realise and make the necessary changes and reforms before the guns go off . Because once they go off then the eventual reforms are made on top of a mound of corpses which steadily grow in a cumulative process as revolution begets reaction and reaction begets more revolution and so on until international forces intervene to protect their interests or ideology and then people stop when one or the other side has enough and somebody says or asks .Whats the point of all this crap or some such ?

    And then they may ask why exactly did 56,000 Americans get killed in Vietnam along with an estimated 3,000,000 Vietnames ? . Why did civilised and educated Germans exterminate millions of fellow human beings ? Pick your own example from whichever political slaughterhouse in the world you can think of since 1900 to the present , and you can still ask the same question again and again ?

    Was it worth it ? And while in most cases it certainly was’nt you can be sure that if were’nt for some of those wars those of us who now enjoy relative freedom and prosperity – would’nt . Progress is not inevitable . You can be propelled back to the Stone Age if the idiot in charge of North Korea has a particularly bad headache and his docs tell him he has a month to live and he decides to take everybody with him . His nuclear missiles are only a 5 minute launch from Seoul an urban area with 30 million residents and just a little longer to reach Tokyo .

  • Greenflag 2

    nah but I’d feel bad about taking your money – Slugger won’t be around in 2029 but Fermanagh and Tyrone will especially their steeples . I’ ll be in either Ecuador or Costa Rica or Gran Canaria not sure which yet:)

    And by then Scotland will be independent and much of England and Wales will be seeking independence from Londonistan or the City State and the border will be a line from the Bristol Channel to the Wash where the Tories won’t have to worry about defeating Labour as they’ll have a gerrymandered ( not really ) majority in the South East Parliament . By then Northern Ireland will no longer exist and you’ll have pissed off to St Albans but not Hartlepool or Sunderland as you’ll nae longer feel welcome in Glasgie or Aberdeen 😉

  • aquifer

    And Tory’s have access to all those marketing and polling tools to slice and dice and buy off the electorate as they please. Labour people can toe the party line but lack the intellectual firepower and flexibility to take the tories down. I will never forget the shock on Andy Burnham’s face when the leadership votes were counted. Labour expects to rule alone but expect them to be disappointed.

  • Greenflag 2

    Dizzying ? They are up and down like a lady of ill reputes undergarments or in and out of Stormont as frequently as her best customers or was that another political party in recent times ?

  • Greenflag 2

    And the only control that matters is bladder control 😉 At least in polite society .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    after they survived the last debacle, I wouldn’t underestimate their powers of survival, sadly.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree with you on getting away from sound-bitey, managerial politics. But a man who unilaterally blurts out that he would never use Britain’s nuclear deterrent, when his party may yet decide to retain it, isn’t competent or responsible enough to be in charge I’m afraid. Whatever you think the decision ought to be, he has effectively already taken it – and it does make him unelectable on its own, even if the public liked the rest of his programme.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, was he not simply being realistic about Britain’s actual inability to use a deterrent that is simply rented from the US, who could entirely control its maintenance and supply systems in the event of Britain attempting to actually use Trident in any truly independent manner?

    Jeremy is even more logical in regard to his position on this, for since Foot’s time, this has become even more of an issue, with (admittedly unacknowledged) remote control of the guidance system through its reliance on US computers brokering GPS directed targeting. I had a long exchange with Starviking a short while back on this issue:

    And many other postings on the thread. Trident is simply the national equivalent of buying a shiny De Lorien back in the 1980s, a rather overhyped status symbol but with the additional disadvantage (with Trident) of its being absurdly subject to possible remote control.

  • Greenflag 2

    Welcome to rip-off Britain. Where the Government’s business chums buy public assets on the cheap, bump up prices to extortionate levels, claim with a straight face that they can’t afford to pay us a decent wage, then demand we bail them out when their incompetence catches up with them.

    Or, as George Osborne calls it: Heaven

    Voices of some of the 6 million Britons who are on low incomes . Some 70% of Britons earn less than 30 k a year .
    Meanwhile Cameron and his chums in the City carry on regardless . At some point the British people -not all of them of course will say enough is enough and at that point the City and it’s political puppets will either reform or blood will flow most likely ..

    So the City and it’s Wall St chums and their political fellow travellers are capable yet of hanging themselves by their own greed .

    The Weimar Republic survived the first financial debacle in 1923 . It did’nt survive for long the second in the aftermath of the Great Crash 1929 . The NSDAP vote in 1928 was 2.8% and that was a drop from previous levels . In 1930 the NSDAP rose to 18.25% , in July 1932 to 37.7% , in March 1933 to 43% in November 1933 a huge 92% -all other parties had been banned .

    Anti EU sentiment plus ever more financial distress for the largest number of Britons ( or anywhere else in Europe ) will have political consequences . The lesson from the past is that those consequences threaten the existence not just of what we call ‘democracy ‘ but the existence of millions of people .

  • Emmet

    Right wing voters aren’t a bunch of unintelligent buffons who can’t think from themselves. Your line…
    “Labour is also getting outflanked by an increasingly narrow English nationalist and anti immigrant rhetoric south of the border which pours out of the front pages of the Daily Mail.”
    … implies a total lack of respect or indeed understanding of Conservative voters.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the alternative to Trident though is a much, much deeper reliance on the US for our ultimate security. I can’t think that’s a good idea.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes, 2020 will surely be a Corbyn walkover …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think it is too early to tell. Hasn’t his pronouncement on not pressing the nuclear button effectively ended any chance of being PM for him? The country wants an independent nuclear deterrent and simply won’t elect someone opposed to it. And even if he flipped back now and became a multi-lateralist (unlikely anyway), the damage is done – people won’t trust him on defence.

    Some commentators think defence is a side issue because it’s not top of voters’ agendas, but in reality it’s what we call in marketing a “hygiene factor” – one of those non-optional things any player has to get right as a basic foundation block before they can be taken seriously on anything else they do. I think Corbyn has fundamentally misjudged the British electorate on that; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, he chooses not to care much what the electorate thinks on the issue, because his (ill-thought-through) principles are always more important. Fine: let’s see how that goes for him.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But MU, Trident is a case of entire reliance on the U.S. for our ultimate security, with us paying through the nose for the privilege of simply being self funding “Federates” to the U.S.

    Surely France’s solution would be the better option should we wish to actually participate in the immoral employment of a weapon primarily intended to target civilians? I feel free to criticise the various Republican groupings and loyalists for the targeting of civilians only because I am consistent in utterly opposing the state’s targeting of civilians since they cynically broke with the international Hague agreements in WWII to endorse and carry out area bombing. The commitment to Trident is, for me, of a piece with this kind of double think, and I’m delighted that Jeremy is at least morally consistent in this matter.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it would be great if there were no weapons at all in the world, but sadly we’ve been the objects of rogue state aggression before and chances are we will be again.

    I wish we hadn’t done area bombing in WW2 but I’m not sure ‘cynical’ is the right word – it was the wrong thing done for the right reasons, given the massive importance and value to humanity overall of defeating Nazi Germany.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s pretty much agreed by any number of reputable historians that, unlike the carefully targeting bombing of key war industries by the US Bomber fleets, all the area bombing Harris and Churchill were so obsessed by really achieved was giving the RAF a feeling that they were doing something, and, of course, a lot of dead civilians. Hitler’s mistake was to invade Russia, and call down an attrition on his forces that they could never win against as long as the Russians were supported by US war production and the all important British Naval convoys to carry supplies to Russia. That is what won the war, not killing German civilians in a series of actions that can be compared to the holocaust if looked at honestly without the dark glasses.

    When we really have to face some serious rogue state aggression that genuinely requires a committed response, the armed forces that will really have to do the job will be expected to do it with half a dozen trained infantry, an inflatable boat and a hang-glider. Yes, really hyperbolic, sure, but the running down of the real armed services in the interests of retaining worthless Big Boys Toys such as Trident is the real problem in my book. How do you use Trident against Islamic State, the Taliban, or even poor old Saddam? These are the kind of problems that require solving in the real world, unless our masters succeed in goading Putin into doing something silly, and even then Trident would simply be a token side show where the real destruction of humanity on the planet would require a serious contender like the United States to do the job.

    Trident is a vanity project, like self publishing at great expense that book of Evangelical verse no one serious in the publishing world would touch. The money wasted could be put to much better use elsewhere.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We can agree with hindsight the bombing of German cities was appalling. But is it asking too much of the human beings involved in fighting the Nazis to expect complete clinical restraint, after what had been meted out on British cities? No excuse I know – a wrong is a wrong. But when you consider what Germany was doing to the rest of Europe at that time, I can’t help but give those fighting them against the odds, standing between the Nazis and the total victory with all the dreadful consequences, a lot more slack than I would give any other group of people in any other war.

    Of all regimes in history, this one really did have to be defeated as fast as possible and by any means necessary. Those in charge at the time did not have the luxury of knowing what the minimum force necessary was going to be. But I do accept they got it wrong, badly wrong, with Hamburg and Dresden.

    I go every summer to a coastal city in Croatia called Zadar and they still bear a grudge against Britain for its bombing (it was Italian then German held). This always strikes me as a bizarre attitude. Zadar was an Axis port in WW2, the Allies were entitled to attack it. Britain did not choose WW2 and it played a huge role in helping liberate Europe. The pro-Nazi Croatian regime at the time was also up to its neck in the extermination of the Jews and of its other opponents. But it suits some people to cast Britain as an aggressor. Really wrong – and shows what absurdities get thrown up when you isolate incidents from their wider context.

  • 23×7

    Ha Ha! The nuclear deterrent aka trident has become irrelevant now we are going to let China control our nuclear power stations. I’m sure Corbyn couldn’t believe his luck when the towel folder agreed this deal with China.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think the public will see it that way. If they’re worried about China – or feel insecure generally – they are going to want to hold onto an independent nuclear deterrent. Exit Corbyn stage far left.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, the fact remains that the Germans could actually be said to have “kept to the rules” of the 1907 Hague Conventions on Bombardment, even to the far more stringent rules from the unratified 1923 convention and against aerial bombardment, and even the Amsterdam Convention of 1938’s draft agreements:

    “Article 1. The civilian population of a State shall not form the object of an act of war. The phrase “civilian population” within the meaning of this Convention shall include all those not enlisted in any branch of the combatant services nor for the time being employed or occupied in any belligerent establishment as defined in Article 2.


    Art. 2. The bombardment by whatever means of towns, ports, villages or buildings which are undefended is prohibited in all circumstances. A town, port, village or isolated building shall be considered undefended provided that not only (a) no combatant troops, but also (b) no military, naval or air establishment, or barracks, arsenal, munition stores or factories, aerodromes or aeroplane workshops or ships of war, naval dockyards, forts, or fortifications for defensive or offensive purposes, or entrenchments (in this Convention referred to as “belligerent establishments”) exist within its boundaries or within a radius of “x” kilometres from such boundaries.


    Art. 3. The bombardment by whatever means of towns, ports, villages or buildings which are defended is prohibited at any time (whether at night or day) when objects of military character cannot be clearly recognized.

    Art. 4. Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorising the civilian population is expressly prohibited.”


    The Germans certainly killed civilians during bombing but actually stuck to the letter of these articles quite pedantically in the early years of the war. Their bombing was carried out by a small tactical airforce employing an admittedly primitive form of precision bombing to aim for specific military targets. In this context civilian casualties were incidental rather than the entire purpose of raids. Notably they had purposefully not developed aircraft with carpet bombing capacity such as Britain developed.

    The idea of carpet bombing and the centrality of targeting civilians was clearly recognised as something quite different even by those who advocated its use in Britain. Sir Arthur Harris was unambiguous about this in his statements:

    “the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.

    … the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.”

    I heard the arguments against this escalation of atrocity and the blatant contravention of the Hague Agreements from some local artillery officers from the Great War, friends of my family, during the 1950s and well before I encountered them from CND, etc. The whole point was that while the Germans had broken the Hague Conventions in WWI, they actually began the war attempting to comply with the high standards of even the unratified treaties right up until Britain set the new standard in atrocity by purposefully targeting civilians. This immoral precedent has made it something of a norm today to bomb civilians, something we in NI should be particularly sensitive to in the light of how this precedent has been used here.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting stuff on the German attempts to stick to the law in the early years – i hadn’t realised that.

    However, they did major bombing raids on 16 British cities between September 1940 and May 1941 during which more than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped. From 7th September 1940, London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights: more than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more
    than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London (wikipedia). I’m not sure how that sits with the idea of precision bombing and the deaths of civilians being ‘incidental’ to that. Certainly they bombed cities that had strategic importance but it seems they weren’t too fussy about whether they killed civilians or not. In law, being reckless as to the consequences of your actions is enough intent to convict.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, I really hate to remind you of the “whataboutery” issue. The 1907 Hague conventions had been ratified to by all parties, and no one was really able to claim “themun’s did it first”. You are making the natural mistake of claiming that civilian deaths from German bombing in the early years of the war were similar to those form harris’s campaign. But each was the result of quite different bombing policies.

    I also quote theWikipedia article on the “Blitz”:

    ” Contrary to popular belief, the Luftwaffe did not have a systematic policy of what became known as “terror bombing”. Evidence suggests that the Luftwaffe did not adopt an official bombing policy in which civilians became the primary target until 1942.”

    The bombing of British cities (and Belfast) was primarily aimed at disabling ports and industries, with the hits on housing clustered to such targets an incidental event, something that the conventions had recognised as inevitable in such situations. This is of its very nature different to what Sir Arthur Harris unequivocally stated:

    “the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.”

    This intention was crossing the line, and an open statement of contempt for the Hague Convention agreements. We hanged German commanders and politicians for the equally wanton murder of civilians, while we made Harris a Baronet in 1945, loaded with awards from many of the allied powers. If the Germans can be described as “reckless”, it is impossible to not see that Harris was consciously culpable, and is entirely condemned by his own words. The Nuremberg Charter (on which the Trial Law was decided) clearly “condemned the “wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity” and classified it as a violation of the laws or customs of war, therefore, making it a war crime.” (Wikipedia again). This was, of course, only applied to the defeated.

    The final point is that all this “terrorism” (a term historians are increasingly using to describe British carpet bombing) failed to achieve anything proportionate in any military sense to its claims. Unlike the targeted bombing of the U.S. bomber fleets, it did not manage cripple the German war effort seriously. It was in the words of Fouché’s famous rebuke to Napoleon on the seizing and execution of the Royalist leader, the due d’Enghien, “C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une fate”.

    Destroying communication centres and war industries could be classified as “military necessity”, the targeting of civilians clearly could not, and the precedent it set for others, such as the PIRA bombing campaign is perfectly clear to me. I find all terror attacks on civilians morally abhorrent ( and in essence “a mistake”) and simply cannot judge these things with double standards that favour one side simply because I feel some identification with that side.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No double standards or whataboutery there, I’ve been agreeing on this thread the deliberate bombing of German civilians shouldn’t have happened. What I was taking issue with was what seemed to me a rose-tinted view of Luftwaffe behaviour in the bombing of British cities – surely it’s OK to point out that was wrong too? If you’re killing 40,000 people that way, it can’t be an excuse for them to say they weren’t aiming for them.

    The RAF tactic of bombing German cities’ civilian populations, according to what I can dig out, seems to have started in February 1942.

    You cite the Luftwaffe also targeting civilians from 1942. But looking on good old wikipedia, with the usual caveats, it seems they switched away from ‘precision’ bombing to the greater use of incendiaries – much more indiscriiminate in effect – from late 1940. The shift from precision bombing to area attack is indicated in the
    tactical methods and weapons dropped. One unit is cited as moving to 92 per cent incendiaries by December 1940. And wikipedia says captured German air crews at the time testified to the targeting of the homes of industrial workers.

    Going back further, it seems that the bombing of civilian areas started through (it’s now thought, but wasn’t known at the time) an accidental dropping of bombs by the Luftwaffe on Central London in August 1940. Britain retaliated by bombing Berlin and it escalated from there.

    Belfast suffered like a lot of other British cities – over 1,000
    Belfast civilians were killed in the Luftwaffe bombing raids in April
    and May 1941. My Mum was evacuated and my Dad watched the bombers coming
    in as an 11-year-old boy from Cave Hill. Try telling those families
    that the Luftwaffe weren’t targeting civilians …

    So I don’t think it seems right really to say Germany was playing by the Geneva Conventions any more than Britain was in its bombing of cities. It seems both spiralled into a ‘total war’ approach. I’d suggest that was more characteristic of Nazi Germany’s tactics in WW2 generally than it was Britain’s; but in this instance our mirroring of German tactics was wrong and shouldn’t have happened.

    I am seeking to be objective about this, as I’m sure you are. I just wonder if you’re over-compensating against Britain though? I’m no historian of the period, but I think surely it’s quite possible to condemn the way we carried out the attacking of German infrastructure in cities like Hamburg, Cologne and Dresden while also acknowledging that the German war machine used very similar tactics against us (and was of course the clear aggressor). That’s not ‘whataboutery’ that’s just the fuller picture of the war.

    I wish the whole war had been fought cleanly on our side – and this was an example of a bad lapse – but on the whole the Allies fought a hell of a lot more cleanly than Nazi Germany did and for the future of humanity, we absolutely had to win. Kicking Nazi Germany as hard as possible when it was down in 1944-45 did not seem as cruel or crazy a thing to do as it may now.

    That said, even at the time, Dresden was seen as unnecessarily punitive. It shouldn’t have happened as it did. Ultimately you’re right to say the Geneva Conventions are there for all wars in all circumstances and we are reduced as a nation when we flout them. It doesn’t put us on a moral level with Nazi Germany overall though, surely. You have to look at the whole conduct of the war to make those kind of judgments.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But you can’t write off counter-arguments as just “whataboutery” or you’ll never have a discussion about anything. And my points on the nature of the German bombing campaign, I think reading your response, still stand.

    You place a lot of weight on your interpretation of this:
    “Contrary to popular belief, the Luftwaffe did not have a systematic
    policy of what became known as “terror bombing”. Evidence suggests that
    the Luftwaffe did not adopt an official bombing policy in which
    civilians became the primary target until 1942.”
    As ever, the devil is in the detail (assuming this is an accurate statement to start with, which I will do for now). It says the Luftwaffe did not have a ‘systematic policy’ of terror bombing in 1940-41. It’s not denying that Germany nevertheless did carry out terror bombing in those years. The difference between hundreds of bombing raids in which thousands of civilians were very likely to die, and did die, and a ‘systematic policy’ of killing civilians may well have existed in theory in those years; but clearly there was little difference in practice.

    The same article also cites 1942 as when Britain made a similar transition from regarding hitting civilians as collateral damage to actually at times targeting the civilian population. For what I read there, it seems Britain similarly didn’t officially target civilians until 1942 either.

    So I’m at a loss as to why you’re so insistent on the Germans showing greater probity in their bombing in 1940-41 than Britain did. It seems rather that the two moved in tandem, as you might expect, in their move from targeted bombing to less targeted bombing. Let’s be clear, neither should have done that. But I’m surprised you’re picking out Britain here over Nazi Germany for condemnation on airborne bombing raids before 1942.

    Seaan, you also shouldn’t say “British cities and Belfast” – Belfast was a British city and was indeed bombed as heavily as it was for that very reason. That’s not denying the right of some residents not to feel British, which is fine, but the city was and is factually in British sovereign territory.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I agree, MU, that the effect of bombing in the earlier years of the war may have killed civilians indiscriminately, the actual shift in policy by Britain to that of primarily trying to kill civilians is the point I’m really trying to make.

    The German bombing briefings gave targets and intended their bombardiers to aim at specific points. The new thinking in Britain was to follow on from pathfinder aiming and spread a curtain of bombing back over civilian targets. While I’m not a specialist in WWII, I’ve both read quite fully in the contemporary scholarship in the field and also am essentially repeating the arguments I’d heard long ago from Great War artillery men disgusted at Britain’s double standards.

    No, my close reading of recent scholarship on all of this confirms that German policy (as opposed to what would occur in the messier “practice”) was in conformity with Hague 1907. And, really, you simply cannot argue against Harris’s own words.

    You use your own family story, a vivid if (policy wise) somewhat inaccurate impression of the actual meaning of German bombing. The Germans were aiming at the Docks and industries, and the civilian clustering of houses to such targets ensured could not be missed. Actually creating bombing plans that ensured the spread of bombing over areas without any such target, as Harris’s policies did is in essences something very different in its nature. If we are to (quite properly) condemn Nazi Germany for the wilful murder of civilians, then we simply cannot say that our own burning alive of women and children as a conscious policy is in any way justified. Such actions, if you look at them dispassionately, actually do “put us on a moral level with Nazi Germany”. To attempt any such defence of the entirely conscious targeting of non-combatants is to descend to the level of Goebbels’ justifications of the morality of Total War, and to decorate and praise some engaged in such vileness while hanging others is, to my understanding, a text book definition of double standards.

    I should say that I had family engaged in the war on both sides of this argument, with my uncle a proponent of Harris, something that he never retreated from. I understand the emotions involved, and recognise your own honest concerns on this issue, and value the fact that you have endeavoured to argue your own case with considerable sincerity.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Fine we’ll leave it there, just to say in terms of putting us on a level with Germany, I’d accept that on those particular aspects of the war – a wrong is a wrong – without necessarily extrapolating from that that the Allied campaign generally was on a moral level with our opponents in WW2. We were on the side of the angels and it was good for not just us but for humanity that we prevailed – but in the process, some devilish things were done that didn’t need to be, there is no denying that.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for discussing this so honestly, MU. It will always be a painful issue, especially for those of us who remember those who were in the war. While I feel that Harris and others “in the know” were culpable, those young men who flew the missions, and were told what they were doing was effective and necessary are in my opinion another kind of victim of their immorality. The entire business of “legitimising” the targeting of civilians by any participant in the war has set an ugly precedent for the modern world we are all having to live with, one that makes us each and every one vulnerable in a manner in which only professional forces used to be. Trident is simply another aspect of this, sharing in some of the qualities of “being worse than a crime, a mistake” that Fouché spoke of.

    My last observation is that while we may have been “on the side of the angels”, Germany too would have framed what they had done in similar moral terms should they have been victorious. As Yeats said during the 1930s, the only actual way to evaluate the real moral character of any government is to simply count their victims.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    indeed, and that goes for other organisations too. I would say though that while the Germans would have proclaimed moral rectitude for everything including the extermination of the Jews, it’s important to remember too that we’re not obliged to accept their version of morality – indeed we had a duty to oppose it with all the force we could muster.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m certainly not intending to praise the Nazis in any way, but to note that Britain were in some respects equally culpable for war crimes, something I thought I’d made quite clear. I have no truck with the Nazis, but I believe that it is important to recognise the difference between an exhausted and frightened aircrew who cannot find their target simply dropping bombs unaimed on a city and a deliberate policy to target bombs in order to ensure that they kill civilians. Such actions are not the same, as intentionality alters the nature of the act. It is the difference between civilians being killed when a shell incidentally hits a building in the course of the bombardment of a town in war and the targeted actions of einsatzgruppen death squads murdering civilians as policy. While British airmen did not (thankfully) engage in the murder of civilians face to face, killing civilians was what in actual fact they were doing, the principal aim of their activity.

    I’m afraid that my own moral compass does not stretch to viewing the killing of civilians as ever an acceptable activity in war.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And, MU, I’m not obliged to accept excuses for similar moral turpitude (historically) when perpetrated by my own community. I’ve opposed it with all the force I’ve personally been able to muster all my life. My own smidgen of Jewish blood predisposes me to single out the Nazis (original and current) as a particular fear. Yes, but it also makes me worry when I see similar acts to those we would morally ( and necessarily) condemn them for justified in any way.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, had a busy day yesterday and did not reply properly on several points. I was (and am having trouble) with the contradiction in your answers regarding your statement that Britain was wrong to commit atrocities but had to to get back at Germany for bombing British cities and killing civilians.

    I’d mentioned “whataboutery” as you appeared to be suggesting that the Germans own bombing of British targets somehow justified our turning to a more extreme reaction. Classic “Whataboutery”. The point I was making was that Britain did not simply bomb in the same manner, where civilian casualties would have been incidental, but engaged in the intentional targeting of civilians.

    Yes Britain stuck to a policy of aimed nightime bombing until 1941, as did Germany. Both had realised that daylight bombing was simply a way of loosing aircraft in the early years of the war. The fighter defence was simply too successful. Britain had started bombing German cities from 1940, but a survey of the effectiveness of this British campaign in August 1941 showed that only one in four of the very best crews were bombing within five miles of their target as briefed. Strategic bombing simply did not work as the war winner that Guilio Douhet and others had claimed. It was the shock of this obvious failure that gave the opening for Harris to shift to the area bombing of whole cities and their inhabitants, the only target that his air fleets could actually hit.

    The arguments against this policy shift in contravention of the Hague Convention rules were still many. The Blitz showed that targeting civilians, far from breaking morale, strengthened the will to carry on. The effort and expense of carrying out Harris’s strategic bombing campaign against civilians also used extensive funds and personel who could have made some real impact used elsewhere. In addition the targeted daylight bombing of legitimate military industrial and communication installations had again become an option by the time that the failure of area bombing was becoming clear. By August 1942 the successful American daylight raid on Rouen had finally proved that pin point accuracy could be achieved using the new Norden bomb-sight. There were significantly no losses to either the B-17s or their RAF fighter escort on the raid. So there were other options open. While Britain would have perhaps lost face by ending the night campaign, and adopting the American purist approach it would have been the realistic solution as well as the morally correct thing to do. This is the real crux of what I’m attempting to say. The utter ineffectiveness in practice of the targeting of civilians by “Terror Bombing” made any justification of this enormous war crime even more pointless.

    I’d view the commitment to Trident as a similarly misguided mistake. It permits us to become a magnet for an overwhelming response, without offering any serious ability to ensure that immoral “first strike” that would permit us to avoid such a reaction. It is effectively that tee-shirt mentioned on another thread with “legitimate target” printed on it, worn by a weedy weakling.

    Oh, and regarding the bracketing of Belfast, perhaps I was thinking of “a city on the Irish mainland” as against “cities on the British mainland”. Of course some very misaimed bombs dropped on Dublin also. I have now slightly re-edited it to support your sensitivities on this rather contested issue. After all, while Britain claimed sovereignty over NI, so did the Irish state of that period, who claimed sovereignty over the entire Island of Ireland. The Irish claim may be argued to be just as valid as the British claim before changes in law removed it, just as it might even be argued that as the unilateral declaration of an Irish Republic in the year of my birth was not recognised in British law, so that state does not actually exist in British law. None of these things, which are simply the creation of human laws, may be judged as an absolute and unchallengable truth.