Labour, Syria and the problem with mandates…

Some points on Labour’s problems with participation in the Syrian conflict. Labour has a decision to take. It can treat this important decision as

1) a test of political strength
2) an electoral question
3) a moral question

The news media seem largely interested in 1 + 2, and it’s a terrible shame, if unsurprising. This is, undoubtedly, primarily a moral question. Unfortunately, most of the 600+ people that answered my poll on Twitter didn’t agree with me.

Let’s deal with the first two options first though.

Labour Party members are clearly very opposed to Labour MPs supporting the Government plans for Syria (the leaders office are claiming 75% opposition, from their very unscientific email-poll over the weekend).

Labour’s voters, however, tend towards the opposite view. They support the intervention in Syria, and the wider electorate are even more at odds with Labour’s members.

Moral decisions should not be changed by a weight of opinion, and these figures should have no bearing on anyone’s position, apart from to teach a good lesson to those who want MPs to be bullied into obeying party activists.

There are, of course, plenty of voices demanding that MPs do what party membership tells them, and there are also demands for the leadership to flex its muscles and whip people into line. This argument is in trouble on two counts:

Firstly, I think it’s clear that it is on dodgy moral ground.

Secondly, if they are arguing for mandates, in principle, they need to be aware that MPs would be better advised to take one from the electorate rather than the plainly-unrepresentative self-selectorate inside The Labour Party.

Labour Party members will kill the party stone dead if they insist on dictating outcomes to parliamentarians in this way. They turn Labour into a thoroughly unprincipled mess.

In raising the idea of mandates, they can also give a gift to parties like UKIP who would be only to happy to see politics reduced to a reflexive Direct Democracy where the borders are built high and nooses dangle higher.

I suspect, somewhere in Oldham, they’re already knocking up leaflets to show that Labour is at odds with it’s wider voters if it opposes the Government on Syria.

Labour members should be breathing a sigh of relief that MPs are mostly serious people who are likely to make sure that they at least understand both their electorate and their party members before they move to any decision — but that the decision should ultimately be treated by each MP as a moral one.

If they do that, Parliament can then benefit from the distributed moral wisdom of its members, and — hey presto — democracy does it’s job.

The role of a good political party

This brings us to Labour’s problem. Once MPs have done that moral deliberation, an effective party would coral them in one place and get a united position out of them. A list of demands, a list of objections, an alternative vision that they can unite around.

Sure, a few will defy the whip and that’s a good thing, because they can’t do it lightly and they will have to explain why.

In a good democracy, government needs this kind of challenge. They should deliberate in a tough way, get the best negotiating position that strikes that magical ‘political’ balance between morality and pragmatism, then negotiate hard and improve government decisions.

It now seems that Labour will be allowing a free vote on this so it won’t even attempt to provide this essential service of opposition on this question. It is asking for a two-day debate as a sticking plaster to cover for the lack of compressed wisdom it would get from a functioning internal party debate..

When some of us, back in August, said “putting Corbyn in charge of the Labour Party is like filling an ‘unleaded’ car with diesel”, this is what we meant. It actually won’t work. We weren’t trying to talk those voters out of something sensible. We were saying “this is bound to end in tears.”

Why Labour will now duck its responsibility

Personally, I’m very grateful that I’m not an MP, and that I don’t have to make a decision on this. I’ve read this and this and they are pulling me away from supporting the government, but that’s all. I’m not qualified to make a call, and — as I’ve outlined earlier — MPs need to do so much more than that.

Labour MPs are going to have to put on some armour if they are to make a principled decision to support the government, and they will have to expose themselves to endless suspicion if they don’t, because — either way — their decision is going to be treated as a test of loyalty to the leadership and obedience to the membership, whatever Jeremy Corbyn’s office are saying at the moment.

The party is too divided to perform the role of a good political party in this respect. As a long-standing member, I think that any association with the odious Stop the War Coalition disqualifies anyone from being taken seriously on this issue in the first place, and unfortunately, the majority of Labour MPs won’t unite behind such a leadership.

So, we can say it again, Labour is very badly screwed at the moment and it’s very hard to see how it’s going to climb out of this particular hole unless Corbyn were to miraculously walk away and a half-decent alternative were to emerge.

It’s also very bad for the people of Syria who will be on the receiving end of a British decision that will be a lot worse than the one that the British government would make, if it were forced to negotiate with an effective opposition.

First published by the author on Medium.

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  • Gopher

    Labour have created their own woe, they failed to treat Corbyn and the loony left as a serious threat. The warning signs were actually there. Labour circumvented the unions and bizarrely their own parliamentary party. Remember those deselections of lefties in the eighties you can bet thats the next move by Corbyn. The “Mensheviks” will be ousted by the “Bolsheviks” from standing at the next election.

    As for “bombing” the case is simply this ISIS has time space and resource and is protected by a blanket that obviates any inteligence to its intentions, that blanket is terror to develop any form of attack on the west it chooses. Only by replacing ISIS in those areas will the blanket be removed and there is a resonable chance to disrupt those plans stillborn. If your conscience says its better to sit and wait thats your choice I have no problem with that as long as its your conscience and not someone elses. The response if your wrong will be less measured and many more people will die.

    Raqqa and its fall will answer alot of questions of conscience, if however you vote for bombing

  • 23×7

    Yet another flawed anti Corbyn article. Couple of points.

    The majority of the PLP will be voting against strikes. Therefore it is the supporters of air strikes who are not only out of step with the membership they are out of step with the PLP.

    The second point is your use of the morality argument. It’s laughable that you accuse the membership and opponents of airstrike to be on “dodgy moral ground”. It is quite frankly obscene that yet again the UK will get involved in more recreational bombing in the middle east without any coherent strategy in place or dealing with the role of the Saudis and Turkey. Only last year we were being asked to bomb Assad. So much for British military intelligence.

    I support getting rid of Isis by force but the UK should only get involved once we either get a coordinated UN response to the problem or at the very least an agreement between the US and Russia on strategy and the long goals of the operation.

  • Kevin Breslin

    When someone moans about “The problem with mandates” I find it difficult to believe that they’re not a fascist.

  • Greenflag 2

    “ISIS has time space and resource and is protected by a blanket that obviates any inteligence to its intentions, that blanket is terror to develop any form of attack on the west it chooses.”

    And ISIS is being supported financially by Saudi Arabia and with weapons by the Turks according to the Russians . Its a mess as it is without British involvement . Best to keep out .

    “The response if your wrong will be less measured and many more people will die.”

    Approx 500,000 people have been killed in the Middle East since 2003 . There is no evidence that the West has increased stability in the region with it’s military interventions and invasions . Quite the opposite in fact .

  • Really? Hitler and Mussolini were very keen on mandates. Generally the best representative democracies have representatives that are not strongly mandated, but free to exercise their conscience. That’s a very very odd comment to make.

  • I don’t think you’ve understood the argument. You don’t make a moral decision by asking who you are in step with and who you are out of step with. That’s why its called “a moral decision”. You then use a ‘whataboutery’ argument.

    You say (paraphrasing) “it’s laughable that that you use a moral argument when I have a different moral argument to yours.”

    You appear certain about how this matter should be dealt with. This must be either because you are deeply immersed in the strategic considerations that elude most of diplomats, politicians and commentators on the matter (they are split on this and often equivocal) or because you think that there is some kind of conspiracy to make their decisions about military involvement in poor faith.

  • I think that the argument that the West is at the root of this instability, or even a large contributor to it, is overcooked. It’s not ‘all about us’. Iraq was a concentration camp above ground and a cemetery below it before 2003. I’d not argue, for a minute, that the 2003 intervention was a fantastic contribution to peace and stability, but we need to get off this square of thinking about it as a problem in which we are the major factor. We’re not. Doing the right thing will forever be a difficult call, but not trying is even harder to justify.

  • I can’t disagree with much of that Gopher and I’m *inclined* to agree with you. I’ve read a lot around the subject but I find certainty very hard to achieve. If I were an MP, I’d have a responsibility to reach a judgement and stand by it more than I do as an ordinary civvy.

  • 23×7

    I note you have conveniently ignored “It is quite frankly obscene that yet again the UK will get involved in more recreational bombing in the middle east without any coherent strategy in place or dealing with the role of the Saudis and Turkey.”
    If that isn’t a moral argument I don’t know what is.
    I’m impressed that you have such faith in our diplomats and politicians who would have had us bombing Assad last year thus strengthening Isis.
    Of course many of these decisions are made in bad faith. Iraq and WMDs is an obvious example. The failure to address the role of the Saudis and Turkey in this is another.

  • 23×7

    Godwin’s law.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I bet these are the sort of arguments Hitler and Mussolini used to undermine the mandates of the people, let me be free to exercise my conscience so you lot don’t have to.

    Churchill “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ones” and you cannot have democracy without real unfettered mandates.

  • Kevin Breslin

    On the Burke quote it speaks of the representatives own judgement … and there is clearly a conflict among Labour MPs who’s mandate they are to represent. A Free vote, where a member can make a judgement of the balance of his representation of the weight ratio he assigns to his or her constituents, party members and collective responsibility to the party and the national constitution even their own opinions is probably the most democratic because it leaves the buck with the voter not the party member, party representatives or the party leader. They know what members did freely without a whip and they can make up their own mind next election accordingly. If the party used a three-line whip, many of the Corbynites would’ve left and the party would shrink and resort to the state of affairs it was under Miliband.

    I don’t think this “problem of mandates” means that mandates themselves are a problem though. As a so called “social democratic party” the Labour party should believe in nothing else but the “power of mandates”. Otherwise they are just despotic Red Tories offering nothing more than a colour change.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What is the literal definition of a fascist, someone who bundles together, bundles their people into a homogeneous category.
    A category that makes no challenge to her or his own interpretation of the public zeitgeist and defers no accountability of their own actions to a public mandate.

    The priority of the fascist being to privatize government to enable the ease of government business, and the ease of their own unchallenged conscience over the tasks of public servitude.

  • chrisjones2

    “Only last year we were being asked to bomb Assad.”

    So on your logic during the troubles the RAF should;d have carpet bombed Dundalk and Ballyshannon?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Mathew Parris wrote an excellent article in the Times the other day where he made the point that we appear to be involving ourselves in another area of conflict for no better reason than our ‘friends’ are going to do it and we don’t want to be left out.

    Before committing ourselves to this latest intervention shouldn’t we ask ourselves a few questions?

    Such as ,what precisely will our involvement alter? Will the enterprise be doomed to failure without us?

    What are we hoping to achieve, do we have a ‘cunning plan ‘ to resolve the crisis and bring everlasting peace, or are we going to continue with our usual ” Keep advancing toward the enemy until everyone is dead, apart Lord Haig, Lady Haig and their dog Whoopsy ” ?

    When the whole thing goes pear shape – as I guarantee it will – how much further are we prepared to go in ‘mission creep ‘ terms?

    Why should this time turn out any different from all the other western military involvements which invariably left things worse than before we got involved and contributed to the hatred of the west?

    It doesn’t fill me with confidence when Cameron was previously prevented from bombing forces loyal to Assad and now wants permission to bomb forces opposed to Assad.

    The real effective supporters of Islamic terrorism are the Wahhabi branch of Islam based in Saudi Arabia, which apparently we aren’t doing anything about.

    Doing something for the sake of doing something isn’t necessarily the wisest course of action.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Tony Blair’s mother was born in Ballyshannon and he spent his summer holidays there as a child so you need an alternative target : ).

  • Greenflag 2

    The West is in the Middle East not the other way around . Its not overcooked .From supporting Saudi Wahabbis and their religious fanaticism to tripping over numerous factions in Syria and Iraq and instigating the Sunni Shiite sectarian war -the West has enough blood on its hands . Doing the right thing will forever be difficult is just a waffling excuse for more intervention . Doing the wrong thing again and again is insane . How many million more Middle Eastern refugees do you think the west can cope with ?

  • Yeah. It’s be a Scandinavian social democracy if we hadn’t screwed it all up!

  • Ah! The ‘red tory’ trigger. You’ll find that people don’t take you seriously once you deploy that one. I’m not sure you’ve actually read the article you’re commenting on either.

  • I think that you’ve decided to call Tories fascists (your second para here) and in a previous comment, Labour Party members who have been around for more than a couple of months are Red Tories. Your first para is very far indeed from the definition of a fascist. It seems that representative democracy is a new concept to you. Good luck in your quest for knowledge!

  • Once again, you’ve not read what I said. I refer to the morality of representation. You seem to be saying that intervening in Syria is immoral (and you’re entitled to that opinion – I may well share it – who knows?) but because one of the options is for MPs to vote for something that *you* think is immoral, then there is no reason to apply any moral yardsticks to the way that they reach their decision.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I said “despotic Red Tories”.

    My point being if social democracy is a mere inconvenience to the Labour Party why should they even be a social-democratic party?

    Despotic Red Tory just happened to be the first thing that came into my mind.

  • Greenflag 2

    It could hardly be worse than it is now that the West has screwed it up . The Empire is gone . Time to behave like any other medium sized country which doesn’t send it’s armies half way across the world to kill as many natives as possible !

  • Greenflag 2

    Precisely AI – but try getting the gung ho idiots of yesterday to think with their brains instead of with their video games 🙁 ?

    I can already see the tee shirts ” WE JUST DID IT AGAIN ” “ANOTHER MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED ‘ THIS TIME ONLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN DEAD ”

    Cameron is trying to outBlair Blair methinks .

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’ve not called the Tories or indeed Labour members fascists, and I’ve clarified that in my reply. The origin of the word and the root of the word fascism lies with the the Italian phrase of bundling together. The fascist ideologies used by despots is that democracy just gets in the way of their representation.

    You also talk about morality, let’s talk about morality, surely that is based on what you do to other people. Surely there is a level of amorality or even immorality in trying to impose a three way whip on several of your fellow party members even their own party leader in the name of some sort of version of social democracy that appears to suit only the individuality of the representatives.

  • Reader

    Greenflag 2: The West is in the Middle East not the other way around .
    Well, counting heads, it looks like it *is* the other way round. They must hate us all so much to want to come here so badly.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I believe that during your period in office as PM if you get to oversee a war when you retire it raises your after dinner speaking fee by quite a considerable amount.

    So all those innocent people that will inevitably pay the price will not have died for nothing, more like £150,000 extra per speech.

    Blair is worth £60 million and he didn’t save that from his salary you know.

  • 23×7

    The author has accused opponents of bombing of being on dodgy moral ground. How can you be on dodgy moral ground if you decide not to bomb? If I decide not to punch someone on the way to work tomorrow who abuses me am I on dodgy moral ground?

    I understand that MPs have to make up their own mind on issues. However the moral argument on this issue is bullshit. It is being used to provide cover for MPs who wish to support bombing despite there being no clear reason to get involved at this time. Many of these MPs are acting in bad faith, which I note you have failed to address.

  • Gopher

    I would not bother trying to achieve certainty “No plan survives the first contact” is still as an incisive statement as when it was written in the 19th century. Like I said no one is voting for bombing on certainty, exit strategies or eleborate plans.Those are all chimerical, therefore the arguements of fools. Its a conscience vote. This aint Schlieffen, this is alchemy, the only slightly analogous campaign I can think off, was “Crossbow” the race to destroy V weapons.

  • Greenflag 2

    Doesn’t surprise me . They all do it -before they retire- if they’re around long enough . I wonder how Blairs County Durham seat of Sedgefield is doing these days without their PM . Compared to Mr Mugabe’s hoard of 11 billion in Switzerland I guess its pocket change .

  • Greenflag 2

    They’ve probably figured out that the West won’t attack them with fighter aircraft and drones on western soil .

    They need to create a kind of Darwin Award or an UnNobel prize for idiocy in foreign policy !

    Both the USA and UK among others have implemented a foreign policy strategy that has maximised political instability , social and economic disorder -sectarian warfare with hundreds of thousands of dead as well as several million refugees and displaced people. The architects of US policy in the region and their British and other advisers would have won it every year since 2003 . And that’s not counting the billions squandered in bribery to local warlords and in excess profits for the likes of Haliburton and Blackrock and the whole shebang of war profiteers 🙁 .

    And Cameron wants more ?

  • Hugh Davison

    The West created Iraq, an artificial state

  • Starviking

    It helps to know what the UK will be doing.

    I understand they will be using RAF Tornados with reconnaissance pods and the very precise and low-powered Brimstone Missile. That means they can personally check their target before committing to strike, and the strike will have minimal collateral damage.

    If other Allies wanted to hit those targets, they would have either satellite images or drone images, and the plane striking the target would not be able to personally confirm the target, and would have to use weapons with a much higher explosive power. That’s more collateral damage, and more chance of hitting the wrong target.

    These targets will be hit, a moral case could be made for us doing it precisely, rather than leaving others to go with the “big bangs”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Paul, using that hoary old bludgeon of “Once you’ve said that (on certain policies) Centerist Labour and Centerist Conservatives believe the same things, I find that I have a “get out of answering free” card” simply does not work. when it is so self-evidently true! Are they not going to vote the same way? Do they not share neo-liberal lite values? Some of us do take this most worrying bias to media and “sound bite” politics led by focus group findings and targeted at market segments that has invaded our politics since Thatcher very, very seriously. Please answer the point Kevin has made properly, and without evasion or attempts to score cheap (and entirely unsupported) points.

    If mandates are such an irrelevance, or even simply an inconvenience, just why do we go through the charade of connsultancy through election? If the MPs are not representatives of the Labour Party, why do they not simply stand as independants? And once that old arguement is trotted out that the people are extremist and require experts to control them as they do not know what is good for them, “In raising the idea of mandates, they can also give a gift to parties like UKIP who would be only to happy to see politics reduced to a reflexive Direct Democracy where the borders are built high and nooses dangle higher” we should all begintto ask just why should such irresponsible people be permitted to eevn elect representatives? This is turn raises the further issue of why should we be supporting those opposed to Asad when we are in such evident agreement with his own govermental practice?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Now, the moment you link “direct democracy” entirely with Hitler, that really is something where “You’ll find that people don’t take you seriously once you deploy that one.” Serious historians anyway.

    I’m reminded of that old story where Wyndham Lewis, whio loathed popular fiction, was told taht Yeayts read Crime Fiction. “He reads a lot of other books as well” was the answer.

    So actually listening to their population is something only dictators do? Are there not (many, many) other instances of this, such as Switzerland, where any seriously opposed mesure may be put to plebicite if enough concerned citizens may be found to stop the elected from acting as (ho, humm….) “dictators”?

    And incidently, the only instance of plebicite that I remember Mussolini (perhaps) empolying was the 1934 “refferendum on Fascism” election. The consultancy process of discussion through the corporations, similar to the concept of consultancy through the Russian soviets, was presented to the Italian people as a constant expression of their will, and in this Italy differed entirely from the more conservative National Socialism where plebicite was needed to fill the need to authorise actions in a much less imaginative Germany. Not that such “consultancy” in Italy was actually “democratic” in any real sense. It helps to actually know some history and not simply have to make it up.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Paul, he’s applying Godwin’s law to your intial mention, not to Kevin.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/12/01/labour-syria-and-the-problem-with-mandates/#comment-2386897933

  • Gopher

    Civilians are going to die, not as many as ISIS have and will kill but they are going to die. If your unhappy with that vote no with your conscience. In the geopolitical world *if* Assad gets there first, its Barrel Bombs landing on Raqqa not Brimstone missles, Paveway Bombs and Hellfire Missiles. If you believe that the militias can stop Hezzbollah and Russian backed Assad no problem vote no with your conscience. *If* you believe Gulf State funded terror will lessen with an Assad in Raqqa vote no with your conscience. Its a war MP’s are voting on today, not to quote David Hume once more “some pompous tournament”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What a pleaseure to find something we can agree on, if, perhaps with different interpretations of its implications, Gopher.

    I see no way that using high tech systems such as drone stikes has actually created a ‘surgical” position where bombs only hit the bad guys. And I’d feel that bombing alone will do very little to alter the actual situation on the ground, any more than it did in WWII. If IS is to be broken, it will be with genuine military action on the ground that takes and holds actual territory, reamving their controling influence and afterwards by serious and committed efforts at reconstruction rather than simply controlling enought of the ground to permit the milking of resources as in Iraq. But certainly nothing can be expected from such ill thought out panaceas as “very precise” targeting.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The answer to your question regarding Sedgefield is that I have no idea, and neither does Tony Blair I’ll bet.

    Cameron is going to have to up his game if he wants to place himself in the Blair bracket.

    JP Morgan the American bank won the contract to run Iraq’s Trade Bank following the war.

    Tony Blair receives £2 million a year as a part time ‘adviser
    ‘ to J P Morgan.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjnzeShhL3JAhWMcRQKHTn7A1sQFggxMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2Flabour%2F1575247%2FTony-Blair-to-earn-2m-as-JP-Morgan-adviser.html&usg=AFQjCNEXsg74R7qaD8uIRBupEbvdMFsVyg

    I quibble with the description ‘ earn ‘.

  • Gopher

    Without bombing Kobane would have fell. I imagine bombing will disrupt Daeshs ability to trade oil after that it is reliant on intelligence not precision which outside sigint is fairly patchy and very inefficient in relation to expense versus results . As for human intelligence not too many James Bonds want to be beheaded. Bombing on the scale invisaged I have argued is too slow. But the fundamental principle of all wars is you fight as you can not as you should especially in Western 21st century democracies were war is not subject but shackled to politics. At least it is not shackled to superstition as with Daesh which gives me a clear conscience.

  • Greenflag 2

    For services rendered in helping to destroy those weapons of mass destruction which Hussein never had . Still one has to admire the generosity of JP Morgan paying up . Not enough to pay for the burials of the 500,000 or so that were killed as a result of well lets call it -to be on the charitable side – misinformation and a desire to please big brother GW and the great Dick 🙁

    I wonder who Mr Cameron is trying to please – Which of Obama’s potential successors ? Trump Carson or Rubio or Crud ?

  • Inaction is, potentially, is immoral as action. It’s ‘the trolley problem’ – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

    To be clear, I’m not arguing for either intervention or non-intervention here. That’s not what this article is about. It’s about how they reach the best decision assuming that it’s a difficult moral question. Your view appears to be that it isn’t and that anyone who agrees with intervention is doing it out of poor faith. I’m certain that you are wrong about that, and if you were to ask Syrian refugees or almost any Kurd alive if there is a good moral case for using air-strikes, a very large portion of them will say ‘yes’.

  • The Ottoman Empire withdrew from the region. There was a vacuum. Someone would have had to have done something. I absolutely can’t work out why everyone is so feverishly desperate to say that people in the Middle East have never been authors of their own destiny or responsible for what happens in their own locality. It’s kinda racist. It’s a new Orientalism.

  • I think we’re violently agreeing here Gopher….

  • I posted something, some years ago, on Slugger about referendums. I’m not keen on them myself as you’ll see, but this is not the same thing as opposing a more participatory democracy – I’m very keen on ‘demand revealing referendums’ or participatory budgeting, for example, but I think we’ve got a long way to go before we learn how to do all of that well, and that representative democracy is generally the least-worst option available to us. http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/12/13/why-referendums-should-be-banned/

  • Sure, but if you read what I’ve said, there is a staging – MPs reach their position in good conscience, then the MPs come together within their political party to bargain collectively (they have to do this because other parties also do it and to not do so is a desertion of the field). I agree with party whips being used at the right time.

    Labour’s huge problem is that it is now two parties. The one wanted by it’s members, (and what was thought of as a small eccentric fringe of MPs until recently) and the one that is wanted by it’s MPs, and – if polls are to be believed – most of the people who voted for the party.

    You can’t run a political party that is fundamentally divided and Labour has now fundamentally divided.

  • I don’t agree with you that “Centrist Labour and Centrist Conservatives believe the same things.” I’d accept that British politics has gone though another phase of ‘Butskellism’ very largely because the Tories have moved onto Labour’s turf. I’m not as dismissive of Labour’s record in government as some, but that’s not what I’m here to argue about.

    I’m sure that there are loads of long interesting essays to write about how aggregated wisdom of individuals can be good and when it can be bad. I share the same views on how representatives are the least-worst filter for democracy to use as loads of good political writers (say, Gerry Stoker, Bernard Crick, Matthew Flinders for a start) and but I honestly can’t write an essay about that for you at the moment. (this is good – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Defending-Politics-Democracy-Matters-Century/dp/019964442X )

    And I’m definitely not going to bother answering the “if you don’t believe in direct democracy, therefore you don’t believe in democracy therefore you’re defending something that is as bad as Assad (if that’s your point) because it’s wrong in about 94 ways that I’ve counted in the last minute.

  • Labour is a social democratic party in a way that is consistent with the norms of European social democracy. It is now led by, and has had a huge influx of members who are not prepared to be led by a social democrat though. Personally, I don’t regard Corbyn as a social democrat, but again, that’s another argument.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d agree, pretty much. Most of the “James Bonds” I’ve encountered outside of my film career appear to be much happier checking conversations the computers flag for them or watching covert surveillance camera footage. Rather like the drone jockeys, and with as much chance of encountering T.E. Lawrence style risks, or any really useful intelligence.

    While I know we’d disagree about war à l’outrance, we seem to agree that bombing is not going to be surgical, nor will it be effective on its own as a total solution. Only boots on the ground and some policy that does not leave Syria to let it end up simply as another Libya is going to be really effective.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Paul, we will just have to disagree about direct democracy I see. You really don’t need to write an essay, I’ve been through all of this nearly fifty years ago (as one of the “two anarchists” in the PD) and nothing I’ve heard since has done anything to convert me to elitism and representation. But thanks for the link, anyway.

    I realise that the name of the game is to simply let the animals out for a quick romp every five years, and let them pretend to have some say in what goes on, and then let the serious professionals get of with serious government, but for some of us this nineteenth century system of representation is wearing even thinner, and we feel that what we really need is a public educated to think politically and govern themselves now this is becoming possible through new technology, not one conditioned by political marketing to simply “consume” the policies their betters develop in negotiation with vested interests. But in another fifty years I’d imagine that the current notion of requiring someone “professional” to govern you will be as quaintly outmoded as needing a chamber-maid, cook and butler would have been for the post WWII generation.

    I won’t embarrass you by actually asking for the “94 ways”……but I really cannot see how simply shifting the personnel of government every so often is any more truly “democratic” than what Asad’s simply doing with far less hypocrisy. By the way, the late Patrick Seale was relative by marriage, so I’m not exactly unaware of what Asad is actually doing.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I’d entirely disagree with the gist of what you are saying, its a well argued and at times reasonable piece. I’m surprised I did not see it back in 2010. I’d agree that at the moment we’d be handing issues to the Murdoch Press and its like, but this marketing approach to the shaping of public opinion is something quite crafted and even very recent, in my opinion. Do you remember the forth part of Adam Curtis’s “The Century of the Self”?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Threatening to use a three line whip against the party leader was hardly bargaining or tactful. Secondly every mandate is equal, to use this arguement that a minority of Labour MPs know the public more than the majority of them should be listened for the sake a forced version of “party unity” is ridiculous and fails to achieve that goal.

    There does in my opinion seem to be a lack of humility from some Corbyn opponents that they know Labour voters and potential Labour voters better than the Corbyn section. They have a lot to prove because many of the same people were crit sl members of Miliband’s and Brown’s campaigns, so their know it all insights to what the electorate wants from leadership was put to the ultimate test.

  • Kevin Breslin

    He might not be but I think he was elected by a very social democratic process that should not be undermined because certain sections don’t like the outcome.

  • Gopher

    It seems there is a fair degree of intimidation of Labour MP,s thatt are prepared to let their conscience cast their vote. Don’t really fancy Comrade Jeremy’s Labour Party.

  • John Collins

    And Kuwait and divided the riches of that ‘province’ in three ways between the Emir, GB and the US

  • Gopher

    Jeremy Corbyns face was absolutely priceless during Hillary Benns speech. Made the so called leader of Labour look idiotic

  • Hugh Davison

    And these states were created by drawing straight lines on a map, without regard to tribe, religion or culture, almost as if to ensure they would be basket-case countries for ever more