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Gordon Brown speaks out! And they do love that Nick Clegg in the US… but why wouldn’t they? April 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, Uncategorized.

Well. What to say? I always took the line that Brown was a bit strange, spun by no end of Blairites, with a pinch of salt (The End of the Party sits on my bookshelf as yet, bar the Introduction, unread). And thing is that he’s really not that strange at all. But… inept? Or at least thoughtless. Or at least caught inside a bubble for too long? Yes to all of those. But when one reads the transcript he actually dealt with the issue, reasonably – although not brilliantly well. There was no reason for the post-discussion critique. He made his case, she appeared at least reasonably mollified. Indeed the tenor of the exchange improved markedly as time went on.

Indeed I’d argue that, as with almost all such ‘errors’ in politics, it’s not the initial act/words that cause the problem, but the walking back. Brown could have phrased subsequent comments on this – even after the ‘bigoted’ comment – in a way which remained true to his thoughts as he had in the actual discussion and remained reasonably graceful to the woman concerned. But no. Damage control slips into action and we’re left with ‘I misunderstood her comments’. No he didn’t. None of us reading the transcript could misunderstand them. Few enough I’d imagine would find it difficult to rebut them as he did. And he dealt with them, as I noted, reasonably well at the time.

How this changes the issues I do not know. Some pretty volatile polling returns out there at the moment. I’d think though that this would help the Conservatives more than anyone else.

Ah well.

Meanwhile, what of the bould Nick Clegg and those fans of his in the US media?

Okay, Anna Applebaum does… No, no, come back. It’s not just Anne Applebaum. And even if she does mention the Clapham omnibus – natch – let’s not ignore or dismiss some thoughts that the current love in raises.

Actually, hold on a second, because Applebaum makes a most peculiar comparison.

Here is a riddle: What would the Tea Party movement look like if it were British, privately educated, and had once worked as a ski instructor in Austria?

And the answer…

It would look like Nick Clegg, leader of the British Liberal Democrats—and possibly the beneficiary of the biggest British voters’ revolution in decades. For those who don’t follow these things, the Liberal Democrats are Britain’s historically insignificant third party. In its current incarnation, the party dates from the late 1980s, back when the Labor Party was a near-Marxist monolith, the Tories were the party of Margaret Thatcher, and there was a lot of space in between.

It bloody wouldn’t you know. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve pointed here to some aspects of them that from first hand living in the UK I found troubling. But to compare them to the Tea Party movement is an absolute absurdity [as noted in the comments, Michael Tomasky of the Guardian dealt with this – unbeknowst to myself in a good piece – wbs].

Ideologically, sociologically and structurally there are no comparisons between the TPs and the Liberal Democrats. One is a centrist embedded political party, the other appears to be a semi-populist response to the Obama Presidency from more conservative Republicans. Unless Applebaum is arguing that every response to Gordon Brown is equivalent to the Tea Party then she’s not comparing like and like.

Curious thing is that if you think about it surely the Liberal Democrats make a much better fit with the US Democrats. Ideologically, sociologically – although blue collar isn’t a word that readily springs to mind with the Lib Dems, in many ways they’d appear a much more congenial partner. That is bar one thing that the Liberal Democrats have not possessed, well, since they were Liberals.

Power and access to power.

And it’s that that makes Applebaums piece, and a really overly complimentary piece on ForeignPolicy.com appear, so curiously detached. At best the Liberal Democrats look likely to come out of this with perhaps 100 MPs. At best they can hope to form a coalition government. That’s at absolute best.

But it’s interesting to me to see that Clegg’s appeal has stretched even that far across the Atlantic.


1. Longman Oz - April 29, 2010

Thought that Michael Tomasky had an amusing enough take on Applebaum’s piece yesterday:



sonofstan - April 29, 2010

The Obama = Hitler thought experiment there, reminds me of my favourite piece of election non-logic so far, from Norman Tebbit (*chill wind from history*): advising ‘Dave’ against coalition with the Lib Dems:

“Don’t touch it, it’s a tar-baby – your putative partners, the Liberals, are most interested in bringing in an election system which brought Hitler into power in Germany,” he said.

So there you go: we’ve been dicing with death in this jurisdiction for the best part of a century – scrap PR now!


2. WorldbyStorm - April 29, 2010

I missed that Longman Oz. Thanks for the link.

Poor old Tebbit. Not really an analytical soul…


3. Tim - April 29, 2010

The Americans seem to think Clegg is rather like Obama, for some reason. He definitely has the most likeable personality of all three leaders and personality was what brought Obama to power in the US; certainly not policy, which has proved his undoing since.

The Tea Partiers, incidentally, have more of a Libertarian leaning (taxed enough already!) than a conservative bent, imho, and their heroes are the likes of Rick Perry and Palin (to a lesser extent) and a few other regional governors.

Frankly I don’t know what the LibDems stand for much anyway. regardless of the polls, I don’t think voters will give them anything like 25%.


EWI - May 1, 2010

Applebaum is a fairly loathsome individual, a prime example of the sort who’ll undoubtedly end up as the “Democrat” at a GOP convention denouncing the Dem Presidential candidate, sooner or later.

But even for her, comparing the Tea Partiers to the Lib Dems is extraordinary (a better comparison would be to a freakish offspring of the BNP and the UKIP).


4. Phil - April 29, 2010

This is a very anti-political election – what the Lib Dems stand for is what they’ve always stood for, not being one of the other two, & right now that has a lot of traction. The best thing Labour or the Tories could do now is dig out a Lib Dem “duck house” expenses claim – it wouldn’t have to make the main parties look good, so long as it made the Lib Dems look less good in comparison.

As for Brown, you can call me Mr Jones – I honestly don’t know what’s going on here. Yes, obviously she was a “bigoted woman” – she prompted him with a nudge and a wink about “too many people” claiming benefits they’re not entitled to, and when he dodged that she told him he was refusing to say anything about “the immigrants”. And no, obviously he didn’t call her a bigot to her face. What is the story here? Shock News – Politician Two-Faced?


LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2010

On this episode alone Brown has gone up in my estimation as someone who voiced opposition to racism, albeit in private. It would be a bigger story if he had agreed in private with the anti-immigrant sentiment. Agreed, it’s a non-story, a nice little distraction from the real issues which the woman was raising about Britain’s economic difficulties.


Ramzi Nohra - April 29, 2010

Are we saying that being concerned about immigration=racism?
(even if expressed in a nonsensical way). Not many people would agree with you if that is the case.

I live in a BME majority area in London, and theres plenty of people from various cultures who would express concern over immigration.

I mean they may be wrong (and in my view the plus-points of immigration havent been explained enough to the electorate) but calling them racists is a bit much I would say.


LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2010

Ok, I’m open to hearing anti-immigration arguments that aren’t explicitly or implicitly racist.


Ramzi Nohra - April 29, 2010

Ok. I take it you agree that Racism is the concept of integral differences between races? That people from a certain race have certain characteristics. I would say it was normally linked to the idea that some races are superior to others.

I would have thought that you could be anti-immigration because you thought an influx of people working in your trade had increased the supply of labout, thus driving down wages in your trade, thus depriving you of income.

You could also say the same influx had increased demand for housing in your area, increasing its cost and therefore limiting your ability to obtain housing.

You could hold either of the above views and not think anything about race, surely? They do not revolve around the idea of the immigrants acting in any way different to the host community.

I know there are counter-arguments to the above. I’m only stating them as you seemed to imply (correct me if I am wrong) that anti-immigration arguments were all racist, which I dont think is the case.


LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2010

I hear what you’re saying but would the same reservations be voiced if there was a migration of people from say Romford to Slough for example? All the pragmatic issues you mention concerning the changed supply/demand for jobs and services would still apply in that situation, but presumably there would be an acceptance of whatever circumstances caused the migration, some sort of “we’re all in this together” type of feeling which would be lauded as bringing out the “best of British” in people. But when the migration is from outside the national borders it is seen as something else altogether, a threat to “our” interests. What defines the “our” in that except ethnicity, nationhood, race?


Ramzi Nohra - April 29, 2010

yeah interesting point there Left. I must admit I did think of intra-national migration as I wrote it.
You could be right.

The response could be different however. I have a reasonable knowledge of Newcastle, and I have honestly heard Geordies talk about how “Mackems” (ie people from Sunderland, about ten miles away) were travelling up to Newcastle and stealing their jobs, as Mackems would work for less than Geordies.

However I suppose this still revolves around views on commual identity – in this case regional rather than national.

Anyway, I take your point that there could be ideas of ethnicity etc under the “rational arguments” I posted above, although I would still stick to my stance it is possibly to be a non-racist concerned with immigration. Certainly I know people who i know are not racist but would think immigration has been too high or whatever.

You may be interested in a book called “Bloody Foreigners” by Robert Winder. Its generally pro-immigration, and covers the history of immigration into Britain from the middle ages onwards.
Anyway, one oft-repeated phenomenon is how waves of immigration have arrived, generally been viewed with suspicion, and then become accepted. They then often became anti-immigrant themselves. Interestingly members of the existing Jewish community at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries were often against the wave of jewish immigrants arriving from eastern europe then.

I’m not sure what that observation really tells us, but it was an abiding memory of the book.

Sorry for the long post!


Tim - April 29, 2010

to turn it around a bit, why is being against cross-border migration ‘racist’ while Slough > Romford migration is not?
Ramzi, you make a good point about increasing labour supply lowering wages, and some American unions take this stance, I think.
Whether or not one likes it, national borders are in place for a reason, and an influx of migrants from low-income to higher-income regions (which used to apply to Ireland>UK migration remember) has to have economic implications.
I read something recently that talked about how in the days before the welfare state, immigration was pretty much open in a lot of countries. You moved and you were responsible for yourself. Once welfare became a factor, the walls went up, so to speak, because the issue because about delineating who we should share with (or redistribute to).
You can have open immigration, or a welfare state, but not both, essentially.
Another non-racist argument is the ‘propertarian’ one, which says that national governments have a primary responsibility to their own citizens first, and that citizenship is of very high value and has to be awarded selectively.

I’ve never heard a good argument in favour of an open-door policy, except from Libertarians who want to abolish welfare anyway, but am willing to hear one!


Tim - April 29, 2010

sorry for long post and typos… haven’t had my first pint yet..


5. Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010


I dunno – I’d put a small bet (maxing out at about a Euro) on the LibDems getting closer to 30% and getting some form of PR.

The LibDems in power would be technocratic and ‘free of ideology’ (and thus profoundly ideological). They might have a slightly tetchier relationship with the City plague-rats than the Tories and NuLabour – it depends on what role Vince Cable is given.


LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2010

PR would be quite a game changer. Independents, far Left, far Right, various nationalisms, Greens, all with MPs. The losers would be the big three parties. I wouldn’t hold my breath for PR if the LibDems do form part of the next government, they’ll huff and puff about it but they’ll pull up the ladder behind them.


Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010

No PR? Really? That would alienate their historically core supporters big time, and ensure that they were a one-parliament wonder. I’m betting their strategists are wiser than that. But I’m not anteing up much – that’s 50c on the PR.


Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010

The losers would be the ‘big two’ parties IMHO. Remember how comprehensively Gerrymandered British constituency boundaries are.


Ramzi Nohra - April 29, 2010

yeah Popey – good point. Both labour and conservatives would lose big time from PR.

I think the Libdems would push for it – they’d want to consolidate their position going forward. The best way to ensure that would be through PR.
The other parties – Greens etc, would also gain, but I dont think as much as the Lib Dems.


6. Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010
7. Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010

… and screwed up the link! Click on George Monbiot.

Ladies, do you know there is a comment preview plugin for WordPress?


8. Pope Epopt - April 29, 2010

Or, if you don’t like a preview as you type, and want one that previews on request (my preference) try this one.


9. Phil - April 29, 2010

Monbiot’s right about Plaid Cymru, but his chronology is out by about 20 years – Plaid in the early 1990s was already a Left party (although they did tack right subsequently). Even in the 1970s – when the single issue of the language was still being fought, largely because it still needed to be fought – Plaid was very much the militant wing of the Welsh Language Society (holiday cottages don’t burn themselves…)


Tim - April 29, 2010

Wasn’t that the Free Wales Army?


Phil - April 29, 2010

True, and arsonists:Plaid wasn’t the same as IRA:SF. But it was a lot closer to that than it was to IRA:SDLP, say.


10. sonofstan - April 29, 2010

In other news:
Nick Griffin thinks ‘the Irish are part of Britain’ and therefore are perfectly entitled to settle there:


Who can best sum up how dirty that makes them feel?


shane - April 29, 2010

Yes, well their manifesto says they would “create a standing invitation for the Irish Republic to join the pan-British parliament as an equal partner” (presumably for lebensraum?), which is amusingly reminiscent of the SP’s policy.

I am not anglophobic but if this country were to extinguish its sovereignty I can think of better countries to join than Mother England with her ever declining natural resources. We could for instance make an association agreement with Russia ensuring effective independence but still allowing us to milk their oil. I get sick of neo-unionists suggesting that the current economic problems are a legacy of independence and hence we should all rejoin Britain…even if that was the case, can people not be a bit more adventurous.


Mark P - April 29, 2010

“reminiscent of the SP’s policy”

It’s in no way reminiscent of the SP’s policy, which, incidentally is identical to James Connolly’s policy.


Dr. X - April 29, 2010

Mark P – don’t rise to the provocation, you big eejit. 😉


NollaigO - April 29, 2010

Then that can’t be the same Nick, who sends his agitators to the pubs around English football grounds to get the bovver boys to chant:
No surrender! No surrender to the IRA! ??


11. LeftAtTheCross - April 29, 2010


You have mentioned a few times in the past how Irish migration to Britain has enriched the culture and politics of the latter. It would be simplistic to deny the historical intertwining of course.

It’s a complicated issue. Who decides who can live where? It’s not unrelated to the recent comments on gated communities. Do sections of national/global society have the right to close themselves off from other sections? Should state borders be opened to all? Probably so, as the effect of the population movements would probably hasten the redistribution of wealth and remove imperialism and nation statehood from the world map.


12. Jimmy McNulty - April 29, 2010

‘On this episode alone Brown has gone up in my estimation as someone who voiced opposition to racism, albeit in private.’
Calling a woman who asks about immigration ‘bigoted’ is hardly voicing opposition to racism, especially as in public Brown raised the slogan ‘British jobs for British workers’. What was notable was Brown’s contempt for the woman’s description of herself as a Labour supporter. Brown and co. really think that all they have to do in working class areas is turn up, smile and the votes will come in like always. Remember this is the man who championed light touch regulation in the City and left London to be a playground for the oligarchs (and invited Thatcher to No. 10). Nu Labour really are rotten. The woman may have been confused but she deserves a discussion, not to be patronised and then insulted.


13. Pope Epopt - May 1, 2010

Bugger me backwards. Nick Clegg reads and enjoys Samuel Beckett.

I’m sorry, it does not compute. But, then again, why shouldn’t it be so? Better go to bed.


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