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    The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a left agenda

    by Sunny
    7th October, 2009 at 9:07 am    

    Writing in the Guardian, Rafael Behr laments the Europhobe mentality that has now permeated the British public. It’s funny isn’t it? Right-wingers constantly go on about ‘anti-Americanism’ as if its another kind of racism, but will never say anything about ‘anti-Europeanism’.

    Anyway. It’s important to understand why the pro-EU crowd lost the debate in the UK (not Ireland clearly). This is through what I call ‘interventions’. Say you have a political goal: whether that be to convince the public to turn against immigration, the EU, the BBC, the Monarchy, government spending, against religion, Muslims - whatever it is. Pick your opponent.

    What lefties do is they just keep stating their case repeatedly, or pointing out how wrong the the arguments are of their opponents. Unfortunately, this relies on a complete misunderstanding of how the media works and how people consume information.

    Right-wingers instead churn out a constant stream of ‘interventions’ that turn public opinion in their direction. Take some examples: Migration Watch, TaxPayers Alliance, Open Europe (and other Eurosceptics), the Daily Mail, Biased BBC etc. They all have specific agendas to turn public opinion in favour of their positions.

    But the media is news driven and is much more likely to latch on to stories than repeatedly stated positions. And so each of these groups do ‘research’ that helps drive home their point. Obviously the right-wing media champion their case, but it helps that these groups keep churning out ‘interventions’ that keep them in the news.

    Furthermore, when people consume news they are more likely to respond to headlines than actual articles. This is why you’ll frequently see Daily Mail headlines that end up contradicting the actual content of the story. The Daily Mail doesn’t deliver news - it delivers a set of agendas.

    And so once the Tories come into power, the question for lefties should be: what agendas do we want to push? What’s the clear unflinching line? And then you figure out how to make continual ‘interventions’ in support of that cause. About the few groups on the left that have succeeded in this regard are environmental groups and civil liberty groups (I class them as left-leaning, not Labour leaning). On economic issues there has been some serious retreating.

    The Labour Party especially has run away from so many issues that it’s allowed the right to define and frame those debates (Europe, immigration, redistribution, trade-unionism etc). And so you have a left that became electorally popular only by junking most of their beliefs.

    Lefties - if you have an agenda, then think of ‘interventions’ that will make news stories. That would be my advice. Stop complaining, do some news creation.

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    1. pickles

      New blog post: The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a left agenda http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6095

    2. thethirdestate

      RT @pickledpolitics The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a left agenda http://bit.ly/BS4xi

    3. James Benton

      Pickled Politics » The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a … http://bit.ly/76YsB

    4. Nicholas Stewart

      #PickledPolitics The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a left agenda http://tinyurl.com/ybgg7wt

    5. Clifford Singer

      RT @pickledpolitics The importance of ‘interventions’ to drive a left agenda http://bit.ly/BS4xi

    1. Carl — on 7th October, 2009 at 10:20 am  

      Excellent point. But you know when you’re in the pub or somewhere where ideas are usually at best half-baked, why do left wing ideas seem more prudish, or studenty, than do right wing ideas, like where women *should* be, what is *too many* migrants, are gays *wimpy*, are Arabs *thieves*. Why do leftist ideas become disavowed in social situations, whereas rightist ideas, on the contrary, become banter and a feeding frenzy for normal people, in working class pubs? Why is Bernard Manning ok to repeat, but Mark Thomas/Steele is not? Why?

    2. Rumbold — on 7th October, 2009 at 10:31 am  


      You seemed to have confused dislike of Europeans with dislike of the EU. I have no problem with Europeans, but I don’t want to be ruled from Brussels. Yes, British leaders, whether through design (Heath) or ignorance have colluded with the EU in order to expand itself. So what- a significant proportion of the Indian elite sided with or did not fight the British. That is not to say that the EU is as bad as a colonial power. Of course it is not. But the EU has expanded in spite of the people’s wishes, not because of it.

      Take the Lisbon Treaty/EU Constitution. All three main parties promised a referendum on it. When that vote came, Labour broke its word and refused to vote for a referendum. Nick Clegg, who receives a large sum of money from the EU, did the same (if this had been a vote on a business there would have been howls about alleged corruption). The Irish vote too was anti-democratic. They answered ‘no’, which caused the EU not only to ask them again, but between the two votes the EU introduced most of the provisions of the treaty as law anyway.

      By all means regard the deepening of the EU as a good thing. But please don’t try and equate opposition to it with xenophobia, otherwise you are doing the same for pretty much any movement that opposes outside control of a country.

    3. douglas clark — on 7th October, 2009 at 10:43 am  


      Here’s one possible pro EU arguement - and I have my fingers in my ears and I’m singing la! la! la! to myself Rumbold.

      “23,528 days since the end of World War 2 in Europe.”

    4. cjcjc — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:08 am  

      Rumbold is right.

      Douglas’s argument really is the worst.
      What is the counterfactual?
      That without the EU (nee EEC) we would have had WW3??

      You may have spotted that Japan and China have failed to go to war since 1945 too!

    5. Rumbold — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:09 am  

      So the EU was set up in 1945 eh? Funny that.

      Western Europe has been at peace for a few reasons in 1945. Economic recovery combined with the strengthening of democracy reduced the incentive/opportunity to go to war. The Soviet threat in Eastern Europe concentrated the mind of Western countries, while perhaps most importantly of all NATO was a common defensive alliance the likes of which had never been seen, with heavy concentrations of American forces in Western Europe. The EU has been useful to encourage poorer countries who want to join to make reforms, while I like the idea of a free market and freedom of movement. But that is about it.

      If you don’t believe me, how likely was war between Britain and France, or Britain and Germany in the years 1945-1973, when Britain wasn’t part of the EU?

    6. damon — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:10 am  

      It’s easy to knock the EU because 99% of the public don’t really understand what it does. (I certainly don’t). You can hear arguments that ask what’s so bad about the way that Norway and Switzerland work with the EU? What do they loose that they would have by being members? The right to live and work in any other EU country is one I can think of, but that’s about it.

      As for ”interventions” - on the left they’re likely to be things like Greenpeace and climate camp. And anti-war marches and ”building a movement” and such things. And some people (to come to Carl’s point) don’t feel it’s done to be seen to show how much you care about issues like that.
      Showing passion for your football team is fine but for polar bears and the ice caps??

      Also, lefties are generally wimpier than people towards the right, so that’s why people might not want to associate themselves with Mark Thomas and Ben Elton.

    7. douglas clark — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:38 am  


      So the EU was set up in 1945 eh? Funny that.

      Ha! You know me better than that. I do know about NATO too, y’know.

    8. Dan — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:51 am  

      Why do the left lose debates in this country? For my money, it’s the sheer breadth of the leftist agenda, and it’s lack of focus. That’s what makes me stop listening anyway.

      The left seems very unfocused - you can’t get a leftist debate on a subject without a hundred other subjects being pulled into it, and eventually turning it into a morass. If the left starts a debate on immigration say, pretty soon reponses will start banging on about Israel, animal rights, civil liberties, Israel again, the corrupt right wing media, fascism etc etc etc ad nauseum.

      I think single issue organisations are the way forward. Get an objective, get it done, stop being part of the ‘left’, just be pro whatever it is you want.

      Probably a bit off topic, but hey.

    9. Carl — on 7th October, 2009 at 12:01 pm  

      For the record I don’t think the left are wimps, though I’m happy to admit that I am, but I can see why leftist agendas are a little less attractive in forums other than this one, say for example the pub. Ideas need to be generated about how best to make leftist ideas appeal to those non-academic, non-politically committed forums like the pub, one cannot articulate guardian-esque ideas in these forums, but one can articulate Mail-esque ideas. What to do, what to do…

    10. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 12:04 pm  

      Interventions that make news stories?! Now who’d have thought of that.

      Surely lefties are just as much up to the same media massaging as the “right-wing”.

      unfortunately these days most of the rest of us can’t tell the difference.

      Plus the “media” coverage dumbs everything down so if there is a difference, guess what, we can’t tell what it is. Rhetoric and semantics, that’s what it is all about.

      Personally, for me, the political/(which a lot of people only consider through the “media”) debate needs to either define what is left and right in today’s context and climate where everyone believes in the “MARKET” and Authoritarianism/ or transcend this bi-polarity.

      Because it really and truly is not helping much, and as far as i can see, getting in the way of much needed progress.

      Each side seems to think they have the moral high-ground and are treating the other side as almost a ‘race’. What is the difference between the “left” and the “right” - today? Its one thing to look to the past, fair enough, thats about political tradition. What does it mean today?

    11. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 12:20 pm  

      we are having a huge crisis of society, governance, institutions, money, moral confidence.

      where in this melee are the ‘left’ or ‘right’s offering of- any insight - explanation - ? None - zilch -ooh the “market” HAS failed and we have no idea why. (or what the “Market” was in the first place- we thought we were rational and had perfect information! Perfect competition! ha bloody ha to the last one, i mean really, how thick are we? how stupid? in an economics textbook we might have been rational and there may be a case to make for the ‘abstract ideal’ of the free market but that is what it is, an ideal, we haven’t got to it yet) we need to hold our leaders who claimed to have “knowledge” and “answers” to account - not just pull poor old Alan Greenspan out of retirement to ask him a few questions.

      the whole political system is in crisis and leaders are terrified the ordinary people will figure this out. frankly to hear all this partisan left /right nonsense at this time just emphasises how people want power regardless of the fact they have no idea what to do with it.

      If either “Left” or “Right” want to shine right now, what they have to do - is very simple. Don’t avoid the question of the turmoil that’s been going on, and don’t take people for fools.
      :-) there, that is my contribution.

    12. Sandra Dee — on 7th October, 2009 at 12:56 pm  


      Dig out a book called


      to learn the grim truth about how the Mainstream Media [MSM] invent, church and regurgitate. Remember how chaos stared us in the face as we approached Y2K and all the computers would crash and poor people in planes and on life support would die horribly?

      Check out the career of


      to find out how one sharp NYC prankster can manipulate the media for fun.

    13. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 1:07 pm  

      Heh interesting what you say Carl. I’ve been thinking a lot of how we need to re-invent and re-ignite the public sphere in the cafes and pubs: we london bloggers aren’t really doing much of that. Why leave it to the press to tell us what to think in simplistic ways? we could orchestrate a great round of discussions to hold down the pub: its not quantum physics we’re discussing after all. and getting down to basics and fundamentals. like - what is money all about? what do we actually understand by terms like ‘socialism’ - and the ‘free market!’? . what we still don’t ask simple questions like that (because we’re afraid to look like fools) THE pub would be a great place for these questions and discussions. and then we can march off to our elected representatives and ask them some pertinent questions. like -…what’s your agenda with respect to. XYZ given we know that {..money is what the bank makes up when it lends at high interest/ etc.)

      there is a lovely little cafe i frequent in the east end of london where i am forever having rabble-rousing conversations. its great fun.

    14. Leon — on 7th October, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

      Ok, I think the EU thing is missing Sunny’s (excellent point and post) but a country mile. Try and stay on topic people..!

    15. Carl — on 7th October, 2009 at 2:02 pm  

      sonia #13 - there was a rumour that the BNP had members go into pubs, spark up conversations with people with typical stuff like “see the football did yer” or “the bloomin’ price of a pint these days, corr blimey”, and then when the conversation went further took to doctored details of immigration figures, housing and so on, never letting on that they had an ax to grind, but appearing less dogmatic and more man on the street. Are you supposing there is room for a leftist version of this?

    16. Kismet Hardy — on 7th October, 2009 at 2:07 pm  

      Carl, lefties have been doing the same for years. We go into pubs, spark up a conversation with a stranger, pretending we don’t have an agenda, before you know it, you’ve sold them some drugs, made them realise society is but a jungle and politicians leeches that feed off you from therein, turn them totally apathetic until they can no longer see the point of voting, but prefer to make salient points on a keyboard covered in the ashes of dope and self-righteousness

    17. Carl — on 7th October, 2009 at 2:10 pm  

      well nobody flipping told me

    18. BenM — on 7th October, 2009 at 2:30 pm  

      Rumbold thinks that 800,000 votes for a “no” campaign in a single country should be allowed to veto progress in an organisation which covers 500,000,000 people.

      Some democrat.

    19. Leon — on 7th October, 2009 at 3:30 pm  

      Are you supposing there is room for a leftist version of this?

      How many lefties actually go to a pub and not a ‘bar’?

    20. Kismet Hardy — on 7th October, 2009 at 3:40 pm  

      I went to a pub armed with pills. I lefties.

      Those on the right don’t go to pub or bars. They go to strip clubs. That’s why they say righty-ho.

    21. Morrigan — on 7th October, 2009 at 3:53 pm  


      Your argument is flawed on 2 fronts.

      1) The EU does not cover 500m people, it covers a number of sovreign countries who still govern their own people.

      2) Not every government within the EU has asked their people if they want the treaty. The more democratic among them have granted a single, decisive referendum.

      The EU project is profoundly un-democratic, as the coronation of a future President Blair would prove beyond all doubt.

    22. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:16 pm  

      heh heh Kismet

      no Carl dear i wasn’t thinking of a ‘leftist’ version of your BNP tactics. (smart, that) see i wasn’t thinking of it as ‘propaganda’ per se - funny anyone should assume that. I was talking about re-igniting the public sphere in cafes and pubs

      an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. It is “a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment.”[1] The public sphere can be seen as “a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk”[2] and “a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed”.[3]

      And i don’t believe that people’s opinions, agendas would be neatly fitted into a “left” or “right” distinction - discussion with real people shows this. Its only the fact that political parties choose to pit sides and exist in opposition to each other - a form of hostile political positioning - that wannabe politicos have to pin themselves down into one camp or other and define themselves as left or right.

      “left” and “right” - its all relative anyway - which is what no one seems to get. sooner or later you realise its not a line and its more like a sphere.

    23. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:25 pm  

      Yes the current institutions that govern the EU are not particularly democratic, transparent etc.- the point is that we need to demand democratic transparent institutions to govern the EU collective. (which is very much desirable thing, widening the collective) that is different - to say - wanting ‘out’ of the EU altogether because we just don’t want to be part of a wider collective.

      Some can say -well we just don’t want to be part of a wider collective, the nation state of the UK is good enough for us. Some might say, well yeah, wider collective sure, but demand reform of the current institutions because they aren’t democratic enough.

      our own national institutions are flawed democratically - we can see why SOuthwark or Lambeth maybe don’t want to be ruled from Westminster because of the lack of PR! That might be different - again -to a bunch of separatists in Southwark and Lambeth who just think they are not part of the UK and shouldn’t be -that their Local Borough Sovereignty is being affected.

      Anyway, there are many such positions that can be taken - point is why?

      A lot of people see the benefits of a wider collective, freedom of movement, freedom to work in different countries - the “opening up” - a step on the road towards global collaboration - but see the problems of the current institutions that govern this collective - I say great.

      there are significant problems - I feel - with those who choose to bury their head in the sand and think that closing up at the level of the nation-state border - is acceptable, or even safe.

      What is protecting Europe from descending into war again? the EU.

      if south asians started collaborating together instead of what we do now - things would be a lot better instead of tottering at the brink of a nuclear war

      i am concerned there are so many people who want to ‘go back’ because we have to do a lot of work on the institutions. ( Again, we need to do plenty of work on national institutions as well, its just that you lot are now used to the idea of being ruled from Westminster)

      we need to broaden our horizons, not narrow them.

    24. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:31 pm  

      “But please don’t try and equate opposition to it with xenophobia, otherwise you are doing the same for pretty much any movement that opposes outside control of a country.”

      true Rumbold- its hardly as if xenophobia is the only reason to be ‘anti-europe’ - it certainly could be one reason of many

    25. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:36 pm  

      Anyhow, back to the original point of the article. Cynicism aside, well said Sunny, when you say

      “the question for lefties should be: what agendas do we want to push? What’s the clear unflinching line? And then you figure out how to make continual ‘interventions’ in support of that cause. About the few groups on the left that have succeeded in this regard are environmental groups and civil liberty groups (I class them as left-leaning, not Labour leaning).

      Yes - that is it, if we want to keep up these identifications of left and right, fine, but one needs to tell the electorate exactly what it is, why it’s important, and why they need to be behind it. And actually spell out the difference in the rhetoric - i.e. point to the ‘negative’ aspects of interventions that you don’t believe in.

      but the point is, its not interventions for the sake of it, or the sake of getting left-leaning groups into power - its explaining why certain interventions are needed!

    26. sonia — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:39 pm  

      But in any case, its time to work outside the box - if someone has a solution point of view that it is useful to work with - there should not be unwillingness to engage them because they don’t fall into the ‘right’ bit of the political spectrum.

      this is really where the big problems will be for the future: we won’t be able to organise successfully and find the right solutions because there are too many political barriers being created for the sake of it.

    27. bananabrain — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:44 pm  

      What is protecting Europe from descending into war again? the EU.

      hang on, what? are you saying without the EU we’d be at war with france and germany, or italy would be at war with austria, or denmark with poland, or what?

      because i don’t think that’s right, y’know. the policies of the french may irritate us, but i don’t think any of us want to go to war with them, or vice-versa.

      i believe the things that actually prevent europe descending into war again are far more prosaic: holidays, trade, entertainment and so on. i don’t think anybody british wants to risk losing their two weeks in the sun - equally, i don’t think even if we were barred from entering spain it would be something we’d be prepared to die over.

      i’m not against the EU, but i don’t buy this “war prevention” argument, i think self-interest - and a general downgrading of the credibility of nationalist sentiment does that far better.



    28. Carl — on 7th October, 2009 at 4:48 pm  

      @sonia #22
      “i wasn’t thinking of a ‘leftist’ version of your BNP tactics.”

      My BNP tactics, I must protest, I thought you were calling for a version of this, they’re not mine, you wally.

    29. dave bones — on 7th October, 2009 at 9:48 pm  

      Can ex-lefties come to East End Cafes to plot too?

    30. Sunny — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:04 pm  


      The point about the EU is only to illustrate how lefties lost any attempt to influence and shape that agenda.

    31. Adnan — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:07 pm  

      Heh, heh, maybe Rumbold, being of the Right, “intervened” to derail the discussion :)

    32. douglas clark — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:13 pm  

      bananabrain @ 27,

      And probably you too Rumbold.

      The last, what sixty years, of peace in Westren Europe have to be attributed to something, or just some sort of fluke.

      You both know, or ought to know, ’cause we’ve argued the toss on this for long enough, that the foundation of European unity was based on post WW2 pragmatists who did not want to see a descent into Europe being the cockpit of World conflict, as it had been on a European and increasingly global level in the past (my first piece of evidence, dear reader, would be World War One and the Treaty of Versailles).

      It is plainly obvious that some things concentrate minds. The mutual antipathy that led very quickly to see friends become enemies, and the creation of the Warsaw Pact and it’s immunisation NATO are there in the history books.

      But that is not the only ‘common purpose’ - the warlike one - that had to be constructed.

      You are both making the assumption that it was a foregone conclusion that Western capaitalism would defeat Soviet ‘communism’ when it was not necessarily the case at the time. (I put ‘communism’ in inverted commas because I think it was nothing more than another tyrrany with a slightly prettier face than it’s predecessors.)

      Thus, takes big breath, it was necessary to develop a Western Europe that could:

      (a) Economically compete with it’s Eastern European counterparts and hopefully grow, year by year, beyond them,

      (b) Develop integrationist policies whereby internal differences, e.g. Spain / Britain over Gibraltar were subsumed by a greater cohesion, and heres the rub,

      (c) Saw Western Europe as an equal partner to the US.

      These were foundation stones for where we are now.

      It’d be interesting to compare the arguements in the various colonies in America with the sort of arguement we are having here.

      Rumbolds’ ideas seem to me to be about State -v- Federal authority, something that is still an Achilles heel in the US, bananabrains seem to me to be denial of the rather obvious usefulness that part of the EU constitution, which says that only democracies are allowed in, and if they cease to be democracies, or fight each other, then they are chucked out. Seems to have worked.

      (I think it is said to be an iron rule of politics that democracies don’t fight each other. Though I think that is a bit debateable, without a lot to lose.)

      So, the EU is not just formed though the birth canal of the European Iron and Coal Federation, it is also formed though NATO and the Cold War.

      But you both knew I thought that anyway.

      Still, 23,529 days and counting….

    33. douglas clark — on 7th October, 2009 at 11:33 pm  

      Sunny @ 30,

      The only point, apart from quite enjoying any debate that involves Rumbold and bananabrain, is to press back against the assumption that that debate is, necessarily, lost. It depends, to me at least, on the framing of the debate. Which has been somewhat lost in the overall mellee of what the heck is it we are talking about?

      Is it Rumbolds isolationaism? banaabrains two weeks in Spain? Or my idea that we live in the early days of a better world?

      If pro Europeans take a slightly higher moral high ground than they have, the arguement is, in my opinion, unassailable. But you wouldn’t have thought it, at the level of square bananas that it is currently conducted.

      Perhaps the next few posts from Rumbold and bananbrain - I wish he’d get a better moniker - will point me to my grievous errors.

    34. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 3:54 am  

      Interestingly enough, despite the perceived wrongs of the EU superstate, despite the undoubted democratic deficit - largely a function of failing to pass power to the European Parliament rather than retaining them in a Council of (state) Ministers and an overweening Brussels bureaucracy - folk keep knocking at the door to join. Perhaps they can see the faults too, perhaps they think that their vote will help make the EU more democratic rather than less.

      Some may be fast tracked, Iceland for instance, and for no apparent reason apart from prejudice against a country that in not Islamic, indeed is secular, but is Muslim is in the slow lane. That’d be Turkey.

      It is you dear Rumbold, and you dear bananabrain, that can’t see the woods for the trees. There are far more nations that want in than want out. In fact, as far as I know, only the UK wants out and Scotland would be perfectly happy to take over the vacancy you caused, given the happy day we freed ourselves of English xenophobia.

    35. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 5:10 am  

      In fact, as far as I know, only the UK wants out..

      Forgive the hyperbole, only a vociferous minority in the UK ‘wants out’ for very selfish political reasons, for they know in their water that they could never persuade the whole of the EU to their views. Their more limited objective is to pollute the UK’s body politic.

    36. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 6:12 am  

      And this really is doing a Sonia, multiple posts before any reply whatsoever ;-) , there is, it seems to me, to be a retraction in the scope of English political debate on the quite nasty idea of what Britishness is.

      It is to be English. And a particularily insular version at that.

      The caricatures of Gordon Brown - who as a fellow Scot, I have no time for - are racist.

      It becomes a meme of sorts, does it not, that the fact that Gordon Brown is Scottish is why we are in the collective mess we are, whereas I fail to recollect Sir Alec Douglas-Home being characterised in such a way? Disliked as AD-H finally was.

      This supports my thesis of increasing xenophobia, as in a belief that a collective failure is not seen as just that, a UK wide balls up. Instead, blame the Scots instead. So, no blame attaches to the Home Counties house pricers or bankers with their snouts in the trough?

      Oh, no, heaven forfend, it was because we had a Scottish PM. Nice transference of blame, isn’t it?

      Do all politicians not fail eventually?

      I have read elsewhere that Gordon Browns’ disastrous Premiership will mean that no Scot could be elected to the post for a hundred years. I would suggest that is to judge on a completely false premise. That race, or country, matters more than ability.

      This has been brought to you by one seriously pissed off liberal.

    37. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 6:23 am  

      With insomnia

    38. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 8:04 am  

      Can I just take a few words from what Sonia said?

      if south asians started collaborating together instead of what we do now – things would be a lot better instead of tottering at the brink of a nuclear war

      It is counterfactualism, of the worst sort, to suggest that had Europe not headed towards integration, that it would not have been caught up in some sort of India / Pakistan stand off. Bombs over London, etc..

      bananabrain and Rumbold. I’d rest my case there, except, I know you are a pair of wrongheaded bastards whom I love very much. But you haven’t a clue about the future. You are both driven by the past.

    39. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 8:26 am  

      Did either of you predict the fall of communism, or Polonium in London? I think not. Your genius for the factual, I would surrender to no-one.

      Whether history is acually useful is where the debate is. And it is obvious that is part of our heritage, and a part of what we are. But it is not essentially what we are. We grow away from the history, hopefully for the better and sometimes for the worse.

    40. damon — on 8th October, 2009 at 9:46 am  

      Douglas clark: ”English xenophobia”?
      Or is it Scottish paranoia?
      I’m down here listening to London radio every day and I don’t hear much said about Brown’s Scottishness as being one of his faults, (unless calling him ‘dour’ is quietly anti-Scottish).

      I lived in Glasgow for a couple of years in the 90′s and I found that most people were pretty cool about having a few English amongst them, but you had to watch what you said when out in public. (And even with your Scottish mates sometimes when in the pub).

      The only anti-Scottish stuff I ever hear is a few jokes about the Scottish homeless person sitting next to the cashpoint machine in the West End asking for money.

    41. Rumbold — on 8th October, 2009 at 10:35 am  

      Heh Adnan.


      I don’t see how it is backward looking to argue that the EU did not bring peace to Western Europe. It was a project planned in the inter-war years, and it only really developed in the 1950s. There is no evidence that the EU has brought peace to Europe, only the logical fallacy that “we have the EU, we have peace, so the EU was responsible for peace.” Democracy, prosperity, NATO and the threat of Russia ensured peace in Western Europe.

      I would be willing to stay in the EU if we reverted back to a free market/freedom of movement situation. I am also more than happy to allow other countries, especially Turkey, to join.

    42. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 10:37 am  


      Thank god someone cares.

      I was thinking more of this sort of thing:


      Why is the question even asked? It is racist or agenda driven to say the least.

      Here we have the casual version:


      I lived in Glasgow for a couple of years in the 90’s and I found that most people were pretty cool about having a few English amongst them, but you had to watch what you said when out in public. (And even with your Scottish mates sometimes when in the pub).

      Is there anywhere on this planet you haven’t lived? I surrender to no man in my admiration for your travels. Though this makes it a bit more obvious why. You are running away from every cultural gaffe you ever made, that’s it, isn’t it?

      Whereabouts in Glasgow did you live? I wonder what it was exactly you had to ‘button your lip’ over. What the hell did you say that put you at risk?

      For, generally we are quite accomodating to the English. Siding with either end of the ‘Old Firm’ does tend to be a bit dodgy. Ought to be in the ‘Rough Guide to your Own Country’, but there you go.

      I could imagine saying in Edinburgh, ‘y’know, I prefer Glasgow’ or vice versa, might get you into a bit of bother if overheard in a loud Englsh accent.

      But, after two years (!) you misunderstood cultural sensitivities, no matter how stupid they are, and you kept doing it?

      The English abroad, fuck me!

      It is like stupid, pissed English twats booing ‘Flower of Scotland’ in Aviemore, all these years ago. They had the sensitivity of a beer soaked brick. They were telt too.

    43. persephone — on 8th October, 2009 at 10:47 am  

      A lot is argued about why Europe has had peace since WW2 for eg down to economic policy, trade offs b/n countries etc.

      I think in part it can be attributed to the simple fact that alot of the people who fought and lived through the war are now gone or are an aged minority with little voice and are no longer in positions of power or influence.

      This increasing ‘silence’, tax burdens & the recession has led to holocaust denialists and the far right exploiting the fact that the next generation have not experienced where such division can lead to.

    44. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 10:52 am  


      I think in part it can be attributed to the simple fact that alot of the people who fought and lived through the war are now gone or are an aged minority with little voice and are no longer in positions of power or influence.

      I’ve got to disagree with you there. The history of this is that the people that are dead now, or geriatric, were the people of consequence in their day. And they did have power and influence. And they did establish a very different Europe from the one that went before. Institutions and stuff are all built on the back of the people that went before. Consider the Royal Societies, for instance.

      So, these dead and geriatric people changed the way we saw ourselves and our relationships with others. It was a cultural flip flop if you like.

    45. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 11:01 am  


      To make the point. These were the very folk that had seen, first-hand, just how devestating war actually is. And had acted to avoid it in the future. We forget that at our peril.

    46. damon — on 8th October, 2009 at 11:34 am  

      I lived across the road from Kelvinbridge underground station Douglas. And I remember my time there with nostalgia now. Great city, and great people (except for some of the neds on a saturday night who could be a bit scary).

      I only say that you had to watch what you said when it was anything to do with Scottishness. For example, I found the mention of Scottish this that and the other all day everyday a bit tiresome. (Constant mentions of ”the people of Scotland”, and the Scottish news and current affairs programmes where Scotland would be mentioned again and again).

      For example I remember at the time the campaign to stop the privatisation of Scotish water, and you’d see people out in Buchanan Street on saturday collecting signatures and calling out ”It’s Scotland’s water, no England’s water” and everyone going by and agreeing ”Aye, it’s no England’s water, it’s Scotland’s water” …. and if you said this down the pub, even your pals (if they’d had a few) might get the hump and be telling you: ”then bugger off back to England you English bampot”.

    47. douglas clark — on 8th October, 2009 at 12:21 pm  


      Great place to stay. Handy for Firhill.

      Y’know, apart from the Scottish content of media, which I would agree with your terminal boredom over, mainly because it consists of ‘threatened risk to Scottish Wildlife’ which ends up being a story about a dead swan, I have not encountered that ethnocentric(?) angle. Beyond what you’d expect from any local journalism.

      Perhaps you have to realise it is a different country. I find threads on here about the GLC terminally dull too, for it has nothing to do with me. And there is no reason why you should find local, parish pump politics anywhere, any more interesting than I do. What do I care about whether or not Sarawak is going to increase it’s budget on widgets, or not? Frankly, not a lot. And even if I lived there for a while, I still wouldn’t care…

      On the water issue, you went your way and we went ours. A dripping tap won’t bankrupt me, wrong though it may be. Who’s to say that those folk in Buchanan Street were wrong. About the substance of the debate, that we were selling off a publically bought and paid for asset, for sweet fanny adams, versus some sort of PFI initiative, invokes yawns, rather than interest in most folk.

      Though the idea it’s Scotlands Water reverberates quite a lot with the idea that it’s Scotlands Oil, I’d expect.

      I don’t remember actually discussing the subject with anyone, certainly not getting excited enough to care one way or another.

      Quite glad we didn’t sell it off, as we’ll all make a fortune selling you the stuff in a few years time ;-)

    48. persephone — on 8th October, 2009 at 7:48 pm  


      I kinda was saying that

    49. Shamit — on 8th October, 2009 at 8:07 pm  

      Sunny - good post again.

      Those who criticise the concept well folks everytime it was done well - the left won.

      All those who continue to lament about not seeing any difference between left and right. Well we are a nation of centrists and the left needs to win power to get anything done. A few examples:

      On both sides of the Atlantic, Head Start and Sure Start were not part of the political discourse - which is one of the best policy decisions for society and country on both sides. Now even the right and the centre right accept them as good commendable policies.

      Being successful and the at the same time be a caring society is no longer mutually exclusive but they remain within the mainstream political sphere and all parts of the political spectrum embrace those values. That was another victory of the left. That legacy was also achieved by shaping the news, by shaping the ideas and through persuasion.

      These are just two examples — and niether were part of the political discourse during the days of Thatcher - Major or Reagan/Bush. But these ideas and decisions are going to stay now - thanks to some leaders in the left who had the sense to reassure the centre and persuade them towards a better society. And thats why we want to win elections - thats why we need to shape news cycles.

      And to govern an aspirational society - it would be foolish for anyone to shift far too the left if they wish to win power. So those who don’t see the difference — well there are many and there are many lasting legacies that make us a better society today.

      For that matter - using the power of the voluntary sector to engage with citizens and deliver public services — another legacy of the left. Something every leftie should be proud of. And that too is now acceptable and embraced political reality.

      We had a Tory leader who in a speech to his party said “there is a thing called society” and expressed his dismay at the poverty in this country. Those with blinkers on think so what - but that is the legacy of labour which made these issues part of the mainstream political debate. And if you think that happened without media management or sitting in cafes — well lets just say I disagree.

      Sunny is spot on. Excellent post.

      Lets not confuse Europe with this one which again reflectes our centrist position as a nation which has a great aversion to being ruled from Brussels. And comparing that too some London Councils and Westminster is BIZZARE

    50. Shamit — on 8th October, 2009 at 8:16 pm  

      guys way too many typos — and could not edit apologies to all.

    51. MaidMarian — on 8th October, 2009 at 10:38 pm  

      Sunny - apart from 1974, the most pro-European party at the time has won every British general election. You are making the mistake of giving the press more credibility than election results.

      And if you think that greens and civil liberties groups are left in any meaningful sense of the word you are asking to be deceived. Indeed the Civil liberty groups slapdash, boring interventions about Ninteen Eighty-Four (NOT ’1984′ Orwell was specific, they can’t even get the title right) show the limitations of interventions - repeated they lose resonance.

      Sunny, with all due respect, this intervention strategy was used by the left and it was effective. In 1997 this is exactly what the left did. It is a stragegy that the left simply does not have the unity of discipline to sustain for more than about 2-3 years.

      In 1999 the left had a highwatermark, but then just became more interested in internet willy-waving and getting it all off the collective chest.

      Of course the tories will get their share of internet beatings - were all critics now. But I accept that the left has suffered more from the triumph of internet axe-grinding over thought. The worst part is that some seem to think it was all worth it.

      Of course, one response to the current crisis might be a hard-headed look again at the euro.

      [NOTE - that sound in the background is probably Rumbold's head going pop as he reads that last sentence.]

    52. damon — on 9th October, 2009 at 4:06 am  

      Handy indeed for Firhill Douglas if that was your inclination. I went there a couple of times, but was more attracted to the green side. There was a great view from the top of Ruchill park by Firhill that I liked though.
      Even though I couldn’t understand what some of the old fellas drinking in the pubs of a daytime would say to me when I first arrived, I never felt of it as a foreign country. I felt it was part of my country in a way that I don’t feel the same about the Republic of Ireland where I was born. (That does feel like another country).
      I don’t say that in a chauvinist or imperialistic way, but just that I felt more at home in Scotland than I have done when in Ireland.
      And I don’t support Scottish independence (but if the Scots really wanted it then it’s of course their right), because I feel that Britain belongs together. (Northen Ireland of course being somewhat different, but welcome to remain in the UK too).

      I don’t think of Scots in England as being anyhow different. They’re just fellow Brits is all I’ve ever thought.

    53. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2009 at 4:27 am  


      Thanks for reminding me about the view from the top of Ruchill Park. That’s Sundays’ walk sorted out.

      It is quite odd, the things we feel isn’t it? I was in Dublin last year, and I went, hey!

      “This is vibrant, this feels like a capital city. I quite like this. I quite like the idea of being a small country that is genuinely independent, not pretendy independent. Look, embassys and stuff.”

      And you see it quite differently.

      How odd is that?

      {And I do tend to lean towards the Red ‘n Yellow}

    54. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2009 at 4:36 am  

      persephone @ 48,

      OK. I am sorry if I misunderstood.

    55. douglas clark — on 9th October, 2009 at 4:56 am  

      Shamit @ 49,

      I thought that was a really good comment, and completely devoid of any typos!

    56. Shamit — on 9th October, 2009 at 11:17 am  

      Thanks Douglas. Appreciate it.

      But I am afraid there are a few typos that I spotted.

    57. bananabrain — on 9th October, 2009 at 2:51 pm  

      You both know, or ought to know, ’cause we’ve argued the toss on this for long enough, that the foundation of European unity was based on post WW2 pragmatists who did not want to see a descent into Europe being the cockpit of World conflict, as it had been on a European and increasingly global level in the past (my first piece of evidence, dear reader, would be World War One and the Treaty of Versailles).

      if i wanted to be difficult about it, i could argue that the cold war had something to do with it as well by virtue of uniting the feuding western europeans against the communist menace. but, look, i won’t deny that there are some people that think the idea of the EU is about preventing wars - although, frankly, if you look at the american civil war then i’d say unity can’t be easily enforced if there are some people who for whatever reason insist on not playing. but, actually, i’m a good european and not nearly as libertarian as rumbold, so i won’t do that.

      bananabrains seem to me to be denial of the rather obvious usefulness that part of the EU constitution, which says that only democracies are allowed in, and if they cease to be democracies, or fight each other, then they are chucked out. Seems to have worked.

      there’s also the unwritten bit which says “but you’re still allowed to build alliances and play power games and compete between the blocs, apply european rules selectively for national interest and wage proxy war by means of the selective enforcement of regulations and pork-barrel politics”. that’s the bit i object to. all the supranational stuff would be all right by me if people really believed in it - and were prepared to let it overrule parochial considerations, but they’re not. all the perverse incentives are left in, so as a result, the end is simply the civil service of every country writ large, with a bunch of people who have learned to play the system, from french farmers to luxembourg bankers to german automotive barons to greek universities to spanish fisherment to british payment processors. occasionally, something really useful like SEPA or ERTMS (or the euro) happens, when people actually stick to the nitty-gritty about “how does this make life better and easier for people and organisations” but mostly, it’s all guff. the reason there isn’t war is that the western european nations have figured out that there’s a less unpopular and painful way to get your own way. this is what you seem to be admitting here:

      If pro Europeans take a slightly higher moral high ground than they have, the arguement is, in my opinion, unassailable. But you wouldn’t have thought it, at the level of square bananas that it is currently conducted.

      exactly. all this sort of thing is about is the real business of the EU, to act as a forum for the bartering of policy in the interests of various national, industrial and political groups. and, lest we forget, sometimes this is a great thing - you only have to look at the relationship between academics and research funding, but somehow, it all pales into insignificance when you look at the bloated, perverse, climate-damaging monster that is the CAP.

      on the whole, i’d rather be in than out, but we are not in a position to play for the good of the system, because nobody else is, everybody is still fighting for a piece of brussels-pie. i am not some sort of swivel-eyed UKIP nutter, or a little-englander. i want the turks in because it will be good for them (they’ll have to come to terms with the armenian genocide for one thing), good for the rest of us and will seriously piss off the french and germans with all their rubbish about “christian europe”. i want the north africans in as well (if not in schengen, though) i speak three european languages. but to suggest that obeying every damfool red-taped notion of the the european commission is all that stands between us and hordes of ravening belgians strains credibility more than ronnie wood’s attractiveness to 20-year old waitresses.



    58. Sunny — on 11th October, 2009 at 4:20 am  

      thanks Shamit - agree with all of that.

      MM - some parts I agree with, it’s always been difficult for the left to maintain some element of cohesiveness. But times may be changing…

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