Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lang may yours slums reek

National insurance against sickness and disablement.

Contrary to what I guessed yesterday, Nick has come out for Labour, with only a nice word said about Evan Harris (and that seems to have been withdrawn, jokingly, I'm sure).

Too many Westminster politicians and journalists regard debates about political principle as eccentric distractions from the vital questions of who is up and who is down, who has gaffed disastrously and who has spun successfully.

I'm still waiting for any sign that Nick has read any party's manifesto. Nick concludes his 'argument':

Alongside all Labour's scoundrels and freeloaders, you can still find honourable men and women who believe in equality and internationalism. Their presence shows that even if the party's leaders cannot make it, and even if it takes a gut-wrenching effort to make it on their behalf, there remains a case for voting Labour – despite everything

Lots of 'political principle' there. Labour has some honourable people. He's already concluded that the Lib Dems have too, so even that's not the killer reasoning he seems to believe it to be.[1] Michael Gove is a sort of honorary Decent isn't he? He seems likeable enough on 'The Review Show' although I think he's a pretty useless politician.

Interestingly, while Nothing British About the BNP and other Conservative groups oppose ultra-reactionary politics in both their white supremacist and clerical guises, the Liberal Democrats are absent without leave from the battles in the slums which will determine the character of Britain.

Eh? My Concise OED defines slum as "1. A room. slang. Long rare or obsolete. E19. 2. An overcrowded district of a town or city having squalid housing conditions and inhabited by very poor people...." The Labour Party tried to abolish slum housing in the 1960s following the Parker Morris Committee. The proposed standards were naturally abandoned under Thatcher - and not revived by Labour since 1997. There are squalid areas in every city, I don't know if 'slum' is the right word or not: I think not. If there are slums, isn't that a point against Labour which should have done something by now?

What does the Labour Party manifesto 1.4Mb PDF say about housing?

We understand people’s concerns about immigration – about whether it will undermine their wages or job prospects, or put pressure on public services or housing – and we have acted. Asylum claims are down to the levels of the early 1990s and net inward migration has fallen.

That's good to know: we've reduced asylum claims because of possible pressure on housing. How very... internationalist.

Have fun. I'd also appreciate it anyone can explain Oliver Kamm's take (via Harry's Place); it's over my head.

[1] Is Labour really an internationalist party? A few weeks ago, Brownie of Harry's Place brought up Enoch Powell in our comments. He thought Powell was a failure politically. I'm much more ambivalent about this. As I said in an earlier thread, I thought Heath was right to sack Powell - both morally and tactically. Powell left the Tories and made a speech which in effect said, Vote Labour because, at the time, Labour was the anti-EEC party. I think this is Powell's great legacy: the Tories have been split ever since (and possibly since the question first arose) on whether to be part of Europe or not. I think Daniel Hannan's objections to the EU can be traced back to Powell. Labour has a similar fault-line, but it's much more pragmatic and less ideological. Without going into too much history, I think Labour has a pretty strong tradition of scepticism to trans-Atlantic alliances (what Nick would doubtless call 'anti-Americanism'), the EU, and to links with the former Soviet bloc. Equality may be in Labour's DNA, so to speak, but internationalism - not so much. I've never understood being an internationalist as any kind of basic condition for membership.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Nick's far-left past showing with 'despite everything'? In German - 'trotz alledem' (no pun intended) - it was the rallying cry of the left after the failed revolutions in 1918 (aka the Spartacist uprising).


5/02/2010 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

God only knows what Kamm means but I'm assuming that, as a Times leader writer, he's delegated the job of writing the Times' endorsement of the Tories to somebody else.

And I have to say, I'm loving the sight of the Decents charging around the internet calling people traitors for switching their votes to somebody else out of political expediency. I mean, they were so very receptive to that argument during the London mayoral elections, weren't they? And HP's denunciation of all these tactical Lib Dems as a bunch of middle class, chardonnay swilling woofters is pretty hilarious after that "Why Oh Why Can't I Find Good Sushi In Camden?" effort.

My current Labour MP does a pretty good job and his voting record is about 75% in tune with me, so he'll be getting my vote. If he wasn't, I doubt these Please vote for a party we've spent the last three years attacking as hopelessly incompetent and overly close to fascists, you posh fucking class traitors appeals would sway me back.

5/02/2010 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

By the way, "Lang may your lum reek" was the final line of my best man's speech at my brother's wedding. It went down a storm with the bride's Brummie family.

5/03/2010 01:53:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've lived in a slum. I only know it was a slum because Manchester Corporation "cleared" it as part of their "slum clearance programme" of the '50 & '60s. I didn't know it was a slum cos: a) I didn't know anything different; b) I was very young.

It was in Harpurhey, we were moved to Darn Hill, Heywood. Other people were moved to places like Langley and Hattersley (leading to the line:
"oh dear what can the matter be?
Some silly bugger's moved me to Hattersley"

These places were known as Manchester overspill estates in the '60s

We were moved from a two-up/two-down terrace to a typical '60s estate of the type that regularly gets excoriated now, but back then was state-of-the-art new housing.

My parents didn't like Darn Hill so we moved to another place in Heywood and, err, a two-up/two-down terraced house.

I've lived in north London for 36 years now, mostly in council housing. I presently live in a Camden Council flat, in a nice area, I am surrounded by the cappuccino slurping, bruschetta munching middle-classes. Though I have lived on rough estates in the past.

I was surprised Cohen used the word "slums" because it really is rather archaic now when used in reference to the UK. But there are, what shall we call them? Sink estates perhaps.

I wouldn't move back to the last Camden estate I lived on for love nor money. It has decent people on it (no, not *that* sort of Decent) but it also has a lot of crime, violence, drug dealing and gangs. At night it is lit up like Blackpool illuminations with a CCTV cameras everywhere.

Meanwhile old Darn Hill is regarded as the roughest bit of a very rough town.

IMO these estates are a whole lot worse than the slums of my youth. The community spirit and social cohesion that existed then has vanished. Yer on yer own....

I wonder if Cohen has looked at Labour's housing policy?

It had the 'Decent Homes' strategy, with £8billion funding, "to start to tackle the repairs backlog caused by 18 years of Tory neglect of social housing".

How much of that £8billion has come to repair Camden’s homes? The answer is: None. Nada. Zero. Not a sausage.

We were due to be allocated £283 million in direct investment in 2003.

The catch was a typical New Labour wheeze. Tenants had to vote to go out of council ownership & management and switch to an 'Arms-Length Management Organisation' (ALMO).

The vote was in 2005 and by a huge majority tenants told them just where they could stick their ALMO.

New Labour replied "no ALMO, no dough". And that has been the case ever since 2005.

So in 13 years what has New Labour done in Camden in "...the battle in the slums which will determine the character of Britain."?

Sweet fuck all.

You'd think Cohen would know this. The border of the LB of Islington, with its notorious dinner parties is only about 50 yards from me front door.

5/03/2010 03:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

If Nick doesn't read manifestos, that's the only smart thing he has done this election; they're not worth the paper they're printed on since it has now been legally established that the promises in them aren't binding anyway.

Personally I'd look at overall ideology as well as BACAIness and as Flyingrodent mentions, the voting records of the candidates, where available.

But why Nick just can't come out and say that he just hates the Tories more than Labour... --probably because he can't get a column out of that.

5/03/2010 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Splendid comment, Vinny. 'Sink estates' was the term I should have been looking for: the word 'slum' just made me think, 'what'? (One difference is that slums as I understand them, were privately owned and rented; the owners had no incentive to make them more habitable. Council estates are run by elected councils which are also answerable to government. In the first case, residents are powerless, in the second, not.) But surely the policy of the Labour Party Nick wants (and I want) is that there is no housing 'unfit for human habitation'? Labour came quite close to achieving this in the 60s. IF there are slums now, that's a huge strike against the argument that New Labour cares about the 'dirt poor' at all.

Oddly, Michael Ezra on Harry's Place quoted the Telegraph from 1978:

They [the SWP and the NF] are also at a similar stage of political development, having shaken off the status of a “pressure group” for that of a fully-fledged party. More than that, there is a common thread of paranoia and violence which runs through both organisations. If the theoreticians on both sides were honest, they would admit that at this stage in their political journey they need each other.

[B]attles in the slums', anyone?

5/03/2010 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Afternoon, fellow stalkers - looks like I've been rumbled. Here's Nick having a crack at guessing who "Malky Muscular" is on Twitter...*

He is either Dave Weedon, Chris Bertam Daniel Davis, men for whom the phrase hollow-eyed onanist might have been invented.

Hell, I probably am the biggest and most horrible stalker in the universe for passing this on, but it gave me a laugh. I won't be available for comment later since I'm off to Islington for a rake through Nick's bins.

*For Nick's convenience, I'm none of these people. I'm a 32-year-old office drone from Edinburgh with a very childish sense of humour who likes arguing with people on the internet for fun. I wouldn't have objected to "geek", "nerd" or "twat", but "stalker" does seem a bit harsh.

5/03/2010 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

Oh fabulous FR - our Nick, the great investigative journalist, can't even work out your city of residence, something that most of us have managed to find with a few brief clicks! But perhaps he now thinks that "stalker" is a word that describes anyone who actually uses their brain and makes efforts to empirically investigate things, and wouldn't want to be any such person for fear of offending his fellow Iraq hawks. As to being a "hollow-eyed onanist" - if he thinks that's a suitable stone to throw from his glass house, then clearly our Nick's breathtaking lack of self-awareness now extends so far that he doesn't recognize the face that greets him in the mirror. Dear, oh dear....

5/03/2010 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

even if the party's leaders cannot make it, and even if it takes a gut-wrenching effort to make it on their behalf, there remains a case for voting Labour – despite everything

As you say, there's surely a case for almost every political party using that kind of criteria, isn't there? indeed, Gove the honorary Decent springs to mind, David Toube has even written long, boring posts praising his education policy. As I said i think this is an awful, awful column - almost completely devoid of content or even opinion. And i do think he's talking about Purnell, who will be straight back as soon as he can - the whole 'not standing' thing is so he can make a stab at running for leader untainted by Gordon.

while Nothing British About the BNP and other Conservative groups oppose ultra-reactionary politics

I'm glad to see that the Obs are now self-consciously editing out Nick's praise for the ultra-reactionary bigot Douglas Murray.

I mean, they were so very receptive to that argument during the London mayoral elections, weren't they?

That's also something you could level at Ben's post over at HP Sauce (kerching) - all that guff about being organised and ultra-loyal. Really works when you think back to the London mayoral elections last time around.

5/03/2010 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

SF - Nick may be confused because I am from Edinburgh, but I don't live there as revealed in my Normblog profile. (Rereading that is a bit toe-curling; I'd change a few answers, as one does.) I don't even know Mr Rodent's first name, though I've been talking/writing to him long enough to just call him 'Fly.'

5/03/2010 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Gove the honorary Decent springs to mind, David Toube has even written long, boring posts praising his education policy

So has Aaro.

btw, who's this "Daniel Davis" character,, Nick? Brother of the more famous Steve? Or indeed, as Muhammad Ali said to Ernie Terrell, what's my name, fool?

5/03/2010 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

By the way, there is a picture of me on the internet

and plenty of pictures of Nick Cohen on the internet, of which this is representative:

Obviously, one can't tell much about a man's masturbatory habits from a headshot, but on the "hollow eyed" comment, I think I have cause for complaint. As does Chris Betram, who I can't find a picture of but I've met him and he is not particularly hollow-eyed.

5/03/2010 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Suspiciously, there's a picture of Chris Bertram and myself together! My nose may be even bigger in real life: the T-shirt reads "University of Texas" in a very minimal Helvetica or Helvetica-like font. I bought it as a tourist in Austin; I didn't go there.

5/03/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I wonder why he picked those three names, btw? As far as I'm aware, I've never corresponded with the guy. Chris B writes about political theory and photography at Crooked Timber. And you've separately argued with him under your own name, making it rather unlikely that you'd also be "Flying Rodent". The only thing I can think of that those three names have in common is that we've quarrelled in the past with Harry's Place.

5/03/2010 07:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

"He bore ferocious grudges, consulted closely with some pretty poisonous people, had large gaps in his knowledge"

Its a good thing Kammouflage’s political hero Tony Blair doesn’t possess any of these character flaws, or Kamm himself for that matter.

5/03/2010 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I think he knows you and I are AaroWatch with a little help from a few others. Chris and I both take photos. You and Chris are on CT. I can't understand why Chris Bertram at all really. Chris also has a Normblog profile: he was the first one. I brought this up when FR and I corresponded the other week: there is hostility between us and the Decents, but it's more recent than the Iraq invasion, let alone 9/11. I can't say when it started exactly, perhaps you can.

5/03/2010 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

To be fair to Nick, he does get an astonishing amount of hate mail. Even when he's doing his modern art is rubbish bit, he still gets a hundred comments calling him a neoconservative warmongering bastard, and he's let on in the past that he gets racist emails. I can understand why he thinks the internet consists of himself, his mates and nutters.

Beyond that, there's the usual Decent belief that their own habit of banging on about various insignificant far lefties and journalists is a valiant, urgent struggle, while anyone who writes about them is obviously mental.

And there's a couple of reasons why I write those blogs anonymously. My employers are famously intolerant of this kind of extracurricular activity, and I have a tendency to get up the noses of the type of person that's prone to, say, publishing your bosses' email addresses and sending a hundred angry wingnuts into their inboxes.

That is me in the FR photo though, although the British army duds aren't mine. It was the only decent photo I had where you couldn't see my face.

5/03/2010 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous jamie k said...

Well, as a co-founder and largely inactive member of the collective (as rioja kid) I feel I should out myself in solidarity with my fellow wankers.

Anyway, Nick, I believe a collective of wankers makes us a circle jerk, so we're really in a position of equality with you and your mates, no?

5/03/2010 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cian said...

I wonder why he picked those three names, btw?

Because at least two of you are known to be responsible for this place, and I guess he figured that Chris Bertram must also be involved.

5/04/2010 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some glorious logical leaps in Kamm's piece: it is far from clear what he is trying to say, let alone his real thoughts. My guess is that quite a few Decents and Blarites are worried about the LibDem surge in popularity (and maybe in seats). Iraq is quite likely to come up in the internal post-mortems inside New Labour, given that it is probably one factor behind the switch from Labour to LibDems among some voters. They are also possibly worried that a government that depends on support from the LibDems would have more difficulty in sweeping the report from the Chilcot Inquiry under the carpet.

Up until a few weeks ago it looked like New Labour would lose to the Conservatives, it could be all blamed on Brown and someone like Milliband D. would become party leader. The Conservatives, for their own reasons, would be quite likely to tone doww the output from the Chilcot Inquiry. The rise of the LibDems in the opinion polls changes the landscape. As Blair has now admitted, the election has become in part an evaluation of his time as PM. Kamm (as well as Cohen) seem to be hoping that New Labour don't come third in the overall number of votes.


5/05/2010 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Kamm's argument is more or less 'I'm voting for Labour because I still heart Tony Blair and i dislike teh lib dems', isn't it?

I am baffled by the main Decent problem with the Lib Dems seeming to be university tuition fees. His dismissals of the Lib Dems - like Cohen's and indeed those by HP Sauce Ben - are largely based on tedious prejudices as opposed to yer actual argument.

5/06/2010 11:22:00 AM  

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