A selection of the writing, wittering and viewing that has caught our attention over the past week.
► Still the only political story in town this summer is Jeremy Corbyn’s turn as Don Quixote, tilting at the wind-turbines of New Labour. One of the central plot lines has been the claim that the extreme left are infiltrating Labour in an attempt to promote Corbyn’s campaign. In truth, however, the far left are adopting a traditional approach of unconditional but critical support, together with equally traditional warnings about ‘the limits of Labour’, as seen in this analysis on the Left Unity website.
Those within the party who don’t fancy the left alternative have been driven to ever more blood-curdling premonitions of a Corbyn-led opposition. More sober, and therefore more effective, is ‘13 reasons not to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’ by Labour Pains, while Alex Massie in the Spectator follows the lead of our own Sam Harrison in warning that, in terms of media presentation, it’s the Sinn Féin/IRA connection that will prove his weak spot.
► Some of those alarmed by ‘Corbynmania’ have pointed the finger at the reforms – introduced under Ed Miliband – that have moved Labour’s leadership elections closer to the American primary model, most notably through the introduction of £3 ‘registered supporters’. In the Telegraph, Dan Hodges, a former cheerleader for the changes, proves he can admit when he’s wrong, while ILP can’t resist saying ‘we told you so’.
Not that the reforms were altogether flawed: Labour’s membership is now larger than that of the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru combined. But Miliband failed to import two of the features that make so open a process viable: a delegate system that requires candidates to build support geographically; and a timeline that gives bubbles ample opportunity to burst. Meanwhile, David Cameron’s pre-election remarks that he will stand down by the end of this parliament have inaugurated a long period of scrutiny of his potential successors. Which party do you expect to present the more convincing leader in 2020?
► Unlikely to be elected to the Tory top spot is current leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling. This week legal blogger The Secret Barrister continued his critique of the former justice secretary’s regressive and unworkable Criminal Courts Charge, through the tale of the £328.75 Mars bar.
The real target of his ire was, however, that strange quirk of the English court system, the justice of the peace: a volunteer, without need of legal qualifications or expertise, who is responsible for sitting in judgement on cases that may result in fines as high as £5,000 and prison sentences of up to a year.
Here’s the anonymous lawyer describing a particular breed of magistrate in characteristically colourful terms:
he is a closed-minded, self-righteous, vindictive and gonad-grindingly pig-thick cockwomble whose incapacity for compassion or deductive reasoning represents a regrettable blight on the institution of summary justice.
► Those reeling from Tuesday’s shock news that inflation has risen – by a whopping 0.1 per cent! – may wish to seek comfort from Lion & Unicorn’s very own Dan Atkinson. Writing in Saturday PS, he notes:
we are talking here about annual rates of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measured over 12 months. In the past, we have endured 0.1 per cent over a somewhat briefer time period. Indeed, in 1975, inflation was running at that level for every working day… As Crocodile Dundee might have put it, that’s not an inflation rate, this is an inflation rate.
► And finally, culture. With the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms in full swing, now seems like a good time to ‘veg out’ in front of the telly, or retreat to the garden with a good book. Unfortunately August is traditionally a fallow period for the broadcasters and the publishing trade alike, so best turn to a golden oldie.
How about the far-fetched tale of a hard-left Labour prime minister, bent on scrapping Britain’s nuclear deterrent, who’s undone by disloyalty in his own ranks and the machinations of the security services? Author and former MP, Chris Mullin, has already plugged the original novel in the Guardian, but the excellent Channel 4 dramatisation of A Very British Coup is also available and has the merits of being shorter and free (for those feeling the pinch from Britain’s soaring prices).