This week we have been mostly…

Last week we excused a relatively brief round-up of our favourite writing, wittering and viewing from the previous seven days on the grounds that we were compiling a Labour leadership election special edition. Well, we’re still compiling, so this Sunday’s selection is also a little on the short side.

► In the Spectator, Nick Cohen explained ‘Why I’ve finally given up on the left‘, fulfilling a fear that many of his regular readers may have had for some time. Cohen, a living refutation of the fallacy that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, seems unlikely now to become a Tory, however. Here is one of the mellower passages of the article:

Conservatives will talk as if there is a right-wing gene which, like male-pattern baldness, manifests itself with age. The US leftist-turned-neocon Irving Kristol set the pattern for the pattern-baldness theory of politics when he opined that a conservative is a liberal who has been ‘mugged by reality’. He did not understand that the effects of reality’s many muggings are never predictable, or that facts of life are not always, as Margaret Thatcher claimed, conservative. If they were, we would still have feudalism.

► Polly Toynbee’s no quitter, though. (Well, not since she abandoned Labour to help form the SDP in 1981, and then walked away from that party when it later merged with the Liberals.) Having opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader she’s now full to the brim with the virtues of unity and optimism, issuing warnings to those Labour figures who have ‘stomped off in a huff and a flounce’ that if Corbyn fails ‘they risk being seen as part of the reason why’. She may be right, but ponder this comment:

The only way to travel is in hope – in politics as in life. I hoped for Gordon Brown’s success, I hoped for Ed Miliband’s. What’s the point of dread and despair?

The flouncers could argue that a little more despair might have done Labour some good in the eight years since Gordon Brown’s ill-fated coronation as leader. It might have convinced David Miliband to screw his courage to the sticking place and move to depose the great clunking fist, possibly improving Labour’s result in the 2010 election. Resisting the delusion of hope might also have allowed the party to see, long before May this year, that the younger Miliband was its greatest impediment to stopping the Tories returning to office. Perhaps there’s none so pious as a reformed splitter?

► One of the likely targets of Nick Cohen’s ire, Tariq Ali, appeared on left-wing American news broadcast Democracy Now! this week, as part of its coverage of (yes, you guessed it!) Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. Other countries’ reporting of one’s own can be a source of great amusement, generally for what it misunderstands. But in this instance the joke, such as it is, lies in what host Amy Goodman wants to believe. For this is a case of the ageing anti-imperialist left of a current empire talking to the ageing anti-imperialist left of a defunct empire, and finding much common discontent. It’s worth watching the entire programme, but those who lack a taste for the more sober strains of American leftism can watch Ali’s contribution below.

► For those seeking perspectives beyond the ‘Westminster bubble’, but disinclined to venture quite so far, James Lloyd wrote a couple of weeks back on the Institute for Welsh Affairs’ website about Labour, arguing that the party needs to reclaim its patriotic roots:

For much of its life, Labour’s success has been sustained by the small ‘c’ conservative working class: people often repelled by the Tories, but conservative nonetheless. Some have gone to the Conservatives, some have gone to UKIP. But they will not find a permanent home in either while they are led by the cosmopolitan Cameron and the libertarian Farage. What is clear is that the Labour Party no longer welcomes them.

Nothing in Corbyn’s first week as leader suggests that any of this is likely to change in the near future.

► During the Labour leadership election, we posted a link to the Channel 4 version of Chris Mullin’s A Very British Coup. Mullin is also, of course, one of the better political diarists, and on this 2011 podcast he is interviewed by Tim Haigh ‘about the historic landslide election of [a] Labour Government in 1997, Rupert Murdoch, Lost Leaders, and why Chris had a black and white television in his London flat’.

► Finally, although this site is dedicated to Britain, we’re prepared to stretch a point here and there. England and Wales are currently hosting the Rugby Union World Cup, and to mark the shock (and very welcome) defeat of South Africa by Japan, we celebrated by putting on some music by our favourite glam-influenced Japanese rock band, The Yellow Monkey, and then turned up the volume. This is their 1996 hit ‘Spark’:


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