There is a myth doing the rounds in all the commentary on the post-Brexit fallout, one that is slowly congealing into something resembling a ‘fact’. This myth is that Labour voters, turning their backs on the party in droves, delivered a Leave win.

Obviously, many voters in hitherto safe Labour seats did vote to leave the EU, and therefore contributed to the result – but the way people are talking these days it would appear to be only Labour that failed to persuade their voters to follow it. But remember that every single mainstream political party bar UKIP advocated remain, and therefore every single one of them failed to a greater or lesser extent – even the SNP, as we shall see.

In fact, as analysis of the referendum vote by YouGov has shown, 65% of Labour voters from the last election voted to remain. This means that more Labour voters voted to remain than those of any┬áparty in the UK. (more…)

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On Monday night, as the riots spread throughout London, the Home Secretary – freshly returned from her holiday – looked like the proverbial bunny trapped in the headlights of oncoming disaster. She seemed to have lost the facility of coherent speech, repeating again and again the same mantra: the riots were ‘sheer criminality and thuggery’ which are ‘completely unacceptable’, and for which there can be ‘no justification’. The thing is, what is the point of saying this? It is entirely obvious that the riots were acts of wanton criminal damage, and nobody was suggesting that they were in any way ‘acceptable’ or justified. The argument was reprised by the hapless Nick Clegg on his visit to Tottenham when he said, ‘It was needless, opportunist theft and violence – nothing more, nothing less.’ (By the way, there was an almost classic Thick of It moment when he was confronted by one resident who asked if the cuts would mean that this would now happen all over the UK; Clegg, clearly at a loss, responded with a less-than-resounding ‘Um, I don’t think so…’ Wrong, already.)

The trope that is emerging that there is ‘no justification’ for the riots, or that the violence is ‘sheer criminality’ – ‘no more, no less’ – is a ruse designed to close down explanations. Its purpose is to deliver a paradox, namely that the only explanation is there is no explanation. This suits the politicians very well indeed, because it diverts us away from awkward questions about the relationship of these events to the austerity programme; about the growing inequality and lack of opportunity that have built up over three decades of neo-liberal capitalist fundamentalism; about whether the anger being vented on the streets of the capital might not, in fact, be not so far removed from the anger that so many of us continue to feel about the bankers bringing our economy to the brink of collapse and then getting away with it (and being handsomely rewarded for it too) – after all, it is completely patronising to suppose these young men and women on the streets do not share this completely ubiquitous sense of unfairness; about whether, deep beneath the ‘mindless thuggery’ there might not, in fact, be an explanation after all.

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The next series of The Thick of It is, apparently, some way off yet, but political comedy is thriving this year already if the responses – both journalistic and political – to the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election are anything to go by. For the record, Labour won this seat in May by just 103 votes, with the Lib Dems coming second. Unfortunately, the Labour MP was the odious Phil Woolas whose musical instrument of choice is the dog whistle. Mr Woolas concocted a pack of outright lies about his Lib Dem opponent, who cried foul and won in the courts. Exit Mr Woolas, enter just about anyone who’s anyone in British politics onto the streets of Oldham (solid Labour) and neighbouring pretty villages (Lib Dem and Tory) in order to contest this first by-election since the election and thus, inevitably, political barometer – and in an interesting marginal that could have gone three ways to boot. You can see the actual results from last night here.

So, enough of the back-story. The first comedians off the blocks were the BBC’s own Lana Kuenssberg and Micheal Crick on Newsnight. Both were heard to say, on national television, that things were ‘pretty tight’ and Labour were nervous. Well, if winning by 10% is ‘tight’ I’d hate to think what these two consider a walkover; maybe even the 99.9% victories enjoyed by certain Arab dictators would struggle to qualify.

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Some decent articles appeared in the run up to the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which collectively throw light on both the politics and economics of it all. First up, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, writing about how Labour really needs to take on the Coalition’s attempt to pin the blame on them for the ‘economic mess’, and that the deficit is all the fault of profligate Labour spending. According to the Budget 2007, the structural deficit stood at just 3% of GDP before the recession struck; now it is 11%. In other words, prior to the recession it was relatively low by historical standards – as Ed Balls pointed out earlier in the summer, Britain went into the recession with ‘the lowest net debt of any large G7 country’, and this is a matter of fact not interpretation. Indeed, using the Treasury’s figures, the accusation that Labour wildly overspent in office just does not add up: public spending during the previous period of Tory rule was higher in all but 4 of the 18 years they were in office than at any point during 1997-2007 (the four years in question being the boom years after the ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of the City, that period satirised by Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’, 1988-1991).

This is the basis for the first of Freedland’s two killer points. If Labour’s public spending was so wildly out of control, why did Cameron’s Tories (back in his hug-a-hoodie, quality-of-life days) promise to match Labour’s spending plans almost pound for pound? The answer is that clearly it wasn’t. This means, of course, that the size of the deficit now is largely down to the recession and the fiscal stimulus package that prevented disaster turning into catastrophe. Without it, it is likely that recession would have turned into depression, but somehow the Coalition spin machine has successfully managed to make it appear that the medicine was the disease.

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I have to admit that when I first found out that Alan Johnson had been chosen by Ed Miliband as his Shadow Chancellor, I was more than a little disappointed. I had voted for Ed because he seemed like a guy who would be bold, and nothing could have been bolder than appointing Yvette Cooper as the first female shadow Chancellor.

On reflection, however, I think I may have been a little unfair. His choice, it seems to me, displays not just tactical cleverness but also strategic acumen. Alan Johnson is a popular guy, not just in the party but also among the electorate, and appointing him sends a clear signal that Ed Miliband is determined to deal, first and foremost, with the inevitable Tory attempt to brand him as ‘Red Ed’. Ed Balls, even Yvette Cooper, his wife, would have been grist to that particular mill given Balls’ opposition to Alistair Darling’s slower deficit reduction plan, never mind the Chancellor’s (I happen to think Balls is right, but there you go). Johnson, a ‘Blairite’ in the political journalist’s lexicon, confronts the charge head-on and neutralizes it.

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