Tag: Steve Topple

“Time to trash the Tories” by *not* voting: Steve Topple intends to spoil his ballot paper at the General Election

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By Daniel Margrain

It came as a complete bolt out of the blue for this writer to learn that one of the most politically astute, articulate, insightful and widely respected journalists in a generation is to abstain from voting at the forthcoming General Election.

Steve Topple, who in many ways I saw as mentor, and who has often promoted my work on twitter where many others ignored it, yesterday (May 1, 2017) came out publicly on social media to effectively state that he sees no political value in voting at elections.

According to Topple, placing a cross next to the name of a candidate at elections is akin to endorsing a corrupt capitalist system.

In response to criticisms from readers, Topple announced the following on Facebook (May 1, 2017):

“Oh dear.

So, seemingly because I’m going to spoil my ballot at the election, I must have come to this decision from a position of privilege.

NOPE. I’ve spent years at the hands of the DWP, living off crisis loans, money people have dropped in the street, hand-outs and generally eating thin air.

I now live on a council estate with my GF and her ten-year-old son, the former who has just had all her benefits stopped. So we’re living off my Canary wage.

SO DON’T COME ONTO MY TL TELLING ME THAT BY SPOILING MY BALLOT I DON’T CARE ABOUT ALL THE BAD SHIT THAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE TORIES GET IN AGAIN.

I’ve spent 12 years living at the hands of Labour and Tory governments. And the DWP. So probably know far better than half the people commenting just how FUCKING BAD things can be.

So you can take your assumptions about ‘virtue signaling’ journalists and shove them up your prolier-than-thou arses. Or come to my estate, knock my door and try telling it to my face.”

To a certain extent, I understand and sympathize with Topple’s predicament, particularly as I learned through recent exchanges on twitter (May 3, 2017), that Steve lives in a safe Tory constituency. Just for the record, I’ve not spent twelve years living in the hands of successive Labour and Tory governments like Topple has, but thirty-eight years having first voted in 1979. So if anyone can claim to feel embittered and disillusioned, it’s people of my age who have suffered for far longer.

I, like Topple, have abstained at elections in the past in situations where no meaningful choices have been offered to the electorate. I understand the arguments that override his rejection of a capitalist system that benefits the elite ruling class minority at the expense of the rest of us.

Under normal circumstances, his arguments could be seen as a legitimate response to the actions of corrupt Labour party leaders who have put the interests of the establishment above the electorate. But these are not normal circumstances and Corbyn is far from being the usual Labour leader.

Those who have argued that the reason Topple intends to spoil his ballot paper on the basis that he is doing so from a position of privilege, are barking up the wrong tree. Anybody who has followed Steve’s journalistic career, will know that his various articles focusing on political and current affairs issues that rally against injustice and inequality are sincere and heartfelt.

This makes it all the more perplexing why Topple hadn’t decided to make an exception by refraining from spoiling his paper this time around given circumstances in which a Labour government under Corbyn would almost certainly usher in a much needed transformative kind of politics.

Apart from what I regard as Steve’s lack of wisdom in relation to his decision to spoil his ballot paper, I also reject his justification that underpins this decision. Topple’s apparent insistence that the inherent structural failings of capitalism cannot be reconciled with a democratic polity to help rein-in the systems worst excesses is, in my view, indicative of a narrow defeatist outlook.

There is no reason to believe that engaging in the political process and putting the case for a revolutionary transformation of society cannot go hand in hand. It might not be the kind of revolution Steve imagines, but that is cold comfort to those who have lost loved ones as a direct consequence of Tory austerity.

The notion that increased hardship and suffering is a necessary prerequisite to the onset of revolution, which is what Topple seems to be implying is, I would argue, ultimately selfish and, should in my view, be rejected. Too many people who are suffering untold pain under the Tories, cannot afford to wait for people like Steve Topple to be awoken from their slumber at the point at which the revolution begins.

People are suffering under the Tories in ways not witnessed since the Victorian era and they are desperately hoping for some light in what is a very long tunnel. Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades that provides them with some much needed optimism for the future.

What we are currently seeing unfold, is potentially one of the greatest periods in British political history. An honourable and decent man who has fought off two coups against him, has too many decent folk riding on his success at the election for him to be dismissed out of hand by people who should know better.

In the hope that Steve might reconsider his decision to spoil his ballot paper, Corbyn supporter, Felicity A Wright, wrote on Facebook (May 1, 2017):

“Listen, Steve, I get it. I’m a crip and on benefit and I felt so let down by Labour that I spoiled my ballot last time by writing “None” across it. My husband, who is my full-time carer, spoiled his with more panache by writing “Clement Attlee” across it. And that’s the thing: I believe Jeremy Corbyn IS the new Clement Attlee. Have you seen his record? He’s been on the side of the poor, the weak, the voiceless from the beginning. He has been arrested for protesting against Apartheid & for refusing to pay the Poll Tax. I believe he is a genuinely good man and that, unlike the Kinnock/Blair side of the Labour Party, he cares about making a fairer society. So I’m voting Labour & so is my husband, in the hope that Jeremy really is what he seems to be. Please do the same! The Canary is one of the things which has given me this hope and is the only news outlet I actually subscribe to. Keep the faith. xxx”

Felicity is right.  There are literally millions of voters out there who see in Corbyn somebody who is not just another self-serving careerist politician, but a man who is sincere and whose is motivated by a need to make society better for the many as opposed to the few.

Having read Topple’s often brilliant polemical articles, it would seem highly improbable that he is oblivious to the differences between New Labourism exemplified by Blair and the old Labour of Corbyn. Moreover, given the political landscape since Thatcher, the notion he intends to abstain from voting, particularly as his anti-Tory polemics are so incisive, means that I’m at a loss to rationalize his thought process.

The truth is, as ill-judged as I think Topple’s decision to spoil his ballot paper is, it’s not my main point of contention. What I find particularly strange are the contents of a recent tweet of his in which the slogan “Time to trash the Tories” is invoked. It’s bizarre that “trashing the Tories” is seen by Steve as being concomitant to spoiling ones ballot paper.

Topple is not just any old bloke, but a highly influential and respected journalist who many people look up to for inspiration and guidance. In short, in the age of social media where more people than ever rely on alternative sources of information to counter the fake news of the mass media, opinions of the calibre of investigative journalists like Steve Topple matter.

Despite it’s supposed non-corporate credentials, the on-line publication Topple often writes pieces for, the Canary, is still heavily dependent on advertising revenue streams for its existence. As such, the news outlet is interwoven into the very fabric of a system Steve purports to hate.

Further, it is reasonable from the perspective of his many readers, to deduce that his effective absolving of responsibility of the election outcome, is undermined by the content of his polemical articles in which he consistently prosthelytizes against the Tories. Unfortunately, because of the contrarian position he has taken, Topple’s visceral attacks on the Tories from here on in, will lack credibility.

Yesterday (May 1, 2017) was a very sad day for me personally having learned that a writer I have long admired and respected made the incredulous decision to spoil his ballot paper – a decision that can only benefit the Tories.

I sincerely hope Steve changes his mind in the days ahead.

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Why Corbyn Will Win the Next Election

By Daniel Margrain


Jeremy Corbyn at the thousands-strong Leeds rally on Saturday

Jeremy Corbyn at a thousands-strong Leeds rally (Pic: Neil Terry)

During the Labour leadership nomination process last year – much to the consternation of Harriet Harman – forty-eight opposition MPs who genuinely desire an alternative to the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, did the honourable thing by voting against the governments welfare reform legislation. One of the other numerous prominent Labour MPs who refused to vote against the Tories was Owen Smith. Needless to say, Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t one of them.

As I alluded to at the time, the kind of concession to the Tories made by Harman and Smith was predicated on the belief that Labour has to move to the right in order to be electable.

Given the Liberal Democrat’s close ideological proximity to the Tories during their power sharing term, and their subsequent virtual demise following the last election, the strategic move by Harman and the party hierarchy was clearly a calculable risk.

Harman’s assumption appeared to have been that there was no longer any more political and electoral traction to be gained by appealing to a diminishing band of traditional left wing voters. However, subsequent events proved that she was wrong and that these, as well as other voters, many of whom are young had, prior to Corbyn, been largely abandoned by the political class.

If it is to be accepted that the class structure of British society remains largely intact and that the real life experiences of the vast majority in the country were made worse under the austerity-driven policies of the Tories, then rationally the notion would be that the voices of those adversely affected by these policies would eventually at some point make themselves heard.

And so it came to pass. The rise of Corbyn gave voice to the voiceless and hope that things could change for the better by transforming apathy into a mobilizing political force. Corbyn went on to oversee a growth in the party’s membership to well over half a million – making it the biggest left-of-centre party in Europe, while Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour ideologues are fast becoming a footnote in history.

Outside the relatively small band of Labour party dissenters, the opposition to welfare cuts and austerity in England have come from the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. Tony Blair’s election victory in 1997 predicated on a left-wing mandate, the dominance of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, all put the lie to many of the claims in the corporate media that you have to be right wing to win elections. The official announcement this morning (September 24) that Jeremy Corbyn had convincingly beaten his right-wing rival, Owen Smith with a second mandate of 61.8 per cent is likely to bring this myth into even more of a sharper focus.

The reality is the people of England are inherently no more right wing than the people of Scotland. But the mainstream media commentators who marginalize, ridicule and smear those with left wing views, most certainly are. So it’s not a question of their being no appetite for left-wing views among the public, rather, the issue is one in which an inherently right-wing mainstream media attempt to manufacture the public’s consent through a process of propaganda and censorship by omission. As self-publicist, John McTernan illustrated on last Wednesday’s (September 21) Channel 4 News, rather than bringing political power to account, the media’s role is that of its gatekeeper.

As has been well documented, the orchestrated and systematic media vilification of Corbyn has been virtually incessant since the moment he was elected as leader. Moreover, the decision to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was planned by a core group in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) almost as soon as he won his landslide victory in September last year.

Corbyn’s second decisive victory within a year is unlikely to deter his detractors in their quest to continue to smear and undermine his leadership at every opportunity. Those who pre-planned and coordinated the coup and the subsequent war of attrition against him were so confident in succeeding that they briefed the Daily Telegraph about their plot to overthrow the Labour leader.

As journalist Steve Topple has shown, the attempt to depose Corbyn continues to be orchestrated behind the scenes by among others, public relations company Portland Communications whose Strategic Counsel includes former Blair spin-doctor, Alistair Campbell. The war of attrition also involves the McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters, a tradition of disdain for the grass roots membership which has a long history within the hierarchy of the party.

As Corbyn’s vindication by the memberships overwhelming support of him shows, the ‘race to the bottom’ strategy of his opponents serves nobody other than the narrow careerist motivations of an out of touch elite who have their snouts embedded in the trough and don’t want to give up their privileges without a fight. And that, as far the likes of Harman, Smith and the rest of the New Labour establishment are concerned, is clearly the crux of the matter.

A sincere and incorruptible politician like Corbyn represents a potential threat to these privileges and the gravy train that sustains them. This explains why the New Labour bubble would prefer a Tory government over a Corbyn government and thus are happy to continue with the ‘divided party at war with one another’ meme. This was what the challenge to Corbyn’s authority within the right-wing of the party is really all about. It’s not that Corbyn hasn’t a realistic chance of winning the next General Election, rather, it’s more a case that the establishment will do everything in their power to ensure that he doesn’t.

In that sense, the political battle lines have been drawn, not between the Tories, MSM and the opposition, but between the Tories, MSM, opposition and the rest of us. In the weeks and months prior to the election of Corbyn, I hadn’t remembered a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and ordinary people that Corbyn’s popularity represents had been greater. The former argue that he is unelectable while the latter put the lie to that myth.

The notion that Corbyn is unelectable is a joke. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority. It’s true that Corbyn is currently well behind in the polls and it’s going to be tough – in my view, impossible – to unite the right-wing of the party that appears unwilling to work alongside him.

But it must be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days. Also Corbyn’s record at elections is exemplary. London and Bristol now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have uniformly increased. Moreover, as George Galloway pointed out, last Thursday Labour won three local government by-elections – two off the Tories and one off the SNP. In May’s local elections, the party overtook the Tories in the share of the vote, coming from seven points behind at the last election.

Meanwhile, the party which haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010 under the ‘triangulated’ leadership of a man who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian irony, that Corbyn is a disaster for the party. This can only be beneficial for the current Labour leader. Finally, Corbyn’s Tory counterpart, Theresa May’s unpopular campaign focusing on grammar schools and the uncertain situation around Brexit is also likely to play into Corbyn’s hands.

So the implication the public don’t necessarily favour Corbyn’s politics is wrong. On the contrary, his position on issues like the NHS and the re-nationalization of the railways are universally popular. Rather it’s more the case that the establishment know Corbyn is incorruptible and therefore feel they are unable to win him over on their terms. Consequently, they realize that the longer Corbyn remains at the helm the more likely it will be that those sympathetic to him and his policies will be elected into positions of power.

It’s unlikely that the Tories will call a snap election given that the proposed boundary changes will benefit them electorally at a later date. This means that Corbyn will potentially have time to initiate the changes required in order to unite the party or, more likely, rid it of the plotters before the likely election in 2020. Four years is a lifetime in political terms and I’m convinced that if Corbyn and those close to him can see off the plotters, he can win.