|The False Dots live at The Midland Hotel|
Lets start with tonight. There is a monumental event happening in London that has been widely anticipated for ages. Yep, The False Dots (my band in case you didn't know) are playing at the Midland Hotel in Hendon, by Hendon rail station. The gig starts at 8pm. There are two other bands on with us, admission is free and we'd love you to join us. The gig is one in a series we are organising to promote the Save London Music campaign, which is raising awareness of issues facing music venues and creative industries in London. We will be onstage at 9.15pm.
Anyway, getting the really important news out of the way, we've seen the first two major appearances of the new Labour leadership team. First up we had Jeremy Corbyn on PMQ's. I made a point of watching the whole thing live. The press gallery was packed with hacks working for news organisations working for foreign billionaires, sharpening their pencils for the expected massacre of Corbyn by Cameron, who has had ten years practice at this game. How disappointed they were. Rather than resembling a rabid dog on heat, Corbyn simply appeared, attired like everyones favourite genial Geography teacher, and gave the Commons a lesson in being reasonable. Whilst Camerons fans have been bragging that "it was easy", for the country at large it was quite nice for once to see someone mentioning us in a sensible way in the Commons. Given that Corbyns first task is to persuade the millions who have only ever heard of him as mad lefty nutter in the right wing press, it was a case of job done. There have been snide criticisms that it was "all too civilised" and Cameron got an easy ride. I suspect anyone saying that has rather missed the point. Corbyns leadership is clearly not going to be about loudmouthed grandstanding. I suspect that we will all be better for that.
Then last night we had John McDonnell, the new Shadow Chancellor, on BBC Question Time. If Corbyn was relatively unknown nationally, then McDonnell was the invisible man. I must confess however that I do know John McDonnell. He was the MP who screened the film I produced "A Tale of Two Barnets" at the House of Commons. At the time he was a backbencher. I was immediately struck by the fact that John got it. After the screening John spoke to many of the people who appeared in the film at length. We discussed the situation in Barnet and John was truly appalled at just how out of touch the Council appeared to be. A council that had upset everyone from the disabled, to local traders and residents who had CPZ parking permits, all simply for extreme ideological gain, clearly is a dysfunctional council. At the time of the screening, I hadn't quite realised that a big part of the problem in Barnet was the Blairite Labour opposition, who weren't interested in opposing the Council. There has been lots of talk that Labour can't win with a Corbyn/McDonnell style program. My experience in Barnet has taught me that this is wrong. In 2012, Tory Brian Coleman was booted out of the GLA and replaced by Andrew Dismore, because the community came together against someone who was clearly out of touch. People who had never voted Labour before (or since) realised that there was an opportunity to make a difference. If Corbyn and McDonnell can capture the public imagination and persuade the 17 million who have given up on voting to get involved, a few pundits may be proven very wrong. Anyway, how would John do on QT? I suspect that John hasn't had much media training or even exposure to the media. I was a bit fearful that John, who I know cares passionately about the causes he supports, may get a rough ride. The panel was potentially a minefield. There was a twit from the Telegraph called Tim (TTT), Liz Truss, a Tory minister for Food and Rural affairs (do the landed gentry really need a minister to organise their nocturnal activities?), Alex Salmond from the SNP and Sandi Toksvig. TTT spent the whole evening looking at McDonnell as if someone had left a turd on the table. He spoke down to McDonnell and tried to cut across him every time he opened his mouth. Sadly for TTT, he simply made himself look like a posh, bad mannered twit. Liz Truss, who is a bit more media savvy also rather inexplicably unravelled. It seemed that John McDonnell was going to be skewered for comments he made in 2003 about the IRA. John simply admitted he was wrong and apologised, explaining he had made a bad misjudgement in his efforts to bring the IRA to the negotaiting table and putting guns away. Basically Truss and TTT had the rug pulled from under them. Alex Salmond inexplicably also adopted the rabbit in headlights stance. He didn't know whether to attack McDonnell or agree with him. Salmond is a wily bruiser and he knows that McDonnell and Corbyn are the biggest threat to his long term project of destroying Labour in Scotland. The SNP won by labelling Labour in Scotland as red Tories. McDonnell and Corbyn clearly aren't so his Ace has been trumped. Sandi Toksvig was, as ever, simply a great advert for the human race. John McDonnell seemed amazingly assurred. I suspect that all manner of Tory strategists are tearing up their plans and scratching their heads. I get the feeling that they simply expected Corbyn and McDonnell to implode this week. It is clear that won't happen. The public reaction to Corbyn and McDonnell is telling a very different story to the one the Tories seemed to assume would unfold. Of course it is early days
Mind you the press hasn't given up on the campaign of war and smears. The Telegraph yesterday revealed that Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn had an affair in the 1970's (when they were both single). Even more shocking, Corbyn took Abbott on holiday on the back of his motorbike! I have no idea what the Telegraph expects its elderly readers to think, but it strikes me that it makes Corbyn sound rather Rock and Roll, hurtling around Germany with a leather clad Abbott on the back. In my experience, if you want to portray someone as a loony, showing that they knew how to have a laugh and take risks in their youth is not the way. I wonder if The Mail would have been so interested if Abbott was white. Is there is a whiff of racism in this story and the way the Mail is covering it?
Whilst the right wing press are trying to kid us that we face Armageddon in five years if Labour win, there is actually a far more worrying threat. In the States, Donald Trump is leading the race to become President. To me, the concept of Trump in the White House is perhaps the scariest thought imaginable. There was a live debate between Republican Presidential candidates. Trump showed just how repulsive he is. He insulted Jeb Bush by saying he was soft on immigrants because he was married to a Mexican. I'm not exactly a fan of the Jeb Bush, but that was out of order. Trump refused to apologise for this slight. He also refused to apologise for comments about the looks of fellow candidate Carly Fiorina about her looks.
It makes me wonder just what sort of a person we want as a Leader these days. Do we want loudmouths like Trump? Do we want people who have had the airbrushed blandness of a Cameron or a Blair? Do we want someone who has principles and rough edges like Corbyn? It seems that if you are going to take the job, you need to expect your affairs from 40 years ago to be raked over, you need to expect every sentence you've ever uttered to potentially be used against you, regardless of context and audience. You have to expect every appointment you make to be examined under a microscope to see if there is a hidden agenda. You can expect your wife, girlfriend, significant other, childred, mother, granny (delete as appropriate) to find out all manner of detail about you that is likely to cause grief and upset. Maybe The Sun is right. Maybe Jeremy Corbyn is a Loony, but not for the reasons they have stated. I think anyone who is prepared to put up with that crap is plain bonkers. I feel the same about David Cameron. His wife Samantha volunteers with the same charity as I do. When this was revealed, Cameron got all manner of negative comments. Why on earth would someone want to expose their loved ones to this. Then there is the security risk. I have no doubt that Corbyn has suddenly found himself on all manner of hit list from various terror organisations. For them he is just a scalp. One assumes that Scotland Yard will do the job, but lets not pretend that there is no risk. My view is that whether its Cameron or Corbyn, I want to judge the man by how well he did his job, not who he had on the back of his motorbike in 1973.
The bottom line with all of this is that I ultimately believe that the British are a very fair minded people. If they form the view that Corbyn is a decent chap who is trying to do a good job and getting a lot of unfair stick, they will give him a chance. No one expected John Major to win in 1992. The press ridiculed him for his soapbox politics and the fact he was dull. He confounded the critics because people thought he was authentic. I am of the opinion that Ed Miliband didn't loose because he was left wing, he lost because people didn't trust him. They thought he was a bit dodgy, not least for shafting his far more popular and capable brother. If the British public decide Corbyn is honest, decent and down to earth, then David Cameron could have real problems.