Friday, August 28, 2015

Good news and bad news for Labour - the public aren't interested

There's good news and bad news from the Labour leadership election. Personally, I think it's 99% bad news. The sliver of light through the door however is that the public don't care and they aren't watching. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn can kid themselves that there is mania for the Jez We Can movement, but it is a tiny minority pursuit. 
Trust me, I have been watching the BBC News "Most Popular" stories all summer. Not the BBC News editorial priorities, not what Newsnight or Channel 4 News thinks should top the running order that night, but what the actual public are reading and watching on the UK's most popular source of trusted news.

It isn't Labour.

It certainly isn't Jeremy Corbyn.

It isn't dumbed down either, it's a mixture of the things that interest people - war, death, sport, immigration and how to make your life a little bit better. 

I say that's good news, because all the utter crapness of the Labour Party bickering and being hideously out of touch is happening out of plain sight. 

It isn't a surprise to me. To people inside politics it is hugely interesting and intruiging. To most of the population it just isn't. The window of opportunity opens very briefly and closes shut again. 

I had a call the other day from a guy I know who runs one of the most successful businesses in the North of England. This is a man who needs to be in tune with the public mood. We don't really talk politics, to be honest, but he was polite enough to ask me how I was about "it all". I could tell he couldn't even name a single candidate. It's not important or interesting or relevant. It will be at election time, but it simply isn't now.

There will be a rocky road ahead. Labour may well turn into Podemos, the leftish party in Spain that appeared from nowhere. We may well be transformed by a new army of activists that quickly redefines who we are. 

Either way, when that window opens again we have to be relevant. Thankfully at our moment of utter irrelevance, no-one is watching. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Jam - About The Young Idea exhibition

I went to The Jam exhibition in London over the summer, a real indulgence of nostalgia on a sticky hot day. It reinforced to me the power of Paul Weller's cultural influence on my teenage upbringing, the vast range of musical and political nuggets he helped me absorb during those incredible formative years.
I'll get my moan out the way first. The sound from each individual room blasted out so loud you were never far away from competing tinny blasts of Town Called Malice or Funeral Pyre. But then comfort zones were never part of the Jam experience. Weller always challenged your ideas and safe preconceptions. He was always keen to unsettle your assumptions - including his dismissal of punk posturing by the throwaway line that they would be voting Conservative in 1979. In so many ways the exhibition  took you back to Jam gigs where feeling safe and comfortable was never part of the deal. They were a boiling, heaving mass of adolescent fury and emotions. Some solid bonds, but the flames grew higher too.

I took two quite staggering points away with me that I never knew before. Paul Weller's school report where his lowest mark was in music. The second was the sheer force of personality of John Weller, his father. Sure, I remember him introducing the band, but a short film and the clippings really highlighted his powerful role in pushing the band and his son.

Just like I mentioned when I reported from a From The Jam gig in Preston a few years ago, I was as fascinated by the audience of fellow Jammers. I was there in a dark suit and clicky brogues, as described by Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail earlier in the day, but there were well turned out geezers in Sta Press and Ben Shermans, Fred Perry and Levis and a few in suede desert boots. Then there was Peter York milling about, looking as dapper as he always does.

But The Jam was so much more than just a great band and a look, I loved how Weller opened my eyes to ideas too. So I was pleased that due prominence was given to Orwell books and Shelley's poetry as there was to the musical influences and the clothes.

It's at Somerset House in London and has been extended until the end of September. I'm sorry it's taken me a month to write this up, but I've been dreaming of a quiet life, the one you'll never know.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reviews of 40 by 40 and where to buy it

I've been moderately pleased with the sales for 40 by 40 - but the response from those who've read it has been even better than I could ever have imagined.

I'd love to push you all towards specialist local bookshops like Marple Bookshop, Simply Books in Bramhall and the local authors section of Waterstones on Deansgate. There's a great shop opened in the Northern Quarter, opposite my office, called Chapter One. It's just what the area needs.

If you can't stomach Amazon, and I can understand why, then I've set up a PayPal payment page where another imperial internet behemoth will only take a modest fee and I can send it directly to you. Just click on this button and see what happens.

Here are a selection of reviews anyway, there are others on the Amazon website.

Kevin Sampson, author, Awaydays: "Haha, brilliant! As amoral antiheroes go, Cashmore knocks Gordon Gekko, John Self and Steven Stelfox into a tin hat. What a lovable twat!"

Martin Vander Weyer, business editor of the Spectator: "You are the Martin Amis of this generation. Really enjoying it, but had to Google 'rusty sheriff's badge'."

William Lees-Jones, brewery owner: "Read it on a sun lounger by a pool in Mallorca, the irony of which amuses me - great read and happy not to feature in it."

AK Nawaz, crime writer: "First novel I've read tackling 2008 credit crunch is cracking read - fantastic first book."

Andy Tupholme, private equity investor: "Snippets of genius had me chuckling."

Kristian Dando, business journalist: "I think i'm going to enjoy this."

Steven Lindsay, corporate financier: "The shocking, outrageous, abusive excesses would be unbelievable if they weren't so realistic."

Rachel Thompson, digital wiz: "Really enjoyed the book... Did feel a bit sorry for Roger but then hated him in equal measures!"

Dave Smith, corporate funder: "Like a fly on the wall documentary."

Michael Fort, entrepreneur: "It was the talk of the Cote D'Azur".

Greg Broadhurst: "Laughed a lot, loved it."

Aidan O'Rourke, photographer: "Phew, if you want loveable good-hearted characters; a gentle storyline don't read this book!"

Gaynor Black: "Loved it."

Phil Morgan. "Interesting."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why a rush to English identity is a mistake @ProgressOnline

Here's a piece I've written on our very Fluid English identity. It was sparked by a piece by Eddie Bone from the Campaign for an English Parliament, who I disagree with.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Labour: scrutinise Corbynomics, mellow Kendall, substance please from the other two

Our leadership voting packs will drop on our doormats soon - though knowing the Labour Party it will probably be an email.

The hustings for leadership are over and the decision time is nigh. Here are three things I'd like to happen regarding the candidates.

Liz Kendall has got the pitch all wrong, the campaign needs to get warmer. It needs to break out of policy detail, it needs to sparkle with excitement. She was the stand out star for me at conference last year, my first for six years. She had ideas, clarity and a self confidence about her that made me sit up and take notice. At a supporter's Q&A in Manchester I was impressed again at how personable and bright she was. But, and there was always going to be a but, this awful, awful leadership campaign has seen her struggling to articulate that brighter view of social democratic politics I know she has. Her eagerness to critique the last leadership (correct in her analysis, by the way) for failing to appeal to Tory voters has been shouted down. The spats at the side about Continuity Miliband and the Blairite Taliban and the vile "virus" comment have just further positioned her as a candidate who will divide.  

Some of this isn't her fault, but there is a tonal problem. Kevin Meaghar nails this in a Labour Uncut piece here. I fear it may be too late.

Secondly, Andy Burnham is threatening us with a vision this week. I'd desperately like to see this from him and Yvette Cooper. He's promising a bold challenging manifesto. It takes me back to a Progress conference in Manchester last year where casually dressed Andy - my Dad's favourite Labour politician - said our challenge to get back into government was to offer the British people a competing vision for the future that rejected the Conservative one. I leaned forward in anticipation, desperate to discover the intellectual heft behind this most likeable bloke and hoping it was a little more substantial than his 2010 leadership pitch for "aspirational socialism". None came. There wasn't one. It was just that we had to come up with one. He was right, but he is promising now what didn't come then. 

Finally, give Jeremy Corbyn and his policy programme some proper scrutiny. It's a great shame that Corbyn's critics drag up his shouty interactions on Channel 4 News, his cosy relationships with dictators and brutes like Hizbollah, Hugo Chavez and George Galloway. It's a greater shame that the trump card most frequently played is that he would be an electoral disaster.

The shame here is this is the kind of scrutiny for a candidate that isn't taken seriously.

I think we're past that now and it's time to sit down, seriously and open up what he actually stands for. 

It took a while for me to re-commit to Labour after a long abscence. I was particularly concerned that a return to opposition offered a comfort zone of naysaying, righteous anger and an opt out from a period of tremendous challenge and change. The world is a very complex place requiring detailed and complicated solutions to long term deep seated social change. You can confront that, dive in and seek to be driven by the values of making this complex world work for everyone. Or you can just sit back and say it's all crap and someone else's fault.

There is no question that globalisation doesn't work for many, many people. Neither should we as members of a party constututionally committed to extending power to the many not the few accept the Conservative narrative on a long term economic plan that isn't delivering.  

But I was genuinely taken aback when I read Jeremy Corbyn's Economic Plan. It is a frightening set of slogans for the bits of Tory economy we don't like, with no attempt to craft a solution based upon the elements of society we do. That, at least, would have been an impressive start.

It's a curious mish mash of higher taxes and flippant buzz words about austerity. It amounts to little more than the usual platitudes about taxing business more and investing in infrastructure, oh, and nationalising the railways. A scrawl on the back of a beermat reckons that should be enough. 

Everything else? Self employment is dismissed as the flip side of zero hours contracts. Entrepreneurs are part of a Tory myth. Social enterprises, co-operatives, contracting? Nothing. 

Small and medium sized businesses, the role of universities in developing intellectual property as part of a national treasury of ideas and innovation? Nothing here either. There's a cursory nod in the direction of "suppy chains" without even a thought to what they consist of and who makes them up.

If this is the economic plan for a serious contender to lead a party of government then we are truly stuffed. 

The members of the public I met on the street stall yesterday showed the full range of challenges for Labour. Foremost amongst them was a need for a clear leadership. 

My conclusion at the end of all of this, and what will be the last word on it all is this: I really wish Caroline Flint had stood for leader. And sometime soon, she may have to heed the call.