Author: Nick Cohen

Labour must understand that Unite is its enemy

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22:  Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of the union Unite, delivers a speech to delegates on day two of the Labour Party Conference on September 22, 2014 in Manchester, England. The four-day annual Labour Party Conference takes place in Manchester and is expected to attract thousands of delegates with keynote speeches from influential politicians and over 500 fringe events.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

From the Spectator 18 May, 2015

Imagine you are a Labour MP or a trade union official surveying Britain this week. The following points will strike you:


Labour has just lost an election it could have won, in part because Unite helped impose a useless leader on it in Ed Miliband and an equally incoherent programme, which failed to convince millions of voters to rid themselves of a mediocre Tory government.

Poverty and inequality are everywhere growing in part because of the shocking failure of the trade union movement to come to the aid of the new working class. In the care, hospitality and private security industries and in the shopping, leisure and call centres that dot modern Britain trade unionism is barely a folk memory. Only 14 per cent of private sector workers are trade union members – and they are dying off. The government’s trade union bulletin reports that ‘over the eighteen years to 2013, the proportion of employees who belonged to a trade union has fallen in all age groups except those aged over 65’.

The Conservatives have thanked Ed Miliband for giving them the opportunity to govern alone for the first time since 1997 by doing what they do best: clamping down on workers’ rights and shrivelling the welfare state.

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The Tory victory and the class cleansing of London

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This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated

‘Let me tell you about the very rich,’ said F. Scott Fitzgerald. ‘They are different from you and me.’ Indeed they are. They can afford to live in London.


Just how different became clear when The Spear’s 500 — ‘the essential guide to the top private client advisers’ — landed at the office.  Read the rest of this entry »

The left won’t win until it learns to love the English – ghastly though we are

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Portrait of a man in vintage fashion at The Classic Car Boot Sale, South Bank, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe
Portrait of a man in vintage fashion at The Classic Car Boot Sale, South Bank, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe

From the Observer 9 May 2015

Contrary to what the traffic police tell you, careful driving does not always save lives. Until the moment he careered into the electorate, Ed Miliband was a safe pair of hands. He kept Labour quiet, and hid its divisions. The splits between left and right, which came close to destroying the party when it went into opposition in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s, did not happen under his leadership. Everything seemed calm. But as his career ends – and what, he may think as he looks back, was the point of all that? – the quiet that Miliband brought looks like the quiet of the grave.

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Scottish nationalists and Tory cynics will tear Britain apart

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From the Observer 2 May 2015

On 16 February 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill confided a plan to destroy his Liberal opponents to the Conservative lawyer Gerald FitzGibbon. It was a risk, he implied. But if William Gladstone’s Liberal administration proposed home rule for Ireland, “the Orange card would be the one to play. Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two”.

Before tobacco and alcohol killed him – possibly with the help of tertiary syphilis (historians differ on whether he added the pox to his wages of sin) – Churchill was one of the most formidable and unscrupulous Conservative politicians of his age. Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie Hebdo and the literary indulgence of murder

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From the Spectator 29 April 2015

I suppose it is asking too much of a writer called Francine Prose that she write prose anyone would want to read. But on the principle you can only track down terrible ideas by wading through terrible writing you have to endure Prose’s prose.

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How ‘anti-racists’ built a dictatorship in London’s East End

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Bow School, old and new, London, - Jul 2014

From the Observer 25 April 2015

In London’s East End, where so many battles against real fascism were fought in the 20th century, “anti-racism” has become little more than a swindle. Far from being just or noble, it was a pretext to bribe journalists, pay off accomplices and frighten poor immigrants into supporting a crooked demagogue, who despised his “own” people so much he would not even grant them the right to participate in an honest election.

The formal reasons judge Richard Mawrey gave for disqualifying Lutfur Rahman from office last week are bad enough. The now ex-mayor of Tower Hamlets used fake “ghost” voters to win elections and public funds to buy votes. He offered grants to groups “that hadn’t even applied for them”. He took money that was meant to be going to the Alzheimer’s Society and poor wards that needed all the help they could get. He ran a “ruthless and dishonest” campaign to convince the electorate that John Biggs, his Labour rival for mayor, was a racist. When the election court asked Rahman if he believed for a moment that Biggs was an actual racist, he dodged the question. No matter. The truth of the charge didn’t worry him. His only concern was getting the lie out, and seeing it taken up by the local Bengali TV stations, five of which received public money from the mayor.

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Free speech: Britain’s hypocritical universities are naked before their enemies

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uniFrom the Spectator website, 21 April 2015

I spoke at a Guardian debate on free speech before an audience of students at King’s College London last night. I’ve argued with racists and Putinists in my time and – to put it as mildly as I can – these little bastions of academia were up there with them in their contempt for basic freedoms.

Contempt is perhaps not quite the right word. Most simply did not understand what freedom was, and could not grasp the need for universal human rights. They could not see themselves as others saw them, or understand that by giving up on basic principles, because they are difficult to live with, they had left themselves naked before their enemies.

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