The British Obama


When the Labour Party lost the May 2010 election, I did not exactly share their sadness. This was not because I saw the incoming government as representing fundamental change; rather, this was because the Labour government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had already proven so fantastically destructive that it was difficult to imagine anything topping five more years of Labour inferno.

The electoral repulsion of Gordon Brown triggered a leadership contest within this wretched party, an event about which Derek Turner has already written very amusingly for Taki’s Magazine. Absent evidence of complete disarray, crisis, depression, despair, tiffs, quarrels, clashes, faction, division, schism, disunity, schizophrenia, paranoia, catatonia, paralysis, and radical soul-searching, a Labour leadership election is a potent soporific. Who wants to listen to a freak show of fossilized Marxists pontificating about fairness and equality? Life is too short.

But when the electorate holds back from crushing them into oblivion, when the government ends up being a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, the prospect of a Labour comeback cannot be dismissed: their next leader might well end up being our future Prime Minister.

What, then, is Labour offering its supporters? At one end of the spectrum stands the current favourite, David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary. He is followed by a succession of yawns. At the other end is the outsider candidate, Diane Abbott, the MP for the London borough of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

David Miliband is the son of Ralph Miliband. The elder Miliband, born in Belgium, immigrated to Britain in 1940 to escape the Nazis, and went on to become, during the 1960s and 1970s, “one of Britain’s most celebrated intellectual disciples of Karl Marx.” He was an iconic figure of the Labour Left, “who famously frowned on the concept of ‘private property,’” and “whose writings influenced two generations of Socialist leaders.” Based in the highly fashionable London district of Primrose Hill, “once a popular haunt with radical intellectuals,” which “hosted a strong community of Jewish émigrés,” David is the classic Champagne socialist, a species that sees no contradiction between applying a Robin Hood ethos with other people’s money and indulging a personal lifestyle of Oriental opulence: the 22 April 2007 article in the Daily Mail, "How David Miliband Avoided Inheritance Tax on Marxist Father’s £1.5million House," provides an educational overview of the Milibands’ attitude to property and taxes. (Hint: they are not entirely harmonious with what they prescribe for you and me.)

Also (arguably) educational were claims made in the Russian newspaper Tvoi Den in 2007, when David Miliband, then Foreign Secretary, angered Putin’s government through his handling of the Alexander Litvinenko affair.

The newspaper said that in the Twenties the Foreign Secretary's grandfather, Samuel, then Shimon, Miliband, a native of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, had fought under the command of Trotsky ‘eliminating’ white Russians opposed to Communism.

Miliband’s tenure as Foreign Secretary was indeed stellar. Among the various examples of his genius as Britain's top diplomat, we must include his relationship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who came to afford Miliband the full benefit of his industrial-strength candor: it was reported by the British press on one occasion that during a telephone conversation between the two men, Lavrov asked Miliband, “Who the fuck are you to lecture me?” Miliband experienced a lengthy tirade, it seems, complete with a generous sprinking of four-letter words, in response to comments about Russia’s operations in Georgia. Miliband’s visit to Russia a year later was similarly a resounding diplomatic success.

Thus, we have some indications as to how Britain’s prestige in the world would be elevated under a possible David Miliband premiership later in the decade.

Yet, before we can relax, we need to take a look at the "outsider" contestant: Diane Abbott, the main topic of this article. With bookies assessing her chances of victory at 50/1, an Abbott premiership might seem a distant possibility. But if you dismiss her out of hand you have already forgotten that at one point in the not too distant past there was one Barack Obama, who appeared out of nowhere and transitioned from non-entity to world leader in a matter of months. Not unlike Ms. Abbott, he added colour to an otherwise dreadfully vanilla selection of candidates, and was said to represent fundamental change -– a profound and historical transformation of the political landscape. Ms. Abbott has sustained some criticism in the media, where she has earned accolades such as “the stupidest woman in Britain,” but it is particularly auspicious for the Black MP that her entering the leadership contest afforded immense relief to the lilly-white consciences of her fellow party members: these worthy servants of the people, you see, were very uncomfortable with the (until-then) uniformly fair complexion and monotonous maleness of the contestants. (Hint: this might have resulted in accusations of racism and sexism, and therefore of hypocrisy and Champagne socialism.)

Born of Jamaican parents in 1953, Diane Abbott earned her place in the history books by happening to be Black and female in 1987, when she was elected Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. Since then she has remained popular with her constituents, who have re-elected her with comfortable majorities on every election. Her borough is ethnically diverse (25% Black, 41% non-White in 2006) and one of the most economically deprived in the country, occupying the bottom 5% nationwide. Jo Dillon of the Independent on Sunday has described her as “an icon of the Left”.

Her various campaigns, outlined on her website, cover wide range of issues. A common denominator in not a few of them, however, is a strong identification, combined with an acute preoccupation, with the interests and concerns of her racial brethren: both foreign and British-born Blacks (also known here as “West Indians,” or “Afro-Caribbeans”). Witness, for example, Ms. Abbott’s motive for opposing the changes in Air Passenger Duty introduced by the last Labour government:

Government proposals within the Bill are to charge passengers higher Air Passenger Duty the further the distance they fly out of the UK. But rather than being based on the exact destination the passenger is flying to, the Duty will be based on the capital city of the country the passenger is flying to. This means that flying to the Caribbean will always incur a higher Air Passenger Duty than flying to the USA, even though many places in the USA are further away from London than the Caribbean is.

Or her reasons for being active in the civil liberties campaign:

When I first came to Parliament in 1987 I spoke out against Stop and Search laws which infringed on the civil liberties of young Black men. [...]

I am concerned that anti-terror laws brought in since the September 11th attacks will have the same detrimental effect on relations between the police and Muslim communities.

Or her thoughts on the current approach to the fight against crime:

[G]un crime is not just about tough sentencing. Sadly 80 per cent of gun crime in London is 'black on black,' often involving boys in their teens. As a black woman and the mother of a teenage son this is frightening and wholly unacceptable. A fundamental and persistent problem is the continuing educational underachievement of black boys in particular.

Or her efforts in the battle for education:

I have campaigned for many years on educational issues. In particular I have researched, organised and spoken out on the way in which the education system fails children of African and Afro-Caribbean descent. In the mid-nineties I began organising events in Hackney under the title “Hackney Schools and the Black Child”. [...]

Most recently I held debates in the House of Commons on the disproportionately high rate of school exclusions of Black boys and the lack of diversity in London teaching workforce.

Or her objections to, and actions against, the proposed reforms to legal aid:

They are aimed at value for money, but in reality mean that many smaller firms will be run out of business by factory-like law firms that can afford to take on legal aid cases for less money. Black and ethnic minority-run firms are more likely to be new or small firms, and are more likely to be dependent on legal aid work and therefore are hugely threatened by the reforms. Whilst I welcome the Government's wish to get value for money in legal aid spending, it is clear that among other flaws the legal aid reform will decimate black and minority ethnic solicitors.

Many black and ethnic minority legal firms were set up as a reaction to the institutional racism that prevented ethnic minority lawyers from progressing in their careers. [...]

In May I tabled a number of written questions to the Ministry of Justice to try and gage what could be done to halt the reforms. Following this I held a Westminster Hall debate arguing that the reforms were indirectly discriminatory against black and ethnic minority solicitors, firms and clients.

Or her issues with the national DNA database, created by Labour, and currently holding 4.5 million profiles:

In 2007, Lady Scotland confirmed that three-quarters of the young black male population would soon be on the DNA database...They had generally been arrested because they fit the physical description of a suspect -- the suspect being described as a young black man.

My, if Ms. Abbott is as sturdy a bulwark for the race-specific interests and concerns of her White constituents -- 59% in her borough -- as she is for those of her Afro-Caribbean voters, I would imagine that they feel no need at all for a party like the BNP. (Well, if they do, the Left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research has an ingenious solution: more immigration.)

Ms. Abbott’s preoccupation with negritude is, like Obama’s, fully integrated with far Left credentials. After Labour came to power in 1997, a secret conspiracy was hatched at the highest levels of government to make Britain more multicultural. This led to previous legal immigration averages to quintuple, reaching figures in excess of a quarter of a million people per year. Most of these came from impoverished, Third World countries. And among them were 1 million Muslims, who added themselves to the 1.5 million accumulated over the previous centuries. According to a questionnaire published in The Guardian newspaper, however, Ms. Abbott disagrees strongly with the statement “[i]mmigration levels are too high” (in the United Kingdom). This is perhaps not entirely surprising, as the former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunket (who is White), said in 2003 that there was “no obvious limit” to the number of immigrants that could settle in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, being a citizen of the world, Ms. Abbott’s generosity extends well beyond this green and pleasant land. The last Labour government transformed the British economy, tripling the national debt, septupling government borrowing, and turning the Conservative’s 3.3 percent economic expansion of 1997 into a 5.0 percent economic contraction in 2009. It also managed to give away 60% of the nation’s gold reserves at $275 an ounce. Eventually, with Britain facing a downgrade in its credit rating, harsh spending cuts and tax rises had to be implemented, including an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), which is hoped will bring in an extra £13,000 million a year. Ms. Abbott is pleased, however, because the foreign aid budget, which in the 2008/2009 year spent £5,500 million helping the poor in Africa and South Asia, has been increased to £7,800 million for the 2010/2011 year. In fact, even though half of Britons want less money spent on foreign aid and more spent relieving domestic poverty and improving our under-funded public services, she strongly disagreed with the idea that Britain spends too much money on foreign aid. Ms. Abbott must have failed to notice that the VAT increase -- which disproportionately affects the poor, since it increases prices on nearly all goods and services -- could have been cut to less than half by suspending foreign aid.

And as no far Left politician is complete without punitive tax proposals, Abbott has bold plans of her own. On 16 July the BBC reported

As well as introducing a financial transaction tax and increasing the coalition's bank levy, she said she would create a new “wealth tax."

“I am working on the details of it but it would be a wealth tax directed at assets rather than income,” she said.

In other words, if your house is too large, Abbott will ask you please to move out, sell it, and hand a big chunk of your money to the government. And if you are one of those doomsday eccentrics who hoard gold in case of a currency crisis, she will want you to share your stash with the government. So, if you are intelligent and industrious, if you have prospered in life, Diane Abbott has her eye on you.

Of course, none of this represents an electoral barrier to a committed Marxist supporter: they love these political positions, irrespective of race, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation -- and they know how to guilt ordinary people into supporting them, or at least not criticizing them. 

There remain, however, a few minor problem areas that would need to go into the memory hole before Diane Abbott is ready to storm into 10 Downing Street.

Firstly, there is the matter of her refusing to pay her own evening taxi fares. Ordinary folk traveling to and from work are expected by their employers to pay for their own transport. But Diane Abbott expects the long-suffering taxpayers to fund hers to the tune of £1,100 per year, even though she already claims £142,000 annually in expenses, and is paid the largest allowable income supplement for living in London.

Secondly, there is the matter of her thinking that “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” are unsuitable for working as nurses in the National Health Service, because they “may have never met a Black person before.” Fortunately, however, on this occasion Marc Wadsworth, executive member of the Anti-Racist Alliance, came to the rescue by pointing out that that year’s Miss Finland was Black, of part Nigerian descent. And, all the same, Ms. Abbott still commanded support from fellow Black MPs: Bernie Grant, MP for a neighbouring constituency, said “She is quite right… Scandinavian people don’t know black people -- they probably don’t know how to take their temperature.”

Then there is the matter of her parallel career as a BBC pundit. Instigated by a complaint from a fellow MP, the Committee for Standards and Privileges found in 2004 that Ms. Abbott had failed to declare her earnings (£17,300) from her appearances in the BBC programme This Week in the Register of Members Interests, as per the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Members and paragraph 54 (c) of the Guide to the Rules. Ms. Abbott, who accepted full responsibility, was required to apologize to the House of Commons. Fortunately, however, Ms. Abbott emerged unscathed from the 2009 expenses scandal, where MPs of all stripes were found to have been dipping into the public purse to the tune of many thousands of pounds to fund their lifestyles. Here she has an advantage over her fellow contestant, David Miliband, who was found to have illegitimately claimed £30,000 over five years in repairs, decorations, and furnishings for his private residence (he apologized went found out, but did not return any of the taxpayers' money).

And then there is the question of whether Ms. Abbott will, like Obama, succeed in ushering in a new era of post-racial politics. Statements like the one below, recorded in the Daily Mail, suggest it may be too soon yet to get our hopes up:

I never encountered any overt racism at school, though I do occasionally wonder whether the attempts made to dissuade me from applying for Oxbridge were linked to my colour.

And, finally, there is the matter of her snubbing public education for her son, in favour of a £10,000-per-year selective private school (Note: Marxists are supposedly against private education and selecting students for ability). The matter generated considerable media attention in 2003, not least because our far Left politician had previously savaged Tony Blair and Harriet Harman for also sparing their children from the public school system. It seems she instructed her former husband to keep quiet about her choice, aware that it was “indefensible” and “intellectually incoherent.” Worse still, her explanation (“West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children”) renewed accusations of racism, which for some implied that White mothers loved their children less than Black mothers. Indeed, many found it rather puzzling that Ms. Abbott could take this view yet dread the thought of her child being schooled alongside others raised by West Indian mums, just like her.

We will have to see how this exciting contest unfolds. Will the best man win? Will subterranean racism influence the decision? Is Britain ready to transform its political landscape? For the time being, Ms. Abbott thinks she has fair chance, despite the odds:

I'm not comparing myself to Barack Obama because he’s a once in a life-time figure but two years ago no-one could have imagined a black man as US President. If that was possible in the US, I think people can change their ideas in Britain as well.