It’s ‘game on’

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Byelection dates confirmed in Copeland and Stoke, Trump confirmed as president, and Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ speech – Richard Angell looks at the events of the week

The writ will be put down for both Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central on Monday for an byelection on 23 February 2017. My colleague Matthew Faulding has already been on the Labour doorstep in the former, I look forward to joining the Labour and Progress members that are out day-in-day-out very soon.

Labour now has a candidate in Copeland – Gillian Troughton. I have never met her but her record of fighting the BNP, standing up for the nuclear power industry (that Jeremy Corbyn now supports) and our NHS puts Labour on the front foot. Considering the various shenanigans by the leader’s office to try and take charge of the process, local members have won out. I wish Troughton every luck in the world.

The snap election – in just over a month’s time – means Labour has the upper hand in both seats and should be on track for Labour-holds. The United Kingdom Independence party still do not have a postal vote strategy and the Tories are running the NHS into the ground. The winter crisis is unlikely to have passed by mid-February. Hopefully Corbyn’s office will not repeat the same games in Stoke-on-Trent Central, it is ‘game on’ now.

Time to take our opponents seriously

Today’s inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US should be a wake up call for all of use who care about social justice. ‘The Donald’s’ extraordinary power lies in how unpredictable he can be – he does not play by rules. His tweets have changed investment decisions of big companies and put Wall Street on edge. There is now an app so share owners can receive alerts if any companies they own gets mentioned by the president-elect. These will only have greater purchase when he is settled in the White House.

Today we should decide to not underestimate him, and others we despise in political life. He defeated 16 Republican rivals and the Hillary Clinton machine. That is no small achievement, a different view is just leftist snobbery. His speech at the Lincoln memorial was the shopping list of what he wants to do – we should assume he is going to do it. The bits progressive want to stop will need to picked carefully, involve sophisticated strategies and well deployed tactics. Opposing him outright might be counterproductive.

With expectations so low, how he deals with the unexpected should be a focus. Quickly the Democrats needs to behave like they hold him to high standards not behave like turning up impressive in its own right. This cannot be the case. It might provide great content for Saturday Night Live sketches but would be a ticket to a second term.

As Matthew Doyle has said ‘Britons will rightly prioritise foreign policy, Nato and his relationship with Russia, the Middle East and beyond. However, what really matters is domestic politics.’ This is all about his relationship with Congress. Can he work with them? Control their excesses? Would he veto anti LGBT laws, for example? If his pledge on ‘scrapping Obamacare’ turns out to be reform, that’s one thing, if millions of Americans go back to being uninsured, that’s another.

The Democrats will have to box clever. Like with the Brexit vote here, the scary bit comes if the so-called ‘naysayers’ are proved right. What if better trade deals are not possible, that immigration cannot be controlled – who will get the blame? Take him seriously otherwise the Democrats could own the blame and Trump – in four years time – will still holding the keys.

Hope Not Hate

If you, like me, are watching the inauguration take place and feeling powerless or have spent the week shouting at the television over Theresa May’s plans for a hard Brexit – use this as a rally cry. To sort out our party, to get social democratic ideas on the front foot again and stand up and be counted. One first step could be to donate to Hope Not Hate. They run the best campaigning in the UK against hate crime and hate perpetrators. They are strategic, intelligence led and effective – more importantly they deserve our support: donate now.

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