UNCUT: Pragmatists vs ideologues. Realists vs fantasists. These are the new Tory-Labour dividing lines

05/10/2015, 08:30:53 PM

by Samuel Dale

As Labour continues its march into wilderness, the Tories are free to do whatever they choose. They can march rightwards and fulfill their Thatcherite dreams for the next ten years, or they can hold the centre or move leftwards and dominate for 20 more years.

It’s an incredible choice. And after today’s speech by George Osborne it is crystal clear the Tories are going to hold the centre.

While Labour shows breath-taking arrogance after a stunning defeat, the Tories are showing incredible humility after an epic victory.

Osborne said he would listen to new ideas and pledged to win over many who voted Labour at the 2010 election. Trying to win over voters from the other side instead of insulting them. Now there’s a novel idea.

Here is the key passage talking about the 10 million Labour voters in 2010.

“We’ve got to understand their reservations. So to these working people who have been completely abandoned by a party heading off to the fringes of the left let us all here today extend our hand.

“Do you know what the supporters of the new Labour leadership now call anyone who believes in strong national defence, a market economy, and the country living within its means?

“They call them Tories. Well, it’s our job to make sure they’re absolutely right.”

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UNCUT: The warning lights are flashing for Labour

05/10/2015, 06:39:38 PM

by David Ward

The contrast with last week’s conference could not have been clearer. George Osborne may or may not fulfil the ambition his speech betrayed and find himself as PM. But there was a clear message. And Labour should be worried. The Conservatives will use Labour’s soul-searching to dominate the centre ground.

John McDonnell released a statement straight after Osborne’s speech telling us that “This is a Tory chancellor who doesn’t live in the real world.”

In fact there were two things missing from almost every shadow cabinet member’s speech last week which have pulsated through every Minister’s so far at Conservative conference. An understanding of what happened in May, and a vision for how the party will approach 2020.

From Jon Cruddas and Margaret Beckett to James Morris the evidence based analysis of Labour’s defeat has been the same. People thought Labour’s heart was in the right place, but worried they would spend too much and focus on the wrong priorities.

The job for any party is to negate its weaknesses and draw attention to its strengths. Just take a look at the slogans in the background as Osborne spoke.




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UNCUT: Sorry Nigel, nationalisation is not against EU Law

02/10/2015, 05:25:51 PM

by Sam Fowles

Nigel Farage thinks EU law prevents nationalisation. Ironically he seems to have got this from a recent post on Left Futures by Westminster University’s Danny Nicol. Professor Nicol argues that the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and EU liberalisation directives prohibit renationalisation of energy utilities, as proposed by Jeremy Corbyn.

Professor Nicol raises an important point. The EU probably encroaches on the sovereignty of member states to its most egregious degree when it comes to market liberalisation. Art. 176 TFEU commits member states to the expansion of markets.

I have a lot of respect for Professor Nicol and recommend his excellent book. But I can’t help but feel that, in this instance, he has reduced a complex area of law to a zero sum conclusion. There are many forms of “nationalisation” that would never be touched by the TFEU (such as taking utilities into municipal control, as has happened in Germany). Furthermore, EU law wouldn’t prohibit the sort of nationalisation proposed by Mr Corbyn.

Let’s be clear, the Corbyn plan isn’t for complete nationalisation. Mr Corbyn wants to nationalise the grid (the infrastructure that transports gas and electricity from generator to supplier), the “Big Six” energy companies and the railways.

EU law explicitly protects the right of member states to nationalise industries. Art. 345 TFEU states “The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States (MS) governing the system of property ownership.” In his book Professor Nicol argues that this provision has recently been ignored by the ECJ. This is largely correct but it does not justify the conclusion that it will always be ignored.

Art. 345 remains in the treaty. It is possible to generally promote liberal markets and operate some industries as national monopolies. Arts. 176 and 345 are not mutually exclusive. The ECJ has often been tolerant of member states accused of violating the treaties if their actions are “proportionate“, i.e. for a legitimate aim (which would include one endorsed by the electorate) and effective, but not excessive, in achieving that aim. Assuming that nationalisation was prominent in Mr Corbyn’s manifesto, conducted on a transparent timetable and proper compensation was paid, Mr Corbyn would have a strong case based on Art. 345.

But even without Art. 345 EU law would not prohibit the Corbyn plan. Professor Nicol relies heavily on Art. 106 TFEU. But this provision doesn’t ban nationalised industries. It simply regulates how they can behave in relation to other enterprises. In essence, enterprises with a dominant position in the market due to state action cannot use that position to behave unreasonably. The ECJ will only intervene if Art. 106 is breached.

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UNCUT: Brighton Rock: A tale of two Labour conferences

02/10/2015, 02:16:32 PM

by Pete Bowyer 

On the surface all seemed well. Or as well as could be, given the circumstances. There was no vote on Trident. John McDonnell pretended that the overthrow of capitalism was no longer one of his leisure pursuits. The Leader downplayed his leftist credentials, whilst the rest of the Shadow Cabinet played up theirs.

True, Owen Jones, the Dear Leader’s unofficial mouthpiece, was unusually demure, but at least Tom Watson was on hand to ebulliantly paper over any cracks. And nobody died, just remember that folks, nobody died. Not yet, anyway.

However, you didn’t have to scratch the surface too much to reveal deep fissures. A brief sojourn to any of the many conference bars and the murmurings were there for all those who wanted to hear them.

Former Cabinet Ministers were already drawing up a shortlist of five potential candidates who could replace Corbyn within the next eighteen months, fancifully in my view.

Members of Parliament – many with shadow ministerial responsibilities – were devising their own leadership in exile to oppose the worst excesses of the current leadership.

London councillors, increasingly nervous about the prospect of a Tory victory in the capital in eight months’ time, were desperately distancing the London party from the national party just as obviously as Sadiq Khan, the party’s own nominee for Mayor, was.

Think Tank chiefs who had supported various of the other leadership candidates were now uniting to create a common policy framework as a mainstream alternative to Corbynism.

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UNCUT: Labour, this is what you chose

30/09/2015, 02:22:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

The two important days of conference, the first two, have now passed. We have pinched ourselves. We have pinched ourselves again. But no, that really was John McDonnell outlining a fantasy financial plan on Monday, and Jeremy Corbyn giving the Leader’s Speech on Tuesday.

Let me just say that again. Jeremy Corbyn giving the leader’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party.

No matter how many times we say those words, it still beggars belief. Only four months ago, it would have been inconceivable.

How long ago that now seems. What happy, carefree days were those.

For those of us who have sat and watched dozens of leader’s speeches, mostly at times when Labour was actually running the country, it seems a strange, parallel universe. You get to know when a party is at a low ebb, just as when William Hague suffered his disastrous four years at the helm of the Tories.

But this is different: Labour’s current convulsions have not resulted in a moderate leader trying to rein in restive backbenchers on the fringes of the party. They have resulted in the election of a leader who is from those fringes. And a kitchen cabinet involving Unite and members of the hard left from outside the Labour party, which is likely to be more extreme – and certainly more brutal – than the man himself.

The Tories managed to pull themselves back, although it took most of a decade. But Labour’s case is that much worse, one wonders if they can pull it off at all.

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UNCUT: Jeremy Corbyn’s speech will have confirmed voters’ worst fears about Labour

29/09/2015, 03:33:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Expectations are now so low for Jeremy Corbyn that anything short of a full nervous breakdown at the microphone is regarded as a success.

He delivered his speech. He didn’t collapse. He didn’t promise to nationalise the top 100 companies and troops did not ring the auditorium as a prelude to the revolution.

Given the unbelievably low expectations going into this speech, it was a case of job done. Certainly within the bubble of Labour conference.

But step outside of the bubble for a moment. Step into the shoes of the general public. Look at this speech from their viewpoint. Think about what they saw.

A decent man. A passionate man. A man who should be kept as far from any position of power as is humanly possible.

Jeremy Corbyn is an uber-Miliband.

An agitated academic who rehearses his protest points with vigour but fails to describe any alternative.

Corbyn’s jumble of unhappy reflection on past foreign policy and declarations of long held positions will have seemed utterly esoteric to the practical issues facing most people in Britain today.

Problems such as Syria and Iraq were listed, but solutions? Not so much.

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GRASSROOTS: John McDonnell sheds his Corbynista cloak

29/09/2015, 09:50:06 AM

by Nick Small

For the 4.5 percenters, who, like me, backed Liz Kendall, John McDonnell’s first major speech as shadow chancellor at Labour Party conference was, in many ways, a pleasant surprise.

The acknowledgment of a golden rule of British politics, that the voting public demand reassurance from the centre-left about our economic credibility in a way that they don’t from the Tories, is welcome.   It’s also welcome that McDonnell has explicitly reinforced the message that economic prosperity and social justice are two sides of the same coin; as our aims and values put it that means ‘a dynamic economy serving the public interest’.  In other words, you can’t redistribute wealth unless you first create it.

Recognising that the country has to live within its means, that Labour should tackle the deficit fairly and that a Labour government inheriting a current account deficit in 2020 should pay it down without jeopardising sustainable economic growth is, again, good to hear.  It’s not austerity-lite and it’s not deficit denial.  This will chime well with the voters who’ll decide the next election.  They may well be more economically radical than many from my wing of the party thought, but they’re certainly more fiscally cautious than many Corbynistas gave them credit for.

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UNCUT: McDonnell pulls off phase one of Operation Foot-rub

28/09/2015, 06:04:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

What were the odds of John McDonnell becoming shadow chancellor six months ago? Longer than they were of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader, I suspect.

But here he was, a trim 61 year-old with neat white hair and a smart suit, looking every inch the interim finance director of a struggling SME that’s just lost a major contract and needs a new direction.

Given his previous form, it helps that McDonnell doesn’t look like he’s come from central casting as your typical ‘lefty bogeyman’. And neither, to be fair, did he sound it.

His main task today was not to be predictable. Frankly, all he needed to do was not to snarl about nationalising the FTSE-100 and it would turn out better than many on the right of the party had been fearing.

His promise to “force” recalcitrant corporates like Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google to pay their “fair share of taxes” was vintage Margaret Hodge.

His pledge to establish a national investment bank and review the UK’s economic policy-making to ensure it is “fit for purpose” in preventing another recession could have been made by Gordon Brown.

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UNCUT: John McDonnell is fermenting Special Brew Milibandism

28/09/2015, 01:47:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

John McDonnell might have a history of ranting radicalism, but he offered a different approach in his speech to Labour conference.

The florid attacks on austerity and business were familiar but the policy content wasn’t quite as red in tooth and claw as his previous rhetoric might have suggested.

Talk of paying down the deficit, briefings to the press on signing Osborne’s fiscal charter and new caveats on implementing Peoples Quantitative Easing (also known as printing money) show how sails have been trimmed.

At conference, there’s been some head-scratching. What’s McDonnell doing?

Labour’s shadow chancellor is fermenting a Special Brew version of Milibandism.

Harsher, more pungent and stronger than the beverage offered by Labour’s last leader, but a version, nonetheless.

Ed Miliband clearly didn’t like the idea of cuts to public services, John McDonnell committed to avoiding any cuts altogether.

Ed Miliband spoke in abstract terms about predators and producers, John McDonnell named Starbucks, Amazon, Google and Vodafone.

And Ed Miliband worried about welfare cuts, McDonnell promised there would be none.

However, in common with Milibandism classic, McDonnell’s speech left a trail of questions unanswered.

He talked blithely about using funds from economic growth and crackdowns on tax avoidance and corporate welfare to avoid austerity.

This might sound good in a Labour conference speech and offer up some easy clap lines but Ed Miliband’s position unravelled on the specifics.

John McDonnell is just as vulnerable.

Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, went on the Daily Politics with Andrew Neil immediately after the speech and endured a painful dissection of Labour’s missing policy detail.

How would tax avoidance be stopped? How much could be recovered? Which corporate taxes would go up to reduce the deficit? How much deficit reduction would be from these sources?

She tried to respond but the cupboard was bare.

This is why McDonnell is offering a punchier version of Miliband’s economics, not something fundamentally different.

He’s dodging the same questions.

Just like Miliband, McDonnell seems to be worried by the response of the public to higher taxes and borrowing, so he falls back on intangibles like growth and tax avoidance.

And as with Miliband, the Tories will skewer McDonnell on the lack of specifics and confirm public doubts about Labour and economic competence.

The key difference with McDonnell’s Special Brew Milibandism, is that the hangover is going to be that much worse.

Labour will soon be perceived as being even more anti-business and even less trustworthy with the public finances than at the last election.

Welcome to the new politics. Not so different to the old politics.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: The anatomy of the modern Labour party

27/09/2015, 11:26:42 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s clear from the leadership election that Labour is now a collection of disparate, occasionally overlapping and increasingly rancorous tribes. There is an argument that it has always been like this; that from its earliest moments the party has been a fusion of radicals and moderates, working-class self-interest and middle-class altruism. However the shifting sands in recent years, not to mention over the past few months, requires an updated assessment. So here goes:


The princes have become the paupers, or more specifically, the modernisers have become the traditionalists. Unable to convince the party they once dominated to let them run the show, they instead find themselves rejected, marginalised and unloved, pining for the good old days. Always a White Commonwealth and without deep roots, massed battalions or decent organisation they were always going to struggle post-Blair. Yet the scale of Liz Kendall’s defeat in the leadership contest – a derisory 4 per cent (sorry, 4.5 per cent) – has seen tribe members resort to pinning ‘We are the 4.5’ on their Twitter profiles. Irony or defiance?

‘But why’, they ask, ‘does this ungrateful party not accept we won an unprecedented three election victories?’ Why indeed. Perhaps they assume that left-wing politics is a cool, rational experience. It isn’t, as the Neo-Blairites are finding out. Their lack of emotional connection with the party’s grassroots, avoidable during Blair’s long, hegemonic reign, is now killing them.

They are dealing with a party that wants to believe in something again. Can they find someone gutsy and lucky enough to champion their cause? But who? Liz was too brusque, Tristram’s too posh and Chuka’s an airhead. They also need to pick their moment, as Peter Mandelson warns. Will 18 months of Corbynite shock therapy (and ropey election results) earn them a fresh hearing?


More pragmatic than the Neo-Blairites, the Neo-Brownites are not happy with the drift to the left under Corbyn, but they are prepared to work with the grain. They were evident around the new Shadow Cabinet table the other day: Dugher, Ashworth and Watson.

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