UNCUT: Despite her gaffe, Penny Mordaunt, not Cameron, is the future of the Tory party

23/05/2016, 04:26:55 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s pretty clear from her interview with Andrew Marr yesterday morning that defence minister Penny Mordaunt didn’t actually understand that individual Member States can veto the accession of new applicants to the EU, like Turkey.

A tad embarrassing, perhaps, for a government minister and David Cameron wasted no time in correcting her:

‘Let me be clear. Britain and every other country in the European Union has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact. The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong, I think should call into question their whole judgement in making the bigger argument about leaving the EU.’

As a vignette, it tells us that fact-checking left the building some time ago as far as this referendum is concerned and that tempers inside the Conservative party are shredded.

However it is pro-European Tories like Cameron and Osborne that will pay a heavy price for the tone of this referendum. Having failed to get anything resembling the deal he promised, the Prime Minister is now despairing at the failure of the polls to decisively shift for Remain.

Famed for his fits of pique, his answer is to let slip the dogs of war. So threats of recession, war, plague and famine are trotted out daily by a loyal army of straight-faced supplicants, like Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and any number of corporate factotums, keen to sidle up to Downing Street for future preferment.

Unfortunately for him, the party’s grassroots remains implacably hostile to the EU. All those years when ambitious Tories could sidle up to their local members, pat them on the head and throw out a few Euro-bashing lines, safe in the knowledge that it all meant nothing, are over. With boundary changes approaching, local associations will demand to know their prospective MPs voted the ‘right’ way on the referendum.

Perhaps it’s understandable that David Cameron is furious with Mordaunt: she’s the future of the Conservative party, not him.

Some say she may lose her job for defying Cameron and emerging as one of the government’s staunchest Eurosceptics, but Cameron and Osborne will need to sue for peace and won’t have the strength to sack her.

If they do, she goes to the gallows as a heroine to the cause. But as we’ve seen with the Labour party, it is no bad thing to play the long game and emerge as a darling of the grassroots.

After all, as Talleyrand was said to have quipped, ‘treason is a matter of dates.’

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: It’s unfashionable to say this but the Remain campaign is doing a bloody good job

22/05/2016, 09:50:05 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. First up, the Remain campaign.

At the start of the year, the Remain campaign had one job: to make Brexit more scary than Bremain.

It’s a job that they’ve done bloody well.

The brief for this campaign never included a requirement to persuade people of the imminent arrival of a new, fully reformed EU utopia.

Neither did it involve turning around years of frustration about the bureaucratic exigencies of the EU.

Who even thought that would be possible in a campaign of a few months?

But to read the drumbeat of criticism of the In campaign from pro-Europeans (Hugo Dixon, Natalie Nougayrède, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Charlie Cooper to name but a few) is to be trapped in the impossibilist dream of enthusiasts who do not understand their fellow Briton.

These are the people who measure success by the volume of cheers in the hall not the weight of votes outside.

For this category of commentator and politician, Scotland is independent, Ed Miliband is prime minister and this is what a good football manager looks like.

They frequently use that word which presaged defeat for the Scottish pro-independence camp and Labour last year: passion.

Talk is of turnout and their silver bullet, the enthusiasm gap.

Paradoxically it is the utter commitment of the enthusiasts which is their critical flaw.

It robs advocates of empathy, the keystone of any campaign.

Hobby-horse arguments, shrilly pitched dissolve into the irrelevant drone of a Euro-anorak.

In contrast, the Remain campaign has understood the two essential truths of this and any election.

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UNCUT: Stronger In or Vote Leave: The view from a Labour party Brexiteer

17/05/2016, 04:41:41 PM

In the last in a series looking at the views of people from outside of the political bubble, on the EU referendum, Lucy Ashton gets the case for Brexit from a member of the Labour party

Lifelong Labour Party supporter and activist Michael Ord says voting to leave the EU is one of the hardest political decisions he has ever had to make.

“It’s not a decision that I want to make,” he says. “It’s would have been far easier to just plod on and follow the status quo but complacency over something that will shape all our futures is unacceptable.

“And for the record Nigel Farage is not my poster boy. I’m no Ukip fan or Ukipper – highly apt as their politics are fishy and stink.”

Michael’s mum was German so the family has close ties with the continent and he says it is a “very personal” decision for him.

“I have been subjected to racism and this resulted in me classing myself as European rather than British for a good portion of my early adulthood. So voting to leave the EU is something of a milestone decision in my life.”

Michael says Britain is floundering in an unwieldy organisation. “Britain is the second largest economy in the European Union yet our influence is somewhere further down that list.

“Our politicians have given up trying to become leaders within the group and because of this, our influence and our popularity with the EU is not strong enough.

“We will be left paying vast amounts of money to a body that hasn’t signed its books off in years and is becoming bigger and more bloated by the year.

“What started off as a trading agreement between a handful of countries and a means of discouraging us from going to war with each other has turned in to political leviathan.

“Swallowing up new countries that can barely afford to be in and who bring nothing to the table. The impending addition of Turkey does not delight me.”

He also believes the business arguments for staying do not add up either. “We are one of the foremost economies in the world, far larger than our geographic size would suggest, and there is no way that other countries would want to turn their backs on a market of our size.

“If we were free to trade without the constraints of the bloated EU we would fare better in the global economy.

“We would be free of the sluggish, slow moving and inward looking economy and be able to deal with whom we liked and deal however we liked.

“It is a chance for Britain to be more responsive to other markets and to exploit more opportunities. We will be leaner, faster and have more control over our actions.”

Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former Political Editor

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UNCUT: The results are in on Corbyn’s first few months. No matter how you spin it, they’re terrible

13/05/2016, 01:51:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

The leader’s office spin operation began long before the elections, because everyone knew they would be bad. The objective was simple: essentially, anything, anything at all to try and make them look other than the disaster most expected.

For example as Dan Hodges, sometime of this parish, pointed out, the Corbyn team decided on a tactic (of comparing the outcome with 2015 results, instead of 2011 or 2012 when the seats were last contested) was leaked to the BBC. It was patently foolish. No sane psephologist would try and compare an election with the previous year.

And when even the Leader himself ended up describing the results as “not good enough”, we still had incoherence in the party’s appearances on the media. In only the latest in a series of car-crash interviews, Diane Abbott memorably described the results as “steady progress”. Oh, my aching sides.

But they were all attempting to spin the unspinnable.

Yes, Sadiq Khan did a highly professional job in winning the London mayoralty, the one bright point of the elections. But even he did not manage this without exposing his past as a cuddler-up to unpleasant elements of the Islamist far right. Not, as the Tories tried to imply, because he is a card-carrying Islamist himself; he is not. But he has been ruthless enough in his pursuit of political support to schmooze with extremists until quite recently, in a way that should make party members nervous.

And let us not forget that London is, historically, a Labour stronghold par excellence. In fact, the two Boris wins in 2008 and 2012 may arguably be seen as the result, not just of the pendulum swing against Labour nationally, but also of a serious falling-out-of-love with one Ken Livingstone on the part of the London electorate.

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UNCUT: Why aren’t we furious with the Scottish party?

10/05/2016, 10:33:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The dark, stinking hole Labour finds itself in these days might not feel quite so dark and stinking if the Scottish party had got its act together last year. The loss of forty seats north of the border in the general election turned disaster in England into cataclysm across the UK.

Last Thursday, the party suffered a repeat pasting in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Labour took nothing short of a punishment beating at the hands of the electorate, sliding into third place behind the Conservatives. After last May’s debacle, it was a ceremonial cherry placed on top of the steaming turd that is the Scottish Labour party.

How did it come to this? How did Labour ‘lose’ Scotland and by doing so, make it improbable the party will win a general election any time before the advent of commercial space travel? And why aren’t we angrier with the bunglers in the Scottish party who frittered away Labour’s position?

But first, let’s be clear: the extinguishing of Labour as a force in Scottish politics is the party’s own fault. The SNP hasn’t cheated its way to power. There has been no coup d’etat. They are triumphant because they have outplayed Scottish Labour at every turn in recent years, up to the point where it’s clear the party no longer seems to understand the Scottish people.

This is not a recent failing. Labour lost control of the parliament to the SNP as long ago as 2007. The situation was exacerbated at the 2011 elections, before the party’s virtual annihilation in last year’s general election. There have been ample opportunities to arrest the decline.

Clearly, it all came to a head during the independence referendum. By opposing ‘nationalism’ Scottish Labour foolishly forfeited ‘patriotism’ in the process. The party didn’t seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a proud Scot and wanting to see your nationhood recognised.

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UNCUT: Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace but not for the reason many in Labour think

08/05/2016, 11:59:38 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Zac Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace. But not for the reason many in Labour think and the party is about to learn the wrong lesson as a result.

The consensus is that Goldsmith’s attacks on Khan’s links to extremists and innuendos about his radicalism – a barely coded insinuation about Labour’s candidate being an Islamist – backfired.

Londoners resiled from the evident racism and prejudice

That much is true.

However, there is a distinction between the principle and practice of Goldsmith’s campaign strategy.

Several within Labour are busily convincing themselves that the principle of raising Khan’s connections to unsavoury characters was itself an inflammatory act (just a few examples here, here and here.)

Wrong.

It is legitimate to hold a Mayoral candidate accountable for their connections. As a voter, I would want to know if Zac Goldsmith was linked in any way with fascists and far right agitators.

A Labour campaign that publicised these links would only be doing its job.

The work of all the main parties to expose the racists, reactionaries and fantasists that populate Ukip’s ranks has been a public service.

Voters need to know who is asking for their mandate.

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UNCUT: This is Khan’s triumph – but Labour must be more than the London party

06/05/2016, 06:01:30 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby were Labour’s first MPs. The Jarrow March arrived in London 36 years later. Another 45 years on and the first People’s March for Jobs arrived in the capital from Liverpool.

Historically, London has been the epicentre of the forces that frustrate Labour. Now, however, London is Labour’s citadel.

Third place in Scotland. Losing to Plaid in Rhondda. Far short of the gains of 400 council seats that the likes of Chris Leslie put down as a benchmark. But Labour is set to return to City Hall in London.

This is Sadiq Khan’s triumph. Elections are x-rays. Zac Goldsmith’s revealed that his heart wasn’t really in it and he was prepared to acquiesce with demeaning nastiness. He might be as posh as Boris Johnson but he lacks his restless hunger to seize power by imposing his personality on events.

Khan does not. His x-ray found all political functionalities in full working order. He wasn’t expected to beat Tessa Jowell to the Labour nomination. He has seen Jeremy Corbyn as sufficiently unhelpful that he distanced himself from the leader during the campaign. None of this stopped Khan, a whirl of dynamic energy.

You might have heard that he is a Muslim. If you’ve really been paying attention, you’ll know that his dad was a bus driver. The back story is now ubiquitous. We should not, though, become glib about its significance.

Khan’s win – and it does feel to me a gain in which the seal of the candidate is particularly sharply embossed – is a victory for London’s openness, tolerance and decency. Bravo.

But Labour must be more than this. We need a 650 seat strategy. To deliver openness, tolerance and decency across the UK.

Brexit would knock all this spectacularly backwards. The EU referendum provides an opportunity for Labour to unite and campaign with the verve that Khan has personified.

I’m confident that London will vote Remain. But Labour must make ourselves heard beyond London. Our membership and campaigning capacity is skewed toward the capital, and while these have helped secure Khan’s success, Labour must be more than the London party.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut    

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UNCUT: Moderates must wait to challenge Corbyn

06/05/2016, 12:55:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Friday 6th May  2016 could be the date that Labour’s slow awakening began.

For moderates, the electoral consequences of Jeremy Corbyn have  always been obvious. This dreadful set of election results is confirmation of the expected.

But it doesn’t matter how angry moderates are at the loss of English council seats, the reverses in Wales or the devastation in Scotland. Corbyn, or a hard left alternative, can only be beaten in a vote of the membership and supporters.

What matters most is how Labour’s internal swing vote, the soft left, react to the results.

At last year’s leadership election, their position could be characterised as apathy at a return to Brownite grind with Yvette; outright opposition to the late-Blair confrontation proffered by Liz and scepticism at Andy Burnham’s all too effective impression of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

In the absence of an alternative, Labour’s largest grouping voted for the only choice not to have failed them in the past twenty years – Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left dreaming.

It’s quite a shift to go from there to defenestrating Corbyn, eight months later.

Until now the soft left stance has largely been to give Jeremy Corbyn the benefit of the doubt.

“Sour grapes” is a phrase I’ve heard frequently used to describe the moderate response to the leader. The narrative about “Bitterites” and internal division undermining Labour’s message has gained some traction.

But given the paucity of Labour’s performance, to blame everything on the enemy within, a phantom army of Blairites, simply isn’t credible.

The Conservative party has been in a state of open civil war over the EU referendum but they still performed amazingly strongly for a government that is in it’s sixth year.

Up and down the country, local Labour parties have seen months of doorstep effort count for nothing when the votes have been tallied.

If the best that Jeremy Corbyn can say about these results is that “Labour hung on,” questions will start to be asked by those who have been supportive if not convinced.

For the first time under in Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader, moderates have permission to speak within Labour’s grassroots debate.

To paraphrase Churchill, in the moderates’ battle for the party, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: The lessons from Hillsborough for politics today

04/05/2016, 11:19:43 PM

by Samuel Dale

My dad stood in the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough to watch Manchester United play Leeds United in the 1977 FA Cup semi-final.

As soon as he heard about the deadly crush during the Liverpool v Forest game in 1989, he knew what had happened.

He remembered the push coming from the back of the stand as fans rushed forward. He struggled to breath and was lifted off his feet for minutes at a time. And that was when the police supposedly had control of the crowds. It was not uncommon at matches during that are but Leppings Lane was particularly bad.

And his first thought was that most natural of human emotions: it could have been me.

It could have been 96 Man United fans. My dad, my uncle and all their mates. It could have been anyone who went to a football match before 1989.

The standing areas at football matches in the 1970s and 1980s were a national disgrace. Tens of thousands of young men penned in by high fences and crushed so they couldn’t breathe.

Hillsborough was not the first football tragedy. There was the Valley Parade fire in 1985 that killed 56. The Ibrox disaster that killed 25 when a stand collapsed in 1971.

Police, politicians and club owners did not consider match-going supporters as individuals but as a mass of dehumanized, working-class drunken louts with no rights.

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UNCUT: Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

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