GRASSROOTS: The soft left will not fall for factionalism

25/11/2015, 10:32:32 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The idea of a ‘soft left’ is currently popular, with commentators seeing it as crucial to Labour’s future. I agree, but its not an easy option. Spencer Livermore, in calling for the publication of the Labour report into his former bosses’ election defeat referred to Miliband’s ‘soft left policies’; clearly incorrect – Miliband rose through the Brown machine. More sensibly, Jonathan Rutherford wrote on Labour List in October that “only the soft left can build a winning coalition”, accepting that the ‘soft left’ had given Corbyn his victory as the hard left did not have enough support. Others have made the same point. The soft left dominates the membership.

However the soft left majority is unorganised and has no leadership or structure. While the hard left and the hard right have websites and organisations, the soft left do not. In the leadership election, soft left votes went to the hard left candidate precisely because they did not have a candidate, though I myself, firmly soft left, voted for Burnham and Cooper as unity candidates. Though they were certainly not soft left, no soft leader leadership figure has existed since the death of Robin Cook.

Now we read Atul Hatwal seeking to co-opt the soft left as “getting rid of Comrade Corbyn will take time”, despite the fact that most soft left voted for Corbyn. He outlines a strategy which will produce a civil war which will aid no one but the Tories and SNP. So a few thoughts from a veteran soft leftist who spent most of the 1980s fighting militant (in the Labour Co-ordinating Committee), and most of the 1990s through to 2007 fighting the Hard Right, aka, New Labour (in Labour Reform and then the sadly prescient but largely unknown Save the Labour Party).

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UNCUT: Activist or MP, it’s time to take a stand

23/11/2015, 09:17:56 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“Criminals were victims of the capitalist system. The police were agents of repression. Riots were popular uprisings against capitalist injustice.” These, according to Peter Mandelson’s autobiography, were commonplace views in the early 1980s vintage of London Labour.

“The three hate-ideas of the idiot savant left are capitalism, imperialism and America, or CIA for short,” Phil Collins wrote recently. The CIA are now as acceptable in Labour as they were in the 1980s.

Then Mandelson, “was part of Ted Knight’s increasingly Soviet-style Labour group on the (Lambeth) council”. He recalls making the case for moderation to the Labour group. “Ted would invariably open the next meeting by glaring in turn at me and other recalcitrants, and saying: ‘Certain comrades are misperceiving the situation…’ The atmosphere was very intimidating.”

Having experienced the Knight glower, I have some sense of the mood described. On a GC that was fiercely loyal to our MP, Tessa Jowell, Knight would sit at the back. The comrade who put the loony into Lambeth remained resolute, 30 years on. If you said something that he disagreed with, you knew about it. He was an imposing figure, even when much of the room was against him.

“The past isn’t dead,” as William Faulkner famously put it. “It isn’t even past.” The party still trawls through the bowels of the 1980s. We are re-infused with CIA thinking, as Knight, I am told (I moved away from the CLP earlier this year), has picked up his GC participation since Corbyn’s election.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour centrists should not abandon ship on account of the captain

20/11/2015, 06:23:42 PM

by Gareth Williams

Probably the greatest hour in modern television history is the magisterial finale of the second season of the West Wing: Two Cathedrals. In it, President Bartlet, facing a tough reelection challenge and recently exposed as suffering from MS, is chastised by the figure of his deceased secretary over his indecision regarding whether or not to seek a second term. She issues him with the rhetorical ultimatum “if you don’t want to run again, I respect that. But if you don’t run cause you think it will be too hard or you think you’re going to lose…I don’t even want to know you”.

Harsh words and different stakes, perhaps, but Labour’s centrists face a similar quandary.

Is it worth fighting for a party which seems uninterested in fighting for itself? Should they go out on the doorstep for leaders who, themselves, do not see the merit in gaining office? Is there any point in putting up with voluminous and vituperative abuse day in day out?

My answer to all three would be a considered “yes”.

I did not support Jeremy Corbyn. I still don’t. I think many of his policies are both morally bankrupt and strategically nonsensical  – in addition to being electorally fatal. They will, if permitted, lead us to corporeal irrelevance and political extinction. I am not alone. While hard figures remain hard to come by, anecdotal estimates of membership outflows put the figure at 25 members leaving for every 75 who join.

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INSIDE: Corbyn set to U-turn on whipping for Syria vote

18/11/2015, 10:33:45 PM

Two days after suggesting that any vote on bombing Isis in Syria would be whipped, Jeremy Corbyn is about to be forced into yet another humiliating U-turn.

Uncut understands that soundings from the whips suggest over half of the backbench party would defy a three line whip instructing them to oppose action.

The number of shadow ministers and PPSs who would defy the whip stretches into double digits.

With 231 Labour MPs and a payroll vote (shadow ministers and PPSs) of 140 MPs, this means over half of the remaining 91 MPs are likely to rebel. Combined with the frontbenchers inclined to vote against, abstain or simply not vote, the revolt is projected to top over 60 MPs.

Such a loss of authority would be devastating to the Labour leader’s shaky grip on power.

Faced with this scale of opposition, Jeremy Corbyn is set to retreat again and give his colleagues a free vote on the issue.

One MP speaking to Uncut said,

“God knows why he talked about whipping the vote. This was always going to be a nightmare for him, now he’s made it much worse. Idiot.”

The MP went on to detail the deteriorating situation within the PLP,

“Corbyn’s writ doesn’t run, my whip laughs at what they’re being asked to do. Groups are organising, you could see it plain as day during the Paris statement.”

The MP was referring to scenes that shocked watching Tories yesterday, when the Prime Minister’s statement on the G20 and Paris attacks was used by a series of Labour’s most senior MPs to lambast Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Austin led the charge, looking pointedly at Corbyn when asking the PM his question, saying,

“I agree with everything the Prime Minister said about Syria and terrorism. Does he agree with me that those who say that Paris is reaping the whirlwind of western policy or that Britain’s foreign policy has increased, not diminished, the threats to our national security not only absolve the terrorists of responsibility, but risk fuelling the sense of grievance and resentment that can develop into extremism and terrorism?”

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UNCUT: Getting rid of comrade Corbyn will take patience

17/11/2015, 11:02:47 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Years from now, politics students will be told jokingly by their tutors about the time the Labour leader had to U-turn and admit that a suicide bomber, who was about to blow himself up, should in fact be shot by the police.

It will be a salutary tale of what happens when an individual characterized by extremes of incompetence and ideology, is put in charge of a political party.

Many MPs think that the madness cannot continue. That Corbyn will fall in the next six months, or at the latest, after poll disaster in next year’s regional and local elections.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Before Corbyn falls, three changes are needed, none of which are immediate: the soft left need to wake-up to what’s happening, new terms of trade are required within Labour’s internal debate and a viable alternative leader must emerge.

Westminster Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time are wholly different concepts.

In the political bubble, new notions become conventional wisdom within two or three turns of a super-accelerated Twitter fueled news cycle.

But what might seem suddenly eye-rollingly obvious in Westminster has barely registered outside.

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UNCUT: Labour moderates should stop worrying about strategy, get off their arses and start organising

11/11/2015, 11:57:30 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s easy to read the politics pages of national newspapers and think that the real problem of Labour’s moderates is that they’ve got to get a shiny new strategy together that is neither New Labour nor Miliband Labour, but something which will get Labour back in power. That, in short, it doesn’t really know what it stands for and therefore this needs to be its first priority.

While it is a problem, it is certainly not the immediate problem.

The reason for this is simple: the media generally sees politics through the prism of Westminster, not just Parliament but the plethora of think-tanks and lobbying firms that hang around it. Policy and political strategy are the glue which holds that world together, without it we are nothing.

But Labour, we should take pains to remember is first and foremost a party (and a movement, although with the current radical state of the leadership of most major unions, that may not be of much immediate help to the moderates right now). It is a living, breathing thing, made up of hundreds of thousands of activists. Right now, it’s all over the shop.

Which is more important during opposition, particularly during a crucial battle for the soul of the party?

It’s the party, stupid. And that means organisation on the ground, in the CLPs and Labour group meetings across the country.

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UNCUT: Where is Liam Byrne headed?

09/11/2015, 05:20:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Liam Byrne is nothing if not industrious. After a hotly contested by-election, a minister five minutes after becoming an MP. The hard work continued on the opposition front bench, even if he felt too Blairite to be in vogue during the Miliband years. When he might have been expected to back the more Blairite Liz Kendall, he enthusiastically supported Yvette Cooper.

Cooper outperformed Kendall but Byrne’s candidate was left to eat Corbyn’s dust, as a much changed party from the one that Byrne was first elected to represent was created. Back then Byrne was the poster boy for Blair’s ability to win by-elections in the face of impassioned campaigning by parties, the Liberal Democrats and Respect, opposed to the Iraq war. Now Labour has a leader who can seem to be willing Blair toward the Hague.

No defeat or indignity, it appears, deters Byrne. The grafting just persists. He wants to make the best of Corbyn, as he made the best of Blair, Brown and Miliband. But not from the frontbench. No longer does he defend the leadership on all fronts. A big olive branch was, nonetheless, offered in his recent Policy Network speech.

This conciliation was Tony Crosland shaped. In the 1950s, a civil war waged between Bevanites and Gaitskellites. Europe and nuclear deterrence loomed large. As, oddly enough, they did during the convulsions of the 1980s. And they do again now. There must be something about these issues that brings them to renewed prominence at times of heightened Labour flux.

Crosland’s The Future of Socialism sought to cut through these differences by appealing to a shared commitment to equality. What divided Bevanites and Gaitskellites was merely the means; the end of equality united them, argued Crosland.

“I love Jeremy’s passion for tackling inequality,” Byrne insisted at Policy Network. “He is not a Trot. I am not a Tory. We are both Labour.” Reaching beyond the differences, like Crosland sixty years ago, to find the common conviction.

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UNCUT: Labour is ceasing to exist

05/11/2015, 02:09:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s not often that the election results for Labour’s backbench PLP committee chairs are notable, but today’s announcement lays bare the scale of division within the parliamentary party.

via the New Statesman

e-mail to MPs announcing the result, via the New Statesman

The majority of the chairs have ruled out serving under Jeremy Corbyn on the frontbench and specifically oppose key tents of his positions on the policy areas that their committees cover. They are taking their fight to the backbenches.

This is just the latest development in a rapidly accelerating process.

Labour is slowly ceasing to exist as a political party. Like those images of Marty Mcfly’s relatives in his photo, it’s fading away.

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UNCUT: Labour’s foreign policy is a debased joke

02/11/2015, 10:17:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another milestone has been passed. Labour’s Corbynite journey on foreign policy has exited tragedy and entered the realms of farce.

This evening, the BBC’s Ross Hawkins reports that the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Catherine West, addressed the Stop The War coalition meeting in parliament, saying,

“Obviously in the summer before Russia was involved we were thinking the government might bring forward a proposal and we were preparing mentally for that. However since 30 September I think that’s more remote and obviously if that proposal does come forward then we will need to speak to you and talk to you about what your view is on that.”

There it is. in black and white. A commitment that Labour would consult with Stop the War before deciding its Syria policy.

How dare she.

Here’s Stop the War’s John Rees from 2006 indulging in paroxysms of Orwellian doublethink by backing Saddam Hussein as a champion of the oppressed that he was oppressing,

“Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.”

This is the Stop the War coalition that is allied to the Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine, Stalinist apologists who support Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and oppose the democratically elected government in Ukraine.

And it is the same Stop the War coalition that invited the infamous Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix to speak at one of their rallies. She’s a nun living in Damascus trotted out by the Syrian government to deny that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons on rebel held areas.

Her explanation of scenes of dead children in Ghouta was that they were “sleeping” while images of men and women dying from inhaling sarin gas were discounted as “stage-managed.”

She even had the temerity to suggest that rebels were responsible for gassing civilians and then claiming it was Assad.

This is the organisation that Labour’s shadow minister says the party “will need [emphasis added] to speak to.”

Labour’s problem is clearly no longer far left entryism.

When the party’s shadow ministers go on bended knee to conspiracy-mad, Stalinist front organisations like Stop the War, it’s evident that the leadership’s representatives are engaged in the reverse journey.

They are the entryists, seeking comfort, approval and acceptance from yesterday’s infiltrators.

Needless to say, if a Conservative minister or politician spoke at a meeting of a comparable group to the right of the Tory party there would be outrage.

But this where Labour is now.

A place where almost any political madness is possible and foreign policy has become a debased joke.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: Seumas Milne turned the Guardian’s comment section into a polarising bear pit. God help the Labour party

28/10/2015, 10:04:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is now commonplace, even among journalists who should know better, to conclude that the current criticisms of the Corbyn leadership come exclusively from a hard knot of diehard centrists who refuse to accept that the new regime could win an election.

While it is clear that it cannot and it is also true that many sensible activists would rather die in a ditch than attempt to fight the hopeless battle of a general election under the current leadership, the reality is that there is really a much wider concern about the party’s current trajectory, and not just among Labour MPs. Even Tories and Lib Dems worry about the absence of a viable opposition.

To recap: we now have a party led by a man who never expected to leave the back benches; a shadow chancellor best described as “maverick”, with a treasure trove of past quotes already carefully dug up and filed at Tory HQ, providing a handy media drip-feed for the next five years.

But even though Corbyn’s win and McDonnell’s appointment were shocks, the shocks show no signs of abating. And for those few who have studied the hard left over recent years, inside and outside the party, it is difficult to find a more disturbing appointment than that of Seumas Milne as Director of Communications and Strategy. Disturbing first, if not surprising, because he appears to share pretty much the same views as his leader but a little more extreme.

Tom Harris MP is, of course, right to point out the dangerously narrow appeal of Corbyn/Milne viewpoint: that traditional Labour voters, who might have sons and daughters fighting in Britain’s armed forces, could be massively turned off by the idea that their sacrifices are for nothing; and all in the name of a monarch whom the leadership might dislike but whom those same voters are actually rather fond of.

But it is much more than that: the naked anti-West sentiment propagated by Corbyn, Milne and their pals in the Stop the War Coalition is anathema to the majority of the British public, even those who might have had mixed feelings about the results of the country’s intervention in Iraq. And even on much of the left and centre-left.

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