UNCUT: Labour’s rhetorical ratchet is destroying the party’s electoral hopes

29/01/2015, 09:18:26 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour party, a rhetorical ratchet was installed in the machinery of Labour politics. Since then, the only direction of travel permissible for Labour’s public statements has been to the left. The only criticism of the leadership allowed has been from the left.

Now, as the party’s poll lead dissolves, the consequences of this ratchet for Labour’s electoral chances are becoming increasingly clear. Two incidents from the past week – one on policy and one on process – exemplify the depth of the party’s problems.

First, on policy, there was Andy Burnham’s performance on Newsnight.

Labour has a perfectly defensible and reasonable policy on the use of private healthcare in the NHS: it can only be used to supplement rather than replace public provision. In practice, it means that the private sector would only be used to clear backlogs. It’s how the last Labour government operated.

But, faced with the need to demonstrate how Labour policy has progressed since 2010, the ratchet has forced Andy Burnham to the left, beyond the point of incoherence.

Because of the ratchet, a centrist dividing line on health based on Labour competence versus Tory incompetence is impossible. Instead, Labour has opted for an ideological frame of public good versus private bad with Labour promising to roll back the private.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: It’s still all about leadership

28/01/2015, 11:29:47 AM

by Rob Marchant

For the last few years, Labour Uncut has been repeating pretty much the same message: the Tories will mainly fight this election on two things: leadership and the economy.

They haven’t disappointed. So far, they seem to have been talking about little else.

Thing is, at this point the argument over the economy is a difficult one. To the politically-attuned, the Tories may just be perceived – even among their own supporters – as having called their last Budget badly and overdone austerity. But among ordinary folk, the reality is that Labour is still not trusted on the economy and that this would tend to trump unease with the Tories.

The logic is not exactly complex: “Labour will borrow more” is the Tory attack line. Labour’s strategy is to reply with the economically correct, and yet politically inept, response that we will leave the door open to borrow, but only to invest.

As if the average voter is likely to distinguish between leaving the door open and doing, or between capital and expense accounting in their feelings about the two main parties.

As if.

No, it is largely too late to try to unscramble that particular omelette. Our economic polling is what it is.

So we turn from economics to leadership. Some things here, too, we can no longer do anything about. It is too late to play the statesman-in-waiting, or gain the support of those world leaders who are both politically like-minded and credible (a category for which François Hollande would clearly struggle to qualify).

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

GRASSROOTS: Golden Dawn’s neo-Nazis came third and wait in the wings. Europe must remember that when negotiating with Syriza

26/01/2015, 09:36:33 AM

by Ranjit Singh Sidhu

It has been a few years since the great financial crash, which started when the US financial houses saw the products they created out of junk and sold as pure gold turn back to worthless junk. One by one they were either scarified or saved, with a notable survivor being one of the biggest culprits of all: Goldman Sachs.

We can look back and see how the contagion spread across the world leading to government after government instinctively cutting back spending, this in turn leading to an inevitable spiral down first to recession and then to a depression, every area of the globe entering a period of unrest.

In Europe one country, being bound by a financial accord that meant it was dictated economically by others, suffers worst of all.  Unemployment had risen from 8% to 30%, it has also  lost 42% of it’s economic output. With the old political order seen as failing the people turn to alternative radical parties. In just 3 years one party that polled 2.3% now is on the edge of power: It has 1.4 million members and stands on the edge of gaining power with 37% of the vote.

Sound familiar?

The party is the National Socialist Party, the country Germany in 1932 ,the financial crash that of Wall Street 1929 ( and yes, Goldman Sachs was pivotal in selling junk in that crash as well) .

On the 31st of July 1932 the Nazi party received 37.4% of the vote and became the largest party in the Federal Elections.  The German people’s rising anger towards the financial reparations of the Treaty of Versailles had been shown a few years earlier when the referendum calling for the abolition of  the ‘Law against the Enslavement of the German People’ received  94%  of the vote.

As Syriza goes about building a government,  Greece stands with 30% of its economic output gone since 2009, unemployment at 26% and youth unemployment at 50%. We must not be deaf to history and what can arise when economic destruction is imposed on a country.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: A British ‘Grand Coalition’ would be destined for failure

23/01/2015, 04:46:01 PM

by Callum Anderson

The 2015 general election campaign is now slowly in full swing. With four months to go, many of the electorate are already beginning to tire of the petty point-scoring between the party leaders about the leadership debates.

Yet, the answer to the question former prime minister Ted Heath famously asked: ‘Who governs Britain?’ could be rather inconclusive come 8th May.

The opinion polls suggest that this election will be too close to call, with some suggesting we are entering an era of four, five or maybe even six party politics – though Labour Uncut’s editor Atul Hatwal’s makes a set of very plausible predictions.

But whatever happens, the implications for our democracy could be enormous.

It is highly unlikely that either Labour or the Conservatives will gain quite enough seats to gain a majority in Parliament. Parliamentary arithmetic will determine whether either party is best placed to seek to form a minority administration or enter a coalition, or confidence-and-supply arrangement with someone such as the Liberal Democrats or Scottish.

Yet there are some such as Ian Birrell and Mary Dejevsky who claim that a UK Grand Coalition – that is a coalition between Labour and the Conservatives – should not be fled out. They argue that the fact that both parties are currently marooned in the low 30s in terms of share of the vote, the two main parties would put their differences aside to govern in the national interest.

Does such an arrangement have a post-war precedent elsewhere? Yes.

Will it happen in Britain in 2015. No.

In Germany, a so-called ‘Grand Coalition’ (or, colloquially, GroKo) has been the principal form of government in the twenty-first century. Between 2005 and 2009, followed by the current administration since 2013, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) have shared power alongside the Social Democrats (SDP).

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: The West needs to act on Boko Haram

23/01/2015, 01:24:53 PM

by Renie Anjeh

Over the last fortnight, the international community has shown tremendous solidarity with the people of France after the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris. Millions from across the world, from all faiths and none, took the streets in defiance of vile terrorists, in order to defend values that we hold dear – freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law. In our country, it has sparked a national debate about freedom of speech, liberty and security and the role of religion. If anything is clear from the last week or so, it is that the perpetrators of this disgusting attack on freedom have failed.

However, while the eyes of the world has been focused on France, little attention has been paid to atrocities that are taking place in Nigeria.

But first, let’s go back to last April. 276 schoolgirls, studying at a school in Borno State in north Nigeria, were kidnapped by Boko Haram, and as news of the abduction spread, awareness of this terrorist group grew. The Twitterati took to their smartphones to calling on Boko Haram to #BringBackOurGirls.

Celebrities with melancholic faces held placards calling on Boko Haram to do just that. Our Prime Minister David Cameron and the First Lady Michelle Obama also joined in, demonstrating their anger at the terrorist group. Goodluck Jonathan, the criminally ineffective President of Nigeria, called Boko Haram to release the girls but blamed the parents of the girls who were kidnapped. But did Boko Haram ‘bring back our girls’? No. And the world forgot.

Now in January 2015, Boko Haram have killed 2,000 people in one single attack.  Sixteen towns and villages in northeast Nigeria have been burnt to the ground. Almost 4,000 homes have been destroyed. Girls as young as 10, have been used by Boko Haram as ‘suicide bombers’, killing at least 23 people. 20,000 have fled their homes, with the majority seeking refuge in neighbouring Chad. As a result, Boko Haram now control 70% of Borno State, in northern Nigeria.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Laugh if you can, but be afraid

22/01/2015, 09:58:26 PM

by Ian McKenzie

I like Dan Hannan. I rarely agree with him, many of his views are politically toxic, but I respect him. He’s a right-wing Conservative, self-described as coming from the Whig tradition, and he’s an MEP. He was a high profile supporter of the People’s Pledge, the campaign for an In-Out referendum on the EU, and I was its Director. We used to do a little double act banter at fund-raising dinners: he would do the highbrow politics and the Euroscepticism; I would do the lowbrow campaigning and the Europhilia. He wants the UK to leave the EU; I want us to stay a member.

Dan is extremely good company and the most dangerous sort of political opponent there is: he understands your position better than you do and he respects it. He is well read, well prepared and unfailingly polite. If the Trots had done their Trotskyism Dan Hannan style, they’d be running the Labour Party by now.

Because I take Dan seriously, it was with some sadness that I read his reaction to the Charlie Hebdo murders, and I scribble this blog post with considerable trepidation.

He introduces several dichotomies: we are asked to believe that the Charlie massacre was not as an act of holy war but merely a crime; the perpetrators concerned not soldiers, but common criminals, not religious zealots but pathetic figures. And then, rather strangely, he suggests the public policy response to Islamism should be to ignore its stated rationale as mere self-description, and subject it to ridicule. Seriousness or ridicule are his choices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: It’s time for Labour to stop hating Rupert Murdoch

22/01/2015, 01:02:27 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour MPs were cock-a-hoop at the start of the week about the Sun’s decision to quietly stop publishing photographs of topless women on Page 3.

Page 3 is a rather vulgar intrusion on the editorial of a best-selling national newspaper but part of me feels it is free to publish what it likes. However, there is a legitimate debate to be had around the image it projects and campaigners fought and clearly convinced Sun readers, advertisers and editors that it is outdated. Well done.

But then it went wrong as the Sun cheekily re-introduced topless women to its third page today to the dismay of campaigners. Don’t be fooled, this is merely the twitching corpse of a dying and outdated feature. It’s days are numbered.

For many in Labour though Page 3 is a figleaf. The real target of the campaign is the old enemy, Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation, for whom a special hatred is reserved.

Labour has no major campaign against bare breasted women in the Daily Star, for example, it is Murdoch who drives the passion.

The hatred can be irrational such as attacks on Ed Miliband for supporting a Help for Heroes campaign in the Sun for wounded soldiers. Ridiculously, he apologised for it.

After all these years, why does Labour still hate Murdoch and News Corp with such a passion?

Supporting Thatcher. The printworkers’ strike. Buying the Times. Attacking Tony Benn in the 1980s. Media dominance. Billionaire. Hillsborough. Tabloid slurs against LBGTs and mental health issues. Kinnock in 1992. Faustian pact with New Labour. Fox News. Brown in 2009. Phone Hacking.

Yes, there are many reasons for Labour to hate Murdoch but notice one thing about all these events: they are over.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

INSIDE: Are we seeing a reverse squeeze?

22/01/2015, 10:26:11 AM

One of the underlying assumptions of polling behaviour is that, like homing pigeons, voters always return from whence they came when general elections come around.

Yes, they enjoy their freedom as they stretch their wings and soar about all over the political landscape, but when it comes to deciding who actually runs the country, they fly back to their familiar coup.

Judging by current polls, however, they’re cutting it fine.

Tuesday’s ICM poll showed a fifth of voters are still saying they will vote for UKIP (11 per cent) or the Greens (9 per cent).

So what happens if the Tories don’t manage to squeeze UKIP and convince a big chunk of disgruntled former Conservatives to return to the fold?

What if all the media beastings of Nigel Farage and his troops in recent weeks end up having little effect? Indeed, what if UKIP’s insurgency is a symptom of a structural change taking place in British politics rather than a cyclical blip?

For Labour, there are two windpipes to choke. Ed Miliband needs to retain those Lib Dem voters who have abandoned Nick Clegg since 2010 as well as stopping the Greens from becoming a permanent fixture on the party’s left flank. The Greens current polling is their best performance in 20 years.

We are at that point in the political cycle where people have started referring to the looming election in terms of weeks, not months. Admittedly there is still time for things to change, but what usually happens during the short campaign is the Lib Dems rise a few points, a result of voter frustration with Labour and Tory to-ing and fro-ing.

What is to stop something similar happening in May, only with UKIP and the Greens (not forgetting the SNP) benefiting instead of the shop-soiled Lib Dems? Indeed, what if reports of Nick Clegg’s demise are exaggerated and the Lib Dems improve their position too? This would put a very big hole in Ed Miliband’s electoral bucket.

All of which is to reinforce the self-evident fact that British politics is now in a highly volatile state. (Hence the proliferation of question marks in this piece).

So much so, that 2015 may well be remembered as the first election where it was the main parties who were squeezed by the political fringe, not the other way around.

 

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: After Charlie Hebdo, we need confident social democrats

21/01/2015, 10:34:20 AM

by Jonathan Todd

It is over 170 years since Karl Marx published On the Jewish Question, which rebutted the argument of fellow Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer that Jews could only achieve political emancipation by relinquishing their particular religious consciousness. While individuals can be spiritually and politically free in the secular state, Marx prefigured his later critiques of capitalism by arguing that economic inequality would constrain freedom in such a state.

Jews are again questioning their place in European society, as are UK Muslim leaders, outraged after Eric Pickles asked followers of Islam to “prove their identity”. Whether or not that makes a Charlie of Pickles is debatable. But the Pope seems not to be. “One cannot provoke,” he claimed last week, “one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The ancient questions are back. About the relationship between faith and citizenship that the young Marx addressed in On the Jewish Question. But a concept – alienation – that Marx later developed also seems relevant. I’m not a Marxist but I’ve found myself thinking about alienation after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and in the kosher supermarket. Nor am I a massive fan of Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP, but since the atrocity, I’ve also been impressed by his reaction.

In my fusion of Hannan and Marx, I like to feel that I’ve done better than Jamie Bartlett’s characterisation of much of the Charlie Hebdo reaction, as, conveniently, meaning precisely whatever we were thinking already. But in a sense, I am only revisiting the point I made on Uncut after the London riots of 2011: Can we really only look deep enough into our hearts as to bleat about the same old hobby horses?

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Oi journalists! Stop complaining about MPs tweeting campaign pics. It’s called democracy and it’s great

20/01/2015, 05:11:28 PM

by Ian McKenzie

There is currently a deep and widening fracture between the British people and their political parties, apparently. The chasm is so big that the political party as a concept is in terminal decline. The main two parties are in particular danger because their joint share of the national vote has fallen dramatically in the last 6 decades: it’s all over now, baby blue and baby red.

These assertions have become truths all but universally acknowledged; it’s all a bit boring really.

People do not join parties in large numbers any more. The electorate has slammed its doors on the main parties after saying “you are all the same”. People feel alienated and disenfranchised, believing that politicians are only in it for themselves and only come round at election times when they want votes and are nowhere to be seen during the rest of the electoral cycle. Yada yada yada.

I know all this because I’ve read it, and endlessly repeated variations of it, in newspapers and on Twitter.

It’s pervasive: explicit in opinion columns and covert in the news. The articles are written by political journalists and others and then tweeted and re-tweeted by them and their colleagues. These reports of widespread disconnection from the political process usually include expressions of regret; the demise of the parties is often celebrated. The theme is usually the same “you politicians had it coming, you’ve taken the electorate for granted for decades, the system’s broken and it’s your fault, you feckless, lazy reprobates.”

But the last couple of years have seen a little twist: Twitter has gone mainstream and not just in Westminster either. Hundreds of MPs and thousands of activists, in most constituencies, have continued doing what they have been doing for decades, knocking on doors and staying in touch with electors, only now they are doing it on Twitter.

In fact, Twitter has helped motivate and mobilise activism. Any Labour organiser will tell you there’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure and leading by manifest example to get people off their sofas and onto doorsteps. These days, hundreds of MPs, even those who once swore they would never stoop so low, and their campaign teams post thousands of tweets from, say, Acacia Avenue. We know it’s Acacia Avenue because the team is usually snapped in front of the road sign.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon