UNCUT: Time for parliament to take back control

02/09/2019, 07:00:59 AM

by Jonathan Todd

There is no mandate for no deal Brexit. We did not vote for it in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 general election. On both these occasions, we were told that Brexit would be negotiated. That it would deliver “the exact same benefits” and more.

Theresa May could not negotiate these benefits. Boris Johnson won’t. Nor would Jeremy Corbyn or anyone else. This is less the art of the deal and more the impossible Brexit cocktail.

We can’t mix this cocktail and keep the UK united. We can’t exit the single market and customs union and avoid a border on the island of Ireland or in the Irish sea – otherwise the UK serves as a backdoor to EU tariffs and regulations. We can’t allow a border on Ireland and uphold the Good Friday Agreement – risking peace on the British Isles. We can’t deny Nicola Sturgeon that such a UK is a very different one from that which Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 – creating grounds for a rerun of that vote.

We can’t mix this cocktail and maintain our prosperity. We can’t erect trade barriers with our biggest trading partner and avoid this. We can’t be poorer and afford better public services. We can’t move overnight from EU membership to third country status and not subject business to a sudden erosion of competitiveness, which no amount of preparation can fully mitigate, while also so diminishing the leverage of our trade negotiators that they will grasp at chlorine-washed terms.

We can’t mix this cocktail and sustain illusions of “taking back control” and being an “independent country”. We can’t stop the world and get off in the 1950s – we can only choose, as we inevitably must, with whom we align. We can’t Brexit and not be a pawn in the destructive games of Trump, Putin and the IRA – with a senior IRA member wanting “Brexit … as hard as hell.”

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GRASSROOTS: Labour must stand with Hongkongers

23/08/2019, 06:19:05 PM

by Gray Sergeant

Tom Watson is right the United Kingdom must not sit idly by while Hongkongers lose their rights and freedoms – and neither should the Labour Party

On 16 August the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party addressed, via video, thousands of pro-democracy protesters who had gathered at the Charter Garden in Hong Kong. The desire of those attending the Power to the People rally was a simple one, to have a government which was accountable to them, the citizens. Watson offered his solidarity and called on the British government to give “direct moral support for the people of Hong Kong”.

The UK has a unique responsibility to the people in Hong Kong. Not only was the territory a British colony, until it was given to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997, but London co-signed with Beijing the Joint Declaration which promises to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047. This means allowing the city to maintain its freedoms and rule of law, as well as develop its partially-democratic political system.

Yet the PRC, and its appointees who run the Hong Kong government, have repeatedly undermined this arrangement. Most notable has been their failure to deliver on the promise given to the Hong Kong people that they would be able to elect their own Chief Executive by universal suffrage. This is what led to the mass occupation of the city’s streets in 2014. However, the situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated even further since the Umbrella movement with; booksellers being abducted to Mainland China, political parties and candidates being banned from running for office, and democratically elected lawmakers being thrown out of the city’s legislature.

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UNCUT: Peterborough shone a light on the dire state of Labour. The Tories’ beauty contest is the same shade of awful

15/06/2019, 10:08:33 PM

by Rob Marchant

The week before last, numerous MPs went to campaign for a racist sympathiser. I am sure most thought they were doing the right thing, dutifully answering the campaign call, as politicians do. Quite possibly some didn’t even know the story, or did not dare pull out at the last minute. Either way, they supported Lisa Forbes, surely one of the worst candidates we could have ever chosen for a by-election.

Thanks to the scrutiny a by-election suffers, all parties generally try hard to get the right candidate, one who will not suddenly find themselves at the centre of a media storm.

This time Labour failed dismally, presumably because those leading the party and its machine – not, you understand, the regular staffers, decent folk who have to live with the constant shame and embarrassment about their superiors – couldn’t care less about a bit of anti-Semitic dabbling.

Rather, they see it as a badge of honour: of being “sound” on Palestine, unafraid to speak truth to power (“power”, in this case, meaning simply “Jews”).

On the day, Labour showed it still had a tight machine, which the Brexit Party did not, and beat them by a whisker. But it still won on a simple principle, which seems to be a novel, new party strategy: winning by having their vote decimated a little less than the Tories.

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UNCUT: The UK’s decline will continue as long as our Brexit riddle is unresolved

11/06/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Brexit is bigger than Labour and the Tories. As it renders our domestic policy dysfunctional, shreds our external reputation, and holds our economy hostage, only the deluded think that Boris Johnson trumps Brexit.

Let’s face it: The UK is now a failed state.

At the heart of Brexit’s tremendous power is its meaninglessness. Professor Danny Dyer sums it up:

“Who knows about Brexit? No one has got a fucking clue what Brexit is, yeah. You watch Question Time, it’s comedy. No one knows what it is – it’s like this mad riddle that no one knows what it is, right?”

This riddle is subtly complex. It seemed straightforward at the 2016 referendum. Brexit means Brexit. Most MPs voted to trigger Article 50.

MPs so voted because they wanted to respect the referendum, but they cannot take this respect further without solving the riddle.

They cannot. If they could, cabinet would not divide over Brexit’s meaning, parliament would vote through a version of Brexit, and Theresa May would be triumphant.

The unsolved riddle leaves these stark realities:

  1. The EU are not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and the chances of getting this agreement through parliament remain slim.
  2. The default position is that we no deal at the end of October. While the only thing that parliament can agree is its desire not to no deal, we may soon have a prime minister prepared to no deal and an EU, frustrated with the UK, willing to.
  3. There is no mandate for no deal. This was not promised in 2016.
  4. If a prime minister wants a mandate for an approach to Brexit that leaves open no deal and creates a parliament more likely to vote for their version of Brexit, they might seek this through a general election. But, as our two-party democracy transforms into a four-party circus, a general election now would be a lottery.
  5. Even in a less volatile climate, a general election would only solve our Brexit riddle if the parties stood on unambiguous and deliverable Brexit platforms. It requires a highly generous interpretation of their limited capabilities to think that they would do so.

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UNCUT: Remainers need to accept they lost. Make the argument for re-joining instead

23/05/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

On Thursday night, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will comfortably win more votes than the Labour and Conservative parties put together. This is the price we will pay as a country – and a political system – for the failure to deliver on the public’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016.

The European elections will represent a second people’s vote and an undeniable rejection of Remainer politics. Surprise is the very last reaction that is warranted. Over the past three years, there has been scant interest from the Remain camp in listening or reflecting on why they lost the referendum, let alone an attempt at persuading and winning round voters who backed Brexit.

For nearly three years, their actions have been condescending, tone deaf, incompetent and foolish. They resemble British tourists in a Spanish hotel in the 1970s shouting louder at the waiter in order to be understood.

British politics has changed, but there are those who still cling to the old certainties. No amount of sophistry about messages on buses or Russian interference has had any effect. Voters are wise to the tactics of the political class. When they hear Remainer politicians talk of a second referendum they simply hear, ‘We’re giving you another chance to give us the right answer.’

Am I a Leaver? No, I’m a democrat. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. Accept it, learn from it and come back stronger. I’m also a rejoiner. I want Britain’s long-term interest to be served by being part of the European Union. I simply recognise that the short-term position is now lost.

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UNCUT: Will the voters punish Corbyn for betraying everything he promised in 2015?

22/05/2019, 07:00:09 AM

by George Kendall

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn made an idealistic call for a different kind of politics. In the four years since, step by step, he has broken an astonishing array of his promises.

He promised straight-talking, honest politics. What happened? One front-bencher, Barry Gardiner, now proclaims: “Labour is not a remain party now”, but the deputy leader,  Tom Watson, says: “We are a remain and reform party.” Yet from the leader, all we get is obfuscation and manipulation. When talking about a People’s Vote he uses weasel words like “a vote.” This could mean a confirmatory vote on May’s deal without an option to remain, a general election, or even just a vote in parliament. After two years of watching him enable a Tory Brexit and undermine the campaign against a People’s Vote, and after listening to how he talked about the EU as recently as 2010, does anyone honestly believe that he is a genuine supporter of EU membership?

Back in 2015, he promised that Labour members would have the final say on policy. Yet, on the most important issue of the day, when Labour grassroots wanted a chance for Conference to vote on a clear commitment to a People’s Vote, his people organised to block it.

He promised to usher in a new era of civility and bring seriousness back into debate. Instead, an army of his supporters hound any who disagree with them, on social media and in real life. They dismiss any inconvenient facts with an attack on the person speaking. And when they hear an inconvenient fact from a respected think-tank or a left-of-centre media outlet, they dismiss it as biased, while failing to provide any alternative authoritative source.

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UNCUT: Chuka’s missed a trick. He should have set up a London party instead

20/05/2019, 09:55:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘I love it when a plan comes together,’ a grinning George Peppard used to say in The A-Team when the gang had yet again outfoxed the bad guys and won the day.

Not a phrase that’s used much over at Change UK, I suspect. Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly for the intrepid band of Labour and Tory escapees. They’re finding out the hard way just how limited the market is for soggy centrism and that the tribal nature of British politics is, well, tribal.

They’re encountering the cognitive dissonance of the British public too. Everyone says they want a new kind of politics, but the problem, for anyone who takes this claim seriously, is that hardly anyone ever votes for it. Perhaps the bigger snag, though, is that no-one much likes defectors. Least of all the voters, judging by the latest polls.

Change UK is already scuttled. Latest polling has them on 2 per cent. Break the mould? They haven’t even dented it.

Whatever anyone thinks of the SDP’s Gang of Four, they were household names, seasoned Cabinet Ministers who had run the country. If it wasn’t for first-past-the-post, they would have become a permanent presence in British politics, coming within a whisker of Labour’s share of the vote in 1983.

Of course, that same system that has so successfully stymied new entrants for so long is still in place. Which is why Change UK needed to do well in the European elections, where proportional representation gave them a chance of making a breakthrough.

Sadly (for them) that isn’t going to happen.

To be fair to Chuka Umunna and his moon-sized ego, his ambition was clearly to establish a new, national political party, subsuming the Lib Dems and drawing in enough like minds from the Labour and Tory ranks to build enough heft and momentum to shatter our existing model.

He hasn’t been able to achieve anything close to that because he’s just not a compelling enough figure and doesn’t stand for anything distinctive. Fluent, yes, but an empty vessel. All sizzle and no substance, as Barack Obama once noted of David Cameron.

Actually, there’s not much sizzle either.

As The Guardian’s John Crace put it the other day: ‘Change UK is dying before it even learned to walk. Its MPs know it. Its candidates know it. The public knows it.’

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UNCUT: Labour’s dreadful local election performance is the clearest possible public verdict on Corbyn

03/05/2019, 07:41:02 AM

by Rob Marchant

Facing the most incompetent, divided, rudderless and risible Tory government in living memory, Labour has somehow managed to go backwards in the local elections.

It’s unprecedented and entirely a judgement on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

This isn’t a bolt from the blue, Labour’s slide has been entirely predictable and, unchecked, catastrophe beckons at the next general election.

Fast-forward to 2022, the projected next general election: Jeremy Corbyn, safe in his position as leader, has been leader of the Labour Party for seven years.

With regard to tenure, that will put him as the seventh longest-serving leader in the party’s century-long history. MacDonald, Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Kinnock, Blair and Corbyn. That is the peer group: all party leaders for more than one term.

While some might reasonably quibble about MacDonald, the first six are undoubtedly heavyweight, historical names. And party leaders with that kind of tenure are, clearly, the ones with the best chance of shaping their party in their image.

Jeremy Corbyn already has.

In three-and-a-half years – he is currently at the rough midway-point of those seven years – he has reduced his party to one riddled with, and about to be formally investigated for, anti-Semitism; and provided a nonsensically equivocal position on Brexit, as a result shoring up what many have reasonably come to think of as the worst government in history.

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UNCUT: Our summer of terrible dilemmas

26/04/2019, 09:10:09 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The temperature is rising. On our thermometers and in our politics. We face a summer of terrible dilemmas.

Should the Democrats seek to impeach Trump?

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the Mueller report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Mueller does not exonerate Trump. Mueller also recognises the Justice Department guidelines debarring prosecution of a sitting president. Mueller has taken matters as far as he feels he could.

It is for Congress to take them further. To not do so would set a dangerous precedent, while to do so would go against political realism.

In the absence of Republican support, an attempt to impeach Trump would not succeed. It would energise Trump’s loyal supporters. It would detract from focus on issues – such as healthcare – that are more likely to help Democrats in next year’s presidential election.

Who should pro-Europeans vote for in the European election?

Pro-Europeans have had few better friends in recent years than Andrew Adonis and Seb Dance. They intend to seek election as Labour MEPs.

The Labour leadership has been less solid. Barely exerting itself in the 2016 referendum. Slow to interrogate that vote’s dark money. Quick to push the “jobs first Brexit” oxymoron.

Theresa May, pace the ERG, has not defeated Brexit. Nor has parliament. Brexit – its contradictions and conceits – is defeating Brexit.

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UNCUT: Split by Brexit, riven with anti-Semitism, Labour is hanging by a thread

21/03/2019, 10:58:51 PM

by Rob Marchant

Recent days have surely seen more political turmoil and uncertainty than has been seen in a generation; perhaps even in the whole postwar period. It is certainly extraordinary that, two weeks out from an enormous political event, no-one can really say with any certainty how things will turn out, or even what the plan of action is.

But what of Labour? Jeremy Corbyn, in present circumstances, is surely the luckiest leader of all: the strange return of a sovereign Parliament and the disarray of Theresa May’s Tories has helped camouflage Labour’s violent, internal convulsions, albeit temporarily.

For the past few months, Labour has been being riven by two potent forces at the same time.

First, the Leader’s disingenuous position on Brexit being finally laid bare for all to see: the Emperor never had any clothes. it was only ever a matter of time before his attempt to ride two horses at once ended in Labour doing the splits, and not far off literally so.

All Shadow Cabinet members can do is go on the media and mouth platitudes, while Corbyn refuses to answer a straight question. No-one believes them any more, except the Corbyn cult itself, within the party. Labour’s surviving frontbenchers have become a standing joke, as Emily Maitlis’ open exasperation with Barry Gardiner on Newsnight showed.

The second blow has been the gradual implosion of the party over anti-Semitism, for the simple reason that it refuses to pay anything more than lip-service to the problem.

Of the two, it seems clear that the second is the real killer: the most pernicious and long-lasting.

Labour could yet, if Corbyn became irreparably damaged for whatever reason, replace him with someone willing to bow to the majority view of the party membership: that they do not want Brexit. Although there might be a group who would never forgive Labour for the damage done already, that applies equally to both major parties at the moment and, chances are, they would give a new leader the benefit of the doubt.

The same is not, sadly, true of anti-Semitism. It is now at the point where it is genuinely doubtful whether or not the party can actually recover, because the rot has already gone so deep into the membership. In any event, it would really require a turnaround in both the NEC and the party machine, neither of which are going to happen until Corbyn goes, and possibly not after that, either.

Political resignations over the last few weeks are starting to grow from a trickle to a flood. The other week, as reported here at Uncut, a group of experienced, moderate councillors resigned, following the TIG defections. Key councils are now in the hands of the Corbynite clowns, including Haringey and Brighton. Liverpool is, once again, crumbling.

For those seeing echoes in this “councils going bad” back to the 80s days of Militant, there are clear parallels, yes – not least the return of Derek Hatton – but it is not the same.

It is not comparable because, for all the organisation came close to strangling the party, parasite-like, the leadership never fell to the far left. It has now.

The leadership has now been in the hands of the far left for three-and-a-half years (if you do not recognise Corbyn as “far left”, then you have simply been putting your fingers in your ears to the mountains of information on his past – for example the excellent Corbyn in The Times Twitter feed.

If you do recognise that it is in the hands of the far left, you see how much danger the party is now in, because – among many disastrous effects – there is no end in sight for its cancerous anti-Semitism problem, worsening day by day.

This week, the party readmits the wag who thought that “Jew process” was an acceptable joke to make in a party meeting. Suspended MP Chris Williamson is patted on the back by his old pal Corbyn in the Commons. A headline in the New York Times, not constrained by the niceties of the British press, openly describes our beloved party as “Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Semitic Labour Party. That is, the stench has even crossed the Atlantic.

In case it were not blindingly obvious, the people in charge of the party are not remotely serious in tackling the problem.

Worse, the message anti-Semites within are seeing from the top is still, in Tracey Ullman’s immortal words, “tone it down a bit, lads”. Not that the current Zeitgeist is repugnant apologism, which must be stamped out.

It is useful to read, if you have not already, this heartfelt piece in the Jewish Chronicle by one of Corbyn’s own foot-soldiers, resigning from the party in Islington North. The weary directness with which someone who had lived close to Corbyn for years, physically and politically, was devastating:

“And I wonder why we took no notice of this behaviour at that time. I can only conclude that we saw you as an irrelevance and your activities anachronistic.

Unfortunately you are no longer an irrelevance. You are leader of the Labour party. You and your coterie of ideologues and aristo-Stalinists have created an institutional culture where anti-Semitism thrives. It has been brought from the fringe of the party to the forefront of the party.”

It is masked by the current Westminster shenanigans over Brexit, but the party is currently hanging by a thread. Even with a general election, which could happen and would most likely be lost, the Augean stables would be little cleaner on the other side, and possibly worse, as new Corbynite MPs would replace retiring or deselected ones.

Something, somewhere, soon has to give.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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