UNCUT: Corbyn’s pacifism won’t really affect Britain from opposition, right? Wrong

02/09/2015, 09:50:36 PM

by Rob Marchant

Another week, another revelation about what a Corbyn-led foreign policy would look like. It is enough that Labour would, as it did in the days of George Lansbury, be directed into a position of “peace at any price”, even if that were saving lives from genocide in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, as a previous Labour government did.

This is not an exaggeration: it is hardly a surprise that the chair of Stop the War Coalition, by definition, supports the idea that any military action by the West under any circumstances is a bad thing (although, strangely, that organisation has shown itself not so against war when it is conducted by a non-Western power, such as Russia).

And so we have been treated in recent days to a reminder that Corbyn regards the death of Osama Bin Laden as “a tragedy”. While, in times of peace, it is right to uphold the right of anyone to a fair trial, Bin Laden was killed in war zone. And it is difficult to imagine many British citizens agreeing with that particular stance, let alone those of New York, where he contrived the death of three thousand.

Leaving on one side the fact that this statement was made on PressTV, the propaganda channel of a deeply unpleasant regime, it is extraordinary that we even have to make these arguments.

And then there was the concern articulated by Halya Coynash, one of Ukraine’s most respected human rights activists, that Corbyn had essentially adopted the Russian position on her country:

“His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.”

However, for some it is convenient to think that, should Labour elect Jeremy Corbyn as its leader in a few days’ time, his wacky foreign policy ideas would not do Britain any harm. After all, in opposition, what can a party leader do? And in the hearts of many of his most fervent supporters is the realisation that their man can never be Prime Minister.

This is a dangerously fallacious reading of the role of the leader of the opposition.

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GRASSROOTS: We need economic policies for 2020. Not 2008

02/09/2015, 07:42:03 PM

by Michael Pavey

The story of the last Parliament was the Tory-led government crushing a nascent economic recovery and condemning the country to five years of misery through austerity – but successfully convincing the public that it was all Labour’s fault.

In no small part this is because immediately after the 2010 election, Labour indulged in a prolonged and self-absorbed leadership contest. Instead of defending our economic legacy, we bickered amongst ourselves and allowed the Tories to badge us as spendthrift deficit-deniers who caused the financial crash. We never shook off the damage of those early months.

Now we are making exactly the same mistake. Instead of developing persuasive economic policies which people understand and relate to, we are focusing on the fantasy that is Corbynomics. I have absolutely no problem with Jeremy Corbyn – but Corbynomics is the polar opposite of what we need. Not because it’s scary and left-wing, but because it will have less and less relevance to people’s lives as the next general election approaches.

The cornerstone of Corbynomics, “Quantitative Easing for the people”, is a triumph of hindsight over commonsense. It’s what we should have done in 2008. But the unique circumstances which created that moment no longer apply. When the whole financial system stood on the brink of meltdown, we should have set a much broader definition of the public good than simply protecting current accounts to keep ATMs flowing. At the same time as saving the banks, we should have had a strategy which also protected jobs, livelihoods and public services from the impact of a prolonged recession.

But to say we should have done this in 2008 doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do now. 2008 was a unique moment, both economically and politically. An unprecedented meltdown triggered an equally unprecedented clamour for political intervention. Hindsight shows that the steps taken were far from perfect, but this was a time of genuine fear when no-one knew what was happening – so Gordon Brown deserves full credit for averting something far worse.

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UNCUT: Corbyn’s silence over child abuse in Islington is typical of how he picks and chooses his causes

31/08/2015, 09:25:29 PM

by Richard Scorer

“After that meeting, we never heard another thing. No letter, no phone call, I never, ever saw him speak about it. In fact, whenever I saw Jeremy afterwards, at Stop The War marches and events like that, I’d always go up to him and say: ‘This scandal is still going on, Jeremy.’ He’d be very polite, but he never did anything.”

These are the words of Liz Davies, a former social worker who tried to blow the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in council-run care homes in Islington in the 1980s and 1990s. Davies was talking recently to the Daily Mail about her attempts to persuade her local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, to support victims and whistleblowers -and his silence on a major public scandal.

For readers unfamiliar with events in Islington, a brief synopsis: in the 1980s and 1990s, children were abused in Islington council care homes on a shocking scale. An official report in 1995 blamed the scandal on the policies of Islington’s hard left council, which came to power in 1982, and condemned its response in damning terms. A particularly abhorrent feature was the way whistleblowers were accused of homophobia, and victims derided: the then council leader eventually had to apologise to one of the victims for dismissing his allegations as those of an “extremely disturbed person.”

It’s pretty indisputable that throughout this appalling saga, Corbyn remained virtually silent; apart from a couple of brief statements in the early 90s calling for allegations to be investigated, he said next to nothing. This, it should be remembered, was a long-running scandal in Corbyn’s own constituency, and over the same decades, Corbyn called for public inquiries into Bloody Sunday, Iraq and the death of anti-nuclear protester Hilda Murrell. Not to mention the tendering process for local bus routes.

The Daily Mail piece aside, Corbyn’s lamentable record over child abuse in Islington has attracted little comment. John Mann, the Labour MP and anti-abuse campaigner, recently published an open letter accusing Corbyn of “doing nothing” to prevent the abuse.

“Your inaction in the 1980s and 1990s says a lot – not about your personal character, which I admire, but about your politics, which I do not.”

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UNCUT: SW1 Labour is too busy pretending to be in the West Wing to value Labour’s local government leaders

30/08/2015, 12:45:36 PM

by Theo Blackwell

It takes the polemicist Simon Jenkins to hit the nail on the head: our most talented leaders are outside of Westminster in local government – and ‘SW1 Labour’s’ love of centralism and conformity continues to freeze them out.  Labour has outstanding leaders. It’s a shame that they are all in the regions | Simon Jenkins. Not using too much hyperbole, he writes of the pre-election devo-Manc discussions:

“A significant moment in the downfall of Ed Miliband came in spring of last year after George Osborne’s “northern powerhouse” speech. Manchester’s boss, Richard Leese, was in the middle of negotiating with Osborne on his city’s devolution plan. It involved a major restructuring of public administration, possibly across all of local government. Miliband’s office wanted Leese to rubbish Osborne’s speech. The reply was reputedly unquotable in a family newspaper. Who did these snivelling Westminster teenagers think they were addressing?”

Without a doubt this was a political moment which revealed the lack of depth and hubris of team Ed – none of whom had local government experience and often gave the impression to council leaders that their interventions were just rude interruptions to their far more important ‘West Wing’ world of policy announcements.  Local government was seen a something to be managed rather than an opportunity to be harnessed as part of our story around credibility, innovation and growth.

Be in no doubt, in Labour local government circles this sorry episode continues to be regarded as a most monstrous tactical error by the previous leadership, as territory ceded to the Conservatives will be hard to regain.  (Indeed, Andy Burnham has had to work hard with local government figures to distance himself from the ‘Swiss Cheese NHS’ description of locally combined budgets he used in the run up to the election).

But today our governing experience is almost exclusively in local government and Wales, and not in the Parliamentary Labour party.  This will be same for the next 5 years.

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GRASSROOTS: We need a recall vote on the leader before the next election

28/08/2015, 11:40:50 AM

by Trevor Fisher

Early in the Labour leadership campaign, the idea of a recall election was floated. The Newsnight discussion involving all four candidates on June 17th discussed the idea without much depth but did suggest the mechanisms already existed.

The issue has gone off the agenda but it is time to renew the debate, before the election result is announced. It is already being suggested that if the wrong candidate is elected then there will be parliamentary plots. But the issue is for the party, not the MPs. A recall should be accepted practice, whoever comes out on top in September.

The current system without automatic recall, allowing a leader an indefinite period up to an election – and perhaps beyond – is absurd. Currently a leader can last for an open period until they decide to resign, thus Attlee lasted for twenty years on the basis of having won the leadership in a PLP vote, only resigning after two election defeats.

It is a worth considering what would have happened if Blair had not volunteered to stand down after the 2005 election – I suspect he would be there today. It has been 80 years since the Labour party last removed a leader, George Lansbury, in 1935. Unlike the Tory party, Labour does not remove unsuccessful leaders.

The problem currently staring Labour in the face is that it has to win voters over in a hostile climate, which has been the case since 2010. Giving Ed Miliband the whole of a four year eight month period was a mistake, which will be repeated this autumn if there is no recall strategy.

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UNCUT: The Left doesn’t understand the difference between ‘the people’ and ‘the voters’

26/08/2015, 08:31:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It doesn’t matter how many young people turn up to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak from the top of a fire engine. Or how many ‘likes’ his Facebook page gets. Or how many Macbook revolutionaries follow Russell Brand’s inane ramblings on YouTube. All that matters in the political system we have is winning over a majority of voters. Without accepting this immutable law of electoral politics, all the hopes, aspirations and polemics of activists’ are instantly rendered meaningless.

The Left disagrees. Speaking at a rally for Jeremy Corbyn recently, the musician, Brian Eno, loftily proclaimed that “electability is not the most important thing” for the Labour party, to enthusiastic cheers from the adoring crowd. When it boils down to appealing to the maximum number of voters or Not Selling Out, then it’s a no-brainer. To many on the Left, ideological correctness is more important than political pragmatism. Instead, “changing the conversation” (another Eno-ism) outweighs the importance of actually winning the vote.

The fundamental mistake that Corbyn and his enraptured supporters make is confusing ‘The People’ with ‘The Electorate’.

‘The People’ include the downtrodden masses that don’t vote and aren’t, all too often, even registered to do so. The Left, nobly, wants to help them the most. If they were one and the same as ‘The Voters’ then the likelihood of changing the conversation in British politics – would be much greater than it is. But they’re not the same, so the chances are nil.

Fully a third of people didn’t bother to cast their vote in May’s general election, yet at 66 per cent, turnout was actually the highest since Labour’s 1997 landslide. By failing to stake their democratic claim, as the wealthy surely do, the poor, the dispossessed and the beanbag radicals of the Left keep the dial fixed onto a status quo that simply ignores their issues of concern.

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UNCUT: Yes to OMOV. No to registered supporters. Ed Miliband’s party reforms are killing Labour

25/08/2015, 10:49:12 PM

by Daniel Charleston Downes

We can now forget the Ed Stone and the bacon sandwiches, we now know for sure the most damaging thing that Ed Miliband did for the Labour party. The recalibration of votes among members to one member one vote was essential and the right thing to do, but then this was extended too far into a new concept of registered supporters.

It makes sense to take the selection of leader away from just MPs. MPs have maintained their right to select who makes it to the ballot, but even then they seem to have done everything that they possibly can to misplace that power. Once the ballots are out it is correct that the PLP should have the same weight as those delivering leaflets and running campaigns.

The fact of the matter is that registering to support a party was always going to result in some mischief. As it happens it has meant that there are those in the Conservative party that have sought a vote in order to pick what they consider to be the least desirable electoral option for Labour and it has encouraged those from the far left to sway the ballot.

Both pose their own problems. Opening yourself up so that your opposition can infiltrate your leadership selection is foolish, particularly if MPs are nominating a candidate whilst denouncing them as a suicide ticket. This should never be allowed to happen and unless the NEC can guarantee that not one vote has been cast by an individual for the sole intention of disrupting the party, the vote should not go ahead. I would be amazed if they can do this with any confidence.

The second issue is that it has exacerbated and even created divisions within the party that weren’t prevalent before the election. There were a great many members that wanted a deeper anti-austerity message but many were able to assess that need against electoral pragmatism.

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UNCUT: Liz Kendall 1. Yvette Cooper 2. Andy Burnham 3

22/08/2015, 12:58:45 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The ballot has finally arrived so it’s time to vote. Time to back the candidate who is right about what Labour must to do to regain power; to give a second preference to the candidate who could yet save Labour from self-immolation and register a third preference for a candidate not called Jeremy Corbyn.

Liz Kendall is my first preference. She has displayed guts and determination in her campaign. She’s right about the big issues and of all the candidates is the one who grasps the magnitude of Labour’s challenge in winning back public trust on the economy.

The personal abuse and level of misogyny that she’s faced is ludicrous and her response has revealed the type of steel Labour needs in its leaders.

Despite the trolls and the torrent of hate, she’s managed to secure endorsements from council leaders, trade unionists and the best and brightest of Labour’s new generation of MPs such as Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Emma Reynolds.

Liz Kendall and her platform are the future of the Labour party. It’s just a shame that her campaign hasn’t harnessed this as effectively as it might.

Too often, the message communicated to Labour members has been that they’re wrong and have to accept they are wrong.

Whatever the bald facts of a situation, simply telling voters’ that they’re mistaken is always a losing strategy.

Just as Labour’s economic message cannot continue to be based on telling the public they were wrong at the 2010 and 2015 election about the party’s spending record a decade ago, so an aspiring Labour leader cannot just be the bearer of bad tidings to the membership.

In 1994, the Blair leadership campaign was built around bridging the divide between the membership and the electorate, not telling them to jump it.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour’s in a mess because the soft left has disappeared

20/08/2015, 06:03:58 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The Labour leadership election is becoming a gift to the Tories, because of the Corbyn surge. The politics of Corbyn now dominating the agenda has revived talk of the soft left, which commentators including Luke Akehurst think is capable of intervening. Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph, rightly bemoaning the disastrous new electoral system, commented that “pragmods” wanted the current individualised membership plus “many elements on the soft left of Labour.” Pragmods may be right, but where the elements of the soft left are, is another matter.

As someone active in the Labour Coordinating Committee (LCC), the main soft left group in the 1980s, I can endorse what Luke Akehurst says about its grassroots effectiveness in tackling the hard left and shifting the national agenda. But the successor organisations are now dead, except for Compass which is now outside the Labour Party orbit.  Luke Akehurst wants to bring the remnants of the soft left into action, Dan Hodges believes they already are. So something needs to be said about the soft left and whether it has any role to play in the current drama.

As Akehurst has said, the soft left of the eighties had much policy agreement with the hard left. But there were at least two major differences.

Firstly, the soft left did not believe the barrier to political progress was the party establishment. Though there were sharp differences with the leadership through to 1983, the real problems to advance were seen as the Tory party and the deep roots in popular culture the Tories had and still have. From this, the second big difference was the soft left wanted to work with the leadership, the hard left to replace it.

It is sometimes said the hard left do not want power. They certainly do. In the eighties they controlled a number of local councils. But they did not want compromise. They shared with the far left the desire for purity, but unlike the far left Trotskyists’ sects, the hard left did want elected position.

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UNCUT: Corbyn’s calls for unity are rank hypocrisy. Don’t be surprised if they go unanswered

20/08/2015, 10:54:07 AM

by Sam Dale

“Unity is our watchword,” says Jeremy Corbyn on his campaign website as he sets out his plan to heal the party after a bruising leadership contest.

On the site he has a “unity statement” and calls on members to sign the pledge that aims to bring the party back together after months of in-fighting.

“The leadership election should be conducted with one thought in mind: our objective is to be a united party focused on winning the general election and campaigning across the country, day in day out,” he writes.

He has also penned an article for the New Statesman claiming the party must unite after the contest is over and how he’ll do it if he’s leader.

By way of example, he insists the main reason the party lost in 1983 was because it was divided.

“The Labour left was fighting a passionate but often inward-looking campaign for party democracy and several figures on the right of the party spent much of that election denouncing the manifesto,” he writes. “It’s no surprise we lost.”

It is astonishing to read these words coming from the pen of Jeremy Corbyn. And astonishing he can do it with a straight face.

If only we were more united then there is nothing we can’t achieve, he seems to argue.

This is hypocrisy.

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