INSIDE: Danczuk to learn his fate today

26/04/2017, 07:28:55 AM

Simon Danczuk is set to appear before a star chamber of the National Executive Committee this morning to learn whether he will be readmitted to the party and allowed to stand as the official Labour candidate for his Rochdale seat.

Suspended from the party since December 2015 following newspaper allegations about his private life, Danczuk had previously earned widespread praise for his tenacity in exposing his predecessor, Sir Cyril Smith, as a sexual predator.

His disciplinary case is now a microcosm of a bigger debate within the party.

As Atul noted the other day, it boils down to whether Labour’s priority at this election is maximising the number of Labour MPs returned, or positioning for post-election control of the party.

If the former, the NEC has to allow Danczuk to stand.

Despite his ubiquity in the tabloid media, he remains popular among his constituents and is a solid and determined campaigner.

In 2015, he increased his majority from 889 in 2010 to 12,442.

The Rochdale seat is mercurial for Labour. Having oscillated between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in recent elections, Danczuk remains Labour’s best chance of holding it.

If, however, the party leadership is more concerned with the composition of the post-election parliamentary party- and the potential of getting a bloc of left-wingers who will nominate a left-wing successor to Corbyn – then removing a vocal critic of the leadership like Danczuk may be the over-riding consideration.

Is Labour a serious political party focused on winning an election, or a fan club? The treatment meted out to Simon Danczuk will tell us.

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UNCUT: Starmer is right: Only Labour can stop a blank cheque Brexit

25/04/2017, 11:14:50 PM

by David Ward

At times it felt like we’d completely bypassed the election and gone straight into the leadership contest. Jenny Chapman introduced Keir Starmer as “clear, articulate, and strong” and one of the “bravest, most sincere, people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with”.

Yet with the inescapable reality of the stopped clock on the adjacent wall telling the right time twice a day, Starmer had to bring us back into the present and tell us what Labour’s policy on Brexit would be.

For an election speech there was quite a bit of policy in there. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals, an end to free movement, a laser focus on jobs and the economy in negotiations. Although it isn’t clear how Labour would “retain the benefits” of the single market and customs union.

But the specifics were less important than the narrative. If this election is about who runs Brexit, Starmer’s message is voting labour is the only way to keep May honest.

This is surely right. Because there are reasons to be concerned about giving the PM such a free hand regardless of whether you supported Leave or Remain.

A huge majority for May simply allows her free rein to strike almost any agreement, impervious to criticism.

For example many leavers, including Labour voters, were motivated by concerns about immigration last summer. Yet already Theresa May has suggested free movement could continue after Britain leaves the EU.

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INSIDE: Leadership fix machine cranks into action for selections in safe seats

25/04/2017, 09:50:14 PM

While the general election played out in the country today, within the Labour party, the focus has been on selections for the 14 seats where Labour MPs are retiring.

On a day of swirling rumours and frayed tempers, long lists have started to be drawn up by the party as Corbynites battle to secure places for their favoured candidates.

In practical terms, the available seats for this political game of musical chairs is a lot less than 14.

Five seats are off the table because they are likely to be lost – Slough, Hartlepool, Birmingham Edgbaston, Wolverhampton South West and Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

The scale of potential revolt in the local party in Lewisham West and Penge at the prospective imposition of a Corbynite seems to have put off the leadership there while Metro Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram has fended off the threat of having the leader’s son, Seb Corbyn, foisted on Liverpool Walton. Current Liverpool city Mayor, Joe Anderson, is the hot favourite for this, the safest Labour seat in the country.

That leaves seven seats – Leigh, Hull West and Hessle, Blaydon, Barnsley East, North West Durham and Oxford East.

Corbyn spokesperson Sam Tarry is in the frame for Hull West and Hessle, preferred over David Prescott, son of John and recent Corbyn speech-writer (albeit for a few weeks before being moved out of the leader’s office).

Rumours are that Katy Clark, Corbyn’s political secretary is being lined up for Leigh, despite recent incumbent Andy Burnham having written an open letter opposing the imposition of a non-local candidate and backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt.

Barnsely East, former seat of Michael Dugher, is also being eyed by the leadership as a destination for a preferred candidate, as much to punish Dugher for his outspoken criticism of the leadership as to secure a seat for a Corbynite. Names mentioned in relation to Barnsley East include Katy Clark again and Karie Murphy.

Murphy is Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff having formerly been Tom Watson’s office manager and the candidate at the heart of the catastrophic Falkirk row in the last parliament. Following Falkirk, she was reportedly blocked from the Halifax selection just before the 2015 election, by Harriet Harman.

The machinations will continue for the rest of the week, consuming the focus of the senior party leadership and burning another week of the general election campaign.

 

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UNCUT: More signs Corbyn’s cabal has abandoned Labour’s key seats and is focused on the next leadership contest

24/04/2017, 09:15:51 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The starting pistol for the election has been fired but when it comes to candidate selection, Labour has been left on the blocks.

According to Labour’s selection timetable, Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in seats where the MP has stood down, are being chosen by the NEC between Sunday 23rd April and Friday 28th April and in seats without Labour MPs, between Sunday April 30th and Tuesday May 2nd. Sitting MPs have been automatically reselected.

Think about those dates for a moment.

Six days to pick 14 candidates in seats Labour already holds where the MP is retiring, three days to pick 416 candidates, out of which just under 100 are the key seats needed to win a majority.

Actions speak louder than words and the focus on seats where MPs are standing down tells us two things.

First, the party has written-off anything not already held.

Candidates in seats needed to form a Labour government are likely to be two weeks behind their incumbent Tory opponents, at the stage they are confirmed after the May bank holiday.

Labour officials suggest that based on past election experience, sitting Tory MPs will be on their third or fourth leaflet to voters by the time Labour has candidates in place.

Given the snap nature of the election, where the sole opportunity to introduce the Labour candidate to electors is the eight week window starting from Theresa May’s announcement, this is a major handicap.

There are doubts whether Labour’s candidates will even be able to make the first of the two free election mailings – that’s how late our selection process runs.

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INSIDE: Corbynites accused of trying to parachute loyalists into seats

24/04/2017, 03:52:02 PM

Speculation swirls that allies of Jeremy Corbyn are set to be parachuted into seats where the Labour MP is stepping down, bolstering support for the Corbynites in the event of a post-election leadership challenge.

Candidates for Labour’s vacant seats were asked to submit CVs by lunchtime yesterday and given the election campaign is already underway, the National Executive Committee can impose candidates.

Sitting Labour MPs are automatically reselected, presenting the temptation to parachute leadership-friendly candidates into seats Labour has a good chance of holding.

The Greater Manchester seat of Leigh, where Andy Burnham is stepping down to concentrate of the forthcoming metro mayoral battle, is a plum berth for someone, inheriting a 14,096 majority.

However Burnham has fired a warning shot to the leadership with an open letter, backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt, as his successor. The letter reads:

‘I am in no doubt that Leigh needs a Labour candidate with strong local credentials and that the best person to succeed me is Councillor Joanne Platt.

‘Jo is well-known and well-liked across the Leigh area. She is an excellent campaigner and has been the driving force behind the reinvigoration of Leigh Labour Party in recent years.’

Burnham warns:

‘Were the Party to opt for a candidate with no local ties, I have to make clear that this would not be supported by the vast majority of our members and would go down very badly with the Leigh public. This would run the risk of losing significant support at the Election and it is why it is my strong advice that this course should not be followed.’

There is a similar situation in Liverpool Walton, where Steve Rotheram is standing down to contest the Liverpool mayoral role. The seat – Labour’s safest with an impregnable 27,777 majority on 72 per cent of the vote – is certainly a prize.

Last week, Liverpool’s elected city mayor, Joe Anderson, announced that he was going for Walton, with rumours (now dampened down) that Jeremy Corbyn’s son, 25 year-old Seb, an aide to John McDonnell, was also set to stand.

As the NEC and regional boards begin the process of earmarking candidates for seats this week, they will need to tread softly in case they trigger a local backlash at any imposition of candidates.

Meanwhile, the left needs to be cautious having (rightly) complained about Blairite fixing in the past.  It would be a case of ‘two legs good, four legs bad’ if Corbynites now do the same thing.

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UNCUT: Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power

22/04/2017, 07:29:42 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The failure of the New Labour project, measured in its ability to blow the victory of 1997 by 2010 at the latest, has an eerie similarity to the failure of Trump to know that pride goes before a fall. Not the current President of the USA, but Judd Trump, the snooker player. As someone who plays the game but very badly, I am in awe of Trump who was the youngest player ever to make a maximum 147 break an will one day win the world championship. But not this year.

He was knocked out by an unknown 46 year old qualifier last week, Rory McLeod, in the first round on April 19th. He came into the Championships as world ranked Number 2 and joint champion, and made the fatal error of saying the rating did not worry him. He should have been worried. Like many super talented people, he underestimated his opponent and suffers from the pride of arrogance. Like some politicians I can think of. David Cameron thought the Brexiteers were ‘swivel eyed loons’ and lost the 2016 referendum. The 1945 general election result led to some Labour people saying “We are the masters now”. But while Judd Trump was so upset he could not make his post-match TV interview, he should look at the current Labour Party and think he got away lightly.

While the Labour Party recovered after losing in 1951, and Cameron’s party looks like it is doing well, whether the arrogance of New Labour will see a recovery will be in the lap of the gods. And no one should blame Corbyn for the current crisis, which he makes worse but did not create. Blair destroyed his own credibility with the working class core voter even before the Iraq war. While the 2001 seats tally was much the same as the 1997 landslide, in key areas like Stoke the working class voter had already started to slip away. By 2005 Blair could only muster 37% of the vote, enough to win, but also to give Michael Howard’s Tories the scent of a failing project. It is a matter of history that Brown and Miliband could get nowhere near even the 2005 election result.

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UNCUT: Corbyn has doomed Labour. Time to vote tactically for the strongest opposition to Brexit

20/04/2017, 11:02:32 PM

by Robert Williams

Let’s get the expectation management done quickly. Labour is going to be decimated in the election, and likely to be destroyed as a serious party. Not convinced that I’m being too pessimistic? Well, try this.

Ask your Labour candidate, especially if he or she is a sitting MP, two simple questions. Firstly, do they have any confidence in Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister? As 80% of them have no confidence in his leadership and refused to serve on his front bench, leaving almost entirely without talent, how on earth can they be taken seriously campaigning to win an election for a Corbyn premiership?

Second, why did Labour MPs, with the honourable exception of 52 rebels, vote to implement Article 50, despite arguing repeatedly that leaving the EU will cause irreparable damage to the country, and hit the poorest hardest (most in Labour seats). And with a leader who has now explicitly ruled out a second referendum and thinks “Brexit can work”.

The main opposition offers no alternative to Brexit. The leader and his shadow chancellor welcome it, because they believe it will hasten the day the electorate realise their historic mistake and embrace far left socialism.

We all know about Jeremy Corbyn’s inept and incompetent leadership. For those that don’t know enough, the ,media will ensure that he makes the headlines every day, in every way. A 50 day campaign relentlessly highlighting his sympathy and support for the IRA, for Hamas, for Hezbollah, reminding us the stench of anti Semitism surrounding many of his allies, the comments he made comparing Osama bin Laden’s shooting with 911, bringing up, unprompted, the Falkland Island’s sovereignty, the nuclear submarines without missiles, the list is almost endless.

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UNCUT: Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

19/04/2017, 10:11:48 PM

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

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INSIDE: Gisela Stuart quits

19/04/2017, 05:49:07 PM

Controversial Labour MP Gisela Stuart has told her CLP that she will not contest the next election. In 1997, her victory in Birmingham Edgbaston was the first big Labour gain of the night from the Tories and she was a symbol of the new wave of Labour MPs. Latterly however, as a prominent advocate of leaving the EU, she alienated many PLP colleagues and local former supporters.

This morning on the Today programme, she was unable to say she would back Jeremy Corbyn for PM. In her e-mail to her members she said,

“I wanted you to hear from me that I have decided not to contest the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency at the general election in June.

After 22 years of campaigning and 20 years of having had the privilege of being the MP for this diverse, forever surprising and wonderful marginal seat I know when it is time to stand down and pass on the baton.

Together we have done amazing things; things we never expected when I became the first “Labour gain” of the Labour 1997 landslide as well as the first ever Labour MP for Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton. We won local battles, brought people together, challenged established assumptions about voters (and sometimes our own) and won elections against Tories that we didn’t think were possible. But together we did it . We are Labour and our values are Labour.”

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UNCUT: Labour’s general election campaign will be dominated by the battle to succeed Corbyn

18/04/2017, 06:53:07 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.

A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.

Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.

The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.

Brexit will define everything.

During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.

Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.

This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.

It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.

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