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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UNCUT: The headlines missed the real Bercow story. He’s de facto implementing last week’s Benn amendment: the Commons now has the lead in deciding what get’s voted on for Brexit

19/03/2019, 10:35:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The headlines from John Bercow’s intervention yesterday might have been about his refusal to countenance another Meaningful Vote on an unchanged deal, but the real story, was elsewhere. Two words, one number: Standing Order 24.

In his response to a question from Labour MP Helen Goodman, the Speaker virtually set out how he would support the Commons in seizing control of the parliamentary agenda, allowing binding votes on different Brexit options such as a referendum or Norway+.

Here’s the key exchange from Hansard.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are obviously right that the House does not wish to vote on the same proposition over and again. Equally, I am sure that you will be aware of the fact that some hon. Members were interested in meaningful votes because at that time, they would be able to vote on amendments on matters that we have not yet considered. If the Government are unable to make any changes to their proposition, I seek your guidance on how we might secure opportunities for voting on those alternative propositions. I heard you talk about urgent questions, but of course, there is no vote on an urgent question or a statement, and a Standing Order No. 24 motion is in neutral terms. The Government have not been very generous recently in offering Opposition day debates either, so I seek your advice on how hon. Members might proceed.

Mr Speaker

Obviously, it would be helpful to the Opposition if Opposition days were supplied. That has not happened recently and I have no way of knowing whether the Leader of the House has it in mind to provide for Opposition days. I think that colleagues would think that it was a democratic and seemly thing to do to ensure that the principal Opposition party had the requisite allocation of days. So far as other business is concerned, the hon. Lady should look closely at the Standing Order No. 24 procedure. What she says about it is true, but I think that she should reflect upon the opportunities that the Standing Order No. 24 procedure presents, because the opportunities are fuller than has traditionally been acknowledged or taken advantage of by Members of the House of Commons.

The Speaker bends over backwards to needle Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House and highlight Standing Order (SO) 24. This is the SO that enables emergency debates to be requested by MPs.

Traditionally, emergency debates are phrased neutrally. They always use the formulation, “That this House has considered…” This is because the purpose of SO24 is to enable debate, to consider a motion, not direct action following the debate.

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UNCUT: TIG have shown the courage of their convictions. Silence from so-called Labour and Conservative moderates on the disaster of Brexit is contemptible

09/03/2019, 10:11:56 PM

by Robert Williams

So, we’re approaching the endgame of the Brexit disaster part 1 (the next 10 years or so will make up part 2), and it’s worth a recap. We have a government that wants to renegotiate its own deal and backstop inserted because of its own red lines.

We have a Labour opposition that still cannot describe what, exactly, its policy is. When it does say anything, it is the same unicorn based fantasies of “negotiating a better deal”.

Let’s not delude ourselves. The Long Night of the Amendments in February was a total disaster for anyone who voted remain and thinks leaving the EU is madness. The Spelman amendment is non-binding and means nothing.

In January, MPs’ put their terror of telling the truth to their constituents ahead of the needs of the country by not backing the Cooper amendment. They were cowardly and spineless. What we got instead was the Brady amendment – fantasy-based, and a waste of time when we have precious little left. Since then nothing. It makes a no deal Brexit significantly higher. There seems to be no prospect of a second referendum. Not enough MPs support one. Not enough MPs support anything that might make them think and make decisions that are based in reality.

What we saw, what the world saw, was that almost the entire political class in the UK are a pathetic, cowardly disgrace.

There are exceptions, but they are few. 11 MPs from the Conservatives and Labour have quit their parties and set up the “Independent Group”.

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UNCUT: Exclusive: Why I left the Labour party

02/03/2019, 09:28:13 AM

by Mike Gapes

On February 18 I resigned from the Labour Party and joined The Independent Group of Members of Parliament. This was the most difficult decision of my life. I never ever thought I would leave the Party I joined as a 16 year old when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. For over 50 years I was an active member. I held office at all levels, local and national. I spent fifteen years at Labour Party Head Office in Transport House and Walworth Road working in the Organisation, Research and Policy departments. I was a Labour and Co-operative MP for twenty seven years.

I decided early last year that I could not in all conscience stand again as a Labour candidate and support the prospect of a Corbyn led government. But it took me months of agonising to finally make the break. I have been Labour to my core. I have many good Labour friends. I care passionately about Labour values.

I never followed a leader blindly and have had differences with every leader in the past. It is no secret that I had long been unhappy with the direction of the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership. I did not support Corbyn as leader in 2015. I also made clear that I had no confidence in him in 2016. When the unexpected early election was called in 2017 I sent my activists to help Wes Streeting in neighbouring Ilford North. I bit my tongue and did no media appearances. I based my election campaign on my record as a hard working local constituency MP.

I made no mention of Corbyn or the National Labour Manifesto in my election address which was delivered to every single voter. I pledged to be a strong pro-European voice and to campaign to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market. It was always clear to me that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be Prime Minister. When I stood for re-election in 2017 I could honestly tell my constituents that there was no prospect of that. The priority was to stop Theresa May getting a landslide for her hard Brexit.

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UNCUT: Corbyn moved on a second referendum because of TIG

25/02/2019, 10:39:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

After a week, the Independent Group (TIG) can claim some successes: more Twitter followers than Momentum, higher opinion poll scores than the Liberal Democrats, and now a significant Labour move towards a second referendum.

From “funny tinge” to weak rebuttals to by-elections calls, jarring with their People’s Vote push, there have been less auspicious moments.

More fundamentally, these MPs remain trapped between the rock of being unable to advocate either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May for prime minister and the hard place of an electoral system that makes it a political reality that the prime minister will be either the leader of Labour or the Tories.

They are challenging this reality and in doing so, making a pitch for Corbyn’s brand: insurgent.

We can judge insurgency in different ways. If it means adopting the most traditionally left-wing and statist policies, it is likely that, while TIG are yet to outline a policy programme, Corbyn will win this contest. If it means taking the biggest personal risks, and positioning most defiantly against political convention, TIG trump Corbyn.

In running against convention, TIG are changing the weather, most of all in the Labour party. Over the weekend, it was understood that Corbyn was under pressure to respond to TIG by:

  • Reviewing Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism
  • Heading off attempts to trigger the deselection of MPs
  • Backing a second referendum

On the last of these, after months of reluctance, Corbyn has moved. It will be worth reading the small print but the advocates of a People’s Vote are clear: this is a big deal.

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UNCUT: Exclusive: “Hard left takeover,” “Bullying, “Hostility to Jewish people” Full text of Labour councillors’ resignation letter

25/02/2019, 02:15:08 PM

Yesterday, 15 Labour councillors and former councillors left the party. Published for the first time here is the full text of their letter, leaving the party

Dear Sir,

We are Labour councillors and former Labour councillors. We have, after many years of dedicated membership, resigned from the Labour Party. We are writing to express our support for the former Labour MPs over their decision to resign and establish the Independent Group.  Having witnessed up close the hard-left takeover of Labour, we believe that their harsh, uncompromising and dogmatic approach to politics poses a genuine threat.

In the last three years, we have seen hard-left campaigns destroy efforts by Labour councils to help our communities. Local authorities have faced impossible financial pressure and a growing demand for social care and housing.  Many Labour councillors have been prepared  to look beyond the state for solutions.   All too often, this has resulted in them being subjected to fierce and dishonest campaigns from within the Labour Party membership.  This leads us to believe a hard-left Labour government would severely harm the economy, threatening local services.

In the last three and a half years, the atmosphere within the Labour Party has changed beyond all recognition.   A culture of bullying, intimidation and hostility towards Jewish people becoming common-place. Having seen this unfold locally we now believe Labour, in its current form, poses a direct threat, economically, socially, and culturally, should it ever come to power. Britain is facing huge challenges in the months and years ahead, not least due to Brexit. To have any chance of meeting those challenges, politics need to change. We therefore welcome the new Independent Group.’

Yours,

Cllr Warren Morgan, Former Leader, Brighton & Hove City Council

Cllr Rowan Draper, Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Dany Louise, Hastings Borough Council

Cllr Frances Weetman, North Tyneside Council

Cllr Jess Brayne, London Borough of Barnet

Cllr Danny Hackett, London Borough of Bexley

Cllr John Ferrett, Portsmouth City Council

Jon Clempner, former Leader of Labour Group, Harlow District Council

David Sullivan, former Leader, Lewisham Borough Council

Ken Ferrett, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Aiden Gray, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Stephen Brimble, former Councillor, Exeter City Council

Adam Langleben, former Councillor, London Borough of Barnet

James Patterson, former Councillor, London Borough of Haringey

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UNCUT: Can the Labour breakaway escape our General Melchett leadership?

18/02/2019, 10:57:03 PM

By Jonathan Todd

“If nothing else works,” General Melchett (Stephen Fry) insisted in Blackadder Goes Forth, “a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

Donkeys again lead lions. Theresa May won’t face facts about parliamentary arithmetic. Jeremy Corbyn won’t face the facts raised by 7 ex-Labour MPs.

For Melchett “seeing things through” came at tremendous human cost. As business investment plummets and the UK’s international reputation degrades to the shambolically pitiable, May and Corbyn are also callously aloof.

Brexit does nothing to solve the problems of the UK, while creating many new problems. At a minimum, a “good Brexit” would avoid these new problems. More ambitiously, it would somehow address the problems that the UK harboured in June 2016. No such Brexit exists.

We might choose to minimise the scale of economic damage caused by Brexit (by staying in the single market and customs union) but this comes at the price of being rule takers to the EU. Since June 2016, Labour has never confronted this trade-off.

The Irish backstop features in debate in the UK as if the border issue is a potentially temporary challenge, but any future divergence between Northern Ireland and the EU customs union and single market likely necessitates a hard border.

If the UK were, for example, to have lower tariffs than the EU customs union, a Northern Ireland with an open border to the Republic would create a way to avoid tariffs when bringing goods in to the EU. If these goods were to fall below EU regulatory standards, this EU backdoor would undermine the single market, as well as the customs union.

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