UNCUT: Owen Smith is being defined by the Corbynistas. If he doesn’t fight back soon, he’s done

23/07/2016, 06:59:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Owen Smith is in trouble. Day to day, he’s conducting his campaign, pitching his message but he has a strategic problem that is getting worse with each passing hour: definition.

Owen Smith’s PLP backers have made much of Smith being a “clean skin,” lacking the baggage of past votes on issues such as Iraq or the compromises of office.

There is something to this but his lack of prior profile also brings risk. He’s a blank page on which a story will be written, either by himself or the Corbynistas.

The hard left attack on him is very clear: Owen Smith is an ex-lobbyist for Big Pharma and a former Special Adviser, who will return Labour to the days of Brown and Miliband.

The discussion on CLP Facebook groups from across the country is testament to how this attack has already permeated through the party.

Here’s one exchange from a northwest CLP,

“Smith worked for private health companies and was a Blairite adviser. We need to be different to the Tories.”

“I heard he did work for those companies. Not sure about him but I don’t think he’s like Blair. Doesn’t Ed Miliband rate him?”

I’ve seen double digits of groups where this same pattern is being repeated. An accusation is made by a Corbyn backer with little substantive rebuttal. Owen Smith is being framed by his opponent and the few who would speak up for him have little to offer in terms of an alternative, positive definition.

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UNCUT: What if Burnham had won last year?

22/07/2016, 06:00:25 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a lot of ‘whatifery’ around the Labour party at the moment. What if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected with a bigger majority? What if there’s a snap general election? What if there’s a serious attempt to impose mandatory reselections on sitting Labour MP?

Here’s a more abstract thought for the start of the traditional silly season: what if Andy Burnham, rather than Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Labour leader last July?

Clearly Corbyn romped home with 65 per cent of the vote, so it wasn’t exactly a close-run thing, but Burnham was second (meaning this counter-factual is not outside the realms of plausibility).

Looking back, it now seems quite unbelievable that intelligent people ever thought Liz Kendall was in with a shout of winning. Her derisory 4.5 per cent of the vote – fewer than one in twenty eventually backed her – was a cataclysmic defeat.

It doesn’t reflect on her as a person or as a smart, effective politician. The neo-Blairite flag she marched to war under was utterly cursed from the start. It was a drubbing the likes of which the party’s right has never faced before.

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INSIDE: Big Pharma lobbyist at the heart of Owen Smith’s campaign team

22/07/2016, 02:05:36 PM

Today Owen Smith announced his campaign team and one of his appointments jumped out at Uncut: John Lehal who is chief of campaign operations.

John Lehal is a well respected party insider and was Andy Burnham’s campaign director last year for his leadership bid.

He is also a lobbyist. For big pharmaceutical companies and commercial providers of healthcare services.

Lehal hit the headlines last summer because of his links to firms like Pfizer (who, lest we forget, Owen Smith also worked) and Novartis as well as Look Ahead Care and Support Ltd that provides services for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues.

For Uncut, there is nothing wrong with working for the companies that are responsible for life-saving drugs and providing services upon which the NHS rely. However, if Owen Smith is under attack as a lobbyist for Big Pharma, no matter how spurious the charge, this appointment hands his opponents ammunition.

It seems his campaign understood that the appointment would likely generate some negative publicity because the press release makes clear that John Lehal will have no role in policy, stating specifically that his accountability is, “operations oversight, no policy development”.

As if that will stop Momentum and the hard left hammering Smith for it.

The question here is about Owen Smith’s political judgement. Opening himself up to further attack from the Corbynistas in this way, hardly demonstrates the sure-footed decision-making he is going to need to triumph over Jeremy Corbyn.

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UNCUT: 10 hard truths for Labour moderates

21/07/2016, 10:01:33 PM

by Samuel Dale

Last summer, Labour Uncut ran a series about telling ten hard truths for the Labour party after an epic election defeat in May 2015.

Those were the days. Remember Andy Burnham giving his opening leadership speech at Ernst & Young and talking about attracting business support? Or Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper fighting over who could say aspiration the most times in a speech?

For a few heady days in May, we were all Blairites. An incredible 12 months in Labour politics has passed and it is time to tell 10 hard truths to Labour moderates about our role in the party.

1. Jeremy Corbyn won because Labour members backed him. Corbyn currently appears to have the overwhelming support of Labour members, not to mention affiliated and registered supporters. In fact, he is one of the most popular leaders the party has ever had among its membership. The only realistic route to removing Corbyn is persuading these members that there is a better alternative. Telling them they are clowns or morons (as I have done many times) is self-indulgent and clearly unpersuasive.

2. Momentum have out-organised the Labour right. Last summer, the Corbyn campaign signed up 88,449 registered supporters paying £3 each to vote for him. That was a huge effort of organization and political skill. Without those registered supporters then the vote would have gone into a second round and anything could have happened. This year’s election has been an even bigger effort with an estimated 150,000 registered supporters signed up in the last 48 hours. Some will be moderates for Saving Labour but it seems likely that most will be Corbynistas. Read the rest of this entry »

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UNCUT: By emphasising identity over ability, Labour’s short-changing its talented women

21/07/2016, 03:58:27 PM

by Frazer Loveman

In the last two weeks, both of the major parties in the British political system embarked on leadership races. One of these races produced a female leader, the other guaranteed that a man would lead.

One would presume that the woman would have been picked from the party that has a female MP group 100 strong; that has argued ceaselessly for equality in the workplace and in wider society, and that continues to present itself as the progressive, forward thinking party.

This was not the case. Instead, it was the Conservative party, the ‘nasty party’, who gave the nation its second female PM, in fact, they chose the very woman who coined the ‘nasty party’ phrase.

In the 116 years Labour has existed it has never had a female leader. Indeed, a female candidate has never finished above a male candidate in a leadership race. The fact that Theresa May can now stand at the dispatch box and taunt the Labour party over this fact should be something that shames all Labour members.

This should not be the case, partly because Labour has had so many high profile women in parliament. The first female Home Secretary, the first female Foreign Secretary, the first female Speaker, all Labour women.

Yvette Cooper and Emily Thornberry have both shadowed great offices of state, Harriet Harman excelled as deputy leader and as acting leader, the same role Margaret Beckett filled with aplomb. But it is a fact that all this falls down at the final hurdle and this has allowed the Tories to take a march on Labour as the party of women.

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UNCUT: Corbyn’s lack of a political strategy is his achilles heel

21/07/2016, 01:25:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour leadership contest and I won’t this time either. It’s not because I think he’s a bad man, I don’t. And it’s not because he’s wrong about everything, because he isn’t.

In fact, he is sincere and compassionate – commendable enough qualities in anyone. But for a political leader that’s just not enough. The problem is that his ‘politics of hope’ – important and refreshing though it is – just isn’t tempered by the politics of realism.

Labour people should know by now that it isn’t enough simply to make the moral case that some injustice or other should be ended. The British people are practical. They want to know exactly what you intend to do and how you will pay for it.

Jeremy Corbyn fails on this score miserably. Calamitously, in fact. There is an empty space where, by now, he should have sketched the outlines of a new programme for Labour. All he seems capable of offering is slightly tweaked variant of the same stump speech he has been making for 30 years.

His biggest weakness though – and one his querulous parliamentary colleagues have let him get away with for the past year – is that he has nothing resembling a political strategy about how Labour puts its values into practice and wins the next general election.

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UNCUT: Labour at the crossroads

20/07/2016, 11:16:26 PM

by Rob Marchant

After the earthquake, it is surely time to stand back a little and take stock. After one of the most extraordinary months ever in British politics, the pieces have been thoroughly shaken and are now returned to earth.

The landscape is entirely different from the seeming certainties of just a month ago, the old guard largely cleaned out and most of the players new.

For Labour, it has shown one thing in particular: the spectacular house of cards on which the whole current leadership had been built.

It has now become a laughing stock, a leadership of zero credibility outside, and even for the vast majority of its own parliamentary party. The only place where the leadership is still respected, paradoxically, is within the party membership itself, where a level of denial exists which in years to come group psychologists will surely write books about.

From Jeremy Corbyn’s election last September, there has been an emperor’s-new-clothes pretence that it is business as usual. That said, the rot arguably set in with the creeping groupthink of the Miliband years, during which time the necessity of reaching out to swing voters was arrogantly negated and the slow recovery of the far left was treated with the utmost complacence.

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GRASSROOTS: Jeremy Corbyn has turned Labour into a middle class personality cult

20/07/2016, 01:32:12 PM

by George Morris

Jeremy Corbyn has a massive mandate, apparently. The mandate is so big, some of Corbyn’s fans argue, that the current challenge to his leadership is anti-democratic. ‘The People’ have decided that Corbyn is leader, he has a mandate, and everyone else should shut up. But things are more complicated than that.

Christine Shawcroft, a loyalist NEC member running for re-election, recently told the BBC that Corbyn had the biggest mandate in Labour Party history. That isn’t true. What constitutes a mandate is governed by the rules of the game, and up until the mid nineties that meant bloc votes, which invariably delivered enormous mandates to Labour leaders. If you think Corbyn’s 59.5 per cent is impressive, then take a look at Kinnock’s 73.1 per cent in 1983, the first election in which the opinions of people outside the PLP first mattered. When Tony Benn challenged this mandate in 1988, with the backing of Jeremy Corbyn, Kinnock’s mandate got even bigger, at 88.6 per cent. Still, it was nothing compared to John Smith’s 91 per cent in 1992.

Of course, we’re not comparing like with like. Bloc votes awarded candidates with massive chunks of the electorate, and we can expect the numbers to look rather different once selections were opened up. Of the three Labour leaders to have faced the Labour selectorate since the abolition of bloc voting, Corbyn does indeed have the biggest mandate, at 59.5 per cent. Ed Miliband got 50.7 per cent of the vote, in the fourth round, after being behind his brother all the way through, and so it never felt like an impressive victory. But Blair wasn’t far behind Corbyn, with 57 per cent of the vote in 1994.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour has a leadership vacancy but no takers

15/07/2016, 06:53:13 PM

by Robin Thorpe

The Labour party is always at its best when it is seen as a modernising force; a movement that has the capability to tangibly improve the lives of people across the UK. This was true for Prime Ministers Atlee, Wilson and Blair. This is perhaps why the current crop of Labour MPs sees Corbyn, a representative of a historical aspect of Labour, as the problem rather than the solution. But the complete lack of any ideas from the challengers, let alone principles, means that any coup was doomed to fail before it had begun.

The launch of Angela Eagle’s leadership challenge typified the earnest but empty hand-wringing that is all the vast majority of the PLP seemingly have to offer the country. The speech was full of platitudes and expressions of dismay over Corbyn’s lack of leadership, but utterly devoid of any vision for a brighter future or strategy of how to achieve this. Her argument is that she is better than Jeremy because Jeremy failed.

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Corbyn has accomplished this to some extent with the Labour membership and the leaders of the trade unions. He clearly hasn’t with the PLP and opinion polls suggest that he has failed to influence the wider electorate. Angela Eagle has set out her challenge for the leadership by offering a more cohesive party. But leadership is not about better management; it is about providing direction. Defining what an organisation is about and where it will take its stakeholders.

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UNCUT: Civil servants might not be civil for long

14/07/2016, 07:45:54 PM

by Greig Baker

In the most extraordinary fortnight for British politics, people should be forgiven if they missed an important – if fairly dry – announcement from the Cabinet Office this week. Despite being largely ignored, the announcement is a helpful reminder that Labour could still have supporters outside of Momentum, if only it got its act together.

On Tuesday, arguably the most powerful department in Whitehall announced the new Civil Service Workforce Plan to 2020. This sets out how the government wants to reform the way the Civil Service works – and so change the way that every single public service is delivered and determine the job prospects of the 440,000 people who work for the government.

The Plan includes some reforms that any shadow secretary of state who is even only half awake would presumably want to get their teeth into. For example, the number of secondments to and from the private sector, and especially large scale commercial suppliers, is likely to increase dramatically. Optimists argue this improves civil servants’ understanding of the world and allows them to bring in valuable lessons and expertise from business. Others may be concerned about the influence gained by private interests who lend their staff to policy makers.

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