UNCUT: Labour centrists can be optimistic. The hard left is going to turn Keir Starmer into a Blairite

30/07/2020, 10:38:55 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Keir Starmer is not a Blairite. His closest political ally is Ed Miliband and like the younger Miliband, his politics are those of the soft left.  But if the hard left continue to oppose his leadership in their current manner, they’re going to change him. The result will be the mirror image of what they seek; rather than bind him to the 2019 manifesto or constrain him to a more left-wing position, they’re going to Blairform him.

The response of the Corbynites to Labour’s apology to the whistle-blowers over anti-Semitism has been typical. Look no further than J Corbyn himself, who called the decision “political” not ” legal” and has opened himself up to being sued by John Ware from Panorama.

But it’s not just on anti-Semitism that they react in this way, it’s everything. Here’s Matt Zarb Cousin, following the release of the parliamentary Intelligence committee’s Russia report,

Ahead of the impending Unite leadership election, in the contest to be the candidate for the United Left – Unite’s hard left faction which has dominated the leadership in the past decade – Keir Starmer was used as a wedge issue, an enemy to take on as a demonstration of left wing bona fides. Howard Beckett had this tweet pinned to the top of is Twitter timeline.

A politician’s ideological heading at the start of their career is often quite different by the end.  The process of politics, their experience on the journey, changes them. When looking for portents of the future for a new soft left leader who is picking up the pieces following a shattering defeat, compare and contrast the Neil Kinnock of 1983 with that of 1992.

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UNCUT: After Starmer’s first 100 days came Labour’s tipping-point week

29/07/2020, 10:53:43 PM

by Rob Marchant

At the 100-day point in mid-July, there was much favourable chatter about the new leader. Good poll ratings, clear change of position on anti-Semitism, control of the NEC. The Corbynites have been on the back foot and the party looks vaguely presentable again.

Continuity Corbynite figurehead Rebecca Long-Bailey was, much to the surprise of many, not forced to resign but humiliatingly sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting an article containing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

It has not been all plain sailing: Starmer is a new leader, after all, and new leaders make mistakes as they learn. One was to have commissioned yet another useless “reforming the party” report, this time with involvement from Ed Miliband, who had already presided over the release of two such useless reports in his own term as leader.

Then there was the clearly unfair suspension of Emilie Oldknow, the former Assistant General Secretary. who had done little more than slag off some of her colleagues on WhatsApp (we would most of us be sacked, were spying on one’s staff a widespread practice among UK employers).

Worse still than that unfairness, was the credence it gave to the highly questionable “report” commissioned by former General Secretary Jennie Formby into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism. A report conceived and executed by that administration in unquestionably bad faith, with the intent of rebutting in advance its inevitable, forthcoming slamming by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In other words, a last, desperate attempt to save the reputations of those involved in the Corbyn project.

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UNCUT: Labour needs a clear, distinctive, and credible economic message

23/07/2020, 08:00:31 AM

by Jonathan Todd

More people than not think that Keir Starmer looks like a prime minister in waiting (38% versus 34% in a YouGov poll conducted in early July), while more than twice as many think Labour is not ready for government than think Labour is (54% versus 23% in the same poll).

Other polling reveals that voters now think that Starmer would make a better prime minister than Boris Johnson.

Yet Labour trail the Tories by somewhere between 6 and 10 points on voting intention – with Survation putting it at the lower end of that range, Kantar being at the higher end, and Opinium in-between.

These deficits cannot be explained in terms of Starmer. It is the rest of the party that holds us back.

“Labour is under new management,” said Starmer at PMQs. Where Labour previously made commitments that voters struggled to believe, Labour now needs credible answers. Yet big enough to meet the UK’s challenges.

These do not come any bigger than the economy. The number of people aged 18-24 claiming Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance doubled in the last three months. Unfortunately, with furlough ending, demand not recovered to pre-Covid levels, and the risk of a second wave, our economic struggles are likely to persist.

With respondents being allowed to tick up three options, YouGov asked: Which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing the country at this time?

Health and the economy came joint top on 57%. Far ahead of the next most important issues: Britain leaving the EU (43%); the environment (24%).

It is noteworthy that over four-in-ten of the public do not see Brexit as “oven ready” and unsurprising that health is a concern amid a global pandemic – which will further rise if there is a second wave. But, as we learn more about Covid-19, improve our systems for containing it, and advance towards a vaccine, the economy will likely usurp health as the public’s biggest worry.

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UNCUT: Get ready for the winter of discontent, 2020/21

02/07/2020, 10:30:20 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We have reached the mid-point of the longest year. Football’s back, pubs and shops are open, the sun shines. The government are eager for consumers to spend the economy back to health. But our winter of discontent looms.

Only the rich and/or complacent are secure in their incomes. Fear of Covid-19 remains – while not always deadly, especially among the young, it can induce long-term health complications. It is hard to be confident that all children, many out of school since March, will be in class in September.

“Open unemployment,” warns Professor Paul Gregg, “is likely to rise from 4 to 14% without further policy intervention.” Over 4 million on the dole, before the possible economic tsunami of no-deal Brexit.

“Currently the government’s drive to open up as quickly as possible bears a risk of another increase in infections,” fears Professor Devi Sridhar, “similar to what is being experienced in several US states such as Florida, Arizona and Texas, and in Iran.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, recently said: “The NEU is of course in favour of all children being back in school, but even with a one-metre rule that will need more teachers and more spaces.” It remains to be seen if the plans announced by Gavin Williamson will deliver upon this.

Ignore these people if you have had enough of experts. The rest of us might conclude:

We need more testing and tracing, with much better data sharing and collaboration with local authorities, to contain the virus. We need more physical and human resources to reopen schools. Without decent public health and education, attempts to build, build, build rest on the shakiest foundations.

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UNCUT: Labour’s congenital fatalism means it’s in danger of learning the wrong lessons from 2019

20/06/2020, 10:57:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There’s much that’s salient in the Labour Together report. The problems of Jeremy Corbyn on the doorstep, an economic prospectus that few believed, a chaotic campaign and, of course, Brexit. This is hardly breaking news, but credit is due for calling this out.

But then there’s also a recurrence of a peculiarly Labour fatalism.

The report states “The roots of our 2019 loss stretch back over the last two decades.” It cites a panoply of long term trends including deindustrialisation, demographic change and declining trade union membership, to explain the steady rise in the Conservative vote in Labour seats, since 2001.

The framing in the report paints a picture of an ineluctable growth of Tory support in Labour strongholds as a function of these deep-seated changes.

To anyone who remembers the late 1980s and early 1990s, this is pretty familiar stuff.

Much the same was written then. Structural factors. Population movement. Shifting values. All were used to explain a decade on decade decline in Labour support, a downward slope starting in 1945 that pointed to final obsolescence sometime in the early 2000s.

Labour Together’s report has a particularly striking line that epitomises the pessimism inherent in this ‘historical forces’ type of explanation.

“Many of these trends are global and have had similar and negative impacts on social democratic and centre-left parties around the world”

Unsurprisingly, Corbynites such as Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery have chimed in with support for this perspective. It’s a crime without a culprit – the politicians in charge are at the mercy of larger forces. It was the system, events dear boy, events, not individual leaders like Jeremy Corbyn or, Ed Miliband (coincidentally a commissioner of the Labour Together report).

In the early 1990s it was Labour’s challenges in the South that were insurmountable. Today, it’s the North and Midlands, exemplified in the notion of the recently crumbled Red Wall.

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UNCUT: If Starmer wants to end Labour’s infighting, then ban Momentum and Progress

16/06/2020, 10:37:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There is something fratricidal about the Labour party. Its innate. Division comes naturally, with tribes of left and right, eyeing each other suspiciously. If they did not have to work together in a first-past-the-post system, they wouldn’t. A loveless arrangement and, alas, as old as the party itself; explaining Labour’s uneven electoral record, governing for just 34 out of the last 100 years.

Bevanites. Gaitskellites. Bennites. Tribunites. Blairites. Corbynistas. The list goes on. And even when one faction or other is in control, there is still an irresistible urge to do down the other side. Indeed, there is often a gleeful intensity to this one-upmanship. ‘It’s not enough that I succeed,’ as Gore Vidal put it, ‘others must fail.’

Thankfully, one of Keir Starmer’s key promises in the leadership contest was to end the feuding. ‘Too often,’ he argued. ‘we find ourselves focusing on our differences rather than the values and principles that brought us together, and that comes at a cost. Our party is divided, and unity requires reconciliation.’

So, in a bid to transcend what are often petty, internecine squabbles, he has woven together a frontbench that unites various strands of opinion in the party and elevated basic competence above sectional loyalty. It is a good start, but he needs to go further to show that factionalism will no longer be tolerated.

The best way he can do that? Banish Momentum – and Progress, too.

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UNCUT: Covid has put the NHS front and centre. But Labour needs to beware, 2019 showed that support for the NHS does not equal votes for Labour

12/06/2020, 09:45:56 PM

by David Talbot

On the morning after consigning the Labour Party to a fourth and devastating general election defeat, the Prime Minister addressed the nation from the steps of Downing Street. In the early glow of election victory, Boris Johnson informed the party faithful and, more importantly, the millions of converted Labour voters that the “NHS is this One Nation government’s top priority”.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had tried awfully hard during the preceding six weeks to make the NHS the central focus of the election. Chants of “not for sale!” reverberated around campaign rallies as a dossier exposing the “secret agenda” to sell off the NHS to US corporations was thrust into the heart of the campaign.

It was easy to understand Labour’s desire to move the debate from the Conservatives’ favoured ground of Brexit, and its pithy slogan, to the one policy area the party led on. Indeed, at the start of the campaign, the NHS was cited by more (60%) of the population than Brexit (56%) as the most important issue facing the nation. 68% of Labour’s 2017 voters also named the NHS as their number one priority, and Labour retained a lead, albeit small, on the party best placed to protect the health service.

The NHS was not only an important election issue, but it united a party which was allergic about talking about Brexit and acted as a galvanising vehicle for activists to campaign upon, whilst gnawing at the Conservative’s traditional Achilles’ heel.

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UNCUT: Remember: We don’t always know how it ends!

05/06/2020, 09:49:59 AM

by Tim Carter

Life is very different for everyone at the moment and it is easy to look back on the 2016 referendum or the 2019 UK general election and jump into tribalism or blame. Politics, wherever you looked seemed to be more about blame than anything else.

But then came 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, to lockdown or not to lockdown, and other decisions that no one was thinking about in December replaced the more mundane political decisions usually facing world leaders. A deadly virus sweeping the world, something more likely to be seen in a Hollywood blockbuster than in real life, demanded more from political leaders than the promises made in manifestos.

The public, looking for leadership and guidance, trusted and followed advice and the rules. Different countries unsurprisingly, took different approaches, some politicians broke away from tribal politics and for a moment we were “all in this together”

Heartbreak and tragedy played out daily on our TV screens, in our newspapers and online. In the UK on Thursday nights at 8pm we clapped, cheered and banged saucepans for those on the frontline caring for our loved ones, those not ‘shielding’ supported neighbours who were, by shopping and collection prescriptions, and talk was of how a post Covid-19 society would be better than what went before.

Cooperation and looking for solutions that worked were the political agenda, low skilled was rightly replaced by low paid and those who worked to keep us safe were now seen in a very different light by many. There was a very small crack where the light appeared to be shining through but the death toll kept rising and the very real suffering continued but we continued to obey and be guided by our leaders. At the heart of all of that was trust. Trust that the truth was being told. Trust that we really were all in this together. Trust that we were following the science.

And then.

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UNCUT: Has Ed Miliband’s moment arrived?

01/06/2020, 08:05:47 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“In 2008-09,” Gordon Brown recently told New Statesman, “we tried to persuade people that it made sense to run a deficit and it was not a problem in the long term if debt rose in the short term. We failed to persuade people. If anything contributed to the return of the Conservatives to power, it was their ability to scare people about the deficit and debt.”

After succeeding Brown as Labour leader, Ed Miliband attempted to become prime minister by positioning Labour to the left of New Labour. This strategy was thought to be justified as the financial crisis of 2008-09 had enlarged public appetite for stronger regulation and an expanded economic role for the state.

In 2015, Labour and the rest of the country moved in opposite directions. Labour’s general election defeat brought into doubt the extent of the appeal of Miliband’s more muscular state. Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent indicated that Labour considered Miliband’s offer too tepid.

“Now,” Brown continued in his New Statesman interview, “the fiscal orthodoxy has changed. What we were criticised for in 2009-10 is understood to be the best way of dealing with a crisis. We’ve got to understand that the only way that you can replace spending power and economic activity when the private sector fails to be able to invest, and consumers are not spending and people are not able to work, is that the government steps in.”

It must be hoped that Brown is right about the fiscal orthodoxy. Yet Jo Harding reminded Uncut, “local authorities are facing a £10 billion black hole due to coronavirus.”

This is despite Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick telling 300 English council leaders and sector bodies in a conference call on 16 March that the government would do “whatever is necessary” to help them tackle coronavirus.

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GRASSROOTS: Social care funding equivalent to 176,000 places for over-65s is about to be cut. In what world is this the right response to Covid?

28/05/2020, 01:21:49 PM

by Joanne Harding

Being appointed Executive Member for Adult Social Care at Trafford Council was one of the proudest achievements of my life. However, it is more than a role: it is personal.

In March 2019 I submitted a motion to Council, asking Trafford to adopt in full the recommendations of the Unison Ethical Care Charter.

As I delivered my speech, I held a photograph of my gran, Annie.

Annie was political, tiny and formidable, and I loved her.

She was an important influence on my life, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am now without having her advice and guidance.

I watched as she was ravaged by dementia: there was confusion; inability to recognise any of us; wandering and putting herself at risk, not able to feed and clothe herself; and needing assistance with the most personal of care.

I saw carers come and go, different ones trying to coax her to eat and drink.

I watched as they watched the clock. Knowing they had limited time to care for her, before they had to head off to the next person needing their support.

I watched as she sat motionless and lifeless, slumped in a chair, as she eventually had to be moved to nursing care.

The woman I knew as fiercely independent was now totally dependent on others to look after her. I remember feeling horrified and terrified in equal measures, every time I went to visit her at the care home that was just too poorly equipped to really care for my lovely gran.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with care homes on everyone’s lips.

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