GRASSROOTS: The leadership candidates aren’t asking any of the big questions, let alone answering them

29/07/2015, 04:54:58 PM

by Patrick Hurley and James Noakes

Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched with mounting horror at the farce that the Labour leadership contest has become. We know we’re not alone in this.

But we despair not just because of who is or isn’t in the race, the (yet again) flawed tortuous process or the ridiculous behaviour of some supporters of all candidates. No, our despair is primarily because none of the candidates for the leadership seem remotely capable of setting out a truly radical centre-left agenda for the way we live now.

Corbyn may want to talk about the issues but he doesn’t want to face up to the present day context (too many of his supporters class centre-left as Tory anyway it seems), Cooper and Burnham, solid performers both, are not setting the world alight. A defence of tax credits and commitments on NHS supply chains might be all well and good, but they hardly get the blood racing. Liz Kendall could be on to something with her focus on raising early years funding rather than subsidising university students, but in all honesty, the gruel is thin all round.

Much like the past five years, too often we are faced with tactics rather than strategy – the candidates seem too keen on reacting to events rather than in giving the party some actual leadership. Some may say this is inevitable perhaps given such a public process; a voracious, hostile media; and a PLP leadership vacuum facing buoyed Tory benches. However, that is not good enough for any candidate. Moreover, this appears to be the best that the Parliamentary party has to offer.

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UNCUT: A win on second preferences is second-rate victory

28/07/2015, 03:22:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Why would a Labour leader, elected as the second or third preference of party members, go on to become the first choice of voters?

After all, coming second in the British parliamentary system usually means you’ve lost. Winning the contest by default would surely represent an inauspicious start to the leadership of an organisation that seeks to win the hearts and minds of millions of people.  

The question arises for two reasons. First, because of the unpredictability of the Labour leadership contest. The main evidence about who will win (opinion polls and the share of constituency party nominations) offers only a partial guide and shows no candidate commanding a clear majority. As a result, the mechanics of the process – which candidates come third and fourth and thus see their support transfer to the two frontrunners – may become all-important and is the current preoccupation of all camps.

The second reason is that Yvette Cooper’s campaign (third in the number of constituency party nominations) is said to basing her strategy on precisely this scenario, assiduously targeting the second preferences of Labour members in a bid to “come through the middle” as other candidates are winnowed out.

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UNCUT: Ten hard truths for Labour

27/07/2015, 06:16:26 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. Here’s Kevin Meagher with his top ten.

1. Fundraising must be the next leader’s top priority. The party is broke and its funding base in the affiliated trade unions looks increasingly precarious. Miliband hated raising money and avoided doing so. The next leader will find it occupies more of their time than anything else. That’s if they’re serious about running a political party.

2. Manage effectively. No-one in politics can line-manage. They really can’t. Decisions are subject to constant change because competing courtiers love sticking their oar in. And no-one takes responsibility for things because no-one wants to be left holding a problem when the music stops. (That’s why the “Edstone” passed through ten planning meetings without anyone pointing out how mental it was). And because virtually no-one in politics has ever worked anywhere else, they think this dysfunctional way of operating is normal. Blair, Brown and Miliband were all hopeless managers in their own ways. The next leader needs to learn to delegate and performance-manage his or her team. Let the general-secretary run the party machine and if they’re crap, sack them. Oh, and stop hiring inexperienced kids for important roles that they then guff up. Radical idea: advertise key jobs and hire the best applicants.

3. Avoid expensive US consultants. The hero worship of US politics by seemingly everyone who works for the party is actually closer to a creepy infatuation. Its staggering no-one on the NEC had the decency to demand that “Obama guru” David Axelrod repay the £300,000 he was paid for contributing nothing of value to the election campaign he was supposed to be masterminding. It could have funded another dozen organisers on the ground. (Members should remember this and take it out on the dozy NEC reps responsible for agreeing to hire him). For future reference, the party has enough talent and experience to run its own campaigns and doesn’t need any more Yank snake oil salesmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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UNCUT: Corbyn needs to be crushed in the vote. If he’s not, we’ll be out of power for decades and deserve it

27/07/2015, 11:42:13 AM

by Ian McKenzie

This whole “should Corbyn be on the ballot paper or not” thing is now out of hand. It is really very simple. The left in the Labour party has not been crushed since the mid 1980s around the end of the last era during which they were a malign influencing force. Unless the left are crushed Labour can’t win a general election. Unless Labour wins a general election the Tories will carry on running the country doing things the left and centre left don’t like.

Contrary to popular mythology (including my own at the time), Tony Bair didn’t vanquish the left. Sure, in 1994-5, there was the months-long Clause 4 national tour, I was at its last rally at Crofton Park’s famous Rivoli Ballroom, but the left knew the game was up and faded away. It was all a bit inevitable. What we really needed then, and desperately need now, was to be locked in a room until the fight was won. Blair’s true opposition inside the Labour party wasn’t the left. It was Brown. And we all know how that turned out.

In a few weeks, about a quarter of a million members of the Labour party will receive leadership election ballot papers. Sadly, membership numbers will be swelled by rather too many Trots and Tories to whom some idiot decided to give a vote for the sum of £3, but we will all have a vote.

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UNCUT: Jeremy Corbyn is a homeopathic politician plying snake oil remedies

26/07/2015, 08:30:53 AM

by Ian Moss

The Labour leadership campaign has seen some pretty unedifying accusations about the commitment of members and candidates to the core purpose of Labour.

The hard left, gathering behind Jeremy Corbyn, are whipping up anger against those that have a different view of the best policy solutions to further Labour’s principles, to their pure form of socialism.

But policies such as public service reform are not important because they might be popular with voters, they are important because they help the very people that Labour is there to represent.

The policies the Corbynites are aggressively wedded to tend to be about structures – public ownership or democratic control. That is because Corbyn is a homeopathic politician in a world that is medically complex, happily doling out homespun remedies passed down from history instead of engaging with evidence and trying to find modern solutions.

A principle is ‘improve education outcomes for those from disadvantaged backgrounds” or ‘improve health outcomes whilst ensuring free healthcare at the point of access’. It is not a principle to ‘defend a certain organisational form of institutional delivery decided at a specific point in history’. Whilst the Corbyinte left may share the principles of the reformist right, he and his supporters appear to have no curiosity about what evidence exists on how those principles would best be implemented.

Corbyn stood up on television last week and said that the 50p tax rate would raise £5bn, a figure plainly picked out of the air and not close to the sceptical position on positive revenues suggested by the IFS, the recognised independent authority on this issue.

When pressed on this, his response that his source was “some research” “by “clever people”, made it clear that this is not a man with an inquisitive mind. (His ‘research’, of course, is arithmetically impossible, given the aggregate income of people earning over £150,000 in the UK, even in the unlikely event that they all paid it).

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UNCUT: Unite say they won’t be bound by strike laws. Does Labour think this is ok? Seriously?

24/07/2015, 02:15:21 PM

by David Green

The most remarkable thing about Unite’s decision to remove the words “so far as may be lawful” from its constitution is how little comment it has attracted in the Labour party.

The union’s opposition to new Tory plans for minimum strike ballot thresholds is understandable, right, and will be supported by the Labour party at large. But what is unsupportable is the union’s declaration that it will not regard itself as being bound by the new legislation.

Indeed, the constitutional change goes much further than this – worryingly so. On its face, the change means Unite will pick and choose the laws it deigns to obey.

This is dismaying in any major civil society body, but for a formal affiliate of the Labour party it is intolerable. Labour is – must be – a party of government, one which aspires to lead and not simply to oppose. A necessary part of this is that we seek change through reforms within the UK’s political system.

Unfortunately for all concerned Labour didn’t win the last election, and the Tories did. All the bleating about mandates in the world can’t change the fact that they have an absolute majority in the UK’s sovereign parliament: any legislation they can pass is the law. Labour believes – must believe – that even the most iniquitous law must be remedied by being repealed by parliament. Endorsing any other approach undermines the principle of the rule of law, on which all of the rest of society’s stability and freedom depends.

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UNCUT: The Queen’s Nazi salute shows how fragile our liberty has always been

24/07/2015, 10:33:18 AM

by Sam Fowles 

History is power. Control of history means control of the political battleground. If we remembered how often the powerful have betrayed the principles for which they claim to stand, we may be less inclined to meekly accede to their wishes.

I’m sure the young Princess Elizabeth had no idea what she was doing when she performed the Nazi salute but members of her family (and other leading Establishment figures) did. As a nation, we suffer from collective amnesia concerning the rise of Hitler. In some cases we have even used pop culture to re-write history. In “The Kings Speech” the royal family are depicted voicing their concern to Timothy Spall’s Churchill in the early thirties. Something that, all reliable accounts suggest, absolutely did not happen.

History isn’t inevitable. We are not swept along on an unstoppable tide of events. History is determined by the actions of individuals. The depression, German politics, the repercussions of the Versailles Treaty all played a part in the rise of Hitler. But so did the contribution if the British Establishment. The European elites supported Hitler because they saw him as a better alternative than a left wing party. In the UK Conservative MPs organised in groups like the January Club to promote Hitler’s politics in the UK (even after Kristallnacht). After Germany invaded Czechoslovakia the Bank of England facilitated the transfer of its sovereign wealth fund to the Nazis. The Royal family’s censors prevented plays criticising Hitler from showing on the London stage as late as 1939.

One of the most significant supporters of Nazism was Prince Edward, later the Duke of Windsor, who appears in the footage released by the Sun. Recent evidence suggests that Edward passed information to Nazi agents including the suggestion that London should be bombed. He did this while a serving officer in the Grenadier Guards. He was assisted by other aristocrats such as the Countess of Athlone. Yet Edward was never court martialled. He was never tried for treason. Would an ordinary citizen, perhaps one of the many killed by the bombing that Edward supported, have received the same leniency?

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UNCUT: Ten hard truths for Labour

23/07/2015, 05:28:13 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. After that bombshell poll, here are some about the party itself from Rob Marchant.

1. The Labour Party has not merely just lost an election after five years of drift; it has been getting worse since. It has now fallen deep into an existential crisis of purpose, with a large portion of its membership worryingly in denial about what the British public will actually vote for.

2. The current leadership election is symptomatic of that crisis. Like in the early 80s with Healey and Benn, many in the party are no longer expecting to get the best candidate, merely looking to avoid a disastrous one.

3. For those who believe Liz Kendall was over-egging the pudding in saying that Labour has “no God-given right to exist”, and that it has earned a permanent place in the British Top Two of political parties, some reading about the Liberal Party in the 1920s is required.

4. A Corbyn win would immediately present such an existential threat to the party. In short, the situation is far worse than the leftward drift that led to the Foot years, because (a) the country has moved right since then and hence less sympathetic, (b) Foot was a principled man who did not apologise for fanatics and (c) we hadn’t just been wiped out in our Scottish heartlands just before he was elected.

5. Labour needs to wake up and realise that Unite already represents an existential threat to it and does not have the party’s best interests at heart. It will at some point destroy itself through its increasing irrelevance to both Labour and its own members, but it could well take Labour down with it. It must not be allowed to.

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UNCUT: Sorry, that Labour leadership poll is nonsense. Jeremy Corbyn is going to finish fourth

22/07/2015, 05:24:43 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Remember the general election, when most reports on voting intention turned out to be total tosh?

Well, here we go again.

The general election hopelessly wrong-footed most commentators for two reasons: dodgy polls and shouty lefty Twittervists.

The polls created an illusion that Ed Miliband and Labour were a nose in front. Labour’s voluble activist base on Twitter then leapt on every iffy poll and each tweet describing yet another great session on the #Labourdoorstep to amplify and broadcast the narrative that Ed Miliband was about to become prime minister.

Understandably, most journalists looked on and followed the crowd. The pollsters and the Twittervists seemed to be saying the same thing.

A self-reinforcing spiral of delusion took hold that was only broken when the public’s actual votes shattered the Westminster’s conventional wisdom on the evening of May 7th.

Now, it’s happening again in the Labour leadership race.

YouGov have provided the poll and the Twittervists have been hard at work since news of it broke last night (though in truth, this process was already under way, with the equally misleading CLP nominations being used as the metric of choice by Corbyn’s online barmy army).

The problem, as at the general election, is that the polling is misleading.

In the case of the Labour leadership race, the capability of any polling company to accurately sample members is highly questionable.

For online polling, the problem is particularly acute.

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UNCUT: If moderates want to stop Corbyn, they need to back Burnham

22/07/2015, 12:01:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The most obvious point about the Yougov poll for The Times showing Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour leadership race on 43 per cent, is that 57 per cent of members are not backing him. A clear majority of Labour’s members do not support taking the party sharply to the left.

The other obvious point is that Corbyn’s wild card status in this contest, ostensibly to “broaden the debate” has spectacularly revealed just how little the parliamentary party and the professional class around Labour politics actually now understands the grassroots.

Corbyn was seen, to be brutally honest, as lefty ballast. A bit-part player to be politely tolerated while the serious professional politicians got on with it.

So how do party moderates now respond, having made what looks like a gigantic miscalculation?

If these polling figures bear any relation to the actual result, there is no room for complacency.

No-one thought a Granita-style pact was necessary in order to give the centrist, social democratic perspective in the party a clear run in this contest, but this is precisely what is needed.

It’s probably too late and too messy for anyone to drop out at this stage, but the Burnham, Cooper and Kendall camps need to appreciate the risk of a Corbyn victory and maximise the chances of a centrist winning.
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