Archive for February, 2019

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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Wavertree CLP’s rotten leadership shines a light on the party’s

15/02/2019, 07:39:55 AM

by Rob Marchant

It has been said during the last week, and not by Labour-watchers accustomed to hyperbole, that this might have been the week when a party’s split became irrevocable.

While that may or may not be true, it is difficult to remember a time when the parliamentary party was in such disarray, even in the mad 1980s, or the late 1950s’ nadir.

Perhaps this is partly because of Jeremy Corbyn’s true, Eurosceptic colours on Europe finally becoming clear, to all but the most avid Kool-Aid drinkers in the strange party that is now Labour.

The Labour leadership’s Janus-faced position on Brexit is both embarrassing and terrible for the country, particularly if it leads, as seems quite possible, to a hard Brexit, which will undoubtedly hurt the country for years, perhaps decades. But that is a situation which can, in some sense, be rectified. It is a function of the leadership, not local parties.

The current situation with anti-Semitism, however is not so easy. A stain on the party’s previous good name for anti-racism is a deep wound, one from which it is perfectly possible it will never recover. And it has by now infested many local parties, which are much more difficult to fix, as any witness to the party’s slow purge of Militant will tell you.

There have been many, many CLPs have been suspended over the years, mostly for subverting the party’s internal democracy, via fiddling votes or entryism. But never can one recall a local party having been suspended for rampant racism, as the party’s Deputy Leader and others have called for Liverpool Wavertree to be.

Luciana Berger, its decent and competent MP, has been targeted by her own local party in a vicious campaign of racial harassment. It is hard to overstate the freakishness and sickness of some of the comments to be found on Facebook and Twitter, many by people who are clearly party members, local and not. One Twitter account I reported on Monday was wishing her unborn baby dead. And there are many, many more.

Now, some say that Berger has not worked her local base hard enough and is now paying the price. There may even be some truth in it. But it’s hardly the point.

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The party needs to tread carefully replacing its estranged MPs

05/02/2019, 09:52:03 PM

How is Labour handling the tricky round of parliamentary selections in seats where a sitting MP has either quit or been expelled from the party?

This is always a tricky subject. Local parties can become deeply divided over the fate of their estranged MP (who can often be like family to long-serving members) while party chiefs need to make a careful judgement about the individual seat and whether claims of a personal following for the MP might translate into a personal vote if they were to stand as an independent.

The received wisdom, however, is that independents struggle, regardless of whether they are sitting MPs. In the 2017 election, Simon Danczuk received just 1.8% of the vote in his Rochdale seat, after he was expelled from the party.

Still, in a marginal seat the possibility that a former MP might stand, clattering into a new candidate and gifting the seat to another party, is very real. So how is Labour responding in those seats with MPs that have resigned or been forced out of the party?

In Sheffield Hallam, the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Olivia Blake, was recently selected as a replacement for the suspended Jared O’Mara from an all-women shortlist (AWS). This made sense, given the allegations against O’Mara for his juvenile sexist postings on social media. (A hipster university seat, Hallam is reputed to have the highest number of people with a Phd in the country).

However In Barrow and Furness, where John Woodcock resigned from the party following allegations – (and they are just allegations) of sexual misconduct – the party did not impose an AWS, selecting former soldier and Network Rail employee, Chris Altree, from an open shortlist on Saturday to defend Labour’s wafer-thin majority of just 209.

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