Archive for February, 2020

Impractical and dangerous – a so-called ‘Peace Pledge’ would drive Great Britain into a diplomatic purdah

08/02/2020, 09:51:10 PM

by Gray Sergeant

On 3 October 1957, Aneurin Bevan, champion of the Labour Left, delivered a thumping blow to his loyal followers in an about-face conference speech opposing unilateral nuclear disarmament. His words attacking Resolution 24 have become legendary. To disarm, he warned attendees, would be like “sending a British Foreign Secretary … naked into the conference chamber”.

Bevan’s points in favour of maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent remain as true today as they did in the early Cold War. His wider point that foreign and defence policy cannot be dictated by party members still stands too.

Jeremy Corbyn ignored these wise words when he polled members in late-2015 on extending airstrikes into Syria against Islamic State. Now, deputy leadership contender Richard Burgon wants to emulate with a so-called ‘Peace Pledge’ which would force a future Labour government to obtain the consent of members, via a referendum or conference vote, before using military force abroad.

What Burgon’s proposal fails to understand is that when it comes to foreign affairs stealth and swiftness can be critical. Take Britain’s retaliation against chemical weapon attacks in Syria two years ago. Speed and secrecy were essential, as was cooperation with the country’s allies. In similar circumstances it would be an administrative nightmare to conduct an internal referendum, let alone arrange a conference, in a matter of days. Even if the Labour Party could the result would be ill-informed. The party obviously cannot email members the classified material vital to making a judgement on airstrikes. In which case how can anyone expect them to come to a considered conclusion?

Members must trust the judgement of the leadership. This is not to say they should be shut out altogether. They already have a profound say on Labour’s international policy. In 2015 they demonstrated this. Jeremy Corbyn’s worldview was a fundamental change from Labour orthodoxy. Had he won an election these members, via their leadership vote, would have had a monumental effect on Britain’s standing and conduct abroad.

It is easy to laugh off the idea as an unimplementable election race gimmick.  But if it was seriously taken forward it would not be so funny. It would not be an act of statesmanship either, to echo the words of the great Welshman himself, but an “emotional spasm”. One with potentially grave consequences.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Don’t believe the doubters – Labour can win in 2024

06/02/2020, 10:38:42 PM

by Tim Carter

The fact that the Tories came away victors from the general election in December shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, the majority was bigger than most expected, my prediction was 37-45 but maybe that was because I have an in-built Labour bias and at times tend to see my glass half full even when it is almost empty!

But politics is always about numbers and with 365 Tory MPs sitting across from 202 Labour MPs the numbers look daunting, leading most sane commentators to decide that the next Labour government is at least two general elections away. But they might be, and probably are, wrong – here’s why.

Back in 2005 the Conservatives had just suffered third general election defeat and their 198 (up from 166) MPs sat looking across at 355 Labour MPs. The talk was that for the Tories the game was over and opposition was now their natural role, they were now the ‘nasty party’ with the Lib Dems on 62 the talk was of ‘two party politics’ coming to an end. The Tories were, we were told, a busted flush.

Howard resigned as leader and a leadership contest was triggered, David Davis was the continuity Howard candidate and in the first round of the contest he was leading Cameron. Following Ken Clarke’s elimination and after the departure of Liam Fox in the next round, the members got to choose between Cameron and Davis – the clear choice offered was change or more of the same and the membership chose change.

Cameron set out on a on a path of reform and detoxification – sound familiar, well it should do because this is where Labour is after three election defeats and the decision members and eventually MPs have to make, is the same.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour, co-owner of #brexitshambles

03/02/2020, 10:30:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

We are out. That’s it, the fat lady has sung.

But of course we are not out at all, not in any meaningful sense. This is just the start of a tortuous, eleven-month scramble to try and get some kind of a sensible result in place by the end of the year.

Remainers have to admit that they – we – lost the argument, at least for now. Leavers have got what they wanted and, ultimately, that’s democracy.

But, Leaver or Remainer, we have had in many ways the worst of all possible worlds. Leavers have not really got what many wanted, at least, not yet. If we leave aside the semi-suicidal, macho contingent who are happy to have the hardest of hard Brexits, moderate Leavers will now see that we now have eleven months to get somewhere on the sliding scale between what one former PM has rightly called the “pointless Brexit” and the “painful Brexit”.

If we end at the “pointless Brexit”, people on both sides will rightly say, we might as well have stayed in. Most of the benefits but without a seat at the table.

If we end at the “painful Brexit”, for example, with few and/or poor-outcome trade deals in place, the economic jolt to come will be memorable. And, it must be said, we have both precious little time to get those deals in place and the poor bargaining power of the supplicant. But we are where we are.

And somewhere in the middle? A bit of both of the above or, perhaps, not even really possible. Perhaps it will quickly converge down to just that binary choice of one or the other: who knows.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon