Got something to say? Contribute content to grassroots@labour-uncut.co.uk

Labour’s much changed leadership rules are a case study in the law of unintended consequences

29/07/2016, 01:43:19 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Lenin once said that some months only contain a week’s worth of action. While some weeks contain many months of activity. Currently the Labour party is living through years of action in a few weeks, but the last weeks of July saw particularly significant developments.

Firstly, during the 48 hours 18th to 20th June, the NEC devised window for upgrading £3 supporter subs to £25 to buy a place in the leadership ballot passed. Astonishingly, even in the Corbyn era, the Labour party gained 133,000 registered supporters in a matter of hours. One third of the selectorate was now registered supporters. By 28th July the BBC – Shaun Ley – was reporting the figure was 183,500. Where the extra members had come from is part of the current mystery.

We will not know till September who this benefits But it is very clear that a politically savvy cohort of some size now exists, understanding deadlines and able to spend £25 without blinking an eyelid to vote for the leader. And the Labour party has effectively no way of knowing who they might be – even if local parties tried to check the validity of the applications, they do not have enough time to do so. Ley reported that in HQ a mere 15 people are trying to check social media for unacceptable attitudes. But the problems are not about classical entryism.

Labour leadership elections are increasingly randomised, a marked contrast with the Tories who carried out a selection process which secured the choice of the M Ps. Labour’s M Ps have not just lost control of the process – which they did under the Miliband reforms – but have demonstrated this by launching a coup which seems to have relied on Corbyn not being on the ballot paper.

The NEC allowed him on, which lead to Michael Foster, ex- Labour PPC, launching a legal challenge which is the second major development. But before considering this, a few background points on the assumptions going for a dubious revolt, rather than a sensible redrafting of the rules for a mid-term election. This is increasingly necessary as the party fragments and shows the failure of the core theory of New Labour.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s leadership plotting is going to end in tears

11/07/2016, 08:50:08 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Last autumn the Labour leadership issues seemed possible to discuss objectively, with a possible clean up of a deeply confused rule book. Perhaps even a sensible mid-term election could be devised while the Fixed Term Parliament Act was in force, a mid term election being discussed in passing during the summer leadership debates. This is no longer possible and even before a rumoured leadership plot is launched, the situation is becoming more confused and dangerously fraught.

The context of what Kevin Meagher rightly described as a ‘putsch‘ is internal disputes in the Whitehall bubble, mirroring tensions over Labour’s direction. There has been little to justify a leadership challenge despite the EU referendum dispute, and as Kevin Meagher pointed out, “The risk is that the current putsch plays straight into the hands of the Corbynites and inflicts lasting, long term damage on the party”. This is clearly true and while I suspect a general election in the autumn is unlikely for Theresa May, if one was called leadership dispute would seriously damage Labour.

However the immediate issues are two-fold, and centre on the nature of the putsch.

The first issue is whether they plotters can keep Corbyn off the ballot paper. If the rules are used to prevent enough supporters to nominate Corbyn, I cannot see how a legal challenge is unavoidable. He is the elected Labour leader. Whether he can be excluded is open to legal challenge but if successfully excluded, this has the effect of making the leadership a PLP matter. The membership is merely rubber stamping the PLP decision.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour needs to take a step back and be clear about our post-Brexit agenda

09/07/2016, 07:15:18 PM

by Tom Clements

It is impossible to overstate the position that our country and our party faces after the most tumultuous of weeks in British politics.

Like so many of us, I have been completely blindsided both by the result of the referendum and the rapidity of the changing news cycle. It would be too easy to continue our Brexit hangover and concentrate purely on the machinations of Labour’s impending leadership contest or shudder at the thought of Andrea Leadsom as our next Prime Minister.

But now it’s time to take a step back.

The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Whilst I believed passionately in the need for Britain to stay in the European Union, I don’t believe that we should dispute the result. The people of Britain made a choice and we should accept it. To fail to do so would reinforce every negative stereotype about politics and politicians.

Economic collapse, our union breaking apart, racial tension, punitive immigration, the most right-wing Conservative Party leader in a generation. The potential negative consequences of leaving the European Union don’t bare thinking about.

So it’s time for us to step up.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

MPs are acting now on Corbyn to escape the cycle of defeat which dominates Labour’s history

29/06/2016, 09:00:54 PM

by Frederick Cowell

“Michael there are people who are going out to fight the election who won’t be coming back….” Gerald Kaufmann said “I implore you stand aside from the leadership.” Michael Foot listened carefully and then somewhat apologetically lent forward in his chair and said, “I’m sorry Gerald I just can’t do that.”

It was February 1983 – four months later went down to its second largest General Election defeat in history. From Attlee in 1954 to Brown in January 2010 the same conversation has been had – ‘we’re going to lose, your leadership is taking us there.’

History creates odd prisms through which to view things. It is hard to remember that there was once a Post-Miliband – Pre-Corbyn period in the Labour party. But that period was an attempt to confront the conversation that has dogged Labour’s history.

Less than 10 days after the 2015 general election the Labour leader in the House of Lords said that party needed a break clause with their new leader in 2018. A day later the Guardian called for a two-year interim leader and suggested Alan Johnson for the role.

Alastair Campbell warned a week later that he would step in and remove any failing leader after three years and although this provoked a scornful reaction from John Prescott, Campbell stood his ground.

“If only the rest of Labour wanted to win as badly as he did” tweeted the FT’s political correspondent Jannan Ganesh.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The EU referendum is Cameron’s mess. So of course the media try to blame Jeremy Corbyn

15/06/2016, 05:31:29 PM

by Jon and Libby Bounds

The leavers are rising in the polls and everyone is starting to get scared that they might actually win. And, of course, it’s Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

It’s not unusual for Corbyn to come under attack, he doesn’t sing loud enough, or bow at the proper angle, and he baulks at the idea of mutual mass destruction. And we all know what Cameron thinks about his suit and tie. But what is odd is that this time around he’s effectively being criticised for not coming to the aid of his opponent in his hour of need.

David Cameron is struggling to get his message across. For the first time his privilege is not buying him an easy ride with an unusually un-supplicant press: and he’s looking to those with experience of not having everything their own way.

Cameron did not see this coming, but in many ways he is the architect of his own downfall. The establishment is trying to pin the blame on the Labour leadership but everything about this is a Tory mess. Even leaving aside that the very referendum is Cameron’s own fault – a self-serving promise to prevent haemorrhaging even more votes and party “loonies” to UKIP – the actions of the Tories have created a situation in which rational argument has lost its power and a new idiocracy rides the waves of ill-informed public opinion.

When Ed Miliband said that the media has focused on the “sexy blue-on-blue action” in covering the referendum campaign, he may have made Today programme listeners push away their boiled eggs, but he was right. Labour has been hamstrung in getting the socialist case for remaining in the EU across, not through a lack of passion, but through a lack of coverage.

Labour (and especially Ed) are used to this, but it is the first time that sections of the Conservatives have been on the wrong side of the tactics that they have spent the last 10 years developing.

So successfully have they terrified the BBC into a false version of impartiality they call ‘balance’, that ideas are never challenged, only countered. Lies are given equal weight to the truth.

And the right wing press doesn’t even have to pretend to be impartial. So if a view – or most frustratingly a fact – isn’t palatable to the owners and their editors then it will get the shortest of shrift. This is a problem. Yes, social media and the internet means that we can go beyond newspaper bias to get to more of the truth – but only if we have the time, critical analysis skills and networks to do so. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

If the Labour leadership won’t stand against anti-Semitism, who will?

30/05/2016, 08:53:40 PM

by Frazer Loveman

Two days ago the Labour party lifted the suspension of Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Thanet Labour and also vice-chair of Momentum’s steering committee. Her comments regarding the African holocaust on Facebook, where she had suggested that Jews had been “chief financiers” of the slave and sugar trade have now seemingly been deemed by the Labour party leadership to have been perfectly acceptable, with no further action necessary.

Now, I don’t know Ms Walker, I don’t want to judge whether or not she is actually an anti-Semite, but her remarks were at the very least misguided and distasteful. What is more offensive is that she refuses to recognise or accept this, posting a blog on May 26th in which she does not offer contrition, or an apology, but instead doubling down suggesting “anti-Semitism is not a major problem” before going on to discuss the “increasing convergence between Zionists, the right of the Labour Party, the Tories and our right wing media”. This has been her stance all along, as characterised by her response on Russia Today when she again claimed the issue was not anti-Semitism, but the restriction of free speech (as she misappropriated the Martin Niemöller poem First They Came) within the Labour party, comparing her suspension to McCarthysim.

This inability to even countenance that she may have made remarks that could be considered anti-Semitic is almost worse than making the remarks in the first place. When it was revealed that Bradford West MP Naz Shah had shared anti-Semitic images on Facebook she showed nothing but remorse, apologising for the posts and actively reaching out to the Jewish community, culminating in her appearance yesterday at a Synagogue in Leeds where she once again fully apologised and said that she had been “ignorant”, but now “understood” more about the situation in Israel and how the BDS movement effects normal Israeli citizens.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Lib Dem love that dare not speak its name

26/03/2016, 09:50:41 PM

by George Kendall

Since 1997, the Liberal Democrats have had an awful secret.

After 2001, we bitterly denounced the Labour government. We railed against their authoritarian policies on civil liberties and the illegal war in Iraq. In cities across the north of England, we were locked in mortal combat for control of local government.

However, when respective Lib Dems have gathered, after sidelong glances to ensure the wrong people aren’t listening, there’s something we have only admitted with hushed voices.

Sometimes we’d speak with comic evasions, “Of course,” we’d say. “I hated the Labour government.” And everyone would nod.

“Except the devolution to Scotland and Wales, but that was down to Robert Maclennan and Robin Cook. Labour only agreed with great reluctance.

“Oh, and the Freedom of Information Act, but we all know Blair hated it.

“I suppose they did reduce the number of hereditary Lords, but why not elect them?

“And why do they get credit for the Independence of the Bank of England? After all, that was shamelessly stealing our policy.

“They did introduce civil partnerships, but we’ve gone further.

“And they take all the credit for the increase in overseas aid, when that was driven by the Jubilee 2000 campaign. And that was founded by a Lib Dem.

“Fair’s fair, I suppose. The NHS did need more funding, even if they took a few years to get around to it.

“Electoral reform for the European elections may have been an improvement, but they should have introduced it to the House of Commons..

“I suppose the Minimum Wage was all right.” And we’d pause, unable to think what else to say.

We never spoke the obvious punchline. However, if we were honest, in the back of our minds, we could hear ourselves saying, “Apart from that, what did the 1997 Labour government ever do for us?”

Now, almost two decades later, the world has changed. Corbynistas rail against Labour’s record in government, and the Tories ridicule it. But, for us, sometimes the boundary between love and hate is narrower than we realise.

Despite all that has happened since, perhaps it’s time for some of us to admit that, in truth, we loved the 1997 government.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

I don’t like the European Parliament or the In campaign. The EU is flawed. But I’m voting to remain

14/03/2016, 10:20:04 PM

by Robin Thorpe

The EU referendum is not really a Left-Right issue; it instead seems to separate groups of people on their age and level of education.

But membership of the EU does accord with one of the core beliefs  of the Labour movement: that we achieve more by working together than we do alone. Indeed the Labour Party rule book explicitly states that Labour is committed to co-operating in European institutions as well as the UN, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all. These are things that can only be achieved by international co-operation.

However, the Labour Party rule book (2013) also states that Labour works for “an open democracy, in which government is held to account by the people; decision are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect; and where fundamental human rights are guaranteed”.  The current European Parliament does not correlate with these expectations. I can therefore understand why some Labour supporters may also wish to leave the EU.

David Cameron’s negotiations, although largely insignificant, had one major outcome: that the UK would not be obliged to be a part of “ever closer union”. But for me this misses the fundamental choice that faces not just the citizens of the UK but all of the peoples of Europe.

Do we truly want a common market across Europe, or do we want to remain as independent nations. Because to normalise both access to the market and quality of goods and services across Europe then we will need a common approach to much more than just fishing quotas and standard paper sizes. In my opinion we should either accept that a truly successful European Union would look like a United States of Europe, or we accept that it is flawed and make the best of a bad thing. Which is why I think that Cameron’s negotations were a failure. They didn’t just achieve nothing of use, they focused the purpose of the referendum on immigration.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon