We need to hear Corbyn say: ‘Isil must be defeated’

01/12/2015, 11:17:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Outlining his reluctance to back air strikes against Isil in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Morning Star the other day, that:

 “Amid all the debate and emotion expended over Syria last week, there remains a terrible sense of déjà vu pervading this most difficult of problems. It is the sense of a government – and a nation – repeating previous errors by committing to air strikes without a comprehensive, long-term strategy involving regional powers and allies…

[I]n the absence of a proper strategy informed by better on-the-ground knowledge and intelligence, there is a real danger that any military intervention goes the same way of Iraq, Afghanistan post-2006, and Libya.”

Actually, these aren’t Jeremy Corbyn’s words; it’s an excerpt from a piece by Conservative MP John Baron, a former soldier and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, writing in the Mail on Sunday.

The subterfuge is merely to highlight that fact there are real reasons to proceed cautiously in joining US-led efforts to bomb Isil strongholds in Syria and these reservations stretch across British politics.

Indeed, there’s a decent argument to made that the case for military action will only prevail when we are prepared to wage war on the ground, winning and holding territory  (as Baron eloquently and persuasively argues). There is also a potent argument that David Cameron’s faith in the Free Syrian Army as the instrument to achieve this aim is seriously misplaced, as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out.

Yet, even when Corbyn is right, as he is in pointing out that bombing is no panacea, he has no bigger argument to make. Where is the moral outrage about the fascistic, throat-slitting, mass-murdering rapist psychopaths of Islamic State? Or, indeed, the moral imperative in vanquishing them?


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The renaissance of the Livingstone tendency

30/11/2015, 09:25:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are people within the PLP who have never accepted the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” claimed Clive Lewis on Today on Saturday morning, in the context of a debate on Syria. This hints at the charge that Diane Abbott has previously made: Labour MPs want to bomb Syria to harm Corbyn. It takes a particular cynicism to suggest that MPs would put political advantage before matters of life and death.

It is precisely because the decision to go to war is so consequential that elected representatives cannot be bound by mere partisan calculation. MPs need to be able to look constituents in the eye and tell them that they acted as they thought necessary to keep them safe. They cannot – and, pace Abbott, do not – let how they feel about a party leader, or a whip, stand between them and doing so.

Ministers similarly need to be able to look people in the eye. They must be prepared to defend military intervention undertaken or not undertaken by the governments of which they are a part. The shared position of ministers forms the line of the party in government and all parties that wish to be taken seriously as parties of government require such common positions.

If ministers or shadow ministers cannot support these positions, they should resign from the frontbench. If backbench MPs cannot support whips consistent with these positions, they should not so vote. Whether the grandest prime ministers or the most humble backbenchers, all act in accord with their interpretation of the national interest.

We might – though it strains practical limits – live in a direct democracy, where military decisions are determined by popular referendum. We might – though it is also impractical in a world of classified military intelligence and rapidly emerging security threats – have a have a parliament of delegates, who vote as mandated by local electors or party members. Neither, however, are this country.


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Labour has reached peak groupthink

26/11/2015, 10:28:35 PM

by Rob Marchant

groupthink, n., [grüp-ˌthiŋk]: a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

Merriam-Webster online dictionary

The saddest thing about party conference this year, as commentator Iain Martin remarked, was “otherwise nice/sensible people trying to persuade themselves it will be ok”.

If there were a fortnight to convince the world otherwise, this must surely have been it.

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s position on bombing Isil, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the rebellion on an actual vote for renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, have all been an unmitigated shambles.

Most immediately, there’s Corbyn’s amazing letter outlining his personal position on British involvement in bombing Isil, pre-empting Monday’s shadow cabinet discussion, astounding shadow ministers and MPs alike.

Then there was his refusal to condemn Stop the War Coalition’s toe-curling and hastily-retracted blog post, blaming the Paris attacks on France and her Western allies. Not to mention a subsequent mauling by his own MPs at the regular PLP meeting, over that, Jihadi John and the government’s shoot-to-kill policy. Then the unprecedented event of Labour MPs criticising their own leader in the Commons and his links to the Stoppers.

In the case of the vote to keep Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, we had centrist MPs in the bizarre (and surely also unprecedented) position of defying the whip to vote for party policy, as Ben Bradshaw MP drily noted.

And let’s not forget (just 24 hours ago although it already seems longer) the unedifying spectacle of attempted political theatre gone badly wrong. John McDonnell MP – for it was he – chose to respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement by waving a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Yes, that Mao, the 20th century’s greatest mass-murderer.

And thus did the tragedy of Labour’s last few months descend into farce.


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Activist or MP, it’s time to take a stand

23/11/2015, 09:17:56 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“Criminals were victims of the capitalist system. The police were agents of repression. Riots were popular uprisings against capitalist injustice.” These, according to Peter Mandelson’s autobiography, were commonplace views in the early 1980s vintage of London Labour.

“The three hate-ideas of the idiot savant left are capitalism, imperialism and America, or CIA for short,” Phil Collins wrote recently. The CIA are now as acceptable in Labour as they were in the 1980s.

Then Mandelson, “was part of Ted Knight’s increasingly Soviet-style Labour group on the (Lambeth) council”. He recalls making the case for moderation to the Labour group. “Ted would invariably open the next meeting by glaring in turn at me and other recalcitrants, and saying: ‘Certain comrades are misperceiving the situation…’ The atmosphere was very intimidating.”

Having experienced the Knight glower, I have some sense of the mood described. On a GC that was fiercely loyal to our MP, Tessa Jowell, Knight would sit at the back. The comrade who put the loony into Lambeth remained resolute, 30 years on. If you said something that he disagreed with, you knew about it. He was an imposing figure, even when much of the room was against him.

“The past isn’t dead,” as William Faulkner famously put it. “It isn’t even past.” The party still trawls through the bowels of the 1980s. We are re-infused with CIA thinking, as Knight, I am told (I moved away from the CLP earlier this year), has picked up his GC participation since Corbyn’s election.


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Getting rid of comrade Corbyn will take patience

17/11/2015, 11:02:47 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Years from now, politics students will be told jokingly by their tutors about the time the Labour leader had to U-turn and admit that a suicide bomber, who was about to blow himself up, should in fact be shot by the police.

It will be a salutary tale of what happens when an individual characterized by extremes of incompetence and ideology, is put in charge of a political party.

Many MPs think that the madness cannot continue. That Corbyn will fall in the next six months, or at the latest, after poll disaster in next year’s regional and local elections.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Before Corbyn falls, three changes are needed, none of which are immediate: the soft left need to wake-up to what’s happening, new terms of trade are required within Labour’s internal debate and a viable alternative leader must emerge.

Westminster Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time are wholly different concepts.

In the political bubble, new notions become conventional wisdom within two or three turns of a super-accelerated Twitter fueled news cycle.

But what might seem suddenly eye-rollingly obvious in Westminster has barely registered outside.


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Labour moderates should stop worrying about strategy, get off their arses and start organising

11/11/2015, 11:57:30 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s easy to read the politics pages of national newspapers and think that the real problem of Labour’s moderates is that they’ve got to get a shiny new strategy together that is neither New Labour nor Miliband Labour, but something which will get Labour back in power. That, in short, it doesn’t really know what it stands for and therefore this needs to be its first priority.

While it is a problem, it is certainly not the immediate problem.

The reason for this is simple: the media generally sees politics through the prism of Westminster, not just Parliament but the plethora of think-tanks and lobbying firms that hang around it. Policy and political strategy are the glue which holds that world together, without it we are nothing.

But Labour, we should take pains to remember is first and foremost a party (and a movement, although with the current radical state of the leadership of most major unions, that may not be of much immediate help to the moderates right now). It is a living, breathing thing, made up of hundreds of thousands of activists. Right now, it’s all over the shop.

Which is more important during opposition, particularly during a crucial battle for the soul of the party?

It’s the party, stupid. And that means organisation on the ground, in the CLPs and Labour group meetings across the country.


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Where is Liam Byrne headed?

09/11/2015, 05:20:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Liam Byrne is nothing if not industrious. After a hotly contested by-election, a minister five minutes after becoming an MP. The hard work continued on the opposition front bench, even if he felt too Blairite to be in vogue during the Miliband years. When he might have been expected to back the more Blairite Liz Kendall, he enthusiastically supported Yvette Cooper.

Cooper outperformed Kendall but Byrne’s candidate was left to eat Corbyn’s dust, as a much changed party from the one that Byrne was first elected to represent was created. Back then Byrne was the poster boy for Blair’s ability to win by-elections in the face of impassioned campaigning by parties, the Liberal Democrats and Respect, opposed to the Iraq war. Now Labour has a leader who can seem to be willing Blair toward the Hague.

No defeat or indignity, it appears, deters Byrne. The grafting just persists. He wants to make the best of Corbyn, as he made the best of Blair, Brown and Miliband. But not from the frontbench. No longer does he defend the leadership on all fronts. A big olive branch was, nonetheless, offered in his recent Policy Network speech.

This conciliation was Tony Crosland shaped. In the 1950s, a civil war waged between Bevanites and Gaitskellites. Europe and nuclear deterrence loomed large. As, oddly enough, they did during the convulsions of the 1980s. And they do again now. There must be something about these issues that brings them to renewed prominence at times of heightened Labour flux.

Crosland’s The Future of Socialism sought to cut through these differences by appealing to a shared commitment to equality. What divided Bevanites and Gaitskellites was merely the means; the end of equality united them, argued Crosland.

“I love Jeremy’s passion for tackling inequality,” Byrne insisted at Policy Network. “He is not a Trot. I am not a Tory. We are both Labour.” Reaching beyond the differences, like Crosland sixty years ago, to find the common conviction.


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Labour is ceasing to exist

05/11/2015, 02:09:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s not often that the election results for Labour’s backbench PLP committee chairs are notable, but today’s announcement lays bare the scale of division within the parliamentary party.

via the New Statesman

e-mail to MPs announcing the result, via the New Statesman

The majority of the chairs have ruled out serving under Jeremy Corbyn on the frontbench and specifically oppose key tents of his positions on the policy areas that their committees cover. They are taking their fight to the backbenches.

This is just the latest development in a rapidly accelerating process.

Labour is slowly ceasing to exist as a political party. Like those images of Marty Mcfly’s relatives in his photo, it’s fading away.


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Labour’s foreign policy is a debased joke

02/11/2015, 10:17:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another milestone has been passed. Labour’s Corbynite journey on foreign policy has exited tragedy and entered the realms of farce.

This evening, the BBC’s Ross Hawkins reports that the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Catherine West, addressed the Stop The War coalition meeting in parliament, saying,

“Obviously in the summer before Russia was involved we were thinking the government might bring forward a proposal and we were preparing mentally for that. However since 30 September I think that’s more remote and obviously if that proposal does come forward then we will need to speak to you and talk to you about what your view is on that.”

There it is. in black and white. A commitment that Labour would consult with Stop the War before deciding its Syria policy.

How dare she.

Here’s Stop the War’s John Rees from 2006 indulging in paroxysms of Orwellian doublethink by backing Saddam Hussein as a champion of the oppressed that he was oppressing,

“Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.”

This is the Stop the War coalition that is allied to the Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine, Stalinist apologists who support Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and oppose the democratically elected government in Ukraine.

And it is the same Stop the War coalition that invited the infamous Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix to speak at one of their rallies. She’s a nun living in Damascus trotted out by the Syrian government to deny that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons on rebel held areas.

Her explanation of scenes of dead children in Ghouta was that they were “sleeping” while images of men and women dying from inhaling sarin gas were discounted as “stage-managed.”

She even had the temerity to suggest that rebels were responsible for gassing civilians and then claiming it was Assad.

This is the organisation that Labour’s shadow minister says the party “will need [emphasis added] to speak to.”

Labour’s problem is clearly no longer far left entryism.

When the party’s shadow ministers go on bended knee to conspiracy-mad, Stalinist front organisations like Stop the War, it’s evident that the leadership’s representatives are engaged in the reverse journey.

They are the entryists, seeking comfort, approval and acceptance from yesterday’s infiltrators.

Needless to say, if a Conservative minister or politician spoke at a meeting of a comparable group to the right of the Tory party there would be outrage.

But this where Labour is now.

A place where almost any political madness is possible and foreign policy has become a debased joke.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Seumas Milne turned the Guardian’s comment section into a polarising bear pit. God help the Labour party

28/10/2015, 10:04:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is now commonplace, even among journalists who should know better, to conclude that the current criticisms of the Corbyn leadership come exclusively from a hard knot of diehard centrists who refuse to accept that the new regime could win an election.

While it is clear that it cannot and it is also true that many sensible activists would rather die in a ditch than attempt to fight the hopeless battle of a general election under the current leadership, the reality is that there is really a much wider concern about the party’s current trajectory, and not just among Labour MPs. Even Tories and Lib Dems worry about the absence of a viable opposition.

To recap: we now have a party led by a man who never expected to leave the back benches; a shadow chancellor best described as “maverick”, with a treasure trove of past quotes already carefully dug up and filed at Tory HQ, providing a handy media drip-feed for the next five years.

But even though Corbyn’s win and McDonnell’s appointment were shocks, the shocks show no signs of abating. And for those few who have studied the hard left over recent years, inside and outside the party, it is difficult to find a more disturbing appointment than that of Seumas Milne as Director of Communications and Strategy. Disturbing first, if not surprising, because he appears to share pretty much the same views as his leader but a little more extreme.

Tom Harris MP is, of course, right to point out the dangerously narrow appeal of Corbyn/Milne viewpoint: that traditional Labour voters, who might have sons and daughters fighting in Britain’s armed forces, could be massively turned off by the idea that their sacrifices are for nothing; and all in the name of a monarch whom the leadership might dislike but whom those same voters are actually rather fond of.

But it is much more than that: the naked anti-West sentiment propagated by Corbyn, Milne and their pals in the Stop the War Coalition is anathema to the majority of the British public, even those who might have had mixed feelings about the results of the country’s intervention in Iraq. And even on much of the left and centre-left.


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