This is my truth, tell me yours

22/08/2016, 09:12:49 AM

by Nic Dakin

Speaking for Owen Smith at a nomination meeting I came face to face with the truth that members believe about what caused the current crisis and leadership election.  It’s a truth that’s been pushed by certain sections of the media and a lot of people supportive of the current Labour Leader on social media.  It’s not a truth I recognise.  But for many of the really good, honest, genuine people there it had become a truth they passionately believed.

And it goes something like this: Jeremy Corbyn has done a really good job in leading the party resulting in it being ahead in the polls prior to the current difficulties.  These difficulties have been caused by dreadful Labour MPs (much hissing and booing whenever these pantomime villains were mentioned!) who orchestrated a coup against the noble Leader who has continued to behave with huge dignity and generosity throughout.

The reality, of course, is rather different.  I lived through these events and my truth is very different to this carefully polished, well spun version of events.

My truth goes something like this.  If it hadn’t been for around 20 MPs wanting to broaden the debate in the last election Jeremy Corbyn would never have got on the ballot.  Once on the ballot he fought a brilliant campaign and won.  It was the duty of all of us to then get behind him and do everything we could to make him successful.

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What comes after Corbyn?

20/08/2016, 11:16:34 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Assuming Labour loses the 2020 election (or any election called before that date), what happens next?

Of course, optimists will claim it’s all still to play for and the future is unwritten. But beyond the faith-based politics of the Corbynite Branch Davidians, the party’s immediate to medium-term outlook is bleak.

This week, the UK Elections twitter feed reported that at its current level in the polls, Labour will lose another 56 seats taking it down to 176 MPs. Much lower, even, than the 207 it managed in 1983, (and from which, it took 18 years to get back into government).

Even so, Labour would remain the second largest party in Parliament and with the left chalking up defeat as ‘eight and a half million votes for socialism,’ as Tony Benn infamously did in 1983, they are likely to learn nothing and forget nothing.

A formal break-away at this point is possible, with the post-Blairites and other moderates having a collective flip-out and trouncing off to set up a new centrist party. However, it is more likely than there will be an all-out civil war first, with the trade unions playing a central role in proceedings.

With the sole exception of the GMB, the main affiliates are currently happy to pander to the left. Tellingly, the GMB balloted its members about who to back in the leadership race, with a resounding victory for Owen Smith, beating Jeremy Corbyn by a 60/40 per cent margin.

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Corbyn’s “straight talking, honest politics” mask finally slipped in the Observer interview

17/08/2016, 09:00:42 PM

by Rob Marchant

So much has been made of Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and freshness, that it is high time for us to probe it. After ten months of “straight talking, honest politics”, this weekend’s long and detailed Observer interview turned out to be rather insightful.

  1. “People should have the right to take part” in the leadership election campaign (having just joined the party). Now, apart from the fact that the Court of Appeal said that they shouldn’t (i.e. that the NEC is sovereign), historical precedent says otherwise. Major political parties have always had freeze periods for membership before they can vote, for the simple reason that it helps prevent manipulation and entryism. As various members have commented, you have a freeze date of 6 months just for selection of a council candidate, how on earth can you justify having a freeze date of zero, for something as important as the party leader?
  1. “That is what democracy is about” – no, that is not what democracy is about. Democracy is about having free and fair elections, not ones which are open to manipulation. That’s why we have freeze periods. We might also note that until recently Corbyn was not averse to appearing alongside good old Lutfur Rahman, the now-disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, convicted of election fraud in 2015.Talking of election fraud, it is interesting to note that one of Corbyn’s key supporters in Momentum, Marsha-Jane Thompson, also has a conviction for it. Perhaps unsurprising, then, to find out she led the unsuccessful appeal to the NEC when Rahman was rightly deselected as Labour’s mayoral candidate in 2010. And Christine Shawcroft, suspended for defending Rahman and now not only back in the party but elected to the NEC. This is the respect for “democracy” which we are dealing with in Corbyn’s Labour, and that is why Labour HQ rightly fought back against it.

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Like the US Republicans, Labour is a local party with few pretensions to national relevance

16/08/2016, 10:17:19 PM

by Samuel Dale

The Republican party currently controls 31 of the 50 governorships in the United States compared to just 18 for the Democrats.

The one independent governor Bill Walker of Alaska only left the party in 2014 so he could take on the incumbent so, really, it’s 32 Republican governors.

In addition, Republicans control the state assemblies and senate in 23 of those states giving them supreme control over law-making.

By contrast, Democrats only have total control in seven states. Seven Democrat governors are also grappling with Republican-controlled state legislative chambers while only four Republican governors deal with Democrat controlled state legislatures.

Four Republican governors and four Democrat governors deal with split legislatures.

Put Simply: when it comes to local governments the Republican party is completely and utterly dominant while the national party is in meltdown.

The reason for the mismatch is multi-faceted. Firstly, most governor elections take place during mid-terms where turnout is low and presidential incumbents are unpopular. Opposition parties pick up local wins.

This problem is compounded by the fact that all US governors have two-term limits meaning they have to give up the power of incumbency. Only two governors – both Democrat – were elected before Obama became president.

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Love your local Corbynista

15/08/2016, 09:49:58 PM

by George Kendall

We’ve all had experience of the worst kind of Corbynista. The ones who insist that moderate members of the Labour party are right-wing extremists.

Some of them denounce social democrats as Tories. Presumably, they think there’s no difference between the USA andDenmark either.

But most Corbynistas aren’t like that.

I think what drives them is idealism. A belief that politics should be about improving the world, not making cynical political calculations. The tragedy is that they don’t recognise the idealism that is central to social democracy.

There’s a lot that’s idealistic about a well-run northern European social democracy. If there’s anything idealistic about a corrupt basket case like oil-rich Venuzuela, it’s pretty jaded.

Why don’t they understand that social democracy is the kind of idealism that delivers?

I think it’s partly our fault.

We’ve become so obsessed with beating the Tories that we’ve lost touch with the language we need to inspire good people, who want to help make the world a better place. We’ve failed to make the case for a hard-headed idealism that works, rather than ideological solutions that don’t.

I’ve become very involved in the EU fightback. And I’ve had the pleasure of coming across a number of people, some who used to support Jeremy Corbyn, some who still do. These people share a lot with me over Europe. A passion for internationalism, a horror of racism. Most of all, they share my fear that the most damaging consequences of Brexit will be for some of those who voted to leave.

Anyone who has read my blog posts will know that I don’t agree with Corbyn, and in particular I don’t like the people he closely associates with. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like his supporters.

My hope is, they’ll change their minds and become social democrats. I suspect, eventually, many will.

But, even if they don’t, just because they support Corbyn, doesn’t stop them being great people.

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

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Will metro mayors last the course?

11/08/2016, 11:48:43 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Westminster has woken up in the last 48 hours to the fact that there are shortly to be new centres of power in British politics.

Although Labour has merely unveiled its candidates for elections in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands, it is hard to see, catastrophe aside, how Andy Burnham, Sion Simon and Steve Rotheram won’t actually be running these great conurbations in nine months’ time.

That certainty aside, there still other uncertainties about the roles:

1) The metro mayors will create a cadre of ‘disruptive’ new players in British politics.

At least that was George Osborne’s hope. Will Theresa May see things that way? The jury’s out. She was certainly a fan of direct democracy when it came to police and crime commissioners, but the election of the first wave of metro mayors in the Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham ‘city-regions’ next May is almost certainly an all-Labour affair in the party’s heartlands. Not much for Tories to celebrate. Will the new PM thank the old Chancellor for lumbering her with a new gang of provincial opponents?

2) The devolution of power also means it spreads more widely.

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The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies

09/08/2016, 06:26:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson and Will Straw, unsurprisingly, questioned the focus given to the EU referendum by Jeremy Corbyn on Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit documentary. Given Brexit’s slender victory, a more dedicated Labour campaign may have kept the UK in the EU.

We will await the extra £350m a week for the NHS that the Brexit campaign allowed us to believe would be forthcoming. Not once do I recall Corbyn exploding this myth with, say, the fierce clarity of Ruth Davidson at the Wembley debate on the EU referendum. Only the tediously tribal wouldn’t concede that Davidson is impressive. At the same time, however, it is lamentable that a Labour leader can so pall next to a Scottish Tory, a supposedly extinct bred reborn as the most coherent opposing voice to the SNP hegemony that Corbyn was supposed to shatter.

Rather than Scottish recovery, it feels more like the Labour weaknesses that the SNP have ruthlessly exposed will creep south. Brexit asks questions about the future purpose of UKIP, a party dedicated above all to this end, but also exposes a divergence between Labour and many of our traditional supporters in the north of England and the Midlands, which UKIP might be recalibrated to capitalise upon.

Theresa May will look at Labour’s loosening purchase on these regions and spy opportunities for Tory advance. As May looks north, Corbyn tacitly endorses attempts to deselect Peter Kyle, one of Labour’s few MPs in the south outside of London, providing little sense of a lifting of Labour’s traditional southern discomfort.

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The honours system stinks. Here’s how we can fix it

05/08/2016, 05:59:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How many times down the years has British politics had one of those sporadic bouts of angst – some of it even real – about the system for awarding political honours?

Those moments when we just know the system is being abused and that so many of those awarded honours are thoroughly undeserving.

Inevitably, infuriatingly, the moment passes. Nothing is done, until the next time a dodgy peerage or questionable ‘k’ surfaces.

David Cameron’s resignation honours, published last night in full, should now be a line in the sand.

They are probably the most egregious shopping list of acolytes, time-servers, hangers-on and financial backers that an outgoing PM has ever sought fit to reward.

Can you imagine the furore if Tony Blair had given Alistair Campbell a knighthood? Cameron has given one to his press secretary, Craig Oliver.

There are awards, too, for a ‘conference planner,’ a Conservative Central Office bureaucrat, a Tory activist, chauffeurs, spin doctors and policy wonks. Meanwhile, there are six peerages for former special advisers and for Andrew Fraser, the treasurer of the Conservative Party.

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An honest letter to Labour members

03/08/2016, 10:09:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

Dear Labour member,

You probably think this is like so many emails you get from the party nowadays. But it is not.

This is a letter to you from someone who loves the party and sees it in desperate trouble.

Apologies in advance: this is going to be tough. There is not really any way to be nice about it, so here goes.

To the party’s right: you need to up your game. Owen Smith – and Angela Eagle until a few weeks ago – have made a brave stand. But you cannot let yourselves be out-organised by the Corbynites. For example, if your rally is going to get only modest support, don’t do a rally at all, do something else. If you play who-pulls-a-bigger-crowd with Corbyn, you will lose. Lay out your candidate’s stall early and don’t let their opponent define them.

Please also do not let these clowns get away with subverting your local party structure. They are organising against you and you must organise back. You cannot be nice about this, too much is at stake.

Your opponents also have generous supplies of cash, thanks to the leaders of the larger trade unions having scant accountability to their members as to where they channel their subs. You will have to be truly inventive to counter that. But you can still win and there is still all to play for.

To the hard left: I do not care about you. With the notable exception of Dennis Skinner, you have no real love for this party and would see it burn. And frankly, you are not even that sure about democracy, either. Your ideas put into action will undoubtedly end in disaster and chaos; they always do. Our mission is now to ensure you do not take our party with you as collateral damage.

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With her opponents scattered, will Theresa May now call a snap election?

03/08/2016, 04:50:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Has British politics ever been more unpredictable, or, frankly, ever been this loopy?

The UKIP national executive committee’s decision to keep Steven Woolfe off the leadership ballot now plunges UKIP into a dark pit of recrimination.

It’s getting crowded down there, with Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith slugging it out for the soul of the Labour party.

And with the Liberal Democrats still recovering from the wounds they suffered as part of the coalition government, the Opposition in British politics has never looked weaker.

Of course, there is only one winner.

Theresa May now utterly dominates British politics.

To be sure, it’s not an outcome she has not had to work for, finding herself the fortunate beneficiary of a sequence of events no-one could have plausibly predicted just a few weeks ago.

Brexit, Cameron’s departure and Labour’s ongoing feud have provided her with an embarrassment of riches, even if she has to pick up the tricky issue of Britain’s exit from the EU.

She is unassailable in her own party, having been smart enough not to get her stilettos dirty during the referendum campaign, while her reputation for cautious competence chimes with the mood of the public that now wants an adult in charge of the country.

But there is still the hard politics to consider and never before can the temptation to call a snap general election have weighed more heavily.

In one swift, brutal move, Theresa May could wipe out her opponents and win her own mandate for the changes she seeks to make.

No longer the caretaker, picking up the pieces from Cameron’s messy political implosion, she could single-handedly reshape the political landscape, guaranteeing a decade of Conservative hegemony.

Who can stop her? Tim Farron has made no impact, Jeremy Corbyn has the worst polling figures in history and UKIP looks like to split off into factions.

Perhaps she will wait for post-Brexit nerves to stop jangling after this summer of political madness, but by the autumn Theresa May will have to confront the open goal before her and decide whether or not to seize a historic victory.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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