MPs organising to block a 2017 Brexit election and imprison Theresa May in Number 10

19/10/2016, 11:40:42 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Over the last few days the true weakness of Theresa May’s parliamentary position has been revealed.

First there was the climbdown on Brexit scrutiny and now the Heathrow delay.

May’s small majority means that less than ten disgruntled Tory backbenchers can confidently block her plans. Lest we forget, 35 sacked Cameroon ministers sit on the backbenches courtesy of her first act as PM.

Last Wednesday, following the Brexit U-turn, Uncut highlighted the increased likelihood of an early election for May to boost her majority so that she could pass her programme. On Saturday, Sam Coates in the Times similarly wrote of the rising prospect of an early poll.

Now Uncut hears that MPs from across the main parties have started to informally discuss how to prevent the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) being circumvented to trigger an early election.

What unites these MPs is a desire to stop hard Brexit which would be enabled by the inevitable, sizeable Tory majority following any contest between May’s Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

If Theresa May wanted to call an early election she has two options: repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act and re-institute the previous arrangements or call a vote of no confidence and whip the government to be defeated, paving the way for an election (there is another option – under the FTPA, a two-thirds majority in parliament can trigger an election but that requires both Conservative and Labour support which is fanciful)

The first option is virtually impossible because of the parliamentary weakness which makes an early election desirable for Theresa May.


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Does the emergence of May, Corbyn and Farron spell the end of the traditional political career?

16/10/2016, 10:38:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

What were the betting odds a couple of years ago on Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron leading our three major UK political parties? As an accumulator, it must have been in the 500-1 region?

Okay, on her own, Theresa May would have been a decent outside stab for the Tories and Tim Farron had been on manoeuvres for a while, angling for the Lib Dem leadership while his more senior colleagues served in the coalition government, but Jeremy Corbyn?

The emergence of May/Farron/Corbyn seems so random because prior to the 2015 general election the firmament in all three main parties was brimming with political talent. There were plenty of rising stars and key lieutenants who seemed more plausible figures.

Although Theresa May quietly got on with the job of being a steely home secretary, it was George Osborne who dominated Cameron’s government, the obvious heir apparent to his friend and ally, David Cameron, with Boris Johnson offering a credible alternative choice. The smart money was one of them succeeding Cameron.

Equally, although Tim Farron had been assiduously courting the Lib Dems’ activists, his non-service in government meant it was just as likely someone who had been blooded in office like David Laws or Danny Alexander would have succeeded Nick Clegg.

While there were a veritable constellation of stars in the Labour universe.

The point is that all three parties had more obvious candidates waiting (im)patiently. There was an order of succession, a pecking order. Buggins’ turn, even.


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Sure, let’s laugh at the Republican implosion. But Labour’s next

15/10/2016, 11:20:00 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour and the US Republican party are suffering almost identical political predicaments. Both have leaders drawn from the extremes of their party who have created a popular revolt to hijack the institution for their own purposes.

The successful leadership campaigns of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn have fed off a fundamental separation between grassroots activists and the party establishment that has grown over many years. Party elders in both parties have unsuccessfully tried to stop their rise.

Trump has strongly backed anti-trade, anti-immigrant and isolationist policies that have long been treated as an embarrassing feature of the grassroots and swept under the carpet.

Just as successive Labour leaders and MPs have ignored and dismissed grassroots support for nationalisation, high income taxes and an aversion to fiscal prudence.

Both leaders have flirted with leaving Nato and supporting corrupt foreign regimes simply because they are anathema to the systems they despise at home. My enemies’ enemy is my friend, in other words.

Meanwhile, both part faithfuls feel they have, finally, got a leader who gives their views a voice without apology or qualification. And it feels great. Nobody is too concerned with winning.

And yet both party faithfuls see the anger of establishment figures and believe that their hero could be take away from them at any moment. They are paranoid.


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Time for the PLP to regroup: once more, with feeling

13/10/2016, 06:24:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

While the formation of a government remains a rank impossibility for a Corbyn leadership, there is now no question about his grip on the party. Indeed, with the removal of Jonathan Ashworth from the NEC, seemingly in exchange for remaining in the shadow cabinet, Corbyn supporters now also rule the NEC. The circle is complete and the rulebook is no longer safe.

Self-evidently, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP – that is, nearly all of it – have not been able to really make any movement while the leadership election and the reshuffle have been going on, they now can. Their valiant attempt to involve themselves in the selection of the shadow cabinet has, predictably, been paid only lip-service by the leadership. Corbyn will choose, full stop.

And, with a few notable exceptions, what a shambles of a Shadow Cabinet it has become. Unambiguous unilateralists at foreign affairs and defence, something virtually guaranteed to provide a general election defeat on its own. Another shadow cabinet minister who has apparently managed to fritter away a compensation fund for sick miners on his salary and expenses. And someone at home affairs, in charge of the delicate area of race relations, among other things, known for her quote “white people love playing divide and rule”.

On the other hand, given that the “chicken run” of Labour MPs back to the shadow cabinet, feared by moderates, has patently failed to happen (John Healey, Nick Brown and Jonathan Ashworth being the only important moderate names to come back), it leaves the PLP in a relatively strong position with regard to negotiating. It is still unprecedented for a party leader to lack the support of approximately four-fifths of his MPs, and that is important. This is not 1981 and the “gang” comprises a great deal more than four, so Foot-era comparisons are really redundant.


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Last night’s government climbdown on Brexit brought an early general election a lot closer

12/10/2016, 05:37:06 PM

by Atul Hatwal

We live in a political world of dominoes (dominoes? millennials – look it up). The first of a line fell last night that could have profound consequences for politics in the next 12 months.

The government was forced to accept a Labour motion calling for greater parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit. The original government whipping was to oppose but was reversed at the last minute with the submission of a bland government amendment to the motion’s wording, enabling Tory MPs to back it.

The minutiae of the motion doesn’t matter, it’s the government U-turn that counts. This tells us three things.

First, there are sufficient Tory rebels – an alliance of Remainers and liberal Leavers – who will vote against the government on Brexit issues. As Theresa May well knows, the first step is the demand for greater parliamentary scrutiny, swiftly followed by calls for a vote on the final terms.

No matter what the press or hard Brexiteers say, this vote is now likely on the same basis as last night’s retreat – MPs will cite the importance of parliamentary sovereignty and the government will be defeated on an opposition motion or amendment to a Bill promising this vote, unless it gives in.

Second, the same parliamentary arithmetic that drives the scrutiny and vote means that hard Brexit will be very difficult to pass. There are approximately 80 committed Tory hard Brexiteers but virtually all of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, DUP and Plaid combined with high double digits of Tory MPs would not vote for it. No amount of whipping can overturn this majority.

Third, the likelihood of Theresa May’s relatively hard Brexit policy being rewritten by the House means she faces a choice: have the centre-piece of her policy platform – the terms of Brexit – defined by the legislature rather than her executive, or go to the country.

She might be genuinely committed to avoiding an early election but if she wants to get her way on Brexit she will need a bigger majority – one that can only be guaranteed if she faces Jeremy Corbyn in a poll.

The Labour leader might have recently won this year’s leadership contest but many in parliament expect that he will be gone by 2020. Even Corbynite MPs are looking to 2018 as a date when Corbyn will stand down and handover the torch to someone like John McDonnell (assuming the hard left have reduced the nomination threshold among MPs, for leader, by then).

Theresa May has a limited window when she can be sure that Jeremy Corbyn will be her opponent, ensuring she boosts her majority. On current trends, anywhere from 50 to 80 Labour MPs could expect to lose their seats, though among Labour’s MPs there are even more apocalyptic scenarios with losses in triple digits.

Over the coming weeks, Theresa May is going to realise the limits of her Commons authority. At that point she could easily conclude that U-turning on an early general election is less damaging for her than U-turning on her Brexit policy.

May 2017 anyone?

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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The Tories don’t realise it yet but their conference was a disaster

06/10/2016, 09:09:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Jeremy Corbyn is busy with his reshuffle but the reality is that its a sideshow. The main event this week was in Birmingham with Theresa May’s first conference as Tory leader.

Party conferences share an important characteristic with Chancellors’ budgets – the better the immediate headlines, the worse the legacy.

Last year, George Osborne’s post-election budget was heralded as a masterstroke the day after it was delivered, only to unravel over tax credits.

Ed Miliband’s commitment to fix energy prices at Labour’s 2013 conference was viewed as a game-changing moment on the day. But in reality, it fed the public’s mistrust of Labour and markets contributing to disaster at the general election.

Gordon Brown’s 2007 conference debut as leader won instant plaudits (“Brown dressed to kill after emptying Cameron’s wardrobe” proclaimed the Guardian) that subsequently dissolved. Rather like his last budget as Chancellor earlier in 2007 when he abolished the 10p tax.

Or for those with longer memories, the glowing reports of Norman Lamont’s 1992 budget foreseeing the green shoots of recovery the best part of a decade before the public agreed.

The headlines this morning following Theresa May’s big speech were all that she would want. But she’s actually had a disaster.

Long after the conference bubbles have gone flat, two bitter flavours will linger on the palate: hard Brexit and the Tory obsession with foreigners.


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Avoiding a Labour split is possible but it will take strong stomachs

01/10/2016, 09:25:51 PM

by Rob Marchant

Last Saturday’s Corbyn win was expected. However, most politicians and commentators were waiting to see how convincing it was. The fact that Corbyn is still party leader is still clearly disastrous for Labour’s electoral chances and for its future in general.

On the positive side, while it was a marginally better result for Corbyn, it was not a statistically significant difference. It is essentially the same result as last year, implying that there is not necessarily a growing level of support for him within the party. Bearing in mind some of the worst Corbyn news – such as the Dispatches and Panorama programmes on Labour – did not even surface until most people had already voted, it is highly possible that some Corbyn voters might have voted differently, even now.

In very simple terms, the position is fairly stable. Three-fifths of the membership, plus those others with voting rights, who turned out, are pro-Corbyn. Two-fifths are against.

In short, it is perfectly possible that this level will end up being the high-water mark of his popularity, as the grim reality of four years more of fantasy politics sinks in.

There are some crumbs of comfort that moderates can take from this.


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A moderate proposal to respond to working class concerns in Labour heartlands

29/09/2016, 05:28:18 PM

by Dean Quick

Few things signal what has gone wrong with the Labour party than its MPs voting time and again for policies that they know their working class supporters detest but which are celebrated by professional liberals who would never dream of renting a council house but are the first to condemn those who want to exercise their right to buy.

It is time that Labour’s moderates broke with this metropolitan elitism and actually started listening to their voters. No more of the politics of endless repetition of facts and figures which comes across to so many working class voters as just more patronising prattle from the folks who live at the ends of houses with drive-ways.

One does not have to agree with Michael Gove on everything to acknowledge that he hit the nail on the head when he said the people of this country have had enough of experts: for ordinary voters their everyday experience trumps any facts, research or evidence.

So it is time Labour brought back capital punishment.

After all, the Attlee government executed people – even innocent people like Timothy Evans. If such judicial killing was good enough for Clem then it is about time we returned to the Spirit of 45 and got the gallows going.


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There is a way back for Labour

28/09/2016, 08:55:35 PM

by Greig Baker

Jeremy Corbyn’s politics were writ large in his conference speech. He called for unity, while he brandished a “new era”. He hoped for “economic success”, while promising more taxes, spending and borrowing. And he called the boundary reforms “nothing more than a cynical attempt to gerrymander the next election”, where they could be Labour’s last hope.

Is Labour in a hideous mess? Yes. Is Corbyn ascendant? Yes. Is it time to give up? No. Sensible people in the Labour party need to do three things: embrace boundary changes; take the argument to Corbyn; and pick a champion.

Bear with me – here’s my thinking on each one:

First, boundary changes. One of the few things that currently unites Labour is its consensus on opposing the reforms. This is wrong-headed and says more about the party’s own malaise than the iniquities of the system. Alarm bells should ring everywhere when politicians support a boundary review “in principle” but oppose it in practise. The longer reform is postponed, the more painful it will be – like any infection, rotten boroughs won’t get easier to heal over time.

You know Labour is down on its luck when it complains about “the right wing press”, just like you know the Tories are in trouble when they moan about “BBC bias”. In the same way, the opposition to boundary reform smacks of reaching for an excuse ahead of the next General Election, instead of doing the hard work to make an attractive offer to the voting public. Losers complain about the rules. Winners focus on the job at hand.


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With Corbyn as the Labour frontman it’s time for a new centre left band

27/09/2016, 07:39:24 PM

by John Slinger

At Labour’s ruling body last week, deputy leader Tom Watson described his reforms as “putting the band back together”. As someone who’s played in rock bands for as long as I’ve been a Labour member, I know that there comes a time when most bands split, usually over ‘artistic differences’ or arguments how to get a record deal. For me that time has come.

Having worked with Jeremy Corbyn in parliament in 2003, I know he’s a principled and decent man. But he’s the wrong frontman for a band that at its best is capable appealing to the masses, Oasis or Blur-style (I’m showing my age). Like all bands with ropey songs but genuinely held delusions of grandeur, Jeremy and his managers have found a niche market of devoted fans who cheer him to the rafters as a rock god. Everyone knows the euphoric feeling of seeing ‘your’ band, singing songs for you amidst a crowd of like-minded people. After the gig you return to the real world and discover that not everyone shares your musical tastes. I suspect that Labour members will experience this when they knock on the doors of ordinary voters in the coming weeks.

This isn’t about bands or even principally the future of the once great Labour Party, but about British democracy. It’s vital that any government faces a strong opposition, capable of holding them to account and which is a credible alternative for the time when the people choose to kick out the incumbents. The public doesn’t regard Corbyn and his underperforming front bench as anywhere near up to the task. They hear about the Corbyn-supporting Momentum organisation and they remember how Militant infiltrated Labour in the 80s.


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