Nigel Farage is a winner. Liberals must learn from him

29/11/2016, 10:07:49 PM

by Samuel Dale

Today Nigel Farage may spend his time glad-handing the US president-elect and partying at the Ritz but it was not always this way.

As he stands down as Ukip leader yet again, it is worth remembering just how far he has come and the impact of his perseverance.

For two decades, Farage has travelled up and down Britain talking to voters, persuading them, standing for office, winning campaigns and losing elections.

He stood up for what he believes is right for the country and tried his best to implement it through democratic and generally respectable means.

It wasn’t always glamorous and it didn’t always feel like he was going to be successful.

I don’t understand why he is mocked for losing so many by-elections. It takes guts for anyone to put themselves on the line and stand for election whether it is Farage, Donald Trump or Ed Miliband.

Ukip has been an incredibly successful political movement. It has shifted debate in Britain significantly whether George Osborne shovelling cash to pensioners before the last election, a harsher immigration policy or leaving the EU.

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Time for Blue Labour to step up

25/11/2016, 05:45:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Whatever happened to Blue Labour?

That was the voguish creed advanced by Lord Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas, among others, during the last parliament, seeking to anchor Labour in its earlier traditions of community, mutualism, localism and self-help, rejecting the excesses 1980s neo-liberalism and 1960s social liberalism alike.

As a concept, it got lost somewhere during two leadership elections, the return to red-blooded socialism under Jeremy Corbyn and the hoo-haa over Brexit.

Now, with the party at risk of losing touch with its working class base across most of England, it might have some suggestions worth listening to.

That’s the hope of organisers behind tomorrow’s ‘Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics’ conference at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The day will explore ‘post-liberalism’ – the generic theory of the Blue Labourites and those in other parties who are challenging the centralising, elitst thinking that has come to dominate British politics, with a greater focus on family, place and reducing economic inequality.

It will also see discussion about the threat Labour faces from UKIP – now the main opposition in 41 of the seats the party holds – and whether or not Labour can replant itself in political ground it looks to be losing.

With Labour now beached on the voter-repellent hard left until the 2020 election defeat, the party needs all the intellectual life it can muster.

(*Tickets for the event are still available by following the above link).

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Labour must fight the cancer of post-truth politics, not sign up to it

24/11/2016, 06:06:01 PM

by Rob Marchant

If there were to be a nadir of democratic politics, in the sense of public apathy towards truthfulness in their politicians, even in the strange world of 2016, we may not yet have reached it.

The unprecedented election of a seemingly pathological liar to the post of leader of the Free World is pretty bad. But 2016 may yet, appallingly, see a lying far-right politician elected as French president. It is not expected: but then, no-one really expected Trump, either. These are strange times. Worst of all, it seems that, the more mainstream politicians warn against a populist being elected, the more people vote for them.

But the real disaster that this populism brings in its wake is this: others believe that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. And so we see mainstream politicians lying: for example, about Brexit, with the now-notorious £350m to be saved and pledged to the NHS.

Now, there are two lazy clichés that commentators, or members of the public, will periodically trot out about politicians. One is that they are “all the same”, when that is patently not the case. There are decent British politicians in all parties, at least the major ones. Those of us who have worked in politics for any length of time will testify to the often quite pleasantly surprising levels of dedication to public service in the face of constant brickbats, lack of job security, aggressive whips, hostile colleagues and an often thankless public.

But the second is even more familiar: “all politicians are liars”. Well, no, they’re not – historically, mainstream politicians tend to be demonstrably truthful, as it’s too easy to humiliate them when they get caught. But the precedent is certainly being set currently that it’s increasingly ok to lie.

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What on earth is going on with Sheffield’s Labour council?

21/11/2016, 10:27:00 PM

by Lucy Ashton

Sheffield’s ruling Labour councillors took complete leave of their senses last week in a scandal which made national news headlines.

For 18 months, residents in leafy Ecclesall have been fighting council plans to chop down eight mature trees which have stood there for generations and border one of the most well-loved parks in the city.

The trees are part of a beautiful street scene and there’s no doubting the environmental benefits which they bring to a city which is congested and has suffered severe flooding in the past.

But the crux of this issue is that Sheffield Council entered into a contract with private provider Amey to resurface the city’s streets and roads. Amey promptly decided to fell swathes of mature, healthy trees across the city to cut maintenance costs.

Despite an independent tree panel – set up by the council – ruling five of these eight trees should remain, councillors decided they’d had enough of listening to voters.

So they cut down the trees in the middle of the night. Twenty-two police officers were dispatched to protect Amey workmen as they sliced in the darkness. Unbelievably, police knocked residents up at 4.45am and told them to move their cars.

Two women in their 70s who tried to stand and protect the trees were arrested and held in custody until teatime. Within hours, the eight glorious trees were chippings.

Unsurprisingly, residents, the Lib Dems and the media were incredulous and outraged. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Sheffield Hallam constituency covers the area, was quick to condemn the move as “inexcusable” and “underhand”.

His criticism was echoed by Lib Dem Peer and local Lib Dem Councillor Lord Paul Scriven, who had previously raised the issue in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Labour supporters were left stunned and disgusted. Several took to twitter to say they would not vote Labour again, despite being party members.

The whole debacle is simply beyond belief. At what point did someone think this was a reasonable idea? And when they suggested this madness, why did no one else intervene? How could elected councillors and officers sit around a table and agree this was justified? What precedent does this set?

When was cutting down trees, sending police to wake people in the night and arresting elderly people socialism? The council has only just recovered from searing criticism for closing libraries across the city. How can chopping down trees, which neighbour a public park and offer huge environmental benefits, be for the greater good of the community?

No one has been more vocal about the police’s behaviour at Orgreave than Labour yet here they are, using the same heavy-handed tactics.

I agree with the Labour Party members now questioning their loyalty. These councillors will bully campaigners, send the police in the night and see pensioners arrested rather than question financial details with their own private contractors.

Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former regional newspaper Political Editor

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Article 50: we do not have to lay down and roll over

11/11/2016, 08:00:49 PM

by Rob Marchant

As we reel from the shock of a Trump victory, it would be easy now to lose sight of our own problems as a country. But they remain the same as they were on Tuesday.

Since June, we have rapidly become a country which most of its neighbours now look at with a mixture of sympathy and blank incomprehension; shaking their heads, like a dear friend whose life has suddenly and inexplicably hit the buffers, but has yet to truly recognise the fact. Bless them, those Brits. They know not what they do (and, as of today, it looks like we are not the only Anglo-Saxon country in that position).

No, apart from Brexit, we have a government which operates without the normal checks and balances, beholden to its lunatic rightward fringe; and a dysfunctional opposition which, thanks to Labour’s current leadership, struggles to effectively oppose anything at all, even on this, the most important issue of the day.

Last week, however, a glimmer of light shone into Britain’s troubled political landscape. Seemingly out of nowhere, the High Court ruled that Parliament must be consulted on Brexit and that the referendum itself was not sufficient. The government had constitutionally overreached itself, and Theresa May had to tacitly admit that her prime ministerial powers were not quite as strong as she thought they were.

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Identity politics and snobbery are destroying liberalism

11/11/2016, 04:57:20 PM

by Samuel Dale

On Wednesday I marched down Broadway in Manhattan to protest Donald Trump’s election.
Thousands of millennials walked in the rain while chanting ‘Not my president’, ‘pussies grab back’ and ‘end rape culture’. I lasted two minutes before walking off in despondence.

This was the complete embodiment of the failure of American liberalism. An impotent march in a bastion of liberalism shouting about fringe issues among ourselves. Completely and utterly pointless. Sixty million people had just voted for Trump.

The American left is in the worst shape in the history of the American Union.

Barack Obama will leave a presidency, Congress, more than 30 state governorships and many Supreme Court picks in Republican hands.

His entire domestic policy agenda can and will be quickly dismantled from Obamacare to tax and financial reform.

After painstaking years rebuilding US reputation abroad, it has been shattered by the election of an unhinged bigot.

It is a dreadful legacy and he must own his failure.

It is not just America. Liberalism is clearly in crisis around the world from Brexit to Le Pen and Orban. Here are three reasons why.

Firstly, the toxic failure of identity politics. The Hillary Clinton campaign began with a colourful mosaic of American life in April 2015.

Black, brown, gay, Muslim, Latino, female. The new American progressive coalition.

For 18 months, Clinton signalled this was the future. If you were a white man then you were the past and didn’t belong in her American Dream.

And it wasn’t subtle either. Ramming it down their throats in advert after advert.

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Theresa May’s reputation for competence is the real casualty of the High Court Brexit ruling

03/11/2016, 10:35:52 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Tick tock, tick tock. That’s the sound of the clock running down on Theresa May’s Number 10 honeymoon.

New Prime Minister’s always enjoy a honeymoon with the press. It’s a time when personal idiosyncracies are viewed as signs of authenticity rather than awkward weirdness, mistakes are overlooked and the slightest success is a soaring triumph.

Four months into her premiership, May still enjoys the good favour of the media. But the High Court judgement on Brexit has brought the end of her honeymoon significantly closer.

The judges’ decision itself will be of negligible substantive impact.

The votes were always there on the floor of the House to force a vote on triggering Article 50.

When the government has a tiny majority, as with John Major’s premiership in the 1990s or with Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan in the 1970s, the political agenda is driven by the legislature not the executive.

However, the ruling will have an impact on the perception of Theresa May among the media and shape how they report her tenure in office.

Judgement is an invaluable commodity for a politician.

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Nissan might have got the headlines last week but the real story is what’s bubbling on free movement

30/10/2016, 11:04:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Imagine for a moment you are Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

The man entrusted with securing Brexit on the best possible terms for the 27 EU states.

The man whose job it is to stop those truculent Brits going a la carte on the EU set menu and establishing a precedent where leaving the union means that cake can be had and simultaneously eaten with no question of anyone having to touch their greens.

You are the man who had a very interesting lunchtime last Thursday.

That is when the British government announced that Nissan would be building its new cars in the UK, something which infuriated a number of the EU states who had hoped they would win this investment. States that will be represented by Barnier in the Brexit negotiation.

As a very senior EU official and seasoned French politician, Michel Barnier will have been in contact with Nissan and a variety of international businesses, through official and unofficial channels.

He will know that Nissan had drawn some very clear red lines before making such a commitment.

He will have been baffled by the visits of the UK secretary of state for business, Greg Clark, to Japan for the same reason that most of Whitehall was perplexed.

What on earth could Clark give the Japanese manufacturer?

Specifically, Nissan wanted assurances on the continuation of country of origin rules, which mean parts sourced from around the world but assembled in an EU state do not incur tariffs; that tariffs would not be levied on the finished car in the EU and non-tariff barriers, such as forcing importers to register each car up a mountain, at a portakabin that is staffed once a week, which is only accessible by dirt track, would not be put in place.

Thanks to the efforts of the British government, somehow, Nissan have been convinced to make a multi-million pound investment. It’s clear that what they were told did not amount to warm words. Some very hard and definite commitments were given (with a clear implication that non-delivery by Britain will nix the deal).

The British press have focused on perceived promises from the UK government to compensate Nissan financially if tariffs are imposed, but Michel Barnier will have known better.

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We need to talk about Russia

26/10/2016, 10:14:23 PM

by Rob Marchant

When even the Guardian, which has sustained some fairly alternative views on world geopolitics in recent years – including running a propaganda op-ed by the Russian foreign minister – starts acknowledging that modern-day Russia has slid into a new Cold War with the West, well, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Like a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, the West – led by an American president who scornfully told his opponent in the 2012 election that “the Cold War has been over for twenty years” – has spent the last decade trying to convince itself that Russia was friendly and no longer a threat, in the face of stark evidence to the contrary. Obama is now choking on his unwise words, but it’s a bit late for that. Eight years of “engagement” with the US has only encouraged Vladimir Putin.

The charge sheet against Russia’s authoritarian leader is lengthy: the 2008 conflict with Georgia; the 2014 invasions of Crimea and the Donbass; sabre-rattling over the Baltics; the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko; encouragement of homophobia by Putin allies; gradual curtailment of most independent media and increasingly dubious elections (including a referendum in Donetsk whose result was apparently known before its taking place); encouraging the rehabilitation of Stalin; and finally, interfering in US presidential elections, dammit, through Russian hacks to the Democrats’ email system and its clear allying with Julian Assange and Wikileaks in favour of the Trump campaign. Not to mention the recent, utterly reprehensible bombing of civilians in Syria, which surely constitutes a war crime in any meaningful interpretation of international law.

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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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