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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We shouldn’t think about Momentum as one entity

26/09/2016, 07:45:14 PM

by David Ward

As you might imagine of an Uncut writer, my involvement with Momentum so far hasn’t been extensive. So when I heard they were planning to have their own conference alongside Labour’s in Liverpool I thought this would be a great chance to see what it was all about.

My first try wasn’t a success. Turning the corner onto Great George St, I walked towards what looked like a mass of people milling around outside the venue, ticket in hand.

Then I realised – this wasn’t a crowd, it was a queue. There was a line right round the building and what seemed to be a one in one out system.

Feeling the draw of free reception wine back at party conference, I began to get that uncomfortable middle aged feeling when all the young people at work start talking about bands you’ve never heard of.

Still, undaunted I returned next day for an event titled, “What is Momentum For?” Being a paid up member of the Blairite establishment I suppose I expected a panel discussion with some leading lights of the organisation.

Instead I walked into a room where a cross section of ages seemed to drinking cups of tea around tables, and t-shirts on sale at the sides.

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Big match preview: The Clinton vs Trump debate

26/09/2016, 11:14:12 AM

by Jonathan Todd

No matter what happens to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, no matter whether Brexit is soft or hard, no matter whether secondary modern schools return or not, these all pall next to the consequences of President Trump.

Nearly half of Trump’s supporters expect him to detonate a nuclear bomb. No one should sleep easily. Especially not in the Baltic states, where the closeness between Trump and Putin is particularly troubling.

As a Trump adviser, with extensive business interests in Russia, is suspected of holding clandestine talks with Putin officials, it is not hard to imagine President Trump failing to trigger a NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. This would be part of a broader drawing back of American troops from Europe and the shrivelling of the NATO.

The consequences in the Pacific are also likely to be dramatic. US trade war with China. Ending the military protection that the US provides Japan. Heightened tensions, both economic and militarily, between the historic rivals of China and Japan. After throwing oil on these fires, President Trump can hardly be expected to be an effective firefighter.

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Labour MPs have just blown their best chance to oust Corbyn

25/09/2016, 02:57:50 PM

by Kevin Meagher

John McDonnell was right. ‘As plotters’ Labour MPs are ‘fucking useless.’

There was one decent attempt at challenging Jeremy Corbyn during this parliament and they have just blown it.

He needed to be exposed as a total electoral liability – both personally and in terms of the direction he has set for the party, repositioning Labour on the frozen wastelands of the hard left.

His lack of campaigning zeal during the EU referendum was supposed to be his Achilles Heel and pave the way for a successful challenge.

What a misjudgement.

The charge didn’t stick and the rows in the Conservative party have blotted out memories of what Corbyn did or didn’t do during the referendum.

This plot was doomed from the moment Hilary Benn was caught orchestrating dissent in the shadow cabinet and fired. Realising he had been rumbled, he should have quit first.

Then came the petulant ‘drip, drip’ resignations from his frontbench. This was designed to shame Corbyn into quitting. Fat chance. The tactic just left the electorate with the unmistakable impression Labour MPs are as immature as their leader.

Instead, those frontbenchers who passionately disagreed with Corbyn’s leadership should have acted with some dignity and resigned en masse. At the very least, it would have been more honourable.

The PLP’s subsequent vote of no confidence in his leadership – 172-40 – was not quite conclusive enough.

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Patience and clarity of purpose. That’s what Labour’s moderates need now

24/09/2016, 05:44:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been a difficult day for Labour moderates. The numbers aren’t great– an increased majority for Jeremy Corbyn with a plurality of in each section of the selectorate backing Labour’s incumbent. This is clearly a decent result for Corbyn.

Two challenges must be faced, one in the short term, one in the medium term.

The immediate question will be whether moderate MPs return to serve on the front bench.

There are currently over 60 vacancies and a real danger that Labour will be stripped of the title of official opposition if these roles remain unfilled through to Christmas.

However, things have been said which can’t be unsaid. It’s not credible for people who have been decrying Jeremy Corbyn as a catastrophe for the past months to suddenly say, with straight faces, that this man should be prime minister.

Even if tongues could be temporarily held, the rancour would soon re-emerge in the internal struggles that are imminent as the hard left try to rewrite the party rule-book and tighten their grip on the machine.

The answer for moderate MPs is to make Labour’s Swiss cheese front bench Jeremy Corbyn’s problem.

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Umunna, Reeves et al are wrong on free movement. Its bad politics and worse economics

22/09/2016, 10:18:57 PM

by Sam Fowles

For Rachel Reeves, immigration from the EU has caused a “slight drag” on wages. So Labour best represents the working poor by calling for an end to free movement. This is both simplistic and wrong. It represents only the loosest grasp of political strategy and no grasp of economics at all.

Labour will never win the fight to be “tough on immigration”. If voters want to kick out immigrants, they’ll vote for the parties that have been dog whistling about immigration for years. No one buys the cheap knock off when they can get the real thing for the same price.  Labour must address the real causes of the low wage crisis. This strategy has two advantages: It targets voters that might actually vote Labour, and it’s not economically illiterate.

The overall impact of immigration on wages is generally positive. By contributing more in taxes than they take out, EU immigrants ease financial pressures in the public sector. Immigration can create downward pressure on the wages of low-skilled workers. But this is negligible. Reeves relies on a study that found a 10% increase in immigration creates a 1.8% drag on low-skilled wages. To put that in perspective: the largest increase in immigration since 2006 has been around 7%. This works out as costing low skilled workers 1p per hour.

But immigration is equally likely to have a positive effect on low-skilled wages. Migration increases demand: The more people in an economy, the more goods and services they need: The more goods and services required, the greater the demand for labour to provide them: The greater the demand for labour, the more employers are prepared to pay for it.

But this hasn’t happened in the UK: Why?

Because successive governments have chosen policies that drive down wages.

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When does the autopsy on the Remain campaign begin?

21/09/2016, 08:06:07 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Three months after the Remain campaign crashed to defeat, there is ne’er a squeak in British politics about what went wrong.

This is strange. Surely an autopsy on a losing campaign is entirely logical and much needed?

Where did the high hopes and expectations of Remainers come unstuck? When was the moment the voting public decided they wanted to jump the other way?

There’s lots of analysis about the effects of Brexit (with the Fabians weighing in just this week), but nothing about the campaign itself.

Perhaps the absence of any hint of organised reflection and public analysis is explained by the reaction of many hard-core Remainers.

They refuse to come out of the jungle and accept the war is over. Denialism is rampant.

They want to play on after the allotted 90 minutes. To continue boxing for a 13th round. Any excuse to avoid the glaring conclusion: they lost.

‘Ah but Leave promised to spend £350 million more on the NHS, that’s why they won.’

Their lies were better than our lies.

‘There should be a second referendum’.

Best out of three?

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If Labour MPs want to make ending free movement a Brexit red line, they’d better be ready to leave the single market

20/09/2016, 10:35:24 PM

by Atul Hatwal

One of the reasons the Labour party is in such a terrible state is that the many of moderate mainstream, those meant to offer an alternative to Corbyn, are so bad at the basics in politics.

Yesterday’s foray into the debate on freedom of movement by Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Stephen Kinnock, was a case study in ineptitude.

By arguing that ending free movement to reduce migration should be a red line in Brexit negotiations, they have constructed an argument that will not survive first contact with a journalist and set a broader public expectation which can never be met.

The obvious immediate question which journalists will ask these MPs is whether they are prepared to leave the single market?

If the central European states such Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, western European states such as France and EU President Juncker stick to their public position of vetoing any reform, are these MPs prepared for hard Brexit?

Will they back a version of leaving the EU that would see the flight of financial services from the City of London, the movement of major manufacturers like the Japanese car makers to the continent, the imposition of a hard border between northern and southern in Ireland and condemn tens of thousands of their constituents to the dole?

Seriously?

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