Firefighters are our unsung heroes. We need to stand with them against cuts

09/09/2018, 11:30:40 PM

by Joe Anderson 

Twice in the past year, the people of Liverpool have found themselves grateful for the professionalism and bravery of our Fire and Rescue Service.

As nine crews battled through last Sunday night to save the iconic Littlewoods Building from a savage blaze, my mind went back to the devastating fire at our exhibition centre car park fire on New Year’s Eve. Both these events underline the importance of having enough firefighters nearby when needed.

However, just like local authorities, the fire and rescue service has undergone savage cuts over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2015, budgets were slashed by 30 per cent. During this parliament, they will be cut by an additional 20 per cent.

As a group of workers, there are few higher in the affections of the British people. But this has not stopped successive Conservative ministers from making arbitrary and ill thought out reductions to the fire service’s budget.

The cold wind of austerity has blown in the faces of even these brave public servants. As a result, 11,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone since 2010 – one in six. Stations, appliances and equipment have also been cut.

I cannot think of a clearer case when it comes to the sheer folly of austerity. Not least because the increasing demands on the service sees our firefighters provide a range of emergency responses to floods, road traffic collisions, chemical spillages, industrial disasters and terrorist attacks as well as fires.

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The moderates have won a Pyrrhic victory on IHRA – the real battle was the NEC and it is lost

05/09/2018, 03:12:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

Perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. But in this case, small they are.

The party’s NEC, following months of public self-harm, has finally agreed to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, including all the examples. It really had little choice: even Gordon Brown intervened on the subject last weekend, not to mention the party’s three biggest union donors (albeit one very grudgingly indeed).

But even then, after all the damage done to Labour’s reputation in the eyes of pretty much anyone not in the Corbyn cult, it was adopted gracelessly rather than with contrition; that is, with the Corbynites’ now-traditional tin ear to the feelings of the Jewish community.

There were three ways in which this churlishness at the forced climbdown – as it unquestionably was – manifested itself.

First, the definition was adopted with a caveat: the party would also issue “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. A caveat which is, as anyone with any knowledge of the IHRA definition already knows, entirely unnecessary: it already makes the explicit point that criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

While it would probably be difficult to twist this into defending an anti-Semite, it is an act of petty defiance, a fig-leaf to cover the fact that the leadership never had an argument to reject IHRA in the first place.

Second, as the Corbynite propaganda site Squawkbox gleefully crowed, that this anyway left the door open to a further revisiting of the matter in September, when the new, entirely Corbynite-dominated NEC will sit for the first time during conference.

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Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple

04/09/2018, 08:36:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Not many people will remember David Young, I suspect. He was the Labour MP for Bolton East and subsequently Bolton South East between 1974 and 1997. A rotund Scot with oratorical flair, his conversational style was to adopt the manner and volume appropriate for a public meeting hall. He was my local MP when I joined the party 25 years ago.

As the constituency’s youth officer, I only ever met him on two occasions. The first, at an AGM in one of his infrequent forays north. The second time was at the meeting when we deselected him.

Not to speak ill of the dead, David was a less than assiduous attendee at party meetings and no-one in the constituency even had contact details for him. He was the classic absentee landlord with a job for life. The local party had taken enough. Reluctantly, they withdrew their support.

So I find myself not entirely unsympathetic to calls from Momentum for the mandatory reselection of sitting MPs. I accept that personal contact with some of our elected representatives can be a long way short of overwhelming. Public service is an honour and a duty and there will always be those who coast along and add little value to proceedings.

But let’s face it: this is not about giving a gee-up to a few indolent MPs. It’s about ideologically-cleansing the party. A Momentum spokeswoman, quoted yesterday confirmed as much:

“Recognising the groundswell of support from ordinary Labour members Momentum would like to affirm its commitment to the creation of a more open, inclusive, selection process which would open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs.

“Labour has to nurture the talent of its half a million members and we cannot let an outdated rule book hold back a new generation of MPs.”

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People have the power on Trump and Brexit. But will we use it?

03/09/2018, 09:04:23 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“Ultimately,” as Edward Luce wrote in the Financial Times recently, “the American people will decide Mr Trump’s fate.”

Impeachment depends upon majorities in both houses of Congress. Which the Democrats do not have. But might after November’s mid-terms.

If Republican voters rally to an embattled Trump, they might retain both houses. Conversely, if the stench of corruption emanating from Trump drives an anti-Trump vote, the Democrats would triumph.

Beto O’Rourke, seeking to unseat Ted Cruz to become the first Democratic Senator for Texas in 25 years, describes the election as, “the most important of our lives”.

Like all Democrats, however, he is riding against the headwind of an economy enjoying (at least in the short-term) the sugar rush of Trump’s tax cuts. In which case, recovering one of the two houses might be a reasonable Democrat performance. Albeit this would leave them requiring Republican votes to impeach Trump.

These votes would only be forthcoming if Republicans deduced they would be in their interests. This would depend upon another people’s verdict: polling on Trump and impeachment.

While unpopular with the rest of America, Trump remains viscerally popular with his base. This is an advantage that he enjoys over President Nixon in the early 1970s, creating a firewall against elected Republicans turning against him.

Robert Mueller is methodically diligent, but the questions that hang over Trump are more political than legal.

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Stringer faces deselection battle over Brexit vote

29/08/2018, 03:51:58 PM

Over at the New Statesman, Stephen Bush has a story that Manchester MP and former minister, Graham Stringer, faces a deselection battle, following his decision to vote with the Government last month in opposing an amendment to the Trade Bill that would have kept the door open on a customs union with the EU. Stephen writes:

‘A motion brought before the constituency’s Broughton ward says that Stringer’s recent actions have “undermined the party and bolstered the Tories’ position”, and that the constituency party should start the process of removing him as the Labour candidate at the time of the next election, whenever that should be.’

Over the weekend, Stringer wrote an uncompromising piece for the Manchester Evening News restating his views:

‘It has always perplexed me that friends within the Labour Party with whom I generally agree on issues such as extending and enhancing democracy as well as redistributing wealth and income nationally and internationally, support the EU,’ he wrote. ‘The EU is an affront to democracy.’

Commenting specifically on last month’s vote, Stringer wrote that a ‘myth’ had developed ‘that a government defeat would have led to a general election.’ He made the point that the Government was defeated on the European Medicines Agency, but that didn’t result in a confidence motion:

‘It would have been even more surprising had Conservative and Democratic Unionist MPs voted for a motion of no confidence in their own government or for an immediate general election. These are the legally necessary hurdles to be passed before an early election can be called. The Conservatives and DUP revile Jeremy Corbyn – they are not going to give him a free hit.’

Clearly Stringer – and Labour’s other leading Brexiteers: Frank Field, Kate Hoey and John Mann – are in the overwhelming minority in terms of the parliamentary party. However it bears restating that 39 per cent of actual Labour voters opted for Brexit.

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Wirral councillor quits party blaming hard left ‘parasites’

28/08/2018, 06:57:28 PM

A Wirral Labour councillor has dramatically quite the party claiming his local branch has been ‘over-run by a narrow, ideological cult where bullying and intimidation of the many by the few is now the norm.’

Coun Michael Sullivan, who represents the Pensby and Thngwall ward, will continue as an independent, ‘without the harassment and pressure of the small number who have taken control of our party structures.’

In a strongly-worded resignation letter to Wirral Council Leader, Phil Davies, Sullivan said: ‘I will not be cowed and threatened by those who have campaigned against us in the recent past and are now seeking to drive their personal and political ambitions forward under the cover of the Labour Party.’

Hitting out at newer left-wing members, Sullivan wrote: ‘They are too meek to stand for election themselves and make their real views public.’

He added: ‘They have tried in the past to win support for their extremist views and failed and it is a travesty that like parasites they have infiltrated and now wormed themselves into positions of power in our party.’

‘I regret this has come to pass,’ his letter concludes, ‘but I hope you and my Group colleagues understand the extreme circumstances we are now facing in Wirral.’

His resignation follows revelations by former senior Labour official, Sheila Murphy, earlier this week on Uncut of widespread bullying from far left activists.

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Screaming, bullying, laziness and voting for the opposition: Welcome to Wirral Labour party

27/08/2018, 10:32:25 AM

Uncut interviews veteran Labour official and northern legend, Sheila Murphy

“I’m holding onto my membership by my fingertips,” says an exasperated Sheila Murphy as we sit having coffee pondering the state of the party. It’s a sobering comment from Labour’s former top official in the north of England. However, she wants to voice her frustrations in public for the first time.

“I accept the left has have taken over. We’re a democratic party and I accept all that. I just think our electoral chances, both locally and nationally are at risk because of their behaviour,” she says.

What she means, it turns out, is a combination of bullying, extreme levels of micro-control and indolence from the hard left in her local party on the Wirral where she now lives, after retiring as the party’s former ‘super’ director covering the three northern regions.

“Forty-nine years a member and I’ve campaigned for every leader since Harold Wilson. I worked as hard for Michael Foot as I did for Tony Blair.”

For Sheila Murphy, campaigning for Labour is just second nature – but not to the thousands of new members that have flocked to the party under Jeremy Corbyn. Campaigning duties are still mainly carried out by the old hands who turn out to knock on doors, deliver leaflets or staff the phone banks, week in week out, all-year round.

Annoying though that is, she wants to speak out after facing bullying herself by some of the new members. “We have a new hard core whose behaviour is nasty, vicious, and controlling,” she says. “It’s a return to the factionalism of the 1980s. And we all know how that worked out.”

One recent incident saw a local male councillor scream in Murphy’s face demanding to know who had “given her permission” to be out door knocking. One of the women activists Murphy was with was so distraught she had to be driven home.

She reports this kind of aggravation and centralising control is now commonplace, but her major gripe concerns the behaviour of the hard left during the last local elections. Murphy was asked by the leader of the council and the local candidate to lead the campaign in a target ward as they tried to oust a Green councillor.

They lost, narrowly, by 72 votes. “We managed to speak to 4,000 people during the campaign and it was clear that some of our new members were actually voting Green,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

“We were knocking on these people’s doors and they were openly telling us they were voting Green instead of Labour and even had Green posters in their window.  I reported them to the Local Campaign Forum and was told: ‘It’s their choice’.” For good measure, the local branch even posted on their Facebook page that the Greens were not the problem – their Labour council was.

Banned from attending the branch by officers to offer a de-brief on the campaign, she had her efforts dismissed as “crap” by the local chair. Undaunted, she organised a “thank you” letter to voters. This act of defiance saw the chair post another message on Facebook, warning local people that the group out campaigning, which included the leader of the council (in his own ward), were not representing the Labour party.

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Boris is wrong – and right

09/08/2018, 11:21:17 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s something especially crass about Boris Johnson as a politician. Childish and superficial, an undoubtedly clever man who enjoys playing the fool.

His comments about the Muslim burqa in the Daily Telegraph the other day, referring to women who adorn it resembling ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ are already subject to much heat and fury. His choice of words was, to put it politely (something he failed to do), poorly chosen and insensitive. His choice of target, however, was entirely warranted.

The burqa and niqab are unnecessary cultural affectations in our society. How Muslim societies operate, and what is deemed acceptable and why, are not matters for me to comment upon – I don’t live in one. But in modern Britain, a liberal democracy, it is not unreasonable to require that some cultural norms are enforced. Some overlap, in order for our society to function properly and develop greater levels of communal interaction and solidarity.

Different groups are at liberty to do pretty much as they please most of the time, but they should cleave towards majority opinion when it comes to how we all live together in a shared space. We have enough language and cultural barriers that remove Muslim women from mainstream society without enveloping them – literally – in even more division and mistrust.

There are times when we cannot and should not accommodate difference, where our cultural assumptions must intertwine. Taken to its logical conclusion, freedom of difference permits me to drive on the right-hand side of the road if I so choose, or to refuse to do jury service, or avoid paying my taxes. Each of us needs to accept we make accommodations for the common good.

This row is not about freedom of religion as much as it is about freedom to be different. We’re not dealing with a clash of civilisations per se, but a clash of liberalism; between those who defend – absolutely – the individual choices of Muslim women to cover their faces; and the liberalism of those of us that seeks to defend our free society, where women are equal and not subjugated.

No-one wants to tell Muslim women what they can and cannot wear, but the burqa and face veil are symbols of a passive-aggressive cultural separation – one that must be engaged with and overcome by our political leaders. But this should be done through dialogue and reason, not by stupid insults or indeed through bans (to be fair, Johnson said he was against one).

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Jeremy Corbyn isn’t just a racist and an anti-Semite. He’s a fraud who pretends he wants a peace

08/08/2018, 11:21:11 PM

by Rob Marchant

With all the stories in recent weeks about Labour and anti-Semitism, it would be understandable if some members started to suffer some kind of “Jewish fatigue”.

But the reason for coming back to it is simple: normal Labour politics is currently suspended, as people gaze on in horror at the internal, self-inflicted crisis currently unfolding. We are witnessing something entirely unprecedented in the party’s century-long history: the slow-but-now-accelerating implosion of a party leadership, if not perhaps the party itself as well. And because of an infection with one thing this, of all parties, had never thought to have to endure: racism.

At the same time, we have a leadership which is so inept, so arrogantly convinced that this is all overblown, that it is now embarked on a collision course with the rest of the political planet.

We might first look at the dropping of the investigation into Margaret Hodge. The extraordinary conclusion we must draw from this matter is that it was not because Hodge backed down (although that was what the Leader’s office stupidly tried to spin, convincing precisely no-one in the Lobby). It was, on the contrary, that Corbyn knew that he could not win. That is, that the most he could say was that Hodge was rude to him: in the rough and tumble world of politics, hardly grounds for suspension.

Let’s just reflect on that for a second.

The leader of the Labour party and of HM Opposition, a potential prime minister, judged (presumably on legal advice) that he would struggle to prove that he was not a racist.

But it makes total sense when you consider the other facts brought to light this week.

In an interview with PressTV, Corbyn implies that Israel’s right to exist is in question (anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition). And we also find him – thanks to academic blogger James Vaughan for this – chairing a 2010 meeting chock-full of anti-Semites, who are busy calling Israelis Nazis (also anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition). On Holocaust Memorial Day. But I’m sure that day was chosen just at random, eh, Jeremy?

Quite simply, we can see that the IHRA definition has been rejected, not just because many of Corbyn’s supporters would fall foul of it but because the man himself would. Yes, the Leader of the Opposition.

Finally, let us just look at the last, and perhaps ugliest, revelation (in a crowded field, admittedly).

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How does this stupid attack on Tom Watson help Corbyn?

06/08/2018, 07:52:15 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all the miscues, own goals and careless steps onto garden rakes in recent Labour Party history, last night’s Twitter campaign under the hashtag #ResignWatson is the most senseless and ludicrous so far.

What’s the message? Well, it’s pretty unequivocal: Tom Watson should resign for warning in an interview with The Observer, that there is an urgent need to address the anti-Semitism row engulfing Labour in order to ever win a general election, ‘or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.’

His critics – the trolls and fruitcakes of social media – logically believe that a) Labour should not address the problem or that b) There is no problem to address.

Clearly, both points are delusional. What’s more, Jeremy Corbyn thinks there’s a problem with anti-Semitism that needs fixing.

‘People who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name. You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement,’ he wrote in The Guardian as recently as last Friday.

Surely all Watson has done is echo Corbyn?

Yes, the party risks being scarred by the taint of anti-Semitism after months of agonising coverage – courtesy of a Jew-hating lunatic fringe that has attached itself to the party – and something needs doing about it.

This has culminated in two former Labour ministers – both with deep ties to the Jewish community – facing disciplinary action for giving vent to their frustrations about the weakness of dealing with the problem that Jeremy Corbyn fully accepts exists. Indeed, Watson’s remedy is modest enough:

‘I think it is very important that we all work to de-escalate this disagreement,’ Watson said ‘and I think it starts with dropping the investigations into Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin.’

‘Ah, but Tom’s not really talking about anti-Semitism – he’s making a coded attack on Jeremy,’ goes for what passes as a thought process on the hard left.

Surely the smart move from those Corbynistas who felt Watson was in some way being disloyal would have been to chide him for stating the bleeding obvious?

Instead, we get a high-profile, well-organised campaign to undermine the party’s Deputy Leader.

Exactly how does any of this help Jeremy Corbyn?

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