GRASSROOTS: Labour has a leadership vacancy but no takers

15/07/2016, 06:53:13 PM

by Robin Thorpe

The Labour party is always at its best when it is seen as a modernising force; a movement that has the capability to tangibly improve the lives of people across the UK. This was true for Prime Ministers Atlee, Wilson and Blair. This is perhaps why the current crop of Labour MPs sees Corbyn, a representative of a historical aspect of Labour, as the problem rather than the solution. But the complete lack of any ideas from the challengers, let alone principles, means that any coup was doomed to fail before it had begun.

The launch of Angela Eagle’s leadership challenge typified the earnest but empty hand-wringing that is all the vast majority of the PLP seemingly have to offer the country. The speech was full of platitudes and expressions of dismay over Corbyn’s lack of leadership, but utterly devoid of any vision for a brighter future or strategy of how to achieve this. Her argument is that she is better than Jeremy because Jeremy failed.

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Corbyn has accomplished this to some extent with the Labour membership and the leaders of the trade unions. He clearly hasn’t with the PLP and opinion polls suggest that he has failed to influence the wider electorate. Angela Eagle has set out her challenge for the leadership by offering a more cohesive party. But leadership is not about better management; it is about providing direction. Defining what an organisation is about and where it will take its stakeholders.

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UNCUT: Civil servants might not be civil for long

14/07/2016, 07:45:54 PM

by Greig Baker

In the most extraordinary fortnight for British politics, people should be forgiven if they missed an important – if fairly dry – announcement from the Cabinet Office this week. Despite being largely ignored, the announcement is a helpful reminder that Labour could still have supporters outside of Momentum, if only it got its act together.

On Tuesday, arguably the most powerful department in Whitehall announced the new Civil Service Workforce Plan to 2020. This sets out how the government wants to reform the way the Civil Service works – and so change the way that every single public service is delivered and determine the job prospects of the 440,000 people who work for the government.

The Plan includes some reforms that any shadow secretary of state who is even only half awake would presumably want to get their teeth into. For example, the number of secondments to and from the private sector, and especially large scale commercial suppliers, is likely to increase dramatically. Optimists argue this improves civil servants’ understanding of the world and allows them to bring in valuable lessons and expertise from business. Others may be concerned about the influence gained by private interests who lend their staff to policy makers.

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UNCUT: It is time to stand for centre left values

14/07/2016, 04:04:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The responsibilities of moderate Labour are so much bigger than mere party tribalism. They are to our country, our consciences and – in the face of ISIS, Putin and Trump – our civilisation.

My conscience would happily rest with the end of Labour if it helped save our country and civilisation. “Histrionic” is a word that has been thrown about lately. And maybe I’m being so.

Perhaps not, though. I believe the UK is going through its biggest crisis of my lifetime. We are a country fracturing on every axis. Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. An unexacting bar.

Theresa May, regrettably, is not up to the challenges of her office. Which include acting to preserve the institution that has helped bring Europe its longest period of peace and prosperity, while also exiting it in a way that does least harm to our economy and society. And I focus on harm minimisation because, kids and grandparents (for it is the baby boomers who must eat their young), we’ve been sold a pup by unaccountable, fly-by-night charlatans.

People are angry now but they’ll be more so when they find no economic nirvana awaiting. Some take out their frustrations on immigrants – who the prime minister, pawns to her as gunboats were to Palmerston, struggles to reassure.

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UNCUT: Theresa May is eminently beatable. Labour just need a leader up to the job

12/07/2016, 10:43:11 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The ascension of a new party leader is usually a time for rushed, breathless hagiographies and fears among opponents, within and without their party, that a new tide will sweep away their forces.

Allow me to demur.

Theresa May has demonstrated many qualities to become prime minister designate, but her position is far from imperious.

For those of us around in Westminster in the 1990s, there are some recognisable contours to the new political landscape that now confronts Labour, following the tsunami of the past three weeks.

A major economic event fundamentally that changes the narrative on who can be trusted on the economy. Personal enmities and ideological divisions spilling into public view across the Conservative party. A Tory leader facing the prospect of recession while trying to protect a small parliamentary majority.

It all feels rather familiar.

In the 1990s, the starting point was Black Wednesday. In the mid-2010s, it’s Brexit.

In 1992, Sterling’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) re-defined the Tories’ image of economic competence. Whatever the rights and wrongs of leaving the ERM, it became the prism through which the ongoing recession was reported.

In the process, the Conservatives became associated with a deadly combination of economic incompetence and pain.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour’s leadership plotting is going to end in tears

11/07/2016, 08:50:08 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Last autumn the Labour leadership issues seemed possible to discuss objectively, with a possible clean up of a deeply confused rule book. Perhaps even a sensible mid-term election could be devised while the Fixed Term Parliament Act was in force, a mid term election being discussed in passing during the summer leadership debates. This is no longer possible and even before a rumoured leadership plot is launched, the situation is becoming more confused and dangerously fraught.

The context of what Kevin Meagher rightly described as a ‘putsch‘ is internal disputes in the Whitehall bubble, mirroring tensions over Labour’s direction. There has been little to justify a leadership challenge despite the EU referendum dispute, and as Kevin Meagher pointed out, “The risk is that the current putsch plays straight into the hands of the Corbynites and inflicts lasting, long term damage on the party”. This is clearly true and while I suspect a general election in the autumn is unlikely for Theresa May, if one was called leadership dispute would seriously damage Labour.

However the immediate issues are two-fold, and centre on the nature of the putsch.

The first issue is whether they plotters can keep Corbyn off the ballot paper. If the rules are used to prevent enough supporters to nominate Corbyn, I cannot see how a legal challenge is unavoidable. He is the elected Labour leader. Whether he can be excluded is open to legal challenge but if successfully excluded, this has the effect of making the leadership a PLP matter. The membership is merely rubber stamping the PLP decision.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour needs to take a step back and be clear about our post-Brexit agenda

09/07/2016, 07:15:18 PM

by Tom Clements

It is impossible to overstate the position that our country and our party faces after the most tumultuous of weeks in British politics.

Like so many of us, I have been completely blindsided both by the result of the referendum and the rapidity of the changing news cycle. It would be too easy to continue our Brexit hangover and concentrate purely on the machinations of Labour’s impending leadership contest or shudder at the thought of Andrea Leadsom as our next Prime Minister.

But now it’s time to take a step back.

The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Whilst I believed passionately in the need for Britain to stay in the European Union, I don’t believe that we should dispute the result. The people of Britain made a choice and we should accept it. To fail to do so would reinforce every negative stereotype about politics and politicians.

Economic collapse, our union breaking apart, racial tension, punitive immigration, the most right-wing Conservative Party leader in a generation. The potential negative consequences of leaving the European Union don’t bare thinking about.

So it’s time for us to step up.

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UNCUT: Labour is in meltdown

07/07/2016, 08:40:09 PM

by Rob Marchant

“The Labour Party is facing its most serious crisis in its century-long history,” writes Eric Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling. He’s not wrong.

First of all, since my last Uncut column, it is no exaggeration to say that British politics has been turned upside down by the win of Leave in the Brexit referendum. Barring some kind of monumental U-turn, Britain is on its way out of the EU. In the resulting whirlwind, it is difficult to keep pace with the rapidly-changing landscape.

Aside from the immediate and dire economic fallout from the decision itself, to have a PM resign, mass Shadow Cabinet resignations and a Leader of the Opposition deserted by the vast majority of his MPs in a confidence vote – all in the same week – is surely unprecedented.

Most bizarrely of all, while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision, barely any of the winning Leave campaign politicians are now placed for much of a role in carrying out Britain’s transition to its post-EU future. Neither does there appear to be even a sketchy plan. It is as if neither the campaign’s leaders, nor its followers, ever really expected to win.

But this is Labour Uncut: let us now turn to the impact of all this on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn has blamed by many, not unfairly, for the contribution of his lacklustre campaign to Remain’s defeat. But it has also been a convenient moment to mount a challenge to what has so far been a disastrous leadership anyway, at least in terms of engaging with the British electorate.

Hence the mass resignations from the Shadow government – plus the sacking of Hilary Benn for perceived disloyalty – which followed a few days after the vote. But things have not stopped there: it is still thought likely that one of Angela Eagle MP or Owen Smith MP will challenge Corbyn, though the smoke signals from the PLP aren’t exactly clear.

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UNCUT: Labour: Stop meeting. Start leading. Or others will

05/07/2016, 10:06:50 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are decades where nothing happens,” according to Lenin, “and there are weeks where decades happen.”

We are living weeks of decades. At least the Great British public are. In contrast, Labour, with its Leninist conclave nominally at our helm, are having some meetings.

Meetings about meetings. Paranoid bunker meetings. Rousing, Kinnock-fuelled PLP meetings. Nice that Neil’s still got it in him. But just a meeting.

But some meetings don’t happen. Like between our leader and deputy. Portland Communications, newly rumbled and keen to appear even-handed but doubtless driven by dastardly capitalist motive to showcase a client, have given them both brain reading technology.

This means that they are constantly meeting, even when they are not meeting, but never, decade after decade, saying anything relevant to a population crawling into a new, disconcerting era.

Change so bewildering that a politician who struggles to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK, against a backdrop of intimidation to such people, starts to appear the least bad PM option. Better than the “political psychopath” who did as much as anyone to induce this Brexit catastrophe. Preferable to the new Iron Lady – who, as the Remain frontrunner is intensely scrutinised, might win to satiate the Tory thirst for a Leaver.

No matter who the next PM is, they have no mandate for the terms upon which the UK leaves the EU. The Leave campaign – on a false prospectus that no one is held to account for – won a Brexit mandate.

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UNCUT: As the Labour leadership contest inches closer, MPs are getting very nervous. But all might not be as bleak as they fear

04/07/2016, 11:32:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Q. When is a coup not a coup?

A. When it is organised by the Labour party.

Well over a week since Hilary Benn’s departure from the shadow cabinet sparked wholesale resignations, there has been no challenge to Corbyn.

Instead, there is stalemate between PLP and leadership, with a front bench that is effectively on strike but has been too scared to put its concerns about the leader before members in a leadership contest.

On Monday night, following the PLP meeting, it seems there was finally some movement.

Tom Watson’s commitment that meetings on Tuesday would be a “last throw of the dice” at coaxing Jeremy Corbyn out of office was widely taken as the final step before a challenge (it also assuaged some of the simmering discontent among MPs at his role in the drawn out nature of events.)

The choice for challenger would appear to be between Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, although Yvette Cooper is rumoured to be still interested.

Given the Tory party is potentially about to have an all-woman run-off between May and Leadsom, it’s hard to see how Labour could run an all-male equivalent with Smith.

With a contest imminent, a new wave of jitters was rippling through the MPs that Uncut spoke to on Monday night; the nightmare scenario of a Corbyn victory a constant topic of conversation.

These fears have been driven in part by last week’s YouGov poll of Labour members which unnerved many of the PLP.

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UNCUT: The battle for the survival of Labour is on. Members have to fight

30/06/2016, 12:46:15 PM

by Samuel Dale

This is it. Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to fight on despite 81% of his parliamentary party expressing no confidence in his leadership. He’s shown his true colours today by drawing an equivalence between Israel and the Islamic State.

It’s time for members and supporters to fight.

The legal advice around whether he can get on the ballot for a membership vote is vague but irrelevant. As Atul Hatwal explained, he has to be on the ballot. He has to be defeated.

Ordinary members, and £3 sign-ups have to defeat Corbyn in a full election. That is the only way we can put the nightmare behind us.

This is going to incredibly difficult – perhaps impossibly so. But we have to try and here are some positives and negatives to consider.

Firstly, the latest YouGov poll shows 54% of Labour voters do not want Corbyn to resign compared to 35% who do. That’s voters, not members.

Despite the ludicrous unreliability of polling today, especially YouGov, it should give pause for thought. There is clearly still strong Corbyn support in the party.

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