UNCUT: Harriet should know better. Loose lips sink ships – and election prospects

17/07/2014, 09:51:16 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Is Harriet Harman the victim of an unfair Tory attack for seeming to suggesting that middle-income earners should pay more tax?

No, she is not. Neither, for that matter, has she been misquoted. She did say that middle-income earners should pay more tax. Labour’s deputy leader was guilty of a clumsy circumlocution, telling LBC radio on Monday that:

 “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes”.

Let’s be clear, if she was making a general point about the desirability of a progressive taxation system, then fine. Indeed, she seems to have meant:

“I think people on middle incomes should contribute through their taxes”.

But that’s not what she said. She is guilty of committing an unforced error, using unforgivably loose terminology in a broadcast interview. For a senior frontbencher of her experience it was an amateurish thing to do and has played straight into the Tories’ gleeful hands.

Last night she wrote to David Cameron accusing him of telling fibs:

“You claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions today that ‘yesterday Labour announced – in an important announcement – that it is now their policy to put up taxes on middle income people’. This is not true. It is a lie.”

Tory party chairman Grant Schapps has also been busy. He has written to everyone he has an email address for, launching a poster campaign that the Tories must have been itching to release.

Tory poster

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INSIDE: Flowers’ scandal casts shadow over Co-op party

16/07/2014, 03:58:18 PM

The welter of awful headlines that have greeted revelations about the Co-op Bank and its colourful former Chairman, Paul Flowers, in recent months seems to have left behind something of a ‘brand contamination’ problem for the Co-operative Party.

So much so that it’s General-Secretary, Karin Christiansen, has just written out to its members asking for donations to help fund a “scaling up” of the party’s media work because “too many journalists are getting their facts wrong”.

The aim is to raise £10,000 through small donations to help with efforts to target journalists and commentators and improve understanding of how the party “fit[s] into the wider movement.”

Christiansen adds: “Recent media coverage has misrepresented the Party, and confused our relationship with the Labour Party and the Co-operative Group. It’s incredibly frustrating, and leaves too much of our good work unnoticed.”

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UNCUT: Cameron’s reshuffle reshapes the battlefield to exploit Labour weaknesses

16/07/2014, 01:18:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Forget the breathless minutiae of who’s up and who’s down or biographies of the newly promoted, most analyses of the Tory reshuffle have missed the most important point: this was a reshuffle defined by Labour. Labour’s lines of attack and Labour’s vulnerabilities.

Ed Miliband was the silent witness, standing in the corner, at the back of David Cameron’s mind as the prime minister worked out his new ministerial jigsaw.

In each of the three major changes David Cameron announced – the promotion of women, the demotion of Gove and the installation of Phillip Hammond at FCO –  the same motivation is evident:  to reshape the battlefield with Labour. To make the Tories a smaller target, minimise the potential for distracting internal conflict and focus the national debate on the two areas where David Cameron is confident he has the beating of Ed Miliband: leadership and the economy.

It is debateable whether Labour’s repeated attacks on Cameron for sexism have won over many wavering voters, but they certainly had media resonance and diverted the political conversation away from the Conservatives preferred topics.

Ta Dah! David Cameron now has a defensible position on women’s representation. Labour will continue with its attacks, as was evident at PMQs today, but the traction is gone. Broadcast journalists are notably less opinionated than their newspaper comrades, but these tweets by ITV’s Chris Ship are indicative of the mood among the lobby.


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UNCUT: Bring on the éminences grises

16/07/2014, 09:42:18 AM

by Rob Marchant

As silly-season reshuffle madness has gripped the Westminster village the last few days, we at Uncut are obviously above pointless speculation about the Labour reshuffle expected after Conference.

Well, almost. In fact, it’s not so much speculation, rather an observation.

If we were to be brutal, we might observe that both government and opposition benches, if the lights are dim, might occasionally be mistaken for a sixth-form outing to Parliament, rather than a government and a government-in-waiting.

It’s nothing personal against the current bunch. There is talent there. But much of the talent is green. And yes, there is ministerial experience among it – it’s not 1997. But – and excuse the bluntness here – there might also be more important pre-requisites than having held a junior ministerial or middle-ranking Cabinet job for a few years during the fag-end of a thirteen-year Labour administration.

Neither is it just that so many older MPs left in droves at the 2010 election, either, although that is clearly a factor. Or that some of the talented ones who remained, such as David Blunkett or Tessa Jowell, were not given proper jobs to do and chose to opt for a quiet life outside Parliament.

The clincher is this: as we have observed before here, we live in the age of the SpAd (ministerial Special Adviser). The gradual professionalization of politics means that the number of years that any of the current Shadow Cabinet has spent in the outside world is severely limited.

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UNCUT: Has Cameron passed the peace pipe to teachers, or raised the white flag?

15/07/2014, 02:15:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Last night the big news was William Hague’s exit as foreign secretary, but the real significance of this reshuffle is Michael Gove being moved out of education.

Gove is a bell-weather for the Government’s intellectual self-confidence in a way Hague isn’t. It is in schools policy where the Tories have been truly radical (for good or ill, depending on preference).

Free schools and the acceleration of the academies programme were totemic for Cameron in opposition, providing a solid direction of travel in an area of policy where the Tories struggle to convince people they are on their side.

But Gove’s central problem is that he governs like he’s still a newspaper columnist; dividing opinion with something approaching reckless abandon. Little wonder, then, that in term of teachers’ voting intentions, Labour leads the Conservatives by 43 per cent to 12.

This figure is actually not bad for the government given that a YouGov poll found that just 6 per cent of teachers think that academies and free schools are taking education in ‘the right direction’.

David Cameron may be belatedly recognising that the teaching profession is an area where he can quickly mend fences after Michael Gove has – perhaps too gleefully – spent four years kicking them down. With his education reforms embedded in the system, the scope is there to now pass the peace pipe to the profession and narrow the gap with Labour.

One thing will be certain, his new chief whip will be watching to make sure his boss doesn’t instead wave the white flag on his cherished reforms.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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INSIDE: Complaints over shortlist in Salford

14/07/2014, 04:48:05 PM

The race to succeed Hazel Blears as the Labour candidate for Salford and Eccles has run into controversy following last weekend’s shortlisting meeting.

Complaints have been made to the party’s North West regional office after the unusual decision was made to shortlist just two candidates, despite other applicants having multiple branch nominations.

Yet, unsuccessful candidates have been told by local officials there is no appeals procedure and no feedback has been given about the decision to proceed with such a small shortlist.

Sarah Brookes, a senior manager for Manchester Airport Group, who was born and actually lives in the seat, had four branch nominations. This would normally ensure a place on the final shortlist.

Meanwhile Sara Hyde, who works as a mentor for young women in the prison system, received two branch nominations.

Under Labour’s internal system of preferential voting, it is usual that at least three candidates are shortlisted for a parliamentary selection.

Instead, members now face a choice at next month’s hustings meeting of either Cheshire solicitor Rebecca Long-Bailey or Salford City Councillor Sue Pugh, chair of the party’s North West regional board and partner of NEC member Peter Wheeler.

At the 2010 General Election, Hazel Blears had a majority of 5,725.

Update: 10:05 15/07/14

Sophie Taylor has also been shortlisted. However we understand she only had a single nomination, raising questions about how Brookes and Hyde could possibly be left off the shortlist.

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UNCUT: Cameron’s diplomatic vandalism weakens Britain’s position in future negotiations

14/07/2014, 11:00:20 AM

by Callum Anderson

As the dust settles on the prime minister’s failure to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next President of the European Commission, we can now be clear on one thing: David Cameron is unfit to lead Britain’s renegotiation of its relationship with the European Union.

It is hard to comprehend how this could have gone much worse for Mr Cameron. Indeed, Britain has never had a prime minister who is so unable to build alliances with their European allies.

Even in the early days of his leadership of the Conservative Party (before Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010), he showed signs of, at best, naivety and, at worst, dangerous incompetence on European issues.

The mistake that is undoubtedly at the root of David Cameron’s problems with our EU partners was his decision in 2009 to take Conservative MEPs out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament. One only needs an ounce of common sense to conclude that isolating the Conservative Party from a political grouping that included Angela Merkel’s CDU and France’s UMP, was extremely unwise.

As Eunice Goes correctly points out, not only did this decision upset Mrs Merkel, and the then-President Sarkozy, but also effectively voted out of influencing European politics. Had the Conservative Party been a member of that group, Mr Cameron could have used backroom diplomacy to prevent Juncker from becoming the EPP’s “Spitzenkandidaten” at their March meeting.

However, Mr Cameron missed the boat. He chose to reorient the Conservative Party’s political allegiances within the European Parliament towards the fringe European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, who, as well as know, included partners who held highly distasteful views on race and sexuality (to mention just a few).

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UNCUT: Letter from Wales: The Neil Kinnock interview pt1

11/07/2014, 02:39:34 PM

by Julian Ruck

I recently interviewed Lord Kinnock at the Angel Hotel, Cardiff and within minutes it was clear that his political passion and socialist instincts were well and truly intact. Indeed, his parting shot to me was, “Julian, what did you expect, I’m a bloody socialist!”

Not much to argue about there then.

Neil looked good. Trim, well preserved and still full of pulpit Welsh hwyl, as a couple of lady guests at the hotel were soon to comment. It was Neil’s deep Welsh brogue that seemed to send them into a swoon and as far as they were concerned, to hell with politics!

Anyway, the old war horse, never short of a word or two, was generous with his time. 1hr and 50 minutes to be precise, so readers of Uncut will understand that in order to do Neil and the interview justice, I have decided to break his observations and my take on them into two Letters.

So, let’s begin with Neil’s view on Ed Miliband:

“I’ve supported him from before day one……I said to him if David has got the guts to run against his brother who are you to back down? Ed showed nothing but courage in taking his brother on.”

As the interview progressed Neil’s loyalty to Labour’s leader became more explicit, and who can criticise loyalty, where would politics be without it?

“If you watch Ed closely and believe me I have, particularly when he is talking to the man in the street or grassroots, he is totally engaged; they get his full attention and interest. David now, he lacks people skills, for instance when talking with someone and whilst not intending to be discourteous, he scans the room to see if there is someone of greater significance. It’s a misfortune if anything, not a desperate character flaw, he’s a nice man.”

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UNCUT: In bashing trade unions, the Tories are looking a gift horse in the mouth

10/07/2014, 01:54:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

As part of his efforts in opposition to detoxify the Tories’ brand, David Cameron appointed a turncoat former Labour MEP, Richard Balfe, to build bridges with the trade union movement. There was even feverish talk of a “Clause Four moment” with the hope that Cameron might address the annual conference of the TUC – the only Tory leader in 144 to do so.

It never came to pass and Balfe is long forgotten; but in government, Cameron has pretty much left alone the settlement bequeathed by Labour. There is no love for trade unions, but there has been no return to the malicious nonsense of the 1980s, when trade unionists were dismissed as “the enemy within” and staff at GCHQ were banned from even joining a union.

However, writing in today’s Daily Express, Tory Party Chairman, Grant Schapps, retreats to old habits, scolding “trade union barons” for using today’s one-day stoppage to “disrupt families and schools whenever and wherever they feel like it.” And in a bid to throw red meat to his core vote, Cameron is now floating the idea of applying turnout thresholds to trade union strike ballots.

If fewer than half of union members vote to strike, then it cannot go ahead. To be sure, this is generated by regular RMT action on London Underground which invariably sees a relatively low turnout in strike ballots. (Boris Johnson, in particular, has been rattling his sabre on this issue for ages).

Of course, the double standard – hypocrisy – of a coalition government admonishing trade unions for not achieving a 50 per cent threshold for industrial action, is obvious enough. (For that matter, hardly a single councillor in the UK would be able to take up their seat).

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UNCUT: Labour needs new ways of thinking about the Middle East

10/07/2014, 12:35:37 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is argued that the Palestinians have two options: to support Hamas, terror and destruction, or support Abbas, negotiations and statehood. Which may mean Israel also has two options: work with the Palestinians if they back Abbas and frustrate them if they don’t.

It might, however, be thought that they both have third options, which are variants on these options. In the Israeli case, this would be the “do nothing” option, perpetuating a status quo that doesn’t deliver peace but, notwithstanding the recent murders of teenagers and continued rockets from Gaza, largely secures security in an unstable region. For the Palestinians, this third option would be violence beyond the control of Hamas, driven by even more extreme ideology.

Some contend that Hamas is as extreme as they come and that suggestions to the contrary only obscure the responsibilities held by the Palestinian Authority for the maintenance of order. Yet closer scrutiny of Gaza, supposedly under the control of Hamas, reveals possibilities further beyond the pale than them.

As much as the extent to which the Palestinians have options beyond Hamas can be debated, the viability of the status quo as an Israeli option is perilous. The democratic and Jewish character of the state depends upon a two-state solution. Recent discontents increase the plausibility of a third intifada, which would shatter the security that Israelis may have grown complacent in presuming attaches to the status quo. This intifada would be more likely if the Palestinians were to back more extreme options than Hamas, underlining the combustible incapability of the Israeli and Palestinian third options.

Abbas is the crucial pivot for both sides around which a brighter future could form. If the Palestinians could back him in making the painful compromises necessary for negotiations to advance, Israelis support reciprocate in backing their government in making the painful compromises that they too will need to make for negotiations to succeed. Yet, appallingly, it’s hard to disagree with Prospect Editor Bronwen Maddox when she concludes that recent tragedies make this less likely than it already was.

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