UNCUT: Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

19/04/2017, 10:11:48 PM

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

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INSIDE: Gisela Stuart quits

19/04/2017, 05:49:07 PM

Controversial Labour MP Gisela Stuart has told her CLP that she will not contest the next election. In 1997, her victory in Birmingham Edgbaston was the first big Labour gain of the night from the Tories and she was a symbol of the new wave of Labour MPs. Latterly however, as a prominent advocate of leaving the EU, she alienated many PLP colleagues and local former supporters.

This morning on the Today programme, she was unable to say she would back Jeremy Corbyn for PM. In her e-mail to her members she said,

“I wanted you to hear from me that I have decided not to contest the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency at the general election in June.

After 22 years of campaigning and 20 years of having had the privilege of being the MP for this diverse, forever surprising and wonderful marginal seat I know when it is time to stand down and pass on the baton.

Together we have done amazing things; things we never expected when I became the first “Labour gain” of the Labour 1997 landslide as well as the first ever Labour MP for Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton. We won local battles, brought people together, challenged established assumptions about voters (and sometimes our own) and won elections against Tories that we didn’t think were possible. But together we did it . We are Labour and our values are Labour.”

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UNCUT: Labour’s general election campaign will be dominated by the battle to succeed Corbyn

18/04/2017, 06:53:07 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.

A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.

Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.

The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.

Brexit will define everything.

During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.

Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.

This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.

It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.

Read the rest of this entry »

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INSIDE: Labour’s best hope? Hold what we have

18/04/2017, 03:53:58 PM

The etiquette of a general election requires opposition parties to welcome it.

It’s supposed to bring to a head years of public animosity with the governing party, allowing the opposition to channel the hopes and desire for change of frustrated voters.

Fat chance of any of that happening on June 8th.

Theresa May’s snap general election is a chance to grind Labour’s face into the dirt.

This is a bid for naked political advantage. Party before country.

Alas, it was made inevitable from the moment Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Labour’s lurch to the barren shores of the hard left made this election an irresistible prospect.

Sure, Theresa May has a point about wanting a strengthened mandate from the voters for the tough Brexit negotiations to come, but it’s a fig-leaf. A secondary excuse.

Despite the public front that it welcomes the election, Labour is reeling. There is no prospect of anything other than a drubbing.

And everyone knows it.

Indeed, insult will be added to injury midway through this campaign when we’ll see the twentieth anniversary of Labour’s 1997 landslide on May 1st 1997.  Back then, Labour won a parliamentary majority of 179.

Now, it will now be lucky if it can now hold that number of seats.

Plenty perfectly decent Labour MPs are about to pay the price for Jeremy Corbyn’s personal unpopularity and eager embrace of the desiccated corpse of hard left gesture politics.

Although the party has claimed to be on election footing for a while – and with the influx of new members is financially well placed to fight a campaign – Labour candidates are marching headlong into the Valley of Death.

Even Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, recently conceded it will take two years for the party to rebuild in the polls from two years of infighting.

Labour now has less than two months.

There is only one thing the party can realistically hope for; that its core vote is stronger than Westminster chatterers assume.

And the only glimmer of hope is that Labour’s existential psychodrama is now brought to a head.

Instead of waiting until 2020, Labour has the chance to rebuild earlier than predicted. Cold comfort.

Other than that, this is Labour’s darkest hour.

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UNCUT: Knife-edge West Midlands race points to Labour’s future

17/04/2017, 11:46:12 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour is on the cusp of genuine power where it can help shape the lives of millions of people.

Stay with me, I’m not deluded.

Next month’s mayoral elections will create powerful regional representatives in six key areas from Cambridge to Greater Manchester. And Labour can really win power.

The party has a chance in numerous mayoral elections but the closest and most interesting is in the West Midlands. It’s a nail-biter and the Tories fancy their chances.

Sion Simon is running as Labour candidate. Over the past week, Jeremy Corbyn has launched a series of eye-catching national pledges on a £10 living wage, free school meals, small businesses being paid on time and raising the wages of carers. Simon’s manifesto is another boost for those who want fresh progressive thinking put into action.

A victory here would be one-in-the-eye for the narrative that Labour is dying and point to a road to recovery.

Simon’s Tory challenger is former John Lewis executive Andy Street, who is posing as an outsider and attempting to shed the Tory brand.

His business profile has seen him garner national press attention and support.

But the reality is that a Tory victory will mean another compliant mayor doing Downing Street’s bidding on Brexit and the NHS in the West Midlands.

Read the rest of this entry »

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UNCUT: British politics needs to start planning for the day Northern Ireland ceases to exist

11/04/2017, 09:44:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Nineteen years ago this week, Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam, Bertie Ahern the Irish Taoiseach and the various political parties were in the final stages of agreeing what became the Belfast Agreement, better known, given the day it was finalised, as the Good Friday Agreement.

It was a triumph for all involved and, whatever else his critics point to, Blair’s crowning achievement; a superb piece of leadership and political tradecraft.

It was a deal that ensured cross-community power-sharing and a devolved assembly.

The end of the British Army’s presence in Northern Ireland and the release of paramilitary prisoners.

Strengthened east-west links between the Irish and British governments and north-south bodies to create all-Ireland institutions.

It is a deal that has provided two decades of relative peace and normality and become a lodestar in the field of conflict resolution.

But the Good Friday Agreement settlement is now faltering.

The collapse of the power-sharing executive in January, (following Arlene Foster’s woeful handling of a £500m heating subsidy), Sinn Fein’s strengthened mandate in the subsequent assembly elections and the current difficulty with restoring the executive are testing its resilience as a model.

The broader truth is that the Good Friday Agreement was never meant to last. It was always a stop-gap solution. An interregnum. A transition space between the conflict of the Troubles and the advent, eventually, of a unified Irish state.

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UNCUT: Labour’s pro-Brexit front bench is more of a problem than Corbyn

10/04/2017, 10:22:54 PM

by Trevor Fisher

For any blog site commenting on current developments, the latest headlines define the agenda. The opening days of April provided many, but if the Livingstone saga is ignored as driven by one person’s private attempt to stay in the headlines, there are two underlying themes that make Labour’s future increasingly grim. The first is the Party leadership abandoning Party policy to appease right wing interests, and the second is the short sighted belief that the battle for Party dominance is what defines party politics. Both major factions, Old Left and Modernised New Labour are paddling these canoes with no sense that the public is moving elsewhere. The first of these two problems is now coming to a head.

The major political issue of our time is Brexit, and the dominant forces in the PLP have abandoned defence of the EU for acceptance of the hard right agenda on splitting from Europe. The party policy passed by the 2016 conference, still  holds that while it “noted” the TUC decision to accept the majority vote, it would reserve its position including not triggering Article 50 and stated that “The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”, which remains feasible, most crucially through another referendum.

But the PLP leadership, from Corbyn to Mandleson, abandoned this with classic short term thinking. The principled reasons for defending Europe were abandoned once the vote came in, but it was not only Corbyn who demanded total obedience to Brexit.  Miliband’s speech to the Open Labour conference was that a soft Brexit was acceptable and Labour would get this, with no reference to the actual results of this policy. As I have already argued, there is no soft Brexit and to accept the Tory agenda as Corbyn did by putting a three line whip on Article 50 was folly. However  the electoral argument is currently top priority. The Corbynistas still claim that they can win the next election, arguing it will take two years to turn the party round.

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UNCUT: Labour’s cognitive dissonance over Syria

08/04/2017, 08:00:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems Labour is so full of policy ideas at the moment that it can afford to have not one but two foreign policies.

Backing President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian airfield from which Bashir al-Assad’s warplanes bombed the town of Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons earlier this week, Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, described it as ‘a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’

While agreeing this week’s attack was ‘a war crime’, Jeremy Corbyn instead emphasised that US military action ‘without legal authorisation or independent verification’ could make matters worse and risked intensifying ‘a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people’.

This fault line between the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party is conspicuous.

And, so, the party is left suffering yet another damaging public bout of cognitive dissonance – holding two mutually exclusive opinions – while huddled in the political shop window rocking backwards and forwards, muttering to itself in front of the voters.

That’s the politics of it.

However, questions about military action – and whether or not to back it – obviously override domestic political concerns. Syria is not as straightforward as having ‘a line.’

And, so, in their way, both men are right, albeit for totally different reasons.

Watson spoke for many when he said that chemical weapons attacks on civilians ‘can never be tolerated and must have consequences.’

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UNCUT: Time to get over Brexit and move on to the next debates

08/04/2017, 04:17:02 PM

by Samuel Dale

Stop it. Just stop it.

I voted to remain in the EU. I wanted us to stay in as much as anyone and still believe it is a major mistake that the UK will come to regret.

But I was on the losing side. Remain lost in a clean, fair fight where robust and dodgy arguments and statistics were deployed on both sides.

The vote was close but clear. The Leave campaign won by more than half a million votes and that means Brexit must happen.

These seem like the most basic, simplistic points imaginable but some in Labour and the wider Left are still refusing to accept the result.

Tony Blair has suggested a second referendum on the final deal. Alastair Campbell has repeatedly called for Brexit to be stopped. Labour-supporting lawyer Joylon Maugham says the legal process for reversing Article 50 is sound.

And then there is Professor AC Grayling, who appears to have lost his mind. Even Professor Richard Dawkins, the high priest of rationality, says Brits have not spoken on Brexit (when they quite clearly have).

These are all people I respect but here is the truth: You can deploy whatever clever, legalistic shenanigans you like but there is zero chance that Britain will remain in the EU. Absolutely, stone cold zero.

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UNCUT: Trump’s air strike took out domestic targets as well

07/04/2017, 03:08:23 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not often an international leader gets to achieve their domestic political goals while making a bold foreign policy move.

But this is what Donald Trump has just managed.

In bombing the Syrian airstrip that was used to launch what seems to have been a chemical attack by Assad’s forces on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, earlier this week, killing at least 80 people, Trump has achieved three things.

First, he compares favourably with Barrack Obama, who dithered and backed down from a response to Assad’s sarin attack on east Damascus in 2013, outplayed at the time by Putin who offered to broker a deal whereby the regime would surrender its chemical and biological weapons.

Trump, the inveterate dealmaker, is clearly not prepared to give Assad wiggle-room. Especially as he plainly lied about dismantling his arsenal.

Second, he has immediately wrong-footed his home-grown critics who question his elliptical relationship with Vladimir Putin.

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