UNCUT: One way or another, UKIP is parking its tanks on Labour’s lawn

17/09/2016, 09:56:28 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Will UKIP survive? It’s a fair question as the kippers gather in Bournemouth for their annual conference and anoint Diane James as their new leader, to the chinking, no doubt, of large gin and tonics in the hotel bars.

The feuding in the party about who should succeed Farage – the political equivalent of a Jeremy Kyle paternity test special – had seemed terminal, but, for now, appears to be in remission.

Space, then, for the largely untested Ms James to set out what her party is for, given we have now voted to quit the EU, UKIP’s ostensible purpose.

Undoubtedly, they have come a long way in the last few years. For so long a collection EU-obsessives, English nationalist romantics and weirdos who wrote to the letters page of the Daily Telegraph complaining about the change in meaning of the word ‘gay,’ they are now a force in British politics.

As Farage pointed out in his valedictory leader’s speech, they alighted on immigration as an issue in 2011, adopted it as their cause célèbre and never looked back.

It certainly helped scoop up many of the four million votes they received at the last general election as well as providing the magic bullet that made Euro-obsessery a retail issue for millions of voters in the referendum.

Even with their central purpose achieved and Nigel Farage sloping off the main stage, the party can still claim to speak for 15-20 per cent of the electorate pretty consistently and still has a major impact on our political debate, (with Theresa May pinching the idea to bring back grammar schools from them).

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UNCUT: Hillary Clinton’s damaged goods. It was madness for the Democrats to choose her

16/09/2016, 10:27:26 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s safe to say the Clintons have cast a long shadow over the Labour party.

A generation of political professionals have imbibed the campaigning techniques that propelled Bill to the presidency in 1992 and 1996, with two ambitious young Labour frontbenchers sent over to learn from the master at close quarters.

The lessons Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brought back with them have pretty much shaped everything Labour has done since. Rapid rebuttal. ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Triangulation. New Labour was born in that war room in Little Rock.

But now the Clintons have had their day. Bill was a good domestic president, focusing ‘like a laser beam’ on the economy; balancing the budget, creating jobs and presiding over a decade of prosperity.

But he is also venal and morally-corroded. A Vietnam draft-dodger who, while Governor of Arkansas, notoriously sent a mentally-disabled man to his death, just so he didn’t look weak on the death penalty, (the issue that hobbled Michel Dukakis’s 1988 tilt at the White House).

Never mind that impeachment business.

Despite his many good works as president, a trail of slime followed the Clintons throughout their time in the White House. As people, Bill and Hillary make Frank and Claire Underwood in House of Cards look like Tom and Barbara from The Good Life.

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UNCUT: In just one year, Jeremy Corbyn has alienated Britain’s Jews

14/09/2016, 10:57:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

This week has marked the first anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader. The week has been full of the now-customary gaffes and blunders, yes. But a more disturbing revelation was that about the obsession with “Zionism” at the heart of the Corbyn “kitchen cabinet”.

If one were to try and characterise the notable achievements of the Corbyn leadership in its first year – as the often-hilarious results of the #1yearofJeremy hashtag on Twitter showed, these were not always positive – perhaps the most disturbing is the almost complete alienation of the British Jewish community.

From the comments of Ken Livingstone about Hitler, to the suspension of 18 party members over anti-Semitism and the fiasco which was the party’s own report into the matter, Corbyn has shown, at best, a terrible tin ear for the subject, the effects of which may now tarnish the image of his party for years.

And so it was that, this week, we found Corbyn’s communications chief Seumas Milne accused of removing the Hebrew from the leader’s Passover message, because it sounded “too Zionist”. This accusation was made both by Joshua Simons, a former advisor to the leader and also Dave Rich of the CST, an organisation created to help British Jews fight anti-Semitism. Although only Rich actually named Milne, he did so not on a specialist blog, but in the New York Times.

This is the level of obsession that the leader’s office has over matters which are anathema to ordinary people.

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UNCUT: Cameron’s resignation spells trouble for May

13/09/2016, 09:50:58 PM

by David Ward

It’s fair to say May hasn’t been tested so far.

With Labour trapped in a spiral of decline part demographic, part self inflicted, her real threat comes from her own benches.

She has an unenviable in-tray. Brexit, a large deficit with an economy stuck in first gear, growing unease with establishment parties, and growing pressure to make a real difference on housebuilding.

Readers of Uncut may well feel some of these are of the Conservative party’s own making. Nevertheless, her challenge is to deal with them while keeping a wafer thin majority intact.

Of course, as Echo and the Bunnymen advised us, nothing ever lasts forever. And you can usually tell what will bring a Prime Minister down before it happens. From David Cameron’s fondness for a gamble to Thatcher’s unshakeable belief in her own ideas.

Cameron’s resignation yesterday is a neat example of one of May’s looming problems. Her hasty clearout of the Cameroons and their ideas. Having made enemies amongst the left of her party, May must curry favour with the right, whose darlings include Liam Fox and David Davis.

Yet this only opens up arguments with former ‘modernisers’.

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UNCUT: David Cameron flunks his final test

13/09/2016, 07:43:37 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Twenty years. That’s what it will take for David Cameron’s name to be anything other than a byword for political failure. In the 2030s a new generation of Conservative politicians, untainted by the assumptions of their political forbears will rediscover David Cameron like some long lost Beatles recording.

I recall the process well from the mid-1990s when many of us working for the Labour party unearthed our own Rare Groove classics: Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson.

When nostalgia and retro-chic return Cameron to relevance he will be 69.

Just three years older than the current leader of the Labour party, one year older than Hillary Clinton, most likely the next President of the United States and one year younger than Donald Trump, god forbid, the next President of the United States.

Instead of ascending to the highest office in his profession, based on a life of experience, David Cameron’s most productive working years will be spent trailing around the world engaged in lucrative but transitory and ultimately hollow pursuits.

He branded himself the heir to Blair a decade ago and as he travels through his fifties and sixties, David Cameron will truly take-up this mantle.

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UNCUT: Emily Thornberry’s gaffe-laden Sky interview was down to incompetence, not sexism

11/09/2016, 05:56:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not particularly hard, being Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Clearly you don’t actually run anything and all you have to do is echo what the government of the day is saying in relation to international events, affecting a suitably grave intonation.

Perhaps you urge a bit of restraint here, a bit more dialogue there, but, in the main, you take a bi-partisan approach.

When he was the Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell turned this into an art form, quoting back to broadcasters the received opinions he has read in broadsheet newspapers’ editorials that morning.

And that’s a big part of the job; skimming through the foreign pages, keeping tabs on the Foreign Office’s website and, if you’re really diligent, reading the Economist and Foreign Affairs.

By osmosis, you will pick up who’s who and what’s what.

Judging by her horrendous, comet-ploughing-into-Planet-Earth interview with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News yesterday, Emily Thornberry certainly doesn’t know her ‘who’s who’.

When asked the name of the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Ms Thornberry went off, in the vernacular, “on one”.

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GRASSROOTS: The change in Labour’s membership is different to the 1980s, but could be just as dangerous

06/09/2016, 09:31:50 AM

by Trevor Fisher

The Corbyn phenomenon is starting to attract academic attention, and is clearly not understood at any level by the parliamentarians and other observers. It is time to take the phenomenon seriously, as it will not go away. However unlike the 1980s left surge, which was largely activist driven so the approach of the party establishment was to shift to OMOV to outflank the activists with a mass membership, the current surge seems to be a mass membership of Corbynites – though Momentum may not be critically significant –  while the activists are resistant. The recent YouGov poll puts the support for Corbyn highest in new members and  lowest in the older membership.

If the new members are Corbynites the effect will be to undermine the activity base of the party and weaken the attempt to get a Labour government. As set out below, the research throws a grim light on the two theories I have heard in the last week, do nothing and allow JC’s regime to implode, or set up a shadow opposition in the Commons which will match each official pronouncement with an unofficial and critical one.

The research into the post 2015 membership

Professor Tim Bale, using the YouGov data of 2026 members and supporters who joined the Labour Party after May 2015, and comparing with previous data in May 2015 of members ‘when Ed Miliband was leader’, the new members were much the same age as the Miliband era members at just over 51. The youth surge has not translated into member/supportership. Six out of ten have degrees, the same for both groups, but contrasting the pre and post 2015 membership “they are even more middle class, “with 78% of them (compared to 70%) of them being ABC1”.

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UNCUT: Ed Balls was a useless shadow chancellor

02/09/2016, 10:50:09 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘You are only a man’ servants used to whisper in the ears of Roman generals to stop them believing their own hype on their triumphant return from battle.

It’s a pity no-one ever performed a similar service for Ed Balls.

The former shadow chancellor, who was unceremoniously ejected by the people of Morley and Outwood at the last election, is rematerializing into British politics, with a new book out about his life in politics and some unsolicited advice for the party.

The extracts show Balls for what he is: a clever and effective politician in many ways. Unfortunately for him, his curse is hubris.

His period as shadow chancellor under Ed Miliband was an unmitigated disaster for Labour.

Routinely 20 points behind Cameron and Osborne throughout the last parliament on questions of economic competence and trust, it was clear three years out from the election that the party was stone-cold dead on the economy.

His associations with the dog-days of Gordon Brown’s government meant Balls – so long his factotum at the Treasury – was an insane choice for the role.

He was a constant, corporeal reminder of Labour’s previous mistakes, which the party in government did so little to contextualise when it had the chance.

But he coveted the job when Alan Johnson, Miliband’s original shadow chancellor, quit. Pride got the better of him and he simply wasn’t slick enough to shake off previous form to win a second hearing.

At no point did he manage to alter the terms of political debate.

Labour spent too much and regulated too little. They didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining. They maxed out the credit card. They have no long-term economic plan. The blows rained down on Labour’s reputation and Ed Balls was not equal to the task of rebutting them.

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UNCUT: A Labour split is surely now on the cards

01/09/2016, 05:56:23 PM

by Rob Marchant

The ballot papers have arrived. On past form for such elections, most voting tends to happen in the first week and the die is almost certainly already cast for one side or the other. And if yesterday’s YouGov poll is to be believed, there will be a second, convincing win for Jeremy Corbyn.

It is not the fact that polls cannot be wrong: we know that, especially in tight contests. But the very margin of the predicted win – 62% Corbyn to 38% Smith – must surely have brought a crushing dismay to the Smith team. Polls are not often that wrong. 62% is also, coincidentally, the exact same prediction for Corbyn’s vote made in August last year after reallocation of preferences. So we are likely to be talking about the same order-of-magnitude win.

So let’s suppose it’s right and September will be a glorious vindication of Labour’s choice of leader, in the face of massive unpopularity in the country. What happens next? There are really two possibilities.

One is that the Tories somehow find a way to subvert the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 (plus Theresa May changes her earlier position) and contrive an early general election. Labour will, on current polling, be destroyed. But following that, Labour could have a chance to regroup after a further leadership contest. There is a possibility that the penny may finally drop with its critical soft left segment that the current configuration is truly unelectable and that John McDonnell or Diane Abbott cannot possibly rescue it. And then would start the long work of rebuilding the party under a new leader

The second, and apparently far more likely scenario, is that there is no general election. After winning two leadership elections, it seems unlikely that Corbyn could be dislodged until 2020 (if he is seen to be wounded in September, that is a different matter, but the polls indicate otherwise). And he has indicated he might hang on even in the event of a defeat, although one wonders whether John McDonnell would be comfortable with this thwarting of his own political ambitions.

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GRASSROOTS: The UK, the EU, Labour – all are fragile; all are worth preserving

31/08/2016, 06:21:25 PM

by Will Brett

Nabokov’s incestuous lovers Ada and Van have a scheme for appreciating the good things in life. When something lovely happens, it is known to them as a ‘real thing’. When three ‘real things’ happen at the same time, they call it a ‘tower’ and revere it above all else. One morning on a balcony, Van observes Ada eating honey on bread. “Real thing?” he asks. “Tower,” she replies. He understands that the honey is one real thing; she tells him that a wasp, whose “body was throbbing”, is the second; but what is the third? “She said nothing. She licked her spread fingers, still looking at him. Van, getting no answer, left the balcony. Softly her tower crumbled in the sweet silent sun.”

Political alliances are fragile, beautiful things, made up of several parts. And if one of those parts is removed, the tower will crumble in the sweet silent sun.

The compromises required to form one of these alliances are always vast. Take three of them: the United Kingdom, the European Union and the Labour Party. The UK brought together warring nations locked in mutual antipathy. The EU is a pan-continental response to the largest slaughter in history, requiring eternal enemies to come together at last. And the Labour Party, formed in response to mass industrial hardship, required delicate negotiations between trade unionists (of both the closed-shop and radical kind), intellectual Fabians and radical socialists.

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