UNCUT: The Rotherham abuse is merely yet another facet of the disastrous biraderi politics Labour has nurtured

11/09/2014, 01:14:44 PM

by Rob Marchant

While Westminster’s attention is distracted by Scotland, it is gradually becoming abundantly clear that the grooming of young, white girls by Pakistani-heritage men goes way beyond Rotherham. Last week Uncut’s Kevin Meagher highlighted the next few likely police targets in Greater Manchester and this Left Foot Forward piece gives a first-hand account of grooming in a town in the South.

The true shock for many was not so much the crimes, horrific though they were. The true shock was the conspiracy of silence around them, both inside the Pakistani community and outside it.

And that is not, one likes to think, because we are intrinsically a nation of racists casting around for a reason to heap abuse on British Pakistanis among us, but mostly for the opposite reason: we didn’t want to believe that there could be a clear link between a particular culture and a particularly nasty crime.

There is a link, of course, but it is not a simplistic one: clearly a small number of Rotherham’s population have not become rapists because of the colour of their skin, or where they worship.

What, then, is that link and why should it be anything to do with Labour?

It’s an uncomfortable question, but it’s also one which we really need to ask.

For a long time, as we highlighted in Labour’s manifesto uncut (Chapter 2, section 2), Labour has had a cosy – too cosy – relationship with some ethnic communities around the country. Not all, but some. A few are Sikh. Most are Muslim, from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

And the deal goes like this: we will scratch your back, and you will scratch ours. We will support you and mute our criticism of the odd dodgy practice, and you will get out the vote in your communities and deliver it for our candidates. This is not particularly difficult when there often exist numerous members of a given extended family who will, either by habit or peer pressure, vote the same way.

A perfect example of this, as has been clocked before at Uncut, is the manipulation of membership lists during parliamentary selections, which has resulted in thirteen CLPs being put in “special measures”. It is admirable that something has been done in these thirteen; not so good that the approach to this ever-worsening problem is to contain it, rather than solve it.

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UNCUT: Send for ‘effing Cameron rather than moribund Miliband

11/09/2014, 09:19:36 AM

by David Talbot

The fightback, declared the Labour leader, would start in Scotland. The newly anointed leader was speaking at the Scottish Labour conference of 2010, five months after a crushing general election defeat, but eight months before the next set of Scottish elections. Miliband was clearly eyeing a return to hegemony for Labour in Scotland. The rot, of course, had set in four years before; Labour historically losing control of Holyrood by one seat, and thereby setting in motion the frantic scenes seen seven days before the vote.

The utter failure of the Labour leaders’ words were laid bare when the SNP duly crushed a ramshackle Scottish Labour in 2011. The Prime Minister, from across the Despatch Box, duly took great delight in taunting the Labour’s  failure, though neither would take much delight in the perilous position for either of their parties in Scotland today.

Both Miliband and Cameron have waxed lyrical about their love of Scotland their passionate desire for it to stay as part of the Union. The Labour leader told the Labour conference of 2012 that the referendum on Scottish independence was of more importance to him than the general election. Whilst Cameron signalled early in his leadership of the Conservative party just how sorry he was for Tory misdemeanours in Scotland, vowing to “never take Scotland for granted”.

But as the referendum has unfolded both have largely taken a secondary role in the Better Together campaign. This is true, in part, because the main antagonists in the debate over Scotland’s independence have to be, of course, the Scots themselves. Labour leadership was originally bequeathed to the admirable and worthy, but seemingly failing, Alistair Darling, with the forlorn figure of Gordon Brown now returning to stomp around frontline politics. Miliband, until very recently, has been remarkable mainly for his absence in the Labour effort.

The situation for Cameron was all the clearer. He wasn’t welcome. The SNP dearly want to turn the referendum into a Scotland versus the English Conservatives vote, and there is only one outcome. The Prime Minister acknowledged as such when he understatedly said earlier on this year that his electoral appeal did not reach into every corner of the Union.

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UNCUT: The shadow of Northern Ireland looms over the last days of the referendum campaign

09/09/2014, 07:55:52 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fascinating essay in the current Demos Quarterly that looks at the various ethnicities in modern Scotland and how these cultural identities may impact on next Thursday’s vote on independence.

The study, written by Richard Webber from the Department of Geography at Kings College London and former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips, draws particular attention to the reaction of ethnically Irish Catholics in Scotland.

The authors reveal that it was much to their “surprise” that “the strongest majority support for independence was not among ‘pure’ historic Scots, but among people of Irish Catholic descent”.

Given Irish Catholic-heritage voters support Labour “more consistently than any other group in Scotland” why are many of them ignoring the party’s entreaties that we’re “Better Together” and opting for independence? As the authors point out:

“When one considers that electors from the same cultural heritage form the backbone of the Sinn Fein vote in West Belfast, this rejection of Labour’s position can be interpreted as a visceral opposition to the Union, to the Tory establishment and to Westminster. Thus ‘Yes’ voters among this group are likely to have very different motivations and to be expressing very different identities than the typical voter with an English or Welsh name; in fact they are supporting independence for the same reasons that they support Labour, a historic sense of oppression. What is significant is that the appeal of independence is driven more strongly by cultural and political considerations than socio-economic ones.”

Our middle class Westminster political and media elite, so utterly bewildered at the turn of events in recent days, simply don’t understand the power of identity and historical grievance in driving working class politics north of the border. (This is, of course, why none of them cares much about what goes on in Northern Ireland).

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UNCUT: In a dangerous world, the UK prospers together or declines apart

08/09/2014, 02:06:21 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The British have been protected by NATO and grown richer through the EU throughout my life. Soon the breakup of the UK may drain Britain of meaning and Russian troops could be threatening a NATO member, while Martin Wolf of the FT thinks it likely that the Eurozone will remain in a  “bad marriage “, too costly to breakup but so unhappy that its members would not have chosen it knowing what they now do.

Those in the “bad marriage” struggle to find the resources or the will to meet their NATO obligations. They seem ineffectual in the face of both Putin and ISIS. Europeans alternately look to the US to solve these problems and blame them on the US, while offering precious little by way of European solutions. If we remain united, the British can be part of achieving more than this.

David Cameron – pace Owen Jones – is right to compare Putin’s tactics with those of Hitler in the early stages of World War II. He follows Timothy Garton Ash, not noted for hyperbole, in doing so. Robin Lustig, another sober and astute observer, compares events in Iraq and Syria to World War I.

As we stand on the precipice of UK breakup, accurately described by Sir Edward Leigh MP as “a national humiliation of catastrophic proportions” during the last PMQs, we face mounting dangers. This catastrophe would irreversibly weaken us. Instead of possessing a united armed forces which count for something, as David Blair notes, we will have chosen to divide them into two shrunken militaries that would count for very little.

Never again we will we speak with the authority that we possess at international forums, such as the UN, G7/8, G20, and NATO. Significantly, UK breakup is likely to be used as a justification by non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to push for this status to be removed from what remains of the UK. This rump is also more likely to vote to leave the EU if this referendum occurs without Scotland, while those EU members with separatist movements, particularly Spain, will ensure that a post-breakup Scotland is locked out of the EU. British capacity to shape the EU as it evolves in the face of the continued challenges of the Euro will be non-existent.

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UNCUT: Ed Miliband should resign if Scotland votes Yes

08/09/2014, 11:00:27 AM

by Samuel Dale

It’s Friday September 19th, Alex Salmond is walking onto a podium in Edinburgh with Saltires waving all around him.

The autumn sunshine glistens as the camera pans to Nicola Sturgeon’s tears of joy as the lifelong dream of Scottish independence has become a reality.

It was nail-bitingly close but the polls narrowed in the final days.

Labour voters swung it with a 51-49 victory for the Yes campaign.

The UK is in shock. The markets are in turmoil as confusion reigns over currency, the EU, debt, financial regulation, tax and much else.

Next year’s general election has been rendered almost meaningless.

The UK has lost 8 million citizens in one stroke. It’s economic power catastrophically diminished. Already the blame game has begun with many calling for David Cameron to quit.

He has presided over the break-up of the UK and already he is struggling to get a grip on the ensuing chaos.

But what more could he do? Despised in Scotland he had, rightly, kept an arms’ length from the campaign only intervening in a careful, limited way.

So what about Alistair Darling? He led the Better Together campaign, taking part in public debates with Alex Salmond.

He must take some blame for a very winnable campaign that failed.

But the most blame would have to go to one man: Ed Miliband.

It was the hapless Labour campaign for the Scottish Parliament in 2011 that let the SNP in power.
It is a disaster that Miliband oversaw but has never been fully held to account for within Labour circles.

For the SNP to gain a majority required Labour ineptitude on a grand scale.

Ever since, Labour has provided woeful opposition to the SNP in Scotland.

Since the referendum campaign began it has been crystal clear that Labour voters would decide the vote.

Unlike David Cameron, Miliband had a chance to convince his own supporters and turn the referendum.

He did not intervene often enough or effectively in the campaign.

The consequences for Labour are severe. Shadow ministers such as Douglas Alexander and Gregg McClymont will not be MPs for much longer.

Stalwarts such as Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown have no official future in the UK parliament.

Losing dozens of MPs, Labour will find it much, much harder to gain power in the UK. It’s heartlands have been moved to another country.

All this was entirely preventable if the party had kept it’s eye on the ball north of the border.
And if it provided better opposition to the SNP and convinced it’s own supporters during the referendum campaign.

Labour lost this crucial campaign and Ed Miliband should pay the price and resign.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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UNCUT: Tenacious, principled, and effective, Jim Dobbin fought for the marginalised and forgotten

07/09/2014, 08:36:35 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Truly, Jim Dobbin was one of Parliament’s nice guys. A quiet and genial man, he was also a principled and effective Member of Parliament and tireless campaigner. His sad death today at 73, while on a Council of Europe trip to Poland, is a huge loss to a range of issues and causes that could always count on Jim as a reliable supporter.

A coal miner’s son from Fife, Jim was a committed Catholic and, as Ed Miliband has noted, his faith informed every aspect of his politics.

As chairman of the all-party pro-life group, Jim nailed his colours firmly to the mast on all the most contentious issues; abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage. He pursued what he believed in tenaciously, but respectfully towards those he disagreed with.

The news section of his website tells its own tale: Gaza, better palliative care, audio-visual facilities on buses for blind and partially-sighted people, better cancer awareness, support for those with dementia, help for the disabled. Jim was pro-life is the very widest sense of the term.

Indeed, like all the best backbenchers, he was an active campaigner on overlooked issues. Whether it was championing better polio immunisation for children in Syria, or calling for an annual Windrush Day to remember the contribution of the first-generation Caribbean community, Jim Dobbin took an interest in the marginalised and forgotten.

As a lobbyist, I dealt with him on many occasions and my abiding impression of him was as a wise, kind and unfailing courteous man. But like all softly-spoken Scots in Labour politics, there was steel there too. Quiet and modest, but tough and wily with it.

I once sat in his constituency office trying to persuade Jim to back a controversial wind farm project. He smiled as he explained why there was no chance of him backing it, but helpfully went through how the scheme could be improved. His advice was gratefully received.

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INSIDE: Race begins to find Blunkett’s successor

05/09/2014, 07:24:52 AM

The process to select a successor to David Blunkett as Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is about to get underway, with the constituency party this week agreeing a process to select his replacement.

Nominations are set to open this weekend with a final hustings meeting will be held on October 25.

With a majority in 2010 of 13,632 and 55 per cent of the vote, the seat is a classic ‘safe’ urban redoubt for Labour.

However the area hit the headlines recently with growing tensions in the Page Hall area of the seat between local residents and Slovakian Roma migrants who have moved into the area.

In a hard-hitting assessment of the situation, David Blunkett has warned there is a need to “change the behaviour and the culture” of Roma community, warning there was going to be an “explosion” otherwise.

Tellingly, the BNP got more than 3,000 votes here in 2010.

Candidates for the nomination have yet to emerge, however the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Harry Harpham, is regarded locally as a front-runner.

Harpham, a well-liked ex-miner, is also the council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods. With twice the national average number of council homes, housing is a major issue in the city and Harpham led the council’s successful Decent Homes programme.

Movement for Change community organiser Mike Buckley is another name in the frame and has already been seen out and about in the seat.

It’s likely that a number of other Sheffield councillors will throw their hats in the ring, conscious that the city has a tradition of selecting local candidates.  In fact each of the city’s five Labour MPs has strong local connections.

London interloper Nick Clegg in leafy Sheffield Hallam is the only exception to that rule.

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UNCUT: We need a dose of PR to improve our municipal one-party states

04/09/2014, 01:47:35 PM

by Kevin Meagher

One of the unremarked parts of Alexis Jay’s shocking report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was her finding that the council’s scrutiny function had completely failed to do its job.

As in so many areas where a single party dominates the electoral landscape (Labour has 49 out of 63 seats on Rotherham council), responsibility for keeping tabs on the decisions of the council falls to councillors of the same party. The problem with this arrangement should be obvious enough.

Labour has controlled the town for 80 years. Even a bruising by-election campaign back in 2012, when it’s MP, Denis MacShane, was sent to jail for fiddling his expenses, did little to stop the Labour juggernaut, with current Labour MP, Sarah Champion, slotting in as his replacement.

It’s worth considering, however, that the Conservatives received 9.5 per cent of the votes back in June’s local elections, but won nothing for their trouble. ‘That’s how it works’ comes the unsympathetic reply, but the uncomfortable fact remains that big majorities in politics seldom create better administrations.

Rather than producing strong, outward-looking leaders who need to compete to succeed, stacking-up large majorities can result in fiefs run by complacent, inward-looking political hacks instead.

The effort needed to manage a large group absorbs political energy. Stymieing internal dissent becomes a preoccupation. There are only so many top jobs to gift to people, so cliques form. Back-biting begins. Fixing becomes a necessity.

In the interests of administrative efficiency, electoral fairness and voter engagement, a bit of competition can mix things up.

This is where the impulse of any political party to hoover-up seats and dominate all it surveys intersects messily with the need for good government and political plurality.

However, rather than try to remedy the situation with a move to full-blown proportional representation, which would shatter the valuable link between politician and local community, there is a simple hybrid reform to level the playing field a bit that could be applied to larger, three-member ward unitary councils.

Two seats in each ward should be contested on the usual first-past-the-post system with the remaining third of council seats allotted on the basis of parties’ share of the vote across the borough. (In Rotherham, this would leave the Tories with six seats out of sixty-three).

This would be fairer, energise the local political culture, create some useful political competition and lead to better scrutiny of council decisions. At the very least, it would force governing parties to up their game.

After all, Rotherham shows us what happens when that doesn’t happen.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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UNCUT: Ukip’s electoral success is not good news for Labour

04/09/2014, 07:33:53 AM

by Sam Fowles

Last week Nigel Farage announced his ambition, not just to be David Cameron’s “worst nightmare” but Ed Miliband’s as well. The general perception amongst the progressive media appears to be that Ukip’s increasing threat (aptly illustrated by the, suspiciously timely, resignation of Douglas Carswell) will be a net positive for Labour, making it more difficult for the Conservatives to win the next general election. This is a mistake.

All too often we see politics as being only about the next election. It’s not. Politics is about the sort of nation we want. Winning an election is a means to an end. That end is the principles we support becoming the principles that govern our nation. Elections themselves are not defining moments but the inevitable products of public debates. They are won and lost in the collective consciousness, not at the ballot box.

Margaret Thatcher she defined the public discourse. Although she herself lost office, every government since, including those comprised of her political opponents, have pursued policies based on the ideology she espoused. They view the world according to the paradigm which she established.

Here’s an example: Most good economists will argue that the financial crisis was caused by a failure of the (private) financial sector. Yet all economic arguments in our public debate are based on the premise that we must cut back on the state. We don’t discuss the logic behind this; it’s become an irrefutable “fact” of British politics. The “private: good/state: bad” paradigm is unsupported by history or economics but every political party conforms with it because it is the paradigm which defines our public debate.

To win elections but, more importantly, to see their principles realised, a political party needs to define the debate. Unless it can do so (as I have argued before) it will always be arguing according to it’s opponent’s terms and thus will always lose.

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UNCUT: “Better Together” is turning into David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership

03/09/2014, 07:00:35 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s an air of inevitability about the poll showing Alex Salmond’s Yes campaign is potentially just inches away from victory in the Scottish referendum, hitting a new high of 47 per cent. To those of us watching from the outside, the No team doesn’t seem to have any clear message, other than, well we’re “better together”.

It’s a complacent, technocratic, flat-pack Westminster standard affair. A combination of convoluted arguments about the currency – which must leave most voters cold – and the usual student politics-level stuff looking to exploit perceived gaffes. All sadly predictable and all tragically inadequate, given the way the polls are moving.

Despite their massively lopsided advantages, the No campaign’s money, organisation and establishment support are counting for little against a lesser-equipped but better motivated Yes campaign with a simple proposition.

When have we seen this happen before in our recent political history? Ah yes, the 2010 Labour leadership election. In essence, the No campaign has become a carbon copy of David Miliband’s bid to become Labour leader. An earnest, top-down effort to make the voters listen to sense and political reality, with a brusque appeal to ignore the romantic, siren voices.

Like David Miliband, the Yes campaign has the same air of presumption about the outcome. The same inability to make superior assets count. The same patrician stuffiness. The same underestimation of the opposition.

Just as David Miliband was disastrously pigeon-holed as the “heir to Blair”, so, too, the No campaign can’t seem to shake off the accusation that it’s a front operation for the business-as-usual Westminster elite. This is unfair, but it’s an accusation that sticks, given the leaders of the three main Westminster parties are effectively neutered because of their Englishness and privileged backgrounds.

Meanwhile, Labour is paying the price of fielding a B-team in Scotland for the past decade, allowing Salmond to wipe the floor with the local political class who simply aren’t in his league. Also, the famous (and often parodied) remark that Ed Miliband “speaks human” could equally be applied to Salmond.

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