INSIDE: Labour’s metro mayors will have to be the next best thing to governing

06/08/2016, 10:21:52 PM

As the Labour leadership race gathers pace, another party selection process enters its final week.

Labour members in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and a big chunk of the West Midlands are choosing candidates to fight next May’s first-ever ‘metro mayor’ elections.

These powerful new roles will create a cadre of directly-elected civic leaders, with direct personal mandates, who will take charge of economic development, strategic planning and transport in their areas. The Greater Manchester package also includes the £6 billon health and social care budget for the city-region.

Given the three conurbations are each strongly Labour, the party’s selection process will, in all likelihood, choose who becomes the eventual mayor in each area.

In Merseyside, the contest is a race between Liverpool’s directly-elected city mayor, Joe Anderson, and Liverpool Walton MP (and Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary private secretary) Steve Rotheram. Anderson, a powerhouse local government veteran who is well-regarded in Whitehall, is pitching himself as the candidate with a clear plan and a record of delivery and job creation.

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UNCUT: The honours system stinks. Here’s how we can fix it

05/08/2016, 05:59:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How many times down the years has British politics had one of those sporadic bouts of angst – some of it even real – about the system for awarding political honours?

Those moments when we just know the system is being abused and that so many of those awarded honours are thoroughly undeserving.

Inevitably, infuriatingly, the moment passes. Nothing is done, until the next time a dodgy peerage or questionable ‘k’ surfaces.

David Cameron’s resignation honours, published last night in full, should now be a line in the sand.

They are probably the most egregious shopping list of acolytes, time-servers, hangers-on and financial backers that an outgoing PM has ever sought fit to reward.

Can you imagine the furore if Tony Blair had given Alistair Campbell a knighthood? Cameron has given one to his press secretary, Craig Oliver.

There are awards, too, for a ‘conference planner,’ a Conservative Central Office bureaucrat, a Tory activist, chauffeurs, spin doctors and policy wonks. Meanwhile, there are six peerages for former special advisers and for Andrew Fraser, the treasurer of the Conservative Party.

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GRASSROOTS: I came to the debate supporting Jeremy Corbyn. I left backing Owen Smith

05/08/2016, 10:03:13 AM

by Brian Back

Passions were running very high in the audience for this debate.

This was particularly apparent when Smith stated he was scared the Party would split and that disunity would lead to electoral failure, which to the many Corbyn supporters in the room, seemed hugely hypocritical, as to them, he was one of the main causes of the disunity.

On the whole, Corbyn seemed more passionate than Smith. There is absolutely no doubting his genuine commitment to the cause and to the socialist program he proposes.

However, although Corbyn had passion, Smith was slicker in his presentation.

Much of the time, their ideas were very similar- except on Trident! On Trident; although Smith put forward a decent argument, Corbyn’s knowledge, understanding and passion seemed to clearly win this round, on which Smith conceded that they would just have to agree to disagree.

Because of the similarity of most of their ideas, it is obvious to see that Corbyn has already achieved his main original aim- of bringing socialist ideas back to the forefront of the Party’s manifesto.

In fact, it would be true to say that Smith is entirely a child of Corbyn’s leadership, as, due to all the new members that Corbyn has attracted, Smith has no choice but to put across a similarly left-wing program, without which he has no chance of winning over Corbyn’s supporters, or of retaining their support as members, if he wins this contest.

So, in this, we can already judge Corbyn a success.

As for the debate; who had more success?

Corbyn had a greater number of supporters, so he naturally received more applause.

However, Smith had a surprisingly large number of supporters on his side too, who reacted equally passionately to his points.

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UNCUT: An honest letter to Labour members

03/08/2016, 10:09:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

Dear Labour member,

You probably think this is like so many emails you get from the party nowadays. But it is not.

This is a letter to you from someone who loves the party and sees it in desperate trouble.

Apologies in advance: this is going to be tough. There is not really any way to be nice about it, so here goes.

To the party’s right: you need to up your game. Owen Smith – and Angela Eagle until a few weeks ago – have made a brave stand. But you cannot let yourselves be out-organised by the Corbynites. For example, if your rally is going to get only modest support, don’t do a rally at all, do something else. If you play who-pulls-a-bigger-crowd with Corbyn, you will lose. Lay out your candidate’s stall early and don’t let their opponent define them.

Please also do not let these clowns get away with subverting your local party structure. They are organising against you and you must organise back. You cannot be nice about this, too much is at stake.

Your opponents also have generous supplies of cash, thanks to the leaders of the larger trade unions having scant accountability to their members as to where they channel their subs. You will have to be truly inventive to counter that. But you can still win and there is still all to play for.

To the hard left: I do not care about you. With the notable exception of Dennis Skinner, you have no real love for this party and would see it burn. And frankly, you are not even that sure about democracy, either. Your ideas put into action will undoubtedly end in disaster and chaos; they always do. Our mission is now to ensure you do not take our party with you as collateral damage.

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UNCUT: With her opponents scattered, will Theresa May now call a snap election?

03/08/2016, 04:50:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Has British politics ever been more unpredictable, or, frankly, ever been this loopy?

The UKIP national executive committee’s decision to keep Steven Woolfe off the leadership ballot now plunges UKIP into a dark pit of recrimination.

It’s getting crowded down there, with Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith slugging it out for the soul of the Labour party.

And with the Liberal Democrats still recovering from the wounds they suffered as part of the coalition government, the Opposition in British politics has never looked weaker.

Of course, there is only one winner.

Theresa May now utterly dominates British politics.

To be sure, it’s not an outcome she has not had to work for, finding herself the fortunate beneficiary of a sequence of events no-one could have plausibly predicted just a few weeks ago.

Brexit, Cameron’s departure and Labour’s ongoing feud have provided her with an embarrassment of riches, even if she has to pick up the tricky issue of Britain’s exit from the EU.

She is unassailable in her own party, having been smart enough not to get her stilettos dirty during the referendum campaign, while her reputation for cautious competence chimes with the mood of the public that now wants an adult in charge of the country.

But there is still the hard politics to consider and never before can the temptation to call a snap general election have weighed more heavily.

In one swift, brutal move, Theresa May could wipe out her opponents and win her own mandate for the changes she seeks to make.

No longer the caretaker, picking up the pieces from Cameron’s messy political implosion, she could single-handedly reshape the political landscape, guaranteeing a decade of Conservative hegemony.

Who can stop her? Tim Farron has made no impact, Jeremy Corbyn has the worst polling figures in history and UKIP looks like to split off into factions.

Perhaps she will wait for post-Brexit nerves to stop jangling after this summer of political madness, but by the autumn Theresa May will have to confront the open goal before her and decide whether or not to seize a historic victory.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: Beware this Woolfe in Labour’s clothing

31/07/2016, 10:20:01 PM

by  Kevin Meagher

There’s a party leadership contest going on that could have a profound effect on Labour, but its not the one between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Five candidates are currently limbering up to succeed Nigel Farage as the leader of UKIP and the implicaitons for Labour are very real. Having led the charge to get Britain out of the European Union, UKIP now has plenty time on its sides.

Where will the ‘kippers political energy and capital now go? Perhaps it will channel into building support in the 44 parliamentary seats where they are in second place to Labour, following last May’s general election.

Having neglected its heartlands for so long (and not particularly caring what voters there think), Labour now has a fight on its hands on hold on to some of them. But does the party actually recognise the threat?

Despite their other differences, what unites Blairites and Corbynistas is an unshakable belief that only racists are bothered about immigration and that London is the centre of the universe.

There is plenty political space (both physical and metaphysical) that Labour has chosen to abandon that UKIP is more than willing to fill, providing a sympathetic ear to provincial woes. All the more so if Labour continues to indulge its infantile gesture politics.

That said, UKIP still retains a massive inbuilt propensity to blow itself apart.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour’s much changed leadership rules are a case study in the law of unintended consequences

29/07/2016, 01:43:19 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Lenin once said that some months only contain a week’s worth of action. While some weeks contain many months of activity. Currently the Labour party is living through years of action in a few weeks, but the last weeks of July saw particularly significant developments.

Firstly, during the 48 hours 18th to 20th June, the NEC devised window for upgrading £3 supporter subs to £25 to buy a place in the leadership ballot passed. Astonishingly, even in the Corbyn era, the Labour party gained 133,000 registered supporters in a matter of hours. One third of the selectorate was now registered supporters. By 28th July the BBC – Shaun Ley – was reporting the figure was 183,500. Where the extra members had come from is part of the current mystery.

We will not know till September who this benefits But it is very clear that a politically savvy cohort of some size now exists, understanding deadlines and able to spend £25 without blinking an eyelid to vote for the leader. And the Labour party has effectively no way of knowing who they might be – even if local parties tried to check the validity of the applications, they do not have enough time to do so. Ley reported that in HQ a mere 15 people are trying to check social media for unacceptable attitudes. But the problems are not about classical entryism.

Labour leadership elections are increasingly randomised, a marked contrast with the Tories who carried out a selection process which secured the choice of the M Ps. Labour’s M Ps have not just lost control of the process – which they did under the Miliband reforms – but have demonstrated this by launching a coup which seems to have relied on Corbyn not being on the ballot paper.

The NEC allowed him on, which lead to Michael Foster, ex- Labour PPC, launching a legal challenge which is the second major development. But before considering this, a few background points on the assumptions going for a dubious revolt, rather than a sensible redrafting of the rules for a mid-term election. This is increasingly necessary as the party fragments and shows the failure of the core theory of New Labour.

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UNCUT: Speaker poised to strip Labour of designation as Her Majesty’s Opposition in Autumn

27/07/2016, 10:45:13 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned that House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is considering action to strip Labour of the title, Her Majesty’s Opposition, if Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) remains on strike, leaving the bulk of front bench roles unfilled.

Sources in the House of Commons administration familiar with his deliberations have told Uncut that Bercow has looked on with dismay at the impact of Labour’s civil war on the functioning of Britain’s parliamentary democracy. One said,

“The meltdown happened so near the end of the last term and the situation was so fluid that it would not have been appropriate to act. But if the situation persists into Autumn, when there is a full schedule of parliamentary business, some form of action is likely.”

Although the constitutional position is murky, the Speaker has a pivotal role in determining which party is the opposition. Normally the choice is clear – it’s the largest party opposing the government. However, with dozens of frontbench roles unfilled, Labour is in dangerous territory.

Official designation as the Opposition brings a series of institutional advantages for Labour, ranging from funding to influence over the parliamentary agenda.

At the end of the last parliamentary term, Jeremy Corbyn was only able to complete his shadow cabinet by asking some MPs to take dual roles.

Paul Flynn became shadow leader of the House of Commons and shadow secretary of state for Wales and Dave Anderson was appointed the shadow secretary of state for both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Currently the majority of shadow ministerial positions remain unfilled for Labour.

When the new parliamentary session begins, Labour’s Swiss cheese front bench is likely to be exposed.

For example, if there is a motion on the floor relevant to a shadow team, while a Standing committee is considering a bill in that team’s area, with relevant Statutory Instruments committees also sitting and a Westminster Hall debate on a topic in their brief, then Labour will not be able to provide a shadow front bench representative in each debate.

In practical terms, it means the government will have no opposition in one or more area. They will not be held to account by the opposition and a core component of parliamentary democracy, in the way it has been practiced for over 100 years, will have broken down.

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UNCUT: The Tories are harking back to a mythical ‘golden age’ of grammar schools

26/07/2016, 04:12:25 PM

by Angela Rayner

Conservative Voice, a Tory activist group, has officially launched their campaign to lift the ban on opening new grammar schools, introduced by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair 18 years ago.

If prime minister Theresa May is serious about her recent rhetoric on the steps of Downing Street, when she said that her government would do everything it could to help “anyone, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you”, then she will halt this divisive campaign in its tracks.

Some Tories argue for more grammar schools as engines of social mobility, which propel kids from working-class, low and middle income families up the social ladder. But the facts argue otherwise.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that amongst those identified as high achievers at an early age, children who are eligible for free school meals or who live in poorer neighbourhoods are significantly less likely to attend a grammar school than their better off classmates.

There are 163 grammar schools left in the country. In 161 of them, fewer than 10% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.

According to research by the House of Commons library, around 2% of children at grammar schools are eligible for free school meals.

So they are not being drawn from the poorest backgrounds.

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UNCUT: Owen Smith is being defined by the Corbynistas. If he doesn’t fight back soon, he’s done

23/07/2016, 06:59:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Owen Smith is in trouble. Day to day, he’s conducting his campaign, pitching his message but he has a strategic problem that is getting worse with each passing hour: definition.

Owen Smith’s PLP backers have made much of Smith being a “clean skin,” lacking the baggage of past votes on issues such as Iraq or the compromises of office.

There is something to this but his lack of prior profile also brings risk. He’s a blank page on which a story will be written, either by himself or the Corbynistas.

The hard left attack on him is very clear: Owen Smith is an ex-lobbyist for Big Pharma and a former Special Adviser, who will return Labour to the days of Brown and Miliband.

The discussion on CLP Facebook groups from across the country is testament to how this attack has already permeated through the party.

Here’s one exchange from a northwest CLP,

“Smith worked for private health companies and was a Blairite adviser. We need to be different to the Tories.”

“I heard he did work for those companies. Not sure about him but I don’t think he’s like Blair. Doesn’t Ed Miliband rate him?”

I’ve seen double digits of groups where this same pattern is being repeated. An accusation is made by a Corbyn backer with little substantive rebuttal. Owen Smith is being framed by his opponent and the few who would speak up for him have little to offer in terms of an alternative, positive definition.

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