UNCUT: The battle for Britain’s place in the world starts now

22/06/2015, 10:47:41 PM

by Callum Anderson

The election has passed, the Labour (and Liberal Democrat) leadership contests are in full swing and the Queen has made her speech at the State Opening of Parliament.

And as has been well documented over the last month, amongst the Bills announced was the EU Referendum Bill – a commitment to giving the British people a vote on the UK’s EU membership by the end of 2017.

It was passed with an overwhelming majority of 544-53 last week.

Of course, in many ways, this is no surprise.

The tide has largely turned within the Labour camp on the concept of a referendum: the three frontrunners in the leadership contest having reversed Ed Miliband’s opposition to an EU referendum, acknowledging the inevitability that the British people wanted to have their say on whether Britain continues its membership in the EU.

A myriad of polls have shown either a decent poll for the retaining membership: YouGov poll revealing ‘record support’ among Britons for staying in the EU, while a British Future survey recently found, up to 46.8 per cent of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, as opposed to the 40.3 per cent on the contrary.

But, of course, one of the many things the 2015 General Election taught us was that we must not slavishly and unquestioningly believe opinion polls and so, therefore, we pro-Europeans must reject any notion of complacency towards the task that now stands before us.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Want to reinvigorate the union? Get parliament and central government out of London

22/06/2015, 11:02:06 AM

by Ranjit Singh Sidhu

The news that the Palace of Westminster must undergo a works programme that could last up to 40 years, and cost more than £7bn, has taken a much greater, deeper significance than that of a simple renovation project of a crumbling structure.

Never has the palace of Westminster so physically  embodied the state of the union of the United Kingdom. We have a choice; either to patch up the old institution as best as we can, or can we be brave enough, bold enough to see it as a chance to re-imagine a new structure.

Let us make no mistake, we need bold changes to deal with the state of the union, which has become the issue of our time in the UK.  With the rise of the SNP, Scotland, naturally, is the poster child of our failing UK, however there is a greater malaise in the union felt by all not in the South East of England. The disconnect from Westminster politics of the Mancunian, Liverpudlian or Devonian is just as great as that of a Aberdonian or Glaswegian.

Coupled with this is the continual economic distress the regions of the United Kingdom have suffered over the last 35 years with the steady flow of jobs and wealth to the south east.

This is in no small part due to us still living in a United Kingdom whose central trappings are those of a conquering empire with all its legitimacy and pillars of governments, be it the head of state, executive, legislature or judiciary having all their seats of power in London. Something which may have been practical for running an empire in the 18th and 19th century, but in the modern 21st century has been one of the key drivers of systemic inequality across the UK.

So let’s fix this imbalance by getting power out of London and siting the House of Commons, the House of Lords and central government departments in different parts of the UK.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: The Tories need to be introduced into Labour’s leadership race

18/06/2015, 10:52:14 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour’s leadership race needs to become a lot less comradely. Last night’s debate was a pedestrian trot through the expected.

There was little direct challenge with even less to enlighten members on how these candidates would bear up when facing the Tory meat-grinder.

This has to change.

Gordon Brown serenely glided through his selection without having once been put under the type of pressure the Tories subsequently exerted on him every day.

While his disastrous leadership was little surprise to several of those who had worked with him at close quarters in government, for the rest of the Labour party his inability to deal with sustained political attack was a nightmarish revelation.

Ed Miliband triumphed without once having been robustly challenged on his innate lack of electability or an economic platform that totally ignored the judgement of the British people at the 2010 election.

Yet again, the Labour party was largely unprepared for what the Tories did to him.

This time, the membership need to see the leadership contenders run through their paces in a live-fire environment.

US primaries vet their aspirants in a way British parties’ leadership elections rarely do. Obama was a far better candidate for having faced Hillary and her 3am call ad.

The Tories need to be introduced into Labour’s leadership election.

What would they do to these candidates?

Andy Burnham is in many respects the ideal contender on paper. Experienced, decent and committed.

But he was also chief secretary to the Treasury just before the crash and opposed a full public inquiry for Mid Staffs as secretary of state for health.

This clip from the general election, highlights the continuing political danger from Mid Staffs and his inability to answer the most obvious and basic Tory attack. Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: I’m a Socialist. I’m on the left. I’m backing Liz Kendall

17/06/2015, 04:51:28 PM

by Daniel Downes

I remember the first time that I read Karl Marx. I studied sociology at university and I remember reading it and my world view falling apart. Up to that point as a grammar school boy who used to stay up all night reading biographies of Thatcher and her cabinet, I thought I had a pretty good idea of which way my political ideology was going to pan out. Marx blasted that apart, he guided me through the Matrix.

I went on to devour other Marxists texts becoming obsessive about theory and ideology. Even at this stage, the high point of my intellectual journey into socialism, I felt uncomfortable with the Occupy movement and other far-left protest groups. I had become a religious zealot, as far as I was concerned I had found the Promised Land, the task now was to take as many people there with me as possible. I didn’t understand why everyone else was so angry, aggressive and insular.

The left hasn’t changed since then, at least not the hard left. It is still a movement that clings more to the processes of socialism (nationalisation, higher taxes for the rich, no private investment in state services etc.) rather than the values. Most of the time it feels as though these ideals are held religiously without any acceptance of challenge, the lack of flexibility has allowed the left to stagnate and fall apart. The lack of fresh ideas or an optimistic vision has seen the left become a rock for tenacious veteran campaigners and a disenfranchised and destructive youth.

Jeremy Corbyn represents for me the huge errors that the left has made over the last 50 years. He, like many others, is an apologist and even supporter of ‘socialist’ dictators in South America. His passion for the disenfranchised leads him to make peculiar and outrageously inaccurate statements about radical Islamic militants in Hamas and Hezbollah. He clings, like many others, to the nostalgic dream of nationalisation without a clear vision of what can be achieved by a larger state.

Corbyn’s aggressive anti-Israel stance is, in a typical leftist fashion, both inconsistent with his support of nations where human rights abuses take place in the name of socialism and drifts often into anti-Semitism. I have no affiliation with leftist organisations that see wealth and power as evil and place Jewish people in their narrative as always having both.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: This is a competition between individuals who aspire to govern a country. It is not a charity event

17/06/2015, 10:35:38 AM

by Rob Marchant

We’re like that in the Labour Party, aren’t we? Oh, he’s a nice bloke, he deserves a shot at this. One of us. Can’t we swing it to get him on the list? Or, worse: we’d better put him on the list, or there’ll be hell to pay.

Never mind that the rules of the list are that you need to get 35 MP nominations. Nominations, note, not pity transfers. It is perfectly right that all sections of the party should be represented in this ballot. But those – and only those – which have earned them.

So when a bunch of MPs decide at the eleventh hour to switch nominations specifically to let Jeremy Corbyn MP limp onto the shortlist, it is against the spirit of the rules, even if it is not against the letter, plain common sense and the seriousness of a leadership election.

Then again, as Jonathan Reynolds MP noted on Monday, neither is this anything approaching serious politics. It is not.

In one move, a small section of the PLP has achieved three things. One, it has shown its contempt for its own rule-book, were it not clear enough already. It has reinforced the idea that, if the rules provide a result you do not like, pressure people to bend the rules and they will.

Two: it has strengthened the voice of its most extreme wing far beyond its genuine representation in the Labour Party (if you don’t believe this, wait and see how Corbyn actually polls in September, or recall Diane Abbott’s dismal poll in 2010).

Three: it has played right into the hands of a few hard-left clowns, whose strategy was to mobilise in order to hammer an online poll at LabourList, in the hope that its (at that point clearly meaningless) result would create unstoppable momentum for a Corbyn place on the leadership list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

GRASSROOTS: The unwanted dinner guest: why Corbyn is bad news for Labour

16/06/2015, 10:40:42 AM

by Kenny Stevenson

We’ve all been there. The family functions with that one relative who can’t handle a drink. The staff parties where the co-worker everyone hates turns up. The pub trips with friends where a killjoy won’t stay out past 12.

The clan or team or squad often run preceding debates centred on the question:  should we invite them? But the Yes side – a coalition of the accused’s counsel and do-gooders too nice to defy the whip – always wins. Nothing ever changes. All post-party analyses are the same – we won’t invite them next time. And so the shit-night-out cycle continues.

So on Monday, when MPs acquiesced and invited Jeremy Corbyn to take a place on the leadership ballot, Labour’s refusal to repel the party’s far-left dragged on.

It took them to the final moments, but Yes to Corbyn managed to muster an alliance to get their man on the panel. Corbyn is not without ardent backers. Owen Jones, the most popular left-wing blogger in the country, backs him and argued a Corbyn-free ballot would have denied the party and country ‘a genuine debate’. He also enjoys enthusiastic support among his peers – Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott among the most prolific.

But there were also plenty of do-gooders like Sadiq Khan, Emily Thornberry and David Lammy who could not bring themselves exclude Corbyn, despite having no intention of supporting his leadership bid.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

GRASSROOTS: If Labour wants to win in the south, it needs Ben Bradshaw on the ticket

15/06/2015, 10:18:29 PM

by Frazer Loveman

If you take the electoral map of Britain and draw a line south of Birmingham, the picture for Labour is very bleak in the south of England. Outside of a neat pocket of red in London, there is an overwhelming sea of blue with only the occasional red spot in the other southern cities.

Obviously, the rural south has never been a Labour stronghold- even in the boom years of Blair the map is overwhelmingly blue once you get south of the midlands- but should Labour ever want to get back into power they will have to make headway in places such as Basingstoke and Plymouth which have now been overrun in the tide of Tory blue.

At PMQs last Wednesday, David Cameron was asked a question by Dr. Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test. The question itself was regarding care for the elderly and Cameron largely ignored it to make the jibe that Dr. Whitehead was a rare thing “a Labour MP in the south of England”.

It met with much delight on the government benches, and to be honest I’d normally dismiss that sort of thing out of hand when watching PMQs, but this time it particularly struck me as I actually voted for Dr. Whitehead. It is becoming apparent that for the Labour Party to ever see electoral success again it will need to shift out of what Tony Blair called its electoral “comfort zone.”

Now, it seems to be taboo to even mention Blair in the Labour party any more, despite the fact that he was the most successful leader in the party’s history. Ed Miliband seemed to go to great lengths in order to distance himself from the New Labour years as if Blair was some sort of electoral Banquo’s ghost who would haunt him and the Labour party at every turn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Yvette Cooper should teach the world to code

15/06/2015, 07:40:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

James Forsyth recently branded the last Labour leadership election – the one that dragged through a summer, as this one will; the one that allowed the Tories to determine the terms of trade for a parliament, as this one may – “dull, dull, dull“. I don’t recall it being a laugh either. More importantly, it wasn’t a political success. It took an age and strengthened the Tories.

If that was a dreary, drawn-out failure, what is this? Farce springs to mind after the scramble to place Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot, but ultimately he will be irrelevant.

When seconded to the short lived Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the resignation of James Purnell from the government, while I was on holiday, precipitated the absorption of DIUS into Peter Mandelson’s Department of Business – a reward for keeping the Gordon Brown show on the road – and the DIUS Secretary of State, John Denham, was shuffled across to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Detached from supportive ministers, it became easier for sceptical officials to conclude my secondment. Nonetheless, something – disappointing in ending my secondment, yet educational in opening my eyes to Whitehall – happened.

On Wednesday, when I’ll be in the air somewhere between Birmingham and New Jersey, as the first televised hustings of the leadership election occur, I hope my absence again coincides with something politically significant. Anything. Because we have a leadership election consumed by the narcissism of small differences between the main candidates who are failing to convince their parliamentary colleagues (Uncut has endured several moans about the calibre of the race) and their party, while leaving the wider public even colder. Dull, dull, duller.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

INSIDE: Burnham’s spin doctor is director at lobbyist firm that advises union-buster Ineos

13/06/2015, 07:00:00 AM

A lobbyist from the firm that advises energy firm Ineos, which was involved in a biter industrial dispute with Unite the Union, is now working as a key member of Andy Burnham’s leadership team.

Katie Myler, a former special adviser to Burnham when he was health secretary, now works for international lobbying company, Burson-Marsteller.

They claim on their website that their staff have provided “senior counsel” to the Ineos “CEO and management team” during “the Grangemouth industrial dispute.”

Back in 2013, 800 staff at the petrochemical plant in Falkirk threatened to go on strike after management brought forward a survival plan, which included a three-year pay freeze and changes to pensions.

Unite later relented in a bid to save jobs.

Myler was appointed as director of communications for Burnham’s campaign last week, after taking a sabbatical from Burson-Marsteller where she works as a managing director, according to a report in PR Week.

She joins fellow lobbyist, John Lehal, who is acting as campaign director.

His company, Insight Consulting Group, has worked for a string of private medical companies, according to reports in this morning’s Independent.

The revelations will come as a major embarrassment to Burnham, who has made much of his opposition to private sector involvement in the NHS.

He is also thought to have the active support of Unite and has pitched himself as the main centre-left challenger for the Labour leadership.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

GRASSROOTS: Andy Burnham’s wrong. Not only must Labour take part in the cross-party pro-EU campaign, it has to lead it

12/06/2015, 06:43:36 PM

by Dan Cooke

The first real public test for Labour’s new leader is likely to be fighting a battle they didn’t want to fight at all, at a time and in circumstances dictated by their main opponent, and within the straight-jacket that they must support the basic position of that opponent.

This conundrum is, of course, the EU referendum, to be called by David Cameron to endorse his renegotiation based on principles he has still not fully revealed.

Cameron’s ideal scenario for this campaign is obvious: to achieve a settlement that will redeem the EU for all but its most zealous detractors and credit him as the PM who settled Britain’s relationship with Europe.

And his game plan for referendum victory is equally obvious: to assert that a good deal for Britain has been secured, regardless of what his renegotiation actually does, or does not, achieve.

Apart from campaigning to leave as a result of admitted negotiating failure (inconceivable), or declaring that the relationship was fine all along and serious renegotiation was actually unnecessary (even more inconceivable), there is no other option. The Conservative “Yes” campaign could just as well start printing their posters right now.

For Labour the approach to the campaign is far less straightforward.

For a party that declared until recently that there was no need for a referendum, it would be illogical to link support for a “Yes” vote to the outcome of this renegotiation. Labour cannot go along with the inevitable Cameron spin that he has fixed a fundamentally broken relationship.  Labour is committed to “Yes” regardless and must make a case for the EU that goes above and beyond the expected Tory tinkering.

Indeed, alongside this commitment to staying in the EU, Labour will naturally reserve the right to call Cameron out if his renegotiation does not match up to the hype, and make hay from the divisions within the Tory tribe that are already starting and only likely to become more chronic as the negotiation progresses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon