UNCUT: Trying to out spend Johnson’s Tories won’t work. Labour needs to be smarter

17/12/2019, 10:56:57 AM

by David Ward

So here we are again choosing a new leader. And once again all the different factions of the party are getting ready to fight like cats in a sack about it. I have no doubt it will fall on deaf ears, but my appeal to the party is to put the burning anger with each other to one side for a moment and think about the next election and choose someone right for that task.

Back in 2015 I wished on these pages we would stop re-fighting the 2010 election and recognise that the EU referendum would finish Cameron’s career, change the conversation, and put in place someone such as Johnson.

In 2015 and to a lesser extent in 2017 Corbyn captured the moment with an anti austerity message. It turned out that wasn’t what was needed in 2019. But in 2024 it will be nearly a decade since Corbyn won the leadership, with a government who have been investing in public services and infrastructure outside London.

We need to take Johnson at his word about trying to improve lives in former Labour heartlands. He means it, even if he might not achieve it.

We have already tried in 2019 to out-spend Johnson and it didn’t work. The astronomic figures weren’t seen as credible. The policies were too scattergun with no sense of priority. Too many of them seemed have come straight out of a think tank seminar. Such things are all well and good, but  Local Transformation Funds or a National Energy Agency don’t correlate to people’s everyday lives. The job of the skilled politician is to make ideas sound less Wonk and more Wakefield.

By 2024 with some Conservative investment no doubt making at least some kind of difference, the out-spending approach will be even harder.

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GRASSROOTS: 10 Reasons Lisa Nandy should stand for leader

16/12/2019, 09:03:52 PM

by Alan Johnson

Lisa Nandy MP is ‘seriously thinking‘ about standing for Labour leader.

I really hope she does stand because:

(1) She is a serious, grounded, calm, personable, thoughtful, tough, hard-headed and very intelligent representative of Labour’s ‘soft left’ tradition; not the far left, not the Corbyn project. And that’s what is needed now, neither a Corbyn Continuity Candidate, nor a (I dont like the term, but you know what I mean) ‘Blairite’, though she could attract the support of many from both those wings, I think.

(2) She knows the bullying, trolling sub-culture of the party from the inside (and I suspect she knows exactly what to do with it!). She has spoken of the abuse she received for not supporting Corbyn, which she described as leaving her “genuinely frightened”. She compared her treatment to that which she had received at the hands of the far-right when she first campaigned to become MP for Wigan in 2010.

(3) She understands that ‘we just haven’t heard what people have been telling us for some time’. She says her mission is to ‘bring the Labour party back home’ to those who could not vote for us on Thursday. She gets how the over-centralisation (i.e. Londonisation) of party structures, decision making and power is part of the problem.

(4) She supports ‘the decisive break we made in 2015’ on austerity, before which ‘we had been too afraid to stand up for our values’. But she also understands that the very radical ‘offer’ the party made in 2019, the blizzard of spending commitments, needed a huge bank of trust that the party just didn’t have it, if it was to be accepted.

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UNCUT: Labour won’t win by seeming a danger to mainstream Britain

16/12/2019, 08:09:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour big beast Denis Healey, borrowing a line from Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher, saw his politics as driven by, “an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.”

Those conditions deepen under Tory government and therefore, that obstinacy compels us to do all that we can to avoid such. In the wake of this catastrophic defeat, it is impossible to conclude that we have.

We will have more chance of doing better in future if we can see ourselves as others do. Which now, it seems to me, is a cocktail of dangers.

Security danger: a leader who always seems to back Britain’s enemies, including terrorists, who has inspired an unprecedented fear among a minority population. Economic danger: outlandish spending commitments (e.g. free broadband) setting off fears of tax bombshells, alongside a commitment to a 4-day week that is otherworldly to hard-pressed workers. Political danger: over the influence of the SNP under a minority Labour government and uncertainty as to how a government of this sort would resolve Brexit.

In the 2015 general election, as Jon Cruddas wrote in its aftermath, “we lost everywhere to everybody”. In the frenzied years that followed, it became a sad joke that the UK had preferred “stability and strong government,” as David Cameron claimed he offered, over the “chaos with Ed Miliband” that Cameron positioned as the alternative.

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UNCUT: Dear hard left: you broke it, you own it.

14/12/2019, 09:49:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

After such a defeat, there has been extraordinarily little soul-searching by the Corbynite left, in case we should have expected any.

To go by some of the comments by frontbenchers and their media outriders, it is apparently the people who have erred, not the Labour party, rather recalling Brecht’s poem about “dissolving the people and electing another one”.

Even now, there still seems a question mark over exactly when Corbyn will go, even if it is abundantly clear he must.

No Labour leader has ever survived two election defeats, let alone the worst defeat in the best part of a century and, for afters, likely censure by an anti-racism watchdog in a matter of weeks’ time.

But own it the Corbynite leadership must, because barely anyone else was even at the table (we might make an exception for Keir Starmer, but the point is probably somewhat moot).

All Corbyn supporters in the party are not hard left, of course. There have always been three distinct groups: them; the influx of bright-eyed idealists who thought Corbyn nice and were too young to know his history or Labour’s; and the soft left of throughout the party’s history, decent people who did not care to dig too deeply into the views of a man who, like Miliband before him, made all the right noises.

The young idealists, one imagines, will drift away again at some point, once they realise that the party is now genuinely riddled with cranks and racists. Many of the soft left may well stay, perhaps slightly chastened.

But it is the long-time Trots, tankies and Stalinists who are still there at the top, running the show. This is evident fact, rather than the smears they constantly , and those of us who have been around for a while knew them long before they came to run the party. Apart from the parliamentary duo of Corbyn and McDonnell, we have the four Ms: Milne, Murray, McCluskey, Murphy. All people who seriously revere a 20th century regime which killed quite a lot more people than Hitler.

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UNCUT: What kind of country elects Boris Johnson as its prime minister?

09/12/2019, 09:59:48 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The Italians and Berlusconi, the Israelis and Netanyahu, the Americans and Trump. Why, we wondered, did countries subject themselves to bunga bunga leadership?

It couldn’t happen here, we used to think. Now, however, we seem set to elect as prime minister, “a compulsive liar who,” according to Nick Boles, “has betrayed every single person he has ever had any dealings with: every woman who has ever loved him, every member of his family, every friend, every colleague, every employee, every constituent.”

It is civic self-abuse to return to office those responsible for this decade’s indignities: from the hostile environment to universal credit, from the bedroom tax to 320,000 homeless, from the longest pay freeze in 200 years to the tragedy of Dickensian poverty depicted by Dispatches.

The Supreme Court annulled Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament. They can’t make him face Andrew Neil. If convenient, any convention can be bent, any truth elided.

“Will Northern Irish businesses,” asked Andrew Marr in an interview that he deigned to, “have to fulfil customs declarations to trade with the rest of the UK?” Johnson insists not – contradicting his Brexit secretary.

“Is the NHS,” Labour has asked, “for sale?” No, says Johnson. But the US, especially big pharma, one of the most influential lobbies in Washington DC, will require otherwise.

“Can he,” we should wonder, “get Brexit done?” No trade deal on the scale of that Johnson seeks with the EU has been concluded on the timescale that he imposes.

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UNCUT: The narrow path to another Labour surprise on election day

05/12/2019, 07:35:47 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Most polls point to a big Tory victory and each media appearance by Jeremy Corbyn seems almost focus-grouped to boost their majority. But despite the sea of data and commentary, there has been relatively little consideration of the factors which made 2017 the thunderbolt result that it was. These haven’t gone away and could yet mean 2019 turns up another surprise Labour result.

Four were particularly relevant in 2017: the revolt of the under 44s, Corbyn’s ability to turn out non-voters, demographic change in Southern constituencies and the propensity for Remainer tactical voting.

In 2015, the Conservative victory was built on fighting Labour to a draw among 25-44 years olds and then winning well among over 55s. In 2017, Labour built huge leads in age groups up to 44 but then lost even more heavily among voters aged 55 and older. Here are Ipsos Mori’s figures from their 2015 and 2017 exit polls:


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UNCUT: Labour’s core demographics are dissolving before our eyes

30/11/2019, 10:36:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

While the election is still, like 2017, messy in terms of the multi-party split and further complicated by Brexit, the issues at stake are at least simple. For a start, no-one is remotely pretending that this election is about overall policy of the two parties.

No, it is about two things: a. Brexit and b. who is felt to be the least unsuitable leader, given the direness of both the main ones There is really nothing else. Hence, the ridiculous, magic-money-tree manifestos of the two main parties, which will be even more roundly ignored than usual.

So, what’s new about this election?

The first thing we might observe is the virtual collapse of Labour’s Leave vote.

Some Labour MPs may well be sincere believers that Brexit will be good for the country, or that they are morally obliged to implement it because of a (supposedly “non-binding”) referendum. There are surely other MPs who campaign for it, simply because they fear they will lose their jobs.

But, in Leave areas, they will mostly lose them anyway.

Exhibit A: the analysis by former staffer Kevin Cunningham on Labour seats, which showed that the biggest drop in the country has been in Bassetlaw (John Mann, now resigned) and Don Valley (Caroline Flint, standing again, but under terrible pressure).

Whatever their motivations, Labour cannot compete with the Tories for the pro-Brexit vote – why would any Leaver vote for a party transparently trying to ride both horses at once, when they can have an unequivocally Brexit party in the Tories? Hence, the bailing from Parliament of Mann, De Piero and Hoey, the going independent of Field and the grave danger to Flint and others still standing for Labour.

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UNCUT: Labour’s manifesto needs to support a referendum on Irish unity

15/11/2019, 07:45:07 AM

by Kevin Meagher

As the midwife to the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998, Labour is, quite rightly, immensely proud of book-ending 30 years of the troubles with a political deal, that while not perfect, has delivered the prospect of peace, reconciliation and progress in Northern Ireland.

Ever since its signing, Labour conference speeches have been replete with references to it. As soon as Tony Blair mentioned her in his leader’s speech at the 1998 conference, the hall rose to applaud Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary who did so much to bring about the agreement.

As recently as the 2017 manifesto, there was a customary reference:

‘The Good Friday Agreement, which Labour helped to negotiate, is one of the greatest achievements of Labour in office…and we remain committed to working with all sides to deliver real peace and greater prosperity to Northern Ireland.’

As party grandees gather this weekend to thrash out the contents of Labour’s next manifesto during its Clause Five meeting, they need to include some specific provisions in relation to Northern Ireland, recognising the tectonic plates are shifting and Labour can’t rely on past glories.

Let’s start with the obvious. As well as a deal securing a devolved power-sharing assembly and all-Ireland institutions, the Good Friday Agreement is also something else. It is – and was always meant to be – a blueprint for bringing about Irish unity through exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

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UNCUT: What became of Gordon Brown’s likely lads?

12/11/2019, 08:31:11 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Gordon Brown, then chancellor, was travelling on an RAF flight when he found out that Ed Miliband had been selected as Labour’s candidate in Doncaster, according to Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre’s biography of Jeremy Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader.

“Brown was seen in a rare moment of real joy, punching the air as if his local football team had just won the FA Cup, and punching it so hard that his hand hit the luggage compartment above his head with a crunch.”

Brown was also pleased when Ian Austin and John Woodcock, like Miliband ex Brown aides, were selected as Labour candidates. Now, after the Tories have reversed the public spending that Brown increased, deepened the poverty that Brown tackled, and sought a Brexit that Brown resisted, Austin and Woodcock advise voting Tory.

After all that the Tories have done, to return them to Downing Street would not just rub salt in the wounds, it would invite their deepening.

Nothing about Boris Johnson’s campaign launch made sense. We were meant to believe that it was in a crowded hall in Birmingham; it was in a half-full one in Solihull. He insists he wants to get Brexit “done”; he will have it drag on, pulling the UK apart, country-by-country, business-by-business, family-by-family. He wants to unleash the UK’s potential; that will be forestalled by the monstrous distraction that he wants to get “done”.

Of course, it is not reverence for Johnson that drives Austin and Woodcock but deep suspicion of Corbyn. Phil Collins, writing speeches for Tony Blair when Brown was punching luggage compartments, last week categorised Labour MPs in The Times based upon their feelings towards Corbyn.

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UNCUT: Ed Miliband, Lucy Powell…we see you

10/11/2019, 10:46:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

Tom Watson’s resignation last Thursday as Deputy Leader is not a great blow to the hopes of Labour moderates in the sense that they have lost a great figurehead. The loss at this stage is, sadly, merely symbolic.

In the end, Watson’s Achilles heel – the perennially poor judgement displayed in his former close friendship with Len McCluskey, and his part in such disasters as the Falkirk debacle and the Blair letter – meant a truly wasted opportunity, of galvanising moderates during four years of Corbynite destruction. No, no Denis Healey he.

The moderates’ overall failure to shake off their worst leader ever, or even to stand up to his cabal, is a tragedy tinged with farce which will surely one day be the subject of much debate by historians.

Some, like Watson, have bailed, and who can blame them? Many noble exceptions are protesting every move by the leadership and rightly challenging the party’s continuing slide into a racist swamp, as exemplified by the disgraceful selection of a number of openly anti-Semitic candidates in the coming election.

But if there is something more frustrating than that failure, it is to see MPs we once thought of as decent, mobilising to support a floundering party regime and elect a racist.

It is to be seen in the uncomfortable grin of Caroline Flint, feeling compelled to gush about sharing a stage with Party Chair Ian Lavery, the man who paid for his house with the invalidity payouts of sick miners.

And then there are those who once espoused a quite different political direction. Backbenchers who have no reason to toe the party line, yet who now not only acquiesce to, but fully embrace, the ugly reality of the current party and hope that no-one will remember when this is all over. They will.

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