UNCUT: Theresa May is right to be wary of criticising Trump. This isn’t Love Actually

30/01/2017, 06:55:12 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How far should Theresa May have gone in upbraiding the immigration policies of President Trump?

If she had listened to the sustained Twitterburst over the weekend, and then again this afternoon, she would have channelled her inner-Hugh Grant and recited that pompous load of tosh his fictional prime minister ladles over the smarmy US president in Love Actually:

‘I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain’.

Instead, she despatched the home and foreign secretaries to speak to their US counterparts and, gently, one assumes, articulate the government’s displeasure about the effects on British citizens with dual-nationality from the seven (mainly Islamic) countries affected by Trump’s new edict. Within the remit given, they seem to have secured her desired result.

It’s hardly gunboats up the Potomac.

But that’s as far as the Prime Minister should go.

Of course, Theresa May has not handled this adroitly. She could have saved herself a lot of political strife if she had got out in front of this issue from the start.

Downing Street should have robustly made the (obvious) point that longstanding protocol dictates that prime ministers do not comment on the internal affairs of the US, but that, at the official level, the law of unintended consequences vis-à-vis British nationals would be pointed out.

Diplomatic niceties are there for good reason. Do we want Donald Trump responding in kind and coming out for Scottish independence?

Theresa May’s strategic responsibility is to secure an alliance with the new White House that will, in turn, deliver a suitable bilateral trade deal once we leave the EU.

Clearly Trump is a mercurial figure, so why jeopardise a successful initial meeting just so she can ‘virtue signal’ to the Twitterari?

Disagree? Then can anyone point to precedents where British PMs have publicly criticised key domestic policies of US Presidents?

Theresa May’s detractors are genuine, sure, but this is high-stakes international statecraft we’re dealing with, not passing a resolution in the junior common room.

Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron would have done exactly the same thing as Theresa May: Look a bit embarrassed, soak up the anger about being America’s poodle, then issue the most anaemic, mealy-mouthed coded criticism that lands no more than a glancing blow.

Rest assured, the flaws in Trump’s policy will do for it and common sense will prevail by April.

Making sure Britain has the best chance of surviving as a trading nation outside the EU must be the government’s overriding concern.

We need to properly accept that Brexit means we are living in an age of realpolitik. Idealists who want to wag their fingers at Donald Trump are free to do so; but they should not pretend this is anything other than idle posturing.

Britain is leaving the EU and Donald Trump is now US President. These are now immutable facts.

The task is to work with the grain of these twin realities and ameliorate the worst excesses of both.

It might not be pretty, but that’s grown-up politics.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: Everyone wants to be Tony Blair, not Neil Kinnock

29/01/2017, 06:26:38 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Tristram Hunt is off to run a museum rather than fight for the soul of the Labour party. We should not be surprised. He is one of a band of would-be leaders who would rather like to be Prime Minister, but don’t want to put in the work required to get there.

Labour’s shiny leadership hopefuls don’t want to get their shoes wet in the swamp of party reform. They want someone else to deliver them an electable Labour party to lead. So they’ll go and sit on the hillside until that happens.

They will be waiting a long time.

Here’s the hard reality. No Labour MP over the age of 45 is ever going to be Prime Minister.

The party will do less badly than many predict in 2020 (the Labour brand is stronger in its heartlands than the chatterers and scribblers of Westminster presume) but it will still be bad. The earliest Labour recovery is at the election after.

It’s easy for those on the right to daydream that they will rub the Left’s nose in the manure of defeat in 2020, snatch back ‘their’ party and march to victory, but it’s an idle fantasy.

Even if Corbyn makes way for a more centrist leader, no-one is going to be given carte blanche to reform the party the way Tony Blair was. The late Labour MP Tony Banks once said his members were so desperate for victory after the party’s fourth successive general election defeat in 1992 that they were willing to ‘eat shit to see a Labour Government.’

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UNCUT: Any member of the PLP who aspires to lead the Labour party must vote against triggering Article 50

28/01/2017, 11:33:12 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a parliamentary vote that transformed Labour politics. It was July 2015, in calendar terms quite recent, but politically another century. The Labour leadership contest had just begun and the government’s welfare bill was coming up for a vote at second reading.

Only one leadership candidate voted against, the others abstained, saying they would vote against if it couldn’t be amended in committee.

Abstention was what moderates thought was the judicious approach – avoid supporting the bill while depriving the Tories of the ability to paint Labour as free spending, welfare junkies. I’m a moderate, I thought it was the only sane option.

What did we know? We were fighting the last war, the general election. The war to come was to be fought before Labour members and supporters not the public. They wanted passion, clarity and, above all else, full-throated opposition to the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn’s vote against the welfare bill in July 2015 was the catalyst for a surge that deposited him in the leader’s office.

For the 2015 welfare bill, read Brexit. Squared. Any MP who aspires to lead the party one day should pay heed.

Brexit has utterly transformed Labour’s internal politics in terms of what defines the party ideologically and Jeremy Corbyn’s personal standing.

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UNCUT: Metro mayor candidate Steve Rotheram takes Thatcher’s “one of us” phrase for campaign strapline

25/01/2017, 06:57:14 PM

by Liam Murphy

Walton MP Steve Rotheram formally launched his campaign to become Liverpool city region’s metro mayor this week.

On Monday (January 23) he returned to his home town of Kirkby – one of Merseyside’s least well-off areas where his father had been a councillor and which is still a Labour stronghold – to lay out the policies which he hopes will ensure he is elected next May.

With six Labour controlled councils within the Liverpool city region Steve Rotheram is unquestionably the front-runner come the vote on May 4, but that is only his first hurdle. He will then chair a “cabinet” of local council leaders, controlling the combined authority and will need to secure their support for much of what he wants to do.

At the campaign launch Rotheram, who has been Jeremy Corbyn’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, was accompanied by many local (Labour) MPs and introduced his campaign slogan “One Of Us”.

Some might recall this was the title of the Hugo Young biography of Margaret Thatcher. The title phrase was said to epitomise that 70s/80s era. According to Young, Mrs T would ask “Is he one of us” (it was almost always a “he”) and through that query sought to seek assurance that potential recruits were ideologically sound and of the Thatcherite mindset before they could be accepted into the Iron Lady’s inner circle.

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UNCUT: Brokenshire has been a spectator, not a participant during Northern Ireland collapse

25/01/2017, 11:23:00 AM

by Kevin Meagher

James Brokenshire has an unfortunate surname for a man who presides over the collapse of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in office for barely seven months, has not exactly covered himself in glory thus far.

Last week, he was obliged to announce fresh elections to the 90-member Northern Ireland Assembly following the collapse of the cross-community executive, triggered by Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy First Minister.

The row centres on Democratic Unionist First Minister Arlene Foster’s quite ridiculous refusal to step aside and make way for an investigation into the £500m Renewable Heat Incentive fiasco she was responsible for in her previous post as enterprise minister.

The ‘burn to earn’ scheme saw massive payments to encourage companies to switch to wood pellet boilers, entitling them to make vast sums for heating empty properties.

Last week, police in South Armagh raided an empty heated barn assuming it was a drug factory.

Brokenshire finds himself tasked with picking up the pieces.

Yet this crisis is the result of a classic, almost textbook slow-motion political collision.

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UNCUT: I went on the Washington DC Women’s March. It wasn’t pointless

25/01/2017, 07:37:02 AM

by Samuel Dale

I’m not really one for marching or protests but last Saturday I made an exception and joined the Women’s march in Washington DC.

I have always thought street protests were basically pointless and potentially even counter-productive by hardening views on both sides.

I also felt slightly embarrassed about it. As though marching was a slightly vulgar activity as opposed to writing raging polemics or voting.

I attended my first ever proper protest on 9 November in Manhattan after Trump’s election but felt like it was pointless. I left after five minutes.

Protesting a newly elected president seems particularly futile and possibly even makes me a sore loser.
I’m also concerned about the growth of divisive identity politics and think the Women’s March should have been the more inclusive People’s March.

Women’s issues were a key part but really it was a carnival of anti-Trump issues from climate change to trade polices.

And the protest was also full of the usual collection of fruitcakes from extreme socialist parties to extreme identity politics and overly aggressive signs, costumes and chants. There were thousands of people I would rather not be associated with, although that is the nature of a wide coalition.

In some ways it was hundreds of thousands of angry “snowflakes” who were “virtue signalling” our views in the parlance of today’s sneering right.

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UNCUT: May and Trump are in charge – but voters’ wallets still rule

23/01/2017, 07:15:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Trump’s inauguration. May’s speech. We are told that Trump is a protectionist and May is for free trade. But they both reject the social market that characterises the EU, making it a golden shower of a week for internationalist social democrats.

The market comes via trade within the EU, while the social is injected by having this occur above a floor on workers’ and consumers’ rights, as well as protections for the environment and other public goods. “We would be free,” threatened the prime minister, “to change the basis of Britain’s economic model.” The social dimension of the EU model would not endure any transformation into Dubai-on-Thames. Nor, according to a former head official at the Treasury, would the NHS.

It is also the market, not the social, that attracts Trump – perhaps better described as a mercantilist than a protectionist – to a trade deal with the UK. He wants a wall on the Mexican border but he doesn’t want, in contrast to a pure protectionist, to wholly encase America behind trade walls. He does, though, seem to view trade as a zero-sum game, not a win-win exchange. And he eyes a win for America in a negotiation with a UK to be stripped of EU social regulations and looking for friends after politically detaching ourselves from our European partners.

Trump perpetuates the myth that America has ever put itself anywhere other than first. Pumping, in today’s money, around $120bn into Europe via the Marshall Plan, for example, wasn’t just about compassion for a continent on its knees after World War II. It was about minimising the risk of American blood being spilt on European soil, opening up European markets for American goods, and creating a European bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic.

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UNCUT: How to fight hard Brexit: Step 3 – Don’t do a Miliband on migration. Answer the numbers question

23/01/2017, 08:06:55 AM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at what pro-Europeans need to do on immigration

The prologue is almost at an end. Theresa May’s Brexit speech last week marked the close of the preliminary skirmishes. Battle lines are being drawn on triggering Article 50; MPs are mobilising and a slew of cross-party amendments to the government’s A50 motion are expected on retaining significant single market participation.

Immigration will be at the heart of the debate with the balance of public opinion shaping what is and is not politically possible at Westminster.

Unfortunately, at this pivotal moment, on this central issue, pro-Europeans are in disarray. Too many seem to have taken a leaf out of the Labour playbook at the last election and are using Ed Miliband’s approach on immigration as their strategic template.

One of the great failings of the Labour party in the 2010 to 2015 parliament was magical thinking.

Labour policy on immigration exemplified the problem. Ed Miliband repeatedly sympathised with public worries that migration had been too high for many years. Yet rather than committing to policies to cut migration, he focused on tackling labour market exploitation. All very laudable, but not really answering public concerns on the level of migration to the UK.

The result was incontrovertible. At the 2015 general election, 15% of the public backed Labour on migration, 2% lower that at the 2010 election (YouGov issue tracker) despite net migration running at over three times the Tories’ target.

It was a hard lesson that remains widely unlearned.

Stephen Kinnock and Emma Reynolds’ recent proposal for a two tier migration system with sectoral quotas is pure Milibandism. The Brexit Together campaign, fronted by Caroline Flint, which echoes this call, is more of the same.

Set aside for a moment the substance of the policy suggested. Plenty of practical criticisms could be made about the huge levels of state planning required to work out migrant quotas for jobs, by sector, seniority, substitutability and region.

This whole approach is built on an assumption that the British public is more concerned about the process of migration control rather than the resulting numbers arriving in the UK.

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UNCUT: Labour must fight the right-wing agenda for Brexit

20/01/2017, 07:10:07 PM

by Samuel Dale

The UK is on the brink of a right-wing revolution much bigger than anything Margaret Thatcher managed to achieve. And Labour is simply a bystander.

Labour has yet to find its feet on the Brexit debate and it is being regularly and comprehensively outmaneuvered by the Tory right-wing and Ukip.

There is no Donald Trump protectionist right in the UK, only the libertarian tax and regulation slashers. And they are in the driving seat.

It is a relief that Theresa May has stated the obvious truth about Brexit that we are leaving the single market and customs union.

Labour has to concentrate on two big, incredibly concerning policy areas and shift the debate.

Firstly, it was obvious on 24 June 2016 that we were leaving the single market as it is no way to square the circle of leaving the EU, cutting immigration and staying in the single market. May has accepted reality.

In addition, if we are not part of the EU infrastructure than remaining in the single market would be destructive. Rules would be made and we would have to obey them without any say.

It’s gone. Instead of waffling on about single market access, Labour should focus on being a counterpoint to the intense lobbying operation that is building up in London and Brussels.

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UNCUT: The government has given Labour enough rope. Corbyn’s using it

19/01/2017, 11:00:40 PM

by Greig Baker

Too few people understand that the easiest way to get something done in politics is to let someone else take the credit. That’s as true for political parties as it is for individual politicians, and it holds whether you’re trying to deliver your own agenda or hobble your opponents’ plans. It should be slowly dawning on Labour that they are being given plenty of rope to hang themselves by this Conservative government – and Jeremy Corbyn seems to be quite happy to pick up the noose.

I’d cite three examples of this approach in practice.

First, it has been widely recognised that Tristram Hunt’s move to the V&A had to be explicitly approved by the government. In other words, Theresa May knew about a Labour MP’s resignation before Jeremy Corbyn did – and she was quite happy to facilitate it. If you listen carefully to Labour MPs being asked for comment on Mr Hunt’s move, it is clear the Opposition is braced to lose yet more high profile (and capable) MPs to tempting jobs outside Parliament over the coming months.

All the Tories have to do is let the Labour leadership keep hammering moderates’ morale and then give resignation-minded MPs a worthy and salary-plated parachute. Long term, this trend could pose problems for the centre-right: Conservative voices have long bemoaned the fact that public bodies are often led by people who have an active and left leaning political agenda of their own. But in the short term, it just helps roll the pitch for polling day.

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