UNCUT: This is Khan’s triumph – but Labour must be more than the London party

06/05/2016, 06:01:30 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby were Labour’s first MPs. The Jarrow March arrived in London 36 years later. Another 45 years on and the first People’s March for Jobs arrived in the capital from Liverpool.

Historically, London has been the epicentre of the forces that frustrate Labour. Now, however, London is Labour’s citadel.

Third place in Scotland. Losing to Plaid in Rhondda. Far short of the gains of 400 council seats that the likes of Chris Leslie put down as a benchmark. But Labour is set to return to City Hall in London.

This is Sadiq Khan’s triumph. Elections are x-rays. Zac Goldsmith’s revealed that his heart wasn’t really in it and he was prepared to acquiesce with demeaning nastiness. He might be as posh as Boris Johnson but he lacks his restless hunger to seize power by imposing his personality on events.

Khan does not. His x-ray found all political functionalities in full working order. He wasn’t expected to beat Tessa Jowell to the Labour nomination. He has seen Jeremy Corbyn as sufficiently unhelpful that he distanced himself from the leader during the campaign. None of this stopped Khan, a whirl of dynamic energy.

You might have heard that he is a Muslim. If you’ve really been paying attention, you’ll know that his dad was a bus driver. The back story is now ubiquitous. We should not, though, become glib about its significance.

Khan’s win – and it does feel to me a gain in which the seal of the candidate is particularly sharply embossed – is a victory for London’s openness, tolerance and decency. Bravo.

But Labour must be more than this. We need a 650 seat strategy. To deliver openness, tolerance and decency across the UK.

Brexit would knock all this spectacularly backwards. The EU referendum provides an opportunity for Labour to unite and campaign with the verve that Khan has personified.

I’m confident that London will vote Remain. But Labour must make ourselves heard beyond London. Our membership and campaigning capacity is skewed toward the capital, and while these have helped secure Khan’s success, Labour must be more than the London party.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut    

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Moderates must wait to challenge Corbyn

06/05/2016, 12:55:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Friday 6th May  2016 could be the date that Labour’s slow awakening began.

For moderates, the electoral consequences of Jeremy Corbyn have  always been obvious. This dreadful set of election results is confirmation of the expected.

But it doesn’t matter how angry moderates are at the loss of English council seats, the reverses in Wales or the devastation in Scotland. Corbyn, or a hard left alternative, can only be beaten in a vote of the membership and supporters.

What matters most is how Labour’s internal swing vote, the soft left, react to the results.

At last year’s leadership election, their position could be characterised as apathy at a return to Brownite grind with Yvette; outright opposition to the late-Blair confrontation proffered by Liz and scepticism at Andy Burnham’s all too effective impression of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

In the absence of an alternative, Labour’s largest grouping voted for the only choice not to have failed them in the past twenty years – Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left dreaming.

It’s quite a shift to go from there to defenestrating Corbyn, eight months later.

Until now the soft left stance has largely been to give Jeremy Corbyn the benefit of the doubt.

“Sour grapes” is a phrase I’ve heard frequently used to describe the moderate response to the leader. The narrative about “Bitterites” and internal division undermining Labour’s message has gained some traction.

But given the paucity of Labour’s performance, to blame everything on the enemy within, a phantom army of Blairites, simply isn’t credible.

The Conservative party has been in a state of open civil war over the EU referendum but they still performed amazingly strongly for a government that is in it’s sixth year.

Up and down the country, local Labour parties have seen months of doorstep effort count for nothing when the votes have been tallied.

If the best that Jeremy Corbyn can say about these results is that “Labour hung on,” questions will start to be asked by those who have been supportive if not convinced.

For the first time under in Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader, moderates have permission to speak within Labour’s grassroots debate.

To paraphrase Churchill, in the moderates’ battle for the party, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: The lessons from Hillsborough for politics today

04/05/2016, 11:19:43 PM

by Samuel Dale

My dad stood in the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough to watch Manchester United play Leeds United in the 1977 FA Cup semi-final.

As soon as he heard about the deadly crush during the Liverpool v Forest game in 1989, he knew what had happened.

He remembered the push coming from the back of the stand as fans rushed forward. He struggled to breath and was lifted off his feet for minutes at a time. And that was when the police supposedly had control of the crowds. It was not uncommon at matches during that are but Leppings Lane was particularly bad.

And his first thought was that most natural of human emotions: it could have been me.

It could have been 96 Man United fans. My dad, my uncle and all their mates. It could have been anyone who went to a football match before 1989.

The standing areas at football matches in the 1970s and 1980s were a national disgrace. Tens of thousands of young men penned in by high fences and crushed so they couldn’t breathe.

Hillsborough was not the first football tragedy. There was the Valley Parade fire in 1985 that killed 56. The Ibrox disaster that killed 25 when a stand collapsed in 1971.

Police, politicians and club owners did not consider match-going supporters as individuals but as a mass of dehumanized, working-class drunken louts with no rights.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Ed Miliband knew Livingstone was an anti-Semitic conspiracy nutter FOUR YEARS ago but STILL backed him for London Mayor

01/05/2016, 09:21:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Revelations on Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic views might have led the news in recent days, but Ed Miliband was fully aware of them in 2012.

Despite this, he still gave Livingstone his full backing at the last London Mayoral election.

The evidence that Labour’s leadership understood the detail of Livingstone’s opinions came yesterday in two devastating tweets from Miliband’s top spinner and consigliere, Tom Baldwin.

The purpose behind Tom Baldwin’s tweets was to highlight the anti-racist bona fides of his old boss but inadvertently he made the classic PR’s mistake: to confuse presentation and substance.

Before the 2012 Mayoral election, when Ed Miliband was on the stump for Livingstone, he knew exactly what Livingstone thought about Hitler, Zionism and the Jewish people.

He knew enough to force Livingstone to excise the relevant passages from his memoirs but did not feel sufficiently strongly to take action against the candidate for the substance of his anti-Semitic views.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Of course we need to support those 3,000 Syrian children looking for a home. We helped put them there

27/04/2016, 06:05:27 PM

by Rob Marchant

There are some times when Labour and the Tories divide on party lines, not because merely they are whipped differently – or that they have dark and evil hearts, see Uncuts passim – but simply because they have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

What might seem a no-brainer to ordinary folk – the desperate plight of children alone in the world and bearing no responsibility whatsoever for their fate – becomes a point of immovable principle to a pig-headed Tory party caught in a moment of blind, anti-immigration frenzy. And it is sadly difficult to think this is unconnected to the current turbulence within the party over its perennial, navel-gazing obsession, the EU. Along with Labour MPs, a few noble souls defied the Tory whip, but mostly the vote was a shabby affair on the part of the governing party; the parliamentary equivalent of a mumbled excuse.

No, if you need an example of why this country needs a Labour government, it was given to you on Monday night without too much fuss.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, having suffered a rather difficult few months, largely paralysed over how to respond to its politically disastrous new leadership, finally showed what it was made of and supported Lord Alf Dubs’* amendment. An amendment requiring the government to accept the 3,000 homeless, stateless and unaccompanied Syrian children into the country.

Bravo, PLP. Bravo. It was a good thing you did on Monday night, even if it ended in honourable defeat. We should, however, just remember one, painfully ironic thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: “The match shouldn’t go ahead” Former MP Joe Ashton recalls the horror of Hillsborough

26/04/2016, 10:00:35 PM

Former Labour MP for Bassetlaw Joe Ashton was at the Hillsborough Disaster and saw the tragedy unfold. He later became a director of Sheffield Wednesday and lives a few miles from the ground. Here, in an interview with his daughter Lucy Ashton, he recounts the horror of the day.

After a historic inquest lasting two years, jurors today returned a number of verdicts on the Hillsborough Disaster. The most damning was that the 96 fans had been unlawfully killed.

The human crush killed 96 people and injured 766 others at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

Bassetlaw Labour MP Joe Ashton, who had campaigned in Parliament for improvements to football stadiums, was a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter. He had been invited to the match by the Football Association and was sitting with England manager Bobby Robson.

He remembers: “Around 15 minutes before kick-off, we started to see the crowd. I said to Bobby ‘there’s going to be trouble’ because part of the stand was empty but the other part was full and you could see the crowd getting pushed.”

“We went downstairs into the changing room where all the players were ready to go and we started telling people that the match shouldn’t go ahead.”

“The referee didn’t know what to do as people were telling him different things so finally he sent the players out.”

The match started but Joe says it quickly became obvious something catastrophic was unfolding in the stand.

“People were getting terribly crushed,” he said. “You could see people jumping on the pitch to save themselves, quite rightly. I told Bobby Robson ‘this is trouble mate’ and the ref stopped the match.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Both left and right seek a moral purity that is illusive and destructive

25/04/2016, 10:17:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Football, and the Premier League’s integrity, needs Leicester to win the title,” writes Louise Taylor in the Guardian. If, therefore, you want anyone other than Leicester to win the league, you want a football sans integrity. Spurs fans must be morally debased to want their club to win the league.

Similarly, in a wonderfully detailed critique of Bernie Sanders, Robin Alperstein notes that his rhetoric seeks to convince that, “anyone who supports her (Hillary Clinton) is part of the problem. And then it becomes an act of immorality to vote for her, and a symbol of one’s own moral purity, indeed a rejection of corruption itself, to vote for Sanders”.

As Spurs fans, according to Taylor, cannot in good conscience want their club to win the league, it takes a special depravity, Sanders implies, to vote Clinton. This is tiresome and corrosive.

It has been argued that the indiscretions of Jamie Vardy make Leicester City less virtuous than other Premier League Clubs. I wouldn’t go that far. All clubs, like all collections of human beings, contain good and bad eggs. And the good eggs aren’t always good. Nor are the bad eggs always bad.

The Taylor contention, of course, is the opposite: that Leicester are more virtuous. Given the association between Vardy and racism, it is tempting to see this as the Guardian looking past this scourge. You’d think a left-wing paper would be vigilant to racism. But the paper’s readers’ editor acknowledged in 2011 that they needed to be “more vigilant” to language that might be construed as anti-Semitic.

The lines between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitism feel ever more sharply contested. The Palestinian plight is undeniable. Sympathy for them, however, can lead to attacks on Israel that go beyond the legitimate and into the anti-Semitic. As support for Sanders can be built on an unjustified equivalence between Clinton and immorality. Or desire for Leicester to win the Premier League can rest atop dubious claims about their unsurpassed integrity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Stronger In or Vote Leave: The view from an expat

20/04/2016, 10:39:35 PM

In the sixth in a series looking at the views of people from outside of the political bubble, on the EU referendum, Lucy Ashton gets an expat’s perspective

Retiring to a place in the sun is a dream for many people and former West Yorkshireman Brian Cartledge has never looked back since moving to rural France a decade ago.

Brian, who worked for the Probation Service for 30 years, says he was burnt-out and needed to find some “peace, far from the madding crowd” with his wife Brenda.

“France, particularly rural France, offered a tranquility that was becoming much harder to find in Britain,” explains Brian, 69. “South West France offered health benefits both physical and psychological.”

Having experienced the European Union as both a Brit and an ex-pat, he firmly believes Britain should remain a part of it.

“I did vote back in the 1970s and I was one of the 67 per cent that voted to stay in the Common Market as it then was.

“I actually went along to hear Ted Heath speak on the matter, and remember Len Murray and the TUC trying to persuade us to get out.”

Brian will be eligible to vote in June’s referendum and says he will give a “resounding yes” to remaining in the EU, which he compares to a big family.

“Personally, life will become scarily difficult for Brenda and I, particularly from a financial perspective. For Britain, marginalisation will undoubtedly follow.

“We need to compete, be in the game. If you ain’t at the table, you don’t get your share and you can’t argue for more. We need to stay at the table and perhaps realise that ‘family’ is important, even though we don’t always get on. No man is an island.”

If Britain did leave the EU, Brian and Brenda would remain in France. “Nothing would persuade a return to live in the UK. If Brexit comes, we will throw ourselves on the mercy of the French, and hope for a reciprocal agreement to cover the ex-pats here, and the 600, 000 French said to be living in the UK.

“We are UK work and State pension dependant, so there are big concerns for us there. With 10 years here now, we may need to look at future citizenship. Who knows? Bloody Brexit,” he laughs.

For this couple, however their fellow Brits vote, they won’t be tempted back.

“We made the decision to sell-up quite easily, based on factors such as seriously high longevity in the area we have settled in, extremely low population density, and a pro-social ‘can-do’ attitude that abounds in most rural areas here.

“The weather was a big plus and we can both swear the French health service is the best we will ever wish to find.”

Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former Political Editor

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: John McDonnell and George Osborne: Two faces of Gordon Brown

19/04/2016, 10:56:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

John McDonnell is bringing to mind the Gordon Brown of the 1992 parliament, while George Osborne is coming to appear the Brown of the 2005 parliament. Where Brown had neo-endogenous growth theory, McDonnell has an entrepreneurial state; both have public investment at their core. Where the later Brown had 10p tax, Osborne has tax credits; too clever by half missteps by Stalins transfiguring into Mr Beans.

“Business investment is falling,” McDonnell noted in a speech last month. “Exports are falling. The productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation. Without productivity growth, we cannot hope, over the long term, to improve living standards for most people.”

It is a powerful critique, grounded not in the overthrow of capitalism but in making it work more efficiently. Notwithstanding their divergent accents, you can close your eyes and imagine Brown, as shadow chancellor, castigating the Major government. Or more recently, Ed Balls attacking the Cameron administration.

The fiscal rule that McDonnell espoused in his speech might be interpreted as a crisper version of that which Balls took Labour into the last election with. The practical consequences of the McDonnell and Balls fiscal rules may be little different but McDonnell more explicitly backs capital spending.

“We believe,” McDonnell declared, “that governments should not need to borrow to fund their day-to-day spending.” This hawkish position on current spending contrasts with a more dovish approach to capital spending. “Alongside this, we recognise the need for investment which raises the growth rate of our economy by increasing productivity as well as stimulating demand in the short term.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon