UNCUT: Muscular centrism is needed after Manchester

24/05/2017, 09:40:42 PM

By Atul Hatwal

Manchester isn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last. As the shock slowly subsides, action is needed, but not of the kind yapped out in the hot takes of some on the left and right.

On the left, there are too many whose efforts to explain, blur into a case to excuse.

Talk of the iniquities of the Prevent strategy, marginalisation of Muslim communities and British foreign policy, is irrelevant.

Just as it is irrelevant to talk about poverty or cultural anxiety when explaining the radicalisation of Thomas Mair, the man who killed Jo Cox last year.

There is no explanatory leap that connects life in Britain today to ideologies such as Islamism or Nazism.

Inflicting terror on innocents is always an unacceptable means to an end, but sometimes it is used in the service of a cause which can be understood, if not agreed with.

The IRA, PLO, ETA and Irgun would all fall into this broad category. The presence of justice in the cause is an essential prerequisite for a route to eventual peace  – it is the underpinning for a rational discourse between opponents.

But Islamism, like Nazism, advocates slaughter of the impure as an intrinsic part of the cause.

There can be no understanding or engagement with this.

No wittering about context is required. We don’t need a sociology debate. This is a matter of winning or losing.

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UNCUT: We’ve been weak in the face of Islamist lunacy for too long

24/05/2017, 10:19:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

‘It was a monster not a Muslim’ read a message left with some flowers in Manchester yesterday. A well-intentioned sentiment, no doubt, but it’s no slander on ordinary Muslims to point out the killer of 22 people and the maiming of scores more, Salman Abedi, was plainly both.

Islam is more than a religion. ‘Islamism’ – the warped and extreme interpretation of it that drives the hate we saw in Manchester – is a hard line, violent, impossibilist, political ideology. In reducing the gaping risk it poses to our society we must be free to critique it as such.

This requires countering the phoney grievances of its adherents and the pernicious false narrative that all non-Islamists are legitimate targets. The statement from Isis claiming responsibility for the attack referred to those killed as ‘Crusaders.’ Such insanity apparently justifies deliberately targeting a pop concert full of children.

It is adjoined to a twin lunacy; that of the global jihadist’s pipedream of a worldwide Caliphate. If the methods of Islamic terror are appalling enough, the cause they kill and maim for is arguably worse: Global enslavement under an ignorant and brutal despotism. That a reasoning human being could buy into such a dystopian vision makes the attack in Manchester and all those that have taken place before it, even harder to comprehend.

I repeat – as we should – that not all Muslims are Islamists, but all Muslims are on the frontline of this clash within a civilisation, fighting for a correct and just interpretation of their faith. They are the only ones who can win this culture war between a virtuous Islam that is capable of accommodating itself to living and thriving in the West and the nihilism of a minority of their co-religionists who demonstrably cannot.

In the short-term, shock and grief are appropriate responses to the massacre in Manchester. We can talk about ‘bringing everyone together’ in a spirit of solidarity in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity, but in the longer term our public policy responses should be obvious enough: A more sustained and emphatic bid to flush out and destroy Islamism, isolating and prosecuting its demented followers.

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UNCUT: Corbyn’s comments on the IRA are being scandalously overplayed – but he needs to get this behind him

22/05/2017, 10:19:40 PM

by Kevin Meagher

What on earth does Jeremy Corbyn think he’s doing? Claiming Sinn Fein showed ‘courage in abundance’ and that Martin McGuinness made an ‘essential and historic contribution’ to peace in Northern Ireland? Does he not understand how that goes down with voters?

Of course Corbyn paid neither compliment. Tony Blair made the first remark and Theresa May the second. The very same people Corbyn is vilified for speaking to when it was unfashionable to do so are exactly the same people lauded by statesman today. C’est la vie.

Corbyn’s interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday, in which she repeatedly asked him to condemn the IRA’s bombing campaign, was glib and tried to create a hierarchy of victims. Were those killed by loyalists less important? Or those killed by British Forces? By singling out the IRA’s killings,Sky News appears to think so.

As the New Statesman’s Jonn Elledge has already pointed out, Corbyn did answered Ridge’s question perfectly reasonably (‘I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA’).

Indeed, it was all the more remiss to raise it as last week saw the 43rd anniversary of bombings inDublin and Monaghan which killed 33 people in the Irish Republic – the troubles’ single biggest loss of life. Loyalists admitted the attacks, but the suspicion remains that British state assets colluded with them.

All of which is to say this is complex stuff. Yet given Ridge has just a quarter of the audience of ITV’sPeston on Sunday show, a degree of media hyperbole on these issues is probably inevitable. (Especially when ‘event moments’ from an otherwise run-of-the-mill interview play well on catch-up media).

Of course, it’s fairly disastrous retail politics for the Labour leader to become embroiled in semantic rows about whether his disavowal of the IRA was fulsome enough midway through a general election campaign.

Yet it’s clear this attack line was always coming. The busy bees in the Conservative Research Department and their friends in the right-wing media were always going to see to that.

However, there’s a sense that the public has already priced-in what it thinks of Corbyn and his associations with radical politics and I’d be surprised if this latest hullabaloo has a significant effect on the polls.

With their big personality attack on Corbyn launched we await to see if it has the desired effect. If not, what else have the Tories got left to throw at Jezza?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: New poll analysis: Watson, Skinner and Flint facing defeat. Cooper, Miliband, Reeves and Rayner on the edge

20/05/2017, 11:11:11 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour is facing a parliamentary wipeout on June 8th. The defeat will be greater than 1983 with the leading figures such as Tom Watson, Dennis Skinner and Caroline Flint facing defeat while many others, including Yvette Cooper, Ed Miliband and Angela Rayner, are teetering on the brink.

Currently Labour is set to lose just over 90 seats but a relatively small deterioration of the party’s position on the ground could see dozens more fall.

These are the findings of new analysis by Uncut based on the views of dozens of Labour candidates, party officials and activists following the past three weeks of intensive canvassing.

In this time, thousands of Labour members and supporters have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in constituencies across the country. While social media is a place where hackneyed tropes about a “great reception on the #Labourdoorstep,” are trotted out, in reality Labour’s army of canvassers has been gathering huge amounts of intelligence and feeding it back through the party’s operation.

Uncut has focused on two questions in conversations with Labour campaigners to understand the situation on the ground:

  1. What is the scale of switching from Ukip to the Tories? This issue has been highlighted widely in the media and is evident in the Tories rising poll rating and Ukip’s symmetrical slump.
  2. What is the drop-off in 2015 Labour vote? Every area is reporting the Corbyn effect on the door with Labour voters refusing to back the party, but this hasn’t been clearly captured in the public polling.

For both questions, the estimated shift has been quantified at a regional level based on feedback from campaigners and applied to the 2015 vote share for each constituency in that region. In line with feedback from across the country, the Lib Dems and Greens are assumed to be on track to repeat their 2015 performance.

The results are not pretty.

While the national polls suggest Labour’s vote is holding up, potentially even advancing on 2015, in the constituencies that matter, something very different seems to be happening.

A net loss of 91 seats would be devastating.

The two factor model on which these findings are based for England and Wales is rudimentary and mechanical (agricultural even). But then, so is what is happening to the Labour party.

The combination of Ukip voters turning to the Tories with Jeremy Corbyn’s impact on 2015 Labour voters has created a perfect storm.

Scotland is an anomaly. North of the border an entirely different election is being conducted. One where the defining issue is the union and if Labour can position itself as a vehicle for unionists, there are grounds for optimism that some small but significant gains can be achieved.

The situation is very bleak (the detailed seat by seat breakdown is below) but there is still action that Labour can take to limit the damage.

One of the salutary lessons of the 2015 election was the futile manner in which Labour diverted significant resources to seats where there was barely a glimmer of hope of victory. If the effort and organisation that went into the quixotic hope of defeating Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam had been directed a few miles away towards protecting Ed Balls in Morley and Outwood, he might still be an MP.

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UNCUT: Labour’s internal democracy is rotten

19/05/2017, 02:28:56 PM

by Kevin Meagher 

You need to cast your mind back quite a bit to remember Liz Davies and the injustice she received at the hands of the Labour party.

She was, all too briefly, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Leeds North East ahead of the 1997 general election. A councillor in Islington, Davies had been properly selected by members for the marginal seat that, in due course, was to fall to Labour.

However, she was accused of disrupting meetings of Islington Council by three other Labour councillors. Their highly-disputed version of events was swallowed wholesale by the National Executive Committee and her candidacy was cancelled.

Handily, she was also barrister and later sued her accusers, who included James Purnell, an adviser to Tony Blair at the time and later and MP himself and Cabinet Minister.

The matter was settled out of court, with the three accused forced to make a donation to the election funds of local Labour MPs (benefitting Jeremy Corbyn).

Why this trip down memory lane?

I was reminded of this injustice after last week’s imposition of Dan Carden, an aide to Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey, as the Labour candidate for Liverpool Walton – the safest Labour seat in the country – vacated by Steve Rotheram, the newly-elected metro mayor for the Liverpool City Region.

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UNCUT: Corbyn was right to give the ITV leaders debate a miss

18/05/2017, 10:41:42 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Half an hour into ITV’s leaders’ debate and we were bogged down on Europe.

Will it ever end? The efficient but entirely bland Julie Etchingham was treating us to a rerun of the Brexit campaign, minus Conservative and Labour voices.

Theresa and Jeremy had better things to do, but the rest of the band had come back for the reunion. There they all were – Leanne Wood from Plaid, Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP, Caroline Lucas from the Greens and UKIP’s Paul Nuttall.

He was by far the best briefed when it came to locking swords over Brexit and bossed the exchanges. It probably helped he was the only one speaking for majority opinion in the country.

Tim Farron didn’t have a good night. Staring down the barrel of the camera at every opportunity, his small dark eyes were like raisins. With his golden complexion and sandy hair he looked like a pain au chocolat.

‘I have a long term economic plan,’ he intoned. ‘Stay in the single market’. A clap line with no clapping.  Had he not read the memo? Swivel-eyed ‘48 percentism’ is killing his party on the doorstep.

There was a brief rally with Caroline Lucas as she tried to skewer him about the Lib Dems’ support for Andrew Lansley’s NHS reform act. I say ‘skewer’ advisedly. It had all the penetrative efficacy of a piece of wet kitchen roll.

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UNCUT: Two rays of hope for Labour in the electoral post-apocalypse

18/05/2017, 03:29:26 PM

by Rob Marchant

Even for these unusual times, we might note that this is a highly unusual election.

First, it is a snap election, the first in over four decades. Labour is even more woefully unprepared than it would have been in 2020.

Second, it has local elections in the middle of the short campaign, for which there is no recent precedent (in 2001, when the general election was in June, the locals were too). It gives a highly unusual pre-poll to the general election.

Third, it has had the critical-for-Europe-and-the-world, French election in the middle of the short campaign as well. We’ll come on to that.

A recap of the glaringly obvious: It is difficult to see those local election results as anything but disastrous. Vote-share down to an appalling 27%. Governing party up rather than down in mid-term. In Scotland, SNP seats swinging away from them going to the Tories, not Labour.

The general election prognosis, then: the Tory lead likely to be between 12% and whatever that lead is currently polling (currently around 18%), as I have argued here. Around 16% gap would be a conservative estimate, which would give a Tory majority of 100. But taking YouGov’s regional polls – which one would expect to be more accurate – and extrapolating using the Electoral Calculus predictor, you can see the possibility of it being well over 200 seats.

If all this were not enough, Corbyn this week selected Stalin apologist, Andrew Murray, from the Stop the War Coalition, to lead Labour’s campaign. Imagine the reaction if the Tories appointed joined up a Nazi apologist from the BNP and then appointed them campaign chief. As one Labour insider commented to HuffPo’s Paul Waugh, Murray is to Corbyn as Steve Bannon is to Trump. An unapologetic extremist.

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UNCUT: A coherent centrist response to Brexit means resisting economic nationalism – in all its forms

17/05/2017, 10:14:43 PM

by Mark Stockwell

One of the many, many issues faced by Labour’s moderate wing at the moment is that they are – perfectly understandably – so preoccupied with the short-term problem of saving their seats in June, and the medium-term one of how to oust Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk afterwards, that the longer-term challenge of putting together a viable centre-left platform is going largely unaddressed.

Those who favour trying to resuscitate a seemingly moribund party have directed longing glances across the Atlantic to Justin Trudeau’s Canada. Those who are coming to the painful conclusion that a breakaway may be necessary – with a view to triggering a full-on realignment – are casting admiring looks across the Channel to the newly-inaugurated French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his fledgling ‘la République en Marche’ movement.

But more immediate concerns have left little time or energy for thinking through what political centrists will need to do to provide an effective opposition – and, all in good time, an alternative government – to an emboldened Theresa May with a large majority at her back.

The Prime Minister is essentially campaigning for a free hand to negotiate Brexit, in the hope that increased parliamentary numbers will strengthen her negotiating hand, not just with the EU but also with potential internal critics.

She has also repeatedly made it clear, however, that she is looking to take both her party and the country in a different direction. Brexit is only a part of this story: a necessary but not sufficient condition for what amounts to a rethink of the Conservatives’ view of the role of the state in the economy. The May team’s conversion to the cause of a cap on domestic fuel bills is a recent, high-profile example of this, and recent pronouncements on ‘workers’ rights’ are also part-and-parcel of this repositioning, but the change in approach goes much deeper. It amounts to a rejection of the laissez-faire approach that has characterised Conservative industrial policy for 30 years and more (with the exception of Lord Heseltine, now paradoxically estranged from the higher echelons of the party).

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UNCUT: Three quick points about the Labour manifesto

17/05/2017, 01:51:57 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You campaign in poetry…

Today we’re talking about Labour’s radical plans to scrap tuition fees, nationalise industries deemed to have failed the public, spend more on public services and raise the living wage – while making the dastardly rich pay for it all.

We’re not talking about Brexit and we’re not talking about how Labour wants to scrap nuclear weapons. Or, actually, about Jeremy Corbyn.  This is a tactical victory, of sorts.

Is the manifesto wise or workable? Hmmm. Do the individual measures resonate with voters? Yes. Is Labour credible when it explains how they will be funded? No. But the manifesto peps-up Labour activists who now have meaty, simply-understood things to talk about on the doorstep, other than the merits or demerits of their leader.

The sums don’t add up. Who cares?

Labour has a £57 billion ‘black hole’ in its spending plans, splutter the Conservatives, totting-up Labour’s great Monopoly grab of utilities.

Theresa May and Philip Hammond even called a presser so they could stand there and intone about the Cost of Labour. Stood behind their podiums this morning they looked like the lamest Kraftwerk tribute act ever, or a couple of mismatched contestants on Pointless, with Theresa May fluffing a question about whether she still has confidence in Hammond. (‘Well, we’ve known each other a long time…’)

For weary voters, it boils down to one group of politicians they don’t trust claiming the sums of the other group of politicians they don’t trust don’t add up.

At this stage, nothing matters

Election campaigns don’t fundamentally alter voters’ choices. Nothing that happens is either a dramatic success or failure. You cannot rub out months or years’ worth gradually constructed opinions in a few weeks. Labour famously ‘won’ the 1987 election campaign but lost the election. Ed Miliband had a really good campaign back in 2015. His performance was probably the highpoint of his five year leadership. But, by then, the public had weighed and measured him and found him wanting. Alas, Jeremy Corbyn’s numbers tell the same story.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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UNCUT: Labour’s vow to ban fast food ads on Saturday night TV totally misses the point

16/05/2017, 10:17:46 PM

by Lucy Ashton

Labour‘s vow to make our nation’s children the “healthiest in the world” by banning fast food advertising during Saturday night TV is the worst kind of artificial sweetener for voters. 

No one is arguing with the facts – children nowadays are more obese at a younger age, have worst tooth decay and rising mental health problems. 

But does Shadow Health Minister Jonathan Ashworth seriously believe banning a KFC advert during the X Factor will solve such a huge, complex issue? 

Ashworth says: We will end the scourge of child ill health with bold, decisive and targeted action aimed at making our children the healthiest in the world.”  

And how exactly do we quantify this? Are we basing it on BMI index? Fewer hospital admissions? Lowering the number of diabetics? It’s also dangerous to lump physical and mental health together as the two can be completely separate issues with different solutions. 

His theorbehind banning certain adverts is that kids will then stop pestering their parents to buy junk food. The ban would only be during prime time TV so it’s fine to watch sugar-loaded cereal advertised on children’s channels in the day time.  

We’re also taking a quaint 1950’s view that the whole family is watching Britain’s Got Talent together when the reality is families are viewing Netflix, downloaded films and YouTube. 

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