Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Britain’s Brexit vote has redrawn the rules of British politics

24/06/2016, 04:22:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Everything is different.

It’s not just the enormity of Britain deciding to leave the EU that is momentous or the inevitable installation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson but the nature of the campaign which led to this decision that leaves the political landscape utterly transformed.

British politics used to obey a simple rule. It used to be the economy stupid.

No more.

This vote was a straight contest of priorities for the public between immigration and the economy.

The public made a clear decision.

Underpinning that choice might be some nuance.

The manner in which claims of dire economic consequence from Brexit were disregarded highlights just how bad many Britons regard their current lot.

For this group, the transmission belt that connects the macro-economic with the kitchen table is evidently broken.

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Gove, Boris and Vote Leave have aped Farage’s extremism. No-one can be surprised at the consequences

19/06/2016, 10:53:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There is a transmission belt in political debate that transfers poison from the extremist fringes to the heart of the mainstream.

It operates when emotions are running high but, most of all, relies on mainstream politicians taking on the messages and rhetoric of the fringe.

This is what has happened in the EU referendum campaign as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Vote Leave have followed Nigel Farage’s lead in whipping up a frenzy about EU immigration and Britain.

Two stages have characterised the descent into madness in this campaign: the validation of Ukip’s lies followed by a normalisation of these ideas within the debate.

Vote Leave’s fixation with Turkey has been the catalyst.

There’s no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. Every member state has a veto and France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria would all exercise it if Turkish accession ever became likely.

Even the proposed deal to give Turkish citizens visa-free access to the Schengen area amounts to visa-free tourism for countries in the Schengen area – which does not include Britain- and conveys no rights to residency or employment.

Ukip have been scaremongering about Turkey for years but only when Michael Gove and Boris Johnson started repeating Ukip’s attack lines did the poison start to flow.

They are after all, senior members of the ruling party and in Gove’s case one of the most prominent members of the government. Their validation of Farage and repudiation of the reality of government policy on Turkey, suddenly legitimised Ukip’s fantasies about Turkish immigration.

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The last 24 hours of Labour politics demonstrate why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going anywhere

15/06/2016, 10:31:37 PM

by Atul Hatwal

If one thing in modern politics can be guaranteed, it is that Labour will find a way to form a circular firing squad, whatever the situation.

That’s the only way to describe the last minute intervention of Labour’s old right with Ed Balls, Tom Watson, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper, running a freelance campaignlet, within the overall Remain campaign, raising the prospect of ending EU free movement while remaining in the EU.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the policy, to intervene like this at such a late stage betrays an utterly incredible level of political incompetence.

Four points are salient.

First, it was never going to cut through.

In the words of Lynton Crosby you can’t fatten a pig on market day.

To introduce an entirely new policy, at odds with Remain’s focus on the economy is campaign idiocy that confuses the message at a critical juncture.

Second, the story was always going to be concussively knocked down.

It may not have dawned on this group, but in the modern world of communications there is a thing called the telephone.

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SNP 2014. Labour 2015. Vote Leave 2016

06/06/2016, 10:58:28 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Vote Leave are living the dream. Ed Miliband’s dream of the final weeks of the general election campaign that Labour was en route to power. The same dream which Alex Salmond had in early September 2014 as the independence referendum approached.

Dreams abruptly interrupted, for Miliband and Salmond, on election night as the exit polls were released.

About four years ago, within progressive circles, there was much chatter about a campaign concept which came to be deployed at the heart of both the SNP’s independence effort and Labour’s general election campaign: reframing.

Based in cognitive behavioural therapy, it offered a route to recast the way key issues, such as the economy, were perceived by the public.

Rather than face tough choices about public spending, Labour thought it could reframe the economic debate around fairness instead of debt, focusing discussion on the impact of cuts rather than the net fiscal position.

In the general election campaign, Labour led with this approach, highlighting the iniquities of Tory non-dom tax breaks and cuts agenda while being bombarded by Tory attacks on Labour profligacy.

At the independence referendum, the SNP tried to avoid fighting on the main macro- economic battlefield to refocus on the threat of Tory cuts to Scotland’s economy and way of life, most notably to the NHS, if Scotland remained part of the UK.

Last week, Vote Leave took a leaf out of the Labour and SNP playbook and attempted their own version of reframing.

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Team Brexit’s political misjudgements have turned a campaign drama into an existential crisis for their cause

26/05/2016, 07:00:53 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. For his second post, he reviews the performance of the Brexiteers.

Few would describe the Labour party as a model of electoral success in recent years.

But the two-headed Brexit team of Leave.EU and Vote Leave have contrived to ape Labour’s biggest mistakes over the past six years, combining the worst of Corbyn and Miliband to create a Frankenstein campaign that frequently defies belief.

The Faragists of Leave.EU are the Corbynistas of this campaign.

For Farage its immigration, for Corbyn its austerity, either way their mode of monomania is the same.

Britain’s electoral experience and current polling suggests that the economy matters most to voters.

But the Faragists don’t care about evidence.

Their faith-based approach to argument ignores the niceties of engaging with swing voters’ priorities in favour of shouting the same thing about their pet issue, EU migrants, over and over again, more and more loudly.

The stock response to set-backs or public rejection is to retreat into a nether-sphere of conspiracy theories about media bias, skewed polls and conniving, establishment lizard overlords.

The louder the Faragist tendency shouts, the more the anti-EU cause is seen by mainstream voters as a fringe concern propagated by advocates nearer David Icke than David Cameron on the credibility spectrum.

About the only thing that can be said in defence of the Faragists and Corbynistas, is that their position is at least constant.

In contrast, the Vote Leave campaign, who were meant to be the Brexit adults in the room, seem to have taken Ed Miliband as their model.

Like Miliband, they understood that banging on endlessly about what animates activists is not a route to victory.

They saw the importance of swing voters.

But like Miliband, they haven’t been able to bring themselves to act on voters’ concerns.

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It’s unfashionable to say this but the Remain campaign is doing a bloody good job

22/05/2016, 09:50:05 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. First up, the Remain campaign.

At the start of the year, the Remain campaign had one job: to make Brexit more scary than Bremain.

It’s a job that they’ve done bloody well.

The brief for this campaign never included a requirement to persuade people of the imminent arrival of a new, fully reformed EU utopia.

Neither did it involve turning around years of frustration about the bureaucratic exigencies of the EU.

Who even thought that would be possible in a campaign of a few months?

But to read the drumbeat of criticism of the In campaign from pro-Europeans (Hugo Dixon, Natalie Nougayrède, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Charlie Cooper to name but a few) is to be trapped in the impossibilist dream of enthusiasts who do not understand their fellow Briton.

These are the people who measure success by the volume of cheers in the hall not the weight of votes outside.

For this category of commentator and politician, Scotland is independent, Ed Miliband is prime minister and this is what a good football manager looks like.

They frequently use that word which presaged defeat for the Scottish pro-independence camp and Labour last year: passion.

Talk is of turnout and their silver bullet, the enthusiasm gap.

Paradoxically it is the utter commitment of the enthusiasts which is their critical flaw.

It robs advocates of empathy, the keystone of any campaign.

Hobby-horse arguments, shrilly pitched dissolve into the irrelevant drone of a Euro-anorak.

In contrast, the Remain campaign has understood the two essential truths of this and any election.

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Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace but not for the reason many in Labour think

08/05/2016, 11:59:38 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Zac Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace. But not for the reason many in Labour think and the party is about to learn the wrong lesson as a result.

The consensus is that Goldsmith’s attacks on Khan’s links to extremists and innuendos about his radicalism – a barely coded insinuation about Labour’s candidate being an Islamist – backfired.

Londoners resiled from the evident racism and prejudice

That much is true.

However, there is a distinction between the principle and practice of Goldsmith’s campaign strategy.

Several within Labour are busily convincing themselves that the principle of raising Khan’s connections to unsavoury characters was itself an inflammatory act (just a few examples here, here and here.)

Wrong.

It is legitimate to hold a Mayoral candidate accountable for their connections. As a voter, I would want to know if Zac Goldsmith was linked in any way with fascists and far right agitators.

A Labour campaign that publicised these links would only be doing its job.

The work of all the main parties to expose the racists, reactionaries and fantasists that populate Ukip’s ranks has been a public service.

Voters need to know who is asking for their mandate.

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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

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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.

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The inside story of why Corbyn forgot to mention IDS when responding to THAT Cameron statement

07/04/2016, 10:31:00 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Wondering how things could possibly get worse for Labour? Ponder no more. Here’s a mess involving Damian McBride, Jeremy Corbyn, splits in the leader’s office and quiet preparations for a move from the left to replace Corbyn.

Uncut has learned that Damian McBride is back, secretly working for the Labour leader.

Although he is nominally employed by Emily Thornberry as a political adviser covering the defence brief, a significant part of his work has been for the leader’s office, writing briefings and speaking notes for the Labour leader.

Uncut understands that McBride was asked to prepare Jeremy Corbyn’s response to David Cameron’s EU statement before Easter – a statement that fell the day after Iain Duncan Smith’s explosive appearance on Marr where the former Cabinet minister excoriated the government for deepening division in the country.

By all accounts, Damian McBride prepared a robust and effective rejoinder for Labour’s leader with Iain Duncan Smith’s barbed words at the heart of the brief.

Jeremy Corbyn had the notes with him before he entered the chamber. He’d read them and his office expected him to use them.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Labour’s leader freelanced. He made his response up as he went along and the rest is history.

No mention of Iain Duncan Smith. Cameron off the hook. Ridicule, bafflement and defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The episode is illustrative of the deepening dysfunction within Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle and his own increasingly uncomfortable position.

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