Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

The Tories are about to swiftboat Sadiq on terror. How he responds will determine the Mayoral result

27/01/2016, 10:16:23 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The conventional Westminster wisdom is that this is Labour’s year in London. Labour thrashed the Tories in the capital at last year’s general election by 44% to 35% and in a recent poll, Sadiq led Goldsmith by seven points.

However, the conventional wisdom is about to be tested.

In the next few weeks, the Tories are going to roll out their main attack on Sadiq Khan: terror.

Lynton Crosby is running Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and he is nothing if not politically obvious.

The Mayoralty is not a role where conventional attacks over economic issues will resonate.

The public, and Crosby, know that the Mayor cannot crash the economy so the Tory line on what Corbyn’s Labour would do to jobs, growth and taxes, will not be effective.

Neither is the Mayor going to make a profound difference to the state of London transport – no-one can wave a wand and create the extra tube lines or rail services that the capital desperately needs.

Identity and personality not policy will determine voters’ choice.

The Mayoralty is overwhelmingly a symbolic and representative role. Who sits in City Hall says something about how Londoners’ see themselves.

As the son of a migrant, from a working class family, who rose to run a high profile legal firm, Sadiq Khan’s biography is London’s story told best.

Sadiq has also moved deftly to buttress the independence of his brand by pitching himself against Jeremy Corbyn with a range of centrist, business-friendly positions.

He is doing all that’s required to pass the Mayoral threshold in an increasingly Labour city.

The Tories need a game-changer. Something that irrevocably redefines Sadiq in the eyes of Londoners and casts him as Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate.

Cue the impending attack over terror.

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The Beckett report reminds us of the utter uselessness of Labour’s establishment

20/01/2016, 10:25:50 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Beckett report is a woeful reminder of the paucity of insight that characterised Labour’s pre-Corbyn establishment.

Commissioned by Harriet Harman in her second stint as acting leader, with Margaret Beckett -the only MP to have served in every Labour government since Wilson’s in the 1970s – leading the drafting team, this report is steeped in the mores and perspectives of Labour’s old guard.

The resulting analysis manages to be both asinine and anodyne in equal measure

Meaningless blandishments that would be laughed at if written in a GCSE essay are proffered as pearls of wisdom. For example, on communications, this is Beckett’s recommendation,

“We need a comprehensive media strategy, which includes local, regional and national media, print, broadcasting and social media. “

Yes, really.

On Labour’s vision for the country, the report says,

“We must set out a vision for the country’s future, which shows both what we believe the country needs and what we will contribute to its achievement.”

Who would set out a vision based on what the country didn’t need and how Labour wouldn’t contribute to things getting better? Was the team writing this report ill?

Simultaneously, fundamental reasons for defeat such as Ed Miliband’s leadership are glossed over.

“Over the period 2010 – 15, what the polls did consistently show was that, when asked if ‘this man could be Prime Minister’, David Cameron was rated above Ed Miliband. Since he actually was Prime Minister, this response was perhaps less than surprising.

It is the fate of every Labour Leader of the Opposition to be the target of ferocious attack from partisan sections of our media. Tony Blair was called ‘Bambi’, and described as too young and inexperienced to be up to doing the job.”

This glib statement is tossed in without the salient qualification that Ed Miliband trailed David Cameron on preference for Prime Minister by double digits while Tony Blair led John Major by a similar margin.

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Three reasons for Labour moderates to stay and be confident the fever will eventually break

14/01/2016, 07:44:33 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Optimism has been in short supply for Labour moderates. Ed Miliband, general election disaster and now Jeremy Corbyn. What a time.

But in the gloom of Labour’s long winter, all is not lost.

It will take patience. Years, maybe. But as George RR Martin might not say, summer is coming. Perhaps at the same pace as Martin’s next novel, but nevertheless, come it will.

Here are three reasons to be confident that these hard times will pass.

1. The soft left will switch

A common thread in the interviews and analysis of Labour’s massive influx of new members and supporters is that while the overwhelming majority supported Corbyn, they are not from the hard left.

Over the past three months I’ve spoken to CLP officers from over 30 constituencies on the make-up of the new membership and the response of Jane Middleton, chair of Bath CLP, in the Guardian’s recent survey of 100 CLPs exemplified what I’ve been hearing,

“They are mainly Corbyn supporters, some of them enthusiastic Corbyn supporters, who joined specifically because of him…A number of them had left during the Blair years and the Iraq war. What they are not is members of the far left. These people are in no way like the radicals of the 70s and 80s.”

This is the soft left. The Labour party is currently softer and lefter than it’s ever been.

The soft left view at the leadership election can be characterised as apathy at Yvette’s establishment, Brownite grind; an allergic reaction to Liz’s late-Blair confrontation and scepticism at Andy’s reprise of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

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

The trouble with dreams is that they rarely come true and sometimes turn into nightmares.

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This is now Corbyn’s front bench. Good. He’ll be solely responsible for the failure to come

06/01/2016, 12:43:17 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This is now Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench. Hilary Benn might still be in post but he’s been politically emasculated and the sackings of Michael Dugher and McFadden along with the demotion of Maria Eagle have delivered a clear message: deviate from leadership orthodoxy and you’ll be next against the wall.

We won’t be hearing any more from Hilary Benn on Syria. Little from anyone in the shadow cabinet on Trident. Talented shadow ministers such as Kevan Jones, Jonathan Reynolds and Stephen Doughty have already walked the plank. The Corbyn line has become the Labour line.

Good.

Clarity was needed. Since Labour’s leader was elected, large numbers of moderate Labour party members have been engaged in a collective act of self-delusion: that Labour can present itself as a centrist, electable party with Corbyn at the helm.

The attempts of several members of the shadow cabinet to rein in Corbyn’s exigencies on foreign affairs, defence and the economy are laudable but futile and ultimately counter-productive.

The Syria vote was regarded by moderates within the PLP as some sort of triumph but while parliament ultimately voted the right way to take on the fascists in Isis, it was a political disaster for Labour.

Here was the main opposition party so riven that it had to opt for a free vote on the most important decision a country faces – whether or not to go to war. What does that say to the voters of Britain about Labour’s capacity to lead?

Trident has been another red line for many front-benchers but in the end it’s another pointless fight.

Moderate PLP-ers can talk about Labour’s policy being settled in favour of Trident at conference last year, but what will happen after conference this year, or next?

Within this parliament, party policy will be changed at conference to oppose Trident.

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Bored of the reshuffle? You should be. It’s already occupied more news cycles than any in history

05/01/2016, 03:19:56 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s the never-ending reshuffle. This farrago started yesterday morning and is still going over a day later. Current estimates are that it will run past tomorrow and end as a four day marathon by the time the junior posts are announced.

Journalists have been moaning about the length of time its taken and they’re right.

More than they know.

In the old days, Before Twitter (BT), the news cycle used to last 24 hours. Now its shorter, much shorter. According to this academic study of the 2012 US Presidential election, by Professor Daniel Kreiss, it’s gone down from 24 hours to 2 hours.

This means a single day, After Twitter (AT), is now equivalent to 12 days of BT news cycles.

If the Corbyn reshuffle goes on for four days that will be 48 news days in old money – almost 10 working weeks worth of stories.

No wonder people are moaning.

Obviously the elapsed time will remain 4 days, but the frustration and ennui of journalists (and many of their readers) is a vivid illustration of just how news has changed.

And as for Jeremy Corbyn’s team, allowing a negative Labour story like this to dominate double digits of news cycles, it is wholly unprecedented.

Another first to chalk up for the Labour leader.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Kennite vs Corbynite split in the leader’s office reruns eternal hard left divisions

29/12/2015, 01:29:18 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut hears that simmering differences in the leader’s team have become deep divisions as they grapple with the looming reshuffle.

At the heart of the split is a long-running tension between two factions of the hard left: Socialist Action and the Labour Representation Committee.

In the corner on the left is Socialist Action – a Trotskyist group most closely associated with Ken Livingstone with several of his advisers from his time as Mayor, either members or supporters. As Livingstone himself said,

“Almost all of my advisers had been involved in Socialist Action,”

“It was the only rational left-wing group you could engage with. They used to produce my socialist economic policies. It was not a secret group.”

Socialist Action’s modus operandi is to achieve a socialist nirvana by boiling the capitalist frog slowly. During their tenure at City Hall, the priority was not to promise wholesale revolutionary change but take incremental steps towards socialism where possible.

In practice this led to bizarre and seemingly random policies such as pursuing the American embassy over parking fines (fair enough) but going easy on the Russian embassy over the same issue (wtf) while happily doing deals with London property developers to underpin the expansion of the City.

Prominent Livingstone City Hall alumni, Simon Fletcher and Neale Coleman, now occupy central roles in Jeremy Corbyn’s office as chief of staff and head of policy and rebuttal while the former Mayor is co-chair of Labour’s defence review.

In the corner even further to the left is the Labour Representation Committee. (LRC) Founded in 2004 (lifting the name of Labour’s original founding committee from 1900) by John McDonnell, the LRC has a more doctrinaire and unbending view of the path to socialism.

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Trump is being condemned today. Tomorrow is the problem

08/12/2015, 10:24:20 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Donald Trump has just moved the Overton window of US politics. That range of ideas which constitutes acceptable debate has been yanked hard, to the right.

It might not quite seem that way at the moment.

Currently we are in the condemnation phase that always follows when someone says something outrageous. A few might even hope that the apparent unity in appalled reaction will warn others off pursuing Trump down the foxhole of Islamophobia.

It won’t.

Next, will come the rationalisation.

Other candidates will talk about the unfortunate manner in which Trump expressed his views but that there is a real issue to debate. The style was wrong but there’s a point to the substance.

It’s already evident in some of the reaction from the rest of the Republican field.

Ted Cruz, who recently overtook Trump in an Iowa poll, issued a non-condemnation condemnation,

“No, that’s not my policy. I have introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al Qaeda control a substantial amount of territory. And the reason is that is where the threat is coming from.”

The premise of Trump’s disgraceful policy is accepted in Cruz’s statement.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul did not even go as far as refuting Trump’s proposal. Here’s his official response

“Sen. Rand Paul has led on the issue of border security, proposing real solutions. That’s why earlier this month he introduced legislation to block visitors and immigrants from nations with known radical elements while a new system is developed to screen properly.”

Tough on Muslims, tough on the causes of Muslims.

In the coming days three things will happen.

First, Donald Trump will double-down on his assertions, repeating them and standing by them. They will be discussed and regurgitated on air and in pixel, repeatedly. Words that were shocking a week earlier, will seem more mundane, less alarming.

Second, Trump will pivot to draw a dividing line based on political correctness. He will cast those who attack him as politically correct zealots who do not care about America’s safety. National security and the process of saying the unsayable will become the new loci of the debate rather than the content of what he actually said.

Third, the rest of the Republican field will scramble to occupy the political space that Trump has opened up with his lurch to the right.

They will each come forward with plans to crack-down on Muslim migration – validating Trump’s underlying point – as well as railing against a liberal media establishment for its reaction.

The net result will be that within three to four weeks, it will be acceptable for Republicans to talk about Muslims as a threat simply because they are Muslim.

Trump himself might suffer some toxic fall-out. Those who out-ride and move the debate rarely claim an electoral crown. However, his legacy will be a more sectarian, prejudiced and divisive US politics.

A political environment that has been virtually terraformed for the likes of Ted Cruz to thrive and become the Republican nominee.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Let’s not kid ourselves. Labour won in Oldham despite Jeremy Corbyn

04/12/2015, 05:34:06 PM

by Atul Hatwal

By any measure, Labour passed the Oldham West test last night. Almost an 11,000 majority, an increased share of the vote and an increased percentage lead. Job done.

So does this mean Jeremy Corbyn is in fact electorally viable?

Of course not.

Here are three takeaways from the result.

1.Politics is local if you’ve got a local candidate

Jim McMahon was a very good candidate made exceptional because of his local roots.

Often candidates will strain to demonstrate a local connection.

Having spent a couple of years at college in the town several decades earlier, lived nearby for a bit, once stopped at the motorway services – any link is seized upon to claim local authenticity and disguise the reality that the candidate actually works in London, in politics, as a party adviser, union official or lobbyist.

In contrast, Jim McMahon was the real deal.

His name recognition on the doorstep was off the charts. Through his work as leader of the council and daily family life in the town, he personally knew hundreds of voters and thousands knew someone who knew him.

The word back from canvassers was that whatever voters’ thought of Jeremy Corbyn – usually not a lot – Jim McMahon was uniformly well regarded.

Labour’s campaign was distinguished as being a Corbyn-free zone. One appearance at the start and one picture hidden on the back of a leaflet does not tell a tale of local Labour faith in the leader.

This was Jim McMahon’s win.

2.Oldham West and Royton should never have been under threat

At the general election, Labour won Oldham West and Royton with a majority of almost 15,000. Self-evidently it’s one of Labour’s safest seats.

Since May, the Tories have been in turmoil over tax credits, are split from top to bottom over Europe and are in the early stages of a leadership civil war.

That a Labour victory should even have been doubted is illustrative of the disaster which has befallen the party.

If Oldham West and Royton was to be lost in a national poll, on a uniform swing, Labour would be reduced to 60 seats.

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The soft left will not fall for factionalism

25/11/2015, 10:32:32 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The idea of a ‘soft left’ is currently popular, with commentators seeing it as crucial to Labour’s future. I agree, but its not an easy option. Spencer Livermore, in calling for the publication of the Labour report into his former bosses’ election defeat referred to Miliband’s ‘soft left policies’; clearly incorrect – Miliband rose through the Brown machine. More sensibly, Jonathan Rutherford wrote on Labour List in October that “only the soft left can build a winning coalition”, accepting that the ‘soft left’ had given Corbyn his victory as the hard left did not have enough support. Others have made the same point. The soft left dominates the membership.

However the soft left majority is unorganised and has no leadership or structure. While the hard left and the hard right have websites and organisations, the soft left do not. In the leadership election, soft left votes went to the hard left candidate precisely because they did not have a candidate, though I myself, firmly soft left, voted for Burnham and Cooper as unity candidates. Though they were certainly not soft left, no soft leader leadership figure has existed since the death of Robin Cook.

Now we read Atul Hatwal seeking to co-opt the soft left as “getting rid of Comrade Corbyn will take time”, despite the fact that most soft left voted for Corbyn. He outlines a strategy which will produce a civil war which will aid no one but the Tories and SNP. So a few thoughts from a veteran soft leftist who spent most of the 1980s fighting militant (in the Labour Co-ordinating Committee), and most of the 1990s through to 2007 fighting the Hard Right, aka, New Labour (in Labour Reform and then the sadly prescient but largely unknown Save the Labour Party).

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Getting rid of comrade Corbyn will take patience

17/11/2015, 11:02:47 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Years from now, politics students will be told jokingly by their tutors about the time the Labour leader had to U-turn and admit that a suicide bomber, who was about to blow himself up, should in fact be shot by the police.

It will be a salutary tale of what happens when an individual characterized by extremes of incompetence and ideology, is put in charge of a political party.

Many MPs think that the madness cannot continue. That Corbyn will fall in the next six months, or at the latest, after poll disaster in next year’s regional and local elections.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Before Corbyn falls, three changes are needed, none of which are immediate: the soft left need to wake-up to what’s happening, new terms of trade are required within Labour’s internal debate and a viable alternative leader must emerge.

Westminster Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time are wholly different concepts.

In the political bubble, new notions become conventional wisdom within two or three turns of a super-accelerated Twitter fueled news cycle.

But what might seem suddenly eye-rollingly obvious in Westminster has barely registered outside.

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