Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

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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Labour is ceasing to exist

05/11/2015, 02:09:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s not often that the election results for Labour’s backbench PLP committee chairs are notable, but today’s announcement lays bare the scale of division within the parliamentary party.

via the New Statesman

e-mail to MPs announcing the result, via the New Statesman

The majority of the chairs have ruled out serving under Jeremy Corbyn on the frontbench and specifically oppose key tents of his positions on the policy areas that their committees cover. They are taking their fight to the backbenches.

This is just the latest development in a rapidly accelerating process.

Labour is slowly ceasing to exist as a political party. Like those images of Marty Mcfly’s relatives in his photo, it’s fading away.


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Labour’s foreign policy is a debased joke

02/11/2015, 10:17:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another milestone has been passed. Labour’s Corbynite journey on foreign policy has exited tragedy and entered the realms of farce.

This evening, the BBC’s Ross Hawkins reports that the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Catherine West, addressed the Stop The War coalition meeting in parliament, saying,

“Obviously in the summer before Russia was involved we were thinking the government might bring forward a proposal and we were preparing mentally for that. However since 30 September I think that’s more remote and obviously if that proposal does come forward then we will need to speak to you and talk to you about what your view is on that.”

There it is. in black and white. A commitment that Labour would consult with Stop the War before deciding its Syria policy.

How dare she.

Here’s Stop the War’s John Rees from 2006 indulging in paroxysms of Orwellian doublethink by backing Saddam Hussein as a champion of the oppressed that he was oppressing,

“Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.”

This is the Stop the War coalition that is allied to the Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine, Stalinist apologists who support Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and oppose the democratically elected government in Ukraine.

And it is the same Stop the War coalition that invited the infamous Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix to speak at one of their rallies. She’s a nun living in Damascus trotted out by the Syrian government to deny that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons on rebel held areas.

Her explanation of scenes of dead children in Ghouta was that they were “sleeping” while images of men and women dying from inhaling sarin gas were discounted as “stage-managed.”

She even had the temerity to suggest that rebels were responsible for gassing civilians and then claiming it was Assad.

This is the organisation that Labour’s shadow minister says the party “will need [emphasis added] to speak to.”

Labour’s problem is clearly no longer far left entryism.

When the party’s shadow ministers go on bended knee to conspiracy-mad, Stalinist front organisations like Stop the War, it’s evident that the leadership’s representatives are engaged in the reverse journey.

They are the entryists, seeking comfort, approval and acceptance from yesterday’s infiltrators.

Needless to say, if a Conservative minister or politician spoke at a meeting of a comparable group to the right of the Tory party there would be outrage.

But this where Labour is now.

A place where almost any political madness is possible and foreign policy has become a debased joke.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Three Labour reflections on Tory conference

08/10/2015, 03:27:12 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s always an odd experience attending Tory conference (I was there to speak for the Migration Matters Trust at a fringe), particularly this year. As a Labour member it felt almost like Her Majesty’s Opposition had ceased to exist as a practical concern for the Tories.

Here are three reflections on how and why.

1.The protests have utterly toxified Labour’s relationship with the media

It’s not nice being spat at. Or being called scum. Nor seeing women being called whores and threatened with rape.

That’s the experience virtually everybody attending Tory conference had at the start of the week.

The people shouting and spitting weren’t necessarily Labour party members or supporters but the ideological comity between Labour’s leadership and the more extreme protesters is clear.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell is on the record as backing “insurrection” and “direct action” and there were plenty of Labour members and even parliamentary staffers on Twitter, eager to Corbsplain the abuse.

For the journalists, whose words and pictures will frame public views of the party, Tory conference indelibly connected the dots between Labour’s leadership and the nutters.

Beyond the horrendous nature of the experience for the journalists, it set a prism, one of extremism, through which most will now perceive – even sub-consciously – Labour politics.

It would be a miracle if this then didn’t shape their reporting.

2.The Tory leadership succession will dominate UK politics for the next few years (more…)

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech will have confirmed voters’ worst fears about Labour

29/09/2015, 03:33:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Expectations are now so low for Jeremy Corbyn that anything short of a full nervous breakdown at the microphone is regarded as a success.

He delivered his speech. He didn’t collapse. He didn’t promise to nationalise the top 100 companies and troops did not ring the auditorium as a prelude to the revolution.

Given the unbelievably low expectations going into this speech, it was a case of job done. Certainly within the bubble of Labour conference.

But step outside of the bubble for a moment. Step into the shoes of the general public. Look at this speech from their viewpoint. Think about what they saw.

A decent man. A passionate man. A man who should be kept as far from any position of power as is humanly possible.

Jeremy Corbyn is an uber-Miliband.

An agitated academic who rehearses his protest points with vigour but fails to describe any alternative.

Corbyn’s jumble of unhappy reflection on past foreign policy and declarations of long held positions will have seemed utterly esoteric to the practical issues facing most people in Britain today.

Problems such as Syria and Iraq were listed, but solutions? Not so much.


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John McDonnell is fermenting Special Brew Milibandism

28/09/2015, 01:47:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

John McDonnell might have a history of ranting radicalism, but he offered a different approach in his speech to Labour conference.

The florid attacks on austerity and business were familiar but the policy content wasn’t quite as red in tooth and claw as his previous rhetoric might have suggested.

Talk of paying down the deficit, briefings to the press on signing Osborne’s fiscal charter and new caveats on implementing Peoples Quantitative Easing (also known as printing money) show how sails have been trimmed.

At conference, there’s been some head-scratching. What’s McDonnell doing?

Labour’s shadow chancellor is fermenting a Special Brew version of Milibandism.

Harsher, more pungent and stronger than the beverage offered by Labour’s last leader, but a version, nonetheless.

Ed Miliband clearly didn’t like the idea of cuts to public services, John McDonnell committed to avoiding any cuts altogether.

Ed Miliband spoke in abstract terms about predators and producers, John McDonnell named Starbucks, Amazon, Google and Vodafone.

And Ed Miliband worried about welfare cuts, McDonnell promised there would be none.

However, in common with Milibandism classic, McDonnell’s speech left a trail of questions unanswered.

He talked blithely about using funds from economic growth and crackdowns on tax avoidance and corporate welfare to avoid austerity.

This might sound good in a Labour conference speech and offer up some easy clap lines but Ed Miliband’s position unravelled on the specifics.

John McDonnell is just as vulnerable.

Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, went on the Daily Politics with Andrew Neil immediately after the speech and endured a painful dissection of Labour’s missing policy detail.

How would tax avoidance be stopped? How much could be recovered? Which corporate taxes would go up to reduce the deficit? How much deficit reduction would be from these sources?

She tried to respond but the cupboard was bare.

This is why McDonnell is offering a punchier version of Miliband’s economics, not something fundamentally different.

He’s dodging the same questions.

Just like Miliband, McDonnell seems to be worried by the response of the public to higher taxes and borrowing, so he falls back on intangibles like growth and tax avoidance.

And as with Miliband, the Tories will skewer McDonnell on the lack of specifics and confirm public doubts about Labour and economic competence.

The key difference with McDonnell’s Special Brew Milibandism, is that the hangover is going to be that much worse.

Labour will soon be perceived as being even more anti-business and even less trustworthy with the public finances than at the last election.

Welcome to the new politics. Not so different to the old politics.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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The soft left made Corbyn leader. They’re Labour’s swing vote and need to be won back for the centre

24/09/2015, 10:06:42 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Jeremy Corbyn’s been in post for 13 days. It still doesn’t seem real. On Tuesday he will give his inaugural conference address as Labour leader against a backdrop of splits on unilateralism and talk of mandatory reselections for MPs.

The party has been bundled into a DeLorean and now we’re back in the 1980s.

During the leadership campaign I wrote a couple of pieces predicting doom for Corbyn’s candidacy. When YouGov published their first poll I was pretty disparaging. Surely the majority didn’t want to go back to 1980s Labour?

Clearly I was wrong, wrong as it’s possible to be. YouGov were right, the Corbynistas were right, the earthquake happened and everything came crashing down. The Tories are jubilant and privately looking at a majority in 2020 that could tip over into three figures.

In the past fortnight, since Labour’s election results I’ve spent time speaking to members, registered supporters, CLP office-holders, MPs and candidates to understand the answer to two questions: who switched to Corbyn – because this level of support for the hard left in the party is unprecedented – and why.

Back in August, Mike Harris articulated the scale of change at a local level in this excellent post. As Mike says, it’s like an entirely different party has been created.

However, this new party isn’t an entirely unfamiliar party.

CLP chairs and secretaries are uniformly clear that most new members and supporters have been involved with the party before.

The defining characteristic of the majority in this group is that they are from the soft left. Not the hard left from where Corbyn hails, nor Trotskyite entryists or Stalinist tankies from fringe groups outside the party (the far left in the declension of the British left).


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Liz Kendall 1. Yvette Cooper 2. Andy Burnham 3

22/08/2015, 12:58:45 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The ballot has finally arrived so it’s time to vote. Time to back the candidate who is right about what Labour must to do to regain power; to give a second preference to the candidate who could yet save Labour from self-immolation and register a third preference for a candidate not called Jeremy Corbyn.

Liz Kendall is my first preference. She has displayed guts and determination in her campaign. She’s right about the big issues and of all the candidates is the one who grasps the magnitude of Labour’s challenge in winning back public trust on the economy.

The personal abuse and level of misogyny that she’s faced is ludicrous and her response has revealed the type of steel Labour needs in its leaders.

Despite the trolls and the torrent of hate, she’s managed to secure endorsements from council leaders, trade unionists and the best and brightest of Labour’s new generation of MPs such as Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Emma Reynolds.

Liz Kendall and her platform are the future of the Labour party. It’s just a shame that her campaign hasn’t harnessed this as effectively as it might.

Too often, the message communicated to Labour members has been that they’re wrong and have to accept they are wrong.

Whatever the bald facts of a situation, simply telling voters’ that they’re mistaken is always a losing strategy.

Just as Labour’s economic message cannot continue to be based on telling the public they were wrong at the 2010 and 2015 election about the party’s spending record a decade ago, so an aspiring Labour leader cannot just be the bearer of bad tidings to the membership.

In 1994, the Blair leadership campaign was built around bridging the divide between the membership and the electorate, not telling them to jump it.


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Ignore Twitter. Forget the polls. Corbyn’s not going to win

17/08/2015, 05:18:43 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Jeremy Corbyn will not win the Labour leadership. No matter how real the fevered hallucinations currently seem on this acid trip of a leadership contest, they aren’t real.

Predictions of a Corbyn triumph are based on two assumptions: that the polls are right and Labour’s new recruits have been drawn in because of him and his agenda.

Both are wrong.

The polls and campaign canvass returns overstate his support in the same way that Labour’s support was over-estimated in general election polls and the party’s new mass membership is not a seething hotbed of radical ideologues.

The coda for pollsters from the general election was that simply asking people for their voting preference didn’t give answers which reflected actual voting intention.

Mark Textor, Lynton Crosby’s business partner and the man who conducted the Tories’ internal polling, recently held forth on why his polls were right when so many others were so wrong.

He made two points of note.

First, voters frequently use opinion polls as an outlet for protest.

In an online world of one-click opinion, sticking two fingers up at the Tories by backing Labour in a poll was simple, cost free and gratifying. Less easy to actually vote Labour when most did not trust the party on the economy and it was led by someone who few believed to be prime ministerial.

Second, voters’ make their choice on the basis of the outcome they want to avoid as well as the party they support.

While waverers might have been prepared to consider the idea of a Labour government, even with reservations on leadership and the economy, the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition, with Ed Miliband run ragged and dragged even further left on spending by Nicola Sturgeon, tipped the balance. So they voted tactically to prevent what they most feared – even if this meant holding their nose and voting Tory.

These insights are directly relevant to Labour’s leadership race.

After a crushing, demoralising general election defeat for the party, what better way for frustrated members and supporters to flick the bird at the leadership than to tell pollsters and canvassers they are backing Corbyn?


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