Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Devolve immigration policy to the nations and regions to answer the demands of Brexit

16/10/2018, 05:45:47 PM

This piece by Atul Hatwal is an updated version of his chapter in the Compass report, Causes and Cures of Brexit

“It’s like this mad riddle.” Thus spake Danny Dyer, the sage of Brexit. Our modern day Zarathustra wasn’t wrong and nowhere are the contradictions thrown up by Brexit more evident than on immigration.

How to ‘take back control’ of migration while not cutting numbers so precipitately that skills gaps cripple public services and drive businesses to the wall? Or that the EU’s red line on freedom of movement is so egregiously breached that the broader Brexit deal is derailed?

At the heart of the riddle is an impossible question on the right number of migrants to be allowed into the UK.

The most significant area of migration is people coming to the UK to work (as opposed to study, family reunion or asylum) and on this, whether Tory or Labour, the government has a choice of two policy options, both a wrong answer.

Option A: Set a numbers target that is so low as to be either unattainable or disastrous for the economy. The past eight years have tested this approach to the point of political destruction. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario more corrosive to trust in politicians on migration than the way the government has stuck to its target of cutting migration to the tens of thousands, while continually missing it by huge margins. It raises migration as an issue and then casts the government as incompetents or liars, not prepared to do what’s required.

Option B: Set a target high enough not to buckle public services or hit economic growth but one that then opens the government to charges of allowing uncontrolled immigration.

Labour’s proposals for an integrated work visa, where the current tiering system with its caps is scrapped, suggest the party is headed towards Option B.

The detail is yet to be fleshed out but this represents a positive move from Labour. However, it’s one that will not be without cost.

It’s inevitable the Conservatives would use this as a dividing line in any election and in the event of a narrow Labour election victory, there is a question as to whether this policy could be carried through the Commons given a significant minority of Labour MPs would likely rebel on the basis that this would not, in their view, honour the Referendum result.

Over the past few months, there’s been some recourse on all sides to try to focus on skilled migration while advocating for restrictions on low skilled migration, as an alternative approach. But this just leads back to the same underlying choices.

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Uh oh Jeremy Corbyn. Three lessons from Labour’s below par locals result

04/05/2018, 10:24:17 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Leaders own their party’s results. Labour’s surprise tally in last year’s general election was Jeremy Corbyn’s triumph. He deserved the bouquets. Following this year’s below par showing for Labour in the local elections, he will similarly merit the brickbats.

In one sense, it seems unfair to cast this as a poor night for Labour – seats were won, the overall number of councillors went up. Expectations might have been over-inflated in terms of taking councils such as Kensington and Westminster, but progress was made and Labour was starting from a very high base.

But in politics you’re either going forward or falling back and to have a chance of forming a government at the next election, Labour needed a lot more from these results.

First, some context – last year, Labour over-performed expectations in the general election but still fell 61 seats short of a majority. To have any semblance of stability a government needs a majority of at least 30 (John Major’s 1992 administration soon fell apart despite starting the parliament with a majority of 21), probably nearer 40. This means Labour is roughly 100 seats short of what’s required to govern.

Yesterday’s local election results demonstrated nothing like the breakthrough Labour requires to call itself a government-in-waiting. Three lessons are evident: Labour’s badly needs Tory switchers, ground organisation alone isn’t enough and Brexit dangers now lurk with the party so reliant on Remainers to buttress its vote.

Given the deadlock between Labour and the Tories at 40%-ish each in the polls, for the past year, there seems to be limited scope to boost Labour’s vote share by further attracting non-voters or squeezing minor parties. Certainly not enough votes in the right places to secure an extra 100 seats.

The only route through for Labour is to win the support of people who are currently Tory voters.

However, there is a disconnect in the leadership’s psyche as to why anyone could countenance an act as egregious as voting Tory. The notion of actively trying to attract Tory voters is an alien concept within today’s party.

The result has been a shrill Labour message cast in moral absolutes. The top line of Jeremy Corbyn’s eve of poll op-ed in the Mirror was, “Tory austerity has almost certainly increased the death rate.

Calling Tory voters, the people Labour needs to win an election, accomplices to murder is quite a way to open a conversation about switching.

Over the past weeks, the party has had an army of footsoldiers knocking doors but the evidence of yesterday’s vote is that organisation without a message that resonates with switchers, will not win Labour power. The party has to have a better offer than singing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ repeatedly at this group.

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Authorising a single bombing raid is not the same as war. It was right there wasn’t a vote on Syria

17/04/2018, 12:43:48 PM

by Atul Hatwal

To listen to Labour’s frontbench yesterday would be to think parliamentary democracy lay in ruins because the government had not called a vote on Syria before intervention.

A frequent refrain in the House is that there is no more serious issue than that of war or peace. Few would disagree that Parliament should be central in these matters, but the unasked question yesterday (certainly by Jeremy Corbyn) was whether the Syrian mission constituted war.

Labour’s leader drew the parallel with Iraq, where there was a vote before deployment. But is Labour really saying that a single bombing raid is the same as a war?

Iraq entailed an air, sea and ground operation involving thousands of armed personnel on a mission that was planned to go on for months into years. Syria involved four planes on a sortie that took minutes.

One of the worst aspects of parliamentary practice is the way precedent is so rapidly ossified into hallowed practice and wreathed in constitutional piety.

After the precedent of the Iraq vote in 2003, now every action, no matter big or small, is subject to the same threshold for assent.

It was right that there was a vote on Iraq just as it was right that there was a vote on the operation in Libya, but not the interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone or the bombing of Iraq in 1998 in operation Desert Fox. These latter three were much nearer to Syria and in no way comparable to the Iraq war or even Libya.

The one anomaly in recent times has been the response to 9/11 with the invasion of Afghanistan – there wasn’t a vote but should have been for the same reasons there was a vote before Iraq and in 2011 before Libya.

Jeremy Corbyn was right in his speech yesterday – the Convention which was articulated by the Tories in 2011 and accepts the need for a Commons vote before military action on the basis of the 2003 Iraq precedent, is broken.

But not because it needs to be hardened from what is effectively an accepted guideline, into a fully-fledged War Powers Act as Labour will propose in the debate today. Instead the parliamentary process should reflect the reality that a raid is not a war and not every action merits a full vote in the Commons, complete with fevered build-up, publicity, vote wrangling and contentious discourse.

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Dominic Raab has been caught fiddling the figures on house prices and immigration

13/04/2018, 06:37:49 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Dominic Raab is a fool.

He’s a fool for thinking he could say house prices have risen by 21% because of immigration over the past 25 years and not have to answer follow-up questions on the provenance of this number. It’s a striking figure, of course people are going to ask for the source data.

To not anticipate that his Sunday Times interview would generate a chorus of questions from opposition politicians, journalists and think tankers, shows an amazing inability to think through the political consequences of his actions.

He’s a fool for not understanding that the UK Statistics Authority has a remit to police the misuse of government statistics and that his department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is mandated to comply with their rigorous code of practice.

A scintilla of comprehension about the role of the Authority would have meant he’d have known that they would publicly slap him down ,as the questions rained down, for not publishing the data and force the department to make it available.

Most of all though, he’s a fool for cherry-picking this figure from research which, now the department has published it, makes the exact opposite point to the one he aired in his interview – immigration actually has a comparatively small impact on house prices.

The research ascribes three factors as driving house price rises: domestic population growth, population growth from net migration and increasing real incomes.

Out of a total increase of £97,000 1991-2016, £80,000 is from increasing real incomes, £11,000 is from population growth driven by net migration and £6,000 from domestic population growth.

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Momentum’s loyalty test is the first step on the road to mandatory reselection

26/11/2017, 10:42:38 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Who hasn’t been asked to sign a personal loyalty test by a workplace clique? C’mon. It happens to everyone, right?

You get the e-mail about upholding the values of the company, building on collective success, moving forward together yadda yadda yadda and oh, some other stuff about doing what the faction wants. No biggie. Just need to sign the bit of paper and have it scanned in to be held on file. It’s all about unity and helping, who could think otherwise?

Guys? Guys?

Within many firms there are groups that organise to steer aspects of organisational policy or practice. But Momentum’s loyalty test for prospective Labour party candidates is very different for three reasons: the personal nature of the commitment, who runs Momentum and what Momentum is currently doing in the Labour party.

Here’s the text that candidates are expected to endorse:

“Political Accord for Momentum-Back Candidates

Section 1. Commit to the following political objectives, as set out in Momentum’s Constitution

  • To work for the election of a Labour government;
  • To revitalise the Labour Party by building on the values, energy and enthusiasm of the Jeremy for Leader campaign so that Labour will become an effective, open, inclusive, participatory, democratic and member-led party of and in Government;
  • To broaden support for a transformative, socialist programme;
  • To unite people in their communities and workplaces to win victories on the issues that matter to them; To make politics more accessible to more people;
  • To ensure a wide and diverse membership of Labour who are in and heard at every level of the party;
  • To demonstrate how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better and improve the lives of ordinary people;
  • To achieve a society that is more democratic, fair and equal.

Section 2. Commit to the following actions, which follow on from Momentum’s political aims

  • Work to ensure that Labour’s manifesto (subject to future policy development) ) is fully implemented once Labour are in Government;
  • Work to support and sustain a socialist leadership of the Labour Party;
  • Avoid any actions which undermine the political objectives outlined in Section 1;

Section 3. Commit to the following standards, which follow on from Momentum’s Code of Ethics

  • Work to ensure the safety and self ­expression of everyone as a priority, especially of those who are often marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religion, class, disability and educational or economic status.
  • Promote the values that Jeremy Corbyn popularised during his two leadership campaigns of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment.
  • Divulge any past actions or comments which breach Momentum’s Code of Ethics, as well as anything which could bring Momentum into disrepute, before signing this document.

Name:

Electronic signature:

Email:

Phone:

Seat: “

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Polls: Labour’s surging. Non-London doorstep: It’s a “nuclear winter for Labour.” Party braces for worst

05/06/2017, 10:51:57 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Just over two weeks ago I posted a projection of huge losses for Labour – over 90 seats – based on dozens of conversations with activists, candidates and officials who cumulatively had sight of tens of thousands of canvass returns.

Since then, I’ve continued those conversations as Labour has apparently surged in the polls.

The result is a marked improvement in London but precious little to cheer about outside the capital.

The last few weeks have seen a strong rise in Labour promises in key seats across London, although constituencies such as Dagenham and Eltham remain very difficult.

But in the West Midlands, Yorkshire, North West and the North East, any improvement has been nugatory.

One campaigner from London who spent time in the North East last week described it as a “nuclear winter for Labour.”

The doorstep returns outside of London are saying that Labour is still running substantially below its 2015 vote, that Ukip votes are transferring in huge numbers to the Tories with losses in prospect of the mid-60s to mid-90s and a lingering possibility that the situation could be even worse come Thursday.

What on earth is happening? Are the doorstep results wrong? Or is it the polls?

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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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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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It sounds counter-intuitive, but better for Labour’s survival to lose seats to the Tories than the Lib Dems or Ukip

09/05/2017, 10:26:26 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The future seems bleak for Labour. Catastrophic local election results, Mayoral losses in heartlands like the Tees Valley and West Midlands and a general election wipeout in prospect. It’s hard to think how things could be worse.

But they could.

There are three ways to lose: on points, knocked-out and retired from the ring.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, the last of those three options has been a real possibility. A defeat so total and damaging that it will be lethal to Labour’s chances of ever returning to power.

A beating of this scale would involve the long term fracturing of Labour’s coalition of voters with a mushrooming of Ukip representatives in the North and Midlands and losses to the Lib Dems in parts of London, the South West and university towns

This is the road to retirement.

Both of these parties thrive as vehicles of protest against the status quo, whether the metropolitan elite or establishment elite or both.

Labour campaigners have years of experience of how difficult it is to dig out Lib Dems once they have taken root locally. A combination of effective organisation and the ability to always promise that grass is greener, made them political knotweed (that’s not a criticism).

It’s no coincidence that Lib Dems were only removed from places like Bermondsey and Southwark, islands of orange in Labour territory, after the Lib Dems threw their lot in with the Tories, entered government and had to defend government policies.

Ukip’s strategy has been explicitly based on the traditional Lib Dem approach and after the Lib Dem’s 2015 electoral experience, Tim Farron has taken them back to basics in their local campaigns.

If Labour’s collapse in the local and Mayoral elections had been synonymous with Ukip and Lib Dem gains, it would have been a portent of an extinction level political event on June 8th.

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Theresa May’s dead EU cat shows the fragility of her campaign and paucity of political judgement

03/05/2017, 06:04:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The question is why? Why would Theresa May make that speech on the EU in this election? She’s already guaranteed a huge majority. Reports from all parties make it abundantly clear that the number one doorstep issue for switchers is Jeremy Corbyn.

She also knows that this speech will have a long term impact.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, most likely victor in this week’s second round is sure to be asked about it and will harden his line on Brexit. Merkel, approaching her own campaign, will do similar.

The Tory right will use May’s words to  make any backsliding towards the perfidy of compromise for an interim deal that much harder.

The chances of a Brexit disaster on Theresa May’s watch, in the next two years, just leapt exponentially.

So why do it?

A big part of the reason is that her team have been bounced: criticism of the Tories’ lack of policy, her own sheltered campaign which has studiously avoided contact with the public and the robotic repetition of the same lines, has clearly had an impact.

It’s hard to fill an election grid when the only policy commitment is to not make a commitment, journalists are getting restive and bored of anodyne events and the principal lacks the basic retail skill to deliver her core message without sounding like a ZX Spectrum speech program from the 1980s.

This is why Theresa May has thrown a dead EU cat onto the general election table.

Now, the next 48 hours will all be about May versus Brussels.

A great short term media win for the election campaign, disastrous for the premiership that follows.

That Theresa May would sacrifice her own prospects in office for this transitory triumph when facing Jeremy Corbyn says it all about the fragility of her campaign and her underlying lack of political judgement.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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