Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Patience and clarity of purpose. That’s what Labour’s moderates need now

24/09/2016, 05:44:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been a difficult day for Labour moderates. The numbers aren’t great– an increased majority for Jeremy Corbyn with a plurality of in each section of the selectorate backing Labour’s incumbent. This is clearly a decent result for Corbyn.

Two challenges must be faced, one in the short term, one in the medium term.

The immediate question will be whether moderate MPs return to serve on the front bench.

There are currently over 60 vacancies and a real danger that Labour will be stripped of the title of official opposition if these roles remain unfilled through to Christmas.

However, things have been said which can’t be unsaid. It’s not credible for people who have been decrying Jeremy Corbyn as a catastrophe for the past months to suddenly say, with straight faces, that this man should be prime minister.

Even if tongues could be temporarily held, the rancour would soon re-emerge in the internal struggles that are imminent as the hard left try to rewrite the party rule-book and tighten their grip on the machine.

The answer for moderate MPs is to make Labour’s Swiss cheese front bench Jeremy Corbyn’s problem.

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If Labour MPs want to make ending free movement a Brexit red line, they’d better be ready to leave the single market

20/09/2016, 10:35:24 PM

by Atul Hatwal

One of the reasons the Labour party is in such a terrible state is that the many of moderate mainstream, those meant to offer an alternative to Corbyn, are so bad at the basics in politics.

Yesterday’s foray into the debate on freedom of movement by Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Stephen Kinnock, was a case study in ineptitude.

By arguing that ending free movement to reduce migration should be a red line in Brexit negotiations, they have constructed an argument that will not survive first contact with a journalist and set a broader public expectation which can never be met.

The obvious immediate question which journalists will ask these MPs is whether they are prepared to leave the single market?

If the central European states such Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, western European states such as France and EU President Juncker stick to their public position of vetoing any reform, are these MPs prepared for hard Brexit?

Will they back a version of leaving the EU that would see the flight of financial services from the City of London, the movement of major manufacturers like the Japanese car makers to the continent, the imposition of a hard border between northern and southern in Ireland and condemn tens of thousands of their constituents to the dole?

Seriously?

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David Cameron flunks his final test

13/09/2016, 07:43:37 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Twenty years. That’s what it will take for David Cameron’s name to be anything other than a byword for political failure. In the 2030s a new generation of Conservative politicians, untainted by the assumptions of their political forbears will rediscover David Cameron like some long lost Beatles recording.

I recall the process well from the mid-1990s when many of us working for the Labour party unearthed our own Rare Groove classics: Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson.

When nostalgia and retro-chic return Cameron to relevance he will be 69.

Just three years older than the current leader of the Labour party, one year older than Hillary Clinton, most likely the next President of the United States and one year younger than Donald Trump, god forbid, the next President of the United States.

Instead of ascending to the highest office in his profession, based on a life of experience, David Cameron’s most productive working years will be spent trailing around the world engaged in lucrative but transitory and ultimately hollow pursuits.

He branded himself the heir to Blair a decade ago and as he travels through his fifties and sixties, David Cameron will truly take-up this mantle.

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Speaker poised to strip Labour of designation as Her Majesty’s Opposition in Autumn

27/07/2016, 10:45:13 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned that House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is considering action to strip Labour of the title, Her Majesty’s Opposition, if Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) remains on strike, leaving the bulk of front bench roles unfilled.

Sources in the House of Commons administration familiar with his deliberations have told Uncut that Bercow has looked on with dismay at the impact of Labour’s civil war on the functioning of Britain’s parliamentary democracy. One said,

“The meltdown happened so near the end of the last term and the situation was so fluid that it would not have been appropriate to act. But if the situation persists into Autumn, when there is a full schedule of parliamentary business, some form of action is likely.”

Although the constitutional position is murky, the Speaker has a pivotal role in determining which party is the opposition. Normally the choice is clear – it’s the largest party opposing the government. However, with dozens of frontbench roles unfilled, Labour is in dangerous territory.

Official designation as the Opposition brings a series of institutional advantages for Labour, ranging from funding to influence over the parliamentary agenda.

At the end of the last parliamentary term, Jeremy Corbyn was only able to complete his shadow cabinet by asking some MPs to take dual roles.

Paul Flynn became shadow leader of the House of Commons and shadow secretary of state for Wales and Dave Anderson was appointed the shadow secretary of state for both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Currently the majority of shadow ministerial positions remain unfilled for Labour.

When the new parliamentary session begins, Labour’s Swiss cheese front bench is likely to be exposed.

For example, if there is a motion on the floor relevant to a shadow team, while a Standing committee is considering a bill in that team’s area, with relevant Statutory Instruments committees also sitting and a Westminster Hall debate on a topic in their brief, then Labour will not be able to provide a shadow front bench representative in each debate.

In practical terms, it means the government will have no opposition in one or more area. They will not be held to account by the opposition and a core component of parliamentary democracy, in the way it has been practiced for over 100 years, will have broken down.

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Owen Smith is being defined by the Corbynistas. If he doesn’t fight back soon, he’s done

23/07/2016, 06:59:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Owen Smith is in trouble. Day to day, he’s conducting his campaign, pitching his message but he has a strategic problem that is getting worse with each passing hour: definition.

Owen Smith’s PLP backers have made much of Smith being a “clean skin,” lacking the baggage of past votes on issues such as Iraq or the compromises of office.

There is something to this but his lack of prior profile also brings risk. He’s a blank page on which a story will be written, either by himself or the Corbynistas.

The hard left attack on him is very clear: Owen Smith is an ex-lobbyist for Big Pharma and a former Special Adviser, who will return Labour to the days of Brown and Miliband.

The discussion on CLP Facebook groups from across the country is testament to how this attack has already permeated through the party.

Here’s one exchange from a northwest CLP,

“Smith worked for private health companies and was a Blairite adviser. We need to be different to the Tories.”

“I heard he did work for those companies. Not sure about him but I don’t think he’s like Blair. Doesn’t Ed Miliband rate him?”

I’ve seen double digits of groups where this same pattern is being repeated. An accusation is made by a Corbyn backer with little substantive rebuttal. Owen Smith is being framed by his opponent and the few who would speak up for him have little to offer in terms of an alternative, positive definition.

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Theresa May is eminently beatable. Labour just need a leader up to the job

12/07/2016, 10:43:11 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The ascension of a new party leader is usually a time for rushed, breathless hagiographies and fears among opponents, within and without their party, that a new tide will sweep away their forces.

Allow me to demur.

Theresa May has demonstrated many qualities to become prime minister designate, but her position is far from imperious.

For those of us around in Westminster in the 1990s, there are some recognisable contours to the new political landscape that now confronts Labour, following the tsunami of the past three weeks.

A major economic event fundamentally that changes the narrative on who can be trusted on the economy. Personal enmities and ideological divisions spilling into public view across the Conservative party. A Tory leader facing the prospect of recession while trying to protect a small parliamentary majority.

It all feels rather familiar.

In the 1990s, the starting point was Black Wednesday. In the mid-2010s, it’s Brexit.

In 1992, Sterling’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) re-defined the Tories’ image of economic competence. Whatever the rights and wrongs of leaving the ERM, it became the prism through which the ongoing recession was reported.

In the process, the Conservatives became associated with a deadly combination of economic incompetence and pain.

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As the Labour leadership contest inches closer, MPs are getting very nervous. But all might not be as bleak as they fear

04/07/2016, 11:32:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Q. When is a coup not a coup?

A. When it is organised by the Labour party.

Well over a week since Hilary Benn’s departure from the shadow cabinet sparked wholesale resignations, there has been no challenge to Corbyn.

Instead, there is stalemate between PLP and leadership, with a front bench that is effectively on strike but has been too scared to put its concerns about the leader before members in a leadership contest.

On Monday night, following the PLP meeting, it seems there was finally some movement.

Tom Watson’s commitment that meetings on Tuesday would be a “last throw of the dice” at coaxing Jeremy Corbyn out of office was widely taken as the final step before a challenge (it also assuaged some of the simmering discontent among MPs at his role in the drawn out nature of events.)

The choice for challenger would appear to be between Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, although Yvette Cooper is rumoured to be still interested.

Given the Tory party is potentially about to have an all-woman run-off between May and Leadsom, it’s hard to see how Labour could run an all-male equivalent with Smith.

With a contest imminent, a new wave of jitters was rippling through the MPs that Uncut spoke to on Monday night; the nightmare scenario of a Corbyn victory a constant topic of conversation.

These fears have been driven in part by last week’s YouGov poll of Labour members which unnerved many of the PLP.

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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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