Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

The cult of Ed Balls tells you everything you need to know about the hole that Labour moderates are in

29/04/2017, 09:45:09 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Nothing is more revealing of the emotional and political lacuna at the heart of the non-Corbyn Labour party than the veneration of Ed Balls.

It’s not just Ed Balls day. On its own that’s transitory Twitter fluff. More problematic is the way he’s viewed by so many moderates as this huge Labour presence. A lost sage, sprinkled with sparkly Strictly stardust.

His interventions are treated by MPs, former advisers, journalists and swathes of the Labour Twitterati as if he some extraordinary combination of Attlee and the Fonz. You can almost hear the giggling in the tweets gushing over him.

Labour’s problems with Jeremy Corbyn are well documented but less aired is the dire state of the alternative. In Michael Dugher’s valedictory interview with the New Statesman, explaining his reasons for standing down as an MP he said it was, “no good moderates blaming Corbyn. Labour members were lured to Corbyn out of desperation. What we offered didn’t inspire, it wasn’t radical, it was more of the same.”

Dugher is right and his long-time friend, Ed Balls, is a case study why moderates failed.

Balls was a very good economic adviser to Gordon Brown, an average performer in parliament on a good day (sometimes, as with his response to the Autumn Statement in 2014, he was atrocious), patchy on broadcast and an absolutely dreadful political strategist.

When he became shadow chancellor in early 2011, he set a benchmark for success as getting ahead of the Tories on the economy. Labour went into the 2015 election almost twenty points behind. That’s his responsibility.

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More signs Corbyn’s cabal has abandoned Labour’s key seats and is focused on the next leadership contest

24/04/2017, 09:15:51 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The starting pistol for the election has been fired but when it comes to candidate selection, Labour has been left on the blocks.

According to Labour’s selection timetable, Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in seats where the MP has stood down, are being chosen by the NEC between Sunday 23rd April and Friday 28th April and in seats without Labour MPs, between Sunday April 30th and Tuesday May 2nd. Sitting MPs have been automatically reselected.

Think about those dates for a moment.

Six days to pick 14 candidates in seats Labour already holds where the MP is retiring, three days to pick 416 candidates, out of which just under 100 are the key seats needed to win a majority.

Actions speak louder than words and the focus on seats where MPs are standing down tells us two things.

First, the party has written-off anything not already held.

Candidates in seats needed to form a Labour government are likely to be two weeks behind their incumbent Tory opponents, at the stage they are confirmed after the May bank holiday.

Labour officials suggest that based on past election experience, sitting Tory MPs will be on their third or fourth leaflet to voters by the time Labour has candidates in place.

Given the snap nature of the election, where the sole opportunity to introduce the Labour candidate to electors is the eight week window starting from Theresa May’s announcement, this is a major handicap.

There are doubts whether Labour’s candidates will even be able to make the first of the two free election mailings – that’s how late our selection process runs.

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Labour’s general election campaign will be dominated by the battle to succeed Corbyn

18/04/2017, 06:53:07 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.

A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.

Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.

The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.

Brexit will define everything.

During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.

Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.

This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.

It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.

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Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

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How Labour’s potential leadership candidates measure up against member priorities

02/03/2017, 02:36:23 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This is Jeremy Corbyn. Like Wile E Coyote he has run off the cliff. Yes, he’s still leader, but after Copeland, it’s just a matter of time until political gravity exerts its force, most likely in 2018.

Croydon Central is in many ways a bellwether CLP for Corbyn. In 2015, it voted to endorse him 80% to 20%, reflecting the final vote among registered supporters. Last year, it backed him against Owen Smith by 60% to 40%, in line with the eventual overall result. Speaking to party members and local officials over the weekend, estimates of the balance between pro and anti-Corbyn support were 50-50, tipping steadily against the Labour leader with each passing month. Similar movement is being reported in pro-Corbyn CLPs across the country.

By 2018, whether Jeremy Corbyn steps down voluntarily or is challenged, his time as leader will end.

When that happens, four criteria will determine the identity of Corbyn’s successor: parliamentary nominations, Brexit, baggage (absence thereof) and whether they are a woman or a minority.

  1. Nominations

The first goal for candidates is to secure the backing of 15% of their UK and European parliamentary colleagues. This translates as 37 nominations in the PLP and 1 from European Parliamentary Party.

Regardless of how a candidate polls among the general public, their popularity with journalists or the polish of their performance on TV, they need the support of their colleagues to get on the ballot.

The Corbynites are desperate to secure an amendment, which would reduce the nomination threshold from 15% to 5%. The McDonnell amendment – so called after the barely concealed ambition of the shadow Chancellor – would need to be passed by conference and at this stage, it looks unlikely.

The threshold will remain as will the need for a credible level of PLP support. This time round, no nominations will be lent to candidates unable to make the ballot unaided.

  1. Brexit

More than any other issue, Brexit has undone Corbyn. It has united Blairites, the soft left and even sections of the hard left. Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, Momentum, surveyed its 11,000 members during the referendum campaign with 66% backing Remain and 20% Brexit.

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Any member of the PLP who aspires to lead the Labour party must vote against triggering Article 50

28/01/2017, 11:33:12 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a parliamentary vote that transformed Labour politics. It was July 2015, in calendar terms quite recent, but politically another century. The Labour leadership contest had just begun and the government’s welfare bill was coming up for a vote at second reading.

Only one leadership candidate voted against, the others abstained, saying they would vote against if it couldn’t be amended in committee.

Abstention was what moderates thought was the judicious approach – avoid supporting the bill while depriving the Tories of the ability to paint Labour as free spending, welfare junkies. I’m a moderate, I thought it was the only sane option.

What did we know? We were fighting the last war, the general election. The war to come was to be fought before Labour members and supporters not the public. They wanted passion, clarity and, above all else, full-throated opposition to the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn’s vote against the welfare bill in July 2015 was the catalyst for a surge that deposited him in the leader’s office.

For the 2015 welfare bill, read Brexit. Squared. Any MP who aspires to lead the party one day should pay heed.

Brexit has utterly transformed Labour’s internal politics in terms of what defines the party ideologically and Jeremy Corbyn’s personal standing.

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How to fight hard Brexit: Step 3 – Don’t do a Miliband on migration. Answer the numbers question

23/01/2017, 08:06:55 AM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at what pro-Europeans need to do on immigration

The prologue is almost at an end. Theresa May’s Brexit speech last week marked the close of the preliminary skirmishes. Battle lines are being drawn on triggering Article 50; MPs are mobilising and a slew of cross-party amendments to the government’s A50 motion are expected on retaining significant single market participation.

Immigration will be at the heart of the debate with the balance of public opinion shaping what is and is not politically possible at Westminster.

Unfortunately, at this pivotal moment, on this central issue, pro-Europeans are in disarray. Too many seem to have taken a leaf out of the Labour playbook at the last election and are using Ed Miliband’s approach on immigration as their strategic template.

One of the great failings of the Labour party in the 2010 to 2015 parliament was magical thinking.

Labour policy on immigration exemplified the problem. Ed Miliband repeatedly sympathised with public worries that migration had been too high for many years. Yet rather than committing to policies to cut migration, he focused on tackling labour market exploitation. All very laudable, but not really answering public concerns on the level of migration to the UK.

The result was incontrovertible. At the 2015 general election, 15% of the public backed Labour on migration, 2% lower that at the 2010 election (YouGov issue tracker) despite net migration running at over three times the Tories’ target.

It was a hard lesson that remains widely unlearned.

Stephen Kinnock and Emma Reynolds’ recent proposal for a two tier migration system with sectoral quotas is pure Milibandism. The Brexit Together campaign, fronted by Caroline Flint, which echoes this call, is more of the same.

Set aside for a moment the substance of the policy suggested. Plenty of practical criticisms could be made about the huge levels of state planning required to work out migrant quotas for jobs, by sector, seniority, substitutability and region.

This whole approach is built on an assumption that the British public is more concerned about the process of migration control rather than the resulting numbers arriving in the UK.

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How to fight hard Brexit: Step 2 – Learn from the Brexiteers, use their tactics against them

29/12/2016, 04:23:00 PM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at the political tactics needed to control the debate

The unwritten story of the past twenty years of British politics is the triumph of the nutter. Or at least, those who were once commonly described as such.

I started working for the Labour party in the mid-1990s. Back then, the Maastricht rebels – the political forbears of today’s Brexiteers – were regarded as fringe loons yearning for pre-Suez Britain, while hard left refuseniks such as Jeremy Corbyn were similarly dismissed as deluded Bennite voices from a long dead past.

In possibly the quote of the decade, John Major’s press secretary, Tim Collins, described John Redwood’s supporters in the 1995 Tory leadership contest as the “swivel-eyed barmy army, from ward eight at Broadmoor.”

How times change.

Many centrist words have been expended bemoaning the triumph of yesterday’s nutters, not enough understanding why they have been successful.

The journey from margin to mainstream for Brexiteers and hard left alike has been driven by a common political tactic, a tactic which pro-Europeans should repeat in the fight against hard Brexit: co-ordination between ultras and moderates.

Campaigns to move opinion on big issues are won by tag teams. Ultras and moderates working together, wittingly or otherwise.

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How to fight hard Brexit: Step 1 – Understand why Remain lost. Spoiler: It’s not what Westminster thinks

28/12/2016, 11:04:18 AM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at why Remain lost and the implications for the battle to shape Brexit

Why did Remain lose? Since the referendum Brexiteers have been assiduous in asserting their narrative: immigration trumped the economy, emotion won over facts and these are the new rules of the political game.

The Brexiteer version of history is now the accepted consensus at Westminster, virtually unchallenged by pro-Europeans, often meekly accepted.

The state of the pro-EU camp feels very familiar, certainly to a Labour member. All very mid-1992 when following a fourth electoral defeat, the best that many senior leaders of the party had to offer by way of strategy was “one more heave.”

It wasn’t good enough then, it isn’t now.

The starting point for pro-Europeans is to ask the right question.

Not just why Leave won but why a Remain campaign built around familiar economic beats failed when the same backing track had proved so persuasive at the general election and the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

At the election and referendum, campaigns targeting concerns about the economy had convincingly defeated Scottish nationalism in 2014 and crushed Ukip’s English anti-migrant nationalism in 2015.

The conventional wisdom is that immigration was more potent as an issue in 2016.

Fortunately for those who want to prevent a hard Brexit, this is wrong.

The British Election Study (BES), which surveyed a huge panel of 30,000 voters before and after the referendum, sheds some light on what actually happened.

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Nissan might have got the headlines last week but the real story is what’s bubbling on free movement

30/10/2016, 11:04:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Imagine for a moment you are Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

The man entrusted with securing Brexit on the best possible terms for the 27 EU states.

The man whose job it is to stop those truculent Brits going a la carte on the EU set menu and establishing a precedent where leaving the union means that cake can be had and simultaneously eaten with no question of anyone having to touch their greens.

You are the man who had a very interesting lunchtime last Thursday.

That is when the British government announced that Nissan would be building its new cars in the UK, something which infuriated a number of the EU states who had hoped they would win this investment. States that will be represented by Barnier in the Brexit negotiation.

As a very senior EU official and seasoned French politician, Michel Barnier will have been in contact with Nissan and a variety of international businesses, through official and unofficial channels.

He will know that Nissan had drawn some very clear red lines before making such a commitment.

He will have been baffled by the visits of the UK secretary of state for business, Greg Clark, to Japan for the same reason that most of Whitehall was perplexed.

What on earth could Clark give the Japanese manufacturer?

Specifically, Nissan wanted assurances on the continuation of country of origin rules, which mean parts sourced from around the world but assembled in an EU state do not incur tariffs; that tariffs would not be levied on the finished car in the EU and non-tariff barriers, such as forcing importers to register each car up a mountain, at a portakabin that is staffed once a week, which is only accessible by dirt track, would not be put in place.

Thanks to the efforts of the British government, somehow, Nissan have been convinced to make a multi-million pound investment. It’s clear that what they were told did not amount to warm words. Some very hard and definite commitments were given (with a clear implication that non-delivery by Britain will nix the deal).

The British press have focused on perceived promises from the UK government to compensate Nissan financially if tariffs are imposed, but Michel Barnier will have known better.

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