Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Split by Brexit, riven with anti-Semitism, Labour is hanging by a thread

21/03/2019, 10:58:51 PM

by Rob Marchant

Recent days have surely seen more political turmoil and uncertainty than has been seen in a generation; perhaps even in the whole postwar period. It is certainly extraordinary that, two weeks out from an enormous political event, no-one can really say with any certainty how things will turn out, or even what the plan of action is.

But what of Labour? Jeremy Corbyn, in present circumstances, is surely the luckiest leader of all: the strange return of a sovereign Parliament and the disarray of Theresa May’s Tories has helped camouflage Labour’s violent, internal convulsions, albeit temporarily.

For the past few months, Labour has been being riven by two potent forces at the same time.

First, the Leader’s disingenuous position on Brexit being finally laid bare for all to see: the Emperor never had any clothes. it was only ever a matter of time before his attempt to ride two horses at once ended in Labour doing the splits, and not far off literally so.

All Shadow Cabinet members can do is go on the media and mouth platitudes, while Corbyn refuses to answer a straight question. No-one believes them any more, except the Corbyn cult itself, within the party. Labour’s surviving frontbenchers have become a standing joke, as Emily Maitlis’ open exasperation with Barry Gardiner on Newsnight showed.

The second blow has been the gradual implosion of the party over anti-Semitism, for the simple reason that it refuses to pay anything more than lip-service to the problem.

Of the two, it seems clear that the second is the real killer: the most pernicious and long-lasting.

Labour could yet, if Corbyn became irreparably damaged for whatever reason, replace him with someone willing to bow to the majority view of the party membership: that they do not want Brexit. Although there might be a group who would never forgive Labour for the damage done already, that applies equally to both major parties at the moment and, chances are, they would give a new leader the benefit of the doubt.

The same is not, sadly, true of anti-Semitism. It is now at the point where it is genuinely doubtful whether or not the party can actually recover, because the rot has already gone so deep into the membership. In any event, it would really require a turnaround in both the NEC and the party machine, neither of which are going to happen until Corbyn goes, and possibly not after that, either.

Political resignations over the last few weeks are starting to grow from a trickle to a flood. The other week, as reported here at Uncut, a group of experienced, moderate councillors resigned, following the TIG defections. Key councils are now in the hands of the Corbynite clowns, including Haringey and Brighton. Liverpool is, once again, crumbling.

For those seeing echoes in this “councils going bad” back to the 80s days of Militant, there are clear parallels, yes – not least the return of Derek Hatton – but it is not the same.

It is not comparable because, for all the organisation came close to strangling the party, parasite-like, the leadership never fell to the far left. It has now.

The leadership has now been in the hands of the far left for three-and-a-half years (if you do not recognise Corbyn as “far left”, then you have simply been putting your fingers in your ears to the mountains of information on his past – for example the excellent Corbyn in The Times Twitter feed.

If you do recognise that it is in the hands of the far left, you see how much danger the party is now in, because – among many disastrous effects – there is no end in sight for its cancerous anti-Semitism problem, worsening day by day.

This week, the party readmits the wag who thought that “Jew process” was an acceptable joke to make in a party meeting. Suspended MP Chris Williamson is patted on the back by his old pal Corbyn in the Commons. A headline in the New York Times, not constrained by the niceties of the British press, openly describes our beloved party as “Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Semitic Labour Party. That is, the stench has even crossed the Atlantic.

In case it were not blindingly obvious, the people in charge of the party are not remotely serious in tackling the problem.

Worse, the message anti-Semites within are seeing from the top is still, in Tracey Ullman’s immortal words, “tone it down a bit, lads”. Not that the current Zeitgeist is repugnant apologism, which must be stamped out.

It is useful to read, if you have not already, this heartfelt piece in the Jewish Chronicle by one of Corbyn’s own foot-soldiers, resigning from the party in Islington North. The weary directness with which someone who had lived close to Corbyn for years, physically and politically, was devastating:

“And I wonder why we took no notice of this behaviour at that time. I can only conclude that we saw you as an irrelevance and your activities anachronistic.

Unfortunately you are no longer an irrelevance. You are leader of the Labour party. You and your coterie of ideologues and aristo-Stalinists have created an institutional culture where anti-Semitism thrives. It has been brought from the fringe of the party to the forefront of the party.”

It is masked by the current Westminster shenanigans over Brexit, but the party is currently hanging by a thread. Even with a general election, which could happen and would most likely be lost, the Augean stables would be little cleaner on the other side, and possibly worse, as new Corbynite MPs would replace retiring or deselected ones.

Something, somewhere, soon has to give.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The headlines missed the real Bercow story. He’s de facto implementing last week’s Benn amendment: the Commons now has the lead in deciding what get’s voted on for Brexit

19/03/2019, 10:35:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The headlines from John Bercow’s intervention yesterday might have been about his refusal to countenance another Meaningful Vote on an unchanged deal, but the real story, was elsewhere. Two words, one number: Standing Order 24.

In his response to a question from Labour MP Helen Goodman, the Speaker virtually set out how he would support the Commons in seizing control of the parliamentary agenda, allowing binding votes on different Brexit options such as a referendum or Norway+.

Here’s the key exchange from Hansard.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are obviously right that the House does not wish to vote on the same proposition over and again. Equally, I am sure that you will be aware of the fact that some hon. Members were interested in meaningful votes because at that time, they would be able to vote on amendments on matters that we have not yet considered. If the Government are unable to make any changes to their proposition, I seek your guidance on how we might secure opportunities for voting on those alternative propositions. I heard you talk about urgent questions, but of course, there is no vote on an urgent question or a statement, and a Standing Order No. 24 motion is in neutral terms. The Government have not been very generous recently in offering Opposition day debates either, so I seek your advice on how hon. Members might proceed.

Mr Speaker

Obviously, it would be helpful to the Opposition if Opposition days were supplied. That has not happened recently and I have no way of knowing whether the Leader of the House has it in mind to provide for Opposition days. I think that colleagues would think that it was a democratic and seemly thing to do to ensure that the principal Opposition party had the requisite allocation of days. So far as other business is concerned, the hon. Lady should look closely at the Standing Order No. 24 procedure. What she says about it is true, but I think that she should reflect upon the opportunities that the Standing Order No. 24 procedure presents, because the opportunities are fuller than has traditionally been acknowledged or taken advantage of by Members of the House of Commons.

The Speaker bends over backwards to needle Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House and highlight Standing Order (SO) 24. This is the SO that enables emergency debates to be requested by MPs.

Traditionally, emergency debates are phrased neutrally. They always use the formulation, “That this House has considered…” This is because the purpose of SO24 is to enable debate, to consider a motion, not direct action following the debate.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Exclusive: Why I left the Labour party

02/03/2019, 09:28:13 AM

by Mike Gapes

On February 18 I resigned from the Labour Party and joined The Independent Group of Members of Parliament. This was the most difficult decision of my life. I never ever thought I would leave the Party I joined as a 16 year old when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. For over 50 years I was an active member. I held office at all levels, local and national. I spent fifteen years at Labour Party Head Office in Transport House and Walworth Road working in the Organisation, Research and Policy departments. I was a Labour and Co-operative MP for twenty seven years.

I decided early last year that I could not in all conscience stand again as a Labour candidate and support the prospect of a Corbyn led government. But it took me months of agonising to finally make the break. I have been Labour to my core. I have many good Labour friends. I care passionately about Labour values.

I never followed a leader blindly and have had differences with every leader in the past. It is no secret that I had long been unhappy with the direction of the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership. I did not support Corbyn as leader in 2015. I also made clear that I had no confidence in him in 2016. When the unexpected early election was called in 2017 I sent my activists to help Wes Streeting in neighbouring Ilford North. I bit my tongue and did no media appearances. I based my election campaign on my record as a hard working local constituency MP.

I made no mention of Corbyn or the National Labour Manifesto in my election address which was delivered to every single voter. I pledged to be a strong pro-European voice and to campaign to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market. It was always clear to me that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be Prime Minister. When I stood for re-election in 2017 I could honestly tell my constituents that there was no prospect of that. The priority was to stop Theresa May getting a landslide for her hard Brexit.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Corbyn moved on a second referendum because of TIG

25/02/2019, 10:39:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

After a week, the Independent Group (TIG) can claim some successes: more Twitter followers than Momentum, higher opinion poll scores than the Liberal Democrats, and now a significant Labour move towards a second referendum.

From “funny tinge” to weak rebuttals to by-elections calls, jarring with their People’s Vote push, there have been less auspicious moments.

More fundamentally, these MPs remain trapped between the rock of being unable to advocate either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May for prime minister and the hard place of an electoral system that makes it a political reality that the prime minister will be either the leader of Labour or the Tories.

They are challenging this reality and in doing so, making a pitch for Corbyn’s brand: insurgent.

We can judge insurgency in different ways. If it means adopting the most traditionally left-wing and statist policies, it is likely that, while TIG are yet to outline a policy programme, Corbyn will win this contest. If it means taking the biggest personal risks, and positioning most defiantly against political convention, TIG trump Corbyn.

In running against convention, TIG are changing the weather, most of all in the Labour party. Over the weekend, it was understood that Corbyn was under pressure to respond to TIG by:

  • Reviewing Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism
  • Heading off attempts to trigger the deselection of MPs
  • Backing a second referendum

On the last of these, after months of reluctance, Corbyn has moved. It will be worth reading the small print but the advocates of a People’s Vote are clear: this is a big deal.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Can the Labour breakaway escape our General Melchett leadership?

18/02/2019, 10:57:03 PM

By Jonathan Todd

“If nothing else works,” General Melchett (Stephen Fry) insisted in Blackadder Goes Forth, “a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

Donkeys again lead lions. Theresa May won’t face facts about parliamentary arithmetic. Jeremy Corbyn won’t face the facts raised by 7 ex-Labour MPs.

For Melchett “seeing things through” came at tremendous human cost. As business investment plummets and the UK’s international reputation degrades to the shambolically pitiable, May and Corbyn are also callously aloof.

Brexit does nothing to solve the problems of the UK, while creating many new problems. At a minimum, a “good Brexit” would avoid these new problems. More ambitiously, it would somehow address the problems that the UK harboured in June 2016. No such Brexit exists.

We might choose to minimise the scale of economic damage caused by Brexit (by staying in the single market and customs union) but this comes at the price of being rule takers to the EU. Since June 2016, Labour has never confronted this trade-off.

The Irish backstop features in debate in the UK as if the border issue is a potentially temporary challenge, but any future divergence between Northern Ireland and the EU customs union and single market likely necessitates a hard border.

If the UK were, for example, to have lower tariffs than the EU customs union, a Northern Ireland with an open border to the Republic would create a way to avoid tariffs when bringing goods in to the EU. If these goods were to fall below EU regulatory standards, this EU backdoor would undermine the single market, as well as the customs union.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The case for Remaining needs saving from Remainers

17/01/2019, 10:02:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fabulous scene in the recent Channel Four drama, ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War,’ where Rory Kinnear, playing David Cameron’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, storms into a focus group meeting of average voters and starts arguing with them in sheer frustration that the Remain campaign’s message just isn’t getting through.

As metaphors go, it’s just about perfect.

Stupid people don’t understand the issues or what’s at stake, so the swells need to barge in, shouting and finger-jabbing until the plebs acquiesce.

There’s no real mystery as to why the Brexiteers triumphed in 2016.

Remainers fluffed it.

Through the combination of a truly terrible campaign and their own unjustified sense of providence, they ‘lost’ Europe.

On the wrong end of a fair fight, Remainers have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the experience.

All we have had for the past two years is incessant moaning about the manner of the loss, which, boiled down, usually amounts to “their lies were better than our lies.” Not to mention the daily epistles on Twitter from people like Andrew Adonis which long ago scaled the heights of self-parody.

We’ve had carping about the Leave campaign’s infamous bus and the hooky pledge to redirect the £350 million a week we contribute to EU coffers to the NHS instead. As though it’s the first porkie told in a political campaign.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The main party leaders are useless. We need a parliamentary League of Grown-Ups to tell the British public the truth on Brexit

16/01/2019, 10:28:02 PM

by Rob Marchant

What happens if normal party politics has broken down? One suspects this is the question most commentators have been asking themselves for the last several months, consciously or unwittingly, as British politics lurches from one unprecedented situation to another.

If we needed proof, it is surely in the bizarre events of the last couple of days.

First, Theresa May suffers the biggest parliamentary defeat since the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, on the deal that she has diligently shepherded through Parliament.

Then, miraculously, she survives a vote of No Confidence the following day, in a way that surely no other Prime Minister has ever done after even much lesser defeats.

Apart from the unlikeliness of these record-breaking feats being what any PM would like to be remembered for, this is clearly not parliamentary business as usual.

Most disastrously, we now have the leaders of both major parties entrenched in fantasy positions: May’s, that some kind of Brexit deal not unlike hers can still be salvaged, to save us from No Deal, and Corbyn’s that we can still negotiate something better with the EU in time for tea.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

With each passing week, McDonnell becomes more like Brown to Corbyn’s Blair

07/01/2019, 10:41:33 PM

by David Talbot

In September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, was finishing his first speech to the party faithful. Embracing the mandate for change, Corbyn, with a wry nod halfway through, noted that “things can – and they will – change”. In the preceding three years, via an internal challenge and a general election, the nature of the Labour Party has been transformed in his image. Corbyn was of course in part elected, twice, as Labour leader precisely because he represented a riposte to the previous Labour governments and to, of course, the loathed Tony Blair. However, an aspect of the duopoly which so dominated the party throughout its years in government is set to be replicated, ironically, by those who have dedicated the most to repudiating him, his image and his governments.

John McDonnell was not a universally welcomed appointment when Corbyn gave his longstanding comrade the position of Shadow Chancellor over three years ago. The antipathy reached its peak during the botched leadership challenge to Corbyn during 2016, when murmurs reached a crescendo that his departure was desperately needed to restore some semblance of party unity. The fiery, left-wing firebrand made enemies in his own party as easily as amongst the Conservatives, his reputation as a deeply divisive and electorally poisonous figure seemingly cemented.

The scepticism extended as far as Corbyn’s innermost circle, who grew to distrust the Shadow Chancellor – an opinion also widely held amongst the trade unions who had dealt with him for decades. In his early throes he actively coveted controversy and attrition, from his ‘communist salute’ at the 2015 party conference to labelling Labour moderates “fucking useless” in their cack-handed attempts to dispose the new Labour leader. Since then, a transition has begun as ambitious and calculated as the work of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to transform the electoral prospects of a moribund party in the mid-1990s.

And it is to these two towering figures of the last chapter of the Labour Party that is becoming ever more prevalent for the new, Corbyn-led, chapter. The rivalry and trench warfare, often for the sheer sake of it, that came to characterise the then Labour leader and his Chancellor is fracturing into the open between Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor. Over the summer, when Labour descended into a bitter dispute over anti-Semitism, it was the Shadow Chancellor, through the pages of the Times no less, that organ of the establishment, who made it known that he disapproved of Corbyn’s handling of the sorry saga. As to with the terrorist incident in Salisbury, where McDonnell, not Corbyn, voiced support for the security services and stated unequivocally it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Put your legs away Jeremy and come up with a convincing Brexit policy

09/12/2018, 08:00:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I shudder to imagine what Jeremy Corbyn’s pins look like – pale and scrawny, if I’m pushed to conjure up a mental picture.

He must think they look alright though. Patrick Maguire over at the New Statesman quotes a DUP source saying the Labour Leader is “showing a bit of leg” in a bid to woo the DUP and its ten MPs, ahead of a make-or-break week for Theresa May.

Yesterday Corbyn told Sky News the DUP opposed the Northern Ireland backstop for “very good and sensible reasons.” He said Labour was ready to “step in and negotiate seriously with the EU to put up a serious alternative which is a proper customs union – a customs union – with the EU in which we have a say in what goes on”.

Things are clearly getting weird in Westminster, but this is off the charts strange.

Corbyn is, we are frequently reminded by his detractors, a lifelong Irish republican. Suddenly, however, the political troglodytes of the DUP are people of honour whose barmpot politics are “good” and “sensible.”

So what’s he playing at?

It seems this courtship ritual is a crude attempt to drive a wedge between Theresa May and her erstwhile unionist allies. Fair enough, opposition parties are meant to oppose and all that.

But there’s no pathway to Number Ten that involves him courting the DUP. Neither are they crazy enough to assume ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ in the frenetic calculus of who wants what over Brexit.

They’re on the rebound, granted, but they’re not desperate enough to put Sinn Fein allies like Corbyn and McDonnell in government. No, Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, is still trying to catch Theresa’s eye.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

A glimmer of sunlight for Britain and for Labour

27/11/2018, 07:30:38 AM

by Rob Marchant

The first thing to observe about the current political situation in Britain is that it is incredibly difficult to predict. At every point of the mathematical decision tree, there are unknowns and strange distortions (more of that later).

So the starting point for us, like Sophocles, is this: the only thing we know is that we know nothing. And the one thing which is usually true about politics is when there is an “everyone knows that…” conventional wisdom, it is more often than not completely wrong. Whoever would have predicted the success of Donald Trump? Or John Major, or Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter?

That said, if we look incrementally at what has changed in the last ten days, it would seem that Britain, and Labour, are both in a slightly better place.

First, Britain: whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, unless you are frothing at the mouth, you cannot be looking at a no-deal Brexit as an attractive outcome for the country.

Therefore, the fact that Theresa May has finally, two years into her premiership, dared to put “no Brexit” back on the table, augurs well for moderates in both camps.

If Chequers succeeds, which looks increasingly unlikely (both from the UK side and taking into account the difficulty of ratification across each of 27 countries, such as Spain and Ireland), at least Britain has a “least worst” route to Brexit which will cause only modest harm to the economy.

Now let us look at what happens if Chequers fails.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon