Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Where would the UK be with any other Labour leader?

30/07/2018, 10:50:40 PM

by Jonathan Todd

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of no deal Brexit. The building prospect of this epic disaster makes Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 in March 2017, sixteen months in advance of anything resembling a united government position on the biggest decision facing us since World War II, recklessly premature.

Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Article 50 be triggered on 24 June 2016. As, in the period since, Labour has done no better than the government in offering up a Brexit plan likely to be compatible with the EU’s long-established and clear positions, we would now be over a month into the wasteland of Corbyn’s no deal if he were then prime minister.

Any other post-Michael Foot Labour leader, recognising that Brexit is incompatible with any viable Labour political economy, would have thrown themselves into the Remain campaign in 2016 with more gusto than Corbyn. We’ve got our party back, Neil Kinnock said when Ed Miliband became leader. But, despite their differences, all leaders from Kinnock to Miliband would, in the circumstances that Corbyn now finds himself in, be putting the national emergency of Brexit above all else.

Once we heard of “one of the easiest trade deals in human history” and Brexit with “the exact same benefits” of EU membership, now we are told of “adequate food” – but even this might prove overly optimistic. There will be, as Corbyn never tells us, no Brexit dividend, no £350m extra a week for the NHS. There will be, to almost recall a bleak Daniel Day-Lewis film, stockpiling of blood. No deal Brexit was meant to be impossible – don’t they want to sell us their prosecco? Not as much as they want to preserve the integrity of EU institutions, it, predictably, transpires – and yet, it looms ever larger.

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Corbyn’s ill-judged reaction to Margaret Hodge’s comments may just become his undoing

27/07/2018, 09:50:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

Jeremy Corbyn has really not had a good week. It was the week when the dam really finally burst on anti-Semitism, with the PLP wholeheartedly rejecting the party’s “doctored” definition of anti-Semitism,   one-third of British voters surveyed thinking him an anti-Semite and an unprecedented and scathing joint editorial on the front page of the UK’s three most prominent Jewish newspapers, condemning Corbyn. But more of that later. On Tuesday, he also finally came out as a full-blooded Brexiteer.

Over the last two years, Jeremy Corbyn has increasingly irritated Labour’s Remainers (who, according to überpollster Prof. John Curtice, are actually in the majority in the party nationally and not just in London, as many previously thought), by his disingenuous attempts to ride two horses at once over Brexit.

And somewhat inexplicably, he has chosen this moment, when everything is going spectacularly badly, to “come out” for Brexit and try to sell its “benefits”.

His “British jobs for British workers” 1970s schtick may resonate with some Labour voters, yes (let us not forget that Gordon Brown once tried much the same). However, apart from the economic illiteracy of the approach, toughness on immigration is not actually the vote-winner it once was, as the latest Social Attitudes Survey now shows.

In fact, in view of the recent Cabinet turmoil over Brexit and dire warnings arriving from all quarters about the possibility of No Corbyn could scarcely have timed his “coming out” as a Leaver worse.

No, one of Corbyn’s many problems as leader is that his judgement is hardly consistently good.

On that note, let us turn to the issue of his spat with Margaret Hodge. The spectacular own goal of allowing his acolytes to attempt the rewriting of a perfectly serviceable definition of anti-Semitism reeked of bad faith and caused a huge backlash two weeks ago.

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Corbyn fiddles while Europe, and the world, reach for the matches

02/07/2018, 08:14:20 AM

by Rob Marchant

It is somewhat inevitable, in the current, febrile political climate, that Tony Blair’s few interventions elicit disproportionate responses in Britain. Even when those interventions conclude little that most Western commentators outside Britain, or a European historian of average talent, would disagree with.

In part, this is because in Britain the effective, yet unspoken, May-Corbyn alliance on Brexit has meant effective mainstream unity on that subject.

That is, the only senior politicians who speak out against it are either (a) the leaders of minor parties (Greens/Lib Dems/SNP), or (b) retired heavyweights not bound by the party whip. So it is easy for him to outweigh the rest of the pack.

Love him or hate him, of all those, Blair is unquestionably the heaviest, in terms of prime ministerial experience at least. Against fellow living ex-PMs Major, Brown and Cameron, he wins on years (10 vs. 7, 3, 6); general election victories (3 vs 1, 0 and 2); and was never defeated in either a GE or a national referendum either, unlike the others.

And his latest intervention is not just correct: even if you disagree with him on Brexit (which, according to the latest YouGov poll, now puts you with less than half the population), it’s difficult to disagree with what he says about populism and the similarities to the 1930s.

2018 is a genuinely scary time to live. Not just through the narrow prism of Brexit, through which it seems all political questions are currently viewed here, although that is arguably a major disaster in itself and not just for Britain.

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Labour should back a ‘cooling off’ referendum on Europe. After all we did it before

12/06/2018, 04:55:26 PM

by Joe Anderson

Armaggeddon.’ There’s not much ambiguity about the word.

That’s the Whitehall assessment if there is no exit deal or transitional arrangements as we enter the Brexit endgame.

Even on civil servants’ less cataclysmic judgment, there is a chance that the Port of Dover collapses on the first day we leave the European Union. Food shortages follow.

Is this what Brexiteers mean by ‘taking back control?’

Their starry rhetoric and inflated claims are dissolving day by day.

The boast that the US is poised to sign an early trade deal with us – always a wide-eyed assumption – has been utterly shattered by Donald Trump’s trade war – which now puts 30,000 British steel workers’ jobs at risk.

Now all the talk is that the Government’s White Paper setting out its final negotiating position will be delayed until after the European Council meeting at the end of the month.

Will the Prime Minister be applying for an essay extension?

The impacts of Theresa May’s rickety negotiation position will echo for a generation to come.

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Country before party, reprise

12/06/2018, 07:28:39 AM

by Rob Marchant

Today, Parliament will have arguably its most important day of votes in decades.

There are three particular ones which matter: on the EEA, on the Customs Union and on a “meaningful vote” for the Commons on the final deal.

The Customs Union one Labour will vote for, but it’s not to get us to stay in the Customs Union. It’s just to get Theresa May to actually tell us what progress she’s made towards any participation in a Customs Union. As The Independent’s John Rentoul put it: “ ‘I haven’t made any’ would meet that requirement.”

As if this were not enough, the current position of both major parties on a customs union is nonsensical. Both are asking that Britain be able to negotiate its own trade deals as well, the absence of which power is the whole point of a customs union.

In other words, they are subscribing to what we might reasonably refer to as “Schroedinger’s Customs Union”, that is, a customs union that Britain is part of and not part of at the same time.

Next, that Parliament should effectively be left to sort out the next steps, in the event that the “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit package is lost. Labour will at least vote in favour of that.

No such luck with the vote on staying in the EEA, Britain’s last chance to have a Norway-style arrangement and actually hold onto the trade benefits the leadership is disingenuously claiming to want to hold onto (although, in reality, it doesn’t really). Labour MPs are being whipped to abstain.

But why are Labour MPs, the majority of which are apparently Remainers, even caring about the whip?

A PLP that rebelled on mass against Corbyn two years ago are now – with some honourable exceptions – supine, either for fear that their constituents will punish them or that their careers in a politically-destitute Labour Party will suffer? Even with the public now turning against Brexit, albeit slowly?

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The UK will vote to be inside the EU – eventually

05/06/2018, 08:31:35 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The UK will have another referendum on our membership of the EU. Rather than if this will happen, it is more a matter of when, on what terms, and in what circumstances.

This is because:

  • The referendums of 1975 and 2016 have established a de facto constitutional principle that the UK cannot move in or out of the EU without a referendum.
  • If this referendum does not come before March 2019, and the UK exits the EU at the closing of the Article 50 window, the UK will make right-wing and/or left-wing attempts to find a new place in the world, but neither will be able to turnaround the ongoing diminishment of UK living standards associated with Brexit, building pressure for a revision to the status quo ante.

There’s much to be said for the Ken Clarke view that referendums are defective instruments. It is difficult, however, to imagine circumstances in which it would be politically possible to reverse the verdict of 23 June 2016 without another referendum.

While Best for Britain is expected to publish its campaign manifesto on 8 June, calling for such, given the intransigence of Labour and the Tories towards a referendum, the likelihood remains that the UK will leave the EU in March next year.

45% of the public now expect that this will have a negative impact on the economy. Versus, according to the latest polling, 30% who think it will have a positive impact. Only 13% think it will make no difference to the economy. In contrast, 40% think it will have no impact on their personal finances.

“A recession,” Ronald Reagan said, “is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.”

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Labour’s complacency is incredible

08/05/2018, 10:44:51 AM

by Andrew Apostolou

The Labour Party is incredible. We lost the general election, but feel like we won because we were not crushed. Our painstakingly obscure position on Brexit looks like the diplomacy of Castlereagh when put beside the failures of David Davis. Our slogan of “For the many not the few” is appealing when compared to the Tories’ mishandling of the Grenfell tower fire and universal credit. Unlike New Labour, which worked diligently to earn power, today’s Labour Party gives the impression that it need only wait for the keys to Downing Street to fall into its lap.

Except that the electorate is unconvinced. Labour’s performance in the May 2018 local elections was mediocre, and we have failed to establish a commanding lead in national opinion polls. The voters do not trust us with the future of the country, a wariness that has sent our party to the opposition benches three elections in a row. After the financial crisis of 2008, the country has preferred laughably bad Tory leaders and their worthless promises. In 2010, Britain chose David Cameron and his “Big Society” over Gordon Brown. In 2015, Britain voted for Cameron’s promise of “stability and strong Government” over Ed Miliband–but received the instability of Brexit. In 2017, the electorate refused to give Theresa May the parliamentary majority with which to “make a success of Brexit” through “strong and stable leadership in the national interest.” Instead, the country delivered the hung parliament the prime minister warned against, but shunned Labour.

Britain remains sceptical because Labour is claiming that it can do for the country what it cannot do for itself: protect the vulnerable. The mood of the country favours more social democracy, which is why even the Tories reject “untrammelled free markets.” Still the country will not trust our party, which has a social conscience in its bones, because we have failed three groups miserably: women, minority women, and Jews.

Labour’s record on women is unimpressive. A senior party official sought to cover up a rape. The party has yet to take action against either the rapist or the official who discouraged the rape complaint. The party is still not learning. Labour initially allowed Kelvin Hopkins MP to question one of the women who has accused him of harassment, a decision only overturned after it appeared in the Evening Standard. Why should Labour women have to go to the media to obtain fair treatment?

The Labour Party’s record on minority women is similarly poor. They have complained about misogyny in the party. The most prominent recent case is Amina Lone, who claims that she cannot stand again as a councillor in Manchester because she is too opinionated about female equality. Others have said that Labour does not protect minority women. According to the Muslim Women’s Network UK “It appears that over decades senior Labour politicians have deliberately turned a blind eye to the treatment of Muslim women because votes have been more important to them than women’s rights.”

Despite the party’s denial, Labour has made it clear that it will accommodate attitudes to women that are inconsistent with its proclaimed feminism. Labour held a campaign event in Birmingham in May 2015 at which there was separate seating for men and women. The party’s defence was that “Everyone was together in one room and all were treated equally and respectfully.” The problem with this evasion is that separate is not equal. Neither the state nor a political party should interfere in the internal beliefs of religious communities. We can respect the desire for segregated seating at private religious and cultural events, but refuse it for public meetings. A Labour election rally is a gathering of a democratic socialist party- all are welcome and all sit where they please.

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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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Who will respond to Nick Clegg’s call to arms by being our Gladstone?

28/03/2018, 10:22:02 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“All the kindling is lying around, it just needs a spark to light it.”

Thus, concluded Nick Clegg’s weekend interview with the Times. It is a long time since we all “agreed with Nick” at the 2010 election. The AV and EU referendums failed to go his way, while five years of coalition with the Conservatives diminished his party such that they were wiped out at the 2015 election, with Clegg’s seat, on the back of a student vote, angry about tuition fees, turning Corbynite two years later.

With such a record of failing to read or move public opinion, we should take with a pinch of salt Clegg’s expectation that we are on the cusp of something big.

“There will be some kind of realignment. I think it is inevitable … British liberalism should get off its knees.”

This is striking: something that happens very rarely (realignment) is said to be inevitable; British liberalism depends not on his Liberal Democrats but upon this realignment; and its form is vaguely presented – “some kind of realignment”, while elsewhere Clegg repeatedly refers to “a new political entity”, not “a new political party”.

Enough is enough. Not just for the Jewish community with Labour. The security services must also have misgivings about Jeremy Corbyn as he seems less prepared to believe them than Putin’s Russia on attempted murders on British soil. As with the Jewish community and the security services, pro-Europeans now strain to see friends in a Labour party with undiminished reverence for the 2016 referendum.

But where is the extra £350m each week for the NHS? On no Brexit scenario does HM Treasury anticipate a “Brexit dividend” that would extend to this. Quite the opposite. And where are all these Turkish immigrants that we were warned about? Turkey, predictably, is no nearer joining the EU, as Brexodus continues, with talented and hard-working people taking their skills and endeavour elsewhere.

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Work is where Labour needs to help people “take back control”

12/03/2018, 10:38:00 PM

by Tom Clements

As pleasing as the increase in the Labour vote was in 2017, the continuing decline in support from the working classes is a pattern that the Party has to address. If we are to govern again, earning the trust and support of working people in places like Mansfield and Pudsey will be crucial.

To do that, we must show that we are the Party that will allow them to truly “take back control” of their own lives and communities.

If the success of the Leave campaign in 2016 should teach us one thing, it’s that people will no longer meekly accept being at the mercy of global forces. It is no good focusing on the growth of the economy if it’s not being felt in people’s pockets. Moreover, if we are ever to compete with the dangers of populism, it is vital that we offer a credible and optimistic vision that will allow people to control their own destiny.

And this is not a new problem.

In 1987, Neil Kinnock described young people unable to get work, married couples who could not get on the housing ladder and elderly people living in poverty.

And today, more than thirty years later, James Bloodworth’s Hired paints a similar picture. From the misery of temporary workers through zero hours contracts to the gig economy he speaks of working people who, echoing Kinnock, “live in a free country but don’t feel free”.

So if we are to regain the trust of the working class, this must be our mission: to restore dignity and security to the forgotten corners of Britain. To give working people the opportunity to be free.

For the Tories, freedom is a simple proposition. For them, it means an absence of barriers. It means deregulation, insecurity of contract and a relentless focus on the margin. The Right have encouraged a society where global companies have been able to drive down standards due to the replaceable nature of the surplus workforce.

But we cannot accept that this is the way things have to be. Without security, it is impossible to be free.

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