Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

We need a Budget for jobs, housing and stability

22/11/2017, 07:00:00 AM

by Joe Anderson

This is the eighth winter of Tory austerity and it must be the last.

The legacy of a decade’s worth of Tory public service cuts and rampant economic inequality is right there on our high streets for all to see.

Food banks, credit unions and pawn shops.

The poor have been abandoned in the clamour to clear up the mess left behind by the bankers and George Osborne’s ideological obsession with cuts.

His successor, Philip Hammond, didn’t even know the unemployment figures when he was asked on television on Sunday morning.

All of us dealing with the fallout of his disastrous austerity policies know only too well that we have 1.4 million people unemployed and as many again working in the ‘gig economy’ of insecure, part-time and short-term work.

Against such a backdrop, it’s no wonder that young people cannot get a foothold on the housing ladder.

Councils like mine are doing everything possible as a council to work with housing associations and developers to build homes that are so desperately needed, but we are doing so in the face of sheer indifference from ministers about the scale of the crisis.

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Stopping Brexit is a race against time. Labour MPs are in pole position

01/11/2017, 10:27:42 PM

by Rob Marchant

Perhaps, just perhaps, historians might look back at this week and say, that is the week that the tide started to turn against populist politics and at least some parts of the world managed to save themselves from it.

Probably for some states, Turkey, Hungary, Russia and perhaps Poland, from where I write, it is too late. But some with longer-established democratic traditions still may have the will and the mechanisms to turn it around, in time to prevent lasting damage.

It has been the week of two signal events: the first indictments in Trump/Russia, which may yet lead to the early collapse of an ignominious presidency; and a poll showing that public opinion may finally have twigged that Brexit negotiations are headed down a blind alley with no good result for Britain.

The first is the tip of an immense iceberg which is as yet far too early to call. But the second we can project a little into the future. So, when a YouGov poll says 53% of voters think we were wrong to leave the EU and 47% right, it is worth reflecting on. First, it could be a mere blip, an outlier. Second, this does not mean the Remainers in that poll think that we can even try and leave, as YouGov themselves argue here.

But let’s suppose that 53% were to become 60%, or even 70%. At what point does public opinion become strong enough that politicians have to sit up and think about remedial action? Clearly that point exists, if you can push the percentage high enough. Public opinion can be a fickle thing: but when it starts to decide something unequivocally, it cannot be ignored.

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If MPs privately oppose Brexit, they should show some public leadership and make the case against it

31/10/2017, 11:03:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

To begin with a confession, when I heard that Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Highlands and Islands, was running the line in a Champions League match in the Nou Camp, I thought, “wow, how impressive and exciting”. While the hinterland – to use Denis Healey’s term – of too many MPs seems offensively and dangerously shallow, this is elite, non-political activity.

The generally negative reaction to Ross, including the oh-so-funny brandishing of a red card by SNP MP John McNally in PMQs, has felt to me curmudgeonly and small-minded. It reminded me of Roy Jenkins’ autobiography:

“I am strongly against the current fashion for full-time MPs … Being a full-time backbench MP is not in my view a satisfactory occupation … Excessive attendance at the House of Commons, with the too many hours spent hanging around in tearoom or smoking room which this implies, either atrophies the brain or obsesses it with the minutiae of political gossip and intrigue.”

These words have become heresy in the not quite three decades since written. We’d rather atrophy Ross’ brain than test it alongside Lionel Messi.

Yet we need MPs with brains more than ever. We need them, too, to have the courage, reinforced by a confidence that, if necessary, they’d prosper in careers outside of politics, to use them.

Shackling MPs to the tearoom limits their horizons. It makes them more likely to feel that their financial well-being can only be maintained by securing re-election, heightening the probability that their only instinct will be to follow constituency opinion. If this is all MPs are, we might as well have a legislature composed of 650 local sentiment algorithms.

Political life is a vocation or nothing. There’s scant point to any of it without animating purpose. There’s no socially democratic aim served by Brexit. Thus, social democratic MPs ought not to accept Brexit, or to only secretly hope that public opinion turns against it; they should, instead, stand for their pro-EU convictions and seek to move opinion with them.

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Labour – the new stupid party

22/10/2017, 10:30:08 PM

The Monday Column

How many times can you write: ‘Labour is screwed’ before you give up and do something else? Whatever the limit is, there’s a good chance we’ve now reached it. You can tell because correspondents on Uncut and many other blogs and publications on the centre-left have given up saying it.

I mean, what’s the point? 

Labour’s direction of travel is now set for the next few years, certainly until after Brexit in 2019. In lieu of issuing Cassandra-like warnings about the lurch to the hard left, there is little else left to say or write. The unreality of contemporary Labour politics merits little serious analysis.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn makes lots of speeches, but the content is invariably a reheated version of the same stump speech that he’s been making for the last thirty years (‘It’s not right that…’) There is little by the way of policy or strategy to scrutinise and discuss, with Corbyn’s recent Labour conference speech plumbing new depths of banality, culminating with a shout-out birthday greeting for Diane Abbott.

There is no attempt at widening Labour’s support base or providing a realistic programme for government. There is little to say about how an advanced market economy copes with Brexit and cultivates enough decently-paid jobs in a future of growing automation. Or how limitless demand for public services can be effectively managed and financed and our welfare state reformed so it provides affordable care for children and the elderly alike.

The mantra is simply ‘spend, don’t offend.’ There is no problem increasing public spending or extending public ownership cannot resolve. State-owned trains will never be late. The Royal Mail must be renationalised as a priority, apparently, just so the taxpayer can take on its pension fund deficit. Middle-class students’ university tuition will be eagerly paid for by working class young workers, (who themselves will never get the chance to go near a university).  Capital controls will ensure that jittery speculators and fund managers can’t rain on the socialist parade. 

Of course, the offer of ‘free stuff’ will not withstand a casual brush with the realities of government. But no-one seems to care about the small details any more. Even the Conservative Research Department must have given up keeping track of Labour’s open-ended spending commitments. (more…)

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J’accuse

10/10/2017, 10:10:00 PM

by Robert Williams

Almost the entire political class in the UK is a pathetic, cowardly disgrace. I don’t mean the committed Brexiteers, those anti Europeans who hate the idea of co-operation with our closest neighbours, and who fantasise about turning the UK into the 51st state of America, or some sort of low tax, low regulation, low quality, cheaper, nastier and colder version of Singapore.

Neither do I mean the strange group of Labour MPs, including the Dear Leader and his shadow chancellor, Dennis Skinner and Kelvin Hopkins, who believe in a left wing version of Brexit (“Lexit”) because they think the EU is a capitalist club, and they want to deliver “socialism” in one country.

These groups represent nothing but a tiny minority of their parties, and are even less representative of the country. They know this, which is why they scream and shout about the “will of the people”, deliberately ignoring the fact that the “people” amounted to 37% of the electorate voting to leave.

If you believe that leaving the EU will be a disaster, diminishing Britain permanently and wrecking our economy, those you should have real contempt for are the moderates. Some of these pro Europe centrist MPs, the vast majority in the Labour Party, and still making up the majority of conservative MPs, are now meekly and pathetically accepting that we will, in some form or another, indeed leave the EU.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Brexit referendum was utterly flawed and based on nothing but lies and fantasy. Young people between 16 and 17, most affected by the decision, were excluded from the vote. British expats were excluded from the vote. It was a non-binding referendum, won by a flimsy majority, following a campaign based on outright lies, misrepresentation, distortion, funded by extremely dodgy sources and with likely malign influence of American billionaires and Russian cyber bots.

Last year’s referendum was the most shameless example in British history of our democratic deficit.

And this was just the process. As events have developed the never ending stream of bad news about our economy, our credibility, our ability to take control of anything at all should be enough to make a sane and rational MP, to think again.

And yet we have the truly incredible sight of the weakest, most divided and intellectually enfeebled government in modern history, utterly clueless in what sort of Brexit they desire, who show not the slightest understanding of how the EU works, how trade agreements work, who can’t plan, prepare or negotiate, and are fast turning Britain into a banana republic, an international laughing stock.

And this is supported by the Labour Opposition, with the courageous exception of 52 Labour MPs who voted against the Brexit Bill. The rest really should know better.

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How can Labour win in rural seats?

08/10/2017, 11:21:35 PM

by Liam Stokes

This was the question that closed the Countryside Alliance fringe at Labour conference, a panel discussion entitled “How can Labour make Brexit work for the countryside?” based on our Brexit policy document. The question was asked by a frustrated party member from South West Norfolk CLP, a constituency currently represented by Liz Truss.

I happen to believe the answer to the question lies partially within the title of the fringe, which is precisely what I argued during my opening remarks as the first panellist to speak. At this point I think most people accept that the main barrier to Labour progress in rural areas is cultural, the perception and indeed the reality that until recently Labour has treated the countryside with a “polite disinterest”, to repeat the oft-quoted line from Maria Eagle’s report Labour’s Rural Problem.

I argued that Labour can help shed this image by showing some real passion for making Brexit work for the countryside. Everyone is talking about Brexit in great sweeping macro terms, yes or no to the Single Market, yes or no to Freedom of Movement, which is entirely understandable at this stage of the debate. But what the countryside needs to hear, and what I was hoping to hear at our own fringe and at the other rural fringes I attended, was an interest in the details that will matter to rural communities.

This doesn’t necessarily mean farming, but it does mostly mean farming. It’s true that most rural voters aren’t directly involved in agriculture, which only employs around half a million people, but again: Labour’s rural disconnect is cultural. Farming, and other land based industries like fishing and shooting, go right to the heart of rural culture. Land based industries shape the landscapes we look at, influence many of the social events going on in our towns and villages, and drive much of the conversation down the local pub. And I speak from painful experience when I say it is a little disheartening to wear the red rosette when the farmland bordering every road and railway line is festooned with “Vote Conservative” signs.

So putting effort into working for the land based industries could be electorally useful in the countryside, and as my fellow panellists Will Straw and Helen Goodman MP pointed out, it is also of immediate importance. Agriculture should be top of Labour’s policy agenda because farming is so uniquely exposed to Brexit.

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The real story of the Commons Brexit vote was the leadership’s disingenuous positioning

18/09/2017, 10:27:22 PM

by Rob Marchant

“Dennis Skinner…votes with Tories” ran the headline. But the truth is that Dennis Skinner actually voted for what he believes in: that Britain is better-off outside the EU. He only did what Jeremy Corbyn had already done hundreds of times (about five hundred, reportedly): vote with the Tories against his own party. As did six of his backbench colleagues (interestingly, Caroline Flint MP, who abstained, seemed to get more grief on social media than Skinner, who voted for the motion. We leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to why that might be).

Corbyn’s calculation, in contrast, was based on what it usually is: what he could get away with. Does anyone seriously believe that he has changed his opinion on the EU after over three decades opposing it as an MP?

Of course not. The calculation was that he could not get away – either with the public or his own party – with asking the PLP to support the Tories in a hard Brexit, so he allowed Keir Starmer to lead the charge and got out of the way.

And so we ended with the bizarre spectacle of two long-time, hard-left colleagues on opposite sides of the fence: one because he actually believed the same of the Tories, for once; and one because he also believed the same as the Tories, but couldn’t say so.

There was a helpful, complicating factor: that the Tories had come close to overreaching themselves, in insisting on giving themselves a muscular authority over governmental decisions which went so far as to pretty much break the principle of separation of powers between legislature and executive.

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It’s about democracy, stupid: Why Remainers and Leavers should both support amending the Repeal Bill

07/09/2017, 07:30:23 AM

by Sam Fowles

The EU Withdrawal Bill (formerly called the “Great Repeal Bill”) continues its passage through Parliament this week. Theresa May claims she is delivering the “will of the people”, yet she is doing the opposite. The Bill will grant the government such egregious powers that, in relation to a swathe of vital legal rights and protections, it no longer has to take the “will of the people” into account.

The bill is fixable. This should unite both “leavers” and “remainers”. Both claim to support democracy. The “leave” campaign based their referendum pitch on restoring the sovereignty of parliament. If they were serious then they should unite in supporting amendments to the Bill.

The British constitution offers us, as citizens, two avenues for holding the government to account: Elected representatives in Parliament make decisions about which laws should govern us and what powers the government should enjoy. The courts allow individuals to hold the government to account for misuse of its powers. The Bill closes off both avenues of accountability. The Henry VIII powers allow the government to overturn primary legislation, the sort that must usually be approved by both the Commons and the Lords, without winning a vote in Parliament. Often a law containing such extensive powers will include a legal “test”, ensuring that the powers can only be used if certain conditions are met. In other words: when it is really necessary. If ministers use the powers without meeting the test, the courts can step in to protect individual rights. This Bill allows ministers to use Henry VIII powers, effectively, at their own discretion. As a result, there is no way for individuals to seek redress in the courts if the powers are misused.

By choking off these avenues of accountability, the government can remove important individual rights and protections without any democratic scrutiny. This means that key protections for workers, the environment, human rights, and consumer protection could disappear overnight. If the Bill is passed in its current form, there will be little that ordinary people, or even elected representatives, can do about it.

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The moment to work to veto Brexit has come

26/08/2017, 09:53:46 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Jon Todd’s article Ten thoughts for August raised big questions going beyond one month. It did not trigger an in depth debate, which raises the question whether blogging helps or hinders analytical discussion. But assuming for the moment that it does, here are some points about the immediate future – to the end of the year which is as far as is sensible to look in an age of rapid political surges.

Jon is probably right that an early general election is unlikely to happen but it is not impossible. As May is giving the dominant Brexit wing of her party everything it wants a new leader seeking a mandate is unlikely. The Tory website which could not see a successor – 34% voting none of the above and even David Davis failing to get 20% support shows that the Tories have no real alternative. However folly is folly, and the Tory Brexiteers are majoring in stupidity.

The option of a cliff edge No Deal politics is top of their agenda. If thwarted, May or a successor could call an election with a No Surrender on Brexit platform. Those like Stephen Kinnock, Heidi Alexander and Chuka Umunna who hope Tory Remainers would vote for a soft Brexit and defeat May ignore the political consequences. No Prime Minister could survive such a slap in the face. May certainly could not.

Because of this, there might be a snap election on Brexit. As it is possible that the government might fall Labour has to be prepared for an election at any time up to the moment of decision.  Corbyn told Michael Eavis at Glastonbury he expected to enter #10 in six months. This possibility means a choice has to be made, Corbyn Labour or Reactionary Conservative. It’s unavoidable, and the choice has to be Corbyn. There is no way a Tory government is preferable, as the bonfire of hard won rights through the so called Great Reform Bill will make clear.

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Ten political thoughts for August 2017

09/08/2017, 09:38:19 AM

by Jonathan Todd

August is a time to take stock. Particularly so after a wild twelve months in politics. Here with ten thoughts.

1.) There will be no early general election

Tories can’t agree on much. But they are united in not wanting Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and will do whatever they can to avoid an early general election that might bring this about.

Labour are powerful enough to subject the Tories to gruelling, parliamentary war but too weak for this to end in an early general election.

2.) Theresa May probably isn’t going anywhere fast

The Tories can’t agree on what form of Brexit should take and, as candidates reflect different Brexit flavours, a successor to Theresa May.

More chairperson than chief executive, she is condemned to try to navigate a peace between the tribes. Which may just hold if, before the election, she both delivers some form of Brexit and stands aside to enable a leadership election in which the post-Brexit Tory future will be personified.

3.) Cliff-edge Brexit is still possible

When Nick Timothy reappeared, the beard was gone. But the cant that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ wasn’t. It would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.

Lord Macpherson, until last year the top official at the Treasury , is quoted (£) as saying the “absence of realism in the government’s approach makes ‘no deal’ an evens chance.”

The magnitude of the calamity that ‘no deal’ portends cannot be understated and no responsible British politician would do anything to encourage this.

4.) But de jure Brexit, de facto Remain may now be the most likely outcome

Uncut does not know the government’s position on free movement. But the contours emerging amount to:

Free movement ends in March 2019 when the UK exits the EU but beyond that date, the government will support whatever arrangements British business tells us are necessary.

The de jure situation would change (free movement would be a prerogative of the UK government) but the de facto one wouldn’t much (our economy will still need and allow comparable numbers of immigrants to arrive from the continent).

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