Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

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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The Bolsheviks of the left and right are intent on wrecking Britain

25/02/2018, 11:33:24 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The Bolsheviks of left and right don’t like our country. The left brain is not sure whether it went south with Thatcher or when the wrong side won the Cold War. The right when the dastardly Heath shackled us to the continentals or the first Reform Act of 1832.

They concur that something is rotten about contemporary Britain. We might as well jump off the Brexit cliff-edge. Walk the scorched earth of undiluted, uncompromising Corbynism. Maybe jump that jump and walk that walk, do the full Lexit shuffle.

There is a puritanical hankering for purification in these urges. Which contrasts with the moderation and pragmatism that supposedly distinguishes Britain. Hitler couldn’t happen here, we said. We’d laugh at the goosesteps, Orwell reassured us. Now those exalted by the Bolsheviks – Corbyn and Rees-Mogg – could goosestep wherever they like and be defended.

Telling us that, “the now routine equation of Stalin and Hitler both distorts the past and limits the future” and wanting colonialism “included as the third leg of 20th-century tyranny, along with Nazism and communism”, the left Bolsheviks are more Bolshevik as traditionally understood. Apologists for Stalin, as well as current regimes maintaining similar traditions, such as Venezuela, while seeing a repressive arch stretching directly from the British Empire to the Trump Empire.

The right Bolsheviks would shudder to be compared to those with these views. But there are similarities. They are both utopians. Albeit the Bolsheviks of the right are nostalgic utopians. Enamoured with what we never were and cannot be again. As the right Bolsheviks look back longingly, the left Bolsheviks look forward expectantly. They are certain that Corbyn will be King, they just wonder who will be first against the wall.

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2018 must be the year Labour’s progressives set out their vision for Britain

21/01/2018, 09:47:18 PM

by Callum Anderson

Labour’s progressives would be forgiven for feeling weary from the way British political discourse has developed over the past few years.

Having been ejected from office in 2010, we have too often been forced onto the back foot – pre-occupied with defending the last Labour government’s record from opponents on both Left and Right.

Meanwhile, Conservative-led austerity – based on a failed economic theory – neither eliminated the deficit as promised nor restructured the economy such that it was not heavily reliant on financial services.

Instead, Britain has been subjected to a lost decade resulting in stagnant wages, a significant rise in the use of food banks, as well as homelessness, child poverty and insecure work.

Yet because progressives were too occupied with defending past actions, valuable time has been lost in addressing the long-term challenges facing Britain’s economy and society, and, with it, regaining the trust of the electorate.

Moreover, opposition and suspicion as to what the new influx of members into the Labour Party has meant has given the impression – fairly or unfairly – that progressives are against a whole host of things, but not in favour of very much.

This should change.

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New year, new danger

05/01/2018, 10:31:18 PM

by Tom Clements

It’s safe to assume that this time last year no one, not even Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters, would have expected the Party to be where it is today. Riding high in the polls, daring the Tories to call another election, led by a man confident enough to declare that he’ll “probably” become Prime Minister. From where we were, it’s certainly been a rollercoaster year.

But if we are to make good on our confidence and build a government that will really transform our country for the many, we must be wary of the traps that lay ahead. As we have seen so many times before in the history of our movement, our hubris can bring us down much more quickly than the Tories.

So as part of our approach moving forward, we have to start looking beyond the next year and expect that the next election will not take place until 2020 at the earliest. As a result, there are several threats that could destabilise our Party and prevent us from achieving victory at the next election.

Threat one: Theresa May
Since Gordon Brown transformed from “Stalin to Mr Bean” it is hard to remember a more spectacular disintegration from political grace than the one Mrs May has suffered this year. From being ready to crush the saboteurs in April to being trapped in Downing Street in June, it is hard to imagine her ever being in a position of authority again.

And yet, it would be dangerous to believe that May’s days are numbered. As long as she sits at the negotiating table to leave the EU, we should expect that the Prime Minister will make a comeback.

As a party we have enjoyed much of the last six months doubling down on May’s incompetence. From the paralysed response to Grenfell tower, to the defeat of the EU Withdrawal Bill and then the resignation of Damian Green; it is hard to remember a more hapless performance. And that is what the voters currently see: a hopeless Prime Minister unable to do anything waiting to be put out of her misery.

And therein lies the danger.

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A fortune cookie for 2018

03/01/2018, 08:48:22 PM

by John Wall

After David Cameron secured a small majority in 2015 only to be replaced by Theresa May a year later on losing the referendum promised to get the kipper vote, many expected 2017 to be relatively uneventful. The triggering of Article 50 started the Brexit countdown and Corbyn was a long way behind.

One tumultuous year on, May’s failed gamble of a snap general election left her leading a minority government dependent upon the DUP, whereas a better than expected performance means that Corbyn looks like leading Labour for the foreseeable future.

It looks like UKIP were a one man band and a one trick pony although it’s unlikely there would have been a referendum in 2016 without them. They’ve subsequently haemorrhaged support and change leaders – the latest rose without trace – more frequently than some change their socks. Farage’s outrage” at May’s deal to end Brexit Phase 1 was little more than an attempt to stay relevant.

Their local government presence seems to be in terminal decline and could be extinct by the early 2020s. Unless something happens they’ll soon be like Monty Python’s parrot.

The LibDems are the only overwhelmingly pro-EU, anti-Brexit national party but their 48% strategy failed. The 2010-15 coalition did a lot of damage but they started to recover after the referendum. In 2017 they gained MPs, but on a reduced share. They are winning council by-elections but their national poll ratings are static.

They’re a victim of the squeeze between 2015 when the two main parties achieved 67.2% of the vote and 2017 when they got 82.4%. Many see them as primarily a party of protest and some of the ill-conceived things – fox hunting!!! – in the Conservative manifesto may have driven their support to a lifelong protestor in Corbyn. The 2015 Conservative pitch to kippers was that only a vote in the blue corner would deliver a referendum, in 2017 only a vote in the red corner could prevent a Conservative landslide.

As Brexit happens they will need to reinvent themselves.

The Conservatives are shell shocked and May deserves the “Survivor of the Year” award after her – self inflicted – annus horribilus. The Conservative party is remarkably lacking in sentiment and the lack of a serious alternative is a major reason for her continued presence in No. 10.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part IV)

02/01/2018, 06:08:11 PM

Flash in the pan award – metro mayors

Eight months on from the election of the first swathe of ‘metro mayors’ in some of our larger conurbations, and, well…

Only Andy Burnham has anything close to a national profile, aided by the fact he has responsibility for the NHS and social care system across Greater Manchester and easily rose the occasion, responding to the ISIS suicide attack on Manchester Arena last May.

The Tories’ Andy Street – former John Lewis boss – is assiduously working away on a second tranche of devolution for the West Midlands, but his strong anti-Brexit stance will hardly endear him to his colleagues in Westminster.

The basic problem for the metro mayors is that the whole idea feels like it’s reached its peak.

They have two big problems.

First, they have a near-impossible task in showing they’ve achieved anything by the time they’re up for re-election in 2020. They have precious little in the way of retail powers. Producing a draft spatial strategy, or appointing a ‘fairness czar’ is hardly going to cut it with the voters.

The second problem is that Whitehall has moved on. Devolution was Osborne’s thing and there’s little sense Theresa May – more excited about her ‘Modern Industrial Strategy’ – is remotely interested in prolonging the experiment.

You can imagine a scenario in the Downing Street bunker when a solemn Burnham appears on the television, and the PM flings one of her garish shoes at the telly. ‘Why have we given Burnham a platform to slag us off every day?!’

‘Dunno boss,’ a flunky will say, ‘Osborne thought it was a good idea…’

And that will be all it needs. Local authority leaders on the Combined Authorities will get to keep the devo deals they’ve negotiated but they’ll no longer be contingent on having an elected mayor. The Prime Minister can leave Labour council leaders to wield the dagger quicker than you can say ‘Infamy! Infamy!’

Little local difficulty award – Ireland & Brexit

It all seemed so easy, the Irish border issue. Last January, during her Lancaster House speech setting out her initial approach to Brexit, the Prime Minister breezily passed over the issue entirely. Not one specific mention was made of how the border would be sorted, post-Brexit.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part III)

31/12/2017, 03:13:07 PM

Global winner of the year – Vladimir Putin

While it must be obvious to the world that, under latter-day Putin Russia is no longer a free-speech democracy – if, indeed, it ever truly was one – there is no denying his effectiveness as a manipulator of world affairs. After convincing Obama to strike an ineffectual nuclear deal with Iran and that Russia should be empowered to mediate a “peace” in Syria; or that no-one should lift a finger to help Ukraine when he invaded; last year it was apparently interfering in US and other Western elections.

This year he has been more audacious than ever: he has managed to nurture a tenant of the White House – the White House – who is actively blocking attempts to curb his informational power, such as propaganda, hacking and social media trolling; let alone any attempts to see Russia as the frighteningly real military threat it has increasingly become.

And if you doubt that last statement, you need only note that Russia spends double what most NATO nations do on defence as a proportion of GDP, while considering that it is hardly defending itself from other, belligerent nations. It can only be for aggressive actions: in old-fashioned terms, empire-building.

Yes, North Korea might be a more immediate threat to the West but, oh, guess who visited Kim Jong Il in May? Stirring up chaos is what Putin delights in.

When in 2012 Mitt Romney described Russia as “our no. 1 geopolitical foe”, Obama and many others laughed haughtily. “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” They ain’t laughing now.

Straight talking, honest politics awardJeremy Corbyn

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn’s aides admitted a few weeks ago what we all knew: that he had, in fact, been consciously appealing to both sides of the Brexit debate. Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, knew that he could not get away with going for an all-out, hard-Brexit position, given the opposite view of most of the parliamentary party and party policy as set by conference. Straight talking, honest politics indeed.

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