Posts Tagged ‘hard left’

The Corbynite leadership’s final, scorched-earth, rearguard action

18/04/2020, 10:33:46 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was all going so well: but a matter of days following the election of Keir Starmer as Labour’s new leader and it is convulsing itself over the scandal of a report, leaked widely, containing sensitive, personal information and also making serious allegations about current and past staffers, not to mention various members and non-members.

It has the makings of a PR disaster of epic proportions which, thanks to Covid-19, national media has not yet given the prominence it is likely to have in future. But it will: make no mistake about its seriousness. It could even bankrupt the party, or some of its individual figures.

Corbyn himself is gone, of course. But this week we discovered, not to much surprise, that the report was commissioned by his last lieutenant: the party’s General Secretary, Jennie Formby.

You do not have to agree that Formby created a climate of fear and bullying at Labour HQ; or that she allowed unresolved anti-Semitism complaints to balloon on her watch and then disingenuously blamed the problem on her predecessor, although there is ample evidence for both these things. But they are opinions.

Where one has to despair with some party members over recent days, in uproar on Labour’s social media echo chamber, is the wilful blindness to the following actual facts:

1. Spying on staff is not ok. Honestly, what is wrong with you people, that you think it’s fine for any organisation to spy on its staff on an industrial scale, compiling their emails and WhatsApps, whatever the nature of their comments turned out to be?If you go into pretty much any organisation in the world, you will find groups of people being rude about their bosses and colleagues on email, chat or text, in a private way: this is human nature. Most of them quite reasonably do not expect they are about to be spied on by their employer. Even if use of information extracted from such monitoring is legal under certain, specific circumstances, it is clearly not behaviour which would be calmly accepted by a workforce as a rule and rightly so.

With that one action, Formby has destroyed the trust of hundreds of people employed by the party and using its email or mobiles on a daily basis. She surely cannot continue long in her role now, for purely managerial reasons – she has clearly lost confidence of her staff.

2. A major data breach has been committed. Are we really saying that Jennie Formby, who commissioned a report she knew contained highly sensitive and personal information, should not be held responsible for its safekeeping?

And how could she realistically not have known that such a sensitive document could not possibly be kept secret in a million years, given the controversial nature of its contents?It is all very well, Ms Formby, to tell local party members not to distribute it, now you are personally implicated in a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. But your either malicious or incompetent handling of personal data has now left a number of people involved in current cases, including some minors and Jews, exposed and vulnerable.

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The party, the party, the party: an eight-point plan to save the Labour party from itself

12/04/2020, 10:26:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

We have now had the Shadow Cabinet appointments. While a few have raised eyebrows among moderates – not least the self-same Miliband who helped get us into this mess in the first place – it is not a bad selection from the limited numbers of available MPs.

Its significance will be dissected for weeks by the Westminster lobby, because that is what they see – the Westminster face of the party. But the first thing we members need to realise is that the Shadow Cabinet and, indeed, party policy in times of Covid-19, is a sideshow.

Let’s not forget: the party is finally out of immediate danger, but it is still in intensive care.

Yes, it is important in these difficult times to provide a reasonably effective scrutiny function to the highly-variable ministerial quality on the Tory benches. But most moderates, we might wager, inside or perhaps temporarily outside the party, have always seen this leadership election as a two-step battle, in which both steps are essential and not just the first.

Step one: get a decent, competent, non-extremist leader (a low bar, you might reasonably say). Tick. And with Starmer, at first glance, things looks considerably better than anyone might have expected. Then, step two: sort out the party. In short, get it back to a decent, healthy, functioning organisation without the slightest hint of anti-Semitism or far-left extremism – both of which pretty much amount to the same thing.

And it is this second one to which we need now turn. It is not a question of it being a nice-to-have or an “in the fullness of time”: any failure to act on this immediately will mean that the good guys will not return – either our members or our supporters – and the whiff of racism will remain. The party, simply, will not recover. It is a sine qua non.

Here Uncut proposes eight things which will need to happen to make that a reality, and they will all need to start – and some finish – during the first hundred days.

One. Make it abundantly clear there needs to be a new General Secretary. The GS cannot easily be fired, but it is also impractical for them to continue if a party leader really does not want them there. The only key figure who will now want Formby to continue is Len McCluskey; the PLP, NEC, Leader’s Office and other unions will not.

Two. Eradicate anti-Semitism, branch by branch if necessary, as was done with Militant. The EHRC report, when it comes, will help mobilise opinion within the party and ensure that the guilty are brought to task, but action needs to be taken before then. Starmer’s meetings with JLM and BoD have been a good start. But this cannot really happen until we deal with point one. This will also have the happy side-effect of removing some of the nastier extremists from the party.

Three. Ignore Momentum. It is not necessary to try to attack it, it is already in disarray; a fan club based around one man can hardly have much future when that man goes. It is fracturing, as the far left always does. Its anti-Semitic members will be expelled from Labour. The important thing is not to engage with it, let it have its little conference in September and let it be a flop. Ironically, an organisation called Momentum will die if it lacks that which gives it its name. Those decent members, who are not mad or extremist and joined in good faith, will drift back towards the party proper. Eventually even Unite will dump it – they will want to be where the power is. (more…)

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Why did the hard left fail?

10/04/2020, 09:30:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The central assumption governing Labour politics for the past five years was that the shift leftwards under Jeremy Corbyn was unassailable. So overwhelming were the numbers of new members, encouraged, enthused and loyal to their man, following his unexpected election as leader in 2015, that control of the party had irrevocably decamped to the left.

Indeed, something had changed at the molecular level.

The creation of Momentum – a left-wing standing army within the party, numbered in the hundreds of thousands and solely dedicated to preserving the Corbyn insurgency – terrified moderate MPs who feared mandatory reselection was coming and with it the invitation to walk the plank, with hard-left activists jeering them on to a watery grave.

Party decision-making and policy formulation would fall into the clutches of a cabal of activists and far left trade unionists, who would then foist a shopping list of doctrinaire policies on the party. Unilateral nuclear disarmament – which had been the pivotal issue in party splits both in the 1950s and 1980s – would again incinerate Labour’s credibility as a party of government.

But the real story of the past five years is that barely a fraction of this supposed horror story ever came true.

Like Gordon Brown in 2007, Jeremy Corbyn had no real idea what he wanted to do with power. Yes, he had a few causes that drove him. Plenty of rhetoric, too. But there was no burning ambition. Still less a grand plan.

Rather than force through mandatory reselection and use his grassroots shock troops to unseat his opponents in the parliamentary party, the reselection process before the last election resulted in few victims.

Yes, Chuka and a few other disgruntled Blairite MPs who had fallen out with their local parties flounced off, but nothing like as serious as the 28 who fled to set up the SDP in 1981. And Corbyn was perfectly within his rights to try and bring some of his own supporters through. All leaders do it.

Whiny Labour MPs who simply didn’t respect his mandate and would never serve on his frontbench, just made a difficult situation worse. Credit therefore goes to the Jon Ashworth’s and John Healey’s and Andrew Gwynne’s for rolling-up their sleeves and serving the party’s broader interest.

Nor did policy drift too far to the fringes.

The cause of nuclear disarmament – once so totemic – seemed to just fall by the wayside. While the manifesto put forward at the 2017 election was merely a dialled-up version of Labour’s position from the early 1990s. A bit of nationalisation here. A bit more spending there. It was a dose of the old religion, but still recognisably social democratic stuff.

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The first step on a long road for Labour

05/04/2020, 10:25:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Saturday was a tremendous day for Labour. Having been knighted for services to law and criminal justice, Keir Starmer brings more impressive professional experience than perhaps any previous Labour leader. He is a serious figure for serious times. Winning on the first round with over 56% of the vote gives him a strong personal mandate.

Angela Rayner has great potential as the new deputy leader. Other deputy and leadership candidates – Lisa Nandy, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Ian Murray – emerge with credit and higher profiles. The many talents on the Labour backbenches will be brought to the frontbenches.

Candidates backed by Progress and Labour First swept the board in the NEC elections – congratulations to Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan. The party machine can be remade in Starmer’s image.

But challenges confronting Labour remain vast: fewer MPs than at any time since 1935 and an unprecedented context of national peril.

When shortages of tests, PPE and ventilators mean people die, the new political currency is thought to be competency. Less than a week after testing positive for Covid-19, Matt Hancock appeared in public to open an emergency health facility with many people around him not observing social distancing rules. While Hancock is considered one of the government’s more competent members, this visual communicates something else.

Whereas competency might imply a politics of cool rationality, we live in a country where 5G towers are set on fire. Because, deaf to the protestations of those that told us we’d had enough of experts, they are somehow supposed to spread Covid-19.

With emotions running high, the ability to mould how people feel remains politically central. Competency means using Gantt charts to get the right stuff in the right place at the right time. That is politically necessary but insufficient. We also now seek connection with newly treasured emotions: reassurance, reliability and hope.

Speaking to the nation on Sunday evening, the Queen summons these feelings for many much more effectively than Keir Starmer – who, for all his attributes, is the leader of a deeply mistrusted party. While Starmer enjoys a reputation for competency, he confronts the formidable challenge of moving Labour beyond associations with extremism and anti-British sentiments to find new emotional connection with an anxious public.

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Keir Starmer is Labour’s last best hope

28/01/2020, 11:13:25 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Bookmakers have Keir Starmer as the 7/19 favourite to be the next Labour leader – a 73% probability. In a party whose membership was swollen by Jeremy Corbyn, and which was largely loyal to him, Starmer did not enter the race as Corbyn’s presumed heir apparent. With early personal branding, Rebecca Long-Bailey carried this torch.

“No surrender, a 4-day week, and a 3-day bender,” proclaimed her supporters. Dancing on the political graves of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Zarah Sultana derided “40 years of Thatcherism” in her maiden speech in the Commons. Long-Bailey said “no surrender” by having Sultana speak at her campaign launch a few days later. It takes the same defiance to think a 4-day week a sensible policy commitment from Labour – from the perspective of hard-pressed workers, it challenged free broadband as the most otherworldly of Labour’s 2019 pledges.

You’d need a 3-day bender for this continuity Corbynism to make sense. After which, the breweries will be nationalised, and the beer will be free. Or, at least, Labour might commit for it to be so. But incredible commitments from opposition change little. They might get some in opposition more drunk, but the real effect is to help keep the Tories in government in perpetuity.

Such folly should, therefore, be debarred by rule 3 of our rule book (“promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process”). But the extent to which the membership has an appetite for continuity Corbynism remains unclear. If that appetite remains unsatiated, it will carry Long-Bailey, now benefitting from the formidable endorsement of Unite, to the leadership.

We cannot consistently criticise both Long-Bailey for making insufficient accommodation with the electorate and Starmer for being too accommodating of the membership. Yet there are those who see Starmer’s campaign launch video as overly tailored to traditional Labour themes. This would be a valid criticism if this were a general election and he were seeking to convince the general public. Starmer is calibrating his message to his audience – precisely what the uncompromising Corbyn was criticised for not doing and the “no surrender” mindset threatens to maintain.

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Courage or supplication. Whither now Labour?

20/12/2019, 08:08:50 AM

by Robert Williams

If you are reading this and Jeremey Corbyn is still leader of the Labour party, then the party has barely started in its collapse.

After Labour’s worst defeat since 1935, in which they lost 60 seats and gained one, seats went Tory that had never previously been anything but Labour since they were created, they lost 2 million votes.

All this against the worst government of any sort in British history, which has been in power for the last nine years, and with Boris Johnson as leader, described thus by the redoubtable Chris Grey “Even if it were not for Brexit, the prospect of a country run by a compulsive liar whose fake bonhomie scarcely conceals a priapic, vicious, moral void would be a woeful one.”.

This was a historic defeat at a time of national crisis, and we are all set to suffer the consequences, which will be dire. There are no upsides of “Brexit certainty” apart from the absolute certainty that we will be worse off and with fewer rights and opportunities.

So we are in deep, deep trouble as a country. We have a new government that will not bring us together but which will make the divisions much, much worse. And we have no functioning opposition worthy of the name.

Corbyn and his team are promising to spend the next three months “reflecting” on the results. That will mean, for a start, Jeremy Corbyn facing Boris Johnson at PMQs for the next three months. Labour MPs – the ones that survived – will have to sit in grim purgatory listening to the man who led them to defeat waffle on about what a nasty country we are, or austerity, or anything, actually, as Johnson swats him away time and time again. How can any of them face that weekly humiliation?
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Labour won’t win by seeming a danger to mainstream Britain

16/12/2019, 08:09:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour big beast Denis Healey, borrowing a line from Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher, saw his politics as driven by, “an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.”

Those conditions deepen under Tory government and therefore, that obstinacy compels us to do all that we can to avoid such. In the wake of this catastrophic defeat, it is impossible to conclude that we have.

We will have more chance of doing better in future if we can see ourselves as others do. Which now, it seems to me, is a cocktail of dangers.

Security danger: a leader who always seems to back Britain’s enemies, including terrorists, who has inspired an unprecedented fear among a minority population. Economic danger: outlandish spending commitments (e.g. free broadband) setting off fears of tax bombshells, alongside a commitment to a 4-day week that is otherworldly to hard-pressed workers. Political danger: over the influence of the SNP under a minority Labour government and uncertainty as to how a government of this sort would resolve Brexit.

In the 2015 general election, as Jon Cruddas wrote in its aftermath, “we lost everywhere to everybody”. In the frenzied years that followed, it became a sad joke that the UK had preferred “stability and strong government,” as David Cameron claimed he offered, over the “chaos with Ed Miliband” that Cameron positioned as the alternative.

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Dear hard left: you broke it, you own it.

14/12/2019, 09:49:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

After such a defeat, there has been extraordinarily little soul-searching by the Corbynite left, in case we should have expected any.

To go by some of the comments by frontbenchers and their media outriders, it is apparently the people who have erred, not the Labour party, rather recalling Brecht’s poem about “dissolving the people and electing another one”.

Even now, there still seems a question mark over exactly when Corbyn will go, even if it is abundantly clear he must.

No Labour leader has ever survived two election defeats, let alone the worst defeat in the best part of a century and, for afters, likely censure by an anti-racism watchdog in a matter of weeks’ time.

But own it the Corbynite leadership must, because barely anyone else was even at the table (we might make an exception for Keir Starmer, but the point is probably somewhat moot).

All Corbyn supporters in the party are not hard left, of course. There have always been three distinct groups: them; the influx of bright-eyed idealists who thought Corbyn nice and were too young to know his history or Labour’s; and the soft left of throughout the party’s history, decent people who did not care to dig too deeply into the views of a man who, like Miliband before him, made all the right noises.

The young idealists, one imagines, will drift away again at some point, once they realise that the party is now genuinely riddled with cranks and racists. Many of the soft left may well stay, perhaps slightly chastened.

But it is the long-time Trots, tankies and Stalinists who are still there at the top, running the show. This is evident fact, rather than the smears they constantly , and those of us who have been around for a while knew them long before they came to run the party. Apart from the parliamentary duo of Corbyn and McDonnell, we have the four Ms: Milne, Murray, McCluskey, Murphy. All people who seriously revere a 20th century regime which killed quite a lot more people than Hitler.

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The last twenty-four hours just showed how Labour can save itself

21/09/2019, 08:49:03 PM

by Rob Marchant

In one of the maddest developments in an already certifiable world of Labour politics, we have, within the last twenty-four hours, had the following: the party’s leadership threatened to immediately abolish the role of Deputy Leader (i.e. strip Tom Watson of his party office), only to pull back at the last minute from doing so.

And, during that time, we have learned some important things we didn’t know yesterday. More of that later.

The trigger to Corbyn’s reverse ferret? Simply that almost all commentators, party officials and politicans, past and present, had stated the bleedin’ obvious: that, with the country facing the meltdown of a hard Brexit and a possible general election in the next few weeks, a massive bun-fight in the party on the eve of its conference was probably not a great idea.

We will probably never know the extent to which this was Corbyn’s idea and how much his cronies, but Jon Lansman’s attempt to railroad his motion through the NEC has backfired: Watson will now be emboldened and knows that the PLP will back him.

This one incident finally caused real threats of party splits in a way we have not seen in the whole of the last four years. Resigned MPs who had not plotted in a long time were suddenly talking about how a rival power centre could be set up and initiate a challenge to Corbyn or even a new party.

In short: the party veered pretty close to genuinely hitting the self-destruct button this morning. The fact that it did not showed that there is still some power in Labour’s moderates, should they choose to exercise it.

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Exclusive: “Hard left takeover,” “Bullying, “Hostility to Jewish people” Full text of Labour councillors’ resignation letter

25/02/2019, 02:15:08 PM

Yesterday, 15 Labour councillors and former councillors left the party. Published for the first time here is the full text of their letter, leaving the party

Dear Sir,

We are Labour councillors and former Labour councillors. We have, after many years of dedicated membership, resigned from the Labour Party. We are writing to express our support for the former Labour MPs over their decision to resign and establish the Independent Group.  Having witnessed up close the hard-left takeover of Labour, we believe that their harsh, uncompromising and dogmatic approach to politics poses a genuine threat.

In the last three years, we have seen hard-left campaigns destroy efforts by Labour councils to help our communities. Local authorities have faced impossible financial pressure and a growing demand for social care and housing.  Many Labour councillors have been prepared  to look beyond the state for solutions.   All too often, this has resulted in them being subjected to fierce and dishonest campaigns from within the Labour Party membership.  This leads us to believe a hard-left Labour government would severely harm the economy, threatening local services.

In the last three and a half years, the atmosphere within the Labour Party has changed beyond all recognition.   A culture of bullying, intimidation and hostility towards Jewish people becoming common-place. Having seen this unfold locally we now believe Labour, in its current form, poses a direct threat, economically, socially, and culturally, should it ever come to power. Britain is facing huge challenges in the months and years ahead, not least due to Brexit. To have any chance of meeting those challenges, politics need to change. We therefore welcome the new Independent Group.’

Yours,

Cllr Warren Morgan, Former Leader, Brighton & Hove City Council

Cllr Rowan Draper, Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Dany Louise, Hastings Borough Council

Cllr Frances Weetman, North Tyneside Council

Cllr Jess Brayne, London Borough of Barnet

Cllr Danny Hackett, London Borough of Bexley

Cllr John Ferrett, Portsmouth City Council

Jon Clempner, former Leader of Labour Group, Harlow District Council

David Sullivan, former Leader, Lewisham Borough Council

Ken Ferrett, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Aiden Gray, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Stephen Brimble, former Councillor, Exeter City Council

Adam Langleben, former Councillor, London Borough of Barnet

James Patterson, former Councillor, London Borough of Haringey

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