Posts Tagged ‘hard left’

The Progressive Dilemma remains – only sharpened

07/01/2016, 06:43:58 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The reshuffle has done little to dampen perceptions that Jeremy Corbyn is the most left-wing, pacifist and unbending Labour leader ever. Keir Hardie and George Lansbury might compete. Corbyn, nonetheless, is still the most preeminent such leader since Clement Attlee succeeded Lansbury in 1935.

In this sense, the dilemmas posed by the Corbyn leadership feel uncharted. They portend, however, only a deepening of the British left’s core dilemma.

Throughout the period since Labour overhauled the Liberals as part of the duopoly of UK politics, as David Marquand wrote in the second edition of The Progressive Dilemma (1999), “apart from a brief period in the early 1980s, Labour was strong enough to prevent anyone else offering a serious challenge to the Conservatives, but too weak to make its own challenge effective.”

For all the reshuffle’s sound and fury, this position remains, only painfully deepened. Recent analysis by Glen O’Hara and Adam Boulton suggests that Labour remains too feeble to overhaul the Conservatives, while being too electorally entrenched for anyone else to.

Having waded through the evidence on polling and electoral performance, O’Hara concludes at the Staggers that, “the Party is dicing with a double-digit defeat at the 2020 general election.” Equally, however, as Boulton warns (£) in the Sunday Times, “Labour’s core vote is a lot for Corbyn’s internal opponents to walk away from, as some Bravehearts would like, and to form a new party”.

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Labour’s right had better focus on conference

07/01/2016, 10:28:09 AM

by Rob Marchant

The reshuffle resembled nothing more closely than the careful rearrangement of deckchairs on the Titanic. While it is mildly good news that the Corbynistas do not yet feel confident enough for their own Night of the Long Knives, it is hardly going to change much.

So it is now time to look forward to the year ahead and plot – er, think about – a strategy to bring the party gradually back to some semblance of electability and political normality. 2016 is likely to be critical for the future of the party, in that it will most likely determine whether a Corbyn leadership actually has legs and can stumble on until the general election of 2020, or will fizzle out long before.

While common sense would indicate the latter, there is also a strong correlation between the time taken for that meltdown to happen and the cumulative damage wreaked on the party.

Meanwhile, British politics in general this year is likely to be dominated by two stories: the first half by the Scottish elections and the second by the start of the build-up to the EU In-Out referendum, assuming it does not happen earlier. Sadly, there is very little which Labour can do about either.

The Scottish elections are likely be a terrible story for Labour whatever happens: it is clear from the polls and the general election result that it will lose many tens of Holyrood seats (if not all of them, as nearly happened for the Westminster election).

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Corbyn’s reshuffle shows how he wants to imprint his ideology on the party

06/01/2016, 09:00:08 PM

by Frazer Loveman

It’s quite hard to write anything original about the Night, then day, then night again, of Corbyn’s Knives, given that most topics were covered during the interminable, day and a half long re-organisation of the Labour top team.

In the longest re-shuffle since the emancipation of women (thanks to the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush for that gem) Corbyn made the grand total of two sackings, both of ministers with limited name recognition among the general population, while appointing one who is most notable for a Twitter gaffe.

It does make you wonder quite what the point of this reshuffle was. It was previewed two weeks ago as a ‘revenge’ reshuffle, with Corbyn planning to purge those who had disagreed with him over Syria.

This, actually, made a fair deal of sense. Corbyn, to his credit, had attempted to create as broad a tent as possible in the shadow cabinet in order to appease party moderates, but the idea of allowing dissent within his top team unravelled the moment Hilary Benn took the dispatch box during the Syrian airstrikes debate.

It stood to reason then, that Corbyn would want to bring his own people into the shadow cabinet, to bolster his position as leader. Again, fair enough, at least then the Labour Party could finally resemble a united front, whether the moderate sections of the party liked it or not. Corbyn is leader with, as we’re constantly reminded, a large mandate and he’s quite at liberty to mould the party in his image.

But, in the cold light of day, the new shadow cabinet doesn’t seem overly different to the old version.

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Careful, if we break the Labour party we might not be able to fix it

06/01/2016, 06:56:15 PM

by Kevin Meagher

As 2016 begins, could Labour be in worse shape? The party lies listless in the water, utterly riven, from stem to stern. Not just by personalities and policy, but by basic questions of what it is and what it is for.

Is it a professional political party, seeking to appeal to the largest number of voters needed to secure a parliamentary majority, or a movement of disparate radicals interested in “making the case” for change? The former requires compromise and hard-headed-realism, the latter, though, refuses to be cowed by the accommodations and reversals of electoral politics.

Behind in the polls, untrusted on pretty much every major measure of public opinion, the party is behaving as though the 2015 election never happened. The basic calculation that you need Tory voters to switch in sufficient numbers in order to have any chance of winning an election, questioned by the Millibandites with their 35% strategy, has now been entirely abandoned by the Corbynites.

‘If you build a socialist alternative, they will come’ is their new approach. But they aren’t, and they won’t. certainly not in sufficient numbers to stand a chance in 2020, once the Conservatives have finished loading the deck against Labour, with everything from individual electoral registration and boundary changes, through to the financing of the opposition front bench, sharpened to a fine point in order to stab the Labour party to death.

This comes as the pollsters settle on an explanation as to why they got May’s result so calamitously wrong. It seems they were polling too many young people and not enough older ones. In other words, they systematically underscored the impact of those who crave stability and moderation, not agitation and radicalism.

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From big tent to bivouac?

06/01/2016, 07:49:39 AM

Yes, Michael Dugher is a gutsy street fighter (as many of his colleagues pointed out yesterday). Yes, too, he is a rare working-class presence at the top of Labour politics; but there is a deeper significance behind his dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet yesterday.

If such a standard bearer from the old right-wing of the party is surplus to requirements, then Jeremy Corbyn’s “big tent” has suddenly become a bivouac.

And given Corbyn’s serial rebelliousness for three decades, to level a charge of “disloyalty” against Dugher for three of four interviews where he has extemporised on the state of Labour politics is fairly astonishing.

To put it mildly, Jeremy Corbyn does not have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

Fifty per cent of the current frontbench would never get near the dispatch box under normal circumstances. A tough and experienced operator like Dugher should have been viewed as an asset.

Why could Jeremy Corbyn not reach out to him if, indeed, he had crossed a line? Or did he intimidate Corbyn’s inexperienced back office team?

Whatever, it is a sad day – and a worrying development – if a scion of the old Labour right wing – the backbone of the party – is no longer welcome at the top table.

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Twas the night before Christmas (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

24/12/2015, 12:53:59 PM

by Rob Marchant

Twas the night before Christmas, and in Labour’s house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St Jeremy soon would be there.

 

Corbynistas were nestled all snug in their beds,

Political utopias danced in their heads.

It’s ok, they dreamt, don’t pay heed to the polls,

The party loves Jezza, despite the own goals.

 

It’s not pesky voters ‘bout whom we should bother,

As Brecht said, dissolve them, then elect another.

Not true that each interview’s now a car-crash,

Or that they didn’t trust us with their hard-earned cash.

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Centrists need new ideas and purpose, not a new party

15/12/2015, 11:40:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Phil Collins comments in the Times on speculation within Labour of an SDP type breakaway. Those favouring this move believe that, “the volatility of politics makes 2016 a more propitious moment for novelty than 1981.” Collins, who remains a Labour member, is unconvinced. “The only reason to stay (in Labour),” he wrote a few weeks earlier, “is that it (the Corbyn leadership) can’t last.”

“Corbynism for a decade?” asks Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. “It no longer sounds ridiculous”. In the sense that it was until very recently a widely unanticipated outcome, which would leave many, not least the likes of Collins, distraught, it still sounds pretty ridiculous. But what Bush means is clear.

“Many more than the 66 (Labour) MPs who did vote for airstrikes were convinced on the case for extending British bombing against Isis from Iraq into Syria,” reports Bush, “but pulled back due to pressure from their constituency parties”. CLPs, which MPs need to support them if they are to remain so, are increasingly under the grip of Corbynism.

If MPs are prepared to place political self-preservation before voting with their consciences on Isis, there’s probably nothing – no indignity, daftness, or nastiness – that they wouldn’t endure to extend their political careers. If in the dark nights of their souls, they affirm that this makes them happy, we can only wonder about their souls.

They might read how Tom Harris is happier as an ex-MP than he was as an MP. And Harris got out before Corbyn began. You get the sense that he doesn’t envy Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP.

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Hilary Benn has shown the way. Moderates must stay and fight for our Labour party

03/12/2015, 03:40:46 PM

by Samuel Dale

Every day I have to convince myself not to leave the Labour party in these dark days of the Corbyn nightmare.

I voted for Liz Kendall in the leadership along with just 4.5% of members. The party has clearly changed beyond all recognition since I joined at 16 in 2003.

Every day brings a fresh humiliation, a fresh moral and electoral disaster. Snubbing the national anthem. Shot to kill. Mao’s Little Red Book. Momentum bullying. Everything Ken Livingstone says. The Syria free vote shambles. No press release produced responding to autumn statement for the first time ever. And much more besides.

It is not so much the policies but the sheer incompetence of a shambolic and ramshackle leadership that has dragged the 100-year old Labour party into the moral and electoral abyss in just three months.

So it is natural to think about leaving. Many have. The FT reported as many as 1,000 members have left in the last month in despair at Corbyn’s leadership.  I understand why they have left and it is easy to lose hope. But we have to stay and fight.

That is why Hilary Benn’s speech in the House of Commons was so important.

He made the case for bombing Isis in Raqqa with passion and persuasive verve but it represented more than that.

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The renaissance of the Livingstone tendency

30/11/2015, 09:25:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are people within the PLP who have never accepted the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” claimed Clive Lewis on Today on Saturday morning, in the context of a debate on Syria. This hints at the charge that Diane Abbott has previously made: Labour MPs want to bomb Syria to harm Corbyn. It takes a particular cynicism to suggest that MPs would put political advantage before matters of life and death.

It is precisely because the decision to go to war is so consequential that elected representatives cannot be bound by mere partisan calculation. MPs need to be able to look constituents in the eye and tell them that they acted as they thought necessary to keep them safe. They cannot – and, pace Abbott, do not – let how they feel about a party leader, or a whip, stand between them and doing so.

Ministers similarly need to be able to look people in the eye. They must be prepared to defend military intervention undertaken or not undertaken by the governments of which they are a part. The shared position of ministers forms the line of the party in government and all parties that wish to be taken seriously as parties of government require such common positions.

If ministers or shadow ministers cannot support these positions, they should resign from the frontbench. If backbench MPs cannot support whips consistent with these positions, they should not so vote. Whether the grandest prime ministers or the most humble backbenchers, all act in accord with their interpretation of the national interest.

We might – though it strains practical limits – live in a direct democracy, where military decisions are determined by popular referendum. We might – though it is also impractical in a world of classified military intelligence and rapidly emerging security threats – have a have a parliament of delegates, who vote as mandated by local electors or party members. Neither, however, are this country.

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Seumas Milne turned the Guardian’s comment section into a polarising bear pit. God help the Labour party

28/10/2015, 10:04:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is now commonplace, even among journalists who should know better, to conclude that the current criticisms of the Corbyn leadership come exclusively from a hard knot of diehard centrists who refuse to accept that the new regime could win an election.

While it is clear that it cannot and it is also true that many sensible activists would rather die in a ditch than attempt to fight the hopeless battle of a general election under the current leadership, the reality is that there is really a much wider concern about the party’s current trajectory, and not just among Labour MPs. Even Tories and Lib Dems worry about the absence of a viable opposition.

To recap: we now have a party led by a man who never expected to leave the back benches; a shadow chancellor best described as “maverick”, with a treasure trove of past quotes already carefully dug up and filed at Tory HQ, providing a handy media drip-feed for the next five years.

But even though Corbyn’s win and McDonnell’s appointment were shocks, the shocks show no signs of abating. And for those few who have studied the hard left over recent years, inside and outside the party, it is difficult to find a more disturbing appointment than that of Seumas Milne as Director of Communications and Strategy. Disturbing first, if not surprising, because he appears to share pretty much the same views as his leader but a little more extreme.

Tom Harris MP is, of course, right to point out the dangerously narrow appeal of Corbyn/Milne viewpoint: that traditional Labour voters, who might have sons and daughters fighting in Britain’s armed forces, could be massively turned off by the idea that their sacrifices are for nothing; and all in the name of a monarch whom the leadership might dislike but whom those same voters are actually rather fond of.

But it is much more than that: the naked anti-West sentiment propagated by Corbyn, Milne and their pals in the Stop the War Coalition is anathema to the majority of the British public, even those who might have had mixed feelings about the results of the country’s intervention in Iraq. And even on much of the left and centre-left.

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