Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Corbyn’

Can the Labour breakaway escape our General Melchett leadership?

18/02/2019, 10:57:03 PM

By Jonathan Todd

“If nothing else works,” General Melchett (Stephen Fry) insisted in Blackadder Goes Forth, “a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

Donkeys again lead lions. Theresa May won’t face facts about parliamentary arithmetic. Jeremy Corbyn won’t face the facts raised by 7 ex-Labour MPs.

For Melchett “seeing things through” came at tremendous human cost. As business investment plummets and the UK’s international reputation degrades to the shambolically pitiable, May and Corbyn are also callously aloof.

Brexit does nothing to solve the problems of the UK, while creating many new problems. At a minimum, a “good Brexit” would avoid these new problems. More ambitiously, it would somehow address the problems that the UK harboured in June 2016. No such Brexit exists.

We might choose to minimise the scale of economic damage caused by Brexit (by staying in the single market and customs union) but this comes at the price of being rule takers to the EU. Since June 2016, Labour has never confronted this trade-off.

The Irish backstop features in debate in the UK as if the border issue is a potentially temporary challenge, but any future divergence between Northern Ireland and the EU customs union and single market likely necessitates a hard border.

If the UK were, for example, to have lower tariffs than the EU customs union, a Northern Ireland with an open border to the Republic would create a way to avoid tariffs when bringing goods in to the EU. If these goods were to fall below EU regulatory standards, this EU backdoor would undermine the single market, as well as the customs union.

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Wavertree CLP’s rotten leadership shines a light on the party’s

15/02/2019, 07:39:55 AM

by Rob Marchant

It has been said during the last week, and not by Labour-watchers accustomed to hyperbole, that this might have been the week when a party’s split became irrevocable.

While that may or may not be true, it is difficult to remember a time when the parliamentary party was in such disarray, even in the mad 1980s, or the late 1950s’ nadir.

Perhaps this is partly because of Jeremy Corbyn’s true, Eurosceptic colours on Europe finally becoming clear, to all but the most avid Kool-Aid drinkers in the strange party that is now Labour.

The Labour leadership’s Janus-faced position on Brexit is both embarrassing and terrible for the country, particularly if it leads, as seems quite possible, to a hard Brexit, which will undoubtedly hurt the country for years, perhaps decades. But that is a situation which can, in some sense, be rectified. It is a function of the leadership, not local parties.

The current situation with anti-Semitism, however is not so easy. A stain on the party’s previous good name for anti-racism is a deep wound, one from which it is perfectly possible it will never recover. And it has by now infested many local parties, which are much more difficult to fix, as any witness to the party’s slow purge of Militant will tell you.

There have been many, many CLPs have been suspended over the years, mostly for subverting the party’s internal democracy, via fiddling votes or entryism. But never can one recall a local party having been suspended for rampant racism, as the party’s Deputy Leader and others have called for Liverpool Wavertree to be.

Luciana Berger, its decent and competent MP, has been targeted by her own local party in a vicious campaign of racial harassment. It is hard to overstate the freakishness and sickness of some of the comments to be found on Facebook and Twitter, many by people who are clearly party members, local and not. One Twitter account I reported on Monday was wishing her unborn baby dead. And there are many, many more.

Now, some say that Berger has not worked her local base hard enough and is now paying the price. There may even be some truth in it. But it’s hardly the point.

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The party needs to tread carefully replacing its estranged MPs

05/02/2019, 09:52:03 PM

How is Labour handling the tricky round of parliamentary selections in seats where a sitting MP has either quit or been expelled from the party?

This is always a tricky subject. Local parties can become deeply divided over the fate of their estranged MP (who can often be like family to long-serving members) while party chiefs need to make a careful judgement about the individual seat and whether claims of a personal following for the MP might translate into a personal vote if they were to stand as an independent.

The received wisdom, however, is that independents struggle, regardless of whether they are sitting MPs. In the 2017 election, Simon Danczuk received just 1.8% of the vote in his Rochdale seat, after he was expelled from the party.

Still, in a marginal seat the possibility that a former MP might stand, clattering into a new candidate and gifting the seat to another party, is very real. So how is Labour responding in those seats with MPs that have resigned or been forced out of the party?

In Sheffield Hallam, the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Olivia Blake, was recently selected as a replacement for the suspended Jared O’Mara from an all-women shortlist (AWS). This made sense, given the allegations against O’Mara for his juvenile sexist postings on social media. (A hipster university seat, Hallam is reputed to have the highest number of people with a Phd in the country).

However In Barrow and Furness, where John Woodcock resigned from the party following allegations – (and they are just allegations) of sexual misconduct – the party did not impose an AWS, selecting former soldier and Network Rail employee, Chris Altree, from an open shortlist on Saturday to defend Labour’s wafer-thin majority of just 209.

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The main party leaders are useless. We need a parliamentary League of Grown-Ups to tell the British public the truth on Brexit

16/01/2019, 10:28:02 PM

by Rob Marchant

What happens if normal party politics has broken down? One suspects this is the question most commentators have been asking themselves for the last several months, consciously or unwittingly, as British politics lurches from one unprecedented situation to another.

If we needed proof, it is surely in the bizarre events of the last couple of days.

First, Theresa May suffers the biggest parliamentary defeat since the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, on the deal that she has diligently shepherded through Parliament.

Then, miraculously, she survives a vote of No Confidence the following day, in a way that surely no other Prime Minister has ever done after even much lesser defeats.

Apart from the unlikeliness of these record-breaking feats being what any PM would like to be remembered for, this is clearly not parliamentary business as usual.

Most disastrously, we now have the leaders of both major parties entrenched in fantasy positions: May’s, that some kind of Brexit deal not unlike hers can still be salvaged, to save us from No Deal, and Corbyn’s that we can still negotiate something better with the EU in time for tea.

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With each passing week, McDonnell becomes more like Brown to Corbyn’s Blair

07/01/2019, 10:41:33 PM

by David Talbot

In September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, was finishing his first speech to the party faithful. Embracing the mandate for change, Corbyn, with a wry nod halfway through, noted that “things can – and they will – change”. In the preceding three years, via an internal challenge and a general election, the nature of the Labour Party has been transformed in his image. Corbyn was of course in part elected, twice, as Labour leader precisely because he represented a riposte to the previous Labour governments and to, of course, the loathed Tony Blair. However, an aspect of the duopoly which so dominated the party throughout its years in government is set to be replicated, ironically, by those who have dedicated the most to repudiating him, his image and his governments.

John McDonnell was not a universally welcomed appointment when Corbyn gave his longstanding comrade the position of Shadow Chancellor over three years ago. The antipathy reached its peak during the botched leadership challenge to Corbyn during 2016, when murmurs reached a crescendo that his departure was desperately needed to restore some semblance of party unity. The fiery, left-wing firebrand made enemies in his own party as easily as amongst the Conservatives, his reputation as a deeply divisive and electorally poisonous figure seemingly cemented.

The scepticism extended as far as Corbyn’s innermost circle, who grew to distrust the Shadow Chancellor – an opinion also widely held amongst the trade unions who had dealt with him for decades. In his early throes he actively coveted controversy and attrition, from his ‘communist salute’ at the 2015 party conference to labelling Labour moderates “fucking useless” in their cack-handed attempts to dispose the new Labour leader. Since then, a transition has begun as ambitious and calculated as the work of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to transform the electoral prospects of a moribund party in the mid-1990s.

And it is to these two towering figures of the last chapter of the Labour Party that is becoming ever more prevalent for the new, Corbyn-led, chapter. The rivalry and trench warfare, often for the sheer sake of it, that came to characterise the then Labour leader and his Chancellor is fracturing into the open between Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor. Over the summer, when Labour descended into a bitter dispute over anti-Semitism, it was the Shadow Chancellor, through the pages of the Times no less, that organ of the establishment, who made it known that he disapproved of Corbyn’s handling of the sorry saga. As to with the terrorist incident in Salisbury, where McDonnell, not Corbyn, voiced support for the security services and stated unequivocally it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.

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The Uncuts: 2018 political awards (part II)

31/12/2018, 03:11:28 PM

Most Dearly Departed: Tessa Jowell

Tessa Jowell, according to her obituary in the Guardian, “exuded cheerfulness and gave even those she had only just met the sense of being one of her old friends.” Uncut’s experience of Jowell chimed with this. In our age of division, Jowell’s relentless positivity and easy warmth is much missed.

The personal is political. The last time we felt like a country pulling together to reach for the stars was during 2012’s Olympic summer. An experience that we would not have known without Jowell’s personal qualities.

That Jowell persuaded an initially sceptical prime minister Tony Blair of the wisdom of an Olympic bid reminds us of the importance of leaders having confidants prepared to speak truth to power. Next to today’s shrivelled Downing Street bunker, the near past seems a distant universe.

Straight Talking, Honest Politics: Jeremy Corbyn and Wreathgate

In previous years, it has mostly been possible for observers and many party members to take Jeremy Corbyn’s words as misconstrued, misguided or mildly disingenuous. This year, however, the party’s own leader has been responsible for such blatant whoppers that he alone, astonishingly, bagged all nominations in this category.

Nominations came in for:

–    Claiming not to have called the prime minister a “stupid woman”, when he is actually caught on video mouthing those exact words and a team of lip-reading experts disagreed.

–    Claiming to be anti-Brexit, when in fact he has spent his entire political career being anti-EU. In particular, voting against Brexit in the September Commons vote, but only because he couldn’t get away with voting otherwise with the members, using the fig-leaf that the government’s resulting powers would be too strong. I mean, who could say that in Iran, Venezuela or Cuba the government’s powers are “too strong”, eh?

–    In close contention for the top spot, there was the Marr interview where he actually told three untruths in the space of twenty seconds.

But the ultimate prize in this prestigious award was given for the culmination of the “Wreathgate” saga, where our Dear Leader claimed not to have put a wreath on a terrorist’s grave, even though all evidence pointed to the fact that he had done just that. To round things off, in a brilliantly disingenuous move, his office then reported to the press regulator that the coverage had been unfair, only to drop the complaint again a few months later, claiming the process had been “compromised”. A well-deserved win.

the possibility for socialists to lead a political transformation

Most Forensically Persistent: Robert Mueller

Liberal America remains in therapy. Pod Save America helps. Slow Burn, telling the story of Watergate, is another wildly successful podcast. The resignation of president Richard Nixon did not happen overnight. It was a glacial journey into an unknown territory.

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As the country contemplates “to leave or not to leave”, Corbyn’s position may just become an irrelevance

27/12/2018, 10:38:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

December has been a mad, rollercoaster month for British politics. The first half brought a good couple of weeks for Remainers. There were the three Commons defeats for May; and then the government’s own legal advice was finally published, which said that the Irish border question is essentially insoluble within any kind of Brexit. I mean, who knew?

And then there was the European Court of Justice ruling, saying that Article 50 was unilaterally cancellable by Britain. This means, as John Rentoul noted, a referendum is now more likely.

Then the vote on May’s deal was postponed and the PM herself survived a no-confidence vote from her Tory party colleagues. Though it was painted as bad news for her by the media, it also weakened the Moggite fringe on the right of her party, who underestimated her support and were made to look silly. It also still means she is not leaving No. 10 any time soon, not at least without a general election – which now looks unlikely after Corbyn’s crying off from a parliamentary no-confidence vote, an altogether different level of bad.

It is hard not to see all this as something of a victory for Remainers and moderate Leavers. But where does it leave us?

If there is a People’s Vote, the key thing, as always with referenda, is the question.

May has made it clear that there are three options: Remain, Chequers and No Deal. But Many commentators seem to miss the fact that a three-way referendum would be highly unlikely to be practical: it would both lack legitimacy and further run the risk that the public didn’t actually get what it wanted – and everyone would be unhappy. No, a referendum must surely have two clear options and so one must be taken off the table. But which?

  1. Remain vs Chequers: Remain wins, as YouGov’s polling shows.
  2. No Deal vs Chequers: unlikely to happen. A People’s Vote can only really become a reality if the pendulum has swung towards Remain – that is, if the government suffers public pressure to do so.
  3. Remain vs No Deal: if a parliamentary vote happens first, Chequers loses and there is a last-minute swing to Remain, it could be that this becomes the vote. In the end, no-one knows what would happen, because it is not the same as the hypothetical vote polled for here in a three-way poll. Removal of one option would probably affect the other two. Even then, Leave vs. Remain is still roughly 50-50, as it was back in 2016. One can’t help feeling that, if No Deal were the only option, some Leavers would back away and it only takes a few per cent to swing things for Remain.

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Put your legs away Jeremy and come up with a convincing Brexit policy

09/12/2018, 08:00:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I shudder to imagine what Jeremy Corbyn’s pins look like – pale and scrawny, if I’m pushed to conjure up a mental picture.

He must think they look alright though. Patrick Maguire over at the New Statesman quotes a DUP source saying the Labour Leader is “showing a bit of leg” in a bid to woo the DUP and its ten MPs, ahead of a make-or-break week for Theresa May.

Yesterday Corbyn told Sky News the DUP opposed the Northern Ireland backstop for “very good and sensible reasons.” He said Labour was ready to “step in and negotiate seriously with the EU to put up a serious alternative which is a proper customs union – a customs union – with the EU in which we have a say in what goes on”.

Things are clearly getting weird in Westminster, but this is off the charts strange.

Corbyn is, we are frequently reminded by his detractors, a lifelong Irish republican. Suddenly, however, the political troglodytes of the DUP are people of honour whose barmpot politics are “good” and “sensible.”

So what’s he playing at?

It seems this courtship ritual is a crude attempt to drive a wedge between Theresa May and her erstwhile unionist allies. Fair enough, opposition parties are meant to oppose and all that.

But there’s no pathway to Number Ten that involves him courting the DUP. Neither are they crazy enough to assume ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ in the frenetic calculus of who wants what over Brexit.

They’re on the rebound, granted, but they’re not desperate enough to put Sinn Fein allies like Corbyn and McDonnell in government. No, Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, is still trying to catch Theresa’s eye.

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A glimmer of sunlight for Britain and for Labour

27/11/2018, 07:30:38 AM

by Rob Marchant

The first thing to observe about the current political situation in Britain is that it is incredibly difficult to predict. At every point of the mathematical decision tree, there are unknowns and strange distortions (more of that later).

So the starting point for us, like Sophocles, is this: the only thing we know is that we know nothing. And the one thing which is usually true about politics is when there is an “everyone knows that…” conventional wisdom, it is more often than not completely wrong. Whoever would have predicted the success of Donald Trump? Or John Major, or Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter?

That said, if we look incrementally at what has changed in the last ten days, it would seem that Britain, and Labour, are both in a slightly better place.

First, Britain: whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, unless you are frothing at the mouth, you cannot be looking at a no-deal Brexit as an attractive outcome for the country.

Therefore, the fact that Theresa May has finally, two years into her premiership, dared to put “no Brexit” back on the table, augurs well for moderates in both camps.

If Chequers succeeds, which looks increasingly unlikely (both from the UK side and taking into account the difficulty of ratification across each of 27 countries, such as Spain and Ireland), at least Britain has a “least worst” route to Brexit which will cause only modest harm to the economy.

Now let us look at what happens if Chequers fails.

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Could we please have a real-world Labour Brexit policy?

19/11/2018, 06:05:32 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Theresa May is right. It is:

  • Her Brexit
  • No deal Brexit
  • Or no Brexit

If you are not choosing from that menu, you are at an imaginary restaurant. Which five members of the Cabinet, the so-called European Research Group, and the Labour leadership, unfortunately, are.

There is, according to the BBC’s Europe Editor, zero appetite in EU circles to renegotiate May’s withdrawal deal. “We have a document on the table that has been adopted by the EU and the UK, and so for me, the question of further negotiations does not arise,” Angela Merkel said.

But Andrea Leadsom demurs. She aims to tweak May’s deal. John McDonnell goes further. He wants a completely different agreement by next March.

In the real-world, there are three possible ways forward:

First, May’s deal. The lack of advocates for this deal has reduced May to comparisons with Thatcher’s final days. It is also reminiscent of the period immediately after the 2010 general election. Then, as now, it was apparent that the prime minister did not have the numbers.

There is, however, a plausible argument to say:

While imperfect, this withdrawal agreement takes the UK out of the EU, we accept it and are focusing upon the long-term relationship between the UK and the EU, which remains to be determined.

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