Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Corbyn’

Starmer is doing well, everywhere except defending women’s rights

15/02/2022, 07:40:44 AM

by Rob Marchant

The best part of two years ago at Uncut, we set out eight things that then-incoming leader Keir Starmer would need to fix, in order to get Labour’s rusty ship back in seaworthy condition, after the battering of the Corbyn years.

Three were a slam-dunk: the party quickly got a new General Secretary after the terrible Jennie Formby; Starmer has ignored Momentum, while they have split and withered on the vine; and the NEC has been wrested away from the Corbynites. So far, so good

Four more were more tricky areas and were never going to be resolved quickly, but Labour has still made progress.

On antisemitism, there is clearly still work to do. The antisemites are not all gone: there are eminently reasonable, moderate Jews on the liberal-left who do not yet see the party as detoxified, and not without reason. The party’s bungling of Corbyn’s suspension did not help. On the other hand, the relationship with the Jewish community has undoubtedly improved, for example, to the point of Dame Louise Ellman feeling that she could rejoin.

On the others: Unite’s stranglehold on party funding has not yet been broken, although the union’s own money problems and a less Labour-centric General Secretary at the helm means that it certainly has reduced its influence and may well reduce further. The Scottish party is not rebuilt but, in Anas Sarwar, it has its first credible and effective leader in years. It has allowed a number of people who left over antisemitism to rejoin, but of those who left to form Change UK and stood against Labour in the 2019 election, none have so far rejoined. This seems tragic, given the unique circumstances of their leaving: they were principled resignees not political opportunists.

All this is cautiously good news: even if all the damage of the Corbyn years has yet to be undone, solid, if sometimes frustratingly slow, progress is being made back towards sanity.

It is only on the eighth and final point, where we come to the ‘D’ in Labour’s report card: “Get the party into a sensible place on trans self-id”. And that is not just because there is a clear moral imperative to defend the hard-won rights of women, now under attack. It is because it has the same potential to corrode the party and its public image as antisemitism did during 2015-20.

It is, in short, the new antisemitism.

If you think that a stretch, first bear in mind that Starmer’s first-ever conference as leader last September was very nearly derailed by car-crash interviews with David Lammy and Starmer himself, when asked basic questions on womanhood and women’s rights.

But if there were a point in time which would underline to Keir Starmer precisely why he can no longer afford to sit on the fence in the debate between women’s rights and trans rights, it was surely this last weekend.

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It is time to start believing – Labour can win the next general election

28/12/2021, 10:32:27 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour doubters should become believers about our general election prospects. Here are five reasons for optimism:

  1. Boris Johnson will never again be the political force that he was in December 2019

Labour misfired in enabling the December 2019 election and in the campaign, proving that something (Get Brexit Done) beats nothing (Labour’s implausible Brexit policy).

Johnson was fortunate in his opponents but ruthless in seizing the opportunities that they afforded him. He will never be so lucky or commanding again.

“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”

Patrick Radden Keefe opens his bestselling book about Northern Ireland with this quote from Viet Thanh Nguyen.

We have all fought on the battlefields of Covid. These painful memories now meet the troubling reality that our sacrifices were not matched in Downing Street.

Johnson secured this residence by telling a battle-weary country that he would end the Brexit wars. Now Lord Frost has resigned from his government because Brexit is not done.

  1. The next general election will not be about Brexit

Liz Truss has added Lord Frost’s Brexit responsibilities to her Foreign Policy portfolio. She might come to the same conclusion that Johnson came to when holding that office: the best way to promotion is to resign and attack the prime minister from the right on Brexit.

This manoeuvre might work for Truss with the Conservative Party. It won’t work with the rest of the country.

We are tired of Brexit. We do not want to refight old battles. We just want things to work properly.

Covid is now, of course, the biggest barrier to normal life and Johnson’s inability to meet this challenge is central to his diminishment. It remains to be seen whether Covid will be the core issue of the next general election. Hopefully, because we will have decisively moved beyond Covid’s pandemic phase, not.

But Brexit, the issue that galvanised the Conservatives 2019 voting coalition, won’t be.

  1. Johnson’s kingdom of sand bequeaths little to the next Tory leader

John Major could take the rough edges off Thatcherism and win in 1992. There are plenty of rough edges for a Tory successor to Johnson to polish. But little coherent mission.

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Another stab in the back myth: The hard left is trying to blame the 2019 defeat on Starmer and the party’s Brexit policy. One problem. I’ve got the receipts

03/10/2021, 10:24:02 PM

by Patrick Heneghan

The rewriting of history is underway. The charge is that Labour lost the last election because of our Brexit policy which was led by Keir Starmer. Len McCluskey was at it during interviews to promote his book and at the end of last week Andrew Fisher was writing about it.

While it’s obviously true that Keir Starmer was Shadow Brexit Secretary, the muddled Brexit policy Labour put before the electorate in 2019 was by no means Starmer’s policy – in fact the position Labour adopted was then hailed as a victory for Corbyn over the pro European wing of the Party. And you don’t need to take my word for it, I’ve been back over the comments and articles from the time, and they tell a very different story about how and why Labour ended up with the Brexit policy it did.

The real pressure to change the position on Brexit began after the 2019 Euro Elections. Labour had recorded less than 15% of the vote – it’s lowest ever vote share in a national election.

Following those elections, it was no secret that Corbyn’s most inner circle was split. Diane Abbott was clear “something is wrong with our strategy. We need to listen to our members and take a clearer line on a public vote” and John McDonnell responded to the results by stating “we must unite our party & country by taking the issue back to (the) people in a public vote.”

Momentum, had already balloted their members, the results of which showed clear support for a second referendum.

The Guardian reported that Len McCluskey was accusing some of those calling for a second referendum of trying to whip up a coup against Corbyn. Did he mean John, Diane, and Momentum?

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Don’t expect buyer’s remorse – it is going to take hard slog to rebuild the Red Wall

29/09/2021, 08:54:35 AM

by Jo Platt

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s Reset: The Path Back to Power” released yesterday. Click here to download it. The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election

People in Leigh call their neighbours in Wigan ‘pie eaters’. It is not a comment on their culinary habits; it refers to the 1926 general strike where Wigan miners were said to have gone back to work sooner than those in Leigh. It is hardly surprising, then, that the parliamentary seat was solidly Labour from 1922 onwards. (And Liberal before that, with the Manchester Guardian owner, CP Scott, once representing the town.)

That was, of course, until November 2019. I was the unfortunate losing candidate – after first being elected in 2017 – as Labour was mown down, not only in dozens of so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats, but in the traditional coal and steel seats that today have Conservative MPs.

Coal and steel seats

For Leigh, read Bassetlaw, Blyth Valley, Bolsover, Redcar, Rother Valley or Penistone and Stocksbridge. These are places where Labour is in the local DNA, but they all fell to the Tories, many for the first time in decades, if not the first time ever. In fact, if it was not for the Brexit party splitting the Conservative vote, things would have been much worse and we would have lost dozens more seats, with even places like Barnsley – the epicentre of the Miner’s Strike – in danger of turning blue. (The absence of the Brexit party helps to explain why we lost the Hartlepool by-election in May.) All of which is an around about way of saying that we should count our blessings. The hole we find ourselves in as a party could have been even deeper.

Horrific campaign

Let me return to the 2019 campaign. Our experience on the doorstep was just awful. In fact, horrific is the word I would use. It was a hot reception – and, also, an icy one. Hot in that everyone seemed angry. (more…)

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Labour’s post-war greats, Attlee and Bevin, defined progressive patriotism. The party needs that spirit now

27/09/2021, 04:12:42 PM

by Mike Gapes

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s reset: the path back to power” which Uncut will be launching at Labour conference . The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election.

In the eleven years since Labour was last in government, the UK and the world have seen a significant shift towards nationalist, inward looking policies.  There has been weakening of global multilateral institutions.  UK influence in the world and our “soft power” has been reduced principally by the self-harm of a hard Brexit and the acrimonious wrangling about the Northern Ireland Protocol.  But far more significant for the future of the world have been changes brought about by developments in the United States, as it moves erratically away from a global interventionist role; and by the continuing economic, and military rise of the Chinese Party/State with its authoritarian model and “Belt and Road” imperialism; by the turmoil in the Arab and Muslim world; the massive impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic, particularly in largely unvaccinated Latin America and Africa; and the accelerating and destructive impact of global warming.

Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin played a decisive role in creating the institutions of the modern era including the United Nations, with a permanent UK seat on the Security Council, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Those international institutions and others like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, established after the Second World War, are now under severe challenge.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years ago and the ending of the Warsaw Pact, the Atlantic Alliance was successfully transformed from a Cold War defence institution into a political entity, now recognised as a regional security organisation by the United Nations. NATO enlarged to include the former GDR, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro. Many other countries worldwide including EU members Sweden, Finland, Austria, Malta and the Irish Republic have partnership arrangements with NATO.

NATO remains vital for peace and security in Europe. After the Trump shock, new US President Joe Biden claimed that “America is back’. His words provided reassurance but Biden’s betrayal of the women of Afghanistan has caused consternation amongst US allies worldwide.  Frontline NATO countries like Poland and the Baltic States face increasing cyber threats and aggressive behaviour by Putin’s Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere. It is no longer just France which questions whether Europe can depend upon the United States indefinitely for extended deterrence of Russian aggression.

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Want Labour to be a ‘safe space for Jews’? Here are the three steps Labour must take

26/09/2021, 08:52:00 AM

by Emma Picken and Euan Philipps

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s reset: the path back to power” which Uncut will be launching at Labour conference . The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election.

On October 29th, 2020, something took place that would have seemed inconceivable had it been 10 years earlier: the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the Labour Party had breached equalities law and had acted illegally in its treatment of Jews[1].

This outcome was in part due to the vicious culture that had been imported during the Corbyn years. More importantly, however, the party was already ripe for infestation with a culture that contained both antisemitic individuals and ideas. It had little or no defence against either.

The following piece will not rehash how appalling Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour is or the depths of antisemitism  found within his fellow travellers. No one has plumbed these depths more than Labour Against Antisemitism  (LAAS), as our 20,000-page submission to the EHRC attests. Nor will we go over how Labour got itself into the position of being led by an antisemite; this has already been extensively and eloquently covered by David Hirsh in Contemporary Left Antisemitism , Dave Rich in The Left’s Jewish Problem, Alan Johnson and many others[2].

Rather, we will discuss the main areas Labour needs to address in the immediate present in order to make the party an environment where antisemitism  is no longer tolerated; how Labour can sincerely atone for the damage done to the Jewish community and its vocal allies; and how Labour can turn the ‘safe space for Jews’ soundbite into a truly secure environment for its Jewish members.

There are three elements that must all be put in place to finally rid the Labour Party of antisemitism .

The first is tackling antizionist antisemitism .

Following our extensive reporting of antisemitism , our observation in LAAS is that contemporary antisemitic discourse centres around those claiming only to be ‘antizionist’. However, antizionism is at the heart of the issue – and, in our experience, is without fail antisemitic. Thus, without tackling antizionist antisemitism , ‘tearing antisemitism  out by its roots’ is frankly doomed to failure. While internally within the Jewish community there will always be a small minority with antizionist views, the vast majority identify as Zionist, with 93% saying Israel plays a central part in their identity. Antizionist antisemitism  harms them deeply and multiple ways[3].

What must be done?

Firstly, the party must sever all ties with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). It is astonishing that a group so evidently steeped in antisemitism  is welcome within any antiracist movement; all the more so that this group is afforded so much influence within Labour policy on Israel that two out of the three leadership candidates in the last leadership elections backed the PSC pledges[4]. One of the candidates, Lisa Nandy, is now shadow Foreign Secretary[5].

There is extensive evidence of the extreme antisemitism  within the PSC[6], which stands opposed to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism  that Labour has adopted in full.

The unions, too, have not been aligned to such overt racism since the London dockers famously came out in support of Enoch Powell. The affiliation to the PSC of every single large union within Labour must be ended without delay. It is deeply ironic that Frances O’Grady feels bound to discuss ways in which the unions need to face up to their racist past, while ignoring the flourishing racism of today[7].

Secondly, Labour must firmly close its doors to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), whose banner of ‘social justice’ serves to disguise a darker aim: the eradication of Israel. BDS initiatives remove agency from Jewish business, students and academics in the diaspora. These have no impact on Israeli governmental policies, however they are a conduit for some of the most vicious antisemitic intimidation seen since the 1930s.

No right-minded Labour member would admit to supporting BDS if the above points were included in its discussion on racism, and especially not if the movement ever reached its goal – so why is this tolerated? Why is this antizionist antisemitism  treated differently to other kinds of racism? In our view, the party should not treat adherents to BDS any differently to any other racist.

What many miss is the fact that BDS is both bigoted and discriminatory. It holds Israel to standards not required by any other democratically elected sovereign state. It’s clarion call of ‘to the River and the sea’ is the call for the destruction of Israel – the claiming of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; the state of Israel. In fact, the logo on posters and T-shirts for the BDS and it’s sister organisation, The Palestine solidarity committee, clearly shows the entirety of Israel as being claimed for a Palestinian state. No two state solution or shared ownership, just the eradication of Israel.  The Labour Party must find a better way to legitimately support the cause of the Palestinian people without calling for the destruction of Israel and the alienation of the majority of Anglo Jewry.

The second element that the Labour Party needs to deal with is the appearance of its MPs and their tacit endorsement of antisemitism  at Israel/Palestine demonstrations.

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Revealed: New poll shows 1 in 4 non-Labour voters considering backing Starmer but they want a decisive break from the Corbyn era – 60% say expel Corbyn if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism

19/09/2021, 09:24:00 PM

by Atul Hatwal

New research conducted for Labour Uncut by pollster Yonder (the new name for Populus) reveals that just over 1 in 4 non-Labour voters (26%) would consider voting Labour at the next election. But Jeremy Corbyn is still a huge negative with 66% of this group worried about the continued influence of Corbynites in Labour and 60% saying his expulsion from Labour, if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism, would make them more likely to vote Labour.

The polling, conducted by Yonder between the 13th and 14th September with 2,010 respondents, revealed that 1 in 7 Conservative voters (14%), over half of Lib Dems (53%) and 1 in 4 SNP (26%) are considering voting Labour. Based on Labour’s current standing in the polls, attracting even half of those thinking about backing Keir Starmer and Labour would send the party into government with a vote share in the mid-forties.

However, Labour’s potential voters want a clear break from the Corbyn era.  A series of statements articulating potential reasons for not voting Labour, drawn from previous research, were put to this group and despite a clear appetite for policies such as higher spending on public services and a higher minimum wage, Jeremy Corbyn and his legacy remain toxic.

A net +39% agreed with the statement “I didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and worry that people like him are still too influential in Labour”

Next week, at Labour conference Jeremy Corbyn will once again be in the spotlight and much of the debate about Labour will be defined through the prism of the former leader.

He’s currently suspended from the parliamentary party for saying that the extent of anti-Semitism in the party was “dramatically over-stated” following the publication of the EHRC report into Labour and anti-Semitism, but he had already been readmitted to the party at the point the report was published and so, as a party member not a Labour MP, will be speaking at various Labour conference fringe events. He’ll have a political and media retinue trailing along after him, distracting from the main conference, in the manner that Boris Johnson used to at Conservative conference in the early to mid-2010s.

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Bercow is yesterday’s man, why is Labour indulging him?

22/06/2021, 01:56:09 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I am not sure what voters will make of John Bercow’s defection to Labour at the weekend. I suspect the answer is “not much.”

It is hard not to interpret the former commons speaker’s move as a fit of pique over the prime minister denying him a peerage, rather than some damascene conversion to socialism.

Spurned by his erstwhile colleagues, he’s just trying his luck on the other side of the political aisle, isn’t he?

Bercow implies this is not the case.

Speaking to Trevor Philips on Sunday, he claimed there had been ‘absolutely no conversations whatsoever’ about a peerage, either with Keir Starmer or his team.

He added: ‘And if I may very politely say so, and I do, the people who make what they think is that potent and coruscating criticism of me are operating according to their own low standards.’

Of course, denying there have been recent talks about Labour putting him forward for a peerage is not the same thing as Bercow rejecting the very notion that he would accept one.

Indeed, this morning’s Times reports that he met with Jeremy Corbyn’s team in the days following the 2019 general election to discuss his nomination to the Lords:

‘He then wrote to Corbyn’s office with a reference in which he boasted of his four honorary degrees, “no fewer than five shadow ministerial roles,” a stint as deputy leader of the Tory group on Lambeth council, and experience as a tennis coach.’

In his defence, Bercow was undoubtedly a fine speaker, certainly when it came to checking the authority of the executive and championing the rights of backbenchers.

However, does this wipe clean his previous form as a grisly ultra-right-wing Tory, on the lunatic fringe of his party. A former member of the fascistic Monday Club in his younger days, no less. The group that supported ‘assisted’ repatriation of Commonwealth migrants and loyalist terror in Northern Ireland.

Granted, Bercow’s politics seem to have undergone a dramatic conversion; the mellowing of middle-age, perhaps? Alas, his insufferable pomposity remains.

When asked if Keir Starmer would become prime minister, he told Trevor Philips that ‘the jury is out,’ adding that the Labour leader was ‘decent, honourable and intelligent,’ although not in the same league as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

Man of the people, Bercow is not.

There is also the fact (how can I put this delicately) that he’s a has-been.

Joining Labour straight after he quit the speaker’s chair, or as soon as Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader might have created a bit more of a stir, but it is hard to see what Labour gets from this move at this stage.

Apart from a few die-hard Remaniacs, who credit Bercow with trying to stymie Brexit, and a few constitutional bores who think it is somehow a big deal that a former speaker has not automatically been elevated to the peerage, who cares what he does?

Having ‘generally voted’ for a wholly elected House of Lords, according to TheyWorkForYou.com, perhaps Bercow can avoid any charge of hypocrisy and check his future ambitions by waiting  until there is an elected second chamber?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut 

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Labour was right about Brexit in 2017 and wrong in 2019

05/01/2021, 11:20:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There was a pretty big irony about last week’s vote on the government’s Brexit bill.

By whipping his MPs into supporting Boris Johnson’s deal, Keir Starmer was making good on a manifesto commitment: ‘Labour accepts the [Brexit] referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.’

Of course, this was from the 2017 Labour manifesto, not the 2019 edition.

That version, influenced by the lobbying of the second referendum mafia, gave a quite different commitment. It promised to ‘

give the people the final say on Brexit.’ After a period of renegotiation, a new deal would be put to the vote, ‘alongside the option to remain.’

It was a lousy policy.

It would have seen Labour ministers constructing a new deal that honoured the party’s red lines around labour market standards, environmental protections, and single market access, only for the party to campaign against it in a fresh referendum, in order to remain in the EU.

Voters are not as gullible as politicians consistently believe.

Right along the Brexit-supporting Red Wall, they smelled a rat, sensing that Labour had no intention of respecting their choice to leave the EU and made plain their displeasure. The rest is, well, history.

So last week’s vote was about earning a fresh hearing with voters. The rights and wrongs of Brexit (mainly wrongs) will have to come out in the wash. There are no votes to be gained in prolonging the agony any longer.

In seeking to modernise Labour after last year’s rout, Starmer will carry on repudiating Labour’s recent past. It is the equivalent of a spring clean, expunging mistakes and decluttering the record in a bid to win a second look from the voters. More often than not, it is an exercise that culminates in a gentle dagger thrust into the last guy’s rep.

In which respect, Keir Starmer was in effect knifing himself last week.

He was the architect of Labour’s policy to back a second referendum in 2019. Jeremy Corbyn must take the overall blame for the party’s various policy, strategy, and presentational mistakes, but he was only trying to keep the peace by backing the muddled Brexit policy that Starmer and others were so keen on.

Perhaps Corbyn should have put his foot down – his policy in 2017 was both straightforward and popular.

Indeed, if the party had stuck with the 2017 commitment – avoiding the impression that they were trying to usurp the voters’ decision about the referendum – there would have been more scope to criticise the final deal. As it was, most Labour MPs ended up voting for a package they don’t believe in and one that Keir Starmer himself conceded was ‘thin.’

Now it is done, Brexit is delivered, and Labour can finally move on. But there will be many other painful concessions to make on the journey towards 2024. Labour still has a mountain to climb and is barely out of the foothills.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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The Uncuts 2020 (part II)

31/12/2020, 05:45:35 PM

Politician of the year: Keir Starmer

Politics is a trade conducted exclusively in the moment so it’s worth restating the position at the point Keir Starmer became leader. Just over a year ago, Labour crashed to its worst defeat since 1935, collapsing to 203 MPs and trailing the Tories by just over 11% in the popular vote. Few alive had seen the party laid so low.

Nine months on from the leadership election, Labour is currently level pegging with the Tories, Starmer himself is consistently ahead of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have yet to work out a consistent line of attack on him. The process of returning Labour to electoral contention will be a work of years, but the early progress under Labour’s new leader is evident.

Keir Starmer’s resolution in winning back the Jewish community’s trust and tackling anti-Semitism with Labour has combined moral and political imperatives, establishing the clearest possible dividing line with the previous leadership (albeit, helped unintentionally by the hard left’s inexplicable decision that this is the hill to die on).

British politics in 2020 has spawned many losers. Boris Johnson has squandered the public’s trust following his victory and is vulnerable, Ed Davey isn’t yet a blip in the opinion polls and even Nicola Sturgeon faces unprecedented challenges with the burgeoning civil war within the SNP between her’s and Alex Salmond’s factions. Against this backdrop of political struggles and reverses, Keir Starmer is the one British party leader who has made significant progress over the year.

Nothwithstanding the recent intra-party challenges over Brexit, he enters 2021 with a level of momentum and an expectation of further progress.

Shortest-lived Frontbencher Award: Rebecca Long-Bailey

Perhaps against the better judgement of some of his more seasoned colleagues, in April Keir Starmer opted to appoint a few of the younger Corbynites to frontbench roles, in a “unifying” play to move on from the Corbyn years. Despite his best efforts, it didn’t last.

By June Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Momentum-anointed candidate to replace Corbyn as leader, had gushingly tweeted a Guardian article by resident hard-leftie-luvvie Maxine Peake, where she regurgitated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. While Peake herself later distanced herself from her own words as a mistake, Long-Bailey somewhat loftily refused to withdraw the tweet and apologise herself. This went down in the LOTO’s office like a lead balloon.

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