Posts Tagged ‘John McDonnell’

Labour’s best hope? Hold what we have

18/04/2017, 03:53:58 PM

The etiquette of a general election requires opposition parties to welcome it.

It’s supposed to bring to a head years of public animosity with the governing party, allowing the opposition to channel the hopes and desire for change of frustrated voters.

Fat chance of any of that happening on June 8th.

Theresa May’s snap general election is a chance to grind Labour’s face into the dirt.

This is a bid for naked political advantage. Party before country.

Alas, it was made inevitable from the moment Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Labour’s lurch to the barren shores of the hard left made this election an irresistible prospect.

Sure, Theresa May has a point about wanting a strengthened mandate from the voters for the tough Brexit negotiations to come, but it’s a fig-leaf. A secondary excuse.

Despite the public front that it welcomes the election, Labour is reeling. There is no prospect of anything other than a drubbing.

And everyone knows it.

Indeed, insult will be added to injury midway through this campaign when we’ll see the twentieth anniversary of Labour’s 1997 landslide on May 1st 1997.  Back then, Labour won a parliamentary majority of 179.

Now, it will now be lucky if it can now hold that number of seats.

Plenty perfectly decent Labour MPs are about to pay the price for Jeremy Corbyn’s personal unpopularity and eager embrace of the desiccated corpse of hard left gesture politics.

Although the party has claimed to be on election footing for a while – and with the influx of new members is financially well placed to fight a campaign – Labour candidates are marching headlong into the Valley of Death.

Even Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, recently conceded it will take two years for the party to rebuild in the polls from two years of infighting.

Labour now has less than two months.

There is only one thing the party can realistically hope for; that its core vote is stronger than Westminster chatterers assume.

And the only glimmer of hope is that Labour’s existential psychodrama is now brought to a head.

Instead of waiting until 2020, Labour has the chance to rebuild earlier than predicted. Cold comfort.

Other than that, this is Labour’s darkest hour.

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The “soft coup” might be on, but it surely ain’t from the right

24/03/2017, 06:41:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

For weeks now, the party’s left has been whispering about a “soft coup”. Ah, the old Soviet tactic, much beloved of today’s Vladimir Putin: confuse things by accusing your opponents of whatever you are up to yourself. Oh, and make them feel under attack, so they close ranks.

There is a coup going on, but it is clearly not the evil Blairites named by John McDonnell.

As revelations about Jon Lansman’s declared strategy for Momentum as an alternative power base to the party itself became public, it seems Monday night’s PLP meeting was converted into something of a showdown.

Corbyn jeered. Watson cheered. The PLP, depressed and muted for months since Corbyn’s re-election, suddenly found its voice.

And it was that same Tom Watson leading the charge – a loyalist clearly adept at unearthing the truth but in this case apparently with a couple of years’ time-lag.

(We should probably gloss over his part the plot to bring down Tony Blair; or the fact that, in the Falkirk selections debacle – in which his own parliamentary office was directly implicated, along with Unite, let us not forget – he helped lead to the change in the electoral system which let in Corbyn in the first place.)

And the revelation was that – hold the front page! – Momentum is actually organising for the takeover/destruction of the Labour Party (delete as applicable), just like Militant before it, in conjunction with that same Unite union. Where were you in 2015, Tom, when it was obvious to everyone? Or in 2013, when Unite were stitching up selections for the hard left?

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John McDonnell has finally lost it

06/03/2017, 12:49:39 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was a cold February morning, when the Shadow Chancellor finally gave in to his demons and went “full conspiracy theory”.

To be fair, he probably didn’t feel too well. Labour had just suffered a “historic” by-election defeat at the hands of the governing party, something unheard of in thirty-five years and with the biggest pro-incumbent vote increase in a half-century.

It all had to be, of course, the fault of the Blairites. Particularly the man himself for his recent intervention over Brexit, who will shortly celebrate a decade of, er, not being the leader of his party. Not to mention Lord Mandelson, the incarnation of all evil to a Corbynite.

As John Rogan pointed out last August, it’s not as if McDonnell holds views consistent with a life at the top table in a major political party. When the IRA came to the negotiating table, he said they could only settle for a united Ireland. The organisation he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee, in 2012 called for the release of all Irish “political prisoners”, including those who had murdered that same year, 14 years after the peace agreement.

In other words, McDonnell and his colleagues set themselves in a position considerably more uncompromising than Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, by then getting on with the substantially more serious business of governing Northern Ireland.

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The government has given Labour enough rope. Corbyn’s using it

19/01/2017, 11:00:40 PM

by Greig Baker

Too few people understand that the easiest way to get something done in politics is to let someone else take the credit. That’s as true for political parties as it is for individual politicians, and it holds whether you’re trying to deliver your own agenda or hobble your opponents’ plans. It should be slowly dawning on Labour that they are being given plenty of rope to hang themselves by this Conservative government – and Jeremy Corbyn seems to be quite happy to pick up the noose.

I’d cite three examples of this approach in practice.

First, it has been widely recognised that Tristram Hunt’s move to the V&A had to be explicitly approved by the government. In other words, Theresa May knew about a Labour MP’s resignation before Jeremy Corbyn did – and she was quite happy to facilitate it. If you listen carefully to Labour MPs being asked for comment on Mr Hunt’s move, it is clear the Opposition is braced to lose yet more high profile (and capable) MPs to tempting jobs outside Parliament over the coming months.

All the Tories have to do is let the Labour leadership keep hammering moderates’ morale and then give resignation-minded MPs a worthy and salary-plated parachute. Long term, this trend could pose problems for the centre-right: Conservative voices have long bemoaned the fact that public bodies are often led by people who have an active and left leaning political agenda of their own. But in the short term, it just helps roll the pitch for polling day.

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Labour’s response to Brexit is cowardly and shameful. That’s why I’m resigning from the party

18/01/2017, 09:19:42 PM

Robert Williams was a member of the Labour party for over twenty years. He resigned this week over Labour’s response to Brexit. Here’s his letter to his MP, Barry Gardiner

Dear Barry

I write with regret, but much less than I would wish, to tell you that I am resigning from the Labour party with immediate effect.

I joined when I was 17, because I believed in social justice and internationalism. What I have seen over the last two years has been a descent into the most infantile student politics, with an utterly incompetent and inadequate leader standing on a platform of being friends with every terrorist group so long as they are anti-Western, being unable to state how he would defend the country or its people in a crisis, and supported by a pathetically untalented team of and an unpleasant network of people expelled from Labour, supporters of other parties, candidates for other parties and deluded members who no longer care about winning an election.

Corbyn’s utter incompetence and John McDonnell’s unpleasantness, leading to Labour’s total unelectability are not the main reasons for my resignation, however. I would have fought these unrepresentative dinosaurs and Corbyn’s total unfitness to lead from within the party.

It is on Europe, and our impending exit from the European Union that is the final straw for me. A turnout of 72% and a 52%-48% vote is not the overwhelmingly majority of people. The “people” did not vote for a Brexit that means economic catastrophe and political irrelevance. And they did not vote to diminish the opportunities membership of the EU offers all our citizens and to deny the rich cultural and social elements of our membership of a continent wide club.

And then Jeremy Corbyn decided to use his first speech of 2017 to claim that Britain can be better-off outside the EU.

The silence of Labour moderates, with the honourable exceptions of the 23 Labour MPs who voted for sanity on Europe in December, on the most important issue of our times, is deafening. Corbyn and his band of fools have shown no leadership, no principles and no morality. By their cowardice, they have left the way open to mendacious, toxic hard right Brexiteers in government to potentially damage the country beyond repair and that is unforgivable.

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John McDonnell and George Osborne: Two faces of Gordon Brown

19/04/2016, 10:56:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

John McDonnell is bringing to mind the Gordon Brown of the 1992 parliament, while George Osborne is coming to appear the Brown of the 2005 parliament. Where Brown had neo-endogenous growth theory, McDonnell has an entrepreneurial state; both have public investment at their core. Where the later Brown had 10p tax, Osborne has tax credits; too clever by half missteps by Stalins transfiguring into Mr Beans.

“Business investment is falling,” McDonnell noted in a speech last month. “Exports are falling. The productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation. Without productivity growth, we cannot hope, over the long term, to improve living standards for most people.”

It is a powerful critique, grounded not in the overthrow of capitalism but in making it work more efficiently. Notwithstanding their divergent accents, you can close your eyes and imagine Brown, as shadow chancellor, castigating the Major government. Or more recently, Ed Balls attacking the Cameron administration.

The fiscal rule that McDonnell espoused in his speech might be interpreted as a crisper version of that which Balls took Labour into the last election with. The practical consequences of the McDonnell and Balls fiscal rules may be little different but McDonnell more explicitly backs capital spending.

“We believe,” McDonnell declared, “that governments should not need to borrow to fund their day-to-day spending.” This hawkish position on current spending contrasts with a more dovish approach to capital spending. “Alongside this, we recognise the need for investment which raises the growth rate of our economy by increasing productivity as well as stimulating demand in the short term.”

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Jeremy Corbyn is both an asset and a liability for George Osborne

21/03/2016, 03:36:03 PM

by Greig Baker

I have put my neck out before and predicted that Tory MPs won’t put George Osborne into the final two candidates for Conservatives to pick their leader. Jeremy Corbyn has no small part to play in this, as polls showing a Labour lead – even if rare and questionable – are enough to put the wind up Conservative MPs and make them look round for someone with more voter pull than the Chancellor.

Paradoxically, at the same time Corbyn is hurting Osborne’s medium term prospects, he is also giving him a short term boost. The suggestion that Corbyn, McDonnell, & Co could get near the levers of power is scary enough that most people would try to reduce risk wherever they can – to the advantage of the Remain side in the EU campaign.

In other words, while Labour’s polling spike last week could help bring down George Osborne in the end, it gives him a better chance of being on the winning side in June.

Greig Baker is Chief Executive of The GUIDE Consultancy

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The slow, inexorable hard left takeover of the party machine is a disaster for Labour

03/03/2016, 12:19:53 PM

by Rob Marchant

And so it was that, last Thursday, we learned that John McDonnell MP wanted to abolish Labour’s Compliance Unit (£), which deals with constitutional and disciplinary issues.

The NEC of the Labour Party are looking at the whole exercise — how we can move away from this regime that expels people, prevents people joining.”

Not exactly front-page news, of course. Dull, internal workings of the party machine.

But it turns out it is rather important. And it is only the most recent in a number of such events.

The basic point is this: McDonnell wants to make it harder to expel people from the party and, by extension, easier for others – and clearly here he means previously expelled or suspended people –to re-enter.

Now why, one wonders, might anyone want to do that? Is it because the Compliance Unit is a group of over-zealous thought police, imposing a rigid discipline and barring entry to all but the most blind followers of the faith?

If only it were resourced up to be even close to that. It is a handful of people who try to keep the party in roughly sensible shape, by dealing with those whose presence is actually harmful to its body politic. Those who actually belong to another party, for example, or campaign for one. The actual number of cases dealt with is small and expulsions are pretty rare occurrences.

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If the mood changes, Labour need to shape up quickly

01/03/2016, 08:38:32 PM

by David Ward

As Eminem asked us, “Look If you had one shot. Or one opportunity. To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment. Would you capture it. Or just let it slip?”

Recent weeks have seen a palpable change in mood to that of last May. Front pages have been filled news of market crashes, while financial commentators debate if a new recession is on the way. Meanwhile the Prime Minister and most of his cabinet are at risk of winning a referendum but losing the support of large sections of their party, as well as the right wing press.

Granted, there is no guarantee of an economic downturn or of the Conservative party tearing each other apart over Europe. Nevertheless, any self-respecting political party should be thinking about how significant events could help remove their opponents from office.

Sadly, evidence of the current leadership’s capability in this regard seems lacking. The most remarkable thing about the current Labour party is the lack of any ability to capitalise on events or stories.

Perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than Prime Minister’s Questions. Nick Tyrone compared Cameron on Corbyn’s first outing at PMQs to an opening batsman. Tamely patting back gentle half volleys in case there was some trap waiting. By now he’s worked out there is no trap. Corbyn’s buffet bowling courtesy of Rosie or Jim is dispatched to the boundary with almost humiliating ease.

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Moral conflict and the splitting of Labour (or what we love will tear us apart)

09/12/2015, 03:40:18 PM

by Gordon Lynch

In 2011, the Yale sociologist Jeffrey Alexander published a book, ‘The Performance of Politics’, in which he argued that moral symbolism plays a crucial role in shaping democratic political processes.

Political communication, Alexander claimed, was based on fundamental distinctions between the ‘sacred’ values that were taken to define a society’s identity and ethos and ‘profane’ outsiders perceived as dangerous, polluting threats. Electoral success required politicians to convince voters that they were on the positive side of this moral binary and that their opponents were tainted by the ‘profane’.

Whilst many other social and economic factors weigh on how electorates view politicians, Alexander’s analysis provides a valuable perspective on certain moments in political life. The current crisis enfolding the Labour Party is such a case. Although it is less than three months since his election, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has become increasingly defined through such moral binaries.

One of the most damaging for him amongst many voters is the sense that he does not stand in patriotic solidarity with Britain, generated unfairly by a relentless communications campaign by his media and political critics. But another ‘profane’ trait, identified by Alexander’s analysis of political communication, is the perception of a politician favouring particularist loyalties rather than the wider public good.

His appointment to key posts of individuals such as John McDonnell, Andrew Fisher and Seaumus Milne, who are highly divisive in terms of public and party opinion but ideologically close to Corbyn, has for many people demonstrated this undesirable quality.

When individuals close to Corbyn act in incompetent or uncivil ways but are allowed to continue in their roles, this sense of personal loyalty and ideological factionalism trumping public responsibility deepens.

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