Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

We are a European country

06/02/2017, 10:33:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The wealth of the UK depends much more on European trade than with any other export market. Our prosperity, much more interwoven with continental prosperity than with prosperity over any other geography, is used to finance public services that are discernibly European in their scope and coverage. Popular support for such public services rests upon values that are more akin to those held elsewhere in Europe than beyond.

We are, in other words, a European country. Europe is not the EU. But the EU is the key organising unit for the advance of shared economic and political interests within Europe.

The challenge for the UK, outside of this organisation, is to sufficiently maintain the GDP growth that we have enjoyed within this organisation to continue to fund public services to the extent that public opinion requires. While the UK is exiting the EU, trade with other European countries is so vital to British economic performance that relations with the rest of Europe will continue to be key to this challenge.

It has long been said that the UK wants Scandinavian public services on American taxes. It has never been said that we want Singaporean public services on Singaporean taxes – with much more limited Singaporean regulation to boot. Yet the prime minister – with zero democratic mandate for this position – places this threat above both our EU partners and the British people.

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May and Trump are in charge – but voters’ wallets still rule

23/01/2017, 07:15:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Trump’s inauguration. May’s speech. We are told that Trump is a protectionist and May is for free trade. But they both reject the social market that characterises the EU, making it a golden shower of a week for internationalist social democrats.

The market comes via trade within the EU, while the social is injected by having this occur above a floor on workers’ and consumers’ rights, as well as protections for the environment and other public goods. “We would be free,” threatened the prime minister, “to change the basis of Britain’s economic model.” The social dimension of the EU model would not endure any transformation into Dubai-on-Thames. Nor, according to a former head official at the Treasury, would the NHS.

It is also the market, not the social, that attracts Trump – perhaps better described as a mercantilist than a protectionist – to a trade deal with the UK. He wants a wall on the Mexican border but he doesn’t want, in contrast to a pure protectionist, to wholly encase America behind trade walls. He does, though, seem to view trade as a zero-sum game, not a win-win exchange. And he eyes a win for America in a negotiation with a UK to be stripped of EU social regulations and looking for friends after politically detaching ourselves from our European partners.

Trump perpetuates the myth that America has ever put itself anywhere other than first. Pumping, in today’s money, around $120bn into Europe via the Marshall Plan, for example, wasn’t just about compassion for a continent on its knees after World War II. It was about minimising the risk of American blood being spilt on European soil, opening up European markets for American goods, and creating a European bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic.

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Big match preview: The Clinton vs Trump debate

26/09/2016, 11:14:12 AM

by Jonathan Todd

No matter what happens to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, no matter whether Brexit is soft or hard, no matter whether secondary modern schools return or not, these all pall next to the consequences of President Trump.

Nearly half of Trump’s supporters expect him to detonate a nuclear bomb. No one should sleep easily. Especially not in the Baltic states, where the closeness between Trump and Putin is particularly troubling.

As a Trump adviser, with extensive business interests in Russia, is suspected of holding clandestine talks with Putin officials, it is not hard to imagine President Trump failing to trigger a NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. This would be part of a broader drawing back of American troops from Europe and the shrivelling of the NATO.

The consequences in the Pacific are also likely to be dramatic. US trade war with China. Ending the military protection that the US provides Japan. Heightened tensions, both economic and militarily, between the historic rivals of China and Japan. After throwing oil on these fires, President Trump can hardly be expected to be an effective firefighter.

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Why things are not as bleak as they look for social democrats

30/08/2016, 06:02:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Uncanny. That is what Nigel Farage says of the supposed similarities between the EU referendum and the US presidential election. This is not a comparison exclusive to him. Far from it. The excellent Gideon Rachman has made it as articulately as anyone in the Financial Times.

“This similarity is more than an unfortunate coincidence. I would point to three parallels between Brexit and the Trump phenomenon that should worry the Clinton campaign. The first is the potency of immigration as an issue. The second is the way in which the Trump and Brexit campaigns have become vehicles for protest votes about economic insecurity. The third is the chasm between elite opinion and that of the white working class.”

On immigration: In the race for the Republican nomination, Trump favoured a “deportation force” to eject the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented migrants living in the United States. No more. Trump is watering down his position because he has, finally, twigged that it is a loser.

On economic insecurity and the white working class: up to a point, Lord Rachman. Nate Silver has exploded the myth of Trump’s “white working class support”. Similarly, having reviewed the evidence, Zoe Williams has concluded of Brexit that: “The very most we can say is that leave had some popularity with the disaffected and the disenfranchised; but it was not limited to that group, and the people who swung the vote were affluent, older southerners.”

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The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies

09/08/2016, 06:26:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson and Will Straw, unsurprisingly, questioned the focus given to the EU referendum by Jeremy Corbyn on Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit documentary. Given Brexit’s slender victory, a more dedicated Labour campaign may have kept the UK in the EU.

We will await the extra £350m a week for the NHS that the Brexit campaign allowed us to believe would be forthcoming. Not once do I recall Corbyn exploding this myth with, say, the fierce clarity of Ruth Davidson at the Wembley debate on the EU referendum. Only the tediously tribal wouldn’t concede that Davidson is impressive. At the same time, however, it is lamentable that a Labour leader can so pall next to a Scottish Tory, a supposedly extinct bred reborn as the most coherent opposing voice to the SNP hegemony that Corbyn was supposed to shatter.

Rather than Scottish recovery, it feels more like the Labour weaknesses that the SNP have ruthlessly exposed will creep south. Brexit asks questions about the future purpose of UKIP, a party dedicated above all to this end, but also exposes a divergence between Labour and many of our traditional supporters in the north of England and the Midlands, which UKIP might be recalibrated to capitalise upon.

Theresa May will look at Labour’s loosening purchase on these regions and spy opportunities for Tory advance. As May looks north, Corbyn tacitly endorses attempts to deselect Peter Kyle, one of Labour’s few MPs in the south outside of London, providing little sense of a lifting of Labour’s traditional southern discomfort.

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It is time to stand for centre left values

14/07/2016, 04:04:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The responsibilities of moderate Labour are so much bigger than mere party tribalism. They are to our country, our consciences and – in the face of ISIS, Putin and Trump – our civilisation.

My conscience would happily rest with the end of Labour if it helped save our country and civilisation. “Histrionic” is a word that has been thrown about lately. And maybe I’m being so.

Perhaps not, though. I believe the UK is going through its biggest crisis of my lifetime. We are a country fracturing on every axis. Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. An unexacting bar.

Theresa May, regrettably, is not up to the challenges of her office. Which include acting to preserve the institution that has helped bring Europe its longest period of peace and prosperity, while also exiting it in a way that does least harm to our economy and society. And I focus on harm minimisation because, kids and grandparents (for it is the baby boomers who must eat their young), we’ve been sold a pup by unaccountable, fly-by-night charlatans.

People are angry now but they’ll be more so when they find no economic nirvana awaiting. Some take out their frustrations on immigrants – who the prime minister, pawns to her as gunboats were to Palmerston, struggles to reassure.

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Labour: Stop meeting. Start leading. Or others will

05/07/2016, 10:06:50 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are decades where nothing happens,” according to Lenin, “and there are weeks where decades happen.”

We are living weeks of decades. At least the Great British public are. In contrast, Labour, with its Leninist conclave nominally at our helm, are having some meetings.

Meetings about meetings. Paranoid bunker meetings. Rousing, Kinnock-fuelled PLP meetings. Nice that Neil’s still got it in him. But just a meeting.

But some meetings don’t happen. Like between our leader and deputy. Portland Communications, newly rumbled and keen to appear even-handed but doubtless driven by dastardly capitalist motive to showcase a client, have given them both brain reading technology.

This means that they are constantly meeting, even when they are not meeting, but never, decade after decade, saying anything relevant to a population crawling into a new, disconcerting era.

Change so bewildering that a politician who struggles to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK, against a backdrop of intimidation to such people, starts to appear the least bad PM option. Better than the “political psychopath” who did as much as anyone to induce this Brexit catastrophe. Preferable to the new Iron Lady – who, as the Remain frontrunner is intensely scrutinised, might win to satiate the Tory thirst for a Leaver.

No matter who the next PM is, they have no mandate for the terms upon which the UK leaves the EU. The Leave campaign – on a false prospectus that no one is held to account for – won a Brexit mandate.

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Brexit poses existential challenges for Labour, the UK and the EU

25/06/2016, 09:28:47 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour is over. The UK is over. The EU is over. For sake of something that Daniel Hannan now concedes won’t necessarily happen: a fall in immigration.

We have conspired to legitimise Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish referendum: a vote that seems likely to precipitate the UK’s breakup. Another vote in Northern Ireland may create a united Ireland around 100 years after partition.

While Jeremy Corbyn may be pleased by Ireland’s reunification, the breakup of the UK, closing off any Scottish Labour recovery within the union, reduces the prospect of Labour government. And this may not even be Labour’s biggest problem. Within England, the referendum exposed the perhaps unbridgeable divide between Labour’s liberal, metropolitan and socially conservative, provincial supporters.

The French cousins of that latter group dance to Marie Le Pen’s tune. The EU will muddle through Brexit but not Frexit, as President Le Pen threatens.

It is hard to believe that Boris Johnson – a Conservative and Unionist MP – intends the UK’s breakup; that Gisela Stuart wishes Labour to be so weakened; that the usually Whiggish Michael Gove wants the Europe that historian Sir Ian Kershaw sees opening up: “28 competing countries and in the hands of Le Pen, Orban, Kaczynski and the nationalists, a Europe breaking up.”

But that is where Johnson, Stuart and Gove – by acquiescing with the poison of Nigel Farage – have left us, which is unforgivable.

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How loud will Jamie Reed’s ‘quiet crisis’ get?

24/05/2016, 09:33:03 PM

In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, Jonathan Todd gives his perspective on Copeland.

“Under leaden skies and beneath the ground a culture of solidarity, independence, community self-reliance and ambition was forged,” writes Jamie Reed of his constituency, Copeland, where I grew up.

Whitehaven, the town where I was born, Reed notes, “was north west England’s most important centre of early Methodism as John Wesley used the town as the starting point for his travels to Ireland and the Isle of Man.” While Whitehaven is a rugby league town, I was more football than rugby league as a child, watching matches both at Holker Street, home of Barrow AFC, a non-league club since the 1970s, and Brunton Park, Carlisle United’s ground, a lower league club for much of its history.

Nowhere does Labour more need to listen and change, according to Reed, than, “in our rugby league towns and lower league football cities, in the places most people have heard of, but never been to.” In places, in other words, like Whitehaven, Barrow and Carlisle.

“Daily life looks and feels very different in our de-industrialised towns, struggling rural villages and smaller cities and these communities are now engulfed in a quiet crisis – not just in the north of England, but in every part of our country.”

We picketed a County Council meeting when I was at primary school to keep the school open. While tiny, the school remains. Two pubs, two banks, and two petrol stations have departed the village or thereabouts in the intervening period. “These jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back,” as Springsteen sings in My Hometown.

In the sense that the primary school was threatened 30 years ago, we might react to Reed’s ‘quiet crisis’ by asking, if localities are perennially threatened, is it a new crisis so much as an ongoing, inevitable way of life in an ever more urban country?

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This is Khan’s triumph – but Labour must be more than the London party

06/05/2016, 06:01:30 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby were Labour’s first MPs. The Jarrow March arrived in London 36 years later. Another 45 years on and the first People’s March for Jobs arrived in the capital from Liverpool.

Historically, London has been the epicentre of the forces that frustrate Labour. Now, however, London is Labour’s citadel.

Third place in Scotland. Losing to Plaid in Rhondda. Far short of the gains of 400 council seats that the likes of Chris Leslie put down as a benchmark. But Labour is set to return to City Hall in London.

This is Sadiq Khan’s triumph. Elections are x-rays. Zac Goldsmith’s revealed that his heart wasn’t really in it and he was prepared to acquiesce with demeaning nastiness. He might be as posh as Boris Johnson but he lacks his restless hunger to seize power by imposing his personality on events.

Khan does not. His x-ray found all political functionalities in full working order. He wasn’t expected to beat Tessa Jowell to the Labour nomination. He has seen Jeremy Corbyn as sufficiently unhelpful that he distanced himself from the leader during the campaign. None of this stopped Khan, a whirl of dynamic energy.

You might have heard that he is a Muslim. If you’ve really been paying attention, you’ll know that his dad was a bus driver. The back story is now ubiquitous. We should not, though, become glib about its significance.

Khan’s win – and it does feel to me a gain in which the seal of the candidate is particularly sharply embossed – is a victory for London’s openness, tolerance and decency. Bravo.

But Labour must be more than this. We need a 650 seat strategy. To deliver openness, tolerance and decency across the UK.

Brexit would knock all this spectacularly backwards. The EU referendum provides an opportunity for Labour to unite and campaign with the verve that Khan has personified.

I’m confident that London will vote Remain. But Labour must make ourselves heard beyond London. Our membership and campaigning capacity is skewed toward the capital, and while these have helped secure Khan’s success, Labour must be more than the London party.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut    

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