Posts Tagged ‘Keir Starmer’

The purge of hard left candidates will be shocking to many in the party but it shows Starmer’s operation understands the reality of modern politics

30/05/2024, 12:16:09 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The first rule of politics is to learn to count.  Reports of the last minute purge of four hard left candidates suggest that Keir Starmer’s team have fully taken on board Lyndon Johnson’s most important lesson.

Many in the party will be shocked and uncomfortable at the developments. Few would think that Labour splits dominating news coverage, to the exclusion of the central message on the economy, is desirable. But there is a logic to what is being done, beyond spite or pure factionalism. It is a rationale that recognises the limitations of party whipping in an age of social media and one that makes Lyndon Johnson’s rule all the more important.

Boris Johnson won the 2019 election with a majority of 77 but he faced multiple rebellions and was ultimately brought down because his whips could not maintain discipline across the parliamentary party. Clearly he played a leading role in his own demise but twenty or thirty years ago, there’s a reasonable chance he could have survived. What has changed since the 1990s and early 2000s is the size of the bubble in which politics is conducted and the pace at which the news cycle turns.

In a pre-online, pre-social media age, politics was the preserve of the individuals within the physical environs of Westminster, largely the MPs and the lobby journalists. It was a small world, one in which personal relationships, a trading of favours and the odd grabbing of lapels could maintain party discipline. News was slow, there were a limited number of broadcast channels, and the daily papers took twenty-four hours to publish.

But now, it is different.

The bubble has grown and extends from Westminster into the online world of commentators and activists. The news cycle has accelerated beyond all recognition. In the 1990s, when an event occurred, the next day’s reporting would normally be factual on the event and comment pieces would tend to follow 48 to 72 hours later. Today when a newsworthy event occurs, the factual turn of the cycle is complete within minutes and multiple rotations of comment and reaction begin within the hour.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The SNP’s impending collapse is an opportunity, but also a warning, for Scottish Labour

29/05/2024, 09:30:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

While the Tories writhe in anguish about how large their defeat is likely to be, spare a thought for another party, which might conceivably end up worse.

It’s been difficult to keep track of everything that’s gone wrong for the SNP over the last year or so.

First there was the shock resignation of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and her own arrest. Not to mention that of her husband, who was later re-arrested and charged, on suspicion of embezzlement.

Her successor Humza Yousaf, in power for just over a year, continued to pursue Sturgeon’s tremendous unpopular policy of gender self ID, and was himself forced to resign after the failure of a widely-criticised bill curbing free speech and the subsequent collapse of the coalition with the Scottish Greens.

Now we have John Swinney, who has been in office for a further 21 days, during which he has: used up political capital trying to save a disgraced MSP friend, only to fail in the end; pushed for recognition of a terrorist state, even though his role has no powers whatsoever over foreign affairs; has been unable to say what a woman is; and the icing on the cake was when Rishi Sunak called a general election unexpectedly early, meaning that they now look to receive a terrible drubbing at the polls sooner rather than later.

Indeed, a poll a few days ago, when put through the well-known Electoral Calculus model, predicted it could end up with as few as seven seats; a total wipeout. Oh, and their Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, would lose his seat, although he remains bullish about their prospects, in a “Chemical Ali” kind of a way.

Yousaf was fond of saying that this coming general election should be seen as a plebiscite on Scottish independence – but they’re not saying that any more.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

It is time to start believing – Labour can change Britain

15/05/2024, 09:48:39 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour and the Tories were both in the mid-30s in the polls at the end of 2021. Briefings that Boris Johnson would govern into the 2030s followed the Hartlepool by-election. Labour government was a two-term project, experienced campaigners insisted.

This seemed too pessimist to me. It was, I wrote, time to start believing – Labour can win the next general election.

Check my working:

  1. Boris Johnson will never again be the political force that he was in December 2019: Far from governing into the next decade, Johnson’s reputation is irredeemably low.
  1. The next general election will not be about Brexit: Neither the Tories (because of Brexit’s failings) nor Labour (due to its enduring sensitivities) want to talk at this election about the only topic of the last.
  1. Johnson’s kingdom of sand bequeaths little to the next Tory leader: Even less after the short, benighted, economically ruinous reign of his successor.
  1. Liberal Democrat revival helps Labour: In a political environment most characterised by antipathy to the Tories, Labour is strengthened by having viable vehicles for the expression of anti-Tory sentiment as widely dispersed as possible, as the byelections of North Shropshire, Tiverton and Honiton, and Somerton and Frome have evidenced.
  1. Labour strength across the UK builds Labour recovery in Scotland: As the probability of PM Starmer has increased, the prospects of Scottish Labour have improved – with polling now pointing to 28 Scottish Labour MPs.

 We should now believe that Labour can not only win the election, but profoundly change Britain.

Liverpool Football Club experienced the power of belief under Jürgen Klopp, who urged fans to move from doubters to believers.

“Given the scale of Labour’s defeat in 2019,” I wrote in December 2021, “the idea that Labour could win in 2024 might be as unlikely as Liverpool overcoming Barcelona after a 3-0 defeat in the Camp Nou. The starting point for that famous victory in May 2019 was that 60,000 believers arrived at Anfield, determined to back their team to the hilt. Even Lionel Messi doubted himself in this context.”

Here we are in our Anfield of 2024: millions of Labour supporters believe that victory awaits; Messi still shines at Inter Miami, while Johnson is washed-up; and Klopp is leaving Liverpool Football Club in a city transformed.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Uncuts: 2023 political awards (Part II)

01/01/2024, 04:42:03 PM

Politician of the year: Team Starmer

For the 2023 award, Uncut is bending the rules a little to hand the politician of the year gong to a team. There is a logic. Keir Starmer had an excellent year, he has palpably learned, adapted and overcome the challenges in front of him. But politics is a team sport and while he has been front of office, the back-office team have made much of this progress possible.

In the 1990s, Tony Blair had a close-knit team around him that propelled him to power. The big names are well known – Jonathan Powell, Anji Hunter, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Sally Morgan. Even at the time, each had their own distinct profile, just as Gordon Brown’s team with Charlie Whelan, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, each had their own media profile.

The difference in the 2020s is that team Starmer is just that, a single unit, there is little briefing or publicity for the different members. No running storyline on tensions with the shadow chancellor’s team where the advisers become the story. After the psychodrama of the TB-GBs, fuelled in large part by advisers, and the scorched earth of Dominic Cummings tenure, a return to the days when advisers remained firmly in the back-office is a welcome change, not to mention an important part of minimising stories of splits and backbiting in any future Labour government.

So, congratulations to Morgan McSweeney, Matt Pound, Matt Doyle, Deborah Mattinson, Peter Hyman and Muneera Lula for not being the story with an honourable mention for Sue Gray, only recently in post as chief of staff, following a highly publicised exit from the civil service, but resolutely absent from the headlines in her new role.

Most underrated in 2023: President Biden

America is heading towards a presidential election between a candidate facing nearly 100 criminal charges and another that has delivered unprecedented and, given the shocks of Covid and Putin’s war, unexpected economic strength.

It should be a no brainer that the latter will win. By a landslide. And yet the polls suggest otherwise and nervousness – Democratic (as in the party) and democratic (as in the political system) – is pervasive.

When Americans vote, Democrats win. In the 2022 midterms, Democrats won by larger margins than in the 2020 presidential election in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania — all battleground states. Democrats also performed strongly in 2023: flipping a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin; defeating a six-week abortion ban in Ohio; and keeping the Virginia state house.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Antisemitism is bad enough right now, without trying to frame actual Jewish allies

28/11/2023, 09:23:59 PM

by Rob Marchant

If the horrific news coming out of Israel and Gaza resulting from Hamas atrocities were not sufficient, the last six weeks have been the worst period of antisemitism in living memory, not just in Britain but in many other parts of the world.

Some Labour figures have not exactly covered themselves in glory: if you can manage to live with the cognitive dissonance of framing the “ceasefire” narrative as a neutral one, rather than one which helps Hamas; or recent serial hate marches as “peace demonstrations” – as it seems both Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were able to, not to mention a highly-predictable Jeremy Corbyn – you are not going to get to common sense or coherence any time soon.

However, at national level, Keir Starmer has largely avoided the platitudes of his predecessors and has managed to hold a sensible line with his Shadow Cabinet in not “both-sidesing” the Hamas atrocities and the civilian casualties resulting from Israeli counter-attacks. This all in the face of Chicken-Licken comment pieces predicting imminent, and terrible, splits in the party over this stance, which in the end have turned out to be rather overblown.

In difficult times, then, Labour has managed to truly move on from the Corbyn years and not fall into the trap which has recently befallen the Spanish, Belgian and Irish prime ministers, in wetting the bed on this issue. Bravo to Starmer.

So far, so good; until we come to last weekend’s Sunday Times piece, in which it was revealed that Rosie Duffield MP, one of the very few MPs to stand up and be counted as a Jewish ally when antisemitism was rife in the party and is, let us not forget, a vice-chair of the APPG on antisemitism, has not yet been added to the approved parliamentary candidates list, despite having been reselected for Canterbury seat, on grounds of a complaint over alleged antisemitism.

You what, mate?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Revealed: Labour high command planning for TWO elections – 2024 and 2026 – with ‘the longest and most expensive ever rolling general election campaign’

06/10/2023, 01:27:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour high command has begun planning for a single general election campaign that does not end with the next general election but continues through to the election after that. The rationale is that while Labour will likely win the next election, the majority will be sufficiently narrow to make a quick-fire return to the polls almost inevitable.

Speaking to multiple sources, Uncut understands that expectations across the shadow cabinet are for a majority between 10 and 40 with a clear understanding that even a majority of 40 would likely be unworkable to deliver the scale of change needed by the country.

Labour won 202 seats in 2019 and to achieve a majority of 40 at the next election would mean winning an extra 158 seats, significantly more than the boost of 146 seats that Tony Blair secured in 1997.

Even if the upper end of expectations was somehow reached with a majority of 40, a rebellion of just 20 Labour MPs could derail government plans. Currently the hard left Socialist Campaign Group has 35 MPs with a swathe of other backbench Labour MPs, most of whom are likely to be in the next parliament, disgruntled with the leadership and already identified as likely serial rebels.

The experience of the Lib Dems in the 2010 coalition which resulted in their near total wipeout at the 2015 election combined with the nature of seats that they are currently targeting – Blue Wall, long term Tory bastions where voters have a historic hostility to Labour – means that the prospect of anything other than a slightly augmented confidence and supply agreement with Ed Davey’s party is remote.

A vulnerable majority would not only place huge constraints on policy but the longer the parliament ran the more Keir Starmer’s authority would be eroded as the political debate increasingly focused on Westminster psychodrama rather than the government’s agenda. The fate of past PMs with narrow majorities such as Theresa May, John Major, Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson, looms large in the thinking of key figures around the Labour leader. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The big winner in last week’s reshuffle was Labour’s old right, not Tony Blair

10/09/2023, 10:57:09 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Most media reports of last week’s Labour reshuffle described a scene of Blairite triumph: the old master’s grip on the party was being reasserted, his policies and personnel were to the fore, Keir Starmer his willing proxy. It’s an easy story to write, one with familiar beats, but a story that is quite wrong.

It is a symptom of the simplified, bipolar frame through which Labour’s internal politics is viewed: Corbynite left or Blairite right, where all developments are reduced to a zero-sum game of one side winning and the other losing.

What this approach misses is the divide among party centrists between Blairites and the old Labour right, dating back to the early 1990s. There’s certainly much commonality between the two groups across large swathes of policy and on the importance of fighting the hard left, but as that latter threat recedes and the choices of government heave into view, the differences from thirty years ago will become more evident. Last week’s reshuffle marked the clearest possible ascendancy of the old Labour right rather than a move to full throttle Blairism.

Blairites are revolutionaries. Many of the original generation, including Tony Blair, started their political lives on the radical left and moved to the centre; what they retained on their political journey was their restless dissatisfaction with the status quo; social democratic incrementalism wasn’t enough, Britain needed fundamental reform. The focus of this reforming zeal was typically old Labour sacred cows–Labour’s internal structures, the party’s relationship with the unions and public service reform.

The old right is the embodiment of incrementalism. A bit more redistribution, increased public spending and support to bolster the position of unions. This isn’t a faction temperamentally suited to radical upheaval, least of all when it comes to the ceremonies of Labour’s traditions which are intertwined with the union movement and wreathed in emotion and sentimentality.

Think of the contrast between John Smith and Tony Blair.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Looking ahead to a massive political year

25/08/2023, 11:15:52 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, according to Hegel. He meant, of course, that we won’t know until 2024 who got the worst of 2016: the UK with Brexit or the USA with Trump.

Next year will be a big one on both sides of the pond as Sunak v Starmer and Biden v Trump shape up to produce fireworks, says the blurb on the 1000 Trades website. On 5 September, David Aaronovitch will lead a journey through the political landscape as we approach the foothills of this immense political year.

A Labour general election victory will begin to heal the wounds opened in the UK’s relationship with the EU by Brexit. And much more besides: tackling the deep weaknesses of low skills, productivity, and investment that have bedevilled the UK economy for much longer than we have been outside the EU; repairing a public realm battered by 14 years of Conservative government; and seizing the opportunities of the major waves of change, such as Net Zero and Artificial Intelligence, that are reshaping the global economy.

A Conservative win will do the opposite. No reset in our relations with the EU. No change of national direction. No end to our self-harm.

There’s a lot riding on our next general election. But even more on the next US presidential election. The global consequences of the presidential election dwarf our general election.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Keir’s Spanish lessons

27/07/2023, 10:44:52 PM

by Rob Marchant

It would be easy for Labour to derive some trite answers from the result of Sunday’s general election in Spain, where many international commentators were holding their breath.

In the end, wily PM Pedro Sánchez managed to frustrate the advance of the far right – which almost got back into government for the first time in half a century – and may well end up continuing to run the country after all. Hurrah, a victory for Western social democracy.

The quick and comfortable answer for Labour to take away is this: in the end, given a stark choice in times of hardship, people saw through right-wing populism and agreed that the left are the good guys, who will look after their needs. The needs of the many won over needs of the few. The left is on its way back.

Sadly, this is not the right lesson.

Sanchez has, a little like Joe Biden, managed both to do some good things, and meanwhile seriously irritate many electors in the political centre who would otherwise vote for him. The radical end of the global left, spearheaded by the likes of the Democrats’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is starting to drive us all a little crazy.

Spain, which has enjoyed a leftist government for the last five years, is little different. The uncomfortable truth is that the Spanish leader has, and only maybe, clung on by the skin of his teeth, when he could potentially have won a comfortable second term. Being a smart political operator, he gambled that most Spaniards would recoil so much at the thought of neofascists in government, that he could avert disaster, and therefore brought forward the election five months in a “back me or sack me” move. He turned out to have made a smartish bet.

But not only may that trick not work next time, one also has to ask why he ended up in such dire straits that he had to resort to it in the first place– that so many voters disliked the Socialists so much, that they could come that close to putting Franco’s unpleasant heirs into government in their place. The best Sánchez can hope for now is an unstable, rainbow coalition, in hock to the demands of nationalist parties.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour needs to battle through Long Corbyn to overcome Long Thatcherism

06/02/2023, 10:44:58 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The most common symptoms of Long Covid, according to the NHS website, include extreme tiredness, loss of smell, and muscle aches. It is Zoonotic: transmitting between species and from animals to humans. It also moves from the medical to the political.

“In 82 opinion polls since January,” lamented Denis MacShane on The Article in October 2020, “the Labour Party has only been ahead in one of them”. Despite Keir Starmer outperforming the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, “in terms of competence and coherence.”

“The party,” diagnosed MacShane, “is suffering with symptoms of “Long Corbyn” … The virus of hard leftist unelectability is not easy to eradicate.”

Liverpool had not won the league in 25 years when Jürgen Klopp was appointed manager in 2015. Past glories felt unlikely to be recaptured. Klopp urged doubters to be believers. His Liverpool became the first British team to hold the European Cup, European Super Cup, Club World Cup, and league titles simultaneously.

Three months after MacShane’s article, I paraphrased Klopp to argue that Labour doubters should become believers. The symptoms of Long Corbyn were at their height: extreme tiredness (years of Labour doorstep with little to show for it), misplaced sense of political smell (failing to sniff the weaknesses that clung to Johnson even at the height of his powers), our muscles ached from the strife and disappointment under Corbyn.

This context made eccentric my prediction of Labour victory. Things have dramatically turned.

All who doubted Labour now believe. Once tired activists, bouncing back from Long Corbyn, stride purposefully towards power. The whiff of Labour government permeates all corners of national life. My reasons for optimism have come to pass – and then some.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon