Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

What if Burnham had won last year?

22/07/2016, 06:00:25 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a lot of ‘whatifery’ around the Labour party at the moment. What if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected with a bigger majority? What if there’s a snap general election? What if there’s a serious attempt to impose mandatory reselections on sitting Labour MP?

Here’s a more abstract thought for the start of the traditional silly season: what if Andy Burnham, rather than Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Labour leader last July?

Clearly Corbyn romped home with 65 per cent of the vote, so it wasn’t exactly a close-run thing, but Burnham was second (meaning this counter-factual is not outside the realms of plausibility).

Looking back, it now seems quite unbelievable that intelligent people ever thought Liz Kendall was in with a shout of winning. Her derisory 4.5 per cent of the vote – fewer than one in twenty eventually backed her – was a cataclysmic defeat.

It doesn’t reflect on her as a person or as a smart, effective politician. The neo-Blairite flag she marched to war under was utterly cursed from the start. It was a drubbing the likes of which the party’s right has never faced before.

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Corbyn’s lack of a political strategy is his achilles heel

21/07/2016, 01:25:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour leadership contest and I won’t this time either. It’s not because I think he’s a bad man, I don’t. And it’s not because he’s wrong about everything, because he isn’t.

In fact, he is sincere and compassionate – commendable enough qualities in anyone. But for a political leader that’s just not enough. The problem is that his ‘politics of hope’ – important and refreshing though it is – just isn’t tempered by the politics of realism.

Labour people should know by now that it isn’t enough simply to make the moral case that some injustice or other should be ended. The British people are practical. They want to know exactly what you intend to do and how you will pay for it.

Jeremy Corbyn fails on this score miserably. Calamitously, in fact. There is an empty space where, by now, he should have sketched the outlines of a new programme for Labour. All he seems capable of offering is slightly tweaked variant of the same stump speech he has been making for 30 years.

His biggest weakness though – and one his querulous parliamentary colleagues have let him get away with for the past year – is that he has nothing resembling a political strategy about how Labour puts its values into practice and wins the next general election.

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Plotters beware, you are leaving Corbyn with the moral high ground

29/06/2016, 05:49:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You can disagree with Jeremy Corbyn, you can think he’s deluded and you can even think his continued leadership of the Labour party is a one way ticket to political oblivion, but he has a fair point in trying to hold on.

He was elected with an overwhelming majority as party leader just ten months ago. There is no chink of light, no clever tactical point that reduces the power of his victory. He won a fair fight, securing a first ballot victory with 65 per cent of the vote to succeed Ed Miliband. It was a clear, unambiguous call for a different kind of politics.

Since then he has clearly tried to implement his mandate to refound Labour as a democratic socialist party. A decent chunk of the party’s moderates have tried to work with the grain of his victory and should be commended for doing so.

Teeth may have been gritted and smiles painted on, but, largely the ship has stayed afloat until last weekend as Brexit changed the terms of political trade, raising, as it does, the prospect of an early general election.

Yet despite all the courtliness of the past year, a battle was always coming. And, indeed, here it is.

But the manner in which this awkward modus vivendi, this unhappy cohabitation between left and moderate sections of the party, now ends is of critical importance.

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This referendum revealed just how far apart Labour’s elite and its base have become

27/06/2016, 12:29:58 PM

by Kevin Meagher

So now we know: 37 per cent of Labour supporters went to the polls to vote to leave the European Union.

Despite all but a handful of MPs, the active support of the trade unions, the pleas of every former leader of the party and Alan Johnson’s battlebus, more than a third of the party’s electoral base jumped at the chance to quit the EU.

Motives varied, but the loudest pained roar was clearly against the iniquities of mass migration, the single totemic issue that has fuelled the Leave campaign’s remarkable insurgency against the political and financial elite.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Remain was flattened by a steamroller. It chose to stand in the way of public opinion and got squashed by it. Does it still need pointing out that immigration is a somewhat vexing issue for the British public? Given the chance to do something about it, they did what they said they would do all along.

Nevertheless, the ramifications for the Labour party are now grave. The fissure between the party’s elite and its base, evident for at least a decade, will now grow wider.

The problem is more dangerous than a conventional left/right split. In fact, the assumptions of the Progress types and Corbynistas are remarkably similar: They both think uncontrolled immigration is acceptable and that it isn’t the role of government to do much to prevent it.

The problem is there aren’t enough coddled public sector workers and right-on middle class social liberals who agree with them.

Labour needs its blue collar working class base to stand any chance of ever governing again, but shows no understanding of what makes them tick.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to care what does.

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Can Corbyn save the Remain campaign?

11/06/2016, 11:26:20 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘Just exactly what has Jeremy Corbyn done during the EU referendum campaign?’ is a familiar refrain from people inside the unflinching pro-Remain Labour party.

The Labour leader is a long-time euro-sceptic and has seemed reluctant to fully immerse himself in the Remain campaign hitherto. Frankly, he adopts all the enthusiasm of a weary teacher staring at a pile of end of term marking.

But there is something authentic about his reluctance to fully devour his principles and sing the praises of an institution he has spent three decades criticising.

In a bid to maintain party unity, his concession has been to emphasise the importance of the EU in underpinning workers’ and consumers’ rights.

It’s decent enough ground for any social democrat, but Corbyn is clearly not prepared to give the full-throated endorsement of Remain that many in the party want him to.

But here’s the thing: his lack of enthusiasm is actually an asset.

Corbyn is plainly no swivel-eyed euro-enthusiast. But then again, neither are most voters.

They are pragmatists and recognise there are aspects of the EU that are important – worthy even – at the same time, though, they have big reservations about other parts.

They can like clean rivers and beaches, courtesy of the EU’s urban wastewater treatment directive, even if they don’t like the nannying and corruption of the EU.

They can value the ease with which travellers can get around Europe, even if they hate mass migration.

This is now the nub of this referendum campaign. Many voters’ final decision will come down to whether its head or heart that wins out.

After weeks of puerile and increasingly desperate scares and smear by the Remain campaign, it’s clear that public opinion has now hardened and their approach is simply not capable of sealing the deal with the electorate and winning this referendum.

As jaded voters weary of lunatic politicians predicting economic Armageddon chaos and war, Corbyn encapsulate the nuances and doubts that speak to real people.

This is the point in the referendum campaign where he is most potent.

As he proved in the Labour leadership election last year, Jeremy Corbyn can reach parts of the electorate that other politicians can’t.

On 20 June, Corbyn will face a grilling from an audience of young people on Sky News.

Just three days before polling day, it will be one of the last big interventions by a national politician and is certainly the last best chance to enthuse young voters, who, while disproportionately backing Remain, are less likely to turn out and are perhaps most mistrustful of politicians.

How ironic if it’s Jeremy Corbyn, the Bennite Eurosceptic, who saves this referendum and gets Remain across the line.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Disaffected Labour voters will use the referendum to vent their frustrations

08/06/2016, 10:19:24 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Forget Farage and Cameron. The most telling interview about the EU referendum came on yesterday morning’s Today programme on Radio Four.

A former steel worker from Redcar, Mike Gilbert, was describing his life following the closure of the steel works last year. After 31 years in steel, in decently paid work, he was reduced to taking a job as a driver on little more than the minimum wage.

In all, 2,200 jobs had gone and like many of his former workmates, Mike was struggling. He and his family had had to economise. Even though he was now working, they had moved to a smaller house and by his own estimation, he had lost around £1000 a month in wages. Others were in the same boat.

He rattled off a laundry list of local industries that had been lost since Britain joined the EEC in 1973. Fishing. Agriculture. Ship-building. Mining. Steel.

His conclusion? He was voting to leave the EU.

Hang on a minute, the Remainers will say, ‘Europe hasn’t closed down our steel industry!’ No, but state aid restrictions mean the government couldn’t do much to save it. And despite its role in leading trade negotiations, the EU has not stopped China dumping excess steel on world markets.

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Until Labour addresses the toxic trio – immigration, welfare and economic trust – it will never win again

24/05/2016, 06:14:39 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You’ve probably heard Labour politicians concede there’s a ‘perception’ that immigration is a problem and respond by saying that ‘people are not racist for being concerned about the issue’.

These are the two weaselling formulations trotted out time and again to body swerve the issue that looms large in the concerns of electors – particularly those who still vote Labour – and millions more who the party needs to win back if it ever has a hope of governing again.

Yet Labour is not serious – not at all – in trying to meet the public’s expectations. There is no concession that mass immigration has indeed been damaging for many communities and groups of workers, (albeit largely positive for the urban middle-class). Behind the platitudes – the obfuscations – the real view is clear: Immigration is an objective good. There are no downsides. You are a fool or a racist if you think there are.

Enter Jon Cruddas. The Dagenham MP and sometime policy chief to Ed Miliband, has launched a new report, Labour’s Future, Why Labour Lost in 2015 and How it Can Win Again. It argues the party needs to: ‘…stop patronising socially conservative Ukip voters and recognise the ways in which Ukip appeals to former Labour voters…’

Devastatingly, Cruddas – a former academic and not much given to hyperbole – adds: ‘Labour is becoming a toxic brand. It is perceived by voters as a party that supports an ‘open door’ approach to immigration, lacks credibility on the economy, and is a “soft touch” on welfare spending.’

‘A toxic brand’. My, how we sneer at the Tories’ lack of electoral success in the north, yet as the report points out, 43% of voters in the south said they would never vote Labour (the same figure for voters in the north who would never vote Conservative). (more…)

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Despite her gaffe, Penny Mordaunt, not Cameron, is the future of the Tory party

23/05/2016, 04:26:55 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s pretty clear from her interview with Andrew Marr yesterday morning that defence minister Penny Mordaunt didn’t actually understand that individual Member States can veto the accession of new applicants to the EU, like Turkey.

A tad embarrassing, perhaps, for a government minister and David Cameron wasted no time in correcting her:

‘Let me be clear. Britain and every other country in the European Union has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact. The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong, I think should call into question their whole judgement in making the bigger argument about leaving the EU.’

As a vignette, it tells us that fact-checking left the building some time ago as far as this referendum is concerned and that tempers inside the Conservative party are shredded.

However it is pro-European Tories like Cameron and Osborne that will pay a heavy price for the tone of this referendum. Having failed to get anything resembling the deal he promised, the Prime Minister is now despairing at the failure of the polls to decisively shift for Remain.

Famed for his fits of pique, his answer is to let slip the dogs of war. So threats of recession, war, plague and famine are trotted out daily by a loyal army of straight-faced supplicants, like Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and any number of corporate factotums, keen to sidle up to Downing Street for future preferment.

Unfortunately for him, the party’s grassroots remains implacably hostile to the EU. All those years when ambitious Tories could sidle up to their local members, pat them on the head and throw out a few Euro-bashing lines, safe in the knowledge that it all meant nothing, are over. With boundary changes approaching, local associations will demand to know their prospective MPs voted the ‘right’ way on the referendum.

Perhaps it’s understandable that David Cameron is furious with Mordaunt: she’s the future of the Conservative party, not him.

Some say she may lose her job for defying Cameron and emerging as one of the government’s staunchest Eurosceptics, but Cameron and Osborne will need to sue for peace and won’t have the strength to sack her.

If they do, she goes to the gallows as a heroine to the cause. But as we’ve seen with the Labour party, it is no bad thing to play the long game and emerge as a darling of the grassroots.

After all, as Talleyrand was said to have quipped, ‘treason is a matter of dates.’

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Why aren’t we furious with the Scottish party?

10/05/2016, 10:33:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The dark, stinking hole Labour finds itself in these days might not feel quite so dark and stinking if the Scottish party had got its act together last year. The loss of forty seats north of the border in the general election turned disaster in England into cataclysm across the UK.

Last Thursday, the party suffered a repeat pasting in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Labour took nothing short of a punishment beating at the hands of the electorate, sliding into third place behind the Conservatives. After last May’s debacle, it was a ceremonial cherry placed on top of the steaming turd that is the Scottish Labour party.

How did it come to this? How did Labour ‘lose’ Scotland and by doing so, make it improbable the party will win a general election any time before the advent of commercial space travel? And why aren’t we angrier with the bunglers in the Scottish party who frittered away Labour’s position?

But first, let’s be clear: the extinguishing of Labour as a force in Scottish politics is the party’s own fault. The SNP hasn’t cheated its way to power. There has been no coup d’etat. They are triumphant because they have outplayed Scottish Labour at every turn in recent years, up to the point where it’s clear the party no longer seems to understand the Scottish people.

This is not a recent failing. Labour lost control of the parliament to the SNP as long ago as 2007. The situation was exacerbated at the 2011 elections, before the party’s virtual annihilation in last year’s general election. There have been ample opportunities to arrest the decline.

Clearly, it all came to a head during the independence referendum. By opposing ‘nationalism’ Scottish Labour foolishly forfeited ‘patriotism’ in the process. The party didn’t seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a proud Scot and wanting to see your nationhood recognised.

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Remain needs to accept the Brexiteers have a point

13/04/2016, 03:33:46 PM

by Kevin Meagher

A referendum, by its very nature, is a straight choice. ‘I am right and the other side is wrong.’ Not just wrong in fact, but hilariously, pathetically wrong. So voters must choose Path A, that is to say, the route to salvation that I offer, because Path B leads straight to the gates of Hell.

So it will be with our forthcoming plebiscite on the European Union, where the public will be offered the stark choice of keeping us in, or letting us leave. For campaigners on either side of the debate, there can be no ambiguity. No room for even the merest, fleeting uncertainty as they make their case.

Yet, reasonable people are persuadable. They are willing to hear different points of view. Capable of crossing the demarcations of a stark, zero-sum political offer. Bookended by the true believers of either side, the British people retain their doubts about political panaceas of either kind.

So here’s a thought for Remainers. If voters are torn between the competing claims of the pro and anti-EU camps – perhaps recognising the validity of aspects of either side’s analysis – would it not be wise for campaigners to also accept that parts of the Brexiteers’ argument have merit as a means of persuading the poor, conflicted voter that your case transcends the usual referendum propaganda?

The weary cynicism that greets politicians’ claims to speak the objective, unsullied truth might be lessened by instead presenting a balanced, synthesised message to voters that treats them as reasonable people capable of making a reasoned choice between one less-than-perfect offer and another considerably-less-than-perfect offer.

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