Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

Remainers need to accept they lost. Make the argument for re-joining instead

23/05/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

On Thursday night, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will comfortably win more votes than the Labour and Conservative parties put together. This is the price we will pay as a country – and a political system – for the failure to deliver on the public’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016.

The European elections will represent a second people’s vote and an undeniable rejection of Remainer politics. Surprise is the very last reaction that is warranted. Over the past three years, there has been scant interest from the Remain camp in listening or reflecting on why they lost the referendum, let alone an attempt at persuading and winning round voters who backed Brexit.

For nearly three years, their actions have been condescending, tone deaf, incompetent and foolish. They resemble British tourists in a Spanish hotel in the 1970s shouting louder at the waiter in order to be understood.

British politics has changed, but there are those who still cling to the old certainties. No amount of sophistry about messages on buses or Russian interference has had any effect. Voters are wise to the tactics of the political class. When they hear Remainer politicians talk of a second referendum they simply hear, ‘We’re giving you another chance to give us the right answer.’

Am I a Leaver? No, I’m a democrat. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. Accept it, learn from it and come back stronger. I’m also a rejoiner. I want Britain’s long-term interest to be served by being part of the European Union. I simply recognise that the short-term position is now lost.

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Chuka’s missed a trick. He should have set up a London party instead

20/05/2019, 09:55:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘I love it when a plan comes together,’ a grinning George Peppard used to say in The A-Team when the gang had yet again outfoxed the bad guys and won the day.

Not a phrase that’s used much over at Change UK, I suspect. Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly for the intrepid band of Labour and Tory escapees. They’re finding out the hard way just how limited the market is for soggy centrism and that the tribal nature of British politics is, well, tribal.

They’re encountering the cognitive dissonance of the British public too. Everyone says they want a new kind of politics, but the problem, for anyone who takes this claim seriously, is that hardly anyone ever votes for it. Perhaps the bigger snag, though, is that no-one much likes defectors. Least of all the voters, judging by the latest polls.

Change UK is already scuttled. Latest polling has them on 2 per cent. Break the mould? They haven’t even dented it.

Whatever anyone thinks of the SDP’s Gang of Four, they were household names, seasoned Cabinet Ministers who had run the country. If it wasn’t for first-past-the-post, they would have become a permanent presence in British politics, coming within a whisker of Labour’s share of the vote in 1983.

Of course, that same system that has so successfully stymied new entrants for so long is still in place. Which is why Change UK needed to do well in the European elections, where proportional representation gave them a chance of making a breakthrough.

Sadly (for them) that isn’t going to happen.

To be fair to Chuka Umunna and his moon-sized ego, his ambition was clearly to establish a new, national political party, subsuming the Lib Dems and drawing in enough like minds from the Labour and Tory ranks to build enough heft and momentum to shatter our existing model.

He hasn’t been able to achieve anything close to that because he’s just not a compelling enough figure and doesn’t stand for anything distinctive. Fluent, yes, but an empty vessel. All sizzle and no substance, as Barack Obama once noted of David Cameron.

Actually, there’s not much sizzle either.

As The Guardian’s John Crace put it the other day: ‘Change UK is dying before it even learned to walk. Its MPs know it. Its candidates know it. The public knows it.’

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The case for Remaining needs saving from Remainers

17/01/2019, 10:02:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fabulous scene in the recent Channel Four drama, ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War,’ where Rory Kinnear, playing David Cameron’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, storms into a focus group meeting of average voters and starts arguing with them in sheer frustration that the Remain campaign’s message just isn’t getting through.

As metaphors go, it’s just about perfect.

Stupid people don’t understand the issues or what’s at stake, so the swells need to barge in, shouting and finger-jabbing until the plebs acquiesce.

There’s no real mystery as to why the Brexiteers triumphed in 2016.

Remainers fluffed it.

Through the combination of a truly terrible campaign and their own unjustified sense of providence, they ‘lost’ Europe.

On the wrong end of a fair fight, Remainers have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the experience.

All we have had for the past two years is incessant moaning about the manner of the loss, which, boiled down, usually amounts to “their lies were better than our lies.” Not to mention the daily epistles on Twitter from people like Andrew Adonis which long ago scaled the heights of self-parody.

We’ve had carping about the Leave campaign’s infamous bus and the hooky pledge to redirect the £350 million a week we contribute to EU coffers to the NHS instead. As though it’s the first porkie told in a political campaign.

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Put your legs away Jeremy and come up with a convincing Brexit policy

09/12/2018, 08:00:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

I shudder to imagine what Jeremy Corbyn’s pins look like – pale and scrawny, if I’m pushed to conjure up a mental picture.

He must think they look alright though. Patrick Maguire over at the New Statesman quotes a DUP source saying the Labour Leader is “showing a bit of leg” in a bid to woo the DUP and its ten MPs, ahead of a make-or-break week for Theresa May.

Yesterday Corbyn told Sky News the DUP opposed the Northern Ireland backstop for “very good and sensible reasons.” He said Labour was ready to “step in and negotiate seriously with the EU to put up a serious alternative which is a proper customs union – a customs union – with the EU in which we have a say in what goes on”.

Things are clearly getting weird in Westminster, but this is off the charts strange.

Corbyn is, we are frequently reminded by his detractors, a lifelong Irish republican. Suddenly, however, the political troglodytes of the DUP are people of honour whose barmpot politics are “good” and “sensible.”

So what’s he playing at?

It seems this courtship ritual is a crude attempt to drive a wedge between Theresa May and her erstwhile unionist allies. Fair enough, opposition parties are meant to oppose and all that.

But there’s no pathway to Number Ten that involves him courting the DUP. Neither are they crazy enough to assume ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ in the frenetic calculus of who wants what over Brexit.

They’re on the rebound, granted, but they’re not desperate enough to put Sinn Fein allies like Corbyn and McDonnell in government. No, Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, is still trying to catch Theresa’s eye.

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Self-definition is the first task of Labour moderates

07/11/2018, 10:44:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all the problems facing the sensible wing of Labour politics, perhaps the most elementary is how it refers to itself.

Whoever let the dial settle on ‘moderates?’ The term is a counsel of despair. It summons up a drab, middle-of-the-road minimalism, perennially splitting the difference. Not so much a political vision as an anti-vision. An abdication of belief.

As Antonio Gramsci pointed out, if you control the language you control the debate. So this is where the reinvention of sensible Labour politics must begin: self-definition.

‘Social democrat’ would perhaps be the technical description, but it’s a bit jaded and abstract.

‘Democratic socialist?’ I’ve always thought this a slightly jarring phrase, meant to distinguish us from the undemocratic variety? (Although that great social democrat, Tony Crosland, was said to prefer it).

‘Right-wing’ is problematic for obvious reasons. While ‘centrist’ just conjures-up Roy Jenkins’ smug countenance.

He famously described his politics as the ‘radical centre.’ The times we’re in demand firm, concerted action, just not the impossibilism offered by the hard left. So what about dropping the ‘centre’ bit and embracing radicalism?

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Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple

04/09/2018, 08:36:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Not many people will remember David Young, I suspect. He was the Labour MP for Bolton East and subsequently Bolton South East between 1974 and 1997. A rotund Scot with oratorical flair, his conversational style was to adopt the manner and volume appropriate for a public meeting hall. He was my local MP when I joined the party 25 years ago.

As the constituency’s youth officer, I only ever met him on two occasions. The first, at an AGM in one of his infrequent forays north. The second time was at the meeting when we deselected him.

Not to speak ill of the dead, David was a less than assiduous attendee at party meetings and no-one in the constituency even had contact details for him. He was the classic absentee landlord with a job for life. The local party had taken enough. Reluctantly, they withdrew their support.

So I find myself not entirely unsympathetic to calls from Momentum for the mandatory reselection of sitting MPs. I accept that personal contact with some of our elected representatives can be a long way short of overwhelming. Public service is an honour and a duty and there will always be those who coast along and add little value to proceedings.

But let’s face it: this is not about giving a gee-up to a few indolent MPs. It’s about ideologically-cleansing the party. A Momentum spokeswoman, quoted yesterday confirmed as much:

“Recognising the groundswell of support from ordinary Labour members Momentum would like to affirm its commitment to the creation of a more open, inclusive, selection process which would open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs.

“Labour has to nurture the talent of its half a million members and we cannot let an outdated rule book hold back a new generation of MPs.”

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Boris is wrong – and right

09/08/2018, 11:21:17 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s something especially crass about Boris Johnson as a politician. Childish and superficial, an undoubtedly clever man who enjoys playing the fool.

His comments about the Muslim burqa in the Daily Telegraph the other day, referring to women who adorn it resembling ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ are already subject to much heat and fury. His choice of words was, to put it politely (something he failed to do), poorly chosen and insensitive. His choice of target, however, was entirely warranted.

The burqa and niqab are unnecessary cultural affectations in our society. How Muslim societies operate, and what is deemed acceptable and why, are not matters for me to comment upon – I don’t live in one. But in modern Britain, a liberal democracy, it is not unreasonable to require that some cultural norms are enforced. Some overlap, in order for our society to function properly and develop greater levels of communal interaction and solidarity.

Different groups are at liberty to do pretty much as they please most of the time, but they should cleave towards majority opinion when it comes to how we all live together in a shared space. We have enough language and cultural barriers that remove Muslim women from mainstream society without enveloping them – literally – in even more division and mistrust.

There are times when we cannot and should not accommodate difference, where our cultural assumptions must intertwine. Taken to its logical conclusion, freedom of difference permits me to drive on the right-hand side of the road if I so choose, or to refuse to do jury service, or avoid paying my taxes. Each of us needs to accept we make accommodations for the common good.

This row is not about freedom of religion as much as it is about freedom to be different. We’re not dealing with a clash of civilisations per se, but a clash of liberalism; between those who defend – absolutely – the individual choices of Muslim women to cover their faces; and the liberalism of those of us that seeks to defend our free society, where women are equal and not subjugated.

No-one wants to tell Muslim women what they can and cannot wear, but the burqa and face veil are symbols of a passive-aggressive cultural separation – one that must be engaged with and overcome by our political leaders. But this should be done through dialogue and reason, not by stupid insults or indeed through bans (to be fair, Johnson said he was against one).

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How does this stupid attack on Tom Watson help Corbyn?

06/08/2018, 07:52:15 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all the miscues, own goals and careless steps onto garden rakes in recent Labour Party history, last night’s Twitter campaign under the hashtag #ResignWatson is the most senseless and ludicrous so far.

What’s the message? Well, it’s pretty unequivocal: Tom Watson should resign for warning in an interview with The Observer, that there is an urgent need to address the anti-Semitism row engulfing Labour in order to ever win a general election, ‘or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.’

His critics – the trolls and fruitcakes of social media – logically believe that a) Labour should not address the problem or that b) There is no problem to address.

Clearly, both points are delusional. What’s more, Jeremy Corbyn thinks there’s a problem with anti-Semitism that needs fixing.

‘People who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name. You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement,’ he wrote in The Guardian as recently as last Friday.

Surely all Watson has done is echo Corbyn?

Yes, the party risks being scarred by the taint of anti-Semitism after months of agonising coverage – courtesy of a Jew-hating lunatic fringe that has attached itself to the party – and something needs doing about it.

This has culminated in two former Labour ministers – both with deep ties to the Jewish community – facing disciplinary action for giving vent to their frustrations about the weakness of dealing with the problem that Jeremy Corbyn fully accepts exists. Indeed, Watson’s remedy is modest enough:

‘I think it is very important that we all work to de-escalate this disagreement,’ Watson said ‘and I think it starts with dropping the investigations into Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin.’

‘Ah, but Tom’s not really talking about anti-Semitism – he’s making a coded attack on Jeremy,’ goes for what passes as a thought process on the hard left.

Surely the smart move from those Corbynistas who felt Watson was in some way being disloyal would have been to chide him for stating the bleeding obvious?

Instead, we get a high-profile, well-organised campaign to undermine the party’s Deputy Leader.

Exactly how does any of this help Jeremy Corbyn?

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Conflict or co-existence: Corbyn must decide

02/08/2018, 08:17:27 AM

by Kevin Meagher

For those of us left fighting for Labour to remain a broad church, these are demoralising times. Never before has the state of the party offered such wildly different and mutually contradictory interpretations.

On the one hand, Labour is well-positioned in the opinion polls, with the stench of decay emanating from Theresa May’s Downing Street. A general election looms into view. What once seemed impossible – Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn – now seems a plausible outcome following last year’s general election result.

Yet these are also the worst of times.

The leadership remains disconnected from the parliamentary party, which, in turn, is at odds with most of the new grassroots. Now in its eighth year of opposition after losing power at the 2010 general election, Labour finds itself struggling to hold together its disparate and increasingly fractious traditions.

An ugly and unseemly row about anti-Semitism lingers. Chatter about MPs defecting to a new party grows more febrile. The party is balkanised and the mood is sour. Longstanding councillors and activists complain of being outmanoeuvred by a new breed of left-wing member. They, in turn, complain about the lack of radicalism they find.

On one side are the party’s ‘moderates’ – a confederation of Blairites, Brownites, Fabian gradualists, social liberals and old right wing trade union types. They have now lost control of the leadership, the grassroots and the party’s machinery and in doing so, the very direction of the party they once assumed was their birthright.

Opposing them, the ‘Corbynistas’ – an assortment of socialist puritans, young idealists and aged Trotskyites who have, against all expectations (perhaps most of all theirs), found themselves in the ascendant under the unlikely leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

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Theresa May has one last chance to write her epitaph

05/12/2017, 05:53:44 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Theresa May is single-handedly ensuring that the next generation of this country’s brightest and best will never venture near politics as a calling.

What a miserable advertisement she is for reaching the top of the greasy poll.

Her premiership is a pitiful, joyless existence devoid of purpose or conviction.

Yet again, she is the acme of political failure and confusion, assailed on all sides and unable to make a single decisive act.

This week’s unforced error is the Irish border issue.

Granted, it’s only Monday and there is plenty scope to top yesterday’s shambles, where she went to Brussels fully intending to agree a bespoke deal that would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market.

Before she bottled it, allowing Arlene Foster to veto a move that was manifestly in the interests of the British people, in order to keep the DUP leader sweet.

Before she drifts back to Brussels for further talks at the end of the week, Theresa May should take stock.

She has two choices.

Either she can placate the DUP, which means achieving no agreement on the Irish border question, preventing Phase Two talks on trade from beginning and increasing the prospect of a hard Brexit.

Or she can put the country first.

She can stand up to the DUP, agree a deal with the Irish Government, proceed to Phase Two, agree a trade deal and secure a soft Brexit.

Let’s recap. Her spin doctors have spent every day since last Thursday briefing that this deal was in the offing.

Northern Ireland’s economic regulations would stay in ‘alignment’ with the Republic of Ireland, protecting it from the incalculable damage Brexit will cause.

But Theresa May possesses neither the political courage nor sense of history required in a British Prime Minister.

As a result, her indecision has managed to alienate both the DUP and the Irish Government in one fell swoop. In Europe she is a laughing stock. At home, a figure of contempt.

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