Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

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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Incompetence, not internal plotting, is damaging Jeremy Corbyn

27/03/2016, 10:10:31 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘Infamy, infamy, the PLP have all got in it for me!’ This seems to sum up the mood in the Corbyn inner circle, certainly judging by the leadership’s now infamous list ranking Labour MPs on their relative loyalty and disloyalty.

The author – still unconfirmed but reported to be Corbyn’s political secretary Katy Clark – really shouldn’t have bothered. There’s really no need for lists of friends and foes because Labour MPs are utterly rubbish at coups.

Unless all his detractors can agree on who should replace him (which they can’t) it’s hard to see how the mechanics of a successful insurgency against Jeremy Corbyn will ever come about. John Woodcock’s plaintive cry to his colleagues that ‘We can’t go on like this,’ will remain unheeded.

The initial thought was that May’s elections would see Corbyn’s Labour crash to the ground once electoral gravity hit his ‘straight-talking honest politics’. Yes, there will be a collision, but the fall will not be as precipitous as first thought.

May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament are already factored-in as a wash-out. Labour will win both the Brightside and Hillsborough and Ogmore by-elections without breaking sweat, while Sadiq Khan will romp home in London.

Plus, the party will do well enough in his heartlands in the local elections to please activists and reassure most Labour MPs they are not facing electoral oblivion in 2020. Labour will struggle in battleground seats, particularly in the south of England, but ‘not winning’ is much less damaging than ‘actually losing.’

So, yes, there is feverish plotting, but most Labour MPs are the political equivalent of Adele fans. They will settle for lowest common denominator mush. They will go with the flow and offer no threat to Jeremy Corbyn out of a mixture of reasonableness and indolence and dare not fall out with their local activists. They will put loyalty to the party ahead of intellectual principle (assuming they have any) every single time.

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If Osborne still wants to be PM, he should get out of the Treasury

23/03/2016, 05:42:46 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Harold Wilson’s often tritely-invoked dictum that a week is a long time in politics certainly does seem to sum-up George Osborne’s terribilis autem sabbati (if my Latin for ‘terrible week’ is indeed accurate).

From all-conquering chancellor with a ‘long-term economic plan’ to yesterday’s man, forced into a screeching U-turn over disability payment cuts. Will he survive? It’s fashionable to write-off the Chancellor’s prospects of succeeding David Cameron as Prime Minister, but he is resilient, and come the Armageddon, its likely Osborne will ride out of the nuclear shelter atop a giant mutant cockroach, the last two species to survive.

More prosaically, it’s worth looking at the batting averages of previous post-war prime ministers who took over from their predecessors while in government. What did they do immediately beforehand?

Tellingly, each of them either served as foreign secretary or chancellor of the exchequer.

Foreign secretary Anthony Eden replaced Churchill in 1955. Chancellor Harold MacMillan succeeded Eden in 1957. While Alec Douglas-Home, another foreign secretary, followed on from MacMillan.

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The campaign to keep Britain in the EU is predictable, condescending and by-the-numbers

10/02/2016, 03:27:13 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Those hoping that Britain remains a member of the European Union following June’s expected referendum unquestionably now have a fight on their hands. The polls are jittery, with most showing the country is finely balanced over the question of whether or not to quit the EU. It’s all to play for.

Unfortunately, the campaign to galvanise the country behind the simple proposition that our best bet for a stable and prosperous future is to remain a member of the EU hardly seems equal to the challenge.

Or, to be more specific, the official ‘remain’ campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe, is a predictable, condescending, by-the-numbers, flat-pack, top-down, Westminster-standard, one-size-fits-all affair that risks ushering Britain out of the EU due to its all-purpose dreariness.

I enter into evidence its chairman, Lord Stuart Rose. The Tory peer and former CEO of Marks and Spencer was caught out the other week, unable to correctly remember the name of the campaign group he’s supposed to be leading.

All rather embarrassing but hardly surprising given ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ is the kind of instantly forgettable blandishment we have come to expect from the pro-European aisle in British politics.

He may be business class royalty, but Lord Rose has little feel for political campaigning, grandly claiming he is set to win “by a substantial margin” while describing the EU as “maddening…bureaucratic…and sluggish.”

With such a ringing endorsement it’s a good job he used to sell knickers and not holidays.

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