Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

Brokenshire has been a spectator, not a participant during Northern Ireland collapse

25/01/2017, 11:23:00 AM

by Kevin Meagher

James Brokenshire has an unfortunate surname for a man who presides over the collapse of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in office for barely seven months, has not exactly covered himself in glory thus far.

Last week, he was obliged to announce fresh elections to the 90-member Northern Ireland Assembly following the collapse of the cross-community executive, triggered by Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy First Minister.

The row centres on Democratic Unionist First Minister Arlene Foster’s quite ridiculous refusal to step aside and make way for an investigation into the £500m Renewable Heat Incentive fiasco she was responsible for in her previous post as enterprise minister.

The ‘burn to earn’ scheme saw massive payments to encourage companies to switch to wood pellet boilers, entitling them to make vast sums for heating empty properties.

Last week, police in South Armagh raided an empty heated barn assuming it was a drug factory.

Brokenshire finds himself tasked with picking up the pieces.

Yet this crisis is the result of a classic, almost textbook slow-motion political collision.

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Tristram Hunt is a disgrace

13/01/2017, 05:03:38 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Those Labour MPs on the Right of the party who stuck to their guns through the 1980s, seeing-off attempts to deselect them and fighting to keep the flame of  British social democracy burning,  eventually paved the way for the party’s renaissance.

They are the unsung heroes of Labour’s long and often turbulent history. Without them, there would, in all likelihood, not even be a party today.

Gerald Kaufman. Ann Taylor. John Smith. Members of the Solidarity Group of Labour MPs.

People of ability who saw their best years wasted during the party’s obsolescence in the 1980s.

But they didn’t give up.

Sensible, pragmatic politicians who stood their ground with dignity and defiance amid the lunacy of the time.

They could have flounced off to join the SDP with those egocentric traitors: Owen, Jenkins and Shirley Williams.

But they didn’t.

They kept their fury and despair inside the Labour family.

Eventually, the party pulled through. Equilibrium was restored. Sooner or later, enough people want to actually win elections.

Where are their successors today?

All of which is an around about way of saying Tristram Hunt is a disgrace.

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It’s time for Labour MPs to stop moping and muck in

06/01/2017, 10:33:50 PM

by Kevin Meagher

If you think it’s cold wherever in the country you are reading this, just imagine how cold it is running a by-election campaign in Copeland in West Cumbria in the winter.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the answer is, of course, bloody cold. Not a place, certainly, to find yourself at this time of year, trudging the highways and byways, in the teeth of an icy Cumbrian gust.

Nevertheless, this is the lot of Andrew Gwynne for the foreseeable future.

The intrepid shadow minister without portfolio, has be despatched this week to run Labour’s by-election campaign to hold onto the seat Jamie Reed is set to vacate and stop the Tories overturning his slender 2,564 majority.

It’s a tough gig.

Lots of jobs reliant on Sellafield. And a suspicion, no doubt, that Labour is not particularly enamoured with the very industry that pays the wages of thousands of Copeland’s voters.

Joining Gwynne up there to kick start the campaign the other day was Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth.

He was visiting West Cumberland Hospital to campaign against the downgrading of its services, which will see consultant-led maternity services moved 40 miles up the road to Carlisle.

This was a smart spot. A solid, resonant local issue to base a campaign around that helpfully plays to Labour’s strongest card.

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Metro mayors have one chance to get this right

22/12/2016, 01:00:59 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The fashion in political ideas often reflects a particular moment in time.

After a few lonely years at the Treasury, George Osborne realised he was missing a trick in trying to revive Britain’s wheezing economy on a single, Greater London engine.

The former Chancellor’s solution was the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

After rashly scrapping regional development agencies in 2010, he would revive the northern economy with an infusion of powers and money, topped off with elected mayors to give the enterprise some political leadership and direct accountability.

The series of devo deals that he negotiated with Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands are sensible and workmanlike and, given time, will make a major difference to the economic performance of the north and midlands.

But the problem remains in explaining exactly how metro mayors will fit in. What will they actually do?

Launching his campaign to become Labour’s standard-bearer in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham promised to end the ‘complacency’ of the Manchester music scene, which, he contended, was ‘trading on the big names of the past too much’. (Bursaries for bass players, perhaps?)

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It’s Christmas and family comes first – even for MPs

21/12/2016, 07:23:26 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s easy enough to see Jamie Reed’s decision to quit as Member of Parliament for Copeland as an “up yours” to Jeremy Corbyn.

Reed has been a constant – and often humorous – thorn in the Labour Leader’s flesh. His resignation letter, courteous and charitable to Corbyn, should probably be read for what it says, rather than be pored over for coded meaning.

His move to take up a role with his old employer, BNFL, seems an obvious fit given he is born and bred in the area and his family are settled there.

Reed is part of a generation of MPs who are also young dads (Reed is father of four) and miss their kids during the week in Westminster.

He told The Guardian that he was finding it “increasingly difficult” to balance home/work and although the decision to leave Parliament was “the hardest one I’ve ever made” it was “undoubtedly the best thing for me to do for my family.”

Resigning to spend more time with my family is the famously trite excuse for a political resignation, but just occasionally it happens to be true.

Made all the harder by the fact Reed’s West Cumbrian seat is simply miles from anywhere.

Of course ‘picturesque’ does not do the area justice – it is magnificent – but the travel to and fro from Westminster each week must have taken a toll.

As Parliament’s pre-eminent Star Wars aficionado, he will have learned the hard way that you can’t do the Copeland run in twelve parsecs.

I remember driving up from Warrington for a meeting with Jamie when he was first elected in 2005. It took about four hours, with half of it spent negotiating small roads around the Lake District.

I did so much clutch control that I must have worn five years off my knee joints.

Let that be a lesson for his would-be replacements.

The smart move for Labour in a seat with a 2,564 majority would be to pick a local and play that advantage hard.

For those London-types eyeing up the opportunity, just bear in mind that you can get a train to Paris faster than you can to Keswick.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut and author of ‘A United Ireland: Why unification is inevitable and how it will come about’, published by Biteback

 

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Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales

21/12/2016, 03:57:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Brexit may mean Brexit, but it also means something else: the United Kingdom, as we have known it, is finished.

The result of our vote to leave the European Union will precipitate a reshaping the United Kingdom from first principles, as our Celtic fringe is shorn off and overseas commitments become more burdensome.

Although a recent poll showed support for Scottish independence dipping a fraction below the 45 per cent level secured in the 2014 referendum, it will prove to be a false dawn for those hoping the fires of nationalism are dying down.

Brexit now makes a second referendum inevitable. More than that, it makes it entirely justifiable. A point Nicola Sturgeon was keen to exploit yesterday with her demands that Scotland be allowed to stay in the single market.

She has a point. Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes; in a reversal of the famous West Lothian Question (why should Scots MPs vote on English laws?)

The SNP should be in tatters after losing the 2014 vote, but instead now dominates Scottish public life, utterly. So much so that Sturgeon announced back in October that she is teeing up a second referendum bill and amassing for a war chest for the next tilt at independence.

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If NI was Westminster, Arlene Foster would already be a political corpse

20/12/2016, 05:23:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Northern Ireland is a place apart, we all know that much. Normal rules don’t apply. Things are done differently. Political gravity, as we understand it, doesn’t hold.

Or perhaps it didn’t. If there was any justice, the phrase ‘First Minister Arlene Foster’ would already be written in the past tense. The scandal Mrs Foster finds herself embroiled in – the fallout from the anodyne-sounding Renewable Heat Incentive – is a proper Grade A political scandal.

If this was Westminster, she would be politically dead and buried.

The Renewable Heat Incentive, launched in 2012 while Foster was enterprise minister, was a cut-down version of British scheme to subsidise non-domestic customers – farms and businesses – in switching to wooden pellet-burning biomass boilers instead of oil.

The fairly elementary flaw in Northern Ireland’s version was a lack of cost controls. As the Auditor General succinctly put it, there was ‘no upper limit on the amount of energy that would be paid for. The more heat that is generated, the more is paid.’

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Time for Blue Labour to step up

25/11/2016, 05:45:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Whatever happened to Blue Labour?

That was the voguish creed advanced by Lord Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas, among others, during the last parliament, seeking to anchor Labour in its earlier traditions of community, mutualism, localism and self-help, rejecting the excesses 1980s neo-liberalism and 1960s social liberalism alike.

As a concept, it got lost somewhere during two leadership elections, the return to red-blooded socialism under Jeremy Corbyn and the hoo-haa over Brexit.

Now, with the party at risk of losing touch with its working class base across most of England, it might have some suggestions worth listening to.

That’s the hope of organisers behind tomorrow’s ‘Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics’ conference at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The day will explore ‘post-liberalism’ – the generic theory of the Blue Labourites and those in other parties who are challenging the centralising, elitst thinking that has come to dominate British politics, with a greater focus on family, place and reducing economic inequality.

It will also see discussion about the threat Labour faces from UKIP – now the main opposition in 41 of the seats the party holds – and whether or not Labour can replant itself in political ground it looks to be losing.

With Labour now beached on the voter-repellent hard left until the 2020 election defeat, the party needs all the intellectual life it can muster.

(*Tickets for the event are still available by following the above link).

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Does the emergence of May, Corbyn and Farron spell the end of the traditional political career?

16/10/2016, 10:38:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

What were the betting odds a couple of years ago on Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron leading our three major UK political parties? As an accumulator, it must have been in the 500-1 region?

Okay, on her own, Theresa May would have been a decent outside stab for the Tories and Tim Farron had been on manoeuvres for a while, angling for the Lib Dem leadership while his more senior colleagues served in the coalition government, but Jeremy Corbyn?

The emergence of May/Farron/Corbyn seems so random because prior to the 2015 general election the firmament in all three main parties was brimming with political talent. There were plenty of rising stars and key lieutenants who seemed more plausible figures.

Although Theresa May quietly got on with the job of being a steely home secretary, it was George Osborne who dominated Cameron’s government, the obvious heir apparent to his friend and ally, David Cameron, with Boris Johnson offering a credible alternative choice. The smart money was one of them succeeding Cameron.

Equally, although Tim Farron had been assiduously courting the Lib Dems’ activists, his non-service in government meant it was just as likely someone who had been blooded in office like David Laws or Danny Alexander would have succeeded Nick Clegg.

While there were a veritable constellation of stars in the Labour universe.

The point is that all three parties had more obvious candidates waiting (im)patiently. There was an order of succession, a pecking order. Buggins’ turn, even.

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Labour MPs have just blown their best chance to oust Corbyn

25/09/2016, 02:57:50 PM

by Kevin Meagher

John McDonnell was right. ‘As plotters’ Labour MPs are ‘fucking useless.’

There was one decent attempt at challenging Jeremy Corbyn during this parliament and they have just blown it.

He needed to be exposed as a total electoral liability – both personally and in terms of the direction he has set for the party, repositioning Labour on the frozen wastelands of the hard left.

His lack of campaigning zeal during the EU referendum was supposed to be his Achilles Heel and pave the way for a successful challenge.

What a misjudgement.

The charge didn’t stick and the rows in the Conservative party have blotted out memories of what Corbyn did or didn’t do during the referendum.

This plot was doomed from the moment Hilary Benn was caught orchestrating dissent in the shadow cabinet and fired. Realising he had been rumbled, he should have quit first.

Then came the petulant ‘drip, drip’ resignations from his frontbench. This was designed to shame Corbyn into quitting. Fat chance. The tactic just left the electorate with the unmistakable impression Labour MPs are as immature as their leader.

Instead, those frontbenchers who passionately disagreed with Corbyn’s leadership should have acted with some dignity and resigned en masse. At the very least, it would have been more honourable.

The PLP’s subsequent vote of no confidence in his leadership – 172-40 – was not quite conclusive enough.

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