Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

Beat Corbyn in a fair fight, not by smearing him

24/08/2016, 07:13:33 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Is Jeremy Corbyn a racist?

It’s a strange and unfamiliar accusation against a politician who has spent his entire adult life on one anti-racist march or another.

Israel aside, Corbyn is the bleeding heart’s bleeding heart.

The allegation of racial discrimination against him comes from a serving Labour frontbencher, Chi Onwurah.

Writing in the New Statesman earlier this week, she complained about the way her brief as shadow minister for culture and the digital economy (nope, me neither) had been split between her and another Labour MP, Thangam Debonnaire, without telling either of them:

‘If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in – given that only five per cent of MPs are black and female, picking on us two is statistically interesting to say the least.’

‘In any other job I would have called on my union for support in confronting an all-white management which prevented two of its few black employees from doing their jobs. I would have expected the Leader of the Labour Party to condemn such ineffectual management which allowed such abuse.’

The accusation is a new low in the war of attrition between the Parliamentary Labour Party and their leader. Corbyn may be many things and not be many things, but he is no racist and the slur is contemptible.

It’s also a doomed attempt to ‘swift boat’ Corbyn on an issue he has made his own.

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Will metro mayors last the course?

11/08/2016, 11:48:43 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Westminster has woken up in the last 48 hours to the fact that there are shortly to be new centres of power in British politics.

Although Labour has merely unveiled its candidates for elections in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands, it is hard to see, catastrophe aside, how Andy Burnham, Sion Simon and Steve Rotheram won’t actually be running these great conurbations in nine months’ time.

That certainty aside, there still other uncertainties about the roles:

1) The metro mayors will create a cadre of ‘disruptive’ new players in British politics.

At least that was George Osborne’s hope. Will Theresa May see things that way? The jury’s out. She was certainly a fan of direct democracy when it came to police and crime commissioners, but the election of the first wave of metro mayors in the Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham ‘city-regions’ next May is almost certainly an all-Labour affair in the party’s heartlands. Not much for Tories to celebrate. Will the new PM thank the old Chancellor for lumbering her with a new gang of provincial opponents?

2) The devolution of power also means it spreads more widely.

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The honours system stinks. Here’s how we can fix it

05/08/2016, 05:59:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How many times down the years has British politics had one of those sporadic bouts of angst – some of it even real – about the system for awarding political honours?

Those moments when we just know the system is being abused and that so many of those awarded honours are thoroughly undeserving.

Inevitably, infuriatingly, the moment passes. Nothing is done, until the next time a dodgy peerage or questionable ‘k’ surfaces.

David Cameron’s resignation honours, published last night in full, should now be a line in the sand.

They are probably the most egregious shopping list of acolytes, time-servers, hangers-on and financial backers that an outgoing PM has ever sought fit to reward.

Can you imagine the furore if Tony Blair had given Alistair Campbell a knighthood? Cameron has given one to his press secretary, Craig Oliver.

There are awards, too, for a ‘conference planner,’ a Conservative Central Office bureaucrat, a Tory activist, chauffeurs, spin doctors and policy wonks. Meanwhile, there are six peerages for former special advisers and for Andrew Fraser, the treasurer of the Conservative Party.

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With her opponents scattered, will Theresa May now call a snap election?

03/08/2016, 04:50:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Has British politics ever been more unpredictable, or, frankly, ever been this loopy?

The UKIP national executive committee’s decision to keep Steven Woolfe off the leadership ballot now plunges UKIP into a dark pit of recrimination.

It’s getting crowded down there, with Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith slugging it out for the soul of the Labour party.

And with the Liberal Democrats still recovering from the wounds they suffered as part of the coalition government, the Opposition in British politics has never looked weaker.

Of course, there is only one winner.

Theresa May now utterly dominates British politics.

To be sure, it’s not an outcome she has not had to work for, finding herself the fortunate beneficiary of a sequence of events no-one could have plausibly predicted just a few weeks ago.

Brexit, Cameron’s departure and Labour’s ongoing feud have provided her with an embarrassment of riches, even if she has to pick up the tricky issue of Britain’s exit from the EU.

She is unassailable in her own party, having been smart enough not to get her stilettos dirty during the referendum campaign, while her reputation for cautious competence chimes with the mood of the public that now wants an adult in charge of the country.

But there is still the hard politics to consider and never before can the temptation to call a snap general election have weighed more heavily.

In one swift, brutal move, Theresa May could wipe out her opponents and win her own mandate for the changes she seeks to make.

No longer the caretaker, picking up the pieces from Cameron’s messy political implosion, she could single-handedly reshape the political landscape, guaranteeing a decade of Conservative hegemony.

Who can stop her? Tim Farron has made no impact, Jeremy Corbyn has the worst polling figures in history and UKIP looks like to split off into factions.

Perhaps she will wait for post-Brexit nerves to stop jangling after this summer of political madness, but by the autumn Theresa May will have to confront the open goal before her and decide whether or not to seize a historic victory.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Beware this Woolfe in Labour’s clothing

31/07/2016, 10:20:01 PM

by  Kevin Meagher

There’s a party leadership contest going on that could have a profound effect on Labour, but its not the one between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Five candidates are currently limbering up to succeed Nigel Farage as the leader of UKIP and the implicaitons for Labour are very real. Having led the charge to get Britain out of the European Union, UKIP now has plenty time on its sides.

Where will the ‘kippers political energy and capital now go? Perhaps it will channel into building support in the 44 parliamentary seats where they are in second place to Labour, following last May’s general election.

Having neglected its heartlands for so long (and not particularly caring what voters there think), Labour now has a fight on its hands on hold on to some of them. But does the party actually recognise the threat?

Despite their other differences, what unites Blairites and Corbynistas is an unshakable belief that only racists are bothered about immigration and that London is the centre of the universe.

There is plenty political space (both physical and metaphysical) that Labour has chosen to abandon that UKIP is more than willing to fill, providing a sympathetic ear to provincial woes. All the more so if Labour continues to indulge its infantile gesture politics.

That said, UKIP still retains a massive inbuilt propensity to blow itself apart.

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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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