Posts Tagged ‘Labour leadership’

How Labour’s potential leadership candidates measure up against member priorities

02/03/2017, 02:36:23 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This is Jeremy Corbyn. Like Wile E Coyote he has run off the cliff. Yes, he’s still leader, but after Copeland, it’s just a matter of time until political gravity exerts its force, most likely in 2018.

Croydon Central is in many ways a bellwether CLP for Corbyn. In 2015, it voted to endorse him 80% to 20%, reflecting the final vote among registered supporters. Last year, it backed him against Owen Smith by 60% to 40%, in line with the eventual overall result. Speaking to party members and local officials over the weekend, estimates of the balance between pro and anti-Corbyn support were 50-50, tipping steadily against the Labour leader with each passing month. Similar movement is being reported in pro-Corbyn CLPs across the country.

By 2018, whether Jeremy Corbyn steps down voluntarily or is challenged, his time as leader will end.

When that happens, four criteria will determine the identity of Corbyn’s successor: parliamentary nominations, Brexit, baggage (absence thereof) and whether they are a woman or a minority.

  1. Nominations

The first goal for candidates is to secure the backing of 15% of their UK and European parliamentary colleagues. This translates as 37 nominations in the PLP and 1 from European Parliamentary Party.

Regardless of how a candidate polls among the general public, their popularity with journalists or the polish of their performance on TV, they need the support of their colleagues to get on the ballot.

The Corbynites are desperate to secure an amendment, which would reduce the nomination threshold from 15% to 5%. The McDonnell amendment – so called after the barely concealed ambition of the shadow Chancellor – would need to be passed by conference and at this stage, it looks unlikely.

The threshold will remain as will the need for a credible level of PLP support. This time round, no nominations will be lent to candidates unable to make the ballot unaided.

  1. Brexit

More than any other issue, Brexit has undone Corbyn. It has united Blairites, the soft left and even sections of the hard left. Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, Momentum, surveyed its 11,000 members during the referendum campaign with 66% backing Remain and 20% Brexit.

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Everyone wants to be Tony Blair, not Neil Kinnock

29/01/2017, 06:26:38 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Tristram Hunt is off to run a museum rather than fight for the soul of the Labour party. We should not be surprised. He is one of a band of would-be leaders who would rather like to be Prime Minister, but don’t want to put in the work required to get there.

Labour’s shiny leadership hopefuls don’t want to get their shoes wet in the swamp of party reform. They want someone else to deliver them an electable Labour party to lead. So they’ll go and sit on the hillside until that happens.

They will be waiting a long time.

Here’s the hard reality. No Labour MP over the age of 45 is ever going to be Prime Minister.

The party will do less badly than many predict in 2020 (the Labour brand is stronger in its heartlands than the chatterers and scribblers of Westminster presume) but it will still be bad. The earliest Labour recovery is at the election after.

It’s easy for those on the right to daydream that they will rub the Left’s nose in the manure of defeat in 2020, snatch back ‘their’ party and march to victory, but it’s an idle fantasy.

Even if Corbyn makes way for a more centrist leader, no-one is going to be given carte blanche to reform the party the way Tony Blair was. The late Labour MP Tony Banks once said his members were so desperate for victory after the party’s fourth successive general election defeat in 1992 that they were willing to ‘eat shit to see a Labour Government.’

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Any member of the PLP who aspires to lead the Labour party must vote against triggering Article 50

28/01/2017, 11:33:12 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a parliamentary vote that transformed Labour politics. It was July 2015, in calendar terms quite recent, but politically another century. The Labour leadership contest had just begun and the government’s welfare bill was coming up for a vote at second reading.

Only one leadership candidate voted against, the others abstained, saying they would vote against if it couldn’t be amended in committee.

Abstention was what moderates thought was the judicious approach – avoid supporting the bill while depriving the Tories of the ability to paint Labour as free spending, welfare junkies. I’m a moderate, I thought it was the only sane option.

What did we know? We were fighting the last war, the general election. The war to come was to be fought before Labour members and supporters not the public. They wanted passion, clarity and, above all else, full-throated opposition to the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn’s vote against the welfare bill in July 2015 was the catalyst for a surge that deposited him in the leader’s office.

For the 2015 welfare bill, read Brexit. Squared. Any MP who aspires to lead the party one day should pay heed.

Brexit has utterly transformed Labour’s internal politics in terms of what defines the party ideologically and Jeremy Corbyn’s personal standing.

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Labour is in meltdown

07/07/2016, 08:40:09 PM

by Rob Marchant

“The Labour Party is facing its most serious crisis in its century-long history,” writes Eric Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling. He’s not wrong.

First of all, since my last Uncut column, it is no exaggeration to say that British politics has been turned upside down by the win of Leave in the Brexit referendum. Barring some kind of monumental U-turn, Britain is on its way out of the EU. In the resulting whirlwind, it is difficult to keep pace with the rapidly-changing landscape.

Aside from the immediate and dire economic fallout from the decision itself, to have a PM resign, mass Shadow Cabinet resignations and a Leader of the Opposition deserted by the vast majority of his MPs in a confidence vote – all in the same week – is surely unprecedented.

Most bizarrely of all, while millions of Leave voters are apparently now regretting their decision, barely any of the winning Leave campaign politicians are now placed for much of a role in carrying out Britain’s transition to its post-EU future. Neither does there appear to be even a sketchy plan. It is as if neither the campaign’s leaders, nor its followers, ever really expected to win.

But this is Labour Uncut: let us now turn to the impact of all this on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn has blamed by many, not unfairly, for the contribution of his lacklustre campaign to Remain’s defeat. But it has also been a convenient moment to mount a challenge to what has so far been a disastrous leadership anyway, at least in terms of engaging with the British electorate.

Hence the mass resignations from the Shadow government – plus the sacking of Hilary Benn for perceived disloyalty – which followed a few days after the vote. But things have not stopped there: it is still thought likely that one of Angela Eagle MP or Owen Smith MP will challenge Corbyn, though the smoke signals from the PLP aren’t exactly clear.

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Who’d want to be “the next Labour leader”?

25/01/2016, 12:26:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“You have to be ready for anything,” Dan Jarvis told the BBC when they recently asked about his Labour leadership ambitions. “Owen Smith: I am interested in being Labour leader,” reads a New Statesman headline from earlier this month. This appeared not long after Jess Phillips had been the subject of similar in the Spectator. Stephen Kinnock and Michael Dugher have also been touted as future leaders.

That foraging in the undergrowth is the cut and thrust of competition to be trademarked “the next leader of the Labour party”. Andy Burnham was sufficiently deemed so to enter the 2010 leadership election as favourite, while Chuka Umunna once had the strongest claim on this title among the 2010 intake. Those comprehensively beaten by Jeremy Corbyn (Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, as well as Burnham) may struggle to again accumulate the political capital necessary to mount viable leadership campaigns, while Umunna has slipped behind the likes of Jarvis et al in “the next leader” stakes.

The experiences of Burnham and Umunna ought to be salutatory to those now seeking to be “the next leader”. “The next leader” is rarely the next leader. Gordon Brown in 1994, for example, was “the next leader”; Tony Blair was then the next leader. Given that Labour is unlikely to recover in 2020 the 59 parliamentary seats lost in Scotland in 2015, and the boundary review will probably cost Labour a further 20 seats, a new leader before 2020 seems a much worse bet than Blair in 1994 to be the next Labour prime minister.

All the more reason to not want to now be “the next Labour leader,” right?

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Why “wait and see” is a fool’s strategy

14/10/2015, 07:45:44 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is now taken as accepted everywhere in British politics, with the exception of some parts of the Labour Party’s rank and file, that Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn at the helm. You can attempt to argue with this premise, but you’ll find few allies outside of the echo chamber of party activists and three-pound associate members who voted for him.

This leaves sensible members with two options: engage and hope things get better, or reject and look for a new plan. Many MPs are, in good faith, choosing the former option.

But as Ben Bradshaw MP must have seen on Tuesday night, any decent attempt to play ball with the new leadership seems doomed to end in the frustrating realisation that it is hopeless. MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party looked on in dismay, as the party’s flagship economic policy did an unceremonious U-turn.

Within two weeks of its announcement.

And here is the problem with “wait and see”: with every day that passes, the political situation gets progressively worse, not better. It is not enough to merely let Corbynism burn itself out, or let it be comprehensively defeated in five years’ time. Here’s why.

One. The obvious: the general shambles of the party’s policy and appearances on the media is undoubtedly further damaging the party’s image, to the extent that that is still possible. Corbyn has the worst ratings of any incoming leader since such polling began in 1955. This alone is enough to make waiting and seeing untenable.

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Corbyn won’t be leader into 2020, but he will decide who is

21/09/2015, 09:54:15 PM

by Kevin Meagher

If you don’t like heights, then it’s probably not worth setting your heart on becoming a steeplejack. Given Jeremy Corbyn has never sought a frontbench job in his 32 years as a Labour MP until it was “his turn” to stand for the leadership as the left’s standard bearer, how will he now cope with the demands of the job?

After his first week he will have discovered that leading a political party (and not just any party, but the official opposition) is all-consuming. Wooing people you don’t like (and who may not like you in return). Defusing internal rows. Prepping for PMQs. An endless cycle of trudging around the country on visits. Round after round of media interviews. A big part of the job is trying to get noticed (for the right reasons) and stay relevant to what is going on in the news.

Then there’s the small matter of Corbyn’s track record as a serial rebel, plus an array of causes and radical positions he has spent three decades adopting that will require endless defending and explaining. There is a reason why our successful professional politicians are all things to all people.

To his credit, Corbyn is not a personally ambitious man. There is no yellowing envelope in his jacket pocket plotting each stage of his rise to greatness. He does not covet power and thinks, instead, as part of a collective, “a movement” as he puts it.

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What’s so left-wing about bashing Britain?

17/09/2015, 10:16:02 PM

by David Ward

Two events summed up an issue at the core of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent problems. First, at the TUC conference, a hunched figure looked over his glasses to remind us of individual Trade Unionists bravery and organisation to set up a movement which represented workers rights’ in disparate small businesses. Second, a suited man stood straight and stony faced while everyone else sung the national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial ceremony.

Let’s leave aside the visual spectacle of these two clips on the news – although be in no doubt it was awful. What came across was a man who feels at home lecturing people about one set of heroes of the left in a safe space, but somehow feels a statement must be made about his views on the monarchy at a memorial service.

The question in my mind, and I’m sure many others, was what kind of message this sends to the Battle of Britain pilots and groundcrew who might also have been members of a trade union. What kind of morality feels at home distinguishing between them?

It is the kind of politics more at home in the student union bar than on the national stage. What would trade unionists like Ernie Bevin would have made of it? Or even Tony Benn who served along with his father and brother in the RAF during the second world war?

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Looking-glass Labour: what happens next

16/09/2015, 10:42:43 AM

by Rob Marchant

On Monday, a smiling photo was published of the first Cabinet meeting. A plucky attempt at “business as usual”. But business is now anything but usual, as the disarray at his first parliamentary meeting showed.

As John Slinger wrote at Uncut back in July, we are now in the realm, not of New Labour or Blue Labour, but “looking-glass Labour”. A strange, almost psychedelic parody of what chimes with the public and wins elections for Labour.

Just like with Alice, from the other side of the mirror things look as if the looking-glass side is exactly the same. But it is only when you get through to the other side of the looking-glass, that you see the parts which you could not see so easily before. The bit behind the mantelpiece. The part through the parlour door. They are different.

This is not a prediction. Things will happen at different speeds, and perhaps some will not happen at all. But, according to well-travelled historical precedent, the following is what generally happens in this party, when it develops a critical mass from the far left, as it did in the 1980s; it is essentially the manner of warring factions and coups on which the SWP runs. It is effectively what is happening now within Labour.

One. Corbyn is not a leader. The people around Corbyn now hold the power, he does not. The kitchen cabinet. They are likely to start to agitate early on, in terms of policy and running the party machine. When we talk about the leadership, we therefore mean the leader’s Office, trusted hard-left MPs inside and outside the shadow cabinet, selected members of the NEC and the main trade union leaders, particularly Unite. These people will collectively call the shots, not Corbyn.

Two. There will be an attempt to take over party machinery, as there was a more modest attempt under Miliband: the NEC and the party staff. Many of the party’s longest-serving staff are Blairites and Brownites, and may well be forced out.

Three. Policy will, at the beginning, be a disorganised free-for-all. After the new cabinet have spent some months looking like a rabble, things will settle down, as sensible voices are drowned out, side-lined or reshuffled out, to give way to reliable hard-left thinking. As to the direction of policy, the death of public-sector reform, fairy-tale economics and isolationist foreign policy is probably a good bet.

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If Ed Miliband wants to make a come back, he needs to go away first

06/07/2015, 12:30:19 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Somehow Iain Duncan Smith retains a frontline political role. Tony Blair doesn’t. But, even after the Iraq war, Blair looked set to defeat Duncan Smith so comprehensively that serious, sober people wondered whether we’d see another Tory government. Then Michael Howard steadied their ship and was returned not to government but with honours at the 2005 general election.

As a widely respected figure, who’d just fulfilled his brief by performing better than Duncan Smith was expected to, Howard was well-placed to stay on as leader during the extended leadership election, which, ultimately, resulted in the youthful but arguably more electable David Cameron, not the older but arguably less electable David Davis, emerging victorious.

Uncut will leave it to readers to decide whether the Labour leadership now contains candidates comparable to Cameron and Davis then. But the idea – as proposed by James Forsyth in the Spectator – that Ed Miliband might now be performing a Howard function for Labour, staying on for long enough that the most electable successor wins out, is a false analogy.

The more accurate analogy to Forsyth’s argument is if Duncan Smith had stayed on as Tory leader, leading them to a calamitous defeat, and remained as Tory leader throughout an extended leadership contest. The logic of this is implausible at each step.

Tories junk leaders doomed to defeat, including one as revered as Margaret Thatcher, which is a lesson, having failed to strike two under-performing leaders, Gordon Brown and Miliband, Labour might learn at the third opportunity. Neither party, though, could stomach a long leadership election under a leader who has just led their party to humbling defeat.

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