Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

The fight for Labour’s soul is only just beginning

09/07/2017, 11:39:00 AM

by Kevin Meagher

So that’s it then, we’re one big happy family? The outcome of the 2017 general election (assuming there’s just the one) is that the electoral catastrophe every piece of empirical evidence suggested was in the post ahead of polling day did not, in fact, arrive.

There is relief – plenty of it – that a big chunk of Scotland has come back home and that ‘feckless’ young voters are perhaps not that feckless after all. Yet despite noises off from the left, this government has every right to govern, given it won 55 more seats than Labour.

Caution, rather than exuberance, should be the prevailing mood in Labour circles.

The other permissible emotion is, of course, schadenfreude at the appalling mess Theresa May finds herself in. The past few excruciating weeks in the life of the Conservative party have been a sight to behind.

But back to Labour. It is not credible to simply forget about the past two tortuous years. A recent leader column in the New Statesman suggested that’s exactly what we should do:

In spite of his many shortcomings, Mr Corbyn has earned the right to lead the party into the next election, whenever it falls. He has won the Labour civil war.

There’s certainly been a lack of civility, but I’m not sure ‘civil war’ characterises the past 20 months of Jeremy Corbyn’s roller-coaster leadership. The sniping between Corbynistas and moderates (for want of a better term) has never really come to a head in a pitched battle.

Mostly the internal rows have been about the leadership’s lack of a political strategy and the string of unforced errors that has seen Labour branded as anti-Semitic, or just plain incompetent.

To his credit, Jeremy Corbyn has tried not to pick fights since becoming leader. Sure, there have been outriders floating radical ideas about policy and party reform, yet despite the fears among MPs that there would be a period of blood-letting following Owen Smith’s emphatic defeat in the second leadership election last summer, there has been no abuse of the party’s internal processes by Corbyn, evidenced by the failure of his supporters to secure berths in the pre-election carve-up of safe seats.

A row is certainly now brewing over the so-called ‘McDonnell amendment’ to enact a rule change at the party conference, reducing the threshold needed for candidates to stand in a future leadership election, thus making it easier for the left to secure a nominee.

But in a spirit of ‘not meeting trouble halfway’, the focus now should be on how the party can best take things forward in the short term. For starters, it would be wise to develop a series of shared assumptions about the immediate future. Some ground rules, if you like. Here are four suggestions: (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Two rays of hope for Labour in the electoral post-apocalypse

18/05/2017, 03:29:26 PM

by Rob Marchant

Even for these unusual times, we might note that this is a highly unusual election.

First, it is a snap election, the first in over four decades. Labour is even more woefully unprepared than it would have been in 2020.

Second, it has local elections in the middle of the short campaign, for which there is no recent precedent (in 2001, when the general election was in June, the locals were too). It gives a highly unusual pre-poll to the general election.

Third, it has had the critical-for-Europe-and-the-world, French election in the middle of the short campaign as well. We’ll come on to that.

A recap of the glaringly obvious: It is difficult to see those local election results as anything but disastrous. Vote-share down to an appalling 27%. Governing party up rather than down in mid-term. In Scotland, SNP seats swinging away from them going to the Tories, not Labour.

The general election prognosis, then: the Tory lead likely to be between 12% and whatever that lead is currently polling (currently around 18%), as I have argued here. Around 16% gap would be a conservative estimate, which would give a Tory majority of 100. But taking YouGov’s regional polls – which one would expect to be more accurate – and extrapolating using the Electoral Calculus predictor, you can see the possibility of it being well over 200 seats.

If all this were not enough, Corbyn this week selected Stalin apologist, Andrew Murray, from the Stop the War Coalition, to lead Labour’s campaign. Imagine the reaction if the Tories appointed joined up a Nazi apologist from the BNP and then appointed them campaign chief. As one Labour insider commented to HuffPo’s Paul Waugh, Murray is to Corbyn as Steve Bannon is to Trump. An unapologetic extremist.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Unite-PCS merger in trouble at PCS conference

21/05/2014, 12:32:39 PM

It’s been a busy morning in Brighton, with a debate taking place that will have major implications for the future of the Labour party. The non-party affiliated civil service union, PCS, is having its annual conference and top of the bill for discussion has been the impending merger with Unite.

The PCS NEC proposed a motion that would have allowed them to continue negotiations with Unite, without conditions. The pace of discussions has accelerated in recent months with the merger process now due to complete in January 2015.

However, this timeline may now be in doubt as PCS members rejected their leaders’ motion by a significant majority – 109,326 t0 73,212. A subsequent motion allowing the NEC to continue negotiations subject to minimum conditions did pass on a hand vote, but the warning signal from the PCS membership was very clear: they still prize their independence.

Although PCS has a substantial pensions deficit, its immediate solvency isn’t threatened and questions have been raised by many members as to the benefits of subsuming their union into Unite. The debate in the hall was particularly characterised by hostility to joining a Labour affiliated union with speakers citing the level of civil service cuts implemented by the last Labour government.

Notably, one of the conditions stipulated for future PCS-Unite merger talks is that there would need to be an independent political fund.

PCS members’ suspicion of Labour will heap further pressure on Unite, in addition to its own internal rumblings, to revisit its relationship with Labour.

Recently, Len McCluskey envisaged a scenario where Unite could disaffiliate from the party if Labour lost the next general election. Given the recent polls, and the views of the PCS rank and file, Unite’s long term relationship with the Labour party is now looking increasingly tenuous.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Labour party: why do we bother?

24/09/2012, 03:52:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Are we members of a socialist party, a social democratic party or neither of these things? Did we start self-identifying as social democrats when socialist ceased to be acceptable in polite society and progressive when social democrat too passed beyond the pale? Do any of these terms retain any meaning? And does it matter if they do or they don’t?

My focus here is not the etymology or present understanding of these terms. Nor do I seek a revival in the number of party members describing themselves as socialist (though, like Clause 4, I’m proud to still do so myself).

What I want to explore is the clarity and strength of the Labour party’s mission. Call this socialist or social democrat or what you will; it is its force and lucidity that concerns me, not the name that we attach to it.

Some of the motivations of party members are inevitably not always as pure as might be pretended. Deals are brokered. Backs are scratched. Noses are browned. This is the currency of politics from the branch meeting to the shadow cabinet.

If party conference is, as David Talbot observes, a family gathering, is this a family held together by any more than utilitarian calculi of effort and reward?

We must surely hope that it is. To conflate family and army metaphors, only so many of us can ascend to be generals. But the generals will get nowhere without foot soldiers, who must certainly know that they will never themselves be generals, no matter how many doors they knock on and how many interminable meetings they endure.

If not, then, the promise of advancement, why do the foot soldiers bother?


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s London committee rooms are getting nervous…

03/05/2012, 06:36:46 PM

Uncut has been busy ringing round Labour committee rooms in London and the news isn’t encouraging. There’s a valiant GOTV operation underway but the rain and a bruising campaign have combined to make for a distinct lack of engagement among the public.  Voters are reluctant to turn out and it’s hard going on the doorstep.

Out of 12 committee rooms that Uncut has had feedback from, turnout is down. Really down. As in: on course to be in the 20% zone, at a push. Admittedly there are commuters currently wending their way home who will be voting, but based on progress from the morning into early evening, the number of London Labour voters that the GOTV operation will be able to deliver to the polls is running substantially below target.

Naturally caveats apply. In one sense a depressed Labour turnout doesn’t matter if the Tories face an even bigger challenge. And the rain falls on Tory heads as relentlessly as it does on Labour ones. But again the word coming back from the tellers at the polling stations to the central committee rooms is not good. The Tory vote seems to be holding up better than Labour’s.

Clearly evidence from 12 committee rooms does not equate with the whole of London. And various local factors could skew the feedback, but the rooms that Uncut has spoken to are in all 4 corners of London and at the moment nerves are jangling in head office.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

McCluskey prepares to move on Miliband

04/04/2012, 01:58:50 PM

So, now it’s clear. The way Len McClusky is going to apply the thumb screws to Ed Miliband was revealed this morning with the publication of the preliminary agenda for Unite’s conference at the end of June (h/t Left Futures).

The relevant chapter is headed “Political” and includes the resolutions on Unite’s relationship with the Labour party. The tone can be gauged from the quote below from one of the motions,

“This Conference notes and applauds UNITE’S policy to win back the Labour Party from the right-wing neo-liberals who have infested the party over the past 20 years, and return it to where it belongs as a voice and political vehicle for the working-class people of this nation.”

In all, there are 12 resolutions on how Unite works with Labour that have been selected by the union leadership and they lay down three important markers.

First, money: three resolutions call for a 10% cut in funding to the Labour party with these monies being diverted to union campaigns or the Unite National Dispute Fund. It’s the clearest possible shot across the bows. Money matters, particularly to a party spending more than it raises, and if Labour is not going to advance Unite’s agenda then the funding will slow – 10% to start with, more if there is continued recalcitrance.

Second, control over party structures: there are seven resolutions on this with demands such as mandating sitting MPs to obtain nominations from 66% of affiliated trade union branches to secure automatic re-selection. This is about long term power within the Labour movement. Leaders of the party are transitory but re-writing the rules would give real control over every aspect of the party – from policy positions to who becomes leader.

Third, the Labour party’s policy on cuts: there are two strongly worded motions criticising the idea of accepting cuts, and specifically targeting the two Eds’ speeches in January backing the public sector pay freeze. Given the January speeches were the only comment the Labour leadership has made backing a concrete proposal for fiscal restraint, the warning is clear:- no more loose talk about cutting spending.

With this set of resolutions, Len McCluskey has set out is stall. He will say, “Ed, mate, it’s not me, it’s the members.  I hear what you’re saying about the centre ground, but my members want action”.

Some of the more extreme demands might be traded as an act of goodwill by McCluskey as he triangulates his way to his objective, but if Ed Miliband accedes to the substance of these demands, the nature of the Labour party will be fundamentally changed.

And that will be that.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The real impact of the budget on the public

22/03/2012, 07:00:14 AM

by Peter Watt

The thing about big political events is that they generally aren’t big events in the same way that, say big sporting events or a royal wedding are.  The latter are things that most people are aware of and that get people talking.  Big political events generally do neither.  But they certainly feel like really big events if you are a political junkie or you are working inside the political world.

I can remember when Labour Party HQ used to buy all of the staff ice-creams on budget day; it was a bit of a tradition.  In the weeks building up to the day itself there would be mounting excitement.  Briefings were prepared and printers were primed to start printing materials within minutes of the end of the budget so that local campaigners were ready for their weekends work. Because the point was that budgets were big, game-changing, or game re-enforcing events.

Except looking back, they generally weren’t, and very little actually changed.  The polls might blip but they soon blipped back to where they were before.

And I was reminded of this yesterday; because I, along with every other political obsessive, had enjoyed this last week.  The NHS Bill skirmishes and the budget briefing.  Both had left us all with plenty to read, discuss and tweet about.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The flaws at the heart of the Labour party’s reorganisation

15/03/2012, 07:00:22 AM

by Peter Watt

I have decided to write something about Labour party governance.  Now wait; before you stop reading simply because you assume that any article about governance must be aimed at anoraks give me a moment as it really is an important issue.

The Labour party is governed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) who act in the same way as a board of directors or trustees do.  In other words, they are responsible for ensuring that the party manages its finances well; delivers on its primary objective of securing elected Labour representation and other subsidiary objectives like better representation of women.  And also for ensuring that the party complies with its legal responsibilities.  They also oversee, but do not direct, day-to-day operations of the party.  The day-to-day work is managed by the party’s chief executive the general secretary.

Traditionally the arrangement has not been a particularly good one in the Labour party with good governance being secondary to other political pressures.  The result was that the party became horrifically in debt and no one on the NEC seemed to notice.

The reasons for this are twofold.

Firstly the NEC itself was much more interested in politics than governance.  In other words they got elected or appointed by virtue of fighting for position or votes in internal elections on the back of taking positions politically.

They were experts in lots of things to do with politics, trade unions and so on.  But that didn’t make them experts in governance, asking the right questions, finances and the like.  Whilst other organisations could undertake a skills audit of their boards and appoint non-execs or other trustees to plug the skills gap – the NEC had elections to its various stakeholder sections.

And secondly the party management team saw it as their job to keep the NEC out of decision making.  What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt and anyway the NEC really weren’t that interested, or so the argument went.

It was just easier to set up NEC committees and structures that provided more confusion than transparency.  Plus there was always a third source of power that party managers had to worry about – the leader’s office.  The leader’s office always wanted to be in charge of everything but knew that the key to managing the weird and byzantine world of the NEC was the general secretary and their team.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s identity problems go much deeper than all women shortlists

13/03/2012, 12:20:04 PM

by Ben Cobley

In Life and Fate, his epic novel of family, Stalingrad and totalitarianism, the Soviet-era journalist Vasily Grossman wrote:

“Human groupings have one main purpose: to assert everyone’s right to be different, to be special, to think, feel and live in his or her own way. People join together in order to win or defend this right. But this is where a terrible, fateful error is born: the belief that these groupings in the name of a race, a God, a party or a State are the very purpose of life and not simply a means to an end. No! The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and in his right to these peculiarities.”

Grossman maybe stretches his point a little too far. Nevertheless his polemic makes a powerful and important point: that groups can become forces of oppression, not just against other groups but against individuality and humanity itself.

This happens when they becomes ends in themselves, when they take on a life of their own and become self-sustaining. In Grossman’s Soviet Union this is what happened to the Communist identity – once it became a pre-requisite for career advancement and entry to nomenklatura, it lost its idealistic elements and became a malign force.

On 2nd March, Uncut published an article of mine about contemporary liberal-left identity politics, in which I questioned the continuing existence of All Women Shortlists (AWS) and other forms of positive discrimination in Labour Party processes. The article provoked a (generally) considered response on LabourList from Luke Akehurst of the NEC, plus plenty of other lively responses on comment threads and elsewhere.

The background to what I was arguing in the piece was summed up in this sentence: “Institutionalising separate identities as we do is a road to nowhere and nothingness.”

So what does this really mean? After all, when we talk about identity problems we normally mean lack of identity: for example that Ed Miliband lacks identity, or that the Labour Party could do with more identity.

My own interpretation is that identity itself is often the problem.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Vive la résistance la rue Victoria!

12/03/2012, 07:00:33 AM

That’s the mood brewing in Labour’s Victoria street headquarters.

On Friday, the long planned internal Labour party restructure was finally announced: new departments, new directors, more effective party. Or at least that’s the official line.

While the changes do make some welcome technocratic adjustments, they are  ultimately driven by hard politics.

Labour HQ has long been regarded with suspicion by Ed Miliband’s team. During the leadership election it was virtually united in its backing for David.

Since then the relationship between Victoria street and casa Ed in Norman Shaw south has been frosty at best. One leadership loyalist recently described Victoria street as, “a vipers’ nest”.

The restructure is team Ed’s move to bring headquarters to heel. Despite the job advertisements and apparently open selection process, the big three appointments at communications, strategy and policy all have something in common: their previous employer, one E Miliband.

Bob Roberts, Greg Beales and Torsten Bell will seamlessly move a few hundred yards down the road from the leader’s Westminster office to impose direct rule on Victoria street.

Needless to say, the changes haven’t gone down well with a staff team that regards the Ed Miliband’s team with barely concealed derision.

One staffer whispered late on Friday, “Set aside the politics for a moment, what sort of job have this lot done for Ed? Do we want that to happen to the party operation? “

It wasn’t an isolated comment.

But it’s not just personnel that are being changed. Perhaps the biggest change is structural. The way the party is managed has been fundamentally redrawn with the creation of a new executive board.

The board brings together the executive directors, the general secretary with the leader’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff. It will be the new decision-making heart of the Labour party machine.

The organisational independence of the Labour party from the leader’s office is now a thing of the past. For many, even amongst Ed sceptics, it’s a common sense step. A large gap between leader and machine is hardly conducive to effective campaigning.

But, as ever when power shifts like this, there are winners and losers, and the big loser here is the well-liked and respected general secretary Iain McNicol.

He wasn’t the leader’s choice for general secretary, but McNicol has been loyal and tried to ensure headquarters and the leader’s office worked together more smoothly in the few months since he took office in September.

Now with executive board, the dynamics at the top of the party are very different.

If an executive director, who nominally reports to the general secretary, has a difference of opinion about what should be done, the executive board not the general secretary will decide.

And what are the chances that some of the new executive directors might just decide to pick up the phone to their old chums in the leader’s office before executive board meetings to make sure they get the right decision, regardless of what the general secretary might think?

In the words of one staffer on Friday, “Iain is basically now a glorified head of HR”.

Over the weekend, as the scale of the changes were being digested by the Labour HQ team, two camps were emerging.

One group was dusting down CVs. It’s a tough market out there for Labour apparatchiks, but for many, even unemployment might be preferable to this brave new world.

The other was talking about resistance.

The signs of rebellion were evident even as the changes were being announced. Before the full staff team had been briefed, details were being leaked to Guido Fawkes, hardly team Ed’s greatest friend.

And then when Iain Mcnicol sent an e-mail to staff about the leaking, that was leaked to Guido as well.

For the rebels, it’s just the start. Over the coming weeks expect to see more signs of the Victoria street maquis. Team Ed has moved decisively to take control of the party operation. But lurking in the sandwich bars and watering holes of Victoria street, the resistance is plotting.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon