Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

2016: disastrous for the world, more so for Labour

23/12/2016, 11:50:33 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s clear that 2016 is unlikely to go down in history as one of the world’s much-loved years, one at which people look back with fond memories. Brexit (UK), Trump (US/the world), the death of a seemingly disproportionate number of the world’s best-loved stars. And a general political shift towards a fact-free, far-right (or, occasionally, far-left) populism which, it is no exaggeration to say, could soon pose a genuine threat to freedom and democracy in the West, as it is already doing in younger democracies such as Poland, Turkey or Hungary.

We start 2017 with perhaps the most ugly and uncertain foreign policy landscape since the fall of the Berlin Wall: drifting into a second Cold War but without any of the bilateral balance that characterised the first one. And with a US, formerly the guardian of world order, moving from being a poor and ineffectual geopolitical player under Obama to a who-knows-what under Trump. The world has suddenly become a frighteningly uncertain place.

The vote for Brexit has left Britain, in the eyes of its friends and neighbours at least, hobbled by uncertainty and the promise of a difficult decade ahead as it struggles to adjust. It has also seemingly done for a whole raft of politicians associated with it, mostly Tory.

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Sure, let’s laugh at the Republican implosion. But Labour’s next

15/10/2016, 11:20:00 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour and the US Republican party are suffering almost identical political predicaments. Both have leaders drawn from the extremes of their party who have created a popular revolt to hijack the institution for their own purposes.

The successful leadership campaigns of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn have fed off a fundamental separation between grassroots activists and the party establishment that has grown over many years. Party elders in both parties have unsuccessfully tried to stop their rise.

Trump has strongly backed anti-trade, anti-immigrant and isolationist policies that have long been treated as an embarrassing feature of the grassroots and swept under the carpet.

Just as successive Labour leaders and MPs have ignored and dismissed grassroots support for nationalisation, high income taxes and an aversion to fiscal prudence.

Both leaders have flirted with leaving Nato and supporting corrupt foreign regimes simply because they are anathema to the systems they despise at home. My enemies’ enemy is my friend, in other words.

Meanwhile, both part faithfuls feel they have, finally, got a leader who gives their views a voice without apology or qualification. And it feels great. Nobody is too concerned with winning.

And yet both party faithfuls see the anger of establishment figures and believe that their hero could be take away from them at any moment. They are paranoid.

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One way or another, UKIP is parking its tanks on Labour’s lawn

17/09/2016, 09:56:28 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Will UKIP survive? It’s a fair question as the kippers gather in Bournemouth for their annual conference and anoint Diane James as their new leader, to the chinking, no doubt, of large gin and tonics in the hotel bars.

The feuding in the party about who should succeed Farage – the political equivalent of a Jeremy Kyle paternity test special – had seemed terminal, but, for now, appears to be in remission.

Space, then, for the largely untested Ms James to set out what her party is for, given we have now voted to quit the EU, UKIP’s ostensible purpose.

Undoubtedly, they have come a long way in the last few years. For so long a collection EU-obsessives, English nationalist romantics and weirdos who wrote to the letters page of the Daily Telegraph complaining about the change in meaning of the word ‘gay,’ they are now a force in British politics.

As Farage pointed out in his valedictory leader’s speech, they alighted on immigration as an issue in 2011, adopted it as their cause célèbre and never looked back.

It certainly helped scoop up many of the four million votes they received at the last general election as well as providing the magic bullet that made Euro-obsessery a retail issue for millions of voters in the referendum.

Even with their central purpose achieved and Nigel Farage sloping off the main stage, the party can still claim to speak for 15-20 per cent of the electorate pretty consistently and still has a major impact on our political debate, (with Theresa May pinching the idea to bring back grammar schools from them).

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Like the US Republicans, Labour is a local party with few pretensions to national relevance

16/08/2016, 10:17:19 PM

by Samuel Dale

The Republican party currently controls 31 of the 50 governorships in the United States compared to just 18 for the Democrats.

The one independent governor Bill Walker of Alaska only left the party in 2014 so he could take on the incumbent so, really, it’s 32 Republican governors.

In addition, Republicans control the state assemblies and senate in 23 of those states giving them supreme control over law-making.

By contrast, Democrats only have total control in seven states. Seven Democrat governors are also grappling with Republican-controlled state legislative chambers while only four Republican governors deal with Democrat controlled state legislatures.

Four Republican governors and four Democrat governors deal with split legislatures.

Put Simply: when it comes to local governments the Republican party is completely and utterly dominant while the national party is in meltdown.

The reason for the mismatch is multi-faceted. Firstly, most governor elections take place during mid-terms where turnout is low and presidential incumbents are unpopular. Opposition parties pick up local wins.

This problem is compounded by the fact that all US governors have two-term limits meaning they have to give up the power of incumbency. Only two governors – both Democrat – were elected before Obama became president.

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Civil servants might not be civil for long

14/07/2016, 07:45:54 PM

by Greig Baker

In the most extraordinary fortnight for British politics, people should be forgiven if they missed an important – if fairly dry – announcement from the Cabinet Office this week. Despite being largely ignored, the announcement is a helpful reminder that Labour could still have supporters outside of Momentum, if only it got its act together.

On Tuesday, arguably the most powerful department in Whitehall announced the new Civil Service Workforce Plan to 2020. This sets out how the government wants to reform the way the Civil Service works – and so change the way that every single public service is delivered and determine the job prospects of the 440,000 people who work for the government.

The Plan includes some reforms that any shadow secretary of state who is even only half awake would presumably want to get their teeth into. For example, the number of secondments to and from the private sector, and especially large scale commercial suppliers, is likely to increase dramatically. Optimists argue this improves civil servants’ understanding of the world and allows them to bring in valuable lessons and expertise from business. Others may be concerned about the influence gained by private interests who lend their staff to policy makers.

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How loud will Jamie Reed’s ‘quiet crisis’ get?

24/05/2016, 09:33:03 PM

In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, Jonathan Todd gives his perspective on Copeland.

“Under leaden skies and beneath the ground a culture of solidarity, independence, community self-reliance and ambition was forged,” writes Jamie Reed of his constituency, Copeland, where I grew up.

Whitehaven, the town where I was born, Reed notes, “was north west England’s most important centre of early Methodism as John Wesley used the town as the starting point for his travels to Ireland and the Isle of Man.” While Whitehaven is a rugby league town, I was more football than rugby league as a child, watching matches both at Holker Street, home of Barrow AFC, a non-league club since the 1970s, and Brunton Park, Carlisle United’s ground, a lower league club for much of its history.

Nowhere does Labour more need to listen and change, according to Reed, than, “in our rugby league towns and lower league football cities, in the places most people have heard of, but never been to.” In places, in other words, like Whitehaven, Barrow and Carlisle.

“Daily life looks and feels very different in our de-industrialised towns, struggling rural villages and smaller cities and these communities are now engulfed in a quiet crisis – not just in the north of England, but in every part of our country.”

We picketed a County Council meeting when I was at primary school to keep the school open. While tiny, the school remains. Two pubs, two banks, and two petrol stations have departed the village or thereabouts in the intervening period. “These jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back,” as Springsteen sings in My Hometown.

In the sense that the primary school was threatened 30 years ago, we might react to Reed’s ‘quiet crisis’ by asking, if localities are perennially threatened, is it a new crisis so much as an ongoing, inevitable way of life in an ever more urban country?

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Voters want security at home, at work and for the country. Right now, Labour’s not offering it

02/03/2016, 02:18:22 PM

by Ian Moss

The course to the next election seems set, unless the Labour party decides to re-engage with the basics of being a political party. The Conservatives will have a significant majority whoever leads them and the opposition vote will splinter – to the SNP in Scotland and in the rest of the country a smattering to Labour, a rump to UKIP and loose change to a Liberal Democrat party that left power regretting it so much that it fled without a credible position to challenge from.

Historic generational support for Labour has been broken in Scotland. The Midlands is also weak for Labour, and the north will go next. Voters that would have turned out for “anything with a red rosette on” are taking a look at Labour and will decide it is time to give up their unconditional support. Instead of having a healthy core to build on, Labour is redefining its core. It risks setting a ceiling on its support through its ongoing mission to alienate voters that disagree with the narrow, ideological view of the world its leadership has championed since 1980.

The first past the post system means parties have to build a coalition before they go to the polls. The only way back to victory for Labour is working across the soft left to the centre to build an electoral block that can challenge for 35-40% of the votes.  The Conservative party attracted UKIP voters back to its own coalition with the threat of a Miliband government. Labour has its own UKIP problem which is currently more intractable unless it can re-connect with the working class, small businesses and people who work in trades in its heartlands.

The Conservative party has set its strategy for Labour under Corbyn in one slogan: a “threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security”. Slogans don’t work if they don’t go with the grain of people’s thoughts.

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Miliband’s bridge building with business should be applauded

01/07/2014, 08:15:02 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The case for augmenting Labour’s cost of living campaigning is almost as old as this campaigning. The advantages accruing to Labour from this campaigning are challenged by those that accumulate to the Conservatives from the more general economic improvement. This improvement encourages optimism among businesses, which some feel Labour threatens.

Labour needs to reassure these businesses and the voters who work for them that Labour poses no such threat. That, as Pat McFadden and Alan Milburn have both put it, Labour is as concerned with generating wealth as with distributing it. It is, as Chuka Umunna is quoted in a recent FT article headlined ‘Labour seeks to reposition as pro-business party’, a fairly academic decision how you can cut the pie more fairly if you haven’t increased the size of the pie first.

That Umunna is clearly right, while business fears that this is not understood by Labour, makes the repositioning heralded by the FT welcome. We are now in what The Sunday Times described as “a week long campaign to mend fences with business leaders”. No matter what big policy announcements this week may bring, Labour should not expect that they alone will secure business support.

Fifty small press releases matter more than a big policy announcement, as the ex party adviser Steve Van Riel recently observed. If Labour wants better relations with business, and I’m pleased that we do, we shouldn’t think that these can be cemented in a week, no matter how big our policy announcements. Such relations require diligent cultivation over the long-term. Which the activities of this week should be a staging post on.

It is to be hoped that Ed Miliband and his shadow cabinet are up for this. Because there will be those in our party who will implore them not to be. Similar protestations, as Uncut has noted, have blunted moves to the centre on welfare. Concerted efforts to win business support would be another move to the centre, which is valuable enough that Miliband should be prepared to endure internal criticisms.

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Why the surprise? Labour’s poll slippage was predicted and is on trend

02/04/2014, 07:00:18 AM

by Rob Marchant 

Ah, the panic. You can see it setting in as there is a blip downwards in the polls. Two consecutive polls show Labour and the Tories neck and neck, and we have a letter to the Guardian. As Uncut’s Atul Hatwal noted last week, there are now rumblings on the Labour right.

But while it is a perfectly respectable aim to ask Miliband to change course on a raft of policy areas, one cannot help but think it is a conversation we should have been having two or three years ago.

The good news is that this jitteriness is based on very little change in the actual prognosis.

To explain: political journalists are not, in the main, statisticians. Neither are politicians. And so both groups often subscribe to a mathematical fallacy, and it’s this: the polling of today is our best indicator of a general election result in X years time. It’s not. It’s a very rough guide which fails to account for the cycle of the parliamentary term, and in particular an opposition’s mid-term bounce. For the hard of maths, you can skip the next nerdy paragraph and trust us on this.

Our best guess – the expected value – of a general election vote-share lead is not equal to the value of our polling lead now. It’s equal to the value of our polling lead plus our expectation of how much that lead is going to change in between now and then. Trouble is, that second bit is crucial and historically, it’s not zero. In short, it is reasonable to argue that we shouldn’t just extrapolate today’s poll out to 2015 in a straight horizontal line. For an opposition party, it should be a line that inclines downwards.

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Len McCluskey signals potential Unite exit from Labour

01/04/2014, 04:39:01 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Big news from Len McCluskey’s turn before the press gallery this afternoon. Speaking to journalists, he said that he could envisage Unite changing its rules on funding to support other parties and leaving Labour, if the Labour was to lose the next election.

“Only if we change our rules, within Unite’s rules, we are affiliated to the Labour party. We cannot give any financial support to any other political party. So the rules within Unite would need to be changed, not by Len McCluskey – I know some of your papers think I have this huge power to flick switches on and off – but by our rules conference. Can I ever envisage a rules conference voting to disaffiliate from Labour? I can, I can, and that’s a challenge to Ed Miliband because I believe the Labour party is at a crossroads, this is a watershed…if Labour lost the election next May I fear for the future of the Labour party and so these are serious debates at this point in time in our history we have to kind of consider all of those issues, at the moment, though that’s not on our agenda.” (h/t Isabel Hardman)

This is potentially an enormous shift in Labour politics. If Unite were to disaffiliate, three points are relevant.

First, the balance of the party would shift towards the right. Unite are the most vocal and powerful of the unions on the left and without their seats on the NEC, votes at conference, financial leverage and members’ role in any future Labour leadership election, the party would likely move more to the centre.

Second, it suggests the Collins union reform proposals, passed with much fanfare in February, were only a stop-gap for Unite, pending the result of the next election. If Labour loses, then all bets are off.

Third, it would mean that the total number of trade unionists affiliated to the Labour party would drop below half the total number of trade unionists in the country for the first time.

At the moment there are 6.5m trade unionists in Britain and according to the latest figures on the TUC website, the 15 trade unions affiliated to the Labour party represent 4.2m of them. If Unite disaffiliated, with a membership of 1.4m, the number of trade unionists affiliated to Labour would drop to 2.8m or 43% of all trade union members.

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