Posts Tagged ‘Lib Dems’

Labour’s pro-Brexit front bench is more of a problem than Corbyn

10/04/2017, 10:22:54 PM

by Trevor Fisher

For any blog site commenting on current developments, the latest headlines define the agenda. The opening days of April provided many, but if the Livingstone saga is ignored as driven by one person’s private attempt to stay in the headlines, there are two underlying themes that make Labour’s future increasingly grim. The first is the Party leadership abandoning Party policy to appease right wing interests, and the second is the short sighted belief that the battle for Party dominance is what defines party politics. Both major factions, Old Left and Modernised New Labour are paddling these canoes with no sense that the public is moving elsewhere. The first of these two problems is now coming to a head.

The major political issue of our time is Brexit, and the dominant forces in the PLP have abandoned defence of the EU for acceptance of the hard right agenda on splitting from Europe. The party policy passed by the 2016 conference, still  holds that while it “noted” the TUC decision to accept the majority vote, it would reserve its position including not triggering Article 50 and stated that “The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”, which remains feasible, most crucially through another referendum.

But the PLP leadership, from Corbyn to Mandleson, abandoned this with classic short term thinking. The principled reasons for defending Europe were abandoned once the vote came in, but it was not only Corbyn who demanded total obedience to Brexit.  Miliband’s speech to the Open Labour conference was that a soft Brexit was acceptable and Labour would get this, with no reference to the actual results of this policy. As I have already argued, there is no soft Brexit and to accept the Tory agenda as Corbyn did by putting a three line whip on Article 50 was folly. However  the electoral argument is currently top priority. The Corbynistas still claim that they can win the next election, arguing it will take two years to turn the party round.

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Labour’s options? Different degrees of losing

07/12/2016, 09:18:55 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was always going to be important to wait until the dust settled around Labour’s second leadership election to see what was going to happen next. Now, settled it has and things are a little clearer, but only a little. What remains still looks like a panorama tremendously unhelpful to Labour moderates.

First, we might review the external changes that have happened since September. As the Independent observed yesterday, of Britain, the US, France, Italy and Germany there remains only one leader from just a few months ago, and neither is Merkel safe. Populist right-wingers have either won or are waiting at the gates everywhere. There are still all the signs of a tidal wave of political realignment across the Western world, and it would be reasonable to assume that Labour needs to either decide how to position itself or risk being swept away

Bizarrely, this is good news for Corbyn: it shows that the appetite for easy answers among the public has not diminished, and among the relatively tiny selectorate which has kept him in post, too, there seems little chance of minds changing before 2020.

The final piece of the puzzle is the information we now have about Brexit. A recent survey showed that Britons currently feel more strongly about their Remain or Leave positions than they do about political parties. This means that Labour’s positioning on Brexit is now crucial to its survival: the fudge that it lived with through the referendum campaign is no longer tenable.

So, what are these options?

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A progressive alliance makes sense for by-elections, not the general election

06/12/2016, 06:05:01 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The Richmond by-election on November 30th was a welcome victory despite the poor Labour showing. In Richmond I would have voted Lib Dem, to defeat a Tory-UKIP backed candidate. Tim Farron claimed the Lib Dems are back, but there are a string of Liberal by election victories back to Orpington (1962) which proved false. Richmond does however put support for the Compass advocated progressive alliance strategy back on the agenda. Labour ignores this at its peril though beyond by-elections the strategy is questionable.

Richmond demonstrates that Brexit now dominates UK politics. Given that Richmond was heavily for Remain, and the allegedly independent Zac Goldsmith was Brexit, he was headed for a fall.

However there are seats in which the electorate are heavily pro Brexit, and there UKIP may do well. Labour is vulnerable, UKIP being second in 41 Labour seats. It is as possible that a UKIP surge can happen in Labour heartlands, and also in Tory seats where a hard Brexit appeal may grow as the failure of May to deliver has an impact. The longer the negotiations take the more political culture will be poisoned.

Labour failed to have by-election strategy in Richmond, linked to its lack of clarity over Brexit.

Corbyn’s strategy of not opposing Brexit but calling for scrutiny of a deal is too close to Blairite triangulation for comfort. Owen Smith’s call for a second referendum is principled, but the challenge of a second referendum would be considerable. However it is less risky than an election which could devastate Labour for years to come.

While May is unlikely to call a general election immediately, a parliamentary blocking approach can trigger an election rather than a second referendum. If this were to happen the Progressive Alliance needs to be scrutinised. As a by-election tactic it is relevant. But a general election is a different matter.
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Labour must be more than technocrats. The challenge is to lift Britain out of its moral depression

17/07/2015, 03:37:48 PM

by Gordon Lynch

A common observation about the Labour leadership contest this summer is that the candidates, for all their relative strengths, have not yet succeeded in providing a compelling vision of our country’s future and the role of the Labour party within it.

Where this wider debate has begun to open up it has been primarily in terms of differing positions towards deficit reduction and austerity. But whilst Labour’s ability to provide a credible economic plan for Britain’s future is undoubtedly the threshold that must be met for it to be taken seriously by the electorate, it is not sufficient to provide a powerful vision of our collective future. Nor does a focus on the failings of Labour’s last general election campaign provide a sufficient analysis of the depth of electoral disillusionment with progressive politics at the moment.

The roots of this disillusionment do not lie simply in the public blaming Labour for the current financial deficit. It lies in a moral depression which began before the financial one.

Since the relative euphoria of Labour’s electoral success in 1997, there have been three significant moral traumas in which public confidence in progressive politics has been deeply damaged. The first was the decision of Tony Blair’s government, with strong Conservative support, to engage in the 2003 Iraq War against unprecedented popular opposition. The party that had won in 1997 by articulating the public’s moral aspirations betrayed this six years later when it embarked on a war that was so deeply at odds with the ethical foreign policy that it initially espoused. The fact that the 2003 war set in motion a chain of events that has now led to the horrors of the rise of ISIS only perpetuates a residual sense of despair at such a fundamental failure of Britain’s political institutions to respect the moral convictions of its people.

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Five questions for general election week 2015

04/05/2015, 03:13:28 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I can barely remember before we were looking beyond 7 May 2015 and soon this fateful date will be pasted. Five questions for this precipice:

Will a “Sheffield rally moment” happen?

George Osborne quickly jumped on #EdStone to declare it a “Sheffield rally moment”. It wasn’t. But Osborne seizes on any chance to blur Ed Miliband with Neil Kinnock, now, sadly, cast in stone as the embodiment of unfitness to govern. It is not just Miliband, however, at risk of “Sheffield rally moment”. David Cameron, shouting “up the hammers” as he fights for his career/country, has dropped clangers.

It is extra time in the cup final. The teams are exhausted. A piece of magic could break the deadlock. Or a horrible mistake. Which now seems much more likely than magic.

Can the Tories make it to 290 MPs?

290 Tory MPs is held out by experts – for example, Professor Tim Bale speaking at the RSA recently – as a golden number. Meet this threshold and routes to Conservative-led government remain open, fall short and they rapidly close.

While projected as the party with most seats and votes, they are falling short of this threshold on Peter Kellner’s last election projection. But these figures just about allow the Conservatives to combine with the Liberal Democrats and the DUP to build an effective Commons majority. Falling short of 290, however, particularly if this is accompanied by an absence of Liberal Democrat support, would make Conservative life very hard.

Can Labour build bridges with the Lib Dems?

If Oliver Coppard succeeds in his energetic campaign to remove Nick Clegg from Sheffield Hallam, a discombobulated Liberal Democrat Party will return to Westminster. The Conservatives could not be confident of the support of such a party. Even if Clegg wins, though, peeling the Liberal Democrats away from the Conservatives should remain a Labour goal.

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Revealed: Ed’s night-time dash to casa Brand driven by postal ballot panic

02/05/2015, 06:28:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned the real reason for Ed Miliband’s sudden night-time visit to Russell Brand’s Shoreditch home: panic caused by the early tallies of postal ballots being fed back to party HQ, from marginals around the country.

Labour is behind and urgently needs to reach out to new voter groups. Russell Brand was a means to that end.

Postal voting started in mid-April. Over 5 million are expected to cast their ballot in this way and over the last week, local teams from all parties have attended postal vote opening sessions in each constituency.

Although the parties are legally not allowed to tally votes at these events, they all do and the constituency teams then dutifully pass their field intelligence back to HQ.

These are not opinion polls results or canvass returns but actual votes, hundreds of thousands of votes, from across Britain. Numbers have been flowing from each marginal to party strategists to give the most accurate picture of the current state of play.

Labour insiders familiar with the latest figures have told Uncut that the picture for Labour in marginal seats, where it is fighting the Tories, is almost uniformly grim.

Seats that canvass returns had suggested were strong prospects for gains are much more finely balanced and those that were close are swinging heavily to the Tories.

The tartan scare is working with the fear of McLabour shifting large numbers of wavering Lib Dems and Ukippers into the Tory column.

National opinion polls and Lord Ashcroft’s last swathe of constituency polling have seemed to indicate a shift towards the Tories recently, but Labour insiders say the effect on the ground in marginals is much bigger than picked up in polls so far.

Labour has already squeezed the Greens as much as possible for votes, and is coming up short. Despite a superior get-out-the-vote operation primed and ready for next Thursday, Labour cannot bridge the gap by organisation alone.

With just a few days to go until the election, Labour desperately needs new voters.

This is why Ed Miliband suddenly changed his plans and went to Russell Brand’s home to be interviewed.

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Has Nick Clegg really dealt with 38,000 pieces of casework?

01/05/2015, 10:46:54 AM

Amazing guy, that Nick Clegg.

Writing in the Sheffield Star, the multi-tasking Lib Dem Leader and erstwhile Deputy PM says he has still found time as a local MP to deal with “38,000 pieces of casework”.

As any MP’s staffer will attest, that’s quite a claim.

Let’s be generous and suppose what he really means is that he’s dealt with that many cases over the 10 years he’s represented Sheffield Hallam. This works out at 3,800 cases each year.

Disaggregated over 365 days, this averages out at ten cases a day. Every day. For ten years.

Now let’s assume he and his staff don’t work every single day of the year.

Taking away weekends, Bank Holidays, Christmas and annual leave entitlements means there’s about 250 working days left (okay, that’s a bit on the high side, but let’s again be generous to him).

So now the figure climbs to 15 cases a day.

Again, let’s assume he has two caseworkers out of the £129,000 he claimed for his office staffing costs last year. That’s 7.5 cases dealt with by each caseworker, every single working day of the year.

And over the course of an average working day, this means dealing with a case an hour.

But what does ‘dealing’ with a constituents’ case generally involve?

It usually means meeting a troubled/angry/desperate constituent at a local surgery, or spending half a morning dealing with a rambling phone call, or poring over indecipherable handwriting, or wading through a densely-argued email before getting to the nub of the issue.

Then it involves writing on their behalf, often hitting the brick wall of officialdom (or the steel and glass wall of corporate indifference) while seeking a response.

It doesn’t end there. There are usually meetings with officials, site visits and even public meetings to follow.

All of which is to point out that MPs’ casework is often a slow, drawn-out process.

So is it uncharitable to point out that Clegg’s grandiose claim seems somewhat, well, implausible?

If we give him the benefit of the doubt, then it’s clear from their uber-efficiency that his office should have been put in charge of single-handedly rolling-out Universal Credit.

Or, perish the thought, could it be that Clegg’s just a fibber?

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Voting SNP is like taking a chance on the Lib Dems in 2010. It will hand the keys to Number 10 to Cameron

28/04/2015, 05:05:54 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu

Let’s be frank: Labour deserve the kicking they will get this general election in Scotland. Seven months ago the Labour led No campaign in the Scottish referendum was as negative and moribund of positive messages as the Conservative campaign is in this election.  Seven months ago I wrote a piece called “The Three key lessons for the Left from the Scottish referendum” in which I predicted if Labour did not learn from the experience they would be, “20 Scottish MPs lighter come May, putting into prospective how Labour has got itself in such a tizzy about losing a possible 5 seats to Ukip.”

Well they didn’t and now they will, bar a miracle, lose those seats and 20 more for good measure.

Let’s be even more frank: Like the majority in Scotland, I have more than a little sympathy with the SNP anti-austerity economic agenda. Labour have been far too cautious in pushing growth rather than cuts as the positive social and economic way to reduce the deficit. By leaving this economic policy to the SNP they have allowed them to transpose the benefits of this policy that worked so well for the Yes campaign to the current campaign.

There are also similarities with the 2010 election that seem to be positive for the SNP:  In 2010  the main two parties are polling low 30s and the Liberal Democrats were gaining the slack and ended up becoming king makers.   Now in 2015 the two main parties again are polling low 30s, this time it is the SNP and Ukip  gaining votes, and in the media and public mind it is deemed  that the SNP will end up the  king makers.

So, all the above seems to be in keeping with the tactical voting that Nicola Sturgeon so clearly has been propounding Scotland to adopt: Vote in a strong group of SNP to keep Labour to the left and make sure they “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street” and defeat the “slash-and-burn austerity” policies, right?

Well, there is an clear flaw to this tactical voting and it becomes clearly apparent when you understand that as a first past the post system it will be whichever party has the most seats, be it in a minority, that will have the mandate to form the next  government of the UK first.

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SNP-backed Miliband or a return to the John Major years? Only the Lib Dems can stop it

22/04/2015, 05:44:47 PM

by Samuel Dale

He’s back. The most successful prime minister – nay politician – ever to grace British parliamentary democracy.

A man of such grace, skill and power that he swept all before him in his pomp. Adored by his own. Feared by rivals. Yesterday, he spoke and we – humble electorate – must heed his wise counsel.

I speak, of course, of Sir John Major. Well, that seems to be the absurd narrative pedalled by the electorally-charged right-wing press that once lampooned Major’s premiership. Times change. Major’s speech gave warning of the higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem of a Labour government supported by the SNP.

Firstly, he’s right. A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain and the Labour party as well.

There would be an economic chilling effect around new investment into the UK while the PLP would be split over any arrangement with the nationalists. In fact, I was warning about it on this blog before it was cool.

But, as many have pointed out, it was John Major’s Government in the 1990s that actually did deliver higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem.

Look at the facts. There’s Black Wednesday, when a self-inflicted economic crisis pushed the Bank of England’s interest rates to a crushing 15% in September 1992.

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Six reasons why Labour should rule out an SNP deal

11/03/2015, 02:26:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

There is a rule in electoral pact-making, and pretty much any card game, which is fairly universal: don’t show your hand to the other players.

That is, don’t rule anything in and don’t rule it out. You have nothing to gain (you can fritter away your negotiation leverage when agreeing the pact) and everything to lose, in the event that you find yourself in a different situation from that expected and have to eat your words. Obvious, really. Wait until the moment comes and deal with things when you have all the information.

But it could also be argued that there one sensible exception to that rule: if the mere hint of a pact with another party could be damaging to yours even before the election. Especially when things are balanced on a knife-edge and almost anything could affect the result.

That has never really been the case with the Lib Dems: until 2010 they were a slightly dull, modestly successful and broadly respectable opposition party, whether we liked it or not. Now they are bloodied with the hard work of actual government and potentially facing a big hit at the polls, they are possibly less attractive partners. But neither are they toxic.

The same cannot necessarily be said for some other parties. Cameron would have to tread very carefully indeed in the unhappy event of ending in a coalition with UKIP, unlikely though that might seem – the toxicity of some of its members could sit ill with his (mostly) respectable party.

But worse still is the idea of a partnership between Labour and the SNP. Here’s why.

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