Posts Tagged ‘moderates’

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…)

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Reality check: a winning party needs to win, you know, seats

14/06/2017, 11:21:42 AM

by Rob Marchant

For some MPs and commentators, suddenly everything has changed about Labour’s situation. But what, exactly? Did we win, as Emily Thornberry thought we did? Has Jeremy Corbyn now become the nation’s best choice for prime minister? Is it just “one more heave”?

Hmm. Not really. In fact, dig a bit deeper and we might observe the opposite: that in fact, very little has changed at all.

Yes, Corbyn confounded expectations of the votes he could poll nationally. As did Theresa May. However, the mere fact that his impressive upswing in vote-share did not actually win him the election should give us pause, for three reasons.

One: an increase in vote-share (in this case, the largest since 1945) is, self-evidently, not just down to the party and its leader in a given moment. Logic dictates that it is down to three other things as well: the opposition, the leader and state of the party last time, and the opposition last time.

In this case we are talking about May, a leader almost universally derided at time of writing, and who may yet turn out to be the shortest-serving prime minister not to resign through ill-health in nearly two centuries; Cameron, who was felt by the public not to be a bad leader (at least at the time of the 2015 election) and increased his vote; and Miliband, who brought Labour’s number of parliamentary seats close to its 1980s post-war nadir.

In this context, Corbyn’s achievement looks somewhat less impressive: he has done better, set against the terrible May, than the terrible Miliband did against the half-decent Cameron. A low bar indeed.

Indeed if, instead of looking at the swing, we look at his vote-share compared with that of other Labour leaders (perhaps a better measure), we can see that he is around the middle of the table. The real news is the confounded expectations, not the absolute result.

Two: the maths. There is also one thing which really stands out about the big upswing in vote-share compared with other general elections: Labour’s abject failure in translating it into seats. In fact, if we map swings against seats for elections since 1945, we can see that it is a marked outlier.

Fig. 1: Swing vs. seats since 1950. Source data: http://www.ukpolitical.info/ConvLab.htm

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Labour should unite around the possibilities offered by a Corbyn government

11/06/2017, 08:00:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Jeremy Corbyn has changed politics. Many – not least at Uncut – doubted whether he could. But he has. And it would be churlish to pretend otherwise.

Corbyn has illuminated a pathway to a transformative Labour government and the salvaging of the UK’s relationship with our European neighbours.

This is a future that everyone in Labour should fight for. Chuka Umunna should be congratulated for making himself available to serve on our frontbench, while the unwillingness of Chris Leslie is disappointing.

Much increased turnout among younger voters has produced a general election result broadly in line with those polls that took people at their word on their intention to vote. The youngsters said they would vote, they did, and Corbyn was key to this. If younger people continue to vote in these numbers, future elections will be different contests from previously.

As encouraging as this change is, the big vote among younger people for Labour was not sufficient to prevent a Tory government. At least for now.

Where coalition with the Liberal Democrats helped modernise the Tory brand, and provided a solid parliamentary majority, working with the DUP – pre-modern in their attitude to women and climate change – deepens the re-toxification of the already UKIP-esque Tories, in exchange for a puny majority.

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I was wrong about Corbyn. Now, after this result, Labour has the space to make the case for investment

09/06/2017, 10:48:19 PM

by Ian Moss

I was wrong, Corbyn did not drive Labour off a cliff, he won seats and he dramatically increased vote share. He comes out of the election stronger but that is partially because expectations were so low. His leadership was a galvanising force for youth and his language a refreshing change from wooden managerialism; authentic and without the timid terror of trained lines to take.

The challenge is still enormous for Labour. It has lost three elections in a row and is in no better a position, in seats, than it was in 2010 and the Conservatives no worse. Yes vote share has surged, but so too has it for the Conservative party. It’s possible we are back to the two player game for good. However, for the first time in a decade there is an obvious path, one which can galvanise Labour’s coalition of support and put an offer to the country that can bind older voters with the young.

Labour’s moderates can start to be much more confident on the economy and on public spending and move on from the paralysis they have faced since 1992 on it. The Conservatives have absented themselves from the issue of fiscal credibility, as the deficit still looms large, and the public are beginning to see the cracks in their local services. Labour can make the case for investment again, in return for modest increases on the taxes of those that can bear it most and a continuing commitment on efficiency and reform.

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A coherent centrist response to Brexit means resisting economic nationalism – in all its forms

17/05/2017, 10:14:43 PM

by Mark Stockwell

One of the many, many issues faced by Labour’s moderate wing at the moment is that they are – perfectly understandably – so preoccupied with the short-term problem of saving their seats in June, and the medium-term one of how to oust Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk afterwards, that the longer-term challenge of putting together a viable centre-left platform is going largely unaddressed.

Those who favour trying to resuscitate a seemingly moribund party have directed longing glances across the Atlantic to Justin Trudeau’s Canada. Those who are coming to the painful conclusion that a breakaway may be necessary – with a view to triggering a full-on realignment – are casting admiring looks across the Channel to the newly-inaugurated French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his fledgling ‘la République en Marche’ movement.

But more immediate concerns have left little time or energy for thinking through what political centrists will need to do to provide an effective opposition – and, all in good time, an alternative government – to an emboldened Theresa May with a large majority at her back.

The Prime Minister is essentially campaigning for a free hand to negotiate Brexit, in the hope that increased parliamentary numbers will strengthen her negotiating hand, not just with the EU but also with potential internal critics.

She has also repeatedly made it clear, however, that she is looking to take both her party and the country in a different direction. Brexit is only a part of this story: a necessary but not sufficient condition for what amounts to a rethink of the Conservatives’ view of the role of the state in the economy. The May team’s conversion to the cause of a cap on domestic fuel bills is a recent, high-profile example of this, and recent pronouncements on ‘workers’ rights’ are also part-and-parcel of this repositioning, but the change in approach goes much deeper. It amounts to a rejection of the laissez-faire approach that has characterised Conservative industrial policy for 30 years and more (with the exception of Lord Heseltine, now paradoxically estranged from the higher echelons of the party).

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The problem with the Labour Left…

06/03/2017, 11:03:48 PM

In the second of a pair of short essays on the state of the party, Kevin Meagher casts a critical eye over the state of the Labour Left.

When did unpopularity and electoral failure become synonymous with the Left? On the face of it, seeking to level-up the world for those who get a rough deal should commend left-wing solutions to millions – tens of millions – of voters who, well, get a rough deal.

So why does it never turn out that way? Why is Labour languishing at 24 per cent in the polls? Why is Jeremy Corbyn less popular than the Black Death? Or Leicester City’s board?

The Labour Leader’s relaunch, much talked about at the start of the year, came to a juddering halt in the cold, wintry lanes of Copeland last week. A Labour seat, made up of workers in a heavily-unionised industry, left Jeremy Corbyn high and dry.

Of course, it was the nuclear industry, so it didn’t help that he’s implacably opposed to how so many of the voters there make a living.

Ah, but what about Stoke? Labour held on there.

Fair enough, Labour is still capable of holding some of its safest seats. But what Stoke showed is that White working-class voters in ‘drive past’ towns are loyal in their bones and will not readily abandon Labour, despite the endless provocations from the liberal-left that they are all ignorant, Brexit-voting racists.

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Uncut predictions for 2017: More moderates will rejoin the frontbench

02/01/2017, 12:03:55 PM

They may not agree about the destination, but more Labour moderates will return to frontbench duties in 2017.

They will come to two inescapable conclusions.

The first is that its essential Labour improves its woeful performance in holding the government to account. The party – actually, the country – deserves a functioning Opposition. The current offering is decidedly Sunday League.

The second conclusion is more personal.

Moderate figures will eventually realise that only someone who has shown they can work with the grain of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will succeed him, probably after the party loses the 2020 general election, or perhaps earlier Corbyn if calls it a day before then.

They will look at Keir Starmer and see him edging ahead of the pack, using his role shadowing David Davis to good but not spectacular effect (imagine what Robin Cook would do with the job…)

How much longer can figures like Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt afford sit on the sidelines and allow their leadership chances to wither?

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MPs organising to block a 2017 Brexit election and imprison Theresa May in Number 10

19/10/2016, 11:40:42 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Over the last few days the true weakness of Theresa May’s parliamentary position has been revealed.

First there was the climbdown on Brexit scrutiny and now the Heathrow delay.

May’s small majority means that less than ten disgruntled Tory backbenchers can confidently block her plans. Lest we forget, 35 sacked Cameroon ministers sit on the backbenches courtesy of her first act as PM.

Last Wednesday, following the Brexit U-turn, Uncut highlighted the increased likelihood of an early election for May to boost her majority so that she could pass her programme. On Saturday, Sam Coates in the Times similarly wrote of the rising prospect of an early poll.

Now Uncut hears that MPs from across the main parties have started to informally discuss how to prevent the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) being circumvented to trigger an early election.

What unites these MPs is a desire to stop hard Brexit which would be enabled by the inevitable, sizeable Tory majority following any contest between May’s Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

If Theresa May wanted to call an early election she has two options: repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act and re-institute the previous arrangements or call a vote of no confidence and whip the government to be defeated, paving the way for an election (there is another option – under the FTPA, a two-thirds majority in parliament can trigger an election but that requires both Conservative and Labour support which is fanciful)

The first option is virtually impossible because of the parliamentary weakness which makes an early election desirable for Theresa May.

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Time for the PLP to regroup: once more, with feeling

13/10/2016, 06:24:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

While the formation of a government remains a rank impossibility for a Corbyn leadership, there is now no question about his grip on the party. Indeed, with the removal of Jonathan Ashworth from the NEC, seemingly in exchange for remaining in the shadow cabinet, Corbyn supporters now also rule the NEC. The circle is complete and the rulebook is no longer safe.

Self-evidently, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP – that is, nearly all of it – have not been able to really make any movement while the leadership election and the reshuffle have been going on, they now can. Their valiant attempt to involve themselves in the selection of the shadow cabinet has, predictably, been paid only lip-service by the leadership. Corbyn will choose, full stop.

And, with a few notable exceptions, what a shambles of a Shadow Cabinet it has become. Unambiguous unilateralists at foreign affairs and defence, something virtually guaranteed to provide a general election defeat on its own. Another shadow cabinet minister who has apparently managed to fritter away a compensation fund for sick miners on his salary and expenses. And someone at home affairs, in charge of the delicate area of race relations, among other things, known for her quote “white people love playing divide and rule”.

On the other hand, given that the “chicken run” of Labour MPs back to the shadow cabinet, feared by moderates, has patently failed to happen (John Healey, Nick Brown and Jonathan Ashworth being the only important moderate names to come back), it leaves the PLP in a relatively strong position with regard to negotiating. It is still unprecedented for a party leader to lack the support of approximately four-fifths of his MPs, and that is important. This is not 1981 and the “gang” comprises a great deal more than four, so Foot-era comparisons are really redundant.

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Avoiding a Labour split is possible but it will take strong stomachs

01/10/2016, 09:25:51 PM

by Rob Marchant

Last Saturday’s Corbyn win was expected. However, most politicians and commentators were waiting to see how convincing it was. The fact that Corbyn is still party leader is still clearly disastrous for Labour’s electoral chances and for its future in general.

On the positive side, while it was a marginally better result for Corbyn, it was not a statistically significant difference. It is essentially the same result as last year, implying that there is not necessarily a growing level of support for him within the party. Bearing in mind some of the worst Corbyn news – such as the Dispatches and Panorama programmes on Labour – did not even surface until most people had already voted, it is highly possible that some Corbyn voters might have voted differently, even now.

In very simple terms, the position is fairly stable. Three-fifths of the membership, plus those others with voting rights, who turned out, are pro-Corbyn. Two-fifths are against.

In short, it is perfectly possible that this level will end up being the high-water mark of his popularity, as the grim reality of four years more of fantasy politics sinks in.

There are some crumbs of comfort that moderates can take from this.

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