Posts Tagged ‘moderates’

There is a way back for Labour

28/09/2016, 08:55:35 PM

by Greig Baker

Jeremy Corbyn’s politics were writ large in his conference speech. He called for unity, while he brandished a “new era”. He hoped for “economic success”, while promising more taxes, spending and borrowing. And he called the boundary reforms “nothing more than a cynical attempt to gerrymander the next election”, where they could be Labour’s last hope.

Is Labour in a hideous mess? Yes. Is Corbyn ascendant? Yes. Is it time to give up? No. Sensible people in the Labour party need to do three things: embrace boundary changes; take the argument to Corbyn; and pick a champion.

Bear with me – here’s my thinking on each one:

First, boundary changes. One of the few things that currently unites Labour is its consensus on opposing the reforms. This is wrong-headed and says more about the party’s own malaise than the iniquities of the system. Alarm bells should ring everywhere when politicians support a boundary review “in principle” but oppose it in practise. The longer reform is postponed, the more painful it will be – like any infection, rotten boroughs won’t get easier to heal over time.

You know Labour is down on its luck when it complains about “the right wing press”, just like you know the Tories are in trouble when they moan about “BBC bias”. In the same way, the opposition to boundary reform smacks of reaching for an excuse ahead of the next General Election, instead of doing the hard work to make an attractive offer to the voting public. Losers complain about the rules. Winners focus on the job at hand.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

With Corbyn as the Labour frontman it’s time for a new centre left band

27/09/2016, 07:39:24 PM

by John Slinger

At Labour’s ruling body last week, deputy leader Tom Watson described his reforms as “putting the band back together”. As someone who’s played in rock bands for as long as I’ve been a Labour member, I know that there comes a time when most bands split, usually over ‘artistic differences’ or arguments how to get a record deal. For me that time has come.

Having worked with Jeremy Corbyn in parliament in 2003, I know he’s a principled and decent man. But he’s the wrong frontman for a band that at its best is capable appealing to the masses, Oasis or Blur-style (I’m showing my age). Like all bands with ropey songs but genuinely held delusions of grandeur, Jeremy and his managers have found a niche market of devoted fans who cheer him to the rafters as a rock god. Everyone knows the euphoric feeling of seeing ‘your’ band, singing songs for you amidst a crowd of like-minded people. After the gig you return to the real world and discover that not everyone shares your musical tastes. I suspect that Labour members will experience this when they knock on the doors of ordinary voters in the coming weeks.

This isn’t about bands or even principally the future of the once great Labour Party, but about British democracy. It’s vital that any government faces a strong opposition, capable of holding them to account and which is a credible alternative for the time when the people choose to kick out the incumbents. The public doesn’t regard Corbyn and his underperforming front bench as anywhere near up to the task. They hear about the Corbyn-supporting Momentum organisation and they remember how Militant infiltrated Labour in the 80s.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Patience and clarity of purpose. That’s what Labour’s moderates need now

24/09/2016, 05:44:50 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been a difficult day for Labour moderates. The numbers aren’t great– an increased majority for Jeremy Corbyn with a plurality of in each section of the selectorate backing Labour’s incumbent. This is clearly a decent result for Corbyn.

Two challenges must be faced, one in the short term, one in the medium term.

The immediate question will be whether moderate MPs return to serve on the front bench.

There are currently over 60 vacancies and a real danger that Labour will be stripped of the title of official opposition if these roles remain unfilled through to Christmas.

However, things have been said which can’t be unsaid. It’s not credible for people who have been decrying Jeremy Corbyn as a catastrophe for the past months to suddenly say, with straight faces, that this man should be prime minister.

Even if tongues could be temporarily held, the rancour would soon re-emerge in the internal struggles that are imminent as the hard left try to rewrite the party rule-book and tighten their grip on the machine.

The answer for moderate MPs is to make Labour’s Swiss cheese front bench Jeremy Corbyn’s problem.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Religious moderates license extremists

17/03/2016, 10:44:15 PM

by Ian McKenzie

Once when I was very young, my father was making me porridge. Seeing him raise a salt cellar I asked for sugar instead. “You’ll have salt”, he insisted, “or I’ll tell your grandfather”.

My grandfather was a Scot and, as any first-year student of philosophy knows, no true Scotsman would have sugar on his porridge. “I want sugar”, I countered, “or I’ll tell my grandfather you drink gin and tonic”. I ate sweetened porridge that day and have done so ever since, although now, in my 50s, I use slightly healthier honey in place of refined sugar. I also drink the occasional gin and tonic.

“No true Scotsman” is known as an informal fallacy, an attempted sidestep around the inconvenient fatal arguments of others. Religious moderates of all denominations use it to separate themselves from those at the other end of their religious spectrum who commit unspeakable acts of inhumanity in the name of that religion. (Yeah, yeah, atheists commit mass murder too, but they don’t do it in the name of atheism).

Many use the “No True Scotsman” defence when Islamists commit mass murder. Thus: no true believer would murder 2,000 men, women and children in cold blood by flying a plane into a skyscraper. No one properly religious would gun down a room full of cartoonists, or a theatre full of people or hack off someone’s head for the cameras, and do so in the name of god. Why not? Well, no true believer would do such a thing because Islam is a peaceful religion. See how it works?

Tony Blair says, “acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.” After the Charlie Hebdo murders, President Hollande of France said, “those who committed these terrorist acts, those terrorists, those fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.” This side step has become the obligatory shuffle of politicians and most commentators, lest the religious be offended. The proposition froths down my Twitter feed after every fresh religiously motivated terrorist outrage. It may froth, but it’s a falsehood.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Three reasons for Labour moderates to stay and be confident the fever will eventually break

14/01/2016, 07:44:33 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Optimism has been in short supply for Labour moderates. Ed Miliband, general election disaster and now Jeremy Corbyn. What a time.

But in the gloom of Labour’s long winter, all is not lost.

It will take patience. Years, maybe. But as George RR Martin might not say, summer is coming. Perhaps at the same pace as Martin’s next novel, but nevertheless, come it will.

Here are three reasons to be confident that these hard times will pass.

1. The soft left will switch

A common thread in the interviews and analysis of Labour’s massive influx of new members and supporters is that while the overwhelming majority supported Corbyn, they are not from the hard left.

Over the past three months I’ve spoken to CLP officers from over 30 constituencies on the make-up of the new membership and the response of Jane Middleton, chair of Bath CLP, in the Guardian’s recent survey of 100 CLPs exemplified what I’ve been hearing,

“They are mainly Corbyn supporters, some of them enthusiastic Corbyn supporters, who joined specifically because of him…A number of them had left during the Blair years and the Iraq war. What they are not is members of the far left. These people are in no way like the radicals of the 70s and 80s.”

This is the soft left. The Labour party is currently softer and lefter than it’s ever been.

The soft left view at the leadership election can be characterised as apathy at Yvette’s establishment, Brownite grind; an allergic reaction to Liz’s late-Blair confrontation and scepticism at Andy’s reprise of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

In the absence of an alternative, Labour’s largest grouping opted for the only choice before them not to have demonstrably failed in the past twenty years – Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left dreaming.

The trouble with dreams is that they rarely come true and sometimes turn into nightmares.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

For Ed Miliband, One Nation was a soundbite. For moderates it should be the rallying cry to take on Corbyn

11/01/2016, 05:30:25 PM

by Tom Clements

There is much to regret about the leadership of Ed Miliband; not least the election defeat and changes to leadership election rules that have led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But for me, it’s the abandonment of One Nation Labour. At the time, I thought that this was the game changer. A genuinely inclusive and unifying offer with which we could change the country for the better.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t a genuine offer or an ideological framework. It was a cheap parlour trick. One that was designed to win a few headlines and embarrass the Prime Minister by taking a conservative idea and claiming it for Labour. That’s what makes me angry about Ed’s leadership.

It could’ve been so bold.

Instead, the idea fell up against the ‘predistributing’ instincts of Miliband. The instinct that the rich weren’t really part of Miliband’s One Nation. They were just there to foot the bill. He fell into that worst Labour tradition of implying that being rich and wanting to be rich was something to resent.

Not that there is anything wrong with the rich paying their fair share. Far from it, it’s the only way that a society can function in harmony. As the brilliant Senator Warren argues “no one gets rich on their own” and it’s there duty to give “a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along”. And that is right.

And it wasn’t just about the rich.

He forgot about the traditional working class; those who UKIP are trying to woo. We treated their concerns about immigration and benefits with suspicion not understanding. Suspicion that meant that the white van in Rochester was only the tip of the iceberg. Suspicion that meant they stayed at home or put their cross in a different box on election day.

And this is what cost us the election.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

This is now Corbyn’s front bench. Good. He’ll be solely responsible for the failure to come

06/01/2016, 12:43:17 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This is now Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench. Hilary Benn might still be in post but he’s been politically emasculated and the sackings of Michael Dugher and McFadden along with the demotion of Maria Eagle have delivered a clear message: deviate from leadership orthodoxy and you’ll be next against the wall.

We won’t be hearing any more from Hilary Benn on Syria. Little from anyone in the shadow cabinet on Trident. Talented shadow ministers such as Kevan Jones, Jonathan Reynolds and Stephen Doughty have already walked the plank. The Corbyn line has become the Labour line.

Good.

Clarity was needed. Since Labour’s leader was elected, large numbers of moderate Labour party members have been engaged in a collective act of self-delusion: that Labour can present itself as a centrist, electable party with Corbyn at the helm.

The attempts of several members of the shadow cabinet to rein in Corbyn’s exigencies on foreign affairs, defence and the economy are laudable but futile and ultimately counter-productive.

The Syria vote was regarded by moderates within the PLP as some sort of triumph but while parliament ultimately voted the right way to take on the fascists in Isis, it was a political disaster for Labour.

Here was the main opposition party so riven that it had to opt for a free vote on the most important decision a country faces – whether or not to go to war. What does that say to the voters of Britain about Labour’s capacity to lead?

Trident has been another red line for many front-benchers but in the end it’s another pointless fight.

Moderate PLP-ers can talk about Labour’s policy being settled in favour of Trident at conference last year, but what will happen after conference this year, or next?

Within this parliament, party policy will be changed at conference to oppose Trident.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour centrists should not abandon ship on account of the captain

20/11/2015, 06:23:42 PM

by Gareth Williams

Probably the greatest hour in modern television history is the magisterial finale of the second season of the West Wing: Two Cathedrals. In it, President Bartlet, facing a tough reelection challenge and recently exposed as suffering from MS, is chastised by the figure of his deceased secretary over his indecision regarding whether or not to seek a second term. She issues him with the rhetorical ultimatum “if you don’t want to run again, I respect that. But if you don’t run cause you think it will be too hard or you think you’re going to lose…I don’t even want to know you”.

Harsh words and different stakes, perhaps, but Labour’s centrists face a similar quandary.

Is it worth fighting for a party which seems uninterested in fighting for itself? Should they go out on the doorstep for leaders who, themselves, do not see the merit in gaining office? Is there any point in putting up with voluminous and vituperative abuse day in day out?

My answer to all three would be a considered “yes”.

I did not support Jeremy Corbyn. I still don’t. I think many of his policies are both morally bankrupt and strategically nonsensical  – in addition to being electorally fatal. They will, if permitted, lead us to corporeal irrelevance and political extinction. I am not alone. While hard figures remain hard to come by, anecdotal estimates of membership outflows put the figure at 25 members leaving for every 75 who join.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour moderates should stop worrying about strategy, get off their arses and start organising

11/11/2015, 11:57:30 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s easy to read the politics pages of national newspapers and think that the real problem of Labour’s moderates is that they’ve got to get a shiny new strategy together that is neither New Labour nor Miliband Labour, but something which will get Labour back in power. That, in short, it doesn’t really know what it stands for and therefore this needs to be its first priority.

While it is a problem, it is certainly not the immediate problem.

The reason for this is simple: the media generally sees politics through the prism of Westminster, not just Parliament but the plethora of think-tanks and lobbying firms that hang around it. Policy and political strategy are the glue which holds that world together, without it we are nothing.

But Labour, we should take pains to remember is first and foremost a party (and a movement, although with the current radical state of the leadership of most major unions, that may not be of much immediate help to the moderates right now). It is a living, breathing thing, made up of hundreds of thousands of activists. Right now, it’s all over the shop.

Which is more important during opposition, particularly during a crucial battle for the soul of the party?

It’s the party, stupid. And that means organisation on the ground, in the CLPs and Labour group meetings across the country.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon