Posts Tagged ‘Rob Marchant’

Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

19/04/2017, 10:11:48 PM

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks. (more…)

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Labour and anti-Semitism: can’t get the stink off

05/04/2017, 10:57:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

“Can’t get the stink off/He’s been hanging round for days”, wrote Thom Yorke in 1993. “You do it to yourself, you do/And that’s what really hurts”. Lines that could have been written for Labour’s troubled, Stockholm-syndrome relationship with one man. A man who is still hanging round a party which somehow cannot seem to shake him off, either.

Last Tuesday, Ken Livingstone was, essentially, let off. A man who for years has ridden perilously close to anti-Semitism in his behaviour – we shouldn’t forget the “concentration camp guard” incident with a Jewish journalist in 2005 – finally crossed the line a year ago when he decided to argue that Hitler was a Zionist.

It is difficult to overstate how offensive both remarks was to Jews.

First, the obvious: mentioning Hitler in this context immediately spells “Holocaust” in the minds of most Jews.

Second, because the term “Zionist” has lately become a term of abuse on the left and code for “Jew”, rather than its literal meaning of someone who believes in Israel’s right to exist (hardly a high bar for most people – if you don’t believe it has a right to exist, you must believe it should be destroyed and, presumably, all its inhabitants either killed or deported).

Third, because it is grossly insulting to pretend that Israel, for all its many faults, is directly comparable to a regime which systematically massacred a whole people – themselves – on grounds of their race.

(more…)

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The “soft coup” might be on, but it surely ain’t from the right

24/03/2017, 06:41:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

For weeks now, the party’s left has been whispering about a “soft coup”. Ah, the old Soviet tactic, much beloved of today’s Vladimir Putin: confuse things by accusing your opponents of whatever you are up to yourself. Oh, and make them feel under attack, so they close ranks.

There is a coup going on, but it is clearly not the evil Blairites named by John McDonnell.

As revelations about Jon Lansman’s declared strategy for Momentum as an alternative power base to the party itself became public, it seems Monday night’s PLP meeting was converted into something of a showdown.

Corbyn jeered. Watson cheered. The PLP, depressed and muted for months since Corbyn’s re-election, suddenly found its voice.

And it was that same Tom Watson leading the charge – a loyalist clearly adept at unearthing the truth but in this case apparently with a couple of years’ time-lag.

(We should probably gloss over his part the plot to bring down Tony Blair; or the fact that, in the Falkirk selections debacle – in which his own parliamentary office was directly implicated, along with Unite, let us not forget – he helped lead to the change in the electoral system which let in Corbyn in the first place.)

And the revelation was that – hold the front page! – Momentum is actually organising for the takeover/destruction of the Labour Party (delete as applicable), just like Militant before it, in conjunction with that same Unite union. Where were you in 2015, Tom, when it was obvious to everyone? Or in 2013, when Unite were stitching up selections for the hard left?

(more…)

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John McDonnell has finally lost it

06/03/2017, 12:49:39 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was a cold February morning, when the Shadow Chancellor finally gave in to his demons and went “full conspiracy theory”.

To be fair, he probably didn’t feel too well. Labour had just suffered a “historic” by-election defeat at the hands of the governing party, something unheard of in thirty-five years and with the biggest pro-incumbent vote increase in a half-century.

It all had to be, of course, the fault of the Blairites. Particularly the man himself for his recent intervention over Brexit, who will shortly celebrate a decade of, er, not being the leader of his party. Not to mention Lord Mandelson, the incarnation of all evil to a Corbynite.

As John Rogan pointed out last August, it’s not as if McDonnell holds views consistent with a life at the top table in a major political party. When the IRA came to the negotiating table, he said they could only settle for a united Ireland. The organisation he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee, in 2012 called for the release of all Irish “political prisoners”, including those who had murdered that same year, 14 years after the peace agreement.

In other words, McDonnell and his colleagues set themselves in a position considerably more uncompromising than Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, by then getting on with the substantially more serious business of governing Northern Ireland.

(more…)

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Ian Lavery should not be Labour’s Elections Coordinator. Or anything coordinator, with his toxic past

17/02/2017, 02:00:50 PM

by Rob Marchant

Since Jeremy Corybn’s rise to prominence, there has been a seemingly never-ending succession of skeletons pulled out of the closets of senior Corbynites, to the delight of Tory press officers everywhere.

There was the relationships of Corbyn himself with Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, and with Hamas terrorists; John McDonnell’s outspoken pro-IRA stance; the support of a motion supporting denial of the Kosovo genocide by both; the suspension and reinstatement of MP Naz Shah over anti-Semitic remarks; the suspension of Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker over the same; the well-known Stalin apologism of Corbynites Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray; and so on. Doubtless the Tories are currently holding fire on a number of the more juicy ones, keeping their powder dry for 2020.

But the connecting thread between all these embarrassments has been clear: no matter how senseless or unsavoury, they have all been essentially connected, in the minds of the perpetrators at least, to political positions.

For example, the connections with anti-Semites are always justified on the grounds that the people in question are merely anti-Israel (of course!) The IRA connection? Because they were romantic freedom-fighters, naturally, who happened to kill people. And the Stalin connection because, well, Communism wasn’t all bad, was it? However dire the story, there was always some kind of contorted political justification which allowed the people involved to continue to look at themselves in the mirror the following morning.

In contrast, this was clearly not the case with Ian Lavery. Lavery is Corbyn’s new Elections Coordinator and the man in charge of every set of elections, we presume, from now until Labour is inevitably decimated in 2020.

Until now he has been in relatively low-profile roles, such as Shadow Minister for Trade Unions and Civil Society, and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office. No, with Lavery the story was not political: it was about his questionable behaviour on a matter of simple personal ethics.

(more…)

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Theresa May’s need to cosy up to Trump says everything about Britain’s weakness

02/02/2017, 09:33:25 PM

by Rob Marchant

It seems that nothing can really surprise us any more. Just as Jeremy Corbyn has, as the FT’s Janan Ganesh put it so beautifully last year, been “exactly as bad as he was always going to be”, Trump has already dulled our senses by doing, well, exactly what he said he was going to. Many did not really believe him; they said he should not be “taken literally”. Turns out they were wrong.

A ban on Muslim refugees, temporary though it is in theory, has actually been enacted. On Holocaust Memorial Day. Trump has demonstrated that, if you really don’t care that much what people think of you, there will always be some who will love you precisely because of that.

People are already normalising Trump, simply because he is president of the world’s most powerful nation. But that does not make his actions normal, in any historical sense, and we would all do well to remember that.

Presidents do not lie casually, as a rule. Neither do they enact overtly racist (or, to be more accurate, sectarian) executive orders. Since the 1930s, one cannot remember a time when it was considered perfectly ok to target large and vulnerable groups of people, and bar them from entering the country on grounds of religion or country of origin. And that time didn’t end well.

It is up to liberals to find a way out of this which does not reinforce Trump. Playing the victim is the favourite trick of the populist politician, and the outrage of liberals is easy to mock. But that does not mean, either, that we should shut up: that way lies madness. The fact that someone has been democratically elected does not mean that we have to just accept every idiotic thing they might do.

At the same time, opinions have differed on Theresa May’s mercy dash across the Atlantic. This, too, has been normalised by some commentators as a normal US-UK meeting. It should not be, for some glaringly obvious reasons.

(more…)

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The by-election boom is a flashing red light for Labour

19/01/2017, 05:55:20 PM

by Rob Marchant

Coming hot on the heels of that of Jamie Reed, the resignation of Tristram Hunt may not be a huge surprise to many. A decent and politically-sensible member of the House, if not the obvious next leader he was sometimes billed as. In the end, it is perhaps inevitably those who least see politics as their true vocation, who soonest see more attractive things on the horizon.

But there’s an important take-away here. It’s simply not normal to have three MPs resign their seats in a month. Unless they are pushed, seriously ill or are going for another political job*, it’s really, really unusual for them to “just resign”.

The fact that three by-elections have been caused in the last month through MPs “just resigning” – two Labour, one Tory – is not just unusual, it’s unprecedented in recent political history.

First let’s deal with the Tory MP, Stephen Philips. His party is certainly in turmoil; over Europe, as it always is. The marginalisation of pro-Europe Tory MPs within their own party is a phenomenon which has gradually been developing over more than twenty years, since the days of John Major’s Cabinet “bastards” and before.

Even so: Brexit, let’s face it, is not exactly politics as usual. Philips was a man at his limit: a man who, as the saying goes, was mad as hell and decided he wasn’t going to take it any more. But it took a tumultuous, once-in-a-generation event to make it happen, and the current state of Labour makes Tory frictions look like a Conservative garden fête.

No, checking back through by-elections since Labour left office in 2010, there are very few and largely exceptional instances. David Miliband was a pretty unusual situation (how many political fratricides can most of us remember?). David Cameron had to resign as PM. And, well, La Mensch is La Mensch. And in the previous two parliaments there were zero. Nada. Zip.

(more…)

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With Trump in the White House, 2017 will be the year of living dangerously

04/01/2017, 10:27:31 PM

by Rob Marchant

It seems like a statement of the blindingly obvious but, during the current calm of the Obama fin-de-siècle, and before the storm which the Trump inauguration is likely to kick off, it seems like America has almost forgotten itself. The impact of the outsider’s November victory has temporarily become 2016’s giant elephant in the room. But the impacts may well resonate for years.

Those who think Trump is a Good Thing remain delighted, revelling in their apparent vindication, although perhaps slightly nervous at a victory they did not expect. On the other hand, the majority of voting Americans – who did not want Trump, and whose number included many registered Republicans – almost seem to have become numb to what is about to happen. They should not.

As New Republic’s senior editor Jeet Heer put it,


In many ways, this numbness, this complacency is something that Democrats have brought upon themselves. Not, to be clear, because they fielded the wrong candidate: it has now become a particularly dumb conventional wisdom on the left that the Dems should blame themselves, as if somehow the primary process could be manipulated by the DNC to get the candidate they wanted, and they chose Clinton.

(more…)

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Uncut’s festive top ten for 2016

27/12/2016, 12:16:55 PM

by Rob Marchant

In perhaps an early premonition of the 2020 election result, Labour Uncut regrets to announce that the truly terrible ‘JC for PM for me’ by Robb Johnson and the Corbynistas has not ultimately made the Xmas no. 1, nor apparently the top 100. However, we thought it fitting to note that there are still a number of other Christmas songs made popular over the years which perhaps fit even better with the party’s current zeitgeist. Here are our favourites for Labour’s top ten this Xmas:

  1. Mistletoe and Whine – The Corbynites
    Hot into the Top Ten, this festive tune respects the time-honoured, hard-left concept that it’s always someone else’s fault.
  1. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (But Not Any That Involve Russia, They’re Ok) – The Stop The War Singers
    At number 9, the Stoppers continue their age-old formula of nice-sounding tunes with a side order of staggering hypocrisy.
  1. S**te Christmas – The Labour Pollsters
    At number 8, fresh from their Xmas party, the party’s polling gurus reportedly recorded this in a Westminster pub: a poignant, whisky-fuelled counsel of despair at the party’s current polling being regularly in the twenties. And polling has also proved a popular theme, in at number 7:
  1. December Will Be Tragic (In The Polls) Again – Kate Bush
    Oh, why doesn’t she just go and join the Tories!
  1. Santa Corbs Is Coming To Town – The Cultists
    Yes, he’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s going to give everyone exactly what they want from a Christmas list of ten impossibly vaguely-described presents known as “pledges”. Read ‘em and weep.
  1. Stop The Cavalry (And Start The Hand-Wringing) – Syria’s Fair-Weather Friends
    In this season of goodwill to all, a wonderful, irony-free message of “if only something could be done” about the world’s biggest refugee crisis, recorded by the very people whose actions have helped make that impossible.
  1. I Believe In Father Xmas (In Fact, He’s My Party Leader) – The Momentum Chorus
    And at number 4, our friends at Momentum really know how to do suspension of disbelief, don’t they? Whether it’s denial of entryism, denial of anti-Semitism or the impossibility of winning a general election from here. Literally blinding.
  1. Fairytale of New Economics – The Rogues ft Johnny McDonnell
    A beautiful Christmas duet about how Labour’s pledges will be paid for by the universal money tree. Gut-wrenching.
  1. Not Tonight Santa – The Great British Public
    At number 2: fast-forward to 2020, and the public delivers its verdict on the man with the beard.
  1. Do They Know It’s Not 1984? – The Moderates
    And finally, the Christmas number 1! In an echo of the celebrated single by Band Aid, a number of well-known political faces get together for another charity single, this time to try and save the life of a party in danger of vote-starvation this Christmas. Heart-rending.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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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.

(more…)

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