Posts Tagged ‘Rob Marchant’

The main party leaders are useless. We need a parliamentary League of Grown-Ups to tell the British public the truth on Brexit

16/01/2019, 10:28:02 PM

by Rob Marchant

What happens if normal party politics has broken down? One suspects this is the question most commentators have been asking themselves for the last several months, consciously or unwittingly, as British politics lurches from one unprecedented situation to another.

If we needed proof, it is surely in the bizarre events of the last couple of days.

First, Theresa May suffers the biggest parliamentary defeat since the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, on the deal that she has diligently shepherded through Parliament.

Then, miraculously, she survives a vote of No Confidence the following day, in a way that surely no other Prime Minister has ever done after even much lesser defeats.

Apart from the unlikeliness of these record-breaking feats being what any PM would like to be remembered for, this is clearly not parliamentary business as usual.

Most disastrously, we now have the leaders of both major parties entrenched in fantasy positions: May’s, that some kind of Brexit deal not unlike hers can still be salvaged, to save us from No Deal, and Corbyn’s that we can still negotiate something better with the EU in time for tea.

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As the country contemplates “to leave or not to leave”, Corbyn’s position may just become an irrelevance

27/12/2018, 10:38:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

December has been a mad, rollercoaster month for British politics. The first half brought a good couple of weeks for Remainers. There were the three Commons defeats for May; and then the government’s own legal advice was finally published, which said that the Irish border question is essentially insoluble within any kind of Brexit. I mean, who knew?

And then there was the European Court of Justice ruling, saying that Article 50 was unilaterally cancellable by Britain. This means, as John Rentoul noted, a referendum is now more likely.

Then the vote on May’s deal was postponed and the PM herself survived a no-confidence vote from her Tory party colleagues. Though it was painted as bad news for her by the media, it also weakened the Moggite fringe on the right of her party, who underestimated her support and were made to look silly. It also still means she is not leaving No. 10 any time soon, not at least without a general election – which now looks unlikely after Corbyn’s crying off from a parliamentary no-confidence vote, an altogether different level of bad.

It is hard not to see all this as something of a victory for Remainers and moderate Leavers. But where does it leave us?

If there is a People’s Vote, the key thing, as always with referenda, is the question.

May has made it clear that there are three options: Remain, Chequers and No Deal. But Many commentators seem to miss the fact that a three-way referendum would be highly unlikely to be practical: it would both lack legitimacy and further run the risk that the public didn’t actually get what it wanted – and everyone would be unhappy. No, a referendum must surely have two clear options and so one must be taken off the table. But which?

  1. Remain vs Chequers: Remain wins, as YouGov’s polling shows.
  2. No Deal vs Chequers: unlikely to happen. A People’s Vote can only really become a reality if the pendulum has swung towards Remain – that is, if the government suffers public pressure to do so.
  3. Remain vs No Deal: if a parliamentary vote happens first, Chequers loses and there is a last-minute swing to Remain, it could be that this becomes the vote. In the end, no-one knows what would happen, because it is not the same as the hypothetical vote polled for here in a three-way poll. Removal of one option would probably affect the other two. Even then, Leave vs. Remain is still roughly 50-50, as it was back in 2016. One can’t help feeling that, if No Deal were the only option, some Leavers would back away and it only takes a few per cent to swing things for Remain.

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A glimmer of sunlight for Britain and for Labour

27/11/2018, 07:30:38 AM

by Rob Marchant

The first thing to observe about the current political situation in Britain is that it is incredibly difficult to predict. At every point of the mathematical decision tree, there are unknowns and strange distortions (more of that later).

So the starting point for us, like Sophocles, is this: the only thing we know is that we know nothing. And the one thing which is usually true about politics is when there is an “everyone knows that…” conventional wisdom, it is more often than not completely wrong. Whoever would have predicted the success of Donald Trump? Or John Major, or Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter?

That said, if we look incrementally at what has changed in the last ten days, it would seem that Britain, and Labour, are both in a slightly better place.

First, Britain: whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, unless you are frothing at the mouth, you cannot be looking at a no-deal Brexit as an attractive outcome for the country.

Therefore, the fact that Theresa May has finally, two years into her premiership, dared to put “no Brexit” back on the table, augurs well for moderates in both camps.

If Chequers succeeds, which looks increasingly unlikely (both from the UK side and taking into account the difficulty of ratification across each of 27 countries, such as Spain and Ireland), at least Britain has a “least worst” route to Brexit which will cause only modest harm to the economy.

Now let us look at what happens if Chequers fails.

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The tragi-comic end of Wreathgate is a timely reminder of how far British politics has fallen

01/11/2018, 08:23:23 AM

by Rob Marchant

You will recall how, a few months ago, a certain party leader furiously denied, then in the end implicitly accepted, that he laid a wreath at the grave of Palestinian terrorists: essentially in the face of overwhelming evidence that he did just that.

Thanks to the painstaking work of some ordinary folk, as well as journalists, piecing together maps and photographs from the event, it was made clear that the route he took through the cemetery would have made any other explanation untenable.

For many of us, this was a watershed moment. We knew he had a long history of hanging out with dubious people and supporting unpleasant causes, but we wanted to believe there was still a chance that he was merely naïve and occasionally mendacious, rather than a serial liar. This shattered that possibility.

Through five years of Miliband’s leadership, Uncut criticised him, often heavily. We praised him, too, when he got things right. But we never called him a liar, because he was not one. Corbyn is not in the same category politically, of course. But neither is he in the same category personally.

Jeremy Corbyn lied about not laying a wreath. It may seem a minor thing, in the greater scheme of things, but the fact that it does is more a comment on today’s politics than anything else. The only plausible explanation was simply that a man who aspired to be PM could not be seen to be openly supporting terrorists (and worse, Hamas, terrorists with an ingrained anti-Semitism that can be traced back to their founding charter).

So it was really no surprise to find that the Leader’s – or, we assume, his Communications Director and legal team on his behalf – that he made a complaint to the press regulator about the coverage of the event.

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Tiny step by tiny step, the unions reassert themselves as ballast against the hard left

30/09/2018, 04:49:33 PM

by Rob Marchant

If last year’s party conference was an unabashed love-in for Corbynites and the party’s leader, this was the conference where – as always happens eventually in all environments where the far left runs the show – the cracks started to appear.

Ok, it may not be enough to stop the party from self-immolation. But, after the shock to Labour’s system of the tsunami of new members and a leadership dragging it off to the far left, the tectonic plates appear to be slowly, infuriatingly slowly, moving back towards their traditional positions.

There are reasons why the power structure within the Labour Party has grown up as it has. The party came out of the unions and the unions have always had a seat at the top table – some times more powerful than others, but always there.

Now, in general, unions and the union movement have so far been widely supportive of Corbyn. Why? Because the decline in union membership (and thus the accountability of union leaders to their members) has allowed the bigger unions to drift sleepily to the left, into a misty-eyed, 1970s nostalgia where globalisation never happened. Corbyn plays to the worst and most self-indulgent instincts of the left-leaning unions: he tells them they were right all along.

But the smarter ones among the leaders, left and right, are starting to wake up and see that not all is roses. They are realising that, first of all, a strictly member-led party may not pay attention to their views on, say, the leadership of the party. And the more power goes to the members, the less there is for them. Hence why they voted to dilute the rule changes for a more “member-run” party and actually increased their own say in leadership elections.

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The moderates have won a Pyrrhic victory on IHRA – the real battle was the NEC and it is lost

05/09/2018, 03:12:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

Perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. But in this case, small they are.

The party’s NEC, following months of public self-harm, has finally agreed to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, including all the examples. It really had little choice: even Gordon Brown intervened on the subject last weekend, not to mention the party’s three biggest union donors (albeit one very grudgingly indeed).

But even then, after all the damage done to Labour’s reputation in the eyes of pretty much anyone not in the Corbyn cult, it was adopted gracelessly rather than with contrition; that is, with the Corbynites’ now-traditional tin ear to the feelings of the Jewish community.

There were three ways in which this churlishness at the forced climbdown – as it unquestionably was – manifested itself.

First, the definition was adopted with a caveat: the party would also issue “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. A caveat which is, as anyone with any knowledge of the IHRA definition already knows, entirely unnecessary: it already makes the explicit point that criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

While it would probably be difficult to twist this into defending an anti-Semite, it is an act of petty defiance, a fig-leaf to cover the fact that the leadership never had an argument to reject IHRA in the first place.

Second, as the Corbynite propaganda site Squawkbox gleefully crowed, that this anyway left the door open to a further revisiting of the matter in September, when the new, entirely Corbynite-dominated NEC will sit for the first time during conference.

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Jeremy Corbyn isn’t just a racist and an anti-Semite. He’s a fraud who pretends he wants a peace

08/08/2018, 11:21:11 PM

by Rob Marchant

With all the stories in recent weeks about Labour and anti-Semitism, it would be understandable if some members started to suffer some kind of “Jewish fatigue”.

But the reason for coming back to it is simple: normal Labour politics is currently suspended, as people gaze on in horror at the internal, self-inflicted crisis currently unfolding. We are witnessing something entirely unprecedented in the party’s century-long history: the slow-but-now-accelerating implosion of a party leadership, if not perhaps the party itself as well. And because of an infection with one thing this, of all parties, had never thought to have to endure: racism.

At the same time, we have a leadership which is so inept, so arrogantly convinced that this is all overblown, that it is now embarked on a collision course with the rest of the political planet.

We might first look at the dropping of the investigation into Margaret Hodge. The extraordinary conclusion we must draw from this matter is that it was not because Hodge backed down (although that was what the Leader’s office stupidly tried to spin, convincing precisely no-one in the Lobby). It was, on the contrary, that Corbyn knew that he could not win. That is, that the most he could say was that Hodge was rude to him: in the rough and tumble world of politics, hardly grounds for suspension.

Let’s just reflect on that for a second.

The leader of the Labour party and of HM Opposition, a potential prime minister, judged (presumably on legal advice) that he would struggle to prove that he was not a racist.

But it makes total sense when you consider the other facts brought to light this week.

In an interview with PressTV, Corbyn implies that Israel’s right to exist is in question (anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition). And we also find him – thanks to academic blogger James Vaughan for this – chairing a 2010 meeting chock-full of anti-Semites, who are busy calling Israelis Nazis (also anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition). On Holocaust Memorial Day. But I’m sure that day was chosen just at random, eh, Jeremy?

Quite simply, we can see that the IHRA definition has been rejected, not just because many of Corbyn’s supporters would fall foul of it but because the man himself would. Yes, the Leader of the Opposition.

Finally, let us just look at the last, and perhaps ugliest, revelation (in a crowded field, admittedly).

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Corbyn’s ill-judged reaction to Margaret Hodge’s comments may just become his undoing

27/07/2018, 09:50:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

Jeremy Corbyn has really not had a good week. It was the week when the dam really finally burst on anti-Semitism, with the PLP wholeheartedly rejecting the party’s “doctored” definition of anti-Semitism,   one-third of British voters surveyed thinking him an anti-Semite and an unprecedented and scathing joint editorial on the front page of the UK’s three most prominent Jewish newspapers, condemning Corbyn. But more of that later. On Tuesday, he also finally came out as a full-blooded Brexiteer.

Over the last two years, Jeremy Corbyn has increasingly irritated Labour’s Remainers (who, according to überpollster Prof. John Curtice, are actually in the majority in the party nationally and not just in London, as many previously thought), by his disingenuous attempts to ride two horses at once over Brexit.

And somewhat inexplicably, he has chosen this moment, when everything is going spectacularly badly, to “come out” for Brexit and try to sell its “benefits”.

His “British jobs for British workers” 1970s schtick may resonate with some Labour voters, yes (let us not forget that Gordon Brown once tried much the same). However, apart from the economic illiteracy of the approach, toughness on immigration is not actually the vote-winner it once was, as the latest Social Attitudes Survey now shows.

In fact, in view of the recent Cabinet turmoil over Brexit and dire warnings arriving from all quarters about the possibility of No Corbyn could scarcely have timed his “coming out” as a Leaver worse.

No, one of Corbyn’s many problems as leader is that his judgement is hardly consistently good.

On that note, let us turn to the issue of his spat with Margaret Hodge. The spectacular own goal of allowing his acolytes to attempt the rewriting of a perfectly serviceable definition of anti-Semitism reeked of bad faith and caused a huge backlash two weeks ago.

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Labour and anti-Semitism: enough really is enough

13/07/2018, 01:50:55 PM

by Rob Marchant

What with the Cabinet crisis, the shambolic NATO summit and catastrophic Trump visit, not to mention World Cup, it is easy to pass over some events in the Labour Party which could be accurately described as momentous. And not in a good way.

Last week may have been the week where the Corbyn leadership really crossed the Rubicon on anti-Semitism. Or worse, in fact: it took its already highly-questionable position and doubled down.

Perhaps for the first time, serious, sensible and non-partisan people are describing Labour as “institutionally anti-Semitic”. And it’s not hard to see why.

First, there was the installation of ex-Livingstone adviser as chair of the NEC Disputes Panel, the party’s first political (as opposed to staff) filter of anti-Semitism cases once they have been escalated from the party’s Compliance Unit. (more…)

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Corbyn fiddles while Europe, and the world, reach for the matches

02/07/2018, 08:14:20 AM

by Rob Marchant

It is somewhat inevitable, in the current, febrile political climate, that Tony Blair’s few interventions elicit disproportionate responses in Britain. Even when those interventions conclude little that most Western commentators outside Britain, or a European historian of average talent, would disagree with.

In part, this is because in Britain the effective, yet unspoken, May-Corbyn alliance on Brexit has meant effective mainstream unity on that subject.

That is, the only senior politicians who speak out against it are either (a) the leaders of minor parties (Greens/Lib Dems/SNP), or (b) retired heavyweights not bound by the party whip. So it is easy for him to outweigh the rest of the pack.

Love him or hate him, of all those, Blair is unquestionably the heaviest, in terms of prime ministerial experience at least. Against fellow living ex-PMs Major, Brown and Cameron, he wins on years (10 vs. 7, 3, 6); general election victories (3 vs 1, 0 and 2); and was never defeated in either a GE or a national referendum either, unlike the others.

And his latest intervention is not just correct: even if you disagree with him on Brexit (which, according to the latest YouGov poll, now puts you with less than half the population), it’s difficult to disagree with what he says about populism and the similarities to the 1930s.

2018 is a genuinely scary time to live. Not just through the narrow prism of Brexit, through which it seems all political questions are currently viewed here, although that is arguably a major disaster in itself and not just for Britain.

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