Posts Tagged ‘Rob Marchant’

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.

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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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Labour must fight the cancer of post-truth politics, not sign up to it

24/11/2016, 06:06:01 PM

by Rob Marchant

If there were to be a nadir of democratic politics, in the sense of public apathy towards truthfulness in their politicians, even in the strange world of 2016, we may not yet have reached it.

The unprecedented election of a seemingly pathological liar to the post of leader of the Free World is pretty bad. But 2016 may yet, appallingly, see a lying far-right politician elected as French president. It is not expected: but then, no-one really expected Trump, either. These are strange times. Worst of all, it seems that, the more mainstream politicians warn against a populist being elected, the more people vote for them.

But the real disaster that this populism brings in its wake is this: others believe that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. And so we see mainstream politicians lying: for example, about Brexit, with the now-notorious £350m to be saved and pledged to the NHS.

Now, there are two lazy clichés that commentators, or members of the public, will periodically trot out about politicians. One is that they are “all the same”, when that is patently not the case. There are decent British politicians in all parties, at least the major ones. Those of us who have worked in politics for any length of time will testify to the often quite pleasantly surprising levels of dedication to public service in the face of constant brickbats, lack of job security, aggressive whips, hostile colleagues and an often thankless public.

But the second is even more familiar: “all politicians are liars”. Well, no, they’re not – historically, mainstream politicians tend to be demonstrably truthful, as it’s too easy to humiliate them when they get caught. But the precedent is certainly being set currently that it’s increasingly ok to lie.

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Article 50: we do not have to lay down and roll over

11/11/2016, 08:00:49 PM

by Rob Marchant

As we reel from the shock of a Trump victory, it would be easy now to lose sight of our own problems as a country. But they remain the same as they were on Tuesday.

Since June, we have rapidly become a country which most of its neighbours now look at with a mixture of sympathy and blank incomprehension; shaking their heads, like a dear friend whose life has suddenly and inexplicably hit the buffers, but has yet to truly recognise the fact. Bless them, those Brits. They know not what they do (and, as of today, it looks like we are not the only Anglo-Saxon country in that position).

No, apart from Brexit, we have a government which operates without the normal checks and balances, beholden to its lunatic rightward fringe; and a dysfunctional opposition which, thanks to Labour’s current leadership, struggles to effectively oppose anything at all, even on this, the most important issue of the day.

Last week, however, a glimmer of light shone into Britain’s troubled political landscape. Seemingly out of nowhere, the High Court ruled that Parliament must be consulted on Brexit and that the referendum itself was not sufficient. The government had constitutionally overreached itself, and Theresa May had to tacitly admit that her prime ministerial powers were not quite as strong as she thought they were.

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We need to talk about Russia

26/10/2016, 10:14:23 PM

by Rob Marchant

When even the Guardian, which has sustained some fairly alternative views on world geopolitics in recent years – including running a propaganda op-ed by the Russian foreign minister – starts acknowledging that modern-day Russia has slid into a new Cold War with the West, well, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Like a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome, the West – led by an American president who scornfully told his opponent in the 2012 election that “the Cold War has been over for twenty years” – has spent the last decade trying to convince itself that Russia was friendly and no longer a threat, in the face of stark evidence to the contrary. Obama is now choking on his unwise words, but it’s a bit late for that. Eight years of “engagement” with the US has only encouraged Vladimir Putin.

The charge sheet against Russia’s authoritarian leader is lengthy: the 2008 conflict with Georgia; the 2014 invasions of Crimea and the Donbass; sabre-rattling over the Baltics; the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko; encouragement of homophobia by Putin allies; gradual curtailment of most independent media and increasingly dubious elections (including a referendum in Donetsk whose result was apparently known before its taking place); encouraging the rehabilitation of Stalin; and finally, interfering in US presidential elections, dammit, through Russian hacks to the Democrats’ email system and its clear allying with Julian Assange and Wikileaks in favour of the Trump campaign. Not to mention the recent, utterly reprehensible bombing of civilians in Syria, which surely constitutes a war crime in any meaningful interpretation of international law.

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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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In just one year, Jeremy Corbyn has alienated Britain’s Jews

14/09/2016, 10:57:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

This week has marked the first anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader. The week has been full of the now-customary gaffes and blunders, yes. But a more disturbing revelation was that about the obsession with “Zionism” at the heart of the Corbyn “kitchen cabinet”.

If one were to try and characterise the notable achievements of the Corbyn leadership in its first year – as the often-hilarious results of the #1yearofJeremy hashtag on Twitter showed, these were not always positive – perhaps the most disturbing is the almost complete alienation of the British Jewish community.

From the comments of Ken Livingstone about Hitler, to the suspension of 18 party members over anti-Semitism and the fiasco which was the party’s own report into the matter, Corbyn has shown, at best, a terrible tin ear for the subject, the effects of which may now tarnish the image of his party for years.

And so it was that, this week, we found Corbyn’s communications chief Seumas Milne accused of removing the Hebrew from the leader’s Passover message, because it sounded “too Zionist”. This accusation was made both by Joshua Simons, a former advisor to the leader and also Dave Rich of the CST, an organisation created to help British Jews fight anti-Semitism. Although only Rich actually named Milne, he did so not on a specialist blog, but in the New York Times.

This is the level of obsession that the leader’s office has over matters which are anathema to ordinary people.

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A Labour split is surely now on the cards

01/09/2016, 05:56:23 PM

by Rob Marchant

The ballot papers have arrived. On past form for such elections, most voting tends to happen in the first week and the die is almost certainly already cast for one side or the other. And if yesterday’s YouGov poll is to be believed, there will be a second, convincing win for Jeremy Corbyn.

It is not the fact that polls cannot be wrong: we know that, especially in tight contests. But the very margin of the predicted win – 62% Corbyn to 38% Smith – must surely have brought a crushing dismay to the Smith team. Polls are not often that wrong. 62% is also, coincidentally, the exact same prediction for Corbyn’s vote made in August last year after reallocation of preferences. So we are likely to be talking about the same order-of-magnitude win.

So let’s suppose it’s right and September will be a glorious vindication of Labour’s choice of leader, in the face of massive unpopularity in the country. What happens next? There are really two possibilities.

One is that the Tories somehow find a way to subvert the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 (plus Theresa May changes her earlier position) and contrive an early general election. Labour will, on current polling, be destroyed. But following that, Labour could have a chance to regroup after a further leadership contest. There is a possibility that the penny may finally drop with its critical soft left segment that the current configuration is truly unelectable and that John McDonnell or Diane Abbott cannot possibly rescue it. And then would start the long work of rebuilding the party under a new leader

The second, and apparently far more likely scenario, is that there is no general election. After winning two leadership elections, it seems unlikely that Corbyn could be dislodged until 2020 (if he is seen to be wounded in September, that is a different matter, but the polls indicate otherwise). And he has indicated he might hang on even in the event of a defeat, although one wonders whether John McDonnell would be comfortable with this thwarting of his own political ambitions.

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