Posts Tagged ‘Rob Marchant’

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…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon