Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Letter from Barcelona: Labour’s Spanish lessons

03/10/2017, 10:13:45 PM

by Rob Marchant

In between the petty spats of the Tory conference this week or the surreal cult of Labour’s gathering last week, there was a potentially seismic political event for Europe (and Britain) a thousand miles away: Sunday’s referendum for Catalan independence. It is big news: while a major general election campaign was happening in the EU’s most populous country, this little region’s impending vote was stealing the headlines for much of it.

It seems suddenly shocking but, for those of us familiar with Spanish and Catalan politics, it is essentially an event that has been at least a decade in the making, but which has approached Spain’s now largely stable democracy like a relentless iceberg, and which the national government’s general cack-handedness has made it seemingly powerless to stop.

This time, around 90% of the votes have been cast for “Sí”, although the vote is technically illegal and many anti-independence voters have naturally boycotted it. Reasons are many: there is first raw, emotional nationalism; then more rational, economic unfairness (Catalonia is a net contributor to taxes and “subsidises” poorer regions; some may even have voted yes in the (mistaken) belief that Spain’s foreign policy had somehow helped precipitate recent ISIS attacks in Barcelona and an independent Catalonia would instead be safe.

So the result, illegal or otherwise, is hugely important for Catalonia, Spain and Europe. But how did they get here?

For about a quarter-century following the “Transición” (the transition to democracy after Franco’s death), the Catalans had a nationalist party running their regional government, the CiU (Convergéncia i Unión).

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

New poll analysis: Watson, Skinner and Flint facing defeat. Cooper, Miliband, Reeves and Rayner on the edge

20/05/2017, 11:11:11 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour is facing a parliamentary wipeout on June 8th. The defeat will be greater than 1983 with the leading figures such as Tom Watson, Dennis Skinner and Caroline Flint facing defeat while many others, including Yvette Cooper, Ed Miliband and Angela Rayner, are teetering on the brink.

Currently Labour is set to lose just over 90 seats but a relatively small deterioration of the party’s position on the ground could see dozens more fall.

These are the findings of new analysis by Uncut based on the views of dozens of Labour candidates, party officials and activists following the past three weeks of intensive canvassing.

In this time, thousands of Labour members and supporters have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in constituencies across the country. While social media is a place where hackneyed tropes about a “great reception on the #Labourdoorstep,” are trotted out, in reality Labour’s army of canvassers has been gathering huge amounts of intelligence and feeding it back through the party’s operation.

Uncut has focused on two questions in conversations with Labour campaigners to understand the situation on the ground:

  1. What is the scale of switching from Ukip to the Tories? This issue has been highlighted widely in the media and is evident in the Tories rising poll rating and Ukip’s symmetrical slump.
  2. What is the drop-off in 2015 Labour vote? Every area is reporting the Corbyn effect on the door with Labour voters refusing to back the party, but this hasn’t been clearly captured in the public polling.

For both questions, the estimated shift has been quantified at a regional level based on feedback from campaigners and applied to the 2015 vote share for each constituency in that region. In line with feedback from across the country, the Lib Dems and Greens are assumed to be on track to repeat their 2015 performance.

The results are not pretty.

While the national polls suggest Labour’s vote is holding up, potentially even advancing on 2015, in the constituencies that matter, something very different seems to be happening.

A net loss of 91 seats would be devastating.

The two factor model on which these findings are based for England and Wales is rudimentary and mechanical (agricultural even). But then, so is what is happening to the Labour party.

The combination of Ukip voters turning to the Tories with Jeremy Corbyn’s impact on 2015 Labour voters has created a perfect storm.

Scotland is an anomaly. North of the border an entirely different election is being conducted. One where the defining issue is the union and if Labour can position itself as a vehicle for unionists, there are grounds for optimism that some small but significant gains can be achieved.

The situation is very bleak (the detailed seat by seat breakdown is below) but there is still action that Labour can take to limit the damage.

One of the salutary lessons of the 2015 election was the futile manner in which Labour diverted significant resources to seats where there was barely a glimmer of hope of victory. If the effort and organisation that went into the quixotic hope of defeating Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam had been directed a few miles away towards protecting Ed Balls in Morley and Outwood, he might still be an MP.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales

21/12/2016, 03:57:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Brexit may mean Brexit, but it also means something else: the United Kingdom, as we have known it, is finished.

The result of our vote to leave the European Union will precipitate a reshaping the United Kingdom from first principles, as our Celtic fringe is shorn off and overseas commitments become more burdensome.

Although a recent poll showed support for Scottish independence dipping a fraction below the 45 per cent level secured in the 2014 referendum, it will prove to be a false dawn for those hoping the fires of nationalism are dying down.

Brexit now makes a second referendum inevitable. More than that, it makes it entirely justifiable. A point Nicola Sturgeon was keen to exploit yesterday with her demands that Scotland be allowed to stay in the single market.

She has a point. Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes; in a reversal of the famous West Lothian Question (why should Scots MPs vote on English laws?)

The SNP should be in tatters after losing the 2014 vote, but instead now dominates Scottish public life, utterly. So much so that Sturgeon announced back in October that she is teeing up a second referendum bill and amassing for a war chest for the next tilt at independence.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Thatcher’s rotten government was only interested in discord and division

31/12/2015, 10:29:17 AM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not just the low-fi racism of Oliver Letwin’s 1985 memo to Margaret Thatcher that appalls. His dismissal of the “bad moral attitudes” of young Black men following the Broadwater Farm riots also reflects ministerial contempt towards so many other groups throughout that dismal decade.

Conservative politics in the mid-1980s was about as far from the ‘One Nation’ variant as it was possible to be. This was a government at war with large parts of the country it ran. Truly, an elective dictatorship, openly contemptuous of those that did not yield to its will.

So the “pampered Scots” were to be pitched against the “envious” north of England when it came to funding allocations. Black people were only interested in the “disco and drug trade”. Northern Ireland’s border towns should be bombed to stop republican suspects escaping to Southern Ireland.

As we well know, the miners were regarded as “the enemy within”. The entire city of Liverpool was to be subject to “managed decline” following the Toxteth riots, while the local football club’s fans were smeared in a vile cover-up over the deaths of 96 of their number at Hillsborough.

As the hapless Lewtin, possessor of an eager mind but dull wits, currently resides in political no-man’s land, waiting to see if his perfunctory apology is enough to sate the reaction against his comments, Tory strategists should perhaps ponder what other toxic memo-bombs he penned during his time running Thatcher’s policy unit. After all, this was the mid-80s, when she was at her wildest and the New Right policy wonks that fuelled her insurgency were unencumbered.

But aside from the trickle of released government papers of that time, we now also have Lowell Goddard’s wide-ranging inquiry into historic child abuse allegations. Just what will she unearth in the next few years about what ministers did or did not know in relation to the slew of allegations about that period?

What we do know is that all the invective and moral outrage directed towards Margaret Thatcher and her ministers during the 1980s was not wasted. We thought the Tories were a heartless, sneering bunch at the time.

Yesterday’s revelations now make that an evidence-based assessment.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Let’s face it – Thursday night was painful

11/05/2015, 08:28:06 AM

by Joe Anderson

In the last few weeks we have seen some of the strengths of our movement.  Hundreds of activists in every seat across the country – full of the energy and passion of our people fighting for our values.

But their efforts unfortunately weren’t enough to convince the electorate to overlook our weaknesses over the last few years; confused communications and policies which never offered hope against the onslaught of Tory cuts.  Our people and the institutions they depend on were suffering and we weren’t sure whether a Labour Government would save us.

We need to work out what the next five years will mean for us. And we should get it right.  This new Tory government will challenge us on a number of fronts. Our narrative on devolution (local and national), benefits and welfare, the need for economic growth which gives people security and countless other policy areas has all been tested.  It doesn’t seem like it now, but we will look back on some of these and be proven right. On others we are clearly out of step with the country.

We need to take our time and ask the right questions.  Do we really understand how the country (all four of them) feels about what Labour has to offer?  Are we offering the right things to both cities and rural areas?  Do we really understand how the wider city regions and counties feel about what we want to offer?

Scotland is a case in point. The SNP haven’t locked us out of government – we lost the keys years ago when the mistakes were made. And despite fumbling around in the dark, we still haven’t found them again.

We have to face the reality that we have a lot of thinking to do.  And we must do it together as one party.

Anyone who blames “new labour” or “compass” or any other grouping, is damaging the party.

We need to come together and forge a new cohesive force for the country, before deciding which person we invite to lead us.  We need voices from every part of the country to be included, not just those from the Westminster Bubble. We need to work out a policy direction which will give hope to every single part of our country.  And we need to take our time doing it.

We have five years.  Let’s get it right.

Joe Anderson is mayor of Liverpool

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Week 5 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

03/05/2015, 12:20:13 PM

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks back at the events of week 5.

The good

Labour’s sharpened up its act in Scotland

Labour nationally finally focuses on the SNP threat, and zeroes in on the exactly right message against nationalism: its fundamental pettiness.

As Tom Harris MP, sometime of this parish, put it:

While the best line of the Glasgow rally from Miliband reflected the same theme: “Nationalism never built a school”. A genuinely superb encapsulation of all that’s wrong with the SNP.

New arrivals

Uncut sends our congratulations to Lisa Nandy, Labour’s candidate in Wigan, and her partner Andy Collis on the birth this week of their son, Otis. A Wigan party spokesman has said that the shadow minister for civil society, “is incredibly grateful to the NHS staff in Wigan for their amazing care and dedication. Lisa would also like to thank people across Wigan for their kind words and support during a very busy time.”

For better or worse, Otis won’t generate the same volume of media coverage as the Royal baby. Whether this torrent of national and international reporting will have any impact on the 2015 election remains to be seen but at least Labour should (hopefully) have a future voter in Wigan, ready for the 2035 election.

Celebrities for Labour

Labour is winning the celebrity war. Where the Tories have Katie Hopkins, Labour has Stephen Hawking. Tom Watson will be taking Steve Coogan campaigning in Battersea, Croydon Central, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Brentford & Isleworth, Harrow East, Ealing Central & Acton and Hornsey & Wood Green on Monday and Tuesday. I’m sure Coogan used to mock Ross Kemp as part of his stand-up routine but that didn’t stop Kemp giving Wes Streeting’s campaign to re-take Ilford North for Labour a boost.

The celebrity intervention to generate most headlines was, of course, Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband. As Brand reflected on the compatibility of capitalism and democracy, Miliband’s mind might have wondered back to discussions around the kitchen table as he was growing up. Nonetheless, he seemed more at ease in a video released by the Labour Party akin to something from Question of Sport. Simon Hattenstone painted Miliband well in a Guardian interview in March, which revealed Miliband’s eagerness to converse with Ronnie O’Sullivan. The video shows that Miliband has not only had his chat with O’Sullivan but used it to win him over to Labour.

It may be that Labour needs snookers to get back into government. In which case, Miliband could have uncovered a new guru at a most opportune moment.

The Bad (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Revealed: Ed’s night-time dash to casa Brand driven by postal ballot panic

02/05/2015, 06:28:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned the real reason for Ed Miliband’s sudden night-time visit to Russell Brand’s Shoreditch home: panic caused by the early tallies of postal ballots being fed back to party HQ, from marginals around the country.

Labour is behind and urgently needs to reach out to new voter groups. Russell Brand was a means to that end.

Postal voting started in mid-April. Over 5 million are expected to cast their ballot in this way and over the last week, local teams from all parties have attended postal vote opening sessions in each constituency.

Although the parties are legally not allowed to tally votes at these events, they all do and the constituency teams then dutifully pass their field intelligence back to HQ.

These are not opinion polls results or canvass returns but actual votes, hundreds of thousands of votes, from across Britain. Numbers have been flowing from each marginal to party strategists to give the most accurate picture of the current state of play.

Labour insiders familiar with the latest figures have told Uncut that the picture for Labour in marginal seats, where it is fighting the Tories, is almost uniformly grim.

Seats that canvass returns had suggested were strong prospects for gains are much more finely balanced and those that were close are swinging heavily to the Tories.

The tartan scare is working with the fear of McLabour shifting large numbers of wavering Lib Dems and Ukippers into the Tory column.

National opinion polls and Lord Ashcroft’s last swathe of constituency polling have seemed to indicate a shift towards the Tories recently, but Labour insiders say the effect on the ground in marginals is much bigger than picked up in polls so far.

Labour has already squeezed the Greens as much as possible for votes, and is coming up short. Despite a superior get-out-the-vote operation primed and ready for next Thursday, Labour cannot bridge the gap by organisation alone.

With just a few days to go until the election, Labour desperately needs new voters.

This is why Ed Miliband suddenly changed his plans and went to Russell Brand’s home to be interviewed.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour needs to remember England

02/05/2015, 10:21:30 AM

by Renie Anjeh

Just over a week ago was St George’s Day. Crowds of people displayed their love of England with pride in the knowledge that the general election was just a fortnight away. All the polls presage another hung parliament. Few pundits are brave enough to predict the result. One thing is clear and that is that the outcome will be unclear.

It is very likely that the parliamentary instability which will ensue which may even lead to an election in the autumn.

The reason why the country is on the verge of political pandemonium is because the election result will not be decided in the land of St George but the land of St Andrew.

Since the referendum, the SNP has upended the political landscape north of border, placing them in pole position to be the kingmakers at this election.

2015 could be the first time that nationalists have held the balance of power in over a hundred years. As Jonathan Todd pointed out, the reason for this political earthquake is because the Scots are thinking about “who will get the best deal for Scotland?” rather than “who is best to lead the UK?”

Obviously this is catastrophic for the Labour party. Labour has always had a close affinity with Scotland. Keir Hardie was a Scot. Many of Labour’s greatest big beasts came from Scotland: Donald Dewar, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling, George Robertson, Gordon Brown, John Reid and John Smith.

Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader, was born in Edinburgh and educated at Fettes College. However, Labour has not had the same relationship with England.

Whenever issues regarding the West Lothian Question or the Barnett Formula have been raised, Labour has used constitutional conservatism as an excuse not to address a perceived unfairness.

Many English people fear that Labour treats English identity with suspicion at best, derision at worst even though it has no qualms about Scottish or Welsh identity. Labour has not always been the natural home for suburban and rural areas in England. The result of our long-term problem in England has not been great. 2001 was the last time that Labour won the most votes in England.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour obsesses over London while Scotland burns

09/04/2015, 07:00:28 AM

by David Talbot

Returning home over the Easter weekend, the rolling English shires are about as far removed from the London metropolis as can be imagined. In political terms, my hometown, Stratford upon Avon, is a fortress of Conservative blue. The next door constituency to the south east is the prime minister’s of Witney, but to the north lie the Labour behemoth cities of Birmingham and Coventry, ringed by marginals that defined the Labour party’s return to government in 1997.

Redditch, Warwick and Leamington Spa and Worcester symbolised Labour’s deep raid into traditionally Tory lands – with the latter even spawning the stereotypical voter that gave Labour a long look again after 18 years in the wilderness. But the difference between the attention Labour will give these seats and those in London is stark, and potentially come to symbolise its failure on election night.

A week before the Easter break an ITV poll detailed Labour’s sweeping gains in the capital, with the party nudging to nearly fifty per cent of the vote and set to take six seats off the Conservatives. London, Sadiq Khan explained, held the key to Downing Street. To reinforce the point, an Evening Standard poll the next day showed Labour holding an eleven point lead. This, in a national election that is on a knife-edge, was impressive and encouraging for Labour. As part of its general election coverage the Standard ran coverage of the closest race in London, that of Hampstead and Kilburn. But buried beneath the prose of a tight election was a key, and damning, statistic.

Two out of the four million much-fabled conversations Labour are set to have in this election are to take place in London. This is a gross distortion of manpower in already safe Labour seats and, at best, for gains that will barely scratch the surface towards a majority.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s strategic priority must be to demonstrate how it will lead

23/02/2015, 05:52:03 PM

by Jonathan Todd

At the end of last year, I wrote on three reasons for Labour victory in 2015: brand, economy, and leadership. Let’s revisit them.

Brand

The Good Right – Tim Montgomerie’s campaign – understands the Tories’ brand problems. There has been a 7 per cent rise over the past year to 85 per cent in the proportion of people that see the Tories as being close to the rich. By having the likes of Peter Stringfellow along to a black and white ball and allowing Lord Fink to mishandle Ed Miliband’s questioning of his tax affairs, the Tory campaign appears determined to win over the remaining 15 per cent.

Reckless decisions over this parliament – the bedroom tax, scrapping the 50p income tax rate, and NHS restructuring – wouldn’t have happened if the Tories had been the Good Right throughout. To use the reported language of Miliband, they are “running out of runway” to turn around the perception before the election that they are “the party of the rich”. Given the Tory leads on economy and leadership, we might wonder what keeps them flat-lining at 30 per cent in the polls and the failure to address this perception is a prime candidate.

Economy

What could happen between now and 7 May to eradicate the Tory poll lead on the economy? It’s not hard to imagine scenarios emanating from Greece, the Middle East and Ukraine that have serious negative economic shocks. But would the Tories be blamed? Or the nurse that is held more tightly for fear of something worse?

When looking toward Labour victory, I wrote that George Osborne “overplayed his hand in the Autumn Statement, leaving bombs, unexploded since the 1930s, beneath the Tory campaign”. Have they gone off? Do you discern a widespread anxiety about what Osborne portends for the size and capacities of the state?

If such anxiety were deep enough to overhaul the Tory lead on the economy, we might have expected it to have done so by now. There is an argument – which Uncut has been preeminent in advancing – that if Labour had been clearer about how we’d go far enough on the deficit, the way in which the Tories are going too far would become more apparent and more damaging for them.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon