Posts Tagged ‘SNP’

Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

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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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It’s unfashionable to say this but the Remain campaign is doing a bloody good job

22/05/2016, 09:50:05 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. First up, the Remain campaign.

At the start of the year, the Remain campaign had one job: to make Brexit more scary than Bremain.

It’s a job that they’ve done bloody well.

The brief for this campaign never included a requirement to persuade people of the imminent arrival of a new, fully reformed EU utopia.

Neither did it involve turning around years of frustration about the bureaucratic exigencies of the EU.

Who even thought that would be possible in a campaign of a few months?

But to read the drumbeat of criticism of the In campaign from pro-Europeans (Hugo Dixon, Natalie Nougayrède, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Charlie Cooper to name but a few) is to be trapped in the impossibilist dream of enthusiasts who do not understand their fellow Briton.

These are the people who measure success by the volume of cheers in the hall not the weight of votes outside.

For this category of commentator and politician, Scotland is independent, Ed Miliband is prime minister and this is what a good football manager looks like.

They frequently use that word which presaged defeat for the Scottish pro-independence camp and Labour last year: passion.

Talk is of turnout and their silver bullet, the enthusiasm gap.

Paradoxically it is the utter commitment of the enthusiasts which is their critical flaw.

It robs advocates of empathy, the keystone of any campaign.

Hobby-horse arguments, shrilly pitched dissolve into the irrelevant drone of a Euro-anorak.

In contrast, the Remain campaign has understood the two essential truths of this and any election.

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Why aren’t we furious with the Scottish party?

10/05/2016, 10:33:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The dark, stinking hole Labour finds itself in these days might not feel quite so dark and stinking if the Scottish party had got its act together last year. The loss of forty seats north of the border in the general election turned disaster in England into cataclysm across the UK.

Last Thursday, the party suffered a repeat pasting in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Labour took nothing short of a punishment beating at the hands of the electorate, sliding into third place behind the Conservatives. After last May’s debacle, it was a ceremonial cherry placed on top of the steaming turd that is the Scottish Labour party.

How did it come to this? How did Labour ‘lose’ Scotland and by doing so, make it improbable the party will win a general election any time before the advent of commercial space travel? And why aren’t we angrier with the bunglers in the Scottish party who frittered away Labour’s position?

But first, let’s be clear: the extinguishing of Labour as a force in Scottish politics is the party’s own fault. The SNP hasn’t cheated its way to power. There has been no coup d’etat. They are triumphant because they have outplayed Scottish Labour at every turn in recent years, up to the point where it’s clear the party no longer seems to understand the Scottish people.

This is not a recent failing. Labour lost control of the parliament to the SNP as long ago as 2007. The situation was exacerbated at the 2011 elections, before the party’s virtual annihilation in last year’s general election. There have been ample opportunities to arrest the decline.

Clearly, it all came to a head during the independence referendum. By opposing ‘nationalism’ Scottish Labour foolishly forfeited ‘patriotism’ in the process. The party didn’t seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being a proud Scot and wanting to see your nationhood recognised.

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The Tories are within 4 points of Scottish Labour. What a time to try to “outflank the SNP from the left”

04/02/2016, 05:03:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

Uncut has not spoken much about Scotland recently but, as the gaze of Britain’s political machine turns briefly northwards, as it does every four years, that will change.

It is right that it will, and this time it should not be brief. This is not just because the Holyrood elections are almost upon us. It is because Labour’s short-to-medium-term success, and perhaps its very survival, depends on a Scottish turnaround.

Why? Let’s just look at the basic electoral arithmetic. As Lewis Baston pointed out in an outstanding analysis at LabourList, because of its wipeout in Scotland, Labour needs a bigger swing than it had in the 1997 general election to win in 2020.

That is, a bigger swing even than its best-ever post-war result.

It would be a tall order for a party even at the height of its popularity and which had not for the last five years neglected swing seats in the South East which it had won in 1997 and needed to win again.

And this was all chasing the frankly imbecilic notion that it could squeeze into power on the back of a leftish “progressive majority”, consisting of discontented Lib Dem and Green voters turning towards Labour.

Now consider a party which, on top of that, has its most unpopular leader since records began.

It is not merely a tall order. It is impossible. It is difficult to overestimate the extent to which Labour’s comfortable hegemony in Scotland has provided Labour’s electoral safety net during its postwar opposition years. We are now living a historical anomaly for Labour.

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If Jeremy Corbyn wants to do some lasting good, he should take a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book

14/12/2015, 12:18:08 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour Uncut editor Atul Hatwal recently wrote an excellent blog about how Trump has shifted the Overton window of US politics with his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US.

First came the condemnation.

But now politicians such as Ted Cruz and influential commentators such as Piers Morgan and Rupert Murdoch are already triangulating.

“Yes, Trump has probably gone too far but Obama needs to do more on Muslims. A lot more,” so their argument goes. They triangulate. The sweet spot of political discourse (unless you are Nick Clegg).

The debate is then reframed and policy is made in a different political context, which over time translates into a different nation. That’s what outriders like Trump do.

There are lessons for the UK.

There were outriders in the last parliament. The SNP did it with Scottish independence, Ukip did it with an EU exit and Ed Miliband did it with his focus on inequality.

The SNP have got devo-max, Ukip have a Eurosceptic government & EU renegotiation while Ed Miliband has George Osborne stealing many of his ideas.

Let’s be clear: they are all losers. But they moved debate and that is a form of success.

Jeremy Corbyn is a loser too. He will never be prime minister. He will never come close to be prime minister.

But he can go down in UK history – like the SNP, Ukip and Ed Miliband – as a loser who shifted the debate.

He should take a leaf out of the Trump playbook and pick a position way outside the mainstream that will shock the nation and jolt politicians into occupying the space he leaves behind.

He must be specific. And I have a suggestion for him: be the anti-Trump. Cobryn could and should issue the following statement:

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Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3…

11/05/2015, 07:00:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course, it would be pretty difficult to pen a piece entitled: ’10 reasons it’s not as bad as it seems for Labour,’ but as the dust settles on last Thursday’s calamitous result, there is cause for optimism – cautious optimism – that the task of rebuilding Labour’s position is not as hopeless as many assume.

  1. Policy isn’t a mess

First off, the party’s positioning in terms of its policy offer is actually pretty good. The manifesto was not “the longest suicide note in history” as 1983’s version was famously described. Sure, there’s work to do in dialling-down some of the rhetoric that has made it so easy to characterise the party as anti-business, but Jon Cruddas, Miliband’s policy supremo, must have had an eye on the long term because there is a lot here to salvage (apart from that wretched headstone).

By way of illustration, there was no real moment during the campaign where a Labour policy unravelled under scrutiny, or different shadow ministers found themselves saying different things. That’s what commonly used to happen in the 1980s.

And for those pointing out that, electorally, Labour is now 100 seats behind the Tories, just as it was in 1987, consider that, back then, the party was committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Ed Miliband was promising to renew Trident. There is no massive internecine struggle in prospect in order to get policy in the right place.

  1. SNP and UKIP insurgencies will fade

Nicola Sturgeon and the unresigned Nigel Farage, now have it all to prove. Both parties haven’t so much evolved as exploded out of the test tube.

Both have benefitted from charismatic leaders exploiting their (relative) outsiderness and a (temporary) decline in the fortunes of the mainstream parties.

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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

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How Labour lost the centre ground and how to win it back

08/05/2015, 09:25:36 PM

by Samuel Dale

A debate is about to begin in the Labour party about how we recover from Thursday’s crushing election defeat.

The Miliband experiment has failed. Do we move to the left to retake Scotland? Or do we move back to the centre to win back Tory voters in England and Wales? Or maybe a bit of both?

Let me state my case that Labour needs to move decisively back to the centre if it has any chance of winning a majority again.

On Thursday, centrist voters drastically turned away from Ed Miliband for three reasons.

Firstly, he was perceived as owning a radically anti-business agenda accompanied with blunt price fixing tools.

“Give me Brexit, give me Scoxit, just don’t give me fucking Ed Balls,” said one concerned senior hedge fund executive to me in the run-up to polling day. Another senior figure said Labour treats the City like “terrorists”. These are typical views from business but they shouldn’t be and it’s damaging. Miliband was at war with business.

Just look at the post-election surge in Sterling and rocketing company shares at property firms, energy companies and others to see the real business fears of a Labour government.

Secondly, this coupled with public fears about economic competence. Miliband was viewed as a profligate custodian of public cash that he could never quite tackle head on.

Thirdly, leadership. This is nebulous but Miliband trailed Cameron by double digits in polls long before the SNP came along. He was seen as weak.

The Tories used the threat of an SNP deal to amplify all these fears but they did not create the weaknesses. If the public believed Miliband had the requisite leadership skills and economic competence then the fear of an SNP deal would not have had the same impact. The Tories’ SNP attacks were the symptom not the cause of problems.

So there were business fears; tax and spend concerns and leadership problems.Here’s what happened next.

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If Labour has a path to power tomorrow, it must only take it if a stable majority is possible

07/05/2015, 12:59:56 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The worst day in government is better than the best in opposition, or so the aphorism goes.

It’s true.

As Aussie cricketers (who know a thing or two about winning) say, you’ve got to back yourself otherwise what’s the point in playing the game?

But if Labour does find itself in a position to shape the next government, it needs to do so in the right way.

It needs to be clear-eyed about its priorities.

First and foremost, should be stopping the Tories implementing their plans.

If David Cameron remains prime minister and delivers on even one tenth of his barmy promises for spending cuts and unfunded tax cuts he will undo much of the generational improvement to public services achieved by the last Labour government.

Second, should be to form a stable, enduring government.

There is a difference between the two priorities and the first takes precedence over the second.

Nothing would be a greater guarantor of years of opposition than a brief, calamitous interlude in government. A short-lived, fractious Labour administration that falls would ultimately deliver a full-blooded Conservative government with all of the damage that entails.

If Labour has a path to government tomorrow, Ed Miliband needs to test whether he can construct an enduring government. If not, he’ll need to make a difficult choice.

In a scenario where the parliamentary arithmetic means Labour could form a government, the first call Ed Miliband makes should be to the leader of the Lib Dems, even if that’s Nick Clegg. It means setting aside partisan rancour in favour of forging a stable coalition.

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