Posts Tagged ‘splits’

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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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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It is time to stand for centre left values

14/07/2016, 04:04:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The responsibilities of moderate Labour are so much bigger than mere party tribalism. They are to our country, our consciences and – in the face of ISIS, Putin and Trump – our civilisation.

My conscience would happily rest with the end of Labour if it helped save our country and civilisation. “Histrionic” is a word that has been thrown about lately. And maybe I’m being so.

Perhaps not, though. I believe the UK is going through its biggest crisis of my lifetime. We are a country fracturing on every axis. Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. An unexacting bar.

Theresa May, regrettably, is not up to the challenges of her office. Which include acting to preserve the institution that has helped bring Europe its longest period of peace and prosperity, while also exiting it in a way that does least harm to our economy and society. And I focus on harm minimisation because, kids and grandparents (for it is the baby boomers who must eat their young), we’ve been sold a pup by unaccountable, fly-by-night charlatans.

People are angry now but they’ll be more so when they find no economic nirvana awaiting. Some take out their frustrations on immigrants – who the prime minister, pawns to her as gunboats were to Palmerston, struggles to reassure.

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Twas the night before Christmas (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

24/12/2015, 12:53:59 PM

by Rob Marchant

Twas the night before Christmas, and in Labour’s house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St Jeremy soon would be there.

 

Corbynistas were nestled all snug in their beds,

Political utopias danced in their heads.

It’s ok, they dreamt, don’t pay heed to the polls,

The party loves Jezza, despite the own goals.

 

It’s not pesky voters ‘bout whom we should bother,

As Brecht said, dissolve them, then elect another.

Not true that each interview’s now a car-crash,

Or that they didn’t trust us with their hard-earned cash.

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Centrists need new ideas and purpose, not a new party

15/12/2015, 11:40:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Phil Collins comments in the Times on speculation within Labour of an SDP type breakaway. Those favouring this move believe that, “the volatility of politics makes 2016 a more propitious moment for novelty than 1981.” Collins, who remains a Labour member, is unconvinced. “The only reason to stay (in Labour),” he wrote a few weeks earlier, “is that it (the Corbyn leadership) can’t last.”

“Corbynism for a decade?” asks Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. “It no longer sounds ridiculous”. In the sense that it was until very recently a widely unanticipated outcome, which would leave many, not least the likes of Collins, distraught, it still sounds pretty ridiculous. But what Bush means is clear.

“Many more than the 66 (Labour) MPs who did vote for airstrikes were convinced on the case for extending British bombing against Isis from Iraq into Syria,” reports Bush, “but pulled back due to pressure from their constituency parties”. CLPs, which MPs need to support them if they are to remain so, are increasingly under the grip of Corbynism.

If MPs are prepared to place political self-preservation before voting with their consciences on Isis, there’s probably nothing – no indignity, daftness, or nastiness – that they wouldn’t endure to extend their political careers. If in the dark nights of their souls, they affirm that this makes them happy, we can only wonder about their souls.

They might read how Tom Harris is happier as an ex-MP than he was as an MP. And Harris got out before Corbyn began. You get the sense that he doesn’t envy Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP.

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Labour centrists should not abandon ship on account of the captain

20/11/2015, 06:23:42 PM

by Gareth Williams

Probably the greatest hour in modern television history is the magisterial finale of the second season of the West Wing: Two Cathedrals. In it, President Bartlet, facing a tough reelection challenge and recently exposed as suffering from MS, is chastised by the figure of his deceased secretary over his indecision regarding whether or not to seek a second term. She issues him with the rhetorical ultimatum “if you don’t want to run again, I respect that. But if you don’t run cause you think it will be too hard or you think you’re going to lose…I don’t even want to know you”.

Harsh words and different stakes, perhaps, but Labour’s centrists face a similar quandary.

Is it worth fighting for a party which seems uninterested in fighting for itself? Should they go out on the doorstep for leaders who, themselves, do not see the merit in gaining office? Is there any point in putting up with voluminous and vituperative abuse day in day out?

My answer to all three would be a considered “yes”.

I did not support Jeremy Corbyn. I still don’t. I think many of his policies are both morally bankrupt and strategically nonsensical  – in addition to being electorally fatal. They will, if permitted, lead us to corporeal irrelevance and political extinction. I am not alone. While hard figures remain hard to come by, anecdotal estimates of membership outflows put the figure at 25 members leaving for every 75 who join.

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Cracks appearing in team Burnham

27/05/2015, 07:48:27 PM

Word reaches Uncut that all is not well in the Burnham camp. Despite being the bookies’ favourite, worries about Andy Burnham’s strategy and performance have started to bubble to the surface among his supporters.

Doubts are being raised about what has been dubbed the ‘inevitability strategy’.

Immediately following the general election defeat, Andy Burnham’s campaign mobilised, rolling out endorsements from across the PLP to establish him as the runaway favourite, suck away nominations from potential rivals and make his victory seem assured.

The thinking was that this would lead to a lower key race with other candidates and party members reluctant to attack the likely leader. Such a contest, with relatively little incident or conflict to generate media coverage, would suit a candidate like Andy Burnham who is already well-known within the party.

However, almost three weeks into the race and things are not going according to plan. One staffer of an MP committed to Burnham told Uncut,

“We got off to a good start with Rachel [Reeves] and Dan [Jarvis] signing up but since then the momentum has slowed. The boss is worried the names promised haven’t come through.”

A centrist MP who is backing Burnham, but is yet to be announced, echoed these concerns,

“Andy is being defined as the left-wing choice, he needs to balance out his support. Idiots on Twitter like Eoin Clarke aren’t helping.”

Eoin Clarke is a well-known hard left Twittervist and has been tweeting prolifically in support of Burnham.

The MP went on,

“The plan was to be out of sight, quickly. We’re not there; Liz and Yvette are competitive and this looks like it’s going to get messy.”

Jitters about strategy are fuelling concerns about Andy Burnham’s personal performance.

Already a debate has opened up within his inner circle about whether he should challenge Liz Kendall’s agenda more aggressively.

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Will Labour survive a drawn-out leadership contest?

13/05/2015, 10:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The inside of the Labour party is beginning to feel like a tense family funeral, just before the point when everyone starts drinking.

There’s a lot of unreconciled psychological baggage as we await the National Executive Committee’s decision about whether it will institute a short leadership process, or stretch it out to the September party conference, or, indeed, beyond.

The problem is that years’ worth of sleights, rivalries, anguish, antagonisms and things that have been left unsaid have all built up. If invited to have a drawn-out discussion about why the party lost, it is inevitable that this will lead to family members’ pulling each other’s hair out as they send Granddad’s ashes flying.

In its soul, Labour is a party of deep divisions (personal and social as well as in terms of emphasis and priority). When a colleague remarked that Herbert Morrison was “his own worst enemy” Ernest Bevin famously snarled, “not while I’m alive he ain’t.” The decade-long drama between Blair and Brown (“the TB, GBs”) was merely symptomatic of this same psychosis.

These tensions are usually capped by the affected manners and superficial pleasantries of the party’s generals. Everyone is nice to each other’s face. Get behind that carapace, however, and it’s a different story.

During a Labour leadership contest, it is not enough for candidates to put themselves forward and explain what they would do, they also need to define themselves against their opponents.

So while your candidacy may represent The Last Hope, the only possible choice of any sentient adult; your opponents are, in contrast, sell-outs, lickspittles, lightweights, too associated with the past, too untested, too naïve, too unpopular, too Blairite, or not Blairite enough, et cetera, ad infinitum.

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SNP-backed Miliband or a return to the John Major years? Only the Lib Dems can stop it

22/04/2015, 05:44:47 PM

by Samuel Dale

He’s back. The most successful prime minister – nay politician – ever to grace British parliamentary democracy.

A man of such grace, skill and power that he swept all before him in his pomp. Adored by his own. Feared by rivals. Yesterday, he spoke and we – humble electorate – must heed his wise counsel.

I speak, of course, of Sir John Major. Well, that seems to be the absurd narrative pedalled by the electorally-charged right-wing press that once lampooned Major’s premiership. Times change. Major’s speech gave warning of the higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem of a Labour government supported by the SNP.

Firstly, he’s right. A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain and the Labour party as well.

There would be an economic chilling effect around new investment into the UK while the PLP would be split over any arrangement with the nationalists. In fact, I was warning about it on this blog before it was cool.

But, as many have pointed out, it was John Major’s Government in the 1990s that actually did deliver higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem.

Look at the facts. There’s Black Wednesday, when a self-inflicted economic crisis pushed the Bank of England’s interest rates to a crushing 15% in September 1992.

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How Ukip’s Doncaster conference revealed the divisions that would derail their election campaign

19/04/2015, 08:35:17 PM

by Samuel Dale

Ukip is losing and its future is bleak. Its poll rating is being squeezed and its manifesto was an aimless ragbag of populist ideas.

It wants to attract lefty Labour voters and right-wing Tories so it ends up with an incoherent, hollow message.

The manifesto wanted increases to the carers allowance and an end the bedroom tax while slashing income tax for the wealthiest.

The only thing they can all agree on is leaving the EU and attacking immigrants.

This unholy alliance will boil to the surface after the election, especially if Nigel Farage loses in South Thanet and has to quit.

The seeds of the discontent were sown at the party conference in Doncaster last year with the party riding high amid defections and rising polls.

At an Institute of Economic Affairs fringe event on economic policy was the libertarian immigration spokesman and MEP Steven Woolfe and the economics spokesman and MEP Patrick O’Flynn.

MEP Tim Aker and Tory activist Tim Montgomerie were sat by their side and the session was hosted by ex-Lib Dem and IEA director-general Mark Littlewood.

Earlier in the day, O’Flynn had set the conference tone by unveiling income tax cut proposals for middle earners by raising the 40p threshold and introducing a new 35p band.

But he also unveiled a “wag tax” proposal to increase VAT to 25% on luxury goods such as expensive cars and shoes.

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