Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’

The Tory taste of death

28/04/2017, 02:20:10 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We’re having so many elections that Lynton Crosby is usurping Kylie Minogue as our most ubiquitous Antipodean. Painting campaigns in primary colours of risk and security, Better the Devil You Know is his favourite Kylie track.

So starkly are risk and security contrasted that it rapidly descends to Eddie Izzard’s cake or death sketch. This time the “security cake” is made of Brexit, Ed Miliband’s energy price cap, and Philip Hammond’s dearth of fiscal plans. If your pallet is trapped in May 2015, this cake will taste of what we were told was deathly risk. Then security supposedly meant EU membership, opposition to the energy price cap, and George Osborne’s austerity justifying fiscal plans.

Crosby now sells a confused security composed of what he recently told us was risk. Unknowable risks at that. We are not being asked to vote for Brexit but for whatever Theresa May, after a highly complex negotiation with the EU and its member states, decides Brexit means. As fiscal prudence has been redefined as whatever Hammond deems it.

Blank cheque Brexit, aligned with carte blanche fiscal policy, is no security at all. Making this understood is now the task of Labour PPCs.

Robert Harris, writing not long before the election was called in the New Statesman, “can’t quite understand how the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party can sit there day after day, month after month, year after year, knowing that they’re simply heading towards a kind of mincing machine at the next election.”

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Starmer is right: Only Labour can stop a blank cheque Brexit

25/04/2017, 11:14:50 PM

by David Ward

At times it felt like we’d completely bypassed the election and gone straight into the leadership contest. Jenny Chapman introduced Keir Starmer as “clear, articulate, and strong” and one of the “bravest, most sincere, people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with”.

Yet with the inescapable reality of the stopped clock on the adjacent wall telling the right time twice a day, Starmer had to bring us back into the present and tell us what Labour’s policy on Brexit would be.

For an election speech there was quite a bit of policy in there. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals, an end to free movement, a laser focus on jobs and the economy in negotiations. Although it isn’t clear how Labour would “retain the benefits” of the single market and customs union.

But the specifics were less important than the narrative. If this election is about who runs Brexit, Starmer’s message is voting labour is the only way to keep May honest.

This is surely right. Because there are reasons to be concerned about giving the PM such a free hand regardless of whether you supported Leave or Remain.

A huge majority for May simply allows her free rein to strike almost any agreement, impervious to criticism.

For example many leavers, including Labour voters, were motivated by concerns about immigration last summer. Yet already Theresa May has suggested free movement could continue after Britain leaves the EU.

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Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power

22/04/2017, 07:29:42 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The failure of the New Labour project, measured in its ability to blow the victory of 1997 by 2010 at the latest, has an eerie similarity to the failure of Trump to know that pride goes before a fall. Not the current President of the USA, but Judd Trump, the snooker player. As someone who plays the game but very badly, I am in awe of Trump who was the youngest player ever to make a maximum 147 break an will one day win the world championship. But not this year.

He was knocked out by an unknown 46 year old qualifier last week, Rory McLeod, in the first round on April 19th. He came into the Championships as world ranked Number 2 and joint champion, and made the fatal error of saying the rating did not worry him. He should have been worried. Like many super talented people, he underestimated his opponent and suffers from the pride of arrogance. Like some politicians I can think of. David Cameron thought the Brexiteers were ‘swivel eyed loons’ and lost the 2016 referendum. The 1945 general election result led to some Labour people saying “We are the masters now”. But while Judd Trump was so upset he could not make his post-match TV interview, he should look at the current Labour Party and think he got away lightly.

While the Labour Party recovered after losing in 1951, and Cameron’s party looks like it is doing well, whether the arrogance of New Labour will see a recovery will be in the lap of the gods. And no one should blame Corbyn for the current crisis, which he makes worse but did not create. Blair destroyed his own credibility with the working class core voter even before the Iraq war. While the 2001 seats tally was much the same as the 1997 landslide, in key areas like Stoke the working class voter had already started to slip away. By 2005 Blair could only muster 37% of the vote, enough to win, but also to give Michael Howard’s Tories the scent of a failing project. It is a matter of history that Brown and Miliband could get nowhere near even the 2005 election result.

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Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

19/04/2017, 10:11:48 PM

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks. (more…)

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Labour’s general election campaign will be dominated by the battle to succeed Corbyn

18/04/2017, 06:53:07 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.

A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.

Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.

The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.

Brexit will define everything.

During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.

Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.

This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.

It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.

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Labour’s best hope? Hold what we have

18/04/2017, 03:53:58 PM

The etiquette of a general election requires opposition parties to welcome it.

It’s supposed to bring to a head years of public animosity with the governing party, allowing the opposition to channel the hopes and desire for change of frustrated voters.

Fat chance of any of that happening on June 8th.

Theresa May’s snap general election is a chance to grind Labour’s face into the dirt.

This is a bid for naked political advantage. Party before country.

Alas, it was made inevitable from the moment Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Labour’s lurch to the barren shores of the hard left made this election an irresistible prospect.

Sure, Theresa May has a point about wanting a strengthened mandate from the voters for the tough Brexit negotiations to come, but it’s a fig-leaf. A secondary excuse.

Despite the public front that it welcomes the election, Labour is reeling. There is no prospect of anything other than a drubbing.

And everyone knows it.

Indeed, insult will be added to injury midway through this campaign when we’ll see the twentieth anniversary of Labour’s 1997 landslide on May 1st 1997.  Back then, Labour won a parliamentary majority of 179.

Now, it will now be lucky if it can now hold that number of seats.

Plenty perfectly decent Labour MPs are about to pay the price for Jeremy Corbyn’s personal unpopularity and eager embrace of the desiccated corpse of hard left gesture politics.

Although the party has claimed to be on election footing for a while – and with the influx of new members is financially well placed to fight a campaign – Labour candidates are marching headlong into the Valley of Death.

Even Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, recently conceded it will take two years for the party to rebuild in the polls from two years of infighting.

Labour now has less than two months.

There is only one thing the party can realistically hope for; that its core vote is stronger than Westminster chatterers assume.

And the only glimmer of hope is that Labour’s existential psychodrama is now brought to a head.

Instead of waiting until 2020, Labour has the chance to rebuild earlier than predicted. Cold comfort.

Other than that, this is Labour’s darkest hour.

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Time to get over Brexit and move on to the next debates

08/04/2017, 04:17:02 PM

by Samuel Dale

Stop it. Just stop it.

I voted to remain in the EU. I wanted us to stay in as much as anyone and still believe it is a major mistake that the UK will come to regret.

But I was on the losing side. Remain lost in a clean, fair fight where robust and dodgy arguments and statistics were deployed on both sides.

The vote was close but clear. The Leave campaign won by more than half a million votes and that means Brexit must happen.

These seem like the most basic, simplistic points imaginable but some in Labour and the wider Left are still refusing to accept the result.

Tony Blair has suggested a second referendum on the final deal. Alastair Campbell has repeatedly called for Brexit to be stopped. Labour-supporting lawyer Joylon Maugham says the legal process for reversing Article 50 is sound.

And then there is Professor AC Grayling, who appears to have lost his mind. Even Professor Richard Dawkins, the high priest of rationality, says Brits have not spoken on Brexit (when they quite clearly have).

These are all people I respect but here is the truth: You can deploy whatever clever, legalistic shenanigans you like but there is zero chance that Britain will remain in the EU. Absolutely, stone cold zero.

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Indyref2 adds another twist to Brexit that Labour cannot handle

21/03/2017, 11:30:33 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Harold Wilson rightly said that a week is a long time in politics. Philip Hammond would agree, but the real shift in emphasis post budget was the SNP decision to go for a second independence referendum if they don’t like the Brexit deal. Or rather before the Brexit deal, as they want a vote before we know what the deal actually is. This adds another twist to the Brexit saga that the Labour leadership cannot handle.

As I noted in my post after the Open Labour meeting on March 11th, Miliband dampened hopes by backing the Corbyn- Starmer line. This is an acceptance of Britexit – without the escape clauses of referring a deal to the electorate agreed by Party conference last year – and an attempt to get a few concessions which they can sell publically as a Soft and so acceptable Brexit. The Tories will not allow this to happen.

May’s strategy is to win over the UKIP vote which if successful in leave constituencies – like Copeland –  would make the Tories invincible. Labour loses two ways backing soft Brexit. Labour can lose to the Lib Dems or SNP in Remain seats, and to Tories in Leave seats. UKIP don’t seem a serious challenge unless they can resist the Tory surge, and this remains possible. But what is clear is that Labour’s strategy cannot work, and the last week provided depressing evidence that this was the case.

The debate and vote on the Article 50 bill (European Union, Notification of Withdrawal) Bill came up for a derisory two hour debate on March 13th. Poor in content and almost contemptuously handed by David Davis, its only notable feature was the defeat of the two Lords amendments which would have provided some safeguards. Given the Tory majority, these could only be passed if Tory MPs rebelled. The significantly titled shadow minister for Brexit, Keir Starmer MP, pointed out these were Labour proposals accepted by the Lords.

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Opposing Brexit would unite Labour, rout Corbyn and rob the Lib Dems & SNP of their faux radicalism

20/02/2017, 10:35:28 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The vote on Article 50 underlined Labour’s existential problem. It is clear that a party which makes a case then abandons it is in trouble but this is not a Corbyn problem as it is the story of the party over the last 25 years, since the 1992 election and the abandoning of John Smith’s National Insurance increases. Having lost the “double whammy” election, this was rational, but  Labour then adopted moving to the right  as a policy – ‘triangulation’ – which left Labour without an identity. And as Atul Hatwal argued on 28th January, Labour’s internal politics from 2015 were dominated by a return to ideological purity when the parliamentary tactic of abstaining on the Benefits issue led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. However Corbyn has taken the MPs into the lobbies in support of Theresa May. You could not make it up.

With Jezza turning into Tony Blair, it’s time to address the root issue. New Labour accepted the Thatcherite view that There Is No Alternative, so appeasement was the answer, and this worked in the 1997 and 2001 elections. But not thereafter. Now Labour faces challenges on all fronts. It has already lost Scotland, and in England and Wales Lib Dems can take the Remain voters and Tories and UKIP the Leave voters. A party can be wobbly on some issues some of the time, but not on the defining issue of an era.

However a week in politics is a long time, and as a by election strategy giving in to the Brexit lobby has some short term advantages. How it plays in Copeland I do not know, but in Stoke accepting Article 50 has made sense though UKIP is still playing the card that Labour will ignore the Referendum. Hardly! In the local paper the Stoke Sentinel, (17th February) Labour candidate Gareth Snell’s statement is “I accept without hesitation the Referendum result. I have said repeatedly that if I had a vote in parliament I would have voted for Britain to leave the EU. My focus now is on winning the best Brexit deal for Stoke on Trent”. This has allowed Snell to avoid the criticism levelled at Paul Farrelly, in neighbouring Newcastle Under Lyme, who was a rebel.

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Jam-eaters will decide Copeland. Based on her trip north, Theresa May has clearly never heard of them

18/02/2017, 10:30:26 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is easy to poke fun at Cumbria. The land that time forgot. Northern accents that can’t quite be placed – “I thought you were from Yorkshire”. Withnail and I going, “on holiday by mistake”. Lots of sausage. Little hip and happening.

Most people in Cumbria, I feel, look at Millom, a town of 8,000 people in the south of Copeland, scene of one of this week’s byelections, as the rest of the country looks at Cumbria – far-flung, incomprehensible. “It is,” I was once told by a friend from Workington, “a funny place, Millom, isn’t it?” Millom, in turn, redirects this perception to Bootle, a nearby village.

“What is it that you don’t have in Bootle? Electricity?”

Coming from Bootle, I grew accustomed to mocking enquiries such as this in the Millom schoolyard. At least, no one called me, “bad Bootle UKIP meff”. That is Paul Nuttall from Bootle, Merseyside – a more gritty and urban place.

The sitcom Porridge is set in a prison just outside Millom. A hapless guard bemoans losing his wife to, “the bright lights of Workington”. A lag, played by Ronnie Barker, sympathises that he, “can’t compete with that”. As much as the canned laughter indicates that the rest of the country find the notion of a cosmopolitan Cumbria oxymoronic, the Millom prison guard and my Workington friend would see themselves as coming from different places.

While there is a rivalry between Whitehaven, very much in the Copeland constituency, and Workington, a town just north that gives its name to a separate seat this side of the boundary review, they’d see each other as fellow jam-eaters and Millom and Bootle as remote outposts.

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