Posts Tagged ‘Tom Watson’

Labour Conference 2018: Time for a new direction on Brexit

24/09/2018, 09:44:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour Party conference meets amid the UK’s deepening constitutional and economic crisis. Merely by reiterating its long-established red lines, EU leaders inspired a haughty and incoherent speech from our out-of-her-depth prime minister, bringing the calamity of no deal Brexit nearer.

The message from Nigel Farage at the Leave Means Leave rally is clear: “No deal, no problem.” The message from Labour’s conference needs to be equally straight-forward: “No deal, no way.”

Brexit, as President Macron noted, “was pushed by people who predicted easy solutions.” Now the same people tell us not to worry about no deal. Surely the will of the people is not to be fooled twice.

The warning lights from Labour should be flashing brightly to avoid the kind of no deal scenario depicted in a Financial Times editorial in July:

“The UK would spill out of the EU on March 29 2019, guaranteeing chaos on all fronts. It would spell international isolation, as well as a shock to the economy and a political backlash. No competent government could contemplate such an option.”

Given this, the prime minister is wrong, pace her Friday speech, to assert that no deal is better than a bad deal. Labour must say so.

The prime minister is mistaken, too, to claim that EU leaders provided no explanation for their rejection of Chequers. It followed from their consistent position on the indivisibility of the EU’s four freedoms. We must hope that Labour, as an internationalist party, demystifies this hardy mysterious reality.

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Do the Corbynista Many need the Jew

12/08/2018, 10:54:43 PM

by John Wall

Much has been written about Labour’s refusal to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) anti-semitism definition which resulted in disciplinary action, subsequently dropped, against Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin.

Although probably not pre-planned, this can be understood within the hard left mentality and worldview.

Shortly after Corbyn’s ascent Hirsh provided an exposition of Corbynism:

“…a preference within contemporary left-wing culture for defining opponents as not belonging rather than seeking to win them over. Opponents are constructed as being outside of the community of the good or the progressive. This licenses their treatment as ‘other’, impermeable to political argument, reason and evidence.”

The core Corbynista is completely and absolutely devoted to the Bearded Messiah and his policies, will go through incredible “intellectual” gymnastics, dance on the head of a pin and engage in unlimited whataboutery to excuse and justify his record.

Corbynism has been described as a cult, this can be seen in the Corbynista “analysis” of why Labour didn’t win the election and why, despite a government with troubles, they aren’t miles ahead in the polls. Various reasons are proposed but none involve the leader or his policies.

A repeated accusation is that treacherous Blairites are continually colluding with the despised mainstream media to undermine Corbyn; as the Parliamentary Party attempted to get rid of him there is some truth in this. Although some were, and are, fundamentally against Corbyn and his policies others thought he was a loser; the general election converted some of those.

Consequently, Corbynistas generally support mandatory reselection.

Hirsh wrote that:

“As a sort of anti-imperialist ‘campism’ emerges as the pre-eminent principle of the progressive movement, hostility to Israel becomes a key marker of political belonging.”

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How does this stupid attack on Tom Watson help Corbyn?

06/08/2018, 07:52:15 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all the miscues, own goals and careless steps onto garden rakes in recent Labour Party history, last night’s Twitter campaign under the hashtag #ResignWatson is the most senseless and ludicrous so far.

What’s the message? Well, it’s pretty unequivocal: Tom Watson should resign for warning in an interview with The Observer, that there is an urgent need to address the anti-Semitism row engulfing Labour in order to ever win a general election, ‘or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.’

His critics – the trolls and fruitcakes of social media – logically believe that a) Labour should not address the problem or that b) There is no problem to address.

Clearly, both points are delusional. What’s more, Jeremy Corbyn thinks there’s a problem with anti-Semitism that needs fixing.

‘People who dish out antisemitic poison need to understand: you do not do it in my name. You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement,’ he wrote in The Guardian as recently as last Friday.

Surely all Watson has done is echo Corbyn?

Yes, the party risks being scarred by the taint of anti-Semitism after months of agonising coverage – courtesy of a Jew-hating lunatic fringe that has attached itself to the party – and something needs doing about it.

This has culminated in two former Labour ministers – both with deep ties to the Jewish community – facing disciplinary action for giving vent to their frustrations about the weakness of dealing with the problem that Jeremy Corbyn fully accepts exists. Indeed, Watson’s remedy is modest enough:

‘I think it is very important that we all work to de-escalate this disagreement,’ Watson said ‘and I think it starts with dropping the investigations into Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin.’

‘Ah, but Tom’s not really talking about anti-Semitism – he’s making a coded attack on Jeremy,’ goes for what passes as a thought process on the hard left.

Surely the smart move from those Corbynistas who felt Watson was in some way being disloyal would have been to chide him for stating the bleeding obvious?

Instead, we get a high-profile, well-organised campaign to undermine the party’s Deputy Leader.

Exactly how does any of this help Jeremy Corbyn?

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Leadership fix machine cranks into action for selections in safe seats

25/04/2017, 09:50:14 PM

While the general election played out in the country today, within the Labour party, the focus has been on selections for the 14 seats where Labour MPs are retiring.

On a day of swirling rumours and frayed tempers, long lists have started to be drawn up by the party as Corbynites battle to secure places for their favoured candidates.

In practical terms, the available seats for this political game of musical chairs is a lot less than 14.

Five seats are off the table because they are likely to be lost – Slough, Hartlepool, Birmingham Edgbaston, Wolverhampton South West and Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

The scale of potential revolt in the local party in Lewisham West and Penge at the prospective imposition of a Corbynite seems to have put off the leadership there while Metro Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram has fended off the threat of having the leader’s son, Seb Corbyn, foisted on Liverpool Walton. Current Liverpool city Mayor, Joe Anderson, is the hot favourite for this, the safest Labour seat in the country.

That leaves six seats – Leigh, Hull West and Hessle, Blaydon, Barnsley East, North West Durham and Oxford East.

Corbyn spokesperson Sam Tarry is in the frame for Hull West and Hessle, preferred over David Prescott, son of John and recent Corbyn speech-writer (albeit for a few weeks before being moved out of the leader’s office).

Rumours are that Katy Clark, Corbyn’s political secretary is being lined up for Leigh, despite recent incumbent Andy Burnham having written an open letter opposing the imposition of a non-local candidate and backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt.

Barnsely East, former seat of Michael Dugher, is also being eyed by the leadership as a destination for a preferred candidate, as much to punish Dugher for his outspoken criticism of the leadership as to secure a seat for a Corbynite. Names mentioned in relation to Barnsley East include Katy Clark again and Karie Murphy.

Murphy is Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff having formerly been Tom Watson’s office manager and the candidate at the heart of the catastrophic Falkirk row in the last parliament. Following Falkirk, she was reportedly blocked from the Halifax selection just before the 2015 election, by Harriet Harman.

The machinations will continue for the rest of the week, consuming the focus of the senior party leadership and burning another week of the general election campaign.

 

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Labour’s cognitive dissonance over Syria

08/04/2017, 08:00:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems Labour is so full of policy ideas at the moment that it can afford to have not one but two foreign policies.

Backing President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian airfield from which Bashir al-Assad’s warplanes bombed the town of Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons earlier this week, Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, described it as ‘a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’

While agreeing this week’s attack was ‘a war crime’, Jeremy Corbyn instead emphasised that US military action ‘without legal authorisation or independent verification’ could make matters worse and risked intensifying ‘a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people’.

This fault line between the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party is conspicuous.

And, so, the party is left suffering yet another damaging public bout of cognitive dissonance – holding two mutually exclusive opinions – while huddled in the political shop window rocking backwards and forwards, muttering to itself in front of the voters.

That’s the politics of it.

However, questions about military action – and whether or not to back it – obviously override domestic political concerns. Syria is not as straightforward as having ‘a line.’

And, so, in their way, both men are right, albeit for totally different reasons.

Watson spoke for many when he said that chemical weapons attacks on civilians ‘can never be tolerated and must have consequences.’

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Soft Brexit is an illusion. Either Labour opposes or backs a hard Tory Brexit by default

03/04/2017, 09:37:59 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The weekly dance at Westminster of the Parliamentary Labour Party over Brexit reached a new stage in the final week of March with Keir Starmer’s 6 tests of what Labour would accept to back Brexit.  It is not worth discussing them. They will be voted down and unless the Tories can be induced to split, then Labour faces a bleak future where it continually fails to set the agenda while the SNP (north of the border) and the Lib Dems (South of the border) collect the Remain votes.

While Ed Miliband’s speech at Open Labour was sad, possibly even sadder was Tom Watson’s weekly bulletin (1st April but not alas an April Fool’s joke)  in which he claimed “Labour won’t support a final deal which does not pass all these tests”, referring to Keir Starmer’s 6 tests earlier in the week. The PLP has lost every vote where it has voted against the Tory Brexit plans, and this will continue. Theresa May’s game plan is a hard Brexit to win the UKIP voter and destroy Labour in its northern seats, and it is formidable. However the belief that there is a soft Brexit – and not a clear choice to oppose Brexit, without playing a game that would split the party and the Northern MPs who are terrified for their seats – is no response for Labour.

Watson’s blog calls on May to honour her “strong commitments”  – she is doing so: she promised to deliver a an uncompromising Brexit –  and the relevant section ends “She needs to stand up to those in her party whose vision of Britain’s future is very different from that of most of the people who voted to leave the EU. And she needs to deliver a deal which meets her commitments. Labour’s tests and the aspirations of all British people, whether they voted Leave or Remain”. This is ungrammatical, fantasy politics.  There is no evidence Hard Brexit is not what Leavers voted for, though this can change, but arguing that the Leave and Remain voters have the same aspirations is to reinvent reality.

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The “soft coup” might be on, but it surely ain’t from the right

24/03/2017, 06:41:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

For weeks now, the party’s left has been whispering about a “soft coup”. Ah, the old Soviet tactic, much beloved of today’s Vladimir Putin: confuse things by accusing your opponents of whatever you are up to yourself. Oh, and make them feel under attack, so they close ranks.

There is a coup going on, but it is clearly not the evil Blairites named by John McDonnell.

As revelations about Jon Lansman’s declared strategy for Momentum as an alternative power base to the party itself became public, it seems Monday night’s PLP meeting was converted into something of a showdown.

Corbyn jeered. Watson cheered. The PLP, depressed and muted for months since Corbyn’s re-election, suddenly found its voice.

And it was that same Tom Watson leading the charge – a loyalist clearly adept at unearthing the truth but in this case apparently with a couple of years’ time-lag.

(We should probably gloss over his part the plot to bring down Tony Blair; or the fact that, in the Falkirk selections debacle – in which his own parliamentary office was directly implicated, along with Unite, let us not forget – he helped lead to the change in the electoral system which let in Corbyn in the first place.)

And the revelation was that – hold the front page! – Momentum is actually organising for the takeover/destruction of the Labour Party (delete as applicable), just like Militant before it, in conjunction with that same Unite union. Where were you in 2015, Tom, when it was obvious to everyone? Or in 2013, when Unite were stitching up selections for the hard left?

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With Corbyn as the Labour frontman it’s time for a new centre left band

27/09/2016, 07:39:24 PM

by John Slinger

At Labour’s ruling body last week, deputy leader Tom Watson described his reforms as “putting the band back together”. As someone who’s played in rock bands for as long as I’ve been a Labour member, I know that there comes a time when most bands split, usually over ‘artistic differences’ or arguments how to get a record deal. For me that time has come.

Having worked with Jeremy Corbyn in parliament in 2003, I know he’s a principled and decent man. But he’s the wrong frontman for a band that at its best is capable appealing to the masses, Oasis or Blur-style (I’m showing my age). Like all bands with ropey songs but genuinely held delusions of grandeur, Jeremy and his managers have found a niche market of devoted fans who cheer him to the rafters as a rock god. Everyone knows the euphoric feeling of seeing ‘your’ band, singing songs for you amidst a crowd of like-minded people. After the gig you return to the real world and discover that not everyone shares your musical tastes. I suspect that Labour members will experience this when they knock on the doors of ordinary voters in the coming weeks.

This isn’t about bands or even principally the future of the once great Labour Party, but about British democracy. It’s vital that any government faces a strong opposition, capable of holding them to account and which is a credible alternative for the time when the people choose to kick out the incumbents. The public doesn’t regard Corbyn and his underperforming front bench as anywhere near up to the task. They hear about the Corbyn-supporting Momentum organisation and they remember how Militant infiltrated Labour in the 80s.

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Corbyn must be beaten in a leadership contest. MPs can’t exclude him from the ballot

27/06/2016, 06:13:34 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The first stage of the PLP rebellion has been executed well. The scale and pace of the resignations have demonstrated the level of breach between the leader and his parliamentary troops.

Now comes the tricky bit.

Once the motion of no confidence in the leader has been passed – current predictions suggest 80%+ PLP backing – the MPs are primed to attempt something disastrous: to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot.

The mechanic will be MP nominations. Once the race is on, contenders need the backing of 35 MPs, a threshold Jeremy Corbyn could not hope to cross.

However, the rules are ambiguous as to whether he, as the incumbent, would need any nominations. Jolyon Maugham QC looked at the detail and, while no fan of Corbyn, concluded that he would be on the ballot automatically as leader. Legal firm, Doughty Street Chambers have come to the same view.

Apparently there is some contradictory advice with Iain McNicol, Labour party general secretary, but regardless of the legal he-said-she-saids, MPs should abandon this plan. It’s utterly mad.

Attempting a fix, so that the name Jeremy Corbyn isn’t an option on members’ ballots, is self-harming for two reasons.

First, the party in the country will tear itself apart.

Many MPs seem to have the insouciant attitude that the sole result will be several thousand Corbynistas leaving the party in a huff.

Wrong.

There will be full blown civil war across every level of the party.

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The last 24 hours of Labour politics demonstrate why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t going anywhere

15/06/2016, 10:31:37 PM

by Atul Hatwal

If one thing in modern politics can be guaranteed, it is that Labour will find a way to form a circular firing squad, whatever the situation.

That’s the only way to describe the last minute intervention of Labour’s old right with Ed Balls, Tom Watson, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper, running a freelance campaignlet, within the overall Remain campaign, raising the prospect of ending EU free movement while remaining in the EU.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the policy, to intervene like this at such a late stage betrays an utterly incredible level of political incompetence.

Four points are salient.

First, it was never going to cut through.

In the words of Lynton Crosby you can’t fatten a pig on market day.

To introduce an entirely new policy, at odds with Remain’s focus on the economy is campaign idiocy that confuses the message at a critical juncture.

Second, the story was always going to be concussively knocked down.

It may not have dawned on this group, but in the modern world of communications there is a thing called the telephone.

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