Posts Tagged ‘Tom Watson’

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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Operation Midland: time to examine our prejudices

30/03/2016, 09:56:16 PM

by Rob Marchant

Last week Operation Midland, a two-year investigation into an alleged homicide thirty years ago, concluded with no charges made. It was the latest of several inquiries into child abuse, some of which are still ongoing.

Back in 2012, the Metropolitan Police began Operation Yewtree, culminating in the arrests and convictions of a number of people, mostly media personalities. It was largely perceived as a success, rightly uncovering some terrible failings on the part of the media “establishment”, where stars had become “untouchable”.

The most shocking thing about the revelations was that it seemed that everybody knew. I still remember a conversation with a BBC producer perhaps a decade ago, who commented that “you didn’t leave children alone with Jimmy Savile”. How could it be, I asked myself, that a culture be allowed to grow which allowed people to commit horrific crimes against children with impunity?

And so, many finally got their just desserts. About time. A job well done.

There was, however, a downside. No wide-ranging investigation can dig up only guilty people. Inevitably, there would be those, like the thoroughly decent DJ Paul Gambaccini, who suddenly found themselves pushed into a media circus where their life and careers were trashed by mere virtue of suspicion. That they formed part of the same sick segment of society as Savile and Rolf Harris.

Later, of course, they were cleared. As were comedians Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson.

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The cult of the Labour doorstep does more harm than good

08/03/2016, 10:31:28 PM

by Jon Bounds

For the ‘sensible establishment’ supporters of Labour’s pre-Corbyn core comes a new standard to which the rest of Labour’s membership must be held: time on the doorstep.

The idea that knocking on doors providing up to date voter data (oh, and having ‘conversations’, although in what form we’re never really told) is the only route of activism available to the foot-soldiers.

Having an opinion is frowned-upon until a certain amount of dues-paying doorstepping has been completed.

A Red Wedge-style series of fund- and awareness-raising gigs with high profile names is dismissed as meaningless in electoral terms. Unless enough doors have been knocked on.

Labour far outshone the Conservatives in doorstep conversations in May last year. But, if knocking on doors alone won elections, it wouldn’t be the Labour party in power: it would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In coalition with meter readers and Betterware franchisees.

Social media may be an echo chamber, but its connections and volume still matters.

It’s where people are — but crucially most see no substantive delineation between platforms, between local and national issues, nor between ‘real life’ and the real people they communicate with online*.

That’s why Tom Watson’s digital project, and what it comes out with is so important: we do need to be able to understand how the psychology of people plays out as a whole. That includes conversations around unity in the media, and on the web. And it includes targeted digital interactions.

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The A-Z of Corbsplaining

11/10/2015, 09:59:54 PM

There’s been a lot of change in the Labour party of late – new people joining, new faces at the top and new language being used.

To help readers, Uncut has produced this handy guide to Corbsplaining, keeping you up to date with the party’s exciting new vocabulary.

Print it out, take it to your local CLP meeting and dazzle Labour friends and colleagues with your Corbsplaining skills.

Next stop, the NEC!

A

Assist members making their voice heard – Use veteran hard left organisers to corral a herd of £3 hipsters to deselect troublesome MPs.

Austerity – Any cut to public spending, of any kind, at any point, by any level of government. Does not include cuts to military spending, which are completely different and fine.

B

Britain – Socialist utopia with a progressive majority that opposes all austerity*

*Apart from at general elections

Burnhamite – A malleable substance that can bend and merge to form any shape required of it before ultimately imploding.

C

Corbynite – A rare and abstruse substance that destroys the trust of voters.

Campaign Group – A group of MPs who do not campaign but do tweet a lot.

D

Democracy – A vital part of civilisation, to be protected and supported at all costs*.

*Not applicable to residents of Iran, Russia, Donbass, Gaza, Lebanon or Venezuela.

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