Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

John McDonnell has finally lost it

06/03/2017, 12:49:39 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was a cold February morning, when the Shadow Chancellor finally gave in to his demons and went “full conspiracy theory”.

To be fair, he probably didn’t feel too well. Labour had just suffered a “historic” by-election defeat at the hands of the governing party, something unheard of in thirty-five years and with the biggest pro-incumbent vote increase in a half-century.

It all had to be, of course, the fault of the Blairites. Particularly the man himself for his recent intervention over Brexit, who will shortly celebrate a decade of, er, not being the leader of his party. Not to mention Lord Mandelson, the incarnation of all evil to a Corbynite.

As John Rogan pointed out last August, it’s not as if McDonnell holds views consistent with a life at the top table in a major political party. When the IRA came to the negotiating table, he said they could only settle for a united Ireland. The organisation he chairs, the Labour Representation Committee, in 2012 called for the release of all Irish “political prisoners”, including those who had murdered that same year, 14 years after the peace agreement.

In other words, McDonnell and his colleagues set themselves in a position considerably more uncompromising than Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, by then getting on with the substantially more serious business of governing Northern Ireland.

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The problem with the Labour Right

13/02/2017, 10:25:09 PM

In a pair of short essays on the state of the party, Kevin Meagher casts a critical eye over the state of both the Labour Right and the Labour Left. First the Right.

Let me start with a counterfactual. The basic problem with the Labour Right is that there isn’t really a ‘Labour Right,’ per se.

What I mean is there are several tribes on the right of the party – and the bad news is they have less and less in common. For a long time, they overlapped, with the glue of winning elections and holding office binding them together.

There are big differences between those on what we usually refer to as the moderate side of the party, and the radicals on the left. But we need to appreciate there are also differences within these agglomerated wings.

So those on Labour Right may broadly agree on a sensible, moderate approach to politics, but the various strands of opinion within it still have different aspirations and priorities.

First, we have the neo-Blairites clustered around their ginger group, Progress. They pine for a return to the certainties of New Labour. Tony ‘n’ triangulation, so to speak. They are happy with winning for the sake of winning.

That perhaps sounds dismissive. It isn’t meant to be. Clearly, any successful political project requires electoral victory and the progressives, or neo-Blairites, have things to say that are worth hearing.

But there’s a self-satisfaction about their view of the New Labour era which is quite unjustified. Of course, many positive changes were made during the Blair-Brown years of 1997-2010, notably managing a gently revving economy for a decent period and investing a huge amount in frontline public services.

But for too many people, New Labour simply did not change the weather.

Steel works, coal mines and factories did not reopen. Perhaps none of that was realistic, but it was, however, emblematic of a bigger problem: The types of decently-paid industrial jobs that sustained the British working class simply never returned and New Labour had no response to that.

It is a failing that is now killing British social democracy. All the other welcome policy interventions come to naught if working people cannot earn enough to buy a home, bring up their kids and enjoy life.

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Everyone wants to be Tony Blair, not Neil Kinnock

29/01/2017, 06:26:38 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Tristram Hunt is off to run a museum rather than fight for the soul of the Labour party. We should not be surprised. He is one of a band of would-be leaders who would rather like to be Prime Minister, but don’t want to put in the work required to get there.

Labour’s shiny leadership hopefuls don’t want to get their shoes wet in the swamp of party reform. They want someone else to deliver them an electable Labour party to lead. So they’ll go and sit on the hillside until that happens.

They will be waiting a long time.

Here’s the hard reality. No Labour MP over the age of 45 is ever going to be Prime Minister.

The party will do less badly than many predict in 2020 (the Labour brand is stronger in its heartlands than the chatterers and scribblers of Westminster presume) but it will still be bad. The earliest Labour recovery is at the election after.

It’s easy for those on the right to daydream that they will rub the Left’s nose in the manure of defeat in 2020, snatch back ‘their’ party and march to victory, but it’s an idle fantasy.

Even if Corbyn makes way for a more centrist leader, no-one is going to be given carte blanche to reform the party the way Tony Blair was. The late Labour MP Tony Banks once said his members were so desperate for victory after the party’s fourth successive general election defeat in 1992 that they were willing to ‘eat shit to see a Labour Government.’

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Uncut predictions for 2017: Blair will abandon support for free movement

04/01/2017, 06:23:29 PM

How to solve a problem like Brexit?

Ostensibly, it’s the reason for Tony Blair’s return to fray. He wants a second referendum to reverse the public’s decision to quit the EU back in June, but polls show the voters simply don’t regret the decision.

To get them to change their minds, the facts must change.

Ever the pragmatist, Blair knows full well this means abandoning free movement of people as an article of faith for the pro-globalisationists of British politics, of which, he remains the undisputed leader.

Could he follow contemporary Labour luminaries like Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn who have each recently called for an end to free movement?

The impact of mass migration was the defining issue of the campaign and reforming it is an essential down payment in securing any fresh plebiscite. But, even then, there’s no guarantee one can be justified.

Of course, it also requires Europe to even discuss a special deal for Britain, which, variously, Angela Merkel, the Commission and east European Member States have all flatly rejected.

But we are through the looking glass in 2017.

And if John Major could secure his Maastricht Treaty opt-outs from joining the single currency and social chapter, Blair might calculate that a fresh deal on free movement is achievable.

After all, 2017 may be another tumultuous year for the EU, if Marine Le Pen wins the French presidency, or if Merkel is ousted in German federal elections later in the year.

Buying off the truculent Brits with a concession on free movement might seem the cheap option for a bit of stability.

Watch this space.

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The Uncuts: 2016 political awards (part II)

31/12/2016, 02:47:52 PM

Labour politician of the year – Sadiq Khan

Jeremy Corbyn has had an unprecedented 2016. No one has ever been twice elected Labour party leader – with impressive margins on both occasions. He is entitled to feel tremendous pride. The chord that he has struck is undeniable.

It remains to be seen, though, whether this chord resonates with the wider public. This requires validation in a general election. While Sadiq Khan has not won a general election as Labour leader, his election as Labour Mayor in London is as near as a non-leader can get to these giddy heights.

Belief in clause one socialism, incrementally securing the common good via the tools that elected office affords, demands that Sadiq Khan be recognised as Labour politician of the year.

Khan’s campaign brilliantly weaved biography with policy – the son of a bus driver to fix the buses; the boy from the council estate to sort the houses – and has won a massive mandate for the implementation of progressive politics. At a time when, with Hillary Clinton defeated and Brexit happening, such politics is thought to be in reverse. That Khan made this happen with his status as a Muslim barely commented upon – except, sadly, by his Conservative opponent – is testament not only to his talents but also to the open and tolerant instincts of London, which, with Mayor Khan, London will preserve in the Brexit era.

In a bleak year, Khan’s victory was a beacon of light. For sake of Labour, progressives more generally, and all that is best about London, it is vital that he does not squander the bright future that he has managed to craft for himself.

Contribution to post-truth politics – Jeremy Corbyn

The exponential growth of fact-free politics during 2016 has led the judges to create this new award, and it is an already-crowded field. Clearly Donald Trump’s chutzpah in creating an entire campaign based on manipulating information obtained by Russian hacking, not to mention a swathe of old-fashioned untruths, put him clearly in the running. Then the Brexit campaign’s celebrated “£350m savings for the NHS”, later proven to be utter tosh, brought the whole thing to a new level.

However, the jury felt that it should not just be the degree of economy with the actualité, but also the length of time that the nominee had been involved in the politics of post-truth. And here there was one candidate who was felt to have started long before the others. the Contribution To Post Truth Politics Award for 2016 therefore goes to…Jeremy Corbyn.

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David Cameron flunks his final test

13/09/2016, 07:43:37 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Twenty years. That’s what it will take for David Cameron’s name to be anything other than a byword for political failure. In the 2030s a new generation of Conservative politicians, untainted by the assumptions of their political forbears will rediscover David Cameron like some long lost Beatles recording.

I recall the process well from the mid-1990s when many of us working for the Labour party unearthed our own Rare Groove classics: Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson.

When nostalgia and retro-chic return Cameron to relevance he will be 69.

Just three years older than the current leader of the Labour party, one year older than Hillary Clinton, most likely the next President of the United States and one year younger than Donald Trump, god forbid, the next President of the United States.

Instead of ascending to the highest office in his profession, based on a life of experience, David Cameron’s most productive working years will be spent trailing around the world engaged in lucrative but transitory and ultimately hollow pursuits.

He branded himself the heir to Blair a decade ago and as he travels through his fifties and sixties, David Cameron will truly take-up this mantle.

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The Tories are harking back to a mythical ‘golden age’ of grammar schools

26/07/2016, 04:12:25 PM

by Angela Rayner

Conservative Voice, a Tory activist group, has officially launched their campaign to lift the ban on opening new grammar schools, introduced by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair 18 years ago.

If prime minister Theresa May is serious about her recent rhetoric on the steps of Downing Street, when she said that her government would do everything it could to help “anyone, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you”, then she will halt this divisive campaign in its tracks.

Some Tories argue for more grammar schools as engines of social mobility, which propel kids from working-class, low and middle income families up the social ladder. But the facts argue otherwise.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that amongst those identified as high achievers at an early age, children who are eligible for free school meals or who live in poorer neighbourhoods are significantly less likely to attend a grammar school than their better off classmates.

There are 163 grammar schools left in the country. In 161 of them, fewer than 10% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.

According to research by the House of Commons library, around 2% of children at grammar schools are eligible for free school meals.

So they are not being drawn from the poorest backgrounds.

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10 hard truths for Labour moderates

21/07/2016, 10:01:33 PM

by Samuel Dale

Last summer, Labour Uncut ran a series about telling ten hard truths for the Labour party after an epic election defeat in May 2015.

Those were the days. Remember Andy Burnham giving his opening leadership speech at Ernst & Young and talking about attracting business support? Or Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper fighting over who could say aspiration the most times in a speech?

For a few heady days in May, we were all Blairites. An incredible 12 months in Labour politics has passed and it is time to tell 10 hard truths to Labour moderates about our role in the party.

1. Jeremy Corbyn won because Labour members backed him. Corbyn currently appears to have the overwhelming support of Labour members, not to mention affiliated and registered supporters. In fact, he is one of the most popular leaders the party has ever had among its membership. The only realistic route to removing Corbyn is persuading these members that there is a better alternative. Telling them they are clowns or morons (as I have done many times) is self-indulgent and clearly unpersuasive.

2. Momentum have out-organised the Labour right. Last summer, the Corbyn campaign signed up 88,449 registered supporters paying £3 each to vote for him. That was a huge effort of organization and political skill. Without those registered supporters then the vote would have gone into a second round and anything could have happened. This year’s election has been an even bigger effort with an estimated 150,000 registered supporters signed up in the last 48 hours. Some will be moderates for Saving Labour but it seems likely that most will be Corbynistas. (more…)

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Jeremy Corbyn has turned Labour into a middle class personality cult

20/07/2016, 01:32:12 PM

by George Morris

Jeremy Corbyn has a massive mandate, apparently. The mandate is so big, some of Corbyn’s fans argue, that the current challenge to his leadership is anti-democratic. ‘The People’ have decided that Corbyn is leader, he has a mandate, and everyone else should shut up. But things are more complicated than that.

Christine Shawcroft, a loyalist NEC member running for re-election, recently told the BBC that Corbyn had the biggest mandate in Labour Party history. That isn’t true. What constitutes a mandate is governed by the rules of the game, and up until the mid nineties that meant bloc votes, which invariably delivered enormous mandates to Labour leaders. If you think Corbyn’s 59.5 per cent is impressive, then take a look at Kinnock’s 73.1 per cent in 1983, the first election in which the opinions of people outside the PLP first mattered. When Tony Benn challenged this mandate in 1988, with the backing of Jeremy Corbyn, Kinnock’s mandate got even bigger, at 88.6 per cent. Still, it was nothing compared to John Smith’s 91 per cent in 1992.

Of course, we’re not comparing like with like. Bloc votes awarded candidates with massive chunks of the electorate, and we can expect the numbers to look rather different once selections were opened up. Of the three Labour leaders to have faced the Labour selectorate since the abolition of bloc voting, Corbyn does indeed have the biggest mandate, at 59.5 per cent. Ed Miliband got 50.7 per cent of the vote, in the fourth round, after being behind his brother all the way through, and so it never felt like an impressive victory. But Blair wasn’t far behind Corbyn, with 57 per cent of the vote in 1994.

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Labour has a leadership vacancy but no takers

15/07/2016, 06:53:13 PM

by Robin Thorpe

The Labour party is always at its best when it is seen as a modernising force; a movement that has the capability to tangibly improve the lives of people across the UK. This was true for Prime Ministers Atlee, Wilson and Blair. This is perhaps why the current crop of Labour MPs sees Corbyn, a representative of a historical aspect of Labour, as the problem rather than the solution. But the complete lack of any ideas from the challengers, let alone principles, means that any coup was doomed to fail before it had begun.

The launch of Angela Eagle’s leadership challenge typified the earnest but empty hand-wringing that is all the vast majority of the PLP seemingly have to offer the country. The speech was full of platitudes and expressions of dismay over Corbyn’s lack of leadership, but utterly devoid of any vision for a brighter future or strategy of how to achieve this. Her argument is that she is better than Jeremy because Jeremy failed.

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Corbyn has accomplished this to some extent with the Labour membership and the leaders of the trade unions. He clearly hasn’t with the PLP and opinion polls suggest that he has failed to influence the wider electorate. Angela Eagle has set out her challenge for the leadership by offering a more cohesive party. But leadership is not about better management; it is about providing direction. Defining what an organisation is about and where it will take its stakeholders.

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