Posts Tagged ‘UKIP’

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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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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The future for Corbyn is grim but Saturday’s Open Labour conference gives cause for hope

09/03/2017, 07:10:40 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The by-elections in Stoke Central and Copeland showed that Brexit remains the dominant fact in British Politics – and while Corbyn’s shift to a pro- Brexit stance while helpful in retaining Stoke did nothing to provide a national UK wide strategy. Paul Mason believes the strategy was purely by election driven. In fact it is not even by election driven, it would not work in strong Remain seats. These two had Leave majorities, which seems to have dictated the shift. In the event, in both seats the majority of those voting on a low turnout voted for real pro-Brexit parties, discounting Labour as its conversion was insubstantial – as UKIP pointed out. And a further conclusion has to be that while the Compass strategy of a progressive alliance could theoretically work in by elections where there is a Remain majority, in Leave seats it does not work.

The share of the vote for the strong Leave parties, Tories and UKIP, discounting Labour’s shift to a Leave position, was virtually identical and greater than the other three parties in both seats. In Copeland, UKIP fell to 7.2% of the vote and Tories rose to 44.2% presumably in consequence, giving the strong Leave parties 51.4%.  As Labour got 37.3%, Libs 7.2% and Greens 1.7%, had the Compass strategy operated and all the Lib Dem and Green votes transferred – a very big assumption – the Labour share plus the others would have been  46.2%. This would have outvoted the Tories on the day had it happened, but would still be less than the strong Leave parties combined.

In Stoke Central the Labour share totalled 37.1%, confirming this was no longer a safe Labour seat. If the Tories, with 24.4%, can do what they did in Copeland and gain UKIP votes, UKIP  gaining 24.7% in Stoke Central, Tories could do well in the successor seat – Stoke central is about to vanish. As for Progressive Alliance, while it was not needed, its worth noting that with Lib Dems getting 9.8% of the vote and the Greens 1.4%, the total of 48.3% would have been less than the 49.1% the two strong Brexit parties totalled.  All academic of course, but no great advert for the progressive alliance which in Leave voting seats is unlikely to deliver the anti- Tory Vote compass thinks is needed.

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Labour might have won in Stoke but long term problems remain

26/02/2017, 08:26:55 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The by-election of February 23rd 2017 brings to the end the history of a seat which has been Labour since its creation in 1950. The seat will disappear under boundary changes, and its history really falls into two stages – a safe Labour seat until Tristram Hunt was parachuted in before the 2010 election, and the collapse of turnout and reduction of the Labour vote to a minority in the era after New Labour took control.

A safe seat I define as a seat where the candidate for one party gets a vote share of 50% plus, in contests with more than one opponent, and Labour did this in all elections before 2010 save 1983 where there was a Social Democrat third candidate. Labour got 48.1% of the poll in 1983. It was still a safe seat under this definition until New Labour took a hand in 2010. It then clung on, but with a minority of the votes cast in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 elections.

However Stoke Central not only declined as a Labour seat but also as a seat where working class people vote, making it a challenge for democrats. In 2015 it had the lowest turnout in the UK at 49.9%. This was however better than 2001 (47.4%) and 2005 (48.4%). Stoke thus had for a decade and a half in its centre, the apathy centre of the UK. In the EU referendum Stoke was the Leave capital city of the UK. The rejection of the EU in the referendum was a striking out at a metropolitan class which had let the city rot.

The two things are linked. Politicians in Stoke have to face the challenge that for most of its citizens, parliamentary politics and especially Labour politics, is largely irrelevant, even if the largest minority of those who still vote have voted Labour in Stoke Central. But at below 40% of the vote in three of the last four elections, winning with a declining mobilisation of actual voters should sound the alarm bells for both Labour and democracy itself.

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The by-elections in this Parliament are four or five party contests

15/01/2017, 10:46:35 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Late last year I argued on this site that the progressive alliance strategy favoured by Compass might work in by elections, but not in general elections. Afterwards I suggested that Brexit dominates British politics. Poll data is starting to indicate people vote for their Referendum position – and a recent poll suggested only 15% of Leavers were prepared to vote Labour. Put these two factors together with recent by-elections and the run up to the Copeland by election becomes a tale of five parties.

Tim Farron argued after the Witney by election on October 20th  that the Liberals were back, restoring three party politics.

The Richmond by-election seemed to back this but as UKIP stood down and backed the Tory Candidate, Goldsmith only nominally being independent, as the Greens stood down and backed the Lib Dems, this was three party politics by proxy. In the event the progressives backed the Lib Dems, Labour voters also went with the Lib Dems, and the reactionaries showed they could form their own tactical alliances

Witney offered more pointers to the new world of five party politics in England though as turnout dropped from 73.3% to 46.8% there has to be caution. But with the Greens and UKIP doing badly on October 20th – factors which may have helped the Richmond decisions – and losing their deposits, Labour losing half its vote and the Lib Dems having a 23.4% swing, Farron looked to be correct, and to be reinforced by Richmond.

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Uncut predictions for 2017: Ukip won’t win the Copeland, Leigh or Walton by-elections

06/01/2017, 04:55:22 PM

The first test of Ukip’s electoral potency under its new leader, Paul Nuttall, comes in the Copeland by-election, following the unexpected decision of Jamie Reed to stand down from Parliament.

Despite voting for Brexit by 62/38 per cent, the West Cumbrian seat doesn’t feel a natural prospect for the kippers. Certainly when compared to parts of Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester. Remote and politically tribal, Copeland feels like a straight Labour/Tory face-off.

Having polled extremely well in the Heywood and Middleton by-election in October 2014, coming within 600 votes of beating Labour, Ukip has very publicly struggled to assemble a decent ground game and lacks campaigning apparatus and experience when it matters most.

Other by-elections in Wythenshawe and Sale East in February 2014 and Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough in May 2016 have revealed this telling weakness, with underwhelming Ukip performances in seats where they should have pressed much harder.

Anyway, the party is under new management and needs to show momentum in the post-Brexit and post-Farage era.

Nuttall, an MEP for the North West, knows this and will be looking for a decent showing in the Leigh and Liverpool Walton by-elections that will follow May’s election of Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram to the new metro mayoralties in, respectively, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Liverpool’s Labour party is well-organised for such a fight and the city was one of the few Labour heartlands to vote Remain (58/42 per cent). But it’s academic: Walton is Labour’s safest parliamentary seat in the country, with a gigantic 27,777 majority and 81 per cent of the vote.

Although Labour had a 14,096 majority in 2015, Leigh has suffered a precipitous decline from its heyday as a mining and textiles town and it’s exactly the type of working-class seat where the kippers hope they can break through.

Indeed, Nuttall is said to be mulling a run as the candidate himself.

The reason he initially decided against challenging for the Ukip leadership was because he wanted to focus on winning a parliamentary seat himself. He knows the stakes are high and a strong performance is essential to maintain Ukip as a brooding threat in Labour’s backyard, his professed electoral strategy.

But he’ll get no joy in Leigh either. There are no Ukip councillors for a start, while Burnham is popular locally and his (slightly) controversial speech castigating free movement the other week, was an early attempt to head off Ukip’s appeal on the issue. Moreover, Leigh has only had four MPs since 1923 – all Labour. The seat will remain loyal.

Expect to hear Nuttall hedging his bets about standing in Leigh until the kippers get the lie of the land.

Then, when they do, he’ll pretend he was never going for it.

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Uncut predictions for 2017: Labour to hold Copeland if it goes local

03/01/2017, 10:14:15 PM

It takes six hours to drive from London to the West Cumbrian seat of Copeland. About the same time it takes to fly from Heathrow to Rome. And back.

After eleven years of tortuous commuting, Labour’s Jamie Reed is calling it a day, announcing his retirement from Parliament before Christmas.

Distance matters in this by-election.

Copeland is a long way from Westminster, physically and culturally. This almost exclusively White, working class and heavily unionised seat has been loyal to Labour for generations.

It is competitive, yes, with Reed winning in 2015 by just 2,564 votes over the Tories, but it’s still a realistic prospect for the party.

Despite talk of the Tories grabbing it, it remains Labour’s to lose.

And the party still has some advantages to exploit.

Good organisation and grassroots support matters in by-elections held in wet winter months.

It seems unlikely the by-election will be held over for five months until May’s county council elections, so that means each party trudging the highways and byways of Copeland (and there are rather a lot of them) in the cold wet evenings of January and February, with voters loathe to open the door.

It also means street stalls are a wash-put and bussing up activists is costly, with few enough volunteers willing to make the epic journey.

The weekly Whitehaven News will only report so many key campaigner visits, so despatching half the Cabinet up there to accrue little or no media coverage becomes a pointless task.

Everyone will struggle with their ground game.

What matters, then, is having existing relationships with the voters and it is here where Labour has some cards to play.

If the party picks a decent local candidate (preferably someone working at nearby Sellafield, the biggest employer in the area) and runs a relentlessly local campaign utilising its existing voter contact, it has a good chance of holding the seat.

It’s easier for Labour to build on its existing support than it is for the Tories and Ukip to make inroads in the time available.

As a Cumbrian MP himself, Tim Farron will probably judge Copeland a bridge too far for the Liberal Democrats (who came a distant fourth in 2015). A weak Lib Dem effort would help shore up Labour’s vote.

So call the by-election early and make the other parties feel the disadvantages of distance, weather and terrain.

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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 Blue Labour to step up

25/11/2016, 05:45:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Whatever happened to Blue Labour?

That was the voguish creed advanced by Lord Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas, among others, during the last parliament, seeking to anchor Labour in its earlier traditions of community, mutualism, localism and self-help, rejecting the excesses 1980s neo-liberalism and 1960s social liberalism alike.

As a concept, it got lost somewhere during two leadership elections, the return to red-blooded socialism under Jeremy Corbyn and the hoo-haa over Brexit.

Now, with the party at risk of losing touch with its working class base across most of England, it might have some suggestions worth listening to.

That’s the hope of organisers behind tomorrow’s ‘Blue Labour – Forging a New Politics’ conference at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The day will explore ‘post-liberalism’ – the generic theory of the Blue Labourites and those in other parties who are challenging the centralising, elitst thinking that has come to dominate British politics, with a greater focus on family, place and reducing economic inequality.

It will also see discussion about the threat Labour faces from UKIP – now the main opposition in 41 of the seats the party holds – and whether or not Labour can replant itself in political ground it looks to be losing.

With Labour now beached on the voter-repellent hard left until the 2020 election defeat, the party needs all the intellectual life it can muster.

(*Tickets for the event are still available by following the above link).

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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One way or another, UKIP is parking its tanks on Labour’s lawn

17/09/2016, 09:56:28 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Will UKIP survive? It’s a fair question as the kippers gather in Bournemouth for their annual conference and anoint Diane James as their new leader, to the chinking, no doubt, of large gin and tonics in the hotel bars.

The feuding in the party about who should succeed Farage – the political equivalent of a Jeremy Kyle paternity test special – had seemed terminal, but, for now, appears to be in remission.

Space, then, for the largely untested Ms James to set out what her party is for, given we have now voted to quit the EU, UKIP’s ostensible purpose.

Undoubtedly, they have come a long way in the last few years. For so long a collection EU-obsessives, English nationalist romantics and weirdos who wrote to the letters page of the Daily Telegraph complaining about the change in meaning of the word ‘gay,’ they are now a force in British politics.

As Farage pointed out in his valedictory leader’s speech, they alighted on immigration as an issue in 2011, adopted it as their cause célèbre and never looked back.

It certainly helped scoop up many of the four million votes they received at the last general election as well as providing the magic bullet that made Euro-obsessery a retail issue for millions of voters in the referendum.

Even with their central purpose achieved and Nigel Farage sloping off the main stage, the party can still claim to speak for 15-20 per cent of the electorate pretty consistently and still has a major impact on our political debate, (with Theresa May pinching the idea to bring back grammar schools from them).

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