Posts Tagged ‘Uncuts’

The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part IV)

02/01/2018, 06:08:11 PM

Flash in the pan award – metro mayors

Eight months on from the election of the first swathe of ‘metro mayors’ in some of our larger conurbations, and, well…

Only Andy Burnham has anything close to a national profile, aided by the fact he has responsibility for the NHS and social care system across Greater Manchester and easily rose the occasion, responding to the ISIS suicide attack on Manchester Arena last May.

The Tories’ Andy Street – former John Lewis boss – is assiduously working away on a second tranche of devolution for the West Midlands, but his strong anti-Brexit stance will hardly endear him to his colleagues in Westminster.

The basic problem for the metro mayors is that the whole idea feels like it’s reached its peak.

They have two big problems.

First, they have a near-impossible task in showing they’ve achieved anything by the time they’re up for re-election in 2020. They have precious little in the way of retail powers. Producing a draft spatial strategy, or appointing a ‘fairness czar’ is hardly going to cut it with the voters.

The second problem is that Whitehall has moved on. Devolution was Osborne’s thing and there’s little sense Theresa May – more excited about her ‘Modern Industrial Strategy’ – is remotely interested in prolonging the experiment.

You can imagine a scenario in the Downing Street bunker when a solemn Burnham appears on the television, and the PM flings one of her garish shoes at the telly. ‘Why have we given Burnham a platform to slag us off every day?!’

‘Dunno boss,’ a flunky will say, ‘Osborne thought it was a good idea…’

And that will be all it needs. Local authority leaders on the Combined Authorities will get to keep the devo deals they’ve negotiated but they’ll no longer be contingent on having an elected mayor. The Prime Minister can leave Labour council leaders to wield the dagger quicker than you can say ‘Infamy! Infamy!’

Little local difficulty award – Ireland & Brexit

It all seemed so easy, the Irish border issue. Last January, during her Lancaster House speech setting out her initial approach to Brexit, the Prime Minister breezily passed over the issue entirely. Not one specific mention was made of how the border would be sorted, post-Brexit.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part III)

31/12/2017, 03:13:07 PM

Global winner of the year – Vladimir Putin

While it must be obvious to the world that, under latter-day Putin Russia is no longer a free-speech democracy – if, indeed, it ever truly was one – there is no denying his effectiveness as a manipulator of world affairs. After convincing Obama to strike an ineffectual nuclear deal with Iran and that Russia should be empowered to mediate a “peace” in Syria; or that no-one should lift a finger to help Ukraine when he invaded; last year it was apparently interfering in US and other Western elections.

This year he has been more audacious than ever: he has managed to nurture a tenant of the White House – the White House – who is actively blocking attempts to curb his informational power, such as propaganda, hacking and social media trolling; let alone any attempts to see Russia as the frighteningly real military threat it has increasingly become.

And if you doubt that last statement, you need only note that Russia spends double what most NATO nations do on defence as a proportion of GDP, while considering that it is hardly defending itself from other, belligerent nations. It can only be for aggressive actions: in old-fashioned terms, empire-building.

Yes, North Korea might be a more immediate threat to the West but, oh, guess who visited Kim Jong Il in May? Stirring up chaos is what Putin delights in.

When in 2012 Mitt Romney described Russia as “our no. 1 geopolitical foe”, Obama and many others laughed haughtily. “The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” They ain’t laughing now.

Straight talking, honest politics awardJeremy Corbyn

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Corbyn’s aides admitted a few weeks ago what we all knew: that he had, in fact, been consciously appealing to both sides of the Brexit debate. Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, knew that he could not get away with going for an all-out, hard-Brexit position, given the opposite view of most of the parliamentary party and party policy as set by conference. Straight talking, honest politics indeed.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part II)

30/12/2017, 10:40:47 PM

Honourable Order of Sisyphus – Theresa May

There’s something of a trend to the fate of Uncut’s politicians of the year. In 2015 it was David Cameron, followed by his 2016 which earned him the Honorary Order of Suez.

Last year’s politician of the year was Theresa May and in 2017, once again, she’s among the awards. This time she wins the Honourable Order of Sisyphus.

To refresh, Sisyphus was condemned for his hubris by Zeus, to push a huge boulder up a hill in the underworld, only for boulder to roll away back to the bottom as he neared the top, compelling Sisyphus to start again.

Unending frustration. Useless effort. Interminable repetition.

These are the traits of Sisyphus’ torment and the day to day life of Theresa May in Number 10.

Shorn of her majority, she’s endlessly trying to make progress on Brexit or domestic legislation, only to have the boulder roll away at the last, pushed by Conservative Remain rebels, Conservative Brexiteer rebels or the DUP.

If the experience of Tory rebellions in the 1990s is any guide, this is just the start.

These are the early adopter rebels. New rebel groups will form across new interest groups – health, education, defence – as backbenchers become used to defying the whip and getting what they want.

Legislation will pass on Theresa May’s watch. Often, it just won’t be what she intended and after each compromise or defeat, she’ll have to start the whole process again, in preparation for the next big vote.

Speech of the year – Ken Clarke

From Theresa May’s disintegration to Jeremy Corbyn’s show of strength, this year’s headline conference speeches felt telling. It may be, however, that Ken Clarke’s powerful speech on the triggering of Article 50 lives longer in the memory. As Robin Cook’s resignation speech over the Iraq war aged well as his warnings came to pass, we might come to look back ruefully on Clarke’s Brexit concerns, while the agonised faces on the Tory benches are almost as funny as his jokes.

Political comedian of the year – Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has transitioned from a leader who lacked the timing to eat a bacon sandwich smoothly (or the sense not to attempt to do so with cameras around) to an ex-leader with the timing to unleash comedy zingers – whether on TV or Twitter, podcasts or parliament. If he keeps this up, he’ll end up as a national treasure, as Tony Benn did over his last decade or so.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part I)

30/12/2017, 12:45:42 PM

Politician of the year – Jeremy Corbyn

2017 was the year when everyone lost. The Tories lost their majority, Labour lost the election, the SNP lost a third of their Westminster seats and the Lib Dems, well, 60% of Lib Dem general election candidates lost their deposit.

Yet despite this litany of defeat, one politician had a very good 2017: Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour might have fallen short in June, but it was nothing like the wipeout predicted by the polls, pundits (not least at Uncut) and Labour’s own candidates.

At the 2017 general election Jeremy Corbyn was able to tap into seams of Labour support among the young and non-voters that have been beyond the reach of the party for over a decade, if not longer.

Expectations, however, are a tricky taskmaster.

Having wildly exceeded the bar for success in 2017 – let’s not forget, even Len McCluskey was talking about 200 seats as a decent performance – the political world now expects much, much more of Labour’s leader.

Jeremy Corbyn has done his bit to help fuel these expectations, predicting he’d be prime minister by Christmas when at Glastonbury in June, and more recently, in his Grazia interview, forecasting that he’ll “probably” be prime minister next year.

When expectations rise like this, either there needs to be demonstrable progress – for example, establishing a commanding poll lead over the Tories – or the media narrative will turn to why Labour is under-performing.

The local elections in May, which are being fought in metropolitan areas, will likely give Labour a boost but at some point Labour is going to have to win big votes in the House of Commons and bring the government down.

If not, those expectations, which contributed so much to Jeremy Corbyn’s happy 2017, will be a lot less benign in 2018.

Early-bird shameless leadership bid – Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry wins for realising that the anti-Semitism currently infecting parts of the party membership was poisonous to opinion-formers, as well as many party members. Visiting Israel and the West Bank, she staked out her position as clearly differentiated from that of Corbyn himself, who refuses to visit Israel, despite numerous invitations.

Ah, if only it were the result of a deeply-held belief, rather than political expedience. We need only go back a few years to 2007 to find the now Shadow Foreign Secretary speaking at an anti-Israel rally with all the bigots of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) crowd.

No, she’s polished up her act a great deal since those days; not to mention cultivating the party’s most important single backer, one Len McCluskey of Unite. A journey indeed from tweeting herself out of a job in 2014, by way of a patronising photo of a White Van Man’s house.

Question is, can she keep a lid on her flexible principles, and that contempt, if she ever makes it to leader?

Pragmatist of the year – Angela Rayner

Angela Rayner gets on with things: whether it is pregnancy at 16, taking on a shadow cabinet job when many were walking away from them, refusing to be pigeonholed as being of the left or the right.

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The Uncuts: 2015 political awards (part II)

31/12/2015, 02:47:41 PM

Unsuccessful comeback of the year: Lutfur Rahman

One of the most disturbing political news stories of the year had to be the takeover of Tower Hamlets council by central government after the spectacular conviction by an electoral court of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, for electoral fraud. The local authority, under his directly-elected mayoralty, had been converted into a rotten borough worthy of a whole issue of Private Eye.

Unceremoniously stripped of office, the court found him guilty of attempted nobbling of votes, unfairly favouring Bangladeshi community organisations above others for grants, propagating untruths about his opponent John Biggs, and a number of other counts.

And so it was that the chutzpah-laden former Mayor had his friends organise a rally, supported by those doughty supporters of the underdog, the Unite union leadership, to try and build support for a comeback for Rahman: an appeal. The utterly damning judgement, of course, was clearly all a horrid plot by racists and Islamophobes.

Indeed at the rally, Unite’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray – Stop the War stalwart and now part of Jeremy Corbyn’s kitchen cabinet, of course – even claimed the support of his boss, the redoubtable Len McCluskey, for the disgraced mayor.

Sadly for Rahman, a couple of days later, the same McCluskey was forced to write to the Guardian, “clarifying” his position, i.e. roughly translated, that even a far-left firebrand could see that Rahman was political poison and would likely not do his cause, of attempting to appear moderate in the run-up to the general election, any good. And so hastily back-pedalled on Murray’s commitment to his support.

And thus, with the withdrawal of powerful union support, did the fraudulent former mayor’s comeback fall flat on its face. It has all gone remarkably quiet since.

Shame.

Civic pioneer of the year – Jim McMahon MP

Last year we gave this award to Sir Richard Leese, who continues to put the powerhouse into the north with his work as leader of Manchester City Council. This year we give it to someone who has recently left local government and leadership of one of the local authorities in the same combined authority as Manchester, Jim McMahon.

Nothing defines McMahon’s local government tenure like his departure. His impressive and pragmatic transformation of Oldham smashed to smithereens UKIP’s hopes of securing a second MP via the recent by-election in this northern town. McMahon proved that a working class hero is still something to be and Uncut looks forward to him bringing his can-do spirit and resolve to Westminster.

Overseas Inspiration: Justin Trudeau (more…)

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The Uncuts: 2015 political awards (part I)

31/12/2015, 12:56:58 PM

Politician of the year: David Cameron

It’s easy to overlook David Cameron. The political news is dominated by Labour’s travails while the Conservatives seem more pre-occupied with their leadership succession.

But there David Cameron sits in Number 10 as prime minister, with a Conservative majority and a wide lead over Labour in the polls.

During the general election campaign, he was virtually written-off. Even Uncut, one of the few sites that consistently predicted a triumph for Cameron’s Tories over Ed Miliband’s Labour (here’s one, from almost exactly a year ago), did not see the Tory majority coming.

David Cameron defeated the last vestiges of New Labour when he beat Gordon Brown in 2010. He’s now beaten the soft left alternative in Ed Miliband and played a central role in driving the Labour party over the edge of electability with the hard left Jeremy Corbyn.

The Prime Minister dominates the centre ground and has put the Tories in their strongest position since the early 1980s. Several Labour MPs privately talk of the prospect of Tory rule until at least 2030 as a likely prospect.

And now, as David Cameron enters the New Year, he is ideally placed in his final major battle: to keep Britain in the EU. The polls are tilting his way with all of the evidence pointing towards a decisive break in his favour among undecideds when he claims to have secured a significant reform deal.

Despite the grim Tory expectations at the start of the year, the doubts of most of the media and his own avoidable missteps, such as pre-announcing his own resignation before the general election campaign, 2015 will go down as David Cameron’s annus mirabilis.

Media disaster: Edstone

Every general election has one of those moments that defines the losing  campaign.

In 1992, it was the row over the Jennifer’s ear party election broadcast for Labour. In 1997, it was the Tories’ doomed Demon Eyes poster.

In 2015 it was the Edstone.

It is hard to describe just how blood-chillingly awful the idea of carving Labour’s key pledges on an 8-foot granite tombstone was.

The metaphors were obvious, so blatantly obvious, in fact, that the idea should have been strangled the moment it fell out of the mouth of the person who proposed it. For good measure, they should have been strangled too.

Like everyone else coming to this a bit late one drowsy Sunday morning, I saw #EdStone trending on Twitter and assumed it was some metaphorical remark he had made about his word ‘being like a tablet of stone’ or some such.

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The Uncuts: 2013 political awards

31/12/2013, 03:22:37 PM

Another year slides by. Historic figures shuffled off this mortal coil, the political pendulum swung back, then forth and we end with Labour holding onto a poll lead, albeit halved since last year.

Sorting through the detritus of the year that was, we’ve decided to revive our annual Uncut awards. These beacons of prestige are awarded on the basis of the skill and judgement of the team at Uncut. They represent our opinion, have your say in the comments

Politician of the year: Nelson Mandela

Even in death, Mandela reminded us of the power of politics to achieve great things. Contrary to the rose tinted reminisces for a secular saint that suffused so many obituaries, he was in many ways a typical politician. There’s ample evidence that he harboured the same deeply held personal emnities as most politicians, that in private he was far from the engaging avuncular figure of myth and that his family felt him to be distant.

But what distinguished him was his political judgement.

MandelaMandela knew what needed to be done and ruthlessly pursued it – almost regardless of his personal predilections or the cost.

This is what made him great and what could so easily distinguish so many of our politicians – no need for sainthood, just a bit more conviction, some hard-headed decision-making and a little less focus-grouped tinkering.

Political speech of the year: Ed Miliband at Labour conference

During the autumn of 2007, there was giddy talk of an imminent general election and an increase in Labour’s majority. Then came George Osborne’s speech to Conservative party conference, committing to cut inheritance tax. The waves of Labour excitement quickly turned to fear. This was the closest Gordon Brown ever came to winning a general election and he was fatally weakened thereafter.

Ed Miliband made the political speech of 2013 by delivering the conference speech with the biggest impact since Osborne’s. The steadily improving economy, Falkirk and Tory ascendancy over debates like immigration and welfare had Labour on the back foot throughout the summer.

The energy price freeze reversed fortunes as dramatically as inheritance tax 5 years previously. Back pocket calculations were central to both, as they will be in May 2015. It remains to be seen if Osborne will then be as hobbled as Brown was in May 2010.

Brass neck of the year: Ed Miliband over Falkirk

Chutzpah. Not a quality that immediately leaps to mind when thinking of Ed Miliband, but events in 2013 proved he has an abundance of it.

In July, the Labour party suspended the union join scheme, which had been used by Unite to recruit new members in Falkirk ahead of the parliamentary selection. The party statement claimed,

““In the light of the activities of Unite in Falkirk we will end the ‘union join’ scheme… due to the results of Unite in Falkirk it has become open to abuse but also open to attacks from our opponents that damage Labour.”

Ed Miliband launched his proposals to reform the union link that month, castigating Unite,

“‘I am here to talk about a different politics, a politics that is open. Transparent. And trusted. Exactly the opposite of the politics we’ve recently seen in Falkirk. A politics that was closed. A politics of the machine. A politics that is rightly hated…’

At the time, it seemed a principled stand. But appearances turned out to be deceptive.

Ed Mili

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The Uncuts: 2010 political awards

31/12/2010, 07:30:03 AM

It’s been a busy old year. Gordon departed. Cameron and Clegg moved the brokeback wagons into Downing Street. Gideon slashed and burned. Vince tried to waltz his way into some young “constituent’s'” knickers and Ed beat David.

After the arguments over the electoral college in Manchester, and the luke warm tussling over AV we thought it best to pick our winners rather than have a readers vote. The old fashioned way. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Politician of the year

There really could only be one winner:

George Osborne

Filled with his own self importance, and a belief that he was born to do this. He had the audacity to call his budget “progressive” while slashing and burning with that trademark smirk. But in all serious political circles he has earned (grudging) respect. As Cameron twists and turns, Nick jumps through hoops and Vince dances around a resignation, Gideon has become the rock at the heart of the Cameron government. Well advised, well rehearsed and well… impressive. Let’s hope 2011 isn’t as good a year for the man who could keep Labour out of power for the next decade.

Runners up:

Ed Miliband won against the odds. Has finally beefed up his team and started landing punches. A win in Oldham East &  Saddleworth followed by a good showing in the locals could give him the momentum to really take on the government in 2011.

David Cameron. He won. Just. He made it into Number 10. Just. He ends the year with decent poll numbers all things considered, a “radical” programme and a sturdy majority (courtesy of his Lib Dem pals). Fair dos. Not a bad position for a PM to be in.

Best supporting politician

Winner:

Nick Clegg. Like The Man from Del Monte in the old ads who liked to say “yes”, Clegg’s willingness to hop into bed with Cameron and accept his “big, comprehensive offer” now gives him more clout than any of his predecessors since Lloyd George. But at what price?

Runners up:

David Miliband for his magnanimous speech at conference.

Gordon Brown for not backseat driving.

Harriet Harman for super-subbing during the summer, although lost marks for her fingerprints – or at least dinner plates – being all over the Hewitt/Hoon plot.

Geraldine Smith (late of Morecombe & Lunesdale) whose gutsy defences of Gordon and denunciation of all wannabe coup-ists was a sight to behold.

Brass neck of the year

What a 'Jeremy Hunt'

Winner:

Nick Clegg for his volte face on tuition fees.

Runners up:

Hewitt and Hoon for their risible, back-of-a-fag-packet plot to oust Gordon Brown.

George Osborne for calling the budget “progressive”.

Tony Blair for saying Bank of England independence was his idea in A Journey.

Liam Fox for his “fury” over his leaked letter to Cameron about defence cuts. 

The man behind the man award

Winner:

Stewart Wood From Peter Parker to Spiderman. The bespeckled Oxford don and foreign policy adviser to Brown became the war time consigliere to Miliband Jnr. Masterminding the tortoise vs the hare victory over Miliband Snr. Now a peer with his sights set on taking down Sayeeda Warsi.

Runners up:

Sue Nye Respected for her long-suffering loyalty to successive Labour leaders and unfairly fingered for Gordon Brown’s Mrs. Duffy encounter (“It was Sue” squealed the nark). Bows out both well-liked and well-respected.

Ray Collins for helping keep the Labour show on the road and ensuring that Labour did not do as badly as some predicted. Or end up as broke.

Off to a flying start award

Winner:

Rory Stewart for his less than generous remarks about the sartorial standards of his constituents.

Runners up:

Mark Reckless Crazy name, crazy guy. Too pissed to vote. His “I don’t intend to drink in Westminster again” pledge is one that Westminster’s watering-hole watchers will be keeping their bleary eyes on.

Chris Kelly the publicity hungry backbencher is rumoured to be taking his chicken whisperer act on “Britain’s got talent” next year.

Survivor of the year

Winner:

Andy Coulson. Like all spin doctors, a wannabe Rasputin. And like the mad monk, seemingly unkillable. He ends the year in situ. But the phone hacking scandal is not going away.

Runners up:

Vince Cable One time Lib Dem treasure, ended the year on a low after trying to impress two young undercover journos with his “nuclear option.” Neutered but still walking. Just.

Jonathan Ashworth. It is said that in the event of a nuclear holocaust Jonathan Ashworth will still be working in the Labour leader’s office. 3 masters in 12 months.

Gisela Stewart. One of the bright points of a grey evening was seeing Birmingham Edgbaston – the first seat to indicate the Labour landslide back in 1997 – stay Labour.

Nigel Farage. A plane crash at the general election, a train crash of a successor. Britain’s favourite little Englander still stands.

Political battle of the year

Winners:

Miliband vs Miliband. Part A river runs through it, part The Godfather II. It was what it was always going to be: two brothers divided by their determination to get the top job. It leaves a legacy. It must. But is there more drama to come?

Runners up:

Osborne vs Mandelson. You might think you know which one is the better politician, but only one of them masterminded their way into government this year

Balls vs Gove. Michael Gove’s early billing as a star of this Tory generation took a near fatal hammering from a brutal master of political pugilism, Ed Balls. Gove’s calamitous decision to axe the building schools for the future programme was made to hurt more than he ever imagined it could.

Adam Boulton vs Alistair Campbell. Did Sky want the Tories to win the election? At a corporate level we can be fairly sure that it did. At a journalistic level? Hard to say. But Boulton’s reaction shows that the accusation strikes close to the bone.

(Ex) minister of the year award

Winner:

Alistair Darling To emerge, as chancellor, from a beaten government and a tanking economy with your reputation enhanced is truly a remarkable achievement and the mark of a quietly brilliant man.

Runners up:

Kenneth Clarke The Tory right may be screaming for his head, yet his enlightened approach to prison reform may set penal policy in a direction that actually works. But will Cameron’s nerve hold and keep Ken where he is?

Bob Ainsworth An unlikely hippy, it’s safe to say, but his recent call for drugs reform was a significant intervention from a former minister who knows that the “war on drugs” was lost long ago. The number of people who secretly agree with him but would never dream of saying so is a small part of everything that is wrong with politics.

The Jo Moore award for PR disaster of the year

Winner:

Bigot-gate Gordon Brown’s description of Rochdale pensioner, Gillian Duffy, as “that bigoted woman” was the undoubted numero uno gaffe of the general election campaign. Few recall, however, that Labour took Rochdale from the Lib Dems on election night.

Runners up:

Fire up the Quatro poster. A spectacularly ill-judged Labour campaign which turned Cameron into one of the country’s most loved TV characters.

Airbrushed Cameron Equally backfiring idea, which showed Cameron to be even more plastic and artificial than he is.

Liam Byrne – His “there’s no money left” note to his successor, David Laws, was quickly used as a stick to beat him with. A colossal mistake by an otherwise smart man.

The fourth (rate) estate award

#Hackinggate Non-reporting of the biggest media scandal in decades. Guilty consciences all around Fleet Street as no-one seriously doubts that the culture of phone hacking goes well beyond one rogue reporter at the News of the World. We know this because people keep owning up to it in the Guardian. Yet, apparently, this despicable practice, the gross and illegal abuse of privilege, doesn’t warrant a mention in the vast majority of the press.

Runners up:

Nick Clegg’s Nazi Slur on Britain One of the most pathetic days in recent British journalistic history. Andy Coulson got exactly the headlines he wanted. Those responsible – editors and scribblers – damaged their own reputations to suck up to their future bosses, and Lib Dem central office wasted a day fighting fires started by lickspittle. Tawdry, tawdry stuff.

Kay Burley Sky News’s afternoon anchor. Just type her name in to YouTube. Enough said.

Prediction of the year

Winner:

Dan Hodges for his “David Miliband has won” prediction on Uncut, five days before the coronation ceremony. At which Ed was crowned.

Runners up:

Benedict BroganCameron will be PM by tea time on Friday”.

Nick Robinson “David Miliband will win”‘ prediction, about 90 seconds before he lost.

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