Posts Tagged ‘hard left’

The first step on a long road for Labour

05/04/2020, 10:25:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Saturday was a tremendous day for Labour. Having been knighted for services to law and criminal justice, Keir Starmer brings more impressive professional experience than perhaps any previous Labour leader. He is a serious figure for serious times. Winning on the first round with over 56% of the vote gives him a strong personal mandate.

Angela Rayner has great potential as the new deputy leader. Other deputy and leadership candidates – Lisa Nandy, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Ian Murray – emerge with credit and higher profiles. The many talents on the Labour backbenches will be brought to the frontbenches.

Candidates backed by Progress and Labour First swept the board in the NEC elections – congratulations to Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan. The party machine can be remade in Starmer’s image.

But challenges confronting Labour remain vast: fewer MPs than at any time since 1935 and an unprecedented context of national peril.

When shortages of tests, PPE and ventilators mean people die, the new political currency is thought to be competency. Less than a week after testing positive for Covid-19, Matt Hancock appeared in public to open an emergency health facility with many people around him not observing social distancing rules. While Hancock is considered one of the government’s more competent members, this visual communicates something else.

Whereas competency might imply a politics of cool rationality, we live in a country where 5G towers are set on fire. Because, deaf to the protestations of those that told us we’d had enough of experts, they are somehow supposed to spread Covid-19.

With emotions running high, the ability to mould how people feel remains politically central. Competency means using Gantt charts to get the right stuff in the right place at the right time. That is politically necessary but insufficient. We also now seek connection with newly treasured emotions: reassurance, reliability and hope.

Speaking to the nation on Sunday evening, the Queen summons these feelings for many much more effectively than Keir Starmer – who, for all his attributes, is the leader of a deeply mistrusted party. While Starmer enjoys a reputation for competency, he confronts the formidable challenge of moving Labour beyond associations with extremism and anti-British sentiments to find new emotional connection with an anxious public.

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Keir Starmer is Labour’s last best hope

28/01/2020, 11:13:25 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Bookmakers have Keir Starmer as the 7/19 favourite to be the next Labour leader – a 73% probability. In a party whose membership was swollen by Jeremy Corbyn, and which was largely loyal to him, Starmer did not enter the race as Corbyn’s presumed heir apparent. With early personal branding, Rebecca Long-Bailey carried this torch.

“No surrender, a 4-day week, and a 3-day bender,” proclaimed her supporters. Dancing on the political graves of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Zarah Sultana derided “40 years of Thatcherism” in her maiden speech in the Commons. Long-Bailey said “no surrender” by having Sultana speak at her campaign launch a few days later. It takes the same defiance to think a 4-day week a sensible policy commitment from Labour – from the perspective of hard-pressed workers, it challenged free broadband as the most otherworldly of Labour’s 2019 pledges.

You’d need a 3-day bender for this continuity Corbynism to make sense. After which, the breweries will be nationalised, and the beer will be free. Or, at least, Labour might commit for it to be so. But incredible commitments from opposition change little. They might get some in opposition more drunk, but the real effect is to help keep the Tories in government in perpetuity.

Such folly should, therefore, be debarred by rule 3 of our rule book (“promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process”). But the extent to which the membership has an appetite for continuity Corbynism remains unclear. If that appetite remains unsatiated, it will carry Long-Bailey, now benefitting from the formidable endorsement of Unite, to the leadership.

We cannot consistently criticise both Long-Bailey for making insufficient accommodation with the electorate and Starmer for being too accommodating of the membership. Yet there are those who see Starmer’s campaign launch video as overly tailored to traditional Labour themes. This would be a valid criticism if this were a general election and he were seeking to convince the general public. Starmer is calibrating his message to his audience – precisely what the uncompromising Corbyn was criticised for not doing and the “no surrender” mindset threatens to maintain.

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Courage or supplication. Whither now Labour?

20/12/2019, 08:08:50 AM

by Robert Williams

If you are reading this and Jeremey Corbyn is still leader of the Labour party, then the party has barely started in its collapse.

After Labour’s worst defeat since 1935, in which they lost 60 seats and gained one, seats went Tory that had never previously been anything but Labour since they were created, they lost 2 million votes.

All this against the worst government of any sort in British history, which has been in power for the last nine years, and with Boris Johnson as leader, described thus by the redoubtable Chris Grey “Even if it were not for Brexit, the prospect of a country run by a compulsive liar whose fake bonhomie scarcely conceals a priapic, vicious, moral void would be a woeful one.”.

This was a historic defeat at a time of national crisis, and we are all set to suffer the consequences, which will be dire. There are no upsides of “Brexit certainty” apart from the absolute certainty that we will be worse off and with fewer rights and opportunities.

So we are in deep, deep trouble as a country. We have a new government that will not bring us together but which will make the divisions much, much worse. And we have no functioning opposition worthy of the name.

Corbyn and his team are promising to spend the next three months “reflecting” on the results. That will mean, for a start, Jeremy Corbyn facing Boris Johnson at PMQs for the next three months. Labour MPs – the ones that survived – will have to sit in grim purgatory listening to the man who led them to defeat waffle on about what a nasty country we are, or austerity, or anything, actually, as Johnson swats him away time and time again. How can any of them face that weekly humiliation?
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Labour won’t win by seeming a danger to mainstream Britain

16/12/2019, 08:09:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour big beast Denis Healey, borrowing a line from Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher, saw his politics as driven by, “an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.”

Those conditions deepen under Tory government and therefore, that obstinacy compels us to do all that we can to avoid such. In the wake of this catastrophic defeat, it is impossible to conclude that we have.

We will have more chance of doing better in future if we can see ourselves as others do. Which now, it seems to me, is a cocktail of dangers.

Security danger: a leader who always seems to back Britain’s enemies, including terrorists, who has inspired an unprecedented fear among a minority population. Economic danger: outlandish spending commitments (e.g. free broadband) setting off fears of tax bombshells, alongside a commitment to a 4-day week that is otherworldly to hard-pressed workers. Political danger: over the influence of the SNP under a minority Labour government and uncertainty as to how a government of this sort would resolve Brexit.

In the 2015 general election, as Jon Cruddas wrote in its aftermath, “we lost everywhere to everybody”. In the frenzied years that followed, it became a sad joke that the UK had preferred “stability and strong government,” as David Cameron claimed he offered, over the “chaos with Ed Miliband” that Cameron positioned as the alternative.

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Dear hard left: you broke it, you own it.

14/12/2019, 09:49:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

After such a defeat, there has been extraordinarily little soul-searching by the Corbynite left, in case we should have expected any.

To go by some of the comments by frontbenchers and their media outriders, it is apparently the people who have erred, not the Labour party, rather recalling Brecht’s poem about “dissolving the people and electing another one”.

Even now, there still seems a question mark over exactly when Corbyn will go, even if it is abundantly clear he must.

No Labour leader has ever survived two election defeats, let alone the worst defeat in the best part of a century and, for afters, likely censure by an anti-racism watchdog in a matter of weeks’ time.

But own it the Corbynite leadership must, because barely anyone else was even at the table (we might make an exception for Keir Starmer, but the point is probably somewhat moot).

All Corbyn supporters in the party are not hard left, of course. There have always been three distinct groups: them; the influx of bright-eyed idealists who thought Corbyn nice and were too young to know his history or Labour’s; and the soft left of throughout the party’s history, decent people who did not care to dig too deeply into the views of a man who, like Miliband before him, made all the right noises.

The young idealists, one imagines, will drift away again at some point, once they realise that the party is now genuinely riddled with cranks and racists. Many of the soft left may well stay, perhaps slightly chastened.

But it is the long-time Trots, tankies and Stalinists who are still there at the top, running the show. This is evident fact, rather than the smears they constantly , and those of us who have been around for a while knew them long before they came to run the party. Apart from the parliamentary duo of Corbyn and McDonnell, we have the four Ms: Milne, Murray, McCluskey, Murphy. All people who seriously revere a 20th century regime which killed quite a lot more people than Hitler.

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The last twenty-four hours just showed how Labour can save itself

21/09/2019, 08:49:03 PM

by Rob Marchant

In one of the maddest developments in an already certifiable world of Labour politics, we have, within the last twenty-four hours, had the following: the party’s leadership threatened to immediately abolish the role of Deputy Leader (i.e. strip Tom Watson of his party office), only to pull back at the last minute from doing so.

And, during that time, we have learned some important things we didn’t know yesterday. More of that later.

The trigger to Corbyn’s reverse ferret? Simply that almost all commentators, party officials and politicans, past and present, had stated the bleedin’ obvious: that, with the country facing the meltdown of a hard Brexit and a possible general election in the next few weeks, a massive bun-fight in the party on the eve of its conference was probably not a great idea.

We will probably never know the extent to which this was Corbyn’s idea and how much his cronies, but Jon Lansman’s attempt to railroad his motion through the NEC has backfired: Watson will now be emboldened and knows that the PLP will back him.

This one incident finally caused real threats of party splits in a way we have not seen in the whole of the last four years. Resigned MPs who had not plotted in a long time were suddenly talking about how a rival power centre could be set up and initiate a challenge to Corbyn or even a new party.

In short: the party veered pretty close to genuinely hitting the self-destruct button this morning. The fact that it did not showed that there is still some power in Labour’s moderates, should they choose to exercise it.

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Exclusive: “Hard left takeover,” “Bullying, “Hostility to Jewish people” Full text of Labour councillors’ resignation letter

25/02/2019, 02:15:08 PM

Yesterday, 15 Labour councillors and former councillors left the party. Published for the first time here is the full text of their letter, leaving the party

Dear Sir,

We are Labour councillors and former Labour councillors. We have, after many years of dedicated membership, resigned from the Labour Party. We are writing to express our support for the former Labour MPs over their decision to resign and establish the Independent Group.  Having witnessed up close the hard-left takeover of Labour, we believe that their harsh, uncompromising and dogmatic approach to politics poses a genuine threat.

In the last three years, we have seen hard-left campaigns destroy efforts by Labour councils to help our communities. Local authorities have faced impossible financial pressure and a growing demand for social care and housing.  Many Labour councillors have been prepared  to look beyond the state for solutions.   All too often, this has resulted in them being subjected to fierce and dishonest campaigns from within the Labour Party membership.  This leads us to believe a hard-left Labour government would severely harm the economy, threatening local services.

In the last three and a half years, the atmosphere within the Labour Party has changed beyond all recognition.   A culture of bullying, intimidation and hostility towards Jewish people becoming common-place. Having seen this unfold locally we now believe Labour, in its current form, poses a direct threat, economically, socially, and culturally, should it ever come to power. Britain is facing huge challenges in the months and years ahead, not least due to Brexit. To have any chance of meeting those challenges, politics need to change. We therefore welcome the new Independent Group.’

Yours,

Cllr Warren Morgan, Former Leader, Brighton & Hove City Council

Cllr Rowan Draper, Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Dany Louise, Hastings Borough Council

Cllr Frances Weetman, North Tyneside Council

Cllr Jess Brayne, London Borough of Barnet

Cllr Danny Hackett, London Borough of Bexley

Cllr John Ferrett, Portsmouth City Council

Jon Clempner, former Leader of Labour Group, Harlow District Council

David Sullivan, former Leader, Lewisham Borough Council

Ken Ferrett, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Aiden Gray, former Councillor, Portsmouth City Council

Stephen Brimble, former Councillor, Exeter City Council

Adam Langleben, former Councillor, London Borough of Barnet

James Patterson, former Councillor, London Borough of Haringey

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Tiny step by tiny step, the unions reassert themselves as ballast against the hard left

30/09/2018, 04:49:33 PM

by Rob Marchant

If last year’s party conference was an unabashed love-in for Corbynites and the party’s leader, this was the conference where – as always happens eventually in all environments where the far left runs the show – the cracks started to appear.

Ok, it may not be enough to stop the party from self-immolation. But, after the shock to Labour’s system of the tsunami of new members and a leadership dragging it off to the far left, the tectonic plates appear to be slowly, infuriatingly slowly, moving back towards their traditional positions.

There are reasons why the power structure within the Labour Party has grown up as it has. The party came out of the unions and the unions have always had a seat at the top table – some times more powerful than others, but always there.

Now, in general, unions and the union movement have so far been widely supportive of Corbyn. Why? Because the decline in union membership (and thus the accountability of union leaders to their members) has allowed the bigger unions to drift sleepily to the left, into a misty-eyed, 1970s nostalgia where globalisation never happened. Corbyn plays to the worst and most self-indulgent instincts of the left-leaning unions: he tells them they were right all along.

But the smarter ones among the leaders, left and right, are starting to wake up and see that not all is roses. They are realising that, first of all, a strictly member-led party may not pay attention to their views on, say, the leadership of the party. And the more power goes to the members, the less there is for them. Hence why they voted to dilute the rule changes for a more “member-run” party and actually increased their own say in leadership elections.

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The moderates have won a Pyrrhic victory on IHRA – the real battle was the NEC and it is lost

05/09/2018, 03:12:37 PM

by Rob Marchant

Perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. But in this case, small they are.

The party’s NEC, following months of public self-harm, has finally agreed to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, including all the examples. It really had little choice: even Gordon Brown intervened on the subject last weekend, not to mention the party’s three biggest union donors (albeit one very grudgingly indeed).

But even then, after all the damage done to Labour’s reputation in the eyes of pretty much anyone not in the Corbyn cult, it was adopted gracelessly rather than with contrition; that is, with the Corbynites’ now-traditional tin ear to the feelings of the Jewish community.

There were three ways in which this churlishness at the forced climbdown – as it unquestionably was – manifested itself.

First, the definition was adopted with a caveat: the party would also issue “a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians”. A caveat which is, as anyone with any knowledge of the IHRA definition already knows, entirely unnecessary: it already makes the explicit point that criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

While it would probably be difficult to twist this into defending an anti-Semite, it is an act of petty defiance, a fig-leaf to cover the fact that the leadership never had an argument to reject IHRA in the first place.

Second, as the Corbynite propaganda site Squawkbox gleefully crowed, that this anyway left the door open to a further revisiting of the matter in September, when the new, entirely Corbynite-dominated NEC will sit for the first time during conference.

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Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple

04/09/2018, 08:36:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Not many people will remember David Young, I suspect. He was the Labour MP for Bolton East and subsequently Bolton South East between 1974 and 1997. A rotund Scot with oratorical flair, his conversational style was to adopt the manner and volume appropriate for a public meeting hall. He was my local MP when I joined the party 25 years ago.

As the constituency’s youth officer, I only ever met him on two occasions. The first, at an AGM in one of his infrequent forays north. The second time was at the meeting when we deselected him.

Not to speak ill of the dead, David was a less than assiduous attendee at party meetings and no-one in the constituency even had contact details for him. He was the classic absentee landlord with a job for life. The local party had taken enough. Reluctantly, they withdrew their support.

So I find myself not entirely unsympathetic to calls from Momentum for the mandatory reselection of sitting MPs. I accept that personal contact with some of our elected representatives can be a long way short of overwhelming. Public service is an honour and a duty and there will always be those who coast along and add little value to proceedings.

But let’s face it: this is not about giving a gee-up to a few indolent MPs. It’s about ideologically-cleansing the party. A Momentum spokeswoman, quoted yesterday confirmed as much:

“Recognising the groundswell of support from ordinary Labour members Momentum would like to affirm its commitment to the creation of a more open, inclusive, selection process which would open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs.

“Labour has to nurture the talent of its half a million members and we cannot let an outdated rule book hold back a new generation of MPs.”

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