Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

Are we really going to see the Second Coming of St Tony?

28/06/2021, 10:38:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Tony Blair always struck me as an unlikely convert to Catholicism. He is much too messianic. He would have made a great evangelical though, or even a cult leader. The Branch Tonyians, perhaps?

The idea of him returning to British domestic politics, descending from the skies as the clouds part to lead us once again in His Second Coming, is fantastically absurd.

Yet that is precisely what the Sunday Times reported yesterday.

‘Labour sources say Blairites have abandoned hope that Starmer can save the party and a small group is trying to convince Blair to return to the Commons.

‘The Labour peer, Andrew Adonis is at the heart of a network of Blairites who believe he is the only leader who could win a Labour majority…’

Seriously?

Its the kind of story the papers run on April 1 – a spoof with just enough in it to hoodwink readers that have overlooked the date.

Don’t get me wrong, Tony Blair had a good run, serving as prime minister for a decade, winning three thumping elections along the way, but he is now past tense. Seeking to disinter him from his political sarcophagus, like Dracula in a Hammer horror film, is proper death cultist stuff.

Granted, there is a very funny mood in Labourland this week ahead of the Batley and Spen by-election, where there is a strong prospect of the party losing the seat, and even some siren voices predicting it could crash to third place behind George Galloway.

People are jittery and there are clearly figures in the party like Adonis that do not believe Keir Starmer is on the path to winning ways, yet the suggestion that a better way forward is to bring back Blair – fourteen years after he quit as PM – is demented. A comical absurdity.

The serious point is that it is a silly distraction from the work of shaping a new political project that can succeed in radically different times to those that Blair – and Adonis – governed in.

And what of Mr. Blair, you ask?

The Sunday Times report added: ‘His spokeswoman said: “His view is that he is not considering doing this.”

So that’s not a no, then?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Bercow is yesterday’s man, why is Labour indulging him?

22/06/2021, 01:56:09 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I am not sure what voters will make of John Bercow’s defection to Labour at the weekend. I suspect the answer is “not much.”

It is hard not to interpret the former commons speaker’s move as a fit of pique over the prime minister denying him a peerage, rather than some damascene conversion to socialism.

Spurned by his erstwhile colleagues, he’s just trying his luck on the other side of the political aisle, isn’t he?

Bercow implies this is not the case.

Speaking to Trevor Philips on Sunday, he claimed there had been ‘absolutely no conversations whatsoever’ about a peerage, either with Keir Starmer or his team.

He added: ‘And if I may very politely say so, and I do, the people who make what they think is that potent and coruscating criticism of me are operating according to their own low standards.’

Of course, denying there have been recent talks about Labour putting him forward for a peerage is not the same thing as Bercow rejecting the very notion that he would accept one.

Indeed, this morning’s Times reports that he met with Jeremy Corbyn’s team in the days following the 2019 general election to discuss his nomination to the Lords:

‘He then wrote to Corbyn’s office with a reference in which he boasted of his four honorary degrees, “no fewer than five shadow ministerial roles,” a stint as deputy leader of the Tory group on Lambeth council, and experience as a tennis coach.’

In his defence, Bercow was undoubtedly a fine speaker, certainly when it came to checking the authority of the executive and championing the rights of backbenchers.

However, does this wipe clean his previous form as a grisly ultra-right-wing Tory, on the lunatic fringe of his party. A former member of the fascistic Monday Club in his younger days, no less. The group that supported ‘assisted’ repatriation of Commonwealth migrants and loyalist terror in Northern Ireland.

Granted, Bercow’s politics seem to have undergone a dramatic conversion; the mellowing of middle-age, perhaps? Alas, his insufferable pomposity remains.

When asked if Keir Starmer would become prime minister, he told Trevor Philips that ‘the jury is out,’ adding that the Labour leader was ‘decent, honourable and intelligent,’ although not in the same league as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

Man of the people, Bercow is not.

There is also the fact (how can I put this delicately) that he’s a has-been.

Joining Labour straight after he quit the speaker’s chair, or as soon as Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader might have created a bit more of a stir, but it is hard to see what Labour gets from this move at this stage.

Apart from a few die-hard Remaniacs, who credit Bercow with trying to stymie Brexit, and a few constitutional bores who think it is somehow a big deal that a former speaker has not automatically been elevated to the peerage, who cares what he does?

Having ‘generally voted’ for a wholly elected House of Lords, according to TheyWorkForYou.com, perhaps Bercow can avoid any charge of hypocrisy and check his future ambitions by waiting  until there is an elected second chamber?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut 

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Could Blair have won in 2010?

08/01/2021, 10:40:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘The biggest mistake Tony Blair made as prime minister,’ Andrew Adonis tweeted earlier this week, ‘was to stand down in 2007.

Instead, ‘[h]e should have continued and won the 2010 election, then Britain would be fundamentally better today.’

From the pit of despondency, on the wrong end of a four-nil run of election defeats, we can perhaps excuse his Lordship’s nostalgia. But is there anything in it?

There are three big assertions to unpack here.

The first, is that Blair ‘should have’ or, perhaps, could have stayed on as leader in 2007. Adonis suggests it would have been plain sailing, only it was not.

Blair was not in good shape, politically, at that stage – particularly with the various allegations about cash-for-honours swirling around him – and no shortage of his own MPs trying to manoeuvre him out. There was a sense, particularly after Iraq, that his time had passed.

Granted, Blair won a thumping victory in 2005, two years after the invasion, but it was later, when the full futility of the war became fully apparent, that the damage to his reputation really started to show.

The second question is whether he would have won the 2010 general election. You can cogitate on all kinds of hypotheticals, but it feels that, thirteen years into the job, Tony Blair’s appeal would have seriously eroded by then.

He might still have fared better than Gordon Brown did, but it would have been a case of diminishing returns. Between 1997 and 2005, the party lost 3.9 million voters.

But let us assume he did win in 2010.

For a modernised Conservative party under David Cameron to be stopped dead in its tracks by Labour would have precipitated a major schism in the Tories, who were already under growing threat from UKIP.

Might a fourth term Blair legacy have been the realignment of the Right?

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Labour was right about Brexit in 2017 and wrong in 2019

05/01/2021, 11:20:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There was a pretty big irony about last week’s vote on the government’s Brexit bill.

By whipping his MPs into supporting Boris Johnson’s deal, Keir Starmer was making good on a manifesto commitment: ‘Labour accepts the [Brexit] referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.’

Of course, this was from the 2017 Labour manifesto, not the 2019 edition.

That version, influenced by the lobbying of the second referendum mafia, gave a quite different commitment. It promised to ‘

give the people the final say on Brexit.’ After a period of renegotiation, a new deal would be put to the vote, ‘alongside the option to remain.’

It was a lousy policy.

It would have seen Labour ministers constructing a new deal that honoured the party’s red lines around labour market standards, environmental protections, and single market access, only for the party to campaign against it in a fresh referendum, in order to remain in the EU.

Voters are not as gullible as politicians consistently believe.

Right along the Brexit-supporting Red Wall, they smelled a rat, sensing that Labour had no intention of respecting their choice to leave the EU and made plain their displeasure. The rest is, well, history.

So last week’s vote was about earning a fresh hearing with voters. The rights and wrongs of Brexit (mainly wrongs) will have to come out in the wash. There are no votes to be gained in prolonging the agony any longer.

In seeking to modernise Labour after last year’s rout, Starmer will carry on repudiating Labour’s recent past. It is the equivalent of a spring clean, expunging mistakes and decluttering the record in a bid to win a second look from the voters. More often than not, it is an exercise that culminates in a gentle dagger thrust into the last guy’s rep.

In which respect, Keir Starmer was in effect knifing himself last week.

He was the architect of Labour’s policy to back a second referendum in 2019. Jeremy Corbyn must take the overall blame for the party’s various policy, strategy, and presentational mistakes, but he was only trying to keep the peace by backing the muddled Brexit policy that Starmer and others were so keen on.

Perhaps Corbyn should have put his foot down – his policy in 2017 was both straightforward and popular.

Indeed, if the party had stuck with the 2017 commitment – avoiding the impression that they were trying to usurp the voters’ decision about the referendum – there would have been more scope to criticise the final deal. As it was, most Labour MPs ended up voting for a package they don’t believe in and one that Keir Starmer himself conceded was ‘thin.’

Now it is done, Brexit is delivered, and Labour can finally move on. But there will be many other painful concessions to make on the journey towards 2024. Labour still has a mountain to climb and is barely out of the foothills.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Let’s face it, the moment belongs to Farage

04/01/2021, 08:51:42 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There he was on New Year’s Eve. On Twitter, where else? A simple photo, savouring his victory. A drained wine glass in one hand a well-drawn cigarette in the other. A smile like a crocodile that has just devoured a resting zebra.

He is not bothered about the constant abuse he receives, or even the gallons of milkshake that are poured over him. Its all been worth it. Nigel Farage knows the moment belongs to him.

‘25 years ago they all laughed at me,’ he wrote, (inadvertently paraphrasing a Bob Monkhouse gag), ‘Well, they’re not laughing now.’

And, indeed, we are not. We are out of the European Union and without Farage’s constant endeavours over the past quarter of a century, there would have been no Brexit.

Boris will convert the opportunity, but it is Farage who created it in the first place. A Home Counties John the Baptist. Starting out in the political wilderness, converting an army of believers one at a time with a mixture of unshakable conviction and his reptilian charisma.

He may be a figure of loathing for the left/liberal/SJW cohorts, but he is also something they themselves want in a leader. He is conviction politician. Ideologically coherent. Authentic to voters. He leads from the front. Eternally optimistic. If only the left could offer someone with similar attributes.

You do not have to like him to concede that he has made the biggest impact on British politics since Thatcher. His influence may well be baleful, but it is pervasive. A brilliant communicator and the best campaigner since Blair, he is a worthy adversary.

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If Starmer wants to end Labour’s infighting, then ban Momentum and Progress

16/06/2020, 10:37:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There is something fratricidal about the Labour party. Its innate. Division comes naturally, with tribes of left and right, eyeing each other suspiciously. If they did not have to work together in a first-past-the-post system, they wouldn’t. A loveless arrangement and, alas, as old as the party itself; explaining Labour’s uneven electoral record, governing for just 34 out of the last 100 years.

Bevanites. Gaitskellites. Bennites. Tribunites. Blairites. Corbynistas. The list goes on. And even when one faction or other is in control, there is still an irresistible urge to do down the other side. Indeed, there is often a gleeful intensity to this one-upmanship. ‘It’s not enough that I succeed,’ as Gore Vidal put it, ‘others must fail.’

Thankfully, one of Keir Starmer’s key promises in the leadership contest was to end the feuding. ‘Too often,’ he argued. ‘we find ourselves focusing on our differences rather than the values and principles that brought us together, and that comes at a cost. Our party is divided, and unity requires reconciliation.’

So, in a bid to transcend what are often petty, internecine squabbles, he has woven together a frontbench that unites various strands of opinion in the party and elevated basic competence above sectional loyalty. It is a good start, but he needs to go further to show that factionalism will no longer be tolerated.

The best way he can do that? Banish Momentum – and Progress, too.

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Is a London lawyer the right person to fix a Northern wall?

13/04/2020, 09:45:04 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Rifling through the thick piles of paperwork on my desk just now, I happened across Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign leaflet. Evidently, I had secreted it away for further inspection at some stage, but given the events of the past week, it perhaps bears early re-examination.

On the front there’s a moody black and white picture of the new Labour Leader. A side-profile shot of him looking pensive. No tie (a depressing affectation of modern Labour politics) and the message: ‘Another future is possible.’ A serious man for serious times, no doubt.

When you unfold it, there he is again! Much bigger this time. A3. (Presumably the hope was that members would stick his image in their windows?) Still tieless, alas, but smiling this time, head slightly askew. The words ‘Integrity, authority, unity’ hang in the bottom corner – underlined – so you get the point.

Keir Starmer’s abiding message is that he’s a grown-up.

He’s already a knight of the realm and has had a proper job as director of public prosecutions. The hope is that he’s a return to the likes of John Smith, people of gravity who resonate beyond the Labour tribe. He certainly looks the part. Tidy hair and a decent suit. Not charismatic, per se, but reliable. Competent. Efficient. Ready for the task ahead.

But what is that task?

To become Labour prime minister in 2024? Surely that is beyond anyone. Of course, you can never say never in politics and the legacy of coronavirus might well be to shift the political centre leftwards. But it might just as readily be to pull it the opposite direction. Either way, Labour’s task is epic.

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Why did the hard left fail?

10/04/2020, 09:30:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The central assumption governing Labour politics for the past five years was that the shift leftwards under Jeremy Corbyn was unassailable. So overwhelming were the numbers of new members, encouraged, enthused and loyal to their man, following his unexpected election as leader in 2015, that control of the party had irrevocably decamped to the left.

Indeed, something had changed at the molecular level.

The creation of Momentum – a left-wing standing army within the party, numbered in the hundreds of thousands and solely dedicated to preserving the Corbyn insurgency – terrified moderate MPs who feared mandatory reselection was coming and with it the invitation to walk the plank, with hard-left activists jeering them on to a watery grave.

Party decision-making and policy formulation would fall into the clutches of a cabal of activists and far left trade unionists, who would then foist a shopping list of doctrinaire policies on the party. Unilateral nuclear disarmament – which had been the pivotal issue in party splits both in the 1950s and 1980s – would again incinerate Labour’s credibility as a party of government.

But the real story of the past five years is that barely a fraction of this supposed horror story ever came true.

Like Gordon Brown in 2007, Jeremy Corbyn had no real idea what he wanted to do with power. Yes, he had a few causes that drove him. Plenty of rhetoric, too. But there was no burning ambition. Still less a grand plan.

Rather than force through mandatory reselection and use his grassroots shock troops to unseat his opponents in the parliamentary party, the reselection process before the last election resulted in few victims.

Yes, Chuka and a few other disgruntled Blairite MPs who had fallen out with their local parties flounced off, but nothing like as serious as the 28 who fled to set up the SDP in 1981. And Corbyn was perfectly within his rights to try and bring some of his own supporters through. All leaders do it.

Whiny Labour MPs who simply didn’t respect his mandate and would never serve on his frontbench, just made a difficult situation worse. Credit therefore goes to the Jon Ashworth’s and John Healey’s and Andrew Gwynne’s for rolling-up their sleeves and serving the party’s broader interest.

Nor did policy drift too far to the fringes.

The cause of nuclear disarmament – once so totemic – seemed to just fall by the wayside. While the manifesto put forward at the 2017 election was merely a dialled-up version of Labour’s position from the early 1990s. A bit of nationalisation here. A bit more spending there. It was a dose of the old religion, but still recognisably social democratic stuff.

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How are we going to refer to Starmer’s approach and its followers?

08/04/2020, 06:02:26 PM

by Kevin Meagher

So, after the rapture of his victory on Saturday with a 56% share of the vote, followers of Labour’s new leader can be forgiven for indulging in a bout of Starmerama, but how are we to describe his credo and what are we going to call his disciples?

This mania for suffixing ‘ism’ and ‘ite’ to the names of political leaders or factions started in the 1950s with the Bevanites and the Gaitskellites – the Crip(p)s and the Bloods of post-war Labour politics.

You can’t imagine Clement Attlee going in for such nonsense and there were never really any Wilsonites either, although, like Peter Mandelson, things were done in a Wilsonian way. (And it’s not meant to be complementary).

Of course, we had Thatcherism and Thatcherites. Fair enough, given it was a distinct ideology and had a set of adherents. As were the Bennites at the opposite end of the spectrum.

So, not to be outdone and given it was then de rigeur in British politics by then, we had Blairism and Blairites.

We didn’t really have Brownism, but there were certainly Brownites.

During his five years at the helm, we had neither Milibandism, nor Milibandites. He was too much the intellectual gadfly, never settling on a coherent approach above and beyond ‘moving on from New Labour.’

Of course, there was Corbynism and Corbynites. Lots of them.

So, are we entering a bright new dawn of Starmerism? Or perhaps it will be Keirism?

Starmerite sounds like a household adhesive.

And Starmite doesn’t work because it could mean you either love him or hate him.

How to sum-up his approach?

Well, if the job of Opposition Leader is to benefit from the multifarious failings of the government of the day, then there’s only one term for his approach: Steer karma.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Labour’s problems are not all down to Corbyn

04/04/2020, 10:34:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course, the temptation is to grind Corbynista faces into the dirt.

After all, aren’t they responsible for the party’s drubbing in December, the worst performance in a general election since 1935?

Yes, but only to a point. Culpability for the state Labour finds itself in should be shared more widely.

The party has been in decline for at least the past 15 years and there has never been an inquest into why the Corbyn insurgency ignited in the first place.

Plainly, Jeremy Corbyn should never have been leader.

He was a classic campaigning backbencher, pulled out of position and kept in the leadership because the parliamentary party would never have nominated a replacement candidate from the left in any subsequent leadership contest.

So, there he stayed.

To his credit, he never even wanted the role, merely standing in 2015 as the left’s candidate on the cab-rank principle that it was his turn to fly the flag in a leadership contest and lose heavily, as McDonnell did in 2007 and Abbott in 2010.

Yet, as we know, Ed Miliband’s disastrous party reforms opened the door for the ‘three quid trots’ to sweep into the party and turbo-charge Corbyn’s vote. The rest is history.

Labour MPs are to blame, too, for making a bad situation worse. Their precipitous leadership challenge in 2016 played straight into the hands of left-wing activists who yelled ‘betrayal,’ galvanising them into returning Corbyn in even greater numbers.

From that point, he was unmovable.

The trade unions – representing only a sliver of the modern workforce – are to blame for indulging their fantasy politics.

The fact the main three affiliates: Unite, Unison and the GMB broke three ways for, respectively, Long-Bailey, Starmer and Nandy, is proof they are slowly coming back to the centre, but they bear responsibility for dragging the party into shallow water in the first place.

(Indeed, the hidden story in this election is just how quiet Unite and Len McCloskey have been, leaving the hapless Rebecca Long-Bailey to her own devices to run one of the poorest campaigns I can remember).

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