Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Meagher’

If it’s really ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’ from Sunak, why not remove the whip from Liz Truss?

30/09/2023, 09:10:15 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘In the next few days, we will all see more of the new-look Rishi Sunak,’ the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg predicted yesterday, previewing the Conservative party conference which is about to start in Manchester.

“’Mr Safe Pair of Hands’ is gone – it’s ‘No more Mr Nice Guy’ now,’ apparently.

Truly, the sort of dismal, by-the-numbers briefing that PMs in trouble always make.

John Major amusingly claimed that when your back’s against the wall, you should ‘turn around and come out fighting.’

Croaky Iain Duncan-Smith was the quiet man turning up the volume.

We’ve been here a million times.

When you’re taking political blows, the inevitable relaunch always looks to project raw power.

The claim of decisiveness is usually inverse to the reality.

The true test of a leader is what they do, not what they claim. A brand – or rebrand – must be founded on substance.

So, in a spirit of ecumenism from across the political aisle, let me suggest how Sunak can transform words into deeds with one simple move.

Remove the whip from Liz Truss.

Madam 49 Jours appears to have de-iced from the political Siberia she was sent to last year – by her own colleagues and the international money markets.

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Starmer has inadvertently arrived at his Clause Four moment

10/05/2022, 08:07:01 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Fortune favours the bold and if that hoary old claim stands the test of time, Keir Starmer should emerge from ‘beergate’ strengthened.

His announcement yesterday that he will resign as Labour leader if Durham police find he breached lockdown regulations following his campaign visit to the county in April 2021 for the local elections, has convulsed British politics.

Surely, he’s not prepared to play Russian Roulette with his very career?

Well, yes, he is.

The particulars of the case are now drearily familiar.

Did the perfectly bog-standard campaign visit, which involved a beer and a curry for Starmer and campaign workers constitute a party, or were they merely grabbing a drink and a bite to eat after the working day.

Addressing the incessant questioning that has swirled around his account of events head on, his statement this afternoon confirming his intentions was simple and direct.

He had done nothing wrong and complied with the rules, he said.

His critics in the right-wing media ‘didn’t believe it themselves’ and were just trying to ‘feed cynicism’ and get the public to accept ‘all politicians are the same.’

‘I’m here to say they are not,’ he added. ‘I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws should follow them.’

A bit corny, but heartfelt, too.

The ever-sagacious John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former political secretary told Radio Four that parking the issue would create much-needed breathing space, allowing Starmer to get properly stuck into the Queen’s Speech, without enduring the catcalls of Tory MPs and incessant questioning of salivating reporters.

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Why is Keir Starmer playing the Orange card?

02/08/2021, 10:48:44 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You might have missed it because it didn’t really register in the British media (quelle surprise), but Keir Starmer’s trip to Belfast last month caused something of a stir.

While Starmer used the trip to meet victims of the Troubles and to voice his support for the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol – chiding Boris Johnson for not being ‘straight’ with voters in the process – he also dismissed any prospect of Irish unity and indicated that he strongly backs Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

In a tough interview with the BBC’s new Northern Ireland political editor, Enda McLafferty, the Labour leader was quizzed about how support for holding a border poll – the colloquial term for a referendum in Irish unification – might be measured, perhaps by the performance of pro or anti unity parties in an assembly election?

Starmer replied: ‘I don’t think that’s a particularly accurate way of measuring it.’

Really? Surely, it’s the most accurate way of accessing whether there is support for a change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional position? Each of the party’s views on the matter are well-established, so it offers a pretty good measure of the state of the debate. Notwithstanding the fact we have an assembly election next May.

McLafferty pressed Starmer for further clarification. ‘I think there have to be conditions,’ before any vote could be held, he said. ‘I think there have to be lots of discussions. Look, I don’t think [a border poll] is in sight and this is a very hypothetical discussion.’

Asked whether he would campaign with unionists in the event of a vote, Starmer replied: ‘I personally, as leader of the Labour Party, believe in the United Kingdom, strongly, and want to make the case for the United Kingdom, strongly, and will be doing that.’

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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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