Posts Tagged ‘Rob Marchant’

In the most important union election in decades, Coyne is the only choice to rehabilitate Unite and Labour

10/07/2021, 09:28:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

This is not an idle claim. In the 1980s, the unions were still largely regarded as centrist ballast against the worst excesses of a hard left spearheaded by figures such as Derek Hatton, Ted Knight, Eric Heffer, and Tony Benn. But they are so no longer: over the last decade, unions have been way to the left of the party, and that has had a major impact on its political direction.

And never, prior to Corbynism, has the party been so much under the thumb of a single union leader. Len McCluskey’s place-people sat for five years at the heart of power in the party.

Admittedly, it is less so now – scandal-hit McCluskey is now a busted flush and Unite in an interregnum until the new leader is chosen – but that could easily turn out to be a temporary state of affairs. Choose the wrong leader and, doubt it not, there will be a return to the bad old days.

At this point there is the clearest of choices: forward into a world where corruption, far-left politics and what can only be described as political blackmail become a thing of the past in the party; or backwards, Unite once again dragging Labour towards an electoral abyss and providing a rallying-point – and, most importantly, deep pockets – for the far left.

Its propaganda. Its vexatious prosecutions. Its expensive-yet-futile legal defences of its chosen sons and daughters and its vanity projects. All areas on which it openly squanders its members’ subs.

Gerard Coyne has not only shown himself an honourable candidate, looking to wipe out corruption in the face of terrible attacks on him personally and professionally (you may recall he was sacked by McCluskey in 2017, on apparently trumped-up charges). But he is self-evidently the only candidate interested in prioritising the labour rights of Unite’s members over far-left politicking.

Yes, it is a relief that McCluskey’s most obviously-annointed successor, the tainted Howard Beckett – currently suspended from Labour after a race-tinged tweet about Priti Patel and previously embroiled in a miners’ compensation fund scandal every bit as dodgy as that of another Corbynite, Ian Lavery MP – has withdrawn.

But the two remaining candidates, Steve Turner and Sharon Graham, despite seeming marginally less combative towards the Labour Party under Keir Starmer than Beckett, both have pretty much exactly the same far-left politics as him. Furthermore, after the deal Turner did with him to drop out, it seems a reasonable bet that Beckett will have a significant role in any Unite led by him.

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Starmer’s disastrous Pride

14/06/2021, 11:05:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was all going so well.

Keir Starmer, having made it intact through his first year of leadership, had managed – admittedly, not entirely by design – to remove the toxic presence of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, from the party and win back a majority on the party’s ruling NEC. And even in the face of an unprecedented “vaccine bounce” for the current occupant of No. 10, he was nevertheless starting to be seen as Labour’s most serious leader in more than a decade, whether or not his electoral ship might come in in 2023-24.

His recent “soul-baring” interview with the ever-dreadful Piers Morgan, which could have turned out so badly, ended up showing him in a positive light, as a genuine and humble everyman, in a way neither of his two predecessors could have ever achieved.

All in all, a creditable first year: albeit with much left to do, not least on the unpleasant nitty-gritty of eliminating anti-Semitism.

Yes, it was all going so well – until last week. The week he decided to alienate a large swathe of women in his own party and many thousands outside it.

A little background: during the last two weeks, the following things happened.

One. The boss of Stonewall – which, despite being an overtly political organisation, still provides a system of diversity accreditation to hundreds of public and private bodies in the UK – compared the idea of being “gender-critical” – essentially, to insist on the immutability of biological sex – to anti-Semitism, not only a woefully wrong but an abhorrent comparison.

Almost immediately afterwards, Equalities minister Liz Truss followed the lead of the EHRC and recommended withdrawal for government departments, and a former list of 900-plus Stonewall Diversity Champions is now diminishing rapidly.

It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this move. Stonewall, during prior decades a hugely-respected organisation, which did much to bring about the liberalisation of laws on homosexuality during the last Labour government, seems now to be so broken that it is difficult seeing it survive through to the end of the decade – at least, not without a huge shake-up in its management and culture. A seeming obsession with trans campaigning above all other facets of lesbian, gay and bi politics has driven many to a new organisation, the LGB Alliance.

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The poisonous McCluskey era thankfully draws to a close

16/05/2021, 09:33:31 PM

by Rob Marchant

It’s not really been a good week for Len McCluskey, has it? A mere three months away from stepping down, it does seem the once-irresistible grip of him and his Unite faction on the Labour Party is fading fast.

First there was the Anna Turley libel case, whereby the union is now forced to pay its portion of an astonishing £1.3m to the former Redcar MP, for an article published on the Unite-backed Squawkbox blog (and one imagines that the piece’s writer, Steve Walker, will not be able to contribute very much to the sum, if anything).

And who should be in charge of legal affairs at Unite, responsible for keeping it out of such legal trouble?

Why, the person who looks like McCluskey’s clear preference to succeed him as General Secretary, Howard Beckett, of course.

Yes, that Howard Beckett, demonstrably the most militant of the candidates, who has just been suspended from the Labour Party for a deeply unpleasant tweet about Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Good. Neither should we shed any tears for Beckett – and for clear reasons of decency, rather than because we dislike the political views he is perfectly entitled to hold. Beckett was – not unlike his parliamentary counterpart, former Party Chair Ian Lavery – embroiled in a scandal over the misuse of compensation payments to sick miners.

For that reason alone, frankly, neither man should ever have been allowed to rise in the ranks of the labour movement. But, in the strange and twisted world that was 2010s Labour politics, they were.

And last but emphatically not least on the list of McCluskey’s woes is the ongoing political meltdown in Liverpool, slowly dragging McCluskey’s name further and further into the mire.

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The ripples from the US election and its aftermath could profoundly affect Labour’s journey from here

25/01/2021, 09:17:33 AM

by Rob Marchant

It should be uncontroversial at this point, for any (small-“d”) democrat, to say that the election of Joe Biden is immensely good news for the world in general. Following the final debacle of Trump’s disastrous presidency, the Capitol insurrection, the alternative in retrospect seems ever more unthinkable, because it is now clear that his open contempt for democracy could easily have led the US to a much, much darker place than happened on the 6th of January.

We are now at least in the happy position of going back to something resembling politics-as-usual. We can finally start to critique the new presidency as we would have done any other and, for us on the left, things mostly look very promising. But there are also some flaws, as we shall see.

But, at the risk of seeming a little parochial, what’s in it for us? What difference does it make to us, the Labour party, in its struggle to clean itself up and get back into power?

The good news is that, obviously, we will have an occupant of the White House who might be reasonably expected to prefer a Starmer-led government to a Johnson-led one (as indeed he would prefer an anyone-led government, if insider accounts of Biden’s dislike for our current PM is to be believed. One thing is clear: there will be a serviceable working relationship between the two leaders – there always is – but it will not be a chummy, personal one, like Clinton-Blair or Bush-Blair).

There are two caveats to this positive: first, Starmer needs not to do anything ill-advised. For example, this effect didn’t work so well with Ed Miliband, who was reportedly persona non grata in the Obama White House for some time, following his disastrous handling of the Syria vote in the Commons. Second, that this kind of “left-left” alignment is not usually much direct help anyway, although some occasional supportive noises from the president might help a little to build Starmer’s desired image as a PM-in-waiting.

And now to the bad news.

First, there will be things Starmer will want just as much as Johnson, which Biden may not help with, or even actively work against. On a post-Brexit trade deal, for example, all the signs are that Biden may well opt for Obama’s celebrated “back of the queue” position. Or that from this, the first president with Irish roots to win office in twenty-eight years, help in resisting what is likely to be increasing pressure towards Irish reunification seems unlikely to be forthcoming. These issues need to be handled with care.

Second, and perhaps more concerning, there are concrete things Biden has already done, and others he might do very soon, which can create a negative knock-on for Starmer. Why so?

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The EHRC report is conclusive and damning. But Corbyn’s suspension has now changed the game entirely

30/10/2020, 10:37:04 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was a day of shame for Labour, that is true. Never before had it been criticised so incontrovertibly about racism: something which a decade ago would have seemed to many unthinkable.

But it was also the day where an enormous boil seemed to be lanced and, at last, a road out of the mess of the last decade became clearly visible.

Pity the poor commentators up and down the country. All about to file their pieces about the EHRC report and Starmer’s reaction to it, when suddenly the massive news of Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension meant that all bets were off.

The content of the report, it therefore suffices to say at this point, was damning and conclusive: the party had broken equalities law and needed to make amends. Interestingly, although it confirmed that the Leader’s Office had clearly interfered with a large number of complaints, it did not call out Corbyn himself specifically. In fact, although the report’s author did comment in an interview that obviously the person at the head of the party at that time needed to carry some responsibility, Corbyn actually got off rather lightly.

This is not, we need to underline, because Corbyn was not responsible. It is because the limited terms of the report addressed the specific question of institutional anti-Semitism, and did not answer the simple question being asked by Jewish activists on Twitter: why was there such a massive upsurge in anti-Semitism on Corbyn’s watch? If that question, to which the answer seems perfectly obvious, had been asked and data sought, Corbyn would have been in a much more sticky situation.

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We need to talk about where the trans self-id debate is taking Labour

11/10/2020, 10:51:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

Last Tuesday, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner stated her view that Rosie Duffield – yes, the Rosie Duffield who has been a champion of women’s rights and bravely declared her own domestic abuse story to Parliament – should “reflect” on the fact that she had “liked” a tweet which described transgender people as “cross-dressers”.

Although Rayner attempted to paint the debate as “toxic”, with “both sides” needing to calm down, this was a somewhat disingenuous deflection; there is no doubt about which “side” she herself has chosen and her criticism of Duffield was clear enough. She was felt to be “upsetting” people.

It is also well documented that, during the leadership campaign earlier this year, Rayner – along with Lisa Nandy and Corbynite challenger Rebecca Long-Bailey – enthusiastically endorsed the idea of self-id for trans folk.

Let’s take a step back for a minute: Duffield did not tweet anything herself. She “liked” a tweet by Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who lost their job for speaking out about her opposition to self-id,  which used a term, “cross-dresser”, which – as Forstater herself points outis frequently used by some trans people themselves. For the record, J K Rowling writes poignantly about Forstater’s case, as well as her own story of domestic abuse, here.

Ah, but she had previous, you say. Duffield tweeted that “only women have a cervix”, which is seen as “exclusionary”. She was then clearly pressured into making an apology. Seriously? Is this what the Labour Party has become, that someone is forced to apologise for stating a biological fact?

That is apparently all you need to do, in the modern Labour Party, to be found guilty of thoughtcrime and asked to “reflect” on how you have “upset” people. Indeed, I myself have probably already invited abuse and social media pile-ons already, via the last few, pretty anodyne paragraphs, and probably added insult to injury by mentioning the now-unmentionable-in-polite-Party-circles Rowling.

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After Starmer’s first 100 days came Labour’s tipping-point week

29/07/2020, 10:53:43 PM

by Rob Marchant

At the 100-day point in mid-July, there was much favourable chatter about the new leader. Good poll ratings, clear change of position on anti-Semitism, control of the NEC. The Corbynites have been on the back foot and the party looks vaguely presentable again.

Continuity Corbynite figurehead Rebecca Long-Bailey was, much to the surprise of many, not forced to resign but humiliatingly sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting an article containing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

It has not been all plain sailing: Starmer is a new leader, after all, and new leaders make mistakes as they learn. One was to have commissioned yet another useless “reforming the party” report, this time with involvement from Ed Miliband, who had already presided over the release of two such useless reports in his own term as leader.

Then there was the clearly unfair suspension of Emilie Oldknow, the former Assistant General Secretary. who had done little more than slag off some of her colleagues on WhatsApp (we would most of us be sacked, were spying on one’s staff a widespread practice among UK employers).

Worse still than that unfairness, was the credence it gave to the highly questionable “report” commissioned by former General Secretary Jennie Formby into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism. A report conceived and executed by that administration in unquestionably bad faith, with the intent of rebutting in advance its inevitable, forthcoming slamming by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In other words, a last, desperate attempt to save the reputations of those involved in the Corbyn project.

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Crank Labour is disintegrating before our eyes. Tuesday’s NEC meeting will be critical in ensuring it doesn’t recover

17/05/2020, 10:31:28 PM

by Rob Marchant

As Keir Starmer puts in two commendable first performances at PMQs, so the upper echelons of the Corbynite house of cards, thankfully, continue to collapse.

The Crank Labour caucus has largely reverted to type in an overt way: one wild fringe in a Zoom conference a couple of weeks back claimed that Labour is institutionally racist against black members, in order to muddy the waters as much as possible against the anti-Semitism accusations and, clumsily, to try and discredit the EHRC before it reports on Labour.

And that Zoom conference was nothing to a second one, a few days later, peddling a similar victim-narrative and where MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy were snapped rubbing shoulders with a veritable Who’s Who of left anti-Semites, such as Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker (h/t: Lee Harpin).

It is no longer, it seems, necessary to keep up pretences of common sense or decency.

Corbyn himself has also had an uneasy return to the backbenches: not only has he decided that he is too important to observe lockdown but, like an ageing rock star unable to grasp that the crowds are getting much smaller than they used to be, cannot quite get used to the new status quo. No longer hampered by sharp-eyed media advisers keeping him under control, he posts strange videos of himself, not observing lockdown: half of it him standing in the rain actual silence, the other half a shuffling, mostly inaudible tribute to frontline staff.

Politically he, too, has reverted to type: he is now happy to associate once again with the assorted freaks and anti-Semites at Stop the War (remember them? The supposedly anti-war gang who had no problem whatsoever with Assad killing about half a million of his own people in Syria, many with chemical weapons). And now again happy to sign up without reservation to 1980s-style statements on “class war”.

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The Corbynite leadership’s final, scorched-earth, rearguard action

18/04/2020, 10:33:46 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was all going so well: but a matter of days following the election of Keir Starmer as Labour’s new leader and it is convulsing itself over the scandal of a report, leaked widely, containing sensitive, personal information and also making serious allegations about current and past staffers, not to mention various members and non-members.

It has the makings of a PR disaster of epic proportions which, thanks to Covid-19, national media has not yet given the prominence it is likely to have in future. But it will: make no mistake about its seriousness. It could even bankrupt the party, or some of its individual figures.

Corbyn himself is gone, of course. But this week we discovered, not to much surprise, that the report was commissioned by his last lieutenant: the party’s General Secretary, Jennie Formby.

You do not have to agree that Formby created a climate of fear and bullying at Labour HQ; or that she allowed unresolved anti-Semitism complaints to balloon on her watch and then disingenuously blamed the problem on her predecessor, although there is ample evidence for both these things. But they are opinions.

Where one has to despair with some party members over recent days, in uproar on Labour’s social media echo chamber, is the wilful blindness to the following actual facts:

1. Spying on staff is not ok. Honestly, what is wrong with you people, that you think it’s fine for any organisation to spy on its staff on an industrial scale, compiling their emails and WhatsApps, whatever the nature of their comments turned out to be?If you go into pretty much any organisation in the world, you will find groups of people being rude about their bosses and colleagues on email, chat or text, in a private way: this is human nature. Most of them quite reasonably do not expect they are about to be spied on by their employer. Even if use of information extracted from such monitoring is legal under certain, specific circumstances, it is clearly not behaviour which would be calmly accepted by a workforce as a rule and rightly so.

With that one action, Formby has destroyed the trust of hundreds of people employed by the party and using its email or mobiles on a daily basis. She surely cannot continue long in her role now, for purely managerial reasons – she has clearly lost confidence of her staff.

2. A major data breach has been committed. Are we really saying that Jennie Formby, who commissioned a report she knew contained highly sensitive and personal information, should not be held responsible for its safekeeping?

And how could she realistically not have known that such a sensitive document could not possibly be kept secret in a million years, given the controversial nature of its contents?It is all very well, Ms Formby, to tell local party members not to distribute it, now you are personally implicated in a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. But your either malicious or incompetent handling of personal data has now left a number of people involved in current cases, including some minors and Jews, exposed and vulnerable.

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The party, the party, the party: an eight-point plan to save the Labour party from itself

12/04/2020, 10:26:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

We have now had the Shadow Cabinet appointments. While a few have raised eyebrows among moderates – not least the self-same Miliband who helped get us into this mess in the first place – it is not a bad selection from the limited numbers of available MPs.

Its significance will be dissected for weeks by the Westminster lobby, because that is what they see – the Westminster face of the party. But the first thing we members need to realise is that the Shadow Cabinet and, indeed, party policy in times of Covid-19, is a sideshow.

Let’s not forget: the party is finally out of immediate danger, but it is still in intensive care.

Yes, it is important in these difficult times to provide a reasonably effective scrutiny function to the highly-variable ministerial quality on the Tory benches. But most moderates, we might wager, inside or perhaps temporarily outside the party, have always seen this leadership election as a two-step battle, in which both steps are essential and not just the first.

Step one: get a decent, competent, non-extremist leader (a low bar, you might reasonably say). Tick. And with Starmer, at first glance, things looks considerably better than anyone might have expected. Then, step two: sort out the party. In short, get it back to a decent, healthy, functioning organisation without the slightest hint of anti-Semitism or far-left extremism – both of which pretty much amount to the same thing.

And it is this second one to which we need now turn. It is not a question of it being a nice-to-have or an “in the fullness of time”: any failure to act on this immediately will mean that the good guys will not return – either our members or our supporters – and the whiff of racism will remain. The party, simply, will not recover. It is a sine qua non.

Here Uncut proposes eight things which will need to happen to make that a reality, and they will all need to start – and some finish – during the first hundred days.

One. Make it abundantly clear there needs to be a new General Secretary. The GS cannot easily be fired, but it is also impractical for them to continue if a party leader really does not want them there. The only key figure who will now want Formby to continue is Len McCluskey; the PLP, NEC, Leader’s Office and other unions will not.

Two. Eradicate anti-Semitism, branch by branch if necessary, as was done with Militant. The EHRC report, when it comes, will help mobilise opinion within the party and ensure that the guilty are brought to task, but action needs to be taken before then. Starmer’s meetings with JLM and BoD have been a good start. But this cannot really happen until we deal with point one. This will also have the happy side-effect of removing some of the nastier extremists from the party.

Three. Ignore Momentum. It is not necessary to try to attack it, it is already in disarray; a fan club based around one man can hardly have much future when that man goes. It is fracturing, as the far left always does. Its anti-Semitic members will be expelled from Labour. The important thing is not to engage with it, let it have its little conference in September and let it be a flop. Ironically, an organisation called Momentum will die if it lacks that which gives it its name. Those decent members, who are not mad or extremist and joined in good faith, will drift back towards the party proper. Eventually even Unite will dump it – they will want to be where the power is. (more…)

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