Thursday, 21 May 2015

This party has to change

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
- Albert Einstein

The Parliamentary Labour Party’s second-lowest postwar ebb (its 1983-1987 nadir was the only time it has been smaller) is not a time for us to adopt a “steady as she goes” philosophy. We’ve been there, after 2010.

The same economics, literally, because the team behind it was the same. The same poor – or absent – decision-making. The same sense of drift (usually leftwards, because that is the party’s comfort zone).

In many ways, Milibandism was simply Continuity Brownism and we should therefore scarcely be surprised that it achieved a similar result. Worse still, we may not have even reached the bottom yet: the political direction of travel is clearly still downwards and will continue to be, until/unless a big change can be made to happen.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Yesterday may yet turn out to have been the day that everything changed

It's been a mad ten days. 

Labour has not even had time to take in the scale of its crushing defeat (I will write about that next week), and everything has moved at breakneck speed. Two frontrunners (Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis) pull out of the suddenly-convened leadership race, and we are left with two leftish (and what we assume will be Unite-backed) candidates, Andy Burnham and Tom Watson (see Centre Lefts passim on Falkirk), as favourites for Leader and Deputy Leader.

But that is nothing as to the significance of yesterday. While leadership candidates gathered in London to display their wares at the annual conference of Progress (what was once the Blairite wing of the party), events of potentially much greater import were happening in Glasgow.

After surviving a vote of no-confidence by the Scottish Executive, Scottish Leader Jim Murphy dumbfounded everyone by resigning anyway, and using his resignation press conference to deliver a powerful and personal broadside against Unite leader Len McCluskey.

Essentially, Unite and a couple of other unions have forced out a democratically elected party leader, against the wishes of his Executive.

It is becoming ever more clear that we are headed for some kind of showdown between Labour and Unite, unless the party is going to sit back and let Unite dictate terms to it, as Murphy implied it is already doing:
"The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”
As the Times' ever-observant David Aaronovitch observed on Twitter:
I suspect that he is quite right and that things are about to get very ugly indeed.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Stopping the rush to war, pt 94

To take my mind off Labour's crushing defeat in the general election this week - I will be writing about that shortly - I was reminded perhaps one of the most lasting impacts of the Miliband leadership, and surely his only direct influence on foreign policy as party leader.

You will remember the Syria vote of 2013, when our former leader "stopped the rush to war" and scuppered a Tory move to assist with a no-fly zone, something which Barack Obama was apparently still sore about when they met briefly last year at the White House.

Instead, in a shabby and short-sighted move, Western leaders decided to opt for a chemical weapons inspection regime, a deal negotiated by - you've guessed it - Syria's ally, Vladimir Putin. A matter of months later, Putin was invading a neighbouring country, kicked out of the G8 and internationally vilified.

And, heavens, what have we here? Could it possibly that weapons still exist and Bashar Assad is giving the inspectors the run-around, just like Saddam Hussein before him? And that reportedly the non-compliance is with Russian connivance?

So, in short: 

Labour blocked a move to prevent genocide. 

In return for a weapons inspection deal which now turns out to be non-functional. 

Resulting, we presume, in the deaths of probably thousands of civilians as the weapons continue to be used?

I am sad that Labour lost on Thursday. But - and apologies if this sounds terribly disloyal - I am afraid that I am not sad that Ed Miliband will not now be in charge of British foreign policy.

Friday, 8 May 2015

No words.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Five dangers for Labour as the finish line approaches

And so the election goes down to the wire.

A shaky start for Labour; then two very good weeks; and now a late push by the Tories takes us to the photo finish. The Tories look better for winning the most seats; but Labour seems to have a better shot at forming a government.

It seems that the slightest gust of wind may decide who forms the next government. But for that very reason, both parties must tread very carefully. Here are a list of five dangers for Labour as the finish line approaches.

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