Sunday, 22 September 2019

The last forty-eight hours just showed how Labour can save itself

Related imageIn 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.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Representative democracy: once more a thing

Image result for commons house images westminsterThe unprecedented madness of the past few days at Westminster – even against the fairly mad backdrop of post-2015 British politics in general – has made commentators run out of superlatives. They have rather stopped, agape, no longer able to predict the slightest thing.

But, in brief summary:

  • Johnson has effectively lost all control and authority as prime minister, having lost all of his first three votes in the Commons, along with his tiny majority.
  • A legal bar against no-deal Brexit is almost certain to be passed into law imminently.
  • Even his own brother will not serve as an MP in a party led by him.
  • Further, unforced errors, such as stills and clips from the parliamentary debates of an angry, braying Johnson and an openly contemptuous Rees-Mogg, have surely helped further damage the government’s standing in the country.
  • And there is almost certainly going to be a general election soon, but probably not before 31st October, meaning that Johnson will have failed utterly in his one overriding goal, to leave the EU by that date. 
Short of ignoring the no-deal bar and attempting to exit the EU anyway – an idea which could scarcely be accepted quietly by the EU itself, let alone Parliament, the public, the Civil Service and even the monarch – he has no way out except pushing for an election which he now looks unlikely to win, at least outright.

There is still a major remaining risk in the current crisis: and that is that the election, when it comes, might not result in a hung parliament. Either a further spell for Johnson or a Corbyn majority would clearly be disastrous for the country. Thankfully, a hung parliament looks more likely than not, although it is not a done deal.

In any event, any true democrat should be pleased with the events of the last week. Parliament has, at last, reasserted itself, remembering that it is not secondary to an advisory plebiscite, unwisely “bigged up” by the government of the day. It has done its job as a check on the executive, a job at which it had until recently showed itself somewhat workshy.

Hopefully, future prime ministers might remember this next time they feel tempted to lurch into another, populist referendum; especially one into which they are largely goaded by their own party and for which there is eminently resistible public pressure. Perhaps, in the style of Lyndon Johnson, they might keep a little sign on their No. 10 desk, saying “Do Not Feed The Monster”. Because populist monsters are always, always hungry.

There is a reason why we elect people to represent us, rather than directly voting on everything, and it is this: our oft-maligned MPs are actually paid to try and master the complexities of subjects which we, the public, lack either the time, the wit or the interest to.

After the last week, we might reflect that it is a system which has, over the centuries, served us pretty well.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Peterborough shone a light on the dire state of Labour. The Tories’ beauty contest is the same shade of awful

Image result for peterborough imagesThe week before last, numerous MPs went to campaign for a racist sympathiser. I am sure most thought they were doing the right thing, dutifully answering the campaign call, as politicians do. Quite possibly some didn’t even know the story, or did not dare pull out at the last minute. Either way, they supported Lisa Forbes, surely one of the worst candidates we could have ever chosen for a by-election.

Thanks to the scrutiny a by-election suffers, all parties generally try hard to get the right candidate, one who will not suddenly find themselves at the centre of a media storm.

This time Labour failed dismally, presumably because those leading the party and its machine – not, you understand, the regular staffers, decent folk who have to live with the constant shame and embarrassment about their superiors – couldn’t care less about a bit of anti-Semitic dabbling.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Labour: the damage done

Jeremy Corbyn leads the British Labour Party. (Photo/JTA-Getty Images-Thierry Monasse)This piece was written before the local elections, where there was certainly some kind of electoral verdict on Corbyn's leadership. Whether this will finally lead to action to remove him remains to be seen.

While it is usual for the political commentariat to be largely focused on the present – especially with Brexit dominating headlines in recent years – sometimes it is useful for us all to take a look at the past, and the future.

Fast-forward to 2022, the projected next general election: Jeremy Corbyn, safe in his position as leader, has been leader of the Labour Party for seven years.

With regard to tenure, that will put him as the seventh longest-serving leader in the party’s century-long history. MacDonald, Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Kinnock, Blair and Corbyn. That is the peer group: all party leaders for more than one term.

While some might reasonably quibble about MacDonald, the first six are undoubtedly heavyweight, historical names. And party leaders with that kind of tenure are, clearly, the ones with the best chance of shaping their party in their image.

Let us turn now to the seventh, Jeremy Corbyn. He already has.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Hanging by a thread

Image result for hanging by a thread imagesRecent days have surely seen more political turmoil and uncertainty than has been seen in a generation; perhaps even in the whole postwar period. It is certainly extraordinary that, two weeks out from an enormous political event, no-one can really say with any certainty how things will turn out, or even what the plan of action is.

But what of Labour? Jeremy Corbyn, in present circumstances, is surely the luckiest leader of all: the strange return of a sovereign Parliament and the disarray of Theresa May’s Tories has helped camouflage Labour’s violent, internal convulsions, albeit temporarily.

For the past few months, Labour has been being riven by two potent forces at the same time.

First, the Leader’s disingenuous position on Brexit being finally laid bare for all to see: the Emperor never had any clothes. it was only ever a matter of time before his attempt to ride two horses at once ended in Labour doing the splits, and not far off literally so.

All Shadow Cabinet members can do is go on the media and mouth platitudes, while Corbyn refuses to answer a straight question. No-one believes them any more, except the Corbyn cult itself, within the party. Labour’s surviving frontbenchers have become a standing joke, as Emily Maitlis’ open exasperation with Barry Gardiner on Newsnight showed.

The second blow has been the gradual implosion of the party over anti-Semitism, for the simple reason that it refuses to pay anything more than lip-service to the problem.

Of the two, it seems clear that the second is the real killer: the most pernicious and long-lasting.

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