Friday, 28 June 2013

Len, honestly, what do you take us for?


On Wednesday I posted a piece at Labour Uncut (later posted here at the Centre Left), summarising both developments in the Falkirk selection, where Unite stands accused by the Labour Party of interfering in the selection process, and the involvement of Unite in the People’s Asseembly.
Yesterday the New Statesman printed this piece containing a letter from Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey, to its recently-recruited members, which bears reproducing in full:

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Labour and Unite: a little time-bomb

Yesterday morning, Uncut reported developments in the Falkirk selection fiasco; Labour’s investigation confirmed that there was an attempt by Unite to recruit additional members in order to fix the selection. For a major union to intervene behind the scenes in the running of a selection may not be unheard of, but the careless and obvious entryist manner in which Labour implies it was carried out was, frankly, breath-taking.

Last weekend, further reports surfaced in the Times and the Mail on Sundayregarding the that Labour advisors Blue State Digital were arm-twisted by “a senior Labour figure” to lean on their employee to pull out and make way for a Unite-backed candidate, or risk losing their contract. Whoever the figure turns out to have been certainly has some very awkward questions to answer.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Labour’s lead is slipping and its main rivals are still the Tories (remember them?)

The Independent’s poll of polls announced last week showed two things: the first is that Labour’s poll lead is slipping (to five points, its lowest level in a year, a year which has been abysmal for the Tories). This is exactly what we would expect, it is doing what pretty much every mid-term lead has ever done – evaporating. There’s a bit more analysis behind that here.

That does not mean it should not concern us and growing consciousness of this effect may well have been a factor in the raft of – pretty sensible – policy announcements made the previous week.

But the second point was that UKIP was eating into Labour’s support, rather than just the Tories. The question is not whether this is happening – it is, if in a modest way – it is why, and what should we do about it?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

It’s not the despair Ed, it’s the hope

So, a week in which, to the great surprise of practically everyone, last week the two Eds came up with a set of policy announcements – or at least, position statements – to “get their retaliation in first” in advance of the government’s spending review. U-turning on a range of issues which they previously stood up for since January 2010 when they first formed their leadership tag team. This could just have been the week when history will remember that it all changed.

Could, not necessarily will, as we shall see.

But good things: child benefit, for example, where Balls has finally accepted the self-evident reality that if he does grant it to rich people, he will have to find a couple of billion from somewhere else, something which will hurt much more. Or the pretty-much-confirmation, by Ed Balls to Andrew Neil, of adherence to Tory spending limits, something which, ahem, Labour Uncut suggested two years ago.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Erdogan's democracy bus ride

As a little footnote to my piece on the Turkish protests, a little nugget I have just discovered (h/t: Harry's Place). In what seems now like quite a prescient interview earlier this year, King Abdullah of Jordan is quoted as saying the following:
''Erdogan once said that democracy for him is a bus ride,'' Abdullah told the Atlantic. ''Once I get to my stop, I'm getting off."
In the context of the reaction to the protests, and the frustrating comments of many that he is a "moderate", I find these words particularly chilling.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Unite: there be something stirring in the woodshed

Just a little snippet which may be rather significant: the Guardian's Patrick Wintour reports that:
This follows the reports a couple of weeks ago that the non-affiliated PCS, a union led by Mark Serwotka, no supporter of the Labour Party, had given the green light to merger talks.

Given that Serwotka, who would very likely one day end up head of the merged union, is generally thought to be to the left even of Unite's current leader Len McCluskey, whom Miliband has recently shown willingness to stand up to over budget cuts, this surely means a rift is looking increasingly likely, as we warned here. Disaffiliation may not necessarily happen this side of an election, but open warfare of a 1980s variety certainly looks a strong possibility.

All in all, none of this is terribly good news for Labour.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Young Turks: don’t stop now

The original, modest protest over the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park has – largely due to a foolishly heavy-handed police response – mushroomed into a much wider manifestation of discontent. This discontent is not just economic and it certainly seems to have very little to do with the revolutions of the Arab Spring. It is something else again: a democracy which sees itself slipping backwards, its gains in freedom and human rights being reversed. And that is something which should concern all of us.
It is not just the brutal way the regime has suppressed the demonstrators with liberal use of tear gas and water cannons, although that is something in itself; the Turkish doctors’ association said that at least six protesters had lost eyes through the police throwing of tear gas canisters.
No, it is as if the country’s youth has suddenly woken up to what is currently going on, and they don’t like it. It is early days still, but it seems symbolic of a latent battle for the soul of modern Turkey which has been going on for some years.
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