By The Spectator blog:
John McTernan: if Corbyn wins the Labour leadership, he should be deposed immediately
John McTernan (L), Director of Political Operations and Tony Blair on a train, 2007 .
John McTernan is a Blairite who is not afraid to speak his mind. On this week’s View from 22 podcast, the former Labour special advisor discusses the state of Labour’s leadership contest with Isabel and me. He believes the right of the party is struggling as it failed to put forward a suitably experienced candidate ‘because David Miliband left the Commons in the last Parliament’:
‘If David had stayed and served in Ed’s shadow cabinet, David would have been the candidate wouldn’t he? There wouldn’t have really been a contest and I think the vagaries of people’s personal career choices has a big impact on where we are.’
McTernan describes the nomination of Jeremy Corbyn by Labour MPs as ‘self-indulgent’ and still doesn’t think he will win. But if Corbyn is victorious, McTernan says he should be removed immediately:
‘I can’t see any case for letting him have two minutes in office, let alone two years in office because I think the damage that will be done to the Labour party in that period makes it incredibly hard to recover … it just beggars belief that there isn’t something that, in the unlikely event Corbyn wins, there is something is done swiftly and quickly to restore the party to its sense.’
‘How the Labour party in the twenty first century, at a time when Putin is at his most aggressive, can consider electing a leader who would take us out of Nato I have no idea, genuinely no idea —somebody who cannot fund his promises; doesn’t even pretend to fund his promises. Why is that acceptable for the Labour party and why party members of all sorts think that is acceptable to the electorate I have no idea.’
But what if the party’s grassroots were unhappy at this? McTernan doesn’t think they matter:
‘Yeah but who cares about the grassroots? The leader is one who determines the saleability of the Labour party. Nobody is voting for Tumbleweed CLP. They are all voting for the leader, they are voting for a potential Prime Minister and a leader who can’t control the party, can’t control conference isn’t fit to run the party yet alone the country, but obviously if you get a strong leader, it doesn’t really matter what the grassroots say.
‘And the majority of party members do like being in power. They like in power at local levels, they like being in power in devolved administrations, they like being in power in central government.’
McTernan describes Corbyn’s popularity as a ‘strange psychological emotional spasm’, which he believes is grief-related because ‘so many people believed Labour were going to win this election’. As well as this, he says the party’s previous two leaders have to shoulder some of the blame for the current splits:
‘The terrible disservice that Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and other people in leadership positions did to the Labour party was that they trashed the reputation of a Labour government that lasted from 1997 – 2010. They not only trashed it by refusing to defend it, they disowned it.’
You can listen to the full discussion here:
We’re not big fans of Prezza here at Shiraz, but he talked a whole lot of horse-sense when interviewed by John Humphries on the Today programme this morning. As always, he got some of his words a bit muddled, but he made himself crystal clear, especially on the subject of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair Esq:
by Phil Burton-Cartledge (reblogged from All That Is Solid)
If since midday you’ve been plagued by that irritating background noise is, here’s what it is: the gnashing of Blairist teeth to the news that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign saw him lifted onto the Labour leadership shortlist. Those MPs who nominated him but are quite clear they do not support his pitch deserve a congratulatory pint. They understand much better than our “friendly” media commentators the nature of the party. Allow me to take this moment to explain why.
As you might expect, our chum Dan Hodges forecasts woe and plagues of crickets. Apparently Jeremy is “to the left of Karl Marx“, because opposing the bedroom tax and rallying against cuts is obviously more radical than smashing the capitalist state machinery and expropriating the expropriators. The left “don’t get it” – the general election result proves that the British electorate are not in the mood for their policy provision. They are a spent force the parliamentary party has to indulge, and only a thorough drubbing on a policy platform they like will ram the message though their dogmatic skulls.
Dan’s starting position, as it has always been, is that Tony Blair found the shiny baton of electoral success. Gordon Brown fumbled the hand over in the relay, and when it came to Ed Miliband’s lap he didn’t think to pick it up. For Dan, Labour’s route back to power is dull, grey, technocratic politics because what the electorate expects are boring, risk-averse, but basically competent managers. Any whiff of left-wingery frightens the horses. In my view the self-evident truths Dan and his co-thinkers subscribe to are simulated nostrums specific to the Westminster matrix, repeated and transmitted ad nauseum by sympathetic media figures to the point where it’s the received political commonsense. The problem is, it’s wrong.
Let’s be sure about this. Labour didn’t lose the election because it was “too left“. No one gave Labour the body swerve because of the mansion tax, the energy price cap, an increased minimum wage, the pledge to build more houses, and the abolition of the bedroom tax – not least when these policies were popular with the voting public.
Labour lost for two main reasons. First, on economic competence. The Tory argument that you can’t secure the NHS without securing the economy absolutely cut through. And the second was insecurity – how Labour will cave to a SNP set on milking the (English) taxpayer, rendering these islands defenceless, and imperil the union. It’s a political vein you can expect the Tories to tap again and again. Therefore the situation Labour finds itself in is a very difficult one. How can it simultaneously appeal to enough Scottish voters, enough English swing voters, and enough “traditional” voters flirting with UKIP. That difficult discussion demands all minds and all wings of the movement to be involved. This is why I’m glad Jeremy is on board, it means the left will have its say throughout the summer of leadership debates.
I’m sure Dan and his co-thinkers think the left have nothing to contribute and should have had their entry barred to the contest. Allow me then to talk the language they understand. At the general election, the Green Party won 1.1m votes. As James O’Malley points out, if just 2,984 of them had voted Labour instead in the relevant key marginals, there would be no Conservative majority government now. Let us suppose that the narrow contest they coveted had taken place. Thousands of left recruits, many of them recent, would have departed from the party. A larger cohort of some left-leaning voters hoping to see their values and hopes reflected in the leaders’ debates would also have been put off. Where would they have gone? Perhaps to the Greens, perhaps to a lefter-looking Liberal Democrats. The Blairites may be happy to see the back of these “wrong sort” of members and voters, but in so doing they would also say goodbye to a clutch of seats. It’s not 1997. Left Labour-leaning people do have somewhere else to go which, incidentally, is why Labour under their favoured Miliband was unlikely to have fared any better.
Another point that Dan and friends might also wish to mull over. While beginning under Kinnock, since Blair took over the party there has been a centralisation of organisation and a diminution of policy input from constituency parties. Gone are the days where policy was determined by the floor of conference, and now it’s mostly a managed affair for keynote speeches and the like. If there was more in the way of member-led democracy, then perhaps – just perhaps – the left would have found an outlet in policy debates. Instead they created a logjam which meant the only way the left could get its voice heard is by running a leadership candidate. If the Blairists don’t like it, tough. This is a situation two decades in the making, and their finger smudges are all over its blueprints.
So the debate we’re going to have, the proper soul-searching debate so many from across the party paid lip service to in the days following the general election is happening. Good. Let’s get on with it.
Above: bought-and-paid for traitor Milburn
I was about to to write something about these treacherous scumbags, but Lennie’s saved me the trouble. I’d only add that Milburn (who failed to declare an interest when he sabotaged Labour’s health announcement) should be expelled immediately, and Hutton, Mandelson and Blair himself, put on notice that they will follow if they continue to undermine the Party in the run-up to the election.
I put this proposal forward in all seriousness, and it would have the incidental benefit of shutting-up all those who accuse Ed Miliband of “weakness.”
Even Blairite commentators have been taken aback by these people’s arrogant, bare-faced disloyalty.
Anyway, here’s what Lennie (not someone that Shiraz always agrees with) has to say, according to a Unite press release:
Labour Does Not Need Back-stabbing Blairite Grandees>
With the days counting down to the most important general election in generations, the leader of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, has condemned those within the Labour party who are undermining Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Denouncing the politicians of Labour’s past as >Blairite grandees, Len McCluskey urged Ed Miliband not to be deterred by these
Addressing the union’s 1200 strong officer and organiser core in Birmingham today (Monday, 2 February), Len McCluskey warned that the Tories’ immense spending power, allied to their wealthy backers and a loyal media, means the country faces a one-sided campaign in May placing a duty to democracy’ on the union to support Labour:
“The electorate is today poised between fear and hope. Fear is the basis of the UKIP menace – blame someone else for all the problems, usually immigrants or foreigners, and seek refuge in an imagined past.
“But it is hope that is blossoming today as we have seen in last week’s magnificent election result in Greece. Labour needs to bottle some of the Syriza spirit and take that anti-austerity agenda to the people here.
“What it doesn’t need is the Blairite grandees – the people who sucked the life out of the last Labour government – attacking every progressive impulse, like the mansion tax and saving our NHS.
“So I say to Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn and John Hutton: stick to counting your money, and stop stabbing Labour in the back.
“And I say to Ed Miliband – have the courage of your convictions and ignore these blasts from the past.”
Len McCluskey continued: “This is a fight for the future of our society, for the poor and vulnerable. A fight for everyone squeezed by the crisis and the cuts, and for everyone who believes that Britain has gone badly wrong, and who wants to live in a fairer country.
“The Tories are plotting a reduction in the scope and role of the state which even Thatcher could only have dreamed of, taking us back to the days of the 1930s, under the pretext of balancing the books without, of course, asking the rich or big business to contribute. They want to tear to bits every advance working people have secured, every protection we have built up, over the years.
“Let me say today – it’s not going to happen. If a government with the backing of less than one voter in four tries to deny the rights of a movement of millions, we will treat that with the contempt it deserves. And if we are pushed outside the law, so be it. If Unite is ever to die, it will not die on its knees.”
On working for a Labour victory, McCluskey said: I’ve asked our Executive to provide donations to Labour’s election fund totalling £2.5m so far. More will most likely be needed.
“I regard this as doing our duty to democracy.
“Let the Tories get their millions from hedge funds and from shadowy dinner clubs of big businessmen. Our money is clean, transparent to the public, democratically-sanctioned and honestly accounted for. It’s the pennies of our members each week, not the ill-gotten gains of the ruling elite.
“There can be no doubt that Labour’s commitments will make a huge difference – there’s no need to be mealy-mouthed or half-hearted about this – and will provide a platform for tackling the crippling inequalities in our society.”
If we lose the election, we understand how much harder that life will be for the people we serve.
“That’s why I’m appealing to each and every one of you – step up to the plate. Get behind your union and its political strategy, and get behind a Labour victory in May. Answer the Party’s call. Do not stand aside from this battle, or let any doubts and reservations paralyse you.
“We are now facing the fight of our lives.”
For further information, contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861
Despite his typically dishonest denial, there is no doubt that in his interview with the Economist, Tony Blair said that he expects the Tories to win the next general election, unless Labour shifts dramatically to what he calls the “centre ground” (ie the right).
Blair said he expected to see an election “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result.” Anne McElvoy, public policy editor of the Economist, conducted the interview, and she’s quite clear on what Blair meant, writing in the Guardian: “For the avoidance of doubt he was also clear that this would mean a Tory victory.”
Less than six months before the general election, with Labour maintaining a slim lead over the Tories, this amounts to rank treachery. Ed Miliband is not doing well in the polls, generally scoring less well than the Labour Party itself. At a stroke, he could establish his credentials as a decisive leader and also put Blair and his acolytes in their place once and for all: by moving Blair’s expulsion for bringing the Party into disrepute. I put that forward as a serious suggestion, in the firm belief that it would be both a principled and a popular move.
Above: Brown and Blair
Gordon Brown is in many respects a tragic figure: a man who lived and breathed politics, but when he finally achieved his burning ambition, blew it in spectacular fashion.
He also has had some real tragedy in his personal life.
By most accounts, a brooding, resentful character and (according to some) a bit of a bully, he can also (again, according to some) be very entertaining in private and is very loyal to his friends. Compared to his erstwhile friend, the superficial chancer Tony Blair, Brown is a deep and thoughtful character. In contrast to the lightweight and eclectic Blair, he is a man of the labour movement. – which makes his role in creating the foul aberration that was New Labour somehow more treacherous than that of the ideologically footloose semi-Tory Blair.
Brown’s splendid role towards the end of the Scottish referendum campaign gave us a momentary glimpse of just what a principled and passionate figure he could have been. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a traitor even to the reformist tradition in which he stands, but part of me can’t help liking him and even feels some pity for him. Perhaps, away from mainstream politics he’ll make some amends for New Labour and do some worthwhile campaigning on issues like girls’ rights, that are clearly very important to him and his wife Sarah. I certainly hope so, because I really want to like and respect him.
“As a result of the speech, I believe that perceptions of Labour policy are in danger of being taken backwards. At the business department I tried to move on from the conventional choice in industrial policy between state control and laissez-faire. The industrial activism I developed showed that intervention in the economy – government doing some of the pump priming of important markets, sectors and technologies – was a sensible approach” – Peter Mandelson
Above: puppet of big business
It was, of course, inevitable that Ed Miliband’s modest proposal to freeze energy prices for 20 months would induce howls of outrage from the big six energy profiteers and their mouthpieces – one of whom performed exactly the same service for the banks not so long ago.
Scare stories about the lights going out, and thinly-veiled threats of an investment strike, were entirely predictable from the energy giants, the City, the right-wing media and the Tories.
But doesn’t poor Miliband have the right to expect at least a discreet silence from people who – on paper at least – are in the Labour Party? Obviously not. Loathsome Lord Mandelsnake has emerged from the woodwork to denounce the plan and accuse Miliband of going “backwards” – by which the Snake presumably means being slightly less craven towards big business than he and his boss Mr Blair were when they were in government.
Actually, Miliband’s proposals are pretty weak: what he aught to be promising (especially now in the face of the blackout and investment strike blackmail) is simply to renationalise all power generation and distribution.
And Miliband needs to understand that there is a group of unreconstructed Blairites like Mandelsnake, organised by the ‘Progress‘ outfit, who are absolutely determined to thwart even the slightest suggestion of a leftward shift in Labour policy and don’t give a damn if the Party loses the next election.
The best-informed comment so far on Falkirk. Re-blogged from Left Futures
By Jon Lansman
The contents of the secret report into what happened in Falkirk have now been revealed. Seumas Milne in the Guardian comments that “given the thin gruel offered up by way of evidence” it’s not hard to see why it hasn’t been published. Nevertheless, the report does find that Unite is not directly responsible for what took place, which makes the direct attack by Ed Miliband on Len McCluskey even harder to understand (“Len McCluskey should be facing up to his responsibilities. He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there, he should be facing up to it“). And the paucity of evidence of “serious wrongdoing” makes it even harder to understand now why the matter was reported to the Police than when we previously commented, unless it was a deliberate attempt to escalate the conflict still further to justify a fundamental reform of the party-union relationship.
According to Seumas Milne:
The most significant allegations are that a handful of members were signed up without their knowledge (by family members), and that “there are discrepancies in the signatures” of four others (suggesting some may have been forged).
It isn’t right to sign up family members to a political party without their knowledge but it undoubtedly happens in every winnable constituency in the country in every party. It clearly isn’t what Unite intended, and you can’t expect Unite’s leaders to have been aware that it happened.
Nor is it right to “forge” signatures but, if the person concerned wanted and intended to join the party, it isn’t “serious wrongdoing” . This is the action of one or two individuals rather than Unite and it certainly isn’t something to waste police time over.
So we can now see why Unite centrally had no idea what they had done wrong. And what was done wrong certainly doesn’t justify the biggest-ever shake up of the party-union relationship by a Labour leader. And yet some people on the right of the party are still claiming:
For all the talk of democracy and the new politics, this was only ever about dealing with the fall-out from Falkirk.
That is nonsense. I was at the Progress annual conference at Congress House in London on 11 May. An afternoon workshop entitled “How do we get a parliament that looks more like Britain?” had a constructive debate about the lack of working class MPs whose participants had included our own Michael Meacher and Steve Hart, then Unite’s political director, but, by the day’s end, that all fell apart. Read the rest of this entry »
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At last some sense about Falkirk in the mainstream press:
Kevin McGuire, Daily Mirror:
Falkirk Labour selection: Party must calm down not melt down or Tories will be only winners
6 Jul 2013 01:15
Cops should be catching muggers, burglars, rapists and murderers – not deciding who may or may not be a member of a political party
Ed Miliband and low rent Tory MP Henry “who?” Smith deserve a rocket for wasting police time.
Dragging the boys and girls in blue into Labour’s Falkirk selection row is a ludicrous abuse of the police.
Cops should be catching muggers, burglars, rapists and murderers – not deciding who may or may not be a member of a political party.
Internal rules should be investigated internally, preferably with the report published.
Instead Labour is a party suddenly suffering a nervous breakdown, dis-United when it should Unite.
The battle over Falkirk is a war extending way beyond who will stand for Labour in that seat.
“Red Ed” is unwisely seeking to use it as a moment to prove he isn’t in the pocket of unions who helped crown him Labour leader.
Blairites in the Shadow Cabinet, particularly Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander who backed Ed’s brother David, want to change Labour’s direction.
So too does Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, although “Red Len” thinks it should swerve left not right.
McCluskey, a quietly spoken Scouser, accused Miliband of twisting Falkirk into a Tony Blair Clause IV moment to impose his authority as leader.
There is something in that, as there is in McCluskey’s jibe that Miliband is allowing the Tories to call the shots.
The Conservatives are loving it and Grant Shapps’ smugness reminds me I must chase up the investigation into his get-rich-quick internet scheme under the alias “Michael Green”.
Labour needs to calm down, not meltdown in the summer heat.
The only winners are the Tories. David Cameron will be laughing into his Pimm’s.
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Just so we know what we’re up against…
Below is what the Blairite scum are thinking, including their plan to help the Tories’ campaign to make Labour unelectable unless the union link is broken:
Above: Blair and acolyte Tessa Jowell
By Philip Collins (The Times, July 5):
Who is the next person in the following sequence and why does it matter? Thomas Johnston, Alfred Balfour, William Baxter, Dennis Canavan, Eric Joyce. It matters because the identity of the nest Labour MP for what is now the constituency of Falkirk has become a grave test of Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Labour’s lead has drifted down in recent weeks. The public is resilient on the reality of austerity. The economy is slumbering back to growth and George Osborne, the Michael Fish of economic forecasting, remains ahead of Ed Balls as a credible chancellor. Then, at PMQ’s [last] week, David Cameron battered Mr Miliband about the Unite union’s attempt to fix the selection [for] the new MP for Falkirk.
There are two huge obstacles in the way of Mr Miliband becoming Prime Minister and they are dramatized together in the obscure shenanigans in Falkirk. The first is that he has not persuaded the electorate that he cuts it as a leader. The second is that he is not trusted with the public finances or thought to understand the need for fiscal discipline. If the evil ghosts of Tory central office were themselves drafting the script to show Labour at its worst they could do no better than to portray Mr Miliband [as] losing control of his party to a public sector union that demands there be no more cuts.
It is all very well for Mr Miliband to say, as he often has, that he is not the sort of leader who wishes to pick a fight with his party. He seems, though, not to have realised that his party, or at least that section of it that gave him his victory over his brother, is picking a fight with him. This is not an arcane internal dispute. It is a toxic story for Labour and Mr Miliband has to stamp on it at once. Focus groups now talk about the Labour Party as if new Labour were a mirage. The image they offer is the pre-Blair default setting of an assembly of losers.
The resignation … of Tom Watson MP, from the Shadow Cabinet was a small gift to the good people.. It was dispiriting that, according to Mr Watson, Mr Miliband at first refused to accept his resignation. Mr Watson should never have been close to the Shadow Cabinet in the first place. he is too divisive a figure, too closely associated with Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, with whom he once shared a flat. Whenever a dog barked in the night of Labour politics, one thought always occurred: Mr Watson, I presume.
The fake jocularity of Mr Watson’s resignation letter (the written equivalent of a Mickey Mouse tie) was an attempt to pretend he wants to spend more time at music festivals but the reference to Falkirk suggests that Mr Watson finally sensed that the walls were coming in on activities known about but [that] few have been prepared to voice. However, the control that Unite exercises over parliamentary selections will not cease just because Mr Watson no longer has to spend his Tuesday morning in Shadow Cabinet listening to Stephen Twigg not quite being in favour of free schools.
The leak of the Unite stategy document from January 2012 has given the game away. Unite’s plan is to counter-attack its own party, to make it more class-bound, more expressly left-wing. It is a strategy of the most monumental electoral stupidity, as if the only thing that forced 37 per cent of the nation to vote Tory in 2010 was the absence of a wildly left-wing alternative. The plan will proceed, as in Falkirk, by fixing the selections for Unite candidates.
The specious Unite defence of its conduct is that it wishes to see more working-class people in Parliament. In truth, Unite operates an ideological test as well as a class identity test. I doubt today’s equivalent of Ernest Bevin would pass the ideological examination. There would be no place for Alun Milburn or Alan Johnson, working class men who don’tthink in the straight line required.
The truth is that those who would wield power without intelligence do not want free-thinking original working-class people, of whom I am sure there are plenty who do need to be brought through the system. They want people who will understand that trade union sponsorship comes at the price of complete loyalty. Above even the desire to defend every perk and privilege of the public sector or to install an aimless form of class politics, what they most want is to be in charge. Like most control freaks, what they do with the power is by no means the whole point. It’s not enough for them to tell labour what to do. They want to be there, in control.
Mr Miliband will not stop this just by his belated action in ordering an investigation into Falkirk and preventing unions from paying in bulk for members. he needs to escalate the row and he needs to win. Ever since the Osborne Judgement of 1909, there has been an argument about the political levy that trade unions charge their members to fund the Labour Party. It is safe to say that Unite does not exactly rush to advertise the political levy. Labour has always wanted the political levy to be paid until people make a conscious choice to opt out. Successive Tory governments have said that members really ought to be forced to opt in.
A Labour leader confident of ruling his own party — and a Labour leader who does not have that confidence will never command the country — should make trade unionists who tick the box full individual members of the party, each with a vote in [the] leadership elections. That would break the power of the big barons, because affiliation fees would then come from individual Labour party members, not the union. The threat to withdraw the fees would no longer be meaningful.
The consequence of not acting is dismal. Labour cannot win an election projecting this sense of itself. And the Unite control of candidates is filling up the green benches with clones of Alfred Balfour, Labour MP in what is now Falkirk from 1945 to 1959. During his first eight years as an MP, Balfour did not utter a word. When he finally broke his silence he said simply: “People get up here from time to time and keep us here for hours on end, and I have said what’s the use of inflicting another torture upon the House? In the further six years he served, he never spoke again. A similar period of silence on Unite’s part would be appreciated. It’s time for Ed Miliband to speak.
Another media Blairite boasts of “My part in [Tom Watson’s] downfall
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