|From Labour First (published in the interests of the labour movement):
You will have seen the leadership result.
This is probably the biggest reverse that moderates in the Labour Party have ever suffered, and we will need to absorb its full implications and develop a strategy for responding to them.
We should note that although we were defeated heavily in the leadership election, the new Deputy Leader Tom Watson made an excellent speech in the closing days of the campaign setting out clear red lines on a strong defence policy and opposition to attempts to make it easier to deselect MPs: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/elections/2015/09/tom-watson-whatever-happens-next-we-must-all-pull-together
Tactically, we do not have time just to mourn, we need to continue to organise now because the left may seek to capitalise on their victory at the Annual Conference in just two weeks time with rule changes that strengthen their position (such as converting all the £3 supporters into full members who can vote in selections and NEC elections) and policy proposals on contentious issues like Trident.
We have suffered grievous defeats before and come back, because it is our values and policies that are in tune with the British people and can win elections. Absolutely nothing has changed since May about the way ordinary voters, 98% of whom did not participate in this leadership election, view the world.
As Hugh Gaitskell said in the face of defeat on unilateralism in 1960:
“We may lose the vote today, and the result may deal this party a grave blow. It may not be possible to prevent it, but there are some of us, I think many of us, who will not accept that this blow need be mortal: who will not believe that such an end is inevitable. There are some of us who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love. We will fight, and fight, and fight again, to bring back sanity and honesty and dignity, so that our party – with its great past – may retain its glory and its greatness.”
Labour First statement
Labour First did not support Jeremy Corbyn and our concerns about the impact of his political positions and even more, those of some of his supporters, on Labour’s electability are profound.
Of course we will work with him and the Shadow Cabinet to oppose the relentless Tory assault on workers’ rights and benefits.
However, one election does not change the position of the party any more than if one party wins the US Presidency the other party does not stop contesting the House, Senate and States.
Accordingly, we will continue to work to maximise the representation of moderate voices at every level in Labour’s structures. We will oppose policy changes where we think these take Labour away from the views held by ordinary voters. We will oppose any constitutional changes that are designed to give a partisan advantage to the Hard Left within the party. We will oppose any moves to deselect moderate MPs or councillors.
What needs to happen next
- We need to expand our network round the country. Please ask everyone you know who would share our concerns about the future direction of the party to join our email list using this link: http://eepurl.com/Nzh75
- We need a key contact in every CLP – someone who will attend CLP meetings and is able to promote our candidates for internal elections, our model motions etc., and feed back intelligence to us. If you are willing to do that please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, CLP and phone number.
- We want to set up local Labour First groups on the model that we already have in the West Midlands, a space where Labour moderates can meet up informally and build networks with like-minded people. If you can help initiate a group in your region, county or city please email me.
- We want to see you at Labour Party Annual Conference. Our fringe meeting will be at 1pm on Sunday 27 September at The Mash Tun Pub, 1 Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1UE. We will have a panel of speakers addressing the next steps for moderates in the Labour Party following the leadership election – and the specifics of what will be voted on at conference. Details of who will be speaking will be promoted in future emails but in the mean time please save the date.
- We also need a team of volunteers at Annual Conference to hand out our flyers which will give guidance to delegates on the votes that will be taking place and promote the fringe meeting – the leafleting will take place earlier on the Sunday morning as people go into the first session. If you can help with leafleting (or indeed design and printing) please email me.
- If you can donate to help us cover the costs of our leaflets and fringe meeting at conference please send a cheque payable to Labour First to Labour First, c/o 125 Oxford Road, Old Marston, Oxford, OX3 0RB, with a covering note with your full name and address.
Secretary, Labour First
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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