Tag Archives: Labour

Have we reached peak Corbyn?

The Government is stumbling from one crisis to another. Two senior ministers have resigned in the last few weeks and many others are under pressure. Brexit talks appear to be at an impasse and there are doubts whether the Government can get the current Brexit bill through Parliament. Under these conditions, most political analysts would expect the opposition to enjoy a substantial and growing lead. Yet this isn’t happening. So why have the polls not moved dramatically?

Firstly, it is not totally fair to say there has been no movement. The Britain elects poll tracker has a slight Labour lead of 1.5%. This is a change from the General Election where the Conservatives enjoyed a 2 point poll victory over the Labour Party. Labour has also gained 9 seats in council by-elections since the General Election whereas the Conservatives have lost 10. So, the evidence does suggest that the Labour Party is ahead at present.

However, that is not enough for many on the Labour side. Former leader and known Corbyn critic Tony Blair has suggested his party should be 20 points ahead. He has not been alone in his criticisms. One possible answer for the current static nature of the polls could be that we have reached peak Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn shocked everybody with his performance at the 2017 General Election. His energy and enthusiasm on the campaign trail was a pivotal factor in costing the Conservative Party an overall majority. This looked to have terminally wounded Theresa May. Yet, May has held on despite coup attempts, a disastrous conference speech and reports that up to 40 MPs are willing to call for a vote of no confidence. Not only this but she still retains a small lead over Jeremy Corbyn in the question over who would make the best Prime Minister. This lead is small, but it is consistent and has been static for the last few months after Corbyn made significant ground before. Very few leaders of the opposition have made the transition to Number 10 without leading on this question.

There could be several sensible explanations for these polls and given what has happened with political polling in the last few years we must take these findings with a pinch of salt. All political parties and leaders do have a ceiling though. Corbyn has divided the nation and maybe given his brand of politics, this is as high as we can expect him and Labour to go. However, until we see further evidence it would be foolish to consider this anything more than a working hypothesis.

Labour’s anti-Semitism problem

Labour conference was in buoyant mood this week at Brighton. Understandably so you might say. The mood music was that this was a party with momentum and on the verge of government.

However, in the midst of this jubilant atmosphere, one ugly issue began to rear its head again; anti-Semitism. Remarks at a party fringe event around whether people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened created a worrying sense of deja vu.

Accusations of anti-Semitism have plagued Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership tenure. Immediately after becoming leader Corbyn found himself defending comments he made about Hamas. Controversial remarks from Ken Livingstone then followed in 2016. This, alongside other events, led to the conduction of the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry into allegations of anti-Semitism.

Since last summer the issue has continued to bubble away, but has not flared up again until this moment. There was a hope that a new, stricter rule on anti-Semitism agreed at the conference would put an end to this discussion. Alas not.

The level of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is much debated. Senior Labour MP John Cryer, has said he has been “shocked” by the level of some anti-Semitic tweets sent by party members. Allies of Jeremy Corbyn, however, such as Len McCluskey, Ken Loach and Ken Livingstone argue that these claims of anti-Semitism are driven by leadership plots.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the accusations, this is not an image the Labour Party can shake. This should worry all in Jeremy Corbyn’s team. Ethically, any political party in the 21st century should long have moved on from anti-Semitism, especially one supposedly on the progressive wing of politics.

Electorally, it carries a cost as well. In two heavily Jewish constituencies in London at the 2017 General Election; Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon, the swing towards Labour was notably smaller than elsewhere in London. The 9.1% average swing Labour enjoyed across London would have been enough to win the seats.

Labour as a party need to act swiftly and firmly against these allegations. The longer this whiff of anti-Semitism continues, the more damaging it will be. So, yes question and criticise the actions of the Israeli government if necessary, but know where to draw the line. It is time for the Labour Party to do whatever it needs to, to bring this to an end.

Will the Labour Party ever win again?

So Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership contest. Again. After a bitter summer full of dispute and wrangling Jeremy Corbyn decisively defeated Owen Smith and strengthened his hold on the Labour Party. In doing so Corbyn ended the debate about who will lead the party into the next election, but added to a more profound question; can Labour ever win again?

It is hard for even the most optimistic Labour supporter to make a case for the Labour Party winning the 2020 election. The proposed boundary changes could cost Labour as many as 20 seats and the latest polling puts Labour a staggering 15 points behind the Conservatives. There is no historical precedent for an opposition party winning from this position. Politics has been strange in recent times, but it is not that strange!

So if we rule out 2020, what about future elections? The synopsis also looks bleak for the Labour Party in this regard as well. In their traditional stronghold of Scotland, they now only have 1 MP and currently sit in third place behind the Conservatives. Furthermore research has found a lot of working class Labour voters who voted for Brexit deserting the party. Without these voters it is impossible for Labour to gain a winning majority. This is a long-term problem for Labour and as of yet there has been no solution.

Perhaps most seriously there is the question of whether the Labour Party can or even wants to stick together. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned of a split and a large proportion of Labour voters now consider this to be likely. Figures from all sides of the party such as Chuka Umunna, Hilary Benn and John McDonnell have called for unity and have denied rumours of a split, but still the headlines won’t disappear. Can the Labour moderates really cope with another 4 years of Corbyn?

Political parties have no divine right to exist and certainly have no divine right to win. This is certainly true for the Labour Party. It is foolish given what is happening in politics in the world to make a definitive prediction on this topic, but what we know is that political parties do have a shelf-life and Labour could be reaching the end of theirs. Labour as an electoral force are on a precipice and it is anyone’s guess as to whether they can or ever will recover.

Peerage Chaos

It is testament to the current state of the Labour Party that despite the furore around David Cameron’s resignation honours, it was a decision made by the Labour leadership that garnered the most headlines; this being Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to offer former Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabiti a peerage.

Shami Chakrabiti had recently appointed by Jeremy Corbyn to conduct a review into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Chakrabiti’s findings were very sensible (if not too dramatic!) and appeared at least temporarily to address this issue. Alas not. The timing of Corbyn’s decision has raised both ethical and political questions and places a big asterix over the findings of the review.

Politically, this was a missed opportunity for Labour. After Theresa May refused to intervene and Conservative donor Ian Turner turned down a knighthood, Labour had a chance to make some political capital. Jeremy Corbyn’s initial promise during the leadership contest last year not to create any new peers was immediately broken and with that the chance to take the political high ground disappeared. It is clear that the damage this would do should have been picked up by the Labour leadership team, who have managed to miss a clear conflict of interests.

The ethical problem for Corbyn arises over when he made this offer. If it was made during or before the inquiry was conducted, was any sort of pressure placed on Chakrabiti to come to the correct conclusion? This hypothesis was given further weight by accusations from former Labour advisor Ned Simons who claimed Chakrabiti ignored explicit warnings about anti-Semitic comments made by Jeremy Corbyn’s staff. The offer of a peerage has also angered The Board of Deputies with vice President Marie van der Zyl calling the decision beyond disappointing in a statement released by the organisation.

On a larger scale, this whole debacle has raised questions about our honours system. An honour should only be awarded to those who have gone above and beyond and not simply to those who have completed their jobs. Cameron’s resignation honours list smacks of cronyism and is exactly the sort of thing which puts people off politics. We need our politics to be pure and beyond reproach. Once again this has not been the case and that should disappoint anyone interested in politics.

 

 

 

Corbyn’s stance on NATO is an insult to Labour’s past!

The Labour leadership debates thus far have been dominated by questions about electability, coups and potential splits, but in the last hustings the debate took a different turn and moved onto NATO. Jeremy Corbyn has always been lukewarm about NATO and in response to a topic controversially refused to commit to upholding Article 5: the principle of collective defence (“an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies”).

One of the reasons for Corbyn’s popularity has been his stance on foreign affairs. Corbyn was a famous opponent of the Iraq War and is a long-standing critic of military intervention of any sort. In the 2015 Labour leadership debates Corbyn claimed he could not think of an instance where he would use military force. This was a position he further advanced with these views. Corbyn stated he wanted to avoid getting involved militarily and wanted to achieve a world where we did not need to go to war.

NATO was co-founded by a Labour government led by Clement Attlee in 1949 after World War 2 around the idea of collective security. Although NATO hasn’t always guaranteed world peace it has largely been successful in its aims and has acted as a deterrent for aggressive nations. War is a last resort and all other options must be exhausted before a military solution is implemented, but we must be realistic about the world we live in. Corbyn is right that we should pursue world peace with vigour and attempt to improve relations with other countries, but is wrong to suggest we shouldn’t uphold Article 5. A refusal to come to the aid of a fellow NATO member is a dereliction of duty and is a stance which should not be compatible with being leader of the Labour Party.

The hope is this situation never arises, but if NATO is to work as a deterrent all nations need to be committed to its goals and working together. Being lukewarm about NATO will only give succour to aggressive nations. It is not a stance which is popular with Labour MPs highlighted in this article by Wes Streeting and with the general public according to a 2014 poll. Corbyn’s idealism has been praised by many but this is a step too far and has made the job of re-uniting the Labour Party all the harder.

Young People Increasingly Marginalised in Politics

The recent treatment of Jeremy Corbyn is the latest blow to the representation of the views of young people in politics. This comes in the wake of an EU referendum result that revealed a serious generational divide between the views of the young, who overwhelmingly voted to remain, and older members of society who voted to leave. Encouraging younger people to become more involved in the political process is a democratic necessity. However, more effort must be made by younger people themselves and the political establishment to progress toward this goal.

Corbyn clearly enjoyed strong support amongst young people who supported his election as Labour leader and who have made up the bulk of the subsequent surge in Labour members. However, he has been consistently mocked in parliament, belittled and criticised from almost every conceivable angle. He has not been respected at any point by his political opponents or even by many from his own party. Proof, if any where needed, that many in the political establishment either do not take the views of young people seriously or simply do not believe that they need to. If further evidence of this was required, Nick Clegg’s infamous ‘selling out’ over the issue of tuition fees in 2010, the coalition government’s stubborn stance over their increase and the decision not to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum would seem to offer it.

However, young people cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves. They must make their voices heard at the next Labour leadership contest if necessary, forgive the Liberal Democrats and listen to the progressive choice offered by the Green Party. They must however, be given help from the establishment. Political parties must realise the power that young people have to swing elections and political decisions and reach out to them. In the long term, plans must also be put in place to educate children from a young age about the political process and the importance of voting.

Young people must engage and be engaged by the current political system. The consequences of doing nothing are clear. The voice of young people in politics will fade into nothingness in both the present and in the future, and leave current and future generations at the whim of a political caste that they have no power in influencing.  This scenario, quite simply, cannot be allowed to become reality.

The True Damage of the EU Referendum

Nigel Farage’s recent claim that the Leave campaign has carried an ‘upbeat’ message further evidences the Leave side’s attempt to portray itself as the more positive of the two referendum campaigns. However, the disheartening truth is that both sides have quite clearly been motivated by fear and political opportunism. Debate will rage after June 23rd on what the future holds for the nation depending on of the outcome of the vote. What will be beyond debate, is the undeniable truth that this referendum campaign has been a deeply costly one in terms of the divisions that it has created in British society and politics.

Proving that both of the campaigns have been motivated by fear is not difficult. One cannot deny the incessantly negativity of the arguments produced by the Remain side. David Cameron has implied that a Brexit could put peace and stability in Europe at risk, while the criticism of the Leave campaign’s plans for building new trade relations with the EU and other nations has been constant. It has also become clear that the Leave campaign’s very existence is based on the fears that people have over the impact of migration, the strain being placed on the NHS and housing markets, terrorism and loss of sovereignty. If these fears were not present, there would be very little debate over Britain’s EU membership.

There are also a number of question marks over the motivations of politicians from both sides. Is Boris Johnson using the Leave campaign to put himself in contention to fill the power vacuum at the head of the Conservative Party once David Cameron steps down? Why were articles on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal website that espoused eurosceptic views deleted prior to his becoming Labour leader? Amongst the viciousness of this debate, the opportunistic and untrustworthy nature of many politicians has come to the fore.

This referendum has brought out the worst in modern day politics. Facts and arguments have been exaggerated and twisted, with fear mongering and opportunism clearly evident. Healing public faith in politics and reconciling members of the two political factions to work together again will be as much a challenge as dealing with the result of the referendum. There is already the potential of a second referendum if Britain votes to remain. For many, the thought of having to go through another campaign like this one is too much to contemplate.

The ‘Remain’ Side Need Jeremy Corbyn to win over young voters!

Young voters are set to play a pivotal role in the upcoming EU referendum. Considered the key to victory by many on the ‘Remain’ side, efforts to woo them have been stepped up a notch in recent months. One politician considered crucial to this strategy is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who thus far has remained relatively quiet on the issue. This silence has registered with voters with a recent Opinium Observer showing only 47% of those polled knew Jeremy Corbyn supported remaining in the EU.

The same poll showed a lead for Remain over Leave in the age group of 18-34 of 53% – 29%, but crucially that only 52% would be certain to vote. This is where Jeremy Corbyn comes in. In the Labour leadership election Corbyn did very well with younger voters winning 64% of the under 25 vote and 67% of the 25-39 year old age group. Added to this according to a GQQR poll for the Fabian Society, Corbyn is the most trusted figure within the Labour Party in this debate with a net approval of +17. In getting young Labour voters in favour of staying in the EU to the polls, these numbers highlight there is no-one better than Corbyn, so why is he not a more passionate advocate?

Firstly confusion remains over whether Corbyn actually wants Britain to stay in the EU. His endorsement and comments have been lukewarm and prior to running for leader held some Eurosceptic views. In 1993 he spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty and in 2008 voted against the Lisbon Treaty. He once also said that the EU had ‘always suffered a serious democratic deficit’. These are not the words or the stance of an ‘Inner’ and suggest the only motive for his stance is political survival and not ideological support.

Referendums are often won by the side who are the most effective in getting their supporters to the polls. For ‘Remain’ to be certain of victory they need young voters to turn up on polling day. For young, leftish voters, there is no figure they respect more than Corbyn. This carries consequences and means whatever role Corbyn decides to play in the next few months, he is likely to be of great importance.

Should Jeremy Corbyn Have Whipped His MPs?

Jeremy Corbyn has opted to give his Labour MPs a free vote on the issue of intervention in Syria. This comes despite Corbyn’s strong opposition to the government’s plans and pressures to impose a three line whip on his MPs forcing them to vote with him. This decision has brought a mixed response with some seeing it as the only decision that he could make and others seeing it as an abdication of leadership.

Issues of war and peace are normally seen as matters of conscience. It is the most serious decision Parliament as a whole and an individual MP can make and is never taken lightly. In recent times on all such decisions there have been divisions across the House and in both the Conservative and Labour parties. This would indicate MPs will vote with their consciences regardless of what their party whips recommend and there would be no point in forcing an MP to vote a certain way.

If Jeremy Corbyn had opted to whip his MPs and force them to vote with him, there would have been consequences. A number of prominent Labour MPs have already publicly stated they disagree with him and were likely to vote with the government. This could have led to widespread resignations or sackings and would only have increased divisions. With the Labour Party already divided, it could have been seen as foolish to inflict further damage on party unity.

The Labour Party are the official opposition in this country. This carries with it a number of responsibilities and voters expect them to have an agreed position on the most pressing issues. This is now not the case when it comes to Syria and Labour at best seem confused and at worst incompetent. This situation may have been avoided if a three-line whip had been imposed and an official position agreed.

Also on issues such as these Jeremy Corbyn has been given a clear mandate from the Labour Party membership and his current position seems to reflect the overwhelming mood within the membership. It appears an official position of opposing the airstrikes would accurately represent where a lot of Labour voters are.

Regardless of the decision Corbyn made he was likely to have gained some criticism such is the public mood. Corbyn’s leadership though does appear confused presently and throughout the weekend his camp have sent out mixed messages on this. The Labour Party as the official opposition need to be clearer on their position on such important issues. The real problem here has not been the decision reached, but the confusion that has been caused in recent days and the lack of a clear strategy and sensible thinking.

How Labour can win in 2020

The scale of Labour’s general election defeat, its worst since 1987, and the multitude of reasons behind it, coupled with the Conservative boundary changes, means that Labour has a mountain to climb to win in 2020. The triple bind of SNP’s inexorable rise, traditional Labour voters in the North switching to UKIP and the inability to convince English voters of Labour’s economic competency, perceived lack of centrist values and possible reliance on the SNP resulted in a perfect storm scenario for Ed Miliband. Although a Labour victory seemed unlikely in the light of the Conservatives’ commanding advantage in both economic management and Prime Ministerial ratings, calls to return to New Labour Mark II downplay the underlying reasons for this crushing defeat. A radical and multi-faceted approach is required if Labour intends to claw back a 100 seat deficit against a post-austerity Conservative Party by 2020.  After taking for granted its traditional voters in Scotland and the north, Labour now needs to reach out to these voters and address their concerns. In Scotland, a self-governing Labour party, which is no longer ran as a branch office is a must. An independent Scottish Labour should attack SNP’s lack of progressive credentials and redistributive policies, especially if full fiscal autonomy is granted to Scotland, thus depriving the nationalists of its get-out clause of blaming Westminster. This strategy, combined with the SNP’s inevitable drop from such dizzying heights, could be the beginning of Labour’s recovery in Scotland. The next Labour leader will also need to reach out to those UKIP voters left behind by New Labour and globalisation, breaching the subject of English identity, immigration, and possibly most importantly, integration in order to not alienate more centrist Labour voters and work within the realities of our (presumed) membership in the EU. The introduction of a contributory benefits system, as mooted by Jon Cruddas in the past, could also be a step in proving that Labour is on the side of workers and neutralising benefit tourism. Additionally, UKIP’s fluid positions on the NHS, tax cuts for the rich, small state neo-Thatcherism provide significant targets for Labour to attack on and win back disillusioned voters. Finally, Labour need to promote a more positive, aspirational message supported by economic credibility aimed towards the 90% of voters not in the super-rich apex or the disadvantaged base of society, to win back marginal seats in the Midlands and South. If Labour can marry its credibility for the intrinsic social justice values present in the British electorate and demonstrate that it has learnt lessons from past mistakes on the economy, immigration and loyalty, then the long journey back to power can begin.