Friday, 14 October 2016

Time for the PLP to regroup: once more, with feeling

The question: can we, as Tom Watson put it, "get the band
back together"? Kind of depends on the band.
While the formation of a government remains a rank impossibility for a Corbyn leadership, there is now no question about his grip on the party. Indeed, with the removal of Jonathan Ashworth from the NEC, seemingly in exchange for remaining in the shadow cabinet, Corbyn supporters now also rule the NEC. The circle is complete and the rulebook is no longer safe.

Self-evidently, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP – that is, nearly all of it – have not been able to really make any movement while the leadership election and the reshuffle have been going on, they now can. Their valiant attempt to involve themselves in the selection of the shadow cabinet has, predictably, been paid only lip-service by the leadership. Corbyn will choose, full stop.

And, with a few notable exceptions, what a shambles of a Shadow Cabinet it has become. Unambiguous unilateralists at Foreign Affairs and Defence, something virtually guaranteed to provide a general election defeat on its own. Another Shadow Cabinet minister who has apparently managed to fritter away a compensation fund for sick miners on his salary and expenses. And someone at Home Affairs, in charge of the delicate area of race relations, among other things, known for her quote “white people love playing divide and rule”.

Friday, 16 September 2016

In just one year, Jeremy Corbyn has alienated Britain’s Jews

This week has marked the first anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader. The week has been full of the now-customary gaffes and blunders, yes. But a more disturbing revelation was that about the obsession with “Zionism” at the heart of the Corbyn “kitchen cabinet”.

If one were to try and characterise the notable achievements of the Corbyn leadership in its first year – as the often-hilarious results of the #1yearofJeremy hashtag on Twitter showed, these were not always positive – perhaps the most disturbing is the almost complete alienation of the British Jewish community.

From the comments of Ken Livingstone about Hitler, to the suspension of 18 party members over anti-Semitism and the fiasco which was the party’s own report into the matter, Corbyn has shown, at best, a terrible tin ear for the subject, the effects of which may now tarnish the image of his party for years.

And so it was that, this week, we found Corbyn’s communications chief Seumas Milne accused of removing the Hebrew from the leader’s Passover message, because it sounded “too Zionist”. This accusation was made both by Joshua Simons, a former advisor to the leader and also Dave Rich of the CST, an organisation created to help British Jews fight anti-Semitism. Although only Rich actually named Milne, he did so not on a specialist blog, but in the New York Times.

This is the level of obsession that the leader’s office has over matters which are anathema to ordinary people.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Corbyn and McDonnell: the men who wanted the IRA to win

I realise I have come rather late to this, but yesterday came across this fantastic, withering piece from last September by Steve Moore of Volte Face magazine. Having tweeted it and seen a lot of interest, I thought it would be good to link here as well.

It essentially gives the lie to Corbyn's and McDonnell's disingenuous claims that they were "engaging" with the IRA, to "help the peace process". They were not, and it is important that people understand this.

The ironic thing is that, had that peace process not been successful (despite their both voting against it in Parliament at every turn), Corbyn could never have become leader. A politician directly connected with a terrorist group still active in his own country could never lead a major party. And it is partly down to the success of Tony Blair - yes, the one Corbyn believes should be in gaol - in helping bring about that change that he has even been given that opportunity.

Activists yet to vote in the leadership election, and even those who have already voted, should read the whole thing, but I post here a short extract:
Corbyn took part in a BBC Five Live interview with Stephen Nolan. During the course of the interview Nolan offered Corbyn an opportunity to condemn IRA murders. Asked outright five times, five times he refused to do so. Finally having proffered the idea that they might discuss this some other time the line goes dead.
Listen to it here
Corbyn hung up. 
The inconvenient truth for Jeremy Corbyn is that we, of course, know why he hung up on Stephen Nolan and we know why it took John McDonnell 13 years to offer such a risible, caveated apology. 
It is because they wanted the IRA to win. 
Their pious homilies to the peace process will not wash with anyone. Their commitment to a united Ireland was total. The relationships they invested in for decades were with terrorists organisations not democratic nationalist parties. It has proved a hard habit to break for them as Nick Cohen and others have demonstrated.
Corbyn and McDonnell had nothing to do with the peace process. Not a single person involved in the negotiations that led to the Belfast agreement has come forward to support McDonnell’s assertion that he played an active role. No historic accounts of the process include them. Corbyn and McDonnell were partisans. They were irrelevant bystanders. McDonnell’s abject attempt to suggest that he was acting as a peacemaker remains almost as insulting as the remarks that prompted the forced apology.
"Straight talking. Honest politics." 

The irony.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

A Labour split is surely now on the cards

The original Labour splitters, 1981
The ballot papers have arrived. On past form for such elections, most voting tends to happen in the first week and the die is almost certainly already cast for one side or the other. And if yesterday’s YouGov poll is to be believed, there will be a second, convincing win for Jeremy Corbyn.

It is not the fact that polls cannot be wrong: we know that, especially in tight contests. But the very margin of the predicted win – 62% Corbyn to 38% Smith – must surely have brought a crushing dismay to the Smith team. Polls are not oftenthat wrong. 62% is also, coincidentally, the exact same prediction for Corbyn’s vote made in August last year after reallocation of preferences. So we are likely to be talking about the same order-of-magnitude win.

So let’s suppose it’s right and September will be a glorious vindication of Labour’s choice of leader, in the face of massive unpopularity in the country. What happens next? There are really two possibilities.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Corbyn’s “straight talking, honest politics” mask finally slipped in the Observer interview

So much has been made of Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and freshness, that it is high time for us to probe it. After ten months of “straight talking, honest politics”, this weekend’s long and detailed Observer interview turned out to be rather insightful.

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