Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Political Anorak

Not everyone appreciates that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a political anorak who has been sporting the same leftist claptrap for more than 30 years.

So here's a reminder from the mid 1980s when Jezza was Provisional Convenor of a group whose sole purpose was to stop members of Militant from being thrown out of the Labour Party.


Leader's Double Standard (24/12/16)

Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn on his victory in the Labour leadership contest.

As happened in his first election in 2015, Jezza will find it difficult to explain how as a serial rebel for 32 years he can now demand 'loyalty' and 'discipline' from other Labour MPs who believe he is simply not up to the job.

The reality is that Labour these days is a much more intolerant party than it ever was under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband and this ugly political culture seems likely to result in those who not true believers in Project Corbyn being targeted for having the temerity for disagreeing with their Dear Leader.  

In Corbyn's world Labour members are either for the leader or against the leader, so it will be interesting to see whether the party remains a 'broad church' or turns itself into an increasingly leftist sect.   


Can't Cut The Mustard (22/09/16)

Image result for cant cut the mustard

I listened to quite the most devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership abilities on Radio 5 Live, the other day, from his first wife Jane Chapman.

Now this was not the bitter rant of a woman scorned, not least because Jane voted for her former husband first time around when he won the Labour leadership in 2015.

Nor was this 'uninformed' opinion of someone with an axe to grind since Jane is now widely regarded Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln and a visiting Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge.

Nonetheless Jane's view was that Jeremy had failed to mark his mark in any of the roles he has played throughout his life as a local government councillor, a trade union official and/or as a Labour MP, observing that:
  • as a local councillor Jeremy chaired nothing more important than a council sub-committee
  • Jeremy's trade union career never progressed beyond the 'entry level' rank
  • as Labour MP for 32 years Jeremy never took on any position of responsibility - not even that as the chair of a parliamentary select committee 
So without rancour or any hint of personal animosity, Professor Chapman essentially came to the same view as the vast majority of Labour MPs - that Jeremy Corbyn does not possess the skills for the job of Labour leader.

Which is, of course, my considered view as well.


'Bog Standard' Officials (24/06/16)

Jeremy Corbyn appearing on The Last Leg

I was unfazed one way or the other by Jeremy Corbyn's appearance on 'The Last Leg' TV programme which had the Labour leader arrive in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, dressed in a dinner suit and a full-length white fur coat.

After all if you have an image problem, then why not do something out of the ordinary to confound and confuse your political opponents.

But no, my real problem with Jeremy is that in answer to a 'dolly' question about how he would rank the importance of the next week's EU referendum on a scale of 1 to 10, Jezza responded with the unbelievably lame answer of "7 to 7 and a half".

Now when so much is at stake in next week's referendum, you would think a Labour leader worth his mettle would have emphasised, in the strongest possible terms, the very real threat to the UK economy, jobs and investment posed by the country's withdrawal from the European Union (EU).

So Jeremy's a complete fool if you ask me, a political half-wit, but that's what you get if you elect as Labour leader a man who rose to the dizzying ranks of 'bog standard' union official before finding a niche as a backbench Labour MP in the House of Commons for the next 32 years.

And while there are some decent trade union officials around, believe me there are plenty of complete 'duds' in the ranks too, as the Labour party and the country is finding out to its cost.


Political Doldrums (29/06/15)

Image result for Labour's political doldrums + images

As I arrived in London in 1983 to take up a post as a full-time official with NUPE (the National Union of Public Employees), Jeremy Corbyn was just taking his leave having been elected as the Labour MP for Islington North in May of that year.

None of my new NUPE colleagues had a good word to say about their ex-colleague, perhaps because no one shared Jeremy's fantasy brand of politics. 

Nothing I've heard since then has caused me to argue with my colleagues' opinion although I've never ceased to be amazed at the way in which trade unions often get rid of their least talented officials by packing them off to the House of Commons.

The only thing I would say about Jeremy is that he is a model of consistency: consistently wrong that is, as a backer of Michael Foot's election manifesto in 1983 (dubbed the longest suicide note in history) and Ed Miliband's doomed pitch to become Prime Minister in 2015.

But the fact that Jeremy Corbyn gets on the Labour leadership ballot paper while someone like Mary Creagh drops out (due to a lack of nominations from fellow MPs) tells you that the People's Party is set to remain in the political wilderness for some time to come. 


Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn completes the line-up


Four candidates will compete to become Labour's new leader, after left-winger Jeremy Corbyn secured enough nominations to get on the ballot.

Mr Corbyn reached the 35 MP threshold just two minutes before the noon deadline, helped by colleagues wanting to widen the range of candidates.

He joins Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in the contest.

Ms Kendall's campaign team has complained to Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper about media briefings against her.

Labour MP Toby Perkins, who chairs Ms Kendall's campaign, wrote to the two candidates saying he was "sad" to see negative reports about her based on anonymous briefings.

He said a description of her supporters as "Taliban New Labour" reported in the Daily Telegraph was "inappropriate and offensive", adding: "It was particularly surprising that your campaigns have chosen to do something that, predictably, had the effect of taking precedence over the speeches that both of you were making today."

Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper's teams have distanced themselves from the "Taliban" quote, which was attributed to a source in one of their campaigns.
'Full debate'

The contest will involve a series of public and televised hustings over the coming weeks, with the winner announced before the party conference in September.

Mr Corbyn told BBC 2's Daily Politics he "fully acknowledged" that some of his nominations came from colleagues who did not support his candidacy, but who wanted to ensure a full debate.

"I will take part in that debate and hope that at the end of it the Labour Party emerges stronger and more resolute in opposing the principles behind austerity and impoverishment of the poorest in Britain," he said.

The election was sparked by Ed Miliband's resignation in the wake of the party's electoral defeat in May.

Mr Burnham topped the list with 68 nominations, followed by Ms Cooper on 59, Ms Kendall on 41 and Mr Corbyn on 36.

This leaves 28 Labour MPs who did not nominate anybody.

Mr Corbyn's appearance on the ballot paper was criticised by Labour MP John Mann, who tweeted: "So to demonstrate our desire never to win again, Islington's Jeremy Corbyn is now a Labour leadership candidate."

But it was welcomed by other Labour figures who said it would ensure a wider range of candidates.

Former shadow cabinet minister Sadiq Khan - who is running for the London mayor - said he would nominate Mr Corbyn, without voting for him in the ballot, to ensure the "widest possible debate".

Ms Abbott called for changes to the Labour leadership election process

Labour MP and another London mayoral hopeful, Diane Abbott, who stood for the leadership in 2010, told the BBC the way the party elected its leaders must change, claiming the 35 MP threshold "artificially narrows the choice".

"And it doesn't just lock out the left, it locks out newer candidates and younger candidates," Ms Abbott said.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said there was some "unease" among MPs - both that the party had rushed into a contest and about the calibre of the line-up.
'Too cumbersome'

Former Labour minister Frank Field has written to Labour Party chairman John Cryer to request a rule change to make it easier for the party to get rid of a failing leader.

Mr Field told the Mail on Sunday: "We cannot hide from the fact that we made catastrophic errors in the choice of our two most recent leaders, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

"Having chosen them, it was then impossible to change them when we were hurtling towards election defeat."

He said the Conservative Party "would not have hesitated for a moment" to ditch their leader if they had been in the same "predicament".

Under his proposal, a vote of confidence in the leader would be called if it had the support of 30 anonymous Labour MPs. A vote on his proposed changes is expected next week.

Margaret Hodge, who backs a change in the rules, said that now was the right time to do it, before a new leader was elected.

"Our rules are just too cumbersome, unlike the Conservative Party's," she told BBC2's Daily Politics programme, adding that the aim was to "mimic" the Tories in this area.

Put to her that it suggested a lack of confidence in the current candidates, Ms Hodge disagreed, saying: "This is entirely about putting in place a mechanism that we can use, because of our experience in the past, without actually passing judgement on any individual."

Labour made "catastrophic errors" electing Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, according to Mr Field

Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper both made speeches on Monday setting our their pitch.

Mr Burnham said he wanted as many people as possible to be involved in the leadership election, saying it had to be "a campaign for Labour to reach out to every corner of the country and win again".

The shadow health secretary also said Labour would need to "look again" at the tuition fees system.

Ms Cooper, shadow home secretary, set out her background as a "comprehensive girl" whose first job was picking fruit on a farm before she went on to secure a place at Oxford University.

She said the UK should invest 3% of GDP on "science, technology and innovation".

The winner will be decided by a vote of Labour Party representatives, members and affiliates, to be conducted on a one-member, one-vote basis.

The result will be announced at a special conference on 12 September.

A vacancy has also arisen for the deputy leadership, after Harriet Harman announced she would be stepping down once the posts were filled.

Nominations for that election close on Wednesday, with seven candidates in the race.

Labour leadership timetable

15 June: Nominations for leader will close at midday

17 June: Nominations for their deputy will close at midday

12 August: Deadline for people to join the Labour Party

14 August: Ballot papers sent out by post

10 September: Polling closes at midday

12 September: Winners announced at special conference

27 September: Labour's party conference begins

London Labour (04/01/16)

Recent events suggest that the Labour Party is hurtling back to the 1980s when a small band of activists from London Labour Briefing (LLB) threatened to rule the political roost. 

The LLB drew its political inspiration from a highly organised group of activists, largely Trotskyites and their fellow travellers, who were vocal and visible at times, but for the most part were restricted to the fringes of the Labour Party.

The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn along with key allies like Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott could be counted amongst the LLB's numbers over the years.

Fast forward to 2015 and the extent to which the People's Party has lost its way can be measured in the comments of Diane Abbott, Labour's shadow international development secretary, and Ken Livingstone a recently appointed Labour defence spokesperson.

Diane Abbott believes that "on balance Mao did more good than harm" while Ken Livingstone told a BBC Question Time audience that Tony Blair was to blame for the murderous 7/7 bombings in London. 

Ken Livingstone: Tony Blair to blame for 7/7 bombing

BBC - UK Politics

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been criticised for suggesting Tony Blair was to blame for the deaths of 52 people in the 7 July London bombings. 

Mr Livingstone said on Question Time the then-prime minister ignored a security service warning that invading Iraq would make the UK a terror target.

Labour MP Mike Gapes called the comment "despicable", while Labour backbencher Ian Austindubbed it a "disgrace".

Four suicide bombers targeted London's Underground and a bus on 7 July 2005.

Mr Livingstone said: "When Tony Blair was told by the security services, 'If you go into Iraq, we will be a target for terrorism', and he ignored that advice, and it killed 52 Londoners."

He added: "If we had not invaded Iraq those four men would not have gone out and killed 52 Londoners. We know that."

Comedian and former Labour political advisor Matt Forde challenged Mr Livingstone on his comments, saying: "This idea that you can absolve the people that killed those innocent Londoners by blaming Tony Blair is shameful.

"Blame it on the people who carried out the atrocity."

'Gave their lives'

Mr Livingstone, who was mayor at the time of the 2005 attacks, responded: "Go and look what they put on their website. They did those killings because of our invasion of Iraq.

"They gave their lives, they said what they believed, they took Londoners' lives in protest against our invasion of Iraq.

"And we were lied to by Tony Blair about Iraq, there were no weapons of mass destruction."

Conservative Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock, who was also on the panel, said Mr Livingstone was letting IS and other violent militant groups "off the hook" and "we should not be giving them excuses".

A number of Labour MPs criticised the comments, John Woodcock tweeting that "no-one has the mandate to side with suicide bombers". 

Image copyright - AFP GettyImage caption - The 7 July attacks on a bus and three London underground trains killed 52 people and injured hundreds more

And Mr Gapes said Mr Livingstone had "sunk to a new low", claiming his comments amounted to saying "terrorism is never the fault of perpetrators".

A Downing Street spokesman said it was up to Mr Livingstone to justify his comments, stating that "it almost goes without saying that the prime minister does not agree with them".

Mr Livingstone, who is a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, caused controversy recently when he suggested a Labour MP who had criticised his appointment as co-convenor of the party's defence review needed "psychiatric help".

He subsequently apologised for the comments but only after being told to do so by leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The UK joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, despite failing to secure a second UN resolution justifying the use of force.