The Nadir of Democracy is Nigh: Week four of the post election blogs.

************ROLLING BLOG************

There were a few deadlines at the start of this week

The Northern Irish governmental issue:

There has been formal confirmation that (the arbitrarily set) 4pm deadline to restore devolution in Northern Ireland won’t be met. Parliament can set a new deadline; but while this does not necessarily stop Stormont related discussion in the meantime between the parties (such as ‘gay marriage’ laws now that the election has led to the DUP no longer having power of veto on it)

in real terms, the Assembly is broken. Right now, the balance of power looks like this, and has changed many times since 1997:

Northern_Ireland_assembly_election_seats_2017.svgNorthern_Ireland_election_seats_1997-2015.svg

Unsurprisingly, it is the DUP who are stalling, not Sinn Féin or any other parties’ members- and the sticking point is the Irish Language Act or Acht na Gaelige (as talked of last week). Remember, they have history of sabotaging talks.

Why won’t the DUP accept this Act? Well, as discussed in the Ireland blog, Northern Ireland was partitioned in 1921. The unionists took advantage of having that power to create an Irish-free zone expunging any manifestation of Irishness in place-names, art, public places, personal names– you name it. This was essentially ethnic cleansing and you can see evidence of this all across the north, nowhere more obvious than in Stormont itself where a visitor from another planet would find no evidence that a people or language called Irish existed.

To accept an Irish Language Act would be the admission that this policy, almost a century old, has ended in abject, total failure. It would be an acceptance that the north is part of Ireland and the DUP lives in part of Ireland rather than their desire of Northern Ireland Unionists to be English off the coast of England and Wales. So when you see the MSM state that Sinn Féin are pro-equality, that does not just mean human rights for women and LGBT persons, it also means for Irish speaking Irish people with an allegiance to Ireland.

The DUP cannot accept that, which is why they’ve never accepted the thinking behind the Good Friday Agreement. So a side effect of this election is the reduction of DUP power and if Sinn Féin want change, now is the time to strike. For ten years Sinn Féin have waited for the DUP to see sense; to recognise the rights of others and accept a modern diverse society. It will never happen. The DUP are happy to trash Irish republicans and Irishness, climate change, evolution, and human rights beyond the Irish question.

But timing will be essential. Loyalist feeling seems to be running higher than usual as the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne approaches.

Illegal Bonfire
An illegal loyalist bonfire, complete with posters of Sinn Féin politicians https://kingstonelabour.org/2017/06/

The Conservative NI Secretary James Brokenshire has ‘talked tough’ about them missing the deadline, implying this would result in direct rule from Westminster. I guess now we’ll see that his stance was just hot air. As Brian Feeney (a leading nationalist commentator; frequent broadcaster on Northern Ireland affairs and an SDLP councillor for sixteen years) said in the Irish Times today (30/06/17):

Direct rule is the road to nowhere: no one wants it and the British government gave up the power to introduce it. They have to consult Dublin and pass legislation…the DUP can’t concede anything in the short term because the marching season begins in earnest this weekend. The sensible date is the autumn. After all, the assembly is due to go into recess next week anyway for the Twalf.

More time is also needed to observe the outworkings of the nefarious DUP-[Conservative] deal which looks increasingly as if it’s going to rebound on the DUP like a brick on a rubber band.

Isn’t a delicious irony that the first unlooked for result of the new prominence of the toxic DUP in Britain is yesterday’s decision to fund abortions in England for women travelling from the north?

Thank you DUP. What a lark! The Labour party and the liberal wing of the Conservatives are going to make the DUP pay dearly for the bribe they took by dragging them into the 21st century. Gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘unintended consequences’.

Another consequence should be that if they’d any sense, which unfortunately there’s no indication of, the DUP should be desperate to get into an executive to fend off any more forced modernisation.

Of course that would mean accepting that they have no alternative but to live on equal terms with the rest of people on this island and that’s unthinkable [for them]. Hard pounding ahead. [My italics]

  • Not that Brokenshire was even present when these talks broke down, as we will see below.
  • Today (03/07/17) however, he declared in Westminster that the Irish MPs have been given an extension (like he had any choice there 😉 ), that “our overriding focus is to restore a fully devolved executive” and that some advances had been made not least in “language culture and identity” issues, which is a most interesting development if we consider what was said above! Or does he means he’ll cave on the DUP‘s version- the Culture Act, that would also guarantee the rights of Ulster Scots, in the deal?
  • However, he also said that while he will bring forward legislation to end secrecy about donors to NI parties from July 2017, it will not be backdated and thus the rumours of MEP/Saudi involvement in DUP donations will not be looked into, it seems. (Yet the Conservatives will not entertain making their own donations transparent.)
  • Owen Smith had questions, however (new Shadow NI Minister). He asked why May was not prepared to go to Belfast on this matter and why she was not being involved in any way with the process. He also made it clear that Labour will support an emergency Stormont appropriation (funding) bill if it comes through Westminster. As he said, restoring the devolved government is the imperative.
  • But the DUP seem to have other ideas. Referring to Stormont as “this dead bird”, Ian Paisley Jnr (DUP) responded to Brokenshire’s report with “The parrot could possibly be dead; it is deceased of life; it is no more”. Are they really that obstinate that they’d see the government in Northern Ireland collapse if they don’t get their own way? 🤔

And social media has been merciless about the DUP deal. This week unearths this gem!

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The British Parliament’s Queen’s Speech debates:

Here again are all 27 Bills talked of in the Queen’s Speech. Note all votes on this are whipped, as part of usual Parliamentary procedure. (I.e. nothing sinister about it!)

  • We saw in the week three blog that the Conservatives and DUP voted against any pay rises for public sector workers, which was a Labour party amendment (I) to the Speech. Many public sector workers are on the breadline now and this block is frankly callous. The Lib Dems abstained because their manifesto (page 17) only allows for the removal of the pay cap for NHS workers, and they, like Labour, will not bin their manifesto for cheap political points, unlike the Conservatives.
  • However, this seems to be the line some of them are taking over this amendment, making it part of a personal attack against Corbyn and McDonnell. These are letters from Conservative MPs Charles Walker and Guto Bebb to one of their constituents when they asked Walker and Bebb why the Conservatives voted against it.
  • Labour MP Stella Creasy has submitted a motion (D) to force the DUP to drop their anti-abortion mandate after the courts rule that this mandate is beyond their province and up to Stormont to resolve. It has been backed by 100 cross party MPs including Conservatives. The DUP dropped their anti austerity mandate after voting with the Conservatives to block public sector pay but I can’t see how the Conservatives can reciprocate and back them on this, as terminations are lawful in the rest of the UK. That’s even if they want to. They could weasel out of confronting the DUP directly on this oppressive policy by funding abortions for Northern Irish women in England, of course, and that looks exactly like what the Conservatives are proposing.

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This is nowhere near enough. Note on the second page that this will not stop the DUP from imprisoning and sectioning women who have had abortions as it is a devolved government issue. This motion has now had enough support to become a formal amendment to the Queen’s Speech debates. Accepting the amendment in any form- no matter how paltry it seems to ‘us’ as people who prefer women to have human rights over their own bodies- will alienate the DUP

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and they could, in theory, refuse to support her final amended Speech. And this could be the final nail for May, as on this, if not on public sector pay, the Conservatives are highly likely to rebel in the 5pm vote to accept the Queen’s Speech and thus the confirmation the Conservatives formally as the ruling party could fall at the last hurdle. In the end, however, Creasy caved and withdrew her motion in response to this weak compromise offered by the Conservatives. Barry Gardiner (Shadow Minister for International Trade and Climate Change) also (along with LabourMuse HQ! 😉 ) lamented the backing down on this matter.

If the amendment had passed, it would also be seen as basically an anti-irish swipe at the DUP (no matter how ‘English’ they feel, ‘over here’ they are definitely seen as Irish) by Westminster for them having the presumption to power-grab and take that £1 billion, but this ‘compromise’

  1. doesn’t keep to the issue of women in need (as if it was about them really)
  2. means the government will likely accept it and not take it to vote on what is considered a matter of conscience for MPs, meaning a free, unwhipped vote. This is because under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act, a vote on this issue at Westminster is always down to the individual MP
  3. doesn’t help the people of NI if the DUP are the most powerful party during any change to direct rule from Westminster.
  • Amendment L (an anti-austerity measure) to the Queen’s Speech motioned by Corbyn regarding fairer taxation  see here for the full vote list: Division2 has also been rejected 297 Ayes to 323 Nays. When Hansard updates, more detail will be added. So yet again the DUP abandon their anti-austerity mandate to prop up the Conservatives.
  • Labour MP Chuka Umunna proposed a B*exit amendment (G) on the single market which went to a vote: Division3.

As it is not Labour policy or part of the manifesto (for to rework British status re the EU freedom of movement and the single market have to be left before a new deal could be resolved, then reinstated in some form dependent on what EU links have been confirmed via negotiation with the EU Council), for some time now there have been six clear precepts for Labour‘s approach to the EU negotiations as formulated by Keir Starmer, the actual Minister for B*exit, and this is allied with Labour‘s immigration manifesto pledge:

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Zeichner resigned so he could vote for it, West, Cadbury and Slaughter, all junior Shadow Cabinet MPs, had to be sacked for defying the whip (this is parliamentary law, not some totalitarian push by Corbyn- if it were he would have blocked Umunna from forwarding the motion in the first place) as they voted for it too, despite being advised not to. This was likely part of the Progress push that was talked of in last week’s blog. Anyone that voted for it is actually disagreeing with part of the Labour manifesto, that barely a month ago they voted to support in its entirety.

Barry Gardiner felt this motion was an EU ‘tantrum’ that took the focus from Creasy’s amendment, when Labour had the Conservatives on the ropes over the DUP‘s abortion policy/mandate.

I think this was an occasion when we were able to show how divided the Conservatives were over their pact with DUP and had actually forced the government into a u-turn over paying for abortions.

It was a shame that the focus was taken off that in an unhelpful way.

This quote is from here. Now Gardiner definitely used to be in Progress, during Miliband’s administration, and still appears to be so, if his appearance at their Annual Conference is any indication- at the least, he was a speaker there.

The shadow B*exit secretary, Keir Starmer, neatly circumnavigated the amendment by promising to push instead for a Commons vote to prevent the prime minister from walking away from the EU without a deal. His aim is, and his parliamentary motion will be, for Labour would work in a cross-party initiative demand a transition arrangement that would keep Britain in the EU for at least two more years. This move is on the grounds that May and the Conservative B*exit secretary, David Davis, needed to accept the general election result meant their plans for an “extreme B*exit” with no transition agreement was now “off the table.”

Emily Thornberry (Shadow Foreign Secretary) and like Gardiner, one of Labour’s proposed B*exit team, with Starmer, went one step further and outright accused Umunna and other Labour B*exit ‘rebels’ of “virtue signalling”, and fighting “faux battles” after three of the party’s frontbenchers were sacked for voting with Umunna’s amendment. She added that the ‘rebels’’ approach had unnecessarily exposed what looked like ‘Labour divisions’ at a time when the party should be presenting itself as both united and as an alternative to May’s minority government.

As Umunna himself saw the need to leave the single market last year, but publicly changed his mind on this last week, this was just a machination from the ‘right’ of the party that backfired. However, it will leave detritus as most (including the MSM) will see it as a Leave v Remain v Hard B*exit issue, and foam™ about ‘Labour divisions’ taking the focus off the Conservative tenuous administration, when it really isn’t even about the EU. (To reiterate, the EU position at LabourMuse HQ is ‘remain to reform’ so this is not a pro-Leave diatribe.)

  • Progress Labour MPs should not be hijacking the Remain side just for their own gain- and proof of this is in the Labour MPs that supported it (see below). Progress are cagey these days about their membership lists, but while Progress leader McGovern is on the list, many top level members are not– vice-chairs and Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Stephen Doughty, Julie Elliott, Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis, Liz Kendall, Seema Malhotra, Toby Perkins, Lucy Powell, Steve Reed, Jonathan Reynolds and Nick Smith.
  • At the Progress’ Annual Conference on the 24th June their tagline was

Progress-annual-conference-2017-e1497525417477

but here we must insert a note of caution; indeed use #NotAllProgress = ‘bad’. Many of them have no problem with being in Progress and supporting the current leader of the party; like Gardiner who spoke at this; like Diane Abbott who was also there to speak; but many of those who spoke at this conference also voted for the EU amendment and appeared on the 2016 ‘hostile’ list. In this amendment’s instance, however, this was as likely to be making a stand against hard B*exit as any particularly anti-Corbyn stance. Some there, like John Mann has been outspoken against Corbyn- so much so that there was a petition of complaint on the matter, signed by 22,735 people- but voted against the amendment, for example. Of course this could be part of his public ‘change of heart‘ after being part of the chickencoup last year. So it’s not going to be as simple as some might suggest.

  • But both of those who signed the vote of no-confidence against Corbyn last year are on the list- Ann Coffey and Margaret Hodge;
  • and still more that went along with it are there too: Chuka himself, Chris Leslie, John Woodcock, Luciana Berger, Stella Creasy and Barry Sheerman (definitely hostile in the ‘coup’) Ben Bradshaw, Daniel Zeichner, Meg Hillier, Kerry McCarthy, Jess Philips, Maria Eagle, Neil Coyle, Wes Streeting and Ian Murray (core-negative in the ‘coup’).  Last week we looked at how the ‘right’ of the party may well try and undermine Corbyn and this could well be one such attempt. This is a far cry from the original 172 PLP MPs who originally voted against Corbyn back in 2016 however.
  • The rest who voted for have strong ‘remain’ convictions and otherwise are supportive of the Corbyn leadership (Andy Slaughter, Albert Owen, Virenda Sharma etc) or are at least ‘neutral’, like Mike Gapes, Kate Hoey, David Lammy and Peter Kyle. For the list of MPs these names are extrapolated from, check this leaked list of Labour MPs from 2016.
  • And Lammy, Berger, Siddiq and Stevens (among 212 General Election candidates not on the list below) all signed the ‘We Believe in Israel’ (Luke Akehurst‘s brainchild) and the ‘Israel Britain Alliance’ Pledge for Israel. The pledge itself looks harmless enough but with Akehurst involved, full potato is never far away. And we can’t ignore the fact that a far amount of intra-party conflict has been caused by support of Israel versus support of Palestine. This conflict as told of in last week’s blog is also part of Progress’ alleged plans to push against the Labour left. So we come full circle.

Labour had little choice but to push the whip to abstain on his amendment, because

  1. of the above points about who voted for it and why
  2. it was close enough to the manifesto pledge to engender some genuine support (as we see by the voter list below) by pro Remain MPs and parties
  3. the amendment ignores the fact that while Umunna’s amendment is similar, it does not take into account, if we did get to the end of the negotiations, the point that we’d only stay as we are if we stayed in the EU.
  4. the current relationship would be dissolved and another put in its place if we leave. So Freedom of Movement/ Single Market issues would have to be suspended while that happened (with the protections listed in the manifesto for EU citizens and workers/human rights as well as current EU environmental controls in the interim), again, if we leave, while the new agreement was put in place. The latter policy is in the manifesto, the former (what Umunna proposed) is not.
  5. unlike the Conservatives, Labour don’t want to bin the manifesto as that would remove any credibility on forming a government as the mandate would be gone for so doing.

Momentum supporters  are seeing this push by Umunna as another attack on the Labour left and tonight (30/06/17) are backing an amendment to the party’s constitution at an extraordinary general meeting. The change in how Labour selects its prospective parliamentary candidates would make it easier to challenge and potentially deselect sitting MPs. Several other Labour branches across the country are expected to back the amendment, with the aim of getting it debated at the Labour Party conference this autumn. This is using proper due process, and whether we agree with the removal of self declared ‘moderates’ or not, to effect change via due process is the only way to go about it, not by subverting the Queen’s Speech. The new Labour Chairman Ian Lavery appears to also want reform; looking into “different ways and means” for selecting would-be MPs. He considers it to be a point of democracy to allow constituents to pick who they want as their MP, not overlorded by the NEC or a closed CLP decision.

It is understandable why the Lib Dems, the sole Green MP, and the SNP voted for it as they are pro remain parties. And the measure was defeated with 101 Ayes and 322 Nays; and a lot of abstentions (which was the Labour party line on this amendment). So it looks like there is

  1. less support for Remain though not a softer B*exit than Umunna supposed,
  2. or that MPs could see what he was up to; and only the overtly pro Remain parties voted for this motion honestly.
  3. or that there is less support for Progress and/or 2016 ‘chicken coup’ers in their bid to still try and oust Corbyn than Umunna thought. 172 PLP MPs were against Corbyn this time last year- here, the vote was barely 50, and many of whom had no part to play in the ‘coup’ and/or are not trying to work against the leadership.

However, using the Queen’s Speech to do this was pretty crass.

single market 1 copysingle market 2 copysingle market 3 copysingle market 4 copy

  • MPs have voted for the main Queen’s speech motion by 323 votes to 309 – a majority of 14 in the end, so for now the Conservatives stay. However there are still many wrinkles to iron out. But; backed by Corbyn, Angela Rayner, Tom Watson, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Nicholas Brown; Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made the Labour party’s stance on this Government clear:

I beg to move an amendment, at the end of the Question to add:

“but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to end austerity in public services, to reverse falling living standards and to make society more equal; further regret that it contains no reference to an energy price cap and call on the Government to legislate for such a cap at the earliest opportunity; call on the Government to commit to a properly resourced industrial strategy to increase infrastructure investment in every nation and region of the UK; recognise that no deal on Brexit is the very worst outcome and therefore call on the Government to negotiate an outcome that prioritises jobs and the economy, delivers the exact same benefits the UK has as a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union, ensures that there is no weakening of cooperation in security and policing, and maintains the existing rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU; believe that those who are richest and large corporations, those with the broadest shoulders, should pay more tax, while more is done to clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion; call for increased funding in public services to expand childcare, scrap tuition fees at universities and colleges and restore Education Maintenance Allowance, maintenance grants and nurses’ bursaries; regret that with inflation rising, living standards are again falling; and call on the Government to end the public sector pay cap and increase the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.”.

The battle lines could not be more clearly drawn. And the cracks in week one are now crevasses. MPs were hurriedly flown back to the UK to ensure the vote went through (despite the whip) over fears it would be too close even with DUP backing.

  • May herself had to excuse herself from talks with German leader Angela Merkel
  • Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, left the Belfast talks to restore power sharing early
  • and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had returned from Cyprus reunification talks before they had finished, a day earlier.

The semi-compromise over Creasy’s amendment D has led to perceptions of weakness on May’s part confirmed; with other MPs, Conservative and otherwise, seeing it as an opportunity to force through other measures even before the summer recess (20th July to 5th September) like further B*exit objections, the pay cap and NHS funding that would not be blocked out by the Queen’s Speech whipped votes.

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The Scottish government, unlike Westminster (in the aforementioned Queen’s Speech vote amendment ‘I’), has already promised to unilaterally lift the cap on public sector pay in the face of threats by nurses to go on strike. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said the devolved Holyrood government would abandon the UK-wide pay deal that has repressed annual pay rises for about half a million staff, including nurses and firefighters, to 1%. Sturgeon has been under intense pressure to lift the cap from Labour, the Scottish Green party and trade union leaders; and after the SNP voted to remove the pay cap at Westminster, it makes sense for them to implement this at Holyrood.

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******Another election on the way?******

In week 3 of the post election blogs we saw that the Conservatives are already hiring campaign managers, which indicates yet another trip to the polls for the electorate, with a possible timeline from now onwards (the post were for two months, from the end of June to the end of August.) Labour MPs are already in campaign mode and are well aware they need 60 seats to win. Corbyn was successfully campaigning (if we check out the crowd below, pictures bottom left and right) in Amber Rudd’s Hastings and Rye seat this Saturday (01/07/17) now a Conservative supermarginal with only a 346 (0.7%) vote majority; after he attends the ‘Cuts Cost Lives/Not One Day More’ rally in London (starts at 12 noon outside BBC HQ), where tens of thousands attended.

(Last four photos above: The Hastings and Rye rally.)

one of many rallies of this kind all over England that day. This is just over a week after women marched on Downing Street to protest the DUP deal.

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  • Gardiner is off to Swindon to campaign;
  • Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, is campaigning in Southport;
  • Andrew Gwynne, Labour Election manager and MP for Denton and Reddish is in Pendle with their CLP, campaigning;
  • Pat McFadden Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East;
  • Angela Rayner, Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, Droylsden and Failsworth; and Shadow Secretary of State for Education is in Stafford supporting the anti-austerity stall
  • Jo Platt, the new Labour/Coop MP for Leigh was out with constituents commemorating the Golborne pit disaster.
  • John McDonnell was in Brixton to support victimised trade unionists who “have been treated appallingly by Picturehouse Cinemas.”
  • and Dennis Skinner is out and about in his secure Bolsover constituency today (01/07/2017) to name but a few.
  • Swindon is now a Conservative supermarginal with a majority of just 2,464 (4.8%) votes.
  • Southport is also a marginal for the Conservatives, with a majority of just 2,914 votes (6.1%) after being held by Lib Dem John Pugh for years. Labour are in close second.
  • Pendle is also on the marginal list, having lost 10% of the Conservative majority in June. It now precariously sits at 1,279 votes (2.8%).
  • Wolverhampton South East is a Labour seat but lost 7.9% of it’s majority from 2015- and is now on 8,514 votes (23.4%). Wolverhampton South West is more precarious for Labour, at 2,185 votes (5.1%)  but was even more marginal under previous MP Rob Marris (2%), who stood down this year. Wolverhampton North East’s Labour support (Emma Reynolds) is  little more static- 4,587 votes (12.6%) in June and 5,495 votes (16.2%) in 2015, but turnout was up 5% this year.
  • Stafford is a Conservative seat with a 7,729 vote (14.8%) majority, but this is down a little from 2015 (4%), and here too turnout was up, to 75% (4%). It was a Labour seat till 2010, from 1997, but was Conservative all through the 80s.
  • Leigh is still a Labour seat but as is often the case when an MP steps down, the new MP is usually greeted with a reduced majority. Platt’s is no exception, hers is currently 9,554 votes (20.3%) with a 2% increase in turnout to 61%. Burnham’s majority was between the high twenties to high forties during his sixteen year tenure as Leigh’s MP.
  • Brixton is now spread among three constituencies, all Labour- Vauxhall (Kate Hoey’s seat), Streatham (Chuka Umunna’s seat) and Helen Hayes’ Dulwich and West Norwood seat. All three had increased majorities in June. Both Hayes and Umunna ‘rebelled’ to vote for the EU amendment (G) above and most commentators feel it was the ‘Corbyn effect’ that led to their greater seat security, as they seem to not be that popular locally as individuals, not least because of Hoey’s and Umunna’s push for ‘gentrification’ in the area. So McDonnell going here has some political significance as despite both Hoey and Hayes being ‘neutral’ in the 2016 ‘coup’, Umunna was listed as clearly ‘hostile’. So McDonnell’s visit could be a subtle admonishment to these MPs to do their jobs and be more hands on with their constituents. Hayes was at this event and publicly supported McDonnell’s initiative, but no sign of Umunna or Hoey.
Hayes Brixton copy
Photos courtesy of Helen Hayes.

Hayes does seem to be mostly on board with ‘new old new Labour‘ 😉 She was also so annoyed by Neil Coyle, who is MP for nearby Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and is still lip-flapping against Corbyn- this time to the ‘rabid right’ Daily Mail (online) of all outlets- that he had to apologise to her and her CLP for his actions. Coyle has also been admonished by his own CLP for being divisive too.

  1. Clearly Coyle still doesn’t get it– you don’t wash your dirty linen in public. Have a problem? Go to the source and discuss it with them, don’t go and whine to someone (like an anti-Labour newspaper) like a petulant child. In fact, scratch that- most children would have more sense…
  2. He was likely to lose his seat in the election, but hard campaigning by the CLP and other local and not-so-local activists meant his majority increased (and perhaps the ‘Corbyn effect’ can be considered here too.)

If Coyle thought his new seat security was down to him, he has now been disabused of any such idea. And considering the bile he still spouts, that must gall him greatly (pun intended!)

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SDP v 2.0

Perhaps Coyle would like to join the ‘SDP v 2.0’ that is in the rumour mill. Liz Kendall, Jess Phillips, Stephen Kinnock, Chris Leslie and Louise Ellman have been singled out as potential ‘movers’ to such a ‘centrist’ party after pushes to deselect them have already been in the works.

If this happened, it would not be the first time. And should not be seen as controversial.

  • On the 26th March 1981, the former Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins -one of the ‘Gang of Four‘, announced that this new ‘centrist’ party was the culmination of a long campaign by a small group of Labour MPs, who had been working towards a realignment of the left, in order to produce a credible alternative to Thatcherism.
  • But they obtained little electoral support; and in 1987, the poor performance of the Liberal-SDP Alliance at the June 1987 election prompted the Liberal leader, David Steel to call for the unity of both wings, after only 22 seats were secured by both sides.
  • Why they could not join the current Lib Dems seems one point to consider, but as the latter seem to be on an electoral downer and are currently on just 12 seats, perhaps they would not wish to back that horse.

And as leader? Well The Times’ source says David Miliband! If so, perhaps the investigation last summer into the international aid group headed by him over allegations of corruption in projects intended to help Syrian civilians and refugees would be brushed under the carpet. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery!

Seats on the committee at the September Conference would be vital to get the electoral reform espoused above by Momentum and Lavery that could initiate a move to make MP posts less of a sinecure and more based on constituency voting rather than the current ‘closed shop’ method. Leftist Seema Chandwani and her fellow left candidate, Billy Hayes, are ahead of the incumbent ‘moderate’ (read: Progress) candidates, the Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero and the former actor Michael Cashman, in nominations for two posts on the party’s conference arrangements committee. So this is another case of watch this space…

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New Labour Shadow Cabinet Appointments

In a post Queen’s Speech move, Corbyn made several new Shadow Cabinet appointments today (03/07/17). Whether this would stall talks of a new ‘centrist’ party is unclear, but currently this is the state of play regarding the new Ministers. However, this is a fairly even spread and shows, at least from Corbyn, that the 2016 hatchet is ready to be buried, and not in someone’s back! Should this update, I will edit.

Pro-Corbyn MPs

  1. Chris Williamson, who was re-elected as MP for Derby North, is appointed to the Home Affairs team led by Diane Abbott as Shadow Fire Minister.
  2. new MP Paul Sweeney, (Glasgow North East, won from the SNP) has been given the Shadow Scotland Minister post.
  3. new MP Anneliese Dodds, (Oxford East) has been given a post in John McDonnell’s Shadow Treasury team.
  4. Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, was a junior Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport; and Digital Economy but now has her own portfolio- she has become Shadow Policing Minister. As a former police Special Constable she should have a handle on this post.
  5. Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, is now a Shadow Minister  for International Development, or has been moved to Justice from there.
  6. Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax is part of the DEFRA team.
  7. Karl Turner, MP for Kingston upon Hull East, is Opposition Whip and has been given a Transport Brief.
  8. Given a Women and equalities post, is MP for Swansea East Carolyn Harris. She was a Shadow Home Affairs Minister.

MPs that resigned/ were part of the ‘coup’ last year/ have voiced issues on Corbyn being leader

  1. Gloria de Piero is back in a junior position at Shadow Justice.
  2. Roberta Blackman Woods, the former Housing Minister, has been given a job in the International Development team.
  3. Karl Turner, who resigned as Shadow Attorney General last year has been appointed as Shadow Transport Minister.
  4. Rachel Maskell, who stepped down as Shadow Environment Secretary in February in order to vote against Labour’s position on B*exit is back.
  5. Nick Thomas Symonds is back, in the Shadow Home Secretary’s department.
  6. Grimsby MP Melanie Onn is back as part of the Shadow Housing team.
  7. Tracey Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen, has been given a junior Shadow Education post.

Known neutrals in the ‘coup’/new MPs/allegiance currently not known

  1. Former Manchester mayor Tony Lloyd, now the MP for Rochdale, is appointed to Shadow Housing.
  2. new MP for Gorton, former MEP Azfal Khan, is in as a Shadow Immigration Minister.
  3. David Drew, MP for Stroud, is also part of DEFRA with Holly Lynch.
  4. Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, has been given a Defence post.
  5. Yvonne Fovargue, MP for Makerfield, has a Shadow Local and Communities Government post under Shadow Minister Andrew Gwynne (who is definitely pro Corbyn).
  6. Chris Ruane , MP for Vale of Clwyd since 1997, now has a junior Welsh Minister post.

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Labour campaigning

It would be good to see more press coverage of the other MPs rallies and campaigns, but the MSM have only just caught up on actually reporting what Corbyn does, so maybe asking for more too soon is ‘greedy’. 🙄 And many still seem far more willing to publish the ‘scandal’ over the ‘facts’; so much so that some should really stop calling themselves newspapers- and instead say for real what they are- scandal sheets or, if they have airs and graces like the Telegraph, canard circulars…

On 9th July Momentum and other Labour supporters are going to Chingford (Conservative Iain Duncan Smith’s seat) to rally and doorknock. Smith’s seat is vulnerable too; it dropped from 19% in 2015 to just 2,438 votes (5.2%) this election. The beleaguered MP sent out urgent emails, full of untruths, to potential Conservative supporters to counter-rally, but it backfired as all it did was promote the Facebook event for it run on unofficial behalf of Labour by Owen Jones (The People’s Assembly), and now over 400 people have signed up for it.

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Bouyed by this success/ interest in such events, there is also a FB campaign on to do the same in Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip on the 23rd July. Johnson lost 13% of his majority from 2015 and it’s now 5,034 votes (10.8%). Turnout was up by 2% and the Labour candidate Vincent Lo, saw an increase of the Labour vote share to 18,682 (40%); behind Johnson’s share of 23,716 votes; from a 24.6% share (11, 816 votes) in 2015 by Chris Summers.

The Labour target seats, as recorded on June 30th 2017 are on the link. The list below emphasises even in seats the Conservatives held or won in June, many majorities are now precarious. If you look at the pre election blogs, many ultra marginals for Labour are now no longer the case. And many Labour targets were gained this year, as we saw in the results blog, or moved close to gaining; the list below were the Labour targets last time; for example:

Not forgetting the Conservative, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, DUP and Sinn Féin gains.

may on twitter 6 seats copy

Remember that Tweet above by May? She lost many more than six, which is why another General Election by the summer seems inevitable. Two elections in one year has not happened since 1974.

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Polls

So are we seeing any difference in the polls? (With the usual caveats.) A little.

  • Opinium have just released a poll, after not having done one (that I can find) for a month on voting intentions. When we compare the end of May one to this one, we do see a change. Labour is up 8%, so the trend is still upwards, but sharply; the Conservatives are down 4%, which continues their trend downwards; and the Lib Dems are up 1%. Now Opinium were over 3% out in the actual election result for Labour, so what we are to make of this… well I will leave that to you! Just adding 3% to Labour‘s support, with all the adjustments Opinium do, would not be wise.
  • Survation tells a slightly different story, but they have run more polls. And they were to the last % correct on the actual election result:

They show no movement from the election poll. I must have missed a poll  (17/06/17) as they have the end of June poll at 4% down for Labour when there is no change since the end of May for their vote share. So a brief spike for Labour then mid month. This is confirmed by Survation’s own tracker.

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  • ICM also have Labour with a narrow lead (the poll ended on 3rd July). Their last poll was on the 5th June (see picture below left), just before the election, so this jump of support is quite steep. It is not clear where the new numbers have come from, as while Labour are up 9%, the Conservatives and UKIP are down 2%, and the Lib Dems down 1%. This time too the Greens are included, when they weren’t in June.

It is, from the ‘left’s’ point of view, surprising that it is so static considering all the post election events as covered in the last three blogs, but we could take ‘election fatigue’ into account on all these results.

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In other news…

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Murdoch and his further media power grab:

Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7BILLION Sky takeover bid has been delayed again after Ofcom submits a blunt report on his ambition. This would absolutely ‘influence the political process’ and the overall news agenda and make him and the Murdoch Trust ‘responsible’ for news outlets second only to the BBC and ITV. This is the first ‘good’ thing the Conservatives have done for months.

DDfFQD5XoAEL5_M

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Osborne gets another job

From the ridiculously horrendous to the horrendously ridiculous- ex Conservative Chancellor George Osborne has been given yet another job- as Lecturer of Economics at Manchester University. Even worse, this announcement has come after the university revealed plans in May 2017 to cut 171 jobs, mostly from academic staff, for which they blamed B*exit and government legislation on giving them little choice but so to do.

cant-even-pie-chart

Manchester University students are appalled at this decision, and some of their reactions, and the official statement of the Student Union, can be found here.

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If you ban it, it’ll only make it more popular

 

  • Political cartoonists are having a field day; what they’ll make of the ‘ban’ I don’t know.

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**********Slurs and smears**********

  • The latest Conservative slur seems to be that Labour voted for the Welfare Bill. Er, no they didn’t… and in fact, no party but the Conservatives voted for it back in 2015.

welfare bill copy

 

  • However, the issue of the NEC overstepping their bounds when they suspended hundreds of Labour supporters last year is true. For more on this, check out this blog. The NEC should contact all those illegally suspended and offer free membership for the next year in recompense at the very least; then hope they don’t get sued.

Now Labour General Secretary Ian McNicol has issued new guidance to Labour staff on their obligations under the DPA, severely limiting their future behaviour.

…relates to data that is perceived under law as private – social media posts.

While these may be of a public nature, the data they contain actually belongs to the poster and as such, under ICO definitions. it cannot be legitimately accessed for the purposes of Labour’s Compliance Unit the posts for excuses to suspend or expel members and supporters.

So many complained to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) that the ICO has told Labour HQ staff that it has its eye on them, so they have to be careful to follow the law.

 

  • Some people are thinking that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is being exploitative and provocative by Tweeting a photo of Gillian Anderson in stockings and what looks like a little black dress. No, Anderson gave permission for that photo shoot, thus not provocative or exploitative. What I am finding a matter of concern is Davidson’s ‘radio silence’ on the DUP‘s anti LGBT stance as her party has allied with them. She appears content with May vow of there will be ‘absolutely no rescission (revocation, cancellation, or repeal of a law, order, or agreement) of LGBTI rights’ on 10th June in response to Davidson’s raising the subject, despite the fact that her partner is Irish (from Eire) and Catholic.

 

  • And talking of the DUP, apologists for them are trying to smear Sinn Féin with the accusation that they (too) are anti-abortion. Not according to their manifesto they’re not. DUP‘s online manifesto has ‘mysteriously disappeared’… 🙄 recently members of Sinn Féin felt moved to write to The Irish Catholic saying

We the undersigned are committed members of Sinn Féin. Between us we have invested decades of our lives working for a 32 county Ireland of equals. We support 100 per cent the leadership of the party and its efforts to create a peaceful, successful, united Ireland.  We do not support however the abortion legislation currently going through Leinster House. We note the expert medical advice that psychiatric illness should receive psychiatric treatment. We note the expert medical advice that abortion is a cause of suicidal intent and indeed nobody can disagree with the fact that abortion destroys the life of the child.  The provision of abortion has never been a core Sinn Féin policy. Indeed until very recently the party did not actively pursue a pro-choice policy. Until recently many within the party felt free to promote a pro-life stance. This issue is currently causing major difficulty amongst our grassroots membership throughout the country. We ask that the party allow our pro-life MLAs and TDs to vote with their conscience [as it is in Westminster due to the 1967 Abortion Act] in future. We ask that the party would not become a cold house to pro-life Irish Republicans. Hundreds of us still have an enormous amount to contribute to our Irish Republican goals if allowed. Yours etc.,

Anne Brolly,  Monica Digney,  Mary Kelly, James Cunningham, Rossa Murray, Garrett O’Reilly, John Snell, Gerry O Neill, Finian Toomey, Seamus Gill, Mary Kelly.

[my italics/additions]

So while in 2015 SF did abstain on Daly’s abortion bill that made proviso for women whose foetuses were showing abnormalities, it has never been on their mandate to be ‘pro life’. So while there are some ‘pro lifers’ in the party (as there are in every party) it has not affected their mandate and they, unlike the DUP do not officially advocate it.

  • Shame on the Mirror’s headline writers for this one. They are trying to create division where it is not. This time with Owen Smith, erstwhile Labour leader challenger. Smith has made it clear he is both happy with his NI Minister appointment and being in the Shadow Cabinet, yet some naive remarks of his on the Sophy Ridge show are being twisted to yell ‘I would have won if he was leader’, when he said no such thing. They even include the VT that shows he didn’t say it. And they include the following quotes by Watson, Smith and Ashworth:

Deputy leader Tom Watson said Mr Corbyn’s position was “completely secure” and Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Nobody’s going to be challenging Jeremy.”

Smith added: “Look, Jeremy has clearly galvanised young people in this country, we’ve seen that not just in the election but since.

“I met people during the election who hadn’t voted ever, certainly people who hadn’t voted for a long while, who felt Jeremy was speaking to and for them and that Labour was speaking to and for them.

“I don’t think any of us can argue with that and therefore I think he has earned the right to try and get Labour into power and earned the right to be our next Prime Minister.” [my italics]

A better choice of headline could have made all the difference here.

Even the Mirror’s Twitter page focuses on the nub of Smith’s point- “Corbyn has galvanised people and got them to vote”! 

I have deliberately not even put it so we can see what it was really all about. Basically nothing. But it does show Smith again as gauche on TV when many have said in meetings and chambers he is very credible indeed. And he’ll need to be, with the NI brief.

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Tuition fees

Gove, Conservative ex Education Minister,and now (scarily, as shown in week one’s post election blog) now Environment Minister (with a terrible environment record)

gove environ copy

  1. not so ironically, does not want to see them go.On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Gove said: “I believe fundamentally that the purpose of government policy is to support everyone equally, and if you don’t benefit from a university education, you shouldn’t have to pay additionally to support those who do.” Isn’t this what taxes are for? To pay for essential services that not everyone uses?
  2. However, he is making noises about removing the above-mentioned 1% public sector pay cap!
  3. And says that with B*exit the UK would have the proviso to use the ‘SBS to deploy nets mid-channel to stop French fish[ermen] from entering’! Cod Wars again, anyone? And yes, this is military intervention on the high seas!

The man is an unfunny joke, the gi(f)t you never wanted that keeps on giving…or is that Goving?

  • And the Conservative universities minister, Jo Johnson, was among those who responded by defending the current system. He said on Twitter “Abolishing tuition fees & funding unis out of general taxation would be regressive, benefiting richest graduates, as IFS has repeatedly said”… This sounds like he wasn’t even consulted on this possible policy change when it’s his department!

Does anyone have the faintest idea what the Conservatives’ mandate is any more? Because they don’t!

  1. While this is being spun at worst as a U turn, and at best a response by the Conservatives to ‘the needs of the people’, this is simply more proof of a party in utter disarray.
  2. Surely a lot of the dissent that is happening now could have been averted if May and her triumvirate had put the manifesto to the party before publishing it?
  3. Come what may *cough*, they can’t just keep stealing Labour‘s manifesto like this.
  4. With their mandate in ruins and their rule shaky at best, surely it is time to go back to the election booths.

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Investigatory Powers Act challenge

On 30th June, the pressure group Liberty was granted permission from the High Court to bring a legal challenge against the British government. The case will contest one of Theresa May’s flagship policies as Home Secretary, the Investigatory Powers (IP) Act; commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter. If successfully challenged, as one of May’s pet projects, it will put final nails in her political coffin.

The group has now applied for a cost-capping order for the case; this would set an upper limit to costs. If granted, the case will then be listed for a full hearing. It will challenge four elements of the act:

The mass collection of everybody’s communications data and internet history; web browsing and the who, what, when and where of our communications.
State acquisition of bulk personal datasets; the electronic records of our lives, such as medical and financial records, where we travel, what we watch, and how we communicate.
The bulk interception and acquisition of communications content; access to the content of emails, calls, messages without suspicion of criminality.
Bulk and ‘thematic’ hacking by state agencies; covert access, control and altering of our electronic devices by authorities.

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More EU histrionics

The Independent today (02/07/17) reported this, which originally appeared in the Telegraph:

Theresa May could storm out of B[*]exit negotiations to show voters at home she is willing to be tough with the EU over Britain’s divorce bill.

The Prime Minister is preparing a dramatic walk-out in September over the bill, thought to be in the region of £87 billion, it has been claimed, as business leaders were told Ms May was trying to “be as hard-nosed, as hard-headed and as cold-eyed about this as it is possible to be”.

How about actually having some kind of plan, and not a flounce? Especially a flounce announced in advance? We ‘owe’ the money, if we are leaving. And the EU Council will simply respond like

hanky

What it is likely that the Labour B*exit team know already, but the Conservatives are ignoring in their histrionics is that, even within the Schengen Area (which we are not even part of)

DD0bae4W0AAmMlp

there is already an EU law restricting freedom of movement that was never enforced by the UK. This article, that came out in 2004, is number 7 of EC directive 38, and makes the level of EU citizen movement is clear. You can only be a student, wealthy enough not to need state help, and/or working to be able to stay longer than three months. So why was this never implemented and why was this never discussed pre-referendum, I wonder? But it does explain why Starmer has insisted all along that, if he were in charge of the negotiations, that full worker and environmental rights would be in place while the separation of the EU would be implemented; and why the EU Council would have little choice to agree to this stipulation.

EC/2004/38 article 7
Screenshot courtesy of Dale Bennett.

And Michel Barnier‏, the chief EU negotiator for the leaving process had to gently point out to the Conservatives that their similar bombast of a flounce-denunciation of the ‘London Convention’ is somewhat redundant because EU law and Common Fisheries Policies had already superseded it.

Backsides and atlases come to mind, especially when we consider Gove’s grandstanding above of bringing the SBS into it. This essentially means that

  1. the UK will not be able to fish the seas empty
  2. co-operation between neighbouring countries will be expected on fishing rights (now all the UKIP banging on about fishing in their manifesto makes much more sense!)
  3. ‘we’ have written to ourselves, informing ourselves that we are leaving a now defunct treaty, that we brokered in the first place, but flung it in the face of the EU Council as some kind of bargaining tool. This is seriously embarrassing!

Barnier has actually had to step in, it would appear, to heal rifts within the Conservative B*exit team itself! This is from the Financial Times, but from the ‘sketch’ section so ‘ware exaggeration!
19601405_10155428219857008_7688449387633580312_n

And May’s recent (forced?) B*exit Ministerial addition to the team appears to be even less concilatory. He was part of May’s post election cabinet reshuffle.

  • “I think UKIP and the Better Off Out campaign lack ambition. I think the European Union needs to be wholly torn down,Steven Baker, MP for Wycombe stated, at the 2010 Iaconf (Intelligence Assistance Conference) meeting.
  • He has the backing of over 50 Leave Conservative MPs who were members of Conservatives for Britain, that he chaired; who ‘fought for’ Leave; and also the European Research Group, a pro-B*exit backbench organisation. The appointment is widely regarded as indicative of the lessening of May’s power over the party.
  • Mr Baker is also under pressure to reveal what his links might be to a group that donated £435,000 to the DUP to campaign for B*exit during last year’s referendum. He was given £6,500 by the obscure Constitutional Research Council, the body which used a legal loophole to channel the money to the DUP.
  • Baker thus would be, to many party leaders, a liability.
  • His appointment was called ‘extraordinary’ by Labour’s Minister for B*exit Keir Starmer.

“There should be no place” for Mr Baker’s views at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

“It is extraordinary that Theresa May has put such an extreme B[*]exiteer at the heart of the Government.

“This poses real questions about her judgement and the Government’s desire to build the collaborative, cooperative future partnership we need with the EU.”

DD7D3lvUMAAXKSW

Can we please have Starmer, Gardiner and Thornberry negotiate this instead? 🙄

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Are the Lib Dems going to jump into the fire, again?

If so, it puts Vince Cable’s comments last month into bleak context:

“It’s absolutely clear, we’re not budging from that. We’ve said we’re not going into coalition with either side.

“We will look at issues on their merits. The major parties can’t just shout at each other. Issues like Brexit are now going to require a fundamentally different approach.

“A lot of other issues are going to have to be tackled in a much more consensual way.

“We’ve all underestimated the force of the younger generation. Mr Corbyn, to his credit, understood that.”

Is this why Farron is standing down? He did not want to even deal that much with the Conservatives.

The Times today (04/07/17) allege that May is ‘desperate’ to shore up her ‘administration’ and that Conservative Gavin Barwell has contacted his LD equivalent- Ben Williams, Tim Farron’s chief of staff, on Thursday afternoon. He has also spoken in person to at least one high-profile Lib Dem MP, with a request for a meeting from a second. This looks like another “supply and confidence” arrangement like they have with the DUP (though presumably without the £1 billion price tag.)

The Times opines that the two parties have a number of shared priorities, such as mental health — the Queen’s Speech promised a bill to reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised by the NHS in England. If so, why have the Conservatives cut mental health services?

The Lib Dems would be mad to agree to this. If they think they saw ‘spite voting’ after their coalition with the Conservatives, in 2015, which basically led to the collapse of their party, it’ll be nothing to how they might do should this go ahead and there be another election this year.

 

So here ends week 4. Week 5’s blog will have a round up of events and will go rolling on to record what is looking more and more like a time of historical pivots; even flashpoints!

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