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04.03.16

Labour should see the bigger picture on the UK in the EU

“In 1941 there were only a dozen democracies in the world. Today there are over a hundred. For four centuries prior to 1950, global gross domestic product (GDP) rose by less than 1 percent a year. Since 1950 it has risen by an average of 4 percent a year, and billions of people have been lifted out of poverty. The first half of the twentieth century saw two of the most destructive wars in the history of mankind, and in prior centuries war among the great powers was almost constant. But for the past sixty years no great powers have gone to war with one another.”

These, according to Robert Kagan, in a book published at about the same time as Obama’s second term began, with the clear intension of dissuading the president from stepping back from global leadership, are American fruits. Since then, Kim Jong-un and Putin, Syria and the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, have brought into question America’s global reach. Nonetheless, Obama has held the international institutions that have held sway throughout much of the period venerated by Kagan – EU, NATO, IMF, UN, World Bank – in as much reverence as any modern US president.

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04.03.16

We are locked in a Dad’s Army politics of the left and right

As Europe faces its biggest refugee crisis since World War II, our prime minister tours the continent talking tax credits. The puniness of David Cameron next to the magnitude of events, the narrow, inward focus of his preoccupations, means that if he were a film he’d be a Dad’s Army remake.

Why, Peter Bradshaw not unreasonably asks in his Guardian review, do we need this film?

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02.02.16

Who’d want to be “the next Labour leader”?

“You have to be ready for anything,” Dan Jarvis told the BBC when they recentlyasked about his Labour leadership ambitions. “Owen Smith: I am interested in being Labour leader,” reads a New Statesman headline from earlier this month. This appeared not long after Jess Phillips had been the subject of similar in the Spectator. Stephen Kinnock and Michael Dugher have also been touted as future leaders.

That foraging in the undergrowth is the cut and thrust of competition to be trademarked “the next leader of the Labour party”. Andy Burnham was sufficiently deemed so to enter the 2010 leadership election as favourite, while Chuka Umunna once had the strongest claim on this title among the 2010 intake. Those comprehensively beaten by Jeremy Corbyn (Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, as well as Burnham) may struggle to again accumulate the political capital necessary to mount viable leadership campaigns, while Umunna has slipped behind the likes of Jarvis et al in “the next leader” stakes.

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02.02.16

The Progressive Dilemma remains – only sharpened

The reshuffle has done little to dampen perceptions that Jeremy Corbyn is the most left-wing, pacifist and unbending Labour leader ever. Keir Hardie and George Lansbury might compete. Corbyn, nonetheless, is still the most preeminent such leader since Clement Attlee succeeded Lansbury in 1935.

In this sense, the dilemmas posed by the Corbyn leadership feel uncharted. They portend, however, only a deepening of the British left’s core dilemma.

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02.02.16

Centrists need new ideas and purpose, not a new party

Phil Collins comments in the Times on speculation within Labour of an SDP type breakaway. Those favouring this move believe that, “the volatility of politics makes 2016 a more propitious moment for novelty than 1981.” Collins, who remains a Labour member, is unconvinced. “The only reason to stay (in Labour),” he wrote a few weeks earlier, “is that it (the Corbyn leadership) can’t last.”

“Corbynism for a decade?” asks Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. “It no longer sounds ridiculous”. In the sense that it was until very recently a widely unanticipated outcome, which would leave many, not least the likes of Collins, distraught, it still sounds pretty ridiculous. But what Bush means is clear.

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02.02.16

The renaissance of the Livingstone tendency

“There are people within the PLP who have never accepted the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” claimed Clive Lewis on Today on Saturday morning, in the context of a debate on Syria. This hints at the charge that Diane Abbott has previouslymade: Labour MPs want to bomb Syria to harm Corbyn. It takes a particular cynicism to suggest that MPs would put political advantage before matters of life and death.

It is precisely because the decision to go to war is so consequential that elected representatives cannot be bound by mere partisan calculation. MPs need to be able to look constituents in the eye and tell them that they acted as they thought necessary to keep them safe. They cannot – and, pace Abbott, do not – let how they feel about a party leader, or a whip, stand between them and doing so.

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25.11.15

Activist or MP, it’s time to take a stand

“Criminals were victims of the capitalist system. The police were agents of repression. Riots were popular uprisings against capitalist injustice.” These, according to Peter Mandelson’s autobiography, were commonplace views in the early 1980s vintage of London Labour.

“The three hate-ideas of the idiot savant left are capitalism, imperialism and America, or CIA for short,” Phil Collins wrote recently. The CIA are now as acceptable in Labour as they were in the 1980s.

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25.11.15

Where is Liam Byrne headed?

Liam Byrne is nothing if not industrious. After a hotly contested by-election, a minister five minutes after becoming an MP. The hard work continued on the opposition front bench, even if he felt too Blairite to be in vogue during the Miliband years. When he might have been expected to back the more Blairite Liz Kendall, he enthusiastically supported Yvette Cooper.

Cooper outperformed Kendall but Byrne’s candidate was left to eat Corbyn’s dust, as a much changed party from the one that Byrne was first elected to represent was created. Back then Byrne was the poster boy for Blair’s ability to win by-elections in the face of impassioned campaigning by parties, the Liberal Democrats and Respect, opposed to the Iraq war. Now Labour has a leader who can seem to be willing Blair toward the Hague.

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25.11.15

What next for Labour’s moderates

Labour moderates need a new name (not Blairite or anything redolent of), philosophy (vintage in tapping into the same revisionist traditions as the Third Way, while also being thoroughly contemporary), and (having been comprehensively out organised by the left during the leadership election) structures. Apart from that, everything is fine.

Acknowledgement of these profound challenges is not original. David Butler stressed philosophy here. Spencer Livermore elsewhere. Liam Byrne even wants to emphasise it through a new Clause 4. And renewed organisational vitality comes from Labour First and Progress.

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25.11.15

How to think about the next ten years for Labour

We have transitioned from a summer of hard truths to an autumn that painfully strains credulity. On BBC Question Time, we’ve had everything from John McDonnell’s non-apology apology for IRA comments to Chris Bryant’s self-depreciating “aww shucks” routine when Labour is reduced to mirth; from Stephen Kinnock’s failure to make anything straight from the crooked timber of Labour on the nuclear deterrence to Lisa Nandy’s struggle to disassociate Labour with violence at the Conservative Party conference.

At the time, I thought we’d reached the bottom of the market for the Labour currency on 7 May 2015. That the cycle would move in our favour from that point. Things could only get better. Actually, we’ve not only continued to fall, we have debased our stock. And debasing money, as Zero Hedge notes, debases trust.

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23.09.15

What to expect from Tim Farron

Commenting on Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats on BBC Daily Politics on Monday, Kelvin MacKenzie claimed, “it’s like that line about the Pope. How many divisions has he got?” He meant, “he doesn’t have enough MPs to matter”. But if MacKenzie reflected on the origin of the quotation, he might come to a different conclusion.

While Stalin asked this question of the Pope in 1935, the Catholic Church remains and the Soviet Union does not. If all that mattered were divisions, this would not be so. Ideas matter too. Ultimately, more than divisions. The ideas of the Soviet Union weren’t strong enough for their divisions to sustain it.

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14.09.15

Anger is an energy in politics and football

Anger is an energy, John Lydon told us. I hope so after Saturday. IKEA is blood pressure raising, especially when your visit coincides with Jeremy Corbyn winning big. Liverpool’s tame defeat at Old Trafford later in the day did not reduce the steam bellowing from my ears.

Labour have elected a leader that even his supporters do not see as prime minister, which runs contrary to the basic function of opposition. We have, therefore, abdicated the status of an aspirant party of government, rendering us pretty pointless.

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