More on Corbyn, Starmer and Brexit

More on Corbyn, Starmer and Brexit

In my post, Is there a Starmerproject I criticised both Oliver Eagleton, its author, and Richard Seymour, its reviewer, for their takes on the role of Starmer’s Brexit positioning as part of his planned route to the leadership. I quoted Andrew Fisher on his clarification that Labour’s 2017 manifesto was to support the referendum result, only if the terms were right.

Andrew Fisher, in an article on Labour Hub, lambasts Eagleton for trying to accuse John McDonnel & Dianne Abbot of betraying a 40 year friendship and suggesting that Corbyn was too weak to get the policy he wanted. Fisher shows that Corbyn supported Labour Conference policy; it just wasn’t what Lexiters thought it was, or wanted. It’s an important contribution from someone that was there, reminding some on the Left that the CLPs, the Unions, and the majority of Labour Voters wanted to remain and wanted a second referendum. It was those who put their sterile dogma and personal careers first and voted down the meaningful votes that really killed Corbyn’s leadership. Their alternative reality doesn’t exist where a harsher Brexit line would have won the 2019 election. Corbynism was broken by then.

Fisher in his article, “I was at the heart of Corbynism. Here’s why we lost”, looks at Corbynism,  Brexit, the issue that broke it, and opportunities for progress. Fisher is clear that internal opposition and sabotage were also part of the story. He concluded that most importantly the Left needs to develop a practiced of respect for others on left; if it doesn’t it will fail. But at some time this horrendous factionalism will end as enough of Lebour’s leadership realise that “a bird needs two wings to fly”. …

Gas Prices

The Economist reports  that spot gas prices have fallen but that UK energy prices cannot because the energy companies have already agreed a price; this is known as a forward rate agreement.

Someone is making a shit load of money here because there is a secondary market consisting of options and CFDs. So either the Gas providers or the derivative market makers are making a lot of money beyond the excessive profits of the energy companies. The use of FRAs is, it would seem, is a poor decision. Maybe if OFGEM didn’t nod through the price increases requested by, the so-called energy companies, most are commercial billing entities, they would be more careful.

I recommend you look at the article as it has a chart, and references a further articles on the UK Energy Market and the broken gas market.  …

CLPD & #lab22

CLPD & #lab22

Labour Hub have publicised the Left Slates for Labour’s internal elections, together with their recommended rule changes, available as word or .pdf. They include mine, the complete list is as follows, although some of the titles need to be changed as I think there is a 10 word limit. The deadline for CLPs to submit a rule change to Annual Labour Conference is 12 noon Friday 17th June.

  1. The Labour Party should be able to decide which Labour MPs can seek re-selection – not the PLP
  2. Calls for card votes from Annual Conference; delegates should not ignored
  3. Members need a Party Ombudsperson
  4. Ban lobbyists and property developers from being selected as local government or Parliamentary candidates
  5. Selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates – longlisting should to return to CLPs
  6. CLPs and affiliates should be allowed to submit a motion and a constitutional amendment to Party Conference
  7. CLPs and affiliates should be allowed to submit motions on organisational issues to Party Conference
  8. Popular rule change proposals should not have to wait three years to be discussed at Conference
  9. Full involvement by party branches and branches of affiliated organisations in the selection of Westminster candidates
  10. The NEC must decide on the powers to be granted to the General Secretary, and Conference take the final decision
  11. Member’s Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights
  12. Labour members should be required to be members of a trade union
  13. Member’s rights to free speech should be restored
  14. The NEC should stop publishing its proposed rule changes at the last minute – members need time to consider such proposals
  15. NEC final decisions and good faith
 …

Honesty, good faith and genuineness

A friend asked me to look again at Evangelou vs McNicol, which I did, by looking at Evangelou vs Mcnicol Appeal Judgment 20160812

The clause that interests us all is,

24. In the present case, there is no challenge to the rationality of the eligibility criteria and the freeze date, and they are only said to be unauthorised on the true construction of the contract. It is, however, relevant to note that a discretion conferred on a party under a contract is subject to control which limits the discretion as a matter of necessary implication by concepts of honesty, good faith and genuineness, and need for absence of arbitrariness, capriciousness, perversity and irrationality: see Sochimer International Bank Ltd v Standard Bank London Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 116, [2008] Bus LR 134 at [66] and Braganza v BP Shipping [2015] UKSC 17, [2015] 1 WLR 1661, and the cases on mutual undertakings and bodies exercising self-regulatory powers mentioned at [47] below.

I have written about this previously on the ruling, and about irrationality, however I have previously focused on the absence of of arbitrariness, capriciousness, perversity and irrationality, but looking at the current so-called evidence definition for proscription hearings, I come to the conclusion that  equally important are honesty, good faith and genuineness. I should always have started there! …

CoFoE’s final word on Migration

CoFoE’s final word on Migration

I was invited to speak at the Young European Federalists rally/conference as a representative of AEIP and CTOE. I spoke about CoFoE’s proposals on Migration, and the need for a generous and inclusive citizenship definitions.

The context

Migration is an issue of some controversy as we well know in the UK. It is one of the few policy areas where racism is seen as a legitimate policy design goal. For the EU there are two countervailing political forces, both having some age now. The EU or its predecessor was founded as a response to the 2nd World War and its consequent movements of people primarily as refugees or asylum seekers. The second is the massive post-colonial legacies held by so many of the member states many of which are ex-empires, although some seem to have recovered from these influences more rapidly than others. I said at the meeting that I’d be happy to learn from others about their colonial pasts, but the list is longer than the obvious.

Given the technical problem solving nature of CoFoE the proposals need to be judged in the light of scope of the issue. Immigrants are, workers, refugees, family members or students. Counting students as immigrants is a subject of argument. The European economies need migrant workers. If they don’t come, work doesn’t get done. It’s not just the taxes, it’s the output. The domestic demand for migrant labour is demand led, if they are stopped, then the work they seek doesn’t get done. Refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives, escaping war or oppressive regimes who may be seeking to kill them for their sexuality, or political opinions. Legally and morally we owe refugees a duty of care and should be proud they choose our countries of places of safety. I can’t comment on other countries but the UK has been busy making it hard for its citizens to pass their nationality onto spouses and even to children. It is hard to bring spouse to the UK, i.e. if you want to marry a foreigner, you may have to live in their country.   Students shouldn’t be counted in the immigration numbers.

We have missed one opportunity as I note the EU’s shameful partial response to the UN Global Compact on Immigration, ; it was a missed opportunity to show a united, world leadership on this critical issue. It shows the resistance in the the political leadership in the EU which may be characterised as specific to a limited number of member states but racist popularism is embedded across the Union.

A route for change

The Conference and particular the citizen panels were more progressive than might have been expected and the worst of the proposals from the digital platform were ignored.

There are a couple of proposals on reducing labour market friction which are probably a good idea. There may well be a view that if employers can fill vacancies with local labour then there will be less need to employ immigrants, but I think that effectively this would be marginal.

There is a proposal to increase aid to likely source countries that need it. The debate about aid is also complex; aid must not create dependency and must avoid corruption.

There are proposals on the policing of immigration criminality. When one reads the words, it is clear that human traffickers must be caught and stopped, however, care must be taken to ensure that the EU and its member & neighbour states must not be criminalise the aiding of and rescue of people at sea as has occurred in Italy and been attempted in the UK. This proposal talks of the proper resourcing of Frontex. If immigration is to become an EU competency, then it needs an agency and the common border, Schengen now includes the vast majority of the population of the EU. The strength of this recommendation will have been helped by having Frontex as one of the experts to the citizens panel.

On refugees, there are strong progressive statements, empasising a duty of care and welcome to refugees. It also recognises the duty of solidarity to those countries who bear the brunt of welcoming refugees. It seems there is an EU agency for asylum and there is a need to move on from the Dublin Regime, which was designed to allow refugees some say in where they go, but has become a trap keeping them in the first place they arrive.

There are proposals on integration. This is another complex area of policy as in some decisions requirements to integrate can be posed against the rights to practice one’s culture and the development of a multi-cultural society. The EU should be one of the most sympathetic political entities in recognising the rights of multi-culturalism since it has so many.

At the least

In the UK, our politicians have been getting this wrong, albeit for 20 years, maybe even longer and is one of the reasons the UK voted for Brexit.

We need workers, we must welcome and protect refugees, we must allow people to love who they choose and marry who they choose and then live together. We should welcome students from abroad; they enrich the host nation’s culture and teach the young about the peoples of the world.

We cannot compromise with the racism inherent in anti-migrant policy; it’s the route to disaster.

We i.e. AEIP fear that adopting common standards will lead to a levelling down which is not what’s needed.

In some places in the document the words are unclear in intent and may be misused. I am reminded of the newspeak used by the UK Government in selling its offshore immigration camps to the UK and international public opinion. On aid and border control, the words may be innocuous but there is still time to get it wrong.

We need to ask ourselves, “Motives, motives, motives?”.

The truth is that migration and citizenship are currently split between the EU and the member states. Asking the member states to share the right to define citizenship is a big ask but when looking at the proposals in the Democracy chapter, it’s clear that citizenship needs to be more inclusive; one initiative that deserves support is the ECI “Votes without Borders­” which seeks to ensure that EU Citizens can vote in the EU no matter where they live. This should be supported, but sadly UK citizens, even those resident in the EU cannot sign the petition.

Democracy requires an inclusive view of who is a citizen, which while it’s an argument in the UK and other countries, the famous slogan of the American Revolution, “No taxation without representation” applies here. We can’t welcome people to work, pay taxes and then deny them the vote.

ooOOOoo

There were two questions, one on the accountability of politicians and, the second, asking if the EU can EU protect its citizen’s against an EFTA member.

Politicians can be held to account via the mechanisms of the institutions and by the political parties. The parties are part of civic society but as a member of the Labour Party I recognise that members and voters can’t always hold the politicians to account.

Citizenship of the EU gives its citizen’s the protection of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which can be exercised initially through the member state courts. It also avoids the longer passport control queues. The duty to protect citizens against harassment by a foreign government belongs to the member state. The EU embassies do not offer consulate services. …

Labour in London, not so good

Labour in London, not so good

Even now, on Saturday morning, it’s probably too early to say what the local elections mean politically. I feel I made a mistake commenting too early last year.

Over the last two days, the story has been that Labour did well in London; there are two punctures in that balloon, Harrow and Tower Hamlets. I believe these losses are caused by a sickness in both the Labour Party and possibly in society itself. In the Labour Party left-right factionalism allied to ultra-communalism/ethno-nationalism has broken both the Party and its connection with its electorate. When one stirs in two spoons of careerism this becomes deadly to the Party and to democratic politics.

I thought Harrow was vulnerable from looking at the Mayor & GLA results last year, as the early declaration of the Harrow & Brent seat results in the GLA elections (last year) had given us all a squeaky bum moment. Given that both councils were Labour, it was expected that there would be a strong vote for Sadiq; there wasn’t. Closer examination of the results suggested that Labour would  Harrow council; I thought that the polling predicted swing to Labour across London would be enough to save it. I was wrong.

The Tower Hamlets result is the culmination of 11 years of bad politics in both the Labour Party and Tower Hamlets; the community is now split on ethnic grounds. Some say it was the poor policies of Mayor Biggs, particularly on liveable streets/low traffic networks which was seen by many as serving the interests of a middle class party against the interests of brown (& white) working class who needed the mobility. In addition, the cuts, in public nurseries, and the notorious ‘fire and re-hire’ programme of the Mayor were unpopular with the Party and the community. This loss is made worse, for Labour, by last year’s referendum in TH to retain the Mayoral system in which Bigg’s Labour campaigned to retain it. My feelings on Mayors is well publicised but it’s possible that Aspire would not have been able to do so well if there wasn’t a ‘whole boro’ mandate being sought.

In Harrow, Labour lost to the Tories, and TH to Aspire. Harrow is over 52% ethnic minority and over 26% Indian, Tower Hamlets has over 55% ethnic minority and over 32% Bangladeshi.

While it is easy to name names in those two borough Labour Parties the true sickness is in Labour’s governance. London Labour has colluded with the leaderships of these two borough parties, specifically the MPs, and in the case of Tower Hamlets for over a decade. This is reinforced by McNicol’s attempts to use senior regional staff as weapon in the factional war, and then Evans’ redundancy programme. I believe that there are only two field/campaign staff left employed by London Labour.

Big governance decisions are not being taken with a view to building a democratic campaigning party or even a democratic parliamentary party. Wrong things have happened and are still happening.

There are plenty of people arguing that by prioritising a ‘blue labour’ policy vector, that Starmer’s Labour is telling the new members of Labour’s coalition that it has nothing to offer them and in doing so jeopardises the support of the young, workers, renters and ethnic minority voters. The relatively good results for the Lib Dems and Greens (& Aspire) shows that people do have somewhere else to go, and some have found out.  …

Labour & NATO

Labour & NATO

The Times ratchets up the argument in the Labour Party about NATO by repeating threats against those, including MPs, who take a more critical view of its history. A friend writes to me.

… it’s an interesting debate as to the role of NATO. The destruction of Libya and role in the Balkans doesn’t do wonders for its reputation. Yet I see Kier is concentrating on those MP’s who possibly question NATO’s role in conflict.

Haven’t we got more pressing priorities with this government both at home and abroad?

In my humble view the rhetoric of this government is very dangerous and upping the ante with Russia. Our leader needs to be urged to urge rapidly [that] Truss and Johnson to tone down their words of incitement.

We are an outlier in Europe after Brexit they are making us an outlier with our NATO partners.

This is not about opposing arming Ukraine or opposing NATO but opposing childish bellicose language from our Government to mask its other areas of scrutiny

Anonymous

It is a serious problem that Labour’s front bench seems more concerned with fighting it’s left wing, and not opposing the stupid, uber-military virtue signalling by this Government, led by a lazy man-child who if he has any sense of military strategy has learnt it from playing Risk. I think that the Tories’ boasting and grandstanding is unhelpful to the people of Ukraine and designed for home consumption but is in fact dangerous; it’s the Tories’ equivalent of ‘come on if you think you’re hard enough’. For the record, I believe that NATO is necessary, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that. Finland & Sweden’s reaction is obvious and if they decide to join should be supported.  …

Memories are made of this

Shrimsley in the FT reckons (£|θ) Starmer has long way to go to emulate Blair. He argues that if Starmer doesn’t define himself, then his enemies will do it for him. An interesting insight given what his advisors are leaking (£) to the Times. Shrimsley also argues that Blair focused ruthless on voters, not members or activists although I wonder if that trick can off pulled again but the biggest jog to the memory was the pledge card; and Labour cynics just thought it was important to say anything other than “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their labour by the public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

This shows how far we’ve come, in 1997, I wished for more radicalism, today, this would be welcome, although as a harbinger of the government’s programme, nothing on housing nor employee protection.  …

Is there a Starmer Project?

Is there a Starmer Project?

Oliver Eagleton has had a book, “The Starmer Project” published by Verso. Eagleton is the assistant editor of the New Left Review and has been doing the circuits to get the book some publicity. I placed my order late last week. It has been previewed by Eagleton himself on Novara Media, and reviewed by Richard Seymour in the New Statesman (£).

Eagleton compares Starmer with Blair, and finds him wanting as, he argues, does Blair, whom he suggests is exploring a Macron like personality based centrist project. Eagleton argues that despite Blair’s essential centrism, his politics had an optimism, originality and Blair was a great orator although, on the downside, he accuses Blair of introducing a crime for each day of office and he went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and lost 5m votes between 1997 and 2010. He argues all that’s left for Starmer is the authoritarianism and the need to expunge left social democracy as a political option for Britain. Eagleton also notes that Starmer’s cleaving to the Tory agenda is a result of Labour’s unwillingness and lack of ambition to rebuild/build a winning electoral coalition. Eagleton also did an interview with Caitlin Doherty of Jacobin which reprises these arguments and also reinforces the argument that Starmer is a bureaucrat, which is one of the reasons that Starmer’s attack lines are about managerialism and competence, and not on policy values. It’s a sad observation that the anti-corruption legal remediation comes from NGOs such as the Good Law Project.

Seymour writes a pen picture of Starmer’s route to today, his youthful leftism, his early days as a human rights lawyer, his slow route to becoming the DPP and his record in that role. Seymour summarises the position in 2015 as

By the time Starmer launched his political career in 2015 as Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, his radical days were behind him. He was a middle-of-the-road Atlanticist with close ties to the state. A number of “activists”, including City financier Paul Myners and Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee begged him to stand in the Labour leadership contest in 2015. He declined, backing Andy Burnham, with whom he was politically aligned, while favouring economic austerity and a tougher line on immigration. 

Seymour – New Statesman

I cannot believe the hubris of suggesting an MP with no time in the House of Commons stand for Leader; it’s on par with appointing people with no election campaigning experience to senior roles in the Labour Party’s organisation and field operations teams.

Seymour looks at Starmer’s role in Corbyn’s cabinet as the shadow spokesperson on Brexit. This is where I part company with Seymour. Labour’s slow move from a worker’s Brexit to a second referendum was driven by three things. The first, the unacceptability of the Tories terms, whether May’s or Johnson’s. Neither Labour Conference nor the 2017 manifesto agreed to “Brexit under any terms”; Fisher, its author, always reminds people, that Labour supported the results of the referendum, provided the terms were acceptable. Secondly, the majority of Labour’s members and voters wanted a second referendum and wanted to remain, much of Labour’s astonishing performance in 2017 was due to remainers having nowhere else to go with only Labour offering any hope of either better terms or remaining. This support within the Party for the EU and the obvious economic damage is what led Corbyn’s closest and longest term allies to come to the conclusion that the Tory Brexit had to be stopped. They became more public after #lab18 and Starmer’s speech. The third factor is that an influential faction within the Labour Party wanted Brexit on any terms; it proved impossible to persuade them to co-operate with the Party and its whip and their parliamentary allies were encouraged by senior members of Corbyn’s office. The reality was that there was no path to Lexit and while Seymour presents Corbyn as seeking to find one, it was never on the table and I question Corbyn’s commitment to it; LOTO were freelancing. May would not or could not compromise enough to get Labour on board and Seymour is silent on the role of Labour’s so-called Lexit MP votes in the meaningful votes (or on medium) in the Spring of 2019 which in retrospect can be seen to have sunk any chance of remaining and although not known at the time sank Corbyn’s leadership. If anything, Starmer’s ’18 speech prolonged Corbyn’s leadership; his interventions on immigration were unhelpful to the Remainer’s cause and to Corbyn.

I have no doubt that many of those inside the Labour Party campaigning for a second referendum did so in bad faith and in the hope of bringing Corbyn down, but not all and the so-called praetorian loyalists who wanted Brexit played into their hands and eventually legitimised the votes of those who voted for Johnson’s Tories for the first time because they too wanted Brexit.

Starmer in his election run for leader did not mention Brexit or the EU and neither did his 10 pledges. This was an obvious clue for those for whom Brexit was the critical issue. Throughout the Corbyn leadership, Starmer has been poor on immigration for instance insisting on toughening up the words in the ‘17 manifesto, other events are listed in Seymour’s review. He was not a serious remainer. Many Labour remainers will have voted for Starmer, but must be disappointed although the clues were there. Some of them have left.

I sort of wonder, why did he lie in his 10 pledges. Has he been captured by the progenitors of New Labour? Or as Seymour says, is triangulating with the Tories where he always wanted to go. Seymour also suggests that oddly like Johnson, the ambition to get the job, is more than the ambition to do something good. There is no doubt he has powerful friends and allies who sustain him in his uber-factional, yet politically empty project.

To get more of the story, we’ll have to wait for Michael Chessum’s book, “This Is Only the Beginning: The Making of a New Left which is not yet available; I am also hoping that Michael looks at the efforts of Labour RemaIN as Labour’s self-destruction over Brexit probably started within that campaign, or even in the seventies when Wilson allowed the Cabinet to do what they liked. This established the precedent that unlike elections, Labour members could campaign against the Party. …