Fit for the Future

Fit for the Future

There’s been a lot of words caused by Labour in Communication’s publishing of their report Fit for the Future. This was covered by Labour List, who majored on Neil Kinnock, who wrote a forward and gave an interview. Much of the press and labour party comment followed this lead and talk about the ongoing purge which Kinnock, surprisingly, suggests is a distraction. The usual culprits are banging on about the unacceptability of legacy Blairite politics and how Kinnock lost the next two elections after he expelled the Militant. This is not helpful and suggest that the report has not been read.

At “All That Is Solid … ” Neil Kinnock’s Timely Warning“, @philbc3 brings some much needed balance, he suggests that Starmer needs to get it right soon, or the rug will be pulled from underneath his feet.

Thing is, those piloting the Keir Starmer’s ship to its inevitable wreck aren’t serious about winning elections doesn’t mean this is true for all the Labour right. …. unease is abroad in the party, and it’s not confined only to a maligned and wilfully misunderstood left. Kinnock is reminding the leadership that things have got to change, or the leadership will, in due course, itself be changed.

Phil BUrTon Cartledge

Having read the document, which is not so much a series of policy promises but more about policy formulation & strategy and while some of it is written in the most appalling marketing speak, some of its headlines such as “Bring back pledge cards” seem inane. With a deeper reading, and once past the spaghetti vocabulary, there’s some interesting stuff that the legacy leadership and those surfing their coat tails aren’t going to like.

This is clearly written by committee, with separate sections on Broadcast & Print & Digital, followed by sections on Brand & Vision. Oddly in the section on Print and Broadcast, they state that purges are not going down well, as it shows a continued obsession with internal affairs.

However, this focus has also led to an unhealthy communications obsession with internal friction, which continues to tell a disinterested public that Labour is not yet ready to govern again

Fit for the Future Broadcast & Print

The section on Brand is the bastardised blue labour narrative nonsense that we have come to expect from people that consider themselves the outriders for the leadership, although I wonder how welcome this ‘help’ is. This argument is put forward by people who subscribe, to New Labour’s “they have no where else to go” theory of coalition building. They were wrong then and wrong now and Labour today is paying the price of that attitude. These policies and strategies/slogans will drive away members of the new coalition away, the young, (and university educated), city dwelling workers.

On Policy they note that Labour has made 200 policy announcements and yet, people don’t know where Labour stands, they add,

Our recommendation to Keir and his team, therefore, is to ensure that policy announcements stemming from the Policy Review possess clear reasoning, and are etched into a blueprint for the future. The titanic issues of climate change, social care reform, unprecedented inequality and the future of the Union are all policy areas that are crying out for Labour to demand change. …..

Fit for the Future POLICY

I add that getting to a position before the Tories might help; see the current furore around National Insurance and last year’s “get the back to school” statements. For a unifying narrative, how about “For the many not the few”, Oops that’s been taken.

Yet even then the four point plan (in the Vision section), equality, climate justice, crime and safety a great place to work and live is one most of Labour could agree with although whether if can win back the Red Wall is another matter, but it is a useful platform to consolidate and possibly expand Labour’s new coalition.

On reflection, maybe pledge cards would be good; if they promised something worth while and central to our offer, the problem with them before was that were a distraction and an attempt to reduce ambition. within the party. There are some who think this is not a bad idea.

This article is based on some thoughts I put on Twitter, which can be found on threadreader.


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Tanks

I went to the Tank Museum yesterday and took some pictures.

Challanger

It was interesting to visit the the week following the fall of Kabul; it makes at least one of the exhibits look a bit vainglorious. It also reminds me that I didn’t finish my story of the future of the Royal Armoured Corps from Boris’ defence review. It all makes me wonder about whether NATO can survive, and yet again, whether in areas of defence policy we see another dimension of the stupidity of Brexit.

There’s more to learn; on one slide they observe how the Army is always preparing for the last war. Reinforcing that I note that Tanks were invented during WWI in a Navy project, that like so many stories, the adoption in this case of the Tank was adopted by odd balls and that their was significant opposition bypowerul conservative (not Tory) factions in the Army, to the extent that during WW2 the Army fired Major General Hobart, and had to bring him back. Hobart, was not born into a military family and was assigned to the Royal Engineers; he became the Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Armoured Fighting Vehicles), he later became Director of Military Training and was the founder of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. There are many more examples of the slow adoption by the Army of the necessary tactics and technology, perhaps I’ll look them up and write something, if its not been done (I am sure it has).

As one walks in, the first exhibit talks about the design trilemma, of armour, firepower and mobility, a theme they revisit in commenting on a number of exhibits but if one recognises that the best tanks of the WWII were the US designed Sherman and Soviet T34, it becomes clear that cost, and manufacturing simplicity were also key. While tank on tank the allied tanks were inferior to their opponents, the allied forces had more than enough because they were simpler to make by design and the allied manufacturing capability was so much greater.  …

Not an option today

Own Jones, reflecting on the debate in Parliament, writes in the Guardian, “Even the crisis in Afghanistan can’t break the spell of Britain’s delusional foreign policy“. A crucial quote is, “The former prime minister is a fantasist: Britain has not had a foreign policy independent of the United States since the 1950s“. He then catalogues a series of what will come to be called war crimes by US & British forces. We went there because the USA invoked NATO solidarity and have left because again the US people got tired of foreign wars. The British Govt, was not consulted. The fact is as others have pointed out, the US is no longer a reliable geo-political ally at least for the UK, and possibly not for NATO yet the world remains dangerous, the UK needs Europe and needs the EU. Another reason that Brexit was a mistake.

Very well alone

I have copied the picture from the Guardian, in which it was originally published, they republished it in this article, “Lost empire: it’s a myth …” which looks at the historical revisionism showing the efforts the then Empire and nascent Commonwealth contributed to the UK’s “finest hour”.  …

Afghan Refugees II

I need to watch the Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan yesterday, but I have been busy helping JCWI (Joint Committee for the Welfare of Immigrants) and Another Europe is Possible in developing their responses.  I wrote something on my blog, focused on refugee assistance, although I called for the Govt. to suspend and rethink the Borders Bill. Here, overleaf, are some links and tweets suggesting actions that can be taken, if only retweeting or sharing; also statements from Lewisham Council and Labour Councils ....

On proscriptions

Before the NEC meeting at which it agreed to proscribe four organisations, a group of their members issued a statement.

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Labour’s lost millions?

But this is unfortunate timing … As the FT reports on the Tories foreign funding, FT reports on the Tories billionaire foreign funding (£), and the Guardian reports on Labour’s righteous attack where Annaliese Dodds is put up to make this point on the day that the Times, runs the story (£) , another unfortunate leak, for which we will have no leak enquiry, that Labour is doing the same.

This is a multi-million pound problem, rich donors cannot solve this problem, even if was desirable. Labour needs £2.7m per month to cover its running costs. Sorry about the paywalled articles. …

Shenanigans at London Labour 2021

Shenanigans at London Labour 2021

At London Labour Conference, the staff used a number of tricks to ‘control’ the zoom meeting. They closed the meeting early having failed to silence Katheryn Johnson, the outgoing Chair of the CAC and they also excluded Craig for asking questions about expulsions and the Forde Enquiry and there are rumours that they chucked out some delegates for ‘inappropriate’ background images by which I mean ones with the slogans ‘reinstate Jeremy Corbyn’ and “where’s the Forde Inquiry”. I am also concerned that not all people present in the meeting were validly nominated delegates and know that we were one delegate short as they had made a mistake, again, in calculating our delegate entitlement. During the first day, the Chair, failed to ask the mover of our motion to speak in summing up, and then proposed to move to the card vote. I was concerned that this would stand and tried to move a point of order; this was not possible. This is not the first time that London Region have used control of the meeting to ensure that meetings avoid taking decisions they don’t want taken. The rest of this blog looks at four of Labour’s Rules which have probably been broken.

Rule C9B.IV.9 Procedure at Regional Conference shall as far as practicable be informed by the Standing Orders agreed at the last session of Annual Conference.

The standing orders agreed at the last session of Annual Conference are in Chapter 17 and so the following two rules apply.

Rule C17 I.2.N.i Any breach of or question to the rules or standing orders may be raised by a member rising to a point of order.

It was not possible to raise points of order.

Rule C17.I.2.O.ii Any member acting in an unruly or disruptive manner, in contravention of the standing orders, may be removed from the meeting by action of the chair. The chair shall put such a motion to the meeting, which to be carried shall require the support of two-thirds of those present and voting.

People were excluded other than via this procedure.

C2.II.8 Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members. …

The Northern Ireland Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol

I was originally going to write something which I hope might be profound or provoking, but in the end, this just noted more of the Govt’s myopia. Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed to avoid border infrastructure on the island of Ireland. The UK Govt agreed … Boris and the DUP blew up May’s previous solution to the problem , which was to belong to the Customs Union while working out something better. The Guardian comments,

Just seven months after it came into force, the Northern Ireland protocol is once again a significant flashpoint in the UK’s relations with Dublin and Brussels.

On Wednesday, the UK published a “command paper” on the protocol. Some will see it as an attempt to tear up the agreement Boris Johnson struck in 2019; others will see it as a serious attempt to fix a deal they argue was flawed from the beginning but signed to help the British prime minister to get Brexit done, as he had promised.

Lisa O’Carrol, The Guardian

Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister presented a command paper to Parliament last week. This article looks at the paper, its proposals and puts them in a historical/political context. It looks at the contribution  to Northern Ireland’s problems that the end of Freedom of Movement has caused. It asks if the supply chain problems in Northern Ireland are the real concerns of the Govt or if  It then looks at the potential political cost in international reputation and ends looking at the theories explored in “The need for enemies”[3]. In terms of Brexit problems, re-joining the customs union and single market looks quite good.

Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law, University of Liverpool Joint Editor, Common Market Law Review writes on Twitter,

The command paper is an attempt to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Withdrawal Agreement which left Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area for the purposes of intra-Ireland trade. The NIP was Boris’s jolly wheeze to allow him to present Brexit as an oven ready deal and allow him to distinguish his deal from May’s which had agreed, unless other agreements could be found, to keep NI and Great Britain in the EU Customs Union. While some of the Tory backbenches saw the cost of May’s delaying tactic as too high a price, and the DUP only caught on after Johnson’s election had made their support unnecessary, there were substantial reasons or at least as far as the Vote Leave faction in the Tory Party were concerned, for making this change, but one key priority was Tory Party management and today we need to ask did Frost and Johnson understand or care; the Northern Ireland protocol which was presented by many as a customs border in the Irish Sea and was always going to be a problem for the “Vote Leave” extremists, and many others. This was done exclusively for reasons of party management.

Frost proposes that the Govt UK & EU replaces the current regime of documenting all goods’ rules of origin and satisfactory quality to documenting them for only[1] those goods for which the final destination of is Northern Ireland. Chris Grey in his blog, “The Frost-Johnson approach has already failed “.

These include a revival of the ‘honesty box’ idea in place of customs checks, a Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) ‘dual regulatory’ system, and the removal of the ECJ’s role in governance. These suggestions are not explained in any great detail, but in many ways they quite closely resemble the proposals made in October 2019, and rejected by the EU …

Chris Grey

This would be a problem for the EU which it seems has already rejected these proposals in 2019; if we act as an entrepôt for goods from outside the UK, EU tariffs will not be collected while safety rules and rules of origin may be subverted. This would also cause the EU problems with its relationships with Switzerland and Norway as they (and others) may also ask that these provisions are extended to them. To agree this, trust between the EU & UK would need to be higher than it is, and what trust exits will have been damaged by the way in which the command paper was trailed with threats of its revocation.

The paper also objects to the significant residual authority of the ECJ and Commission in Northern Ireland and the increase in power of the EU institutions that these compromises would require. This is a political objection and the problems cited are evidence free. The UK Govt. has sought remove the EU jurisdiction from the UK over many issues[2], but the Northern Ireland Protocol belongs to Johnson’s administration. Are they seriously trying to wind these provisions back? It would be a major step if so, and remind everyone as to whether it was signed in good faith in the first place and raise questions of trust throughout the world.

The EU took 24 hours to say, that they will not renegotiate the NIP,

We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the Protocol on IE/NI, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to its renegotiation.

Maroš Šefčovič

While the Northern Ireland protocol is a key point of conflict, the Trade & Co-operation Treaty agricultural product grace periods have been unilaterally extended for 6 months at which point the UK is committed to meeting its trade border commitments under the treaty and the world trade organisation rules. This will likely exacerbate the difficulties in the food supply chain within the UK and most acutely in Northern Ireland. Some of the political pressure is being applied by the major UK food retailers who are carrying the burden of the documentation costs and are also suffering from a shortage of lorry drivers, [BBC | FT (£)] another effect of Brexit’s abolition of freedom of movement. While a burden to the large companies, the documentation overhead, costs and transport shortages are worse for the SMEs. Is the fear truely about Northern Ireland, or are they concerned that the expiry of the control free grace periods will make things worse in England!

Meanwhile other national leaders issue warnings that negotiations must be undertaken in good faith and that commitments made are kept, a warning to the Johnson Govt. Further warnings will be sent or have been sent by the Biden Administration and other US friends of Ireland. The UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention, which involves mutual recognition of national courts. has also been vetoed by the Commission.

The EU have responded in that both  Maroš Šefčovic reported by Sky News, and Ursula van der Leyen have rejected the proposal to renegotiate the NIP but a continuing conflicting crises suits Johnson & Frost, their Brexit war continues although there may be simple ways out of this particular impasse, the most obvious is membership of the single market, which with the re-establishment of freedom of movement, might mean we could get the food lorries moving again although there are less dramatic compromises.

This behaviour by Frost and Johnson is reinforcing the world wide view that they signed a deal to ‘get over the line’, lied to the UK electorate and had no intention of abiding by the terms of the agreement. This is their deal, the problems were foreseen, they need to own it. This isn’t the last of these bogus crises, the UK-EU future Trade & Co-operation agreement is full of deadlines and reviews which will allow Johnson to continue to paint the EU as bad faith actors and rile up his base. In “The need for enemies[3], it is posed with evidence, that politicians with a reputation for solving a problem, have little incentive in doing so. This seems to inform Boris Johnson’s strategies when his inherited laziness permits him the time to strategise.

We need to be clear, this is a crisis of Brexit and while this one will probably be resolved, there will be another one, probably quite soon. It all makes Brexit a questionable endeavour with limited support in the UK.

The EU, it seems are coming to the conclusion that Johnson and Frost signed the withdrawal agreement in bad faith and have always meant to renege on it


[1] Goods excluded would be declared by a ‘light touch’ declaration albeit using a system that does not yet exist

[2] However, the CJEU still has some jurisdictional authority over citizenship issues.

[3] “Fergusson, Leopoldo and Robinson, James A and Torvik, Ragnar and Vargas, Juan F” (2012). “The Need for Enemies”. National Bureau of Economic Research: {10.3386/w18313} http://www.nber.org/papers/w18313

See also, if you want, my notes page on the Northern Ireland Protocol. …