Are You Keeping Up?

A little like yesterday I have things to do during the day, but it feels impossible to leave the news and my twitter feed for more than hour before another political story breaks.

img_2293

Last night I finished a quick update on the runners and riders I thought would be on the Tory leadership ballot paper today. I hovered for a moment last night about writing about Gove as their seemed some coverage about him considering his position but decided against it in the end. Instead I used the opportunity to encourage Morgan and Hunt not to humiliate themselves with ‘bids’ or throwing their hat in the ring. I got that bit right but I certainly didn’t see how the morning was going to unfold and just how quickly the Boris Johnson master plan would come tumbling down after Gove announced he was standing because he couldn’t trust him. This led to a mixed emotion. I have dreaded Boris becoming our PM and turning politics into a farce and our country into a laughing stock. But the idea that the future of our country may be in the hands of Gove fills with me with even greater dread. It means I am now hoping that Theresa May defeats him. You wouldn’t have heard me say that in any other sentence in the last 18 years. I can but hope that like many Tory leadership elections there are surprises along the way and we don’t end up with either of them.!

I filled my twitter timeline with some reactions to Boris v Gove and lots of retweets – far more than I could cover here. But there are some great clips of Gove dismissing and promising to sign in blood that he didn’t want to be PM and confirming he wouldn’t be very good at the job. Can we have that Gove back please?

Labour Woes won’t go Away 

We were expecting a 3pm news conference from Angela Eagle today where it was widely expected that she would launch her leadership bid. She has the numbers. But for some reason it hasn’t happened yet.

But Labour today has continued to tear itself apart with Corbyn digging in for a fight and putting out an email (where he even misspells his own name) calling for Unity and leadership. I can’t disagree with those aspirations. But Clearly Corbyn cannot offer either and must resign for the sake of the party. A political party is bigger then one person – and it certainly bigger than an MP who rebelled against the party over 400 times in my years in Parliament and never showed any respect for an elected leader.

We saw another resignation from my old friend Rob Marris MP. And if anybody accuses Rob of being a Blairite I will scream. Just look at his record. Rob speaks out for what he believes.

I wrote a quick update this morning about where I think this internal fight will end up. I am now convinced it will in the medium term a realignment of politics in the centre. There is now a fundamental difference and battle lines drawn between the Labour Party, the new Momentum led Labour Party, the MPs, MEPs and Councillors who have served the Party for decades and more importantly with its voters. The splits we saw across the country over Brexit are equally obvious within Labour and its support. The next short period will decide the sort of country we are. It is not going to be pleasant. But I hope once we get beyond this summer we can get on with healing the wounds and working on a long-term plan to allow these differences of opinion to be heard. I have already had to mute and unfriend a few abusers on my social media. I intend my comments to remain civil, persuasive and posted after some thought. I imagine I will lose some people along the way but I intend to do what I think is right for the Labour Party I joined in 1983 as student and have served on the doorsteps and yes in the Council Chamber and finally for a period in the House of Commons. I fought and won a marginal Midlands seat 3 times and know how hard it is t build a coalition of support to in seats like Loughborough. Even under Miliband we are now 9,000 votes behind. I imagine under Corbyn we would be even further behind. For the sake of the people I came into politics to serve I want to create an electable Labour Party that can improve their lives – not create a social movement that just campaigns and makes the campaigners feel better about their ideology.

I am sorry if that is not the position you take. But it does not now give you the right to call me a traitor, Blairite etc. It means I have taken a considered alternative decision based on 30 years of doorstep work in a marginal seat. I will remain above the abuse but don’t be offended if you abuse on social media that blocking and muting and unfriending will be happening.

Let’s start the battle for the future of the Labour Party – but do it in a comradely way.

 

Realignment of British Politics 

Is the realignment of British politics happening in front of our eyes. Is this summer going to be a period where all of our certanties disappear and 2017 will feel a very different world? 

I finished blogging last night with the line up of the potential Tory contenders for the leadership (and of course being our next PM) becoming clear. The uncertainty of what will happen to Corbyn over the next 48 hours throws the future of Labour into the mix too. The consequences of another leadership battle with Momentum members winning for Corbyn in the summer could effectively mean the end of Labour as we know it. This is worthy of a full post, but in an interesting Twitter exchange with Brian Moore today (he campaigned for me in 97 in Loughborough) the potential popularity of a progressive centre left party is obviously popular.  In a provocative article Tim Farron has already signalled he is ready to see change and the Greens and Plaid have already signalled they are open to fresh thinking. If we need any confirmation that realignment is taking place we only have to look at Scotland to see how the old left/right binary decisions are falling away. The rise of UKIP however unwelcome has to be addressed. As this chart below shows the binary left right doesn’t answer the current divide in politics.

 We know the #brexit Leave vote was heavily divided too – by age, social class, eduction, geography, etc. Our political map has become equally divided. After 2015 Labour in the South was roundly beaten (with notable exceptions like EXETER) and the Tories remain non existent in large urban areas in the North.


So there are no simple answers and whilst today I will be live updating on the Corbyn debacle here and on Twitter these are longer term trends that need addressing. I think the battle over the soul of the Labour Party is part of this larger debate but it is being turned into a left/right battle. This is a short term solution to the fracturing we are seeing above.

I have given my public support calls for Corbyn to go. This is partly ideological (I’m not from the far left but the soft left – and not a Blairite) but also more importantly about having a leadership that is capable of leading in a modern political age. That means moder communication and the ability to articulate a vision and to create a team. Corbyn has no discernible leadership qualities – that’s obvious. But as I wrote during the leadership election the qualities needed to lead a political party were very rarely discussed! 

“The problem is Corbyn does not love the Labour Party as many of the Shadow cabinet members do – he has spent most of his life attacking it. He wants to build a social movement not a successful parliamentary political party. I don’t mind him wanting to do that – but don’t destroy the Labour Party I have been a member of since 1983 to achieve it”

So the rest of this week will see the battle lines drawn for a summer of madness in politics. I will be shouting from the sidelines here on this site whilst trying to keep my business going! 

9.00 30th June 2016

Two Leadership Battles by Teatime 

It has been difficult over the last few days to fit in work without being distracted by the hourly update of news from Westminster. It has equally been difficult to know at which point in the day to jot down these few ramblings to sum up what has happened – as it all feels as though it has changed by the time I can sit down to write. 

This morning I thought I would turn my attention to the Leadership battle in the Tory Party, as this I’ll have the most profound impact on us immediately as their ‘leader’ also becomes our new Prime Minister wit responsibility for negotiating our #Brexit from Europe. Over the next few days the number of MPs with enough nominations to get onto the ballot paper will become clear. Already we know that Boris Johnson and Theresa May will probably be the front runners for the number of nominations from MPs. The electorate in the first instance will the Tory Parliamentary Party who will narrow down the runners to just two MPs to go forward to a ballot of the wider 130,000 members. Our future is being put in the hands of this group of people. 

On top of Johnson and May we have already seen a rugby playing friend of mine Stephen Crabb MP put his hat in the ring with a very public launch today. In politics it often being in the right place at the right time. For Stephen this leadership campaign has probably come a little too soon. A few of his colleagues are quietly impressed by him but wanted to see him grow in the DWP portfolio to get the measure of him. A few saw it as their job to have I’m as the One Nation candidate hen Cameron stood down in 2019. You can’t plan what happens in politics so Stephen has had to enter this battle probably 2 years before he wanted to.

The other thing that always amazes me at this stage in the ‘pre- running’ phase is how many MPs are prepared to think they should have a shot at the Leadership. In the past I remember being sounded out by a really strange mix of people to run for leadership roles within the PLP and at times even for the leadership of the party or deputy leadership. I often found it difficult to not sound so dismissive. Today that moment came when I heard Jeremy Hunt and Nicky Morgan were likely to put their names into the battle ahead. Now I know I worked with Nicky on a cross party basis just ahead of the EU Referendum, but the idea that she thinks she has the skills to be Prime Minister shows a lack of self awareness. The Mae goes for Jeremy. Over a few issues around sport and health I got to know him and find him pleasant. I know junior doctors and many in the NHS wouldn’t share my view. I am not sure who is advising him (actually I do know his SPAD) but sometimes I wish they were a little more honest with their friends and explained they shouldn’t run for their own dignity.


Others likely to enter the race or taking soundings include John Baron. Who I can hear you say. Precisely. If he has friends they will surely tell him not to bother.

It is possible that Andrea Leadsom may enter the race after a few semi decent performances during  the referendum campaign. That’s all it seems to take these days. A level of competence on NewsNight or a TV debate and suddenly you are Prime Minister material. 

It does seem that Liam Fox is having serious thoughts about entering the race. He is probably past his best and missed his chance when being forced to step down from the Cabinet some years ago.

As I said at the start – it’s impossible to fully plan a political career. Just 12 months ago George Osborne would have thought the crown was his. He probably wouldn’t even make he ballot paper now e has become so toxic. I can’t say I am too disappointed.

So early predictions. At this stage Johnson and May are the front runners. Johnson has gained a lot more support than I imagined as he is not that popular amongst his colleagues. I had an office on the same floor as him in Parliament. I don’t think he could have ever been there and certainly never passed the time of day with me or my staff. 

But leadership elections don’t always go to plan. Cameron’s came from nowhere to win the Tory leadership. There were not many who predicted the Corbyn surge last year. I suspect there are a few twists and turns and a few surprises before we get to learn who our new Prime Minister will be, and therefore I’m not going to make any from predictions just yet. 

The Labour Party cannot be accused of being quiet today either. All the MEPs have signed a letter asking CORBY to go, as have previous labour leaders, Beckett, Brown and Miliband. It sounds as though Corbyn even refused to talk about the situation with his deputy Tom Watson during a shared car journey to a Polish centre today. PMQs for anybody who saw it was excruciating. Corbyn was heard in silence from his own benches.

If it is true that Angale Eagle is willing  and able to form a challenge tomorrow with backing from 51 Labour MPs the phoney war is over and a full on contest will start. If that is the case I may have a busy day tomorrow working out how this will all pan out over the summer. At this stage I fear it could end in the disaster of the demise of the Labour Party. 

(Please excuse all mistakes in this article rushed out on my iPad)

No Confidence in Jeremy

So today Jeremy Corbyn lost a vote of no confidence in his leadership but vowed to fight on….

20160628_154641000_iOS

After the drama of the resignation from his Shadow Cabinet over the last 48 hours, Jeremey Corbyn faced the vote of No Confidence today. He lost and lost badly. Most people in such circumstances would do the honourable thing and step down. But Corbyn has insisted it changes nothing and he will carry on.

So what happens now? The ‘process’ is set you below, but these are the formalities. What happens now politically is what will be interesting. The Corbynites will fall back on their belief that the new Labour party membership (including all those £3 members) will back him in the same numbers as before, if the PLP is able to force a formal leadership challenge, given that he is making it clear he is going nowhere.

You know my views – I wouldn’t have had to resign from the front bench because I don’t think I could have served honestly when asked if I thought Jeremy had the skills to be a successful leader and take the party into government as our Prime Minister. I kept quiet over the last few months to allow him to show us that I and others were wrong. Unfortunately the situation has not improved. As everybody says Jeremy is a lovely guy – unlike many of those who surround him – but he is simply not up to the job of being an effective leader of a modern political party who can communicate with the voters we need to win over to win a general election. I see nothing that convinces me otherwise. I know he enthuses the small band of the electorate that have joined Labour… but that is not the same as winning over voters who seem to be leaving in even larger numbers.

In the past I have remained loyal to political leaders because that is what we do in the Labour Party. But I am now convinced we don’t have the luxury of backing an electoral liability. It is time for a new leader.

The Process from here:-

Labour Leadership – Process  

The Party’s constitution* includes official measures for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) to call an ‘extraordinary conference’ to choose a new leader if they pass a vote of no confidence in the current one.
 In such a case, 20 per cent of the PLP would have to agree on a new candidate before the conference could take place.   At 25 percent of the PLP, such a move would force a leadership contest.
To elect a new leader, nomination papers would be provided for all Members of Parliament (Westminster). The closing date of PLP nominations would be set out in a timetable.

Individual members of the Commons PLP may nominate themselves or one other member of the Commons PLP for the position of leader and themselves or one other member of the Commons PLP for the position of deputy leader.
Nominees who achieve 15 per cent support of the Commons members of the PLP will be declared validly nominated and go through to the One Person One Vote (OPOV) ballot of contested positions.
John Cryer MP is currently the chair of the PLP, elected unopposed in 2015.
However, recent party legal advice has suggested that the need to have 20 per cent of MPs or MEPs’ nominations only applies to challengers, not to the ‘incumbent’. It also suggests the incumbent does not require to be nominated in order to appear on the ballot paper”.
The conflicting legal opinions could see the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol come to a decision, though the party’s ruling NEC may also decide that the current advice was sufficient to allow Corbyn an unhindered shot at getting on the ballot.
Voting  
All members are awarded a single vote, as well as affiliated organizations (trade unions and socialist societies) and temporary registered supporters.  The party uses an alternative voting system – each voter had to place the candidates in order of preference.
If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the vote in the first round, the candidate that got the least first preferences get eliminated and their supporters’ second preferences votes are redistributed until one candidate achieves an overall majority.
The voting system for the deputy leadership works in the same way as the main leadership race.
Of the 553,954 people who were given a say in the election in 2015:

54 per cent were full-party members 

26 per cent were trade union members 

20 per cent are people were registered supporters who paid £3 to get a vote

A Norway #Brexit?

As soon as the referendum was won for #leave you could feel the fear hitting their leading campaigners. They didn’t expect to win (As Farage admitted defeat and then changed his mind again within a couple of hours) and as has become abundantly clear they have no plan or any idea about what to do about the mess they have caused. For anybody who studies body language this car crash of a press conference Sid it all on Friday morning. 


It was ok for Boris and Gove to take a few hours off – but it seems Boris disappeared to write his £200k a year Telegraph  column and plan his leadership bid. As you can see the hubris of the campaign was replaced with a plea to join the EU as the answer to the mess he created.  As I wrote yesterday the various so-called promises from Leave unraveled because they didn’t think they would have to implement them. £350m for the NHS – a ‘mistake’. Stopping migrating from Europe – ‘we never said that or gave a number’ 

The battle now moves to the Tory leadership battle for who becomes our Prime Minister. The future of our country is now in the hands of Tory MPs about which two candidates it puts to the 130,000 Tory Party activists. From listening to Labour Party activists and £3 members last year we know how well that goes! 

But what we will need to see from the candidates are the details of what they now stand for. Sound bits are no longer good enough. They have months to declare the details of their plans for BREXIT. Will we want to join the Single Market and if so what will we accept on freedom of movement and our contribution?  This would be closer to the Norway model (paying In to get the access to the Single tariff free Market and accept a liberal immigration regime). The alternative might be nearer a Canadian model with a bespoke deal for the Single Market with its own immigration rules. This is where the battle lines are now drawn. This is why referendum are so poor at deciding such complex issues. They are not binary in or out but a complex set of interactions. The country is already rudderless and we will remain so for the next 3 months as the Tory party tears itself apart over these questions. 

But to make us feel worse about the chaos that could ensue – Boris and Gove disappeared today just when we need them to be starting to set your what they would do. For the sake of the country we can’t leave our future to these two chancers. Serious times ahead call for serious people not the pantomime clown Boris Johnson. 

Where Next? 

It has been a long 72 hours attached to the news cycle and my social media feeds. It was therefore a welcome break to be at OpenHeaven this morning but talk about the referendum and the fallout was never far away. The danger of speaking out last week in the Loughborough Echo alongside Tory MP Nicky Morgan is that people keep asking me to throw my hat back into the ring! Or assuming I had already  I can assure all those asking I am now committed to working to creating a better world in other and different ways. I am afraid the door to front line politics has been closed for me. I took the hint in 2010 after losing in Loughborough that it was time to move on.  I will explain in  more detail after this current ‘situation’ moves on!

I am almost not sure where to begin. There are multiple stories running today that I feel the urge to write about all of them but I have narrowed them down to these 5 or 6 for today!

  • The lack of any plan for Leave
  • Why the 48% Remainers shouldn’t just shut up
  • The resignation of Cameron & who will be our PM by October
  • How #Brexit will or will not play out…
  • The Labour Leadership crisis…
  • The Deep Divisions in society that won’t be healed in the near future..

By any normal standards each one of these would be enough to fill our 24 hour news. All too often there isn’t enough to keep these platforms going but today is not one of them. 

1. Like many of us who campaigned against Leave we were constantly frustrated by the media inability or unwillingness to ask them any serious questions about their ‘plans’ post referendum. We knew their sounbites and slogans were misleading, or even lies that they shamelessly repeated even when told not to by the independent Statistical Authority. 

If you watched the excruciating Leave press conference you will have realised that Johnson & Gove suddenly looked uncomfortable and shifty with their victory. The Leave campaign started backtracking pretty quickly on their promised NHS spending or event he idea that they would halt the freedom of movement. This pair know that we need migration and immigrants to help our economy but wouldn’t admit it during the campaign – instead happy to hide behind the dog whistle politics of Farage. 

This is now a serious issue as leave campaigners were celebrating Independence Day yesterday! I have already seen reports of incidence of hate crimes taking place in the last 48 hours. They have unleashed an expectation of a halt in immigration and even repatriation almost immediately.  They unleashed this vile politics and then have disappeared to plan their assault on the Tory Party to get Boris into No10. It is a dereliction of duty. They had no plan, they still have no plan and they are leaving Britain exposed on the word economic scene, and in Europe as other countries move to make us hurry up and leave! 

More later as we look at some of the other issues 

1731 Sunday 26th June 2106 

Although as one helpful tweet pointed out – this picture sums up Leave at the moment


1750 Sunday 26th June 

Labour Party Coup Begins 

Politics in the UK changed dramatically on Friday morning. Not just the referendum result itself but the ramifications for the leadership of the political parties. Clearly Cameron understood this and resigned as we all expected.


The lack of leadership shown by Corbyn during the referendum campaign only led to further frustration with him from within Westminster. I personally thought his performances were truly awful. 

But the sacking of Hilary Benn overnight and the possible resignation of over half of the shadow cabinet this morning will force the issue of his leadership. 

I think most people realise where I stand on this. I have recognised from the start that Jeremy is popular amongst the new Labour membership but is an electoral disaster. His inability to do his job during the biggest political event in our lives only highlighted his unsuitability to become our Prime Minister. That is what the leader of Labour in opposition should be.. The next PM. I don’t know  anybody outside his core inner circle and supporters who believe he is capable of winning an election. I don’t even think this is his or their priority.

We could be months away from a general election. Whoever wins the Tory leadership may feel the need for a fresh mandate from the country. When Gordon Brown took over from Blair the constitutional position was clear – no election is necessary. But in hindsight perhaps Gordon should have gone to the country when we were seriously considering it in 2007 and cold have won. Many of the Tories demanded he went to the country for a fresh mandate. It I’ll be interesting to see if they demand the same now they are in power?! 

So politics as well as the fallout from the EU referendum will give me plenty to write about over the coming weeks.