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Category archive for: Labour

The forgotten side of Tony Benn

Written by Steven Fielding.

Most of the reactions to the death of Tony Benn in early 2014 focused on the man who turned left in the 1970s, embraced union militancy and became “the most dangerous man in Britain”. That was, however, Benn Mark II, arguably the less interesting version, and certainly the one less relevant to our own times, one in which the parties are desperately seeking to regain a connection with the people.

A while back I wrote a book about how Labour responded to the many cultural changes generated in the 1960s. In that decade Benn emerged as one of the party’s few leading figures who tried to seriously think though how the party might engage with at least some of them. Continue reading The forgotten side of Tony Benn

Labour reshuffle: why Benn was kept in Corbyn tent, while others were cast out

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

After one of the most protracted reshuffles in recent years, the new shadow cabinet has finally been announced. Michael Dugher was first to be sacked from his position as shadow culture secretary and, more than 12 hours later, Europe spokesman Pat McFadden went the same way.

Emily Thornberry, who opposes the Trident nuclear deterrent alongside Corbyn, has been brought into the fold as the new shadow defence secretary, replacing the pro-Trident Maria Eagle, who has been demoted to shadow culture secretary.

Even after taking more than 30 hours to reach his decisions, Corbyn faced an immediate backlash. Kevan Jones, the shadow minister for the armed forces, has already resigned , citing his support for Trident. Continue reading Labour reshuffle: why Benn was kept in Corbyn tent, while others were cast out

Jeremy Corbyn: George Lansbury reborn?

Written by Steven Fielding.

Having suffered a crushing defeat, the Labour party has turned to a London MP of pensionable age, a man of pristine socialist commitment.

I could be talking about Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. But I’m actually referring to George Lansbury in 1932.

Few outside Labour’s ranks have heard of Lansbury. If he enjoys any fame it’s as the grandfather of Hollywood stalwart Angela Lansbury and Clangers creator Oliver Postgate. But for those left-wing activists of Jeremy Corbyn’s generation he remains an inspiration. Continue reading Jeremy Corbyn: George Lansbury reborn?

Party mechanics: why Labour would struggle to oust Jeremy Corbyn

Written by Tom Quinn.

Despite his firm stance, Jeremy Corbyn has lost a parliamentary vote on military intervention in Syria, in no small part thanks to members of his own party voting with the government. The chaos of Corbyn’s leadership so far seemingly leaves open the question of whether he might resign or be overthrown.

Although a sizeable number of Labour MPs voted with the government over Syria, it is clear that the wider party is behind Corbyn. If moderates in the party think this vote might help them get rid of Corbyn as leader, they are very much mistaken. In fact, their options look quite limited. Continue reading Party mechanics: why Labour would struggle to oust Jeremy Corbyn

Full marks for oratory, but Hilary Benn gets a C in history for Syria speech

Written by Andrew Mumford.

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the house will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House.

So began the final moments of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s speech to the British parliament as it debated whether to enter the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

This was a speech delivered by the quiet man of the Labour frontbenches with steely determination and emotive appeal. But perhaps most importantly it was a plea to certain historical traditions designed to sway Labour colleagues to vote for the airstrikes. Continue reading Full marks for oratory, but Hilary Benn gets a C in history for Syria speech

Corbyn leadership and Labour’s long history of rebellion and betrayal

Written by Martin Farr.

Maomentum – itself a testament to the alacrity of social media – last week tweeted: “Every Labour leader has betrayed the party the moment he walked into Downing St”, adding: “Thank god under @jeremycorbyn this can never happen again.”

The future’s no period for a historian – and humour always a hazard – but betrayal has long been the handmaiden of parliamentary socialism in Britain. Ramsay MacDonald in 1931, Harold Wilson in 1970, James Callaghan in 1979 and Tony Blair in 2007 all left office being regarded as having failed the party – and the more electorally successful they were, the more their reputations suffered. Continue reading Corbyn leadership and Labour’s long history of rebellion and betrayal

Little red joke: Corbyn Labour’s most pressing problem is with media

Written by Andrew Scott Crines.

It was always going to be a car-crash moment for Labour. When, during his reply to to George Osborne’s autumn statement, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, chose to flourish Chairman Mao’s little red book, he was simply playing into the hands of a hostile media that sits in wait for moments such as this. Far from focusing on the chancellor of the exchequer’s U-turn over tax credits, political journalists obsessed over this gaffe, while the Treasury benches erupted in delighted mirth.

This highlights one of the most pressing problems for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership. A seeming inability to manage their relationship with the media. Continue reading Little red joke: Corbyn Labour’s most pressing problem is with media

The self-defeating hard left of the 1980s is making a comeback. It won’t end well

Written by Stefano Bonino.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has not just moved the opposition dramatically to the left. It is also part of a slip back towards the hard-line leftism of the 1980s, an era of extremely heated social, racial and class conflict that centre-leftists long hoped had been consigned to the past.

Corbyn himself was, of course, a big feature of that era, and long embodied some of its more unappealing tendencies. Throughout his political career, Corbyn has often extended his hand to the “oppressed”, but often on a misguided basis. By sharing platforms with anti-semites – although there is no suggestion that he is one – and maintaining close relationships with groups opposed to British interests, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the new Labour leader has often erred on the side of divisive radicalism rather than political astuteness. Continue reading The self-defeating hard left of the 1980s is making a comeback. It won’t end well

Tax credits showdown: for once, public opinion may be with the House of Lords

Written by Louise Thompson.

After a week of anticipation and a tough three-hour debate, the House of Lords finally voted on the government’s controversial plans to cut tax credits for 3m households. Rumours abounded that a vote against the government would trigger a “constitutional crisis”, and Conservatives warned that the prime minister would simply pack the upper chamber with Conservative peers should the lords veto the plans.

In the end, the house defeated the government not once but twice, delaying the plans until the chancellor can find a way of compensating those affected by the cuts.

It’s not uncommon for governments to be defeated in the House of Lords, and this government is especially vulnerable there. Unlike the House of Commons, where David Cameron has a majority of MPs, the presence of more than 150 crossbench peers in the House of Lords means he has no working majority. He has already been defeated several times over the past few months. Continue reading Tax credits showdown: for once, public opinion may be with the House of Lords

A reassuring coastal break, but Corbyn now has a deadline to turn Labour around

Written by Eunice Goes.

After being called the “most dangerous man in British politics”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn decided to use his first party conference in Brighton to show he is as normal and British as a cup of milky tea – despite his record as a radical socialist.

Considering Labour’s catastrophic defeat in the last election, this may appear a very modest goal – but Corbyn needs to clear this hurdle before he can even begin to convince sceptic voters in marginal seats to support his agenda. So, Brighton was as much about reassuring the wider public about the “normalcy” of his politics as it was celebrating his election as Labour leader.

When he arrived on stage to deliver his first conference speech he looked relaxed and personable. His self-deprecating tone was well received by the very sympathetic audience in the conference hall. He tried to make the most of the lack of unity within the shadow cabinet by showing that he was open to discussing issues – to persuade and be persuaded. Continue reading A reassuring coastal break, but Corbyn now has a deadline to turn Labour around