Corbyn Speech: Not Such a Bad Idea

After resuming the Labour campaign on Friday, Jeremy Corbyn suffered.

Speech samples were leaked to the media on Thursday, preparing us for what would be a day of controversy, so close to Monday’s attack.

I made my concerns clear here, and some of these concerns remain. How the media handles (and has handled) this speech, could be problematic.

But Jeremy’s team knew this. Seumas Milne, James Schneider, Andrew Gwynne and others, aren’t idiots.

A strategy was developed. A plan created. Polls, presumably, conducted.

So let’s take a look.

Potential advantages of the speech: to put clear water between the Labour vision of how, why and when government should act; to acknowledge Jeremy’s own views and principles to ensure clarity for the public (in his own words, “You deserve to know what a Labour government would do to keep you safe. Our approach will involve change at home & change abroad;” and to ensure all foreign policy debate or past “links” to the IRA or others were discussed before the final ten days of the election. (It would be better, surely, to enter this discussion in his own time, than to face an ambush on Monday’s Sky News Q & A, or later in the campaign. To open the debate now would force the discussion, with no secrets held and (hopefully) no re-runs necessary as the campaign progressed).

Additionally, with Theresa May in Europe, the announcement would provide some breathing space, with only Fallon, Rudd and Johnson available to criticise him.

So what happened?

Media headlines focused on “the Labour leader drawing links between our foreign policy and Monday’s attack.” Conservative politicians lined-up to criticise him. Interviewers tried to present the leader as “out-of-touch” and “insensitive.”

The fall-out was brutal.

But, come evening, the tide started to turn…

Fallon suffered a Channel 4 interview where he (unwittingly) criticised his colleague (and Foreign Secretary) Boris Johnson, for comments he thought belonged to Jeremy Corbyn; which also undermined Johnson’s claim Corbyn’s perpsective was “monstrous.

The former British Ambassador to Libya appeared on BBC News to make clear Jeremy Corbyn had some valid points – and his concerns were not only valuable but shared by many in the Intelligence community.

And even Sky News Political Editor, Faisal Islam, took a balanced approach, and again focused on Theresa May’s shambolic campaign.

When Theresa May resumes her campaign, two things could happen: first, she could launch it by speaking about the importance of security and the “inability” of Jeremy Corbyn to deliver it or, second, she could revert to type and talk about Brexit.

There is no way – whatsoever – Theresa May can talk about the Conservative manifesto or domestic politics. She has proven that, A., the manifesto is deeply unpopular and, B., even she doesn’t like it, which is why she’s performed two u-turns before the election has even taken place (which is probably why she has cancelled the resumption of her campaign).

These actions are unprecedented. And we need to defend Jeremy Corbyn as much as we expose Theresa May and her Conservative Party.

Yesterday, I wrote that if  Jeremy chose to resume the campaign talking about foreign policy, he would open himself up to all these attacks and damage the precious 5 point gap gained over the past week.

But now? It seems there’s little to worry about. The issue is out. The Andrew Neil interview was complete and Corbyn – who endured a whole twenty minutes on foreign policy “controversy” (including a whole ten minutes on the IRA) – emerged largely unscathed, despite some moderate bruising.

After her interview on Monday, Theresa May emerged ripped to pieces in a far less rigorous interview, in which Neil ignored her past almost entirely.

Media coverage of this election was always going to be tough.

But ironically, the fact Corbyn has suffered this for the past two years, and not just the past two months, is in his favour.

Theresa May finished her tour in Europe by saying Corbyn’s comments made this election choice “starker.” She’s right.

We have a choice between a leader willing to recognise we need thought-through policies and clear plans before putting troops in harm’s way; of ensuring our public services – like our police, hospitals, nurses, doctors and firemen – are properly funded; of guaranteeing more money for cyber security and Intelligence services; of not being afraid to stand-up to Trump and to choose our own foreign policy based on the security and safety of our citizens and armed forces, before propping-up American-led interventions.

Or we could choose a leader and Conservative Party who cut our police numbers by 20,000 in six years, who slashed police budgets by 25% and who held hands with Trump at the White House begging for a closer relationship and trade deal after a hard Brexit. Theresa May voted for the Iraq war, she voted for the war in Afghanistan and voted for our involvement in Libya and Syria.

We could elect a Prime Minister who thinks before they act; or we could vote for one with their finger on the trigger, waiting for an excuse.

I know which one I’ll choose. And that’s why I’ll be voting for my local Labour candidate on June 8th; to ensure a responsible, peaceful, united foreign policy and security in our future; through greater public services, a fully-funded NHS, security in our retirement, housing and education.

Where affording social care doesn’t require us to sell our homes and where we can all earn a better standard of living with a £10 minimum wage and new rights for workers.

So let’s stay positive. Let’s get the message out. And let’s fight for the future we – and millions of others – need.

Over the next few weeks I’ll continue writing an article a day. Stay tuned via Twitter @politicstim.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Campaign Re-Launch: Danger Ahead

Having outlined my thoughts on how Labour should resume its campaign (here and here), Jeremy Corbyn plans to focus elsewhere.

In a speech later today, Jeremy will focus on the causes of terrorism, listing Western involvement in the Middle East as a primary reason for terror attacks at home.

He will call for a different approach to foreign policy and defence, focusing on unity, peace and diplomacy.

Much as I agree with Jeremy Corbyn on this – and it is, indeed, a debate which needs to be had – it is almost certainly the wrong time to hold it.

People are still reeling from Monday’s attack. They want solutions. They want to know how – in the context of this election – each Party plans to keep us safe.

People aren’t too intersted in “why” the attack happened. They simply want to know how it can be stopped in the future, and which Party is able to deliver this with calm, sensible policies; not political posturing and existential diatribes.

The Labour manifesto contains serious policies to ensure public safety. It has detailed plans to rebuild our security and public services so we are better protected against attacks – both cyber and physical, and plans to ensure our emergency services are properly staffed and valued.

The Conservative manifesto contains none of these things. Theresa May, as mentioned in previous articles, has slashed police budgets and dropped police numbers by 20,000 as Home Secretary.

People don’t want a “tit-for-tat” campaign strategy, and it’s important to raise these issues with care. Andy Burnham demonstrated this brilliantly on Thursday’s BBC Question Time.

Labour has the policies and political will for a valuable response, which can provide detailed answers to the uncertainty we face but, instead, is choosing to open-up a new debate which no one (currently) wants to have.

While Corbyn chooses to focus on the cause of the attack, Theresa May has mobilised the military, attended NATO and drafted new plans to “fight online extremism.”

Which leader looks like they have a plan to do something about this?

The Prime Minister has the power to act now; which is why Jeremy Corbyn needs to demonstrate the Labour Party has a clear plan to implement when elected next month.

Labour has closed the gap again in another YouGov poll, conducted after the attack, narrowing the Conservative lead to just 5 points.

Jeremy does not need to risk alienating the public at this stage. The stakes are not yet high enough. We’re gaining ground – consistently – and mainly because of the domestic policies outlined in the Labour manifesto (providing security in our everyday lives).

Labour could demonstrate its plans for security and safety through its manifesto pledges, exposing the fact the Conservatives have none.

Instead, Labour has chosen to focus on an argument no one can win.

Experts have different views. And, while the traditional political arguments on the causes of terrorism can apply readily to previous attacks, they seem to bear almost no relation to the attack on Monday.

People dont want to feel blamed for an atrocity that happened at any time – let alone just a few days ago.

If Labour is to maintain its rise in the polls, it needs to focus on winnable arguments. It has plenty, as I’ve written elsewhere. And these can be used to outline a Labour government which values security in all aspects of our lives: in public safety, in defence, in work, in education, in our health and in retirement.

This is a platform the Conservatives simply cannot – and have never – delivered.

So let’s maintain our focus. Let’s keep talking about the policies. And let’s ensure Labour continues to climb in the polls.

Campaigning Resumes – Labour Strategy

Yesterday, I wrote the election campaign would be very different.

Monday’s attack made this necessary.

We would face a different kind of campaign. A campaign where unity and focusing on the issues are prioritised over the politics of division and personality.

With local campaigns re-launching today – and national campaigns resuming tomorrow – I think it’s useful to look at what this election is about, not just how it should be conducted.

For many, this election has been about Brexit. That is, after all, why Theresa May called it, to “strengthen her hand.”

Others thought it was about our NHS, and ensuring we have a government who invests.

And there are those who view this election as a momentous opportunity for change.

But there is one thing that binds all these concerns together: Security.

After Monday’s attack, “security” will – rightly – take centre-stage in public appearances, campaign leaflets and media reporting.

To not focus on security at this time would be a betrayal of the victims who lost their lives in Manchester; and the families and friends of those affected.

But there is more than one kind of security.

Yes, the security of our streets, of our country, is always a priority. And that’s why Labour promised, in its manifesto, to deliver 10,000 extra police officers on our streets, un-doing at least some of the damage done by Theresa May as Home Secretary, who cut 20,000 police in 6 years, slashing police spending by 4% each year (25% of the entire budget).

Additionally, however, there is security in our every day lives: security in our jobs, security in our pensions and reitrement, security in our education, housing and healthcare.

Millions of people across the country suffer from chronic insecurity.

To pretend this election is not about them or – frankly – all of us, is a slap in the face to the gravity of this election.

We need to ensure all our kids – our families – and our elderly – are capable of fulfiling their potential and living their lives without the fear of not affording their education, their social care; of losing their job, finding a secure place to live or having enough savings to live comfortably.

In modern Britain, no one should be struggling.

That’s why this election is about so much more than one, single issue.

When Labour announced free school meals for all primary school pupils, the Conservative Party decided it, too, would issue a policy on this: and pledged to scrap the few school meals that already exist.

Theresa May then calculated that a free school breakfast would cost each child 7p. And now, because of Conservative miscalculations, they have forced themselves into another manifesto u-turn (the second in five days).

When Labour announced its fully-costed plans to build one million new homes – half of which would be affordable, social housing – Labour addressed our everyday insecurities.

When Labour pledged £10 billion investment in cyber security, Labour addressed the weakness in our current security systems, presided-over by Theresa May and her Conservative Party.

When Labour promised to provide free university tuition for all – and a national education service for all, no matter your age – Labour spoke to the milions of people who want to develop themselves and their careers, helping grow our economy and secure our futures.

When Labour pledged £8 billion for a National Care Service, Jeremy Corbyn spoke to the millions of pensioners in desperate need of care and compassion, who depend on free care and not being forced to sell their own home (as they would under Theresa May’s “Dementia Tax” plan).

When Labour outlined £6 billion extra, each year, for our NHS, Jeremy Corbyn addressed the chronic and serialised de-funding of our health system, providing doctors and nurses – who have suffered huge Conservative cuts – with the economic security they deserve, ensuring we – the British public – benefit from improved healthcare, shorter waiting times and better survival rates.

The result of this election will weigh on us for the next few decades. Not just because we require a good deal on Brexit – which protects jobs and puts our economy first – but because of these other areas on which this election is being fought.

So, over the next two weeks, when you speak to people, campaign and engage; and on June 8th, when you finally cast your vote; remember one thing: security is not a single issue. It is a multitude of issues, on which Theresa May and the Conservative Party have failed, and which she is seeking to exploit for political gain.

I will be voting for my local Labour candidate; to ensure security in my job, in my rent and education; so that everyone – across the counry – has the chance to succeed, to live healthy, productive and fulfiling lives; where no child goes hungry, no pensioner goes cold, and no one, ever, is left-behind.

Vote Labour. Secure Your Future.

Election Pause – Use It

Terror. Chaos. Shock.

The Manchester attack was an atrocity. It was cowardly. It was evil.

My thoughts and prayers are with Manchester – with the victims, their families, friends; and the emergency services.

But within the madness. Within the chaos. Within the emptiness that devastated the country, there is hope.

Communities coming together, serving each other, pulling-together; ensuring unity, peace and love prevail over the forces of hate which sought to destroy us.

In the midst of an election camapign, campaign activity was suspended, the terror level raised to critical and people still mourning the loss of their families.

This is no time to hold a general election.

Presuming the election goes ahead, an entire week will have been wiped off the campaign cycle.

With Theresa May doing her job to the best of her ability, managing this attack and the crisis we now face; her shortcomings in the campaign will – if we’re not careful – be forgotten.

After a car-crash interview with Andrew Neil on Monday evening, an awful manifesto launch and Labour closing the polls to single-digits, Theresa May has escaped what should have been her toughest week in the campaign so far.

In the wake of the attack, there is no desire for conflict. No desire for confrontation. No desire for the open attacks launched so casually over the past week.

We have entered a new style of election campaigning. One where respect, dignity and calm discussion will be all that is tolerated by a country still reeling from the worst attack in ten years.

The election campaign will almost certainly be suspended until the weekend, at the earliest.

TV debate and interview schedules will be pushed back or scrapped altogether (although, given May’s interview with Andrew Neil, we should at least expect Jeremy Corbyn to be offered the same interview).

But let’s be clear: We know what the Conservative campaign has done over the past 72 hours.

Lynton Crosby has been handed the time to significantly reshape the Conservative campaign – to re-brand Theresa May – once more – as the “strong and stable” candidate.

Jeremy Corbyn – who has all but been wiped from the airwaves – faces a monumental task of regaining control and recovering the momentum harnessed in the last two weeks.

While Theresa May has had free coverage of looking Prime Ministerial, being “in-charge,” and giving speeches on the steps of Downing Street, she will resonate with millions of people across the counry who – at a time of national crisis – would rather gain stability over change.

Governments – often – stay in power during national crises; particularly when an election is just two weeks away.

So, my advice, would be this: get ready.

Get ready for a different kind of campaign. A different style. A different argument.

Because the attacks on stability and strength no longer apply.

People want unity. They want togetherness. And they want security – not just physically – but economically.

People want secure, happy, loving futures for their kids. They want their grandparents and elderly to live with dignity and care in their old age. They want security in their work with higher pay and career progression.

These are all policies Labour can deliver – and they are policies Theresa May and her Conservative Party cannot.

Prepare your arguments – but allow them to reshaped by Monday’s atrocity. If the attack has proven one thing, it’s that people desire unity, peace and security; and it is on these terms our campaign should be conducted.

The election must – must – be fought on these issues.

Who has the plan, the policies, to provide unity? Who has the policies to ensure peace and security – not just as a country and on our streets – but in our education, jobs and healthcare?

Because – judged against these barometers – Theresa May falls short – far short.

The Conservative Party cannot provide this security. They have no plan to do so.

Only Labour can – and will – deliver this security, if elected on June 8th.

Free school meals for our children, free university for our teenagers, a free, national care system for our elderly, keeping the triple-lock on pensions, the winter fuel allowance, bus passes; guaranteeing a £10 minimum wage for our workers, 20 new rights in the workplace to protect our jobs and careers. A guarantee that our taxes will not rise unless we earn over £80,000 a year. A national education service so no matter what age we are, we have access to free, life-long education. A National Health Service, brought back into public ownership, receiving an extra £6 billion each year to ensure our doctors, nurses and medics can be paid the wages they deserve, so we can all benefit from improved care. Scrapping hospital car parking fees, renationalising our railways, 10,000 more police on our streets and new legislation to support unity and diversity in our community, protecting our freedoms and solidarity as a society.

Theresa May and her Conservative Party do not have these policies. They cannot rule-out tax rises for people on the lowest incomes. They will scrap free school meals. They will scrap the triple-lock on pensions. They will scrap the winter fuel allowance. They will introduce a dementia tax. They will segregate our children through grammar schools. They will continue to privatise our health service.

So when we think of security – when we think of “leadership” – when we think of “strength,” “stability” and “unity” – think not just of the last few days: think of the next five years.

Labour will invest in our public and emergency services. Labour will end the austerity and pay-freezes on our local heroes who have been – literally – saving lives on our streets. They will have the resources – and we will have the care – we all need; not just in times of crisis, but in everyday life; in the personal emergencies, in the life and death situations we all face at least one point in our lives.

It is only the Labour Party that has a serious, costed plan for our future – and it is with these policies that we can – and will – win the next election.

So let’s focus on health. Let’s focus on public services. Let’s focus on our economy, on education for our young people, on jobs, on community; on solidarity. Let’s do it without the nastiness and without the attacks: let’s do it with facts and, on June 8th, let’s vote for a caring, loving – and more hopeful – Britain.

General Election: a brief message

Opportunities.

Difficult to come by. Difficult to grasp. But, above all: difficult to recognise.

For what feels like the final nail in the “Corbyn coffin,” Theresa May’s early General Election must instead be viewed as an opportunity for the biggest upset in modern political history. Bigger than Brexit. Bigger than Trump. A Corbyn victory would shake the foundations of the political establishment.

We live in exceptional times.

While a Corbyn victory would appear ludicrous, our political upsets are no longer unprecedented. The last two years have delivered two of the biggest shocks in global politics.

The pollsters were wrong. The “experts” failed. The weight of the establishment crumbled. People saw through the guise of government. Voters recognised the bias, corruption and lies present in the mainstream media.

And yet, for Labour, Corbyn has failed to enjoy the same breakthroughs.

To sit almost 40 points behind the Prime Minister in approval ratings is unprecedented, and with the gap between Labour and Conservatives at over 20 points, things could hardly get worse.

But this mustn’t deter us.

In the week of the EU referendum, the Remain campaign was firmly – and consistently – ahead of Leave, with bookmakers offering odds as low as 11/1 for the UK to exit the EU.

Donald Trump suffered similar odds for most of his Presidential campaign, until sealing victory late last year.

Even the Dutch “GroenLinks,” – a small, left-wing Party – stunned voters by quadrupling its seats in Parliament.

The point is this: victors in recent elections only looked like winners when the votes were counted. Until the polls closed, the establishment choice was predicted. The status quo, projected.

So, let’s be clear: Yes, Jeremy Corbyn looks like a loser. Yes, Labour suffers heavily in the polls. Yes, this election could deliver the biggest defeat to Labour in its 117-year history. But it could also do the opposite.

Recent trends suggest a Corbyn victory isn’t as ridiculous as it might first appear. He’s in with a chance.

If the millions of unheard voices across the country can drown-out the cynics, the nay-sayers, the mainstream apologists; if the millions of silent-sufferers can walk to the ballot box and cast their votes for change; and if the thousands of activists in Labour can organise collectively, collaborate effectively and pull together; then the unthinkable can happen. Change can win. And the dawn of a new hope can break over the horizon.

We can – all of us – look forward to a better, fairer and more equal society.

We cannot afford to be cynical. We cannot afford to give-in. These attitudes are self-fulfilling. And they are killing us.

We can win the next election. We just have to act like it.

The McDonnell Amendment: Why We Oppose It

The McDonnell Amendment presents an opportunity.

An opportunity to remove power from the PLP, allowing members to choose from a wide variety of leadership candidates.

The proposal to change the current threshold from 15% to 5% would cause more MPs to stand for the leadership and provide members with a greater number of choices from a wider political pool.

While the chances of at least one “Left-wing” candidate being nominated increase dramatically, so do the chances of not getting elected.

Should the Amendment pass, we’d find ourselves in a position where the Left is even more divided; uniting behind one of numerous “favourite” candidates; splitting the vote and allowing the Right to monopolise itself in just one or two candidates.

The Right have – in many ways – been better at “solidarity” than the Left ever has. While the Left has torn itself apart with its dozens of political Parties, newspapers, magazines and websites; the Right has focused on a handful of candidates, Parties and media outlets. That’s why they’re successful. They put the Party first. They close ranks. Their objectives succeed. Meanwhile, we – “on the Left” – are too busy squabbling among ourselves, pretending we each have best solutions.

The same problem exists within Labour.

Should the Amendment pass, division would increase not just within the PLP, but the membership, too.

We could be faced with a leadership ballot of Rayner, Lewis, McDonnell, Nandy, Khan, Cooper, Butler and Thornberry.

Five “Left” candidates would split the vote enough for Khan and Cooper to lead the polls, with Nandy dropping-out before the ballot opens.

But there’s another reason why the Amendment’s a bad idea: it’s simply unworkable.

We’ve supported (and will continue to support) Jeremy’s leadership. But it’s no secret Jeremy struggled to get on the ballot and, because of this, struggled to operate due to lack of support and – in some cases – direct attacks from his own Party.

Reducing the threshold to 5% would make Corbyn’s position even more untenable, should he stand again.

It isn’t enough for the membership to support the leader, even with a landslide victory.

Despite the best efforts of Jeremy and his team, the democratisation of the Party and shift of power from the PLP downwards hasn’t materialised.

The truth is, the vast majority of decision-making and media coverage takes place in Parliament; not in local communities.

The average person doesn’t care about a Branch meeting or townhall get-together. They care about what they see on the news; clips of despatch box attacks, MPs briefing against the leader and journalists ripping the Party apart.

The talent and experience within the PLP lies mainly on the backbenches.

To form an effective Opposition we need the experience, contacts and respect of senior MPs. That’s the way it is.

Should this be the case? No. Should we have more Left-wing MPs? Yes. Are we happy about it? Of course not. But that’s the way it is.

Securing this support with a  5% threshold would be impossible; unless the 5% contains names outlined above.

We need to accept that Labour will only succeed if its leadership is supported by most of their MPS; including MPs with significant frontbench experience and cross-Party appeal.

So, rather than support a 5% threshold, we propose the following: a 25% threshold with no abstentions allowed.

Every MP must be required to vote.

This would mean two things: First, every MP has given their opinion and had their say. Second, each candidate will be supported by at least 1 in 4 of their MPs.

The ballot would almost certainly contain a “Left-wing” candidate given the number of sympathetic MPs and overall political climate (both inside and outside the Party).

As a movement, we need to get serious, and start looking at real solutions based on the circumstances we’ve inherited.

A deselection process is much more feasible (and sensible) to achieve than the McDonnell Amendment.

The Amendment would entrench and exacerbate the divisions we already suffer, and could consign Labour to a generation of Opposition.

So, we ask: Do not vote for the McDonnell Amendment.

No matter how much we agree with it in principle, it is simply unworkable in practice; making our Party weaker and more divided than it already is.