Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Corbyn’

The Guardian view on the Brexit crisis: time to stop the fanatics | Editorial

The DUP’s veto and the government’s incompetence have emboldened the extreme leavers to press for no deal. They have to be defeated

If the EU referendum taught this country’s pro-Europeans anything, it ought to be that they lacked the political focus and discipline of the leavers. Pro-EU campaign complacency proved no match for pro-Brexit fanaticism, with catastrophic results. Something similar is now in danger of happening again, as the Brexit process reaches a critical milestone: the end of phase one of the Brexit talks. If Britain is not to pitch out of the EU without a deal, it is vital that history does not repeat itself. But the danger of that is very great.

The trigger for the current crisis was the Democratic Unionists’ derailing of the draft EU-UK phase one deal in Brussels on Monday. That happened because of an inexcusable political oversight. The UK government did not share the content in advance with its DUP backers, who pulled the plug, fearing that Northern Ireland would be put into a special status separate from the rest of the UK.

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‘This really is a shambles’: Corbyn v May at PMQs – video highlights

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of presiding over 'a shambles' in the Brexit negotiations, using a noisy prime minister’s questions in the wake of abortive talks in Brussels to charge Theresa May with having no answers on a future deal.

May – who faced regular mocking laughter from the Labour benches – insisted she was confident Brexit talks would reach the next stage on schedule, and accused Labour of being divided over what outcome it wanted to see

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Jeremy Corbyn attacks Theresa May over Brexit talks ‘shambles’

Labour leader says DUP seems to be ‘ruling the roost’, but PM says she is confident negotiations will move on to next phase

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of presiding over “a shambles” in the Brexit negotiations, using a noisy prime minister’s questions in the wake of abortive talks in Brussels to charge Theresa May with having no answers on a future deal.

May – who faced regular mocking laughter from the Labour benches – insisted she was confident Brexit talks would reach the next stage on schedule, and accused Labour of being divided over what outcome it wanted to see.

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PMQs verdict: May and Corbyn’s Brexit exchange marks dispiriting low

With feeble questions and complacent answers, the arguments seemed ill-matched to the gravity of the situation

After many weeks avoiding the subject, Jeremy Corbyn’s six questions grilled Theresa May about the Brexit negotiations, which stalled on Monday when the DUP vetoed the prime minister’s proposed deal with the EU. Quoting Liam Fox, Corbyn began: “In July, the trade secretary said the Brexit negotiations would be the easiest in human history. Does the prime minister still agree?”

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How Momentum got Britain’s youth interested in politics

Momentum has played a key role in regenerating interest in electoral politics among young people. Sarah Pickard explains how the tactics they employed have been met with ongoing success, and how they harnessed the enthusiasm and energy of young people to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

One of the dominant narratives about the 2017 General Election result is that young people turned out in a considerably higher proportion than previously, and that they voted overwhelmingly for the Labour Party. The recent surge in young people favouring Labour can be traced back to the launch of the political movement Momentum to support Jeremy Corbyn, following his election as party leader in September 2015. How has Momentum generated interest in politics among young people?

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election campaign in 2015 (and his re-election in 2016) involved three intertwined factors: mass mobilisations, grassroots support, and digital technologies. Notably, there was a database containing information (email addresses, telephone numbers, postcodes, etc) “collected during both of Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, through both Momentum and the official campaigns.” This political communication goldmine was owned by the director of Operations for Corbyn’s leadership campaign, Jon Lansman. He took it with him when he went on to form Momentum in October 2015 as a traditional socialist organisation independent from the Labour Party, but officially supportive of it and Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, thus filling the left-wing political vacuum vacated by New Labour.

Momentum used the tactics of the ‘Jeremy for Leader’ campaign to generate support and claimed to have 100,000 online registered supporters by April 2016, 2000,000 by January 2017. For paid up members, the number grew from 20,000 to 31,000 members between January and November 2017. Supporters and members can roughly be divided up along generational lines: the older, veteran, traditional Leftists who do not identify with New Labour; and the young, newly politicized movementists, some of whom were not even born when Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997.

Part of the attraction of Momentum for young people resides in its horizontal, social movement network way of doing politics, as opposed to the rigid, hierarchical Labour Party structure. Similarly, for Momentum sympathisers, the network generates a feeling of belonging to a constructive and positive community that offers hope and potential for change. The very active and interactive use of digital technologies – that comes naturally to many young people – is another part of the appeal and an effective method for both diffusing information and mobilising support.

Young people are at the heart of Momentum. They play a crucial role in informing, participating, and organising Momentum’s digital and physical events, as opposed to being passive consumers. Indeed, part of the success has been allowing supporters and members to organise individually, as part of local Momentum groups and larger regional umbrella groups, alongside what was Momentum’s national executive, now called its National Co-ordinating Group. Pivotal to this has been volunteer ‘Big Organising,’ where activists are empowered and trusted with roles usually designated to employed staff and the party hierarchy.

This is achieved through a variety of means, including, on the one hand, Momentum’s official communication channels and frequent emailing using the information from the aforementioned database, and, on the other hand, member- and supporter-generated communication via social media. Social media creates a direct link between Momentum and the grassroots, by-passing the Labour Party and the mainstream media, especially most newspapers, that were vociferously against Corbyn and Momentum. It is also fast, labour un-intensive and cost-effective, thus enabling Momentum to reach a large audience. Social media also gives a voice to the grassroots, allowing them to generate content and to organise events.

Momentum has also been creative through the use of pop-up phone banks (initially used during the ‘Calling for Corbyn’ 2016 leadership campaign). Volunteers access a web-app to canvass potential supporters and voters from either an improvised call centre or from home. These activists are encouraged to post photos on social media, spreading the message and generating further interest. Effective use of social media and apps such as My Nearest Marginal has also enabled grassroots activists to be dynamic at traditional door-to-door canvassing and leafleting on a large-scale, especially in marginal seats and areas that have been traditionally difficult to reach, including university towns.

Momentum off-line events include different scale community-centred activities, like group discussions, debates, seminars, pop-up political meetings, public meetings and policy consultations taking place in various settings. There are also more informal Momentum social events, such as pub quizzes, music concerts, meals, picnics and sporting fixtures, which all contribute to creating a community spirit among grassroot activists – young and old.

The appeal of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in the 2017 General Election among many young people is largely attributable to the leader being viewed as an authentic and ideological politician with a positive and hopeful message, as well as youth-friendly policies, as opposed to Conservative Party. Momentum played a key role in generating this support. Although the movement has not been without its critics, especially regarding extremism and entryism, it has nonetheless managed to bring many young people into the fold of political participation, including voting, which can only be a good thing for democracy.


Note: this article draws from the author’s chapter in Sarah Pickard and Judith Bessant, eds. (2017) Young People Re-Generating Politics in Times of Crises, (Palgrave Macmillan).

About the Author

Sarah Pickard is Senior Lecturer at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris. Her research in contemporary Youth Studies focuses on the interaction between youth policy and youth politics. She is publishing Politics, Protest and Young People. Political Participation and Dissent in Britain in the 21st Century with Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.



Masterly inactivity or a new dawn?: Labour and the regulation of private renting

If there is one thing that Labour and the Conservatives currently have in common is that both appear ready to embark on a step change in housing policy. But are Jeremy Corbyn’s recent announcements on rent controls a sign of change, or just another new political language for ‘masterly inactivity’? Ben Pattison reviews Labour’s record on private renting regulation.

The frenetic pace of British politics means that the party conferences in September can feel like ancient history. However, it is worth reflecting on the conference speeches and their significance for housing policy. One of the most notable announcements was Jeremy Corbyn on rent controls. He said that:

…we will control rents – when the younger generation’s housing costs are three times more than those of their grandparents, that is not sustainable. Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections.

Reaction to the announcement highlighted how polarising this issue remains. Some commentators reacted with “joy unconfined” that Corbyn was taking on “greedy” landlords and “villainous” lettings agents. Others argued that it would be a “disaster for tenants”. In reality, “rent controls could mean any number of different policies“. Without a much more detailed idea of Labour’s policies it is impossible to know what their impact might be. Despite this ambiguity, Corbyn’s announcement is still significant. To understand its importance we need to consider the Labour party’s long and contentious relationship with the regulation of private renting.

Labour has traditionally been viewed as hostile to the private rented sector. During the 1960s “housing assumed a central political role, which indirectly can be traced to the activities of one west London private landlord named Rachman”. Rachman was a London landlord whose alleged reputation for using aggressive methods for removing existing tenants to allow for increases in rents became infamous. This scandal consolidated a consensus that support for the “private rented landlord seems to have been politically out of the question, even for Conservative governments”.

Up until the late 1980s it was argued that, for Labour, “the negative ideas associated with private landlordism… act as an ideological reservoir”. This was typified by the response of Labour MPs to the proposals which became the Housing Act 1988. The Conservatives introduced the current regulatory environment of assured shorthold tenancies which allowed for the negotiation of rental levels between the tenant and landlord. At that time the Labour Housing spokesperson, Clive Soley, argued that the rights of tenants were being destroyed as “a shorthold assured tenancy is an insecure short let. There can be no consensus between the political parties on such a policy”.

Tony Blair’s explicit support for the private rented sector in the mid-1990s marked an important milestone as it “constructed a symbolic distance from ‘old’ Labour’s preoccupation with council housing and distaste for private landlords”. The first New Labour Housing Minister, Hilary Armstrong, stated that “I am agnostic about the ownership of housing – local authorities or housing associations; public or private sector – and want to move away from the ideological baggage that comes with that issue”. The private rented sector was no longer a housing problem but a mechanism to increase choice for consumers.

Credit: Pexels/Public Domain.

The New Labour approach often consisted of “masterly inactivity”, as described by one of their housing ministers, Nick Raynsford. In a range of policy documents and speeches, successive New Labour ministers were at pains to point out that they were seeking the minimum intervention in the private rented sector in order to allow the market to function independently. Regulation would be limited to ‘protecting the vulnerable’ from a small minority of ‘bad landlords’. Academics such as Brian Lund considered the policy changes relating to private renting to be relatively minor. He concluded that – particularly during the first term in government – “housing policy marked time, albeit within a novel political language”.

The Labour party largely stuck with a minimal approach to the regulation of private renting after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007. Additional “light touch” regulation was proposed by the government commissioned Rugg review of private renting. Published in October 2008 it also proposed encouraging investment from both institutional investors and “good landlords” with small portfolios (p.xxiii). In response to this review a government consultation expressed concern about the possibility of the private rented sector shrinking and argued that the tenure was “needed”. Just weeks before a general election, in February 2010, the government finally published a strategy for the private rented sector. The government continued to argue that regulation needed to be “improved” rather than increased.

Corbyn’s conference speech represents a clear break with the New Labour consensus that private renting should operate with minimal government intervention. It is worth noting that the change in Labour’s approach to the private rented sector started before Corbyn’s leadership of the party. After losing power in 2010, Labour began a review of their policies and gradually began to promote greater intervention in private renting to protect vulnerable tenants. This led to the Labour manifesto for the 2015 general election under Ed Miliband’s leadership which promised to “legislate to make three-year tenancies the norm, with a ceiling on excessive rent rises”. The 2017 general election manifesto reflected only a minor change to this approach and proposed “an inflation cap on rent rises”. At present it is not yet clear how ‘rent controls’ proposed in Corbyn’s speech would be different from ‘a cap on rent increases’.

We are still waiting to find out whether Corbyn’s conference speech represented a new set of policies or a ‘novel political language’ to describe existing plans. All political parties will have noted “the massive swing to Labour among private renters” at the 2017 general election. It is clear that the language used by politicians from all political parties to discuss housing has changed profoundly. In September 2017, Theresa May announced Conservative party support for the “rebirth” of council housing. This was unthinkable even a couple of years ago although policy details announced so far do not match the rhetoric. This leaves us in a situation where both the Labour and Conservative parties may be embarking on a step change in housing policy. But the danger is that recent announcements on housing are just another new political language for ‘masterly inactivity’.


Note: This article is based on the author’s PhD and more recent research.

About the Author

Ben Pattison (@bmpattison) is Research Fellow at Centre for Regional, Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University.




All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Corbyn becoming PM is ‘worse threat to business than Brexit’, says bank

Report by Morgan Stanley says general election likely in 2018, and Labour winning could damage valuations of UK companies

The prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister is a more serious threat to British business than Brexit, the investment bank Morgan Stanley has warned.

Morgan Stanley told investors that another general election towards the end of 2018 was likely once Theresa May’s government realised it could not secure the Brexit deal it wants and the Conservative party began to fall apart, opening the door to Labour taking power.

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