Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Labour needs ‘massive listening exercise’ says McDonnell amid warnings of bigger split – Politics live

Rolling updates as Jeremy Corbyn is warned that more MPs could leave party to join new group

A circumspect interview by the Japanese ambassador to the UK, Koji Tsuruoka, has yielded a few lines on the BBC’s World at One.

Perhaps it was what he didn’t say that was most interesting though when he was asked about a report this week in the Financial Times that Japanese officials had accused Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox of taking a “high-handed” approach towards a post-Brexit free trade deal, and briefly considered cancelling bilateral talks due to take place this week.

Rumours that senior Labour MPs are working behind the scenes to build a new ‘centrist’ political party have been fuelled by a series of recent donations to Chuka Umunna, reports Total Politics.

The former prime minister, Tony Blair, is said to be actively looking for donors to fund a new centrist party and a handful of senior Labour MPs are also rumoured to be working behind the scenes to build a new movement, according to a diary piece in TP. It adds:

Moderate MPs are reportedly speaking to donors in a bid to build up a war chest to fund the breakaway from supporters of the current leader.

Many frustrated Labour MPs believe that Umunna is best-placed to be leader of the new party – and the latest Register of Member’s Interests suggests that a few big Labour donors might agree.

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YOUR DAILY BREXIT – Tuesday 19th February 2019

YOUR DAILY BREXIT – Tuesday 19th February 2019

Since yesterday the MSM are full of the launch of  “The Independent Group” – if you really missed it, look here – they’ve already got their own wiki page! There are too many reports and opinion pieces to link to – here’s a good one by Richard Littlejohn – but as always, it’s worth reading what the inimitable Sir John Redwood has to say about that Group in his Diary today.

The main point is this: all seven splitters want a 2nd Referendum. Keep that in mind, because we’re used to politicians pontificating about noble and august reasons for why they’re doing what they’re doing when in fact it’s about their own egos, about hogging the limelight of publicity. Yesterday’s performance of those seven former Labour MPs couldn’t have been bettered to illustrate that.

It’s no secret that there’s a broad streak of anti-semitism in Labour, so making that the main reason for splitting from the Party is window dressing. Their explanation – ‘Labour cannot be reformed from the inside therefore we leave’ – combined with their desire to stay in the EU to ‘reform the EU from the inside’ is fundamentally contradictory. It’s about Remain plain and simple, and to get a 2nd referendum.

The media glare is now focussing on possible other ‘splitters’, with speculations of which other Labour and especially Tory MPs – front runners: Nick Boles and Anna Soubry (here, paywalled) – might take that plunge. The MSM also noted, with more or less concealed glee, that this ‘Independent Group’ originally started out as ‘Group of 30’, but 23 had got cold feet, mainly because they distrust Mr Umunna:

“it is significantly less than the 30 Labour MPs who were said to be in talks over quitting Labour and forming a new party. A senior Labour source said they had been deterred by leading roles of Mr Umunna and Mr Leslie in forming the new group.” (link, paywalled).

Remain Central, a.k.a The Times, bewails the timing of the split: “Labour split: Disillusioned MPs waited for moment of maximum impact” (paywalled link), also reporting: “Labour split: Voters despair at timing of walkout as Brexit looms” (paywalled link).

One wonders why The Times reporters assume politicians wouldn’t dream of announcing something for ‘maximum impact’! One also wonders if the reporters and voters realise that this is indeed a deep wound to their dreams of preventing Brexit by a 2nd referendum. One final observation making the rounds last evening: the 7 said at their press conference that ‘they wanted to hear from the people, the voters, what they say’. What a programme!

While we await with bated breath who else of our elected representatives (MPs to you and me) will join this new Remain Party, two other points need to be kept in mind. One is that none of them will do the honourable thing and resign, to stand in a by election. The other is that, since they all intend to keep their current seat in the HoC, this will make for an interesting few weeks until B-Day in 38 days. Calculating the majorities for Ms May’s WA will now become a proper guessing game.

Next to the ongoing ISIS Bride saga, this spectacle is welcome for the Remain MSM to keep the people’s attention away from what is really going on in Brussels and the EU. The Remain Cabinet ministers are travelling to Brussels, again about the Backstop, with the Attorney General to the fore. Tory Brexiteers are watching. Sir Bill Cash said: “if the changes were just “flowery words”, then the deal “won’t wash”, while the Irish Foreign Secretary said ‘Dublin would not be “steamrolled” into making compromises on the backstop.” (link). So far, the EU and Ireland are singing from the same song sheet: it’s all Britain’s fault … but see again yesterday’s report on this saga of obfuscation here.

The MSM were full of the Honda story: “closing because of Brexit.” Jonathan Isaby reports in his BrexitCentral email news:

“The Honda UK boss [said] “This is not a Brexit-related issue for us”. This chimes with what the Wiltshire town’s two MPs, Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland – the former a Leaver and the latter a Remainer – said in a joint statement issued yesterday after speaking to the company, pouring cold water on the claim that the move was related to the UK’s departure from the EU: “Honda have been very clear – this decision has been made because of global trends and is not related to Brexit. The Turkey factory will also close as all European market production is being consolidated to Japan where the company is based. This consolidation is made easier by the new EU-Japan trade deal which will allow Honda to produce their cars in Japan and import them into the EU, rather than produce the cars in Europe.” (my bold)

Never mind – facts don’t matter to the Remain MSM, especially not when the actual culprit is the EU.

A rather more interesting report on banking was given short shrift. The DM reports:

“Major banks on the Continent will be able to carry on using London for £60 trillion of crucial trading activity even if there is a No Deal Brexit. […] These clearing houses allow banks to trade complicated derivatives which underpin vital lending to households and businesses. Banks based inside the EU are legally only allowed to use clearing houses within the bloc – and it was feared a No Deal Brexit would cut them off from London, the main hub for clearing, causing chaos.”

Thus another pillar of Remain Project Fear – now better called ‘Project Lie’  is demolished by the EU – so no, of course we mustn’t talk about that.

But rest assured, help – for Remain – is at hand, or rather, is in the ‘hands of God’. Yes, really. That’s what M Juncker told a German paper:

“In an interview with German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, the eccentric European Commission president said that Brexit was now being dictated by higher forces. “When it comes to Brexit, it is like being before the courts or on the high seas; we are in God’s hands. And we can never quite be sure when God will take the matter in hand,” Mr Juncker said.” (paywalled link, my bold)

All I can say is ‘good God’ – or would that be blasphemous?

Meanwhile, keep watching the squirrels, sorry, the Remain party splitters …


The post YOUR DAILY BREXIT – Tuesday 19th February 2019 appeared first on Independence Daily.

What will life be like in the Commons for the Independent Group?

On 18 February, seven Labour MPs resigned from the Party to sit as an independent group. Operating without the formal support of a parliamentary party they will face several institutional barriers to working effectively in the House of Commons, writes Louise Thompson.

The press conference with the seven breakaway Labour MPs focused overwhelmingly on their reasons for leaving the Party – Luciana Berger citing institutional anti-Semitism and Chris Leslie citing its hijacking by the hard left. The former Labour MPs are calling themselves the Independent Group, but have stopped short (for now) of creating a formal political party. There are still questions to be answered about how this band of very different Labour MPs will seek to work and function together (where will they sit in the chamber? Will they coordinate their voting behaviour?), but with no formal party affiliation, what we can be sure about is that their position in the House of Commons has substantially changed. Two key challenges facing these MPs are the reduced rights they will now have as independent MPs and the reduction in crucial parliamentary resources.

Rights in the Commons chamber

The House of Commons functions through its political parties. Everything from speaking rights to committee positions are allocated on the basis of party size, with the Official Opposition party holding a privileged position among other non-government parties. Labour MPs dominate the opposition contributions made in debates. As I wrote on this blog just a few months ago, smaller opposition parties and independents often find themselves in a much weaker position. Their size entitles them to fewer contributions and – perhaps most importantly – these contributions often come several hours into debates, where the clock is running down and very short time limits are introduced.  Whereas a Labour Party backbencher may be able to speak for eight minutes or more, a small party MP or independent may find this time reduced to two. Not only does this minimise the contribution possible, but it becomes difficult to set the tone of a debate or to influence its direction.

The same applies to things like committee memberships. Select committees and legislative bill committee memberships are also allocated in proportion to party size, so scrutinising forthcoming Brexit legislation in committees will fall largely to those who are members of political parties. Other former Labour MPs (John Woodcock and Frank Field) have retained select committee positions, but it is notably harder for small party and independent MPs to battle for places on legislative committees.  Without a whip sitting on the Committee of Selection, they have often relied on the SNP forfeiting a committee place of their own for them. For MPs in the Independent Group like Chris Leslie, who has been very active during parliamentary debates on Brexit, it could be incredibly frustrating to find that they have less of a voice in the chamber and in the legislative process.

Reduced parliamentary resources

All opposition parties are entitled to Short Money funding, designed to assist opposition parties in carrying out their parliamentary business. It’s available to all parties who have received either two House of Commons seats, or one seat plus 150,000 votes. In practice this money is used to support party staff – people who work for the party group as a whole rather than for individual MPs, providing vital policy research and information. Labour were entitled to £7.8 million of short money funding in 2018/19. The breakaway MPs will no longer be able to take advantage of this, and will be unable to receive Short Money funding themselves until they create a formal political party. The donations they are seeking may overcome some of this, though it’s not clear as yet how the donations sought will be used.

Being part of the Labour Party also brought additional parliamentary resources – in the form of weekly PLP meetings and the weekly Whip, informing MPs of forthcoming parliamentary business and showing how MPs should vote. Without it, MPs may struggle to be certain what they were voting on each day. Single party MPs like Caroline Lucas, or Douglas Carswell (in the previous Parliament) are forced to prioritise business, focusing only on the business or votes which really matter to their constituency or to their party. Ministerial statements and other important documents will be distributed in advance to the main opposition parties, but small parties and independents often lose out. Access to this information is now likely to disappear unless the Independent Group forges relationships with MPs from other parties. This is common practice already for the smaller opposition parties in the chamber. Caroline Lucas, for example, as the only Green MP, has previously relied on Plaid Cymru and the SNP group for information about parliamentary business. It will be interesting to see if the group forges alliances with other small parties – the Liberal Democrats for instance – to overcome this.

These are not the only parliamentary challenges facing the group as they seek to put distance between themselves and Corbyn’s Labour Party. But as they take their seats in the Commons as independent MPs, these are two of the most pressing. How they respond to their new position and overcome the parliamentary obstacles in front of them will be the key to their success.


About the Author

Louise Thompson (@louisevthompson) is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Manchester. She holds an ESRC Grant (ref ES/R005915/1) for research into small opposition parties in the UK Parliament.



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.

I backed the SDP. But this Labour schism makes no sense at all | Polly Toynbee

During a national crisis over Brexit, the breakaway of seven MPs with no policy programme is a dangerous distraction

The great Brexit crisis slices through both parties, dividing families, friends, neighbours and colleagues. It may yet break apart the moribund political system. But that seismic rupture didn’t happen today when seven MPs walked out of the Labour party.

Seven is a pitifully small number. The timing is monstrously badly judged and the reasons the MPs give are oddly scattergun, lacking political punch and focus. To be sure, they are not alone in thinking Jeremy Corbyn a weak leader with many failings: his poll ratings show most of the country agrees, as did the 172 Labour MPs who voted no confidence in him two and half years ago, as his “kinder gentler politics” turned poisonous.

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Martin Rowson on the split within the Labour party – cartoon

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Labour MPs split a clear attempt to start a new party

Group needs momentum but much will depend on how many more MPs join them

It has no name, no logo, no staff and no money. Yet those who packed into the tiny room above Westminster Bridge as seven MPs announced they were quitting the Labour party were left in no doubt that this was the beginning of a new political party.

“The crucial word is yet,” one of the MPs said afterwards. “We are not a new party – yet.”

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If Corbyn doesn’t want the Labour split to worsen, he has to listen | Andrew Adonis

The Labour leader must urgently address the breakaway MPs’ concerns on Brexit and antisemitism

The ball is now in Jeremy Corbyn’s court. Whether the new “Independent Group” of MPs that split from the Labour party on Monday takes off largely depends upon what the leader does now to address the three crisis issues dividing him from the mainstream in his party: Europe, antisemitism and the attempted mass deselection of Labour MPs.

The group, if it coalesces into a party of some kind, will struggle in the unforgiving world of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The SDP, of which I was an enthusiastic founder member shortly after my 18th birthday because of my admiration for Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, is not an encouraging precedent. The SDP got to 25% of the vote in alliance with the Liberals in the 1983 election, but the two parties combined won only 23 seats and most of the 28 Labour MPs who defected to it lost their seats. Significantly for the Independent Group, far more Labour MPs lost their seats from joining the SDP than from deselection at the hands of far left activists.

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