Friday 27 January 2017

Tam Dalyell has died

Tam Dalyell, former Labour MP, who served in parliament from the early sixties through to 2005, has died, aged eighty four years old.

Famously awkward and persistent in being awkward, and a man with no time for cant or the all too common mealy-mouthed political flim-flam - hence his infamous "West Lothian question," concerning the voting rights of Scottish (and other non-English) MPs in Westminster on English matters - a query that has never been satisfactorily answered.

As often happens with contrarian figures, he sometimes took it too far, endorsing the Lockerbie con-man Lester Coleman.

But a remarkable figure in Scottish and British politics.

Corbyn's final blunder?

So, it turns out (hideously) that the Guardian was right and I was wrong.  Jeremy Corbyn has told his Shadow Cabinet that a three-line whip will be issued over the triggering of Article 50.

It's like he resents how the media have been - just ever so slightly - focusing on Conservative woes recently, and wants the spotlight back on his own troubles.

I've been pretty supportive of Corbyn up until now, but I'm done with him. This is madness.

Imposing a three line whip is politically stupid as it generates negative headlines for Labour at a time when they really, really can't afford them.

It is morally stupid because Corbyn has always been a bit of a rebel and telling other people how to vote smacks of hypocrisy.

It is democratically stupid as it leaves the 48% who voted remain unrepresented and alienated.

So, pretty stupid.

One member of the Shadow Cabinet, Tulip Siddiq, has already resigned over this:
Shadow minister Tulip Siddiq has resigned from the Labour frontbench, telling the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that she could not reconcile herself to the party’s three-line whip to vote for triggering article 50.

In her letter to Corbyn, the shadow minister for early years said voting to start the process of leaving the EU would be a betrayal of her north London constituents, three-quarters of whom voted to remain in the EU.

“I have always been clear – I do not represent Westminster in Hampstead and Kilburn, I represent Hampstead and Kilburn in Westminster,” Siddiq wrote in her resignation letter. “I feel that the most effective place for me to counter Theresa May’s hard Brexit is from the backbenches.”

Siddiq said she had made the final decision to resign after Corbyn confirmed to the shadow cabinet on Thursday morning that Labour MPs would be expected to back the article 50 bill and a three-line whip would be imposed. “I do not support the triggering of article 50 and cannot reconcile myself to the frontbench position,” she wrote in her letter to Corbyn.
A few days ago I said he just needs to keep things quiet and let the Tories endure a bit of bad publicity. I dismissed the rumours of a three line whip as unsubstantiated trouble making by the Guardian. Now this.

Corbyn, of all leaders, should understand the importance of conscience. And he's picked a silly, needless, divisive fight which will alienate the last few MPs who support (or at least tolerate) his leadership. And it was completely unnecessary, as there was no prospect of the trigger bill failing.  To win, he didn't need to do anything - he would have avoided the negative headlines, kept his cabinet intact, made his opponents looks mean spirited divisive. The handful of votes against Article 50 he would have countenance would be unlikely to make a difference to the result.

Now he has to endure the resignations (and probably several more triggered by those trying to destabalise him, again) and still face the rebellions at the vote.  Possibly even more as he has put his authority - such as it is - on the line.

The only way this makes any sort of sense is if he is looking for an excuse to resign. But that would suggest more cunning than I credit him with.

Corbyn allowed free votes over blowing up Syrians and potential nuclear annihilation - is Brexit really more important than either of these issues?

Friday 20 January 2017

Oh, the (unintentional) irony

The Guardian is running an article about how the BBC 's Laura Kuenssberg has been found to have been impartial in her reporting of a statement from Jeremy Corbyn:
The broadcaster’s regulator concluded that a Laura Kuenssberg report for the News at Six in November 2015 breached the broadcaster’s impartiality and accuracy guidelines, in a ruling that triggered an angry response from the corporation’s director of news.

The News at Six item included a clip of the Labour leader stating: “I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive.”

Kuenssberg had presented that as Corbyn’s response to a question put to him on whether he would be “happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”, but the Trust concluded that Corbyn had been speaking in a different context. sdsd
Which is hilarious, coming from the Guardian, with its ignoble history of inaccurate and anti-Corbyn coverage. Even today, they are running a report titled, Corbyn to order Labour MPs to vote for article 50 trigger; even though he has said no such thing:
Jeremy Corbyn will order Labour to vote in favour of triggering article 50 in a move likely to prompt a rebellion of around 30 MPs, including several frontbenchers.

The Labour leader signalled on Thursday that he would impose a three-line whip if the government lost its supreme court challenge and brought a Brexit bill to parliament.

However, dozens of Labour MPs, especially those with largely urban constituencies that voted to remain, are known to be agonising about whether to defy the party line.
If you read further down the article, you discover that Corbyn did not actually say he was going to issue a three-line whip:
Asked by Sky News how he would handle any legislation in the Commons, after the Guardian revealed that some shadow cabinet ministers were considering voting against it, he said: “It is very clear. The referendum made a decision that Britain was to leave the European Union. It was not to destroy jobs or living standards or communities but it was to leave the European Union and to have a different relationship in the future.

“I’ve made it very clear the Labour party accepts and respects the decision of the British people. We will not block article 50.”

When asked if that meant a three-line whip, an order to MPs to vote for the bill, he replied: “It means that Labour MPs will be asked to vote in that direction next week, or whenever the vote comes up.”
Notice how "ask" morphs into "order" in the headline.  The Guardian might argue that Corbyn is talking in euphemisms, and if it was another politician they might have a point; but Corbyn doesn't tend to do that.  When he says hell ask them to vote for Article 50, he probably means that.  He is not an authoritarian leader.  He allowed a free vote over Syrian air strikes and on Trident.  As a life long rebel against the party line himself, it does not seem to be in his nature to impose strict discipline on matters of conscience.

Presumably, when he doesn't actually issue said whip, they Guardian will accuse him of backing down in the face of pressure ...


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