A Momentous Day, Again.

The pace of British politics in recent times has, frankly, blown most of us away. In the last month we have had a referendum with era-changing consequences, a Conservative leadership race (or at least half of one!), a Labour party coup of never-before-seen potency and complexity, and now this. Andrea Leadsom has stepped down as leadership contender, and the Conservative Party’s 1922 committee have decided that May will now be unopposed. The leadership battle, as quickly as it began, is over. Theresa May will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and First Lord of the Treasury.

A few things to think about that won’t have been covered extensively by the mainstream press during the course of today’s events; firstly, think of poor old Dave! After getting booed by the crowd at Wimbledon yesterday so overwhelmingly that Andy Murray had to leap to his defence, he has now found his time as Prime Minister (minus responsibilities) cut drastically short. He had been hoping to attend a few more international events in the coming weeks, cementing his legacy as a statesman, but it already seems that he is old news. He now has one more decision to make, before Wednesday’s PMQs session and his official resignation before the Queen. How and when will he move his belongings out of Downing Street?

Secondly, what about Angela Eagle? She stood up to begin her “I’m announcing a leadership challenge” speech 3 minutes before Andrea Leadsom announced that she was dropping out of the race. By the time Eagle had been introduced, three quarters of the journalists in the room had left, sprinting around the corner to Leadsom’s house for her announcement, leading to this frankly excruciating scene-

And, finally, to Leadsom herself. The surprise contender surpassed all expectations by getting through to the final 2 in the Tory leadership contest, but the last nail was slammed firmly into her coffin on Saturday when an interview that she gave to Times journalist Rachel Sylvester seemed to imply that she would be a better PM than May because of her experience as a mother. Theresa May herself has been unable to have children, and has spoken at length about how this has affected her and her family; it would have been a very sore nerve indeed for Leadsom to poke. Looking back at the interview it seems clear that this implication was not, remotely, what Leadsom had intended, but it was enough to allow the entire Blue Quarter press (read by the vast majority of Conservative Party members) to brand her as nasty and unfit to lead. As a result, this morning she accepted defeat and sent a letter to the Chairman of the Party withdrawing from the contest, and the rest, as they say, is history. Another scalp was claimed for the Murdoch empire, and once again News Corp had decided the course of British politics.

David Cameron, himself, will hold his last cabinet meeting tomorrow, and his last PMQs on Wednesday. He will then drive up to Buckingham Palace in the Prime Ministerial jag, present his resignation to the Queen (who will presumably purr with delight), and on Wednesday evening Theresa May will be having dinner prepared in one of Downing Street’s multiple kitchens.

And that’s that. I’ve been waiting to cover what is happening in the Labour party since late last week, but the situation is moving so fast that I have been unable to pin a story down for more than a few hours. At the time of writing, the negotiations between Jeremy Corbyn’s team and everybody else in the party have failed drastically, and Len McCluskey has accepted that he may not be able to broker a peace. The party will go to the polls to try and oust Corbyn, and now that a leadership challenge has been officially announced the next battle awaits; will Jeremy Corbyn even make it on the ballot?

Labour’s NEC will decide tomorrow on their own interpretation of the rules, and assuming as I am that they agree that Corbyn must achieve 51 nominations from the Parliamentary Party to be included in the leadership contest, he will be excluded from his own leadership battle. This, whilst seeming like a ludicrous situation, is the most likely interpretation of the rules; however Corbyn’s team have their own army of lawyers that argue exactly the opposite, so expect a legal challenge if this is the final decision of the NEC. This Labour fiasco will not be over any time soon, and if Corbyn does manage to make it onto the ballot he will likely win again, causing a split in the party which may very well mean the end of the Labour movement as we know it.

It’s all kicking off, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon. We must wait and see what happens in the coming days and weeks (months no longer seem like a viable timescale in our politics), but expect that every political party of note in our country will have a new leader by Christmas. In the shorter term, our second female Prime Minister will ascend in 48 hours, and presumably initiate what will likely be a tense and difficult divorce negotiation with a very affronted European Union.



The Chilcot Report- LIVE

It’s here. 2.6 million words, 12 volumes and 13 years since the start of the Iraq War, and the long-awaited report into the incursion has been published. Live updates will be posted as I get them.

17:40 Something very interesting indeed has surfaced from the report- there’ll be a few more of those in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out, but this one is a corker. It appears that the evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq in 2002-3, provided by an MI6 operative who was supposed to be embedded deep within Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program, was not only flawed or fabricated, but based at least partially on the Hollywood movie The Rock (You know the one, with Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage breaking into Alcatraz. If you haven’t seen it, it’s fantastic). The operative in question, upon whose reports the original dossier on Saddam’s supposed WMDs, reported in 2002 that he was on the edge of a “significant breakthrough”, and that he had “phenomenal access… the key to unlock” Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons capabilities. He reported that Iraq had ramped up its programme and built new facilities, and that in a few weeks he would provide a “CD with everything on it”. This information was all immediately relayed to Blair’s cabinet.

By February 2003 the source had failed to produce the goods, and by the 18th MI6 had concluded that the operative had been lying to Intelligence services over a significant period of time. This information, however, failed to reach the government. Reports from the agent were still relayed around Whitehall as late as April. In September, the source had reported that Saddam had “spherical containers” made of glass and filled with chemical agents. MI6 reported that they had not been able to verify fully these reports but that there was no reason to dismiss them at that time. MI6 did, however, draw attention to the fact that the source’s description of the devices was “remarkably similar to the fictional chemical weapon portrayed in the film The Rock”. The source, when questioned, reported that he had not provided any of the reports, and MI6 concluded that “its source was a fabricator who had lied from the outset”.

You couldn’t make it up. Well, somebody could.

15:00 Tony Blair has just finished giving a speech in answer to the findings of the report. His voice cracked throughout, and he was clearly struggling under the emotion of this morning’s revelations. He said “I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever believe”

13:50 That’s it from me for now. This evening, once the dust has settled, I’ll update this with a concise summary of the significant events from today and the potential fallout. Thanks for staying with me!

13:45 Blair says “I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country”. Jack Straw says he will live with the events before and after the Iraq War “for the rest of his life

13:20 David Davis MP has been very scathing, suggesting that Blair’s impulse for regime change in Iraq was not the case presented to the house with regards to WMDs, and that if regime change had been his intention that amounts to deceiving the House of Commons over the vote. He asks what the house can do to address this, presumably implying an impeachment vote against the former Prime Minister.

13:14 In an emotional press conference, families of the war dead have spoken about their anguish at the report. A sister of one of the dead has branded Tony Blair a “terrorist”.

13:11 For the next 50 minutes backbenchers will have their opportunity to speak about the report and it’s implications. Meanwhile, Blair says he will “take full responsibility” for perceived failures

13:06 Concensus this morning has been to praise the introduction of the National Security Council, in terms of ensuring that nothing like this will ever happen again.

13:04 here is the first page of the letter from Blair to Bush that has been discussed so heavily this morning. Worth a read. Blair Chilcot letter.png

13:02 Corbyn has finished speaking. He did not call for Tony Blair to be impeached or face charges of any kind, but did complain at the lack of time he had to read the report before this debate today. Seems as though he wanted to but couldn’t find the evidence in the time available to justify it.

13:00 “We now know that the house was misled… it must now decide how it will deal with this, 13 years later” Corbyn is meeting families of the war dead later, he says.

12:58 Corbyn calls Iraq “a colonial-style invasion” and continues to call the dossier presented by Blair in 2003 as “fabricated”, stops short of calling Blair a liar so far even with parliamentary privilege.

12:57 “None of us should take any satisfaction from this report” Speaker John Bercow has to interrupt Corbyn to stop MPs providing a background “running commentary” on his remarks

12:55 Blair’s actions have led to “an erosion of confidence in our political system”, Corbyn praises those who marched with him and the Stop The War Coalition, who he says “got it right”

12:53 “Act of military aggression based on false pretences” MPs on both sides begin to grumble at Corbyn’s stronger language.

12:51 Jeremy Corbyn is speaking now, he starts be remembering and honouring those killed in the conflict, the servicemen and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed.

12:50 Conclusion- widespread failures on the part of the intelligence services, the government, the MOD and Blair’s cabinet, but Chilcot stops short of suggesting legal action is needed; he was keen to stress that there were no legal representatives on his panel but the evidence here gives plenty of ammunition for those building a case that the war was illegal.

12:47 The SNP’s Alex Salmond has called for Blair to face “consequences for Iraq”- not quite the strong wording we are used to from Mr Salmond.

12:41 Cameron concludes that Tony Blair did not lie about the intelligence that led us into Iraq, but hints that the providence of that evidence may have been exaggerated by Blair, Bush and senior cabinet figures.

12:40 Jack Straw is criticised by Chilcot for having no “post-conflict plan” for Iraq as British Foreign Secretary at the time.

12:36 PM decries the length of time that it took to compile the report. Families of the dead have been waiting patiently, he said. Parliament will have two days next week to fully debate the outcome of the report, he says

12:32 PMQs is finished. Warm-up act compared to the debate this afternoon, which will start with an opening statement from the PM and then the much-awaited response from Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

12:10 Chilcot debate in the House of Commons this afternoon. Better get the kettle on whilst I have the chance.

12:09 All Corbyn’s questions today were regarding rebalancing the economy across the north-south divide. “Austerity is a failure”

12:01 Corbyn is beginning to speak… lukewarm reception from his own benches, but better than last week.

12:00 PMQs is starting, and the house is packed. Cameron starts by endorsing Wales in their Semi-final this evening.

11:58 Tony Blair’s early statement “This should lay to rest any idea that there was deceit” Accentuate the positives!

11:48 Protesters outside the QE2 centre continue to gather, calling for impeachment and trial of Tony Blair for war crimes. Be interesting to see what the political reaction to all this is in PMQs in about 10 minutes time.

11:47 Cabinet were not made aware, repeatedly, of Blair’s discussions with Bush. Some suggesting that his Cabinet voted for war based, if not on falsehoods, on a lack of information.

11:46 “This is not Kosovo… this is not even the gulf war” in July 2002 suggests that Blair knew war was on the cards a year before the vote in parliament.

11:45 Tony Blair had decided post-911 that removing Saddam was “the right thing to do”.

11:40 All the ammunition is here for Blair/Bush critics if they want it; the report does not shy away from criticism.

11:39 BBC’s Norman Smith concludes that Blair was ready to commit military forces 10 months before the war officially began.

11:38 And the text of his statement is available in pdf form here http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247010/2016-09-06-sir-john-chilcots-public-statement.pdf

11:35 And he’s finished! the report is now available here http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/

11:34 Blair government undermined the UN security council by going to war without approval

11:32 “In March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein”

11:31 “humiliating” that the UK military had to make deals with militia groups so that they would not continue to be attacked.

11:30 “delays in providing adequate… patrol vehicles should not have been tolerated” IEDs destroyed many Land Rovers with British soldiers inside. The vehicles were designed to be used in Northern Ireland.

11:28 Just been reminded by @politicshome that it’s George W Bush’s 70th birthday today…

11:26 “Armed Forces fought a successful military campaign… showed great courage in the face of considerable risk, and they deserve our gratitude and our respect”

11:24: Blair wrote to George Bush in 2003-4 “with you, whatever”

11:22 Chilcot suggests that Blair changed his explanation for military invention in Iraq after it became clear that the country did not have “vast stocks” of WMDs

11:14 “Government failed to achieve it’s objectives… Peaceful options had not been exhausted” and that the “WMD threat was presented with unjustified certainty” by Tony Blair and Jack Straw. “The circumstances on which it was decided… were far from satisfactory”

11:05 John Chilcot is walking up to the podium now. the report will be available once he has finished speaking if you want to do the digging yourself. http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/

Corbyn’s Alive!

As most of you know, I only strapped the defibrillator to this blog yesterday, after nearly ten months of absence, and so I feel it is worth a quick recap of everything that has happened to the Labour party since I left. As I recall, Jeremy Corbyn had just become leader of the Labour Party (thanks to the new “£3 a pop” membership rules implemented by Ed Miliband, suspected entryism and the return of a wave of young, naïve lefties like myself to the party), and all of his many critics had scurried away into the woodwork. We, and indeed Jeremy himself, couldn’t quite believe it; he had been the most popular candidate by a country mile, having only made it onto the ballot paper by the grace of a few Blairite Labour MPs attempting to “widen the debate”.

In the months that have followed, what has appeared on our TV screens and in the national press has been, to say the least, lacklustre. Although it is clear that this country’s right-wing press (The Murdoch/Dacre papers in particular) have not made it easy for him, he has failed to stick the knife in when the Conservatives have been weak, and it has cost him. There are others, like me, who had thought he might be just what we needed to shift the tone of public policy away from the state-slashing and multinational-coddling that has characterised the last 7 years of our debate, but after his failure to capitalise on the tax credits U-turn, the junior doctor’s contract fiasco, and the resignation of Champion of the destitute Ian Duncan Smith, it began to become clear that he was not.

What he has managed to do very successfully indeed, and all credit to him, is instil his anti-austerity brand into the heart of the parliamentary party, and helped the Labour party to move away from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s hug-a-banker attitude. The party now has a clear message on the economy, and even if it is simply “borrow to invest” economics, it’s a start. This in my opinion has garnered enough support from the PLP that regardless of what happens to Jeremy, he will have a legacy of some sort to speak of.

However, since the EU referendum, things have really begun to fall apart. All those Blairites and “moderates”, some of whom have been waiting for this opportunity since day 1 and some of whom were willing to give Jeremy the benefit of the doubt on the off-chance that he would double their share of the vote, have had enough. Like rats from a sinking ship, 80% of the parliamentary Labour Party have expressed no confidence in his leadership. His response has been both shocking and grimly predictable; to barricade the doors of his office and fire up the Momentum social media machine to drum up his support amongst members in preparation for a leadership challenge.

The problem for the overwhelming majority of MPs who want to oust him, partially because of his politics and partially because they’d all rather like to have a shot at government in their lifetimes, is that the new leadership election rules make it nigh on impossible to unseat him. All those middle-of-the-road voters that shifted from the Tories to vote for new Labour have long since moved back, or just given up voting altogether. The active Labour membership is comprised overwhelmingly of lefties, and of those who joined up a year ago to vote him in in the first place. This is why almost every Labour MP you can think of his been begging him to resign, and why nobody has stepped forward to challenge him. If there is another contest, and he can get himself on the ballot paper, he will most likely win again. And if that happens, what options are left open to the PLP?

The answer, unfortunately, is a split in the Labour party. It’s happened before; in 1981 Shirley Williams and 3 other Labour MPs (who became known as the gang of four) left the party because of the rising influence of Tony Benn and the feeling that the party was moving leftward; they were also worried about the influence of trade unions on the leadership of the party (sound familiar?). They ultimately started their own party, the SDP, which eventually merged with the then Liberal party to form what we now know as the Lib Dems. The whole story is incredibly interesting and very reminiscent of today’s situation, and is well worth researching if you have the time, however the crux of the matter is that if the PLP cannot unseat Jeremy Corbyn in time for the next election they may well have a similar moment themselves; although the “gang of four” this time around may consist of hundreds.

With Angela Eagle and Owen Smith both threatening to challenge him as potential stalking horse candidates if he doesn’t eat the poisoned apple soon, it remains to be seen whether a compromise can be found to save his leadership in time; John Prescott and Len McCluskey have both been suggested as “honest broker” for negotiations going forward, but rumour has it that Jeremy is refusing to meet with most of his MPs lest they convince him of the need to stand down. His parliamentary aides (including the shady Seumas Milne) have closed ranks around him, he has not done interviews for the media in days, and when he does leave his office or his house it is to stand up in front of Momentum rallies and espouse his usual brand of anti-austerity politics, almost as if he didn’t have a referendum to react to. It’s a real shame, particularly in times like this, that the government doesn’t have a functioning opposition and that Corbyn can’t fill his front bench, as it leads to situations like this written question from his new shadow international development secretary-

Diane Abbott:

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what steps she has taken to assist people in the Indonesian province of Davao del Norte affected by the drought in that province.

Justine Greening:

There is no province called Davao del Norte in Indonesia.

(courtesy Guido Fawkes blog)

On top of all this, Labour could be scoring points on a daily basis if they were on the top of their game, with Theresa May threatening to use EU citizens living in the UK as bargaining chips in her referendum negotiations, George Osbourne rowing back from his “surplus by 2020” commitment (leaving many of us wondering what all the austerity economics were for in the first place), and a government that seems to want to perpetually re-fight the referendum campaign until it tears itself apart.

We can only hope either that some settlement is reached whereby Corbyn is kept in place and beaten into shape until he is electable, or that he bows to the pressure after getting his life’s ambition to call for the trial of Tony Blair from the despatch box tomorrow, and resigns so that the party can find a more credible alternative before the Tories call a snap general election at the close of the year.

I can only apologise, dear reader, after combing back through this, for my long-winded style. I hope you stuck with me until the end- if so, tomorrow I’ll bring you the latest from the Chilcot revelations (or whitewash, depending on your point of view), and a summary of the Tory candidates left in the race to become our next Prime Minister. One of those candidates should fall off the ticket within a few hours of my posting this article; with any luck it’ll be Michael Gove.

Health and happiness in these turbulent times.

“Just for a handful of silver” Post-Brexit summary and analysis

Where the hell do I start? How can I possibly make up for being absent through the most tumultuous time for British politics in living memory? I can only apologise. Far deeper divisions fester within the Labour Party than were ever present during the days of the Gang of Four and the SDP split, we have a Conservative Party running out of cutlery due to the sheer volume of high-profile assassinations in the last week, and our formerly esteemed Prime Minister has resigned.

Oh, and if you hadn’t heard, last week Britain voted to leave the European Union, and stand on our own two feet, arthritic though they may be.

Those of you who know me or have read my little rants before will be more than aware of my stance on these issues (writing as I am from my parent’s house in France), but in order to avoid omitting anything of potential importance I thought I’d put together a run-down of events since the referendum vote, as well as some ideas as to where we could potentially go from here.

  • The Brexit vote saw the economy hit by severe shocks and massive uncertainty, in every way reflective of the “fearmongering” economic predictions made by the remain side and almost everyone who could count throughout the referendum campaign. We are still unsure about the medium to long term effects of our vote to leave, but within the next few months the true extent of the damage will become clear. Anecdotal evidence suggests that businesses are holding off on investing in the UK, that multinationals with their EU headquarters here are planning to withdraw to Paris or Berlin, and that at street level consumers are holding off buying big-ticket items like cars and household appliances in the hopes that the markets will settle… Making the markets even less likely to settle.
  • Again, the evidence is purely anecdotal, but police forces are reporting an increase in both physical and verbal attacks on almost every minority group in the country since the vote. Mosques and polish community centres have been defaced with graffiti to the tune of “go home”, immigrants have been shouted at in the street, and yesterday Michael Foot’s memorial in Plymouth has been covered in Swastikas. It’s almost as if the isolationist, reductionist attitude of the leave campaign has given licence to racism and xenophobia on a national level. Who’d have thought it?
  • EU leaders are begging us to leave as soon as possible to avoid an economic “contagion” spreading across the channel, and to stop the rise of far-right movements in their own individual countries. Meanwhile, the swashbuckling brexiteers who promised to cut immigration and pour EU subscription money back into public services have now assured us that that wasn’t what they said at all, and that we should have read the small print. Most are trying their hardest to convince us that we can stay in the EU as long as we like whilst we get “the best deal for Britain”, which presumably means receiving all the benefits we had before without any of the perceived negatives of membership, including free movement. Best of luck to them.
  • David Cameron has resigned, presumably deciding that after causing this entire fiasco in order to get elected last year that it was no longer his problem to deal with, and Conservative party members now have to choose us a new Prime Minister based on what kind of Brexit they would like to see.
  • Theresa May is a shoe-in for the job after the last few days; Boris Johnson had been the favourite but was smote across the proverbial mountainside by his friend and fellow Brexiteer Michael “I’m not going to stand” Gove, who then proceeded to, you guessed it, stand. On the plus side, if there’s one thing the Tories hate it’s unpredictable treachery, so the likelihood of anyone from the leave campaign being our next prime minister is basically nil. Oh, and Andrea Leadsom is standing, presumably because she too had not received a decent job offer from Boris’ camp. Rumour has it that we may have a snap general election by the end of the year to legitimise our new glorious leader, but Theresa May has confirmed that if she is chosen she will stay on until the end of the parliament in 2020, to avoid “further uncertainty”. Hmm.
  • The Labour Party is, if anything, even worse off following the result of the referendum. 80% of MPs have expressed no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn, in the hope that they can oust him before a general election. His response has been to hole himself up in the leader’s office, surrounded by his lieutenants, and barricade the door, so that nobody can persuade him to resign. Rumours abound that he is only sticking around until Wednesday’s Chilcot Report to call out Tony Blair as a war criminal in the House of Commons; meanwhile his aides are telling journalists that they can’t let him be interviewed because “He’s nearly 70 and we have a duty of care”. I’ll give you all more on the Labour rumblings in the next few days because it really does deserve its own analysis, and summation is the mother of omission.
  • It is also worth pointing out that the Lib Dems are standing on a platform to reverse the referendum result and keep us in the European Union. How this squares with their “democrat” brand I’ve yet to work out, but with everything in such a state of flux I expect we’ll hear more from them during the parliamentary recess.
  • The SNP are beginning to put plans in motion for a second independence referendum, with Scotland having predictably voted to remain in the European Union. This could happen within a year or two, depending on when Article 50 is invoked and we begin the process of leaving the EU in earnest.
  • You must also remember that with three simultaneous leadership elections on the cards, the House of Commons shuts down next week so that they can all take a well deserved excursion to the south of France, Rhodes, or in the case of Boris Johnson, Milton Keynes. This is the reason for the rushed nature of British Politics in the last week, and the months to come. Things are moving faster than ever, and many fear that the Brexit vote is a sign of things to come, with French, German and US elections in the next 12 months each presenting their own brand of right-wing difficulties.
  • This morning marked the resignation of Nigel Farage, and with it supposedly the death of UKIP. Unless, that is, they can shift the worship of the “cult of the personality” onto the shoulders of another candidate. My bet would be a dead heat between Douglas Carswell MP and Paul Nuttall MEP, in a sort of “Who’s less creepy?” battle to the death. Whether or not UKIP can stay relevant in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen.

So hopefully, folks, I’ve covered everything. It’s not my task to judge how you voted, but provide you with information in the aftermath. If you’ve missed any of this or want more information on anything, feel free to ask me by email, on social media, or in the comments below. Alternatively, it’ll be forensically covered by the national media online and in print. I myself will be continuing to pick apart events as and when they happen, beginning with an analysis of the storms battering the Labour Party to be published in the next few days (tomorrow if I can), followed by a summation of the Conservative leadership candidates as they are whittled down to 2.

Thanks for reading, to old subscribers and new. I hope you’re as glad as I am that The Politics Problem is back on its feet. I wish I could be returning under happier circumstances, but regardless, it’s good to be back.

Corbyn steamrolls opponents: now the real battle begins

So the impossible has happened, in what seems to be becoming quite a trend in British politics since the start of this year; the 500-1 outsider and veteran left winger spent the entire campaign aiming not to lose, and in doing so managed to win a serious mandate from the Labour community. He won with every major demographic, the young and the old alike, those who voted for UKIP and the Greens both favoured him in equal measure. In the end, it was a massive 59.5% of the Labour Party that handed him the keys, making it one of the clearest leadership outcomes in recent history.

Now, however, comes the hard part for Corbyn and his band of rebels-turned-Kings. He has four and a half years of a predominantly right-wing press hammering away at his confidence (and public confidence by extension). He has the Murdoch empire to contend with, and the clamouring of the entire British business world for a continuation of the status quo. He will have party rebellions and attempted coups to survive before he even reaches 2020. He is trying to convert an electorate that has been brainwashed with austerity economics since Thatcher, and that will not happen with ease. The man who didn’t really want to be leader has to make himself Prime Minister, against all the hordes of enemies that he has made along the way.

He announced his first Shadow Cabinet positions last night, and they make interesting reading indeed. The slate has been wiped clean; if MPs are willing to swear their allegiance then he is more than willing to forgive. In this manner Andy Burnham grasps the reigns of the shadow home office, a position he had manoeuvred himself into before he had even lost the leadership. John McDonnell will be facing the chancellor at the dispatch box, whilst Hilary Benn (son of one of Corbyn’s mentors and Labour left-winger Tony Benn, and a strong parliamentarian) has been given Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Heidi Alexander has received her first serious ministerial role as the shadow health minister. The rest are fairly unknown, aside from Angela Eagle who has remained in her post as shadow Leader of the House of Commons.

The Tories are already decrying him as a “serious threat to national security”, but these are desparate attacks from a party stunned by his rise. Nobody, but nobody, saw this coming, and Labour must capitalise on the headstart they now have before the next five years of trench warfare settle in.

When your back is turned

It’s the way of the world. You take a few weeks off politics (the same few weeks that the PM takes off incidentally, although bodyboarding in Cornwall is perhaps slightly more exotic than playing xbox and working a 9-5), and the whole world goes completely mental. The migrant crisis in the EU, bubbling under the surface for the last few months, has burst quite spectacularly. The Labour leadership contest has turned into an engaging debate surrounding a party that seems perfectly willing to tear itself to ribbons, and David Cameron performed the first major U-turn of this parliament, with his pitiful olive branch to the refugees of conflicts in Syria and the wider Middle East. 

In case you missed any of the news over the last few weeks I’ve prepared a short summary, complete with links to my articles published elsewhere, below.

With the Chilcot inquiry delayed for the umpteenth time, the families of Iraq war dead threatened legal action against Sir John Chilcot. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s star rose astronomically, despite warnings from every Labour grandee in existence. 

David Cameron ramped up his schools program, with another two rounds of free schools opening across the country and existing schools being converted to academies. 

Corbyn gathered more support whilst the other candidates fought over their dwindling portion of the public vote. 

China’s economy crumbled almost overnight, sending the world’s investment bankers into a feeding frenzy and setting the country back a number of years. 

The DWP were caught, trousers round ankles, fabricating the testimony of benefits claimants to make their sweeping cuts easier to swallow. 

Cameron missed his migration target for yet another quarter as the figures hit a new record high. 

DWP figures showed that nearly 4000 people in the UK died shortly after being declared “fit to work” and taken off their benefits. 

This blog is back with a vengeance after a few weeks of hiatus, so watch this space. There will be contributions from new writers over the coming months, including stories relating to the American Presidential campaigns, so if you are sick of my rhetoric I promise a degree of respite.

Cameron rules out another Independence Referendum for Scotland

Amid comments by the former leader of the SNP Alex Salmond that another Scots’ referendum is “inevitable” given the approach of a vote on our membership of the EU, and the advance of legislation regarding English Votes for English Laws (EVEL), David Cameron has made a statement ruling out another independence vote in the next five years.

This has ignited a massive argument amongst the Commons about who has the right to instigate a referendum, and indeed whether Mr Cameron has the right to veto one. The belief had always been that the SNP would propose another vote in their 2016 manifesto for the Scottish devolved parliament; if they were to then win that election they would have a mandate to call a referendum, and Cameron could do very little to stop it.

There is a wider question here, wrapped up in the mock-outrage and posturing; who is in charge of the SNP? Since Salmond’s comments the current leader Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated her position that “something significant would have to change” for there to be another referendum in the near future, and that “now is not the time to disclose the contents of our 2016 manifesto”. This is not the first time that Salmond has spoken well beyond his brief and caused embarrassment to the party, and it seems that he cannot relinquish the power he possessed as Leader of the party. 

This is Hubris in the extreme; it was Sturgeon who led the party to the biggest election win in its history, an unprecedented landslide victory that swept the whole of Scotland away with the sheer force of change. Salmond fought multiple elections on a similar platform and failed to make a significant impact. He spearheaded the referendum campaign and lost, and he should allow the party to move on from his reign. As a figure he is too divisive, whereas Sturgeon is a fresh face with fresh ideas and little political baggage.

The row is due to continue, and with the house on summer recess it will continue to bubble and broil in the press until September, when Cameron plans to start pushing through his EVEL proposals. 

Sturgeon still vehemently denies that she is planning to call another referendum, but she has been put in a position where she looks evasive because of Salmond’s comments on the Marr show on Sunday. He needs to find his place in the newly-reinforced parliamentary SNP, and stop speaking out of place. The alternative is a scenario in which Salmond lingers over her like a shadow, second-guessing and redefining her decisions and exposing the party to serious in-fighting.

As an aside, growth figures today show the UK economy grew by 0.7% in the last quarter, giving credence to rumours that interest rates may rise in the new year. I’ll continue to keep you updated as the news comes in.