The five things you need to know on Wednesday September 30, 2015...
1) BOMBING IN THE MEDIA
The morning after the speech before, Jeremy Corbyn has been on the usual breakfast media round and he has the usual sit-down TV interviews later today. The Labour leader made plain yesterday his disdain for newspapers – ‘broadsheet and tabloid’ alike– but he also has his doubts about broadcasters too (the feeling is mutual, several TV journalists tell me it’s even more difficult dealing with his team than with EdM).
This morning, Sarah Montague on the Today programme asked Corbyn a nightmare question for any devout unilateralist party leader: would you personally use nuclear weapons if you become PM? “No,” he answered. That one word is kinda obvious given his views, although he could have said ‘I don’t get into hypotheticals’ (as he did on Syria). It’s certainly ‘straight talking, honest politics’.
But it also means that all the talk about renewing or not renewing Trident is a sideshow: Corbyn is telling voters that he would not be prepared to use Britain’s nuclear arsenal even if we come under attack, ie the central point of deterrence. Several members of the Shadow Cabinet may think that’s just not acceptable. And you can bet the Tories will pounce on it.
Corbyn’s attack on the ‘commentariat’ has received a predictable backlash from the, er, commentariat. But he has to answer serious questions posed by columnists like Johnny Freedland, who said his main failure was not addressing why Labour lost the general election. Freedland pointed out that the hall laughed at Corbyn’s football gag about a club with growing supporters, “enjoying the chance to forget that Labour had in fact suffered a second massive defeat in May, relegated for at least another five seasons”. The ‘i’ splash was ‘Corbyn Gives Up Centre Ground’, a reference to his own ‘Modern Left Movement’ tag.
Plenty of papers have seized on the Spectator’s Alex Massie pointing out that chunks of the speech were taken from a blogger Richard Heller. Heller tells the Guardian he didn’t mind at all. What’s baffling is why Corbyn spinners initially denied the cut and paste job. Not quite the ‘straight talking’ we’re told about. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Corbyn said that out of 5,000 words “350 words sent in by a friend of mine…we did use, I’m grateful to him for that…We were sent some information by a number of people for this speech.” Faisal Islam of SkyNews had a nice gag: “Obviously if Corbyn crowdsources pmqs he was going to do it for his speech..”
Perhaps one of the most interesting reactions in the papers is William Hague in the Telegraph. A man who knows the bitter taste of Opposition, he says ‘outsourcing’ decisions to party members is something Labour will come to regret. “[He] will find, like Robespierre, that the revolution he promoted ultimately consumes the leader himself”.
Many shadow frontbenchers praised the speech publicly, though several weren’t so keen in private. Hilary Benn, asked what his dad would have thought, said: "If it's possible to give a standing ovation from wherever he is I'm sure he was doing it." PoliticsHome reports that Keith Vaz said: “I felt I was on a date with Jeremy."
John McDonnell last night joked at the Guardian fringe that he may "wake up" soon from the fact that he’s actually Shadow Chancellor: "It's either a dream for me or a nightmare for the Daily Mail".
Although Corbyn won’t be surprised by the Sun’s attack on his ‘Mr Bean’ dress sense, he and his team will certainly be heartened by the paper’s decision today to attack Osborne’s tax credits cuts. The Sun, clearly reflecting its readers’ worries , says in its leader column that he should ‘soften the impact of stripping away working tax credits’.
Lots of papers point out the speech didn’t include key policies like the deficit, immigration or welfare. You can read my 10 Things We Learned from the Corbyn speech HERE.
2) FREE SYRIAN BARNEY
Corbyn made plain his own personal opposition to Trident in his speech and a free vote in now inevitable ahead of the maingate decision next summer. But on Syria too it looks like he may have to allow a free vote. McDonnell (already dubbed ‘Mad Mac’ by the Sun I see) said last night: “When you are sending people with a potential loss of life I think it is a conscience decision, I think it is a moral decision. So I am hoping on the Syria thing it should be a free vote on the basis of conscience. On that big ticket issue that is the way we should go.”
And asked if Labour MPs would vote for airstrikes, he said: “I won’t”. The Unite backed emergency motion at conference today is viewed by many shadow ministers as a clumsy attempt to bind their hands.
Corbyn himself on ITV today said of the vote: “That’s a totally hypothetical situation”. But he also stressed “we all want to see a political solution” and in fact that’s just what Cameron, Obama and Putin are circling around. However, the PM said on US TV last night the West and Russia were still ‘miles apart’.
On CBS, Cameron also made a wider appeal to Labour voters to switch support to the Tories: “Whatever your politics in the past, if you want strong health and a strong economy, if you want strong defence and to look after the poorest in the world, we are the team for you.”
Corbyn’s own taking of sides in the Middle East makes some in his party nervous too. One of the greatest opening lines to any novel is Moby Dick’s ‘Call me Ishmael’. But last night at the Labour Friends of Israel fringe, he was heckled for not saying the word ‘Israel’.
3) ‘COME BACK’ COMEBACK
Only on Monday, John McDonnell ended his speech with a plea to ex frontbenchers to 'come back' and join Team Corbyn. But both right and left seem to think that's a bad idea.
ITV’s Chris Ship yesterday spotted that Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna and Mary Creagh were all in the same train carriage back to London, well before Jezza’s speech. Last night, GMB official Tim Roache told a fringe: "Now It's our day. And people like [Peter] Mandelson and [Tristram] Hunt, I nearly swore then, we don't want you here. They want us to fail, be under no illusion." He also attacked the ‘bullshit’ of special advisers under Ed M.
Ivan Lewis was on scathing form too. He told a fringe that Labour needed its own ‘nasty party’ moment. “We need to have the same discussion about our negatives and the perception of the mainstream majority”. Simon Danczuk last night told a fringe Corbyn painted a "Dickensian picture" of Britain: "It's an election loser. It's a bad picture to paint. The public don’t appreciate it.”
But Clive Lewis told HuffPostUK that Corbyn’s “disproportionate" focus on internal Labour politics was vital to try and heal internal wounds. "What we have to do is convince ourselves that first of all we have the right leader, the right politics, and we can move forward.”
For many here, the most worrying thing about the Corbyn speech was the National Policy Forum review and the threat that Corbynistas could take over policy. It’s not this year’s conference that worries them most, it’s next year’s which aptly enough happens to be in Liverpool: scene of Labour’s most bitter faction fighting in the 1980s. Quiet moves to change the NEC this week means there is for the first time a pro-Corbyn majority on it too.
But don’t forget that others have a big mandate. Sadiq Khan has been reminding people he had a 60% vote, and Tom Watson too has an enormous endorsement from members. Both make speeches today. On Today, Khan said: “There were some things in Jeremy’s speech that many people would have liked, other things that they wouldn’t…”
Corybn, asked on Today how long he’d remain leader, replied: “There’s no timetable on this”. If Khan loses and councils are lost in May, the timetable may already have been set. No pressure then…
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch new Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher belt out The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks at the Mirror party last night. Jeremy Corbyn praised the rendition, as well as the Mirror.
4) NOT QUITE A COPPITE
Andy Burnham will today drop Labour’s pledge to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners (he trailed this at a fringe). The only problem with that is the savings had funded Yvette Cooper’s own plans to protect the cops from two years of cuts. Burnham is pledging 5-10% cuts too, which sounds like less than Cooper but is a signal that he is one of the Corbyn Shad Cab members who is unafraid of making a case for cuts, and not always opposing them.
As for the other big item in his intray, Burnham is set to insist in his speech today that his party has to show people it has answers to protect Brits from the problems of EU freedom of movement. On Today, Corbyn said Burnham was simply setting out what he’d said during the leadership campaign, and then went on to stress his own more pro-immigration message. That sounds uncomfortable, but expect more of it.
5) CARNEY’S CLIMATE CHANGE
One of the biggest stories of the week (which didn’t get much play because it was among a raft of announcements in the McDonnell speech) was Labour looking at changing the mandate of the Bank of England. For all the protestations that this wouldn’t affect the independence of the BoE, plenty of Corbynites think Mark Carney is Osborne’s stooge.
But last night, well away from the seaside, the Bank Governor issued a warning to all politicians to do more to tackle climate change. In what sounded like rare criticism of the Chancellor and the PM (it was veiled naturally as a rallying cry to industry too) after recent claims they’ve abandoned the environment as a priority, Carney said:
“While there is still time to act, the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking…The combination of the weight of scientific evidence and the dynamics of the financial system suggest that, in the fullness of time, climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer-term prosperity.. the far-sighted amongst you are anticipating broader global impacts on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security. So why isn't more being done to address it?”
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