The Waugh Zone Tuesday February 19, 2019

The five things you need to know about politics today
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This morning’s independent Waugh Zone is from Ned Simons. Paul is back tomorrow.

Change how you run the party or more MPs will quit, Tom Watson warned Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. “We are losing members and now losing MPs,” he said.

Chuka Umunna, the notional leader of the new Independent Group of MPs, said this morning he hoped it would have evolved into a proper political party “by the end of the year”.

HuffPost’s Rachel Wearmouth breaks down how yesterday unfolded. “Westminster’s most dramatic day since Brexit began in silence,” she reports. “One-by-one, seven Labour MPs looked across a table at one another and pressed send on emails destined to make history.” Luciana Berger, who opened yesterday morning’s press conference, tells us: “There were no doubters.”

There are demands from Corbyn allies that the gang of seven submit themselves to by-elections to prove themselves. Labour is fundraising off the defections. And I’m told Momentum are already making plans to launch campaigns in each seat.

Just one day into the breakaway it might be too soon to tell what impact it will have. But as Paul notes in his analysis of the day, their supporters will see the MPs as the Magnificent Seven of Centrism while their enemies will view them as the Seven Dwarfs of Sellout-ism. A Survation poll conducted yesterday has attracted some interest in Westminster as it puts the Conservatives on 39%, Labour on 34% and “a new centrist party opposed to Brexit” on a pretty healthy 8%.

If there is a playbook on how to launch a new political party, it would include some strong dos and some strong don’ts. Top of the list of ‘gah, can we not’ must be triggering accusations of racism. Angela Smith had to apologise yesterday afternoon for almost describing non-white people on Politics Live as having a “funny tinge”. Which was not very funny and also extremely cringe.

On the day seven MPs quit, Derek Hatton, the former Militant who expelled from the party in 1986, was allowed back in. “Of course it’s good to be back, in fact in a way I’ve never left,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He branded the gang of seven “pathetic” for deciding to “run away” from Labour.

The splitters would like more MPs to join them. BuzzFeed reports yesterday was initially expected to see 30 Labour MPs quit. Asked on Newsnight last night if she would leave Labour, Siobhain McDonagh could only say: “This is really hard.” Could she see herself resigning fomr the party in a month’s time? “I hope not.”

Usually a split in one of the two main parties would be a cause for glee in the other. But that does not necessarily seem to be the case today. Tory MPs targeted by the hardline eurosceptic right believe CCHQ is not doing enough to protect them. And our Arj Singh reports Tory moderates are not ruling out jumping ship. The Sun says six Tories are on “resignation watch”. The Daily Telegraph says a Tory minister and four Conservative backbenchers could quit. The BBC says two Tories are “thinking seriously” about joining the new group. Sarah Wollaston tweeted last night: “#BLUKIP has been busy taking over the Tory Party alongside the ERG. Soon there will be nothing left at all to appeal to moderate centre ground voters.”

It’s been a while since the Brexit subhead was number three on the list. Enjoy it while you can. It won’t last.

The Cabinet meets this morning and Stephen Barclay is to brief ministers on his latest talks with Brussels. The Brexit secretary met with Michel Barnier – with Attorney General Geoffrey Cox – ahead of expected talks between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy PM, said any attempt to change the backstop with “keyhole surgery”, by either adding an expiry date or handing the UK the ability to withdraw unilaterally, would continue to be opposed by the EU. “We will not be steamrolled in this process,” he said.

With 38-days to go until exit day, The Daily Telegraph reports the prime minister has been warned by Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell she faces resignation of 22 ministers if she does not rule out no-deal. But the FT says there are splits emerging within the pro-Remain faction of the government.

In a speech this morning in Westminster, Jeremy Corbyn will once again demand the PM “back Labour’s credible alternative plan” for Brexit. The Labour leader is due to hold his own talks with Barnier later this week.

Here’s a dog playing a keyboard. You’re welcome.

Car giant Honda has confirmed this morning plans to shut its factory in Swindon in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs. The Japanese firm told workers it proposed to close the vehicle manufacturing plant at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle. The plant currently produces 150,000 cars a year. Business Secretary Greg Clark this morning described it as “a devastating decision for Swindon and the UK”.

Clark said he would convene a taskforce in Swindon with local MPs, civic and business leaders as well as trade union representatives. “This news is a particularly bitter blow to the thousands of skilled and dedicated staff who work at the factory, their families and all of those employed in the supply chain,” he added.

Donald Trump branded his efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a crusade against international socialism, using a campaign-style speech in Miami on Monday to reignite the rhetoric of the Cold War as his administration continues to pursue regime change in the South American nation.

“We’re here to proclaim a new day is coming in Latin America,” Trump said during the speech at Florida International University. “Socialism is dying and liberty, prosperity and democracy are being reborn.” HuffPost reports the speech was an early and thinly veiled attempt to tie Trump’s potential Democratic opponents to socialism during his 2020 re-election campaign: Socialism, he told the assembled crowd, was merely an effort ― made “under the banner of progress” ― to control industries like health care, finance and others. “America will never be a socialist country,” he proclaimed to cheers.

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