Labour Civil War Deepens As Mrs May Builds Brexit Cabinet
The ongoing Labour leadership pantomime reminds us all that we are unlikely to see solidarity or coherence returning to the Official UK Opposition any time soon. Separating the heroes from the villains is becoming ever more difficult, especially when the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described his parliamentary colleagues as “useless”, following their failed attempt to keep beleaguered leader Jeremy Corbyn off the leadership ballot paper. Whilst one wouldn’t describe it as boring, it’s offering little in terms of challenging the UK Tory Government.
More curious still is the fact that the Labour rebels seemed initially unwilling (or unable) to unite behind one candidate in attempting to topple their leader. In the end, they decided to throw their support behind Owen Smith, who has eclipsed Angela Eagle's bid for the leadership.
There’s no doubt that the kinder, gentler politics Jeremy Corbyn and his team speak about, is a mirage. On Monday 11 July Corbyn supporters took over Labour’s biggest UK branch in Brighton amidst allegations that opponents were spat on. The following day, leadership challenger Angela Eagle had a brick put through the window of her constituency office whilst at last week’s meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), many colleagues expressed anger that Mr Corbyn voted against having a secret ballot to decide whether he would automatically become a leadership candidate. Furthermore, a number of NEC representatives spoke candidly about how they were allegedly victims of bullying and intimidation in the days before the meeting.
Labour is split here in Ayrshire too. Former North Ayrshire & Arran MP Katy Clark is a strong supporter of Corbyn, whilst Johanna Baxter, Labour candidate for Cunninghame North last May, was tearful when speaking about how Corbyn failed to protect members at the NEC meeting and take seriously concerns for their own safety. Ms Baxter also complained that her personal contact details were published online against her wishes. The Labour leader denounced accusations of bullying and violence in recent weeks, but for many his actions are viewed only as ritual condemnations.
Labour’s Leadership in Scotland is also in turmoil. Leader Kezia Dugdale and Deputy Alex Rowley are on different sides regarding Mr Corbyn’s future. More importantly, Labour in Scotland has no clear vision, policy programme, money or internal discipline. Its historic decline is likely to continue.
Meanwhile, New Prime Minister Theresa May has wasted no time in enacting Machiavellian-style regime change at Number 10, resulting in a cabinet almost unidentifiable from the one that David Cameron left behind.
A number of prominent Brexiteers have been awarded top jobs – notwithstanding that a definition as to what Brexit actually means is still a mystery – and unquestionably, many will be concerned that Boris Johnson and Liam Fox are now responsible for taking forward UK foreign policy.
It’s almost impossible to square Mrs May’s clamouring on Downing Street about social justice and inclusivity with the right-wing cabinet she has assembled. For example, Damian Green, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, in his time as an MP, has voted consistently against paying higher benefits over longer periods to those unable to work due to illness or disability. Those who rely on these payments have a right to be concerned.
Indeed, only hours after the initial pronouncements had been made, cabinet members had begun setting out their stalls.
New Chancellor Philip Hammond looks set to continue with austerity, despite plans to spend billions on Trident renewal, which only a minority of the population now support. It is early days, however, this new UK Government certainly signals a sharp turn to the right.
Further threats to Scotland’s Budget loom. However, the SNP Government, under the strong leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, remains resolute in fighting for Scotland during these uncertain times.