Monday 18 May 2020

Yvette Cooper's Miserable Capitulation

Compromise and deal making is the DNA of Labourism. Rooted in the day-to-day practice of the workers' movement, the reason why many trade unionists have proved effective and adept politicians, regardless of their politics, is the culture of negotiation, brinkmanship, persuasion and, some might say, accommodation is the way the House of Commons is set up too. When, a wee while back, Laura Pidcock caused a stir by ruling out cross-bench friendships with Tory MPs it was because she shone a light on the essential similarities of the politics of the boss party and the politics of the labour movement's political wing. This is what we must bear in mind as we attend to today's comments in parliament by Yvette Cooper.

In case you haven't followed proceedings, and who can blame you, she indicated she is minded to vote for the government's new immigration bill - a bit of a coup considering her seniority in the PLP, buttressed by her chairing the Home Affairs Select Committee. The government's plans involve the introduction of the much-vaunted points-based system. It's likely points will be awarded for language proficiency, education level, holding a job offer, and (whisper it) assets. Priti Patel herself has stated this is explicitly aimed at keeping out unskilled workers, hence a proposed salary threshold of around £25k. As the new shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds rightly noted in reply to the debate "those who clapped on Thursday are only too happy to vote through a bill that will send a powerful message to those same people - that they are not considered by this government to be skilled workers." Not only that, unless the rules are flexible the UK will see a sharp deficit where recruitment to care and the NHS is concerned. This according to the ever-objectionable Patel is "laying the foundation of a high wage, high skill productive economy." Yes, because tightening the mobility of Labour will automatically put rocket boosters under an already stagnant economy and blast us to the altitude of double-digit growth. It's complete codswallop.

The reason the government are going hard on this is governed entirely by the interests of the Tory party. Their paltry manifesto didn't promise much, but this was one of the pledges in there. But in the strange days of the Coronavirus crisis, bulldozing this through assumes some importance. To say their handling of the lockdown has been uncertain is perhaps the most euphemistic characterisation you can come up with. When this incompetence is compounded by alarm among important layers of Tory support, the greater the compulsion to ensure the core programme - immigration controls plus Brexit - is wrapped up. It also delivers on the promise Johnson made to the conditional, wobbly-handed Tory voters who supported him in December, and becalms the yellowing grassroots.

Therefore, you have to ask what the hell Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP and frequenter of what-might-have-been dreams for the beer mat collecting anoraks of the Labour right, is doing helping the Conservatives meet key political objectives. And jokers from this wing of the party think they're serious about power and winning. The Tories don't need her charity thanks to their majority, which makes her going out on a limb even more puzzling. In her contribution to the Commons this afternoon, she said she wanted to meet the Home Secretary "in cross-party spirit", and amend the legislation with a view to arriving at a consensus. These amendments? Who the hell knows what's she's suggesting, but given her willingness to support the government they're not about to disagree with the substance of the legislation. Perhaps we'll see a few extra points added for nursing and caring jobs, but to all intents and purposes her "effective opposition" is a capitulation of the most miserable kind.

What then is her game? There are two strategies in play here. The first is the eye on the old constituency. In 2019 her seat went from super safe to marginal, with only 1,200 votes separating her from the Tories. She was hit by a modest uptick in Tory support, a creditable performance from the Brexit Party and a not insignificant increase in LibDem support, all more or less at Labour's expense. Like the (mostly) unlamented Labour leavers, she believes making a song and dance about a topic close to the heart of a large number of voters in Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford will get her noticed and build up local support. Because it worked so well for Caroline Flint. No doubt Yvette thinks this is leadership, but there's another word for this: pandering. The second is potentially more serious. Labour have applied a three-line whip vote against the government bill, so breaking party discipline will not be without consequence. But politically, Yvette is saying she has zero confidence in Labour's position and, by extension, the ability of our snazzy new leader to hang on to her seat. That, or she feels her nose was put out of joint by not getting anything in the new round of shadcab appointments. Given her seniority, it must grate to know no marks and idiots got promoted ahead of her.

Many times have the left forecast that the right would move to undermine Keir Starmer, but this has come as a bit of a surprise. The favoured method under the last three Labour leaders was the snarky briefing and leaking of documents. For Yvette to come into the open is either a clumsy attempt to bounce the party into her way of thinking because she thinks she's teflon, or doesn't care for the consequences because, once the crisis is over, she's off to do Strictly or something. Whatever the case, here we have a Labour MP who wants to chuck members of our class under the proverbial to help the Tories. This is what it boils down to, and these baldly stated facts condemn her.


Braingrass said...

It is imperative over the next couple of years that Labour members fight for open selection.

Shai Masot said...

To think it would come to this. I mean... it's back to immigrant mugs. Will the Blirites now insist of social security cuts?

The only positive thing about the last few months is that we have not had a single new case of anti-semitism since the first week of December. So, at least we're doing well on that.

Blissex said...

«ruling out cross-bench friendships with Tory MPs it was because she shone a light on the essential similarities of the politics of the boss party and the politics of the labour movement's political wing.»

One of my usual quotes, from Robert de Jouvenel, a french progressive journalist:

There is more in common between two deputies, one of whom is a Communist, than between two Communists, one of whom is a deputy.

That is about class similarity being stronger than ideological similarity. But in the case of the New Labour it is also *ideological* similarity, as they all accept the inevitability of thatcherism:
Peter Mandelson has re-entered the political fray with a provocative declaration that "we are all Thatcherites now" in an article in today's Times.

«The only positive thing about the last few months is that we have not had a single new case of anti-semitism since the first week of December.»

Since that time two major things indeed: one that news of anti-semitism in Labour have "disappeared", and the other is that Starmer's leadership has massively improved Labour's poll gap with the Conservatives, fully 10 and sometimes 20 percent points bigger than the level during Corbyn's leadership, and those poll numbers also "disappeared" from the news, a "Ministry of Truth" study shows. :-)

Jim Denham said...

What a F****g disgrace! She should be deselected at the earliest possible opportunity.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps we'll see a few extra points added for nursing and caring jobs"

Would that kind of amendment not potentially mitigate the opposition's main criticism of the bill though? That future arrivals of applauded 'key' workers might get excluded because of the salary cap.

Also, if the bill isn't wrapped up this year, covid or not, then come real Brexit day (01/01/2021) what would the UK's immigration policy be?