“50 MPs From Seven Parties Join Forces On ‘Issues Ignored Because Of Brexit’ “

“More than 50 MPs have launched a cross-party movement to work together on “issues ignored because of Brexit”.

The ‘More United’ group, dubbed ‘politics for the Netflix generation’, features politicians from seven different political parties, including Labour, Tory, SNP, Lib Dem, Green, ChangeUK and Plaid Cymru.

The new network, which includes leading MPs David Lammy, Nicky Morgan and Caroline Lucas, will help fund candidates who campaign on poverty and homelessness, responsible technology, mental health and urgent climate dangers.

Backed by 150,000 members, it has already helped MPs from different parties to work together on issues like immigration visas, restoring the ‘Enable Fund’ for deaf and disabled people and access to Legal Aid.

MPs who lead and support More United campaigns will be eligible to receive money and volunteers from the movement at general elections, with almost £500,000 raised via crowdfunding and 54 candidates supported in 2017.

The group is not and never will be a political party and as result offers a ‘safe space’ for MPs from opposing parties to join forces on areas of common interest.

Lammy said: “A rare silver-lining to come out of the disastrous Brexit process is a new willingness among MPs to cooperate beyond traditional tribal loyalties.

“MPs have found that there is a special power in cross-party working and by publicly committing to seek out strong alliances that protect shared values we can help create positive changes that benefit the entire country.”

Morgan added: “All MPs come in to politics because they want to improve the lives of the people they represent. Of course we don’t always agree on how to do that but where we can find agreement across party lines there is often a compelling case to be made to the government of the day. The More United Network will give MPs across the Commons a chance to do just that.”

In a HuffPost UK blog, Morgan and Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Lib Dem Christine Jardine said: “Each of us is strongly committed to our own party. We have plenty of healthy disagreement on all sorts of topics. Yet when it comes to issues that outlive any one Government we think cross-party working is vital.”

More United CEO Bess Mayhew said that the public see cross-party working as a proxy for trust in politics.

“When polling shows that only three out of ten people believe they can make a difference by getting involved in politics something has to change,” she said.

HuffPost UK understands there is no whip, but MU will refuse to direct election resources to MPs who openly oppose their campaigns and vote against in tight votes.

The group aims to have 100 MPs on board by the end of 2020.”


Progressive politics – voters want it, the two main political parties don’t

“Whispers of collaboration waft through the air. Rumours of a new political entity emerging into the light. Stories of politicians ready to cast aside tribal instinct and join something new.

But that is quite enough about the political intrigue in Germany where, weeks before the general election, there is no doubt breathless discussion in the cafes near the Bundestag about who Angela Merkel may end up working with if she’s returned as chancellor again.

I talk of the occasional chat here, among those who describe themselves as forced to sleep on the political streets: homeless in the era of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.

Destitute, desperate and with a desire for something different, the story goes, they are smooching their way discreetly towards an immaculate political conception.

They are searching for the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of France’s En Marche, the miracle birth over the water.

President Emmanuel Macron built his own political kit car widget by widget, and, fuelled by the French electorate, drove it straight to the Elysee Palace.

So this political correspondent peeled himself away from the feverish summer squalls over the Big Ben bong ban, and instead made some inquiries.
‘Militant, muscular moderates’

One household name had already told me privately that they frequently passed colleagues from other parties in the corridors here, and thought that they had much more in common with them than plenty of their own supposed political brethren.

Another well-known politician told me of their desire to “create a home for those deeply politically engaged people who I call the ‘militant, muscular moderates'”.

“On the surface, there is the two-party system, but it is more complex than that,” I was told.

“There is a lot of voter churn – the electorate is soft and fluid.”
That’s Westminster speak for: “No-one’s quite sure what’s going on, so anything’s possible.” Possibly.

Look closely and what could be the embryonic beginnings of a new party are there.

There was what was called the Progressive Alliance at this year’s general election.

There were 42 seats across the UK where candidates broadly of the left stood aside with the intention of helping another candidate on the left beat the Conservatives.

In 38 of them, the Green Party didn’t put up a candidate. In two, the Liberal Democrats didn’t bother. And in one, the Women’s Equality Party didn’t. Not one Labour candidate stood aside. …”


However, the article concludes that there is no taste amongst Tory and Labour MPs to tinker with the status quo.

Each side assuming they would lose power and votes to another party.

Could this be our next Prime Minister? Please, NO!

Anyone who voted Conservative in East Devon but who might be wobbling nos, PLEASE read this and do your research on the ONLY alternative – Claire Wright. And ask yourself – is this better or worse than Diane Abbott forgetting a couple of numbers.

“It must have seemed a good idea at the time. A 15-minute light grilling on the morning BBC sofa with whichever stand-in presenter the corporation had dredged up to fill the void left by Andrew Marr, still recovering from a stroke. Nothing that an old hand like Boris Johnson need fear.

Tousle the hair a little, some self-deprecation and a bit of a plug for the BBC TV documentary on Monday to remind the Tory backbenchers that if the ball ever popped out of the scrum, he would be on hand to take it, almost accidentally, over the line. A spot of liberal differentiation from his school chum David Cameron on the benefits of migrants might provide with him an entry to the likely story of the day, the prime minister’s imminent speech on migrants and access to social housing. But after the 15 minutes of chilling inquisition by the softly spoken Eddie Mair, Johnson’s reputation had taken a severe pounding. Indeed, it was probably the worst interview the mayor has ever conducted.

It was inevitably described as a car crash, but in the case of Johnson, it was more of a bicycle crash: spokes all over the road, wheels mangled and a reputation badly dented.

After the opening exchanges – “Good morning, how are you?”; “Very, very good, thank you” – Johnson went downhill at an alarming pace until by the interview’s close, admitting he had “sandpapered” quotes as a Times journalist, failing to deny he lied to the party leader at the time, Michael Howard, about an extramarital affair and conceding that he had humoured an old friend when he asked for a phone number in the knowledge that the friend intended to beat up the owner of it.

By the interview’s close, “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” was one of Mair’s more generous reflections on Johnson’s integrity.

Doubtless Johnson had been lulled into a false sense of security by the opening minutes in which he was able to hint, without providing incontrovertible proof, that he thought Cameron was misunderstanding the importance of migrants to the London economy.

He also gently put the boot into his predecessor as mayor for failing to plan the London Olympics’ stadium properly. He came across as the charming, talented politician that he is.

But then Mair took the interview on an unexpected turn, and asked Johnson why he had agreed to be interviewed for the Michael Cockerell documentary. Johnson flannelled before, saying he had not seen the programme. Suddenly Mair’s tone changed lethally: “But this happened in your life, so you know about this. The Times let you go after you made up a quote. Why did you make up a quote?”

It is impossible to describe the menacing politeness of tone in which Mair specialises, or his ability to pause mid-sentence to maximise the impact. Johnson asked plaintively: “Are you sure your viewers wouldn’t want to hear more about housing in London?” It was, he added, a long and lamentable story, to which Mair replied: “OK. But you made a quote up.”

Johnson was cornered. “Well, what happened was that … I ascribed events that were supposed to have taken place before the death of Piers Gaveston to events that actually took place after the death of Piers Gaveston,” he said.

“Yes. You made something up,” Mair replied. Johnson said: “Well, I mean, I mildly sandpapered something somebody said, and yes it’s very embarrassing and I’m very sorry about it.”

With this admission trousered, Mair continued: “Let me ask you about a barefaced lie. When you were in Michael Howard’s team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?”

Johnson squirmed. “Well, I mean again, I’m … with great respect … on that, I never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter and, you know, I don’t propose …”

Mair interrupted: “You did lie to him.”

Johnson: “Well, you know, I don’t propose to go into all that again.”

Mair: “I don’t blame you.”

Johnson: “No, well why should I? I’ve been through, you know, that question a lot with the, well, watch the documentary. Why don’t we talk about something else?”

Unfortunately for Johnson, Mair was willing to change the subject.

Referring to the documentary, Mair explained: “The programme includes your reaction as you listen to a phonecall in which your friend Darius Guppy asks you to supply the address of a journalist … so that he can have him physically assaulted. The words ‘beaten up’ and ‘broken ribs’ are said to you …”

Johnson replied after snorting about an old story being dragged up. “Yes, it was certainly true that he was in a bit of a state and I did humour him in a long phone conversation, from which absolutely nothing eventuated and … you know, there you go. But I think if any of us had our phone conversations bugged, they might, you know, people say all sorts of fantastical things whilst they’re talking to their friends.”

Mair proceeded to inform, in passing, a dazed Johnson that even convicted fraudster Conrad Black does not quite trust him, before asking him to show some honesty by openly admitting that his ambition is to be prime minister rather than trading in obfuscatory metaphors such as rugby balls emerging from a ruck or saying it is not going to happen.

Mair: “You’re not going to land on the moon either. But do you want to be prime minister. Say it.”

Johnson obfuscated, presumably hoping for something to eventuate, before saying he wanted to do all he could to help Cameron be re-elected – “and in those circumstances it is completelynonsensical for me to indulge, you know, this increasingly hysterical …”

Mair: “You could end it all just by saying what you know to be true. What should viewers make of your inability to give a straight answer to a straight question?”

By now most viewers are hiding behind their sofa, or telling their gawking children to look away, or ringing the BBC begging them to show the test card.

With the clock running down, Johnson desperately tries to mount a recovery, saying he disputes Mair’s interpretations. Then he resorts to the old standby: “What viewers want to know is …”

He said: “They don’t care about phone conversations with my friends 20 years ago, they don’t care about some ludicrous, so-called made-up quote, and what’s the third accusation? I can’t remember …”

“Lying to Michael Howard,” Mair reminds him, before Johnson finally collapses in a heap, his lights, pannier bag and reputation strewn across the bicycle lane.”


Guardian letters: The East Devon voting experience and its implications

Guardian letters today:

“Writing of Ed Miliband’s revision of party membership rules as “his greatest error” is not just old news, it’s fake news too (Labour members built networks. Now Corbyn must too, 19 June), which Zoe Williams rightly recognises as negative commentary, repudiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s actual performance through – and out the other side of – the election campaign.

However, it is clear that Zoe needs to take the temperature outside of the capital – as John Harris has done so successfully – where she will find that people have made careful assessments to desert their “natural tribe” to support the best-placed candidate.

In East Devon – a very traditional Tory seat that includes chunks of Exeter, which returns a Labour MP – more than 21,000 people opted to support an independent candidate. The Labour leadership would be wilfully blind to continue running there, thus ensuring the inevitable return of the Tory incumbent. The notion of a progressive alliance took root without instructions from elsewhere; now it must be nurtured by a newly confident Labour leadership.

Les Bright
Exeter, Devon”


Progressive alliance – an idea whose time has come

“Caroline Lucas, Green Party

In an increasingly complex world, no one party has a monopoly on wisdom. People at the grassroots understand this – now the parties need to catch up
As the polls narrow, the Tories attack the idea of a progressive alliance and the possibility of coalition government because they know these could deny them their landslide. In the long term they fear a progressive realignment breaking their stranglehold on office and power. They are right to be scared because while on the surface all for them seems strong and stable, just below a new politics is bubbling up.

If Antonio Gramsci’s haunting phrase “the old is dying and the new cannot be born” was ever applicable to a UK general election, then it is this one. The old election is taking place in party headquarters, at the daily press briefings and meet-the-people events with no real people. But what is most old-school about this election is the main parties’ tribalism: “Only Labour can defend the NHS”; “Only the Tories can provide strong and stable blah”. It’s all about them: they believe they have a monopoly on the wisdom, superiority and singular ability to manage a world that is becoming more complex by the day. They are out of their depth. We know it and inwardly they do too.

The new election campaign is happening from the bottom up in local parties and communities. When Labour insisted on standing a candidate in the Richmond Park byelection last November, after the Greens stood aside to give the Liberal Democrats a freer run at Zac Goldsmith, thus establishing the working principle of the Progressive Alliance, Labour polled fewer votes than they had members. It is always the people who get it first.

Because what is being exposed during this campaign are the limits of deeply tribal parties in an increasingly non-tribal society. Our democracy is a tired adversarial system designed for two parties when we live in a multi-party moment. Young people simply don’t understand why you can’t join more than one party – and often do. The Women’s Equality Party has shown a different way of doing things is possible by saying this is fine.

Critics complain that “progressive” is a woolly term, so let me define it: being a progressive means believing the best in people, not the worst; that a good society is one that knows it is not yet good enough. It means being impatient for greater equality, democracy and sustainability.

When a progressive alliance government is formed it will introduce proportional voting so we never have to fight against the electoral system again. So this is more than just a deal to defeat the Tories in June. The progressive alliance is based on the principle that we make better decisions by working together. Unlike the arrogant view that any one party knows it all and can do it all, we believe there is wisdom to be found in the crowd. The Greens think most about the environment, Labour about work and the Liberals about liberty. This can be a winning political hand. Not least because it starts to help us deal with the complexity of the world we face. …”


“Brexit negotiations will fire the starting gun on the decade – so understanding these changes key for negotiations”

New IPPR report shows an accelerating wave of economic, social and technological change will reshape 2020s Britain

In a landmark report, leading think tank the IPPR has analysed factors shaping the UK up to 2030. It sets out the choices that must be made now if these changes are to lead to a fairer and more equal society.
The report highlights key facts that will change the way we live in the 2020s:

As the population grows, the UK is set to age sharply and become increasingly diverse. The 65+ age group will grow by 33% by 2030.

The global economy and the institutions that govern it will come under intense pressure as the Global South rises in economic and political importance.

Half of all large companies will be based in emerging markets;

Due to demographic trends, a structural deficit is likely to re-emerge by the mid-2020s, with adult social care funding gap is expected to hit £13 billion – 62% of the expected budget – in 2030/31;

Up to two-thirds of current jobs – 15 million – are at risk of automation.

These changes in technology have the potential to create an era of widespread abundance, or a second machine age that radically concentrates economic power;

The income of high-income households is forecast to rise 11 times faster than for low income households in the 2020s;

Climate change, biodiversity degradation, and resource depletion mean we will increasingly run up against the limits of the physical capacity of the Earth’s natural systems;

The UK has the richest region in Northern Europe but also 9 of the 10 poorest regions.

Mathew Lawrence, IPPR research fellow and report author said:

“By 2030, the effects of Brexit combined with a wave of economic, social and technological change will reshape the UK, in often quite radical ways.

“In the face of this, a politics of nostalgia, institutional conservatism and a rear guard defence of the institutions of 20th century social democracy will be inadequate.

For progressives, such a strategy will not be robust enough to mitigate against growing insecurity, ambitious enough to reform Britain’s economic model, nor sufficiently innovative to deliver deeper social and political transformation. They would be left defending sand castles against the tide of history.

Britain’s progressives should be ambitious, seeking to shape the direction of technological and social change. We must build a ‘high energy’ democracy that accelerates meaningful democratic experimentation at a national, city and local level, and also in the marketplace by increasing everyone’s say over corporate governance, ownership and power.”


The full report is here:

Click to access future-proof_Dec2016.pdf

“Us versus Them – The New World” – tomorrow, 9 am, Radio 4

“Us Versus Them – The New World”, Radio 4, tomorrow 9 am:

Political movements which proclaim themselves as anti-elitist challengers to the mainstream establishment have been achieving success, from Brexit campaigners to Donald Trump and various European parties.

John Harris explores the reasons behind this international phenomenon, examines the motivating forces for the anxiety and anger of voters, and considers the response of the political establishment in this new era.”

To be followed same time next week by:

“It’s the Demography, Stupid!
The New World

How is population change transforming our world?

Think of a python swallowing a pig: a big bulge makes its way slowly down the snake from the head end to the other end. That’s a bit like what’s happened to the UK demographically.

The baby boom generation – which has changed Britain politically, culturally and economically – is now retiring. That means a large bulge of pensioners with big implications for the generations that come behind them. Other advanced economies face a similar challenge and emerging economies – most notably China – will be dealing with an ageing bulge themselves soon.

But in Africa, the bulge is at the other end. A very young generation is about to make its way through the snake.

Former government minister David Willetts, now executive chair of the Resolution Foundation, wrestles with this python of population change.

What will these challenges of both ageing and very young populations mean for the world?
What are the implications for future migration patterns, for geopolitics and for global economic growth?

This programme is part of a special week of programmes for the first week of 2017, examining major forces which are changing the world around us.”

Iceland’s Pirate Party gets chance to form coalition government

Iceland’s president has asked the anti-establishment Pirate Party to try to form a government, after two rounds of coalition talks failed.
The Pirates are one of Europe’s most radical political parties and came third in Iceland’s election on October 29.

None of Iceland’s major parties won an outright majority, and President Gudni Johannesson asked the first-placed Independence Party and the second-placed Left-Greens to assemble a coalition.

The party was founded in November 2012 by Birgitta Jónsdóttir and several prominent internet activists and hackers. It has 10 seats in Iceland’s 63-seat Parliament. Members seek direct democracy, digital freedom, greater government transparency, a new national constitution and asylum for US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, the Pirate Party began a campaign to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws. They were successfully repealed in early July 2015. Members have stated Iceland must never become a member of the European Union unless the membership agreement is put to a referendum.

Should Iceland join the EU, the party believe the country shall be a single constituency in elections to the European Parliament.”


Labour will not back a progressive alliance – the proof

“… Labour has stuck with the usual protocol. Its candidate is campaigning hard in Richmond Park, leading to fears that he will split the anti-Tory vote. At the local party’s meeting to select the candidate on 4 November, a member called Mike Freedman suggested that proceedings ought to be abandoned. He says he was interrupted by an official sent from the Labour party’s London HQ. “He said: ‘You can’t do that,’” Freedman tells me. “I said: ‘I can.’ He said: ‘Well, I won’t let you. I’ll stop you.’ And he said if we didn’t choose a candidate the party would impose one.” …”


Labour, progressive alliance and proportional representation

“… Building a progressive alliance is inextricably linked to campaigning for proportional representation. As traditional party allegiances fragment, and Labour looks increasingly less likely to win a majority, some on the left are keen to give voters a plural, “radical alternative” to vote for – without the hindrance of First Past the Post.

A lot of Corbyn supporters who I have spoken to since his first election – mainly young people who haven’t been party members before – see the Corbyn phenomenon as the required disruptive force to change the structure of British politics. Rather than a choice between a right-wing party, and what they see as a Labour party with diluted values, they want a left-wing force that doesn’t have to compromise.

This is backed up by polling. YouGov found that a majority of Corbyn voters within the Labour selectorate are in favour of Labour working with the Greens (91 per cent), the SNP (73 per cent) and Plaid Cymru (71 per cent) in government, and 46 per cent would be happy to go into coalition with the Lib Dems.