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Have you heard of the John Peel fallacy?  The late lamented BBC disc jockey was once heard to wonder why a certain artist’s recording wasn’t in the charts -- "Everyone I know has a copy". "No, you know everyone who's got a copy" came the reply.

A tweet that came my way applied the fallacy to Len McCluskey’s claim that Jeremy Corbyn was once loved by the electorate. “Those who love Corbyn only know those who love Corbyn.”

I’m no fan of McCluskey but he does have a point. Corbyn’s personal ratings were positive for a couple of months in mid-2017. But a glance at the leadership polling figures shows how quickly that was reversed and how far his rating nose-dived. They steadily worsened through 2018 and 2019 with a couple of pollsters recording minus 60%.

The party’s official inquest of the December defeat with its claim that Corbyn wasn’t to blame is little short of absurd. Don’t blame Corbyn is absurd.  

The dire Corbyn numbers will be put in perspective when we see what kind of bounce the newly elected leaders gets. A bit of polling by Ipsos Mori suggested every contender would outperform the current leader handsomely -- Caution: most of those polled didn’t have a view one way or the other. Front runner Kier Starmer even creeps into positive numbers which would make him more popular that Boris Johnson.

We should remember Johnson’s ratings have been mainly negative since his election – just nowhere near as bad as Corbyn’s.

Defining Johnson will be a crucial task for the new leader. She or he might like to take into the first PMQs this quote from Johnson’s former boss at the Telegraph, Max Hastings. Writing during the Tory leadership, Hastings was scathing about his former employee’s “moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth” adding, “His graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later. “

An analysis of the election result by LSE researcher Christabel and Luke Cooper may provide a better guide that the Party’s to that went wrong in December. Looking forward they argue a professional approach to targeting these lost voters, so “messages can be carefully honed in ways that make our radical policies appealing.”  

Labour should avoid making “shallow appeals. Focus on the economic policy offers that have support – “Regional investment, public ownership, the NHS, are all issues with broad appeal. Labour should focus on making this core offer seem credible.”

Of course Brexit hasn’t been sorted. It is already clear that Johnson will seek to play the blame game as part of a strategy of confrontation with Europe. The promises of ‘frictionless’ trade and bringing the country together look illusory.

Labour needs a better message than was deployed in the General Election. We should say we will back a ‘Fair and Family-friendly Brexit’, highlighting our priorities of defending jobs and living standards, plus protection for workers, consumers and the environment.

By Don Brind - Former BBC political correspondent

Why leadership matters

Have you heard of the John Peel fallacy?  The late lamented BBC disc jockey was once heard to wonder why a certain artist’s recording wasn’t in the charts -- "Everyone...

The one issue that Labour candidates walk in fear of is raising honestly the question of British and our fellow Europeans living or working in each other’s countries.

Writing in the Guardian, Sir Keir Starmer asserts: “The Leave-Remain divide must end. There are no leavers or remainers any more.” If this means we have to agree with Nigel Farage or the Daily Telegraph include me out.

But none of the candidates are prepared to echo the confidence and generosity of Winston Churchill who in 1948 declared: "We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their own native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain they will truly feel 'Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too'."

Now Boris Johnson wants to bring in a heavy, clunky immigration bureaucracy to stop precisely the vision Churchill had of being a European able to say anywhere in Europe “I am a citizen of this country too.”

Unfortunately, for all the leadership candidates who proclaim their support for a deal which protects jobs, the EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, could not have been clearer. Launching the 6 month EU rotating presidency dealing with Brexit negotiations she stated: “If there is no freedom of movement of people of course there can be no free movement of goods and services and capital.”

The two other EU presidents – David Sassoli of the European Parliament and Charles Michel of the European Council – have repeated this point. No freedom of movement, no win-win deal.

And that spells real difficulty for the jobs depending on unfettered trade with the EU that would-be Labour leaders insist is their priority.

So how can Labour deal with this difficult issue? Here are some guidelines for Lisa, Becky, Emily and Keir:
1) It would be useful to separate rules for immigrants coming from far away seeking permanent settlement, rather like those who make up 29 per cent of the Australian population and arrive over the oceans, via its much-vaunted point system.

 For workers from Europe, it might be possible to control and manage arrivals with controls and changes in the management of the internal labour market rather than a clunky, expensive Home Office immigration bureaucracy, that even with good intentions will produce harsh and Windrush type decisions that are unavoidable.

2) The UK could start by actually knowing which EU citizens are working here. Currently, the government has no such statistics. A registration system such as was set up in 2004 but abolished by Theresa May in 2011 would be a beginning. A card such as issued in the Netherland and Ireland for any access to public services would reassure voters that only legally resident EU citizens were getting free NHS care or school places for children.

3) Freedom of movement does not extend fully to state employment and it is possible to draw up job qualifications that support local British workers without excluding Europeans. The biggest employer of EU citizens is the NHS. Each year, thousands of young students work hard to get star results in STEM subject A/Ls in the hope of entering medical school. But the UK refuses to train up British citizens as doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

Labour should pledge to open new medical and nursing schools in the Northern and Midland constituencies.

4) Assuming the UK will not impose tourist visas on EU citizens they can come freely and then disappear into the UK unregulated cash-in-hand labour market. EU rules stipulate that anyone without a job can be sent home after 3 months. This needs to be enforced.

5) There is a chronic shortage of skilled craftworkers which also drags on productivity. A vocational training revolution based on best practice in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherland or Nordic countries would be welcomed by all families who voted Tory for the first time last December. They want to see their children equipped with skills for jobs currently being done by trained workers from countries which have proper apprenticeships which long disappeared from the UK workplace.

6) Employer abuse of agency workers often provided by modern gangmasters needs to end and joint CBI-TUC regional committees can oversee likely employment needs and workplace inspections.

To be sure such changes in internal labour market management would go against the grain of the ultra-liberal, de-regulated, low-pay UK labour market espoused as much by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as by Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron.

But with skilful design, it could firstly satisfy voters’ desire for getting back control of the labour market to support British citizens; secondly, allow enough freedom of movement from Europe to permit UK access to the single market in terms of trade in goods and services; and show Labour turning its back on the ultra-deregulated low-pay non-unionised labour market that has  come into being in Britain since the Thatcher era and left unreformed ever since.

By Denis MacShane - former Labour Minister of Europe. His latest book is “Brexiternty. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” (IB Tauris-Bloomsbury)

Labour Would-Be Leaders Must Face Up to Freedom of Movement

The one issue that Labour candidates walk in fear of is raising honestly the question of British and our fellow Europeans living or working in each other’s countries.


Anna Turley, Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe and former Labour MP for Redcar constituency said: “Our executive has decided to nominate Keir Starmer and Ian Murray because of their strong pro-EU values and the fact that we think they are in the best place to take Labour to victory at the next election. 

Keir led Labour’s Brexit position with skill and diligence, guiding the party to the position we adopted at conference, in support of a confirmatory referendum. His personal position as stated in the General Election was for Labour to clearly campaign to Remain should there have been a referendum. He worked hard to keep all sides of the debate within our movement together in a difficult and fractious period. As we leave the European Union, Keir understands the importance of keeping as close as possible relationship with the EU to protect people's jobs, their rights and the NHS and environment.

Ian Murray has twice been the only Labour MP elected in Scotland, which voted decisively to Remain. He has not only survived because of his ability to communicate and campaign but because he has spoken up for pro European values. Ian was part of the successful court challenge against Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of Parliament, the co-chair of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market and a strong supporter of a people’s vote. He understands that even after Brexit our ties with Europe must remain strong.

We are confident the two will take our pro European and internationalist values forward."

LME nominates Keir Starmer and Ian Murray for Labour leader and deputy

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