Blogosphere campaign to kick-start John McDonnell’s nomination

“The party needs a strong left-wing voice and John is the obvious candidate.”

As Ed Balls prepares to announce his intention to stand in the forthcoming Labour leadership election, Sunny Hundal is doing his bit to widen the field of would-be Labour leaders still further by encouraging MPs to sign John McDonnell's nomination papers.

Nominations close a week tomorrow and any candidate that wants to enter the race needs at least 33 signatories.

McDonnell has already complained that the brief nomination period disadvantages less established candidates while benefiting well-known faces such as the former foreign secretary David Miliband. "I think it undermines the democratic process from the outset," he told the BBC News Channel.

The blogosphere might now be McDonnell's salvation. Writing on his Liberal Conspiracy blog today, Hundal says he is convinced the "party needs a strong left-wing voice and John is the obvious candidate".

Hundal lists the MPs who backed McDonnell in May 2007 prior to Tony Blair's departure. (In the end, Gordon Brown was spared a leadership contest three years ago.) He also lists other members of the Socialist Campaign Group who didn't nominate him last time around, and encourages readers to "pick one or two names, find out their office numbers, call them and politely ask whether they would be nominating John McDonnell and why it's important that they do".

 

These nominated him last time

1. Diane Abbott MP, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
2. Ronnie Campbell MP, Blyth Valley
3. Martin Caton MP, Gower
4. Michael Clapham MP, Barnsley West and Penistone
5. Katy Clark MP, North Ayrshire and Arran
6. Harry Cohen MP, Leyton and Wanstead
7. Frank Cook MP, Stockton North
8. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
9. Jim Cousins MP, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central
10. Ann Cryer MP, Keighley
11. David Drew MP, Stroud
12. Bill Etherington MP, Sunderland North
13. Mark Fisher MP, Stoke-on-Trent Central
14. Paul Flynn MP, Newport West
15. Neil Gerrard MP, Walthamstow
16. Dr Ian Gibson MP, Norwich North
17. Nia Griffith MP, Llanelli
18. David Heyes MP, Ashton-under-Lyne
19. Kelvin Hopkins MP, Luton North
20. Lynne Jones MP, Birmingham, Selly Oak
21. Michael Meacher MP, Oldham West and Royton -- stepped down
22. Gordon Prentice MP, Pendle
23. Linda Riordan MP, Halifax -- has endorsed Ed Miliband
24. Alan Simpson MP, Nottingham South
25. Dennis Skinner MP, Bolsover
26. David Taylor MP, North West Leicestershire
27. Robert Wareing MP, Liverpool, West Derby
28. Mike Wood MP, Batley and Spen

Other members of the Socialist Campaign Group who didn't nominate him

29. David Anderson MP
30. John Cryer MP
31. David Hamilton MP -- has endorsed Ed Miliband
32. Kelvin Hopkins MP
33. Ian Lavery MP
34. Austin Mitchell MP

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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The Brexit Beartraps, #2: Could dropping out of the open skies agreement cancel your holiday?

Flying to Europe is about to get a lot more difficult.

So what is it this time, eh? Brexit is going to wipe out every banana planet on the entire planet? Brexit will get the Last Night of the Proms cancelled? Brexit will bring about World War Three?

To be honest, I think we’re pretty well covered already on that last score, but no, this week it’s nothing so terrifying. It’s just that Brexit might get your holiday cancelled.

What are you blithering about now?

Well, only if you want to holiday in Europe, I suppose. If you’re going to Blackpool you’ll be fine. Or Pakistan, according to some people...

You’re making this up.

I’m honestly not, though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility somebody is. Last month Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss who attracts headlines the way certain other things attract flies, warned that, “There is a real prospect... that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019... We will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”

He’s just trying to block Brexit, the bloody saboteur.

Well, yes, he’s been quite explicit about that, and says we should just ignore the referendum result. Honestly, he’s so Remainiac he makes me look like Dan Hannan.

But he’s not wrong that there are issues: please fasten your seatbelt, and brace yourself for some turbulence.

Not so long ago, aviation was a very national sort of a business: many of the big airports were owned by nation states, and the airline industry was dominated by the state-backed national flag carriers (British Airways, Air France and so on). Since governments set airline regulations too, that meant those airlines were given all sorts of competitive advantages in their own country, and pretty much everyone faced barriers to entry in others. 

The EU changed all that. Since 1994, the European Single Aviation Market (ESAM) has allowed free movement of people and cargo; established common rules over safety, security, the environment and so on; and ensured fair competition between European airlines. It also means that an AOC – an Air Operator Certificate, the bit of paper an airline needs to fly – from any European country would be enough to operate in all of them. 

Do we really need all these acronyms?

No, alas, we need more of them. There’s also ECAA, the European Common Aviation Area – that’s the area ESAM covers; basically, ESAM is the aviation bit of the single market, and ECAA the aviation bit of the European Economic Area, or EEA. Then there’s ESAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates, well, you can probably guess what it regulates to be honest.

All this may sound a bit dry-

It is.

-it is a bit dry, yes. But it’s also the thing that made it much easier to travel around Europe. It made the European aviation industry much more competitive, which is where the whole cheap flights thing came from.

In a speech last December, Andrew Haines, the boss of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that, since 2000, the number of destinations served from UK airports has doubled; since 1993, fares have dropped by a third. Which is brilliant.

Brexit, though, means we’re probably going to have to pull out of these arrangements.

Stop talking Britain down.

Don’t tell me, tell Brexit secretary David Davis. To monitor and enforce all these international agreements, you need an international court system. That’s the European Court of Justice, which ministers have repeatedly made clear that we’re leaving.

So: last March, when Davis was asked by a select committee whether the open skies system would persist, he replied: “One would presume that would not apply to us” – although he promised he’d fight for a successor, which is very reassuring. 

We can always holiday elsewhere. 

Perhaps you can – O’Leary also claimed (I’m still not making this up) that a senior Brexit minister had told him that lost European airline traffic could be made up for through a bilateral agreement with Pakistan. Which seems a bit optimistic to me, but what do I know.

Intercontinental flights are still likely to be more difficult, though. Since 2007, flights between Europe and the US have operated under a separate open skies agreement, and leaving the EU means we’re we’re about to fall out of that, too.  

Surely we’ll just revert to whatever rules there were before.

Apparently not. Airlines for America – a trade body for... well, you can probably guess that, too – has pointed out that, if we do, there are no historic rules to fall back on: there’s no aviation equivalent of the WTO.

The claim that flights are going to just stop is definitely a worst case scenario: in practice, we can probably negotiate a bunch of new agreements. But we’re already negotiating a lot of other things, and we’re on a deadline, so we’re tight for time.

In fact, we’re really tight for time. Airlines for America has also argued that – because so many tickets are sold a year or more in advance – airlines really need a new deal in place by March 2018, if they’re to have faith they can keep flying. So it’s asking for aviation to be prioritised in negotiations.

The only problem is, we can’t negotiate anything else until the EU decides we’ve made enough progress on the divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals. And the clock’s ticking.

This is just remoaning. Brexit will set us free.

A little bit, maybe. CAA’s Haines has also said he believes “talk of significant retrenchment is very much over-stated, and Brexit offers potential opportunities in other areas”. Falling out of Europe means falling out of European ownership rules, so itcould bring foreign capital into the UK aviation industry (assuming anyone still wants to invest, of course). It would also mean more flexibility on “slot rules”, by which airports have to hand out landing times, and which are I gather a source of some contention at the moment.

But Haines also pointed out that the UK has been one of the most influential contributors to European aviation regulations: leaving the European system will mean we lose that influence. And let’s not forget that it was European law that gave passengers the right to redress when things go wrong: if you’ve ever had a refund after long delays, you’ve got the EU to thank.

So: the planes may not stop flying. But the UK will have less influence over the future of aviation; passengers might have fewer consumer rights; and while it’s not clear that Brexit will mean vastly fewer flights, it’s hard to see how it will mean more, so between that and the slide in sterling, prices are likely to rise, too.

It’s not that Brexit is inevitably going to mean disaster. It’s just that it’ll take a lot of effort for very little obvious reward. Which is becoming something of a theme.

Still, we’ll be free of those bureaucrats at the ECJ, won’t be?

This’ll be a great comfort when we’re all holidaying in Grimsby.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.