Wreckage of the airliner that crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. Photo: Getty
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Europe has a duty to act more effectively on the Russia Ukraine conflict

The Labour MP Mike Gapes argues that it is becoming increasingly likely the crashed airliner in Ukraine was shot down by Russian separatist fighters, and that it's time Europe took action on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

We must await the outcome of inspections, satellite monitoring data and examination of the black box to be sure, but it seems increasingly likely a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system, supplied by Moscow to pro-Russia separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine, and perhaps even operated by Russian-trained personnel, shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight killing 298 people.

The enormity of this crime raises serious concerns and huge implications. 

As the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said, "This was not an 'incident', this was not a 'catastrophe', this was a terrorist act."

The US had already just imposed further tougher sanctions on Russia for continuing to provide weapons to the Russian separatist rebels. Although the EU sanctions regime is less tough, reflecting ongoing dependence of several states on Gazprom supplies, I think there will now be public pressure on governments here, in the Netherlands and elsewhere to do much more. But the problem we face is that Russia, despite its mounting economic problems and capital flight, still holds several cards. It is a permanent member of the Security Council, able and willing to use its veto to protect its position in Syria, Iran and elsewhere. And the British financial system, London property markets and Conservative party are still very happy to take money from Russian oligarchs.

Putin knows this very well but he also knows that Russia cannot afford to be regarded as a terrorist-backing rogue state. He must swiftly act to rein in the extremists in Donetsk and cooperate in an international investigation of this war crime. He should also work rapidly to end the conflict with Ukraine. But he probably will not do this because his whole strategy in Ukraine was based on pressure to keep it under Russian domination and prevent Ukraine associating with western countries through the EU. That is why he occupied and annexed Crimea, tearing up an agreement signed by Russia in Budapest in 1994, and why he has armed and supported separatist extremists in Ukraine.

If Putin does not change course, we face not just a new cold war but the danger of intensified armed conflict in parts of the former Soviet Union. The forthcoming NATO summit in Wales in September will be the most important for a generation. Is Europe prepared to act more effectively to stand up against terrorism or do we just want business as usual with Putin and his oligarchs?

Mike Gapes is Labour MP for Ilford South and is a member of the foreign affairs select committee

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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.