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The New Statesman’s Scottish referendum coverage

We’ll be here all night!

Here at the NS, it feels like we’ve been talking and writing about the Scottish referendum for a very long time now – so much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that the day itself has now arrived, and we are less than 24 hours from knowing the result.

In October 2011, a week before the Scottish general election, we published a leader warning Westminster (particularly Labour) that a strategy for independence was well underway, and they would do well to pay attention to it. Since then, the magazine has had major interviews with Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (Alex Salmond also interviewed Judy Murray for us), done a special Scotland issue, and run a steady stream of essays and commentaries by the UK’s foremost thinkers and writers on the subject, including Tom Holland, Helena Kennedy, Gerry Hassan, Angus Roxburgh, Adam Tomkins, Andrew Marr, Alan Taylor, Cal Flyn and many others.

 

Online, we’ve had a regular blogger on the subject, James Maxwell, since 2011, and my colleague George Eaton has been reporting every nuance of the debate for a number of years. George and NS editor Jason Cowley are in Scotland at the moment, filing observations and analysis from the ground. (Indeed, Jason has been encouraging us to pay attention to this issue for so long now that it has earned him the office nickname “Mr Scotland”.) Since we launched our election site May2015.com earlier this month, Harry Lambert has been weighing in with polling and demographic analysis – if graphs are your thing, you must have a look at what he’s been up to in the last few weeks.

Now, for the night itself. We might not have the resources of a large newspaper or broadcaster, but we’ll be on duty all night and into tomorrow, bringing you the latest results and analysis (as well as the odd hilarious video). This is the schedule for who will be at the helm, complete with our Twitter handles should you have any tips or observations, or just want to chat in the wee small hours. (Our guide to when the results are expected, and therefore how late/early you need to be awake, can be found here.)

7pm – 11pm – Helen Lewis (@helenlewis)

11pm – 3am – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

3am – 6am – Harry Lambert (@harrylambert1)

4am – 12pm – Caroline Crampton (@c_crampton)

12pm – 6pm – Anoosh Chakelian (@anooshchakelian)

In addition, our political editor George Eaton (@georgeeaton) and our contributing writer Tim Wigmore (@timwig) will be weighing in with posts and results.

We’ll be live-tweeting every update on @The Staggers, and The Staggers blog is also where you’ll find the majority of our coverage. And of course, the main @NewStatesman Twitter feed and Facebook page will have updates too. Here we go. . .

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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As long as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour opponents are divided, he will rule

The leader's foes have yet to agree on when and how a challenge should take place.

Labour MPs began plotting to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader before he even held the position. They have not stopped since. From the outset, most regarded him as electorally and morally defective. Nothing has caused them to relinquish this view.

A week before the first major elections of this parliament, Labour found itself conducting a debate normally confined to far-right internet forums: was Hitler a Zionist? For some MPs, the distress lay in how unsurprised they were by all this. Since Corbyn’s election last September, the party has become a mainstream venue for hitherto fringe discussions.

Many MPs believe that Labour will be incapable of rebuilding its standing among the Jewish community as long as Corbyn remains leader. In the 1930s, Jewish support for the party was as high as 80 per cent. “They handed you your . . . membership just after your circumcision,” quipped the father in the 1976 television play Bar Mitzvah Boy. By the time of the last general election, a poll found that support had fallen to a mere 22 per cent. It now stands at just 8.5 per cent.

Corbyn’s critics cite his typical rejection of anti-Semitism and "all forms of racism" (as if unable to condemn the former in isolation), his defence of a tweet sent by his brother, Piers (“Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine”), and his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”. The Lab­our leader dismissed the latter remark as a diplomatic nicety but such courtesy was not displayed when he addressed Labour Friends of Israel and failed to mention the country’s name. When challenged on his record of combating anti-Semitism, Corbyn frequently invokes his parents’ presence at the Battle of Cable Street, a reference that does not provide the reassurance intended. The Jewish community does not doubt that Labour has stood with it in the past. It questions whether it is prepared to stand with it in the present.

MPs say that Labour’s inept response to anti-Semitism has strengthened the moral case for challenging Corbyn. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of how the fear of “enormous reputational damage” had pushed him to the brink of resignation. As the New Statesman went to press, Corbyn’s first electoral test was looming. Every forecast showed the party on course to become the first opposition to lose council seats in a non-general-election year since 1985. Yet Corbyn appeared to insist on 3 May that this would not happen, gifting his opponents a benchmark by which to judge him.

Sadiq Khan was projected to become the party’s first successful London mayoral candidate since 2004. But having distanced himself from Corbyn throughout the race, he intends to deny him any credit if he wins. Regardless of the results on 5 May, there will be no challenge to the Labour leader before the EU referendum on 23 June. Many of the party’s most Corbyn-phobic MPs are also among its most Europhile. No cause, they stress, should distract from the defence of the UK’s 43-year EU membership.

Whether Corbyn should be challenged in the four weeks between the referendum and the summer recess is a matter of dispute among even his most committed opponents. Some contend that MPs have nothing to lose from trying and should be prepared to “grind him down” through multiple attempts, if necessary. Others fear that he would be empowered by winning a larger mandate than he did last September and argue that he must be given “longer to fail”. Still more hope that Corbyn will instigate a midterm handover to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, his closest ally, whom they regard as a beatable opponent.

Those who are familiar with members’ thinking describe many as “anxious” and in need of “reassurance” but determined that Corbyn receives adequate time to “set out his stall”. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of being “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” – that is, “a Labour Party membership which is ardently Corbynista and a British electorate which is ardently anti-Corbynista”. In their most pessimistic moments, some MPs gloomily wonder which group will deselect them first. The possibility that a new Conservative leader could trigger an early general election is cited by some as cause for haste and by others as the only means by which Corbynism can be definitively discredited.

The enduring debate over whether the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged (the party’s rules are ambiguous) is dismissed by most as irrelevant. Shadow cabinet members believe that Corbyn would achieve the requisite nominations. Momentum, the Labour leader’s praetorian guard, has privately instructed its members to be prepared to lobby MPs for this purpose.

There is no agreement on who should face Corbyn if his removal is attempted. The veteran MP Margaret Hodge has been touted as a “stalking horse” to lead the charge before making way for a figure such as the former paratrooper Dan Jarvis or the shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle. But in the view of a large number of shadow cabinet members, no challenge will materialise. They cite the high bar for putative leaders – the endorsement of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs – and the likelihood of failure. Many have long regarded mass front-bench resignations and trade union support as ­essential preconditions for a successful challenge, conditions they believe will not be met less than a year after Corbyn’s victory.

When Tony Blair resigned as Labour leader in 2007, he had already agreed not to fight the next general election and faced a pre-eminent rival in Gordon Brown. Neither situation exists today. The last Labour leader to be constitutionally deposed was J R Clynes in 1922 – when MPs, not members, were sovereign. Politics past and present militate against Corbyn’s opponents. There is but one man who can remove the leader: himself.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred