McCluskey signals that Labour may endorse Northern Irish candidates…
Unlike the Northern Irish Conservatives, who have secured at least tepid support from CCHQ but have struggled to build up a serious presence, Labour’s supporters in Ulster have tended to have the opposite problem.
Not only does the Opposition not organise in the Province, directing inquiries instead towards its (nationalist) sister party the Social Democratic & Labour Party, but people had to take the Party to court to force it to allow them to join at all.
Yet despite this, its local branch enjoys a base their Tory rivals can only dream of.
According to Boyd Black, the local chairman, Labour’s strength in Northern Ireland comprises fully 2,000 paid-up members, another 1,000 ‘registered supporters’, and – most importantly of all – over 37,000 trades unionists who have voluntarily ‘opted in’ to pay the political levy. He estimates that this might contribute over £300,000 per annum to Labour’s coffers.
Perhaps that’s why Len McCluskey, leader of one of the most powerful affiliated trades unions, said during a fringe event at this week’s conference that Unite are moving towards officially supporting the idea that Labour should contest elections in the Province (h/t the New Statesman’s Patrick Maguire for the spot).
Whilst advocates of Labour’s traditional abstention – which is intertwined with its historical support for the nationalist position – are opposed to the move, there is a strong democratic case to be made that the people of Ulster deserve the opportunity to cast their ballot for both of the parties of government, even if they don’t choose to do so.
…as Leonard rules out Labour support for an independence re-run
The leader of Scottish Labour has announced that his party will not support a second Scottish independence referendum – only days after Jeremy Corbyn left the door open to the idea.
According to The Scotsman, Richard Leonard stated categorically that Labour’s manifesto for the next election (which, he argues, could be imminent) will clearly commit the party to opposing any push by the Scottish Nationalists for a re-run of the 2014 vote.
Since then, Labour have been caught in a vicious electoral squeeze as their old coalition divides along constitutional lines, with many former supporters switching to the SNP after the Yes campaign and pro-UK voters consolidating behind the more muscular unionism of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories.
Attempts to somehow neutralise the constitutional question with some clever new formulation – often called ‘federalism’ – have come to nothing and will continue to do so, this well-argued (if very left-wing) article suggests. But to have any hope of regaining second place it’s obviously clear to Leonard that he needs to lock in his unionist supporters.
In other news, the Chair of Labour’s National Executive Committee sparked a ‘sectarian row’ at conference by jokingly suggesting that he might not call a woman who made a Catholic gesture. If you thought this an isolated incident, the Herald reports that Irish tricolour also managed to make it onto a list of flags it might be a criminal offence to wave in a ‘provocative manner’ north of the border.
Welsh Labour brace for Brexit as council leader backs second vote
Carwyn Jones has announced that his government will give £6 million to Airbus, Toyota, and Ford to help these huge multinational firms prepare for Brexit as he used his last speech to the UK party conference to warn of “industrial carnage” in the event of a no-deal departure.
The outgoing First Minister hopes that the Welsh Government intended the cash to help set up local sites as favourable candidates for future investment.
Elsewhere this week Huw Thomas, the Labour leader of Cardiff Council, announced his support for a second referendum with Remain as an option. It also appears that Mike Russell, the SNP’s Brexit minister, has met with the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign.
In other news, Jones also hinted that he might break his previous policy of abstaining in nominations for the Welsh leadership in order to cast his ballot for Eluned Jones and ensure that a female candidate made it to the membership vote.
Scottish Government to fight Salmond in court amidst allegations of secrecy
The SNP-led government in Edinburgh has vowed to ‘vigorously’ contest a legal action being brought by Alex Salmond over its handling of sexual misconduct allegations against him, the Daily Telegraph reports.
According to the former First Minister and Nationalist leader, he was not given adequate opportunity to challenge the charges laid against him. Salmond has been criticised for getting the cash for his court action from nationalist activists via a controversial fundraiser.
However, Nicola Sturgeon’s administration has not been spared criticism after it emerged that it has refused nearly all of the 21 Freedom of Information requests tabled regarding Salmond’s conduct and the current First Minister’s meeting with her predecessor. The Nationalists have been accused of “pulling a veil of secrecy over the affair”.