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Keir Starmer is right: this is absolutely the wrong time to be talking about tax rises

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 4:27pm in

There is much comment all over the media about the need for tax rises at present.

There is also much left-wing fury that, according to Left Foot Foward:

Keir Starmer’s spokesman has rejected mooted Tory plans for a rise in fuel duty, corporation tax and capital gains tax in the budget.

The Labour leader’s spokesman told lobby journalists this afternoon that it is “absolutely the wrong time to be talking about tax rises”.

So, let me be clear: in a world where there is but one chance at a sound bite Keir Starmer is right. We do not need to be talking about tax rises at present. He is right to say so. I entirely agree that this may be the time to talk about tax reforms, but I reiterate, that in a world where there is but one chance at a soundbite, he has chosen the right line.

I argued his case in my submission on Tax After Coronavirus  to the Treasury Select Committee, saying:

The greatest misunderstanding around tax at present, arising as a direct consequence of the coronavirus crisis, is that there will at some time  be an obligation on government to somehow raise tax to cover the deficit of £300 billion or that will arise in 2020/21 and the £100 billion plus deficits that will arise in each of the following three years, as currently forecast. This is not true. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • To seek to do this at a time when demand is already suppressed due to the impact of the coronavirus on both household and business confidence, which means that demand (and so GDP) is likely to be severely impaired for some time, would have the net effect of further reducing the funds available to fuel that demand, and so would exacerbate the scale of the recession (or even depression) that we are now facing. As such there is likely to be no scope for increases in overall tax revenue for some years to come if the government wishes to see the economy recover to anything like its former level of activity;
  • As a matter of fact, there is no reason to raise funds for this purpose. As already noted, QE will cover most of the 2020/21 deficit, and will probably do likewise in each of the following years. There is no reason at all to reverse these QE arrangements and absolutely no pressure on the government to do so. Nor is there any obvious risk of inflation that suggests that QE might need be reversed. Indeed for more than a decade now inflationary pressure has almost disappeared from the world economy and there is no sign of it returning, anywhere. The chance that this happens to coincide with the period when QE has been in use is likely to not be coincidental at all.
  • There is ample demand for government saving accounts and bonds at present and since the government now has effective near total control of short term interest rates (as a consequence of the size of central bank reserve balances) and long term interest rates (through QE) the government has every opportunity to continue to engineer this valuable position that means that the net cost of interest on national savings deposits and gilts will remain exceptionally small in historic terms for some considerable time to come.
  • Any threat from money markets to destabilise this situation can always be neutered using either short or long term QE: the government can now always out-gun the markets, which was a fact not appreciated before 2009.

It follows that the rational objective for the tax take within fiscal policy is, in this environment, to keep that yield as low as possible in order to stimulate demand, and so encourage economic recovery, leaving QE, the Bank of England and the government savings markets to fulfil the task of balancing the government’s funding equation.

I am well aware that I then spent a great deal of time arguing that there were reasons to now think reform possible, and to suggest what they were, but everyone of those was a microeconomic footnote to the overall macroeconomic comment I have just reproduced here.

Keir Starmer has this right. Give the man a break.

Labour isn’t just failing Scotland with its denial on the likelihood of Scottish independence: it’s failing the rest of the UK as well

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 5:57pm in

I am an instinctive nationalist. I strongly suspect that my Irish roots have much to do with this. I have known where my instincts on that issue have lain since I was a teenager, albeit (and I stress this) always on the side of peace as well.

I am convinced that if there are clear cultural reasons why a majority of people within a domain self-identify as a nation then it is appropriate that they be recognised as such. Hence my support for Scottish nationalism, and some other causes as well, come to that.

The same instinct also very strongly supports my belief that those in a minority in any domain who share a culture must also have their rights respected, and be allowed to live in peace and without harassment within that community, with respect being given for the value that their differences in perspective add to that community.

I do not, then, see nationalism as being exclusive, jingoistic or in any sense racist, although there are undoubtedly some nationalists who do. If, as I think, nationalism is about collective determination within very clear environments of mutually respected difference, it is about everything but the oppressiveness of racism. It is instead about mutual self-determination. That would be my hope for Scotland as it moves towards independence, as it is surely doing.

But if that is what I now see to be Scotland’s near certain, and imminent, future, that leaves the most almighty questions hanging over what I will appropriately call English politics. I do so because I know Wales and Northern Ireland to be very different places from England that might also seek their own independence in due course. For those who have bothered to visit them (and the vast majority of the English have, I suspect, never visited any one of the three other countries within the Union) the differences in culture will be readily apparent. I can then, rightly, talk about the issue for English politics.

The existential crisis that the seemingly inevitable departure of Scotland from the Union will create is, it would seem, something that all the major English parties (I refer to Conservatives, Labour and LibDems, but not the Greens who already have a quite separate Scottish party) have failed to address, having said which I will henceforth ignore the LibDems as a seemingly spent force, and focus solely on the other two.

The Tories are a Unionist party, albeit one that only really emerged under its own name as a Scottish political party from the 1950s onwards. But, as was the case in Ireland, the forfeiture of territory within the domain that they think their own is deeply personal in the case of the Conservatives. That is because I have no doubt that the Tory view of the Union is legal, almost entirely about the ownership of assets, which is an issue that can be very largely related to the title to land, and is almost feudal in outlook, based on a respect for ancient regimes of hierarchy that have no place at all in modern society. Political nuance, in the form of self-determination does not, in that case, feature in their view on this issue. This is, quite literally, about the maintenance of the fiefdom by a power elite. And that is a view that has transferred into some English thinking in which Scotland is simply seen as one of the old enemies that must be continually reminded of its place in the world. Political dialogues, like GERS, simply reinforce this view, suggesting that the down-beaten populace of the territory should be eternally grateful for the support that they receive, and not be troublesome in response. This was, after all, a Tory creation with the entire purpose of delivering that message.

There is no point spending a great deal of time engaging with this view: it is embedded; profoundly patronising; illogical; disrespectful of people and their opinions and never likely to change. It is the Conservative view, north and put of the border, and most especially it seems in the Border region.

But there is a twist to this. We do not actually have a Conservative government at present. The last Conservatives were expelled by Johnson from his party in the summer of 2019. What remains is a party with a quite different political philosophy that is far removed from that of the Conservatives. Indeed, it can be best summarised by the single word ‘destruction’. Its logic is that old edifices must be destroyed in pursuit of a new rentier capitalism, which also alienates old money. It is very likely that neither Johnson or Cummings will last long. It is also entirely possible that their philosophy will fail, and in the not too distant future as the debacle of Brexit becomes all too apparent. But that will not prevent their philosophy from having a legacy. And that legacy may well be best seen in Scotland becoming independent as a people unite in rejecting the entire ethos of English exceptionalism that will reach its apotheosis in the arrogance of Johnson and Cummings, and deliver the nadir of English influence all at the same time.

It is doubtful that the Tories can avoid this outcome. It is also doubtful that Scotland will now re-embrace a Union now so very clearly contrary to its ethos and best interests. The game of separation just needs to be played out. With it the end of an era of Tory rule might follow, its influence having been subject to a policy of self-destruction, which is all that Cummings and Johnson can now deliver. The Tories might, just, get away with Brexit, but letting the country be torn apart? I doubt their supporters will forgive that.

But where does that leave Labour?

First, and it must be said, between a rock and a hard place in Scotland. Labour’s day was over in Scotland before the Tories reached that point. For more than 50 years Labour dominated the Scottish political landscape, but that ended in 2015, and only the wildest optimist thinks that there is any chance of that changing any time soon in Scotland, most especially with the hopelessly incompetent Richard Leonard in charge. And, almost half of the remaining Labour supporters in Scotland support independence anyway: Labour cannot convince its own supporters in Scotland of the merit of its Unionist cause. Why the party in England remains so wedded to the Union is, in that case, hard to explain, barring all the usual old tribalist instincts that still dominate so much Labour politics.

The consequence is, however, dire for it. If any issue is likely to give Labour a majority in 2024 it is not Brexit, or Covid-19, but the end of the Union. And yet Labour has never given any hint, as far as I can recall, as to how it might deal with the now entirely foreseeable situation of having to manage the remainder of the UK when it will literally be a country without a name, an identity, a flag, its nuclear submarine bases, its hope of being net-zero carbon compliant and so much more besides.

Even more important, whilst Scotland securing independence will release the most massive energy within Scotland that will drive it forward in the necessary process of transition, almost every element of English pride will be crushed by Scotland’s departure and it can be expected that the usual, and in this case likely to be prolonged, stages of grieving will be gone through as a result. The hurt to national pride - and there is no point pretending that the sense of rejection will not be real, and give rise to a real sense of questioning of purpose - will be intense.

This might, of course, be a good thing. England, most especially, needs to realise just where it is on the world right now. That the answer will be that it is an isolated island off north-west Europe of little remaining strategic or economic consequence might be hard to accept for a country that still thinks itself a world power, long after anyone else really does. But that does not mean that adjustment without prior preparation will be easy, and of all the parties likely to have to manage that transition Labour is at present the most likely.

That need might arise soon: Labour will be in all senses a victim of circumstances on this issue. And yet it shows no signs of any form of preparedness for the biggest existential crisis in English politics for maybe 400 years. I find that quite shocking, and even deeply irresponsible, most especially as it is now apparent that this is an issue that will not be going away.

There is much that Labour needs to do if it is to have a chance of governing. Knowing how it will manage this situation is very high on that list. It had better begin to get its act together. If it's fair to say that the English Liberals under Lloyd George were never forgiven for signing the Treaty with Ireland in 1921, and never governed again, it’s also possible to think that the same fate might befall the Tories if, as I think likely, Scotland will resolve to leave before late 2024. But Labour without any real plan for government thereafter might not fill the vacuum left in UK politics at that point unless its thinking begins now. I just hope someone is doing it in that case. Or else we really do need to be thinking about alternatives, rather urgently.

Richard Leonard’s call for a Scottish Green New Deal is meaningless without a simultaneous call for independence to let it be delivered

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 11:33pm in

Tags 

Labour, scotland

I was interested to read an article by Richard Leonard, leader of the Labour group in the Scottish parliament, in the Scotsman today, calling for a Green New Deal. He said:

[T]he pressing need to radically develop Scotland’s infrastructure to meet the climate challenge is an opportunity to reinvigorate our post-Covid economy and revitalise our industrial base, which has been in steady decline for decades.

That’s why I am proposing a Green New Deal for Scotland. This draws on the international phenomenon, popularised by the socialist US House of Representatives member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with the guiding principle that we do not need to choose between climate justice and social justice.

These are issues I can fairly say I know something about. And I am quite sure as a result that Richard Leonard does not.

Of course he is right that Scotland needs a Green New Deal.

He is right too that it could create jobs.

And he is right that the scope of that Green New Deal will need to be wide.

But he falls flat on his face when talking about how he will pay for an ambitious Scottish Green New Deal within the scope of the Union.

He says it will be paid for by:

  • More Scottish government borrowing;
  • Scotland's share of the benefit of leaving the EU;
  • An enhanced fiscal framework, without giving a clue what that means;
  • A bigger UK wide deficit, of which Scotland would get a part.

I hate to be disparaging, but the second of these clearly does not exist: there is no chance of a bonus from leaving the EU.

The first could be done, but would, unless Scotland was independent, inevitably lead to higher taxes because the Scottish government has to balance its budgets as a result of not having control of its own fiscal and monetary framework. Without saying what the new fiscal framework might be leaves that suggestion, to be blunt, meaningless: reform is possible but it is exceptionally unlikely any London Chancellor would agree what is required.

And as for a bigger deficit, that, of course, will happen, but to think that Westmonster is going to let Scotland have the choice over how it is spent is beyond wishful thinking.

I have them to suggest that Richard Leonard is not being serious. Scotland could have its own, transformational, Green New Deal. But not unless it is independent.  If he does not realise that then he really does not understand the constraints within which he is hoping to work, and that is worrying.

PERC podcast: The Political Economy of Financialized Care with Amy Horton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 11:18pm in

PERC’s Nick Taylor is joined by Dr Amy Horton (UCL) to discuss the political economy of care, the nature of financialization in the care system and prospects for resistance and alternatives to the status quo. Amy is the author of ‘Financialization and non-disposable women: Real estate, debt and labour in UK care homes’, which came out in 2019 in Environment and Planning: A. The conversation moves from a discussion of the interacting trends that have affected social care –  privatisation, austerity and financialization – to the specific models of financial ownership at play and the crucial role that labour plays in both enabling and limiting financialization in residential care, and finally to principles for imagining an alternative future for care that recognise its social and relational value.

Literature discussed:

Horton (2019) ‘Financialization and non-disposable women: Real estate, debt and labour in UK care homes’ (pre-print version here)

Horton (2019) ‘Financing care’

Horton (2017) ‘Financialisation of care: investment and organising in the UK and US’

Bedford & Harper (2018) ‘Sustainable Social Care: What role for community business?’

Burns et al. (2016) ‘Where does the money go? Financialised chains and the crisis in residential care’

CHPI (2019) ‘Plugging the leaks in the UK care home industry

Women’s Budget Group (2016) ‘Investing in the care economy’

The post PERC podcast: The Political Economy of Financialized Care with Amy Horton appeared first on Political Economy Research Centre.

‘I’ Newspaper: Universal Credit Appeals Almost Double

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 8:08pm in

Here’s another story from yesterday’s I for Monday, 6th June 2020. Written by Richard Vaughan, it reports that the number of appeals against Universal Credit increased by 96 per cent in the first three months of this year. The article runs

The number of universal credit appeals almost doubled in the first three months of this year, official figures reveal.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that in the period between January and March, the number of appeals to tribunals in relation to universal credit soared by 96 per cent to more than 7,300.

It highlights the issue with the benefits system, which critics warn can lead to sanctions against the most vulnerable, leaving them with their payments being cut or stopped.

The Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said: “Time and time again we are told by ministers that universal credit is working but these figures would suggest otherwise.”

The increase in appeals comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced the Government would not be extending the three months suspension of sanctions introduced for benefit claimants at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Coffey told MPs last week that Jobcentres would fully reopen in July. The DWP was approached for comment.

Universal Credit has been a malignant shambles causing nothing but misery and poverty ever since it was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith. I think the sanctions regime was introduced by the grinning Blair and New Labour, but it’s been very strongly supported by IDS and his vile successors. Only a few days ago Mike put up an official report that stated that benefit sanctions are really only good for increasing misery and anxiety. Jeremy Corbyn included in Labour’s manifesto the commitment to ending and properly reforming the benefits system. But this was scrapped and replaced with something much more anodyne by Keir Starmer.

This is no doubt one of the very many reasons people have for leaving the Labour Party. It is disgraceful that the quote criticizing Universal Credit came from a Lib Dem MP. I am fully aware that the I is very much biased against Labour, as is shown by its pushing of the anti-Semitism smears. It’s possible that there are also Labour critics of Universal Credit – indeed, I am absolutely sure there  are – but the I ignored them to promote the Lib Dems.

One the other hand, it may also be that they were silenced by Starmer, keen to continue Tory policies in the New Labour strategy of winning over Conservative voters at the expense of working people.

Starmer, the Machiavellian

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/06/2020 - 4:31pm in

Tags 

Labour, Politics

There will be those who will expect me to comment in the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey by Keir Starmer, so I will.

Was her action anti-Semitic? Others more expert than me can decide on that.

Was it unwise? Undoubtedly.

Will Keir Starmer be happy to be rid of an MP whose ability I could never identify (and I have met her a few times)? I suspect so.

Has Starmer played straight to the Machiavellian rule book? Yes.

Is that likely to work for him? Yes.

Will the public like this? Yes.

Will he regret this then? No.

Does that mean this increases the chance of a Labour government, even if in coalition? Yes.

Will it alienate the left? Of course.

Were they already alienated? Yes.

Does it change Starmer’s lower base on the left then? No, not at all.

Could he, therefore, afford this risk? Yes.

By already being so openly hostile to Starmer, so often, the left empowered him to do this in that case. He has thrown down the gauntlet. And he will survive any resulting challenge.

I’m not in Labour. Commenting on his political tactics alone, Starmer got this right. The left have themselves to blame for being so openly hostile. This gave him the chance he probably wanted.

That does not mean I support all Starmer will do. I suspect I will be deeply frustrated by much of it. But if the left wants to progress it has to play a much better political  game. It has not learned how to do that. They’ll have to live with Starmer or leave in that case.

Competent managerialism is not enough for Labour

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 8:40pm in

Andrew Rawnsley said this in The Observer this morning:

In their vagueness about how this feat is to be achieved, the report [on Labour’s election loss]’s authors are faithful reflections of the party’s leader. Mr Starmer has had almost nothing to say about policy since he became leader. He has been stronger as a prosecutor of the government than he has been as the advocate of a Labour alternative. One shadow cabinet member defends this approach by saying: “No one is ready to hear what a Labour government would do. The summit of our ambition at the moment is to sound credible and reasonable.”

There are many occasions when I have difficulty agreeing with Andrew Rawnsley. This is not one of them. I am hearing this comment from across the Labour spectrum now. And I am also hearing the excuses - including that it's been difficult to recruit policy advisers during lockdown.

I do not buy that claim. Nor do I accept that it is sufficient to sound credible and reasonable. These claims only work if one massive assumption is made, and that is that we are continuing to operate within an existing political and economic paradigm, where the only basis for claiming the right to hold office is managerial competence.

That, however, it is no longer true. The economic paradigm has ended. Neoliberalism has failed. The idea that the only role of politics is to put it back on its perch again, as was the objective in 2009, has to be dead, at least on the political left. The need now is for new thinking. That's the idea implicit on some of my comments published earlier this morning. And that new thinking cannot come from, or be the creation of, policy advisers: it has to be the deep-seated vision of the Labour leadership, or it will not work.

I have a fear. It is that Labour has swapped incompetence for competence, but also vision for managerialism. Incompetent vision was not enough. But nor is competent managerialism. It is time for Keir Starmer to show that he is a man of ideas. If he doesn't soon then Labour will fail to capitalise on the mess that Johnson is making, and we cannot afford that.

Release the Carbon Army needed to transform our economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 4:23pm in

Tags 

Economics, Labour

I was pleased to see the Guardian reporting that:

Labour is drawing up ambitious proposals to rescue the post-coronavirus economy with a radical green recovery plan focused on helping young people who lose their jobs by retraining them in green industries.

They added:

Seeking to seize the initiative on the country’s future direction once the pandemic abates, Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, has called for the plans to include creating a “zero-carbon army of young people” doing work such as planting trees, insulating buildings and working on green technologies.

As the old saying goes, eventually they agree with you. The idea of a 'carbon army' was created by Colin Hines and was kept alive for much for eh period 2010 to 2018 by his letters to the Guardian and my commentary here. The first reference I can find to us using the term was in 2008. This is from February 2009:

The Green New Deal calls for:

- Massive investment in renewable energy and wider environmental transformation in the UK, leading to,
- The creation of thousands of new green collar jobs
- Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector - but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK's green economic shift
- Building a new alliance between environmentalists, industry, agriculture, and unions to put the interests of the real economy ahead of those of footloose finance

It recognises that:

The global economy is facing a 'triple crunch': a combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices underpinned by encroaching peak oil. It is increasingly clear that these three overlapping events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Depression, with potentially devastating consequences.

And it calls for:

- a bold new vision for a low-carbon energy system that will include making 'every building a power station'.
- the creation and training of a 'carbon army' of workers to provide the human resources for a vast environmental reconstruction programme.
- the establishment of new savings media to pay for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- more realistic fossil fuel prices.
- minimising corporate tax evasion by clamping down on tax havens and by promoting better corporate financial reporting.

- re-regulating the domestic financial system.
- breaking up the discredited financial institutions.

This is an ambitious agenda. It's what we need.

I highlight the particular phrase that resonates this morning. But so does this, again from the Guardian:

This could also involve retraining older people, Miliband said, saying that there should be an ambition to “leave no worker behind” in any transition towards a different economy.

He added: “But we know that the longer young people stay out of work, the more it blights their future prospects. We need a sort of zero-carbon army of young people doing the things that we know we need to do anyway.

“My first priority would be to say to young people, ‘We’re going to find you fulfilling, decently paid work which is going to make a contribution to this absolutely vital cause that we face.’ I think that’s step one in the emergency.”

This was always the objective of the Green New Deal.

We missed out in 2009.

We cannot do so this time, surely?

The Tories are the biggest government borrowers, and have been since 1946

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 5:49pm in

It is often suggested that Labour is profligate and the Toriescare the naturally ‘safe pair of hands’ when it comes to running the economy. The Tories, it is presumed, do not borrow as much as Labour. This is a hypothesis I have tested before. I thought it time to update to to the end of the 2019/20 financial year.

The analysis that follows is based on borrowing, as reported by the House of Commons Linbrary and other data supplied by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The government in office was decided by who was at the end of a financial year.

I then calculated the total net borrowing in Labour and Conservative years and averaged them by the number of years in office. All figures are stated billions of pounds in all the tables that follow and in this case are in original values i.e. in the prices of the periods when they actually occurred:

The Conservatives borrowed more, not just absolutely (which is unsurprising as they had more years in office), but on average.

This though, is a bit unfair: the value of money changes over time. So I restated all borrowing in 2019 prices to eliminate the bias this gives rise to. This resulted in the following table:

In current prices the Conservatives still borrowed more (much more) overall, and on average, by a long way.

So then I speculated that this may be distorted by events since 2008. That is what the Conservatives would claim, after all: they would say that they have spent six years clearing up Labour's mess. So I took those years out of account and looked at the first 62 years of the sample. First I did this in original prices:

It looked like their claim might stack. So I did it again in 2019 prices:

The Conservatives borrowed more, after all, although it was a close run thing.

Then I speculated that this might be because Labour are good Keynesians: maybe they repaid national debt more often than the Conservatives. Or, to put it another way, they actually repaired the roof when the sun was shining. This is the data in terms of number of years:

Labour do walk the talk: they repay national debt much more often in absolute and percentage terms than the Conservatives. In fact, one in four Labour years saw debt repaid. That was true in less than one in ten Conservative years.

But maybe the Conservatives repaid more. I checked that. This is the data in both original and 2014 prices:

Labour not only repaid more often, it turns out: it also repaid much more in total and on average (not shown) during each year when repayment was made.

So what do we learn? Two essential things, I suggest.

First, Labour borrows less than the Conservatives. The data shows that.

And second, Labour has always repaid debt more often than the Conservatives, and has always repaid more debt, on average.

The trend does not vary however you do the data. I have tried time lagging it for example: it makes no difference.

Or, to put it another way, the Conservatives are the party of high UK borrowing and low debt repayment contrary to all popular belief.

For those interested, this is the overall summary table: the pattern in the right hand column is really quite surprising:

Data sources

The basic data on borrowing came from the House of Commons Library. This data is updated over time: figures will differ from earlier versions of this blog.

All other data comes from the Office for Budget Responsibility

Can Labour survive its leak?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/04/2020 - 8:46pm in

Tags 

Labour, Politics

The Guardian reports this morning that:

More than a dozen people are drawing up legal action against Labour, after they were named in an incendiary leaked report that threatens to plunge the party into financial peril.

Claims covering the Data Protection Act, invasion of privacy and libel are all being considered and could be submitted to the party as soon as this week. The party, individuals and some media commentators are all said to be the subject of legal complaints as a result of the document’s release and remarks made about its contents.

I have not given this leak much attention because I am not, to be candid, terribly interested in Labour's in-fighting.

That it happened is beyond dispute. That there were gross errors of judgment on all sides is I am sure absolutely certain. But is this the issue of the moment which many in Labour seem to think it is? Politely, no it isn't.

But there are several things to say. First, now we know why Labour cannot talk about this: anything it says can only make matters worse.

Second, the infighting will continue as a result because it would seem that this is all that matters to some in Labour (and people wonder why I chose not to join, even at the time when Corbyn was using my ideas?).

Third, the cost of all this could easily sink the Labour Party: people are not going to donate to bail out a party that has collapsed for this reason.

And fourth, this has massive consequences.

With a government that is utterly incompetent in power we are still not seeing effective opposition, because it is internally crushed.

And we are not seeing opposition with any confidence that it can present alternatives because it probably has very good reason to wonder whether it has any real chance of meeting the costs of the claims that are going to land on it, and so survive this fiasco.

And as a result, we are in an even deeper mess.

Or are we? Is this the moment for political realignment to begin?

This government's hold on credibility is in tatters when the Sunday Times has turned on it over PPE today.

Labour remains a tired force.

And the crisis is only going to get much, much worse, especially if the madness of Brexit is piled on top of everything else.

Labour might be entering its death throes, but so too might the Tories be doing so.

The hope is that democracy survives this.

There is, of course, no guarantee that it will.

But if it does realignment has to be on the cards.

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