Brexit battles, furlough extensions and Richard Leonard faces no-confidence motion

Sienna Rodgers
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We’re back to tricky amendments, legislative loopholes and possibly even parliamentary ping pong after the government dismayed its own Tory MPs and peers by confirming that it wants to break international law on Brexit. Bob Neill, the Conservative who elicited that infamous response from Brandon Lewis earlier this week, has tabled an amendment to the internal markets bill that would establish a parliamentary lock on changes to the withdrawal agreement. And he says its supporters are “not natural rebels”. There is also trouble in the Lords, where Brexiteers are unhappy with the government’s proposal. Is this whole drama intended to serve as a distraction ahead of UK concessions? And will Labour back the rebels? Silence on that question so far. But the Welsh Labour government isn’t happy, as Mick Antoniw has explained on LabourList.

The latest coronavirus measures aren’t going down well in the Conservative Party either – and I’m not just talking about the libertarians who insist on the right to meet in groups of more than six. The Treasury committee, made up mostly of Tory MPs, has told the Chancellor to “carefully consider” targeted extensions to its furlough scheme. This is what Labour has been calling for: a recognition that some sectors won’t be able to recover by October, even without the possibility of a second wave and lockdown, but don’t deserve to be cut off from support because they could be viable in the future or need more time to adapt. The TUC and Unite are pushing hard for changes to the job retention scheme instead of a cliff edge. If Rishi Sunak cares about avoiding deep scarring to the economy, not to mention his leadership ambitions, he’ll need to listen.

The battles in Scottish Labour are also coming to a crunch point tomorrow. A motion has been submitted to the Scottish executive committee (SEC): “The SEC expresses that it has no confidence in the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.” It has been signed by ten SEC members, the number required for the motion to be accepted. There are some swing voters on the SEC, and there is the potential for the result to be close, but this is a matter of building pressure rather than getting the no-confidence motion approved anyway as it would have no binding consequence without other rule changes. And then there’s the matter of regional list selections. More on this stuff from us later.

We’ve had some must-read comment pieces on LabourList this week, and we’ve published so much content that I’m worried you may have missed some of them. On the environment, we had Nadia Whittome backing the climate and ecological emergency bill last week and Andy Newman opposing it this week. On Brexit, Michael Chessum has argued that Keir Starmer is making the same mistakes as Jeremy Corbyn. On Covid, Richard Burgon MP has explained why the government should adopt a ‘zero Covid’ strategy. On the economy, John Lehal set out how Labour can shift the narrative from Tory incompetence to why Labour has the right plan to build back better. And James Meadway suggested ways for Labour to develop a distinctive narrative on business.

For more on Labour’s electoral strategy and internal affairs, Caitlin Prowle’s piece on the GMB report and misogyny in the labour movement is essential reading. Our columnist Jake Richards has explored how Labour could become the party of law and order. On Scottish Labour, David Martin – not someone on the party’s left – defended Richard Leonard. Gurinder Singh Josan shared ideas for fixing Labour’s governance deficit. Alice Perry delivered a report on the latest national executive committee (NEC) meeting. Unite’s Steve Turner issued an urgent #SOS4jobs. Ged Nichols invited you to TUC Congress, all taking place online next week. And there is plenty more comment to come.

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