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If Labour can’t unite behind a democratically elected leader, it doesn’t deserve to be in government
I wish Jo Cox’s words could have been prophetic – that a lot more unites us than divides us. In merely a week, the perception of a Labour MP slogging away for social justice on behalf of her constituents was demolished to make way for a carefully orchestrated line up of Labour MPs taking to TV studios to slag off Jeremy Corbyn.
For the amount of vitriol levied at Corbyn, you might have thought he had murdered your pet cat in cold blood. Alastair Campbell has carved a niche for himself in being an ‘expert’ on leadership and yet felt fit to slag off someone who had a number of policy successes in parliament and electoral successes locally. For anyone who knows the smallest thing about leadership, for charismatic leaders to function they need to have a vision. Ironically, they don’t strictly speaking need charisma. They need a vision which people can buy into – such as attacking austerity as a political not economic choice, or increasing the stock of social housing.
Instead, the Labour parliamentary party is only fit to talk about one style of leadership now. And that is toxic leadership. And in this they are amply helped by ‘well respected’ celebrity media commentators mainly opining from a liberal viewpoint. The Guardian has launched a full frontal attack on Corbyn, even to the point where smears not facts matter. People who are card carrying social democrats are conducting a proxy war on Corbyn laced with nastiness and putrid negativity.
There are many brilliant MPs in the parliamentary Labour Party, such as Andy Burnham MP, Grahame Morris MP, Debbie Abrahams MP, Ian Mearns MP, Ivan Lewis MP, Karin Smyth MP, Liz McInnes MP or Karl Turner MP. I don’t deny the phenomenal work that they’re doing daily on behalf of the country, for their constituents, whether or not in the shadow cabinet. But if you’re looking at ‘payment by results’, even Kesia Dugdale, whose performance has been worse than atrocious in Scotland for a very long time, wanted triumphantly to want Corbyn, not herself, to resign.
But the culture in the parliamentary Labour Party has become extremely toxic, currently like growing around the crystal seeds of Owen Smith and Angela Eagle. The problem for the Labour coup is the substantial popularity of the currently elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn ended up in being in a ludicrous position of having to apologise on behalf of the Labour Party for an action he didn’t vote for, whilst Cameron ended up giving no apology on behalf of the Government for an action they did largely vote for,
In a media stunt which went down like a lead balloon last night, Lord Falconer, a previous flatmate of Tony Blair, ended up giving a legally correct statement of the current position where Blair has little moral credibility. The view of the Chilcot Report was undeniably that the UK had gone to war, not having considered all options first. Blair himself later admitted that he should have scrutinised the evidence first.
We are where we are. It has always been Blair’s stated belief, albeit completely absurdly, that he believed the diplomatic information given to him, which is why a prosecution for misfeasance would be unlikely to succeed. In contrast to the standing ovation given to Corbyn by relatives of the deceased following the Iraq War, Blair went on the offensive where the overall ambience was of a distressed middle manager in crisis mode rather than a person who was able to produce a coherent response.
If this had been the only mistake Blair had made, and which he did not wish to apologise for, I could live with it. However, there are countless more disastrous decisions of his period of government, which include a lack of assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act by Alan Johnson MP despite expert advice from Prof David Nutt, and the bankrupting of the NHS through unconscionable private finance initiative contracts which ‘left wing think tanks’ not unions supported.
Carville had a famous saying which I was reminded of by Andy Burnham MP, one of the very few people able to unite the Labour Party now, in one of the previous Manchester Labour Party Conferences at a New Statesman fringe event. And that saying is, of course, “It’s the economy stupid, but don’t forget about healthcare.”
Take the events of last week, for example. There was a spike in hate crime following the Brexit vote, the £ reached a 31 year all time low in performance against the $, and the Conservative Party hierarchy were at each others’ throats. And yet the Labour coup managed to keep Jeremy Corbyn at pole position on the news.
I think the problems are down to the Party stupid, but don’t forget about the membership: if nurtured correctly, the grassroots membership may form a big part of the solution. There is possibly an argument that the Labour grassroots underestimate the local influence of the parliamentary Labour Party, but it is also true, for example, that the constituencies of Alan Johnson MP and Angela Eagle MP have resoundingly decided to back Corbyn despite a weight of campaigning otherwise by the sitting MPs.
The Parliamentary Labour Party have become the problem, not the solution. They are actively not campaigning on policies on behalf of the leadership, ranging from the irregularities of the Iraq War to the state of the economy, simply because of their toxic hatred of Corbyn. It is a textbook toxic culture, as they rally around false prophets like Alastair Campbell, Hilary Benn, Lord Kinnock, and so on. They are all too scared to show any dissent of the message criticising Corbyn, not allowing even a word of praise for fairness. They turn a blind eye to the reasonable views of many socialists in the Labour Party, disparagingly labelling all as Trots or Momentum activists.
They rely on propagation of smear through mainstream media, but have lost in the social media. They are wilfully blind to their own shortcomings, such as a staggering inability to formulate a coherent policy on globalisation and immigration, or to articulate a response on human rights, or being to respond to the funding crisis of the NHS and social care. They blame the ‘leadership’ of Corbyn, hoping on the rise of the counterinsurgency through Progress or a few stalking horses.
If the Labour Party at parliament is unable to unite around some core beliefs with the membership and the Unions, and simply rely in their weird bubble of the Fabians, Progress and the media, they are not fit to govern. It is amply evident that being a has-been University union president or Z list TV celebrity does not make you able to negotiate the complicated issues of policy where commonalities in social democracy or socialism could be found. These include the ideologies promoting social equality, justice and fairness.
If the perception is of Corbyn and the leadership is a focus concerned with protest, there’s quite frankly a lot to protest about. And the membership for different reasons have a huge amount to protest about – how the party in civil war is clearly not fit to govern. If Corbyn were sacked even for the perceived incompetence legally if all election procedure has been stuck to Corbyn is within his rights to sue the Labour Party which he loves for unfair dismissal.
Look – I’ve voted Labour all my life since 1990 which is more than some ‘seleb’ media commentators even. And a lot of them make me sick. If they are incapable of pursuing Jo Cox’s comment about unity not division, they tragically, even with the weird antics of the Conservative Party, do not deserve to govern.
NHS campaigners know that state ownership is ‘box office’ stuff, and a perfect way to win hearts not just minds
Labour’s business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, uttered in January 2014: ‘The big difference between 1979 and 2013 is that we are all capitalists now.’ Is he right? Have the Thatcher and New Labour years changed everyone? And the Guardian ran a poll to see if their readers agreed with him.
In response to Ed Miliband’s conference speech last year, Jonathan Freedland mentioned that he had witnessed “a new and emerging strain of left populism”. For Freedland, “It confirms Miliband’s larger ambition: not merely to win power the Blair/Brown way, within parameters set by Conservatism, but to redraw those lines, to shift the centre ground itself leftward.”
Today, Simon Stevens takes over the rôle from Sir David Nicholson of leading NHS England. It is known that Stevens used to be a SpAd to Frank Dobson MP, a former Labour Secretary of State for the Health. It is alleged that he used to be, at least, a member of the Socialist Health Association. It is clear that there is some sort of crisis on the right about the unpopularity of privatisation, for example this short piece by Ryan Bourne is head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies. Latterly, I’ve felt the public respond very well to emotions-based campaigning rather than cognition-based campaigning. For example, rather than thinking for ages about whether it ‘matters’ whether the NHS is ‘operationally delivered’ by private companies, the general public are more concerned about ‘State assets being sold off’, or even private and public limited companies ‘are able to profit out of your illness’. But there is an overlap: privatised railways can offer poor value for the consumer in a fragmented service, whereas people intuitively like the idea of a nationally-run well-organised State-run transport service.
So it is therefore noteworthy that ex-Employment lawyer, and poster boy for responsible capitalism, is so critical of the Royal Mail sell off. Royal Mail for many epitomises the best aspects of socialism – i.e. it sends as much to send a first class letter to Crewe as it does to Cowes. Companies, thus far, had not been bickering on who is actually going to deliver the letters – who funds for the postman. So Chuka Umunna’s standpoint of criticising the Royal Mail flotation is clearly bound to be anaemic for socialists in comparison. And yet it’s clear that the privatisation of Royal Mail has benefited hardworking hedgies. Vince Cable said it had achieved its primary objective of selling the shares and reducing the risk to taxpayers, but the inherent risk in privatising NHS services, defined as fielding out them to the private sector, is surely greater? Calls for the resignation of Vince Cable, a former socialist, came after the National Audit Office said too much emphasis was put on rushing the sale, at the expense of value for money. Royal Mail shares are more than 70% higher than the 2013 sale price. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said it was a “botched, panic sale” and the business secretary “should consider his position”. The anger for many is that Royal Mail had become profitable in the public sector, and now transferring it to the private sector will in reality benefit certain stakeholders predominantly.
As opposed to the NHS ‘sale of the century’, it’s been mooted that new era of public ownership of the railways could save the Treasury more than £1bn a year and deliver improved services and lower rail fares for passengers. England’s fragmented railway system be gradually brought back into public hands as franchises expire or companies break the terms of their franchise agreement. This movement had intensified after the TSSA union argued that Network Rail bosses could earn more than £10m in bonuses over the next three years under a new scheme – as well as RMT figures showing that 65% of Britain’s rail operators are owned by overseas companies, with 60% owned by European state rail arms. Since privatisation nearly 20 years ago, the cost of train travel has risen by 17% compared to a 7% drop in the cost of motoring, while in recent years the bill for the taxpayer of running the trains has shot up by 2 to 3 times.
The “Great Train Robbery” is said to be a blatant transfer of public money to private interests at the expense of the taxpayer and rail passengers, who are forced to endure the consequences of a deeply complex and fragmented system while ticket prices get bigger and bigger. And going back to the ‘raw emotions’ of it it’s known that Clem Attlee was a hugely popular Labour Prime Minister, and saw the benefits of state ownership. Attlee became prime minister on 26 July 1945 as the leader of a Labour party that had won a landslide general election victory with a majority of 144 seats. His government was a transformational one. Its strategy of maintaining high levels of employment, with major industries under public ownership, was the governing model in post-war British politics until Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government of 1979–90. And political parties do appear to swop ideologies – take for example George Osborne’s nostalgic return to full employment yesterday. Hot fast emotions are likely to make more impact than cold decision making, as recently discussed in the celebrated book “Thinking fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
Tony Benn MP, much revered in recent days, was very scathing about the term ‘responsible capitalism’ in his final set of diaries, “An autumn blaze of sunshine”. Some call ‘responsible capitalism’ an oxymoron, as ‘responsible’ implies moral accountability while capitalism is driven by self-interest. Others insist that it defines the state’s obligation to balance social justice with individual freedom. And this is not trivial, as private investors seek to ‘pick winners’ through offering long-term debt finance through ‘social impact bonds’ for social enterprises. In truth, behind a bland phrase lurk there is quite a fierce discussion we mean by “socially responsible.” In Bush’s view, “socially responsible” means that large corporations should provide more jobs, pay better wages, compensate host communities for the burdens of resident corporations, stop polluting, and so on. And there is no doubt right to call these goals and objectives desirable. But Ed Miliband should not set his sights on ‘Being George Bush’ in a crazy form of ‘Stars in your Eyes’. NHS campaigners know that state ownership is ‘box office’ stuff, and a perfect way to win hearts not just minds. We may not be all capitalists now.
The media are obsessed about making immigration a make-or-break issue for political parties. Column inches are devoted to UKIP totally disproportionately to the number of MPs they actually have.
While George Osborne will squeak his aspirations for hardworking people, ‘putting right what so badly wrong’, the country is less than impressed. He will ask for credit while doing his lap of honour, completely oblivious to the cost-of-living crisis forced upon the British public through unfettered privatisation of public services causing distorted competitive markets. However, Osborne doesn’t understand the distress of disabled human casualties at the hands of ATOS. He is instead obsessed by a race to the bottom which has made insignificant progress in tackling corporate tax avoidance. He has made little progress in the exploitation of workers in zero-hour contracts.
It is said that the civil service are already making plans for a Labour government on May 8th 2015. Anyone who has lived through Lord Kinnock asking ‘Are you all right?’ in the Sheffield Rally of 1992 will know not to count their chickens while they are still in the incubator.
Jeremy Hunt’s strategy of trying to frame Andy Burnham for all the woes of the NHS has spectacularly backfired. Hunt, trapped by the legacy of Lansley’s “Health and Social Care Act” which he dares not mention, gets nostalgic about Mid Staffs in the same way that motorway drivers slow down on the opposite carriageway at the sight of a car crash, but he has offered no constructive solutions about how efficiency savings don’t turn into dangerous staffing cuts. Hunt is also spectacularly lacking in insight as to why NHS whistleblowers don’t appear to be protected, despite all the promises. He talks and acts like somebody who has little experience of how the medical and nursing staff do their professional work and seems unconcerned about citizens losing their local hospitals.
The media have also been given a free run in running down the NHS. Memes such as ‘the NHS is unsustainable’ have gone unchallenged remorselessly, with think tanks known to be sympathetic to private health providers offering impassionate advice. The statement ‘the NHS is unsustainable’ has become dangerously confused with the statement ‘the NHS is underfunded’, with NHS Trusts running a deficit more of a sign of the notion we can’t afford the NHS rather than we’re giving it sufficient resources. Once you frame the narrative in these terms, it gets extremely dangerous for right-wing politicians. The debate no longer is about cutting your coat according to your cloth, a phenomenon clearly familiar to people with low incomes, but instead the debate turns into the people with the higher incomes in society not ‘pulling their weight’. The public seem keen to ‘out’ the nonsense of Osborne’s claim “we’re in it together”. And the right – even though there is no evidence that the left believe the opposite – certainly don’t want to go down the road to looking as if they’re unpatriotly running the country down “because we cannot afford it”.
And of course we are never going to be able to trust the Conservative administration when legislation appears from nowhere to implement a £2.4 bn reorganisation. We seem to be able to afford this, and yet we cannot afford a pay rise for the majority of nurses in the NHS. And if we can’t afford the NHS, how come many Trusts are running the bare minimum of frontdoor staff, while millions are returned unspent to the Treasury? Managers might be fulfilling their four hour target but medical teams in the rest of the hospital are left picking up the pieces over investigations not requested or results not followed up. For many, the economy and the cost of living crisis are huge issues. But the NHS also remains a totemic issue for Labour.
Andy Burnham needs to establish a few basic groundrules. He has pledged to repeal the loathesome Health and Social Care Act, and to remove clause 119 ‘the hospital closure clause’. He definitely needs to pledge to make sure that the NHS is not privatised further under his watch. He needs to be unashamed of securing an adequate level of funding, even despite the neoliberal fetishes of austerity currently.
This might stop ill-informed political commentators from spewing out their corporate memes for the duration of a Labour government. But time is running out – for those of us who wish to protect the NHS, we need to stop looking inwards, but need to start campaigning hard.
It is beyond delusional that Nick Clegg is proposing to the voters of Britain that British voters are better off with a coalition government, with him as a permanent fixture as the Deputy Prime Minister. It may be spun that ‘behind the scenes’ he is known to favour David Cameron as he has worked with Cameron, but seriously? You must have surely worked with people that you’ve come to hate? It is, rather, well known that Nick Clegg is a Tory. He is utterly spineless, and has no liberal principles of his own. That is why many people serious about Liberal values have left in droves – or rather hundreds of thousands. Liberal does not mean snoopers’ charters. Liberal does not mean control orders. Liberal does not mean secret courts. Liberal does not mean propelling competition to be the overriding principle of a NHS which outsources as much as possible to the private sector, when the Liberal Democrats’ own constitution emphasises the principle of collaboration.
The question is: what will it take to get rid of Nick Clegg finally? Thanks to the legislation of the fixed term parliament, we already know that he will have to honour his promise to go the full distance. Vince Cable may offer sunny uplands in the form of the Coalition early, but it is merely a mirage. Many activists are worried about armageddon, which is widely predicted for the European elections. Oakeshott will be there to tell you he told you so, and Nigel Farage will yet again be the new messiah. However, none of this fundamentally changes anything. Nick Clegg is a Tory, and what he wishes to do after May 8th 2015 is utterly irrelevant.
Do people really care whether he wants to be in a Coalition with Ed Miliband? I strongly suspect Ed Miliband doesn’t wish to work with Clegg in a million years. The practical issue is inevitably how Nick Clegg is going to lead his party to vote with Labour to reverse a series of legislative steps from the present Coalition. It is inevitable that Labour will have to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and given the strength of feeling one cannot conceivably imagine LibDem MPs will now be whipped to vote against the legislation they originally delivered. Whilst it is common currency that most politicians are ‘professional’ and do what they are told, irrespective of what the country feels, Norman Lamb had no problems in implementing a £3bn top down reorganisation of the NHS when the political priority should have been to implement as soon as possible the Dilnot recommendations over the future of social care.
Say you’d submerged the Concordia, would you attempt to take credit for lifting it out of the waters? Say you’d driven a high speed train in Spain off the tracks, would you attempt to take credit for finding the ‘black box’ recorder? Nick Clegg incessantly criticised the economic policy under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in the dying days of the the final recent Labour government, and did his best totally to misinform the public. It could be the case that Labour did a dreadful job in explaining how the £860 billion was deemed ‘necessary’ in keeping the banks afloat, whilst maintaining a record level of satisfaction in the NHS. However, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Danny Alexander did a splendid job in a coalition of lies with George Osborne and David Cameron in arguing that Labour had bankrupt the UK and we were close to the Greek situation. It is therefore not a great achievement that we have a feeble recovery. The argument that ‘Ed Balls does not even agree with Ed Balls’ has not reached lift off despite the best peddling from Tim Farron and Nick Clegg, and the BBC, because the facts speak for themselves. Whilst they proudly boast that the UK economy did not have a double dip or triple dip, it is incontrovertible that the UK economy had actually been recovering in May 2010.
So what Nick Clegg wants is irrelevant. In as much politics can be personalised, Clegg has become a figurehead for anger amongst a wide variety of issues important to Labour voters. While Clegg maintains his stuck record mantra of ‘lifting people out of poverty’, the list of cock ups from Clegg is truly lamentable. It is impossible to know where to start – but you could try the UK economy, the scrapping of the employment support allowance, the shutting of libraries, the scrapping of Sure Start, the scrapping of ‘Building Schools for the Future, and the destruction of the network of legal centres in England. Clegg’s horrific, even if he is a ‘great reformer’ of sorts. He represents all that is fundamentally sick with unprincipled, undemocratic politics. He is a sickening ‘career politician’ who built a brand of ‘no more broken promises’, while breaking a promise he publicly signed a pledge for regarding tuition fees.
Ed Miliband continues to be slagged off by the Liberal Democrat hierarchy, though less so by some on the left of the Liberal Democrat Party. Why should he particularly wish to embrace them as part of the progressive left? The reason he might is that Ed Miliband is a social democrat who doesn’t particularly mind standing up for principles he believes in, even if this means antagonising the Blairite press such as David Aaronovitch or John Rentoul. He called out ‘irresponsible capitalism’ in an universally panned conference speech in Manchester in 2011, much to the ire of the Blairite critics (surprise surprise), but nobody can dismiss how this important concept, passported from the seminal work of Prof Porter at Harvard, has taken root. The ‘transformation’ of ‘reforming’ the public sector in outsourced services has been incredibly unpopular with the general public, who are much better informed than the Coalition politicians would like to believe. You’d have to be on Mars not to be aware of the fraud allegations of A4e, Capita, Serco or G4s.
The public will not give credit to the Liberal Democrats for the economy. They might conceivably give some credit to the Conservatives. And yet the picture of the UK economy is not clear. The total number of people in employment has been rising consistently for many years now, irrespective of who is government. The Conservatives will have real problems in establishing living standards, as the cost of living has risen exponentially due to privatised utilised creaming off profits in the utilities industries. These utilities industries are typical ‘oligopolies’, where the product is virtually the same for the end-user whoever the provider is, prices are kept artificially high by all the providers (but proving collusion by the competition authorities remains virtually impossible), and shareholder profits are shamelessly high. Norman Tebbit have dug out a trench in no foreign ownership of Royal Mail, but there is no such legislation about foreign ownership of the utilities nor indeed the NHS.
Nick Clegg may have been the future once. But he’s now finished.
Saturday, 13 November 2010 from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm
Media Centre, 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0HA
Come along with your friends to the above event to hear how Chinese can be involved in politics. Even, if you have no political ambitions, this event gives you an insight into politics in action.
Every English speaking country – USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have their own Chinese parliamentarians – some in Cabinet positions. Why are there no Chinese parliamentarians in the United Kingdom? Surely, we must have enough talents out there, so come along and find out how we can change the status quo.
This ‘hands-on’ conference sets out political values and policies, observe politics in action and the processes of getting adopted and selected in winnable seats. The conference will be in two parts, the morning panel session covering politics, such as immigration, housing, economy with a key note speech before lunch. After lunch, sessions will cover on how to become a school governor, local councillor and Member of Parliament. The conference will end on identifying a local ward/parliamentary seat, selection processes, and political adoption.
Speakers, so far confirmed are Stephen Twigg MP, Michael Stephenson, General Secretary of the Co-op Party, Morgan McSweeney, Political Adviser, Local Government Association, Alex Smith, Writer and Political Activist, Sonia Sodha, Head of the Public Finance Programme, Demos. We are waiting confirmation from Ed Miliband’s office as our guest speaker.
Please book early to ensure you secure a place. The event is open to all, you are invited to bring along THREE friends, please email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your and guests’ names. This is a FREE event, but any voluntary contributions are most welcome.
Please feel free to circulate this email to your friends, colleagues or family members who are interested in politics or public service.
Dr Shibley Rahman
Queen’s Scholar, BA (1st.), MA, MB, BChir, PhD, MRCP(UK), LLB(Hons.), FRSA
Director of Law and Medicine Limited
Member of the Fabian Society and Associate of the Institute of Directors
Cynics expected us to back away. Instead, we confounded those who said that coalition Government was impossible. We created a Government which will govern and govern well for the next five years.
I don’t recall many people saying that Coalition government was impossible. However, I think that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have indeed created a Coalition that can last until 2015. I simply don’t agree with people who say it won’t last the full distance.
Of course there are those who will condemn us. We are challenging years of political convention and tradition and our opponents will yell and scream about it. But I am so, so proud of the quiet courage and determination which you have shown through this momentous period in British political history. Hold our nerve and we will have changed British politics for good. Hold our nerve and we will have changed Britain for good.
Yes, this is the sentiment that I get from genuine LibDem members and supporters all the time, that the torrent of abuse about the Coalition is pretty unselective and continuous. The “Yell and scream” phraseology I’m sure is to picture Labour members as thick yobs, but that doesn’t obviate the fact that Labour has to be highly disciplined and well-mannered in its selective criticism.
Just think what we’ve done already. We’ve ended the injustice of the richest paying less tax on investments than the poorest do on their wages. We’ve guaranteed older people a decent increase in their pension. In November, we will publish a Freedom Bill to roll back a generation of illiberal and intrusive legislation. By Christmas, Identity Card laws will be consigned to the history books. From New Year’s Day, the banks will pay a new levy that will help fill the black hole they helped create. On 1 April, 900,000 low earners will stop paying income tax altogether. In May, the people of Britain will get to choose their own voting system. And this time next year, there will be a pupil premium so the children who need the most help, get the most help.
The Freedom Bill I think will be a good move, as Labour did screw up on civil liberties. Many sane people thought this rapid progression into a super-surveillance state was ridiculous, as well as the intensity of over-criminalising people. I welcome the Freedom Bill, not because it will be a popular piece of legislation, but because it is inherently sensible after Labour has eroded civil liberties. Labour managed to achieve this in an insidious manner, including of course the ID cards scheme which some or all of the Labour leadership contenders themselves voted for.
Remember the four big promises we made in the election campaign? For the first time in my lifetime, Liberal Democrats are able to deliver on those promises.
We promised no tax on the first £10,000 you earn. We’ve already raised the personal allowance by £1000. And in the coming years we will go further to put money back in the pockets of millions of low earners.
We promised more investment in the children who need the most help at school. It will happen at the start of the next school year.
We promised a rebalanced, green economy, a new kind of growth. Already we’re taking action on the banks. We’ve set up a regional growth fund. There will be a green investment bank to channel money into renewable energy. These are the first steps to rewire our economy. New jobs, new investment, new hope.
And we promised clean politics. We’re giving people the chance to change our voting system, cleaning up party funding and finally, a century after it should have happened, we are going to establish an elected House of Lords.
Those pledges we made, together, in the election of 2010, will be promises kept in the election of 2015. The Coalition Programme, which commits the government to making all these changes, is not the Liberal Democrat manifesto. But it is not the Conservative manifesto either. It is our shared agenda. And I stand by it. I believe in it. I believe it will change Britain for good.
These are all impressive. However, the agreement with the Tories on Afghanistan, Trident, immigration and asylum, and free schools have been far from impressive. But then again – I am not totally clear on the views of the five Labour leadership contenders on these important matters.
The new politics – plural politics, partnership politics, coalition politics – is the politics our nation needs today. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are and always will be separate parties, with distinct histories and different futures. But for this Parliament we work together: To fix the problems we face and put the country on a better path. This is the right Government for right now.
The pluralism card was always going to be played by Nick Clegg in justifying the Coalition. It seems a perfectly reasonable one to play, in my opinion.
The Coalition is in a strong position. Many, including me, have been impressed by the functioning of the coalition so far in bringing a culture of practical politics.
The Conservatives are learning to let go of their past. The final blasts will be detonated in the form of Lord Ashcroft’s book, heralding a brief and uninspiring post mortem as to the failures of the Conservatives’ 2010 general election campaign. Ashcroft’s departure as Chairman draws closure, as well as the rumbling war of attrition that has been the media campaign against tax avoidance and tax evasion.
Likewise, it is now vital for the Labour Party to move on. We have had a plethora of books explaining in detail, largely repetitively, explaining the dysfunctional nature of the Blair and Brown government, including forgettable books by Peter Watts, Peter Mandelson, and Andrew Rawnsley. Tony Blair’s was interesting despite being popular, and I learnt a lot from Chris Mullins’ second volume of diaries and Steve Richards’ book.
However, Labour has become partisan and factional. The Coalition is working well, and we had some superb candidates. The most likely winner is David Miliband or Ed Miliband, but we have some other key players who I feel will be outstanding in senior offices of state such as Home or the Exchequer, for example. Whatever happens on 25th, our infighting must stop, and we must be totally focussed in our role as a strong opposition party. The country richly deserves it, and our opponents do as well.
Something I learnt from John McTernan this time is that political strategies tend to think along the lines of ‘whose turn is it to pick on?’
It is easy to forget in the maelstrom of the Leadership election what the issues are which have got Labour into its current misfortunate.
Whilst the Beast of Bolsolver has plumped for David Miliband, on the grounds that David ‘is most likely to beat the Tories’, this for me is a really poor reason. It’s an ever poorer excuse. It is an instrument which has been propagated in the Tory press, including Paul Waugh, and I am really surprised that Dennis Skinner has taken the bait hook-line-and-sinker, much to the joy of David Miliband supporters, and dismay of the solid left wing component of Labour, who feel uneasy about voting for Diane Abbott whom they consider to be an electoral liability.
David Miliband is widely reported to have written a very influential article on the Observer on the future of Labour. This may have gone down well especially with Polly Toynbee, an influential social commentator, but who may have felt subsequently betrayed by the actual direction in which Labour went subsequently in 2009-10. Whatever his intentions, this article destabilised Gordon Brown’s premiership a little, and generated nothing in the way of constructive debate on the issues within Labour. Blairite critics of Brown have been rampant in saying that Blairite policy suggestions were stonewalled, but Blair refused to back Gordon Brown, and indeed many Blairites (and tweeters) were extremely luke warm about Gordon Brown until their subsequent mobilisation for the media in 2010.
Labout lost 4,000 voters between 1997 and 2004, so the Blair government, despite a good start, was not a staggering success. It barely survived 2007, and was a ‘dead man walking’ in reality. Gordon Brown, if one believes the evidence, put too much efforts in briefing against Blair, and was more concerned about his self-promotion than the party. However, Labour has failed on poverty. There’s no point Labour banging on child poverty, crucially important though it is, but Labour failed on adult poverty. It is not even mentioned in Blair’s index to “The Journey”, and we are now left with a culture where debts are being promoted as inevitable. Ed Balls talks about the cuts of Ramsay McDonald leading to the Great Depression in the UK, however most people worry about the actual direction Labour is taking. If one of the Milibands becomes the Leader of my party, as is widely believed, it is quite possible that Ed Balls will become Chancellor. Don’t get me wrong – Ed Balls is extremely formidable as an intellectual, with a First from Keble to match, but he has failed to get his message to the public and the party with the mandate it would need.
So, for me, it is Ed Miliband, who was one of the first to support Brown in the final attempted coup, who is getting my vote. He hasn’t buggered up any leadership challenges so far, he isn’t too left-wing, and he offers genuine leadership abilities in being able to inspire people. The only caveat is that possibly he will probably bring Ed Balls with him, who has been successful in criticising Michael Gove’s “free schools”, is not known to be a massive team player, but who will be able to harvest the massive unpopularity of the cuts. In my humble opinion only.
We have lost 5 million voters since 1997.
Michael Meacher MP has written an extremely informative post on it here. An except of it is:
Labour won in 1997, not because of Blair or New Labour mantra, but because the electorate was heartily sick of the Tories and wanted them out at any price. John Smith would have won by a huge margin too. But having won in 1997 on the back of virulent hostility to the Tories, Blair in two further elections then achieved the biggest loss of voters of any party in modern times. The Labour vote collapsed by almost 4 million from 13.5 million in 1997 to just 9.6 million in 2005. For someone who was such a monumental failure to claim any credibility in predicting political success takes one’s breath away – like someone who’s engineered a train crash telling people how to cut the accident rate.
So, it turns out that we lost 4 milion of them between 1997-2004, despite massive achievements of Labour. Frank Dobson urges the party faithful to identify the policies which were popular, but not to ‘defend the indefensible’.
Nonetheless, Frank feels that Ed Miliband “.. is the best fitted to take on the task to lead our Party to success.”
Sorry this video is cut short. I ran out of tape.
That’s why it may be necessary to move ‘more than a millimetre’ away from Tony Blair’s “New Labour”, which a man that Blair admires immensely, Tony Benn, has called a different party.
Happy memories indeed for supporters of one of more of the Tonies.
Many thanks to Timothee Defamond for the account below of why voters should strongly consider putting David Miliband down as their no.1 choice for the Labour leadership.
There is one thing that David Miliband doesn’t seem to get nearly enough credit for – his radicalism. And yet it is this very radicalism that makes him the right person to take Labour forward, not only to the next election, but beyond that too. David is the candidate with the vision and ideas that can make Labour once again a party sure of purpose and clear about its priorities, a candidate that can give serious meaning to the left in Britain, and go beyond opposing the coalition’s unfair cuts.
One of the cornerstones of the Labour movement is the idea of equality. But what does equality mean for our society today, and why do we seek to achieve it? In many of these speeches David has tackled this head on. At the heart of our belief in equality is that idea that we should all have the ability to lead a life that we can authentically call our own. To achieve this individuals need power – and empowering individuals and communities is what should be at the core of our commitment to reducing inequalities. Furthermore, it means allowing individuals control over the public services they receive. That is the opposite of the top-down Labour state some party members have come to fear. Finally, we need to remember that we all have a stake in the success of the lives of each other, and that we’ll get the best results through cooperation rather than competition. David’s ideas are incredibly powerful, and putting them at the heart of policy making will make Labour the party that wins the next election.
David is also radical in his approach to the party. He promises to transform it to build “a movement not a machine”. For too long we have ignored the grassroots of the party and as a result lost touch with the very people we are representing. David promises to buck this trend by putting the leader of Labour’s councillors in the shadow cabinet. Furthermore, through the Movement for Change, David wants to allow Labour to be more involved in communities through community organising. Over 700 community organisers have already been trained as part of the Movement for Change, and their successes already show that the Labour movement can be effective even when the party is out of power.
All five candidates in this election are strong, and all will have a bearing on the future of the party. A Yougov poll this week showed David as the public’s favourite choice by far to replace David Cameron. Whatever happens to the coalition, we must be ready to persuade the country it is in their interests to vote Labour, and only one candidate can achieve this: David Miliband.