UNCUT: Camped in our comfort zone, Labour poses no real threat to the Tories

22/05/2015, 05:02:38 PM

by Simon Danczuk

‘Time is running out to save the NHS’. This was the polling-day message thrust through thousands of letterboxes early in the morning by an army of Labour volunteers.

Every Labour MP and member should find one of these leaflets and keep it in a drawer. Forget the Ed stone, these are the real monuments to Labour’s defeat.

It’s a simple rule of politics that the party that wins is the party that owns the future. That’s why Bill Clinton chose Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” as his campaign song.

People want a government that can sell them a vision of a better tomorrow and map out how to get there. The fact that Labour went into the final day relying a scare story about the NHS shows how far we were from offering that positive vision.

Those leaflets are a window into the comfort zone where Labour has been firmly camped for the last five years. For all the seminars and lectures, re-launches and re-brands, we ended up basically where we started; opposing ‘Tory cuts’ and warning of the doom to come if David Cameron was elected.

This is essentially the same message we were pushing in 2010. It’s an argument that warms the hearts of Labour activists, but leaves the public cold.

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UNCUT: Labour needs to stop re-fighting the 2010 election

22/05/2015, 11:05:08 AM

by David Ward

As the leadership candidates set out their stalls, the party’s focus must be on the future, not the past.

Too often in the last five years it’s felt like we’ve been trying to rerun the 2010 election result all over again. Now the people have told us – they prefer 2015. We can’t make the same mistake next time.

Firstly, whether people are feeling the recovery yet is now immaterial, we should assume by 2020 things will feel for many like they are ticking over again. At some point Osborne, tactician to the core, is sure to move away from austerity and use renewed growth to distribute its proceeds. Labour need to be considering how we help people get on in this scenario, avoiding accusations of ‘tax and spend’, and bringing business groups along with us.

Second, things are never quite as bad as they seem when you’re losing. Take sport. In 2013 the Australian cricket team lost the Ashes 3-0 in England and were roundly criticised, while England batsmen like Ian Bell scored 500 runs in the series. At Christmas the same England side faced an only slightly changed  Australia and were comprehensively outplayed 5-0. The Australian players were zeroes then heroes in the space of a few months, but they were only as good as before. So there will be some things we need to salvage.

Ideas like increasing the minimum wage, increasing competition in utilities and other industries, and a focus on social mobility. These are all still good policies, but they can’t be all that voters hear. In our heartlands outside London, and in the seats across the north and midlands we need to win, people want to hear more.

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GRASSROOTS: Labour urgently needs a new narrative on the economy

20/05/2015, 11:15:22 PM

by Dan Cooke

One thing we learned in the election campaign was that the younger Ed Miliband, while apparently much in demand, was a lousy date who “only wanted to talk about economics”. We also learned something much more serious: the mature Miliband and his advisers were completely wrong to think Labour could win an election without talking about the economy.

The Tory narrative on the economy, before and during the campaign, was so clear and powerful that friend or foe could recite it in their sleep. They had a “long-term economic plan”, that got the economy “back on track” after Labour “crashed the economy” and the “money ran out”. This account of the recent past provided powerful rhetorical support to their forward offer of prosperity for all, including more investment in the NHS than Labour promised.

If this grates with unfairness to many of us, we have to bluntly ask:  did our party ever pose a counter-narrative to challenge this one?  The frank answer is – at least during the campaign – clearly no. The line to take, when it was put to Labour spokespeople that the Tory plan was working, was apparently  to say that the recovery was not felt by all, the proceeds of growth were unevenly distributed or, more abstractly, that the economy was run for the benefit of the rich and not ordinary people.

Unfortunately these were talking points only to avoid talking about what for most people is the central question of economic debate: who can be trusted to deliver growth and jobs. It sounded as though we were saying this did not matter because it was the “wrong growth” and the “wrong jobs”. By building a campaign around issues of how to regulate a successful economy, like banning zero hours contracts, we forfeited the debate on who can be trusted to deliver a successful economy in the first place – in other words the debate that actually decides votes.

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UNCUT: As usual, the Blairites bring a knife to a gunfight

20/05/2015, 05:44:50 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not fair. That seems to be the message from Blairite veterans at how the nascent Labour leadership contest is shaping up. A seemingly co-ordinated attempt to appeal for offside is underway, with complaints about the leading candidates’ campaigning efforts and the role of the trade unions in the process.

Former health secretary, Alan Milburn, was at it on Newsnight the other day, saying that for “one or two candidates being assumed to be the font of all wisdom in this race is just not right.” He wants an open field, which is code for anyone but Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.

Lady Sally Morgan, Tony Blair’s former political secretary, also weighed in, claiming it’s both “arrogant and plain wrong” for there to be only two candidates in the frame.

Barry Sheerman, the Huddersfield sage, has come over all Inspector Renault and is shocked – shocked – that “Unite’s merry men” have the temerity, as an affiliated organisation for the past 100 years, to have their say in the process.

Meanwhile John Hutton, former DWP secretary, is equally sniffy about union involvement, pointing out that only a  ”tiny proportion of the population are in trade unions.” (Not, though, in the Barrow shipyard he used to represent in Parliament, presumably?)

Moaning that Labour MPs – who are free to back whomsoever they wish –  are currently breaking cover in greater numbers for either Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham is like complaining that rain is wet. Indeed, for a wing of the party committed to consumer choice, it’s a strange gripe to have.

The Blairites – if, indeed, such a description still has any coherence – should perhaps have been better prepared for the possibility that Labour might have ended-up having a leadership contest in the latter half of 2015.

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UNCUT: This party has to change

20/05/2015, 02:29:11 PM

by Rob Marchant

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

The Parliamentary Labour Party’s second-lowest postwar ebb (its 1983-1987 nadir was the only time it has been smaller) is not a time for us to adopt a “steady as she goes” philosophy. We’ve been there, after 2010.

The same economics, literally, because the team behind it was the same. The same poor – or absent – decision-making. The same sense of drift (usually leftwards, because that is the party’s comfort zone).

In many ways, Milibandism was simply Continuity Brownism and we should therefore scarcely be surprised that it achieved a similar result. Worse still, we may not have even reached the bottom yet: the political direction of travel is clearly still downwards and will continue to be, until/unless a big change can be made to happen.

But while we listen to a hundred reasons why Labour lost, most of them perfectly correct, we miss something underlying. Yes, we had the wrong leader. Yes, our scoring on the economy was mostly awful. Yes, our policy offering was a rag-bag of quite-good and not-so-good tactical ideas, which lacked a mission, a coherent and credible overall theme. Yes, Scotland. Yes, UKIP. Yes, yes, yes.

But.

How did we get here? How did we get to doing all those things wrong?

We have to go deeper.

The fundamental building block of parliamentary democracy is the political party. You cannot secure power without one. It is the motor which drives the train. And it is the health of this organic, living, breathing thing which ultimately determines the outcome of the politics.

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UNCUT: If you didn’t see defeat coming, you don’t know how politics works

19/05/2015, 06:24:43 PM

by Ian McKenzie

We lost the 2015 general election in September 2010 and probably also the 2020 one as well. The result was bad for Labour but catastrophic for the millions of people who rely on us to look after their interests.

We let them down, and badly. If the Labour party – a major controlling proportion of it – doesn’t rapidly accept that the only chance to make amends is to stand in the centre ground, shoulder to shoulder with, listening to, working for the British people, and fight and win elections from there, then it will cease to exist and it will deserve to die.

Without the will and the means to win elections we are irrelevant. We might as well be Compass. Or a whelk stall.

As a strong supporter of the first decade of the last Labour government I am not crowing about being right about Ed Miliband; I’m angry and despairing and frightened of the consequences of his disastrous leadership. The whole grisly mess was predictable and predicted and all avoidable.

I can’t count the number of conversations I had with Labour people who agreed that we’d picked the wrong leader not just because he was clearly not up to the job, but also because his chosen strategy was so obviously bonkers.

Reshaping international capitalism in Labour’s image as if in an academic seminar, and simply hoping this newly left leaning British public followed us out to that lunatic fringe, sounded, to sane people, exactly like what it was: palpable nonsense.

It was also a gift to the people who are habitually used to running this country: the Tories, who are wasting no time moving to the right. By 12th September, when we have a new leader, they will have shifted the ground on us yet again.

To so-called anti-Tory luvvies in the Greens, what is left of the liberals, the hard left, the “real” socialists, the stay-at-homes, and spiteful proto-racist narrow nationalists in both Celtic fringes who thought they were going to get a supine minority Labour government to hold to ransom, I say you are wrong. There is a massive difference between the Tories and the Labour party and you are about to discover how different in the most painful way possible.

If the effects weren’t also going to be felt by millions of decent people as well, I’d say you deserve everything you get. But when you feel the effects start to bite you don’t come crying to us, we voted Labour.

The day after Gordon Brown lost us the last election I left a message on Andy Burnham’s mobile phone urging him to stand for leader.

I supported his candidacy because I believed he understood why we had lost, because he was (then, not now!) the most Blairite of all the candidates and because he would be best able to unify the party and appeal to most people across the whole country.

I knew he would be unlikely to win and I put what I assumed would be the eventual winner, David Miliband, at No 2 on my ballot paper and left it at that.

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UNCUT: According to Westminster groupthink, Andy Burnham is favourite for leader. Yet again, it’s wrong

18/05/2015, 06:32:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The Westminster groupthink, which recently had Ed Miliband walking into Downing street, has a new favourite: Andy Burnham.

Labour MPs talking among themselves and to journalists, journalists talking to each other in Westminster bars and on the conveyor belt of rolling news comment slots, then bouncing off MPs and vocal activists on Twitter – this is the echo chamber that got the result of the general election so badly wrong and has now reconvened to similar effect for the Labour leadership race.

Andy Burnham certainly has support in the PLP, almost half by some accounts, and an active briefing operation shaping journalists’ perceptions. If the leadership election was to be decided among MPs, journalists and Twittervists, he justifiably would be a runaway favourite.

But party members are also involved. Over 220,000 of them. And they do not even vaguely resemble any of the participants in the Westminster groupthink bubble.

Instead, Labour’s members are like the general public.

According to internal party estimates, over 95% do not attend a single party meeting in a year, deliver a leaflet or knock a door. They are not consumed with the minutiae of politics or deeply tribal.

They’ve just made a choice to join Labour, as many people join clubs and societies without any sense that this membership defines their life.

Under Labour’s new leadership election rules, it’s one member one vote. With a membership that reflects the public, the same priorities which so recently decided the general election will similarly shape this race.

Economic competence and the preference for prime minister will be the key criteria against which contenders are to be judged and on both counts Andy Burnham’s candidature is critically flawed.

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INSIDE: Eagle promises to learn from “heart-breaking” election defeat as she launches bid for deputy leader

18/05/2015, 01:54:24 PM

Angela Eagle has become the fifth Labour MP to launch a bid for the party’s deputy leadership.

The Wallasey MP and former chair of the party’s National Policy Forum, said Labour had suffered “a heart-breaking election defeat.”

It was all the more painful because “the scale of it had not been anticipated.” Labour had, she said, “endured a total political and strategic failure.”

Eagle, a former pensions minister under Gordon Brown and shadow Leader of the House under Ed Miliband, launched her campaign in a video, featuring party members endorsing her candidacy.

She joins Tom Watson, Caroline Flint, Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw in her bid to succeed Harriet Harman.  One candidate fewer (so far) than the last deputy leadership contest in 2007.

Promising to be a “campaigning deputy” and “brutally honest about what went wrong,” Ms. Eagle said Labour needed to hear the views both of ordinary party members, but also those who did not support the party.

“I will also ensure we have a no holds barred debate about the way forward for our Party both politically and organisationally. This must be followed by robust action to learn the hard lessons and ensure that we are fit to win the many battles which lie ahead” she said.

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UNCUT: Members must be able to sack the leader before the next election if they turn out to be Ed mk 2

18/05/2015, 09:54:48 AM

by Joe Anderson

Two years ago, I was summoned to see Ed Miliband. He wanted to talk about my continuous public challenge for the Labour party to unequivocally promise to scrap the hated bedroom tax.

His answer left me speechless. He told me, “Joe, It is what we do in government that matters”.

I told him straight how wrong he was: “That it was “hope” people needed, if nothing else, a belief that Labour was the party that would speak out for all. Only by being bold would we ever get to be in government again.”

I also gave him some unsolicited advice:  ”Get out of the Westminster village, stop spending days preparing for PMQs , get out and see real people in real communities, visit the food banks, and visit the cities being  hardest hit by the cuts.”  And I again left him with a challenge:  “Make the news, don’t respond to it.”

The plea fell on deaf ears.

Soon after that meeting the same people who had led us to defeat in 2010 developed their 35% strategy.  Those same advisers and spin masters were making the same mistakes again based on the false assumption the Tories would win the election for us, all we had to do was sit back and wait.

The people who didn’t want  to talk about the bedroom tax or cuts to local services were the same ones who decided to give us the EdStone.

I had a similar meeting with Ed Balls months before the general election.  His attitude and approach was worse and I hold him responsible for much of the problem we faced. His “dead hand” hung over all our policy in relation to public sector spending. His approach of, “say nothing, offer little and wait to win” showed how arrogant and out of touch the leadership had become.

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UNCUT: Labour’s fruitcakes are turning us into the nasty party

15/05/2015, 09:52:59 PM

by Samuel Dale

The reaction of some parts of the left to an emphatic Conservative victory has been shameful and embarrassing.

There were anti-austerity protests in London (along with some rioting and vandalism) on the 70th anniversary of VE Day.  “Fuck Tory scum” graffiti was sprawled over a Whitehall monument to women of the Second World War.

Parts of Facebook and Twitter has exploded with pure hatred about a Tory victory. There was the viral image of a garden centre owner who said he would charge Tory voters 10% more on all their purchases while Ukip votes were not welcome.

Can you imagine the fury if there was a similar sign outside a garden centre banning Labour voters? Is the Conservative brand so toxic that it has become the only socially acceptable form of discrimination? The only allowable thought crime?

I have seen a number of social media posts and remarks from people who now refuse to be friends with anyone who voted Conservative.

One Conservative voting friend explains how he was berated down the phone by another friend when he explained he had voted Tory. He said he the party was more in line with his own personal interests and this provoked venom.

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