Archive for May, 2010

Chris Huhne’s nuclear option: leave it to somebody else

29/05/2010, 12:00:21 PM

The turbulent take-off of the coalition has thrown up a lot of chaff and created a lot of confusion and cant. Perhaps nowhere is that more the case than in the sponsoring Ministry for hot air, the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Many energy industry insiders grew nervous as soon as it became clear that the Lib Dems were in line for some Cabinet slots.  Their fears were soon realised when the post was handed to Chris Huhne.

Leaving aside his monstrous ego (he once had a company car which sported the personalised number plate ‘H11HNE’), the immediate worry was that he would simply play favourites, using his position to pick and choose the technologies he favours, rather than dispassionately weighing up the UK’s energy needs.

Since Huhne ran both his unsuccessful leadership campaigns on a greener-than-thou platform, it seemed clear who the winners and losers were likely to be. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

29/05/2010, 08:17:20 AM

The Contest

Yvette Cooper leaves the door open for future leaders bid

“So whoever wins Labour’s leadership election, I’ll still be there alongside Harriet and others, campaigning for progressive help for women. And as for future leadership contests, who knows …” – Yvette Cooper, The Guardian

“The question Burnham has to answer is what does he really bring much that one of the front-runners doesn’t? His campaign website doesn’t provide any answers (at least, not without joining a mailing-list up front), and looks amateurish, to be kind. In fact, things like his campaign launch, media non-appearances and website all contribute to an appearance that he’s just not trying very hard.” – Political Betting

“We cannot afford to just have an internal debate within our party. And we must stay focused on our number one task – being a responsible and effective opposition and once again becoming a party that can win.” – Ed Balls, Tribune

“DIANE ABBOTT yesterday launched her bid to become Labour Party leader in the B6 College in Kenninghall Road in Clapton.” – Irish Times

“Front runners in the Labour leadership race are under pressure to help lessfancied contenders to clear the first hurdle by lending them some supporters.” – The Telegraph

“THE younger of two brothers in the leadership contest, Ed Miliband, said he would be happiest if all six declared candidates got onto the ballot paper. Aware of criticism within the party at the prospect of an Ed Miliband v David Miliband contest, he said: “I think it’s important the party has the widest possible choice.”’ – Wales Online


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Laugh at the Tories, not the Big Society, says Andy Westwood

28/05/2010, 01:39:37 PM

It has been very easy to pour scorn on David Cameron’s big idea. I have done it myself. Launched in the election campaign, it bombed on the doorstep and among the media. Most people had little or no idea what he was talking about and those who did assumed that he was just trying to make something more substantial from his line about society not being the same thing as the state.

Mixed with its rejection of Margaret Thatcher’s anti-society stance and the implication that this was a changed, more compassionate Conservative party, this was the line that team Cameron thought would seal the deal with the electorate. It didn’t and he didn’t either.  It is fair to say that the Big Society still has some work to do to bring around the doubters.

And yet, it persists as one of the coalition’s big ideas. Cameron has relaunched it quickly with few changes – but this time from Downing Street and with more attention from the chattering classes than before. It reminded me a little of Cool Britannia, so we’ll forgive the curiosities of those who went along to listen and be photographed. (more…)

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Nick Palmer ponders the politics of the AV referendum

28/05/2010, 08:45:56 AM

Let’s suppose that the coalition holds for the next couple of years at least. If so, we can assume that the LibDems will insist on the referendum on the alternative vote without delaying it for years.  Regardless of the rights and wrong of AV, what are the political implications?

First, cui bono? Well, AV is great for medium-sized centre parties, since they are normally everyone’s second choice, and their voters often get to choose between the other parties, effectively giving them an extra vote.

It’s also quite good for small parties: they probably won’t win more seats (especially if they’re on the political fringes), but at least their supporters can show their support on the first round before giving others their second preferences. It is correspondingly not so good for big parties, especially if they think that the other big party will get more of the second preferences. (more…)

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Friday News Review

28/05/2010, 08:36:58 AM

Policy posturing

“There was nothing in this week’s Queen’s Speech for hard-working families – except a kick in the teeth if you are young and unemployed or an aspiring student or receiving home help.” – David Miliband, The Mirror

“Bosses earning huge amounts while their employees struggle were branded “immoral” by Labour leadership contender David Miliband last night.” – The Mirror

“Ed Miliband will seek today to stand out from the field of Labour leadership candidates with a campaign for a “living wage”. He will call for Britain’s five million lowest-paid workers to receive at least £7.14 an hour, instead of the current £5.83 minimum wage.” – The Times

“The result is that our conversation with the public broke down. We need to restart it with our most precious asset – our idealism for a better future.” – David Miliband, Tribune

“Ed Miliband will throw his weight behind demands for a “living wage” of more than £7 an hour as he seeks to bolster his bid for the Labour leadership.” – Channel 4 News (more…)

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IPSA feels the lash

28/05/2010, 08:16:11 AM

It is wrong to imagine that the House of Commons is awash with leadership scuttlebutts.  For most MPs, the future of the left is a subject that hardly comes up.

It is the war between MPs of all parties and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which takes up most time in the tea room.

A particularly amusing salvo is reproduced below.  The MP in question blind copied his email to all other MPs.  A move akin, in information management terms, to taking out a full page advertisement in the Times.  Notwithstanding which, we have withheld his name, in a spirit of restraint and discretion. (more…)

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Labour must learn to oppose, says Benjamin Wegg-Prosser

27/05/2010, 02:22:59 PM

I did something very strange last week: I read a speech by a Secretary of State (Jeremy Hunt’s first – perfectly good if a little predictable).

I did something odder this morning: I watched the Parliament channel on the iPlayer.

Having been lucky enough to have access to the heart of government at various points over the past 13 years, I had fallen out of the habit of actually reading and watching the business of politics.  Having an inside track seemed to give me sense of what was going on without having to do so much of the legwork.

Times have changed. And in changing times following the nitty gritty is essential.  The Tories and Liberals are without doubt approaching government in a different way: identifying common ground, being honest about their differences and, if they can keep this going, I suspect making quite an impact on the public. (more…)

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The Ed Balls interview

27/05/2010, 12:07:36 PM

Labour Uncut interviewed Ed Balls on Tuesday evening.  We couldn’t ask all the questions you submitted.  There were far too many.  We gave Ed the option of whether or not to answer questions – in this Labour leadership interview – from people who clearly weren’t Labour members or supporters.  He chose to answer, and we’ve included several.

Ed’s is the first of our leadership candidate interviews.  We were impressed by his focus and presence.  It will be great if the rest are as good.

Q. (From Alex R) When the leadership candidates say that they were guilty of ‘not listening’ enough in the last government, how and why were you not listening? What steps would you take to listen sufficiently if you had another opportunity?

A. I think our problems about not listening started much earlier than the last Parliament. I think one of the great frustrations that we had in the election campaign, and in my case the year before, was that many of the things people were upset about, like public housing, the impact of unskilled immigration on terms and conditions, the obstacle of upfront tuition fees for young people going to university – these were issues we’d actually addressed.  We’d put in place controls on immigration; John Healy was leading a big expansion on public housing; we’d got rid of upfront tuition fees.  But the public weren’t hearing at that time what we were saying and it takes time for policy decisions to feed through to the reality of peoples lives.

I think the truth is that the time when we weren’t listening enough was probably during the second term in Government.  My election campaign for the last 18 months has been all about repeated public meetings, listening to people and their issues – and lots of other MPs who were successful in their campaigns did the same thing in this last couple of years.  If we’d been doing that five years earlier we’d have made different and better policy decisions at an earlier stage.

So your politics can’t be about telling communities what you’ve concluded; it’s got to be about asking them, listening to the voices of people who need us on their side and responding.  That’s what I mean by listening. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

27/05/2010, 08:33:17 AM


Miliband vs Miliband: a one family race so far

“The brothers remain the only candidates of the six hopefuls to have secured the required number of nominations from fellow MPs. Members are putting pressure on party chiefs to change the rules to ensure that Labour’s electoral college has a wider choice of candidates.” – The Telegraph

“John McDonnell has got his first confirmed backers in the contest to become the next Labour leader. The backbench MP is being supported by former minister Frank Field and fellow MPs Kate Hoey and Dai Havard.” – The BBC

“The two Milibands are the only candidates so far to secure the 33 nominations from fellow MPs required to get their names on the ballot paper, with Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, passing the threshold first and leading the field until now.” – The Telegraph

“Labour is a coalition of individual members, trade unions and other affiliated socialist societies. At its best it represents a broad church of opinion on the left. We welcome the extension of the nomination period, which now gives MPs the opportunity to consult with their local parties, trade unions and communities.

However, we believe that with six candidates in the race the 12.5% threshold – meaning candidates must secure the backing of 33 MPs – is too onerous.” – Open letter, The Guardian

The campaigns

Abbott: "humbled"

“Andy Burnham yesterday launched his Labour leadership campaign by vowing to “reconnect” the party with its grassroots. The former Health Secretary pitched himself as a contest outsider, standing for people beyond “London and Westminster”. He stressed his Northern roots by kicking off his campaign at a sports centre in his Leigh constituency in Manchester. He said: “People in the North West know me best but I want to reach out to people everywhere. My campaign will have a grassrootsfeel.”” –The Mirror

“Last week I announced that I was prepared to run for the leadership of the Labour party. I have been amazed and humbled by the response of the public. People come up to me in the street and shake my hand. There is a very strong feeling amongst the general public that the political debate at the top of the politics needs to be opened up. They do not want to see only the same old grey men in suits debating the future of our country. So, ordinary people seem to welcome my candidacy.” – Diane Abbott, The Mirror


“At the weekend I attended a Labour Party inquest. It was organised by the modernisers’ faction, Progress. There were a lot of young people there, and some of them were most excited by the novelty of being in opposition. It wears off, you know. As someone who spent most of his formative political years attending leftish inquests into Labour defeats, I have to say that they are all the same and that they are mostly beside the point. A lot of people become animated about electoral reform or impatient to take the fight to the Tories (and in the present case, the addition of the Liberal Democrats to the government seems to have made no difference); while in between sessions all the talk is of nominations and shadow cabinet elections.” – The Independent

“In short, Labour must not allow the coalition to claim liberalism as its own. This need not entail any compromising of its core commitment to social justice. After all, as the great social liberal L T Hobhouse, celebrated by the freethinking MP Jon Cruddas in his essay on page 31, argued a century ago: “The ‘right to work’ and the right to a ‘living wage’ are just as valid as the rights of person or property.”” – The New Statesman

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“Who are you calling a loser?” asks Tim Cheetham

27/05/2010, 07:15:47 AM

Much less widely reported, amidst the twists and turns of the general election result, were the local election results of the same day. Holding the locals at the same time as the General can often have a big influence on the results. This can be a sore point to those of us in local government, as it indicates a lack of concern about what we do the rest of the time. Also because it leaves our fate disproportionately in the hands of our Parliamentary colleagues – and leadership – making their faults, faux pas and fighting a factor in our campaigns. This was underlined handsomely during the Euro elections last year (I’m looking at you, Hazel and James!).

What was most striking this time around was the contradictory trend at the polls. As Labour majorities fell and seats disappeared nationally, the opposite happened in local government. Labour gained control of 15 councils, almost doubling our total. Labour Councillors who have, for the last few years, been culled in their hundreds every May, found their numbers swelled by over 400 new recruits nationwide. (more…)

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