Archive for July, 2010

Hillary Benn on leadership, and his decision to back Ed Miliband

29/07/2010, 04:13:54 PM

For me, this election is about character, and that’s why I am backing Ed Miliband.

I can remember the moment when I decided that he was the person to lead us into the future. It was a speech he gave, without notes. He was fluent and thoughtful. He argued his case. But above all, he looked and sounded like a leader, and I was mightily impressed. Last Sunday, along with 300 other people at the leadership hustings in Leeds, I saw those same qualities on display again. And I was reminded that who wins this election really does matter.


Well, first, because we have to understand the past in order to get the future right. On Labour’s achievements in government, you only have to look at what’s now under threat to be reminded just how important they were. But we do have to face up to the fact that we lost. And the most important question is – why did we lose? Because we stopped listening. And until we start listening, we will not win again.


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David Cameron is going berserk, says Kevin Meagher

29/07/2010, 12:27:07 PM

Oh dear, and it was all going so well.

Was it a lack of fresh air on the plane? Something he ate? Perhaps it was the heat which has shorted the political circuitry in his brain? Whatever it was, David Cameron seems to be going berserk.

After picking fights with just about every key public sector union and professional group in sight, he is now taking his peculiar brand of call-a-spade-a-shovel diplomacy on to the world stage. With predictably eye-wincing results. (more…)

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Don’t go to war over the deficit, says Dan Hodges

29/07/2010, 09:35:19 AM

Compare and contrast. First, Ed Balls, on why he’s battling to win the leadership race:

“I will carry on fighting to stop unfair tax rises and the withdrawal of essential benefits, I will carry on fighting to defeat a coalition hell-bent on cutting public services, putting up VAT, cancelling new schools and turning recovery into a double-dip recession.”

Next, Pat McFadden’s speech to the Fabian Society:

“Had we won the general election there would still have been difficult decisions to come. Unless we absorb that, I believe there is a danger of being tuned out by the electorate. By contrast, acknowledging it increases the chance of our fight against what the government is doing being heard. ‘Fight the cuts’ is a tempting slogan in opposition, and there are indeed some that must be fought. But if that is all we are saying the conclusion will be drawn that we are wishing the problem away.”

Two statements, two weeks apart, highlighting one very big problem facing the party. Just what is our policy (or, come to think of it, our line), on the deficit? (more…)

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Thursday News Review

29/07/2010, 07:30:56 AM

Panic over: Brown spotted


It was the rare appearance of the not-very-often-spotted glowering Gordon at the weekend which reminded the nation we were not just short of a few bob but a leader of the Labour Party. Gordon Brown, aware of his popularity in certain circles, chose that well known suburb of Kirkcudbright, Uganda, to re-emerge on the public scene. – Channel 4.


Labour is trying to score cheap party-political points. The Opposition wants to exploit potential Tory divisions on the issue, even if it means performing a policy somersault. Jack Straw (who has form, having first promised and then abandoned the EU referendum) sought to justify this shabby volte-face by insisting that it is not AV that Labour opposes but the other half of the Bill, which seeks to cut the number of MPs by 50 and make constituency sizes more equal. With an apparently straight face, Mr Straw claimed that redrawing constituency boundaries was “very, very partisan” and amounted to “gerrymandering”. – The Telegraph.

Straw on AV

A large number of Tory MPs are unhappy about the proposals for constitutional reform. They feel that these have not been thought through and that they could prove to be a second instalment of Blairite recklessness. The referendum on AV (the alternative vote) is the immediate challenge. It will require legislation. Bernard Jenkin and other Tory rebels would be ready to co-operate with the Labour front bench to defeat it. Mr Jenkin has form. In the 1992 parliament, he was one of the Tories who collaborated with Labour to sabotage legislation on the Maastricht treaty. Today’s Labour leadership might conclude the coalition could not survive the death of AV. – Financial Times.

…with Labour now likely to oppose the referendum bill, which also promises to cut the number of lawmakers and make boundary changes to electoral districts, the government could face its first defeat when parliament debates the issue in early September. And most Conservatives will line up against the referendum if a vote does happen. Under the terms of the coalition deal, Mr. Cameron’s party were free to campaign for a “no” vote just as the Liberal Democrats were allowed to abstain on certain issues in parliamentary votes. Mr. Cameron and his party support the current First Past the Post voting system which favors the two biggest parties: the Conservatives and Labour. – Wall Street Journal.

The leadership

“I am proud and honoured to receive the support of so many of Labour’s leaders in local government and grassroots activists. These are the people at the frontline of Labour’s fight against the Tory-Liberal coalition. These are the people we need to engage to rebuild and renew our party if we are to win back power.” – David Miliband,  Carlisle News and Star.

Like the Levellers, the Tolpuddle martyrs or the Jarrow marchers, the Chartists of the 1830s and 1840s are up there among the Labour party’s most venerated secular saints. And rightly so. For the Chartists long ago placed democracy, reform and fairness at the front of the British labour movement’s forward march. –
Martin Kettle,  The Guardian


It was at the Labour party conference in 1999 that Tony Blair announced that by 2010 that 50 per cent of school leavers would be enrolled in higher education. Although the Labour government quietly abandoned that target last year, the latest numbers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that they actually came pretty close to meeting it: by 2009, university participation rates among 17- to 30-year-olds had risen to 45 per cent. – Gulf News

And finally…

Celebrities and politicians including Peter Andre, Sarah Brown and David Miliband paid tribute to the World’s oldest tweeter following her death. Ivy Bean, 104, passed away in her sleep last night after being unwell for several weeks.
Leading the online tributes was Mrs Brown, who praised the late silver surfer for her ‘great spirit and sense of humour’. – The Mail.

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Rob Macpherson’s crowdsourcing dos and don’ts

28/07/2010, 06:57:43 PM

Online crowdsourcing has been hidden in the nooks and crannies of politics for long enough. The past few months have seen this democratic use of technology surge to the forefront of mainstream political dialogue. But if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Tory MP Douglas Carswell used his blog to crowdsource the first question of David Cameron’s initial PMQs… before continuing to raise House of Lords reform, a topic he himself has been trumpeting to anyone in the Tory party who would listen.

Meanwhile the public consultation that is the Treasury’s spending challenge suffered setback upon setback and has not done enough to create any real dialogue between government and citizen.


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Shadow Cabinet suggested timeline

28/07/2010, 05:12:38 PM

Monday 6 September, 6pm              

‘Normal’ PLP meeting, will discuss below procedure

Tuesday 7 September, 12 noon       

Special PLP meeting to discuss the 5 key proposals

Weds 8 September, 10-5                 

Ballot on the proposals

Tuesday 14 September, 10-5               

‘Yes/No’ ballot on new procedures

Saturday 25 September, pm                 

New Leader elected


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Tony Lloyd’s letter to the PLP on the future of the shadow cabinet

28/07/2010, 05:06:37 PM


Dear Colleague

You will see from Margaret Beckett’s letter that the working group on the PLP Standing Orders is proposing that we proceed with a meeting to discuss how we choose our Shadow Cabinet at a special PLP meeting on Tuesday 7 September at 12 noon, followed by a ballot of the PLP on Wednesday 8 September from 10am-5pm.

It is important that we agree this approach as a parliamentary party, as well as thinking about how we amend any element of this if we decide that is the right thing to do. (more…)

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Margaret Beckett’s letter to the PLP on the future of the shadow cabinet

28/07/2010, 05:05:18 PM


July 29 2010

Dear Colleagues

Further to my most recent letter I am writing to set out some proposals and choices on how our Shadow Cabinet is chosen from the autumn.

The working group established by the PLP has now met on a number of occasions, we have taken evidence from many members of the PLP, and we have received a number of written submissions, for which many thanks.

As I set out last week there are a number of issues we will continue to consider into the autumn but it is clear that we need to agree as a matter of urgency the basis on which the Shadow Cabinet will be chosen. This will be completed before parliament returns in October, as agreed at last Monday’s PLP meeting. As set out in my last letter, this is because the Spending Review will follow very quickly, i.e. 20 October. (more…)

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“Between swivel-eyed, small-state evangelism and defending the status quo” – Jonathan Todd plots a path

28/07/2010, 02:15:42 PM

Rahm Emanuel never wastes a crisis and neither does the Tory-Lib Dem government. The Thatcherite ends which this government use crises to advance would be anathema to President Obama’s chief of staff. Idealists who cheered Obama’s election have been frustrated by subsequent pragmatism. David Cameron, in contrast, has been much more of an ideologue as Prime Minister than previously; though one more concerned with the low cunning of making his beliefs real than with their principles.

Such an ideologue in Downing Street is more frightening than anything Labour has to offer. After a generation of New Labour, the contemporary meaning of Labour’s values needs restatement. However, the candidates’ visions of the socialist uplands are less important than resisting a PM who threatens the achievements of not just the last Labour government, but every Labour government. (more…)

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Votes at 16: ffinlo Costain says that, for once, we should follow the Isle of Man

28/07/2010, 12:16:19 PM

There’s one constitutional reform that would make Britain fairer and more representative, but currently lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t on the cards. For once, we should follow the Isle of Man’s lead.

The Isle of Man isn’t renowned for liberal government. Birching and anti-homosexual laws were abolished only relatively recently, and penal policy is still draconian. But in terms of voting reform the Isle of Man has always been a step ahead. In 1881 they were the first to introduce votes for women, and then in 2006 the Manx parliament, Tynwald, chose to reduce the voting age to 16.


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