Archive for July, 2010

Ian Austin deplores Cameron’s double talk on Gaza

28/07/2010, 10:47:45 AM

“If I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on her” pledged David Cameron when speaking to Conservative Friends of Israel last year.

He used the same speech to argue against those who claim there is an equivalence between Israel and Hamas. “Israel is a democracy – Hamas want to create a theocracy. Israel strives to protect innocent life – Hamas target innocent life,” he said.

But for David Cameron talk is clearly cheap. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

28/07/2010, 07:47:26 AM

Liberal dilemma

Nick Clegg struggles with his new found unpopularity

Having won the leadership from the statist Labour left, Mili the Younger would have no option but to strike a hard bargain with the defenders of spending cuts that may, should the recent economic growth be sustained, have come to look a touch draconian. The studiedly centrist David, a stalwart of the Blairite bunker when a permanent “progressive realignment” with the Lib Dems (“the project”) was all the rage, makes a far more natural and amenable partner. With him as Labour leader, Mr Clegg would be a happy self-auctioneer, confident of repeating May’s trick by using Mili the Elder to force Mr Cameron to pay a steeper price than he would wish. – The Independent

Labour is to vote against legislation paving the way for a referendum on reforming the voting system. The shadow cabinet decided to oppose the Government’s Bill because it also includes provisions for equalising the size of constituencies. The move sets the stage for a major test of the coalition, with Labour MPs lining up alongside rebel Tories in a bid to derail the proposals. The commitment to a referendum on switching to Alternative Vote was a key concession obtained by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as part of his deal with David Cameron. – Press Association


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Stephen Bush and Alistair Strathern launch the “Back Burnham” campaign

27/07/2010, 04:17:39 PM

“We have become dangerously disconnected from ordinary working people, we’ve not been speaking their language, we’ve been dealing with issues that aren’t their main concerns..”

Andy Burnham MP

We are a grassroots alliance of party-members drawn from both left and right, North and South, united by the belief that our leadership election has been marked by the same damaging disconnection from the wider electorate that defined our worst days in government.

The narrative of our leadership election has all too often been shaped by the Guardian editorial team and a handful of influential figures within our party. We have focussed too much and too long upon fringe issues; and not enough on the voters we have lost, why we lost them, and how we win them back. It should be a source of considerable worry to Labour that, as the paper war over endorsements ends and the real battle for votes begins, we have a better idea on how the candidates stand on the alternative vote than deficit reduction. (more…)

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Labour renewal must transcend tribes to put voters, not members, first

27/07/2010, 02:15:41 PM

Amid all the “who’s up and who is down” commentary on Labour’s leadership contest, it’s easy to forget that the contest is about selecting a Prime Minister in waiting, not a leader of the opposition. In today’s FT, Philip Stephens argues that if Labour’s defeat had been a little more crushing, our reflections would be more realistic. In today’s Telegraph, Mary Riddell warns against knee-jerk tribalism in opposition and urges Labour to resist retributive instincts that are stopping leadership candidates from agreeing with coalition policies now and again.

The election result surely shows that political tribalism is now dead in the water and that relying on a core vote strategy is ‘ballot box suicide’. But equally unrealistic is an obsession with winning back skilled working class C2s that ignores Labour’s vote share collapsing across all lower social classes. Whoever wins the leadership is going to need to make some big and symbolic repositions to show that Labour has listened, learned and most importantly, changed.

Time is of the essence. Labour had the chance to renew in office but left it too late. By the time the manifesto was published, the frame through which voters judged Labour had already been set. The Tories made the mistake of burning through three leaders before they were prepared to renew their ideas and reposition their offer to voters. We can’t afford to do the same.


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Ian Austin on the leadership primary he’s running in Dudley North

27/07/2010, 12:35:18 PM

Voters in Dudley North are going back to the polls this week. Labour party volunteers are out delivering letters to residents. Supporters of different candidates are busy hitting the phones and knocking doors canvassing for votes.

It’s not a by-election. It’s a ground-breaking American-style primary to give Labour supporters in Dudley North their say in the Labour leadership election. I’ve promised to cast the vote I’m given as a Labour MP for the candidate local people choose. (more…)

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Full equality will only be achieved when civil partnerships are recognised as marriage, writes Waheed Alli

27/07/2010, 09:30:58 AM

As our party makes the transition from government to opposition, it seems that everyone is suddenly ‘reflecting’: on the failures and successes of our time in government, on the choices now facing our movement, on the type of leader we want to elect. With the immediate responsibilities of power lifted, we’ve found a little more space in which to see the bigger picture.

Welcome to my world.

Despite a lifelong relationship with the Labour party, I have never worked in the front line of politics. Over the last thirteen years, I continued my work in television and in business. And when I contributed to debates in the Lords, it was only if I thought I had something unique to add to the discussion.

For me, then, it didn’t take an election defeat to see the bigger picture. With the day-to-day agony of Westminster always at one remove, I felt more aware of the bigger, longer journey that we were taking.


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Crowdsourcing the leadership: Andy Burnham

27/07/2010, 09:12:33 AM

Next week, we’ve got Andy Burnham answering your questions in the Labour Uncut crowdsourced interview.

You decide what we put to him, so what should we ask?

Add your questions to the comment thread below this post by 6pm on Sunday.

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Tuesday News Review

27/07/2010, 07:30:08 AM

Ed: he tweets a lot.

Following those candidates…

Four days and counting. This weekend, the Labour leadership contenders set off on holiday. After weeks of sitting cheek by clenching jowl at ever frostier hustings, they appear to be putting as much distance as possible between each other. – The Telegraph.

“Packed with teenagers going to party in the park. Some get their kicks from concerts, we make do w. hustings!” – the weekend on Ed_Miliband’s Twitter feed via BBC News.

In a rare piece of Labour mass democracy, David Miliband won the support of the Midlands Bassetlaw seat, the only party so far to hold a constituency-wide primary of 33,000 party members and supporters. David Miliband won 50.3% of the vote on the first ballot, and most second preferences. The constituency MP, John Mann,, claimed 33% of the electorate had returned ballot papers, and said he would be switching his support to the former foreign secretary – The Guardian.

We lost the election because people lost a sense of who we were and what we believed. We started as the government of the windfall tax and the minimum wage and ended up defending bankers’ bonuses and failing to listen to our party members, embarrassed by our trade union links. We need a leader who is proud of our Labour values, proud of our members, proud of our Trade Unions and will speak up for them loudly and  clearly. – Ed Miliband’s letter to the Unite committee, via John Rentoul.

Diane: she's 'well placed'

Watch out, Diane’s about

A surge of trade union and constituency support for Ed Miliband has put him in a strong position to challenge his brother David Miliband for the Labour Party leadership. However supporters of centre-left candidate Diane Abbott declared that she was now well-placed to “give the brothers a run for their money.” – Morning Star.

Shortlist contest

THE fiercely-contested race for Labour nomination for the first-ever elected mayor of London’s East End is now back on track after being suspended at the weekend. – East London Advertiser.

In opposition

It may be an Urgent Question granted in the House of Commons, or a roundtable on Newsnight or a blast of regional radio interviews before breakfast. Wherever the forum, you have to want to ruin a minister’s day; disrupt their plans; pour treacle into the machinery of government. You have to do this because it’s a sad truth that you can’t change lives in opposition. You can only score points. – The Guardian.

Four out of 10 Liberal Democrat voters would not have backed the party in the May General Election if they had known it would enter a coalition with the Conservatives, a poll suggests. And 37% of Lib Dem voters quizzed for BBC2’s Newsnight said they felt their party was being dishonest about cuts. – Wales Online.

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Trident must be part of the Strategic Defence Review, argues Des Browne

26/07/2010, 03:15:56 PM

The Coalition government is embarked upon a ‘strategic’ security and defence review but Trident renewal has apparently been decided in advance and excluded from it. In taking this stance the government claims to be doing no more than agreeing with and continuing the policy of the previous Labour administration. But this isn’t good enough. As the Secretary of State for Defence responsible for committing Labour to the renewal of Trident in 2007, I know how much the world has changed since we made our original renewal decision.

In recent years we have endured and are now dealing with the consequences of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Treasury statements to the effect that the full cost of Trident will now have to be met out of the core defence budget rather than from a Treasury reserve set aside for Trident as a ‘national strategic asset’ have enormous implications for the rest of our defence capability. There is no way of examining the necessary trade-offs between nuclear and conventional capability in this defence review if Trident is left out of the process.


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Michael Dugher blasts the inward-looking new Bennites

26/07/2010, 01:50:10 PM

When the Labour Government lost the no confidence vote in Parliament in 1979, many cabinet and other ministers at the time expected Labour to lose the following general election, but they believed that Labour would bounce back quickly.  The tragedy that followed was, of course, a generation out of power, and it was Labour’s traditional areas that paid the heaviest price for our electoral failure.  Now is not then, but lessons can be learnt.

The aftermath of Callaghan’s defeat at the polls was a full scale civil war inside the party, with tensions that had simmered around the Cabinet table for many years in government finally boiling over.  The party pushed the self-destruct button in electing veteran left-winger Michael Foot to the leadership and, despite narrowly losing the deputy leadership to Denis Healey, the influence of Tony Benn was ubiquitous and destructive. (more…)

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