Archive for August, 2010

Real social mobility means reclaiming ambition, says Stella Creasy

24/08/2010, 09:00:24 AM

Unlike many in the current Government, Labour’s concern for social mobility lies in more than wanting everyone to take Oxbridge entrance exams. We know that while talent is distributed widely throughout our society, the opportunity to realise it is not. This means that privilege determines life chances rather than ability and consequently raw potential too often goes to waste. We seek to advance social mobility because when people are held back by dint of birth we all miss out on the contribution they could make to our country.

In a nation where social division is inked into our educational,  economic and cultural fabric, helping everyone reach their promise is the purpose of Labour in power. It is an ambition we know we still have much to do to realise. As the TUC highlights, half of a child’s future earning potential in the UK was determined at birth, compared with 20% in other countries such as Canada, Australia or Denmark. Under the previous government, action taken meant the trends underpinning this started to decline, showing that the state can and does make a difference to life chances if it chooses. However, the intergenerational grip of privilege on prosperity is still hard to break. (more…)

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Tuesday News Review

24/08/2010, 08:10:30 AM

Burnham blitz on ‘metropolitan elite’ continues

“Work experience internships, which often serve as a middle-class passport to good jobs, should be restricted to a maximum of three months, be paid the minimum wage and be required by law to be advertised, Andy Burnham says today as he steps up his Labour leadership campaign against self-perpetuating “metropolitan elites”. In his determination to tackle Britain’s stalled social mobility Burnham also promises to explore the options for graduates to get “extended access to student finance” to see them through low-paid work experience that would help them into their chosen careers”. – The Guardian

Ed Miliband doesn’t seem to disagree with Andy

“He also dismisses any suggestion that his backing from the three biggest trade unions risks reviving an impression of a Labour leader in the pocket of Unite. “I’m not defending everything the trade unions do, nor would I as Labour leader. I don’t think we’re about to go back to the 1970s, and I’m not planning to take us there. But I do defend the role of trade unions in our society. And I think it’s surprising that that’s surprising, coming from someone who wants to be leader of the Labour party. Politics has basically become a middle-class pursuit – a London-middle-class pursuit, detached from ordinary people’s lives – and it’s actually the link with the trade unions which helps make us relevant to people’s lives.” – The Guardian

Cameron urged to break holiday to back cup bid

“David Cameron faced calls to return from his holiday today to show the proper level of support for England’s 2018 World Cup bid. Tom Watson, who sits on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee said: “We want to put on a good show for the bid but the government is fielding the B-Team. It’s a very poor show.” – The Daily Mail


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Putting pen to paper still gives you the power, writes Keith Flett

23/08/2010, 06:00:19 PM

Keith Flett, socialist historian and letter writer, argues that in the age of social media, a published letter in a newspaper still beats Twitter and Facebook. He should know. In over a quarter of a century, he has had thousands of letters published in national newspapers. We’re grateful to him for sharing his letter writing tips with Uncut readers.

In the age of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, texts and YouTube, why bother to write a letter to the editor? I use all the above formats, but it is only when I have a letter published in a national paper that people stop me to say: “I saw your letter”. They hardly ever say “I saw your tweet” or “I saw your post on Facebook”.

The reason is obvious: a letter in the Guardian or Independent will reach many thousands of people. Other, newer media will reach hundreds if you are lucky. Letters to the editor deliver impact – one of the reasons why those of us who are politically active want to impart our thoughts to a wider audience in the first place. (more…)

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Young people are going to be at the sharp end, says Ken Livingstone

23/08/2010, 03:00:19 PM

Young people are going to find themselves at the sharp end under this government. A key part of what we do in the next few years will be to make a concerted effort to engage with the concerns of our youngest citizens. And to make that more effective we will also need to give our younger members our confidence and a bigger say.

I have appointed a Young Labour member – Veronica King – as my campaign vice chair because we should not treat young members merely as campaign fodder, but listen to them and involve them more. If I am selected by Labour members – and then if elected as mayor – I want to see a flourishing youth structure for under-27s in our party that can help us win. (more…)

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Crowdsourcing the mayoral race: Oona King

23/08/2010, 11:59:14 AM

The chair is back.

After the success of the leadership crowdsourcing interviews, Labour Uncut is embarking upon a new challenge: crowdsourcing the mayoral selection.

First up is Oona King.

What question would you put to Oona if you could? What would it take for her to win your vote?

We’ll be taking your questions to the mayoral candidate this week.

Get your questions in for Oona by adding them below by midday on Wednesday.

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Michael Dugher digs in for a long campaign

23/08/2010, 10:47:55 AM

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the first world war, many famously thought that the war would be ‘over by christmas’.  As Labour MPs and party members return from summer holidays, there are those who believe that, perhaps in hope rather than expectation, the Tory-Lib Dem government will implode sooner rather than later.  As the government marks its first 100 days in office, there are few signs that the coalition will fall apart quickly.

Whoever wins the Labour leadership will need to observe our opponents through the correct end of the telescope.  The Conservatives may not have won the last election, but they will be far more formidable opponents at the next one.  A major part of the Labour election campaign was to highlight the ‘risk’ posed by the Tories, as a way of rebutting the ‘year of change’ message put forward by David Cameron.  To some extent, this was successful.  The Conservative brand was still toxic in some sections of the electorate and many people were nervous about Cameron.  Focus groups would quote the ‘hug a hoodie’ speech, would reference the ‘cycling to work with the chauffeur-driven car following with the suit and briefcase’ incident and would respond to the question ‘what would David Cameron be if he wasn’t a politician?’ by likening him to a dodgy second-hand car dealer. (more…)

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Monday News Review

23/08/2010, 08:08:27 AM

Burnham battles party ‘elite’

“Andy Burnham today launches a scathing attack on the “self-serving elite” running Labour, pitching himself as the “anti-establishment” candidate in the battle for the Labour leadership. He spells out detailed plans for rebuilding the party as the struggle to replace Gordon Brown resumes after a two-week lull in hostilities.” – The Independent

“The shadow health secretary said it would be dangerous for the party if the winner was from the “Londoncentric establishment”. Mr Burnham, who comes from a working class home, believes only someone from a different background could take on David Cameron. His comments will be seen as an attack on leadership favourites David and Ed Miliband, the sons of an academic who grew up in a middle class house.” – The Mirror


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The Week Uncut

22/08/2010, 03:18:59 PM

That most exuberantly brilliant of newspaper prose stylists, Frank Johnson, used to write an annual column arguing that it is not true that nothing ever happens in August.

Well it is certainly not true on Uncut. We have had one of the best weeks of our three month life under the guest editorship of blogger extraordinaire and MP par excellence, Tom Watson.

He attracted such a dizzying array of beltway bigshots and blogosphere behemoths that the acute contributions of star political writers such as John Kampfner and Vincent Moss are not even reproduced below.

We can scarcely thank Bro. Watson enough. He ran the Uncut team ragged, for responding so admirably to which they also deserve appreciative recognition.

More, he broadened and enlivened our offering. For which we restate, one last time, our gratitude on behalf of our readers: thanks Tommy.

Below is a bigger than usual selection of the better-read contributions to an outstanding week on Uncut.

Tom Harris tells it predictably straight

John Underwood on a one-off wealth tax

Pat Kane on playgrounds

Eric Joyce on a new defence review

Aaron Porter on higher education

Billy Bragg on tactical voting

Dan Hodges on immigration

Sally Bercow on fessing up

Paul Bower on his difficult relationship with Labour

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Welsh Labour’s quiet victory

22/08/2010, 11:00:36 AM

Welsh Labour entered the 2010 General Election with common expectation it would get a kicking. With 29 out of 40 seats in Wales held by Labour there was clearly only one place to go, and that was down. However, as the campaign wore on more and more Labour sources made it clear to me it wouldn’t be as bad as was being suggested. And they were right. Despite multiple vulnerabilities, Labour in Wales held on to 26 seats. Even more amazingly, Labour did it in Wales on 36% of the vote – a full 1.5% down on the calamity of the 1983 election result. 

One of the major things that saved Labour was the inability of the Conservatives to take medium range targets in Wales. Thus Labour held urban targets like Newport West and Bridgend with more comfort than had been speculated. There was certainly a swing against Labour, but the party machine was in much better fettle than it had been for several years. In the local elections of 2008 and the Euro election of 2009 Labour’s collapse was sharper in Wales than in other parts of the UK. That was not true in 2010 – Welsh Labour did leagues better than its English counterpart. 

Look no further than Blaenau Gwent to prove this point. In 2005 Labour lost its once safest seat in a bloody and brutal scrap with People’s Voice, formed when the late Peter Law broke with the Labour Party over all women shortlists. In the 2006 by-election cause by Peter’s death and in the Assembly election of 2007 Labour was soundly beaten; while in 2008 it lost control of the local authority for the first time ever. This year the rot wasn’t just stopped, it was reversed in stunning fashion. Incumbent People’s Voice MP Dai Davies got under 20% of the vote and Blaenau Gwent – the seat once held by Michael Foot and Nye Bevan – returned to Labour with a 10,000+ majority for Nick Smith MP and a bloody nose for his opponent. Last week People’s Voice announced it was being disbanded. Game, set and match to the red quarter. 

Blaenau Gwent may have been the most stunning illustration of Labour effectiveness, but it was also mirrored in holding the Liberal Democrats in bay in Swansea West and Newport East, keeping the Conservatives out of the Vale of Clwyd and Delyn, and stopping Plaid Cymru in their tracks in Llanelli and Aberconwy.  

Why did this happen? I’d suggest three factors played a role. One was Peter Hain. His persistent message of saving Wales from the Tories may have grated with the other parties, but it obviously worked with the electors from Gower to Cardiff West to Clwyd South. He repeated the mantra as a constant and his message was simple and, quite simply, plausible to the electorate.  

Secondly, Labour had used the previous six months to overhaul its operation and deploy its resources – and by damn they are more scarce than in the past – to best effect. A new communications team made a real impact. Assembly Members and MPs worked together more effectively than in the past, too, and there almost a sense of popular resistance to the trends the polls were showing. At its best the Welsh Labour machine is a tank regiment and, though the machinery has shown significant rust and decay, in the heat of battle it is still the mightiest political army in Wales. In May Welsh Labour found the form that in 2001 allowed it to lose 200,000 votes across Wales but shed no seats. 

The third reason? Labour is the luckiest party in Wales. End of. 

Daran Hill is an independent political consultant who runs Positif Politics. He is a Trustee of the Bevan Foundation and a co-editor of, the leading Welsh political website.

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Sunday News Review

22/08/2010, 08:04:11 AM

No defection after all

“Charles Kennedy has described claims he is considering joining the Labour party as “complete rubbish”, following reports that he was about to resign in disgust at the Liberal Democrat pact with the Tories. The former Lib Dem leader emerged from a meeting with constituents in Dingwall to declare he would not be joining Labour.” – The Scotsman

David’s pitch for the middle classes

The Labour leadership front-runner will use a campaign speech to tell activists the party still has much to do to re-establish its electoral appeal after its support “collapsed across social classes” three months ago.

“You just can’t craft an election majority out of a minority. It is dangerous to pretend we don’t need the middle classes – just as it would be to suggest Labour does not need to win back the hope and trust of working-class voters. – David Miliband, The Independent

Little brother targets core support

Ed Miliband steps up his bid for the Labour leadership today by promising substantial tax cuts for any company prepared to guarantee a “living wage” of at least £7.60 an hour. The commitment is designed to appeal to the party’s core supporters who believe New Labour took insufficient measures to combat low pay, despite having introduced a legally binding minimum wage that now stands at £5.83 an hour. – The Guardian

Lib-Lab pact?

The Liberal Democrats will discuss the prospect of “working co-operatively” with Labour before the next election, despite agreeing to form a government with the Tories, it emerged last night. The prospect of closer links with the opposition will be raised at the party’s conference in Liverpool next month.

A consultation document on Party Strategy and Priorities, which will confront Lib Dem activists with the dilemmas raised by the decision to go into government with the Tories, will declare that: “nearer the next election, the Labour leadership will start thinking about how to promote and achieve the idea of working co-operatively with the Liberal Democrats. – The Independent

Haggling for seats down under

Prime minister Julia Gillard has said that no major party had won a majority of parliamentary seats in Australia’s general election and she had started negotiating with independent MPs in an effort to cling to power. – The Press Association

Labor can expect the support of the first-ever Green member, and probably also a former Green turned independent, who seemed likely to win a seat. The Liberal party would have to rely on three other independents, two of whom have had links to the conservative National party, which is part of the opposition coalition. It may be days before the final outcome is known. – The Guardian

Playing games

“Shadow education secretary Ed Balls has called for the return of tax breaks for the games industry following the collapse of Realtime World. “The Tory-Lib Dem government is putting the future of the computer games industry in Scotland at risk,” he wrote. “The terrible news this week about Realtime Worlds could be just the start unless the coalition government rethinks its decisions, which are costing jobs and risking the recovery.” – Digital Spy

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