Archive for September, 2010

Shadow cabinet: vote for John

30/09/2010, 06:08:55 PM

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We must look beyond London for the shadow cabinet, says Jamie Reed

30/09/2010, 03:39:01 PM

As the Parliamentary Labour party elects the new shadow cabinet, Ed Miliband has some difficult choices to make. An overly crowded field will probably deliver some surprises, but Labour’s big guns deserve to be given the chance to take on the government, build their shadow teams and prosecute Labour’s cause.

Ed Balls and Andy Burnham have strong claims to whichever briefs they would most like as former leadership contenders. Alan Johnson remains one of the party’s best assets. Yvette Cooper is a formidable and essential component of Labour’s future. Peter Hain and Shaun Woodward remain popular, well known in the country, experienced and heavyweight. The shadow cabinet would be poorer without them.

49 candidates is too many, but there is some real quality on the slate. John Healey and Vernon Coaker are ‘must-haves': strong intellects with good communication skills. Stephen Timms, Ivan Lewis and Iain Wright have a great deal to offer and despite his alter ego as an internet celebrity, Tom Harris has a unique understanding of some of the dragons progressive politics must confront. (more…)

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Conference diary V: some old new generations

30/09/2010, 12:00:45 PM

As a former climate change secretary, it’s good to see Ed Miliband’s commitment to recycling. His “new generation” line from his leader’s speech was previously used by Tony Blair.

According to Alastair Campbell’s diaries from 29 May 1997, referring to suggestions about how to brand an imminent visit by Bill Clinton, Campbell writes: “I quite like ‘new generation politics’ because it suggested the generation was not so much about age but about a change in politics.”

The Who-themed line is a hardy perennial. As we said earlier in the week: bisogna cambiare tutto per non cambiare nulla.

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Renewal Eds are better than red Ed, says James O’Keefe

30/09/2010, 09:59:04 AM

There were two winners of the leadership contest: both the Eds. We are a meritocratic party and these two merited their respective victories – they ran the best campaigns and both achieved the best outcomes that their teams could reasonably have expected.

More importantly, they were also best in that they connected better by recognising the dual essences of what the party requires at this time: authenticity and renewal.

Authenticity because weaved into the DNA of both these campaigns was an understanding of the need, and a willingness, to push out of the constraints of the New Labour campaign doctrine that served us so well for the last decade: they were prepared to say things that the Daily Mail and the Murdia (Murdoch media) wouldn’t like but that the party has been subconsciously pleading for.

This was writ large in the new leader’s conference speech on Tuesday. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

30/09/2010, 08:31:19 AM

What will Ed be?

The Conservatives, as they gather for their conference in Birmingham, would do well not to underestimate Ed Miliband. He is shrewdly claiming that there is a generational difference between himself and David Cameron. That is fertile territory. Indeed, he contrasted his optimism with Mr Cameron’s pessimism. Of late, because of personal circumstances, Mr Cameron has been rather distant from the fray, as if he were somehow above the vulgarities of the daily grind of politics. The challenge now for him, as he returns to battle, is to show that he is the new-style compassionate Conservative he claims to be. However he positions himself, he has in Ed Miliband a dangerous, charismatic and ruthless opponent. He was the high-risk choice for Labour. The party will be hoping that, in time, he will bring it high rewards. – The New Statesman

Yet there is a catch: those who have known Mr Miliband for a while speak of his empathy, his easy-going nature and his openness to others. Conservative friends admit that he is “human” and “thoughtful”. When he worked at the Treasury, he was always the one willing to consider points of view that did not fit with the orthodoxy as determined by Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. He was Nice Ed. Even Tony Blair was polite about him in his memoirs. As I followed him around the Labour conference this week, the new leader’s humour never slipped; there was none of the surliness of Gordon Brown or the snooty froideurthat his brother tended to show in unguarded moments. Indeed, it was precisely because Ed was the nice one that his decision to stand against his brother, run a thuggish campaign against him, and then disown him from the stage over Iraq took so many aback. This darker, more cut-throat side of his personality had never been obvious before, even if his willingness to be a party to the brutality of the Brown operation was a clue. – The Telegraph

Ed Miliband showed a streak of ruthlessness when he sacked the veteran Brownite Nick Brown as chief whip, but the organisation around the new leader is barely embryonic, and David Miliband’s departure has created a potentially dangerous moment. That can only be confronted by reinforcing the message of change that was the theme of his campaign. One obvious way to do that would be to give the shadow chancellor brief to Ed Balls, who has shifted the national economic debate by hammering home the threat to the economy from slash-and-burn austerity, ahead of the coalition cuts bonanza due to be unveiled next month. The importance of consolidating Labour’s new course should be clear enough. For all Ed Miliband’s studied caution and moderation, his election marks an unmistakable breach in the stifling neoliberal consensus that has dominated British politics since the early 1990s. – The Guardian

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Ed Miliband must keep alive the movement for change, says Ben Maloney

29/09/2010, 05:25:59 PM

Following Saturday’s result it’s vital that Ed Miliband gets to grips as quickly as possible with the scale of the challenge ahead of him.

And the most important thing he can do, if he’s serious about taking Labour forward, is recognise that if we’re going to pose a genuine challenge at the next election we need to rebuild the party from the grassroots up.

Based on my experience of the last four months, the answer for Ed is to embrace the hugely successful model that has already been implemented as a result of David Miliband’s movement for change. (more…)

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We must plan to do more for less, says Jonathan Todd

29/09/2010, 02:30:48 PM

“Facing a new world with new challenges, we need to think again about how we can best serve the people we seek to represent”.

So argues an email which Ed Miliband sent to Labour party members last night. As Ed acknowledged in his conference speech yesterday, one of this new world’s realities, even if we were to now have a Labour government, is the necessity of cuts; and one of the challenges, therefore, is to deliver more for less.

Deficit reduction, however, has simply brought into sharper focus an inescapable trend. An ageing society makes ever less viable established means of financing and delivering pensions, health and social care. Innovation will remain a precondition of improved public services beyond the correction of the structural deficit, which all major parties are committed to achieving over this parliament. Successful adaptation to our cold fiscal climate isn’t simply about muddling through coming years but of making sustainable for the long-term, given profound demographic shifts, vital public services. (more…)

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Conference diary IV: beef

29/09/2010, 12:21:40 PM

As the Miliband era dawns, and shadow cabinet nominations close today, a new and important figure is born in British politics.

The new leader’s victorious and vindicated campaign manager, Sadiq Khan, swept through Manchester’s echoing halls with an entourage the size of Tooting Bec. He was what the late Biggie Smalls used to call “rolling thirty deep”. (In truth, Uncut counted a mere nine flunkeys riding his slipstream, but the figure he cut was impressive).

A slightly crumpled dresser, fat chains and a pimp cane may not come easy to the man who would be shadow home secretary. But these are the ways he must master if he is to match his entourage and justify his new i/d: Sadiq Diddy.

* * *

At the start of the week, the conference rumour mill had it that Joe Irvin, former political secretary to Gordon Brown, was about to replace Charlie Whelan as Unite’s chief fixer and finagler.

Joe has been denying it to everyone who’ll listen.

“It’s rubbish. Pure speculation”, he told Uncut last night.

Most people assume that he’s just saying that, because nothing has been signed and he is a professional.

Better informed people say that he’s telling the truth. The deal is off. And, for the moment at least, Charlie stays.

The reasons are labyrinthine, and for another day.

* * *

Uncut sallies forth to the defence fringe, where tempers flare. Eric Joyce attacks Bob Ainsworth and David Miliband for “doing nothing” on defence.

Bob shoots back: “I don’t remember you coming up with any ideas when we were in government”.

Eric retorts: “Are you going to take cheap shots or are you going to come up with a Labour policy on defence”.

Gentlemen, please. You can’t fight in here. This is the war debate.

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The last thing we need is a membership drive, says Peter Watt

29/09/2010, 09:30:45 AM

Rites of passage often involve the adherence to certain rituals that help mark significant moments in life. Think of weddings and think exchange of rings, the best-man’s speech and embarrassing dancing. The point is that the rituals happen almost without thinking and often invoke feelings of familiarity and security.

The same is true for the Labour party. Election victories, election defeats and new leaders are all rites of passage with associated rituals. Generally these rituals are benign at worse and even sometimes helpful. The coming together at conferences to show unity, the cries of ‘all Tories are evil’ and trade union general secretaries condemning the government all help the party feel at ease with itself.

But there is another ritual that almost always occurs and that is far from benign; in fact is positively damaging. The membership drive. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

29/09/2010, 07:00:28 AM

The speech

This was a whole new style of speech-making. Labour at last has a leader who shops at H&M rather than Marks & Sparks. He sounded nervous at times and tripped over a few lines. But when it came to the big moments, the high Cs of political rhetoric, he hit the note. This speech’s real purpose, a job on the myths peddled by the right-wing press, was tackled head on. He made clear he would have no truck with irresponsible strikes – and was reassuringly responsible about the deficit. – The Mirror

Miliband, who on Saturday bested his brother, former foreign minister David Miliband, to earn Labor’s top job, sought to distance himself at the party’s conference in Manchester from the pro-business, pro-American platform of “new Labor” forged by Tony Blair in the 1990s. At the same time, he signaled that he, too, would position himself as political centrist and was by no means endorsing a return to the days when Labor politics were closely identified with violent union strikes. – Washington Post

SOME LABOUR delegates were clearly deflated leaving the hall yesterday: some are still not reconciled to having Ed Miliband as leader; some were irritated by the way in which he denigrated New Labour’s history; others had gone into the Manchester hall with expectations that were not deliverable in the first place. Labour has still not come to terms with life in opposition. Miliband did well, if not brilliantly. The delivery was pedestrian in parts; too pedestrian to lift the thousands sitting in front of me. Too often, he seemed to regard the applause, when it did come, as an interruption to his oration, rather than a tribute. Too often, the speech seemed to include paragraphs dropped in specifically to neutralise a particular constituency. – The Irish TImes

Labour’s new leader did exactly what he needed to. Miliband, virtually unknown off the Westminster stage, had to give the public a sense of himself. The passages on his parents’ persecution at the hands of the Nazis were useful in providing a political back story, something he did far more successfully than Gordon Brown (no mean feat when your father was a Marxist intellectual, not a protestant minister). Still, it’s hard to plead strong family ties when you’ve just knifed your elder brother in the back. – City AM

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