Archive for January, 2014

This is bigger than Clause IV

31/01/2014, 11:42:55 PM

by Jonathan Reynolds

One thing more than anything else strikes me when reading Ed Miliband’s final proposals for party reform – when he told us he wanted a new politics, he really did mean it.

What Ed is proposing is genuinely a chance to bring trade unionists into the core of local Labour parties. For an active local MP like me, it offers a tantalising opportunity to expand the number of people involved in my local campaigns, my events and my community work.   In future, when I speak in the Commons in support of manufacturing, industrial policy or the NHS, I could have the chance to send my message directly to more of the people I am speaking up for.

I want to make clear that I know, under the system we have now, there are a great many trade union officers and members who work night and day to spread the Labour message in their unions.  They should never think we don’t appreciate them, because we do.  But I have always understood that all politics really is local – if I want people to vote Labour in my area they need to know what I am doing and believe in, not just the collective Labour message. This is a chance to do that.

Because it is such a substantial change people will inevitably describe it as a ‘Clause 4’ moment.  But actually this is something even more radical than that. Clause 4 was a huge and important change, showing the country we understood the world had changed, but it was essentially a cosmetic issue – an issue in how we were perceived.  Ed’s reforms are more radical because they are about power, shifting substantially more of it away from the centre towards the grassroots of the party.


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Letter from Wales: Revealed: Scale of extra spending on pupils in Welsh vs English medium schools

31/01/2014, 04:57:53 PM

by Julian Ruck

Those of a more zealous inclination in Welsh language quarters, have questioned the veracity of my statements here on Uncut, in respect of the Welsh Labour government’s funding of Welsh mediums schools in the principality.

Indeed, I am frequently called a liar.

The Welsh Language Society and indeed the intentions of Plaid Cymru to create a Welsh speaking bucolic Taffy Caliphate are well known, but I draw readers of Uncut to data collated under a FoI request in June last year (see below).

It seems the Welsh Labour government is also in the pot (although no surprises here, it is a consummate expert when it comes to nationalist social engineering at taxpayers’ expense!).

Spending per pupil in Welsh and English medium schools

Spending per pupil in Welsh and English medium schools

The differences in funding per pupil in Welsh medium schools (for those outside of the principality, these are schools where Welsh is the language used in school) and English medium schools demands scrutiny to put it mildly, particularly when one considers that only 15% of Welsh speakers in Wales can read and write the language, and its hugely expensive promotion (billions) has failed miserably (note Census data).


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Exclusive: One-off rules for next Labour leadership election mean OMOV electorate to be dominated by 2.3m union members

31/01/2014, 11:43:26 AM

Update 18:43: Uncut’s source are now telling us that the only trade union voters in Labour’s next leadership election will be those who have opted-in as associate members. Events have been fast moving and over the week and the shape of the final proposals is thought to have been evolving in the past few days. Given the potential for a contest in 2015, this would likely mean that only a small number of trade unionists would take part.

10% is often cited as the proportion of trade unionists that will opt-in, but many suspect the reality will be lower. The comparatively short time period between when the rules are ratified at the special conference in March and a potential leadership election in late 2015 means the unions will only have a narrow window to recruit associate members from the ranks of their 2.3m affiliates.

Estimates of the potential number of trade union voters for a 2015 leadership election that have been suggested to Uncut range from 25,000 to 80,000. This would mean trade union votes would be below the third guaranteed by the electoral college and if so, would represent a major concession from the leaders of the trade unions.

Had the 2010 leadership election been run with the electorate likely in 2015, David Miliband would most probably be leader of the Labour party today.


by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned that the next Labour leadership election, expected in 2015 if the general election is lost, will be conducted under a one-off mix of existing and new rules. The result will be that this electorate will be dominated by 2.3m union members – over 13 times the number who are full Labour party members (180,000).

At the special conference in March, a new set of rules on trade union members’ relationship with the party will be passed. A new category of member, “trade union associate” will be created. This will be for trade unionists that actively opt-in to supporting Labour and will be phased in over 5 years.

New trade union members will be given the choice of opting-in to the Labour party and becoming an associate immediately with discussions ongoing on how the existing base of affiliates will be transitioned over – if at all.

The big change to be passed straight away will be the move to OMOV for the Labour leadership election. The difference in timing between the roll-out of the associate member category and the shift on leadership election will have far reaching implications for Labour.

It means that the at the next Labour leadership election the electorate will be the same as at the last election, but the rules will be OMOV.

Just as at the last leadership election, the Labour party will not have any access to the 2.3m affiliates membership details and candidates will not be able to communicate with these voters directly.

This is because the affiliates will not have had a chance to opt-in to supporting the Labour party and so, under data protection rules, their personal details will not be allowed to be passed to Labour.

Everything will have to go through the union.


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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Ed needs to demonstrate leadership and reform the party

30/01/2014, 08:01:06 PM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Rob Marchant looks at the need for strong leadership in revitalising the party.

Six months on from the heady days of last July, when Miliband swore to reform his party after the failure of Refounding Labour to refound very much, the final proposals are being sent to members of Labour’s NEC this weekend. But has Miliband delivered?

In Chapter 2 of Labour’s manifesto Uncut the main objective we saw for the proposed reforms – in which he had Uncut’s full support – was to help boost his personal popularity with the electorate, by showing he could make a difference to that little company of which he is effectively the CEO: the Labour Party (although, for the record, we also urged him to go further).

Now, rather than judging on the basis of what has so far been leaked, we could simply ask the question: what would be the impact of Miliband not delivering? It’s not hard to predict.

One: in the event of losing a battle already made irrevocably personal, his personal poll ratings would very likely continue to languish. Because people like people who say they’ll do things, then do them. And the perception that unions run Labour Party is a decidedly dangerous one.

Given that reforming their party is really the only realm in which a leader of the opposition can actually do anything, and that this is a one-shot game, that game would be lost. For the record, the last three leaders, Kinnock, Smith and Blair, were felt to have succeeded in this area (kicking out Militant, OMOV and Clause Four respectively). People will draw their own conclusions.


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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? We need to be more than just the least worst option

30/01/2014, 02:28:56 PM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Sam Fowles looks at the need for a clear vision.

The biggest mistake Labour could make in the search for victory in 2015 is thinking that’s what’s most important. Labour needs to win but winning is the easy part. We also need to actually change people’s minds. Labour needs to give the country a big idea of what Britain could be in the 21st Century. We need to aspire to be more than simply the least worst option in the existing paradigm.

The specifics of policy and politics are important but Labour needs to do more. There needs to be a bigger reason. We need to offer the electorate a different idea of society and we need to give each and every person a tangible stake in it. Individual policies must all drive towards this goal.

If government is seen merely as economic stewards or national regulators conservatives will always be at an advantage. Government needs to be seen as the expression of society, the heart of a living breathing organism which engages us all and through which we fulfill our responsibilities to each other.


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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Find out on Monday February 3rd

30/01/2014, 12:45:01 PM

As the polls narrow and Labour nerves begin to jangle, it’s the question many are thinking: how does the party secure a majority in 2015? What seemed comfortable 13 months ago, when the poll lead was regularly in double digits, is now in the balance.

Fortunately, for those of a nervous disposition who do not simply want to wonder in silence, the good people at Progress have organised a series of events where answers can be provided. Uncut will be taking part in the next one

6-7.30pm, Monday 3 February 2014

Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons

Atul Hatwal Editor, Labour Uncut
Peter Kellner President, YouGov
Marcus Roberts Deputy general secretary, the Fabian Society
Polly Toynbee Columnist, the Guardian
Chair: Siobhain McDonagh MP Member, education select committee

If you can make it, come along. If not, follow it (and the other events) on twitter at #labmaj.

As a teaser for the debate, over the coming days, we will be publishing a series of short pieces that look at the key issues for Labour to win majority in 2015, where the party is and what needs to be done. So look out for them and we’ll see you on Monday.


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If Labour wants to tackle inequality, it’s a land value tax, not the 50p rate that’s needed

29/01/2014, 08:48:37 PM

by Callum Anderson

Anyone who read Oxfam’s report this week, which revealed that the 85 richest people in the world possess the same level of wealth as the poorest half of the global population, would have been  shocked at the magnitude of global inequality. Things aren’t much better here in Britain. Just 189,000 families (roughly 0.6 per cent of the UK population) own two-thirds of the UK’s 60 million acres.

The what-who-how much elements of taxation are ones which have always been fiercely contested by Labour, Conservatives (oh, and Lib Dems) alike. However, as wages stagnate, the gap between rich and poor grow larger by the year, Labour should grab the initiative in this debate. However, instead of pursuing a somewhat one-dimensional tax policy in calling for the return of the 50p tax rate post-2015, the two Eds could, and must, be bolder in laying out a plan that not only yields the most revenue, but also begins to adequately address the inequality that stains our society. But one thing is clear – heavily taxing income is likely not an efficient way of doing this; instead, it is wealth that any future government must concentrate on.

As that great redistributionist, Winston Churchill, put it speaking in the House of Commons in 1909:

“Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived … the unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done.”


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Reverse the child benefit cut and the politics of the 50p rate become irrelevant

29/01/2014, 12:46:12 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of all Gordon Brown’s decisions – both good and bad – the most questionable, perhaps the oddest, and certainly the most irritating, was to award a peerage to Digby Jones and invite him into his government as trade minister.

What on earth was Gordon thinking? Jones – a corporate lawyer and former head of the CBI – is also a blowhard’s blowhard and has snapped at the hand that once fed him ever since. He can be relied upon as a rent-a-quote Labour basher these days and was at it again, jowls a-quivering, at Ed Balls’ pledge to restore the 50p top tax band for those earning over £150,000 a year. Reaching new heights of self-parody, he claimed:

“In the last few months we’ve got, oh, ‘if it creates wealth let’s kick it’ – really go for energy companies, really go for house-building, bankers, this time it’s going to be the high-earners.

“I am amazed he’s going to keep it at 50[p]. I’d expect if he [Balls] becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer we could be looking at 55, 60 on the excuse he gave today.”

But the outriders for the wealthy like Diggers can’t have it both ways. If raising the 45p rate to 50p is an inefficient way of raising revenue, the contention of august institutions like the Institute for Fiscal Studies, then the well-heeled clearly aren’t losing out very much, so it can hardly be catastrophic.

The economics of making those with the broadest shoulders pay the most to reduce the deficit, Ed Miliband’s phrase to describe the move, is sound enough, but the politics of tax rates are, of course, tortuous stuff for Labour.


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Growth has returned, but Labour can still win on the economy if it can answer these five questions

28/01/2014, 10:39:00 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The return to solid GDP growth (at least compared to recent years) was always going to present Labour with a challenge. However, notwithstanding the immediate favourable headlines that the government has garnered from today’s figures, the present economic debate still contains numerous positives for Labour.

First, the 50p tax – enjoying 60% support – is popular. Second, the Balls fiscal consolidation plan is also. Polling for Labour Uncut prior to Labour party conference explored how voters would respond to Labour promising to keep most of the present government’s spending plans but to borrow more for public works such as building homes. Balls’ position now amounts to this and our analysis at conference revealed its appeal. Third, left popularism – otherwise known as bashing the banks and big energy – is, by definition, popular.

Inevitably, growth tips the balance towards the government on the economy, but if the public back Labour on the answer to the following five questions, the party can still win the debate. If, however, the public back the Tories, then Labour will need some new responses, and fast.

Balls v Big Business? Who will win?

It sounds like something the Ricky Gervais character Derek might ask but it’s a variation on a Huffington Post headline. The Post story noted coverage in the Financial Times (‘Businesses blast 50p tax plans by Labour’) and the Daily Telegraph (‘Bosses blitz Labour’s 50p tax rate’).

‘Big Business backs New Labour’ now seems a less likely story. Yet it was as recently as 19 December last year that Balls was quoted in the Financial Times as describing financial services as: “A massive advantage for Britain. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Having served with distinction in the prawn cocktail offensive, we might wonder whether Balls’ heart is really in battling big business.


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Forget Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ’s public service reforms show Labour the way to do more with less

27/01/2014, 05:24:10 PM

by Rich Durber

Ed Balls’ speech over the weekend announcing that Labour will aim to run a surplus by the end of the next parliament raises significant questions about public service reform. No matter whether you viewed the pledge as necessary political positioning or not, to make it a reality the next Labour government will need to significantly reform the state, without more money to spend.

There has been much talk in Labour circles over the past few days of Theodore Roosevelt. Commentators and activists alike have been debating the merits of ‘trust busting’ since Ed Miliband’s speech on banking reform. While the Roosevelt comparisons are certainly a fitting parallel for Ed’s plans to reform the private sector, it is less clear thus far what the party’s plans are for the public sector.

This has not always been the case. When he launched his campaign to be leader of the Labour party Miliband declared: “we need a new way of thinking about the state…We need to show we are the people who can reform the state to make it more accountable and give power away.” After Ed Balls’ speech it is clear that this strand of thinking will need to be revisited.

In doing so perhaps it is a different American president, Lyndon Johnson rather than Roosevelt, from whom Labour should draw inspiration. As fifty years ago this month he showed how the state can extend opportunity, even while reducing spending.

It was January 1964 when Johnson used his first State of the Union address to declare “unconditional war on poverty in America”. The chief weapons in that war, Johnson said, would be “better schools, better health, better homes, better training, and better job opportunities”. Its aim was “to help each and every American citizen fulfil his basic hopes…for a fair chance to make good”.


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