Week 4 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks at the events of week 4.

The good

Chuka Umunna’s interview in the Guardian

One of Labour’s most visible performers this campaign has been the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna. His polished media performances have ensured that he is on the Labour press office’s speed-dial when the toughest interview bids arrive.

Inevitably in an election campaign, interviews are about the issues of the day. It’s hard to see the person rather than the political position. Chuka’s interview in the Guardian probed a little deeper and offered a glimpse of what makes the man tick.

It revealed a personal biography which is a story of struggle, success, loss and revival. One which shines a light on who he is and the type of politician that he is maturing into.

Chuka’s father’s rise, from penniless migrant to running a thriving business, is clearly enormously influential.

Most immediately, it explains why Chuka is instinctively comfortable with business and able to put businessmen and women at ease with Labour, in a way that other Labour front-benchers cannot.

Yet there is more to Chuka than just being Labour’s business-whisperer.

The duality of being the child of an immigrant and a successful businessman creates a rare perspective. Most politicians lead their lives in a straight line – they are born into a class and remain in that class.

Chuka’s world was one simultaneously of disadvantage and privilege.

It’s why the rhetorical cadences from Ukip on race and identity are familiar to Chuka from his youth, as they are to anyone from a minority who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

What Ukip say today about Eastern European migrants was said about Asian and African migrants from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

The manner in which his father faced this and overcame it, informs the direct and robust way that Chuka addresses Ukip.

Chuka’s father’s achievements and Chuka’s upbringing have given him the self-confidence to challenge Ukip in a way that his party colleagues seem to lack.

The subsequent loss of his father when he was 13 was evidently and understandably a pivotal moment in Chuka’s life.

It also places him in a rather unique category of politicians.

The Phaeton complex describes the behaviour and development of children who experience the loss of (or separation from) one or both of their parents. It seems more than a coincidence that this group is so over-represented among political leaders –Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to name just a few.

Whether Chuka’s future will be as starry as some of the other political Phaetons is unclear yet, but in an election of dry photo-opportunities and endlessly rehearsed lines, the Guardian interview with Chuka offered something more than the standard, and increasingly stale, fayre.

Progress in righting some of the wrongs of the past

Who remembers the Armenians? One hundred years on, a family of Armenian descent, the Kardashians, are globally ubiquitous, while a man, Bruce Jenner, famous in part for his relationship with this family, is making headlines across the world by announcing that he is choosing to live as a woman.

Figures like Paris Lees and Kelly Maloney have taken transgender issues to wider recognition in the UK. Jenner is, however, a bigger name and will continue to bring these issues to the mainstream. Labour are proud to be fielding our first transgender candidate, Emily Brothers, in Sutton and Cheam.

The arc of history is long, as Barack Obama quoting Martin Luther King Jr has said, but it bends towards justice. Thanks to brave people like Brothers and Jenner, this seems increasingly true for the transgender community.

Less so in the case of the Armenians. Turkey’s unwillingness to acknowledge the genocide – along with the creeping authoritarianism of President Erdoğan and a porous border with imploding Syria – should stand as question marks next to the country’s ascension to the EU. Which David Miliband, as foreign secretary, argued enthusiastically in favour of. It’s good that things didn’t move as quickly as he hoped. As compared with the Iraq war and joining the Euro, support for Turkish membership of the EU is less often citied as a Blairite foreign policy misstep – but it should probably be chalked up as such.

The bad

Labour’s NHS message overshadowed

Last week was meant to have been all about the NHS. That was Labour’s plan. In the past week the party issued 8 press releases on the NHS to drag the political conversation onto Labour’s favoured territory.

But it didn’t work.

Instead, the week’s headlines, and debate, were dominated by Tory attacks over the role the SNP would play in supporting a Labour government.

Regardless of whether Labour strategists believe the attacks are achieving what the Tories want – to switch back ex-Tory Ukippers and discourage English Lib Dems from voting Labour – they have completely overshadowed a key aspect of Labour’s campaign.

Ed Miliband’s foreign policy intervention

The most disappointing aspect of Miliband’s foreign policy speech was about Libya. But it was not his trying to smear Cameron with deaths of its boat people, a thing which Miliband did not actually do, and about which the Tories rather manufactured a row.

No, it was the naked inconsistency of the intervention: firstly that he appeared to distance himself from an intervention he supported at the time, and now positioned himself as “Harry Hindsight” on what he might have done slightly differently afterwards; and secondly that he failed to explain why the lives of these Libyan refugees somehow now seem so much more important than the 200,000+ now-dead Syrians, who were abandoned to their fate in 2013.

None of which bodes well for a future Labour government’s approach to the world.

Inauthentic Cameron

The West Midlands are a major electoral battleground. Supporters of Birmingham City and West Brom won’t accept it but Aston Villa are the biggest football club in the region.

They are also the team that the prime minister professes to support. Recent footage has, though, emerged of him seeming to confuse Villa with West Ham. No matter how draining the election campaign, this is not an error that an authentic supporter would make.

But, then again, authenticity has never been his strongest card.

The ugly

Tories soft on anti-semitism

Elections can bring out the worst in candidates. Here is an extraordinary example, reported in the Jewish News: Tory council candidate, Gulzabeen Afsal, standing in Derby, said she would never support “the jew Miliband”.

In a Facebook post she wrote, “Nah bro! never ever will I drop that low and support the al yahud [Arabic for Jew] lol.”

The Tory response when this post was brought to their attention, has been ludicrously tepid. A spokesman said, “Her comment was offensive and wrong. She has removed it and apologised.”

Sorry, but that’s not good enough.

If she’d been talking about a politician of Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent and used their race in this way, there would be no question of remaining a candidate.

If she had been a Ukip candidate and used this language, there would have been an outcry.

But if its about the Jewish people, then there’s a different standard.

Looks a lot like the Tories have gone soft on anti-semitism.

Visceral inequality

On 20 April, the Evening Standard ran a headline: “Political interview: Chuka Umunna, and the spiked railings at a wealthy cul-de-sac which illustrate the problems facing Britain”.

Disparities of wealth and opportunity within the Streatham constituency was an interview theme. Having illustrated one of these contrasts to the Standard, Umunna reflected that it, “describes what I see as the problems we have to tackle if we are to build the country we want.”

Protesters yesterday smashed into Foxtons in Brixton and stormed Lambeth Town Hall after a “reclaim Brixton” demonstration got out of hand. The Standard quoted Anna McKie, news editor of the Brixton Blog, as saying: “They completely smashed one of the windows at Foxtons and police are guarding it now. They have written ‘yuppies out’ on the window which isn’t smashed.”

Uncut is not sure whether the Foxtons falls in the Streatham constituency being contested by Umunna or the Dulwich and West Norwood constituency, where Helen Hayes is the Labour candidate. But it is definitely not a million miles from where Umunna took the Standard on his walkabout. The inequality that he highlighted has become more visceral.

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Week 4 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly”

  1. Dave Roberts. says:

    He’s also never had a proper job in his life.

  2. Tafia says:

    He’s also never had a proper job in his life.

    Bit like Ed Miliband then.

  3. John P. Reid says:

    Anti semeticism, is wrong, and labour have had a few people make such comments, but really is that the worse we can throw at why not to vote tory

  4. swatantra says:

    Ok. I’m convinced. Chuka is going to be the next Ethnic Labour PM.

  5. Tafia says:

    Ok. I’m convinced. Chuka is going to be the next Ethnic Labour PM.

    What do you mean next? They have never had anything other than white males.

  6. Rational Plan says:

    Oh please like you have an chance of winning back the Jewish vote, you’ve decided the Muslim vote is more important to Labour.

Leave a Reply