Jack Lesgrin’s week: Labour’s big beasts on manoeuvres

by Jack Lesgrin

Even Labourites could support paying former PMs for this…

Last week Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, independently of one another, entered the fray. Labour supporters normally condemn former PMs benefitting financially from the knowledge they gained in office. But how about Tony and Gordon joining together to provide a masterclass to Labour frontbenchers on how to frame a narrative, develop relevant policies to appeal to a winning coalition of voters, and communicate the above? Surely Labour members would happily contribute to the kitty so that everyone’s a winner!

New New Labour?

Tony Blair was on manoeuvres at the end of the week. His New Statesman article identified the urgent need for new thinking and action, given the dire straits Labour is in. Blair is usually very cautious in his interventions as regards the future of the Labour Party. He resiled from direct calls for Corbyn’s resignation and was careful not to be seen to be backing leadership challengers. He was also under or not even on the radar amid the rather lackadaisical and ultimately doomed discussions between ‘players’ from the Blair years and those who backed the Independent Group (TIG)/Change UK, and other attempts at creating a new political force such as United For Change, whose early briefing meetings were impressive, yet which faded quickly.

Although many prefer to comfort themselves with the caricature of Blair as all style, no substance, he has always been as good at the act of politicking and governing as at the art of communication. The tone of his recent writing, and indeed that of other big hitters of his era such as Peter Mandelson, show that (t)he(y) perhaps can no longer resist the lure of active participation.

Lord Andrew Adonis seems to think so, with his almost hourly tweets that it’s “Time for Blair”. It’s one of those down the (re-opened) pub conversations that goes: “I didn’t like what he did on Iraq, but I bet he would wipe the floor with Johnson in a general election.” Like so much pub talk, there is truth in the bluntness. Hitherto, the received wisdom was that Blair was too toxic, that Labour wouldn’t elect him leader again, that this kind of thing ‘just doesn’t happen’ and that he wouldn’t want it anyway.

Taking these in turn: 1) he won a 66-seat majority in 2005, despite the alleged toxicity of Iraq; 2) while this is probably true, his statement last week that Labour “needs total deconstruction and reconstruction” shows his keenness for radical change; 3) as noted in this column, Boris Johnson has shown repeatedly that conventions do not apply anymore; and 4) see 2)!

Northern Rocky

Regarding political rebirth, what is it with Westminster politicians who make a bit of a splash in Westminster, before moving to a mayoralty and then using this powerbase for a possible tilt at the crown? They’re always coy when asked if they want to be leader. In 2010, while Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said “I’m more likely to be decapitated by a Frisbee or locked in a disused fridge”. In 2013 upgraded this to: “if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, which it won’t of course, it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at”. We know that he caught the ball and after a brief stint hiding from a journalist in a fridge, the rest is history in the making.

So to Andy Burnham, who on being re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester two weeks ago, seemed on similarly leadership-destined manoeuvres. On Thursday he used a Guardian op-ed to offer Keir Starmer some suggestions for future success including that the party must offer “wholehearted support for true devolution”, and base policy not on focus groups but on the “policies of Labour councils and mayors” like him. The article began with a quote: “This is Manchester. We do things differently here”. Can you imagine the howls of outrage had a Tory politician hinted that people in their southern town did things differently (aka better) than those “up north”? It seems misguided to think that parochialism could be a key route back to victory for a party needing to reconnect with voters from all backgrounds across the whole country.

Next, an Observer interview last Sunday, in which, referencing his second Labour leadership race defeat, as well as the recent elections, he stated: “I don’t think we’d have lost as many northern seats had I won”. Finally, a Johnsonian ‘rugby ball out of the scrum’ answer was forthcoming, although lacking the rhetorical flourish: “If there comes a point where it is clear to me that the Labour party, having not thought me right twice, suddenly thinks well actually you probably are now, because of the way the world has changed, then as I say, I will put myself forward to lead the Labour party.”

Perhaps Burnham’s time will indeed come, as it did for Johnson. There’s another similarity to the pair. Neither seem particularly tethered to a specific political philosophy. Burnham was a high-flying Blairite when Blair ruled, then a passionate Brownite under Brown. He tacked shamelessly to the left when seeking the leadership in 2010, remained there during the Miliband and Corbyn leadership and has now forged a man of the (northern) people persona. If you go where the wind blows, eventually you’ll arrive.


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4 Responses to “Jack Lesgrin’s week: Labour’s big beasts on manoeuvres”

  1. Anne says:

    Everyone, and everything has its time. In golf, will Tiger ever be the golfer he was 10 years ago? Probably not – he is older, and has just had a major car accident. Blair had his time – would he be successful with a come back. Not sure – unlike sport politicians may be blessed with more longevity. If Blair were PM today he would be better than when he was PM. Why should that be – he has vastly more experience. Brown and Blair both offer sound advice based on knowledge, experience and understanding. Both of these men are far superior in talent than what is available today in our politicians. Burham has also grown and developed his role as Mayor of Greater Manchester. Future leadership material- certainly. Another one to watch is Yvette Cooper – now has the experience. We should, however, get behind Starmer – not quite down and out, but a significant trip. He now should be developing a vision of post covid and Brexit. Use the experience of others to develop this plan.

  2. Tafia says:

    Sir Keith Mackerel torn a second one in a letter by sir David Norgrove (Chair of the UK Statistics Authority)

    Dear Sir Keir,

    At Prime Minister’s Questions on 28 April you said that “crime is going up”.

    You made a similar claim during the Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech on 11 May: “Since 2015, recorded violent crime has doubled”.

    As the Office for National Statistics says in every release of crime statistics, and I said in a letter to your predecessor, the face-to-face Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a better indicator of long-term trends than police recorded crime.

    It is unaffected by changes in levels of reporting to the police or police recording practices. The CSEW shows a reduction in violent crime of 28% between the year ending March 2015 and the year ending March 2020.

    Total crime levels have been falling since the mid-1990s, including last year (though comparisons involving last year are complicated by a change in the method of collection).

    The risk with the statements you made is that people may be alarmed by figures that do not reflect reality, which could affect their behaviour and lead to pressure for policy changes not supported by the data. I am sure you agree that this would not be desirable.

    I am copying my letter to Kit Malthouse MP, who wrote to me about your statements.

    Yours sincerely,

    Sir David Norgrove

  3. John P Reid says:

    in 2015 dan Hodges said the lesson of this election is never listen to a word Owen Jones says again and also the 2019 eddie Dempsey said the same about Paul Mason but rather than this the party said we lost as we weren’t left wign enough and didn’t listen to the electorate and voted for Jeremy Corbyn being the only one of the candidates with Liz Kendall Burnham and Cooper not to condemn it would’ve been stupid 35% strategy I think you don’t need to win Tory vote for Lib Dems completion over the boundary the party could accept the truth blame the electric show me calling the only one not condemning ed Miliband are you voting remain I’m back to
    Corbyn is anyone not condemning me the band with Liz Kendall Burnham and Cooper commit some self Jeremy vote to remain and back to him this is the same as Keir Starmer wanted the second referendum for remain and they rallied behind him because he was the one who blamed the electric to vote in Brexit rather than them excepting they were wrong not to have the excepting Brexit wanted a second referendum this is also the same with Lisa now he was the only one saying don’t have a second referendum they could possibly have her because of her views on the same time

  4. John P Reid says:

    I remember reading on here once that Alex Hitlon(who I know) was outraged that the Tories( with the coalition Libdems) wanted to give anonymity to rapists,(it was soon corrected in comments that it was those accused so therefore they were alleged rapists, it was the Liberal Democrats idea that saw some people quit their party when they proposed it in 2007)because he’d done bad things wrong in the past Alex Hilton in his defence said I thought t he’d done bad things in the [past sexually too people so he felt that it’s right that those accused are named as they might as well be guilty as he’d done stuff and never got in trouble for it) this sort of arguing Is the generalising that sees a group labelled sexist such as white working class men, or predators when defending womens rights, so the Womens rights group includes trans who are then not called men so can be victims allowed in womens safe spaces) it also saw the grooming gangs in Rotherham that had got away a with it and it was said the vicitms should be kept quiet, the argument was don’t’ reveal to the public that the rapes took place as It’ll cause racism revealing it, yet it’s alright for labour to label the whole of the white working class as racist, as in Shami Chakrabarti comparing essex man to Alf garnett while ignoring we’re letting the tories get away with the homeless and pandering to the idiots who think they sound mythical romantic socialist utopia

    Dawn butler once said she was pulled out of the members tea room by police in Parliament who she labelled racist,. But it wasn’t by policemen and when it was an old gay security guard while she left her guests in there and walked off un escorted which was against the rules and shouldn’t been in there and at the same time this his boss Black and when he was a chief traffic warden and some of his juniors are black and he was good to them

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