Got something to say? Contribute content to editorial@labour-uncut.co.uk

Race begins to find Blunkett’s successor

05/09/2014, 07:24:52 AM

The process to select a successor to David Blunkett as Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is about to get underway, with the constituency party this week agreeing a process to select his replacement.

Nominations are set to open this weekend with a final hustings meeting will be held on October 25.

With a majority in 2010 of 13,632 and 55 per cent of the vote, the seat is a classic ‘safe’ urban redoubt for Labour.

However the area hit the headlines recently with growing tensions in the Page Hall area of the seat between local residents and Slovakian Roma migrants who have moved into the area.

In a hard-hitting assessment of the situation, David Blunkett has warned there is a need to “change the behaviour and the culture” of Roma community, warning there was going to be an “explosion” otherwise.

Tellingly, the BNP got more than 3,000 votes here in 2010.

Candidates for the nomination have yet to emerge, however the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Harry Harpham, is regarded locally as a front-runner.

Harpham, a well-liked ex-miner, is also the council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods. With twice the national average number of council homes, housing is a major issue in the city and Harpham led the council’s successful Decent Homes programme.

Movement for Change community organiser Mike Buckley is another name in the frame and has already been seen out and about in the seat.

It’s likely that a number of other Sheffield councillors will throw their hats in the ring, conscious that the city has a tradition of selecting local candidates.  In fact each of the city’s five Labour MPs has strong local connections.

London interloper Nick Clegg in leafy Sheffield Hallam is the only exception to that rule.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Unite leverage squads turn attention to private sector providers in the NHS

19/08/2014, 05:54:39 PM

Last year, Unite’s leverage department generated a storm of publicity with its actions during the Grangemouth dispute. Directors of the employer, Ineos, were targeted in their homes, with one executive calling the police after a leverage squad of 25 protesters arrived on his road, complete with banners and a giant, inflatable rat.

Now, word reaches Uncut that the union’s leverage squads will be turning their attention to private sector involvement in the NHS.

In a letter sent to union members, Unite leader Len McCluskey states,

“Our Leverage Department has now turned its efforts towards protecting our NHS…Unite will not stand by as the vested interest groups carve up the NHS for private gain and our Leverage Department has begun work to protect accident and emergency wards in your community, to protect hospitals and GP centres under threat in your community, and to expose and prevent the vested interest groups who tender for NHS work, those groups who have profit before patient care.”

On the Unite website, the work of the leverage department is described as,

“…a process whereby the Union commits resources and time to making all interested parties aware of the treatment received by Unite members at the hands of an employer. Those interested parties may include shareholders of the employer; competitors of the employer; communities within which the employer operates; customers of the employer and the market place of the employer…”

This latest move seems to represent an escalation of leverage activities. While in previous cases, leverage squads were deployed in industrial disputes like Grangemouth, it appears that ideological battles – such as the role of the private sector in delivering health services –  will now be fought using these same tactics.

While many on the left in the Labour movement would support Unite’s expansion in the use of leverage, it is likely to cause the Labour leadership a headache in the run up to the general election.

The inevitable question that will be asked of Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham will be whether they back Unite’s decision to deploy leverage squads over the NHS.

If they condemn it, the story will be about another Labour-Unite spat. If they do not, then the old headlines about Labour being in the pocket of Unite and trade union militancy, will be recycled.

Either way, Labour is about to be put on the defensive.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Flowers’ scandal casts shadow over Co-op party

16/07/2014, 03:58:18 PM

The welter of awful headlines that have greeted revelations about the Co-op Bank and its colourful former Chairman, Paul Flowers, in recent months seems to have left behind something of a ‘brand contamination’ problem for the Co-operative Party.

So much so that it’s General-Secretary, Karin Christiansen, has just written out to its members asking for donations to help fund a “scaling up” of the party’s media work because “too many journalists are getting their facts wrong”.

The aim is to raise £10,000 through small donations to help with efforts to target journalists and commentators and improve understanding of how the party “fit[s] into the wider movement.”

Christiansen adds: “Recent media coverage has misrepresented the Party, and confused our relationship with the Labour Party and the Co-operative Group. It’s incredibly frustrating, and leaves too much of our good work unnoticed.”

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Complaints over shortlist in Salford

14/07/2014, 04:48:05 PM

The race to succeed Hazel Blears as the Labour candidate for Salford and Eccles has run into controversy following last weekend’s shortlisting meeting.

Complaints have been made to the party’s North West regional office after the unusual decision was made to shortlist just two candidates, despite other applicants having multiple branch nominations.

Yet, unsuccessful candidates have been told by local officials there is no appeals procedure and no feedback has been given about the decision to proceed with such a small shortlist.

Sarah Brookes, a senior manager for Manchester Airport Group, who was born and actually lives in the seat, had four branch nominations. This would normally ensure a place on the final shortlist.

Meanwhile Sara Hyde, who works as a mentor for young women in the prison system, received two branch nominations.

Under Labour’s internal system of preferential voting, it is usual that at least three candidates are shortlisted for a parliamentary selection.

Instead, members now face a choice at next month’s hustings meeting of either Cheshire solicitor Rebecca Long-Bailey or Salford City Councillor Sue Pugh, chair of the party’s North West regional board and partner of NEC member Peter Wheeler.

At the 2010 General Election, Hazel Blears had a majority of 5,725.

Update: 10:05 15/07/14

Sophie Taylor has also been shortlisted. However we understand she only had a single nomination, raising questions about how Brookes and Hyde could possibly be left off the shortlist.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advantage Alexander in Labour’s campaign team reshuffle

04/07/2014, 08:02:33 AM

Three new faces join Labour’s campaign team as deputies to Labour’s chair of campaign strategy, Douglas Alexander: Gloria de Piero, Toby Perkins and Jon Ashworth to improve broadcast coverage, field operations and work with candidates. Cue warm fraternal regards from all and sundry on Twitter, nothing to see here, all just run of the mill announcements.

Except of course, they aren’t.

The essential background is that Michael Dugher – responsible for campaign communications – and Douglas Alexander, are not on speaking terms. We know because of this. Quite possibly the most extraordinary example of red on red briefing since the low point of the TB-GBs a decade ago.

The overlapping nature of their briefs was always likely to cause friction, a function of Ed Miliband’s reluctance to pick a single campaign boss. Now, the Alexander-Dugher antipathy has become so entrenched that even by Labour’s dysfunctional standards (see recent comments by J Cruddas about unreconciled camps), something had to be done.

Rather than fix the original mistake and unambiguously choose a single campaign lead, Ed Miliband has opted for a fudge.

The primary role of the new appointments is to form a human shield between Alexander and Dugher.

In the original campaign structure, Dugher and Alexander had an executive function: their role was to discuss the recommendations from the staff team and make decisions. But in a world where the two aren’t talking, and the leader refuses to choose between them, a buffer was needed.

Enter the new deputies.

It’s notable that on the Tory side of the fence, there is no comparable proliferation of MPs in campaign roles. They have a single official at the helm, Lynton Crosby, who is accountable to Cameron and Osborne and that’s it. Everyone else does as they are told.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

“290 seats and Ed stays”

27/06/2014, 03:32:37 PM

Much rumour and speculation in recent days on the aftermath of a potential Labour defeat next year. The Guardian splashed last Saturday with an anonymous frontbencher demanding Ed Miliband’s resignation if Labour loses the next election. The Mail followed up earlier this week with “friends” of the Labour leader talking up his chances of “doing a Kinnock” and fighting on in the event of a loss.

To party members these types of stories often seem to erupt into the news without warning.  But in reality they represent the cresting waves above currents that are surging below the surface.

Uncut has now spoken to four parliamentary sources that have highlighted a specific operation by team Miliband to reset expectations in the PLP. Rather than an outright victory, or even being the largest party, this endeavour is focused on setting a new benchmark: the minimum number of seats Ed Miliband needs to stay on as leader.

The magic number currently being touted is 290, a gain of 32 on Labour’s current voting strength.

290 seats for Labour would almost certainly mean the Tories were the largest party with the Lib Dems in the high 20s to low 30s. Labour would be facing another five years in opposition.

The leadership operation has involved senior parliamentarians, political advisers and friendly journalists, all giving a similar narrative on why Ed should stay. Common phrases include, “two term journey,” “changing the terms of the debate,” and “Labour needs to stay unified.”

In the event of Labour securing 290 seats, the leader’s pitch would offer the prospect of a return to office if Labour could stay unified under Miliband and make another 30 or so gains at the next election. He would have a track record on making this type of progress and the fear of a divisive leadership election would be used to discourage rival candidates supporters declaring publicly.

This is the context for the recent press stories. They haven’t just happened randomly. They are the reaction to a concerted lobbying campaign by the leader’s team that prepares the ground for defeat and the internal battle to come. Expect more over the coming weeks and months.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

New analysis of post-election PLP erodes Yvette’s leadership front-runner status

05/06/2014, 05:29:20 PM

Signs that preparations are being made in earnest for a future leadership campaign. The talk at the fringes of the Progress conference last Saturday was of succession and as John Rentoul has noted, the likely Chuka versus Yvette contest, if Labour loses the next election. The universal consensus is that the one racing certainty is that the next leader will not be an A.W.M. – Another White Male.

Now, Uncut has seen a detailed analysis compiled by consultants involved in the last leadership election, but unaffiliated at this stage for 2015, which suggests that one of Yvette’s big advantages might not be quite so advantageous after all. While Chuka leads on almost all poll measures with voters and non-activist members, Yvette has been assumed to hold a commanding lead in the PLP.

Partially, this is a consequence of the residual strength of the Brownite machine and partially the time Yvette has had to lobby and persuade her parliamentary peers. As a member of the 1997 intake she has had far longer to build a personal base of support in the PLP than Chuka.

However, according to this new analysis, the likely influx of new MPs will erode some of this advantage. If Labour does not become the largest party, but still does make some progress – as is flagged the most likely scenario in the analysis – the party will likely win between 270 and 290 seats (it currently holds 257 seats). This is based on various permutations of Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative performance.

It would entail Labour gaining 13 to 33 new seats. Added to the 82 Labour MPs elected in 2010 or after this would mean 95 to 115 MPs were from Chuka’s intake or later. On this basis there would still be a significant pre-2010 PLP majority of 175 MPs.

But these figures do not incorporate the large numbers of Labour MPs who have either confirmed they will stand down, or are currently considering their position. At the next election 64 Labour MPs will have been in service for over twenty years with 30 or more current MPs expected to stand down.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Unite-PCS merger in trouble at PCS conference

21/05/2014, 12:32:39 PM

It’s been a busy morning in Brighton, with a debate taking place that will have major implications for the future of the Labour party. The non-party affiliated civil service union, PCS, is having its annual conference and top of the bill for discussion has been the impending merger with Unite.

The PCS NEC proposed a motion that would have allowed them to continue negotiations with Unite, without conditions. The pace of discussions has accelerated in recent months with the merger process now due to complete in January 2015.

However, this timeline may now be in doubt as PCS members rejected their leaders’ motion by a significant majority – 109,326 t0 73,212. A subsequent motion allowing the NEC to continue negotiations subject to minimum conditions did pass on a hand vote, but the warning signal from the PCS membership was very clear: they still prize their independence.

Although PCS has a substantial pensions deficit, its immediate solvency isn’t threatened and questions have been raised by many members as to the benefits of subsuming their union into Unite. The debate in the hall was particularly characterised by hostility to joining a Labour affiliated union with speakers citing the level of civil service cuts implemented by the last Labour government.

Notably, one of the conditions stipulated for future PCS-Unite merger talks is that there would need to be an independent political fund.

PCS members’ suspicion of Labour will heap further pressure on Unite, in addition to its own internal rumblings, to revisit its relationship with Labour.

Recently, Len McCluskey envisaged a scenario where Unite could disaffiliate from the party if Labour lost the next general election. Given the recent polls, and the views of the PCS rank and file, Unite’s long term relationship with the Labour party is now looking increasingly tenuous.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Is the Labour leader’s office spinning for Nigel Farage?

21/05/2014, 09:19:01 AM

A strange story in the Guardian this morning: “Labour and Conservative attacks on Ukip backfire,” booms the headline. Mention is made in the first line of Labour and Conservative polling that shows “attacks claiming  Nigel Farage is a racist have backfired.”  The piece is neatly set up. But then something strange happens.

Where normally there would be evidence, some figures from the aforementioned polling, maybe some quotes from a focus group, there is nothing. Just a lacuna at the heart of the story. The only hard numbers referenced in the piece are from the published polls, which tell quite a different story. One where Ukip’s ratings have clearly slid backwards over the past fortnight.

So how to explain such a story? Certainly, the way its written would seem to treat Joseph Pulitzer’s three rules of journalism – accuracy, accuracy, accuracy – as merely the vaguest of guidelines.

But there’s a clue. A big fat fingerprint. It’s a quote from the ubiquitous “source,” which pops up in the third paragraph: “Calling people names does not work. It confirms the old politics.”

Given the story refers to private Labour and Conservative polling, it’s clear the quote is from someone in one of the two main parties.

And in the absence of any actual evidence to stand up the assertion in the headline, the person giving the quote would need to carry some political heft. No major news outlet could run such a big story, without any facts, on the word of a normal MP or adviser. This would have to come from the top.

Which prompts the obvious question, cui bono: Number 10 or Ed Miliband’s office? In whose interest is a piece saying that attacking Nigel Farage as a racist doesn’t work? And who would frame it as confirming, “the old politics.”

The culprit becomes clearer.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

David Axelrod is Douglas Alexander’s “sock puppet consultant”

16/05/2014, 06:56:40 PM

No, it’s not a term of abuse, well not quite. Rather, it’s a description of David Axelrod’s role according to Westminster murmurings that have reached Uncut’s ears.

For all the fanboy gushing in Labour circles at the coup of hiring Axelrod (although given Axelrod’s core business is as a consultant for hire, Uncut wonders whether it’s quite such an achievement; will the party next be trumpeting how Ed Miliband went to Kwik Fit and successfully secured the services of a mechanic?) the motivation for handing over six figures to David Axelrod seems to have less to do with his counsel and more with the divisions at the top of the party.

The split between Douglas Alexander and Spencer Livermore on one side and the shadow chancellor’s team on the other, is well documented. That Ed Balls didn’t even receive a sign-off on last week’s much derided VAT poster, and the alacrity with which his team were keen to let the world know this fact, speaks volumes for the dysfunction in Labour’s campaign machine.

While Douglas Alexander nominally has the lead on campaign decisions, the political heft of the shadow chancellor means that it’s difficult for Alexander to blithely over-rule Balls.

This is where David Axelrod comes in.

He has been positioned as the swing voter. Prior to each key decision, Axelrod will be consulted, briefed and guided, by, yes, you guessed it, Douglas Alexander. And when the time comes to decide in the meeting, Axelrod will cast his vote with Douglas Alexander.

Axelrod’s American stardust and substantial remuneration mean it’s difficult for the shadow chancellor to simply ignore him. After all, given the party is paying so much money for one person’s advice, there would have to be an incredibly good reason to reject it.

This approach, of hiring a high end consultant to validate existing plans and insulate the internal decision-maker from criticism, is common-place in the public sector. These hires have even got a generic name: “sock puppet consultants.” Now the practice seems to have been imported into the Labour party.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon