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

Are Nick Clegg’s pants indeed on fire?

03/04/2014, 06:00:22 PM

In their television ding-dong last night, Nigel Farage accused Nick Clegg of “wilfully lying” about Europe when the Lib Dem Leader claimed just seven per cent of UK laws are in fact made in Brussels.

But he wasn’t the only one accusing Clegg of being economical with the facts yesterday.

He is also in hot water after berating his local council in Sheffield for not being willing to take in its share of Syrian refugees.

Clegg accused council chiefs of “tarnishing” the city’s reputation as a “city of sanctuary” after refusing to be part of the Home Office’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) programme.

In a piece of chest-puffing hyperbole, he claimed the Labour Leader of Sheffield City Council, Julie Dore, had “decided to shut the door on some of the most vulnerable people in the world”.

Dore hit back, saying it was “outrageous” of Clegg to claim the council had refused to take in Syrian refugees and accused him of “not telling the truth”.

She in fact wrote to ministers last month “making it clear” the council would do so, providing the government would guarantee funding for longer than 12 months.

The refugees are expected to need to stay for up to five years, with many having complex health and social care needs.

Hull and Manchester are also said to have asked the government for further funding guarantees before taking any refugees.

Unfortunately, Clegg has form. Last year exasperated council chiefs had to formally write to him to ask him to stop misrepresenting the council’s budget, claiming the council was spending £2 million renovating council meeting rooms.

In fact, the council was spending £600,000 on essential maintenance to the Grade II listed Town Hall and making improvements to increase the number of income-generating civil ceremonies.

In accusing Farage of being an isolationist last night, Clegg mocked his Billy-No-Mates approach.

Still, better than being Billy Liar?

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Merseyside row overshadows Combined Authority launch

03/04/2014, 04:10:25 PM

Word reaches us of a serious family squabble on Merseyside.

This issue of contention is over who should chair Merseyside’s new Combined Authority -designed to pool responsibility among local councils over transport, economic development and regeneration and receive new powers from Whitehall.

Liverpool is clear it should be Mayor Joe Anderson. Most of the other councils disagree, citing the example of Greater Manchester, where Wigan’s council leader rather than Manchester’s chairs the body, avoiding the impression of Mancunian dominance.

Matters came to a head on Monday at a meeting of the six Merseyside leaders representing Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, Wirral, Halton and St Helens. With rumours that Anderson and Sefton’s leader, Peter Dowd, were boycotting the meeting in protest at the job not going to Anderson, a vote was taken by the remaining leaders and Wirral Council Leader Phil Davies was duly appointed.

Anderson and Dowd then turned up after the vote had been taken. The mood, say insiders, was sub-Arctic.

There are two structural problems being played out here. First, there has long been a debate about what exactly constitutes ‘Merseyside’. Scousers argue that it’s really nothing more than Liverpool plus satellite areas and therefore it makes sense to play their strongest card.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

“Much more of this and we are going to need a Devon Loch scenario to win”

19/03/2014, 05:07:33 PM

News reaches Uncut that Ed Miliband’s budget response has depressed spirits on the already gloomy Labour benches in the Commons.

After weeks of narrowing polls and increasing jitters in the tea room, today’s budget set-piece was widely viewed as an opportunity for Miliband to rally his troops.

The benign economic circumstances enjoyed by George Osborne had already been priced into PLP expectations, as had the difficulties faced by the leader of the opposition in delivering an instant budget response without having had the time to study its small print.

Few expected the Labour leader to fillet the detail of what was announced, but MPs were looking for a fighting performance from their leader. Something to settle the nerves and show some command at the despatch box.

But as the MPs filtered out of the chamber following the main speeches, the mood on the Labour side was sombre. One MP who spoke to Uncut shortly after leaving the debate was scathing, describing the performance as “embarrassing,” and that morale among their colleagues was now “really quite low.” 

Looking forward to the election next year, their assessment of Labour’s prospects was bleak, “Much more of this and we are going to need a Devon Loch scenario to win.”

For readers too young to either directly recall the Devon Loch Grand National in 1956, or to have seen countless repeats of the incident on Grand National specials through the years, the clip below should help.

For this MP, and many of their colleagues, unless Ed Miliband improves, Labour will require a slip from David Cameron equivalent to that of Devon Loch’s, to triumph in 2015 . 

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

When is a local candidate not a local candidate?

07/02/2014, 03:35:46 PM

The race to succeed Shaun Woodward as Labour MP for St. Helens South and Whiston is rapidly hotting up, following the decision of the NEC to designate the seat as an all-women shortlist last month.

Candidates are starting to emerge for the plum Labour seat, vying for the chance to inherit Woodward’s 9,309 majority.

But carpetbaggers should beware. A poll in yesterday’s St Helens Star found 74% of readers wanted a candidate with‘strong St. Helens ties.’

Step forward two contrasting ‘local’ candidates.

The first is former Labour council leader Marie Rimmer, who has dominated public life in the town for thirty years. At 66, she is the grand dame of Merseyside Labour politics, but is said to be “energised” by the prospect of running for Parliament.

Although ousted as council leader last year she remains, in the words of local Police Commissioner (and former Labour minister) Jane Kennedy, “one of the most important and influential women on Merseyside and a source of inspiration to me.”

The second ‘local’ is Catherine McDonald, a St. Helens-born former special adviser to employment minister Jim Knight, who is now Southwark Council’s cabinet member in charge of health and social care.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Kane makes local connections count as he cruises to victory

25/01/2014, 09:36:31 AM

Mike Kane will be Labour’s candidate for the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election on 13 February, cause by the sad death of former Labour minister, Paul Goggins, earlier this month.

A hustings meeting at Wythenshawe Forum Hall last night saw Kane sweep to victory, winning on the first ballot with around two-thirds of the votes cast. Manchester City Councillor, Rosa Battle, was runner up.

Kane, 45, was the favourite and played on his deep roots in the local area and his ability to see off a strong challenge from UKIP.

Born in Wythenshawe hospital, he grew up in the constituency and taught at a local primary school for a decade, before going on to work as a parliamentary assistant to Labour MPs James Purnell and Jonathan Reynolds.

He is currently acting chief executive of Movement for Change, the grassroots campaigning organisation allied to the party and has led on efforts to promote the living wage and against payday lenders.

UKIP is expected to press hard for second place. Its candidate, local IT entrepreneur John Bickley, grew up in Wythenshawe and comes from a staunch Labour family.

However, with just three weeks to go until polling day, it’s unlikely they have the time to seriously eat into the 7,575 Labour majority.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Jim Dowd. Not so relished in South Yorkshire.

21/01/2014, 05:11:34 PM

Pity poor Jim Dowd. A Londoner to his boots and scourge of cheap knock-offs of quality brands. He led the way in the debate on intellectual property in the chamber yesterday, castigating “parasitic” copies of established products.

Tears were welling-up among fellow MPs and onlookers as he laid out the foul calumny that he himself had suffered, just the previous weekend,

“I was in the Hare and Billet pub in Blackheath (in London). And I was having lunch, and I asked if they had any Worcestershire Sauce – everybody knows the famous manufacturers of Worcestershire Sauce.

Now, I’m a simple soul from south-east London, and I thought there was only one Worcestershire Sauce. And the very nice chap who was serving us went away and said ‘certainly’, and he came back with a bottle, and it was shaped like the bottle which I always remembered containing, I think it’s Lea and Perrins, Worcestershire Sauce and their marvellous concoction: same shape, same size, the label was amazingly enough orange with black lettering.

But it was something from Sheffield, from somewhere called Henderson’s – whoever they were.

Now, I’m sure Mr Henderson and his company is a perfectly estimable organisation and I’m sure they pursue an entirely legitimate business, but I couldn’t help feeling at the time that this, of all the colours they could choose for their label, of all the shapes they could have for their bottle, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Sheffield sauce until then, but I thought this is an ideal example of just how easy these things are to do (to copy).”

Damn straight Jim. Who the hell is Mr.Henderson anyway?

What’s that? Henderson’s is a brand that has been established for over 100 years? Really? A great British export, shipped all round the world, you say? 750,000 bottles sold each year?

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, rode to the rescue earlier today to set Jim straight, writing him an open letter on Facebook.

But it was already too late.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Speedy by-election planned to keep UKIP at bay

20/01/2014, 08:12:31 AM

If you’re reading this after 10am today and were hoping to stand for the Labour nomination for the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, caused by the tragic death of Paul Goggins, then hard lines.

This is the deadline imposed by the party as it moves swiftly to get a candidate in place before a by-election is called, probably for February 13. A panel of the National Executive Committee meets this Wednesday to whittle down applications before a hustings meeting in Wythenshawe on Friday night.

With some bookies quoting UKIP’s chances of winning the seat as 4-1, Labour is taking no chances. It needs to stop Nigel Farage gaining traction on the ground while ensuring it gets fickle Labour voters to turn out in what is predicted to be a cold February.

The Manchester Central by-election in November 2012 achieved the ignominy of managing lowest turnout in a parliamentary by-election since World War Two with just 18 per cent voting. Lucy Powell, the winner of that by-election, is set to manage the party’s campaign.

The Wythenshawe part of the seat is classic inner-city Manchester, containing five of the eight wards that make up the constituency. The remaining three sit in the neighbouring – and decidedly more affluent – borough of Trafford.

The seat contains the Benchill area, which was once assessed to be the most deprived in Europe and the scene of an infamous David Cameron walkabout where a youth made gun gestures at him.

Uncut hears that the battle for the Labour nomination is likely to be a two-horse race between Manchester councillor Rosa Battle and chief executive of Movement for Change, Mike Kane.

Both have local credentials, with Battle, Manchester’s executive member for culture and leisure, finishing third in the selection process for the Manchester Central nomination.

Mike Kane was born and raised in Wythenshawe and formerly worked as a teacher and as a parliamentary aide to James Purnell and Jonathan Reynolds.

Local sources predict Kane should edge it, with one party member praising his “great back story as a local lad,” while his community organising skills should come in handy pressing the flesh this week.

However there is expected to be no shortage of potential candidates to keep the NEC panel busy. Cheshire councillor Steve Carter, a former parliamentary candidate for Macclesfield is another hopeful.

Paul Goggins had a majority of 7,575 at the 2010 General Election.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour in key seats retreat

14/01/2014, 06:27:23 PM

On the day ICM’s monthly poll saw Labour’s lead fall to 3 points, news reaches Uncut of a quiet “re-prioritisation” of the party’s list of 106 key seats.

At Uncut towers, we’ve been hearing grumbles from the field for a while that the flow of resources and help from head office has been extremely variable, with certain seats receiving substantially greater support than others.

Now a Brewer’s Green source has confirmed that a new approach is being implemented, saying “some seats are more key than others.”

Partially, this is the Livermore effect. Labour’s new campaign chief, Spencer Livermore, has been in post for just under two months and is focusing his scarce resources to maximise effectiveness.

But underpinning this reappraisal are two broader developments: first, the increasing effort Labour is having to devote to retaining marginal seats it already holds and second, the party’s flagging performance in the south.

At the last election Labour won 17 seats where the majority was only in three figures. Although Labour’s vote in these seats will undoubtedly be bolstered by defections from the Lib Dems, there is a real danger that anti-Labour supporters of the coalition parties will switch their votes to maximise the chances for a Labour defeat – after all, both the Tories and the Lib Dems will be standing on the same economic record.

In 2011, when Debbie Abrahams won the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, it was notable that the Lib Dem vote held up, sustained largely by massive switching from the Tories.

If this type of behaviour were replicated at the next election then Labour could face losing large numbers of seats, with shadow cabinet members like Gloria De Piero, who had a majority at the last election of 192, under threat.

Allied to the need to protect these seats has been a growing realisation that Labour is not making the headway needed in some southern seats and that the party’s finite resources would make more of a difference if committed elsewhere, principally in the northern marginals.

The source who spoke to Uncut highlighted Dover, Crawley and Battersea as examples of the types of seats where Labour is struggling.

This doesn’t mean all support for the lower priority list will be withheld, more that they will not get first call on the resources that are available.

The source suggested Labour’s realistic target list is nearer 60 than 106.

In effect, Labour is now targeting a coalition with the Lib Dems following the next election.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Toil and trouble bubbling in the shadow cabinet pot

07/01/2014, 02:11:07 PM

In the past week, lefty pointy-heads have been all a-twitter about a piece on the Economist’s blog, mapping out how Ed Miliband might want to clip the Treasury’s wings and expand BIS, so that BIS becomes an engine for “economic reform”.

This new “department for Milibandism” would take on responsibility for jobcentres from DWP, training from Education, cities and regional growth from CLG and financial services from the Treasury. The poor old Treasury would be left as a much diminished office of the budget.

Cue supportive interventions from noted Ed-ites and much sage discussion about the policy and institutional impact. But as the wonkathon subsides, thoughts turn to the politics of such a change and the eternal question, cui bono?

The stony silence from the shadow chancellor’s camp speaks volumes. Ed Balls would effectively be demoted to the role of chief secretary to the Treasury. Suffice to say, he’s unlikely to be a fan. No, the lucky beneficiary from this radical Whitehall surgery would appear be Chuka, the current shadow at BIS.

So who lobbed this political incendiary into the debate? Step forward the uncredited author of the piece, Jeremy Cliffe.

Would that be the same Jeremy Cliffe who is good mates with one, er, Chuka Umunna? The same Jeremy whose Linked-In CV lists a past role as “Campaign Intern, Streatham Labour, December 2009-January 2010.” The same Jeremy whose CV goes on to list one of his jobs as “Researcher, Office of Chuka Umunna, June 2010-August 2010”?

Hmm. Stop it. You’re too suspicious, Uncut is sure this is all just a big coincidence.

In other coincidental news, la Umunna penned a piece for last week’s Observer on democratic renewal; nothing to do with industrial strategy and completely out of the blue, but nevertheless a worthy subject for a political intervention. It brought to mind a comment from a grizzled whip a few years ago, speaking about loyalty from the then cabinet, “When the children start talking off-topic, discipline is breaking down and trouble’s not far behind.”

In fairness to Chuka, at least he was scrupulously on message in his Observer piece. Rumours from the PLP abound that the really big fight of the coming term is about to kick-off: Balls versus Burnham with loyalty to the collective shadow cabinet line likely to be the first casualty.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s head office in “chaos” as Livermore begins his first day in charge

18/11/2013, 07:00:54 AM

This morning, Spencer Livermore will step across the threshold of Labour’s Brewer’s Green HQ and formally take charge of Labour’s general election preparations.

As we previously reported, Ed Miliband’s personal appointment of the former Gordon Brown protégé as campaign director effectively sidelines the party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, the party’s chief official, who was appointed by the party’s National Executive Committee in 2011.

Ahead of Livermore’s arrival, the atmosphere at Brewer’s Green is tense, with one well-placed insider describing it as “chaos” as the fallout from the botched Falkirk selection continues to play out in the media spotlight.

“There’s a total breakdown of trust between the general secretary’s team and the leader’s office,” says the insider.

“The staff are completely paralysed. It’s like a sitcom being played out before us”.

Yet this is a sideshow compared to the potential calamity next spring as Ed Miliband seeks to drive through his landmark changes to the way affiliated trade unions fund the party.

Miliband is staking everything on getting a new opt-in arrangement where millions of ordinary trade unionists choose to support the party, rather than have union chiefs wielding their chequebooks on their members’ behalf.

Party sources claim that Miliband sleepwalked into announcing the reforms without really understanding their full implications.

“Virtually the entire staff understood you’re ending the collective link but even the most senior advisers to Ed didn’t realise” says one insider.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon