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Burnham’s spin doctor is director at lobbyist firm that advises union-buster Ineos

13/06/2015, 07:00:00 AM

A lobbyist from the firm that advises energy firm Ineos, which was involved in a biter industrial dispute with Unite the Union, is now working as a key member of Andy Burnham’s leadership team.

Katie Myler, a former special adviser to Burnham when he was health secretary, now works for international lobbying company, Burson-Marsteller.

They claim on their website that their staff have provided “senior counsel” to the Ineos “CEO and management team” during “the Grangemouth industrial dispute.”

Back in 2013, 800 staff at the petrochemical plant in Falkirk threatened to go on strike after management brought forward a survival plan, which included a three-year pay freeze and changes to pensions.

Unite later relented in a bid to save jobs.

Myler was appointed as director of communications for Burnham’s campaign last week, after taking a sabbatical from Burson-Marsteller where she works as a managing director, according to a report in PR Week.

She joins fellow lobbyist, John Lehal, who is acting as campaign director.

His company, Insight Consulting Group, has worked for a string of private medical companies, according to reports in this morning’s Independent.

The revelations will come as a major embarrassment to Burnham, who has made much of his opposition to private sector involvement in the NHS.

He is also thought to have the active support of Unite and has pitched himself as the main centre-left challenger for the Labour leadership.

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Are we going to see candidates have a go at each other?

08/06/2015, 04:11:01 PM

One of the main strategic questions candidates for the Labour leadership are grappling with is the degree to which they should define their campaign by reference to the other candidates. So far, things have been cordial and bland, but there are signs this will not last much longer.

Liz Kendall was at it in her Observer column yesterday. Promising to “get power out of Westminster and into the hands of the people it affects” she said Labour had “let the Tories steal our clothes with their northern powerhouse and proposals to give Manchester more control over health services.”

This can be read as a criticism of Andy Burnham, who has opposed the devolving the NHS in the Greater Manchester area to its new metro mayor.

It’s no secret Burnham and Kendall don’t get on and publicly differ in their view about how much the private sector should be involved in providing NHS services.

Kendall, pitching herself as the modernising candidate, also claimed that “old hierarchies don’t fit today’s social networks and a culture of deference and uniformity too often stifles innovation.”

Deference is an interesting choice of word. Could she mean the same deference that saw Andy Burnham sign-off a letter to Prince Charles when he was health secretary with the antiquated term, “I have the honour to remain, Sir, your Royal Highness’s most humble and obedient servant?”

But Burnham’s been at it too. Before he ruled out standing, Tristram Hunt said Labour needed to be “on the side of families who want to shop at John Lewis, go on holiday and get a new extension”. Launching his campaign last month, Burnham said Labour must not limit its appeal “only to shoppers at John Lewis”.

But these subtle digs at opponents may be about to shift a gear. Our colleagues over at LabourList report that Yvette Cooper is set to make a speech warning the party should not take the new but untested and naive option.

Liz Kendall, it notes, was only elected in 2010. If that is indeed meant for her, then it’s a humdinger of a slap and a massive escalation in hostilities.

And we still have another 12 weeks to go.

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Cracks appearing in team Burnham

27/05/2015, 07:48:27 PM

Word reaches Uncut that all is not well in the Burnham camp. Despite being the bookies’ favourite, worries about Andy Burnham’s strategy and performance have started to bubble to the surface among his supporters.

Doubts are being raised about what has been dubbed the ‘inevitability strategy’.

Immediately following the general election defeat, Andy Burnham’s campaign mobilised, rolling out endorsements from across the PLP to establish him as the runaway favourite, suck away nominations from potential rivals and make his victory seem assured.

The thinking was that this would lead to a lower key race with other candidates and party members reluctant to attack the likely leader. Such a contest, with relatively little incident or conflict to generate media coverage, would suit a candidate like Andy Burnham who is already well-known within the party.

However, almost three weeks into the race and things are not going according to plan. One staffer of an MP committed to Burnham told Uncut,

“We got off to a good start with Rachel [Reeves] and Dan [Jarvis] signing up but since then the momentum has slowed. The boss is worried the names promised haven’t come through.”

A centrist MP who is backing Burnham, but is yet to be announced, echoed these concerns,

“Andy is being defined as the left-wing choice, he needs to balance out his support. Idiots on Twitter like Eoin Clarke aren’t helping.”

Eoin Clarke is a well-known hard left Twittervist and has been tweeting prolifically in support of Burnham.

The MP went on,

“The plan was to be out of sight, quickly. We’re not there; Liz and Yvette are competitive and this looks like it’s going to get messy.”

Jitters about strategy are fuelling concerns about Andy Burnham’s personal performance.

Already a debate has opened up within his inner circle about whether he should challenge Liz Kendall’s agenda more aggressively.

(more…)

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Eagle promises to learn from “heart-breaking” election defeat as she launches bid for deputy leader

18/05/2015, 01:54:24 PM

Angela Eagle has become the fifth Labour MP to launch a bid for the party’s deputy leadership.

The Wallasey MP and former chair of the party’s National Policy Forum, said Labour had suffered “a heart-breaking election defeat.”

It was all the more painful because “the scale of it had not been anticipated.” Labour had, she said, “endured a total political and strategic failure.”

Eagle, a former pensions minister under Gordon Brown and shadow Leader of the House under Ed Miliband, launched her campaign in a video, featuring party members endorsing her candidacy.

She joins Tom Watson, Caroline Flint, Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw in her bid to succeed Harriet Harman.  One candidate fewer (so far) than the last deputy leadership contest in 2007.

Promising to be a “campaigning deputy” and “brutally honest about what went wrong,” Ms. Eagle said Labour needed to hear the views both of ordinary party members, but also those who did not support the party.

“I will also ensure we have a no holds barred debate about the way forward for our Party both politically and organisationally. This must be followed by robust action to learn the hard lessons and ensure that we are fit to win the many battles which lie ahead” she said.

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We’re looking for a new CEO who can take us to the next level

12/05/2015, 05:56:07 PM

Overview:

We are a progressive organisation with a great heritage and we’re looking for a new CEO to regain past glories and take the organisation to the next level.

They will also be charged with setting in place a compelling new results-based strategy and developing a dynamic new narrative for the organisation.

While we retain an excellent product portfolio and a loyal and professional sales force, our recent growth figures have been unexpectedly disappointing.

We have just undergone a challenging period, which has seen several key executives leave the organisation.  It is anticipated that this post-holder will refresh the team, embedding a new high-performance culture.

Are you the person to meet these challenges head-on and take us to the next level?

Job description:

To position the organisation as the undisputed UK market leader by 2020

To begin a process of rapid and aggressive expansion, ideally leading to early market dominance in Scotland and London by 2016

To play a key role as a champion for the sector during potential market turbulence in 2017

(more…)

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Pickles’ sacking shows Cameron is trying to make peace with local councils

11/05/2015, 06:33:58 PM

The cruel jibe has it that Eric Pickles’ sacking in the reshuffle frees up two seats around the Cabinet table.

Still, it appears to have come as a shock to the former communities secretary, as he was confidently predicting a return to government and was “waiting by my phone” for the call.

Local government watchers see signs here of David Cameron trying to mend fences by replacing the abrasive Pickles with the more emollient cities minister, Greg Clark, who is widely liked across the political divide.

It seems to be a version of the same tactic tried last year when the Prime Minister unceremoniously dumped Michael Gove from education, replacing him with the balm-anointing Nicky Morgan. Consolidators following revolutionaries, as it were.

Neither is it lost on Cameron that the surge of Conservative councillors from last week has seen the party take political control of the Local Government Association.

He can do without Pickles being gratuitously rude to his party’s elected grassroots, especially as he was boasting that there was still an “awful lot of money to be still saved” from council budgets.

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Has Nick Clegg really dealt with 38,000 pieces of casework?

01/05/2015, 10:46:54 AM

Amazing guy, that Nick Clegg.

Writing in the Sheffield Star, the multi-tasking Lib Dem Leader and erstwhile Deputy PM says he has still found time as a local MP to deal with “38,000 pieces of casework”.

As any MP’s staffer will attest, that’s quite a claim.

Let’s be generous and suppose what he really means is that he’s dealt with that many cases over the 10 years he’s represented Sheffield Hallam. This works out at 3,800 cases each year.

Disaggregated over 365 days, this averages out at ten cases a day. Every day. For ten years.

Now let’s assume he and his staff don’t work every single day of the year.

Taking away weekends, Bank Holidays, Christmas and annual leave entitlements means there’s about 250 working days left (okay, that’s a bit on the high side, but let’s again be generous to him).

So now the figure climbs to 15 cases a day.

Again, let’s assume he has two caseworkers out of the £129,000 he claimed for his office staffing costs last year. That’s 7.5 cases dealt with by each caseworker, every single working day of the year.

And over the course of an average working day, this means dealing with a case an hour.

But what does ‘dealing’ with a constituents’ case generally involve?

It usually means meeting a troubled/angry/desperate constituent at a local surgery, or spending half a morning dealing with a rambling phone call, or poring over indecipherable handwriting, or wading through a densely-argued email before getting to the nub of the issue.

Then it involves writing on their behalf, often hitting the brick wall of officialdom (or the steel and glass wall of corporate indifference) while seeking a response.

It doesn’t end there. There are usually meetings with officials, site visits and even public meetings to follow.

All of which is to point out that MPs’ casework is often a slow, drawn-out process.

So is it uncharitable to point out that Clegg’s grandiose claim seems somewhat, well, implausible?

If we give him the benefit of the doubt, then it’s clear from their uber-efficiency that his office should have been put in charge of single-handedly rolling-out Universal Credit.

Or, perish the thought, could it be that Clegg’s just a fibber?

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Labour’s doomed in Scotland and Ed needs to put Sturgeon in her place: so scrap the Barnett Formula

27/04/2015, 07:45:47 PM

Seemingly, there is little Ed Miliband can now do to diminish the threat posed by the SNP’s remarkable insurgency. Poll after poll shows Labour facing a total wipe-out in Scotland. It isn’t a case of just losing badly; this is the stuff of total annihilation.

Meanwhile, the Conservative campaign thinks it’s on to something by warning that a minority Labour government, reliant on a bloc of SNP votes, will be a bad deal for England. As a message, it’s an exocet targeted at voters in battleground seats south of the border, where the prospect of the Scottish tail wagging the English dog seems iniquitous.

Ed Miliband can’t fix the first problem; what will be, will be. Scottish Labour is going down in flames. The bigger question for Labour strategists is whether its woes in Scotland are cyclical, the tail-end of the vortex generated by last autumn’s referendum on independence, or a more structural shift. Has the SNP now eclipsed Labour as the social democratic voice of Scots, as they contrast their simple promise to end austerity with Labour’s more complicated (and more realistic) UK-wide offer?

Although Labour’s campaign in Scotland is doomed, it can still use its setback to address its second problem: showing the SNP would not be left calling the shots.

All the party needs is a popular measure that confronts the Tory narrative that Miliband is in Sturgeon’s pocket. Something that shows Labour can make tough choices and, crucially, reassures voters in English marginals that it’s is on their side.

There is a policy proposal that fits the bill, a magic bullet Labour can fire that hits all these targets: scrap the Barnett Formula.

There is no-one in British politics who can make a plausible case for a public spending formula that sees a fifth more spent on Scotland than England. The only reason it has not been amended out of history by now is down to decades of political inertia and a tactical belief that it would add grist to the nationalists’ mill in the run-up to last autumn’s referendum.

(more…)

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Labour’s BAME manifesto was a missed opportunity

21/04/2015, 05:07:20 PM

The problem with Labour’s ‘BAME manifesto’ – and its approach to understanding minority communities more generally – boils down to this: In the Labour lexicon, BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) is simply a question of skin colour.

The term is exclusively meant to denote non-White groups. It’s an approach that makes as much sense as assuming you need to be a wheelchair user to be a disabled person.

The party shows a poor grasp of the complexity of the UK’s contemporary racial and ethnic mix and the often very specific and nuanced issues they face.

As a result, the document falls back on 1980s norms. Hence, all the photos in the document show group shots of smiling Black and Asian people. So far, so clichéd.

The manifesto shows little understanding of just how fluid it is to be a member of, say, the Afro-Caribbean or Muslim communities these days, while seeming utterly oblivious to the concept that there may be White ethnic minorities out there and they, too, may have needs.

For instance, the numbers of Polish-born people living in the UK have increased 10-fold in a decade, from around 60,000 in 2001 to 580,000 at the time of the 2011 census. To this we can add a further 200,000 ethnically Polish children and grandchildren.

Nearly a million-strong. Yet, the manifesto utters not a single word about their particular needs.

At the very least, the manifesto could have included promises to crackdown on unscrupulous gangmasters and tighten regulation of the casual labour market, an issue that disproportionately affects migrant eastern Europeans coming here in large numbers to work.

Neither is there any mention about Gypsies and Travellers. This is especially remiss given the massive cultural and social disadvantages they face, including a level of overt public ridicule and discrimination for their lifestyles and customs that would (rightly) be beyond the pale if targeted against any other minority group.

(more…)

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Prime Minister Miliband’s first U-turn: scrapping gender equality around the cabinet table

20/04/2015, 06:48:36 PM

Any coalition deal with the other parties that involves sharing cabinet positions, will inevitably mean the percentage of women sat around Labour’s top table will get smaller.

This is not due to backsliding on Ed Miliband’s part. Far from it. He promised during the Labour leadership contest – and has consistently repeated it since then – that he will deliver 50:50 gender equality around the cabinet table (and has more or less done so with his current shadow team).

It is simply that the stock of female ministers from the other potential coalition partners is extremely low. And despite watery protestations to the contrary, all the current polls indicate that Miliband will need either the SNP or the Lib Dems to join his administration in order to form a stable working majority in the Commons.

Only one of the SNP’s six MPs in the last parliament was female and, although led by a woman, just 36 per cent of their parliamentary candidates are women. (And given Nicola Sturgeon is rather preoccupied serving as Scotland’s First Minister, she would not, presumably, be available herself?)

Similarly, just seven of the Lib Dems’ 57 MPs in the last parliament were women and five of them are likely to lose their seats (although, to be fair, it’s perfectly possible this number will be replenished with newcomers).

But from day one of the next government, there will be precious few women MPs from among either the Lib Dems or SNP experienced enough in frontline politics to be considered for cabinet positions.

The only choice open to Miliband, if he’s serious about honouring his pledge, is to appoint a greater number of Labour women to meet the shortfall. This, in turn, means appointing fewer men who currently sit in the shadow cabinet.

The in-tray of an incoming prime minister is deep enough without creating that kind of explosive row and in the process generating an officer-class of senior, overlooked men who have slogged away on the frontbench for years only to have their careers ripped away from them.

No, look instead for Miliband to pepper the junior and middle ministerial ranks with women as cover for the Labour-led government’s first U-turn.

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