UNCUT: Labour’s fruitcakes are turning us into the nasty party

15/05/2015, 09:52:59 PM

by Samuel Dale

The reaction of some parts of the left to an emphatic Conservative victory has been shameful and embarrassing.

There were anti-austerity protests in London (along with some rioting and vandalism) on the 70th anniversary of VE Day.  “Fuck Tory scum” graffiti was sprawled over a Whitehall monument to women of the Second World War.

Parts of Facebook and Twitter has exploded with pure hatred about a Tory victory. There was the viral image of a garden centre owner who said he would charge Tory voters 10% more on all their purchases while Ukip votes were not welcome.

Can you imagine the fury if there was a similar sign outside a garden centre banning Labour voters? Is the Conservative brand so toxic that it has become the only socially acceptable form of discrimination? The only allowable thought crime?

I have seen a number of social media posts and remarks from people who now refuse to be friends with anyone who voted Conservative.

One Conservative voting friend explains how he was berated down the phone by another friend when he explained he had voted Tory. He said he the party was more in line with his own personal interests and this provoked venom.

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UNCUT: Chuka the unready

15/05/2015, 01:49:34 PM

by Atul Hatwal

In politics, you’re either on the way up or headed down. Chuka, unfortunately, is headed down.

After the shock at his withdrawal and the sympathy at what politicians have to put up with in terms of intrusion, one view will linger: he has suspect judgement.

And that will blight him for the rest of his career.

If there is a scandal about to break, of sufficient scale to force him out of the running, the question will be why he ran at all?

If there is no scandal, then in a way, it will be worse. To have jumped in, and then out, within days hardly suggests decisive leadership.

Chuka has a point about the difference between expecting and experiencing greater scrutiny, but the job he was running for was not some minor office, ultimately it was to be the prime minister of Britain. It’s right that there should be scrutiny and lots of it.

Chuka’s team are briefing that he might seek the leadership again one day, but this is fanciful. Despite his many skills and his ability as a communicator, questions over his judgement will hang silently unanswered, over all that he does from now on.

Many things are forgivable in politics. Bad judgement is not one of them.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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GRASSROOTS: Goodbye Lord Sugar. It’s time for a normal relationship between Labour and business

14/05/2015, 08:30:16 PM

by Dan Cooke

It’s a sure sign you’re in a bad way when someone as pugnacious as Lord Sugar takes care to fire you gently, stressing that they don’t want to “stick in the boot”.

In truth, it is the very blandness of Sugar’s announcement of his resignation from the Labour party that is most damning. Sugar apparently did not even feel the need to explain what were Labour’s “negative business policies and general anti-enterprise concepts” that concerned him, or how these compared with policies of Gordon Brown which he praised.  He probably thought he did not need to because the perception that the Labour party is now “anti-business” has become so wide and deep that, for many, it requires no explanation.

Whether it is actually justified or not, this is a totally untenable impression for a mainstream political party to have created in a modern capitalist society. When too many swing voters decided that a vote for the Conservatives was a vote for a strong economy, the perception that companies on which millions rely for their livelihoods were behind the Tories, reflected in high-profile open letter campaigns, will have been a major contributing factor.  It is quite plausible that this impression was even more important than the debate about the causes and consequences of the deficit, on which the party has agonised incomparably more.

How has this happened? Labour, after all, is not the party that wants to put at risk access for British businesses to the single market in Europe and the network of EU-negotiated free trade agreements outside Europe. Labour is not the party that hinders businesses obtaining crucial work permits for skilled workers because of an arbitrary and undeliverable immigration cap. And Labour is not the party that has put ideology ahead of commercial logic with unworkable schemes like the widely mocked “shares for rights” proposal.

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UNCUT: What does Liz Kendall believe?

14/05/2015, 06:30:34 PM

by David Butler

It was hard not to be impressed by Liz Kendall’s Sunday Politics interview with Andrew Neil. She displayed many of the facets that a future leader of the Labour Party should have. This was not the first time she had impressed in interviews, print or broadcast. We desperately need a leader who can win but we also need know what kind of change that leader seeks. Power for its own sake is only ever conservative. Liz Kendall’s thinking appears rooted in an undervalued, oft-forgotten Labour tradition, that of republicanism.

Republicanism has at its core a single notion: that true freedom consists of non-domination. Using a positive frame, Anthony Painter of the RSA (and formerly of this parish) calls it “powerful freedom”. What republicanism seeks is to offer people the ability to be architects of their own lives and flourish in society. The republican approach to freedom can be thought of as expanding what Amartya Sen called “capabilities” (the ability to do something).

Without possessing capabilities, a person is left to live a life where others, either directly through oppressive practices or indirectly through dependency, dominate them. This marks republicanism out from classical liberalism’s doctrine of non-interference. The divide can be illustrated the play A Doll’s House. In his book Just Freedom, Philip Pettit states that Nora would be considered free in classical liberal terms as her husband Torvald does not interfere with her choices. Yet, Pettit argues that Torvald exercises power over Nora as she is totally dependent upon him (something Torvald himself articulates in Act Three of the play). In republican terms, she is not free as Torvald dominates her and restricts her ability to shape her own life.

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UNCUT: Four women who could make the difference for any Labour leadership campaign

14/05/2015, 04:44:18 PM

by Richard Angell

The race for the Labour leadership is now under way. Much of it, as it has in recent days, will be fought out under the media spotlight. That is entirely right: the ability to perform well before the television cameras is crucial for any would-be leader of the opposition.

Moreover, especially now that the leadership contest will – for the first time – rightly provide an opportunity for those who support Labour, but are not members, to participate, it is vital that the public get to see the men and women who want to be the country’s prime minister in 2020.

But a winning leadership campaign is not just about having a smart media strategy. Organisation – the ability to put in place the infrastructure to engage with the members and supporters who will be choosing Labour’s next leader – is absolutely key.

Many party activists will, no doubt, be signing up in the days and weeks ahead to help elect the person they think best placed to lead Labour to victory in five years’ time. There are, however, four outstanding women who any leadership contender should want at the heart of their campaigns.

Caroline Badley’s role in organising the campaign that helped Gisela Stuart retain Birmingham Edgbaston – one of the Tories’ top target seats in 2010 – is now legendary. Last week, she helped Gisela do it again: doubling Labour’s majority in a seat which, until 1997, was the Conservatives’ Birmingham bastion. At the same time, Caroline was also running the effort to oust Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming from nearby Birmingham Yardley. Despite being up against a millionaire and facing vicious personal abuse, Jess Phillips took the seat on a swing of nearly 12 per cent. Caroline’s experience is, moreover, in no way confined to Birmingham: she’s worked with MPs, including Jon Cruddas in Dagenham and Yvette Cooper in Yorkshire, on their community outreach strategies.

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UNCUT: Big tent Labour is underpinned by liberal Labour

14/05/2015, 09:34:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The Miliband years were rich in intellectual touchstones, including Blue Labour’s social conservatism and economic statism. As much as improving Labour’s polling on economics and leadership is the absolute precondition of Labour government, Miliband is right that ideas matter.

Just saying aspiration is not an alternative idea to animate the post-Miliband era. There are some terms, like aspiration, with New Labour associations: effective communication, solid economic policy. These are not ideas as much as truisms of political success.

Labour must urgently re-imbibe these truisms. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition of the strongest possible Labour recovery. Sufficiency entails a deeper reassessment of Labour’s ideas. Jeremy Cliffe, one time Chuka Umunna intern and now a writer at The Economist, and Jamie Reed, MP for England’s most remotely accessible constituency from Westminster, which I born and raised in, are making relevant interventions.

Reed is threatening to run for the leadership unless a Blue Labour tinged theme is absorbed by contenders. “The next Labour leader,” argues Reed, “needs to listen to the marginalised, peripheral communities of our country as the United Kingdom ‘balkanises’ in front of us”.

On Thursday at Policy Network, Cliffe, according to the invitation email, “will argue that though UKIP’s rise might suggest otherwise, the electorate is becoming more urban, more educated, more ethnically diverse and (through travel, work and immigration) more used to contact with the outside world”. Winning majorities for Labour, he argues, will be best sought by building “‘cosmopolitan coalitions’ of support”.

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UNCUT: Burnham the healer casts himself as ‘someone people can relate to’

13/05/2015, 10:39:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Andy Burnham has become the third candidate to launch a bid for the Labour leadership in a video message released this evening.

In a noticeably slicker message than the one Chuka Ummuna used to launch his campaign earlier this week, Burnham said last week’s election result had seen Labour lose “its emotional connection with millions of people.”

“The way to get it back,” he said, “can’t possibly be to choose one group of voters over another – to speak only to people on zero-hours contracts or only to shoppers at John Lewis.”

This was a dig at potential rival Tristram Hunt who earlier this week said the party needed to appeal to people who shop at the upmarket retailer.

“Our challenge,” Burnham claimed, “is not to go left or right, to focus on one part of the country above another, but to rediscover the beating heart of Labour.”

He argued that the party needed to meet “the aspirations of everyone, speaking to them like we did in 1997.”

He defined aspiration – quickly becoming the buzz phrase de jour of this nascent campaign – as “the dream of a better life.”

He added that it was about “helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow.”

Casting himself as a unifier with broad appeal, Burnham argued that Labour wins “when it speaks to everyone and for the whole country, for Middle England but also Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

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UNCUT: Labour must use the next five years to modernise

13/05/2015, 05:52:13 PM

by Callum Anderson

Labour’s defeat has undoubtedly kicked off the most significant period of soul-searching within the party for a generation.

The general election saw a clear and total rejection of ‘Prime Minister Miliband’ and a Labour government led by him. Indeed, the defeat was so clear that we have lost our would-be chancellor and foreign secretary.

But whilst the finger pointing and blame loading is, in some ways, the nature direction of a party that has suffered losses across all three parts of Great Britain, it is essential that rather than this, we, as a party, dust ourselves off and begin to consider how we modernise and rebuild for the years that lie immediately ahead.

The first step will be to truly come to terms with not only with the election defeat itself (particularly why swing voters ended up siding with the Conservatives), but, actually, with the entire period of 2008-2015.

By far the largest error of this time was allow the macroeconomic argument to be led and defined by the Conservatives (and, partly, by the Liberal Democrats). This ultimately resulted fixing the whole concept of ‘Labour spending too much’ as the public’s mainstream view, which reared its head in the final Leader’s Question Time on 30 April.

Thus, the most pressing and overwhelming challenge facing the next Labour leader and shadow chancellor will be in devising a compelling economic narrative of progressive fiscal responsibility, whilst resolutely holding on to our core principles of self-improvement, fairness and equality of opportunity.

Equally, the Labour mainstream must also face the reality that it has fallen entirely out of sync with voters north of the border, which has resulted in the SNP being the standard bearers of Scottish voters. With Cameron likely to further stir up English nationalism that will lead to more of the Scotland vs the rest that we saw too much of in the last Parliament, Labour must be the vehicle of fair and sensible constitutional change.

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GRASSROOTS: Welcome new members – here’s some leaflets to deliver

13/05/2015, 11:54:08 AM

by James Noakes

20,000 new members since the election is something the Labour Party should be pleased about but we also shouldn’t squander this opportunity. Aside from updating the introductory email as the current one from Ed asks them to work for a Labour victory in 2015, there are some things we can do to make the membership experience better.

Ask not only why they join but what they want

We live in an age where membership experience of any organisation is increasingly driven by expectations. Except in political parties. Some people are driven to become very engaged and want to be out there flying the flag and canvassing, others want to be part of the policy process whilst there are some who just want to make a donation and receive some literature every now and then. It may come as a shock but not everyone joined to deliver leaflets or attend meetings akin to those of the People’s Front of Judea.

The party can save time, effort and annoyance if we just focus more on this crucial area. Imagine being a CLP secretary who is told that 200 new members have joined. That’s a lot of (somewhat enjoyable) work. Imagine though if the secretary was told 180 of them have no interest in meetings, leaflets or canvassing. It makes for a better directed approach.

Find out who they are

Even as an elected councillor there have been few occasions when I have been asked about my profession and what I could add. People come to the party with skills – life and work skills we can really make use of but invariably fail to do so. I’m not just talking about ‘professional’ skills or in depth knowledge of a particular subject field – though that is important to tap into. Sometimes it is a bit more straightforward. A colleague of mine worked in the pools industry and was used to stuffing envelopes at a ridiculously fast pace (and had friends who could help too). It was silly it took to so long to ask her to coordinate that!

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UNCUT: Will Labour survive a drawn-out leadership contest?

13/05/2015, 10:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The inside of the Labour party is beginning to feel like a tense family funeral, just before the point when everyone starts drinking.

There’s a lot of unreconciled psychological baggage as we await the National Executive Committee’s decision about whether it will institute a short leadership process, or stretch it out to the September party conference, or, indeed, beyond.

The problem is that years’ worth of sleights, rivalries, anguish, antagonisms and things that have been left unsaid have all built up. If invited to have a drawn-out discussion about why the party lost, it is inevitable that this will lead to family members’ pulling each other’s hair out as they send Granddad’s ashes flying.

In its soul, Labour is a party of deep divisions (personal and social as well as in terms of emphasis and priority). When a colleague remarked that Herbert Morrison was “his own worst enemy” Ernest Bevin famously snarled, “not while I’m alive he ain’t.” The decade-long drama between Blair and Brown (“the TB, GBs”) was merely symptomatic of this same psychosis.

These tensions are usually capped by the affected manners and superficial pleasantries of the party’s generals. Everyone is nice to each other’s face. Get behind that carapace, however, and it’s a different story.

During a Labour leadership contest, it is not enough for candidates to put themselves forward and explain what they would do, they also need to define themselves against their opponents.

So while your candidacy may represent The Last Hope, the only possible choice of any sentient adult; your opponents are, in contrast, sell-outs, lickspittles, lightweights, too associated with the past, too untested, too naïve, too unpopular, too Blairite, or not Blairite enough, et cetera, ad infinitum.

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