Posts Tagged ‘Andy Burnham’

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

18/05/2021, 03:45:43 PM

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 (more…)

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The Uncuts: 2020 Political Awards (part I)

30/12/2020, 10:30:02 PM

Best International Politician: Joe Biden  

Our hearts may have entered 2020 longing for it to be last year of Donald Trump’s presidency. But our heads should have told us that one term presidents are rarely beaten, especially when benefitting from a growing economy and strong approval ratings for economic management.

In early February, Joe Biden secured a lower vote share at the Iowa caucus than Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg (we said, this time last year, he was one to watch and is now the President-elect’s nominee for Secretary of Transport).

Covid-19 transformed the Trump presidency and the Biden candidacy. It took a global pandemic to politically expose Trump’s inability to effectively run the federal government and make resonate Biden’s backstory of grief, resolve and decency.

While Covid-19 upended the presidential race, Biden deserves immense credit for fighting it on his own terms – not allowing himself to be goaded by Trump into spats on Twitter or elsewhere, failing to provide an easy target for Trump’s attacks on “radical socialism”, and maintaining consistent message discipline throughout the campaign.

Now this message – building back better for all Americans – needs to be made real. In a deeply divided country, with a political system grounded in bipartisanship, this will not be easy. But is a fight that Biden must win to overcome Trumpism, even if his victory over Trump makes him one of 2020’s heroes.

Political Self-Harm Award: Jeremy Corbyn.

In an unrivalled act of foot-shooting the former leader decided, after explicitly being asked not to undermine in any way the results of the EHRC report into anti-Semitism, did exactly that, declaring that said anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.

For his trouble, he earned himself a suspension of the PLP whip and his party membership, suspensions which the party reportedly had not remotely planned to impose until his unwanted intervention.

While the party’s existing and undeniably flawed disciplinary procedure allowed his reinstatement as a party member, Keir Starmer informed him that the PLP whip, which was a matter for the leader personally, would not be reinstated and that Corbyn would sit for the present as an independent in the Commons.

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‘Aspirational socialism.’ Again.

20/01/2020, 09:55:39 PM

The big mistake political campaigners often make when they come up with slogans for their candidates is hubris.

They assume that the pithy little phrase they have dreamt up to encapsulate their candidate’s credo is an original. A gem they have found in the rough which they will polish until it shines.

To her detractors, she’s the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate, but it seems Rebecca Long-Bailey might be drawing inspiration from more mainstream Labour figures.

On Saturday, during the leadership hustings in Liverpool, she referred to her beliefs as “aspirational socialism.”

It’s a neat little line, combining, as it does, the ‘S’ word, which pleases the grassroots, with something vague and modern sounding. Who could be against people having aspirations? Rather than levelling down – the traditional criticism of left-wing politicians – it implies levelling-up. ‘You can still do well, but we just want more people to do well.’

Well, for someone deeply committed to Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution, Long-Bailey clearly practices what she preaches when it comes to recycling.

‘Aspirational socialism’ was used by Andy Burnham in his 2010 leadership campaign. The one where he came fourth in a field of five.

Perhaps, though, there’s an older vintage?

Here’s Long-Bailey’s predecessor as MP for Salford, Hazel Blears, back in 2010: “New Labour is about aspiration and ambition, which is absolutely how I come to be doing what I do, because my parents were ambitious and aspirational for me.”

Continuity Corbyn or Version 3.0 New Labour?

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part IV)

02/01/2018, 06:08:11 PM

Flash in the pan award – metro mayors

Eight months on from the election of the first swathe of ‘metro mayors’ in some of our larger conurbations, and, well…

Only Andy Burnham has anything close to a national profile, aided by the fact he has responsibility for the NHS and social care system across Greater Manchester and easily rose the occasion, responding to the ISIS suicide attack on Manchester Arena last May.

The Tories’ Andy Street – former John Lewis boss – is assiduously working away on a second tranche of devolution for the West Midlands, but his strong anti-Brexit stance will hardly endear him to his colleagues in Westminster.

The basic problem for the metro mayors is that the whole idea feels like it’s reached its peak.

They have two big problems.

First, they have a near-impossible task in showing they’ve achieved anything by the time they’re up for re-election in 2020. They have precious little in the way of retail powers. Producing a draft spatial strategy, or appointing a ‘fairness czar’ is hardly going to cut it with the voters.

The second problem is that Whitehall has moved on. Devolution was Osborne’s thing and there’s little sense Theresa May – more excited about her ‘Modern Industrial Strategy’ – is remotely interested in prolonging the experiment.

You can imagine a scenario in the Downing Street bunker when a solemn Burnham appears on the television, and the PM flings one of her garish shoes at the telly. ‘Why have we given Burnham a platform to slag us off every day?!’

‘Dunno boss,’ a flunky will say, ‘Osborne thought it was a good idea…’

And that will be all it needs. Local authority leaders on the Combined Authorities will get to keep the devo deals they’ve negotiated but they’ll no longer be contingent on having an elected mayor. The Prime Minister can leave Labour council leaders to wield the dagger quicker than you can say ‘Infamy! Infamy!’

Little local difficulty award – Ireland & Brexit

It all seemed so easy, the Irish border issue. Last January, during her Lancaster House speech setting out her initial approach to Brexit, the Prime Minister breezily passed over the issue entirely. Not one specific mention was made of how the border would be sorted, post-Brexit.

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Leadership fix machine cranks into action for selections in safe seats

25/04/2017, 09:50:14 PM

While the general election played out in the country today, within the Labour party, the focus has been on selections for the 14 seats where Labour MPs are retiring.

On a day of swirling rumours and frayed tempers, long lists have started to be drawn up by the party as Corbynites battle to secure places for their favoured candidates.

In practical terms, the available seats for this political game of musical chairs is a lot less than 14.

Five seats are off the table because they are likely to be lost – Slough, Hartlepool, Birmingham Edgbaston, Wolverhampton South West and Middlesborough South and East Cleveland.

The scale of potential revolt in the local party in Lewisham West and Penge at the prospective imposition of a Corbynite seems to have put off the leadership there while Metro Mayor candidate Steve Rotheram has fended off the threat of having the leader’s son, Seb Corbyn, foisted on Liverpool Walton. Current Liverpool city Mayor, Joe Anderson, is the hot favourite for this, the safest Labour seat in the country.

That leaves six seats – Leigh, Hull West and Hessle, Blaydon, Barnsley East, North West Durham and Oxford East.

Corbyn spokesperson Sam Tarry is in the frame for Hull West and Hessle, preferred over David Prescott, son of John and recent Corbyn speech-writer (albeit for a few weeks before being moved out of the leader’s office).

Rumours are that Katy Clark, Corbyn’s political secretary is being lined up for Leigh, despite recent incumbent Andy Burnham having written an open letter opposing the imposition of a non-local candidate and backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt.

Barnsely East, former seat of Michael Dugher, is also being eyed by the leadership as a destination for a preferred candidate, as much to punish Dugher for his outspoken criticism of the leadership as to secure a seat for a Corbynite. Names mentioned in relation to Barnsley East include Katy Clark again and Karie Murphy.

Murphy is Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff having formerly been Tom Watson’s office manager and the candidate at the heart of the catastrophic Falkirk row in the last parliament. Following Falkirk, she was reportedly blocked from the Halifax selection just before the 2015 election, by Harriet Harman.

The machinations will continue for the rest of the week, consuming the focus of the senior party leadership and burning another week of the general election campaign.

 

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Corbynites accused of trying to parachute loyalists into seats

24/04/2017, 03:52:02 PM

Speculation swirls that allies of Jeremy Corbyn are set to be parachuted into seats where the Labour MP is stepping down, bolstering support for the Corbynites in the event of a post-election leadership challenge.

Candidates for Labour’s vacant seats were asked to submit CVs by lunchtime yesterday and given the election campaign is already underway, the National Executive Committee can impose candidates.

Sitting Labour MPs are automatically reselected, presenting the temptation to parachute leadership-friendly candidates into seats Labour has a good chance of holding.

The Greater Manchester seat of Leigh, where Andy Burnham is stepping down to concentrate of the forthcoming metro mayoral battle, is a plum berth for someone, inheriting a 14,096 majority.

However Burnham has fired a warning shot to the leadership with an open letter, backing his constituency secretary, Joanne Platt, as his successor. The letter reads:

‘I am in no doubt that Leigh needs a Labour candidate with strong local credentials and that the best person to succeed me is Councillor Joanne Platt.

‘Jo is well-known and well-liked across the Leigh area. She is an excellent campaigner and has been the driving force behind the reinvigoration of Leigh Labour Party in recent years.’

Burnham warns:

‘Were the Party to opt for a candidate with no local ties, I have to make clear that this would not be supported by the vast majority of our members and would go down very badly with the Leigh public. This would run the risk of losing significant support at the Election and it is why it is my strong advice that this course should not be followed.’

There is a similar situation in Liverpool Walton, where Steve Rotheram is standing down to contest the Liverpool mayoral role. The seat – Labour’s safest with an impregnable 27,777 majority on 72 per cent of the vote – is certainly a prize.

Last week, Liverpool’s elected city mayor, Joe Anderson, announced that he was going for Walton, with rumours (now dampened down) that Jeremy Corbyn’s son, 25 year-old Seb, an aide to John McDonnell, was also set to stand.

As the NEC and regional boards begin the process of earmarking candidates for seats this week, they will need to tread softly in case they trigger a local backlash at any imposition of candidates.

Meanwhile, the left needs to be cautious having (rightly) complained about Blairite fixing in the past.  It would be a case of ‘two legs good, four legs bad’ if Corbynites now do the same thing.

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Metro mayors have one chance to get this right

22/12/2016, 01:00:59 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The fashion in political ideas often reflects a particular moment in time.

After a few lonely years at the Treasury, George Osborne realised he was missing a trick in trying to revive Britain’s wheezing economy on a single, Greater London engine.

The former Chancellor’s solution was the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

After rashly scrapping regional development agencies in 2010, he would revive the northern economy with an infusion of powers and money, topped off with elected mayors to give the enterprise some political leadership and direct accountability.

The series of devo deals that he negotiated with Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands are sensible and workmanlike and, given time, will make a major difference to the economic performance of the north and midlands.

But the problem remains in explaining exactly how metro mayors will fit in. What will they actually do?

Launching his campaign to become Labour’s standard-bearer in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham promised to end the ‘complacency’ of the Manchester music scene, which, he contended, was ‘trading on the big names of the past too much’. (Bursaries for bass players, perhaps?)

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Will metro mayors last the course?

11/08/2016, 11:48:43 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Westminster has woken up in the last 48 hours to the fact that there are shortly to be new centres of power in British politics.

Although Labour has merely unveiled its candidates for elections in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands, it is hard to see, catastrophe aside, how Andy Burnham, Sion Simon and Steve Rotheram won’t actually be running these great conurbations in nine months’ time.

That certainty aside, there still other uncertainties about the roles:

1) The metro mayors will create a cadre of ‘disruptive’ new players in British politics.

At least that was George Osborne’s hope. Will Theresa May see things that way? The jury’s out. She was certainly a fan of direct democracy when it came to police and crime commissioners, but the election of the first wave of metro mayors in the Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham ‘city-regions’ next May is almost certainly an all-Labour affair in the party’s heartlands. Not much for Tories to celebrate. Will the new PM thank the old Chancellor for lumbering her with a new gang of provincial opponents?

2) The devolution of power also means it spreads more widely.

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What if Burnham had won last year?

22/07/2016, 06:00:25 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a lot of ‘whatifery’ around the Labour party at the moment. What if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected with a bigger majority? What if there’s a snap general election? What if there’s a serious attempt to impose mandatory reselections on sitting Labour MP?

Here’s a more abstract thought for the start of the traditional silly season: what if Andy Burnham, rather than Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Labour leader last July?

Clearly Corbyn romped home with 65 per cent of the vote, so it wasn’t exactly a close-run thing, but Burnham was second (meaning this counter-factual is not outside the realms of plausibility).

Looking back, it now seems quite unbelievable that intelligent people ever thought Liz Kendall was in with a shout of winning. Her derisory 4.5 per cent of the vote – fewer than one in twenty eventually backed her – was a cataclysmic defeat.

It doesn’t reflect on her as a person or as a smart, effective politician. The neo-Blairite flag she marched to war under was utterly cursed from the start. It was a drubbing the likes of which the party’s right has never faced before.

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The A-Z of Corbsplaining

11/10/2015, 09:59:54 PM

There’s been a lot of change in the Labour party of late – new people joining, new faces at the top and new language being used.

To help readers, Uncut has produced this handy guide to Corbsplaining, keeping you up to date with the party’s exciting new vocabulary.

Print it out, take it to your local CLP meeting and dazzle Labour friends and colleagues with your Corbsplaining skills.

Next stop, the NEC!

A

Assist members making their voice heard – Use veteran hard left organisers to corral a herd of £3 hipsters to deselect troublesome MPs.

Austerity – Any cut to public spending, of any kind, at any point, by any level of government. Does not include cuts to military spending, which are completely different and fine.

B

Britain – Socialist utopia with a progressive majority that opposes all austerity*

*Apart from at general elections

Burnhamite – A malleable substance that can bend and merge to form any shape required of it before ultimately imploding.

C

Corbynite – A rare and abstruse substance that destroys the trust of voters.

Campaign Group – A group of MPs who do not campaign but do tweet a lot.

D

Democracy – A vital part of civilisation, to be protected and supported at all costs*.

*Not applicable to residents of Iran, Russia, Donbass, Gaza, Lebanon or Venezuela.

E (more…)

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