Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

As Labour attacks Sajid Javid’s appointment, new figures reveal how the party is failing on ethnic minority representation

10/04/2014, 02:37:01 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s not been a good twenty-four hours for Labour on diversity.

First, there was the ludicrous attack on the appointment of Sajid Javid to the equalities brief because he was a man, totally ignoring the fact he is the first British Asian to become a secretary of state as well as being someone who comes from a genuinely working class background.

Then there was the attack on him for having the temerity to be successful , so acutely dissected by Dan Hodges over at the Telegraph.

Now Uncut can reveal that Labour is failing on ethnic minority representation.

An analysis of selections in Labour’s 106 parliamentary target seats, and the 12 seats where current Labour MPs are standing down reveals that the party has managed to select just 13 candidates from minority backgrounds out of a total of 118 contests.

This means just 11% of Labour’s candidates in winnable seats will be from black and minority ethnic communities, compared to an ethnic minority population in the UK of 18% at the time of the 2011 census.

By the time of the next election, as the UK’s minority population approaches 20%, Labour’s best case scenario in the new intake will be non-white representation of just over 10%.

This is in stark contrast to the party’s performance in selecting women where shortlists have helped guarantee that 50% of all winnable seats will have female candidates.

Labour’s immediate response yesterday to Sajid Javid’s appointment was to complain that he wasn’t a woman. This mindset, where women seem to be considered more equal than ethnic minorities, clearly extends through the party into local selections.

Its a sad testament to the poverty of minority representation in the parliamentary Labour party that such a poor performance in selecting new candidates is still better than the current position where just 6% of the PLP is from a minority.

How the party addresses this abject failing is difficult: quotas are rife with problems, not least their political manipulation by those in control of which seats are designated as an exclusive short list.

However, what is undeniable is that Labour has a major problem.

Perhaps a little more attention to the party’s own record on minority representation and less flailing about to attack Sajid Javid is in order.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Miller’s gone but expenses are still toxic. What’s Labour’s plan?

09/04/2014, 11:18:59 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So Maria Miller has resigned and Sajid Javid has replaced her, meh. Contrary to some of the over-heated reports, Miller’s particular passing will have little lasting impact.

True, there’s one less woman in the cabinet, but Javid is from a minority community, an area where the Tories and Liberals are even less representative of Britain – let’s not forget that while there were previously 4 women in the full cabinet of 22 Ministers, there was no-one from a minority community.

The circus will soon  move on and there will be another crisis over which politicians and media can hyper-ventilate.

However, while Maria Miller’s political demise is ultimately unremarkable, there is a legacy from the affair; one that will persist regardless of whether she had stayed, resigned, or did the hokey-cokey daily on College Green.

The expenses issue is back as a fixture in British politics.

It won’t be as toxic as in 2009 (how could it be?), but as Andrew Lansley suggested on Newsnight last night, there are likely to be other Miller-type transgressions which come to light, that predate the new expenses regime.

And just as with Miller, each time the parliamentary standards committee (which is dominated by MPs) waters down or even changes the punctuation in a ruling by the parliamentary standards commissioner, the same battle-lines pitching media against politicians will be drawn.

The press will be in full cry and the most resonant soundbite to emerge in the past week will be repeatedly trotted out: “politicians should not be allowed to mark their own homework.”

The outrage of the fourth estate is understandable: a variant on this line was central to defining the public’s perception of the Leveson debate. In that case, it was the media who were not to be allowed to mark their own homework. 

Then, as now on expenses, the line also happens to be true.

Self-regulation doesn’t work. The experience across financial services, politics, media and schools everywhere is quite clear: teacher needs to mark the homework.

So politicians from all parties face a quandry.

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Devolving £20bn is a big deal. Is Labour sure local councils can handle it? Really?

08/04/2014, 01:08:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Implicit in Ed Miliband’s big devolution speech today was a very, very large assumption.

When he promised that a Labour government would devolve £20bn of funding to partnerships of local authorities in the English regions, the Labour leader was assuming that local authorities are the best vehicles to distribute and administer the new funds.

This is far from proven.

It’s notable that the speech was made in Birmingham and marks the interim stage in Lord Adonis’ growth review. 

The track record of Birmingham council in typifies the sorts of problems that can occur when regional revival is left to traditional local authorities. Here’s none other than Lord Adonis on the subject, from earlier in this parliament,

“Let me give you my frank opinion, as one who has dealt with Birmingham City Council a good deal in recent years. The city needs to raise its game significantly in terms of leadership, performance and strategy…the city council has had…Weak strategic leadership alongside average (at best) improvement in the public services under its direct control.

Take education, which I know only too well from constant interaction with the city council…promoting reform to secondary education in the city has been like pulling teeth.”

Lord Adonis made these comments in a speech to the Lunar Society in March 2011, as Birmingham was preparing for a referendum on whether to move to a Mayoral system of local government.

Although the referendum was lost, the points made by Lord Adonis in favour of reforming the current system of local government still stand; all the more so if Labour is considering devolving such substantial amounts of funding to groups of local authorities.

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Labour history uncut: The Communists come knocking

06/04/2014, 05:35:57 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

In November 1935, a letter flopped onto the Labour party doormat.  It was from Harry Pollitt, boss of the Communist Party of Great Britain, wondering if the time was right for a left-wing super team-up.

In the application to affiliate his party to Labour, Pollitt stated the Communists were prepared to work, “honestly and sincerely,” as part of Labour, “not as a manoeuvre or for any concealed aims.”

NPG Ax136094; Harry Pollitt by Howard Coster

Harry Pollitt – Communist leader and G-man

He was half right – he certainly wasn’t concealing his aims. The following week Pollitt made a speech saying that the Communists wanted to join the Labour party to “transform it into a real broad federal organisation in spite of the intentions of the most reactionary Labour leaders.”

“The most reactionary Labour leaders,” turned out to be basically all of them. The NEC responded to Pollitt curtly with a missive that included the twin sentiments of “off” and “sod”, not necessarily in that order.  

Pollitt wasn’t so easily discouraged though and set a target of forcing a vote on affiliation at Labour’s conference in October 1936.

He had some grounds for optimism. While Labour’s leaders were implacably opposed to mucking in with commies, the grassroots were not so sure.

Fascism was on the march on the continent and Labour’s response was hardly a model of vigour.

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Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages. And more people watch the news

03/04/2014, 10:08:03 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A thumping victory for Farage. That was the consensus following last night’s big debate. The pundits said it, the polls said it; there was little doubt.

But for people like me, who didn’t see the debate, and whose only sight of the combatants was on the evening news, the result was very different.

In the contest of the clips, Clegg was the winner.

This doesn’t mean that the verdict of those who saw the live debate was wrong. Just that, as so often is the case, the highlights reel told a different story.

The BBC News at Ten package, which would have had the most viewers, focused on four passages in the debate: the clash over Putin, immigration, past Lib Dem promises of a referendum and the closing statements.

Nick Robinson’s report can be seen here.

While Farage had the upper hand in the latter two exchanges, the first two were the most resonant.

On Putin, the key moment was when David Dimbleby intervened to contradict Nigel Farage’s assertion that he had never said he “admired Putin.”

Although most viewers are likely to have minimal interest in Nigel Farage’s position on Vladimir Putin, it’s always extremely powerful when the neutral debate moderator intervenes against one of the participants.

Quite apart from the topic under discussion, it sends a clear message to the viewing public that this politician isn’t being straight with the audience.

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With Douglas Alexander in the firing line, cui bono?

01/04/2014, 12:37:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

As Labour’s internal wrangles have spilled into the papers over the past week, there has been a single thread running through each story. Sam Coates at the Times summarised it well on Sunday when he tweeted,

One common theme in all Labour row stories this weekend (and my piece last week): all involve people having problem with Douglas Alexander

— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) March 30, 2014


Last week Douglas Alexander was vetoing John Cruddas’ expansive policy review proposals. Then on Saturday he was firing Arnie Graf, swiftly followed on Sunday with Alexander falling out with almost everyone involved in Labour’s campaign.

This last story in the Mail on Sunday was particularly jaw-dropping, even by Labour’s standards of red on red briefing. The incredible level of detail, the direct quotes and conspicuous subsequent silence from the principals on several of its specifics, speaks volumes about the splits at the top of the party.

The narrative seems set: Douglas Alexander is the problem.

But is this all rather too easy? Allies of Douglas Alexander and even neutrals are suggesting a rather different view of what is happening within Labour.

The missing element in all of these stories is some important context about the battles behind the scenes as Labour attempts to define its policy platform.

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Labour’s right is rumbling. Not before time.

27/03/2014, 10:23:02 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Since 2010, one of the most successful operations mounted by Ed Miliband’s team has been to convince journalists that the party is at peace. That Labour has avoided the type of bitter in-fighting that characterised past ejections from government and is united around the leader.

This point is so core to the Miliband narrative that he repeats it in his stump speech to Labour audiences.

However, while it is true the 1980s haven’t been re-run, the absence of conflict is not the same as the presence of unity.

The reason Labour’s divisions have not been visible has been  a temporarily effective but ultimately unsustainable party management strategy; one that has combined Ed Miliband avoiding taking definite positions on the most contentious political questions with a concerted marginalisation of Labour’s right-wing.

When Gordon Brown was defeated in 2010, his electoral demise bequeathed two questions to Labour.

In a world of limited spending, what would Labour prioritise and what would it cut?

And how could more, be achieved from less, in the areas where money was to be spent?

From day one, Ed Miliband has run from these questions, in part for good reason.

Hamstrung by a lack of support in the parliamentary party and reliant on the unions’ succour to bolster his position, he has had to tack left to retain his union support while not straying so far from the more centrist concerns of the electorate that Labour’s poll rating collapses.

For Ed Miliband, to answer has been to lose – either the electorate or his political life support system on the left.

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3 early warning signs that Labour’s poll-lead drama is about to become a full blown crisis

24/03/2014, 10:36:14 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been a bracing week for Labour. A widely panned budget response from Ed Miliband, followed by weekend polls placing the poll lead at just one point, have brought Labour’s private jitters out into the open.

First, last week an MP briefed Uncut on the disconsolate mood in the PLP following Ed Miliband’s budget response, then, yesterday John Mann broke cover, publicly airing some of the concerns discussed daily in the PLP.

And now, even the world of Labour think tanks has got involved, with a coalition ranging from the Unite backed Class to the Blairite Policy Network calling on Ed Miliband to be “bold,” and “radical,” (though the bold and radical vision that could unify such an ideologically disparate group of signatories is singularly unclear.)

Polls go up and down, but the overall direction of travel is unmistakeable. As the Tories draw level, or even nose in front, in the coming months, Labour’s cracks are going to become ever more evident.

Here are 3 early warning signs to watch for from the PLP and Labour leadership that the party’s poll lead drama is turning into a full scale crisis.

1. Off-topic interventions from the shadow cabinet

When a party is riding high in the polls, the leader’s authority is absolute and members of the shadow cabinet stick obediently to their briefs. When the situation is less favourable, the temptation to answer interviewers’ questions on how the position can be improved, becomes much stronger.

In summer 2013, as the last crisis of confidence in Ed Miliband gathered momentum, Andy Burnham gave an extraordinary Guardian interview. In it, he talked of how Labour had “lost the art of thinking bigger,” and ranged widely, tackling political strategy, economic policy, as well as the importance of the two Eds’ green lighting his plans for integrating health and social care (which they pointedly haven’t.)

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Please, let’s remember Tony Benn and Bob Crow for who they were, not bland Diana-fied national treasures

14/03/2014, 10:32:06 AM

by Atul Hatwal

To hear tributes to Tony Benn this morning and Bob Crow earlier in the week, is to enter an alternate reality, one of saccharine reflection and anodyne dolour.

In the myriad of CGI memories that are being publicly broadcast, the defining characteristic that made Tony Benn and Bob Crow national figures is all too often omitted: threat.

There are lots of committed socialists who lead their lives, unflinching in their beliefs and whose passing is not remembered.

What made Tony Benn and Bob Crow different was that they attained positions where their proximity to power meant they threatened the status quo in their respective worlds.

Threat isn’t a bad thing. It’s the essential precursor of change and both reveled in their ability to threaten the established order. But it brings with it costs: confrontation, fear and anger.

To overlook the visceral conflict which both generated is to suck the vigour and colour out of their professional lives. Without at least acknowledging this threat, the commemorations lapse into the North Korean.

We remember Tony Benn and Bob Crow because they were men of consequence. For many that consequence was far from benign. In the case of Tony Benn in the early 1980s, it threatened the future existence of the Labour party.

Both men were comfortable with confronting opposition and crushing it under foot. They were there to fight and be fought.

To recall the passion, bitterness and division does not sully their memory. Quite the reverse. It is why they are remembered, because they mattered and people cared enough about what they were doing to get involved, either for or against them.

The Dianafication of the deaths of Tony Benn and Bob Crow is perhaps the least fitting tribute possible to the lives they led. They were not bland national treasures but powerful and threatening political figures.

Along-side the warmer words about their personal virtues, it’s worth remembering this. For people in the business of attaining and wielding power, such as Tony Benn and Bob Crow, to adapt a common refrain following Diana’s death, it’s what they would have wanted.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Labour prepares to re-write Collins party reform package

13/03/2014, 01:08:46 PM

by Atul Hatwal

A fortnight on from Labour’s special conference and major change is on the agenda for Ed Miliband’s flagship party reforms.

The Labour leadership was able to secure strong backing for the Collins review from the unions largely because it delegated resolution of much of the contentious detail to a separate “implementation group”, to be set up following the special conference.

This group, comprising union and party representatives, has now been formed and outstanding questions need answers.

Immediately, problems are emerging in two areas: how the unions’ new political funds will be administered, and the role of union members in elections held before the end of the five year Collins’ process.

First, on the arrangements for the new structure of the political funds, the unions are split.

Broadly, the majority of the unions envisage a version of the Unison model.

This is where there are, in effect, two political funds: a general political fund, which is not used to fund Labour, and an affiliated or “Labour link” fund, which is used to support the party.

Where a trade unionist decides that they do not want their political fund contributions to support Labour, they all go into the general fund.

Where they want to financially support Labour, their contributions are split between the two funds.

The defining rule about the general fund is that its resources cannot be donated by the union to the Labour party.

Sounds simple.

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