Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bryant’

Not quite “je ne regrette rien”, but let’s keep the contrition in perspective

27/09/2011, 12:00:31 PM

by Chris Bryant

I spoke at Lincoln Labour party a couple of weeks ago.  It’s the kind of seat that Labour needs to win back, though God knows what the boundary changes will mean. At the end of my talk, one of the councillors started his remarks with “well, you see, it all went to pot when Tony Blair became leader”.  You can probably imagine the rest.  At the end of the meeting, though, another councillor came up to me and said, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. If it weren’t for Tony I would never even have thought of joining the party”. And now she’s a stalwart.

So what does that mean for Labour midway through Ed Miliband’s first party conference in command?

First of all, winning over the Labour tribe will not be enough. We all know this, deep down. Even those who lob hand grenades at the leadership from time to time, demanding a more comfortably leftwing stance, respect a leader who tells us tough things we don’t necessarily want to hear.

Undoubtedly it will mean a harsh mental discipline, because we simply cannot indulge in the politics of the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland who invented six impossible things before breakfast. We need policies that stand the test of serious scrutiny rather than gimmicks – and everything we do needs to go with the grain of modern life. Aspiration, ambition, getting on in life; these have to be as important in our lexicon as equality, support for the vulnerable and social justice. And vice versa.

There’s also no point in trying to win the 2010 general election all over again – or, for that matter the 1992 and 1983 ones. It’s so tempting, but obsessing about lost campaigns is as fatal for political parties as for generals.

This was brought home to me the other day when a team from Télévision de Radio-Canada came to interview me in the Rhondda. Their final question, in French, was “is there anything you regret”?  I had just started to launch into “non, je ne regrette rien”, when I realised they weren’t really looking for a painful impersonation of Edith Piaf. Nor, I suspect, is Britain.

Of course there’s a balancing act here. Ignoring our mistakes whilst boasting of our achievements looks arrogant. But banging on about our failings can simply make us look mawkish and self-centred.

So, yes, I am sure we can all list our “favourite” mistake in government, but I also hope that Labour can twinkle with a quiet pride that our government did many good things. (Again, please supply your own list.)

I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead. This government has appointed 123 unelected peers (and more are to come); it is cutting the Commons by 50 MPs; and it’s rigging the electoral registration system. All of which will make it even harder for Labour to win votes in parliament or secure a general election victory. But the most important task for us is to convince the voters that we have real, credible and affordable solutions to the problems they face. That means eyes forward, foresight not hindsight.

Chris Bryant is Labour MP for Rhondda and a shadow justice minister.

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What did you expect?

30/12/2010, 03:30:58 PM

by Chris Bryant

Not inconvenient blizzards bleak

Or frosts to hoar your cheek.

Not passengers without a flight

Or trains congealed all night.

Not journeys inched down icy hills

Or record nightly chills.

Not politicians rosy-cheeked

With eagerness to please.

Not agonising Liberals

Contorted by real power,

Their Tory friends exasperate

By lenient Kenneth Clarke.

The cynic always love to know

That he was right to doubt.

So he has cause to sneer and pout

And say ‘I told you so’.

Too swiftly, we expect the worst

And barely see the joy at first.

The same is true of Parliament.

Yes, we are tribal, venal, vain,

But decent people, in the main.

These truths need our acknowledgement:

We only briefly strut and fret;

Opponents have their honour yet.

And yet the indices of happiness

For us are as for all:

A present prized,

A partner’s hand,

A friend surprised,

A journey planned,

A niece all smiles,

A thank you note,

A fond recall,

A verse that’s a success.

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26/10/2010, 04:30:28 PM

by Chris Bryant

One arm stretched out behind my head, dipped back,
I push the other through the water’s swirl
And past my thigh before the next attack,
Propelling me, with languorous aqueous grace
I could not possibly repeat at pace.
The rhythm of the stroke, as lengths unfurl,
Calms down my daily work obsessions,
Inspires free-style inquisitive reflections,
About what happens when we all cut back.
Above me, on the polycarb’nate roof
A single leaf is twisting in the gale.
Each time I pass beneath, it spins above
And chases some imaginary tail.
When I return next week, will it be there?
And will the baths be open in a year?

Chris Bryant is Labour MP for Rhondda and a shadow justice minister.

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Assistant met police commissioner John Yates tells Tom Watson MP to get lost

25/10/2010, 03:57:28 PM

Letter to Tom Watson_22 10 10

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To Autumn, a poem by Chris Bryant

07/10/2010, 04:08:28 PM

To Autumn

(for National Poetry Day, with dutiful accord to Keats and Shakespeare inter alia)


Season of trysts and pomp-full conferences
When politicians, in three hordes uncouth
Assemble in up-market hotel foyers
To gossip, flirt, conspire and take the hand
Of every willing voter in the land;
To argue for their version of the truth,
To battle for the future of our schools
Our hospitals, police and uncared youth;
Just sometimes to put forward their pet scheme
For rescuing Britain; and perchance to dream
Of greasy poles they yet aspire to climb.


But now the champagne flutes are passed their time –
And late-night, lightweight, internecine strife.
The autumn parliamentary term commences
With all eyes fixed on Osborne’s pending knife.
Statistics, figures, numbers stride the land,
Brought forth by each to stay the other’s hand.
Some worship at the shrine of deficit reduction,
They see a chance to slash the state, scot-free,
They eulogise the Big Society
But in their hearts they make a grand deduction:
Let Alexander, Clegg and Cable take the rap.


It’s true, perhaps the sea of faith was full once;
The faith that all our dreams could be enacted by
The simple, legal application of the democratic will;
That honest, good and independent people
Could change the world by sheer determination;
That work for all would pay a living wage,
That poverty, ill-health and destitution
Would be abolished – here and in every nation.
But now the voters issue a redacted sigh
Their trust in politics of every hue in rage
They fear that they will pay a hefty bill.


Which leaves us with the task we set ourselves:
To live within our means but go for growth;
To struggle for the cause of common sense,
Since rapid, ill-considered, swingeing cuts will lead us hence
To double-dip recession, not to economic health.
The songs of Spring still stir our anxious bones,
With echoes of the age-old oath
(Albeit in a voice and accent of today)
To fight for freedom, fairness, and the common wealth.
The people watch, the media barons neigh
And gathering members twitter on their phones.

Chris Bryant is Labour MP for Rhondda

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Chris Bryant reports from the Khodorkovsky trial

24/09/2010, 09:58:59 AM

Russia can often seem surreal. Layer upon layer of history. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Yeltsin – and now Putin/Medvedev.

For all the oligarchic bling in all the shops, the red stars on the top of the Kremlin towers suggest Communism is still alive and the very walls of the fortress themselves seem to invite kremlinology. Who really pulls the strings? Is it the President, Medvedev, who is organising the probably accurate smearing of the Moscow mayor, which has dominated the state-run media for the last two weeks? Or is it Putin? And why are they doing it now, when mayor Luzkhov’s term runs out soon and he is barred from standing again? All too often, the labyrinthine political chicanery and the extraordinarily tight circle of the very well-heeled elite reminds one of communism, but without the ideology.

At the heart of the parabola of surrealism lies the legal system. Torture is endemic according to Amnesty International. Many prisons would be better termed ‘penal colonies’ or indeed ‘gulags’. Thousands are infected with HIV and have little or no medical care. And the criminal justice system is regularly used to settle political scores.

I went to see one such case this Monday.  The courtroom, on the third floor of a tired Moscow building, was tiny, panelled with cheap varnished plywood, its parquet flooring scuffed by decades of rearrangements of the furniture. At the front, a dais with the double-headed Romanov eagle and the flag of the Russian Federation limply hanging from a thumb tack and a piece of sellotape. To the left a sort of tank, made of reinforced glass and chunky steel, in which stood the two defendants, Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.


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Shadow cabinet: vote for Chris

19/09/2010, 06:00:49 AM

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Shadow cabinet “vote for me” letters

15/09/2010, 09:29:16 PM

The shadow cabinet race is well under way, and a welcome distraction from the leadership contest. The decisions have been made and confirmed. The nominations must be in by Wednesday 29 September and the canvassing has begun.

So far we have seen “vote for me” letters from:

Roberta Blackman-Woods

Kevin Brennan

Chris Bryant

Barry Gardiner

Helen Goodman

Tom Harris

Meg Hillier

Huw Irranca-Davies

Sadiq Khan

Ivan Lewis

We will keep posting over the coming days until we, like Bob,  get tired of them:

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The hacking-gate heroes: four men in search of a scandal

10/09/2010, 05:21:10 PM

The BBC refused to cover the News of the World hacking story till Tom Watson, Chris Byrant and the Guardian gave them no option.

Since then, their coverage has at best been haphazard. Having initially turned their back on it, they’ve subsequently failed to catch up.

None of the newspapers except the Guardian and, to a much lesser extent, the Independent, initially covered the new developments in the story. It’s a scandal so big that the New York Times has published thousands of words on it. But the British papers – including the ‘serious’ ones – nakedly refused, because it’s too close to home. Which the BBC – apparently not seeing this abrogation by the papers as a rupture in the fabric of democracy – didn’t report. (more…)

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Friday News Review

10/09/2010, 08:31:58 AM

More questions, few answers

The parliamentary sleaze watchdog is to investigate claims of phone hacking surrounding David Cameron’s chief spin doctor. MPs agreed yesterday that the powerful Commons Standards and Privileges Committee should hold an inquiry into the allegations. It comes amid growing pressure on Andy Coulson, No 10’s head of communications, over accusations he knew of illegal phone-tapping while he was editor of the News of the World editor. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who claims his phone was targeted, told MPs he was concerned that recent allegations were just the “tip of the iceberg”. – The Herald

Labour former minister Tom Watson told the Commons: “Something very dark lurks in the evidence files of the Mulcaire case, and dark and mysterious forces are keeping it that way.” He claimed too many powerful politicians were “afraid” of the power of newspapers. He said: “Here we sit in Parliament, the central institution of our sacred democracy, between us some of the most powerful people of the land, and we are scared. We are afraid, and if we oppose this resolution it is our shame. That is the tawdry secret that dare not speak its name. – The Express

David Cameron’s spin doctor suffered another blow yesterday when MPs ordered the Westminster sleaze watchdog to probe phone-hacking claims. Ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson has insisted he didn’t know the eavesdropping technique was used at the paper. But former employees claim Mr Coulson – now No10 director of communications – must have been aware of the practice. – The Mirror

THE POSITION of British prime minister David Cameron’s top media adviser is under increasing pressure following a decision yesterday by the government not to block an investigation into allegations of widespread telephone tapping by British newspapers. The adviser, Andy Coulson, who resigned in 2007 as editor of theNews of the World after one of his reporters was jailed for telephone tapping, has faced fresh allegations in the last week that he approved of the widespread use of such tactics during his time in charge of the powerful tabloid. The Standards and Privileges Committee at the House of Commons is to meet early next week to decide whether it will launch a full public inquiry into the affair, but there is little doubt that it will do so given the strength of feeling expressed by MPs from all parties present at a debate on the matter yesterday, who voted unanimously for an investigation to take place. – The Irish Times


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