Posts Tagged ‘Chuka Umunna’

Uncut predictions for 2017: More moderates will rejoin the frontbench

02/01/2017, 12:03:55 PM

They may not agree about the destination, but more Labour moderates will return to frontbench duties in 2017.

They will come to two inescapable conclusions.

The first is that its essential Labour improves its woeful performance in holding the government to account. The party – actually, the country – deserves a functioning Opposition. The current offering is decidedly Sunday League.

The second conclusion is more personal.

Moderate figures will eventually realise that only someone who has shown they can work with the grain of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will succeed him, probably after the party loses the 2020 general election, or perhaps earlier Corbyn if calls it a day before then.

They will look at Keir Starmer and see him edging ahead of the pack, using his role shadowing David Davis to good but not spectacular effect (imagine what Robin Cook would do with the job…)

How much longer can figures like Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt afford sit on the sidelines and allow their leadership chances to wither?

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Who’d want to be “the next Labour leader”?

25/01/2016, 12:26:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“You have to be ready for anything,” Dan Jarvis told the BBC when they recently asked about his Labour leadership ambitions. “Owen Smith: I am interested in being Labour leader,” reads a New Statesman headline from earlier this month. This appeared not long after Jess Phillips had been the subject of similar in the Spectator. Stephen Kinnock and Michael Dugher have also been touted as future leaders.

That foraging in the undergrowth is the cut and thrust of competition to be trademarked “the next leader of the Labour party”. Andy Burnham was sufficiently deemed so to enter the 2010 leadership election as favourite, while Chuka Umunna once had the strongest claim on this title among the 2010 intake. Those comprehensively beaten by Jeremy Corbyn (Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, as well as Burnham) may struggle to again accumulate the political capital necessary to mount viable leadership campaigns, while Umunna has slipped behind the likes of Jarvis et al in “the next leader” stakes.

The experiences of Burnham and Umunna ought to be salutatory to those now seeking to be “the next leader”. “The next leader” is rarely the next leader. Gordon Brown in 1994, for example, was “the next leader”; Tony Blair was then the next leader. Given that Labour is unlikely to recover in 2020 the 59 parliamentary seats lost in Scotland in 2015, and the boundary review will probably cost Labour a further 20 seats, a new leader before 2020 seems a much worse bet than Blair in 1994 to be the next Labour prime minister.

All the more reason to not want to now be “the next Labour leader,” right?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Uncuts: 2015 political awards (part II)

31/12/2015, 02:47:41 PM

Unsuccessful comeback of the year: Lutfur Rahman

One of the most disturbing political news stories of the year had to be the takeover of Tower Hamlets council by central government after the spectacular conviction by an electoral court of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, for electoral fraud. The local authority, under his directly-elected mayoralty, had been converted into a rotten borough worthy of a whole issue of Private Eye.

Unceremoniously stripped of office, the court found him guilty of attempted nobbling of votes, unfairly favouring Bangladeshi community organisations above others for grants, propagating untruths about his opponent John Biggs, and a number of other counts.

And so it was that the chutzpah-laden former Mayor had his friends organise a rally, supported by those doughty supporters of the underdog, the Unite union leadership, to try and build support for a comeback for Rahman: an appeal. The utterly damning judgement, of course, was clearly all a horrid plot by racists and Islamophobes.

Indeed at the rally, Unite’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray – Stop the War stalwart and now part of Jeremy Corbyn’s kitchen cabinet, of course – even claimed the support of his boss, the redoubtable Len McCluskey, for the disgraced mayor.

Sadly for Rahman, a couple of days later, the same McCluskey was forced to write to the Guardian, “clarifying” his position, i.e. roughly translated, that even a far-left firebrand could see that Rahman was political poison and would likely not do his cause, of attempting to appear moderate in the run-up to the general election, any good. And so hastily back-pedalled on Murray’s commitment to his support.

And thus, with the withdrawal of powerful union support, did the fraudulent former mayor’s comeback fall flat on its face. It has all gone remarkably quiet since.

Shame.

Civic pioneer of the year – Jim McMahon MP

Last year we gave this award to Sir Richard Leese, who continues to put the powerhouse into the north with his work as leader of Manchester City Council. This year we give it to someone who has recently left local government and leadership of one of the local authorities in the same combined authority as Manchester, Jim McMahon.

Nothing defines McMahon’s local government tenure like his departure. His impressive and pragmatic transformation of Oldham smashed to smithereens UKIP’s hopes of securing a second MP via the recent by-election in this northern town. McMahon proved that a working class hero is still something to be and Uncut looks forward to him bringing his can-do spirit and resolve to Westminster.

Overseas Inspiration: Justin Trudeau (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Modernising Chuka is so hard to please

15/12/2015, 05:28:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Is there anything about British politics that Chuka Umunna likes?

Hardly a month goes by without a pronouncement from him about how some institution or part of our political fabric is not hopelessly outdated and in need of massive reform – or scrapping entirely.

He was at it again yesterday, arguing that our first-past-the-post electoral system leaves voters “remote and unrepresented” and should be replaced with the Additional Member system used in the Scottish Parliament.

It follows his call in the summer for a federal UK, predicting, with a hyperbolic flourish that we are witnessing “the end of British electoral politics as we know it.”

Modernisation is Chuka’s favourite riff. In case we hadn’t noticed.

Prime Minister’s Questions is a “circus” while the Palace of Westminster is Ground Zero for everything that’s wrong with our political culture: “It’s a beautiful building and it often feels like you are in a museum. So why don’t we turn it into a museum?” he suggested back in July.

Pimp my parliament, so to speak.

But it’s not just the décor that so offends: “How can we continue with a chamber that nurtures the ridiculous tribalism that switches so many people off?” His solution? Introduce a passion-sapping horseshoe design instead.

Political partisanship is a regular target of Chuka’s exasperation. “I am not the most tribal politician” he once told GQ magazine (the kind of publication he seems to like appearing in).  “Party affiliation among the public is not what it was, so just putting on an old party label or old-style tribalism will not win you elections.” (Apart from the small fact that it so clearly does. Ask Mr. Cameron – he’s just won one!)

Political debate, meanwhile, is usually “ridiculously adversarial” and parties “urgently need to move with the times.” Yet tribalism is what binds politicians to their parties. It’s just another term for loyalty and shared assumptions. While seeking to stand apart from the party he (briefly) wanted to lead in the summer, is a strange signal to keep sending out.

It explains, though, his proposal back in 2012 to fast-track business executives into parliament. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging more people from business to play a part in politics, but to elevate their interests over those who have earned their spurs with years of campaigning for the party shows how little feel he has for the  grassroots or Labour’s traditions.

And reveals how unlike Tony Blair he is, despite the superficial comparisons. For all his modernising zeal, Blair took care to regularly touch base with the party he led. (His emotional final conference speech as leader being a case in point).

Chuka is certainly fluent and thrusting, but he is also impatient and rootless. If he ever hopes to stand for leader again, he needs to show he understands ordinary people, (beyond the rarefied circles where his tetchy hyper-modernism is lauded). Perhaps he would now be better off finding a few things about politics and the Labour tribe that he does like?

But if his quest to modernise all he surveys must continue, perhaps he could start a bit closer to home.

The ‘latest news’ section of his website hasn’t been updated since March.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

How should Labour MPs respond to a Corbyn victory? Stick to the manifesto

04/09/2015, 05:11:45 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Given nine out of ten Labour MPs did not back Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy – and some of those who did only did so to “broaden the debate” – it is hardly surprising that most of them will greet the prospect of his victory with something shorty of alacrity.

So how do they respond if, indeed, he is triumphant next week? Broadly, there is a split between MPs who want to face him down early and those who seek to make the best of things, at least in the short term. A division, if you like, between all-out attack from Day One and retreating to fight another day, like the defeated Jedi in Star Wars.

Tony Blair’s former political secretary, the combative John McTernan is firmly in the former camp. He is urging the PLP to stand their ground against any drift leftwards. In contrast, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt have formed the ginger group ‘Labour for the Common Good’ to pursue the ‘Dagobah option’.

Which to choose? Behind these competing conflict management strategies lies an altogether easier option for Labour MPs: they should simply stand by the manifesto they were elected on just four months ago.

For those worried about the party’s double-digit deficit on economic credibility – and the prospect of that getting wider with Jeremy Corbyn’s uncosted commitments – the manifesto pledges Labour MPs to a ‘Budget Responsibility Lock’ that guarantees that every Labour policy is paid for without the need for extra borrowing.

The manifesto promises to: ‘[L]egislate to require all major parties to have their manifesto commitments independently audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility.’ Indeed, it goes further: ‘A Labour government will cut the deficit every year. The first line of Labour’s first Budget will be: “This Budget cuts the deficit every year”’.

Again, in response to Corbyn’s equivocations on the EU and Nato, the manifesto couldn’t be clearer: ‘We will protect our national interests, and strengthen our long-standing international alliances, in particular, our membership of NATO and the European Union.’

And given Corbyn’s desire to cut Britain’s military capability, the manifesto is emphatic: ‘We will maintain the best Armed Forces in the world, capable of responding to changing threats in an unpredictable security landscape.’

If any significant changes to these and other measures contained in the manifesto are proposed in coming months, Labour MPs should feel compelled to defend the pledges they were elected on.

Indeed, the Corbyn campaign’s strapline – ‘Straight talking, honest politics’ – should start by honouring the commitments of May’s Labour manifesto.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

It’s not all Ed’s fault

13/08/2015, 04:09:17 PM

by Kevin Meagher

If things had gone differently, Ed Miliband would now be enjoying a well-earned holiday somewhere hot, eagerly pursued by a retinue of security officers and sweaty officials, planning his first Labour conference speech as Prime Minister.

Perhaps, in a parallel universe, that’s precisely where he is, sat at a poolside table in his best long shorts and polo shirt, making awkward small talk with Justine as his sips a non-alcoholic cocktail and laughs nervously for the obligatory photo opportunity.

But it was not to be in this universe.

Instead, Miliband is an election loser. A fallen prophet. The man who broke the Labour party. Marked, forever, as a failure. Johnny No-Mates.

Par for the course, perhaps, when you fail to win what seemed an eminently winnable election, but just as Miliband’s reputation must sink with the ship, so, too, must others who are just as much to blame for Labour’s defeat. The cast of villains does not begin and end with Edward Samuel Miliband.

He was led astray by the polls, we know that much for certain, but that’s only part of the story. The groupthink of his supporters, the hubris, that, despite Miliband’s uninspiring performance and the voters more granular worries about the party’s trustworthiness and competence, especially on the economy, victory seemed, if not inevitable, then highly likely.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Can everyone please put their spades down?

07/07/2015, 06:06:26 PM

Denis Healy’s droll advice to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole seems lost on the current Labour frontbench. Just when it appeared that the party had officially reached Peak Disaster in May’s general election, it seems there is always more that can be done to frighten away potential voters.

Let’s take just four interventions from last week.

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, acting leader Harriet Harman casually committed the Labour benches to supporting a third runway for Heathrow, the central recommendation of Sir Howard Davies’ long-anticipated Airports Commission.

This is slightly surprising because there is no such commitment in the recent Labour manifesto. Indeed, there has been no discussion in the party about the change in policy. If there had been, it might have been pointed out that without ameliorative measures, a third runway will lock-in, rather than reduce, regional economic imbalances between Greater London and the North and Midlands. But, hey, it was a good line for PMQs.

Next up was Gloria de Piero, the party’s shadow equalities minister. She announced that companies employing more than 250 people (note: not the public sector) will be subject to a new regulation compelling them to undergo an “annual equal pay check” and publish information on the pay gap between their male and female employees in order, it seems, to be publicly shamed for any disparity.

Labour’s charmless offensive with business continues unabated. If there is evidence that employers pay women less for working at the same level as men, in the same organisation, on the same hours, then it’s a simple matter of enforcing the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which has outlawed such practices for the past 45 years.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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”.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Week 4 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

26/04/2015, 01:27:31 PM

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks at the events of week 4.

The good

Chuka Umunna’s interview in the Guardian

One of Labour’s most visible performers this campaign has been the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna. His polished media performances have ensured that he is on the Labour press office’s speed-dial when the toughest interview bids arrive.

Inevitably in an election campaign, interviews are about the issues of the day. It’s hard to see the person rather than the political position. Chuka’s interview in the Guardian probed a little deeper and offered a glimpse of what makes the man tick.

It revealed a personal biography which is a story of struggle, success, loss and revival. One which shines a light on who he is and the type of politician that he is maturing into.

Chuka’s father’s rise, from penniless migrant to running a thriving business, is clearly enormously influential.

Most immediately, it explains why Chuka is instinctively comfortable with business and able to put businessmen and women at ease with Labour, in a way that other Labour front-benchers cannot.

Yet there is more to Chuka than just being Labour’s business-whisperer.

The duality of being the child of an immigrant and a successful businessman creates a rare perspective. Most politicians lead their lives in a straight line – they are born into a class and remain in that class.

Chuka’s world was one simultaneously of disadvantage and privilege.

It’s why the rhetorical cadences from Ukip on race and identity are familiar to Chuka from his youth, as they are to anyone from a minority who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

What Ukip say today about Eastern European migrants was said about Asian and African migrants from the 1950s through to the 1990s.

The manner in which his father faced this and overcame it, informs the direct and robust way that Chuka addresses Ukip.

Chuka’s father’s achievements and Chuka’s upbringing have given him the self-confidence to challenge Ukip in a way that his party colleagues seem to lack.

The subsequent loss of his father when he was 13 was evidently and understandably a pivotal moment in Chuka’s life.

It also places him in a rather unique category of politicians.

The Phaeton complex describes the behaviour and development of children who experience the loss of (or separation from) one or both of their parents. It seems more than a coincidence that this group is so over-represented among political leaders –Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to name just a few.

Whether Chuka’s future will be as starry as some of the other political Phaetons is unclear yet, but in an election of dry photo-opportunities and endlessly rehearsed lines, the Guardian interview with Chuka offered something more than the standard, and increasingly stale, fayre.

Progress in righting some of the wrongs of the past (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon