Posts Tagged ‘Chuka Umunna’

Nigel Farage has destroyed himself and Ukip. He might yet take the whole Eurosceptic movement down too

13/03/2015, 07:00:55 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When the history of Ukip is written, yesterday, Thursday 12th of March, will go down as the day the bubble burst.

It wasn’t just the banal manner in which Nigel Farage admitted he was a racist in his interview with Trevor Phillips.

To believe in discrimination based on someone’s background, to admit to wanting to scrap anti-discrimination laws and legalise racism, would have been damaging enough.

But it was his blustering, obfuscating and dishonest reaction that made matters so much worse. Claiming he was being “wilfully misrepresented,” when the original interview was widely available and the evidence so stark, was utterly incredible.

Five points are salient for the election campaign and beyond: the impact on Ukip’s brand, the opportunity for the Tories, the reaction of the journalists, the danger for Eurosceptics and the broader lessons for politicians talking about immigration.

First, Farage has injected arsenic into Ukip’s already toxified brand.

It’s hard to imagine who will be convinced to switch their votes to Ukip as a result of his latest intervention. Maybe some of the BNP’s dwindling support will be reassured that Farage is a true racist and peel off to join the purple army.

But many who might have considered Ukip will take fright.

According to a ComRes poll a few weeks ago, 44% already thought that the party was racist. As yesterday’s events percolate into the public consciousness, the number who think Ukip racist will rise to cross 50%.

A leader embodies their party and a vote for them says something about the elector. Not many would like that to be “I am a racist.”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s campaign is a mess. So much wrong, so little right

27/02/2015, 09:39:29 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour has achieved something remarkable this year. In the space of eight weeks the party has managed to focus the national debate on some of its strongest issues – the NHS, equalities and tax avoidance – and yet still failed to land a blow. The average of this week’s YouGov polls is a very small Conservative lead.

The NHS should be a campaign winner, every time for Labour. But when Andy Burnham decided to use the rise in NHS spending outsourced to the private sector, as his key evidence to prove the Tories’ privatising intent, he turned political gold to base metal.

Given two-thirds of the rise in outsourcing happened under Labour, with the rate of increase actually slowing under the Tories, it doesn’t take David Axelrod to work out why Labour was on the back foot almost immediately.

Then there was Harriet Harman’s pink battlebus. There’s nothing wrong with the bus being pink and the issues raised by the women’s tour are important, but when Labour frontbenchers have been campaigning vociferously that equating the colour pink with girls is sexist then, once again, who couldn’t have predicted disastrous headlines?

Most recently there has been Ed Miliband’s offensive on tax avoidance. It’s difficult to think of territory more uncomfortable for David Cameron. Yet by broadening the Labour attack onto the principle of tax avoidance, rather than the narrow specifics of the jaw-dropping appointment of HSBC’s Stephen Green as a Minister, even when government officials knew all about HSBC’s illicit activities, Ed Miliband blew it.

Cue embarrassing questions about whether shadow ministers collected receipts for every odd job or window cleaned and the circumstances in which Ed Miliband’s mother seems to have avoided tax on the house in which he now lives.

Individually, these incidents seem like discrete gaffes but a common thread runs through each failure.

Andy Burnham, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband all walked into such eminently predictable elephant traps because their moral certitude blinded them to the politically obvious.
(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Chuka Umunna – A pro on what Labour must be pro if we are to win again

22/09/2014, 04:25:15 PM

by John Slinger

During Phil Collins’s gentle jousting with Chuka Umunna today, their savvy wit was evident. While light-hearted at times (always a boon at conference) there was much substance.

First dodging the brickbat of why hasn’t Labour apologised more on the economy: “we’ve learnt the lessons of the crash” and the debt and deficit rose due to falling tax receipts not profligacy. This is a line that hasn’t resonated enough yet.

Chuka does the big picture well and was expansive on the three challenges Britain faces: “delivering social democracy in a fiscal cold climate, transformative technology, and global competition”.

Politely disagreeing with a questioner on modern technologies he argued that they shouldn’t be feared and can help “transform public services”.

He’s keen to utilise and promote the dynamic and the new, not build up defensive walls against it. Handing out certificates at school in his patch, he’d told the kids that they’re up against others from “Mumbai and Singapore who perhaps want it more as they’ve had perhaps had to struggle more”. Teachers and parents appreciated the straight-talking about how globalisation cannot be turned back. He’s right: dealing with such challenges starts in the classroom and goes way beyond there.

The wit was there, from Collins of course, but while refuting the “nonsense” charge that Labour isn’t sufficiently pro-business, Chuka reminded all that New Labour weren’t exactly flush with business endorsement in ’97, having been “elated to get Richard Branson on a train with Tony Blair”! It was good to hear what should be both a defence against the anti-business charge, and an attack on the newly the newly rejuvenated europhobes of Cameron’s Tories: that “the biggest concern of British business is our exit from the EU”.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

New analysis of post-election PLP erodes Yvette’s leadership front-runner status

05/06/2014, 05:29:20 PM

Signs that preparations are being made in earnest for a future leadership campaign. The talk at the fringes of the Progress conference last Saturday was of succession and as John Rentoul has noted, the likely Chuka versus Yvette contest, if Labour loses the next election. The universal consensus is that the one racing certainty is that the next leader will not be an A.W.M. – Another White Male.

Now, Uncut has seen a detailed analysis compiled by consultants involved in the last leadership election, but unaffiliated at this stage for 2015, which suggests that one of Yvette’s big advantages might not be quite so advantageous after all. While Chuka leads on almost all poll measures with voters and non-activist members, Yvette has been assumed to hold a commanding lead in the PLP.

Partially, this is a consequence of the residual strength of the Brownite machine and partially the time Yvette has had to lobby and persuade her parliamentary peers. As a member of the 1997 intake she has had far longer to build a personal base of support in the PLP than Chuka.

However, according to this new analysis, the likely influx of new MPs will erode some of this advantage. If Labour does not become the largest party, but still does make some progress – as is flagged the most likely scenario in the analysis – the party will likely win between 270 and 290 seats (it currently holds 257 seats). This is based on various permutations of Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative performance.

It would entail Labour gaining 13 to 33 new seats. Added to the 82 Labour MPs elected in 2010 or after this would mean 95 to 115 MPs were from Chuka’s intake or later. On this basis there would still be a significant pre-2010 PLP majority of 175 MPs.

But these figures do not incorporate the large numbers of Labour MPs who have either confirmed they will stand down, or are currently considering their position. At the next election 64 Labour MPs will have been in service for over twenty years with 30 or more current MPs expected to stand down.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Toil and trouble bubbling in the shadow cabinet pot

07/01/2014, 02:11:07 PM

In the past week, lefty pointy-heads have been all a-twitter about a piece on the Economist’s blog, mapping out how Ed Miliband might want to clip the Treasury’s wings and expand BIS, so that BIS becomes an engine for “economic reform”.

This new “department for Milibandism” would take on responsibility for jobcentres from DWP, training from Education, cities and regional growth from CLG and financial services from the Treasury. The poor old Treasury would be left as a much diminished office of the budget.

Cue supportive interventions from noted Ed-ites and much sage discussion about the policy and institutional impact. But as the wonkathon subsides, thoughts turn to the politics of such a change and the eternal question, cui bono?

The stony silence from the shadow chancellor’s camp speaks volumes. Ed Balls would effectively be demoted to the role of chief secretary to the Treasury. Suffice to say, he’s unlikely to be a fan. No, the lucky beneficiary from this radical Whitehall surgery would appear be Chuka, the current shadow at BIS.

So who lobbed this political incendiary into the debate? Step forward the uncredited author of the piece, Jeremy Cliffe.

Would that be the same Jeremy Cliffe who is good mates with one, er, Chuka Umunna? The same Jeremy whose Linked-In CV lists a past role as “Campaign Intern, Streatham Labour, December 2009-January 2010.” The same Jeremy whose CV goes on to list one of his jobs as “Researcher, Office of Chuka Umunna, June 2010-August 2010”?

Hmm. Stop it. You’re too suspicious, Uncut is sure this is all just a big coincidence.

In other coincidental news, la Umunna penned a piece for last week’s Observer on democratic renewal; nothing to do with industrial strategy and completely out of the blue, but nevertheless a worthy subject for a political intervention. It brought to mind a comment from a grizzled whip a few years ago, speaking about loyalty from the then cabinet, “When the children start talking off-topic, discipline is breaking down and trouble’s not far behind.”

In fairness to Chuka, at least he was scrupulously on message in his Observer piece. Rumours from the PLP abound that the really big fight of the coming term is about to kick-off: Balls versus Burnham with loyalty to the collective shadow cabinet line likely to be the first casualty.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Getting tough on late payment to SMEs will help build the business wing of Labour’s one nation movement

12/04/2013, 12:15:33 PM

by Dan McCurry

There was an interesting article in last week’s Economist about a speech made by Chuka Umunna to the Federation of Small Businesses, which began with the sleepy audience unengaged, but went on to inspire them to shout, “Hear hear!”

I suspect this was following the announcement that Labour would crack down on big companies that deliberately hold out payments to small companies for months on end.

The article compared Labour’s wooing of small business with the “prawn cocktail offensive” of the early Blair years, when Labour wooed the bankers. However, the crucial difference is that we no longer need to persuade the markets of our commitment to capitalism. This speech was about something altogether different.

Sole traders and small businesses don’t see themselves as in need of the state. Nor has the state previously had much of a role to support them. The Tories believe that the best policy is to actively get out of the way, and they often make passionate speeches boasting of their intention to do absolutely nothing. Chuka disagrees, and he’s right. Small business is absolutely in need of the state, but they mostly don’t realise it, because they don’t know what the state can do for them.

The injustice here is about enterprising people who work hard to build their business, but find themselves continually the victim of the unscrupulous and unchecked greed of powerful companies and individuals. They endure a continual battle to get paid, not because there is no law to protect them, there is plenty of law, but there is inconsistency in the application of the law.

If a man walks into Sainsbury’s and steals a chicken he will be prosecuted. However, if that same man hires a printer to provide a box of leaflets, and doesn’t pay, the police would refuse to prosecute, arguing that it is a civil matter.

This is true even if the purchaser dishonestly intended to avoid payment before placing the order. The printer would have to file a small claim at the county court. There would be no criminal punishment and no mark of bad character against the cheating customer.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Vince Cable’s plans for a British investment bank are a joke but Chuka’s aren’t much better

12/09/2012, 02:00:29 PM

by Paul Crowe

Oh dear. Yesterday was Vince Cable’s big day: the launch of his industrial strategy with a new state backed business investment bank at its heart. This bank is meant to plug the lending gap for small businesses and help drive economic growth. Pretty important stuff. News of the bank was the mainstay of the briefing to the media and had top billing in his speech.

Except that Vince didn’t actually announce the establishment of a new bank.

Instead he talked about how he would quite like one. Much as my four year old son tells me how he would quite like a light sabre.

The nearest we got to a commitment was Cable’s explanation that he was working with George Osborne on “how big it should be, how it should operate, and what the sectors it services should be.”

Over two years in government as secretary of state for business and Vince Cable has managed to confirm not a single detail of his flagship policy. Well done.

Chuka Umunna was justifiably scathing.

“Ministers need to come clean on whether they are proposing a proper British Investment Bank, which Ed Miliband has led calls for since last year, or merely a rebranding exercise of schemes which already exist and are not doing enough to help business.”

It is almost beyond belief that after so long in office there is no clear plan to deliver what is meant to be the centre-piece of the government’s industrial strategy.

But Labour cannot afford to be smug. If Vince Cable’s plans are a joke, then Labour’s alternative raises a smile in anyone who has worked in finance.

A few weeks ago Labour published, “The Case for a British Investment Bank”. It was written by Nicholas Tott, a former partner in corporate law firm, Herbert Smith.

Tott is a PFI expert and understands banking. He is a serious man, but his report is part of a political process and reads as such.

The critical passage is in the conclusion,

“The key principle for any British Investment Bank is that it must operate in a commercial manner to ensure that investments and interventions are made on a rational basis, only to support viable businesses with a proper analysis and pricing of risk.”

At the moment we have a banking sector that is palpably failing to provide small business with the finance it needs. It is a sector that is working in a commercial manner, making judgements on the riskiness of investments and viability of proposals in line with market norms.

Yet Labour’s report is calling for a British investment bank to operate exactly in the commercial manner that has consistently failed business.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Making Bristol a world class city

13/08/2012, 01:20:54 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

What makes a world-class city? That’s the question on Marvin Rees’ mind right now. Labour’s candidate to be Bristol’s first directly elected mayor, set out his vision to a group of business people and local experts from across Bristol last Thursday, at an event on the Bristol economy chaired by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

Rees wants to see Bristol become “a world-class city”, he told the roundtable last week, the culmination of an illuminating set of events as part of the City Conversation – the Bristol-wide policy consultation being held by Rees.

With the national economy officially flat-lining, after the Bank of England revised down its growth forecast to 0% and the latest trade figures last week show the worst trade deficit since records began in 1997, how to kick-start the local economy was a key topic for discussion.

Umunna pledged that an incoming Labour government would set up a British Investment Bank (BIB) to widen the availability of credit to small firms.

It would be an extension of the recently-launched Green Investment Bank and fill the gap left by the main UK banks. Local branches, with managers in tune with the needs of local businesses, would strengthen local economies.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Promoting gesture candidates should be none of Labour’s business

17/07/2012, 02:19:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems gesture politics is alive and well, although the latest outbreak has popped up in an unexpected place.

We learn today that the Labour party wants more candidates for elected office to come from a business background. It wants to extend the future candidates programme and get sitting MPs to mentor potential applicants from business. They won’t even need to be party members, just sympathetic to Labour’s ‘values’.

Of course the days when Labour candidates overwhelmingly came from trade unions, local government, universities or public sector management are disappearing. The last decade has shown that people who support Labour now work everywhere.

We should embrace that plurality. It is a success for Labour’s ambition to be a true ‘one nation’ party. And ‘business’ covers everything from executives of blue chip companies through to one-man band start-ups.

All oppositions have to reach out to build goodwill and support and it is right to do so. And Labour’s business reception in the City tonight is a good and useful thing to do.

But the announcement about candidates feels like a piece of crude brand positioning – an attempt to counter the charge that Labour is somehow anti-business. If that’s the real motive then there are better ways of going about responding to it.

If we need a concrete message for tonight’s business reception, how about promising that missives from HM Revenue and Customs will be written in plain English? That would be greeted with hosannas from every small business in the land. Or perhaps reverse the closure of HMRC front counter offices? Or how about a dedicated account manager for each small business?

Meet, talk and discuss with business by all means, but offering special access into the party’s selection processes is as abasing as it is pointless. Abasing because it sends the signal ‘we don’t – cannot – understand business without you’ and pointless because the take-up will be so low.

Do we really think there will be a rush from the executive corridors of Britain to spend evenings in residents’ association meetings or to take pay cuts to serve as MPs?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Class war? No thanks

13/04/2012, 03:54:13 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

The Labour Party should be seen as heroes not villains when it comes to the economy. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Having Labour leaders that understood economics with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling at the helm, meant the global financial crisis of 2008 did not turn into a depression as might otherwise have happened.

Can you imagine U-turn Dave, multi-million pound wallpaper trust fund beneficiary George Osborne or calamity Clegg running the show then?

“We don’t live in isolation, as the crash of 2008-09 illustrates as do the riots of last year. These events highlight our mutual dependence,” Chuka Umunna, shadow business, innovation and skills secretary told a group of Labour supporters this week.

“The key is active government strategy, to create more productive capitalism, working in partnership with business. It’s incredibly important to get the policy framework right. The progressive offer should be a common sense approach and then people will vote for us.

“Not in terms of being left or right, but you’re either right or you’re wrong. Giving a tax break to 14,000 millionaires, that’s just wrong.”

In the wake of a global banking-led crisis, the backlash against wealth and privilege aimed at bonus-rich bankers and the UK’s cabinet of millionaires, is understandable.

Class war has always been a factor in British politics, but as a narrative is not the canvass with which to paint our policies to win us government again. The politics of fairness and efficiency is where Labour will win.

With such a huge middle class in this country, traditional working class and also large non-working class on benefits or with caring responsibilities or disabilities, the politics of class is a minefield in its complexity and as divisive as the politics of elitism or envy.

Who gets up in the morning thinking about class?

The issues that matter most to voters are anti-social behaviour, the economy and jobs. The issues that come up time and time again on the doorstep in Bristol South, even in areas that are seemingly peaceful and quiet residential areas. Our policies need to clearly demonstrate that our solutions are interlinked.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon