Posts Tagged ‘David Talbot’

Enough is enough. Labour should kick out Ken Livingstone

08/05/2014, 03:44:44 PM

by David Talbot

In January 2004 a controversial member of the Labour family was readmitted to the fold. Ken Livingstone, the hitherto independent Mayor of London, had submitted his application before Labour’s NEC in order to run as the official Labour candidate in the forthcoming second London-wide ballot.

Livingstone had been expelled from party membership for five years in 2000 when, having been blocked by the party’s hierarchy from running as its official candidate for Mayor, he stood as an independent. Labour’s gerrymandering of the selection procedure, coupled with its heavy-handedness in throwing out the longstanding MP, merely resulted in Livingstone beating Labour’s official candidate into a humiliating fourth place.

Upon his return to the Labour column a jubilant Livingstone described it all as an unfortunate misunderstanding and of a marriage that had temporarily broken down. It is near long-forgotten that this fiercely independent firebrand lobbied extensively for his readmission to the party. But since then Livingstone has abused this “marriage of convenience” with the Labour party to the point where many right-minded Labourites can no longer willingly tolerant his membership of their party.

He has taken all he could from the relationship, and given scant in return. The charge sheet of abuse, varying in seriousness, is so extensive and so oft-repeated it is barely worth the bandwidth to detail further; campaigning against an official Labour candidate in 2010, admitting that he never voted Labour under Tony Blair’s leadership, whilst throwing in the customary charge that he should be tried for war crimes; his tax avoidance, his penchant for the mullahs of Tehran, telling the Reuben brothers to go “back where they came from”, likening a journalist to a concentration camp guard – even after he knew he was Jewish, his distaste for the Jewish community in general, and his patronage of Shaykh Yusuf Al Qaradaw, who denies the Holocaust, promotes female genital mutilation, and urges the throwing of homosexuals from rooftops as a punishment for their sin.

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Axelrod won’t make a difference as long as Zombie Labour marches on

18/04/2014, 01:33:10 PM

by David Talbot

The charge was made infamous by Unite’s Len McCluskey who, in typically robust style, refuted comments made by the Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson.

That the former general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union had the audacity to attack the trade union movement in the organ that they most despise, Progress, ensured that this former comrade had joined the dead roll-call of “Blairite zombies”. Indeed, the moniker is seemingly used to tar anyone who is either proud of the work of three successive Labour governments, or who is not an instant adherent of whatever ‘One Nation’ Labour purports to be.

The imagery is powerful, as those who deploy it clearly acknowledge, and the connotations serious. It is used a weapon of instant dismissal, not on the merits of the argument being put forward but on the political relevance, or not, of the person articulating them.

For we know that happens when movements, parties or politicians continue to stagger forward, limp-like, dead behind the eyes. They become “zombies”. Unable to articulate any coherent political thought they mindlessly harp back to better days, presumably when they were at least alive, and stick cult-like to their dogma.

For the left of the party, who have monopolised this attack on the perceived wickedness of the Labour right, this interpretation allows them to, at a stroke, blame them for all the party’s woes. It is the swivel-eyed, walking-dead platoon of Blairite ultras holding Labour back, so the argument goes.

The living dead in the Labour party are, though, not the target often cited. With their clammy dead hands it is not the Blairites who have a zombie grip on the direction on the Labour party. The political lobotomies belong solely to the left of the party who, with the recklessness of those about to die, have realised they could do everything they ever dared for.

When deciding whether to sign on the dotted line, its unlikely that Labour’s newest guru, David Axelrod, had full sight of these legions on the undead left. But as he gets to work, he will soon understand their power.

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Nick Clegg has changed British politics and Labour would do well to understand that

19/02/2014, 07:26:32 AM

by David Talbot

Moments after the close of the first debate of the 2010 general election, Lib Dem officials were breathlessly rushing around the Granada studios in Manchester. They were hailing their leader’s performance as a potential “game-changer” in an election that had seemingly been thrown wide open. Nick Clegg, the political messiah, had arrived.

It was his best, and worst, moment.

Lauded to the skies as a return to Churchill, as another Obama, as the new kingmaker, he surely knew it must be as good as it gets. And how it turned out so. Burning effigies scarred the land, his party sunk to historic lows, lost deposits and pitiful results abounded. The great irony, however, is that come 2015 he will once again take centre stage.

Any fool can kick Nick Clegg. The Labour party, so often by far the most sanctimonious of the main political parties, has reduced this to a sorry art-form. When Clegg entered the coalition government with the Conservatives, the Labour party, always quick to feel betrayed, duly howled blue murder. It was treason of a high order. If there is one thing the Labour party does well it is hatred, and hate we did.

A more nuanced view would rightly ask what else was the leader of the Liberal Democrats meant to do? The only other option open to Clegg was to stand aloof, tolerating a minority Tory government and most likely precipitating another early election. The country, having just gone through the toils of a general election, would not have taken kindly to such short-sightedness. An alliance with Labour, who had just been decimated in the polls, would have been simply incredible. And were another election called, Labour, leader-less, penny-less, would have been destroyed. But for some in the party this is the utopia that could and should have happened until that bastard Clegg came along.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? The centrists must keep the faith

03/02/2014, 03:58:00 PM

In the run up to tonight’s Progress event , we have been publishing a series of pieces on what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, David Talbot sees the political pendulum swinging back to the centre of the Labour party.

Something strange happened in New York in November 1783. It was a fundamental change of order; the collapse of an established Empire. Mounted on a grey horse, George Washington marched down Manhattan at the head of his victorious army. At the same time, British redcoats headed frantically in the opposite direction. When they reached the southernmost tip of the island, they clambered into longboats and rowed out to the remaining Royal Navy ships waiting in the harbour.

For a while it looked as if this might be a blow from which the Empire would never recover. A similar, though mercifully less bloody, scenario befell Manchester in 2010. Mounting the aptly red-soaked stage, Ed Miliband had emerged victorious as the new leader of the Labour party. Looking across the massed banks of his newly-acquired army he pointedly declared the ushering in of a “new generation”. At a stroke the old order fell. The equivalent of the British redcoats, let’s call them Blairites, beat a hasty retreat.

Much like the British army, who didn’t actually formally leave the United States until 1815, a small redoubt of those clinging to the old order within the Labour party have remained resolute. Flying the flag for a forgotten creed this militia are tough on the deficit, restrained on public spending, open to union and party reform, and unremittingly wedded to a centrist, fiscally credible, Labour party. Much like the thousands of loyalists who were left as the last Royal Navy ship left the New York shore, they have been ostracised from and punished by the triumphant forces.

But with the polls forever narrowing and the general election emerging through the midst the Labour party can go one of two ways. It can have its marches and rail against the cuts; it can take fifty per cent of your income; it can promise to cut your energy bill, build your home, and keep your press pure. But without economic credibility it is nothing.

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Labour is winning the economic argument? Pull the other one.

18/12/2013, 09:20:15 PM

by David Talbot

When the shadow chancellor declared on Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan programme that Labour was winning the economic argument, one can be forgiven for thinking that not even he believed the words he had just uttered.

He certainly hadn’t convinced the Commons the Thursday before, standing up to a wall of noise the previously iron-clad shadow chancellor delivered a puce-faced riposte that fell flat in the chamber and barely reverberated outside. Osborne, grinning and preening himself like his newly purchased cat, luxuriated in his adversary’s obvious discomfort – recognising not only the personal but the political challenges the shadow chancellor has to slay.

And, earlier today, at the year’s final PMQs, the sight of rows of silent, doleful Labour MPs, arms folded, as the prime minister ran through his stand-up repartee at Ed Balls’ expense, told its own story.

After three years of stagnation, the economy is showing tentative signs of recovery. Growth may be unbalanced and anaemic, but the threat of returning recession has been averted. A change of mood is altering the terms of political argument in British politics, and with it Labour’s much-heralded ‘cost of living’ campaign appears increasingly redundant.

To say the least, it remains highly questionable as to whether the living standards argument will enable Labour to make incursions into the electorate where the party’s appeal has so far been rather limited. The voters Labour have to win over to achieve outright victory in 2015 appear far less persuaded about its core arguments on the ‘cost of living crisis’, and are increasingly optimistic about the general state of the economy.

Labour has done nowhere near enough to address the basic charge of economic mismanagement; from the ludicrously long leadership hustings, which allowed the coalition government an unrivalled opportunity to set the political narrative for four whole months, to Balls’ stupid delight in his ‘flat-lining’ gesture, the damage has been done and is yet to be repaired. Voters may have been prepared to rethink some now entrenched assumptions about Labour’s responsibility for the economic crisis, but only if the party showed that it too was rethinking and reflecting, including being humble about its own failings.

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Please, no more “zen socialism”

17/09/2013, 09:45:39 AM

by David Talbot

August, clearly, was not quite the sojourn the Labour leader no doubt dearly wished it to be. The hitherto unheard of George Mudie, apparently the MP for Leeds East, initiated the dreadful barrage that was to be directed at the Labour leader over a fearsome few weeks.

Pilloried from left to right, upon his return Miliband was attacked in a different form when a disgruntled bystander threw an egg as he sauntered round a south London market. Amongst the many reactions was the question of “why?” – it was in itself a surprise to many that a member of the public had formed a sufficient enough opinion of Miliband as to be angry.

For the Labour’s leader’s strategy has been personified by that of the forever being the tortoise, and certainly not the hare, on the path to 2015. It has been eloquently articulated as “zen socialism” and, astonishingly, really is the only “-ism” one can apply to Miliband nearly three years into his leadership.

“Zen socialism” first troubled the English language in the aftermath of Labour’s bloody leadership election. In those troubled days the strategy had an ounce of sense; Labour had just been crushed in the general election and had subjected itself to a ridiculously long internal election that had split the party in two.

A sustained period of quiet reflection seemed imminently sensible. The electorate were neither listening nor cared about what the Labour party was saying or doing. Polls reflected comfortable Labour leads that were more a referendum on the coalition than anything the Labour party was doing. A safety first approach seemed attractive and sensible; time to rebuild, heal and fight renewed.

At some point in every parliament, though, the cycle of politics ceases to be a referendum about the government and turns into a choice between parties. When that point comes, as it now surely has, Labour really ought to look like a plausible party of government offering a coherent, costed and attractive prospectus. The party is, to put it politely, some way off that. Members of the public are categorically not telling pollsters and canvassers that they wish Ed Miliband would just take that little bit longer to define himself and outline concrete policies.

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At last, some Labour pains

10/06/2013, 07:37:34 AM

by David Talbot

Labour might still easily lose, in 2015, an election it really ought to win. If that is indeed what happens, the reason, as so often with the Labour party, is that it will have operated in the world it so dearly wishes it to be, rather than the cold, rather more sobering, reality.

It will be because it didn’t understand what voters told it in 2010. It will be because unveiling daft posters, available, incidentally, at the not very One Nation price of £35, and talking of the “same old Tories”, lamenting their cuts and their rich friends, is far easier than undertaking a soul-searching examination of why the party was so comprehensively buried in 2010. It will be because it preferred to spend time in the seminar room, talking to nobody but itself, pontificating wildly on the politics of Neverland. This will be, as always, most soothing for the Labour movement. It will have its high-mindedness, and its piety, and it will lose.

The Labour party cannot win in this state of deluded comfort, revelling in the opportunities for moral indignation that austerity affords, whilst simultaneously saying nothing of note to the nation.

If there was a pain-free option, the Labour party would, of course, take it. In this make-believe world of Labour thinking, when, not if, Labour are elected in 2015 the party will have to impose no cuts, spending will be allowed to increase on nice things like the health service, and grateful voters will at last acknowledge they made a dreadful mistake in 2010 by voting for those ghastly Tories. This inability to face the truth is deeply worrying for those, which now include, seemingly, the Labour leadership, who believe the party has spent the past three years either saying the wrong thing or nothing at all.

On the great issues of the day too often there has come has come either silence from the Labour party or scorn from the labour movement. By wallowing in the trough of political invective, the Labour party doesn’t seem to have realised that it long ago lost the argument.

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3 years on: Ed isn’t in the Hobbit and needs to bin the invisibility cloak

30/05/2013, 07:39:44 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. David Talbot looks at Ed Miliband’s public profile

Ah, the Daily Express. What to say about this esteemed presence amongst our media? Last content sometime during the Boer war, today its coverage sticks to the traditional middle class issues of house prices, cancer survival rates and Princess Diana. A friend to the Labour party it almost certainly is not. Indeed, under the tutelage of its chief political commentator, one Patrick O’Flynn, the Daily Express can have a serious claim to be amongst the first members of the fourth estate to take the UKIP threat seriously.

O’Flynn seems an amicable, if slightly misguided, chap who nonetheless stumbled across pertinent analysis as we consider the three year anniversary of Labour’s demise, and Uncut’s rise from the ashes.

Three years on the Labour party is out of government, out of sight and out of mind. O’Flynn dubbed this Labour’s “invisibility cloak” in his leader last week, which was a charitable way of highlighting that three years on from a historic defeat, the party’s hierarchy has not constructed a coherent strategy for Labour’s return to power.

Ed Miliband continues to be Labour’s invisible man. Still virtually unknown to the British public this void in the British political realm can surely continue no more. Cameron was known to taunt the then novice Labour leader at the back end of 2010 noting that “he had been in the job for the past few months” before adding, woundingly, “people are wondering when he’s going to start?”

Too much of Labour’s strategy at present appears to be based on the coalition’s unpopularity, and frankly keeping low and not saying anything too stupid.

Indeed, as a political strategy it is well worn and often successful in the short-term. But three years on, Labour has rightly set itself an ambitious target of returning to power after just a single term out of office – a feat, historically, that has been near impossible to muster. Wearing an invisibility cloak for the next two years simply won’t achieve that high aim.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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Labour’s performance last Thursday simply wasn’t good enough

06/05/2013, 02:09:32 PM

by David Talbot

Amid the breathless, endless, commentary on the rise of UKIP, scant attention has been levelled at the only other serious contender for 10 Downing Street come May 2015. Whilst Conservative losses, and substantive ones at that, were long-foreseen they did of course have the furthest to fall, having swept the previous cycle in 2009. The true test was for the much-heralded one nation Labour. Heavy caveats were potted throughout the media by Labour personnel in the days leading to polling day; these elections are taking place in rural, affluent Tory-dwelling shires, eighty percent of the counties holding elections are represented by a Conservative MP, and control of four Councils and two hundred net gains is the target. Well, in their heart of hearts Labour’s strategists will know that last Thursday was not the triumph needed.

Despite matey assurances to the contrary, last Thursday’s results do not readily translate into the sixty seat Labour majority the party is seemingly on the cusp of securing. Although Labour picked itself up off the floor following the dark nadir of 2009, final national voting projections put the party on a mere twenty-nine percent – which is, ironically, exactly the polling figure Labour slumped to in the annihilation of the 2010 general election. That this appears to not be causing considerable alarm amongst the party faithful is troubling, and to say it is not enough for an opposition in mid-term should be so obvious as to be insulting to highlight.

There is no disguising Labour’s underwhelming performance. Despite sporadic advances in battleground seats such as Hastings, Crawley and Stevenage the results do not suggest that Labour will outright win the next general election. Gaining a mere two councils in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, only just, represents a worryingly poor return. Many party activists, somewhat rightly and understandably, are so consumed by the immediacies of their locale that they have swapped the instant gratification of publicising the fruits of their labour for any nuanced analysis of Labour at large. That the party now enjoys a sixty-two seat majority in Durham is indeed joyous, but that it failed to win in Staffordshire or Lancashire, and is still represented in the low single digits in vast swathes of the south, should temper that cheerfulness somewhat.

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What does “one nation” mean? Anyone?

25/03/2013, 09:31:11 AM

by David Talbot

Dark warnings permeated throughout Westminster last week that the chancellor had been put on final notice. Osborne, it was said, had been politely but firmly informed that restless Conservative MPs had earmarked his fourth budget as the last opportunity to restore economic and political credibility before the countdown to the general election in 2015. In marked contrast to last year, the chancellor and his team imposed tight discipline on his preparations to ensure none of the headlines contained a variant of the word “shambles.”

To that end, the chancellor can be relatively pleased. In the run up to the budget he had made, and had deliberately been seen to be making, a concerted effort to court long-neglected Conservative MPs. The frequency with which Osborne systematically name-checked colleagues in marginal seats, who had miraculously succeeded in planting their pet projects into the budget, would suggest a chancellor who, firstly, knows he is unpopular and secondly, who rightly recognises that the government is dangerously listless.

The “aspiration nation” is the Conservative response to Ed Miliband’s much-heralded “one nation” Labour party. It’s difficult to envisage a way in which you could abuse the English language more efficiently, but clearly the Conservative elders are pleased with their effort. For they desperately need something – even a slogan – to inject impetus into a moribund government that is fighting itself, rather than for the country.

The catalogue of errors that are now strewn across the government’s record is now so damaging it threatens the basic concept of governance. Cameron capitulated over Leveson, despite having established the inquiry. Under pressure last year at PMQs he announced the government will force energy companies to provide cheaper tariffs, with no idea how. In 2010 he came into government promising no top-down reorganisation of the NHS and has embarked on precisely that. He emptily vetoed the EU budget last December, and under pressure from UKIP promised a referendum – raising the prospect that the UK might leave the EU, a prospect he is on record as saying he does not want to happen.

The biggest beneficiary of all this buffoonery has been Labour. But the strong national polling figures mask the poor intellectual shape the party is in. As the Eastleigh by-election proved, where the party added a dismal 0.2% to its already bad 2010 total, the warning signs for Labour are there.

“One nation” may have played well to the media and the party faithful, but its lack of policy grit is beginning to hurt.

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