Posts Tagged ‘david ward’

Uncut review: “Limehouse” – Egos, emotions and lessons for today

10/03/2017, 12:01:12 AM

by David Ward

“Labour’s fucked!”

The very first words of this play take you immediately into a political drama which feels both historic and immediate.

Following hot on the heels of Headlong’s This House about Labour’s travails in Government in the late 1970s, Steve Waters’ new play brings us the next episode. Limehouse re-imagines the events leading to the 1981 Limehouse Declaration which led four Labour MPs to form the Social Democratic Party.

Going behind the scenes to an apparently faithful replica of David Owen’s 1980’s kitchen, it is a fascinating exploration not just of the period but of politics and politicians behind closed doors.

First there are the personalities. Roy Jenkins, the donnish champion of a broad left/liberal tradition with a taste for fine food and wine, brings to mind some in our current generation from Mandelson to Tristram Hunt. Roger Allam, who many will recognise as Peter Mannion from the The Thick of It, brings him to life along with excellent comic timing.

Shirley Williams is the indefatigable stalwart of Labour’s right resisting the Bennite left on the NEC. Torn between the worsening situation and the party she has grown up in and inherited from her parents. Bill Rodgers is portrayed as a mild mannered political fixer, comfortable across the union movement or CLP tensions and reluctant to step down from a left leaning shadow cabinet.

While Owen is the “hot-head” desperate for action not words, distrusted by the others for his ambition and middle class professional background. Williams even suggests the Owen’s kitchen is too bourgeois. At least he didn’t have two. Yet these accusations would become familiar to Blair only a few years later.

Then there are the issues it raises, many of which call to us down the ages.

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We shouldn’t think about Momentum as one entity

26/09/2016, 07:45:14 PM

by David Ward

As you might imagine of an Uncut writer, my involvement with Momentum so far hasn’t been extensive. So when I heard they were planning to have their own conference alongside Labour’s in Liverpool I thought this would be a great chance to see what it was all about.

My first try wasn’t a success. Turning the corner onto Great George St, I walked towards what looked like a mass of people milling around outside the venue, ticket in hand.

Then I realised – this wasn’t a crowd, it was a queue. There was a line right round the building and what seemed to be a one in one out system.

Feeling the draw of free reception wine back at party conference, I began to get that uncomfortable middle aged feeling when all the young people at work start talking about bands you’ve never heard of.

Still, undaunted I returned next day for an event titled, “What is Momentum For?” Being a paid up member of the Blairite establishment I suppose I expected a panel discussion with some leading lights of the organisation.

Instead I walked into a room where a cross section of ages seemed to drinking cups of tea around tables, and t-shirts on sale at the sides.

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Cameron’s resignation spells trouble for May

13/09/2016, 09:50:58 PM

by David Ward

It’s fair to say May hasn’t been tested so far.

With Labour trapped in a spiral of decline part demographic, part self inflicted, her real threat comes from her own benches.

She has an unenviable in-tray. Brexit, a large deficit with an economy stuck in first gear, growing unease with establishment parties, and growing pressure to make a real difference on housebuilding.

Readers of Uncut may well feel some of these are of the Conservative party’s own making. Nevertheless, her challenge is to deal with them while keeping a wafer thin majority intact.

Of course, as Echo and the Bunnymen advised us, nothing ever lasts forever. And you can usually tell what will bring a Prime Minister down before it happens. From David Cameron’s fondness for a gamble to Thatcher’s unshakeable belief in her own ideas.

Cameron’s resignation yesterday is a neat example of one of May’s looming problems. Her hasty clearout of the Cameroons and their ideas. Having made enemies amongst the left of her party, May must curry favour with the right, whose darlings include Liam Fox and David Davis.

Yet this only opens up arguments with former ‘modernisers’.

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Labour is in danger of being the big loser in EU referendum

05/06/2016, 12:17:25 PM

by David Ward

Labour been largely out of the limelight in recent weeks as the EU referendum approaches. So savage has been the feuding on the Tory benches, Labour almost seems like a confused onlooker at a wedding where a punch up has broken out among other people’s relatives.

Perhaps because of this a strange mood seems to have broken out among some activists and commentators. Labour supporters laugh behind their sleeves at the latest developments. In the Times a few days ago, Adam Boulton speculated “If the Tory civil war rages on, Jeremy Corbyn may not be so unelectable after all, especially if he can forge some kind of red-tartan coalition”.

In these idle daydreams one imagines the timeline would begin with a narrow remain win, sparking a Conservative leadership challenge. The challenge finishes Cameron, or fatally wounds him, and an unpopular brexiteer is picked to replace him for the next election. Who knows if Labour would win, but it looks more winnable. And that can only be a good thing right?

Maybe, but maybe not. Let’s think these scenarios through. Let’s imagine Cameron is challenged for the leadership this year. There’s no guarantee he would lose. He would then be a Prime Minister who had faced down his own party twice and just won a renewed mandate as leader. He could use the opportunity to renege on his promise to step down. Or wait for the economy to improve and pass on to a preferred successor.

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Only when voters in places like Hazel Grove identify with Labour will we be competitive again

25/05/2016, 09:27:24 PM

In a series of posts, Uncut writers look at the constituencies featured in Labour’s Identity Crisis, England and the Politics of Patriotism. Here, David Ward gives his view on Hazel Grove

Tristram Hunt opens Labour’s identity crisis with Shakespeare in full voice proclaiming the virtues of ‘This Sceptred Isle’. Yet when I think of a childhood spent around Romiley, Bredbury, Marple and the other towns which make up the Hazel Grove constituency I think more of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, “Sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England.”

Sandwiched between the more traditional Labour communities of Stalybridge and Hyde to the north, and true blue Macclesfield to the South, this is the kind of place Labour needs to win if a majority is to be achievable without Scotland.

As Michael Taylor writes in the book, while this is an area with a large number of ‘professionals’ and often derided as ‘leafy Cheshire’ the truth is more complex. A truth that sees social housing or “blokes in white vans” as much a part of the local makeup as chartered engineers and solicitors. I used to get a lift to school with a barrister’s son from Bredbury who went on to fight with the Royal Marine Commandos in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t try telling him being English doesn’t matter.

Winning here might seem like a tough ask when this has been either Liberal or Conservative territory as long as anyone can remember. But the collapse of the Liberal Democrats offers an opening in area where people want pragmatism with a dose of progress.

One of my earliest political memories was Margaret Thatcher stopping in on our primary school during a visit to Marple Bridge. Some guy tried to hit her over the head with a bunch of flowers in Marple town centre, which perhaps neatly encapsulates the peculiar English rebelliousness Michael describes.

Dig deep enough and Labour should have the intellectual heft to speak to constituencies like this. Whether it’s concerns about congestion and road upgrades, or showing a Labour Mayor can improve Stepping Hill hospital.

Identity can seem a word ill associated with the left but it doesn’t have to be. I recall my friend’s dad enthusing about the virtues of Michael Heseltine at his house in Romiley. He liked him because he was the kind of guy who ‘had his head screwed on’, but he showed he cared about people in the North West and wanted to improve our lot. He identified with him. Maybe that’s the trick we’ve got to pull off.

David Ward is a Labour campaigner in south London

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Forget about Whittingdale’s women. He’s broken the Ministerial Code. That’s the story

17/04/2016, 12:03:09 PM

by David Ward

Three weeks ago Uncut wrote about the emerging story of John Whittingdale and press treatment of his relationship with a sex-worker. Since then the story has appeared in print and broadcast media with yet more revelations emerging this morning.

Much coverage, including David Aaronovitch’s Times column on Friday, has focussed on his right to a private life. As well as the dissonance of those such as Hacked Off appearing to oppose this. Aaronovitch dismisses Maria Eagle’s call for Whittingdale to recuse himself from press regulation over a mere “perception”.

This is understandable. Whittingdale appears to be a man guilty of little more than some embarrassing missteps. He has spent two years shadowing his brief and another ten years chairing the Select Committee that scrutinises his department. It is hard to think of another Conservative minister as qualified for his role, save perhaps Ed Vaizey.

But this misses the point. The lurid details and high handed rows about who should know what goes on in the minister’s boudoir are a distraction from the very serious question of the Ministerial code.

Section 7 of the Ministerial code is quite clear on minister’s private interests, in bold text at paragraph 7.1. “Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise.”

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Dan Jarvis is right. We must show the Tories are the gamblers

10/03/2016, 10:37:13 PM

by David Ward

Maybe I left my Yorkshire tea bag in too long, but on Thursday morning I had a vision. There I was at the kitchen table with the radio on, listening to Labour MPs cheering the defeat of the government on Sunday trading. Fair enough you might think, we’re winning less than Manchester United at the moment.

But then I was transported to 2020. I could hear the next Tory Prime Minister. “At this election we’ve got a choice. Do you want a stable economy, a strong future? Or do you want the danger of the unholy alliance of Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Salmond voting down the will of the country as they’ve done 20 times this parliament. It’s a risk I don’t think we can take.”

Of course it’s right that Labour opposes legislation like this that harms working people. Angela Eagle has done a fantastic job to win the vote. But you don’t have to be a genius to work out the Conservatives will fight the election on security.

If Labour are going to win we need to do two things. First, deal with our weaknesses. That means stop banging on about Trident, or admitting people with dubious backgrounds. These only give credence to Tory charges against us. As we found in 2015, if people see us or our leader as weak then tactics like the ‘tartan scare’ will work.

Second, we need to reframe the debate so the Conservatives don’t equal stability. That was the case that Dan Jarvis made on Thursday. “When you hear George Osborne say ‘long term economic plan’, what he really means is ‘short term political gain’.”

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If the mood changes, Labour need to shape up quickly

01/03/2016, 08:38:32 PM

by David Ward

As Eminem asked us, “Look If you had one shot. Or one opportunity. To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment. Would you capture it. Or just let it slip?”

Recent weeks have seen a palpable change in mood to that of last May. Front pages have been filled news of market crashes, while financial commentators debate if a new recession is on the way. Meanwhile the Prime Minister and most of his cabinet are at risk of winning a referendum but losing the support of large sections of their party, as well as the right wing press.

Granted, there is no guarantee of an economic downturn or of the Conservative party tearing each other apart over Europe. Nevertheless, any self-respecting political party should be thinking about how significant events could help remove their opponents from office.

Sadly, evidence of the current leadership’s capability in this regard seems lacking. The most remarkable thing about the current Labour party is the lack of any ability to capitalise on events or stories.

Perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than Prime Minister’s Questions. Nick Tyrone compared Cameron on Corbyn’s first outing at PMQs to an opening batsman. Tamely patting back gentle half volleys in case there was some trap waiting. By now he’s worked out there is no trap. Corbyn’s buffet bowling courtesy of Rosie or Jim is dispatched to the boundary with almost humiliating ease.

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What next for Labour’s moderates? Start winning people round

22/10/2015, 08:27:01 PM

In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory and Labour’s continuing poll struggles, Uncut is running a short series on what Labour’s moderates need to do. Here is David Ward’s take.

What should Labour moderates do? It’s a question playing on many minds at the moment and, in the true spirit of the new politics, some Corbynistas have given us a few suggestions via Twitter and Facebook.

In a sense that’s the starting point, because we want to stay and fight to get Labour back in government. As Jonathan Todd said on these pages “cut Labour moderates and we bleed Labour red”.

I don’t have all the answers to how we do that, but I think there’s a danger in jumping to quick fixes too early.

For a start there’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about what moderates should call themselves. I disagree. Rebranding is rarely the answer, just ask New Coke. Especially if your problem is strategy, you failed to adapt to a changing marketplace in time, or you want some people to move on from the past.

Changing a name isn’t going to make soft left members attracted to Corbyn forget what they didn’t like about Blair or Brown. Moreover, there’s no point changing the name on the tin if we don’t really want to change our own approach. We have to convince members on the soft left, and maybe even non-members from the centre, to join up and join us.

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The warning lights are flashing for Labour

05/10/2015, 06:39:38 PM

by David Ward

The contrast with last week’s conference could not have been clearer. George Osborne may or may not fulfil the ambition his speech betrayed and find himself as PM. But there was a clear message. And Labour should be worried. The Conservatives will use Labour’s soul-searching to dominate the centre ground.

John McDonnell released a statement straight after Osborne’s speech telling us that “This is a Tory chancellor who doesn’t live in the real world.”

In fact there were two things missing from almost every shadow cabinet member’s speech last week which have pulsated through every Minister’s so far at Conservative conference. An understanding of what happened in May, and a vision for how the party will approach 2020.

From Jon Cruddas and Margaret Beckett to James Morris the evidence based analysis of Labour’s defeat has been the same. People thought Labour’s heart was in the right place, but worried they would spend too much and focus on the wrong priorities.

The job for any party is to negate its weaknesses and draw attention to its strengths. Just take a look at the slogans in the background as Osborne spoke.

Security.

Stability.

Opportunity.

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