Posts Tagged ‘david ward’

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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What’s so left-wing about bashing Britain?

17/09/2015, 10:16:02 PM

by David Ward

Two events summed up an issue at the core of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent problems. First, at the TUC conference, a hunched figure looked over his glasses to remind us of individual Trade Unionists bravery and organisation to set up a movement which represented workers rights’ in disparate small businesses. Second, a suited man stood straight and stony faced while everyone else sung the national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial ceremony.

Let’s leave aside the visual spectacle of these two clips on the news – although be in no doubt it was awful. What came across was a man who feels at home lecturing people about one set of heroes of the left in a safe space, but somehow feels a statement must be made about his views on the monarchy at a memorial service.

The question in my mind, and I’m sure many others, was what kind of message this sends to the Battle of Britain pilots and groundcrew who might also have been members of a trade union. What kind of morality feels at home distinguishing between them?

It is the kind of politics more at home in the student union bar than on the national stage. What would trade unionists like Ernie Bevin would have made of it? Or even Tony Benn who served along with his father and brother in the RAF during the second world war?

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On welfare, Cameron has a point – but we have to hold him to it

25/06/2015, 10:48:01 PM

by David Ward

Napoleon once told Le Comte de Molé the value of being both a fox and a lion, “the whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be one or the other”. For Labour on the prime minister’s speech on welfare and “opportunity” on 22 June, the tempting response will be to roar at injustice as Andy Burnham indicated he would do in the recent Newsnight debate. But there are reasons to be wary of that approach.

We saw in the last parliament how effective Tory attacks on perceived injustices on those who work to provide a living for others can be. No matter how much howling is heard from the left about Benefits Street or reductions in the benefit cap it all falls straight into Osborne’s electoral trap.

Instead we can take a far more interesting approach. To say Cameron has a point on welfare and hold him to account for it.

The prime minister suggests there is a problem with government “topping up low pay…We need to move from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society.” And of course, he’s right. It’s what Ed Miliband used to call predistribution. For some reason it didn’t catch on.

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Labour needs to stop re-fighting the 2010 election

22/05/2015, 11:05:08 AM

by David Ward

As the leadership candidates set out their stalls, the party’s focus must be on the future, not the past.

Too often in the last five years it’s felt like we’ve been trying to rerun the 2010 election result all over again. Now the people have told us – they prefer 2015. We can’t make the same mistake next time.

Firstly, whether people are feeling the recovery yet is now immaterial, we should assume by 2020 things will feel for many like they are ticking over again. At some point Osborne, tactician to the core, is sure to move away from austerity and use renewed growth to distribute its proceeds. Labour need to be considering how we help people get on in this scenario, avoiding accusations of ‘tax and spend’, and bringing business groups along with us.

Second, things are never quite as bad as they seem when you’re losing. Take sport. In 2013 the Australian cricket team lost the Ashes 3-0 in England and were roundly criticised, while England batsmen like Ian Bell scored 500 runs in the series. At Christmas the same England side faced an only slightly changed  Australia and were comprehensively outplayed 5-0. The Australian players were zeroes then heroes in the space of a few months, but they were only as good as before. So there will be some things we need to salvage.

Ideas like increasing the minimum wage, increasing competition in utilities and other industries, and a focus on social mobility. These are all still good policies, but they can’t be all that voters hear. In our heartlands outside London, and in the seats across the north and midlands we need to win, people want to hear more.

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Alex Salmond is the Ally Macleod of this election campaign

27/04/2015, 09:23:14 PM

by David Ward

We’re back in the 1970s apparently. Beards are back. A coalition government is slowly dying, and the world economy is in trouble. Another of my 70s favourites was Ally’s Tartan Army, poised to conquer the football world. And Alex Salmond thinks he’ll be writing a Labour government budget according to this video released by the Tories last week.

Now we can all see it’s in a ‘relaxed’ atmosphere where the crowd seem a few pints to the good, and Salmond has slipped into his music hall act. But given he’s spent 23 years in the House of Commons, you’d think Salmond would have realised – he won’t be writing anybody’s budget, anytime soon.

Let’s take the position the SNP are likely to be in, should Labour be the largest party. If they have around 50 seats and their vote bloc is the difference between a Labour or Conservative administration, Nicola Sturgeon has already announced their decision to support Labour.

Under constitutional precedent at this point it would be clear that David Cameron would not have a majority in the house and would be expected to resign. If he chooses he can try to face the house as Baldwin did in 1924, and put a government address to vote. But if Sturgeon fulfils her promise he would lose, and as the next most likely leader, Miliband would be asked to form a government as Ramsay Macdonald was in both 1924 and 1929 in similar circumstances.

There will be no coalition between Labour and the SNP as has been made clear already, so no need for a specific agreement. Instead Labour are free to put forward their own Queen’s speech. Sure this might contain some shared items from both manifestos, but there would be no need to address controversial issues like Trident or ‘ending austerity for the NHS’.

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Miliband could have a legacy even if Labour lose

17/04/2015, 08:04:26 PM

by David Ward

Most people don’t realise that the guy who invented the computer was a bloke called Tommy Flowers who worked for the Post Office.

Sure Turing made some logic sketches, but it was Flowers who designed and  actually built the machine that broke the German codes. After the war he thought there might be something in it. He wasn’t allowed to say he’d built one before but he took his idea to British banks for funding to build another one. Of course they laughed him out of the office, the Americans took over the industry and the rest is history.

I mention this story because it shows big ideas can quickly become bigger than their creators, and I think Ed Miliband could be on the verge of a big change too.

It’s not exactly news that the post-Thatcher consensus is coming to an end. You only need to look at the fracturing of politics a la the late 1970s to see that the predominant mood out there is uncertainty.

As we know, the entire case Ed has been making since 2010 is that the left doesn’t have to accept rampant capitalism on its own terms. We don’t have to accept that those at the top should reap unsustainable rewards. We don’t have to accept that markets and big corporations can’t be reformed so society and employees benefit too. And we don’t have to accept that people in work still don’t earn enough to live on.

That’s been the pitch. It’s seen him derided in many quarters – even in his own party on occasion. In any normal circumstance Labour should be expecting a chastening during this campaign.

But the funny thing is it hasn’t quite happened. It’s taken a few years of sharpening to get the pitch right but Labour’s message is beginning to cut through. Take a look at this Ipsos Mori published a word cloud of the issues that people have remembered from the last few days. Since the first few debates Ed’s approval ratings have improved markedly.

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Gough Whitlam: Australia’s Attlee

23/10/2014, 09:51:32 AM

by David Ward

Australia mourns the passing of one of its Prime Ministers this week, with the death of Gough Whitlam. Chiefly remembered in Britain for the 1975 constitutional crisis, he was an iconic figure not just for the Australian Labor Party but for the nation itself. A radical proponent of change, passionate about culture, and with a ready wit in parliament. One old right winger chided him “I am a Country member”, “I remember” Whitlam shot back.

The wartime Labor administration of John Curtice had perhaps proved the ALP capable of governing, but with 23 unbroken years of rule by the centre right Liberal-Country coalition Gough’s election was a defining moment in Australian left wing politics. He was in many ways Australia’s Attlee: elected with a nationwide sense of optimism and of the possible. In three years he changed the face of a nation and his achievements stand on their own merit.

In foreign affairs the end of conscription for Vietnam and release of prisoners who had refused to fight was a huge contemporary issue, which formed part of his 1969 campaign. He also opened relations with China, a step towards an independent foreign policy and away from one of Empire and Commonwealth. Made, of course, against the backdrop of UK entry to the EEC in 1973.

But it was in domestic politics he effected most change. Free higher education opened a new future for many. Medicare took the first steps towards comprehensive free healthcare in Australia. Motorways were built between state capitals for the first time and rail links vastly improved.

Whitlam understood the power of culture to forge a nation and its identity. An Australian version of Britain’s Arts Council, the Australia Council, was made a statutory body with great reserves of funding to end the migration of talented creatives to the UK or US. It allowed an artistic renaissance for Australia, complemented by his commissioning of the country’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. The playing of which he attached as a condition to being the first PM to attend an Australian ‘soccer’ match.

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What can Labour learn from the crisis in Australian Labor?

26/06/2013, 01:39:05 PM

by David Ward

Today Julia Gillard asked her colleagues to yet again decide between her and Kevin Rudd, and was removed in the same way she had removed him several years ago. But the soap opera aside it is worth here in Britain thinking about what the peculiar situation of a centre left party, having led the country through the global crisis in relative prosperity, heading towards an electoral wipeout against a Liberal party promising austerity.

Firstly, it shows the importance of avoiding internal squabbles. The ALP ditched its most successful politician since the 1990’s after only one negative poll. Rudd did not have the friendly relationship with his ALP colleagues, or backing amongst trade unions as Julia Gillard. One of Ed Miliband’s great successes has been to keep the party largely united, however the current troubles with selections in Falkirk and candidates for the European Parliament show there is no room for complacency.

Despite continued economic growth due to demand for Australian coal, uranium and iron ore, there has still been an unwinding of the New Labour style model set by Hawke and Keating in the 80s and 90s. Australian households are the second most indebted in the world after the UK and manufacturing has been weakened by high Australian Dollar. In parallel to our finance sector those who did not work or own shares in mining have seen higher prices while their earnings have not kept pace. Many people feel under pressure and the ALP is not offering a clear vision, often blown off course by media focus on issues like ‘boat people’.

Here Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have been talking of ‘pre-distribution’ and how we move beyond sharing the proceeds of growth, while others such as ‘In the Black Labour’ have contributed other ideas. Whatever the answer, it is clear that a narrative for change in the new world is needed. Recent polls showing only 30% trust Labour with the economy are a worry only two years away from a general election.

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