Posts Tagged ‘Denis Healey’

The Uncuts: 2018 political awards (part IV)

01/01/2019, 07:34:04 PM

Dunce of the Year: Karen Bradley

Easy one this, you might imagine. Throw a stick in Westminster and you’ll hit a suitable candidate. Ah, but there’s a subtlety here. There’s lots of incompetence around the place (and if that’s your thing then Chris Grayling is usually your man) but what about genuine idiocy? Proper full-fat political ignorance?

Step forward the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.

Back in September, she told The House magazine that when she was appointed she “didn’t understand” that in Northern Ireland “people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.”

She added: “That is so incredibly different and it’s when you realise that, and you see that, that you can then start to understand some of the things that the politicians say and some of the rhetoric.”

In a tense year, she managed that rare feat of uniting the whole of Northern Ireland in a genuine ‘WTF’ moment. It begs the obvious question: What else doesn’t she know?

A close runner-up was Gavin Williamson, incongruously the Secretary of State for Defence.

Back in March, Field Marshall Chickenhawk told Russia to “go away and shut up” following the Salisbury Novichok attack. Asked if Britain and Russia were entering a new Cold War, he replied: “Relations ain’t good are they?”

The former fireplace salesman probably thinks a ‘firefight’ is when two customers lay claim on the same cut-price Aga in the January sale. Like Bradley, Williamson is a factotum of Theresa May, who likes her ministers thick and loyal.

Also taken into consideration, was the memorable contribution from Leader of the House, Andrea Ledsom, who, while referring to the new tenner, described Jane Austen as “one of our greatest living authors.” This generated some epic trolling from an unexpected quarter, with Waterstones tweeting: “We are currently moving all our Jane Austen stock from Classics into Greatest Living Authors.”

Decency that will be missed: Paddy Ashdown

What if Tony Blair had won in 1997 with a much smaller majority – or no majority at all? Would we have seen the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown in coalition with Labour?

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We’ve been here before with Bennites like Corbyn. It will end the same way. In blood and vomit

01/08/2015, 01:07:24 PM

by Paul Richards

Labour’s last double-decade in opposition started with a winter of discontent, and this one starts with a summer of seppuku. What could have been the start of a process of healing after a disastrous election result, is instead descending into viciousness not seen since the early 1980s. There will be those old enough to remember what it was like back then. For those who don’t, it was no tea party.

The Bennites’ strategy was simple: to set up a series of positions on everything – Nato, the EEC, Trident, the monarchy, the civil service, the Lords, the banks, the media, and businesses – and then denounce anyone who deviated from this position as ‘a Tory’. This epithet didn’t include the actual Tories, but instead any Labour party member, MP or trade unionist who didn’t agree with state control of Marks & Spencer, kicking out the Americans, and support for Sinn Fein. Denis Healey? Tory. Barbara Castle? Tory. Harold Wilson? Tory.

A booklet was circulated amongst local activists called How to deselect your MP, which explained how to use the new rulebook to get rid of any Labour MP who failed to meet the same ideological tests. It was waved under the nose of any MP who dared to support non-Bennites for the national executive or vote for non-Bennite motions at the GC. These were times of fear and loathing, when Labour Party meetings were unpleasant places to be, characterised as small groups of activists firing resolutions at each other from across the room.

The greatest opprobrium was reserved for anyone who had served in the treacherous Wilson and Callaghan governments. Ministers were traitors, and should be treated with contempt. In his memoir, Denis Healey recalls Jim Callaghan being subject to a “barrage of the most offensive personal abuse both in public speeches, and perhaps even more wounding, in the private meetings of the National Executive Committee.” This was a former Labour home secretary, chancellor of the exchequer, foreign secretary, prime minister and leader of the Labour party: being bawled at by nonentities, paper-sellers and placemen.

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If copying the German model is as the answer, Labour doesn’t understand the question

11/11/2013, 11:09:16 AM

by David Butler

Jonathan Wilson’s masterpiece on football tactics, Inverting The Pyramid, sets out how success on the pitch regularly came through great managers innovating with formations and strategies. But this success was often fleeting; Alf Ramsey’s “wingless wonders” quickly reached a nadir in failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Other teams absorbed the successful strategies and modified them, sometimes completely overhauling them. This drove change in the game as teams sought new marginal advantages. Those who sought merely to directly copy and not innovate themselves were left trailing in the dust. This is the danger that deifying a single system brings, from football to economics, and why we should go beyond Germany in thinking about a new capitalism.

Germany acts as a lodestar for those in the vanguard of Milibandism. This is not a new phenomenon on the left; in a speech in 1980, Denis Healey praised the social market as a middle path between Bennism and free market right. For Will Hutton in the mid 1990s, it offered a post-Thatcherite path for Britain. Now, once again, Germany is supposed to point the way towards developing a “supply side of the left” and the transformation of Britain into a European-style social democracy.

Importing individual economic institutions is difficult enough, let alone copying large sets of institutions from a single economic model. In labour-management relations, for example, there are sizeable differences between our island home and the continent. Continental unions are traditionally less adversarial towards management and this enables more consensual institutions to flourish.

The historic conservatism of the labour movement towards their internal structures makes the prospect of Continental-style unionism a dim one. This is not a land without hope; USDAW and Community have been successful in gaining localised victories and engaging (often younger) new members.

Unite have attempted engagement through community organising and launching a credit union. Business too would have to modify its approach towards labour relations. One only needs to look at the behaviour of Ineos and Unite at Grangemouth to see that there is a long path to walk before Britain will achieve more cooperative labour-management relations.

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David Miliband and the big beast famine

03/04/2013, 10:08:04 AM

by Rob Marchant

The most important news about David Miliband’s departure is, of course, that it is by no means news.

Journalists were last week making all kinds of wild claims, that this would somehow upset the delicate balance between Miliband’s core team and the remaining Blairites in the cabinet, as if the latter’s secret leader had suddenly been whisked away in the midst of plotting revolution.

The truth is more mundane, of course: Miliband senior was hardly, at this point, at least, the ringleader of some turbulent band of plotting Blairites. He was merely decently trying to stay out of everyone’s way and put together an alternative political life, in which he was not constantly examined for signs of fraternal betrayal. In his decision to emigrate, he has merely been a grown-up and recognised his own failure in that most impossible of tasks. What would have been extraordinary news would have been for him to accept a place in his brother’s cabinet. The die was cast in October 2010; this is just the inevitable endgame.

Where it leaves us, let’s be honest, is exactly where we were before: in a world where the big beasts who bestrode earlier generations are all but extinct.

This is ever more tricky in a world where politicians do not have what Denis Healey’s wife, Edna called “hinterland”. As the great man told Rafael Behr in a recent interview:

“None of them have that in either party. In my time, people didn’t start earning money until well into their life in politics. Now people can get a career out of politics as soon as they leave university. They don’t have experience of the real world.”

Indeed, this phenomenon is not just confined to Labour – after all, aside from Ken Clarke, who has Cameron got in the “silverback” category? – but if we want to win and win properly, we need to act with a little more mature wisdom than the prime minister has over the last twelve months.

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Great leader, or nearly man?

27/01/2011, 05:00:10 PM

by Rob Marchant

He has always been seen as a heavyweight and a bruiser. He has experience of the treasury at the highest level and was well-respected there. He is ferociously intelligent, one of the brightest of all his Oxford contemporaries, who, famously, does not suffer fools gladly. And, despite failing in his bid to be elected leader, there is no doubting his importance as Labour’s de facto number two, at a time of great turmoil for both the party and the economy; a politician seen as a ballast of rigour against the madder and less thought-out ideas of some of his colleagues on the left.

Raise your glasses to 93 year-old Denis Healey, the most celebrated Labour-leader-who-never-was of my lifetime. John Rentoul’s coverage of Healey’s recent Mile End group speech added a couple of insights, but the essentials of the story are well established.

Of course, there are as many differences as similarities between Healey and Ed Balls. Unlike Balls, he was not an academic economist, but a double-first classicist who, despite his on-the-job training, learned his brief well and actually made it to be chancellor. (more…)

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