Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’

Labour’s congenital fatalism means it’s in danger of learning the wrong lessons from 2019

20/06/2020, 10:57:30 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There’s much that’s salient in the Labour Together report. The problems of Jeremy Corbyn on the doorstep, an economic prospectus that few believed, a chaotic campaign and, of course, Brexit. This is hardly breaking news, but credit is due for calling this out.

But then there’s also a recurrence of a peculiarly Labour fatalism.

The report states “The roots of our 2019 loss stretch back over the last two decades.” It cites a panoply of long term trends including deindustrialisation, demographic change and declining trade union membership, to explain the steady rise in the Conservative vote in Labour seats, since 2001.

The framing in the report paints a picture of an ineluctable growth of Tory support in Labour strongholds as a function of these deep-seated changes.

To anyone who remembers the late 1980s and early 1990s, this is pretty familiar stuff.

Much the same was written then. Structural factors. Population movement. Shifting values. All were used to explain a decade on decade decline in Labour support, a downward slope starting in 1945 that pointed to final obsolescence sometime in the early 2000s.

Labour Together’s report has a particularly striking line that epitomises the pessimism inherent in this ‘historical forces’ type of explanation.

“Many of these trends are global and have had similar and negative impacts on social democratic and centre-left parties around the world”

Unsurprisingly, Corbynites such as Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery have chimed in with support for this perspective. It’s a crime without a culprit – the politicians in charge are at the mercy of larger forces. It was the system, events dear boy, events, not individual leaders like Jeremy Corbyn or, Ed Miliband (coincidentally a commissioner of the Labour Together report).

In the early 1990s it was Labour’s challenges in the South that were insurmountable. Today, it’s the North and Midlands, exemplified in the notion of the recently crumbled Red Wall.

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Has Ed Miliband’s moment arrived?

01/06/2020, 08:05:47 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“In 2008-09,” Gordon Brown recently told New Statesman, “we tried to persuade people that it made sense to run a deficit and it was not a problem in the long term if debt rose in the short term. We failed to persuade people. If anything contributed to the return of the Conservatives to power, it was their ability to scare people about the deficit and debt.”

After succeeding Brown as Labour leader, Ed Miliband attempted to become prime minister by positioning Labour to the left of New Labour. This strategy was thought to be justified as the financial crisis of 2008-09 had enlarged public appetite for stronger regulation and an expanded economic role for the state.

In 2015, Labour and the rest of the country moved in opposite directions. Labour’s general election defeat brought into doubt the extent of the appeal of Miliband’s more muscular state. Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent indicated that Labour considered Miliband’s offer too tepid.

“Now,” Brown continued in his New Statesman interview, “the fiscal orthodoxy has changed. What we were criticised for in 2009-10 is understood to be the best way of dealing with a crisis. We’ve got to understand that the only way that you can replace spending power and economic activity when the private sector fails to be able to invest, and consumers are not spending and people are not able to work, is that the government steps in.”

It must be hoped that Brown is right about the fiscal orthodoxy. Yet Jo Harding reminded Uncut, “local authorities are facing a £10 billion black hole due to coronavirus.”

This is despite Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick telling 300 English council leaders and sector bodies in a conference call on 16 March that the government would do “whatever is necessary” to help them tackle coronavirus.

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Starmer seeks to cheer miserabilist Labour

14/05/2020, 10:26:53 PM

by David Talbot

One of the many dangers for Labour following its devastating 2019 general election defeat was that, if the pattern from the previous three election defeats were a guide, rather than learning the wrong lessons, it would learn no lessons at all.

The seemingly one constant for the Labour Party since 2010, though, has been its unerring miserabilism. It has relentlessly lectured the country that its future is bleak, its prospects poor and its decision to return four Conservative-led governments wretched.

“The trouble with Ed [Miliband] is that he is just too miserable” so uttered a Shadow Cabinet member in 2015, shortly before the party went down to a second resounding defeat. Miliband had much to say about the travails of the previous five years, attacking austerity, most notably, but his introspection, subdued and ultimately quite gloomy outlook was bettered by Cameron’s innate optimism.

Jeremy Corbyn’s torrent of miserabilism sums up the party’s recent woes. Labour has won, all too rarely in its history, when it has been optimistic about the country it seeks to govern, when it inspires people, understands and enables their aspiration, and when it projects confidence both for now and the future.

The hectoring over austerity, the sheer angst and self-pitying on Brexit, this miserabilist tendency that exudes from the party’s rhetoric, tone and policies has whittled it down to its core. If now is not the time to ask whether this doom-laden strategy has been effective or not, then surely when is?

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We have wasted a decade. We cannot afford to waste another

20/04/2020, 10:30:57 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We have wasted a decade.

All my son’s life, twice my daughter’s life, a quarter of my life. Lived since the last Labour prime minister – as David Talbot has recalled for Uncut – launched a general election campaign in a Labour seat in the home counties, which now has a 17,000 Tory majority.

Wasted by Labour, the UK, the world.

We are all in this together. I want to believe it now when I see it on the t-shirts of Tesco workers. I never did from David Cameron.

Fixing the roof when the sun is shining. That is what the Conservatives said Labour did not do.

The Sunday Times casts severe doubt on the extent to which Boris Johnson was on top of NHS capacity and pandemic preparedness. Sadly, this is not the only roof unfixed in our decade of austerity.

“The world is on fire, from the Amazon to California, from Australia to the Siberian Artic,” begin Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac in their book on our climate crisis, as its impacts begin to ominously manifest. “The red wall” submerges under Tory MPs and flood waters.

As Prospect illustrate, child poverty in the UK, after falling under the last Labour government, has returned to a similar level to what it was two decades ago, when Tony Blair said it would be eliminated in 20 years.

Austerity, we were told, was the price to be paid to ease the burden on future generations. Trapped in poverty and destined to confront catastrophic climate change do not expect gratitude.

There are footballers whose transfer value rises when they are injured. What they bring to their teams becomes more apparent in their absence. Gordon Brown is that footballer in the politics of the last decade.

Brown’s defiant listing of Labour achievements at conference 2009 is now proudly replayed. It can be forgotten that the prime minister went into that conference under threat of potential challenge from David Miliband. To whom the camera cuts half-way through Brown’s listing, as if to say, who are you trying to kid?

As today’s world leaders fall short of the coordination that Brown helped to bring about in the 2008/9 financial crisis, we ask the same of them.

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Labour’s problems are not all down to Corbyn

04/04/2020, 10:34:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course, the temptation is to grind Corbynista faces into the dirt.

After all, aren’t they responsible for the party’s drubbing in December, the worst performance in a general election since 1935?

Yes, but only to a point. Culpability for the state Labour finds itself in should be shared more widely.

The party has been in decline for at least the past 15 years and there has never been an inquest into why the Corbyn insurgency ignited in the first place.

Plainly, Jeremy Corbyn should never have been leader.

He was a classic campaigning backbencher, pulled out of position and kept in the leadership because the parliamentary party would never have nominated a replacement candidate from the left in any subsequent leadership contest.

So, there he stayed.

To his credit, he never even wanted the role, merely standing in 2015 as the left’s candidate on the cab-rank principle that it was his turn to fly the flag in a leadership contest and lose heavily, as McDonnell did in 2007 and Abbott in 2010.

Yet, as we know, Ed Miliband’s disastrous party reforms opened the door for the ‘three quid trots’ to sweep into the party and turbo-charge Corbyn’s vote. The rest is history.

Labour MPs are to blame, too, for making a bad situation worse. Their precipitous leadership challenge in 2016 played straight into the hands of left-wing activists who yelled ‘betrayal,’ galvanising them into returning Corbyn in even greater numbers.

From that point, he was unmovable.

The trade unions – representing only a sliver of the modern workforce – are to blame for indulging their fantasy politics.

The fact the main three affiliates: Unite, Unison and the GMB broke three ways for, respectively, Long-Bailey, Starmer and Nandy, is proof they are slowly coming back to the centre, but they bear responsibility for dragging the party into shallow water in the first place.

(Indeed, the hidden story in this election is just how quiet Unite and Len McCloskey have been, leaving the hapless Rebecca Long-Bailey to her own devices to run one of the poorest campaigns I can remember).

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The Labour Together election review showcases everything that’s wrong with the Milibandite approach to politics

27/12/2019, 05:20:32 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Since it was announced, the Labour Together review has had a strangely unifying impact on the party: voices from across the ideological spectrum, hard left through to the old right, have panned it. Earlier this week on Tuesday, Lisa Nandy, one of the people leading the review, was on the Today programme, giving the opposite of a ringing endorsement,

“I have to be honest though, I didn’t know anything about this review until two days ago.

And if the lesson is drawn from this election is, a review can be drawn up in a meeting room in Westminster without any reference to the two parts of the Labour movement – our councillor base and trade union base, that were probably the reason we didn’t have a worse result, I just don’t think that people are drawing the right lessons at all.

We need to be out in places like Ashfield, listening to people like the ex-miner I met yesterday, not sitting in meeting rooms in Westminster trying to debate this out amongst ourselves with the help of a few think-tanks.

I just think the approach is wrong.”

The reason the review has brought together so many disparate strands of the Labour movement in eye-rolling frustration is twofold.

Problem number one: The review dodges the tough questions.

To inform the review’s analysis is a survey. An OK idea. Less OK is the manner in which it completely ignores the obvious. Options for Labour’s terrible showing are offered but these focus on campaign organisation and individual policies. In all of the possible reasons that Labour did badly, nowhere is any mention of the leader and his vote-repelling impact on the doorstep. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the public’s incredulity at the wish-list manifesto and its role in dissuading the the electorate that Labour was a serious choice for government.

Needless to say, the term “anti-Semitism” does not appear anywhere in the survey.

As with all these types of party commissions, there’s an onus on doing some original research. Hence the survey and interviews with defeated candidates. But in the terms of reference, there seems to be no acknowledgement of the vaults of existing quantitative and qualitative analysis. There’s so much that it is near pointless doing the sort of partial effort proposed by Labour Together.

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What became of Gordon Brown’s likely lads?

12/11/2019, 08:31:11 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Gordon Brown, then chancellor, was travelling on an RAF flight when he found out that Ed Miliband had been selected as Labour’s candidate in Doncaster, according to Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre’s biography of Jeremy Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader.

“Brown was seen in a rare moment of real joy, punching the air as if his local football team had just won the FA Cup, and punching it so hard that his hand hit the luggage compartment above his head with a crunch.”

Brown was also pleased when Ian Austin and John Woodcock, like Miliband ex Brown aides, were selected as Labour candidates. Now, after the Tories have reversed the public spending that Brown increased, deepened the poverty that Brown tackled, and sought a Brexit that Brown resisted, Austin and Woodcock advise voting Tory.

After all that the Tories have done, to return them to Downing Street would not just rub salt in the wounds, it would invite their deepening.

Nothing about Boris Johnson’s campaign launch made sense. We were meant to believe that it was in a crowded hall in Birmingham; it was in a half-full one in Solihull. He insists he wants to get Brexit “done”; he will have it drag on, pulling the UK apart, country-by-country, business-by-business, family-by-family. He wants to unleash the UK’s potential; that will be forestalled by the monstrous distraction that he wants to get “done”.

Of course, it is not reverence for Johnson that drives Austin and Woodcock but deep suspicion of Corbyn. Phil Collins, writing speeches for Tony Blair when Brown was punching luggage compartments, last week categorised Labour MPs in The Times based upon their feelings towards Corbyn.

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Ed Miliband, Lucy Powell…we see you

10/11/2019, 10:46:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

Tom Watson’s resignation last Thursday as Deputy Leader is not a great blow to the hopes of Labour moderates in the sense that they have lost a great figurehead. The loss at this stage is, sadly, merely symbolic.

In the end, Watson’s Achilles heel – the perennially poor judgement displayed in his former close friendship with Len McCluskey, and his part in such disasters as the Falkirk debacle and the Blair letter – meant a truly wasted opportunity, of galvanising moderates during four years of Corbynite destruction. No, no Denis Healey he.

The moderates’ overall failure to shake off their worst leader ever, or even to stand up to his cabal, is a tragedy tinged with farce which will surely one day be the subject of much debate by historians.

Some, like Watson, have bailed, and who can blame them? Many noble exceptions are protesting every move by the leadership and rightly challenging the party’s continuing slide into a racist swamp, as exemplified by the disgraceful selection of a number of openly anti-Semitic candidates in the coming election.

But if there is something more frustrating than that failure, it is to see MPs we once thought of as decent, mobilising to support a floundering party regime and elect a racist.

It is to be seen in the uncomfortable grin of Caroline Flint, feeling compelled to gush about sharing a stage with Party Chair Ian Lavery, the man who paid for his house with the invalidity payouts of sick miners.

And then there are those who once espoused a quite different political direction. Backbenchers who have no reason to toe the party line, yet who now not only acquiesce to, but fully embrace, the ugly reality of the current party and hope that no-one will remember when this is all over. They will.

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Labour needs to avoid another Gogglebox moment on its Brexit policy

09/11/2019, 10:39:25 PM

by Tom Clements

I still remember the agony of the 2015 exit poll with vivid horror. The chiming of Big Ben leading to David Cameron and the words ‘Largest Party’ winded me; and then David Dimbleby’s confirmation of the projected number of Labour seats knocked me to the ground. I hadn’t given up hope until the result of South Swindon was announced showing that the Tories had done more than enough to continue to govern.

Dazed and confused, it took me a while to process the result before starting to think about what factor could possibly explain it. It wasn’t until I watched that week’s Gogglebox election special that I could start to understand why Labour had been so decisively rejected in 2015.

From the Leader’s Question Time event in Leeds, they saw a voter ask Ed whether he thought New Labour had spent too much. When Ed replied that he didn’t, despite some grumbles from the audience, I barely batted an eyelid.

But on the Gogglebox sofas, family after family spluttered their disbelief. Whatever the validity of the coalition government’s argument about the public debt, it had clearly stuck Miliband and Labour as being economically profligate defecit deniers. And in the stark light of the disastrous election result, the realisation hit me that this is what people had thought all along and we had been unwilling to counter it.

Whether or not we would learn from this has been low on the list of problems facing the Party since 2015 so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Until recently.

Hearing Corbyn, Starmer and other favourites of the front bench struggle through explaining the Party’s Brexit policy, I felt a familiar dread. Upon hearing the dear leader proclaim that his plan is “clear and simple” brought me out in a cold sweat.

Unless Labour establishes a clear, coherent and easily explainable position on the key issue of this election, then we will be facing a similar Gogglebox moment. And, even though it has been plain to many for some time, now that the definitely, maybe plan has been exposed to the public, the penny might finally drop.

So Labour needs to get real on its Brexit indecision and establish a clear plan.

Firstly, they need to publish their proposed deal. Despite the embarrassment of the Ed Stone and shadow budget in 1992, if we are to be taken seriously on Brexit then it is the least we can do. We need to explain why we believe in maintaining the custom’s union and keeping strong ties with the EU.

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The Uncuts: 2017 political awards (part II)

30/12/2017, 10:40:47 PM

Honourable Order of Sisyphus – Theresa May

There’s something of a trend to the fate of Uncut’s politicians of the year. In 2015 it was David Cameron, followed by his 2016 which earned him the Honorary Order of Suez.

Last year’s politician of the year was Theresa May and in 2017, once again, she’s among the awards. This time she wins the Honourable Order of Sisyphus.

To refresh, Sisyphus was condemned for his hubris by Zeus, to push a huge boulder up a hill in the underworld, only for boulder to roll away back to the bottom as he neared the top, compelling Sisyphus to start again.

Unending frustration. Useless effort. Interminable repetition.

These are the traits of Sisyphus’ torment and the day to day life of Theresa May in Number 10.

Shorn of her majority, she’s endlessly trying to make progress on Brexit or domestic legislation, only to have the boulder roll away at the last, pushed by Conservative Remain rebels, Conservative Brexiteer rebels or the DUP.

If the experience of Tory rebellions in the 1990s is any guide, this is just the start.

These are the early adopter rebels. New rebel groups will form across new interest groups – health, education, defence – as backbenchers become used to defying the whip and getting what they want.

Legislation will pass on Theresa May’s watch. Often, it just won’t be what she intended and after each compromise or defeat, she’ll have to start the whole process again, in preparation for the next big vote.

Speech of the year – Ken Clarke

From Theresa May’s disintegration to Jeremy Corbyn’s show of strength, this year’s headline conference speeches felt telling. It may be, however, that Ken Clarke’s powerful speech on the triggering of Article 50 lives longer in the memory. As Robin Cook’s resignation speech over the Iraq war aged well as his warnings came to pass, we might come to look back ruefully on Clarke’s Brexit concerns, while the agonised faces on the Tory benches are almost as funny as his jokes.

Political comedian of the year – Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has transitioned from a leader who lacked the timing to eat a bacon sandwich smoothly (or the sense not to attempt to do so with cameras around) to an ex-leader with the timing to unleash comedy zingers – whether on TV or Twitter, podcasts or parliament. If he keeps this up, he’ll end up as a national treasure, as Tony Benn did over his last decade or so.

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