Posts Tagged ‘Eric Joyce’

If Labour really wants more working class MPs, it should insist more candidates are local

31/12/2013, 10:25:05 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The Labour party has always been a strange brew. Intellectual leftists have rubbed up alongside middle-class progressives and gesture politics poseurs. But the party’s strength remains the support it draws from the industrial, urban working-class of the north and midlands.

Yet while the former groups remain heavily in evidence in today’s party, there are now a decreasing number of people on the Labour benches in parliament that look and sound like the majority of working class people who actually vote Labour.

It’s part of a wider problem. A recent report by the Policy Exchange think tank looking into the public appointments system found that “socio-economic background…is neglected by most governmental bodies responsible for public appointments and for equality policies” and recommends addressing the “forgotten dimensions of diversity”.

The report cites the example of magistrates who, as volunteers, “do not need to achieve legal qualifications or a particular career level” before being appointed and yet are still overwhelmingly drawn from a narrow middle-class professional elite. In Manchester and Salford, nearly nine out of ten lay magistrates are from higher managerial and professional backgrounds. Justice, like politics, fails to look like the people it serves.

Plus ça change. The party of working-class heroes Ernest Bevin and Nye Bevan was still led by public schoolboys like Clement Attlee (Haileybury) and Stafford Cripps (Winchester College), Hugh Gaitskell (ditto) and Hugh Dalton (Eton).

At this point it’s important to caveat the whole line of argument about Labour and its diminishing working class-ness (as Eric Joyce recently pointed out). Rather than a single group, ‘working class’ vis-à-vis Labour politics, now has two meanings.

The first definition covers the sons and daughters of manual workers who have gone on to university and if not a career in our most august professions, (which remain defiantly nepotistic) at least had office jobs (often, courtesy of politics) before becoming MPs.


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Revealed: Unite about to be investigated by the information commissioner for Falkirk fix

29/05/2013, 07:00:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

This week, the Labour party report into irregularities in the selection process for Falkirk West’s prospective parliamentary candidate, will be published. The selection procedure was suspended two weeks ago following allegations that Unite was fixing the contest in favour of its candidate – Karie Murphy.

The party had hoped to draw a line under the affair with the publication of the report. But, regardless of the findings of the inquiry, the row is likely to rumble on with the government’s privacy watchdog, the information commissioner, set to be called in.

The suspension of the selection was prompted by two main charges: that Unite members were signed-up for Labour party membership, with their subscription paid, without being told; and Unite and Murphy had privileged access to the local Labour party membership list.

Last week in the Herald, details of a letter of complaint sent to the Scottish party emerged. In it, a Unite member, living in Falkirk West wrote,

“Myself and two family members have been enrolled by Unite…I or my family did not fill in or sign any forms and wish to know what information the party holds about my family.”

Further allegations have been made that Karie Murphy and Unite have used the Falkirk West membership list to contact CLP members without members’ permission on at least two occasions.

If either of these claims is found to be true, Unite will have significantly breached the Data Protection Act.

Under the terms of the Act, each individual must have agreed before their personal details are passed to a different organisation. The law could not be clearer: point 1 of schedule 2 of the Act, which governs the conditions for personal data being used or “processed” by an organisation, states

“The data subject has given his consent to the processing”

At the point where Unite members’ personal details were registered with the Labour party, without their consent being first granted, the law would have been broken.

At the point where Falkirk West Labour party members had their details passed to Unite, without their prior consent, the law would, once again, have been broken.


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Uncut editorial: Eric Joyce

21/11/2010, 10:00:41 AM

Eric Joyce’s resignation from the front bench, the first of Ed Miliband’s leadership, will not have been met with universal sorrow. Over the past couple of years, Mr Joyce and controversy had become soul mates. He resigned from the government over the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. He was very adversely critical of some in the party leadership, particularly in the area of defence. His article on Uncut this week, condemning the perceived hypocrisy of sections of the electorate, handed further ammunition to his enemies.

But we are told that we live in a time where our politicians know nothing but politics. Eric Joyce joined the Black Watch as an 18 year old private. Through the army he earned himself an education, went to Sandhurst, and worked his way up to a commission and the rank of major. He served in Northern Ireland, Germany and Central America.

We are told that our politicians are loyal only to their own ambition. Eric Joyce resigned from the army, adversely criticising the institution as “racist, sexist and discriminatory”.  When he stood down from his position as PPS to defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, he said, “Above all, Labour must remember that service folk and their families are our people. We say that we honour them for their risk, bravery and sacrifice and we must, at literally all costs, continue to show that we mean it”.

We are told that our politicians lack honesty. On Monday, Eric Joyce wrote, “Here’s the truth. It’s hard to lie as a politician because everything we say is subject to enormous scrutiny – we’ll get found out even if we wanted to lie in the first place. But politicians know the lies a lot of people live and they pitch to you accordingly. There’s a lot of lying going on, for sure. The letters-page paragons are right in that respect. But they might want to reflect on who is really doing the lying”.

A hinterland. Principles. Honesty. These are our political prerequisites.

But there are things we do not want. We do not want to be challenged. We do not want to be questioned. We do not want our imperfections scrutinised by those who may themselves be imperfect.

The mistakes that are the price of our humanity will not be tolerated from those who govern us. They are servants of the public. And the public is a hard taskmaster.

There is no room in our politics for vulnerability, or for weakness. And so there is no room for Eric Joyce.

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Saturday News Review

20/11/2010, 08:04:12 AM

Lord Young gone, but Tories still are the nasty party

David Cameron’s enterprise adviser resigned yesterday after he undermined the Government’s attempts to show a caring face by saying that most Britons had “never had it so good”. Lord Young of Graffham, a 78-year-old former Cabinet minister who served under Margaret Thatcher, bowed to Labour demands for him to quit for saying that many people had gained from low interest and mortgage rates in what he labelled a “so-called recession”. Tory MPs hope Lord Young’s departure will limit the damage from the affair, which threatened to undo painstaking efforts by Mr Cameron and the Chancellor, George Osborne, to soften the “uncaring” image associated with the Conservatives during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s. – Independent

David Cameron yesterday suffered a humiliating defeat in his fight to save the adviser who claimed recession-hit Britons had “never had it so good”. The Prime Minister desperately tried to cling on to enterprise tsar Lord Young, a pal since the days when they both served Margaret Thatcher. But Mr Cameron was forced to accept the peer’s resignation – just hours after insisting he should keep his job. Number 10 eventually announced the peer had lost his job shortly after 1pm. The PM accepted his resignation without speaking to the peer, a spokeswoman said. – Mirror

His words echoed those of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, a former Conservative prime minister, who was accused of insensitivity to hard-pressed Britons when he said in 1957 that “most of our people have never had it so good.” They were also seen as undermining Mr. Cameron’s efforts to present his government as keenly attuned to the hardships experienced by Britain’s 60 million people, including 2.5 million unemployed. The prime minister first described Lord Young’s statement as “unacceptable” and said he would be doing “a bit less speaking in the future,” but as the political storm over the remarks continued to build, 10 Downing Street announced within hours that Mr. Cameron had accepted Lord Young’s resignation. – New York Times

54 in all

The controversy over honours for political benefactors was reopened today with the appointment of a clutch of party donors and political apparatchiks as working peers. The millionaire car importer Bob Edmiston, who gave £2m to the Tories, the Conservative party treasurer Stanley Fink, and the Labour donor Sir Gulam Noon were among 54 new working peers announced by Downing Street today. Howard Flight, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, and Tina Stowell, a former deputy chief of staff to William Hague when he was opposition leader, were also on the list. Better-known names include the screenwriter Julian Fellowes, celebrity divorce solicitor Fiona Shackleton and the former defence chief General Sir Richard Dannatt. – Guardian

David Cameron was yesterday accused of cronyism after packing the House of Lords with Tory donors. Angry Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed the move was undemocratic. The PM has put forward 29 Tories for working peerages, compared to 15 Lib Dems and 10 for Labour. In a letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband complains: “These appointments would create an even bigger majority for the Coalition in the Lords and risk reducing its role to a mere rubber stamp for the House of Commons.” – Mirror

It is a sign of how confident David Cameron is feeling that he has risked the reopening of the whole class question. A few MPs who stood down have received peerages — Sir Patrick Cormack, David Maclean, and Richard Spring — and there are the usual smattering of donors, though Sir Anthony Bamford is conspicuously absent from the list. The Labour list shows Ed Miliband’s intellectualism: three of his ten peers are academics. Maurice Glassman’s acceptance of a peerage is a coup for Ed Miliband given how hard the Tories have courted London Citizens, the community organising group that Glassman works with. – Spectator

Joyce loses job and dignity

Labour MP Eric Joyce stepped down as shadow Northern Ireland minister last night after he was banned from driving for a year. The 50-year-old ex-Army major had appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court handcuffed to a custody officer yesterday where he pled guilty to failing to provide a breath sample. The MP for Falkirk was arrested near Grangemouth oil refinery on Thursday and held in custody overnight pending his court appearance. He was fined £400 and banned from driving for a year. – Herald

Joyce, shadow Northern Ireland spokesman, last night said he was “deeply ashamed of his actions” after being held by police at a petrochemical plant in his constituency. He added: “I have been incredibly stupid and rightly suffered the penalty for it. I want to apologise unreservedly to those I have let down.” He said: “I had one of those bottles of wine on the plane, but not excessive.” But he refused to give a breath sample, saying he wanted to speak to a solicitor first. He was charged with failing to give a sample without reasonable excuse. – Scotsman

Harman hosted coup attempt

Harriet Harman’s pivotal role in an attempted coup against Gordon Brown has been laid bare in an explosive book on New Labour. Miss Harman, then as now deputy party leader, encouraged and supported the bid by former ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt. The revelations – in a book by respected political historians Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge raise major questions about the loyalty of the woman who is now deputy to Labour leader Ed Miliband. It also reveals the treachery of Lord Mandelson, Jack Straw and Alan Johnson and a string of Cabinet ministers. It goes to the very heart of the plot to unseat Mr Brown. – Daily Mail

Ed returns

Ed Miliband will attempt to “hit the ground running” to stabilise his leadership when he returns from paternity leave on Monday. Party sources say Labour’s leader will end his first week with an announcement at the National Policy Forum of a special commission to review how the organisation is set up. Pressure on Mr Miliband to deliver has ramped up in recent days, amid party in-fighting and even suggestions from some MPs that he might not lead them into the next general election in 2015. – Evening Standard

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Liar, know thyself

15/11/2010, 09:00:20 AM

by Eric Joyce

Upon reading the dozens of bitter and bileful comments below Peter Watt’s thoughtful Uncut piece on the Phil Woolas episode, I was struck by how many people there are around of unimpeachable personal integrity, their lives un-marred by a single personal error of any significance.

As a pure person who has never done anything I later regretted, I felt among kindred spirits. Indeed, if you check out the letters page of any newspaper, you’ll see that such virtue is commonplace these days. While, at the same time, recent research (at shows that most people are pretty sure that most politicians are lying most of the time.

So why is it that all politicians, apart from me, are such lying liars? Why are they all, with the same caveat, such cowardly cowards? What’s so wrong with democracy that it only elevates to public office scoundrels and never the pure (me aside)? It’s a puzzle.

It occurs to me that, just for laughs you understand, it might be worth taking a look at these questions through the other end of the telescope. What if it were the case that our democratic system does not systematically and dysfunctionally send just the scum of the earth to Westminster? What, instead, if it were true that many people were living lies and using politicians as a means of exorcising their own demons of guilt and frustration; politicians the vessel for their own imperfections? (more…)

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Conference diary IV: beef

29/09/2010, 12:21:40 PM

As the Miliband era dawns, and shadow cabinet nominations close today, a new and important figure is born in British politics.

The new leader’s victorious and vindicated campaign manager, Sadiq Khan, swept through Manchester’s echoing halls with an entourage the size of Tooting Bec. He was what the late Biggie Smalls used to call “rolling thirty deep”. (In truth, Uncut counted a mere nine flunkeys riding his slipstream, but the figure he cut was impressive).

A slightly crumpled dresser, fat chains and a pimp cane may not come easy to the man who would be shadow home secretary. But these are the ways he must master if he is to match his entourage and justify his new i/d: Sadiq Diddy.

* * *

At the start of the week, the conference rumour mill had it that Joe Irvin, former political secretary to Gordon Brown, was about to replace Charlie Whelan as Unite’s chief fixer and finagler.

Joe has been denying it to everyone who’ll listen.

“It’s rubbish. Pure speculation”, he told Uncut last night.

Most people assume that he’s just saying that, because nothing has been signed and he is a professional.

Better informed people say that he’s telling the truth. The deal is off. And, for the moment at least, Charlie stays.

The reasons are labyrinthine, and for another day.

* * *

Uncut sallies forth to the defence fringe, where tempers flare. Eric Joyce attacks Bob Ainsworth and David Miliband for “doing nothing” on defence.

Bob shoots back: “I don’t remember you coming up with any ideas when we were in government”.

Eric retorts: “Are you going to take cheap shots or are you going to come up with a Labour policy on defence”.

Gentlemen, please. You can’t fight in here. This is the war debate.

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Eric Joyce on his journey to the shadow cabinet elections

22/09/2010, 09:00:27 AM

It’s often said that there are too few MPs with backgrounds other than purely politics. At first glance, the CVs of most former Labour cabinet ministers seem to confirm that. In fact, the Parliamentary Labour party is packed with people with other life experiences, from ex-miners like David Hamilton to teachers, social workers and – OK then – lawyers.

I think this largely unfounded perception of MP unwordliness stems from the way technocratic skills fuse with political patronage in contemporary government. That is not necessarily to be adversely critical; perhaps there is no other way. Tony and Gordon needed people in their cabinet with practical experience of how 21st century government works and naturally turned to people they’d trained up themselves. And while it’s been often remarked that it seems a bit strange for the Labour leadership to be contested by four people with essentially identical trajectories, two of them actually brothers, it’s fair to say that these people and others like them turned out to be very good at the job. (more…)

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Shadow cabinet: vote for Eric

18/09/2010, 01:08:43 PM

Dear Colleague

I know you’re getting bombarded with these, but I want to ask for your
support in the Shadow Cabinet elections.  Let me explain why.


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The new leader should carry out their own strategic defence review, says Eric Joyce MP

18/08/2010, 09:00:58 AM

Labour is dangerously becalmed on defence and foreign affairs. So many issues afire in the media, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, trident, defence on wikileaks, and amazingly the government’s strategic defence review are going wholly unremarked upon by the opposition.

Our leadership race has so far failed to test the candidates on defence and foreign affairs, while shadow ministers have in their hands the outgoing baggage of policies followed through in government.  Yet the root of our problems is not the need for a rest or a simple change of personnel. It is political stasis borne of fear and ignorance of defence.

Governments generally stand or fall on the perceived strength of their economic management, but it’s a pre-requisite for any putative party of government that it is trusted on defence. Labour orthodoxy has it that the electoral disaster of early 1980s was heavily contributed to by our courting of CND (of which Tony Blair was once a member), which was a long way off the broader public opinion during the cold war.  It’s been an article of faith since then that we must at least neutralise defence as a problem by adopting a conservative approach to all defence-related issues.  Our strict, pro-nuclear line has been the primary symbol of that.

During Tony Blair’s premiership, George Robertson’s strategic defence review, followed by UK interventions in the Balkans and Sierra Leone, helped to solidify public confidence in Labour.  That we were now ‘sound’ on defence tucked away what would otherwise have been some lingering establishment doubts about the whole novel enterprise of an enduring Labour government. 

Fast-forward to today.  Electorally, Iraq damaged Labour badly; mainly amongst our own natural supporters sceptical of our deep and seemingly unquestioning subordination to the US defense department.   The British establishment pretty much stayed on board. Over the last half-dozen years, Labour’s leadership has sought to bridge a chasm between the instincts of our political supporters and those of the establishment.

But for at least a year, something very new has been afoot, and it is paradigm-busting.  Mainstream Labour opinion and received establishment instincts on trident, Afghanistan and many of the key defence and foreign affairs issues of the day are converging,  perhaps for the first time since 1945.


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Neither Blair-lite nor Clegg-lite, thanks, says Eric Joyce

02/06/2010, 09:05:17 AM

If you read the respective pitches of the Labour leadership candidates, you’ll see the themes which each claim would characterise their putative reign.  So far, I’ve spotted:  ‘reform’, ‘love’, ‘public services and the less well-off’, and ‘I have a working-class background’.

But it seems to me that when Labour folk talk about the leadership race, these pitches count for little.  There are three quite distinct strands of discussion that do matter: each candidate’s personal style, his political record and what his selection would say about the Labour Party. I’ll take each strand in order.

With personal presentation, the backdrop is of course that, for good or ill, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both early-forties white men with first class Oxbridge degrees who served as special advisers to senior politicians. Both present well through the media.  Notably, neither wears his undoubted intellectual credentials on his sleeve and neither seems remotely ‘geeky’.  Both come across as somewhat Blair-lite. As personalities, they each have broader appeal than many Labour people like to recognise. (more…)

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