Posts Tagged ‘general election 2015’

What does Liz Kendall believe?

14/05/2015, 06:30:34 PM

by David Butler

It was hard not to be impressed by Liz Kendall’s Sunday Politics interview with Andrew Neil. She displayed many of the facets that a future leader of the Labour Party should have. This was not the first time she had impressed in interviews, print or broadcast. We desperately need a leader who can win but we also need know what kind of change that leader seeks. Power for its own sake is only ever conservative. Liz Kendall’s thinking appears rooted in an undervalued, oft-forgotten Labour tradition, that of republicanism.

Republicanism has at its core a single notion: that true freedom consists of non-domination. Using a positive frame, Anthony Painter of the RSA (and formerly of this parish) calls it “powerful freedom”. What republicanism seeks is to offer people the ability to be architects of their own lives and flourish in society. The republican approach to freedom can be thought of as expanding what Amartya Sen called “capabilities” (the ability to do something).

Without possessing capabilities, a person is left to live a life where others, either directly through oppressive practices or indirectly through dependency, dominate them. This marks republicanism out from classical liberalism’s doctrine of non-interference. The divide can be illustrated the play A Doll’s House. In his book Just Freedom, Philip Pettit states that Nora would be considered free in classical liberal terms as her husband Torvald does not interfere with her choices. Yet, Pettit argues that Torvald exercises power over Nora as she is totally dependent upon him (something Torvald himself articulates in Act Three of the play). In republican terms, she is not free as Torvald dominates her and restricts her ability to shape her own life.

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Burnham the healer casts himself as ‘someone people can relate to’

13/05/2015, 10:39:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Andy Burnham has become the third candidate to launch a bid for the Labour leadership in a video message released this evening.

In a noticeably slicker message than the one Chuka Ummuna used to launch his campaign earlier this week, Burnham said last week’s election result had seen Labour lose “its emotional connection with millions of people.”

“The way to get it back,” he said, “can’t possibly be to choose one group of voters over another – to speak only to people on zero-hours contracts or only to shoppers at John Lewis.”

This was a dig at potential rival Tristram Hunt who earlier this week said the party needed to appeal to people who shop at the upmarket retailer.

“Our challenge,” Burnham claimed, “is not to go left or right, to focus on one part of the country above another, but to rediscover the beating heart of Labour.”

He argued that the party needed to meet “the aspirations of everyone, speaking to them like we did in 1997.”

He defined aspiration – quickly becoming the buzz phrase de jour of this nascent campaign – as “the dream of a better life.”

He added that it was about “helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow.”

Casting himself as a unifier with broad appeal, Burnham argued that Labour wins “when it speaks to everyone and for the whole country, for Middle England but also Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

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Labour must use the next five years to modernise

13/05/2015, 05:52:13 PM

by Callum Anderson

Labour’s defeat has undoubtedly kicked off the most significant period of soul-searching within the party for a generation.

The general election saw a clear and total rejection of ‘Prime Minister Miliband’ and a Labour government led by him. Indeed, the defeat was so clear that we have lost our would-be chancellor and foreign secretary.

But whilst the finger pointing and blame loading is, in some ways, the nature direction of a party that has suffered losses across all three parts of Great Britain, it is essential that rather than this, we, as a party, dust ourselves off and begin to consider how we modernise and rebuild for the years that lie immediately ahead.

The first step will be to truly come to terms with not only with the election defeat itself (particularly why swing voters ended up siding with the Conservatives), but, actually, with the entire period of 2008-2015.

By far the largest error of this time was allow the macroeconomic argument to be led and defined by the Conservatives (and, partly, by the Liberal Democrats). This ultimately resulted fixing the whole concept of ‘Labour spending too much’ as the public’s mainstream view, which reared its head in the final Leader’s Question Time on 30 April.

Thus, the most pressing and overwhelming challenge facing the next Labour leader and shadow chancellor will be in devising a compelling economic narrative of progressive fiscal responsibility, whilst resolutely holding on to our core principles of self-improvement, fairness and equality of opportunity.

Equally, the Labour mainstream must also face the reality that it has fallen entirely out of sync with voters north of the border, which has resulted in the SNP being the standard bearers of Scottish voters. With Cameron likely to further stir up English nationalism that will lead to more of the Scotland vs the rest that we saw too much of in the last Parliament, Labour must be the vehicle of fair and sensible constitutional change.

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Will Labour survive a drawn-out leadership contest?

13/05/2015, 10:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The inside of the Labour party is beginning to feel like a tense family funeral, just before the point when everyone starts drinking.

There’s a lot of unreconciled psychological baggage as we await the National Executive Committee’s decision about whether it will institute a short leadership process, or stretch it out to the September party conference, or, indeed, beyond.

The problem is that years’ worth of sleights, rivalries, anguish, antagonisms and things that have been left unsaid have all built up. If invited to have a drawn-out discussion about why the party lost, it is inevitable that this will lead to family members’ pulling each other’s hair out as they send Granddad’s ashes flying.

In its soul, Labour is a party of deep divisions (personal and social as well as in terms of emphasis and priority). When a colleague remarked that Herbert Morrison was “his own worst enemy” Ernest Bevin famously snarled, “not while I’m alive he ain’t.” The decade-long drama between Blair and Brown (“the TB, GBs”) was merely symptomatic of this same psychosis.

These tensions are usually capped by the affected manners and superficial pleasantries of the party’s generals. Everyone is nice to each other’s face. Get behind that carapace, however, and it’s a different story.

During a Labour leadership contest, it is not enough for candidates to put themselves forward and explain what they would do, they also need to define themselves against their opponents.

So while your candidacy may represent The Last Hope, the only possible choice of any sentient adult; your opponents are, in contrast, sell-outs, lickspittles, lightweights, too associated with the past, too untested, too naïve, too unpopular, too Blairite, or not Blairite enough, et cetera, ad infinitum.

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We’re looking for a new CEO who can take us to the next level

12/05/2015, 05:56:07 PM

Overview:

We are a progressive organisation with a great heritage and we’re looking for a new CEO to regain past glories and take the organisation to the next level.

They will also be charged with setting in place a compelling new results-based strategy and developing a dynamic new narrative for the organisation.

While we retain an excellent product portfolio and a loyal and professional sales force, our recent growth figures have been unexpectedly disappointing.

We have just undergone a challenging period, which has seen several key executives leave the organisation.  It is anticipated that this post-holder will refresh the team, embedding a new high-performance culture.

Are you the person to meet these challenges head-on and take us to the next level?

Job description:

To position the organisation as the undisputed UK market leader by 2020

To begin a process of rapid and aggressive expansion, ideally leading to early market dominance in Scotland and London by 2016

To play a key role as a champion for the sector during potential market turbulence in 2017

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Whatever the question, Andy Burnham is not the answer

12/05/2015, 09:00:08 AM

by David Talbot

In the end, Ed Miliband was just a better-dressed Michael Foot. An apocalyptic result in 2010 was turned into a near-existential one five years later. The coming post mortem must be detailed and clinical. A complete overhaul of the party, of its policies, ethos, outlook and thereby electoral appeal is now a necessity. There can be no nostalgia, ingratitude, mistrust, and even downright bitterness, which, sadly, has already been witnessed, of the electorate and the verdict it delivered last Thursday. The Labour party is, as my Uncut colleague Atul Hatwal has already noted, the sole signatory of its own downfall. Only it can pick itself up and offer itself to the nation anew come 2020.

The scale of the defeat must now be fully absorbed, understood and then acted upon. It is obvious to note given the scale of the defeat, but this was a process almost entirely lacking in the leadership election of 2010. The wrong conclusion was reached. The party had chosen to be comforted rather than challenged, and we witnessed its sorry aftermath on Friday morning. The electoral landscape as it now currently is, with Labour 99 seats behind the Conservatives, means that being out of office for twenty years is a very real possibility. The importance of whom the party chooses next as its leader is now central and vital to its fortunes.

Leadership contenders will be positioning themselves in the coming weeks, with Andy Burnham an early front-runner. But for the very reason that he is the epitome of a Labour figure who would rather pander to the party’s base then reach out to the nation, he must not succeed. Merely repeating “the NHS” is not – as we have just painfully witnessed – a successful election strategy. Burnham was at the heart of this. Candle-lit vigils, people’s marches, nonagenarians deployed at party conference – Burnham descended into the politics of demagoguery over the NHS. All wistful, nostalgia nonsense that fired up our base but was ultimately ignored by the electorate.

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Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3…

11/05/2015, 07:00:37 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Of course, it would be pretty difficult to pen a piece entitled: ’10 reasons it’s not as bad as it seems for Labour,’ but as the dust settles on last Thursday’s calamitous result, there is cause for optimism – cautious optimism – that the task of rebuilding Labour’s position is not as hopeless as many assume.

  1. Policy isn’t a mess

First off, the party’s positioning in terms of its policy offer is actually pretty good. The manifesto was not “the longest suicide note in history” as 1983’s version was famously described. Sure, there’s work to do in dialling-down some of the rhetoric that has made it so easy to characterise the party as anti-business, but Jon Cruddas, Miliband’s policy supremo, must have had an eye on the long term because there is a lot here to salvage (apart from that wretched headstone).

By way of illustration, there was no real moment during the campaign where a Labour policy unravelled under scrutiny, or different shadow ministers found themselves saying different things. That’s what commonly used to happen in the 1980s.

And for those pointing out that, electorally, Labour is now 100 seats behind the Tories, just as it was in 1987, consider that, back then, the party was committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Ed Miliband was promising to renew Trident. There is no massive internecine struggle in prospect in order to get policy in the right place.

  1. SNP and UKIP insurgencies will fade

Nicola Sturgeon and the unresigned Nigel Farage, now have it all to prove. Both parties haven’t so much evolved as exploded out of the test tube.

Both have benefitted from charismatic leaders exploiting their (relative) outsiderness and a (temporary) decline in the fortunes of the mainstream parties.

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Reflections from an unwinnable seat

11/05/2015, 05:00:32 PM

by Matt Wilson

Along with a couple of hundred other PPCs I went into May 7th knowing with absolute certainty that Labour would lose.

In my seat.

Yes, I had been chosen for the peculiar ordeal of standing in an unwinnable, in my case the Tory heartlands of East Surrey. I would lead a team of wonderful, long-suffering, grassroots activists into a hopeless constituency battle, hoping that across Britain we would win the electoral war.

Why would anyone do this?

As someone relatively new to capital ‘P’ politics, transitioning from a career in the third sector, I saw the experience of being a candidate and running a campaign as uniquely valuable. Furthermore, I like that election time provides an opportunity to speak up for issues and causes that haven’t had the airtime that they deserve. In a one party state such as East Surrey alternative and dissenting viewpoints are rarely heard in the public square. If opposition candidates won’t speak out then no-one will. And of course there’s also the chance to generally rattle local Tories and ensure they stay put rather than hoofing off to campaign for their chums in more marginal constituencies.

I was determined to put up a fight and run our campaign as if we actually stood a chance. That involved a proper canvassing operation on the ground, lots of online engagement, and seeking to win the debate at each of the five hustings events where I faced the Tory incumbent and also opponents from the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP, plus an independent, who was too right wing to be the UKIP candidate! All of this meant spending lots of time engaging with people who don’t see the world through spectacles tinted with the Labour rose. That experience furnished me with some fresh perspectives on how Labour needs to change in order to become the party of government once again.

The lessons I took away can be understood as three fundamental political tensions:

Progress vs Preservation  

During three months of campaigning I witnessed primal emotive forces at work in the hearts and minds of voters. Pulling one way was the desire for progress, the hopeful voice, making promises, articulating dreams of a better future. Labour speaks this language quite naturally. Yet, pulling the other way, I heard fearful voices too, instincts of preservation, concerns about the loss of traditions and of patterns of living that afford people identity and meaning.

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If Labour doesn’t kill old ideologies, they will kill it

11/05/2015, 02:10:13 PM

by John Clarke

We’re at that moment when Wile E Coyote has just missed the Road Runner again, run off the cliff and is now standing on thin air.

Labour seems happy when it’s flapping around on thin air. We’re good at it.

Old Labour, soft left Labour and New Labour have all failed and will fail again.

A Labour leader peddling any these old approaches will lose in 2020.

As things stand, to get a working majority in 2020 the best route is to win over 110 seats directly from the Tories in England.

Does anyone have any sense that Labour is capable of doing this? As it stands, I’m not so sure.

The Labour party has contributed to creating a politics that leaves people on the outside. That uses language that people don’t like or understand. That values systems over people’s lived experience, stunts over reality, simplistic messages rather than real engagement.

It’s a politics divorced from the lives of people.

We are completely unable to speak to people’s concerns about immigration. We are completely mistrusted on welfare reform. We’re not seen as being able to create a strong economy that works for everyone. No one knows what we stand for.

To top it all off we can’t speak to England. Those wondering why Labour are doing so badly in England may want to ponder a point made by Lord Glasman last year. It’s not that England dislikes Labour. It’s that England thinks Labour dislikes them.

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Let’s face it – Thursday night was painful

11/05/2015, 08:28:06 AM

by Joe Anderson

In the last few weeks we have seen some of the strengths of our movement.  Hundreds of activists in every seat across the country – full of the energy and passion of our people fighting for our values.

But their efforts unfortunately weren’t enough to convince the electorate to overlook our weaknesses over the last few years; confused communications and policies which never offered hope against the onslaught of Tory cuts.  Our people and the institutions they depend on were suffering and we weren’t sure whether a Labour Government would save us.

We need to work out what the next five years will mean for us. And we should get it right.  This new Tory government will challenge us on a number of fronts. Our narrative on devolution (local and national), benefits and welfare, the need for economic growth which gives people security and countless other policy areas has all been tested.  It doesn’t seem like it now, but we will look back on some of these and be proven right. On others we are clearly out of step with the country.

We need to take our time and ask the right questions.  Do we really understand how the country (all four of them) feels about what Labour has to offer?  Are we offering the right things to both cities and rural areas?  Do we really understand how the wider city regions and counties feel about what we want to offer?

Scotland is a case in point. The SNP haven’t locked us out of government – we lost the keys years ago when the mistakes were made. And despite fumbling around in the dark, we still haven’t found them again.

We have to face the reality that we have a lot of thinking to do.  And we must do it together as one party.

Anyone who blames “new labour” or “compass” or any other grouping, is damaging the party.

We need to come together and forge a new cohesive force for the country, before deciding which person we invite to lead us.  We need voices from every part of the country to be included, not just those from the Westminster Bubble. We need to work out a policy direction which will give hope to every single part of our country.  And we need to take our time doing it.

We have five years.  Let’s get it right.

Joe Anderson is mayor of Liverpool

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