Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Harman’

Harriet should know better. Loose lips sink ships – and election prospects

17/07/2014, 09:51:16 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Is Harriet Harman the victim of an unfair Tory attack for seeming to suggesting that middle-income earners should pay more tax?

No, she is not. Neither, for that matter, has she been misquoted. She did say that middle-income earners should pay more tax. Labour’s deputy leader was guilty of a clumsy circumlocution, telling LBC radio on Monday that:

 “I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes”.

Let’s be clear, if she was making a general point about the desirability of a progressive taxation system, then fine. Indeed, she seems to have meant:

“I think people on middle incomes should contribute through their taxes”.

But that’s not what she said. She is guilty of committing an unforced error, using unforgivably loose terminology in a broadcast interview. For a senior frontbencher of her experience it was an amateurish thing to do and has played straight into the Tories’ gleeful hands.

Last night she wrote to David Cameron accusing him of telling fibs:

“You claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions today that ‘yesterday Labour announced – in an important announcement – that it is now their policy to put up taxes on middle income people’. This is not true. It is a lie.”

Tory party chairman Grant Schapps has also been busy. He has written to everyone he has an email address for, launching a poster campaign that the Tories must have been itching to release.

Tory poster

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Sorry Harriet, you weren’t entitled to become Deputy PM

09/07/2014, 07:05:44 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Was Gordon Brown a sexist for not making Harriet Harman deputy prime minister? Harriet seems to think so.  Last night, in a well-trailed speech about sexism in Westminster,she said:

“The truth is that even getting to the top of the political structures is no guarantee of equality. Imagine my surprise when having won a hard-fought election to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader of the Labour party, I discovered that I was not to succeed him as deputy prime minister.

“If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it?”

It’s hard for this line of argument not to sound self-serving – and indeed it is. However way you stack it up, this is a case of special pleading.

There is no constitutional convention or Labour party rule that means the deputy leader of the party should automatically become deputy prime minister. Indeed, Harriet Harman was not even serving as a cabinet minister before she became deputy leader.

Would it not have been wiser, therefore, for her to have focused her speech on the lack of working-class and ethnic minority women among Labour’s ranks and offer some practical remedy? There was precious little of that in the sections of her speech she leaked to the press yesterday.

Jon Cruddas, the first round ballot winner in the 2007 deputy leadership contest (and who, under first past the post, would currently serve as deputy leader, not Harman) actually stood on a platform of rejecting a cabinet seat so he could instead devote his time to party development.

Of Labour’s sixteen deputy leaders since the role was created in 1922, only two, Herbert Morrison and John Prescott, have actually become deputy prime minister. Prescott is instructive because he is the precedent that Harman cites.

But the comparison is unwarranted.

Prescott had a Unique Selling Point, bringing balance to Labour’s top team as a working-class Northener to Tony Blair’s middle-class Southener. Between them, they provided, respectively, an offer to Labour’s heartland voters and the Middle England ‘enemy territory’ the party needed to occupy in order to win.

It is less clear who Harman represents. Clearly her gender adds some balance to the higher echelons of politics which are still male-dominated. But as the privately-educated daughter of a Harley Street consultant and niece of a hereditary peer, she hardly came up the hard way.

So it wasn’t sexism. The reason Harriet wasn’t made deputy PM is that, unlike Prescott, she simply didn’t serve a useful enough purpose.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Just because its in the Mail doesn’t make it wrong. Harman, Hewitt and Dromey need to provide some answers

24/02/2014, 05:02:08 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Another day, another front page from the Daily Mail on the links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) at a time when Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey held senior positions in the NCCL.

When the Daily Mail attacks Labour politicians there is a tendency to simply shrug the shoulders and move on. It’s in the nature of the beast, the Mail attacks the party because that’s what the Mail does. So what?

But that doesn’t mean everything it says is wrong.

In this case, the tone might be vituperative and the events almost faded into distant memory, but the Mail’s reports are backed up by hard evidence. Evidence that is difficult to ignore.

The most pointed allegations date from 1976 when Jack Dromey was a member of the NCCL executive and Patricia Hewitt was general secretary (Harriet Harman didn’t start working at the NCCL until 1978.)

In 1976 the NCCL made a submission to parliament on the Sexual Offences Act. In this paper are some extraordinary and inexplicable recommendations,

“(i) A person aged 14 or over should be legally capable of giving consent

(ii) A person aged under 10 should be presumed legally incapable of giving consent

(iii) Where both partners are aged 10 or over but under 14, a consenting sexual act should not be an offence.

(iv) Where one partner is aged 10 or over, the law should presume that consent was not present, unless it is demonstrated that it was genuinely given and the child understood the nature of the act.

(v) As the age of consent is arbitrary, we propose a an overlap of two years on either side of 14, so that, where the participants are 12 or over but under 16, a consenting sexual act will not be an offence.”

It might be that the NCCL’s parliamentary submissions were signed-off without recourse to the general secretary or the executive.

It might be that this particular paper was submitted without going through the proper processes, and Patricia Hewitt and Jack Dromey had no knowledge of it.

It might be any one of a range of reasons that could explain why they had nothing to do with the recommendations made in the NCCL’s parliamentary brief.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Conference Notebook

30/09/2012, 10:34:33 AM

by Jon Ashworth

I’ve attended Labour conference continually since 1996. I’ve been a steward, a delegate twice, a bag carrier for an MP, a bag carrier for a Cabinet Minister, a back room boy for two leaders and this year and last as an MP.  And I still love it.

Though in my heart I still wish we went to Blackpool, I’m always excited to back here in Manchester the city where I grew up.

Conference effectively starts early on Saturday with the women’s conference, one of the reforms Harriet Harman pushed through her in brief period as acting leader. The event has got bigger and bigger over the last few years and gives Conference a buzz before it has even formally started. So much for the glums who complain there’s no excitement in the run up to Conference this year.

********

Whether its cutbacks or the realities of opposition I’m surprised to find no ring of steal round the Conference hotel this year. In fact I can walk right through the Midland hotel front door with my little 16 month old daughter Gracie in her push chair with no need to navigate G4′s security searches.

Unbeknownst to me I rock up minutes before Ed is to make the customary Leader arrival. Harriet waiting on the steps to greet Ed instead bounds up to little Gracie in her pushchair, while i look on embarrassed that her face (Gracie’s that is not Harriet’s) is covered with the residue of ‘Goodies’ tomato cheese puffs. I become even more embarrassed when I realise a camera man has spotted the encounter and is filming our deputy leader and little Gracie. I look on with a fixed grin trying to hide my worries about families watching TV in their front room at homes aghast at this bad father who has allowed his little girl to be on telly with such a mucky face. I hope no one in Leicester recognises me…

I’m then tapped on the shoulder by an officious looking press officer, clipboard in hand, telling me the leader is about to arrive and I need to get out of the ‘arrival shot’. Gracie and I quickly toodle off while I scavenge in my pocket for a face wipe.

********

Saturday evening always begins with the conference delegates’ reception. There is widespread support for Ed as he declares that tackling the horrendous levels of youth joblessness would be his priority on day one. It’s an important commitment for cities like Leicester where we our levels of youth unemployment remain stubbornly high. The commitment is greeted with much support in the room.

Among delegates there is much talk of things being good on the doorstep but everyone is naturally cautious and not wanting to take anything for granted. Council by-election results have been especially encouraging for us lately. Just the other week we won a seat with a spectacular 18% swing in the highly marginal Sherwood constituency. Congratulations to Sherwood Labour but there has of course been other good results elsewhere in battleground constituencies too.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

All women shortlists are an insider’s charter

02/03/2012, 01:30:22 PM

by Ben Cobley

“White people love playing ‘divide & rule’ We should not play their game”, these words, tweeted by Diane Abbott, ignited a storm of accusations and denials of racism and opened a window into the complexities of identity politics.

While it is doubtful that many white people were properly offended by the tweet, it does expose Abbott’s assumption that black and white people should be divided, and that they have different (and opposing) interests.

The “divide and rule” agenda that Abbott talked about in fact applies more to her in this instance. She was clearly trying to draw a racial drawbridge between black and white people.

This is the sort of political philosophy that George W. Bush espoused when he said, “You are either with us or against us”; one group’s identity is defined opposite to the other – and if you do not share the dictates of your own group’s “leaders”, then you are letting your side down. Bim Adewunmi herself made a strong argument about this.

As it is highly unlikely Diane Abbott is a racist, how did she get into such a tangle?

Part of the answer surely lies in the way that certain curious, arcane attitudes are still widespread in liberal-left circles.

Abbott herself responded to the tweeting controversy by saying that she was talking about the politics of colonialism. But she clearly was not discussing history in her tweet, and that is where the colonialist worldview belongs – and where the anti-colonialist mentality will have to find a home sooner or later. It is hopelessly outdated in a country where the evidence of integration is all around us, not least in the many children and young adults of mixed race.

The unthinking identity politics of the liberal-left maintains and extends this anti-colonialist narrative though, by simplistically inverting the racist, sexist and ruling class ideologies of past times.

So it is that dark skin is favoured over light, female over male, while the possession of assets and money is deemed as something to be ashamed of.

This attitude is woven into Labour Party practices and procedures, especially when it comes to candidate selection.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Memo from Croydon to Westminster

12/08/2011, 11:08:21 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Walking down, past Reeves Corner in Croydon on Thursday evening, one thing was crystal clear.

The government doesn’t get it.

Cameron’s proposals in the parliamentary statement didn’t come near addressing the reality of what has happened.

And while Labour did slightly better, particularly on police numbers, the response didn’t give a clear sense of an alternative.

When David Cameron talks of a sick section of society and the need for a moral fightback, he sounds like an opposition politician.

‘Broken Britain’ was a decent routine two years ago, but he’s in power now. Government’s job in this situation is to identify what failed and fix it – not opine impotently on social morality.

Instead, the prime minister’s parliamentary statement gave us some irrelevant commentary, a pointless inquiry on gang culture and a re-heat of existing plans.

There’s nothing new in the police being able to force people to remove facemasks or in social landlords evicting tenants found guilty of looting. Councils across the country are already pushing ahead on this front.

Ed Miliband was cautious in his response. He asked pertinent questions, but didn’t frame a narrative for how Labour would make a difference. The net result is a political vacuum from our leaders.

It shouldn’t be this difficult. All our leaders need do is to listen to their constituents. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The vajazzled middle.

26/11/2010, 07:00:41 AM

by Dan Hodges

Harriet Harman or Katie Price. Who is the most compelling role model?

To us, it’s an easy answer. The glamorous, media savvy stunner was always going to edge out the artist formally known as Jordan. Alex Reid? Tough? Has he ever met Jack Dromey?

Sadly, our view is not shared by the producers of Today. Seasoned BBC journalists are up in arms at news that the retired page 3 empress will guest edit their program. “It is showing a certain contempt for the audience”, said one BBC source. “They are quite a high-brow lot”.

The BBC aristocracy may cringe. But we sneer at our peril. Because whether we like it or not, for a significant proportion of young working class women, Katie Price is their Harriet Harman. Tough. Successful. Empowering.

My wife recently attended a debate on the “Pricey phenomenon”. One contributor described her as “Vichy France with tits”.  Katie Price that is, not my wife.

It’s a great line. But whether we regard Price as an appropriate ambassador for post-feminism, or a Trojan horse in a g-string, is irrelevant. We’re not her market. They are: “Bernadette and Keilly McCrory, 26 and 24 respectively, who think she is “brilliant, just dead down to earth, just a really nice, normal girl”. Ashley Ribair, 22, who says: “She’s just someone you can relate to. She’s been through such a lot but she’s just a real role model in the way she’s dealt with it”. Kayleigh Sansom, 19, who said she’d read her first book “when I was pregnant and was going to be a single mother and I just thought if she can cope, then so can I”.

That’s not some ad blurb. That’s from the Observer: “she inspires the kind of devotion that will inspire nearly 1,000 women to queue in the freezing cold outside Borders in Wallsend on a Wednesday morning in February”.

Katie Price may not be our cup of tea. But her constituency is our constituency. And if we can’t start to connect with her audience, we’re not connecting with our own. (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Woolas case tension builds inside Labour

11/11/2010, 05:48:32 PM

Supporters of Phil Woolas are confident that he will now be granted leave to seek judicial review, with an expedited hearing expected to be held early next week, Uncut has learned.

Sources close to the former MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth also believe that the facts of the case will be subject to challenge. This is contrary to the interpretation of a number of legal experts. Woolas’ supporters also remain confident of the overall outcome, citing one legal opinion as placing their chances of success at 60%.

Meanwhile, tensions seem to be emerging between Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman over the management of Woolas’ suspension from the party.

Some MPs believe that Ms Harman is being unfairly blamed for the continuing fall-out from the crisis. Amid signs that Ed Miliband is preparing to distance himself from Ms Harman, one MP said, “They’re clearing the decks. If Woolas wins his judicial review Ed’s people are going to throw Harriet overboard”.

Sources close to Ed Miliband have been noting that the original decision to retain Woolas on the front bench as immigration minister was initially taken by Ms Harman, then the acting leader. A shadow cabinet minister today said that Harriet’s comments over the weekend were, “not state sponsored”.

This represents a change in stance for the leader’s office, who on Friday were briefing selected lobby journalists that Phil Woolas political career “is over”, as a result of the election court ruling.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Saturday News Review

25/09/2010, 08:16:36 AM

Down to the wire

Speculation is increasing that Ed Miliband, who began the race as a distant second favourite, could snatch victory fromEd (left) and David Miliband. While most MPs say it is too close to call, David has lost the runaway lead he enjoyed four months ago. his older brother, David. Voting closed on Wednesday in the complicated electoral college race, where MPs and MEPs have one-third of the vote, with rank-and-file party members and up to three million trades unionists who pay a political fee to Labour sharing the rest. While the result is still unclear, it is evident that the older Miliband has lost much, if not all, of the early lead he enjoyed in the race. The race has been notoriously difficult to poll, but British bookmakers Betfair declared the younger Miliband as favourite for the first time yesterday morning, at 11-10 against 10-11 for his sibling, the shadow foreign secretary. – The Irish Times

All I can report is the state of speculation just hours before the big moment, which is that Ed has won. Apparently, David’s lead among the parliamentary third of Labour’s electoral college was not big enough to compensate for his relative weakness among the other two sections, which are ordinary party members and affiliated trades-union members. Of course, all this could be absolute guff – Westminster’s rumour mill is generally more active than accurate – so don’t place any large wagers based on these whispers. We will know one way or the other very soon. – The Economist

Harriet: Don’t Walk away

Critics over the decades have derided the MP for Peckham as Harriet Harperson because of her feminist views. But the mum-of-three has won a reputation as one of Labour’s toughest fighters. Now she has a carefully thought-out message to whichever of the two Milibands emerges defeated from the brother-versus-brother battle to succeed her: Don’t walk away. Ms Harman, who is steelier and tougher than she comes across on TV or at the Commons despatch box, says the new party leader will be handed an “unprecedented” opportunity to get back into government. – The Mirror

What next?

LABOUR needs to give its membership a greater say over policy and recognise the growing popularity of community-based politics, Shadow Wales Office Minister Wayne David said last night. The Caerphilly MP said the party was mature enough to move away from the days when the leadership imposed policy – and discipline – from the top. During the Blair and Brown era Labour was often criticised for failing to consult the party on major policy changes and for using the party’s National Executive Committee to keep a tight grip on candidate selection. – The Western Mail

The new leader will have to be brave, including on policy. Bravery will involve talking again about genuinely devolving. Not a gesture, which actually results in more of the decision-making happening in Whitehall and Westminster; but, for instance, the establishment of regional and local banks. The idea (and Iain Duncan Smith is at least willing to think about this) of devolving the welfare budget – within sensible bounds of consistency – across the UK, so that money can be applied to preventing and redeeming, and not merely ameliorating, poverty. – David Blunkett, The Yorkshire Post

LABOUR risks its reputation for economic management if it is not “straightforward” on the need to make savings in the public sector, one of David Miliband’s key allies warns today ahead of today’s leadership election. Jim Murphy, the former Scottish secretary who has run the elder Miliband’s campaign, acknowledged that today’s decision, due at 4pm, was on a knife-edge, with bookmakers now placing younger brother Ed as the odds-on favourite.But Mr Murphy said that whoever wins today, the party needed to stop “talking to itself” and also to stop “shouting at the public”. Instead, he said Labour needed to accept that voters had decided it had taken a wrong turn. – The Scotsman

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon