Posts Tagged ‘Harriet Harman’

Labour should have vaulted the welfare trap

21/07/2015, 02:29:22 PM

by Kevin Meagher 

Conventional wisdom has it that you either fall headlong into a political trap or you carefully inch around it. This is said to have been the choice presented to Labour MPs at the Second Reading vote of the government’s welfare bill last night.

The measures contained in it represent a Daily Mail leader writer’s bingo card of populist welfare-bashing themes. £12 billion worth of cuts. A four-year benefits freeze. A reduced benefits cap. Scrapping child tax credits for working families. And restrictions on some benefits for families with more than two children.

The choice presented to Labour MPs was to vote against the bill and look flaky about welfare reform. Or to vote for it and risk the ire of the party’s core voters.

But there was a third option in overcoming this particular political trap: the party could have tried to vault over it. Labour’s frontbench should have focused on countering the callow game-playing of a government misusing the parliamentary process for its own ends by changing the conversation.

Instead of arriving at the position of either backing the government’s welfare bill or forever being depicted as the friend of the scrounger, shadow ministers should have been making a big argument about the regressive nature of the Budget, the lamentable symbolism of effectively scrapping child poverty targets and the removal of in-work benefits to those eponymous hard-working families.

The party could have welcomed measures in the bill to boost apprenticeships but laid the ground for opposing the egregious parts, which will do little to meet the bill’s stated intentions of promoting social mobility and tackling joblessness and will simply increase poverty among working families.


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Can everyone please put their spades down?

07/07/2015, 06:06:26 PM

Denis Healy’s droll advice to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole seems lost on the current Labour frontbench. Just when it appeared that the party had officially reached Peak Disaster in May’s general election, it seems there is always more that can be done to frighten away potential voters.

Let’s take just four interventions from last week.

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, acting leader Harriet Harman casually committed the Labour benches to supporting a third runway for Heathrow, the central recommendation of Sir Howard Davies’ long-anticipated Airports Commission.

This is slightly surprising because there is no such commitment in the recent Labour manifesto. Indeed, there has been no discussion in the party about the change in policy. If there had been, it might have been pointed out that without ameliorative measures, a third runway will lock-in, rather than reduce, regional economic imbalances between Greater London and the North and Midlands. But, hey, it was a good line for PMQs.

Next up was Gloria de Piero, the party’s shadow equalities minister. She announced that companies employing more than 250 people (note: not the public sector) will be subject to a new regulation compelling them to undergo an “annual equal pay check” and publish information on the pay gap between their male and female employees in order, it seems, to be publicly shamed for any disparity.

Labour’s charmless offensive with business continues unabated. If there is evidence that employers pay women less for working at the same level as men, in the same organisation, on the same hours, then it’s a simple matter of enforcing the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which has outlawed such practices for the past 45 years.


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Why on earth is Labour convening a “truth and reconciliation” commission?

01/06/2015, 10:07:17 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Do we really need the commission that Margaret Beckett is to lead to look “in a forensic way” at the reasons for Labour’s electoral defeat?

Harriet Harman seems to think that a “truth and reconciliation” commission is needed. She used that phrase in her quote in the Observer story and in her media appearances yesterday.

But what don’t we know already?

For years, polling told us that our leader, Ed Miliband, was behind on best prime minister and our party on economics. No party has ever formed a government behind on both these indicators. We were miles behind.

The leadership contenders are not waiting for Beckett’s findings to distance themselves from Miliband. The haste with which they retreat from positions that they recently defended risks inelegance. But it is required and encouraging.

To get out of a hole, you have to stop digging. And the Miliband years dug some massive holes. The collapse of Scottish Labour, the alienation from Labour in the north, and Labour’s failure to win over the south. We are, as Tristram Hunt put it in his lucid Demos speech, “fighting on three fronts. But micro-targeting policy solutions for each will not work”.

1945, 1964, 1997. Labour owned futures that all parts of the UK bought into. At times prior to each of these victories, it seemed Labour would never win again. But we did. And we can again. By re-crafting for our times, the elements that have always characterised Labour victory: unity and optimism grounded on credible economics.

Miliband might have thought that he was deploying these elements. But his spring rally, for example, was a curious cocktail of divisive pessimism and hubristic piety. It was divisive in identifying parts of Britain that deserved cheers and condemned others to boos. Not even those cheered, however, were thought capable of achieving anything under the Tory yoke, which made it bleakly and surreally pessimistic. All would be mended, though, if we only voted Labour. This coated complex problems with hubristic simplicity, taking the electorate for fools, while feigning high principle.


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Don’t be an April-fool – RegistHER to Vote!

01/04/2015, 04:44:19 PM

by Sophie Duder

Today on 1st April, RegistHERtoVote – an online action group – is launching our campaign with one very simple message: Don’t be an April-fool – RegistHER to Vote!

Register-postcard (1)

We’re doing this because as Harriet Harman has been so brilliantly active in pointing out 9.1 million women didn’t vote at the last election. That is a staggering number. It’s almost equivalent to the population of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland just not turning up at the polls. Whilst that’s a scenario that might please Nigel Farage, it gives a sense of just how many people we are talking about.   Women are also 10% more likely to be undecided than men – 35% of us don’t know who we are going to vote for. So it’s the job of our party to convince those 9 million women who didn’t turn out in 2010 not just to vote – but to vote Labour.  We need to show the 35% of women who are undecided that Labour is the right choice.


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Labour’s campaign is a mess. So much wrong, so little right

27/02/2015, 09:39:29 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour has achieved something remarkable this year. In the space of eight weeks the party has managed to focus the national debate on some of its strongest issues – the NHS, equalities and tax avoidance – and yet still failed to land a blow. The average of this week’s YouGov polls is a very small Conservative lead.

The NHS should be a campaign winner, every time for Labour. But when Andy Burnham decided to use the rise in NHS spending outsourced to the private sector, as his key evidence to prove the Tories’ privatising intent, he turned political gold to base metal.

Given two-thirds of the rise in outsourcing happened under Labour, with the rate of increase actually slowing under the Tories, it doesn’t take David Axelrod to work out why Labour was on the back foot almost immediately.

Then there was Harriet Harman’s pink battlebus. There’s nothing wrong with the bus being pink and the issues raised by the women’s tour are important, but when Labour frontbenchers have been campaigning vociferously that equating the colour pink with girls is sexist then, once again, who couldn’t have predicted disastrous headlines?

Most recently there has been Ed Miliband’s offensive on tax avoidance. It’s difficult to think of territory more uncomfortable for David Cameron. Yet by broadening the Labour attack onto the principle of tax avoidance, rather than the narrow specifics of the jaw-dropping appointment of HSBC’s Stephen Green as a Minister, even when government officials knew all about HSBC’s illicit activities, Ed Miliband blew it.

Cue embarrassing questions about whether shadow ministers collected receipts for every odd job or window cleaned and the circumstances in which Ed Miliband’s mother seems to have avoided tax on the house in which he now lives.

Individually, these incidents seem like discrete gaffes but a common thread runs through each failure.

Andy Burnham, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband all walked into such eminently predictable elephant traps because their moral certitude blinded them to the politically obvious.

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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


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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

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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.


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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.


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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.


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