Posts Tagged ‘John Woodcock’

Incompetence, not internal plotting, is damaging Jeremy Corbyn

27/03/2016, 10:10:31 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘Infamy, infamy, the PLP have all got in it for me!’ This seems to sum up the mood in the Corbyn inner circle, certainly judging by the leadership’s now infamous list ranking Labour MPs on their relative loyalty and disloyalty.

The author – still unconfirmed but reported to be Corbyn’s political secretary Katy Clark – really shouldn’t have bothered. There’s really no need for lists of friends and foes because Labour MPs are utterly rubbish at coups.

Unless all his detractors can agree on who should replace him (which they can’t) it’s hard to see how the mechanics of a successful insurgency against Jeremy Corbyn will ever come about. John Woodcock’s plaintive cry to his colleagues that ‘We can’t go on like this,’ will remain unheeded.

The initial thought was that May’s elections would see Corbyn’s Labour crash to the ground once electoral gravity hit his ‘straight-talking honest politics’. Yes, there will be a collision, but the fall will not be as precipitous as first thought.

May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament are already factored-in as a wash-out. Labour will win both the Brightside and Hillsborough and Ogmore by-elections without breaking sweat, while Sadiq Khan will romp home in London.

Plus, the party will do well enough in his heartlands in the local elections to please activists and reassure most Labour MPs they are not facing electoral oblivion in 2020. Labour will struggle in battleground seats, particularly in the south of England, but ‘not winning’ is much less damaging than ‘actually losing.’

So, yes, there is feverish plotting, but most Labour MPs are the political equivalent of Adele fans. They will settle for lowest common denominator mush. They will go with the flow and offer no threat to Jeremy Corbyn out of a mixture of reasonableness and indolence and dare not fall out with their local activists. They will put loyalty to the party ahead of intellectual principle (assuming they have any) every single time.

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Ed was right, we need to rebuild trust in Labour. Here’s how.

06/05/2012, 07:00:28 AM

by John Woodcock

With so many councillors winning the chance to serve communities who rejected Labour at the general election, Thursday’s election puts us back in contention. But only if we treat this boost as a spur to raise our game.

On Thursday many cast a vote of anger against what the Tories and their Lib Dem helpers are inflicting on families across the country; many cast a vote that recognised that Labour was speaking their language again; but most did not vote at all.

So Ed Miliband struck exactly the right tone the morning after the results. This is a moment for determination, not hubris. Ed was right to address directly the overwhelming majority of people who who didn’t vote at all on Thursday. The pledge to ‘work tirelessly between now and the next general election to win your trust’ is exactly what a weary nation deserves to hear.

The grim mood on the doorstep felt like more than the usual reluctance to engage with local polls mid-way through a parliamentary term. The particularly low turnout was a symptom of a genuine malaise: people are doubtful that the mainstream parties can offer anything that will make a real difference.

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Labour must go further, faster on welfare reform

21/02/2012, 07:00:16 AM

by John Woodcock

The workfare row of the last few days may have exposed the shambolic nature of the government’s work experience scheme, but Messrs’ Cameron, Duncan Smith and Grayling may nevertheless view the fury it is generating as manna from heaven.

For the heated debate over whether or not placements in supermarkets were voluntary or obligatory, permanent or temporary, and exploitative or not, risks giving a false impression that there is a substantial and coherent government programme to tackle unemployment.

There is not. It is right to be angry about the millions out of work who are being failed by this Tory-led government; but so far, what ministers are failing to do should make us angrier than the schemes, however flawed, they are attempting to establish.

Welfare minister Chris Grayling was clearly delighted to take to the airwaves and wind up the rhetoric in the knowledge that every protest he provokes diverts attention from the real scandal: namely, that this Tory-led government is doing far too little to get people back to work, not too much.

The charge sheet of inaction on welfare is growing longer alongside the spiralling numbers of jobless and continued failure to return the economy to growth so businesses can create more jobs. Ministers have set their face against financing extra job opportunities for young people by repeating the tax on bankers’ bonuses; they axed the future jobs fund and have belatedly replaced it with something less extensive; and there are already dangerous signs that their flagship work programme could fail to help sufficient people off the sick because of problems in the contracts agreed with private and voluntary sector providers.

In assessing what is happening now, it is worth dwelling on just how much damage to families and whole communities was inflicted by the last Conservative administration’s failure to act on welfare.

On top of the appalling legacy of long-term youth unemployment, areas like Barrow and Furness still bear the scar of welfare dependency inflicted when Conservative ministers tried to mask the true level of joblessness by parking many thousands of able people on the sick and leaving them to rot. Nothing was asked of them, and no help was given to get back to work. Those people dumped on incapacity benefit were the forgotten millions, sentenced by the Tories to a life of quiet despair.

But in truth, Labour let them down too; we should have spoken up for people trapped on sickness benefit sooner and asked more of them alongside increased offers of help.

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Cameron’s big talk on fatcat pay is just that, and nothing more

30/01/2012, 12:30:38 PM

by John Woodcock

By sitting on his hands while Ed Miliband spoke for the public over Stephen Hester’s bonus, David Cameron has failed an important test over fairness at the top.

As the welfare reform bill returns to the House of Commons, Labour has an opportunity to show that we are the party best placed to deliver fairness at the bottom too.

To start at the top. The prime minister ought to be worried by the way he has allowed himself to seem out of touch and evasive on an issue that has symbolised people’s resentment of unjustified rewards for the highest paid. As an opposition leader, Cameron was adept at understanding and reflecting the public mood. He often moved swiftly on emerging issues, leaving the then Labour government struggling to catch up. Yet on banker’s bonuses he has shown both a flat foot and tin ear – failing to show leadership over the specific issue of the Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, and refusing Labour’s call for a repeat of the bank bonus tax to get more young people into work.

Were it not for shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna revealing the element of discretion over bonus payments in the Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive’s contract, the government might still be effectively hoodwinking people by suggesting that its hands were tied. Ed made the point last week that Cameron has left himself vulnerable by talking big on the subject of excessive pay while shirking the necessary action to tackle it. The PM’s failure to speak up over the scale of rewards at the top of a troubled state-owned bank is a prime example of that; it may linger in the public’s mind.

Ed has been clear from the outset, though, that leading the way in calling for action against unfair rewards at the top must be matched by a determination to address unfairness at the bottom too. When we stood on their doorsteps at the last election, voters were unsurprisingly angry about the way irresponsible bankers had inflicted so much damage on the British economy. But while the practices of the City of London were alien to their lives, many expressed a sharper resentment at the sense that people in their own neighbourhood who could be paying their way were able to get something for nothing from the benefit system.

We forget that at our peril. The Conservative-led government is set to lock in a nationwide maximum annual benefit level of £26,000 – a figure that seems incomprehensibly high to many working families struggling on modest incomes in parts of the country with lower housing costs than the capital.

Many MPs are finding that the reaction from their constituents to the proposed benefit cap is not full throated praise that ministers are acting; rather, many working people cannot believe that the cap is being set so far above the wage level that they work their socks off to earn.

That is why shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne is right to suggest independently set local variations on any benefit cap this week. Determination to confront this issue head on is a necessary part of our commitment to fairness at all levels. It is equally necessary if we wish to remain in touch with the working majority who we were elected to represent.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

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The Tories: cuts for you, bonuses for bankers and yachts for royals

17/01/2012, 10:34:51 AM

by John Woodcock

You don’t need to be mystic Meg to predict that the next general election will be fought on the twin pillars of economic credibility and who has the right priorities for Britain.

The great importance of Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’ excellent speeches over the past few days is to make crystal clear how serious Labour is about demonstrating the former, and to open up the space for us to take on the Tories over the latter.

The public are understandably deeply anxious about the economic turmoil that is afflicting economies across the world. They are concerned by a deficit made even harder to shift by the Tory failure on jobs and growth, and rightly believe major and sustained belt tightening will be necessary to get back on track. And they will simply not listen to what we have to say if we allow the political debate to be dominated solely by an argument between more versus less, with Labour on the side of spending more. (more…)

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2012: the year we all need to become better leaders

03/01/2012, 07:30:06 AM

by John Woodcock

Every single Labour supporter woke up in 2012 wishing we were doing better.

But let’s be clear, that sense of painful dissatisfaction at being stuck in opposition while David Cameron runs the country is a good and necessary thing: we had better make sure we feel it in the pit of our stomach every single day until we win again.

So if we want 2012 to be the year that Labour gets back in the game and convinces the British people we deserve their trust to change the country, it is down to all of us to make that happen.

The harsh truth is this: there is no secret Labour party hidden behind a wall who will do all the work while we all sit around wishing things were going our way. It is down to us to get out there and make the case that there is a better way than the damage that the Conservatives are wreaking on the opportunities that future generations need to succeed.

As Michael Dugher wrote last week, we should take confidence in the fact that Labour under Ed Miliband has been in the right place on big issues. From Ed Balls’ warning that choking off the recovery would be disastrous for the economy, to our leader’s championing of the squeezed middle, epitomised this week by Maria Eagle’s announcement that a future Labour government will do more to protect commuters hit by soaring rail fares.

That confidence should fuel our determination to use 2012 to map a new course that will ensure Labour is a credible force at the next election.

Yes, this will be a year about leadership – it will be about the leadership each of us show at every level. From party activists willing to give up their Saturday mornings, to those, like me, privileged to represent people in the House of Commons.

We all need to show that we have the stomach and the stamina to take this fight to the Tories.

John Woodcock is Labour and Cooperative MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

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Cameron lets his cynicism show, again.

19/12/2011, 02:58:00 PM

by John Woodcock

Alastair Campbell’s  notorious “golden rule” on political sackings – that once someone had been subject to a press onslaught for ten days or so they had to go – may well have been apocryphal.

That no-one seems quite sure when he said it or exactly how many days the siege of government had to last before the hapless cabinet member was tossed over the castle ramparts suggests as much.

But Alastair’s rule has passed into Westminster folklore because it accurately encapsulates a wider phenomenon: namely, the power of media pressure in deciding who should be allowed to keep their job in the face of controversy, and who should not.

That sustained pressure has undoubtedly claimed political scalps which, once the storm of controversy has subsided, people realise ought to have remained on their owner’s head.

So on one level, it was shrewd of David Cameron to send out a message on becoming prime minister that he did not recognise the rule and would not be abiding by it. It was the obvious thing for a new premier to do – any signal to the contrary would be an incentive for the press pack to sustain its attack beyond the merits of a story in the knowledge that journalists were guaranteed to get a result if they held out for long enough.

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Don’t let the Tories hide their economic debacle behind their euro farrago

12/12/2011, 09:28:00 AM

by John Woodcock

The European summit may end up being bad for Britain, but it has had at least one notable up-side for David Cameron aside from getting him back on Bill Cash’s Christmas list.

The drama of the summit has filled a space in the domestic media that would otherwise still be occupied by scale of the problems Britain faces after the failure of the Tories’ reckless economic gamble.

So let the pages of Labour Uncut, at least, return to the fray over the consequences for Britain of the Tories choking off the recovery too early, despite Ed Balls’ warnings. They are terrible and ought to dent the Tories’ reputation for economic credibility for many years to come.

There has been lasting focus on these pages on the excellent pamphlet that marked the birth of In the black Labour. But, in the brief window of interest before attention was diverted by the euro, most observers failed to probe and discount the crude Tory line that sentiments of the pamphlet were outside, and in opposition to, the party mainstream.

In fact, as, to their credit, its authors have tried to point out, the pamphlet is simply picking up what both Eds set out in their speeches to Labour’s annual conference on the fundamental importance of re-staking our claim as the party of economic responsibility.

What they said then stands us in good stead to recapture the public debate now on how to deal with the fall out of the failure of the Cameron-Osborne plan.

First, rebalancing the economy. Our opponents continue to mischaracterise and under-estimate the importance of what Ed M said in Liverpool. Far from being a flight of fancy, his words were driven by Labour’s basic recognition of the need for an era of increased responsibility to build sounder economic foundations after the global recession. At a time when we continue to reel from the crash, and when so many families worry that that their ability to make ends meet is hampered by things beyond their control – from the turmoil of the eurozone countries to the collapse of the banks – there has rarely been a more pressing need to re-examine how governments can encourage greater longer term success and stable prosperity. It is up to us to make that vision add up to a convincing programme that we can present to voters.

And critically, our opponents have under-estimated what both have said on the need for fiscal discipline to get the country back on track. Ed M said back in September that he would deal with the country’s deficit if the Tories fail to do so in this parliament. Given the mess that the Tories are making of returning the country to growth, that pledge to the British people could prove to be the most important we make. Similarly critical to delivering it will be Ed B’s commitment to new fiscal rules – independently monitored by the office of budget responsibility – to get the country back to balance and national debt on a downward path.

We should give way to no-one on the key battleground of economic responsibility. The framework that Ed and Ed have set gives us chance to win. We need to get out and make that case.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness and a shadow transport minister.

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The lesson of Philip Gould: give your life to Labour

21/11/2011, 09:04:21 AM

by John Woodcock

Much has already been written about the wonderful man that Philip Gould was, and the amazing tributes that his family and friends paid to him at his funeral last week.

I knew Philip late in his life, and comparatively slightly. He was always so kind and encouraging to me, as he seemed to be to everyone – however junior – who played a role in the fight to get Labour re-elected. The iPod he bought me as a reward for a particularly good week as a researcher in the 2005 election campaign has long since bitten the dust, but I hope the infectious joy he brought to the task to which he dedicated his life will remain forever.

Right up to the end, Lord Gould was a recruiting sergeant to the battle for a modern Labour party. His last words to me – as I am sure to many others – were basically just to get stuck in.

So the funeral gathering at All Saints church in London was striking not only for the way it captured people’s love for a very special human being and one of Labour’s most dedicated and important servants. It was a reminder of just how much breadth and depth of talent and experience the Labour party has – talent we need to make sure we fully harness for the battle ahead.

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Miliband versus Cameron? It’s all in the team they pick

10/10/2011, 09:10:26 AM

by John Woodcock

By winning the right to pick his own shadow cabinet and using the reshuffle to exert his authority, Ed has rightly dispensed with generations of Labour tradition. The result is a refreshed, highly capable team that is hungry to take on the Tories and make the case to the British people that there is a credible alternative to this failing economic masochism.

By contrast, the weakness inherent in David Cameron’s reluctance to reshuffle his pack is shown to be more pronounced with every misdemeanour that goes unpunished. If the cabinet secretary’s report suggests Liam Fox has breached the ministerial code, today may finally be the day the dam bursts. But it is worth reflecting on how much the prime minister has let slide in the meantime:

  • The leaking of embarrassing private letters from Fox to Cameron is the kind of unfortunate incident that would have led to previous secretaries of state having their empire reduced. Yet his smiling denials provoke nothing more than dark muttering from Number Ten
  • Ken Clarke has been given a dressing down on more than one occasion for offences ranging from his soft sentencing policy to picking fights over cats. Yet he carries on regardless

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