Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

The inspiration of Tessa Jowell

29/01/2018, 10:24:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

In an era of robotic politicians, Tessa Jowell is a magnetic presence. The cause of unprecedented scenes of applause in the Lords. The catalyst to improved cancer services. Her humanity shrines like a beacon, reminding us that politics doesn’t have to disappoint.

There’s nothing like a dame, Peter Mandelson – quoting a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – told the Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN) summer party after Tessa, our MP, had been made an Order of the British Empire. This might have been the same year that we watched Andy Murray become the first male British Wimbledon champion since 1936. When Murray secured this victory, Tessa punched the air in the house backing on to Dulwich Park that has witnessed many of these annual events.

More immediately after Tessa became a dame, there was a party in the Commons to celebrate this elevation. While the eschewing of political honours exemplified by Keith Hill, Tessa’s sometime neighbouring MP, is impressive, there was also a lot to admire in the big tent assembled for Tessa’s party. From Tony Blair to Ken Livingston, from Kay Burley to the Southwark News, from Seb Coe to Brixton charities, it exemplified Tessa’s capacity to bring diverse people together.

I saw Tessa most closely in a less high-profile context than delivering the Olympics and Sure Start. At GC meetings in a chilly hall in Herne Hill. My decade on the DaWN GC is the only GC that I have known. I wasn’t going to do anything as sober as serve on a GC as a student and I’ve since moved to a CLP (Birmingham Ladywood) that doesn’t have one.

GCs are like wines. The more you experience, the more – if you pay attention – you appreciate. It initially seemed pretty uninviting and tedious. Over time, the personalities, politics and issues revealed themselves. I came to know DaWN through its GC and my understanding of Ladywood is hampered by its lack of a GC.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Uncut Review: Pod Save America in London

19/01/2018, 10:02:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Kings of the King’s Road is a book about the Chelsea football team of the 1960s and 70s. The street has much changed since. Last Saturday, looking for somewhere serving a pint of beer, Uncut walked some distance past its high-end stores, little distinguishable from those of Manhattan, Dubai and so on. And then, inevitably, paid £6 for average IPA.

With 950 other paying customers at Cadogan Hall, we attended a self-help group for liberal America. Otherwise known as a recording of Pod Save America. Ex-Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor debated politics in their inimitable way.

Comedy is the new rock’n’roll and podcasts are the new comedy. Our three heroes rode on stage to a backdrop of a video reminding us of some of Donald Trump’s most amusingly daft moments – which was reminiscent of the entrances made by some stand-ups. For example, Russell Brand on his Scandalous tour. The sense of comedic theatre did not end there: Lovett, in particular, delights in a well-timed zinger; the crowd, enthusiastic participants in a political pantomime, heartily cheered and booed on cue.

One of the targets of Lovett’s mirth was Sadiq Khan for turning down the opportunity to appear in the London show. He was busy being heckled by Trump supporters at the Fabian conference. While the headline slot at the Fabians is invariably a top gig in the early new year diaries of Labourites, it does not – unlike Pod Save America – average 1.5 million listeners per show. About as many people, as the New York Times recently reported, as Anderson Cooper draws on prime-time CNN.

These 30-somethings have transitioned from helping sow the Obama stardust to being media pioneers. Backstage influencers to main stage ringmasters. On a self-built stage.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Five questions about the next general election

22/12/2017, 10:54:09 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Here with five questions about the next general election:

When will it be?

“I will probably win. I’m ready to be prime minister tomorrow,” Jeremy Corbyn told Grazia.

If the Tories thought Corbyn was going to win, they’d do everything possible to avoid an election, wouldn’t they?

They will also want to fight the next election when:

  • They have a new leader.
  • The economy is performing well.
  • Brexit is a ‘job done’. With the minimum of fuss.

There is a possibility that defeat for the government in the Commons on Brexit terms will precipitate an election. Equally, few Tory MPs – even Ken Clarke – would so vote if they thought that in doing so they were enabling PM Corbyn.

One way to manage this tension would be for Theresa May to pursue the form of Brexit – closer to Norway than Canada – for which there is a majority in the Commons. Her Chancellor will also reassure her that this is the way to deliver the best possible economy.

If Brexit becomes ever softer and more gradual, the date of the next election may recede into the future, potentially as far as June 2022.

Who will be the Tory leader?

If Norway feels too much like, to use the Foreign Secretary’s term, “a vassal state”, the Brexiteers might seek to eject Theresa May and install one of their own.

They lack, however, a convincing candidate, which may encourage them to reluctantly accept Norway as a staging post. They would have secured the UK’s exit from the EU, while creating a base from which a more complete separation might be achieved.

“The next Tory leader will be the person who has had the best six months before the contest,” one party grandee says. They will also be the person who best symbolises what the Tories want to be – a vehicle for renewed confidence and prosperity in a country outside the EU.

It is not clear that this is best personified by a Brexiteer – who feel too cranky and dusty. Amber Rudd, for instance, seems more at peace with herself and – though lacking “the necessary hashtags” – contemporary Britain. While she did not vote for Brexit in the referendum, she might, as a member of the government that delivered Brexit, be stomached by Brexiteer MPs and welcomed by party members looking for the best means possible of defeating Labour.

Who will be the Labour leader?

Jeremy Corbyn will be 73 in June 2022 – and it may take the Tories take this long to satisfy (or attempt to satisfy) the conditions that they are likely to want to see met before triggering an election.

If Corbyn were to lead Labour to victory in an election at that time, he’d become the oldest prime minister in British history. Another scenario, however, is Corbynism after Corbyn.

We hear, for example, rumours that Emily Thornberry has offered Seamus Milne a continued role in a Thornberry-led party in exchange for Momentum’s support in a Labour leadership election.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Leo Varadkar has done Britain a favour. He’s shown that the voices shaping Britain’s future need not be only Farage’s and Rees Mogg’s

04/12/2017, 10:31:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

There’s much to admire among the world’s new generation of leaders. The election of Justin Trudeau (now aged 45) as prime minister in 2015 on a pro-immigration, pro-investment platform made him Uncut’s overseas inspiration of 2015. Since then Jacinda Ardern (aged 37), Emmanuel Macron (aged 39), and of course Leo Varadkar (aged 38) have been elected to the leaderships of New Zealand, France and Ireland, giving hope that centrism might not be quite dead.

Over the past 48 hours, the last member of this group may have had the most significant impact on the future of the UK. By insisting on de facto all-Ireland participation in the single market and customs union, he has shown that the voices shaping what comes next for Britain, need not be only Farage’s and Rees Mogg’s.

“Brexit and the election of President Trump were inextricably linked,” recently observed Raheem Kassam, the Breitbart London editor and former chief of staff to Nigel Farage, leaving the prospects of centrism bleaker in the UK and the US.

In the past week, Trump has retweeted three inflammatory and unverified anti-Muslim videos shared by the deputy leader of Britain First, secured wide-ranging legislation on taxation that Bernie Sanders decries as the “looting” of the American treasury, and witnessed his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn become his administration’s most senior member to be charged in the investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

In the age of Trump, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian, it’s time to ditch the special relationship. Bold moves are easier executed from positions of strength. Which is hardly what UK, teetering on the brink of exit from our most important alliance, now enjoys.

The prime minister’s main focus is to resist every EU demand, before capitulating, having realised – contrary to her earlier insistence – that any deal is better than no deal. This pattern emerges across each of the divorce issues: the EU budget, the Irish border, EU citizens rights. This strategy will deliver Brexit. At any cost. Leaving an isolated UK looking for new friends. Which, particularly after the past week, only the foolish would think are to be found in Trump.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

If MPs privately oppose Brexit, they should show some public leadership and make the case against it

31/10/2017, 11:03:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

To begin with a confession, when I heard that Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Highlands and Islands, was running the line in a Champions League match in the Nou Camp, I thought, “wow, how impressive and exciting”. While the hinterland – to use Denis Healey’s term – of too many MPs seems offensively and dangerously shallow, this is elite, non-political activity.

The generally negative reaction to Ross, including the oh-so-funny brandishing of a red card by SNP MP John McNally in PMQs, has felt to me curmudgeonly and small-minded. It reminded me of Roy Jenkins’ autobiography:

“I am strongly against the current fashion for full-time MPs … Being a full-time backbench MP is not in my view a satisfactory occupation … Excessive attendance at the House of Commons, with the too many hours spent hanging around in tearoom or smoking room which this implies, either atrophies the brain or obsesses it with the minutiae of political gossip and intrigue.”

These words have become heresy in the not quite three decades since written. We’d rather atrophy Ross’ brain than test it alongside Lionel Messi.

Yet we need MPs with brains more than ever. We need them, too, to have the courage, reinforced by a confidence that, if necessary, they’d prosper in careers outside of politics, to use them.

Shackling MPs to the tearoom limits their horizons. It makes them more likely to feel that their financial well-being can only be maintained by securing re-election, heightening the probability that their only instinct will be to follow constituency opinion. If this is all MPs are, we might as well have a legislature composed of 650 local sentiment algorithms.

Political life is a vocation or nothing. There’s scant point to any of it without animating purpose. There’s no socially democratic aim served by Brexit. Thus, social democratic MPs ought not to accept Brexit, or to only secretly hope that public opinion turns against it; they should, instead, stand for their pro-EU convictions and seek to move opinion with them.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Economics and leadership, as ever, will determine the next election

01/10/2017, 10:51:35 PM

by Jonathan Todd

After Neil Kinnock gained 43 seats to give Labour 271 MPs at the 1992 general election, he resigned and John Smith promised ‘one more heave’ to Labour government.

When Tony Blair succeeded John Smith, he sought to further smooth the path to government. He promised to not increase income tax or reverse the 1980s redrawing of the boundaries between state and market, and would be ‘tough on crime’. Labour, in short, was nothing, especially for swing voters, to be afraid of. Reassurance was the watchword.

After adding 30 seats at this year’s general election to create a PLP of 262 MPs, Jeremy Corbyn has been lauded beyond Kinnock’s wildest dreams.

The biggest cheer of the shadow chancellor’s conference speech was for promising to renationalise rail, water, energy, and the Royal Mail. The construction industry (every builder?!) was also earlier promised. As well as PFI contracts.

“We’re taking them back,” John McDonnell declared. A phrase with a ring of ‘taking back control’. Delivered with the vengeful glee with which President Trump calls for NFL players to be sacked.

Massive, complicated, open-ended commitments. John McDonnell’s speech indicated that they’d be financed by “closing tax loopholes”. Like no one – including, at least to some extent, the incumbent government – has tried that. There was also unconvincing talk of compensating equity holders with government debt.

The CBI warned of “investors running for the hills”. McDonnell speculated about a government in which he’d serve inducing a run on the pound. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Ten political thoughts for August 2017

09/08/2017, 09:38:19 AM

by Jonathan Todd

August is a time to take stock. Particularly so after a wild twelve months in politics. Here with ten thoughts.

1.) There will be no early general election

Tories can’t agree on much. But they are united in not wanting Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and will do whatever they can to avoid an early general election that might bring this about.

Labour are powerful enough to subject the Tories to gruelling, parliamentary war but too weak for this to end in an early general election.

2.) Theresa May probably isn’t going anywhere fast

The Tories can’t agree on what form of Brexit should take and, as candidates reflect different Brexit flavours, a successor to Theresa May.

More chairperson than chief executive, she is condemned to try to navigate a peace between the tribes. Which may just hold if, before the election, she both delivers some form of Brexit and stands aside to enable a leadership election in which the post-Brexit Tory future will be personified.

3.) Cliff-edge Brexit is still possible

When Nick Timothy reappeared, the beard was gone. But the cant that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ wasn’t. It would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.

Lord Macpherson, until last year the top official at the Treasury , is quoted (£) as saying the “absence of realism in the government’s approach makes ‘no deal’ an evens chance.”

The magnitude of the calamity that ‘no deal’ portends cannot be understated and no responsible British politician would do anything to encourage this.

4.) But de jure Brexit, de facto Remain may now be the most likely outcome

Uncut does not know the government’s position on free movement. But the contours emerging amount to:

Free movement ends in March 2019 when the UK exits the EU but beyond that date, the government will support whatever arrangements British business tells us are necessary.

The de jure situation would change (free movement would be a prerogative of the UK government) but the de facto one wouldn’t much (our economy will still need and allow comparable numbers of immigrants to arrive from the continent).

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour can’t have our cake and eat it. We need to face our Brexit responsibilities

17/07/2017, 10:23:17 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Gus O’Donnell has stressed what has long been obvious about the Brexit process: “There is no way all these changes will happen smoothly and absolutely no chance that all the details will be hammered out in 20 months.” We are, therefore, starring into the abyss of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

This, according to JP Morgan, would be, “enormously disruptive to (trade) activity in the short run.” How bad? JP Morgan struggle to quantify this because, “there are no meaningful precedents for such an abrupt change.” That no one else has ever thought anything like this a good idea, should be a hint, shouldn’t it?

Living standards are being eroded by a post-referendum fall in sterling. Investment in the UK car industry has fallen by 30 per cent over the same period. Unsurprisingly, other industries are considering relocating out of a jurisdiction that can provide no clarity about the terms upon which it is soon to trade with the world.

Quelle surprise, too, to the supposed revelation that other European countries will encourage this investment to come to them. Immigrants – who might have treated our sick or picked our fruit – are departing these shores as rapidly as money is. Losing money and people is terrible for UK PLC and all our back pockets. With the CBI pushing for the softest of Brexits – inside the Customs Union and Single Market – the pressure from business on the government builds.

In not heeding these business warnings, the Tories are choosing to be the party of Brexit, not the party of business. It can no longer be both. It cannot have its cake and eat it. The ideological purity of Brexit and business pragmatism cannot coexist.

Neither – pace Rebecca Long Bailey – can Labour have its cake and eat it. We cannot sit back, watch this Tory destruction, and pretend that we have some kind of elixir known as “a jobs-first Brexit”. There is no such thing. We should be honest about that.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Brexit means austerity and the death of Corbyn’s hope

26/06/2017, 07:05:23 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Mandibles – Lionel Shriver’s latest – is a gripping and darkly hilarious story of a family and an America, over the years 2029 to 2047, in spectacular decline.

In our imploding chimney of a country, collapsing in on itself, we, too, feel precipitous descent. The appalling suffering and injustice of Grenfell. The banality of Islamic and right-wing evil. The biggest governmental challenge since World War II, with the least convincing prime minister since the last one.

Oddly enough, as everything that could go wrong goes wrong, The Mandibles reveals an optimistic core. This hope doesn’t come from institutions, abstractions, or politics. It is created by the visceral self-sacrifice and resilience of individuals, driven by love for those around them.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.

Like the Mandible family, Britain yearns to hope. Unlike them, we haven’t given up on politics as its source.

I was too young for Blair and am too old for Corbyn. Still up for Portillo but too wide-eyed to really absorb its historic significance. Not wide-eyed enough to have any anticipation of Kensington and Chelsea turning red.

Hope is what unites Corbyn with the Blair of 97. Much of the country looks into their eyes and sees a better tomorrow. Others scoff and are certain of disaster. My A-Level Economics teacher won £10 on a pub bet that there would be a recession within six-months of PM Blair.

New Labourites are misremembering if they think that Blair did not suffer doubters, as Corbyn does now. They would be lacking in generosity to not concede that Corbyn, as Blair did then, has, for those who have suspended any disbelief, become a canvass for disparate, even contradictory, hopes.

I’m not the first to draw comparisons between Corbyn and Blair. The left’s instinctive trust in Corbyn allows him, according to Matt Bolton, to successfully triangulate, that most Blairite of things. But Brexit is a triangulation too far.

“While Corbyn’s much derided ‘0% strategy’ on Brexit proved to a be a short-term electoral masterstroke,” Bolton observes, “assuring Red Kippers that he was committed to pulling out of the single market and clamping down on immigration, while allowing Remainers to project their hopes for a softer landing onto him, at some point a decision has to be made.”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour should unite around the possibilities offered by a Corbyn government

11/06/2017, 08:00:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Jeremy Corbyn has changed politics. Many – not least at Uncut – doubted whether he could. But he has. And it would be churlish to pretend otherwise.

Corbyn has illuminated a pathway to a transformative Labour government and the salvaging of the UK’s relationship with our European neighbours.

This is a future that everyone in Labour should fight for. Chuka Umunna should be congratulated for making himself available to serve on our frontbench, while the unwillingness of Chris Leslie is disappointing.

Much increased turnout among younger voters has produced a general election result broadly in line with those polls that took people at their word on their intention to vote. The youngsters said they would vote, they did, and Corbyn was key to this. If younger people continue to vote in these numbers, future elections will be different contests from previously.

As encouraging as this change is, the big vote among younger people for Labour was not sufficient to prevent a Tory government. At least for now.

Where coalition with the Liberal Democrats helped modernise the Tory brand, and provided a solid parliamentary majority, working with the DUP – pre-modern in their attitude to women and climate change – deepens the re-toxification of the already UKIP-esque Tories, in exchange for a puny majority.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon