Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

After Charlie Hebdo, we need confident social democrats

21/01/2015, 10:34:20 AM

by Jonathan Todd

It is over 170 years since Karl Marx published On the Jewish Question, which rebutted the argument of fellow Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer that Jews could only achieve political emancipation by relinquishing their particular religious consciousness. While individuals can be spiritually and politically free in the secular state, Marx prefigured his later critiques of capitalism by arguing that economic inequality would constrain freedom in such a state.

Jews are again questioning their place in European society, as are UK Muslim leaders, outraged after Eric Pickles asked followers of Islam to “prove their identity”. Whether or not that makes a Charlie of Pickles is debatable. But the Pope seems not to be. “One cannot provoke,” he claimed last week, “one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The ancient questions are back. About the relationship between faith and citizenship that the young Marx addressed in On the Jewish Question. But a concept – alienation – that Marx later developed also seems relevant. I’m not a Marxist but I’ve found myself thinking about alienation after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and in the kosher supermarket. Nor am I a massive fan of Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP, but since the atrocity, I’ve also been impressed by his reaction.

In my fusion of Hannan and Marx, I like to feel that I’ve done better than Jamie Bartlett’s characterisation of much of the Charlie Hebdo reaction, as, conveniently, meaning precisely whatever we were thinking already. But in a sense, I am only revisiting the point I made on Uncut after the London riots of 2011: Can we really only look deep enough into our hearts as to bleat about the same old hobby horses?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Labour right does not belong to Tony Blair

12/01/2015, 10:17:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

There are worthwhile endeavours within the Labour family that are devoutly non-factional. The point of Pragmatic Radicalism, for example, is to get away from left and right labels and to debate the way ahead in this unencumbered and comradely form.

Unsurprisingly, however, Prag Rad has not succeeded in moving our party beyond having groupings within itself. As much as the vibrancy and relevance of Labour depends on not over emphasising internal differences, which are never as substantial as the things that unite us, and interweaving ourselves with the communities that we serve, such groupings fall into that awkward category of thing that we might prefer not to exist but in all likelihood are always going to and which, therefore, we might as well be grown-up about.

To the best of my knowledge, if this is not too ridiculous a segue from talk of being grown-up, the only person who has ever blocked me on Twitter is a notoriously prolific tweeter, squarely on the party’s left. I’ve never exchanged views on Twitter with this person. I’ve never had a face-to-face conversation with them. I’ve never had any direct engagement with them of any sort. But somehow, I’ve upset them. Being Deputy Editor of Uncut is probably “crime” enough.

It’s not personal. It’s political. I know that. Which is why I don’t take it personally (though, it is petty and is not something, I hope, I’d find myself doing). This activist has one view of what Labour should be and I have another. The party is a broad church. In this context, there will always be different views.

In terms of my views, I have written plenty for Uncut that might be broadly associated with a Blairite position: the importance of fiscal credibility; bring pro-EU and reform in the EU; admiration for Jim Murphy; the desirability of big tents; applauding bridges built with business and wealth creation; embracing the contributory principle; and so on.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

What has changed on the deficit since general election 2010?

07/01/2015, 08:31:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This is the first of a series of pieces from Uncut on what has changed in respect of key political issues since the last general election. Looking over this timescale, we hope to distinguish the signal from the noise; what really matters from the day-to-day froth.

Liverpool played Burnley away on Boxing Day. The last time that happened was just before the 2010 general election when Rafa Benitez managed Liverpool. Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish both did so between Benitez and the current reign of Brendan Rodgers. Hodgson’s tenure coincided with the near bankruptcy of one of the world’s great sporting institutions. Enter John Henry, deus ex machina. This American has invested in the club stadium and playing squad, including in Luis Suarez, who brought both disgrace and nearly a Premier League title. Life is easier off the pitch and harder on the pitch sans Suarez. Fans yearn to be made to dream again. And will soon have to hope to do so without talisman Steven Gerrard.

In summary, much has happened at Liverpool since the last general election. Soon after which, I wrote my first piece for Uncut on ‘the emerging politics of deficit reduction’. Since when, as much as politics feels like a rollercoaster, these politics have changed remarkably little. Around the time that piece was published, Peter Mandelson was fighting for airtime by launching his memoirs.

We would not convince the country, Mandelson conceded on the deficit, that the Tories were going too far unless we convinced them that we would go far enough. That reflection on the 2010 election exactly parallels the advice that both myself and Samuel Dale have recently given Labour’s current campaign. I called for ‘Don Miliband’ to show himself, Sam for a ‘carpe deficit’ moment. The terminology doesn’t matter, the point is the same. Mandelson returned to the debate before Christmas to make a similar point in a speech to a Progress and Policy Network conference. Labour, Mandelson advised, will only get a hearing on ‘what will the effect be on society and the economy?’ if we are clear on ‘how much must we cut public spending?’

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Three reasons for Labour victory in 2015

31/12/2014, 08:28:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Tony Blair might be despondent about Labour’s prospects but all is not lost, there are three reasons for Labour victory in 2015: leadership, economy and brand.

Uncut has consistently warned about the dangers attaching to Labour’s poor polling on leadership and economy. The own goals and gaffes of Conservatives, however, open the door to these improving. Labour enjoys an advantage on brand, which is similarly assisted by Tory missteps.

If David Cameron’s party were a character on Thomas the Tank engine, the Fat Controller would be bellowing at them that they have caused confusion and delay. He’d be saying the same to Labour. Labour is not as popular or convincing as we would like. But Tory error is giving Labour the opportunity, should we seize it, to be marginally and decisively less unpopular and unconvincing.

Labour would be the least unpopular in the unpopularity contest that is this general election. Arriving in government in such circumstances would bring its own challenges. Not least as precipitous demands will be placed on whoever forms the next government by the UK’s fiscal position, underperforming economy and ageing society, as well as looming questions involved with everything from Vladimir Putin’s intentions to Nigel Farage’s staying power about our place in the world.

Someone will have a Labour plan for all of this. Charlie Falconer, perhaps. I think he leads Labour’s preparation for government work. If so, noting his chapter on delivery in the Uncut book, he should call Paul Crowe. The Hollande scenario that troubles Crowe must be averted. One way in which it might become existential for Labour is if UKIP establishes itself as the second party in much of northern England at the general election and then use the frustrations of an administration as disappointing as Hollande’s to further advance.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

If we are all Labour Uncutters now, let’s do this properly

15/12/2014, 10:25:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

We are all in the black Labourites now, Labour Uncutters and proud. It was In the Black Labour published by Policy Network in 2011 that reminded us that fiscal prudence and social justice are complementary. It was Labour Uncut at conference in 2013 who provided detail in our book on how this might be done, how £34bn of additional savings in 2015/16 could be reallocated to Labour priorities.

Both publications were contentious. They – at least In the Black Labour – are now orthodoxy. Higher debt interest payments, Ed Miliband noted in his speech last week, as In the Black Labour did previously, squeeze out money for public services and for investment in the long-term potential of our country. Following the Miliband speech, Phil Collins observed in the Times that the difference between an old Brownite and an old Blairite is about three years. The dates of Miliband’s speech and In the Black Labour prove him right to the week.

The headline used by Collins’ paper to report the speech – I’ll cut deficit but won’t reveal how, says Miliband – showed, however, that Miliband is yet to go as far as Labour Uncut has gone. In isolating additional cuts we’d support, Labour Uncut created resources to apply to different priorities. In the spirit of Mad Men’s Don Draper, we didn’t like what was being said about Labour (that the party can’t be trusted with public money), so we changed the conversation (by fronting up to enough cuts to create fiscal room for a set of policy priorities distinctly Labour and different from those of the Tory-led government).

Miliband didn’t do the full Draper. Maybe he got as far as a Pete Campbell, another Mad Men character. Moving in the right direction but lacking Draper’s uncompromising edge. Yet Miliband doesn’t need to that audacious to remake himself in Draper form. Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, reckons he has a £50bn target to shoot at. That’s the fiscal room between Conservative plans and Labour’s commitment to balance current spending by 2020.

£50bn is ample to signpost a Labour future. But voters won’t reward what you promise if they conclude you won’t deliver it. The £50bn can play the role played by house building and childcare within the Labour Uncut book; the altered priorities made affordable by identifying sufficient cuts. The political gain that attaches to this £50bn, however, is conditional on demonstrating how we’d balance current spending by 2020.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

George Osborne hasn’t set a trap for Labour. He’s launched a boomerang

01/12/2014, 09:38:06 AM

by Jonathan Todd

George Osborne thinks he is being clever, setting a trap for Labour. But Labour should vote against his proposal, expected to be contained in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, for a new law requiring that Britain’s structural deficit be eliminated by 2017-18. As it is not a trap, it is a boomerang.

“The duties imposed by the Bill are not accompanied by any corresponding sanctions,” he told MPs, when asked to vote by the then Labour government to put into law the halving of the deficit in two years. As declamatory legislation – an Act of Parliament which no one has any intention of enforcing – Osborne was right to dismiss it as “vacuous and irrelevant”.

Yet Osborne now advances his own declamatory legislation. What will follow as a result of his law from the deficit not being closed by 2017-18? Will the deficit be further extended by the government fining itself? Or will the government be required to learn their lesson in its prisons? It’s all funny money and silly politics.

Such tawdry legislation diminishes us. And if Osborne is going to pass laws making a deficit after 2017-18 illegal, doesn’t he anticipate people enquiring how he’ll make his government legal? Labour will make hay with speculation on what heartless plans he conceals. But his stated intentions are sufficient to damage him.

Under published Conservative plans, the Resolution Foundation “estimate that several government departments would face real-terms budget reductions of one-half or more between 2010-11 and 2018-19”. Budgets for DfID, the NHS and schools are nominally ring fenced, so other departments face a halving of their budgets.

How will the Home Office keep us safe on a shrunken budget? Are we to win ‘the global race’ with an FCO so puny? Will local government be recognisable after ‘the jaws of doom’ close?

Osborne is asking MPs to vote to make the continuation of government as we have known it illegal. While by 2010 there was fat to trim in the public sector, there is now less, so his plans entail a more dramatic state curtailment.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Liverpool must back Rodgers and Labour must back Miliband

24/11/2014, 01:10:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I’ve supported Liverpool FC since the 1986 FA Cup final, the first match I saw on TV. Because red was the colour for my six year old self. Not because, or so I’ve told myself, Liverpool won. My Dad probably also encouraged me, having debarred me from wearing the Manchester United shirt that my Mum had previously bought for me, and before long we were on the M6 to Anfield from Cumbria.

My parents did less to bring me to politics. They are no more interested than the average voter. I choose the political team in red for myself. I was willing Labour on from a young age. Labour and Liverpool have expended much of my emotional and mental energy.

Now both are in a hole. Some say that Ed Miliband should be sacked. Others that Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, should be. While Labour and Liverpool are struggling to meet expectations, I am not among either of these groups.

When I said at the start of this football season that I’d be pleased with Liverpool being in the Champions League after Christmas and in the competition next season, this was relatively low on ambition by the standards of fans whose expectations had been raised by nearly winning the league. These ambitions today are definitely optimistic.

At the start of last year, when Uncut was looking ahead to how Labour might approach another hung parliament, Labourites felt this lacking ambition. Last week, Conor Pope, the Labour List writer, tweeted the results of a survey of party members and professed amazement that anyone envisages a Labour majority. I have transitioned from being a relative pessimist about Liverpool’s prospects for this season and Labour’s chances at the general election to being a mild optimist.

It’s frustrating that Liverpool’s summer signings have not had the impact of Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbergas at Chelsea but the stumbling form of Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs just about leaves open the possibility of Liverpool finishing in the top four and again qualifying for the Champions League, a competition that they will retain interest in into the second half of this season with wins against teams, FC Basel and Ludo Razgd, that they were widely expected to defeat when the draw was made.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Authenticity is the key to Labour defeating the new insurgents

17/11/2014, 11:39:24 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour is about to throw away a winnable election, according to Phil Collins’ latest fiery column, because its leader cannot fathom that he needs to convince us he will take care of our money. As a consistent Uncut theme, we cannot be accused of not being forthright in stressing this need. We are eager to avoid Labour falling short in public estimation of whether the party is capable of taking the tough decisions on public spending that closing the deficit requires.

While winning economic credibility should remain a Labour priority and I’ve written in the current Progress magazine on how this might be done, it may be that a perceived dearth of authenticity, rather than economic credibility, is the most immediate cause of a heightened risk that Labour will not form the next government. The calculus of this risk is informed by the likelihood of Labour losing votes and seats to the SNP in Scotland, UKIP in the north of England and the Greens across the UK.

These parties all lump Labour together with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and dismiss them as “all the same”. Labour is supposedly another chip off this venal and failing block. The SNP and the Greens unambiguously pitch to the left of Labour and UKIP go after traditional Labour supporters.

All Labourites are appalled by the idea that we are no better than the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and bristle at the suggestion that we have left behind working class communities and left-wing values. But the worrying reality is that the Greens, SNP and UKIP – the new insurgents – successfully trade on these terms. As well as improving opinion poll performance, the new insurgents are all thought to be attracting new members at a rate that other parties appear able only to envy.

This success would not occur if Labour were more widely taken to be an authentic version of what we self-define as: the best vehicle for the advancement of left-wing values and working class interests. Alex Massie recently compared Scottish Labour to Rangers FC. Labour claims, like those of Rangers FC, that We are the People are now not just disbelieved but mocked. UKIP are seeking to inspire a similar kulturkampf among the English working class. They peddle the notion that the party founded to represent this class no longer does, as the Greens propagate the idea that a leader who has explicitly repudiated New Labour throughout his leadership is not really left wing.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The EU can be a winning card for Labour – but is not without its risks

10/11/2014, 08:11:54 AM

by Jonathan Todd

EU debate is going to get hotter, I warned on Labour Uncut three years ago. And so it has. George Osborne spent the weekend defending the UK’s EU financing. Ed Miliband successfully led at PMQs on the paucity of David Cameron’s progress in renegotiating the UK’s EU membership. He is also expected to major on the issue in a speech to the CBI today.

UKIP’s rise and Cameron’s promised EU referendum, as well as the continued troubles of the Euro and contention about free movement of labour, mean that the EU won’t be as peripheral in UK politics as it has been for much of the UK’s membership. In this context, there are various points that Labour might keep in mind.

The UK government should do what it can to solve problems as they are perceived by the UK people

It might seem utterly obvious that the UK government should seek to serve its electors. But it’s worth reiterating. For example, over the weekend, “a senior Labour MP named as being involved in a plot to oust Ed Miliband,” reported the Daily Mail, demanded, “that the party toughens its stance on immigration”. What Ian Austin is reported as wanting is “a ban on benefit payments to new migrants who have paid nothing into the system, fingerprinting at the Calais border, and up-front payments by foreigners for NHS care”.

In spite of the prominence that ‘welfare and health tourism’ have in UK debate, these measures could be implemented by the UK without contravening EU rules. Eliminating ‘health tourism’, for example, is part of the motivation for the NHS Mutual that Frank Field has argued for on Labour Uncut.

It’s not the Commission that Field looks to for this mutual. It’s a Labour government. Labour should be clear about what we would do with the powers held by the UK government to improve the immigration system. Austin helps us in this direction.

The Eurozone crisis is not going away but the UK should be constructive in seeking solutions (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why is Miliband struggling where Kinnock prospered?

04/11/2014, 04:40:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

On 4 February 1975, Margaret Thatcher defeated Edward Heath in a leadership ballot among Conservative MPs. The Spectator showed the way the wind was blowing four months earlier. It would seem to be of the first importance; it reported on 2 November 1974, that Mr Heath’s successor should be someone who is not ashamed of being a Conservative.

Similarly, during summer 2010, it was felt of the first importance that Mr Brown’s successor should be someone not ashamed of being Labour – except Brown has rarely been so ashamed. He was invariably more unashamedly Labour than his predecessor, Tony Blair. The ex partner that the Labour lover wanted to get out of its system had been playing the international field for three years by the time the opportunity came around to do so.

When Neil Kinnock reacted to Ed Miliband’s election as leader by saying, “we’ve got our party back”, we might presume that Blair was the primary kidnapper. But Miliband was himself a minister under Blair and new Labour was not an imposition on an unwilling party but something that grew out of its belly. As no kidnapping occurred, Kinnock was confused.

Nonetheless, reflecting on who the “our” in “our party” are may tell us something still relevant. In the view of David Marquand, Kinnock’s “skill in manipulating the symbols of tribal loyalty made him leader”. We might speculate, therefore, that “our” are those who recognise and value in these symbols.

“Labour needs its soul back,” I was told in 2010 by someone now working for Miliband. Kinnock connected with this soul via the second of the two dimensions that, as Marquand recalled, Henry Drucker saw as forming the ideology of the British Labour movement: ‘doctrine’ and ‘ethos’. “That ethos,” Marquand observed, “is almost indefinable … Perhaps Richard Hoggart caught it best with his famous evocation of the world of ‘them’ as seen from the point of view of ‘us’”: (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon