Posts Tagged ‘Labour conference 2011’

Forget the Tories: take the time to read Ed Miliband’s speech for yourself

03/10/2011, 03:30:14 PM

by Michael Dugher

As Ed Miliband made his way out of the conference hall after his speech in Liverpool last week, for some of the assembled political journalists, glumly “kettled” in a far corner of the conference centre, the story had already been written: Ed Miliband had “lurched to the left” with an address that was “anti-business”. Neither the conference nor the speech remotely warranted such a depressingly predictable narrative. But for some of the (Conservative-supporting) press, the facts must not get in the way of a good (or lazy) story.

By contrast, and by coincidence, as I made my way out of the hall in Liverpool, I bumped into two very senior business figures. One is a longstanding Labour supporter, who has made millions in private industry. The other has only recently joined the party, having retired from business after decades of running multi-million pound commercial enterprises. Both thought the speech was very good. They enthused about not only its thoughtfulness, but in particular its emphasis on the importance of business as a “wealth creator”, a line used repeatedly in Ed Miliband’s speech.

I too was struck by what I regarded as a firmly “pro-business” message the speech (the words “pro-business” were used no less than five times).  He rightly held out the example of Rolls Royce as a great British company and he contrasted the behaviour of its chief executive, Sir John Rose, with that of former bank chief, Sir Fred Goodwin. Also, as Labour continues to berate the government for its lack of any industrial strategy, I was pleased that Ed mentioned UK train manufacturer, Bombardier, as well as the defence giant, BAE Systems, with workers from both companies still reeling from recent announcements of large scale redundancies. He recognised the importance of financial services to Britain, but praised those companies that “train, invest, invent and sell”. Indeed, he said: “The vast majority of our businesses have the right values and do the right thing”.


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Post conference blues: Three dangers that will turn a leadership drama into a crisis

30/09/2011, 07:00:14 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So farewell then, Labour conference.

It’s done. The headlines were bad, the political management was poor and the top trending story for part of the last day was Ed Miliband’s denial that he is “weird“.

In amid the detritus of the retreat from conference, talking to folk leaving the security bubble, one apparent point of consensus was that Ed Miliband had definitively secured his grip on the leadership.

Andrew Sparrow even rated it the number one fact in his top ten list of things he learned about the Labour party at conference.


It’s true there is no cabal ready to mount a coup and there was no talk of imminent insurrection either in the bars or the fringes.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Conference has not given the leader the boost either within the party, or out in the country, that he needed. In the polls so far there’s been no bounce, not even the dead cat variety. In fact the fear in Liverpool was the reverse – that his ratings would slip slightly given the coverage of his big speech.


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Speed dating the great British public

28/09/2011, 08:41:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

A political leaflet has the time it takes to pick it up at the doormat and dispose of it in the bin to make an impact. Speakers at the pragmatic radicalism fringe on Monday night had two minutes to make their cases for policies they’d like Labour to take forward. The party itself has half a week of more prominent headlines and news coverage to move beyond Tessa Jowell’s verdict that we’re not being listened to.

This fleeting opportunity for Labour amounts to a speed date with the British public – a chance to say who we are, what our interests are and what our idea of a good time is; a chance, if possible, to connect. The widely covered pictures of Ed Miliband travelling to conference with his wife and young children told us some of these things. He’s a family man. His idea of good time is spending time with his family. He “gets” family. It is a theme he developed in his speech yesterday.

He understands the concerns of families about rising energy bills, train fares and tuition fees. Of course, single people share these concerns. Ed is a family man, but this isn’t primarily about families. It’s about those who work hard but who struggle to get by and worry about their future and that of their friends, families and communities. The small people dwarfed by the big world.

The big world isn’t just formed by private companies whose prices only seem to go in one direction, but by the public bodies who, while taxing ever more, appear to care about the interests of anyone but people like them. If the small people messed up at work, they’d get the sack. They are sure of this. And it keeps them awake at night. They’d be no state subsidised bonuses for them, unlike the bankers. They wonder why they bother when plenty of people seem to live as they couldn’t afford on welfare payments.


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Not quite “je ne regrette rien”, but let’s keep the contrition in perspective

27/09/2011, 12:00:31 PM

by Chris Bryant

I spoke at Lincoln Labour party a couple of weeks ago.  It’s the kind of seat that Labour needs to win back, though God knows what the boundary changes will mean. At the end of my talk, one of the councillors started his remarks with “well, you see, it all went to pot when Tony Blair became leader”.  You can probably imagine the rest.  At the end of the meeting, though, another councillor came up to me and said, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. If it weren’t for Tony I would never even have thought of joining the party”. And now she’s a stalwart.

So what does that mean for Labour midway through Ed Miliband’s first party conference in command?

First of all, winning over the Labour tribe will not be enough. We all know this, deep down. Even those who lob hand grenades at the leadership from time to time, demanding a more comfortably leftwing stance, respect a leader who tells us tough things we don’t necessarily want to hear.

Undoubtedly it will mean a harsh mental discipline, because we simply cannot indulge in the politics of the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland who invented six impossible things before breakfast. We need policies that stand the test of serious scrutiny rather than gimmicks – and everything we do needs to go with the grain of modern life. Aspiration, ambition, getting on in life; these have to be as important in our lexicon as equality, support for the vulnerable and social justice. And vice versa.

There’s also no point in trying to win the 2010 general election all over again – or, for that matter the 1992 and 1983 ones. It’s so tempting, but obsessing about lost campaigns is as fatal for political parties as for generals.

This was brought home to me the other day when a team from Télévision de Radio-Canada came to interview me in the Rhondda. Their final question, in French, was “is there anything you regret”?  I had just started to launch into “non, je ne regrette rien”, when I realised they weren’t really looking for a painful impersonation of Edith Piaf. Nor, I suspect, is Britain.

Of course there’s a balancing act here. Ignoring our mistakes whilst boasting of our achievements looks arrogant. But banging on about our failings can simply make us look mawkish and self-centred.

So, yes, I am sure we can all list our “favourite” mistake in government, but I also hope that Labour can twinkle with a quiet pride that our government did many good things. (Again, please supply your own list.)

I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead. This government has appointed 123 unelected peers (and more are to come); it is cutting the Commons by 50 MPs; and it’s rigging the electoral registration system. All of which will make it even harder for Labour to win votes in parliament or secure a general election victory. But the most important task for us is to convince the voters that we have real, credible and affordable solutions to the problems they face. That means eyes forward, foresight not hindsight.

Chris Bryant is Labour MP for Rhondda and a shadow justice minister.

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The deficit: it’s double or quits all round

27/09/2011, 08:42:08 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The politics of the deficit has had two phases. The exposure on the FT’s front page last Monday (19 September) of a £12bn hole in public finances means we are entering a third.

The June 2010 budget divided the first and second stages. Up until then, and throughout the general election, the debate focused on whether to cut in 2010. Labour and the Liberal Democrats warned that Conservative plans to do so were reckless. Then we lost the election and the Liberal Democrats helped the Conservatives implement these cuts.

The debate that was long needed – how to approach the deficit beyond 2010 – didn’t open up until the June 2010 budget. The imprecision of Labour’s plans kept a lid on this debate until then. George Osborne lifted this lid with all the force of a dominatrix once he had the bully pulpit of the treasury. The message that Labour had mismanaged public finances and that Osborne would fix this over this parliament was incessant. It is, however, starting to become clear that Osborne won’t be able to do this.

The third stage of the deficit debate is about acknowledging this failure. The £12bn hole in public finances is a consequence of growth not keeping pace with that anticipated by Osborne. Anaemic growth produces shrivelled tax returns, which are the stuff of public finance holes. There is some debate about whether the holes are really so. But, short of sudden improvement in our growth, there will be inarguable holes before too long.

All parties face choices.


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