Posts Tagged ‘leadership contest’

Where does idealism stop and pragmatism begin?

16/01/2012, 07:30:58 AM

by Kevin Meagher

For all the talk about the font size and just how luminescent our mea culpa on the deficit should be, there is a bigger question stalking the Labour party: where does political idealism end and pragmatism begin? How is the balance to be struck between what Labour wants to do and what it has to do?

On this wheel the party always breaks. It’s been the same since Ramsay McDonald’s great betrayal of 1931, when he led breakaway Labour MPs into the national government to enforce Sir George May’s disastrous austerity package during the depression.

The same drama played itself out under Clement Attlee, when rearmament costs saw charges imposed for false teeth and spectacles, besmirching Aneurin Bevan’s idealistic vision of a free NHS. He promptly resigned from the cabinet, beginning a decade-long cold war with his arch-pragmatist rival, Hugh Gaitskell.

Most damagingly, the IMF-inspired austerity package, that James Callaghan’s government was forced to swallow during the financial crisis of the mid-seventies, saw Labour’s entire programme junked; precipitating the internal war that would rip the party to pieces during the early 1980s. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

11/09/2010, 07:00:56 AM


Mr Miliband’s brother Ed, seen as his closest challenger, is more likely to move the party away from New Labour and has been nicknamed “Red Ed” by opponents. He said: “I’m trying to persuade the Labour Party not to lose three or four elections before it bounces back.” – Telegraph.

First and fundamentally any renewal of Labour as a party of real power must be predicated on the alignment of socialism and democracy. Socialism, which all five leadership candidates have confessed an adherence to, can only be the collective capacity to change our world. For that we need a set of moral and practical rules; this is what democracy is and should be applied not just to Westminster but the state, our communities and workplaces. – Neal Lawson, Guardian

On 25 September, the next leader of the Labour Party will be announced. This is the person Labour believes should hold the keys to Britain’s nuclear arsenal. Yet, despite one of the longest leadership campaigns in memory, there has been no detailed debate about the role and scale of Trident, Britain’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. – New Statesman

On the campaign trail

“What the coalition doesn’t seem to understand is that when they make cuts to things like building schools for the future, it isn’t just bad for our children’s education, it’s bad for private sector jobs. It’s the cavalier way they are going about these cuts which is going to be damaging to the region. What we need to be doing is showing that there’s an alternative.” – Ed Miliband, This is Exeter.

Hacking claims

“A very senior News International journalist told me at the Labour party conference in 2006, in the early hours of the morning, that his editor would never forgive me for resigning as a minister in Tony Blair’s government and that she would pursue me for the rest of my political career until I was destroyed.” – Tom Watson, The Guardian.

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We’re finally starting to see who should lead the Labour Party, observes Dan Hodges

22/07/2010, 02:30:56 PM

The legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi once confided to an assistant that he found analysing match replays more stimulating than sex. “Either you don’t know how to have sex”, the assistant replied,  “or I don’t know how to watch game footage”.  I was reminded of that quote when someone at Saturday’s Labour Friends of Searchlight leadership hustings gushed to me how the leadership election was “energising the movement”. Either I have unrealistic expectations of what it means to be energised, or elements of the movement  have to get out there and get some excitement into their lives.

This leadership election is dire. The candidates are exhausted. The contest is mired in tedium. There  is lots of sound, but precious little fury. We are a beaten party going through the motions, and it shows.

And yet…and yet. Despite the banality, the drudgery, the parsing, the positioning; somewhere through the gloom, the odd chinks of light are starting to seep through. Patterns, barely discernable, are beginning to form. Gradually we are unearthing the first clues  to who could, and should, be the next leader of our Party.


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The Ed Miliband Interview

21/07/2010, 10:29:55 AM

Ed Miliband in his campaign office

Yesterday we took your questions to Ed Miliband. Speaking from his campaign office, incidentally run from the same building Brown used for his 2007 leadership campaign, Ed Miliband is gearing up for the remaining weeks of the campaign with a team of volunteers he is particularly proud of.

He was particularly pleased with his campaign’s appeal to younger party members. But who’s the Babe Ruth of the Labour Party? Covering that, his comments on marriage equality, the nuclear industry, Clem Attlee and more, Ed was next up for the Labour Uncut crowdsourcing hotseat.

Q. (from Jae): Following Ed Balls and Diane Abbott announcing their support for marriage equality, will he retract his comments about there not being enough people calling for it and come out in support of LGBT equality?

A. My position on this is pretty simple, which is that we did a consultation in the run up to the manifesto, and it wasn’t raised with me as an issue. But obviously if it’s something that is felt to be an important issue, I understand absolutely the reasons for that, then it’s something we should definitely look at. And I’m very happy to say that and I completely understand and sympathise with the wish for equality in this area.


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The David Miliband interview

13/07/2010, 10:37:34 AM

David Miliband: no zombie

Step up David Miliband, the third leadership contender to join us in the Labour Uncut crowdsourcing hotseat. He was bouncy and inquisitive, he had a firm handshake and a busy office.  He even let us take his picture, unlike Diane Abbott who only uses ‘approved photography’.

He’s for votes at 16, feels a personal loss at the ‘vandalism’ of BSF, but he’s definitely not a zombie. In fact, he’s very anti-zombie.

Q. (from Luke Spencer) How do you think we can get back the supporters we lost in the election so we can succeed in wining the election in 2015?

A. Well I think we lost because we didn’t relefct people’s aspirations and hopes and second because we didn’t have a clear plan for the future. The way to get it back is to be on people’s side and get a clear plan for the future. We won three elections because people thought we’d make them better off and make their communities safer, improve their schools and hospitals, or their health and education services. And that must be the recipe for the next election if it’s in 2015, or even sooner. I think that involves changing the way we do politics, because that’s an important part of reaching out, but also because it will help us develop the ideas that actually speak to people’s lives as they are today or tomorrow as opposed to what they were ten or fifteen years ago.

Q. (from Joseph Casey) Ken Clarke said last week that in the past politicians have talked tough on crime without taking the tough decisions. Although dominating the headlines and stimulating much debate, I heard no comment on the issue from any of the Labour leadership contenders. What approach do you think is the most effective route to offender rehabilitation, which ultimately creates fewer victims and less crime?

A. We’ve been asked about this quite a lot at the hustings that we’re having. Remember, crime was reduced by 35-40% under Labour. We’re the first government since 1945 to leave office with crime lower than when we arrived. And on reoffending we cut reoffending rates by 20% overall, 24% for young people…but we’ve got to do more, and better, next time. I think that Ken Clarke is having to come into this with his hands tied because he’s got no investment to make rehabilitation work. I would support as he called it the ‘rehabilitation revolution’. The more you can rehabilitate people, the better. And we’ve got to make prison work better. It’s not a case of does prison work or doesn’t prison work. It’s a question of what’s the best way of keeping crime down, because the best test of a penal system is the amount of crime not the number of people in prison. And I think that we can do that in a number of ways. I think that restorative justice is important, where people pay back to their victims. I think we’ve got to make community punishment mean something, because too many people think it’s a soft option. And we started to do that, but we’d have to go further.


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Saturday News Review

12/06/2010, 07:30:04 AM
The Leadership Contenders

“It’s a delicious prospect. The man who once met a black man being pounded to oblivion at the despatch box by a black woman. The old Etonian son of a stockbroker being ejected from Downing Street by the daughter of a welder. The husband of the daughter of a baronet being given his marching orders by a single mum from Hackney. As spectator sports go, it would certainly beat the World Cup.”  – The Independent

“Until now Mr Miliband has been private about his family life, facing criticism from his opponents that he lacks warmth. But in an emotional interview, he described the personal experiences that have shaped his politics. He and Louise tried IVF. “Emotionally, it was incredibly exhausting. You don’t want to talk about it to people because you are going through this very intense personal thing and you don’t really want everyone saying, ‘Oh, how is it going?’ Or, ‘I am so sorry’. Or, ‘What is the latest news?’ he said.” – The Times

“Whether you like it or not – and why wouldn’t you? – Britain is a dizzyingly diverse place. You can find every colour of skin, style of dress, class, creed and cuisine on every high street. Which is why it’s depressing that a Martian visiting the House Of Commons would assume our ruling class was cloned in a test tube. Hundreds of bland, white public school boys rolling off a conveyor belt in the Home Counties.” – The Mirror

“The bookmakers’ favourite to win the Labour leadership, today urged Frank Field not to betray Britain’s poor after he called for the government to drop Labour’s main target for cutting child poverty. Miliband made his remarks at the first official Labour hustings in east London. Field, appointed by David Cameron to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of poverty, said the Labour target was mathematically unobtainable, had not been achieved anywhere in the free world and revealed he would look to develop better targets. He is due to report at the end of the year.” – The Guardian


“Loosening the rigid labour market is seen as vital to ensure Spain’s long-term economic recovery and to ease market fears of a Greek-style debt crisis by proving Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero’s unpopular government can act. But talks between the Socialists, business leaders and unions failed to come up with a consensus draft on Thursday after two years of on-off talks and the government has decided to present a draft labour reform unilaterally.” – Reuters


Darling: 'Safe pair of hands'

The Ex-Chancellor

“The obligatory description of the ex-chancellor is that he is a “safe pair of hands” (generally accompanied by reminders that a trucking magazine once awarded him the title of “most boring politician” two years in a row). It’s meant somewhat pejoratively, but “safe pair of hands” turns out to mean sleek, tanned, straight-talking – and yes, safe, in that one can easily imagine panicking bankers and prime ministers turning to him for answers and calm. Funny, too, though his jokes about previous Guardian interviews have a certain take-it-on-the-chin ruefulness: two years ago Darling said, bluntly, that Britain had to brace itself for the worst economic climate in 60 years.” – The Guardian

Being in Opposition

“Some Labour figures appear relieved to be in opposition. Quite a few to whom I have spoken since last month’s election seem to think their party did rather well. It didn’t: it won 29 per cent of the vote. So far, Labour’s leadership election seems to be taking place in a parallel universe. The candidates talk about reconnecting with the voters, but the crisis in the public finances (which Labour would have had to tackle if it had retained power) rarely gets a look-in. They are more interested in connecting with Labour members. Now that the general election is over, it is safe to talk about immigration, Iraq, bankers and high earners. But there’s no need to mention the c-word. The cuts can be left to the other parties and Labour can retreat to its comfort zone.” – The Independent


“David Miliband yesterday declared Labour should learn from the party’s stunning general election result in Scotland.  The Labour leadership contender, who has pledged to rebuild the party, also welcomed further powers for the Scottish parliament.  He took his campaign north of the border, where he met MSPs and party activists.Miliband also watched Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray take on Alex Salmond at First Minister’s Questions.” – The Independent

The Trial

“‘In my judgment, the conduct alleged against these defendants is not covered by Parliamentary privilege and is triable in the Crown Court. ‘Unless this decision is reversed on appeal, it clears the way for what most people accused of criminal behaviour would wish for: a fair trial before an impartial jury.” Judge – The Daily Mail

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Straight Outta Corpus

10/06/2010, 04:16:39 PM

We’re a little concerned that Andy Burnham doesn’t seem to have got the hang of the whole entourage thing.   Last night he was hanging round the House of Commons on his own.  This afternoon he was waiting for a bus outside Victoria Embankment gardens – on his own.

Come on Andy.  Get a grip.  As even the most middling hip hop gangsta could have told you, you are nobody if not surrounded by people whose presence in your presence serves no purpose.

Once the special-branch-protected holder of a great office of state, David “Fiddy” Miliband is the modern master of this art.  From the black clad men with submachine guns outside his house in Primrose Hill to the PPSes and campaign flunkeys who shepherd him from terrace to tea room introducing him to people he should know, he is never alone.

His brother, Ed “Snoop” Miliband, more unassuming till recently, has learned fast.  His appearance at last night’s New Statesman hustings brought squeals from gaggles of ecstatic young Fabianistas. But he can now not be reached through the armour of his entourage.

The Snoop Miliband posse, as you would expect, is lighter-hearted and more charming than Fiddy Miliband’s, which is cool and serious, but underlain with a slight air of menace.  Snoop’s boyz will crack a joke and make you feel at ease.  Before they kill you.

In truth, there is some way to go before either will be ready for the mean streatz of Compton or Queens.  The pimp-stick-wielding bad boyz in Snoop “Ed” Miliband’s krew include London barrister, Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, the Oxford don, Dr Stewart Wood and “Big Sista” Polly Billington, formerly of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Fiddy “David” Miliband’s top homeboyz are people like former ITV corporate affairs director Jim “Smackup” Godfrey and former FCO special adviser Madlin “Mizzlsizzl” Sadler.

It is a long way from Watts to Westminster.  And the sad truth is that the Miliband boyz are not so much Straight Outta Compton as relatively recently graduated from Corpus Christi.  Not so much Tupac and Biggie as, well, David and Edward.

Let’s hope Andy’s not still waiting for the bus.

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Thurday News Review

10/06/2010, 07:40:14 AM

And then there were five

Diane Abbott made it through nominations

“FIVE candidates will fight for the Labour leadership after backers of the favourite, David Miliband, lent their support to less-fancied rivals. Mr Miliband, his brother Ed and former Schools Secretary Ed Balls had already secured the 33 nominations needed before yesterday afternoon’s deadline. But the former Foreign Secretary allowed some of his team to nominate left-winger Diane Abbott and former Health Secretary Andy Burnham, in a bid to ensure a more diverse line-up of candidates.” – Wales Online

“Former ministers Jack Straw, Denis MacShane and Phil Woolas were among the other surprise names to deliver Abbott the 33 MP nominations she needed. Miliband and the others made their move after another leftwinger, John McDonnell, withdrew from the race.” – The Guardian

“The Labour Party now has its final five leadership candidates – and it’s a broader field than initially expected. The left, women and BME voters will now be represented in the race – but most of the diversity is thanks to one candidate only – and she still went to Cambridge.” – Labour List

“The left-wing MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington joins David and Ed Miliband, former children’s secretary Ed Balls, and former health secretary Andy Burnham on the list […]But Ms Abbott’s presence on the ballot paper was only thanks to a late flurry of support after fellow left-winger John McDonnell quit the race and called on his backers to get behind her.” – The Scotsman


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The Diane Abbott interview

09/06/2010, 01:05:45 PM

UPDATE: Diane Abbott has secured 33 nominations and will be on the Labour leadership ballot paper.

This was the second in our series of crowdsourced interviews with the leadership contenders.

Diane spoke to us last night at her office in Westminster, where everyone was keenly monitoring her leadership support with hours left until nominations closed.

She was completely unphased by your questions, which included her son’s private education, the demographic of her leadership opponents and how much she is paid by the BBC.

Q. (From Derek) You and John McDonnell both have solid socialist credentials, but isn’t there a danger that in standing you will split the left vote? I don’t really want the wishy washy alternative of the other 4 candidates. What are your thoughts?

A. There always was a tendency to say that if women stood it split the vote. I think that there is the politics that I’m on the left, and have as good a voting record on left wing issues as John McDonnell, but there’s another issue which is about gender.  It’s not so much that I stood against John, but that John stood against me.

Q. John McDonnell’s come out and said that if it means getting a woman on the ballot, he’ll stand down. In that case, do you wish he’d never stood in the first place?

A. I think it would have been easier if he hadn’t stood. If he was committed to gender issues it would have been easier if he hadn’t. Initially, it was very difficult for either of us to gain momentum. If there’d been just one of us standing then that person would have gained momentum much quicker. (more…)

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Wednesday News Review

09/06/2010, 07:39:06 AM

Count down

Abbott hoping to make the final cut

“Diane Abbott received a boost to her candidacy for the Labour Party leadership when Harriet Harman, the party’s deputy leader, nominated her yesterday. Ms Harman said she was doing so in the hope of helping to ensure there is a woman on the ballot paper, and will not cast her vote in the election this September.” – The Independent

“Mr Balls, the shadow education secretary, called on supporters to back Miss Abbott during an event held by the GMB trade union, saying that it was important for a woman to be in the race.” – The Telegraph

“BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the three candidates so far are all Oxford-educated men in their 40s, and none of them are from the party’s left – unlike both Ms Abbott and Mr McDonnell. On Tuesday, acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said she was nominating Ms Abbott because she did not want to see a “men-only” contest.” – The BBC

 “Speaking on Tuesday Mr Burnham said he was confident he would gain the seven nominations he still needed, while Ms Abbott and Mr McDonnell – who failed in a bid to challenge Mr Brown for the party’s leadership in 2007 – did not appear close to a deal to transfer MPs to the other to ensure a left-winger made it on to the ballot.” – In the News


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