Posts Tagged ‘Liz Kendall’

I’m a Socialist. I’m on the left. I’m backing Liz Kendall

17/06/2015, 04:51:28 PM

by Daniel Charleston Downes

I remember the first time that I read Karl Marx. I studied sociology at university and I remember reading it and my world view falling apart. Up to that point as a grammar school boy who used to stay up all night reading biographies of Thatcher and her cabinet, I thought I had a pretty good idea of which way my political ideology was going to pan out. Marx blasted that apart, he guided me through the Matrix.

I went on to devour other Marxists texts becoming obsessive about theory and ideology. Even at this stage, the high point of my intellectual journey into socialism, I felt uncomfortable with the Occupy movement and other far-left protest groups. I had become a religious zealot, as far as I was concerned I had found the Promised Land, the task now was to take as many people there with me as possible. I didn’t understand why everyone else was so angry, aggressive and insular.

The left hasn’t changed since then, at least not the hard left. It is still a movement that clings more to the processes of socialism (nationalisation, higher taxes for the rich, no private investment in state services etc.) rather than the values. Most of the time it feels as though these ideals are held religiously without any acceptance of challenge, the lack of flexibility has allowed the left to stagnate and fall apart. The lack of fresh ideas or an optimistic vision has seen the left become a rock for tenacious veteran campaigners and a disenfranchised and destructive youth.

Jeremy Corbyn represents for me the huge errors that the left has made over the last 50 years. He, like many others, is an apologist and even supporter of ‘socialist’ dictators in South America. His passion for the disenfranchised leads him to make peculiar and outrageously inaccurate statements about radical Islamic militants in Hamas and Hezbollah. He clings, like many others, to the nostalgic dream of nationalisation without a clear vision of what can be achieved by a larger state.

Corbyn’s aggressive anti-Israel stance is, in a typical leftist fashion, both inconsistent with his support of nations where human rights abuses take place in the name of socialism and drifts often into anti-Semitism. I have no affiliation with leftist organisations that see wealth and power as evil and place Jewish people in their narrative as always having both.

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Are we going to see candidates have a go at each other?

08/06/2015, 04:11:01 PM

One of the main strategic questions candidates for the Labour leadership are grappling with is the degree to which they should define their campaign by reference to the other candidates. So far, things have been cordial and bland, but there are signs this will not last much longer.

Liz Kendall was at it in her Observer column yesterday. Promising to “get power out of Westminster and into the hands of the people it affects” she said Labour had “let the Tories steal our clothes with their northern powerhouse and proposals to give Manchester more control over health services.”

This can be read as a criticism of Andy Burnham, who has opposed the devolving the NHS in the Greater Manchester area to its new metro mayor.

It’s no secret Burnham and Kendall don’t get on and publicly differ in their view about how much the private sector should be involved in providing NHS services.

Kendall, pitching herself as the modernising candidate, also claimed that “old hierarchies don’t fit today’s social networks and a culture of deference and uniformity too often stifles innovation.”

Deference is an interesting choice of word. Could she mean the same deference that saw Andy Burnham sign-off a letter to Prince Charles when he was health secretary with the antiquated term, “I have the honour to remain, Sir, your Royal Highness’s most humble and obedient servant?”

But Burnham’s been at it too. Before he ruled out standing, Tristram Hunt said Labour needed to be “on the side of families who want to shop at John Lewis, go on holiday and get a new extension”. Launching his campaign last month, Burnham said Labour must not limit its appeal “only to shoppers at John Lewis”.

But these subtle digs at opponents may be about to shift a gear. Our colleagues over at LabourList report that Yvette Cooper is set to make a speech warning the party should not take the new but untested and naive option.

Liz Kendall, it notes, was only elected in 2010. If that is indeed meant for her, then it’s a humdinger of a slap and a massive escalation in hostilities.

And we still have another 12 weeks to go.

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Let’s drop Harriet from PMQs and give the leadership hopefuls a go

03/06/2015, 04:06:21 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Everyone makes mistakes in politics. Some are minor, some are whoppers. Some never get noticed and some, like Harriet Harman’s woeful performance at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, are public and totemic.

For a party accused of pointing a tin-ear towards the aspirational, it was ill-advised for the party’s ‘interim leader’ to lead her attack on the government’s plans for home ownership. .

Don’t get me wrong, there are many sound criticisms about the government’s plan to flog off housing association homes at knock-down prices and no shortage of venerable voices to point them out.

But by majoring on it in her exchanges with David Cameron Harriet walked onto the punch. She allowed the Prime Minister to claim Labour are “the enemies of aspiration” and turn the rest of the session into a post-election victory lap.

Referring to the two Eds, Cameron sneered: “The messengers have changed, but the message is still the same”.

The encounter was a total disaster for Labour. Yet it’s really not that difficult. Harriet could have played it safe by focusing on foreign affairs, or by goading the Tories about Europe. She could have jumped on the back of moving news stories as a means of cutting into the day’s broadcast coverage. She could have been funny, or serious.

But, instead, she was Harriet: Predictable and wobbly.

Here’s a suggestion. Rather than allow her to flounder on for the next six weeks until the summer recess, demoralising the Labour benches in the process, why not give each of Labour’s leadership contenders the chance to stand in for her at PMQs on a rota system?

Let’s see how Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh and Yvette Cooper fare against David Cameron in the afterglow of his unexpected election triumph. If they can land a telling blow on him at this point in the political cycle they will show they have the skill and heft to take him on full-time.

Rather than sinking even further into the mire of political irrelevance, let’s use PMQs for the next few weeks as a live-fire exercise to see what our candidates are made of.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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I am a revisionist, not a right-winger

28/05/2015, 05:42:09 PM

by Adrian McMenamin

Eduard Bernstein is not a name heard much in Labour circles today – a social democrat and a communist (he would not have seen these as antithetical) – he shocked and scandalised many more orthodox members of the Social-democratic Party of Germany (SPD) by daring to “revise” Marxist thinking, to account for societal developments, in his “Premises of Socialism and the Tasks of Social Democracy” in 1899.

Fundamentalists have a tendency to regard their favourite books as unchallengeable eternal truth, rather than human works created in a given society at a particular time. That applies even when these fundamentalists are supposedly the most stringent enemies of superstition or religion – as the SPD’s hard-line Marxists claimed to be. For them the very idea of suggesting that Marx’s works were other than sacred and fixed was unthinkable. No method of theory revision for them, no matter how “scientific” they claimed their socialism was.

“Revisionism” thus quickly became, and remained, a term of abuse on the left – even, as in Mao’s China, a suitable reason to put someone to death: imagine that, a movement ostensibly at the pinnacle of the enlightenment ends up killing people for impure thoughts.

To be a revisionist is to be a traitor, an unbeliever or an apostate.

The Labour leadership election has been a case-in-point: the commonest piece of abuse thrown at Liz Kendall for daring to suggest, for instance, we should not be knee-jerk hostile to parents who want to improve the outcome of the state education system by setting up challenger schools, is that she is a Tory.

There are plainly a lot of Labour party members who think there is no difference between us – the revisionists – and the Tories. Beyond the obvious question of why, if someone really is ”a Tory”, they are wasting their time in an impotent and defeated party, as opposed to exercising power and influence in the real thing, there is the issue of historical experience. For surely it is us revisionists – from Bernstein on – who are those seeking victory for the left most keenly.

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Cracks appearing in team Burnham

27/05/2015, 07:48:27 PM

Word reaches Uncut that all is not well in the Burnham camp. Despite being the bookies’ favourite, worries about Andy Burnham’s strategy and performance have started to bubble to the surface among his supporters.

Doubts are being raised about what has been dubbed the ‘inevitability strategy’.

Immediately following the general election defeat, Andy Burnham’s campaign mobilised, rolling out endorsements from across the PLP to establish him as the runaway favourite, suck away nominations from potential rivals and make his victory seem assured.

The thinking was that this would lead to a lower key race with other candidates and party members reluctant to attack the likely leader. Such a contest, with relatively little incident or conflict to generate media coverage, would suit a candidate like Andy Burnham who is already well-known within the party.

However, almost three weeks into the race and things are not going according to plan. One staffer of an MP committed to Burnham told Uncut,

“We got off to a good start with Rachel [Reeves] and Dan [Jarvis] signing up but since then the momentum has slowed. The boss is worried the names promised haven’t come through.”

A centrist MP who is backing Burnham, but is yet to be announced, echoed these concerns,

“Andy is being defined as the left-wing choice, he needs to balance out his support. Idiots on Twitter like Eoin Clarke aren’t helping.”

Eoin Clarke is a well-known hard left Twittervist and has been tweeting prolifically in support of Burnham.

The MP went on,

“The plan was to be out of sight, quickly. We’re not there; Liz and Yvette are competitive and this looks like it’s going to get messy.”

Jitters about strategy are fuelling concerns about Andy Burnham’s personal performance.

Already a debate has opened up within his inner circle about whether he should challenge Liz Kendall’s agenda more aggressively.

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What does Liz Kendall believe?

14/05/2015, 06:30:34 PM

by David Butler

It was hard not to be impressed by Liz Kendall’s Sunday Politics interview with Andrew Neil. She displayed many of the facets that a future leader of the Labour Party should have. This was not the first time she had impressed in interviews, print or broadcast. We desperately need a leader who can win but we also need know what kind of change that leader seeks. Power for its own sake is only ever conservative. Liz Kendall’s thinking appears rooted in an undervalued, oft-forgotten Labour tradition, that of republicanism.

Republicanism has at its core a single notion: that true freedom consists of non-domination. Using a positive frame, Anthony Painter of the RSA (and formerly of this parish) calls it “powerful freedom”. What republicanism seeks is to offer people the ability to be architects of their own lives and flourish in society. The republican approach to freedom can be thought of as expanding what Amartya Sen called “capabilities” (the ability to do something).

Without possessing capabilities, a person is left to live a life where others, either directly through oppressive practices or indirectly through dependency, dominate them. This marks republicanism out from classical liberalism’s doctrine of non-interference. The divide can be illustrated the play A Doll’s House. In his book Just Freedom, Philip Pettit states that Nora would be considered free in classical liberal terms as her husband Torvald does not interfere with her choices. Yet, Pettit argues that Torvald exercises power over Nora as she is totally dependent upon him (something Torvald himself articulates in Act Three of the play). In republican terms, she is not free as Torvald dominates her and restricts her ability to shape her own life.

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Optimism and relationships are in Labour’s DNA

03/02/2015, 10:16:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The British economy is growing because of the hard work and ingenuity of businesses and workers. Crime remains in a long-term decline. Some public services are improving because of the efforts of public servants like those interviewed by Liz Kendall and Steve Reed in a new Progress publication.

The economy improves in spite of George Osborne, while Theresa May benefits from a trend toward falling crime that predates her time in office. Osborne’s attempted fiscal consolidation has lacked strategic direction: cutting deepest where resistance was thought weakest (local government, welfare), instead of recasting the relationship between public, private and third sectors to secure maximum combined impact. Pockets of public service innovation are, nonetheless, discernible, even if this strategic direction is lacking.

Kendall and Reed delve into these pockets: Frontline, a programme designed to attract some of the country’s highest achieving graduates into social work; Newcastle city council’s response to the government’s ‘troubled families’ programme; Oldham council, experiencing a threefold rise in residents’ satisfaction under Jim McMahon’s leadership; Participle, an organisation that designs and helps to launch projects to demonstrate what the next generation of public services should look like; and the use of personal budgets to empower people to manage their health and wellbeing in ways that best suit their particularities.

“It might be tough for those of us who love politics to face,” as Hopi Sen noted, writing for Progress about a Policy Network pamphlet published at the end of last year, “but politics is primarily a secondary function in society. Real change is being created and developed elsewhere, and politics seeks to manage, regulate, anticipate and ameliorate those changes in the interests of the people”.

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Uncut Review: Ed Balls’ speech

22/09/2014, 05:00:28 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Soon after Ed Balls finished speaking to conference, Hopi Sen restated to a Policy Network fringe the core thesis of Into the Black Labour, which he co-authored: social justice and fiscal conservatism are complements. Sen praised the robustness of the fiscal rules that Balls proposes for a Labour government. But feels the party has not gone as far in explaining the practical steps that would be necessary to satisfy these rules. Balls’ speech did not take us greatly forward on this front.

The publication made by Uncut at conference last year, identifying an additional £34bn of public sector savings that might be made and reallocated to Labour priorities, remains one of the most substantive efforts made to explain how Labour might make the sums add up. Politicians like to talk of tough decisions but are often not as quick to make them. Uncut cast some light on how this might be done.

At the Policy Network fringe, Liz Kendall explained that typical doorstep questions are: What are you going to do? How are you going to be able to afford that? The point of the Uncut publication was to answer these explains, convincingly explaining how funds could be found to fund a Labour alternative. If there has been a reluctance to go as far as Uncut did, it is probably explained by Sen lamenting that additional fiscal consolidation “gets very ugly very quickly”.

Lack of engagement with these issues will not, however, make them any prettier. They are not wines that will mature but vinegars that will go off. Kendall reminded Policy Network that the OBR consider the ageing of society to be the biggest threat to fiscal sustainability. The ageing of society isn’t about to stop. The only thing that might change is our preparedness for it. Which requires honestly facing up to the issues sooner rather than later, even if this does quickly take us into ugly territory.

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Labour needs to talk about the NHS

04/04/2014, 03:28:17 PM

by Renie Anjeh

Lord Warner, the former Labour health minister, hit the headlines earlier this week by calling for a £10-per-month charge for the NHS as part of his report for the think tank Reform.  The reaction from his fellow “comrades” was unsurprising. Some expressed their vehement disdain for the peer by launching a petition calling for his resignation from the party.  Others edited his Wikipedia page so that it included insults and untruths.

Like most party members, I am strong supporter of the NHS and I cherish the principle of free healthcare at the point of use.  However, supporting the NHS is not an excuse for refusing to face up to reality.  The uncomfortable truth, especially for Labour supporters, is that the health service’s finances are not on a sustainable footing.

It is inevitable that due to a rising ageing population and increasing numbers of people suffering from chronic conditions, against the backdrop of tight spending constraint, the funding gap will increase to £54bn by 2020.

As Alan Milburn said in 2012, “the era of big spending is over, fiscal conservatism is order of the day”.  Whoever is in government next year, will undoubtedly have to confront this problem.  Unfortunately, Lord Warner’s report just shows that the Labour party – the party of the NHS – is not sufficiently psychologically prepared for this challenge.  It is important to remember that the monthly NHS charge is one idea amongst many that Warner proposed in his report but the Labour party seemed to reject the report in its entirety.

Rather than braying for his blood, the party should have commended him for thinking seriously about this issue and should have adopted his issues on integrating budgets, investing in community services and efficiency.

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The “new” health bill is a PR fix. Scrap it and start again.

28/06/2011, 09:30:45 AM

by Liz Kendall

This week, some parts of the government’s health and social care bill will go back through the committee stage of scrutiny by MPs.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg say they have listened and acted on people’s concerns. Now we’ve seen the government’s actual amendments to the bill, how does their claim match the reality?

The first problem with the government’s new NHS plans is that they are an even bigger mess than they were before.

Initially, the government wanted to scrap primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, set up the NHS commissioning board, public health England and the new monitor at the national level, and GP commissioning consortia and health and wellbeing boards at the local level.

Since then, new clusters of PCTs have been formed to “manage the transition” and David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, has made it clear that he wants to have regional outposts of the NHS board (SHAs anyone?). Following its listening exercise, the government says that GP consortia will become clinical commissioning groups. It also wants to establish new clinical senates and have a bigger role for clinical networks.

These organisations come on top of the bodies that already exist, including the national quality board, the national institute for health and clinical excellence and the care quality commission.

Confused? You should be. It is now completely unclear who is responsible for taking decisions and leading changes in the NHS.

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