Posts Tagged ‘Simon Hughes’

Was the “loony left” right?

20/02/2014, 04:46:21 PM

by Eliot Henderson

While researching the Southwark and Lambeth Labour parties of the 1970s and 1980s, I was struck by the importance of that generation of activists’ contribution to British political history. Dismissed as the ‘loony left’ by the media at the time, today the political priorities of those activists are firmly entrenched as mainstream vote winners: equal rights and representation for women, ethnic minorities, young people and the LGBT community. My findings illuminate how much public attitudes have changed in the last thirty years thanks to the interventions of those activists in the 1970s and 1980s, and help to challenge the assumption that the Labour party needs to warmly embrace neo-liberalism and pander to the popular press to win elections.

The new urban left that emerged in Lambeth and Southwark in the 1970s were political graduates of the social movements of the late 1960s and 1970s: CND members, anti-apartheid activists, feminists, Vietnam war protesters and racial equality campaigners. Events in Southwark and Lambeth in the 1980s highlight the beginning of a process that could hold the key to a Labour majority in 2015: the combination of Labour’s traditional politics of class with one of race, gender and sexuality – an old and a new politics of identity – to construct a new, inclusive political base for the party.

In Lambeth, this new urban left coordinated a vibrant local and national opposition to a Conservative cuts agenda under the leadership of the controversial but charismatic council leader, Ted Knight. Policies targeting inequality, poverty, racism and sexism through investment and positive discrimination united the large immigrant communities in the centre of the borough with the predominantly white working-class north, along with some sections of more affluent Norwood and Dulwich to the south. With no support from the Labour party leadership and the intense scrutiny of an antagonistic press to deal with, the rate-capping struggle of the 1980s was a rough and ready affair for the Lambeth left. One council meeting in July 1985 even had to be adjourned for 20 minutes after Conservative councillor “Dicky” Bird put Labour councillor Terry Rich in a headlock. Yet despite the overwhelmingly negative publicity, Lambeth residents nonetheless voted to increase the number of Labour councillors from 32 to 40 in the local elections of 1986, proving that a manifesto based on concepts like social justice, investment in deprived areas and positive action to end discrimination and redress inequality could unite voters in a diverse constituency.


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The Lib Dems and their dissociative disorder

26/03/2012, 07:30:10 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Making a diagnosis for multiple personality disorder (MPD) requires the presence of two or more distinct identities which recurrently take control of a person’s behaviour.

Two competing, contradictory personalities vying for supremacy? Now I am no psychiatrist, but if organisations could develop the condition, then the Liberal Democrats are surely a classic case?

Take Simon Hughes. He is the personality who dominates the airwaves when the Lib Dems have done something bad. Every time they sell their soul to the Conservatives up pops Simon, combining earnestness and convoluted circumlocutions to explain away why they have not done what the dogs in the street can see they have done.

He is like a bank robber pleading in mitigation that the gang were only interested in notes and at least had the decency to leave the loose change alone. They may have waved the sawn-off shotgun in the bank teller’s face, but they didn’t actually pull the trigger. He is a splitter of hairs so fine that it would require the Hubble telescope to be trained on his logic in order to make out the nuances.

He was out there on Wednesday and Thursday, distancing himself from the decision to scrap the 50p top tax rate – the signature proposal in the budget – and one to which the entire cabinet is actively signed-up. “The chancellor took a view that he wanted to do things that mattered a lot to Conservatives” the deputy leader of the Lib Dems told Radio Five Live. “What mattered to us [the Lib Dems] was not that at all.”


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Wednesday News Review

29/12/2010, 06:58:33 AM

Hughes set to sell the un-sellable

Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, was yesterday handed the job of selling the Government’s unpopular higher education reforms to prospective students. Downing Street said Mr Hughes – who abstained in the Commons vote on raising tuition fees – agreed to take up the unpaid role as an “access advocate” to persuade parents and children from poor backgrounds they will be able to afford a university education when the new fees come into effect. However, just as important will be Mr Hughes’s role in convincing recalcitrant Liberal Democrat supporters that the party has not sold out to the Tories over the policy and that the new fees structure is genuinely fairer than the previous system. Mr Hughes is a popular figure in the party and his acceptance of the new role is a sign of how seriously the leadership takes the fall-out from the tuition fees vote. – Independent

The unprecedented unpaid appointment was agreed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg before Christmas, and follows the huge controversy that followed the Commons decision to treble tuition fees from 2012. In an admission that he is losing the propaganda war, Cameron, in his letter appointing Hughes, claimed there was a “material risk” poor schoolchildren would be put off by “misinformation” from applying to higher education institutions or staying on to study A-levels. It was also being stressed that Hughes will have the power to make policy recommendations for what should replace the abolished £560m education maintenance allowance aimed at helping poor children into further education. EMA subsidised young people in England who remain in education after the age of 16 by up to £30 a week if they came from poorer families. – Guardian

Mr Hughes, who has positioned himself as a standard bearer for the left of the party, will tour schools and colleges to discuss the policy with the students of the future and report their concerns to Mr Clegg and David Cameron. The move is designed to ease Lib Dem concerns about the policy, which directly contradicts their manifesto pledge to abolish tuition fees. Fewer than half the party’s 57 MPs supported the plan to raise fees to a maximum £9,000 a year earlier this month. But the unpaid role risks opening Mr Hughes to ridicule, coming less than three weeks after he threatened to vote against the policy he will now be promoting.  – Daily Mail

Labour and Tories trade flu jab insults

The health minister, Simon Burns, accused Labour of stooping to a new low of political opportunism today after it claimed the government had cut a routine flu vaccination for under-fives. John Healey, the shadow health secretary, said the cut had been against scientific advice and was driven by the need to make financial savings. He said: “The serious problem lies with the groups that are most at risk, like children. That has come because the government axed the annual advertising campaign and they cancelled the flu jab plan for the under-fives.” But an angry Burns said: “Labour have stooped to a new low of political opportunism today. By calling on the government to reject independent scientific advice, they risk undermining the public confidence in immunisation programmes which is so crucial to their success.” The rate of flu cases in England almost doubled in a week earlier this month, from 34 people in every 100,000 to 87 in every 100,000 – a faster rise than in 1999, the last time England suffered a flu epidemic. Labour had criticised the government over the lack of dedicated protection for young children and the decision to axe the annual flu jab awareness campaign. – Guardian

Last year, all healthy children aged six months to five years were offered the jab. This year, doctors asked for £25 per patient to cover the costs of the jabs for the 38million youngsters. Mr Healey accused ministers of making the ‘wrong judgment’ by cancelling the jabs. Mr Burns yesterday hit back, saying: ‘Labour have stooped to a new low of political opportunism. The Government is legally obliged to implement recommendations made by experts on the joint committee. John Healey is either spectacularly ill-informed or playing politics with people’s health.’ Mr Healey told the Mail on Tuesday: ‘The problem lies with the groups most at risk, like children. That has come because the Government axed the annual advertising campaign and cancelled the flu jab plan for the under-fives.’ – Daily Mail

Is David stateside bound?

South Shields MP David Miliband could be US-bound. The former foreign secretary is being touted for the post of British ambassador to Washington, according to reports in the national press. Mr Miliband forged a good relationship with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton when he was foreign secretary and, as US ambassador, observers believe he would be a voice trusted by the Obama administration. But if he was offered the post it could lead to problems within the Labour Party – with the ambassador appointed by the UK Tory-led government. – The Shields Gazette

It’s official Tories have something wrong in their head

Scientists say Conservative voters really do have something unusual happening in their heads. Researchers found that right-wingers are likely to have a very thick amygdala – a part of the brain associated with emotion. Like many Tory supporters, the amygdala is ancient and primitive. The study was commissioned as a bit of fun by actor Colin Firth as part of his stint guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – but has developed into a serious effort to discover if people’s political views are encoded. – Mirror

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Lib Dem watch: sign of the times

10/06/2010, 01:55:21 PM

Once, it would have been overlooked.  But today the new deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats is announced with suitable fanfare on page four of the Times: he gets a single paragraph in the “news in brief” column.

His entire purpose in life is summed up with a single, memorable, sentence: “Simon Hughes was elected as the Liberal Democrat deputy leader last night and given the role of reassuring the party’s unsettled elements.”

It reminds us of a newspaper cartoon published in the early autumn a few years ago. Two Taliban leaders are crouched on the side of a mountain watching a massive battle taking place in the valley below.  One says to the other, “I wonder what they’re debating today at the Liberal Democrat conference.”

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