Posts Tagged ‘splits’

Will Labour survive a drawn-out leadership contest?

13/05/2015, 10:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The inside of the Labour party is beginning to feel like a tense family funeral, just before the point when everyone starts drinking.

There’s a lot of unreconciled psychological baggage as we await the National Executive Committee’s decision about whether it will institute a short leadership process, or stretch it out to the September party conference, or, indeed, beyond.

The problem is that years’ worth of sleights, rivalries, anguish, antagonisms and things that have been left unsaid have all built up. If invited to have a drawn-out discussion about why the party lost, it is inevitable that this will lead to family members’ pulling each other’s hair out as they send Granddad’s ashes flying.

In its soul, Labour is a party of deep divisions (personal and social as well as in terms of emphasis and priority). When a colleague remarked that Herbert Morrison was “his own worst enemy” Ernest Bevin famously snarled, “not while I’m alive he ain’t.” The decade-long drama between Blair and Brown (“the TB, GBs”) was merely symptomatic of this same psychosis.

These tensions are usually capped by the affected manners and superficial pleasantries of the party’s generals. Everyone is nice to each other’s face. Get behind that carapace, however, and it’s a different story.

During a Labour leadership contest, it is not enough for candidates to put themselves forward and explain what they would do, they also need to define themselves against their opponents.

So while your candidacy may represent The Last Hope, the only possible choice of any sentient adult; your opponents are, in contrast, sell-outs, lickspittles, lightweights, too associated with the past, too untested, too naïve, too unpopular, too Blairite, or not Blairite enough, et cetera, ad infinitum.


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SNP-backed Miliband or a return to the John Major years? Only the Lib Dems can stop it

22/04/2015, 05:44:47 PM

by Samuel Dale

He’s back. The most successful prime minister – nay politician – ever to grace British parliamentary democracy.

A man of such grace, skill and power that he swept all before him in his pomp. Adored by his own. Feared by rivals. Yesterday, he spoke and we – humble electorate – must heed his wise counsel.

I speak, of course, of Sir John Major. Well, that seems to be the absurd narrative pedalled by the electorally-charged right-wing press that once lampooned Major’s premiership. Times change. Major’s speech gave warning of the higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem of a Labour government supported by the SNP.

Firstly, he’s right. A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain and the Labour party as well.

There would be an economic chilling effect around new investment into the UK while the PLP would be split over any arrangement with the nationalists. In fact, I was warning about it on this blog before it was cool.

But, as many have pointed out, it was John Major’s Government in the 1990s that actually did deliver higher taxes, fewer jobs and general mayhem.

Look at the facts. There’s Black Wednesday, when a self-inflicted economic crisis pushed the Bank of England’s interest rates to a crushing 15% in September 1992.


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How Ukip’s Doncaster conference revealed the divisions that would derail their election campaign

19/04/2015, 08:35:17 PM

by Samuel Dale

Ukip is losing and its future is bleak. Its poll rating is being squeezed and its manifesto was an aimless ragbag of populist ideas.

It wants to attract lefty Labour voters and right-wing Tories so it ends up with an incoherent, hollow message.

The manifesto wanted increases to the carers allowance and an end the bedroom tax while slashing income tax for the wealthiest.

The only thing they can all agree on is leaving the EU and attacking immigrants.

This unholy alliance will boil to the surface after the election, especially if Nigel Farage loses in South Thanet and has to quit.

The seeds of the discontent were sown at the party conference in Doncaster last year with the party riding high amid defections and rising polls.

At an Institute of Economic Affairs fringe event on economic policy was the libertarian immigration spokesman and MEP Steven Woolfe and the economics spokesman and MEP Patrick O’Flynn.

MEP Tim Aker and Tory activist Tim Montgomerie were sat by their side and the session was hosted by ex-Lib Dem and IEA director-general Mark Littlewood.

Earlier in the day, O’Flynn had set the conference tone by unveiling income tax cut proposals for middle earners by raising the 40p threshold and introducing a new 35p band.

But he also unveiled a “wag tax” proposal to increase VAT to 25% on luxury goods such as expensive cars and shoes.


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The Ukip meltdown has begun

15/04/2015, 09:40:27 PM

Long simmering tensions within Ukip are now bubbling into public view. Earlier today, Uncut bumped into an old 1990’s Westminster stalwart who had been involved with the long and difficult development of Ukip’s manifesto. He painted a picture of a house divided, riven by personal and political enmities.

At the root of all of the problems lie Nigel Farage’s personality: a man given to fads and enthusiasms with a notoriously thin skin and a congenital inability to hold his tongue or stick by the rules he sets for others.

Farage’s elision of immigration and race is blamed for toxifying Ukip’s brand by Douglas Carswell who is now operating virtually as an independent.

Mark Reckless is said to feel that Farage doesn’t understand the scale of risk he took in defecting while Raheem Kassam, Farage’s spinner, is regarded by many MEPs and staffers as a poisonous disaster.

Douglas Carswell’s absence from today’s manifesto launch almost did not register. He was absent from Ukip’s general election campaign launch at the end of March and can barely bring himself even to mention Nigel Farage’s name.

A prolific tweeter, Carswell has managed just two tweets in more than 250 over the past fortnight that mention his leader. Probably a record for a candidate in this campaign.

Mark Reckless has always lacked a certain bonhomie, as his former Conservative parliamentary colleagues attest, and has been cut out of the leader’s inner circle. Party resources aren’t flowing into Rochester and Strood to defend the seat as volunteers are being directed to Thanet to fight for Farage and so Reckless too is coming to terms with life as a virtual independent.


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A little dignity and a little pride from Labour’s MPs would be welcome

12/02/2015, 10:14:30 PM

by Rob Marchant

While Labour has not had a brilliant last couple of weeks in the election campaign – its barely-coherent policy on the NHS being a case in point – the jury is still emphatically out on who will win, thanks largely to this parliament’s highly unusual electoral arithmetic.

With things so tight in the polls, a big part of winning for both main parties is surely about their MPs keeping their heads down and their eyes on the prize. In other words, it is as much about thinking that they will win and convincing others of that fact, as pounding the streets of Britain on the “Labour doorstep”.

So discipline is vital. The Tories, now battle-hardened after “holding the line” through five years of government, seem to be making a reasonable fist of it (even Boris Johnson has had the good sense to absent himself abroad, rather than be a distraction to the Tory campaign).

Labour, well, not so much.

Not only does there seem to be something of a downbeat mood in the PLP but, in some cases, things have moved further.

To wit, there is little less edifying a sight than frontbenchers deliberately putting themselves in the newspapers, as ways not of promoting Labour’s election campaign or manifesto, but themselves. As candidates in a future leadership election, for which a date has not even been set and which may not happen for another five or ten years.


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Advantage Alexander in Labour’s campaign team reshuffle

04/07/2014, 08:02:33 AM

Three new faces join Labour’s campaign team as deputies to Labour’s chair of campaign strategy, Douglas Alexander: Gloria de Piero, Toby Perkins and Jon Ashworth to improve broadcast coverage, field operations and work with candidates. Cue warm fraternal regards from all and sundry on Twitter, nothing to see here, all just run of the mill announcements.

Except of course, they aren’t.

The essential background is that Michael Dugher – responsible for campaign communications – and Douglas Alexander, are not on speaking terms. We know because of this. Quite possibly the most extraordinary example of red on red briefing since the low point of the TB-GBs a decade ago.

The overlapping nature of their briefs was always likely to cause friction, a function of Ed Miliband’s reluctance to pick a single campaign boss. Now, the Alexander-Dugher antipathy has become so entrenched that even by Labour’s dysfunctional standards (see recent comments by J Cruddas about unreconciled camps), something had to be done.

Rather than fix the original mistake and unambiguously choose a single campaign lead, Ed Miliband has opted for a fudge.

The primary role of the new appointments is to form a human shield between Alexander and Dugher.

In the original campaign structure, Dugher and Alexander had an executive function: their role was to discuss the recommendations from the staff team and make decisions. But in a world where the two aren’t talking, and the leader refuses to choose between them, a buffer was needed.

Enter the new deputies.

It’s notable that on the Tory side of the fence, there is no comparable proliferation of MPs in campaign roles. They have a single official at the helm, Lynton Crosby, who is accountable to Cameron and Osborne and that’s it. Everyone else does as they are told.


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David Axelrod is Douglas Alexander’s “sock puppet consultant”

16/05/2014, 06:56:40 PM

No, it’s not a term of abuse, well not quite. Rather, it’s a description of David Axelrod’s role according to Westminster murmurings that have reached Uncut’s ears.

For all the fanboy gushing in Labour circles at the coup of hiring Axelrod (although given Axelrod’s core business is as a consultant for hire, Uncut wonders whether it’s quite such an achievement; will the party next be trumpeting how Ed Miliband went to Kwik Fit and successfully secured the services of a mechanic?) the motivation for handing over six figures to David Axelrod seems to have less to do with his counsel and more with the divisions at the top of the party.

The split between Douglas Alexander and Spencer Livermore on one side and the shadow chancellor’s team on the other, is well documented. That Ed Balls didn’t even receive a sign-off on last week’s much derided VAT poster, and the alacrity with which his team were keen to let the world know this fact, speaks volumes for the dysfunction in Labour’s campaign machine.

While Douglas Alexander nominally has the lead on campaign decisions, the political heft of the shadow chancellor means that it’s difficult for Alexander to blithely over-rule Balls.

This is where David Axelrod comes in.

He has been positioned as the swing voter. Prior to each key decision, Axelrod will be consulted, briefed and guided, by, yes, you guessed it, Douglas Alexander. And when the time comes to decide in the meeting, Axelrod will cast his vote with Douglas Alexander.

Axelrod’s American stardust and substantial remuneration mean it’s difficult for the shadow chancellor to simply ignore him. After all, given the party is paying so much money for one person’s advice, there would have to be an incredibly good reason to reject it.

This approach, of hiring a high end consultant to validate existing plans and insulate the internal decision-maker from criticism, is common-place in the public sector. These hires have even got a generic name: “sock puppet consultants.” Now the practice seems to have been imported into the Labour party.


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Labour history uncut: Arthur Henderson’s last chance for Labour and how maudlin Macdonald blew it

29/08/2013, 03:18:43 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

After the initial shock of Ramsay Macdonald’s government leaving the gold standard wore off, a tide of anger started to rise across the Labour party.

Just a few weeks earlier, amid cataclysmic warnings from the economists, the Labour government had torn itself apart in its efforts to pass the severe cuts demanded by the markets. All this to prevent Britain coming off the gold standard.

Now the replacement national government had passed the cuts and then come off gold anyway. And the economic sky hadn’t fallen in.

The economists coughed and looked at their shoes. The only sound was Keynes’ gently banging his head against his desk, muttering, ‘I bloody told them’.

‘Was that it?’ wondered the people of Labour, ‘Was that what we sacrificed our government for?’

Someone had to pay.

First on the list, oddly, was new Labour leader Arthur Henderson.

Arthur Henderson models the 1931 beachwear collection

His crime? He had spoken in a conciliatory way in parliament in the debate on whether to come off the gold standard. And he supported the government’s eminently sensible decision. The fool.


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The two Ed’s don’t get on? Good.

31/08/2012, 03:31:10 PM

by David Talbot

The psychodrama returns. A brooding, man of Brown, the shadow chancellor has taken against the young upstart Labour leader. Beadily eyeing what should be his, he uses secrecy, intellect and sheer aggression to domineer over his colleagues and undermine the leader he so clearly has scant respect for. Tentatively reported at the weekend, but now repeated as fact, the hierarchy of the Labour party is once again locked in a totemic struggle. Ed Miliband and Balls are said to be in the early skirmishes of something the Labour party has historically excelled at: vicious internal warfare.

We have, of course, been here before. Comparisons with the machinations that so undermined Labour’s thirteen years are inevitable. That the new cast are the support acts from the previous scene make the comparisons that much easier. Ed Balls displays a startling resemblance to the man he once so slavishly served. He is Gordon Brown’s man and Gordon is his man. Much of the words used by those oft-quoted “senior Labour party figures” are scarily similar to Brown; “high maintenance”, “secretive” and “domineering” to name just a few of the more praiseworthy adjectives.

It is, though, easy to admire his intellect, his work load, his ability to once organise a famously disorganised chancellor and, most recently, his uncanny knack of visibly infuriating the prime minister. But most of all he is a direct and influential. He has taken the eminently sensible step of vetoing shadow cabinet members committing to future spending plans.

For once the Brownite trait of an iron grip is to be praised wholeheartedly – Balls knows that the public retain a deep suspicion that the Labour party only knows how to govern by spending a grotesque level of money that simply isn’t there.

Not unsurprisingly, though, he is struggling to come to terms with the arrangements that now find him bequeathing his position to a man he long regarded as his junior.

But he is not stupid; he knows that to destabilise Miliband to such an extent that outright election victory is jeopardised will destroy him and deny him the position he so craves – to be a Labour chancellor.

His ambition can surely soar no higher. He tested his leadership credentials in 2010 and was roundly routed.

The accusations laid so heavily at Ed Balls’ door are the exact opposite directed to Miliband. Meek, insecure, deferential – it could be suggested that Miliband needs some balls.


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The fact is, Labour leaders and their chancellors always fall out

29/08/2012, 01:19:27 PM

by Kevin Meagher

We all know the tale. An ambitious chancellor plotting with cabinet colleagues to unseat a sitting prime minister who was responsible for an historic election victory.

Blair and Brown? It could equally apply to Sir Stafford Cripps’ attempts to oust Clement Attlee in the late 1940s. Labour history has a habit of repeating itself like that.

Right up to the present day, it seems. The Independent on Sunday’s John Rentoul has stirred a hornet’s nest by reporting supposed tensions at the top of the party.  “Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have been getting on particularly badly recently, although each has long found the other trying” he wrote the other day.

Clashing styles and disagreements over banking reform are cited by those following up the story.

A similar pattern (psychodrama?) has been played out down the decades. The relationship between Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson, respectively leader and shadow chancellor in the late 50s, was such that Wilson even stood for the leadership against Gaitskell in 1960. That would be the equivalent of Ed Balls launching a bid to replace Ed Miliband right now. Let that then be the marker for talk of splits at the top today.

When he was eventually in the prime ministerial driving seat, Wilson fared little better. He didn’t get on with his chancellors, Callaghan, Jenkins and Healy. Mind you, as an expert economist himself, who served as Sir William Beveridge’s researcher when the great man was drawing up his famous report on the welfare state, it’s perhaps not surprising he thought he knew more than the occupants of Number 11. He did.


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