Posts Tagged ‘Tom Clements’

Schools will continue to protect the vulnerable even if the government won’t

26/10/2020, 12:34:12 PM

by Tom Clements

Alec Shelbrooke didn’t vote to extend free school meals to children during school holidays because he was wary of “adding (an) additional administrative burden to schools”. Whilst it is always nice to hear concerns about teacher workload from a Member of Parliament, especially one that has consistently voted in favour of real term cuts to school funding forcing us to do more with less; it is important to expose this sentiment for the offensive nonsense that it is. 

The simple fact is that schools have stepped up throughout this crisis to support families in need. Without fuss or complaint, thousands of school staff, both teaching and non-teaching, have gone above and beyond to limit the impact of the crisis on the children that we are fortunate to serve. 

Throughout lockdown, schools remained open so that vulnerable children were able to continue to learn. Lessons were taught, independent study spaces were staffed and hot meals were provided. At the height of the crisis, teachers, support staff and dinner ladies put the children’s interests above their own. They provided a sense of normality and safety for children who really needed it. 

When the crisis turned the world upside down, schools transformed into community centres in order to offer the support that their families needed. Advice on applying for universal credit for families thrown into unemployment by the ripples of lockdown. Food parcels ordered, packaged and delivered to families who needed them. School budgets squeezed to provide laptops and learning materials to children who needed to study. Free school meal vouchers ordered despite a website that crashed at the slightest demand. 

When September brought an insistence that schools opened in spite of fears of a second wave, schools answered the call. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work, writing contingency plan after contingency plan, to create an environment that was safe for children to learn and staff to work. All of this done in the face of ever changing, and often contradictory, government advice that was often released on a Friday night in a meek effort to avoid scrutiny. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of school leaders and estates staff, children were welcomed back on time. 

And now we are back, school staff have ensured that the experience of children has been as normal as possible. Year group bubbles, staggered starts, face coverings at social times and countless other safety measures put in place to allow schools to reopen have made things different. But, thanks to the kindness and warmth of teachers and teaching assistants, the children have been able to take these changes in their stride. Learning has continued, friendships have blossomed and the simple joys of childhood have restarted.  (more…)

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Labour needs to rebuild trust with voters, which means we can’t promise everything to everyone

18/12/2019, 09:11:53 PM

by Tom Clements

As much as I had deep reservations about Corbyn’s ability to win an election, I hadn’t expected us to fall as low as we did on Thursday. After the initial anger started to fade, the stark realisation that we could yet drop further brought a resolute determination. We must do better next time.

But before we can start to think about winning the leadership of the Party, we need to accept some of the blame for allowing the Party to fall into disrepute. It was our failure in 2015 to challenge Corbyn on policy rather than management that allowed Corbynism to blossom in our Party and wilt in the country.

But now we’re here again, we have to grasp this opportunity. We need to work to ensure that a viable, progressive leader emerges victorious in 2020. To elect someone that resonates with the country rather than plays the right notes to the Party. We might not get another chance.

To do that, however, we have to be more than competent managers. And our vision can’t be a return to Blair or Wilson. We can’t just repeat history and expect it to work but we can look for the rhymes.

In 2006, Tony Blair declared that the USP of New Labour was “aspiration and compassion reconciled”. He was successful because he appreciated that to be able to help those at the bottom, you had to support people to do better for themselves and their families. It was this revolutionary combination that allowed Blair to build a coalition that was able to inspire the country.

But not only is that not enough today, it is not right for today.

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Labour needs to avoid another Gogglebox moment on its Brexit policy

09/11/2019, 10:39:25 PM

by Tom Clements

I still remember the agony of the 2015 exit poll with vivid horror. The chiming of Big Ben leading to David Cameron and the words ‘Largest Party’ winded me; and then David Dimbleby’s confirmation of the projected number of Labour seats knocked me to the ground. I hadn’t given up hope until the result of South Swindon was announced showing that the Tories had done more than enough to continue to govern.

Dazed and confused, it took me a while to process the result before starting to think about what factor could possibly explain it. It wasn’t until I watched that week’s Gogglebox election special that I could start to understand why Labour had been so decisively rejected in 2015.

From the Leader’s Question Time event in Leeds, they saw a voter ask Ed whether he thought New Labour had spent too much. When Ed replied that he didn’t, despite some grumbles from the audience, I barely batted an eyelid.

But on the Gogglebox sofas, family after family spluttered their disbelief. Whatever the validity of the coalition government’s argument about the public debt, it had clearly stuck Miliband and Labour as being economically profligate defecit deniers. And in the stark light of the disastrous election result, the realisation hit me that this is what people had thought all along and we had been unwilling to counter it.

Whether or not we would learn from this has been low on the list of problems facing the Party since 2015 so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Until recently.

Hearing Corbyn, Starmer and other favourites of the front bench struggle through explaining the Party’s Brexit policy, I felt a familiar dread. Upon hearing the dear leader proclaim that his plan is “clear and simple” brought me out in a cold sweat.

Unless Labour establishes a clear, coherent and easily explainable position on the key issue of this election, then we will be facing a similar Gogglebox moment. And, even though it has been plain to many for some time, now that the definitely, maybe plan has been exposed to the public, the penny might finally drop.

So Labour needs to get real on its Brexit indecision and establish a clear plan.

Firstly, they need to publish their proposed deal. Despite the embarrassment of the Ed Stone and shadow budget in 1992, if we are to be taken seriously on Brexit then it is the least we can do. We need to explain why we believe in maintaining the custom’s union and keeping strong ties with the EU.

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Work is where Labour needs to help people “take back control”

12/03/2018, 10:38:00 PM

by Tom Clements

As pleasing as the increase in the Labour vote was in 2017, the continuing decline in support from the working classes is a pattern that the Party has to address. If we are to govern again, earning the trust and support of working people in places like Mansfield and Pudsey will be crucial.

To do that, we must show that we are the Party that will allow them to truly “take back control” of their own lives and communities.

If the success of the Leave campaign in 2016 should teach us one thing, it’s that people will no longer meekly accept being at the mercy of global forces. It is no good focusing on the growth of the economy if it’s not being felt in people’s pockets. Moreover, if we are ever to compete with the dangers of populism, it is vital that we offer a credible and optimistic vision that will allow people to control their own destiny.

And this is not a new problem.

In 1987, Neil Kinnock described young people unable to get work, married couples who could not get on the housing ladder and elderly people living in poverty.

And today, more than thirty years later, James Bloodworth’s Hired paints a similar picture. From the misery of temporary workers through zero hours contracts to the gig economy he speaks of working people who, echoing Kinnock, “live in a free country but don’t feel free”.

So if we are to regain the trust of the working class, this must be our mission: to restore dignity and security to the forgotten corners of Britain. To give working people the opportunity to be free.

For the Tories, freedom is a simple proposition. For them, it means an absence of barriers. It means deregulation, insecurity of contract and a relentless focus on the margin. The Right have encouraged a society where global companies have been able to drive down standards due to the replaceable nature of the surplus workforce.

But we cannot accept that this is the way things have to be. Without security, it is impossible to be free.

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New year, new danger

05/01/2018, 10:31:18 PM

by Tom Clements

It’s safe to assume that this time last year no one, not even Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters, would have expected the Party to be where it is today. Riding high in the polls, daring the Tories to call another election, led by a man confident enough to declare that he’ll “probably” become Prime Minister. From where we were, it’s certainly been a rollercoaster year.

But if we are to make good on our confidence and build a government that will really transform our country for the many, we must be wary of the traps that lay ahead. As we have seen so many times before in the history of our movement, our hubris can bring us down much more quickly than the Tories.

So as part of our approach moving forward, we have to start looking beyond the next year and expect that the next election will not take place until 2020 at the earliest. As a result, there are several threats that could destabilise our Party and prevent us from achieving victory at the next election.

Threat one: Theresa May
Since Gordon Brown transformed from “Stalin to Mr Bean” it is hard to remember a more spectacular disintegration from political grace than the one Mrs May has suffered this year. From being ready to crush the saboteurs in April to being trapped in Downing Street in June, it is hard to imagine her ever being in a position of authority again.

And yet, it would be dangerous to believe that May’s days are numbered. As long as she sits at the negotiating table to leave the EU, we should expect that the Prime Minister will make a comeback.

As a party we have enjoyed much of the last six months doubling down on May’s incompetence. From the paralysed response to Grenfell tower, to the defeat of the EU Withdrawal Bill and then the resignation of Damian Green; it is hard to remember a more hapless performance. And that is what the voters currently see: a hopeless Prime Minister unable to do anything waiting to be put out of her misery.

And therein lies the danger.

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If Labour is to win the next election, we must answer the big questions that Tony Blair posed over a decade ago

14/06/2017, 06:35:27 PM

by Tom Clement

As good as our result was last week, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we did not win. Earning the trust of 41% of the population is a magnificent achievement but it still leaves us sixty seats short of being even the largest party. Our choice now is to either complain about the unfairness of the voting system; or we can equip ourselves to win an election.

And to do this, we must claim the future.

It is the only way we win. In 1945, Atlee realised the need to win the peace following the Second World War and led our most transformative government so far. Wilson won in 1964 after embracing the ‘white heat’ of the technological revolution and liberalise our country as a result. And through facing the Millennium, Blair was able to win in 1997 and deliver the longest period of Labour government to date.

So how do we do it today?

We must face the future and embrace the difficult questions that we have avoided for so long. In fact, if you go back to Tony Blair’s final conference speech as leader, he poses some clear questions that we have still yet to answer.

The question today is … how we reconcile openness to the rich possibilities of globalisation, with security in the face of its threats.”

We live in uncertain times. The recent election result only serves to highlight that. With Brexit, Trump and the chaos in Downing Street, it is impossible to predict what will happen over the next five years.

But that doesn’t mean that we have no control over it. Quite the opposite. The future is very much in our hands but only if we reach out and embrace it.

Our test, put simply, is Brexit. It is no good to just wait for the Tories to make a bad deal and then complain about it afterwards.

We have to lead. We have to be bold about our decisions now and fill the vacuum that Theresa May’s insipid leadership has left.

Corbyn should announce the formation of a cross-Party convention to decide our negotiating strategy for Brexit and invite all parties to it. We should force the debate to be about priorities, not process. We should make clear how a Labour Brexit would be different to a Tory Brexit and we should shame them into sharing their priorities.

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Labour needs to take a step back and be clear about our post-Brexit agenda

09/07/2016, 07:15:18 PM

by Tom Clements

It is impossible to overstate the position that our country and our party faces after the most tumultuous of weeks in British politics.

Like so many of us, I have been completely blindsided both by the result of the referendum and the rapidity of the changing news cycle. It would be too easy to continue our Brexit hangover and concentrate purely on the machinations of Labour’s impending leadership contest or shudder at the thought of Andrea Leadsom as our next Prime Minister.

But now it’s time to take a step back.

The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Whilst I believed passionately in the need for Britain to stay in the European Union, I don’t believe that we should dispute the result. The people of Britain made a choice and we should accept it. To fail to do so would reinforce every negative stereotype about politics and politicians.

Economic collapse, our union breaking apart, racial tension, punitive immigration, the most right-wing Conservative Party leader in a generation. The potential negative consequences of leaving the European Union don’t bare thinking about.

So it’s time for us to step up.

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For Ed Miliband, One Nation was a soundbite. For moderates it should be the rallying cry to take on Corbyn

11/01/2016, 05:30:25 PM

by Tom Clements

There is much to regret about the leadership of Ed Miliband; not least the election defeat and changes to leadership election rules that have led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But for me, it’s the abandonment of One Nation Labour. At the time, I thought that this was the game changer. A genuinely inclusive and unifying offer with which we could change the country for the better.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t a genuine offer or an ideological framework. It was a cheap parlour trick. One that was designed to win a few headlines and embarrass the Prime Minister by taking a conservative idea and claiming it for Labour. That’s what makes me angry about Ed’s leadership.

It could’ve been so bold.

Instead, the idea fell up against the ‘predistributing’ instincts of Miliband. The instinct that the rich weren’t really part of Miliband’s One Nation. They were just there to foot the bill. He fell into that worst Labour tradition of implying that being rich and wanting to be rich was something to resent.

Not that there is anything wrong with the rich paying their fair share. Far from it, it’s the only way that a society can function in harmony. As the brilliant Senator Warren argues “no one gets rich on their own” and it’s there duty to give “a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along”. And that is right.

And it wasn’t just about the rich.

He forgot about the traditional working class; those who UKIP are trying to woo. We treated their concerns about immigration and benefits with suspicion not understanding. Suspicion that meant that the white van in Rochester was only the tip of the iceberg. Suspicion that meant they stayed at home or put their cross in a different box on election day.

And this is what cost us the election.

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Conservative voters aren’t evil. They aren’t bad people. We need to listen to why they rejected us

31/05/2015, 09:28:17 PM

by Tom Clements

I hate anecdotes. I hate how people from all parts of the political spectrum use them to highlight their arguments. I hated how Jeremy Paxman used one to eviscerate Ed’s apparent weakness on foreign policy.

But here’s mine.

One of my closest friends was talking to me about Labour’s defeat. He is a stereotypical Labour-Tory swing voter. Wanting social justice but also wanting to do well for himself. He asked me what we offered people in his position. People who aren’t super rich but are, god willing, never going to experience the hardship of food banks or the benefits trap.

He voted Conservative because we had nothing to say to him.

If you were me you might have accused him of being selfish and argued that he should want the same opportunities for the next generation. You might have screamed at him about his inability to see the bigger picture for our society. You might have appealed to his compassion for the working people forced to choose between heating and eating.

But you would have been wrong.

Not that your ideas were wrong or that these aren’t very real concerns that our party should be attempting to tackle. But it is the wrong argument to make.

Of course people don’t want to see the number of food banks increasing or hear stories of the latest inhumane example of a vulnerable victim of the Bedroom Tax. However, they want to be certain that their living standards are going to be protected first.

The voters in England had a choice between a safety first Conservative government, albeit with obvious problems; or a Labour party that was prepared to risk the house on the gamble that Britain wanted a return to Keynes. They made their choice. We ran an election on a message of family finances and the simple truth is that people didn’t trust us with theirs.

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