Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

If Starmer wants to end Labour’s infighting, then ban Momentum and Progress

16/06/2020, 10:37:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There is something fratricidal about the Labour party. Its innate. Division comes naturally, with tribes of left and right, eyeing each other suspiciously. If they did not have to work together in a first-past-the-post system, they wouldn’t. A loveless arrangement and, alas, as old as the party itself; explaining Labour’s uneven electoral record, governing for just 34 out of the last 100 years.

Bevanites. Gaitskellites. Bennites. Tribunites. Blairites. Corbynistas. The list goes on. And even when one faction or other is in control, there is still an irresistible urge to do down the other side. Indeed, there is often a gleeful intensity to this one-upmanship. ‘It’s not enough that I succeed,’ as Gore Vidal put it, ‘others must fail.’

Thankfully, one of Keir Starmer’s key promises in the leadership contest was to end the feuding. ‘Too often,’ he argued. ‘we find ourselves focusing on our differences rather than the values and principles that brought us together, and that comes at a cost. Our party is divided, and unity requires reconciliation.’

So, in a bid to transcend what are often petty, internecine squabbles, he has woven together a frontbench that unites various strands of opinion in the party and elevated basic competence above sectional loyalty. It is a good start, but he needs to go further to show that factionalism will no longer be tolerated.

The best way he can do that? Banish Momentum – and Progress, too.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

When David Evans was North West party director, trade unions were at the heart of his transformation of the region

25/05/2020, 10:16:56 AM

by John Mann

I was appointed by the unions in 1995 to co-ordinate the union links with the Labour Party and act as national union organiser for the 1997 General Election. Soon after starting David Evans was appointed regional director for the Labour Party in the North West.

Union organisation was coordinated regionally and union traditions and strength varied significantly across the countries.

By early agreement with Tony Blair and his General Secretary Tom Sawyer, the unions agreed to prioritise delivering Labour victories in Labours target 90 seats. In some strong union areas like the North West there were only four seats to target. In the North West there were more than a dozen, located in the smaller Lancashire town battlegrounds.

David Evans was at the heart of union involvement, but he had particular structural difficulties, more so than other regions.

The union heartlands were very strong, in Liverpool, Manchester, but also strong industrial towns around Ellesmere port, Widnes and St Helens, making the power bases of the unions the safe Labour  seats.

The North West tradition was locality, with key union figures providing people and money for those stronghold areas and with sitting MPs usually having very strong connections. Many were former union workplace convenors and part of the union powerbase themselves.

Evans had to negotiate through this, telling lifelong union activists and MPs that they would not get the level of support they had always relied on as it was being funnelled into the target seats. It was a battle for hearts and minds and skilled negotiations. Evans mastered both.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Finally, Corbyn is gone. But let’s not trade the sainted Jezza for the cult of Keir

08/04/2020, 09:51:37 PM

by Tim Carter

The results are in and the predictable groaning and cheering has started, people being stood down from the shadow cabinet and others promoted.

A new leader and a new approach. One of Starmer’s first acts was to send a letter to the Board of Deputies expressing his sorrow and shame on behalf of the party, a much needed action but also something that could’ve and should’ve been done years ago.

But what happens next is crucial and much is down to the membership.

Much has be written about the ‘cultism’ of the Corbyn era, whether the use of the word ‘cult’ is fair matters not, it became about one man, the talk of a movement was mainly baloney and the reactions from some prominent ‘Corbynistas’ have proven that point in bundles.

But sadly the reactions of some on the ‘anti Corbyn’ side have been difficult to witness, politics isn’t the x-factor and we should remember that in the coming days.

Sure we all have politicians we admire and want to have a ‘big role’ but we elect leaders to lead and it is the leader who has to be trusted to pick the right team.

So, I hear you ask, what is your fear?

My fear is of ‘cultism’ if we replace one cult with another we are doomed.

New Labour wasn’t about the adoration of Tony Blair, it was much more than that and looking back at that first shadow cabinet and the eventual first cabinet, it can clearly be seen – a team working hard, all with roles and all on top of their brief.

Over the years things have changed and now people, most of whom probably aren’t old enough to remember, or weren’t Labour voters at the time, have created something that didn’t exist “the cult of Blair.”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

A warning from 2008: Do not assume Corona leads to a new progressive moment

08/04/2020, 10:03:58 AM

by Jake Richards

Keir Starmer has been elected leader of the Labour Party amidst crisis. His priority, rightly, is to show that the country now has a credible and coherent Leader of the Opposition who is willing to work with the Government during the outbreak of Covid-19. However, Starmer and the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds, will already be beginning to assess how the crisis will affect the broader political environment.

It is tempting to assume the zeitgeist of the corona outbreak will be progressive. A Conservative government has embraced the most interventionist state economic programme since the war, essentially nationalising a closed-down economy, whilst rough sleeping has been wiped out and hospitals created seemingly overnight. Images and videos of the public applauding our NHS workers have gone viral. A new appreciation for ‘key workers’ in the ‘real economy’ — rubbish collectors, those in the food supply chain, delivery drivers — has emerged. The sense of community spirit combined with the anger at examples of scurrilous businesses taking advantage of taxpayers or employees is more evidence that this is a ‘moment of the left’.

Already, articles by left-wing thinkers are heralding ‘capitalism’s gravest challenge’, the transformation of the private sector and a new popular outcry for ‘big government’.

There was a similar sense after the 2008 financial crash and government intervention around the world ended an ideological reverence to self-correcting markets. In the 12 years since, the Conservatives have won four General Elections, the UK has left the European Union, and in America, India, Brazil and Russia (and elsewhere) we have witnessed the rise of a nationalist populism many thought was confined to the 20th Century. Indeed, although the immediate response to Covid-19 has been statist in a progressive sense, it is easy to envisage a reactionary, isolationist response developing in relation to our borders and trade soon developing.

Whilst a new active state during the crisis offers Labour an array of policy options, the new leader should proceed with caution. Labour has just suffered a devastating defeat on a platform arguing for a massively expanded Government — with nationalisation of key industries, free broadband for all and the development of a universal basic income. Focus groups and polling undertaken after the election revealed voters simply did not believe many of Labour’s policies (however popular on paper) were realistic or welcome as a package. The unpopularity of a universal basic income was striking — suggesting a deep reverence to personal responsibility and work, and a suspicion of ‘free handouts’.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

With each passing week, McDonnell becomes more like Brown to Corbyn’s Blair

07/01/2019, 10:41:33 PM

by David Talbot

In September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, was finishing his first speech to the party faithful. Embracing the mandate for change, Corbyn, with a wry nod halfway through, noted that “things can – and they will – change”. In the preceding three years, via an internal challenge and a general election, the nature of the Labour Party has been transformed in his image. Corbyn was of course in part elected, twice, as Labour leader precisely because he represented a riposte to the previous Labour governments and to, of course, the loathed Tony Blair. However, an aspect of the duopoly which so dominated the party throughout its years in government is set to be replicated, ironically, by those who have dedicated the most to repudiating him, his image and his governments.

John McDonnell was not a universally welcomed appointment when Corbyn gave his longstanding comrade the position of Shadow Chancellor over three years ago. The antipathy reached its peak during the botched leadership challenge to Corbyn during 2016, when murmurs reached a crescendo that his departure was desperately needed to restore some semblance of party unity. The fiery, left-wing firebrand made enemies in his own party as easily as amongst the Conservatives, his reputation as a deeply divisive and electorally poisonous figure seemingly cemented.

The scepticism extended as far as Corbyn’s innermost circle, who grew to distrust the Shadow Chancellor – an opinion also widely held amongst the trade unions who had dealt with him for decades. In his early throes he actively coveted controversy and attrition, from his ‘communist salute’ at the 2015 party conference to labelling Labour moderates “fucking useless” in their cack-handed attempts to dispose the new Labour leader. Since then, a transition has begun as ambitious and calculated as the work of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to transform the electoral prospects of a moribund party in the mid-1990s.

And it is to these two towering figures of the last chapter of the Labour Party that is becoming ever more prevalent for the new, Corbyn-led, chapter. The rivalry and trench warfare, often for the sheer sake of it, that came to characterise the then Labour leader and his Chancellor is fracturing into the open between Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor. Over the summer, when Labour descended into a bitter dispute over anti-Semitism, it was the Shadow Chancellor, through the pages of the Times no less, that organ of the establishment, who made it known that he disapproved of Corbyn’s handling of the sorry saga. As to with the terrorist incident in Salisbury, where McDonnell, not Corbyn, voiced support for the security services and stated unequivocally it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Brexit means austerity and the death of Corbyn’s hope

26/06/2017, 07:05:23 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Mandibles – Lionel Shriver’s latest – is a gripping and darkly hilarious story of a family and an America, over the years 2029 to 2047, in spectacular decline.

In our imploding chimney of a country, collapsing in on itself, we, too, feel precipitous descent. The appalling suffering and injustice of Grenfell. The banality of Islamic and right-wing evil. The biggest governmental challenge since World War II, with the least convincing prime minister since the last one.

Oddly enough, as everything that could go wrong goes wrong, The Mandibles reveals an optimistic core. This hope doesn’t come from institutions, abstractions, or politics. It is created by the visceral self-sacrifice and resilience of individuals, driven by love for those around them.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.

Like the Mandible family, Britain yearns to hope. Unlike them, we haven’t given up on politics as its source.

I was too young for Blair and am too old for Corbyn. Still up for Portillo but too wide-eyed to really absorb its historic significance. Not wide-eyed enough to have any anticipation of Kensington and Chelsea turning red.

Hope is what unites Corbyn with the Blair of 97. Much of the country looks into their eyes and sees a better tomorrow. Others scoff and are certain of disaster. My A-Level Economics teacher won £10 on a pub bet that there would be a recession within six-months of PM Blair.

New Labourites are misremembering if they think that Blair did not suffer doubters, as Corbyn does now. They would be lacking in generosity to not concede that Corbyn, as Blair did then, has, for those who have suspended any disbelief, become a canvass for disparate, even contradictory, hopes.

I’m not the first to draw comparisons between Corbyn and Blair. The left’s instinctive trust in Corbyn allows him, according to Matt Bolton, to successfully triangulate, that most Blairite of things. But Brexit is a triangulation too far.

“While Corbyn’s much derided ‘0% strategy’ on Brexit proved to a be a short-term electoral masterstroke,” Bolton observes, “assuring Red Kippers that he was committed to pulling out of the single market and clamping down on immigration, while allowing Remainers to project their hopes for a softer landing onto him, at some point a decision has to be made.”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Election 1997 20th anniversary: Britpop in London, Coronation Street in Bassetlaw

02/05/2017, 09:05:54 PM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Lucy Ashton is the daughter of Joe Ashton, MP for Bassetlaw 1968-2001 and a political journalist.

While the Millbank machine was thundering through key seats in 1997, it was business as usual in Bassetlaw, my father’s constituency in North Nottinghamshire.

My dad had been the Labour MP for 29 years and had lived through the toughest times ever to face both the party and the country, including the devastating Miners’ Strike. He had won successful elections through the bleakest of periods so the media monitoring, battle bus and key message cards somewhat passed us by as we did business as usual.

My dad was a big supporter of Blair and a fan of Alistair Campbell (mainly through their shared love of football) but he knew his constituency better than anyone. Geographically, it’s huge and diverse so he would spend his days hammering posters into farmers’ fields, then door knocking with a loud speaker on disadvantaged council estates. The London Labour party with its Britpop celebrity endorsements seemed a world away.

One of the main towns in Bassetlaw is Worksop which was lucky enough to have a wonderful old building called the Labour Party Headquarters, ideally positioned opposite a pub. It was a great curiously shaped building, full of character and heritage and was used for everything from storing leaflets to holding important ballot meetings.

My dad was in his 60s and I remember him lying down on a 1960s-style orange and brown settee to have a nap mid-afternoon.

But this time my dad knew that finally, he could celebrate a Labour landslide, so while Blair was in his private plane, we were preparing for a street party.

We used chairs to unofficially close the little back street where the HQ building was, effectively shutting off access to the pub but given the landlord was a long-standing party supporter no one seemed to mind.

I wore a bright red polo shirt – nothing fancy to celebrate such a historic occasion – and spent the whole night playing games with the little kids, drinking and laughing.

I remember dancing to ‘Come On Eileen’ with my mum and a group of the Labour party woman, hugging and stamping our feet. This was our time after years of fighting. I still think of that moment when I hear the song.

While Millbank had create a new era of campaigning which would change the way every election was  fought in future, in Bassetlaw it felt like we had returned to the days of Coronation Street in the 1960s, of Harold Wilson, of simple booze-ups and happy times.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Election 1997 20th anniversary: Fear and loathing in Conservative Central Office

01/05/2017, 10:55:57 PM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Mark Stockwell was a staffer at Conservative Central Office.

Twenty-odd points behind in the polls. Divided, discredited, and despised. Doomed to defeat, a whole generation of talent set to be swept aside in an electoral tsunami from the south of England to the highlands of Scotland, and all points between.

That was the situation facing the Conservative Party on 1 May 1997. And although the eventual share of the vote was closer than the polls suggested, the impact in terms of seats won and lost was every bit as devastating.

In the early hours of the morning of 2 May, as the scale of Tony Blair’s victory became clear, a small crowd of ‘well-wishers’ gathered outside the then Tory HQ. Some maintain that they were chanting “You’re out and you know you are” (to the tune of ‘Go West’). From inside the Smith Square bunker, I think it was the more traditional football-terrace lyrics I could hear. And while some were outraged at this impertinence, and still shocked at what had unfolded during the course of the night, a good deal more were inclined to shrug and think to themselves, “fair enough”. Eighteen years of Conservative rule had come to a shattering end and those who had hastened its demise were in no mood for an insincere display of magnanimity.

Earlier, preparing to hunker down for a sleepless night of election coverage and (let’s be honest) steady drinking, a few Central Office staffers in the ‘war room’ had printed off a list of marginal seats and pinned it to the wall in order to keep track of the results as we went along. (Even the memory of this quaint, paper-based approach seems to tinge the whole scene with sepia. I don’t think we even had Excel in those days.)

After a handful of early results had filtered through, the extent of the swing to Labour and the patterns of tactical voting had become obvious. A few of us began to exchange anxious glances. I can’t recall exactly who said it first, or at what stage in proceedings, but pretty soon the conclusion was unavoidable: “We’re going to need to print out another sheet.” And pretty soon, another one. I recalled the words of Pitt the Younger on hearing of Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz: “Roll up the map; we will not be needing it these ten years.”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon