Posts Tagged ‘Will Straw’

The Brexit calamity is at the heart of Corbyn’s inadequacies

09/08/2016, 06:26:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Mandelson and Will Straw, unsurprisingly, questioned the focus given to the EU referendum by Jeremy Corbyn on Laura Kuenssberg’s Brexit documentary. Given Brexit’s slender victory, a more dedicated Labour campaign may have kept the UK in the EU.

We will await the extra £350m a week for the NHS that the Brexit campaign allowed us to believe would be forthcoming. Not once do I recall Corbyn exploding this myth with, say, the fierce clarity of Ruth Davidson at the Wembley debate on the EU referendum. Only the tediously tribal wouldn’t concede that Davidson is impressive. At the same time, however, it is lamentable that a Labour leader can so pall next to a Scottish Tory, a supposedly extinct bred reborn as the most coherent opposing voice to the SNP hegemony that Corbyn was supposed to shatter.

Rather than Scottish recovery, it feels more like the Labour weaknesses that the SNP have ruthlessly exposed will creep south. Brexit asks questions about the future purpose of UKIP, a party dedicated above all to this end, but also exposes a divergence between Labour and many of our traditional supporters in the north of England and the Midlands, which UKIP might be recalibrated to capitalise upon.

Theresa May will look at Labour’s loosening purchase on these regions and spy opportunities for Tory advance. As May looks north, Corbyn tacitly endorses attempts to deselect Peter Kyle, one of Labour’s few MPs in the south outside of London, providing little sense of a lifting of Labour’s traditional southern discomfort.


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The public’s fear of the future will frame George Osborne’s budget

04/03/2013, 04:10:05 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is not only Charlie Brooker who thinks the future is broken. Businesses and households do too. This is why businesses are sitting on billions of pounds. They don’t think there is a future worth investing in. This is massively economically significant, but perhaps more politically significant is the resignation of the public to their grim economic fate.

Some of the public are drowning, few are waving, and most are shrugging their shoulders. George Osborne’s biographer, Janan Ganesh, recently noted in the Financial Times: “The regular focus groups that are conducted by Downing Street paint a picture of an electorate that is bleak about the economy, yes, but so bleak that they don’t believe things would much improve under an alternative policy.”

Those that aren’t drowning, waving or shrugging their shoulders, are getting angry, which increasingly means voting for UKIP. Not as a principled stand against the EU but, as Michael Ashcroft’s polling attests, an anguished cry against the established parties. UKIP recoils, as Matthew d’Ancona accurately puts it, not from Europe specifically but from change generally.

UKIP is an emotional spasm against the political class and the inadequate modernity that they represent, as well as an insatiable longing for an unrecoverable past. While a growing minority of the electorate fall for this spasm, most are bleakly indifferent.

Allister Heath on the right would sacrifice short-term deficit reduction for a dramatic cut in corporation tax and Will Straw on the left for increased public investment. There is, though, scant evidence that the public believe that the methods of either the left or the right will make much difference. And the public might have a point.

Given the piles of cash on which businesses currently sit, Heath’s policy may only deepen these piles. Straw is right to see the cuts to public investment as the most economically damaging of those inflicted by Osborne but only rapidly “shovel-ready” projects are likely to make a difference to GDP in the near-term.

While both left and right urge upon Osborne a focus on recovering growth, not short-term deficit reduction, there are reasons to be sceptical about the capacity of the policies of the left and right to secure their shared objective. And sceptical is certainly what the public feel about the ability of politicians to improve things.


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Refounding Labour: Will Straw’s Labour loves and loathes

15/05/2011, 07:07:53 PM

by Will Straw

Peter Hain’s Refounding Labour review moves to the next level this week with the launch of its website. The new site has been set up to provide a place for members to “critically review and assess the current structures and processes of the Labour party”. Members are being encouraged to set out what they love and want to change about the party.

The thing I love most about the Labour party is how it is arguably the most diverse organisation in any local community. Wherever I have lived I have been struck by how Labour party meetings, social events, and campaigning sessions bring together men and women from different age groups, social classes, ethnicities, and religions. In my CLP, for example, we bring together people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. That might not seem unusual in London when we all share public transport, doctors’ waiting rooms, and supermarkets with people from a variety of backgrounds. But the Labour party must be unique in bringing such a range of people together for a common cause.

The main thing I would change about the Labour party is the excess of interminable meetings. These can be new members’ first experience of the party, since meetings often outnumber campaigning events. The fixed agendas and arcane rules may provide comfort to party stalwarts, but too often our meetings resemble a Monty Python sketch.

The annual votes for specific positions – often held year on year by the same people – can also mean that energetic new recruits are put off getting more involved. Our structures would work much better if meetings were aimed either at political education by bringing in expert speakers for a discussion and debate, or used to update on campaigning activity and outline the next set of action points. Some CLPs seem to manage this, but it would be good if the rule book were updated to reflect the organising norms of the twenty-first century.

You can have your say on what you love and what you’d change about the party from tomorrow at

Will Straw is associate director for strategic development at the IPPR.

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You don’t build the future by trashing the past

03/12/2010, 02:30:54 PM

by Will Straw

With Labour still recovering from its second worst defeat in 90 years, now is the time for a thorough reassessment of what the left stands for. The policy review and reforms to party structures that Ed Miliband has announced should be welcomed. Before ink is spilled on the “blank sheet of paper”, time should be taken to debate and consider a range of different perspectives on the future direction of the left.

The five-point plan set out in Neal Lawson and John Harris’ essay in this week’s New Statesman should therefore be welcomed. But by trashing new Labour’s record with little consideration of the many achievements that 13 years in power delivered, Lawson and Harris risk alienating a group of reformers who could, in other circumstances, find common cause with their mission. The Labour party could easily unite around a programme dedicated to defeating inequality, building a new model of capitalism, localising public services, tackling climate change, and creating a more pluralistic politics – as Lawson and Harris suggest. But their approach is not the way to get there.

In their essay, Lawson and Harris write:

“New Labour stayed in office for 13 years because the world economy was so strong and the Tories were so weak. But even in such benign circumstances, the poor got poorer and the planet burned … The only plan they had was to stoke a finance-driven, lightly regulated economy, and then surreptitiously take the tax skim to fund social programmes”.

What a simplistic view of Labour’s time in office. Few saw the financial crash coming; even fewer set out the remedies in advance of the Lehman’s collapse. Adverse criticism of new Labour around 2003 was primarily concerned with the war in Iraq and the marketisation of public services; not the reregulation of the City. Basel I and II passed without a murmur. Where was the compass paper in 2005 calling for a ban on short selling or a British uptick rule prior to 2007? Twenty-twenty hindsight is a fine thing but those who call now for a new form of capitalism should be more realistic about the collective hubris of the boom years. (more…)

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