Posts Tagged ‘David Blunkett’

“I’m part of the union, till the day I die.” Harry Harpham’s tub-thumping socialist send-off

17/02/2016, 02:40:44 PM

by Lucy Ashton

“I’m part of the union, till the day I die.”

The rousing anthem by The Strawbs began yesterday’s funeral service for Sheffield Brightside Labour MP Harry Harpham, who was struck down by a fast-paced cancer just months after entering Parliament last May.

Despite the reserved surroundings of Sheffield Cathedral, this was a tub-thumping, socialist send-off for a former deputy council leader with 20 years local government service under his belt and a passionate trade unionist.

Before the service, members of the National Union of Mineworkers erected large NUM banners at the front of the altar and every mourner was asked to wear a 1980s-style Coal Not Dole yellow sticker.

Labour stalwart and South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings led the service, in his role as an Anglican priest, explaining that the Cathedral had been chosen because it was big enough for the hundreds of mourners.

Any suggestions that this was a religious service were dismissed when the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil was played.

Yet there was a spiritual element as the congregation shared their socialist views, ethics and memories.

Harry, whose real first name was Robert, was the eldest of seven children and leaves two brothers and four sisters.

His brother Rick fondly recalled their loving family but said Harry also had another family – NUM colleagues who had become lifelong friends after Harry spent 15 years down the pit and fought alongside them during the miners’ strike.

And the ghost of the 1980s hung over proceedings as Rick urged mourners to punch the air and yell: “Miners united, will never be defeated.”

Harry, 61, was a gregarious and incredibly friendly man and his service also remembered his role as a loving and beloved father and grandfather.

His daughter Annie – who brought her wedding forward last December so Harry could walk her down the aisle – spontaneously abandoned her planned speech and instead sang a beautiful cappella of Blooming Heather to her father.

It wouldn’t have been an authentic Labour party occasion without the Red Flag, played by the Cathedral organist who also happened to be a party member and wanted to pay a final tribute to Harry.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attended but the final words were left to David Blunkett, who Harry was agent to for many years before succeeding in the Sheffield Brightside seat.

“Harry was my friend. He would always greet me by saying ‘hello comrade’ and that’s how I’ll always remember him.”

Harry’s final journey, in a casket covered with red roses and a flag from his beloved Manchester United FC, was to John Lennon’s Working Class Hero, a truly appropriate song.

Donations in memory of Harry Harpham can be made to Cancer Research UK online via his funeral director at

Lucy Ashton is former political editor of the Sheffield Star

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Race begins to find Blunkett’s successor

05/09/2014, 07:24:52 AM

The process to select a successor to David Blunkett as Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is about to get underway, with the constituency party this week agreeing a process to select his replacement.

Nominations are set to open this weekend with a final hustings meeting will be held on October 25.

With a majority in 2010 of 13,632 and 55 per cent of the vote, the seat is a classic ‘safe’ urban redoubt for Labour.

However the area hit the headlines recently with growing tensions in the Page Hall area of the seat between local residents and Slovakian Roma migrants who have moved into the area.

In a hard-hitting assessment of the situation, David Blunkett has warned there is a need to “change the behaviour and the culture” of Roma community, warning there was going to be an “explosion” otherwise.

Tellingly, the BNP got more than 3,000 votes here in 2010.

Candidates for the nomination have yet to emerge, however the deputy leader of Sheffield City Council, Harry Harpham, is regarded locally as a front-runner.

Harpham, a well-liked ex-miner, is also the council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods. With twice the national average number of council homes, housing is a major issue in the city and Harpham led the council’s successful Decent Homes programme.

Movement for Change community organiser Mike Buckley is another name in the frame and has already been seen out and about in the seat.

It’s likely that a number of other Sheffield councillors will throw their hats in the ring, conscious that the city has a tradition of selecting local candidates.  In fact each of the city’s five Labour MPs has strong local connections.

London interloper Nick Clegg in leafy Sheffield Hallam is the only exception to that rule.

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Blunkett is right: one out of three ain’t good

18/09/2013, 08:47:03 AM

by Rob Marchant

It cannot have been the most welcome of interventions by a party elder, coming on the eve of TUC conference and a tricky moment for Miliband in his critical party reform agenda. Even less so to have chosen as his medium Labour’s favourite bête noire newspaper.

But although some things have moved on in the intervening ten days, David Blunkett’s recent Daily Mail piece certainly succeeded in one thing: he correctly identified the three areas where Labour has shown itself wanting, and in which its overall lack of success this year has surely not helped Miliband’s personal poll ratings, now standing at an historic low.

And they are these: its struggle with union leaders – as opposed to their members, who Uncut demonstrated last week think differently – over party reform; its recent foreign policy disaster over Syria; and its constant problem since the last election, the economy.

On party reform, Miliband certainly seems doing the right thing. It is a difficult path, but he stood his ground last week, we can only hope that that continues next week at party conference. He deserves the party’s praise and support, as even Times columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris acknowledged this weekend.

The problem he has is the other two areas.

First, it looks to be too late to recoup the losses on Labour’s Syria stance.

It is ironic that he same subject that gave rise to Obama’s now-legendary “red lines” also gave rise to the crossing of some red lines within our own party. There are some who will never forgive Miliband, although, to be fair, they are surely in the minority.

Whether you take is as an unintentional fumble or a cynical way to score party political points at a time when statesmanship was called for, it has been a watershed; one which has left Miliband consolidated in some sections of his party, yet diminished in the minds of opinion-formers who have spent the last three years treating him with polite respect, if not a warm embrace. The fickle country, despite not being keen on war, has surely yet to decide what it thinks about Labour’s handling of Syria, but sure-footed it has not been.


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Saturday News Review

25/09/2010, 08:16:36 AM

Down to the wire

Speculation is increasing that Ed Miliband, who began the race as a distant second favourite, could snatch victory fromEd (left) and David Miliband. While most MPs say it is too close to call, David has lost the runaway lead he enjoyed four months ago. his older brother, David. Voting closed on Wednesday in the complicated electoral college race, where MPs and MEPs have one-third of the vote, with rank-and-file party members and up to three million trades unionists who pay a political fee to Labour sharing the rest. While the result is still unclear, it is evident that the older Miliband has lost much, if not all, of the early lead he enjoyed in the race. The race has been notoriously difficult to poll, but British bookmakers Betfair declared the younger Miliband as favourite for the first time yesterday morning, at 11-10 against 10-11 for his sibling, the shadow foreign secretary. – The Irish Times

All I can report is the state of speculation just hours before the big moment, which is that Ed has won. Apparently, David’s lead among the parliamentary third of Labour’s electoral college was not big enough to compensate for his relative weakness among the other two sections, which are ordinary party members and affiliated trades-union members. Of course, all this could be absolute guff – Westminster’s rumour mill is generally more active than accurate – so don’t place any large wagers based on these whispers. We will know one way or the other very soon. – The Economist

Harriet: Don’t Walk away

Critics over the decades have derided the MP for Peckham as Harriet Harperson because of her feminist views. But the mum-of-three has won a reputation as one of Labour’s toughest fighters. Now she has a carefully thought-out message to whichever of the two Milibands emerges defeated from the brother-versus-brother battle to succeed her: Don’t walk away. Ms Harman, who is steelier and tougher than she comes across on TV or at the Commons despatch box, says the new party leader will be handed an “unprecedented” opportunity to get back into government. – The Mirror

What next?

LABOUR needs to give its membership a greater say over policy and recognise the growing popularity of community-based politics, Shadow Wales Office Minister Wayne David said last night. The Caerphilly MP said the party was mature enough to move away from the days when the leadership imposed policy – and discipline – from the top. During the Blair and Brown era Labour was often criticised for failing to consult the party on major policy changes and for using the party’s National Executive Committee to keep a tight grip on candidate selection. – The Western Mail

The new leader will have to be brave, including on policy. Bravery will involve talking again about genuinely devolving. Not a gesture, which actually results in more of the decision-making happening in Whitehall and Westminster; but, for instance, the establishment of regional and local banks. The idea (and Iain Duncan Smith is at least willing to think about this) of devolving the welfare budget – within sensible bounds of consistency – across the UK, so that money can be applied to preventing and redeeming, and not merely ameliorating, poverty. – David Blunkett, The Yorkshire Post

LABOUR risks its reputation for economic management if it is not “straightforward” on the need to make savings in the public sector, one of David Miliband’s key allies warns today ahead of today’s leadership election. Jim Murphy, the former Scottish secretary who has run the elder Miliband’s campaign, acknowledged that today’s decision, due at 4pm, was on a knife-edge, with bookmakers now placing younger brother Ed as the odds-on favourite.But Mr Murphy said that whoever wins today, the party needed to stop “talking to itself” and also to stop “shouting at the public”. Instead, he said Labour needed to accept that voters had decided it had taken a wrong turn. – The Scotsman

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Tuesday News Review

07/09/2010, 07:00:32 AM

Welcome back: Theresa May faces tough questions over phone hacking

If Theresa May had been a luckier politician she might have faced an easier challenge on her first day back at Westminster: solving world hunger perhaps, persuading the Taliban to take up knitting or smuggling Tony Blair into Waterstone’s. Instead the home secretary got a big, black binliner full of stinking political rubbish dumped into her lap, the kind of raw material that News of the World reporters tiptoe away with from the dustbins of their victims. Except that in this case the investigators were outraged opposition MPs and the targets under surveillance were Scotland Yard, the News of the Screws itself and Andy Coulson, the boss’s pet rottweiler, all mixed up in the phone-hacking affair. A Lib Dem cabinet minister even called for Coulson to be sacked. – The Guardian

Backbencher Tom Watson said Mrs May must not join a ”conspiracy” to undermine the ”integrity of our democracy”. He called on her to confirm that Tony Blair had asked Scotland Yard whether his phone was hacked – a suggestion the former prime minister’s office has yet to shed light on. But the home secretary batted away demands for details, saying: ”There have recently been allegations connected to this investigation in the New York Times newspaper. ”Any police investigation is an operational matter in which ministers have no role.” – The Telegraph

Step forward, Tom Watson, the man they call “Tommy Two Dinners”. In fact, the man is becoming a star performer in the House of Commons. Before the recess, he savaged Michael Gove over the school rebuilding fiasco, dubbing him “a miserable pipsqueak of a man”. Now he launched into Theresa May with a machine gun-like summary of the latest allegations: succinct, easy-to-understand and extremely effective. Put that man in the Shadow Cabinet! He’s becoming one of Labour’s top attack dogs. Nick Clegg will be grateful that he didn’t have to face Tommy. – Sky

During the Commons debate, Labour MP Tom Watson asked May to clarify how many were on Mulcaire’s “target list” of people to bug. He also asked how the Metropolitan Police decided on the small sample of names which made up its 2006 investigation into the affair. He added: “Can she confirm that former Prime Minister Tony Blair has formally asked Scotland Yard whether his phone was hacked? “The integrity of our democracy is under scrutiny around the world. The home secretary must not join the conspiracy to make it a laughing stock.” – Press Gazette


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We should all be in the dock on immigration, says Dan Hodges

19/08/2010, 05:12:35 PM

Next month, a special election court will rule on whether Phil Woolas’ 103 vote general election victory in Oldham East and Saddleworth will stand. The verdict will hinge primarily on a number of leaflets distributed during the campaign, which were the subject of a complaint by Lib Dem candidate Elwyn Watkins. The leaflets themselves, which were doing the rounds on the internet and Twitter over the weekend, relate to the ongoing debate over race  migration and religious fundamentalism, and given the sensitive nature of the allegations. It would be inappropriate to go into details here.

However, the Oldham case has thrown into sharp focus one of the most difficult, controversial – and in my view defining – issues we face as a Party. Our stance on immigration.

Some cards on the table. I’ve known Phil Woolas for twenty years. He was in the front line campaigning against racism and prejudice long before he sets his sights on a Westminster seat. I saw  first hand how, behind the headlines, as a home office minister he tried to push the case for a fairer, more progressive immigration and asylum system. Those people trying to pin Phil to the wall are missing the bigger picture.


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Sunday News Review

15/08/2010, 09:09:58 AM

Bring in the ringers

Alan Milburn has been appointed to give political cover to Clegg

As expected there’s been a furious response from ex-Labour deputy, John Prescott to the overnight news that former arch-Blairite cabinet minister, Alan Milburn is possibly going to return to government to act as “Social Mobility Czar” – whatever that means. Prezza Twittered: “So after Field & Hutton, Milburn becomes the 3rd collaborator. They collaborated to get Brown OUT. Now collaborating to keep Cameron IN” For the three Labour figures named were all opponents of the Gordon Brown premiership which makes it easier for Prescott to condemn them in this manner – though I do wonder whether the term “collaborator” is taking tribal politics a bit too far. – Political Betting

Labour’s Alan Milburn is poised for a shock return to Government as David Cameron’s “social mobility” czar. And it was reported last night that former Cabinet minister David Blunkett could also boost the coalition with advice on poverty, benefit cheats and the pensions crisis. His former Cabinet colleague Mr Milburn will advise the PM on helping people from humble backgrounds into lucrative careers. – The Mirror

The appointment of the former Health Secretary will anger Tory traditionalists who fear there are already too many left leaning policies being drawn up by the coalition. The announcement will be made by Nick Clegg, perhaps as early as Wednesday. A Liberal Democrat insider said the appointment had been agreed between Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron as a way of promoting the former’s “fairness” agenda. Many will see it as a way of shoring up the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader who is facing internal trouble in his own party over the severe spending cuts he has backed. – The Telegraph


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