Posts Tagged ‘Liam Byrne’

Jack Lesgrin’s week: No one ever forgets a gaffe

05/05/2021, 11:24:47 PM

By Jack Lesgrin

No one forgets, even if you regret (the crap)

It’s hardly up there with “do you remember where you were when Kennedy was assassinated/for the moon landing/on 9-11”, but readers of a certain vintage will recall their shock, perhaps sprinkled with a pinch of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ voyeurism at jewellery retailer Gerald Ratner’s infamous 1991 speech to the Institute of Directors in which he uttered the immortal line that led to the collapse of his company: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’, I say, ‘because it’s total crap’”.

Last week, Mr Ratner issued a rather moving tweet, writing “It is 30 years today when I made ‘that’ speech. It seems like yesterday. I wish it was tomorrow. I would cancel it.” What is it about certain gaffes that capture the public’s attention and persist for years, or even decades, while others that might be regarded as worse by any objective analysis, are overlooked? The 30th anniversary of the Ratner speech fell during the week of the tenth anniversary of ‘Ed Balls Day’ (28 April), in which thousands of Twitter users re-enact how the then Shadow Chancellor accidentally tweeted his own name while reportedly attempting to search for an article about himself. It caught the popular imagination, for comedic reasons, and this year’s ‘day’ was even reported by The New York Times no less.

While we’re on the subject of gaffes by Labour politicians that linger on in the public’s imagination, I’m reminded of the cringe-making letter that Labour’s then Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne left on his desk for his successor after the 2010 general election, stating simply “I’m afraid there is no money.” David Cameron carried a facsimile of the letter around with him for years to come to twist the knife about alleged Labour profligacy.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Where is Liam Byrne headed?

09/11/2015, 05:20:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Liam Byrne is nothing if not industrious. After a hotly contested by-election, a minister five minutes after becoming an MP. The hard work continued on the opposition front bench, even if he felt too Blairite to be in vogue during the Miliband years. When he might have been expected to back the more Blairite Liz Kendall, he enthusiastically supported Yvette Cooper.

Cooper outperformed Kendall but Byrne’s candidate was left to eat Corbyn’s dust, as a much changed party from the one that Byrne was first elected to represent was created. Back then Byrne was the poster boy for Blair’s ability to win by-elections in the face of impassioned campaigning by parties, the Liberal Democrats and Respect, opposed to the Iraq war. Now Labour has a leader who can seem to be willing Blair toward the Hague.

No defeat or indignity, it appears, deters Byrne. The grafting just persists. He wants to make the best of Corbyn, as he made the best of Blair, Brown and Miliband. But not from the frontbench. No longer does he defend the leadership on all fronts. A big olive branch was, nonetheless, offered in his recent Policy Network speech.

This conciliation was Tony Crosland shaped. In the 1950s, a civil war waged between Bevanites and Gaitskellites. Europe and nuclear deterrence loomed large. As, oddly enough, they did during the convulsions of the 1980s. And they do again now. There must be something about these issues that brings them to renewed prominence at times of heightened Labour flux.

Crosland’s The Future of Socialism sought to cut through these differences by appealing to a shared commitment to equality. What divided Bevanites and Gaitskellites was merely the means; the end of equality united them, argued Crosland.

“I love Jeremy’s passion for tackling inequality,” Byrne insisted at Policy Network. “He is not a Trot. I am not a Tory. We are both Labour.” Reaching beyond the differences, like Crosland sixty years ago, to find the common conviction.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Fear and loathing in the PLP: what really happened in Labour’s reshuffle

17/10/2013, 12:25:45 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The cracks are beginning to show. Over the weeks since Ed Miliband reshuffled the shadow cabinet, Uncut has been contacted by a range of different sources, seeking to tell their side of the story about what is going on beneath the slowly fracturing façade of PLP unity.

Piecing together the various accounts, a rather different picture emerges of the reshuffle, to the one commonly reported.

At the heart of it is a leader’s office dominated by fear.

Not fear of what the Tories are doing to the country, or for the electoral battle to come, but a fatalistic conviction that Ed Miliband will either be toppled as Labour’s leader before the next election, or so destabilised as to be incapable of fighting effectively.

This fear framed the reshuffle as Ed Miliband attempted to deal with Blairites, Ballsites, the new hero of the soft left, Andy Burnham and even the young pretender, Chuka Umunna.

The cull of the three Blairites – Jim Murphy, Liam Byrne and Steven Twigg – has been widely discussed, but what is less well known, Westminster sources suggest, is that when faced with Ed Miliband’s concerted move against them, the three discussed their options.

Collective resignation was the first impulse but two factors are said to have changed their minds: the sense that this was their party too and they could still exert some influence on policy; and that any resignation would simply have been written up as sour grapes from the snubbed.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Uncut poll reveals public blame last Labour government, not Tories, for today’s benefits bill

12/09/2013, 09:55:29 PM

by Kevin Meagher

In raw political terms, the fact that voters hold Labour accountable by a margin of ten to one for the size of the benefits bill is about as about politically toxic as it gets.

The poll finding, in our forthcoming pamphlet “Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why”, shows the scale of Labour’s real challenge, underneath its broad opinion poll lead.

Over half of those who think welfare spending is too high (54 per cent) blame Labour, with only five per cent pointing the finger at the coalition.

Meanwhile 45 per cent trust Cameron to control welfare spending and prevent it rising out of control, compared to 14 per cent who back Ed Miliband.

This gap goes to the heart of Labour’s credibility as a party of government, so narrowing it must be a strategic priority.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee offers hope for the long term unemployed

28/08/2013, 11:44:33 AM

by John Stephenson

Prior to 2010, Tory commentators often protested in harmony with tabloid headlines denouncing New Labour’s welfare policies as weak. In retrospect it is often acknowledged that the party’s work capability assessment was poorly designed and allowed people to take advantage of state hand-outs. Individuals in genuine need of incapacity benefits were often shunned on to job seekers allowance, leading to a toilsome cycle of temporary work while the support they needed was overlooked.

However, on the back of the coalition’s failures over unemployment and in the midst of pressure to reveal further policy proposals, Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee offers a real alternative to the Tory-led government’s strategy to get people back to work.

Under the scheme, Labour would guarantee every adult who has been unemployed for a period of 24 months or more a work placement, with an aim to eventually reduce this time period over the long-run. Such an approach is regarded by many economists as being superior to a standard liberal economy, so long as political considerations – such as the wider ramifications for the disabled and the ratios between public and private sector employment – are carefully controlled.

While the policy would undoubtedly be costly – coming at a fee of around £1 billion for the taxpayer – there is plenty of room for manoeuvre within the current chancellor’s budget. For instance, the party are keen to stress that such funds could be acquired by reversing the coalition’s decision to stop tax relief on top earners’ pension contributions being limited to 20%, a move which is said would save the government around £2 billion.

Senior figures within Labour, such as Ed Balls and Liam Byrne appreciate that work should pay more than benefits as a matter of principal. However, the proposals indicate that benefits would be capped according to geographical location, taking into account the higher living costs associated with areas such as London and Manchester.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

George Osborne has a point on Philpott. Labour is dangerously out of sync with public opinion

08/04/2013, 08:41:46 AM

by Ben Mitchell

For the past 18 months or so I’ve spent quite a bit of time defending Ed Miliband: a decent man with a broad vision about how our political system needs to be changed to work for the many instead of a privileged, sheltered few. I’ve applauded the leadership’s disassociation from the worst excesses of New Labour – its authoritarianism, ruthless attacks on civil liberties, reckless liberal interventionism. He has taken on powerful elites in a way few have dared to.

But over the last few months an immaturity and amateurish streak has taken hold. Beginning with his breathtaking naivety in fully endorsing the Leveson Report in its entirety with barely any time to take in the executive summary, let alone digest all 1,987 pages. Wanting to be on the side of the victims of hacking and new best mate to UK Celebs Are Us, clouded his judgement and put Labour on the wrong side of press freedom. But at least he had public opinion on his side. Even though Leveson and press regulation will barely feature come polling day.

Not so welfare.  As Dan Hodges pointed out last week:

“The “debate” over welfare playing out over the last few days has reminded me of where we were with the debate on immigration a decade ago.”

We are in the embryonic stages, meaning hyperbole, misinformation, accusations and counter-accusations shout down the moderate and measured. Mick Philpott, doting father of 17, misogynist, benefit-scrounger extraordinaire, and now guilty of the manslaughter of six of his children puts us firmly in hysteria territory. Vile product of Welfare UK? Of course not. But a man entitled to handouts totalling up to £50,000 a year according to some reports is evidence of a benefits system intent on self-harm.

There was nothing remotely controversial about George Osborne musing that:

“There is a question for government and for society about the welfare state – and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state – subsidising lifestyles like that, and I think that debate needs to be had.”

Every right-thinking person would have been nodding in approval. I certainly was. Then in blunders Ed Balls with the equivalent of a studs-first two-footed tackle:

“George Osborne’s calculated decision to use the shocking and vile crimes of Mick Philpott to advance a political argument is the cynical act of a desperate chancellor.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour has got itself into a mess on welfare

04/04/2013, 07:00:01 AM

by Peter Watt

I don’t know what Labour’s position on welfare reform is.  I know that the Tories want to cut welfare bills and make work pay.  I know this because they keep saying it and because they have just spent the last few weeks pushing changes to the welfare system that appear to confirm this.  It doesn’t matter at this stage whether the policies will actually achieve this or not because at this stage what matters is that their rhetoric is matched by actions that appear consistent with their words.

But Labour has in the past also talked tough on welfare and that it would like to reduce welfare bills.  The problem is that it is currently fighting a battle in which it is opposing the government’s attempts to achieve this.  So Labour appears confused.

The truth about the current crop of welfare reforms will not be known for some time.  Both the government and the opposition have talked up the changes brought in on April 1.  The government wants the changes seen as being a turning of the corner in the ever increasing rise in welfare payments.

The opposition wants the changes to be seen as evidence of the inherent nastiness, unfairness and cynicism of the government.  The truth is of course somewhat more complex.  The so called “bedroom tax” for instance is probably flawed as there is not enough social housing stock for people to actually downsize to.

People will therefore either be worse off or have to move to smaller premises in the private sector which will of course cost the state more in housing benefit.  But other aspects of the changes seem reasonable like the benefits cap; even if the government is crudely talking up the tiny numbers of families able to actually claim hundreds of thousands in benefits.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour was right to abstain on workfare

27/03/2013, 10:00:17 AM

by Ann Sinnott

The workfare court ruling deemed unlawful the regulations governing JSA-sanctions imposed on claimants Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson and thus opened the door to repayment of lost benefits to 230,000 other sanctioned jobseekers, a total of £130m. In response, the government rapidly drew up an emergency bill to retrospectively make those same regulations lawful; a shocking and unprecedented Kafkaesque step that, when Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson take their case to the Supreme Court, may well be challenged under EU Human Rights legislation.

Labour’s decision to abstain from voting on the emergency bill left many non-plussed, induced rage in others and generated a frenzy of press and blogger coverage running over several days. It goes without saying that “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is part of the Labour party’s DNA, so for Labour not to reject a Bill that will prevent the repayment of withheld JSA is counter-intuitive; but look closer.

Drafted by swift-acting machiavellian brains (judging by Vince Cables’s more than usually self-satisfied smile the next day, his among them), the bill was neatly packaged-up and calculated to cause maximum trouble for Labour.  It was effective and a stark display of the art of politics at its darkest.

The court not only ruled in favour of the two claimants but also removed from the DWP the right to impose sanctions, a power the department had held since 1911. The emergency bill will reinstate the DWP’s power of sanction. Labour supports fair and proportionate sanctions, though in the context of a guaranteed six-month minimum-waged job, so what better way to tie-in their support, tacit or otherwise?

If Labour had walked into the “Nos” lobby it would have been voting against its own policy. Bad enough, but just imagine the headlines and the everlasting government taunts: “Labour U-turn on sanctions for shirkers!”, “Labour lets skivers off the hook!”, “No need to work under Labour!”, and permutations thereof.

Some Labour critics have said, “Sod the headlines!” – but, with a largely right-wing press and public opinion still largely suckered by the government myth that Labour ran the country into the ground, headlines really do matter.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

November Shadow Cabinet League

02/12/2011, 09:06:45 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Have they put something in the tea at shadow cabinet meetings?

Because they seem to be a team transformed – in work ethic at least.

Despite doubts about Labour’s strategic positioning on the big issues, Ed Miliband’s new shadow secretaries of state have set about their task with a vigour not seen for months.

The days when Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander gazed down on their colleagues from a distant summit appear to be past. Instead there is a genuine competition across the top ten with any and all capable of mounting a challenge for top spot.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Monday News Review

13/06/2011, 06:27:02 AM

Family breakdown

When he won the Labour leadership, Ed Miliband declared that Britain had not ‘heard the last’ of his older brother, from whose complacent grip he had snatched the prize. David would ‘be around in one way or another’. Well, Ed was spot on in that analysis. Today, as he prepares to deliver yet another keynote speech, desperately crafted to pump life into his flaccid leadership, brother David’s shadow looms ever larger and more threatening.Indeed, it is Louise Miliband, even more than her vanquished former Foreign Secretary husband, who harbours a deep grudge against her brother-in-law. She regards his decision to run against her husband as an unforgivable act of treachery and betrayal. ‘She was distraught and still hurts for David. It’s often the partners who take more umbrage. But it’s very hard for them both to get over it. David would have won it if Ed had not stood. And he would have won it big,’ one trusted confidante told the Daily Mail.  ‘Louise understands that and is still consumed by anger. She’s also furious with Ed’s wife because she feels she should have persuaded him not fight his own brother. The family will never get over this. Louise did not even want to go to Ed’s wedding.’ Indeed, as the new book reveals, Louise Miliband cut Ed dead when they met by accident as he headed back to his hotel room following his victory over her husband.  The brothers used to speak several times a week. Now, with the exception of occasional requests for advice from Ed, they rarely converse, reveals the book. They communicate through their offices. – Daily Mail

Ed Miliband’s wife, Justine Thornton, is said to have been deeply hurt by the frosty stance reportedly adopted by her sister-in-law Louise Miliband since his surprise decision to stand for the leadership last year. Based on interviews with close friends and colleagues of the two men, the book depicts a deep and painful rift in the Miliband family which some fear will never heal. It claims that an increasingly ill-tempered election campaign developed into a rancorous family schism, evident as much at children’s birthday parties as political meetings, to the distress of the men’s mother, Marion. Despite his disappointment at failing to secure the Labour crown last September, the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband was careful to be gracious in defeat, the book says. But as Ed walked back to his hotel room in Manchester, following the announcement the election result, his sister-in-law was less forgiving and “cut him dead”, the book claims. It was, the authors – the Labour-friendly journalists Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre – claim, “the start of a breakdown in the family”. – Daily Telegraph

Ed tries to bounce back with policy offensive

Ed Miliband will attempt to fight back against his internal Labour critics today by unveiling new policies demanding more “responsibility” from the highest paid people and welfare claimants. On the eve of his long-awaited policy offensive, Mr Miliband was hit by claims that his relationship with his brother David was still in the deep freeze eight months after he defeated him to win the Labour leadership. A new book by journalists Mehdi Hassan and James Macintyre claims that Ed spent years plotting to beat his brother and that David now thinks he is taking the party “in the wrong direction.” The Labour leader will try to turn a tide of negative publicity about what critics see as his lacklustre performance by turning the spotlight to one of his big policy ideas. He will promise a “revolution in the boardroom”, saying a Labour Government would make companies publish the ratio between their highest earners and the average pay level. In a long-planned speech in London, Mr Miliband will admit that the last Labour Government was too relaxed about bankers who caused the financial crisis and benefit claimants who abused the system. “We will be a party that supports the real boardroom accountability that rewards wealth creation, not failure,” he will say. “At the bottom of society, we will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness.” – the Independent

Plans to make unemployed benefit claimants work harder to find a job will be unveiled by Labour‘s policy review chief, Liam Byrne, on Monday. The shadow work and pensions secretary will also set out new ideas, drawn from the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, requiring long-term workless households with pre-school children to attend compulsory employment workshops in return for childcare costs. The proposals chime with Ed Miliband’s proposals, unveiled on Monday, which will emphasise responsibility, rewarding those on the council house queue who are in jobs or doing voluntary work. Byrne will map out how far the party has drifted from mainstream public opinion, saying: “There is one sentiment that really shines through. People are angry about the state we face and they believe a new politics of responsibility is the answer. There’s a sense of too many great sins: wealth without work; commerce without morality; politics without principle.” – the Guardian

People in work, volunteers and foster carers will be able to jump council house queues, Ed Miliband will pledge today. “Rather than looking solely at need, priority is also given to those who contribute – who give something back. It’s fairer and it also encourages the kind of responsible behaviour that makes our communities stronger,” he will say. Labour is also looking at cutting benefits for young jobless people in workless households. And it is considering forcing the unemployed to sign on weekly and give higher dole payments for those who were in work and then lost their job. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne will set out the controversial plans tonight, saying: “Welfare reform is one of the policy areas where Labour needs to win back trust.” – Daily Mirror

D-Day for NHS reforms

Experts are to unveil recommendations on the Government’s plans for the NHS after Nick Clegg claimed victory for the Liberal Democrats in the spat over the reforms. The NHS Future Forum will publish its report setting out proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently on hold on its passage through Parliament. The Bill has attracted widespread criticism from the medical profession and unions, particularly over its aim to increase competition between the NHS and private companies. Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined “real changes” to the reforms – pre-empting the content of today’s report. Aides to the Prime Minister have insisted he was the driving force behind the policy rethink, but many Tory backbenchers are furious that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been “hung out to dry” to appease Lib Dems. – Sky News

In the face of Liberal Democrat opposition to his proposed shake-up of the NHS, the Prime Minister ordered a time-out so the views of doctors and nurses could be heard. Today, a report by the group NHS Future Forum, led by former chairman of the Royal College of GPs Prof Steve Field, will be published and is expected to recommend a string of changes. The Liberal Democrats claimed yesterday that the concessions they had demanded had been achieved, while backbench Tories were warning that Mr Cameron had given too much away. Mark Pritchard MP, secretary of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, suggested that the changes would lose the Tories votes. He told The Daily Telegraph: “History may judge this moment as a lost golden opportunity to make the NHS fit for the 21st century.“  Mr Cameron has called an emergency meeting of all 143 Tories who joined the Commons at last year’s election. It is being interpreted in Westminster as an attempt to ensure Mr Cameron has enough support to see off opposition from “old guard” MPs, who have been angered at concessions to the Tories’ Coalition partners and perceived “gloating” from Lib Dems. – Daily Telegraph

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon