Posts Tagged ‘Tessa Jowell’

The Uncuts: 2018 political awards (part II)

31/12/2018, 03:11:28 PM

Most Dearly Departed: Tessa Jowell

Tessa Jowell, according to her obituary in the Guardian, “exuded cheerfulness and gave even those she had only just met the sense of being one of her old friends.” Uncut’s experience of Jowell chimed with this. In our age of division, Jowell’s relentless positivity and easy warmth is much missed.

The personal is political. The last time we felt like a country pulling together to reach for the stars was during 2012’s Olympic summer. An experience that we would not have known without Jowell’s personal qualities.

That Jowell persuaded an initially sceptical prime minister Tony Blair of the wisdom of an Olympic bid reminds us of the importance of leaders having confidants prepared to speak truth to power. Next to today’s shrivelled Downing Street bunker, the near past seems a distant universe.

Straight Talking, Honest Politics: Jeremy Corbyn and Wreathgate

In previous years, it has mostly been possible for observers and many party members to take Jeremy Corbyn’s words as misconstrued, misguided or mildly disingenuous. This year, however, the party’s own leader has been responsible for such blatant whoppers that he alone, astonishingly, bagged all nominations in this category.

Nominations came in for:

–    Claiming not to have called the prime minister a “stupid woman”, when he is actually caught on video mouthing those exact words and a team of lip-reading experts disagreed.

–    Claiming to be anti-Brexit, when in fact he has spent his entire political career being anti-EU. In particular, voting against Brexit in the September Commons vote, but only because he couldn’t get away with voting otherwise with the members, using the fig-leaf that the government’s resulting powers would be too strong. I mean, who could say that in Iran, Venezuela or Cuba the government’s powers are “too strong”, eh?

–    In close contention for the top spot, there was the Marr interview where he actually told three untruths in the space of twenty seconds.

But the ultimate prize in this prestigious award was given for the culmination of the “Wreathgate” saga, where our Dear Leader claimed not to have put a wreath on a terrorist’s grave, even though all evidence pointed to the fact that he had done just that. To round things off, in a brilliantly disingenuous move, his office then reported to the press regulator that the coverage had been unfair, only to drop the complaint again a few months later, claiming the process had been “compromised”. A well-deserved win.

the possibility for socialists to lead a political transformation

Most Forensically Persistent: Robert Mueller

Liberal America remains in therapy. Pod Save America helps. Slow Burn, telling the story of Watergate, is another wildly successful podcast. The resignation of president Richard Nixon did not happen overnight. It was a glacial journey into an unknown territory.


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The inspiration of Tessa Jowell

29/01/2018, 10:24:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

In an era of robotic politicians, Tessa Jowell is a magnetic presence. The cause of unprecedented scenes of applause in the Lords. The catalyst to improved cancer services. Her humanity shrines like a beacon, reminding us that politics doesn’t have to disappoint.

There’s nothing like a dame, Peter Mandelson – quoting a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – told the Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN) summer party after Tessa, our MP, had been made an Order of the British Empire. This might have been the same year that we watched Andy Murray become the first male British Wimbledon champion since 1936. When Murray secured this victory, Tessa punched the air in the house backing on to Dulwich Park that has witnessed many of these annual events.

More immediately after Tessa became a dame, there was a party in the Commons to celebrate this elevation. While the eschewing of political honours exemplified by Keith Hill, Tessa’s sometime neighbouring MP, is impressive, there was also a lot to admire in the big tent assembled for Tessa’s party. From Tony Blair to Ken Livingston, from Kay Burley to the Southwark News, from Seb Coe to Brixton charities, it exemplified Tessa’s capacity to bring diverse people together.

I saw Tessa most closely in a less high-profile context than delivering the Olympics and Sure Start. At GC meetings in a chilly hall in Herne Hill. My decade on the DaWN GC is the only GC that I have known. I wasn’t going to do anything as sober as serve on a GC as a student and I’ve since moved to a CLP (Birmingham Ladywood) that doesn’t have one.

GCs are like wines. The more you experience, the more – if you pay attention – you appreciate. It initially seemed pretty uninviting and tedious. Over time, the personalities, politics and issues revealed themselves. I came to know DaWN through its GC and my understanding of Ladywood is hampered by its lack of a GC.


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Labour is dangerously complacent about winning back London post-Boris

14/08/2014, 11:32:25 AM

by Samuel Dale

It was the worst kept secret in Westminster but Boris is finally on his way back.

After years burnishing his profile as Mayor of London, he is looking for a Commons seat next year.

Inevitably the focus has been on the implications for Cameron, Osborne and the battle for the Tory leadership.

But it also confirms – almost certainly – that Johnson will not run again as Mayor of London in 2016.

This is leading to a dangerous complacency from Labour.

The theory goes like this: London is a Labour voting city that has been twice charmed by the charismatic Boris but when he goes the mayoralty will slip back to its rightful owners, Labour.

This belief is fuelled by electoral successes.

Labour did surprisingly well in London in the 2010 general election, costing the Tories a majority.

In the intervening years, it has also won back control of councils and had record breaking results in areas such as Camden in May.

But the mayoralty is different. In their own ways Ken Livingstone and Boris have made the Mayor Of London a big job.


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Helen Hayes: A star is born in Dulwich and West Norwood

31/03/2014, 09:48:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

It wasn’t quite a warm summer day spent indoors writing frightening verse, as the Smiths song goes but it was a warm day, spent indoors, in a school hall with large windows. We could see the sunshine but we weren’t in it. We were inside, stewing.

When we re-emerged, Helen Hayes had been selected to fight Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN) for Labour at the general election. Tessa Jowell has represented the seat since its creation in 1997, having won the previous Dulwich seat from the Conservatives with a slender majority 5 years earlier. Favourable boundary changes and Jowell’s assiduous cultivation of support across a constituency with pockets of affluence and poverty mean that she bequeaths a much more substantial majority of over 9000 to Hayes.

The seat may have transitioned from being perceived as marginal to safe under Jowell but some parts of it conform to the characteristics of seats that Lewis Baston deems ‘gentrifying inner London’. He sees changes in them that may benefit the Conservatives – “old working class traditional Labour households in terraced areas have been replaced by upwardly mobile and high paid couples and families”. The East Dulwich ward in DaWN, for example, is much less blue-collar than when Jowell worked in it as a social worker in the 1970s. Foxtons, Caffè Nero and various gastro pubs have arrived in the 8 years that I’ve lived in the ward.

Hayes will need Jowell’s capacity to build a big tent of support across different groups to keep the seat as safe as it has become. Douglas Alexander, Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna saw sufficient evidence of Hayes’ talent to endorse her candidacy. In addition, Frank Dobson, Patrick Diamond and – declaring an interest – myself did so. While it’s unusual for someone seeking to become a Labour PPC to secure the support of three members of the shadow cabinet, Hayes was not alone among the candidates in getting top level backing.


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Sunday review on Thursday: The not-the-London-Labour-mayor hustings

28/11/2013, 01:14:49 PM

by David Butler

When is a husting not a husting? When it is a Progress Campaign for a Labour Majority event on winning in London. That all the invited panellists, including the curiously absent Sadiq Khan, are considered potential nominees for Mayor of London was just pure coincidence.

The event was less a tale of two Londons (or One London Labour or whatever today’s vogue is) but of two de Blasios. David Lammy and Diane Abbott sought this mantle both through reference to New York’s Mayor-elect and through the language and policies on offer. Lammy provide a toned down version of de Blasio’s message, whilst Abbott raised the rhetorical and policy stakes, offering a clear left-populist platform. This, and her potential support from the remnants of Ken’s old machine, makes her a serious contender within a party and electorate to the left of the national norm. Even Andrew Adonis and Tessa Jowell, neither of whom particularly fit the de Blasio mould, referenced “two cities” and “One London” respectively.

However, in many ways, it felt like a London housing policy seminar that happened to have a different title. Both Abbott and Lammy announced support rent regulation, albeit with Lammy obfuscating by calling for “fair rents”. Lammy subsequently redeemed himself with an eminently sensible proposal to build housing on the Green Belt. Jowell warned about the impact of the mansion tax on “asset rich but cash poor” families, a rather surprising move in the circumstances; worrying about those who do well out Britain’s over-inflated housing market should not be high up her priority list. As expected, Adonis had the more innovative ideas proposing to explore shared equity schemes and a “housing bank” to take a stake in future developments in order to prevent land banking.


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Sorry Tessa, there’s no justification for spending more on elite sport

10/08/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The Olympics provides us with an interesting quandary. Is spending money on our top athletes really a good return for the country?

Tessa Jowell thinks it is. Yesterday she echoed an appeal by Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy who wants to see continued investment in elite sports.

“Chris Hoy is absolutely right” she said. “It has been the investment in elite training which has created stability for high performance training for those athletes. We have got to make sure that money continues.”

On its website UK Sport says “more than £100 million per annum is being invested directly into the UK’s high performance system’ through a combination of ‘Exchequer and National Lottery funds”.

A further £58 million is spent on “providers of the key services” that underpin elite sports while the “Team 2012” scheme tries to lever-in private funding.

It would be churlish not to concede that Tessa and Sir Chris are right in their analysis: investment in sporting infrastructure and elite programmes has clearly helped Britain to a medal tally few thought likely a fortnight ago.

But apart from the athletes themselves and a small supply chain of trainers and managers, who else benefits from this taxpayer-funded largesse? What’s the return for the county?

I let that theoretical question hang there for a moment because I honestly can’t think what it is. We may all celebrate the achievements of British Olympians and readily pay tribute to their industry and example; but outside the Olympic bubble we continue to face the biggest retrenchment in public spending in a century and an economy in the deep freeze.


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The Olympics: a 2.4 sq km project that will benefit the whole of the UK

23/12/2011, 07:30:47 AM

by Tessa Jowell

It’s understandable that in these tough times, as the economy falters and as we hit olympic year, people are of course going to ask is all the spending on the olympics worth it, as Kevin Meagher did on Uncut recently.

It’s right too, that we ensure that the legacy promises we made in government are fulfilled: to transform the heart of east London and inspire a generation of young people through sport.

But Kevin’s polemic misses some key facts about Labour’s reasons for bringing the games to the UK and the reality of what is happening on the ground.

First, it’s just not true that most of the jobs have gone to non-UK residents. The latest figures show that 64% of workers on the olympic park are British citizens and 90% are EU citizens. Contrary to Kevin’s view that local people are not benefiting, 25% of the jobs have gone to residents of the six host boroughs, beating the target of 15% by a good margin. 82% of the olympic park workforce are paid the London living wage or over. While the Tory-Lib Dem government does its best to undermine people’s living standards, here’s one project started by Labour that is still creating social justice.


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A chance to do the right thing

15/06/2011, 03:30:04 PM

by Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan and Jim Murphy

When the government does the right thing it is important that we support it, basing our judgement at all times on actions and not words. We are dismayed at the government’s decision, announced yesterday, to abolish the chief coroner’s office (CCO), a decision with damaging consequences for ordinary people up and down the country. We hope the government’s new-found capacity to listen will soon again be on show.

Legislation in 2009 received cross-party support in establishing a CCO, seeking to deal with some of the difficult issues that arise from complex fatalities through a system based on independent expertise. Tragically, it’s often military inquests which require such a service and this is therefore an issue close to the heart of many bereaved military families. But it’s not just families of military personnel who suddenly suffer tragedy that brings them into contact with the coronial system. Abolition of the CCO is opposed by various charities and organisations including CRY (cardiac risk in the young), which supports bereaved families who have lost loved ones suddenly through undetected cardiac problems. Sue Ainsworth, whose son Jonathan tragically died suddenly at the age of 21 last year, has joined CRY in calling for the creation of the CCO, following failings in the inquest held into Jonathan’s death. Sue said:

“Currently, the coroner is not answerable to anybody so if there’s any delays, and any inequalities in the system, you have not got any comeback at all”.

The job of a chief coroner is to ensure that families and friends of all victims are sufficiently involved in the coroner’s investigation; improve training; add quality controls and independent safeguards on inquests; and add consistency of oversight, leadership, independence and expertise to the coroners who are dealing with military inquests.

Establishing such a system is a central obligation under the military covenant, the bond between the nation, the state and the services which says that no member of the service community, including dependents, should suffer disadvantage arising from service and that special provision should at times be made to reflect their sacrifices. That is why, in government, we legislated for a coroner’s office. Scrapping it undermines the covenant which the government claim to want to uphold. Indeed, the Royal British Legion has called this act “a betrayal of bereaved armed forces families and threatens the military covenant.” (more…)

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Together we are stronger

19/11/2010, 04:42:56 PM

by Jessica Asato

Is social action ‘un-Labour’? On Twitter, I recently praised this Progress article by Tessa Jowell. In it she describes what fun she and her local party had during a day of volunteering in her constituency clearing flower beds, planting bulbs and launching a new tenants’ association. I suggested in my Tweet that this is the sort of grassroots community engagement local CLPs across the country should be emulating.

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction which came from two Labour councillors and campaigners whom I much admire – Antonia Bance and Luke Akehurst. “We’re not Tories; our social action is making the system work for ordinary people, not isolated acts of benevolence”, wrote Antonia. “I’m with Antonia on this”, wrote Luke, “I think it’s a bit tokenistic and a sticking plaster where we need a shield”.

I can see where they are both coming from. Labour people shouldn’t have any truck with the idea of noblesse oblige or that entrenched social and economic inequalities can be transformed by acts of charity. Or “the big society”, for that matter.

But if Labour members plant some bulbs with local residents, this can’t mean that they have capitulated to one nation Toryism? Our history should tell us otherwise. The strike by the Bryant and May factory girls in the late nineteenth century was an impressive display of the growing power of organised labour, but it was still supported by the soup kitchens of the salvation army. Early socialists did not just agitate for justice, they tried to build it through social activism. The two should not be mutually exclusive.

Matt Carter, in his fantastic, if dense, book on TH Green and the development of ethical socialism, writes that this strand of Labour’s early thinking places “individual moral development and character above simple state reforms”. According to Carter, ethical socialism recognises that “however beneficial state action is, it cannot simply force through social improvement”. If one lesson should be learnt from the last 13 years of Labour in power, it is that unless we take the public with us, our progressive reforms will be smashed to pieces the moment we are out of it. Too often, New Labour imposed change on our poorest communities, rather than taking them on a journey where citizens felt they owned that change.

Planting bulbs may seem a far cry from a discussion about the role of the state, but reconnecting with people, in a soggy trousers, dirty hands sort of a way, is essential if we want to engage in a wider debate about what the party should do in power. This is what David Miliband understood when he launched the movement for change as part of his leadership campaign. In his Keir Hardie lecture, Miliband spoke of how the Labour movement was “built on ethical relationships that were forged between people through common action”, and how Hardie embodied this: “Hardie was not a mechanical reformer who tried to bring about change through external control. He was a moral reformer who understood that you cannot create virtuous people by bureaucratic methods”.

Of course, it would be better if the system ran perfectly, with the state keeping flower beds neat and the new tenants’ association not needing Labour’s support to get it going. But there should be more to Labour’s aims than keeping the bureaucracy in check. Our mission should be to help build the conditions necessary for people to become the best they can be, in a society which is the best it can be. Robert Putnam’s seminal paper, Bowling Alone, developed the theory that the decline of situations in which people could interact socially had led to a decline in trust and political engagement. In its simplest form, when we get together with others we develop bonds which make it easier to trust one another and understand differences. We share knowledge, networks, news, jokes and cups of tea, which helps society to rub along better. Facilitating these opportunities should partly be Labour’s role. If we say we speak on behalf of deprived communities, that has to be real, otherwise we take these people’s names in vain.

No one is saying that members from local parties scrubbing off graffiti will solve the deficit or poverty. (Well, except for some Tories perhaps). But it helps to open up a conversation which is far better than “can I ask which political party you usually support at election time”? That has to be a step forward.

Jessica Asato is a social media consultant and Islington councillor.

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Shadow cabinet: vote for Tessa

24/09/2010, 05:55:25 PM


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