What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the category “Ed Miliband”

Did Ed need Dinosaurs????

On balance, I think yes, Daniel was right. Pretty much ANYTHING can be improved with Dinosaurs.

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Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

Two years in for Ed M

So, it is two years since Ed Miliband gained the leadership of the Labour party, and over at Labour List, plenty of people are taking stock. I think we can be allowed, as Labour supporters, to raise two cheers so far…

We are convincingly ahead in the polls, and this side of the Tory conference, the narrative for the Government is definitely in their hands. Nothing looks as bad as a Government seemingly not in control, one that has also managed to present itself as being sticking firmly to its plans whilst U-turning everywhere; on Forests, on Pasty Tax, on almost anything rather than its most unpopular policies.

Mr Miliband has done something that no Labour Leader has done in eighteen years or more – he has questioned the authority of free markets, and whether they are always the only option when it comes to the economy. This, after the crash, is a vital move, giving hope that we can move towards a modern Social Democratic government in 2015.

With his handling of the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, Ed has been widely praised. Rightly so, he played a good game and has had the Government on the back foot ever since. He backed voting reform, without being associated with they dismal failure of the Yes campaign over AV.

As leader, he has grown in his role – for all the sniping of the right of the party (someone mention Progress?), he has managed to best an increasingly loud and puce David Cameron in The House of Commons, and has silenced (for now) the internal critics oh, and John “Rental” Rentoul.

Midway through this Parliament, the media, and the rest of us, can see Ed Miliband as PM, or at least a serious contender. The low personal rating as opposed to David Cameron as a minor worry to me, as it is normal for a sitting Prime Minister to look more, well, Prime Ministerial. These figures can change, and it would take little to change David Cameron from popular to unpopular. He is already out of favour in his own party, much earlier than Edward Heath was in the 1970s, and there are already stirrings on his back benches.

Milibands’ first speech toy Conference encapsulated al the reasons to support him – including drawing a line under the Blair/Brown years, notably on Iraq. His positioning himself (and us) as an inclusive opposition, trying to heal the rifts of the last eleven years was, and remains a masterstroke.

Yet I do worry. I worry that the polls are just a mid-term blip, that someone will start the back office sniping once again. That Ken Livingstone will try to stuff up Conference from his seat on the NEC.

I also worry that Eds’ management of the part factions in the Shadow Cabinet is storing up problems – Stephen Twigg at Education is a prime example , but others, such as Liam Byrne remain in place.

I worry that those years spent as a SpAd, all that triangulation, all that hanging out in Westminster, far away from the housing estates and run-down town centres where Labour needs to make a difference, will reassert itself.

So two cheers for Ed, so far so good, but we all have much more work to do to win…

Why, just once, Labour should back the Coalition…

Tonight in the Commons, Labour MPs have an opportunity to show disaffected Lib Dems that there is an alternative to Clegg.

Well, that’s the short tactical argument for voting for Lords Reform, of course there is a longer, much more principled set of reasons, to whit:

Ever since its foundation, the Labour Movement, of which The Labour Party is an intrinsic part (whatever Progress or Bob Crow say), has fought against entrenched power and privilege.  Go back as far as the Putney Debates of the seventeenth century if you like, you will always find slim red thread through radical, socialist and trades union positions on the issue of state-controlled preferment.

 True enough, New Labour at best fudged this, and with its leading protagonists and cheerleaders spending so much effort cosying up to Oligarchs and shysters, we nearly lost any opportunity to win democratic change.

Once before in this Parliament, over voting reform, we have seen the very worst example of parliamentary conservatism and narrow partisanship triumph over common sense and a move towards justice. We must not let it happen again.

By supporting the call for reform, Ed Miliband is staying true to the words and spirit of his first speech as Leader, and being true to the spirit of the pioneers who founded the Labour Representation Committee over a century ago.

Re-read your Thomas Paine, I promise you you will find no argument justifying a second chamber composed of placemen, high-born, or failed politicians (and of course Baroness Warsi).

Lord Puttnam and Bragg are no doubt wonderful, intelligent men, yet I hardly think that this trumps popular sovereignty. And they can always lunch at The Garrick and Groucho clubs instead. To paraphrase Bagehot, intellectual support for The House of Lords rarely survives first contact with the actual institution.

To side with the right of the Tory Party for the sake of causing the coalition one more embarrassment is both short sighted and petty. After all, we have yet to exhaust Osbornes’ Budget.

As a Party, we must be positioning ourselves as the reasonable alternative to the Coalition, which means finding common ground with Lib Dems, and Greens on issues such as democratic reform where we can. By doing this, we make Nick Cleggs job much harder at the next election.

On News International, & on Banking, the Labour Front Bench have scored two goals against Cameron and Clegg. Now lets make it a hat trick.

Let the Tories play games against each other on this one.

 

POLITICAL REALITIES – Part One

Now that things have calmed down a bit since the local elections and Ed’s reshuffle, I thought I would write a couple of pieces on where we as a party are, and how we got here. I think that all too often those of us interested in politics can get sucked into the short term news cycle, and I plead guilty to this as much as anyone else. However it is important for me to take a look at the recent past, if only to help me redefine where I think we stand…

1: NUMBER CRUNCHING

So, lets go back to the start: In 1997 Labour won a landslide with over 42% of the votes cast, some 13,518,167 votes in all. This was our biggest share of the vote since 1966, and with high hopes, Labour went into Majority government for the first time since 1974.

Victory was repeated in 2001 on a similar scale, although we lost the votes of a staggering 2,793,214 people in four years under Tony Blair. Low turnout ensured that our share was still around 40%, and New Labour continued, seemingly unassailable.

At his third attempt in 2005, after the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq , the party under Tony Blair saw its vote reduced by a further 1,172,517 to 9,552,436 votes. The war in Iraq also contributed to a rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond’s SNP.

Finally, back in May 2010, Labour under Gordon Brown polled 8,606,517 votes, and just 29% of all votes cast. That was a further 945,915 down from the previous general election, although this was a considerably lower fall than in either 2001 or 2005.

The May 2010 result ensured a Hung Parliament, although it was clear almost from the first declarations that Labour had lost, even if the Tories had not won. It also meant that a stable Coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems, possibly also with Plaid Cymru and the SNP was simply not possible. Simple arithmetic dictated that if a Coalition could be formed, it would be between the Tories and Lib Dems.

To me, one of the salient facts would be that under Tony Blair, over two elections we lost the support of almost four million voters – 3,965,731 to be exact.

Arguably, Gordon Brown had not so far to fall, but from 2005 to 2010 our vote dropped by just under one million. It lost us the General Election, but I cannot help thinking that had we lost fewer votes between 1997 and 2005, then maybe we could have still been in government today.

Had we lost, say half of those votes lost in that period, then in 2010 we would have polled somewhere in the region of  10,589,382 votes – more than in 2010 and close to our 2005 result. So the questions we must ask ourselves must include why did we lose so much trust between 1997 and 2005?

Could it be that Tony Blair, as much as Gordon Brown was a vote loser after 1997? On the face of it the answer may be yes…

So what lost us those votes?

  BEST WHEN WE’RE LABOUR…”

…to be continued…

OH! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING!

And as the results continue to come in, oh what a beautiful day?

Lib Dems trounced nationally, Labour winning over 500 seats and over twenty councils throughout England and Wales. We have taken seats from the Tories, BNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and UKIP. And it looks as though the SNP may not have won Glasgow as predicted. From Great Yarmouth to Plymouth this is a great result for Labour and Ed Milibands leadership.  Even in Bradford, where we lost seats to Respect, overall we have gained two seats!

Harlow, Southhampton, Dudley – directly from the Tories

Birmingham, Carlisle, Derby, Norwich, Reading – from No Overall Control.

The London results are not yet in, and Scotland is only counting now. The Ken & Boris show is over – too close to call, although whichever way the votes go, David Cameron will have to watch his back…

 

MESSAGE TO GIDEON – ITS YOUR ECONOMICS, STUPID!

So today Britain is officially back in recession. This is no time for shallow politicking, people have no confidence that things will get better any time soon, and millions of us are frantically chasing work. Somehow we manage to have the Olympics, a housing crisis, a major infrastructure deficit and STILL the construction sector leads the way for economic downturn.

It is time for Gideon and Dave to admit what many of us have known for some time, that Plan A is not working, that the cuts have been too far and too fast, whilst tax reductions for the super rich were simply not appropriate at this time. This Coalition is making the ordinary people of the UK pay for an economic crisis caused by unregulated finance and thirty three years of monetarist dogma. The very rich men who agreed to come together in May 2010 to restore the nation’s finances have now proved not to be the economic geniuses that they claimed to be. They pretty much look like a bunch of shysters on the make.

In Scotland, News Internationals First Minister plays fast and loose with the essential economic truth, namely that Scotland’s economy is too tied to that of Wales and England to have any chance of independent recovery. His fictional “Arc of prosperity” disappeared when Iceland and Ireland went bust, yet he is content to take the odd pot shot at the rest of us, whilst the public works north of the border are still largely funded from Whitehall. For all his bumptiousness, at least it gives us a ready made argument against the Growth Deniers – publicly funded projects can save jobs and keep mopey flowing into an economy, austerity has now been proved to do the opposite.

By contrast Ed M and Ed B (or Wallace and Gromit) are looking more credible each day. At PMQs today Ed pretty much wiped the floor with Cameron, and Balls has been slowly destroying Whyborns economic credibility for months now. It seems that Gordon Brown was right back in 2010 – it really wasn’t time for a bunch of novices.

 

The Return of Mr C

It seems that 2012 is the year of Olympic Omnishambles for the Coalition, and it keeps on coming.

Yesterday James Murdoch exploded a truth bomb at the Leveson Inquiry, and Vince Cable found out exactly how he was shafted, apparently by not only Jeremy (C)Hunt, but also George Osborne, David Cameron and Alex Salmond, to name but three.

It is highly likely that Jeremy will not be Culture Secretary for much longer. Yet it must not stop there, the documents implicate both George Osborne  and his advisor in secretly lobbying on behalf of News International, and against his own Cabinet colleague. Alex Salmond also rallied to the Murdoch standard, and unsurprisingly the Scottish edition of The Sun backs the SNP slavishly.

Many would also like to know the name of the “Libdem MP, a former Sky employee” mentioned as also lobbying for his former masters. I bet it isn’t Simon Hughes, but apart from that, all bets are off…

Throughout this scandal, Ed Miliband has played his hand well, acting on principle as well as with good instincts. His backing of Tom Watson does him and The Labour Party credit. He compares very favourably with, say the Mayor of London, who firstly called the hacking allegations “a Labour plot”, and has consistently sought to downgrade Operation Weeting and the associated corruption investigations. He and Kit Malthouse have behaved with naked self interest throughout.

DEAR MR JOHNSON…

With the London Mayoral Elections less than two weeks away, I have a few questions to ask Boris Johnson, our current Tory Mayor…

…dear Mr Johnson, I am struggling to find answers to these questions, I think you can help me on these;

  1. You are paid around £140,000 every year to be the Mayor of London. That is a huge amount of money compared to the London average of £25,000. You are also paid £250,000 a year by The Telegraph Group to write occasional articles. Which one of these is your main job?
  2. Until 2008, you were the Member of Parliament for Henley, which is outside London, although perfectly nice in its own way. You had never previously shown any interest in running this great city, and you were seemingly on-track to be a minister under your Eton schoolmate David Cameron. So why did you suddenly become so enthusiastic about the Mayoralty?
  3. Last year, as the News International scandal broke, you described it as “Labour nonsense”, and you & your political allies have consistently bemoaned money spent on the investigation. Do you have something to hide?
  4. Again, last year during the riots you were on holiday, and took your own sweet time to come back during the crisis. How can we trust you to directly run The Met???
  5. How is Darius Guppy getting on?
  6. At a recent meeting between Ken Livingstone and some of his online supporters, Paul Staines, a conservative blogger, interrupted, shouting “C*nt! You are a f***ing c*nt!” and then demanded someones’  name in a threatening manner. This has been seen by thousands on Youtube. Will you apologise for your supporters’ behaviour???
  7. Why should we pay £1.5 million for a Bus, no matter how nice it looks, when we already have a fleet of larger Buses in operation?
  8. Why are you wasting our money on proposing an airport we arguably do not need, and which will be outside your jurisdiction???
  9. Your supporters have spent the past few years smearing the Labour candidate as being anti-Semitic by virtue of association. As Ken Livingstone has Nicky Gavron (Jewish) as his running mate, and is in a party led by Ed Miliband (Jewish), will you repudiate these attacks, which have heightened racial and religious tension in the Capital.
  10. Why, as your chums in Government seek to make ordinary people pay for the financial crisis, did you decry “Banker Bashing”?
  11.  Which Mayor campaigned effectively, and brought the Olympic Games to London?
  12. Do you still believe that Gay marriage is equivalent to marriage between, say, a man and a dog?
  13. You have attacked Ken Livingstone for his (legal) tax arrangements, yet you gain £250,000 per annum from the Telegraph Group, owned by the tax-exile Barclay brothers, through Ellerman Investments, who also own The Ritz. You have yet to say anything about offshore tax avoidance – is this hypocrisy???
  14. Why have you had more meetings in the past four years with City financiers than with the heads of The Metropolitan Police?
  15. In which way are you to be admired for your many extramarital affairs, which you sought to hide?
  16. Should David Cameron watch his back if you lose, and find a safe Tory seat?
  17. Is £250,000 really “Chickenfeed”, as you said in 2009 during a BBC interview?

I Told You This Would Not Go Away…

Its been quite some time since I last posted, and I was considering stopping altogether. Yet with the News International phone hacking scandal  involving such a variety of the, ahem, “Great and the Good”, i just thought I would leave one post more…

So, Rebekah Brooks, having been arrested, will probably be able to dodge any awkward questions in Parliament, presuming that she is at liberty to attend either the Culture or Home Office Select Committees.

The head of The Met has lost his job, though not his pension, nor his Knighthood. Boris, of course, is waffling as only a former grub street hack can. Lets not forget that during his tenure as editor of The Spectator, he honed his investigative talents by getting old buffers drunk at lunchtime and publishing the results.

His refusal to apologise for calling the allegations against The News of the world “politically motivated codswallop” speaks volumes. He has managed in a trice to rehabilitate the image of Ken Livingstone in the eyes of those concerned by just how close the media and politicians are. Even John Prescott has been vindicated across the land…

And Ed… so far, the boy has done very well indeed. We now need o broaden the attack to include all those grubby little “special interest” cliques that dominate our public life.

My own experience of the Murdoch Empire is very slight, firstly my Great uncle Rab was father of Chapel when the Digger first bought The Sun. An upright, staunchly anti-graft FoC (he started when The Sun had been owned by the TUC as The Daily Herald), he was a bit of a rarity on Fleet Street in those days – honest, soft spoken and non-swearing. the family tale is that after twenty minutes with Rupert, he threw an inkwell at the wall and pronounced “for all the good you’ll do you might as well f@** off back to Australia”. Today, in heaven, Rab is doing a merry jig.

Secondly, a few years ago I was working in a bar near to Westminster, when a tallish grey haired man walked in, requesting our back room for himself and his colleagues. It was a quiet day, so no problem, and around six or seven suited men and women duly filed in, ordering some sandwiches and coffees for what was evidently a working lunch. All was duly prepaered and served, to the satisfaction of the party, and as they made to leave, the bill was presented.

Grey-Hair came up to the bar, disdain dripping from his very visage. He demanded that the bill be halved. When it was politely pointed out that he had seen the menu and prices before he ordered, his air of peevishness intensified, and he produced his business card. Sadly, its not one I have kept, although I seem to remember it did say “News International” at the top, and seem to recall the words “Legal Department”, or something to that effect, on it. The upshot was that I, to my eternal shame, caved in and reduced the bill and this upright example of our fine legal tradition got what he wanted.

Sadly, no names, no pack drill, but I was reminded of this with the exit  of the two top legal officers in Wapping last week, with generous payouts, that some might speculate could be seen as hush money. It also reinforced to me the utter contempt that those who work in News International and NewsCorp have for those of us not lucky enough to do the same.

Instead of offering unwanted advice to Tom Watson et al, all I can do is congratulate them for what they are doing on behalf of us all.

There are just some of the questions that we need answers to, to whit:

  • Just when did News International start paying The Metropolitan Police for information?
  • Where was this money stated in the accounts?
  • How stupid would a Policeman have to be to believe that £1,000 was all he could get for information on confidential Royal phone numbers? ( I would have held out for at least £10,000)
  • Will any Police, either serving or retired, who are fingered in the ongoing investigation lose their pension?
  • Just how many times in the past two years has Mayor Boris Johnson met with  the Murdoch family, employees of News International, and in the case of Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charles ( an old Etonian who was at school with Boris and David Cameron)?
  • The same question for both David Cameron and George Osborne, who recruited Andy Coulson to the Conservatives in 2007.
  • How deep are the links between News international and Robert Peston, who seems to get a staggering number of inside “scoops” here? 
  • If you have to spend a Christmas dinner with Rebekah Brooks, what do you talk about?
  • What does Inspector Gadget think about all this? Worried that that elusive Sky serialisation will disappear?

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