Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Rejecting Progressive Labour

February 6, 2011

There was a story this week by Kevin Maguire in the Mirror suggesting that Ed Miliband may try to give his party a new name, such as ‘Progressive Labour’.

It’s a silly story as such an attempt would not get anywhere. Political branding is, like it or not, an important consideration for any political leader nowadays. However, ‘Progressive Labour’, which was apparently suggested by some Labour bigwig, is an especially ridiculous name-change proposal.

Both Tories and Lib Dems love using the term ‘progressive’ to describe themselves as they decimate the public sector. I am happy to surrender ownership of ‘progressive’ to the Government – it’s always seemed a tad vacuous to me anyways.

Labour in opposition should surely be trying to present itself as a viable alternative. When people hear politicians from all three main parties describing themselves as ‘progressive’ they may think ‘Hmm, what is the etymology of progressive, which party can best lay claim to this term?’ or they may take this as confirmation that ‘they’re all the same, the bunch of *#~’!

Though perhaps Red Ed sees inspiration for this name from elsewhere? The Progressive Labor Party of the US believes in fighting directly for communism…


The new Shadow Cabinet is already going off-message

January 20, 2011

So it hasn’t worked out very well with Alan Johnson.

The argument that making him Shadow Chancellor would lock him into supporting Ed Miliband’s leadership was undermined when he made a habit of publicly disagreeing with Red Ed.

And his Dummy’s Guide to Economics wasn’t quite giving him sufficient economic know-how to be a convincing critic of Government policy.

But now he’s gone and Ed Balls has taken his place. The Shadow Chancellor is dead, God save the Shadow Chancellor!

However, it’s distressing to see that the Shadow Cabinet already seems to be displaying lax discipline in the aftermath of the reshuffle.

Watching Channel 4 News, I heard Ed Balls repeatedly mentioning the “Coalition Government”. Tessa Jowell, who was only doing a bit better, discussed the “Tory-led Coalition”.

Tom Baldwin will be disappointed!


Is it ok for Labour Party General Secretaries to have simple-minded politics?

January 13, 2011

I guess the answer to the question could be ‘yes’, as long as the simple-minded politics were based on loyalty to the party, its values (broadly defined) and appreciation of its history.There’s no need for a General Secretary to be an original political thinker or any type of genius.

But there’s still something a bit disheartening about the former Labour General Secretary’s article for Labour Uncut entitled ‘Is it ok for socialists to pay for private education and healthcare?‘. It is a fine example of simple-minded Labour politics, except minus the Labourism.

Andy Burnham’s ‘Aspirational Socialism’ should aspire to greater socialism

August 25, 2010

As I’ve said before, I like Andy Burnham. The leadership campaign has reinforced his ‘nice’ image and he’s also emerged as a bit more politically interesting than expected.

However, he still emphasises social mobility too much. The idea that aspirational people should be able to ‘succeed’ and ‘get on in life’ however poor their background is naturally appealing but my problems with it are:

  • Surely a truly socially mobile society would also see lots of people born to wealthy backgrounds fail due to their laziness or other personal inadequacy and end up becoming poor. None of the proponents of social mobility ever discuss this, which seems dishonest to me. No-one mentions removing the safety nets for the rich.
  • The focus on individual success makes me slightly uncomfortable as it reinforces too many right-wing political narratives. I understand that we have to utilise ‘common sense’ arguments in order to maintain widespread political appeal, but we shouldn’t forget that we are collectivists not individualists.
  • Social mobility is not inspiring as a long-term vision for the left because it assumes the retention of wealth inequalities in society. We can be more ambitious than simply helping ‘talented’ poor people escape poverty. We should commit ourselves to seeking the abolition of poverty altogether. Sincere egalitarianism should seek to remove class divisions rather than make them a bit more fluid.

Alan Milburn: Con-Dem’s social mobility tsar and honorary president of ‘Labour’s Progressives’.

August 17, 2010

So Alan Milburn has accepted a role as the Government’s ‘social mobility tsar’. I wonder whether Mr Milburn will be able to retain his position as the honorary president of Progress.

Progress is a New Labour think-tanky faction kind-of-thing. In some ways Progress must be pleased with aspects of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government. CameronClegg, Osborne et al clearly like the unobjectionable/vacuous political label ‘progressive’ so much that they are claiming the mantle of progressiveness for themselves. And now Progress’ honorary president is rising above tribalism and joining the new politics through helping the Government on social mobility.

However, as disposed towards Progress as the coalition seems to be, surely it does not help an organisation trying to maintain influence in the Labour Party to be presided over by someone willing to give the Con-Dems a positive headline? In fact it must be a tad embarrassing. After all, Mr Milburn has now been labelled a “collaborator” by former Deputy PM Lord Prescott, no less.

When Progress gets round to making some progress (boomboom) on updating their website and correcting the numerous mistakes (several of their parliamentary patrons are no longer MPs and is Patrick Diamond really known affectionately as “Our Patrick Diamond”?) perhaps they will omit to mention that Milburn is their honorary president. Or alternatively they will find someone who has not been co-opted into the coalition.

Is Andy Burnham losing faith?

August 9, 2010

Andy Burnham has frequently described himself as a church-attending Christian. He is often pointed to as a prominent Labour Catholic and certainly gave the impression of being the most religious out of all the leadership candidates.

However, I noticed that in a recent interview with Channel 4 News Mr Burnham comes across a tad doubting Thomas-like…

Who is the advisor you most listen to in life? My mum and my younger brother – on politics and on absolutely everything. Rocks of wisdom and sense.
If you could chose any talent you currently don’t have, what it be? Opening batsman. I always used to admire someone who could open the batting and stick in there.
If Britain adopts AV, which party will get your second preference vote? I would only put one (adding that he wouldn’t use his second preference in his constituency)
Do you believe in God? Don’t know

“Don’t know”? Sounds wishy washy! Smells like agnosticism!

I like Andy Burnham. In a previous interview with Labour Uncut he’d already made clear that he disagrees with Catholic orthodoxies.

Perhaps he is moving from sceptical Catholicism to agnosticism. The next heretical step, naturally, is to declare himself a paid-up member of the Richard Dawkins Fan Club. Come join us, Andy!

I also note that Burnham told Channel 4 that he was “the David Cameron” of this leadership contest. Hmm. Peculiar thing to say.

Methinks the Burnham press team will want to clarify what ‘the line’ is on the existence of the Big G and will seek to make sure their candidate stops describing himself as a Tory Prime Minister.

The case against David Miliband

July 27, 2010

Hopi Sen is running a series of critical profiles of all the leadership candidates. He lists many concerns that I also have with Miliband Major.

However, I would add:

  • His record as Foreign Secretary was not especially impressive. I had a colleague who worked on the UK Chagos Support Association‘s campaign and was disgusted with David Miliband’s failure to acknowledge the plight of the islanders. Was Mr Miliband’s most memorable moment as Foreign Sec the night he spent in an Indian hovel?
  • His inability to get any of the big three trade unions to nominate him does not bode well. Admittedly he enjoys the support of the (traditionally right-wing) USDAW, but if he’s going to lead a Labour movement David Miliband will need the largest trade unions on side.
  • Although it was nice of Miliband (D) to come to my part of Islington for some canvassing during the election I was disappointed by the post-canvassing speech. It felt suspiciously like the standard spiel he gives to Labour members. He failed to acknowledge that we were engaged in a fight against the Lib Dems, not the Tories. All in all it was a bit of a lame performance.

Islington South & Finsbury’s leadership nomination and the self-flagellation tendency

July 20, 2010

At last night’s nomination meeting of my local CLP a healthy majority of us voted in support of Ed Miliband for Labour Leader. I was pleased with this.

Coming second was Diane Abbott. I found it hard to take seriously the suggestions that she was a principled leftist. I don’t think anyone seriously thought she would make the best leader – perhaps a matter of hearts overruling heads.

Many think this contest is going come down to Labour going for a Miliband, and there’s certainly much going for that view.

Supporters of David Miliband were few in number but fairly vocal and articulate. They propagated the argument that, whilst their man may not have appealed much to most of the assembled members, it was actually important to select a candidate who talked of things that didn’t necessarily please party members.

The logic was that pleasing party members too much = self-indulgent leftism which would not win over the electoral centre ground.

On the flip side, displeasing party members = a sign of responsibility and potential Prime Minister material.

Truly, advocates of such an argument are Labour’s self-flagellation tendency.

This way of thinking is tired and should be abandoned. There is no inevitable contradiction between being able to enthuse party members during a selection campaign and then going on to win a parliamentary majority after a general election.

We should be looking for a leader with widespread appeal who is able to build alliances with others. Political positioning disliked by lots of party members is not the strategy of a ‘broad church’ candidate. It should not be spun as some sort of brave demonstration of leadership quality.

I want someone to lead us who puts a bit more effort into unifying the party and is less tarred by the divisions of the past few years.

Also: Chris Bryant MP randomly turned up to speak in favour of David Miliband but was turned away as he was not a CLP member and none of the other candidates had guest speakers putting the case for them. A bizarre and amusing occurence, though I’m not sure he appreciated his wasted journey to the Holloway Road when there was so much Gove-baiting to be done in the Commons!

Ken wins my support and then immediately does his best to lose it again

July 9, 2010

We London Labourites have to do a lot of decision-making this summer. Not only do we have to decide which of the Big Five we want for party leader; we also have to select a candidate for the 2012 mayoral election. Lucky us!

With this in mind, I went along to Thursday’s mayoral hustings in Hackney to witness the two prospective candidates – Ken Livingstone and Oona King – as they tried to show us what they’ve got.

Unlike party members proudly wearing the stickers of their favoured candidates, I was entirely undecided. As far as I was concerned both Ken and Oona came with both strengths and weaknesses. Attending the hustings was therefore a genuine opportunity to help me make my mind up.

I liked how Oona walked across the room before the event making (awkward) chit chat with everyone. While we were still waiting for things to get started, I had a quick argument with my friend over the merits of Oona’s proposal for a mayoral term limit. I tried to posit that this would help encourage fresh political talent to come forward so that we would not be so reliant on veterans like Ken hogging the limelight. I really did want to give Oona a chance.

However, as the proceedings got underway and the candidates began to give us their respective spiel it soon became clear that Oona was the weaker of the two.

Her outpourings of meaningless guff were unimpressive. In an apparent effort to turn the hustings meeting into a Waffle House, she at one point essentially said that she would win the election by appealing to people and getting them to vote for her (like, duh!) and at another descended into gobbledygook about the importance of promoting social capital in London (i.e. nice things).

Perhaps I’ve got the wrong idea about the public speaking skills of MPs, but for someone who spent quite a few years in the Commons she was remarkably incoherent. I noted her seemingly claiming to have repealed Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation, inaccurately saying that the Labour Government had successfully got 50% of school leavers into university, and mistakenly telling the audience that Labour had only enjoyed 12 years in power during the 20th century.

To be harsh but honest, she at times sounded like someone applying to stand as a councillor, not a former MP wanting to run for a position which would make her one of the most powerful Labour politicians in the country.

Admittedly she spoke well on the need to tackle knife crime but promptly ruined it by, whilst hinting at her unproven ‘yoof’ appeal, verging dangerously close to crying out ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?‘ or ‘the children are our future!‘.

Oona criticising Ken for losing the 2008 election when her own biggest claim-to-fame is being defeated in what had been a fairly safe Labour seat was frankly embarrassing.

Say what you like about Ken, but from the very start of the hustings he was impressive. He demonstrated masterful command of the issues which the mayoral election should really be about – transport, policing, housing, the Olympics, etc. Plain speaking and authoritative, there was no guff from the former mayor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when Ken is banging on about practical matters of London governance rather than defending obnoxious regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Iran I agree with just about everything that comes out of his mouth. Listening to his conviction on things such as securing funding for sewerage system upgrades made me realise that I trust him to deal effectively with the unglamorous but nevertheless important aspects of London politics.

The hustings came to an end and I approached Ken to let him know that he’d won me over. He seemed pleased and asked what exactly had done the trick. I gave an honest appraisal and made clear that whilst he had come across as the stronger candidate I still vehemently disagreed with him when it came to his views on Islamism and multiculturalism.

This prompted a clearly oft-used defense of Sheikh al-Qaradawi – apparently he’s a nicer bloke in the flesh than the nasty right-wing press makes out. According to Ken, al-Qaradawi is a progressive Muslim scholar who only defends suicide bombing in Israel because it’s a war zone. Gulp.

Whilst I listened on in bemusement, Ken explained his theory that Islam was 700 years behind Christianity and so naturally was not going to be very progressive on questions such as gay rights. Anyway, surely it was better to engage with the relatively moderate Islamic scholars rather than let Al Qaeda present themselves as the sole representatives of Muslims, Ken suggested.

Ken was friendly and seemed up for a comradely debate on this. I dearly wanted to point out that al-Qaradawi was a reactionary old religionist rather than an elected representative of Muslims or indeed any other human beings and therefore Ken was under no obligation to give him the time of day.

Of course, I would also have liked to have said to Ken’s face that I was disgusted by his working with Iran’s Press TV and some of his other weird dalliances into foreign policy.

But by this point I was becoming nauseous and wanted to get away from Ken before he turned me into a devoted member of the Oona campaign.

If only there was some way Ken could be persuaded to focus his considerable talents and energies entirely on improving London and standing up for the values of municipal socialism.

If only his tendency to indulge dodgy regimes and his bizarre soft spot for Islamism could be expunged.

I would then be enthusiastic about supporting him.

Ed Miliband wants more inequality? Surely some mistake!

July 8, 2010

This got sent out in today’s Left Foot Forward email:

“This morning at 10am, Left Foot Forward has an interview with another of the candidates in the Labour leadership race, Ed Miliband, in which the shadow climate change secretary says greater income inequality should be an “explicit goal” for the Labour Party.”

Has Left Foot Forward become a vehicle for one of the more bruiser-like candidates who is seemingly smearing his opponents? (*Ed*cough*Balls*cough!)

Or is it just a simple typo?

I think we should be told!