Ed Miliband’s spin doctor soon to be working for City of London

Bob Roberts on Daily Politics, May 2015

One of the spin doctors employed by Ed Miliband, who spectacularly lost the general election in May, is to head up comms for the borough in both a commercial and political capacity.

Bob Roberts, formerly of Press Association and the Daily Mirror, was part of Labour’s team of three spin doctors who helped craft Miliband’s attacks on “predatory capitalism”, alienating many businesses across Britain.

He is also part of the same group that failed to establish Labour as an economically credible party with the electorate, which political scientists have highlighted as one of the two main factors that contributed to the party’s defeat.

The other reason, Miliband’s poor credibility as leader, was not even accepted by Roberts in the wake of the defeat, with the spin doctor telling the BBC’s Daily Politics that he did not accept voters did not trust the Labour leader:

“In the end, a lot of people thought Ed had a decent campaign. Ed came across as exactly who he was, a decent man for ideas and principle.”

Instead Roberts laid the defeat at the feet of the Scottish National Party, which demolished Labour in Scotland:

“There was a social and political revolution in Scotland which neither Ed Miliband or the Labour Party could do anything about. It swept us away north and affected us south.”

But at a Hansard Society event early in September, John Curtice of Strathclyde University specifically played down the importance of prospective deal between the SNP and Labour in moving votes, despite its centrality to later Tory campaigning.

Roberts said he was “delighted” to take on the role in the City, which will begin on November 2nd.

John Barradell, chief executive and town clerk of the City, said: “My colleagues and I are looking forward to working with Bob, who will bring a wealth of experience to this role.”

At least someone’s making a buck after Labour’s meltdown…

Image Credit – Bob Roberts on Daily Politics, May 2015

If Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win the leadership, what exactly is the point of Labour?

Jeremy Corbyn, No More War at Parliament Square, August 2014, Garry Knight

So much for Jeremy Corbyn being the joke candidate at the Labour leadership election.

Ever since The Right Dishonourable dismissed his chances of even securing enough nominations to appear on the ballot paper the MP for Islington North has trounced every expectation: securing support from more Labour constituencies than any other candidate, being backed by trade union Unite, and now polling ahead of every other candidate.

The whine from the Blairites that Labour is making itself unelectable has thus become a howl. Chuka Umunna, the smooth-talking Streatham MP and former leadership contender, went so far as to liken his party to “a petulant child” in an interview on BBC Newsnight. “There is no glory in opposition,” he said. “Ultimately we will betray our people if we don’t get elected.”

Labour’s identity crisis reflects an ongoing feature in the British political system as much as it does the current weakness of the party. Whilst conservatism naturally fits the remit of the protean, managerial modern political party, radicalism of any sort jars with the compromises and mealy-mouthed messaging that New Labour exemplified.

The Iraq War might be the most ostensible reason that many in Labour denounce the legacy of prime minister Tony Blair – the only Labour leader to secure three full terms in office – but for many to the Left of the party New Labour’s collusion with free market capitalism (or in their ominous phrase “neoliberalism”) was the true betrayal of the party’s roots.

They have a point. Parties throughout all democracies morph over time as questions are settled and newer problems arise, but the abandonment of Clause IV, which advocated “common ownership of the means of production”, by Blair in 1995 posed an existential question of Labour that has not been answered: Just why does it exist?

When the party was first formed it was quite clear what its purpose was. The working classes had long been treated as serfs by the patrician class that ruled Britain, unconsulted on political issues and often neglected. Labour changed that, most notably in the wake of the Second World War where Clement Attlee was able to usher in the welfare state as the second Labour prime minister.

Much has changed since then. The shrinking of industry and movement towards the service sector economy has coincided with serious globalisation. As such the unions and working classes that used to sustain Labour were much diminished by the end of the 20th century. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most Britons now see themselves as middle class.

As such Blair’s movement of the party made a deal of sense – arguably he was just responding to the market forces that do a great deal to determine who can be elected in a liberal democracy. But the problem for Labour is not so much its own movement as the response from the opposite benches.

The Tories have not managed to shed their image as “the nasty party”. Quite possibly they never will. But in Cameron and Osborne they have two pragmatic leaders willing to take on the centre ground. Osborne’s faux-adoption of the “living wage” in this year’s budget was one example of this; Cameron’s embrace of gay marriage in the last parliament was another.

This leaves Labour with little room to manoeuvre. Sure, it could do what Liz Kendall wants and throw itself back into Blairism. But its weaker reputation on the economy will surely leave it wanting when faced with a Conservative front bench that, at least by centrist standards, is fairly socially liberal.

After the disaster of Ed Miliband it is understandable the Blairites are lobbying for a return to the centre. Perhaps it might even work to get the party back in power. But whilst that same section of the party jeers at the Labour Left for being a “glorified pressure group”, it should also wonder what the point is of having power after all principle has been abandoned.

Header Image – Jeremy Corbyn, No More War at Parliament Square, August 2014 by Garry Knight

Mary Creagh quits Labour leadership bid, cussing ‘anti-business’ mindset

Mary Creagh MP in Parliament, Shlurder

The weeks since Ed Miliband’s thrashing at the polls have seen a whittling down of potential leaders from six (mostly) Blairite hopefuls to a mere four – plus, er, Jeremy Corbyn.

With the departure of Mary Creagh, who will announce in Saturday’s Guardian the groundbreaking news she won’t be succeeding Red Ed, the field has narrowed even further, the previous two quitters being Tristram Hunt (who quit when he realised he was called Tristram) and Chuka Umunna (who somehow failed to notice that the Tory press can get a bit nosy about the private lives of Labour politicians).

The move leaves former health secretary Andy Burnham facing former work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper and the MP Liz Kendall, but only goes to reinforce how much the Blairite analysis of the general election has dominated the debate over Labour’s future.

Creagh’s piece for the Grauniad is worth reading in full, but for the lazy the key passage is here:

Labour must want big business to succeed – it’s where many of the jobs are – but pay and conditions must be fair. And Labour must want small business to succeed: it’s where innovation and creative thinking take place. All big businesses started out small. But dividing them into “producers” or “predators” alienates businesses, large and small.

Elsewhere in the piece Creagh rambles on about inequality and Labour’s rather churlish flip in favour of the inevitable EU referendum. Unfortunately for the likes of Corbyn the bleating about “aspiration”, or to use Creagh’s lame coinage “bootstrap Britain” has now drowned out any other concerns in the allegedly centre-left party.

Cray cray, indeed.

Header Image – Mary Creagh in Parliament by Shlurder

Labour voters split as public demands centre

Labour’s contest over the leadership and future direction of the party is highlighting that age-old split between what the party wants to achieve and what the country wants from them.

Following Chuka Umunna’s surprise departure, which despite rumours of a major Sunday newspaper scoop appears to have been based on a sharp rise in media scrutiny over his family, the field is now left open to former Labour ministers Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, as well as rising stars Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt and Mary Creagh.

Yet already questions are being asked as to whether the internal politics of the party are likely to hamper its electoral chances the next time the country goes to the polls. A survey conducted by the pollster YouGov on behalf of The Sunday Times has revealed that while the public want Labour to move to the centre, the party membership is not so sure.

Labour political spectrum, GE2015, YouGov

As you will note from the graph above, Ed Miliband is perceived as being to the left of where his party was, even though public want only a slightly more centrist stance from Labour as a whole. Will Dahlgreen and William Jordan give more detail:

In a question that directly asks where the next leader should take Labour, 40% say closer to the centre and only 21% say further to the left.

The views of Labour voters are more equivocal:

Labour voters are unsure – 30% choose the left, 35% the centre and 10% where they are now.

Last time the Reds voted for a chief the unions managed to swing it for Ed Miliband, whose perceived incompetence and attacks on predatory capitalism are credited for Labour’s thrashing at the polls.

As many have warned, Labour’s new voting rules may have inadvertently handed even greater powers to the unions, who can enlist their members for free for the leadership ballot. Whilst last time they made up for a third of the vote in an electoral college system, this time under One Member One Vote they could have half the voting power.

If that happens we could have, as former prime minister Tony Blair correctly said of this election, a contest “in which traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.

Header image – Voting Labour Badge by Simon Speed

Russell Brand declares for Miliband and Labour

Russell Brand, People's Assembly demonstration, DB Young, 20 June 2014

The comedian Russell Brand has been lambasted in the past for lacking solutions for the obvious sources of discontent he has made it his mission to point out (to paraphrase Private Eye editor Ian Hislop) and for his questionable stance on voting.

Since saying on the Beeb’s Newsnight that he saw little point in the ballot box, Brand has clearly regretted casting himself as a political refusenik, spending much of the past few years campaigning for community-driven politics. Now he has come out as an advocate for Labour, encouraging his million-strong viewership on YouTube to vote Ed Miliband into government (about 11 minutes in):

“What I heard Ed Miliband say is if we speak he will listen. So on that basis I think we’ve got no choice but to take decisive action to end the danger of the Conservative party. David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country, and we have to stop them.

 

“So my view is this: If you’re Scottish you don’t need an English person telling you what to do, you know what you’re gonna to be doing [presumably voting for the Scottish National Party]. If you’re in Brighton I think it would a travesty if we lost the voice of [Green MP] Caroline Lucas in Westminster. But anywhere else you’ve gotta vote Labour. You’ve got the get the Conservative party out of government in this country so we can begin community-led activism.”

Vive la revolution, as they say.

Image – Russell Brand at People’s Assembly demonstration on June 20th 2014, by DB Young