One Nation Labour Party

Labour Party

I have enjoyed Labour Party Conference in Manchester, apart from its famous daily rain. I failed to bring an umbrella so many thanks to everybody who has kindly shared an umbrella with me. The highlight clearly was Ed Miliband’s outstanding speech. At yesterday’s Question and Answer session people around me commented how Ed from a distance (this photo shows how far back I was) looked like Tony Blair as he came on stage. Today Martin Kettle in the Guardian makes a more political comparison, and if you are pressed for time skip to his last paragraph summary.

Ed is not another Tony Blair and as his commanding comprehensive Leader’s speech demonstrated he has his own history.  What they do share are the ability to win elections and the ability to unify the Labour Party. Looking back now with the divisions with Gordon Brown more known, it gives a false view of what life was like in the Labour Party when Tony Blair was Leader.

On the ground in 1997, 2001 and 2005 the Labour Party was never more unified and committed to winning so that we could introduce a minimum wage, lift children and pensioners out of poverty, ban fox hunting and make a difference to people’s lives. Never more unified than until possibly now. I sensed in Manchester the same commitment that Labour has previously had, perhaps even more so.

Labour Party members believe that if you earn £1,000,000 a year then £523,495 after tax should be more than enough to get by on. David Cameron and George Osborne supported by the Liberal Democrats believe that is not enough and that £565,790 is more appropriate. I think this is wrong and I think the overwhelming majority of British people agree that an extra £42,295 to the wealthiest people in society at a time of austerity is unfair. Plan A for most of us, Plan B if you are a millionaire!

I note also that Ed Miliband’s £40,000 figure in his speech shrewdly rounds down from £42,295 by £2,295 the money that will be taken from sure start centres, womens refuges and rape crisis centres and given to each millionaire tax payer.

Coming away from Manchester I am inspired and determined with other Labour members to change this. Bring on the plebiscite!

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Last week the wash-up of the local elections continued as the nation prepared for the Queens speech in which the coalition government would reveal what it had in store for us in the second half of its term.

Martin Kettle’s analysis of the speech summed it up well, when he suggested that Cameron’s struggling to send a clear message to the nation about the coalition is for.

It’s true, his narrative is unclear and to an extent it is imbued with his Lib Dem partners, a stage he would rather not share.

Kettle’s analysis, which you can read here, suggested that the coalition is now at loggerheads. He wrote: ‘As a consequence the larger liberal conservative project that arguably framed the first year of the coalition is far harder to discern now. Indeed it would be difficult to say that the coalition now has any distinct project beyond economic stability and the government’s survival. Not that these are unimportant. But all the coalition’s eggs are suddenly in this one frayed basket – a far cry from the earlier strong sense that it had a vision of the kind of Britain it sought to build.’

Last week Cameron and Clegg hot footed it to Basildon to tell us what they had planned for us going forward. It was designed to reassure a nation which, as the election results the previous week indicated is resolutely unsure of this coalition.

But their meeting in a factory seemed strained and tired. There was no banter and the bonhomie had disappeared.

Body language expert, Peter Collett wrote a brilliant piece pointing out the body language between the two men. Cameron using strong hand gestures to signal to the nation he is in control.

Clegg also revealed more than he realised. Collett writes: ‘While he gave Cameron lots of attention and nodded in all the right places, a look at his feet showed his weight was often on the foot furthest from the PM. Consciously, he was being supportive, but his body was secretly trying to distance him from Cameron.’

As politicians this is something we must be constantly aware of, our every move is scrutinised; one wrong move can have significant consequences. And make no mistake- it will always be noted. Read Collett’s article in full here.

Yesterday Toby Helm wrote in the Observer that ‘Ed Miliband is in a strong position to secure an outright majority at the next election, according to a new opinion poll that analyses the views and voting intentions of recent converts to Labour.’

Helm wrote: ‘The YouGov survey for the Fabian Society shows that “Ed’s converts” – people who didn’t vote Labour in 2010 but currently back the party – are made up mostly of disgruntled left-wing Liberal Democrats, many so disillusioned that they are very unlikely to vote for Nick Clegg‘s party again.

‘About 75% of the converts – who have helped Miliband and Labour open an eight-point lead over the Tories in the poll – are former Lib Dems, 18% are ex-Tory supporters, and 7% are former supporters of other parties or people who did not vote in 2010.’

As always Miliband, rightly, remains cautious but optimistic. He believes we must build, among other things, a deep allegiance and he is right, and as he says there’s still lots of work to be done.

The Guardian seeks to return Labour to long term Opposition

Labour Party

I have great affection for the Guardian newspaper.  It was the first paper I ever read on a serious basis and it has been a part of my life for over 40 years.

I have always admired and enjoyed the Guardian’s independence, its ability to put forward views outside the conventional media wisdom.  While it is often joked about as the Labour Party’s house journal, the Guardian offers much more than a mouthpiece for Labour.  It’s unique in British politics and deserves support.

But support has to be won and in order to be taken seriously a newspaper, even one leaning leftwards, has to be credible.  Once a publication stops seeing issues in a reasoned fashion based on hard evidence, it risks becoming at best a propaganda sheet and at worst a laughing-stock.

Not that the Guardian is either of these, but I am becoming concerned at some of its pronouncements.

Seamus Milne yesterday talked in no uncertain terms about “New Labour’s failure…it’s triangulation, social authoritarianism, embrace of flexible labour markets and support for tuition fees” , the implication being that Labour lost because it was not left-wing enough.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Guardian also urged its reader to vote Liberal Democrat in this year’s general election.

Both the newspaper’s current line as articulated by Seamus Milne and its ill-fated encouragement to support the Lib-Dems point to a muddle, if nothing else.  Perhaps the Guardian feels it needs to ver towards the left to erase the memory of the Lib-Dem fiasco.

I find this New Labour bashing not only unhelpful but deeply flawed.  I was never an uncritical follower of Blair and I strongly opposed the Iraq war, speaking openly against what has seen proved an expensive debacle.

Yet New Labour and Tony Blair were what people wanted.  No other Labour Prime Minister has won three elections in a row, two with landslide majorities.

The British electorate has no apparent appetite for anything further to the left that Blair, at least at national level.  There is little evidence that in the 2010 election those disillusioned with New Labour turned to the Lib-Dems to any great extent.  Since the Conservatives won more seats than Labour, the glaringly obvious conclusion is that those who wanted a change voted Tory.

This is the nub of the issue for the Labour Party.  On any rational and objective analysis there is no mass of people, either working or middle class, in this country who want a government of what they perceive and what we would call the “left”.

As a veteran of the 1980s, I have been here before, only in a much worse way. Many in the Labour then truly believed that if an electorate which had rejected socialism was given more of it, they would return Labour to power.

I for one do not wish to go through those gruelling 18 years of opposition ever again.  I hope the Guardian will come to see the sense of my point of view.  In the meantime, we should all thank Martin Kettle in Guardian Comment is Free today for making a coherent and valiant attempt to  redress the balance.