All 20 entries tagged Labour Party
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January 07, 2007
While Downing Street might appear terraced to the untrained eye, houses 10 and 11 are definitely semi-detached.
The relationship between Blair and Brown is now so petty that when Brown jumps, Blair has to rush straight in, desperate not to be left behind.
This morning, Brown told Andrew Marr that the manner of Saddam Hussein’s execution was “deplorable and unacceptable”. It’s taken him a week to realise this, but never mind.
Up to now, Tony Blair has kept a bizarre silence on the execution. He’s left public statements to Margaret Beckett and avoided the issue. But now Brown’s offered some thoughts on the issue, Blair has – in his eyes – had to do the same.
What a kerfuffle.
It’s possible that Blair’s been keeping quiet because he doesn’t want to weaken the extremely-shaky Iraqi government. But everyone in Britain’s going to be thinking he’s trying to keep his hands clean.
Yet again, Blair looks weak and Brown’s forced his hand. It’s obvious Brown is getting the best political advice, even if he’s the dullest interviewee on the planet.
P.S. Iain Dale says the BBC’s topline from the interview (Brown and Blair split) shows how dull the interview was. I reckon Brown’s a bit cleverer than Iain is suggesting. Brown knew he could talk rubbish for 15 minutes, drop in the words “deplorable” and “unacceptable” and write the headlines himself.
Brown decided what he wanted the Beeb’s topline to be before he began the interview. And he knew that ‘Brown gives dull interview’ wouldn’t be a major story in the Mainstream Media. Any Blair/Brown split is coming straight from No 11.
November 16, 2006
John McDonnell, the left-wing MP hoping to challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party, has issued an alternative Queen’s Speech, and it’s an interesting mix of the practical and the absurd. Here are some of the most interesting suggestions:
- Allow non-Britons to work in the Civil Service
- Faith schools would have to hire people of all faiths
- Minimum wage would apply to people of all ages
- Allow councils to invest in new council houses
- Number of UK homes per person reduced to two
- Local councils can set their own level of council tax
- Abolish the Royal Prerogative (the Prime Minister’s ability to declare war)
- Reduce the voting age to 16
- Greater devolution to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Regulation of national newspapers: Only one daily paper per proprietor, and compulsory Readers’ Editors
- Readers will be permitted to buy stakes in their newspapers
- Abolition of grammar schools and City Academies
- Abolition of tuition fees and current student debt
- Carbon emissions to be cut by 3% every year
- Subsidies for organic farming
- Abolition of most anti-terror measures, such as ID Cards and control orders
- Restore the right to protest outside Parliament
- Increase international aid budget to 1% of GDP
- Ban on many weapons being manufactured in the UK
- Workers’ representatives to be elected to all companies’ boards
- An extra bank holiday per year
- Tax on flight tickets and aviation fuel
- Return railways to public ownership
- A new freight railway running the length of the country
- Restore link between pensions and average earnings
I suspect most people will be able to find one or two ideas they agree with. But who would vote for that entire agenda? I applaud Mr McDonnell for his bold attempt to be honest about what he believes in, but I wonder how he will pay for his ideas, and how many of them would actually work.
I wonder whether some of his ideas would have benefited from further advice from outside his very small circle, especially regulation of the newspaper industry, which sounds a lot like restricting freedom of speech.
November 03, 2006
Are the BBC in the business of journalism or magic?
I only ask because they seem to be pulling ‘news’ stories out of thin air, and I’d love to know how it’s done.
I’m referring to this story which may have been edited by the time you come to read it, but at the moment is an unattributed piece (other than to Nick Robinson) that says Gordon Brown won’t face a serious challenger in his bid to be Prime Minister.
There seem to have been a spate of stories recently which include the words:
“The BBC has learned…”
There will then follow some information which often has no source attached to it, leading us to speculate that the article could have read:
“A BBC’s journalist’s uncle, who knows a man who knows a guy, says…”
Didn’t the Hutton affair teach the BBC to always have two sources for every story? Shouldn’t they attribute their sources as well? Otherwise we seem to be in the dark about which patch of sky the news is falling from.
October 31, 2006
The big news story of the day didn’t live up to its billing.
The government eventually won a vote in the House of Commons – which if they hadn’t – would have resulted in an inquiry being set up into the conduct of the Iraq War. The story was only interesting while the government were under pressure, and now they’re not. They won by a relatively comfortable 298 to 273 votes.
If it had gone the other way, it would have been embarrassing for everyone involved – especially Tony Blair.
But if you believed the government spinners, it would also have been difficult for the British armed forces operating in Iraq, harming morale and giving the insurgents greater resolve to break our army down.
But would our armed forces really have been put in danger by this inquiry?
Surely the most definitive answer comes from the armed forces themselves, on the forums of the British ARmy Rumour SErvice or ARRSE.
if you think soldiers will be in more danger becasue of an inquiry then we may as well all start smoking wacky backy (posted by “Ord_Sgt”)
No consequences. Bliar being a coward again and failing to face upto his responsibilities and the death of 120+ service pesonnel. (posted by “DodgerDog”)
If you honestly believe the terrorists in Iraq will receive succour from an inquiry in Iraq, you have a poor grasp of reality. Do you honestly think an inquiry makes it more obvious to them than it is already that many Brits have misgivings about Iraq? (posted by “Northern Monkey”)
It’s true that some of the comments say the inquiry should be held once our troops are mostly home.
But an underlying theme running throughout many of the posts is: We don’t know why we’re in Iraq, and have particularly good reason for wanting to find out!
It sounds to me like the government is playing a dangerous game – using the armed forces as a shield to protect them from political embarrassment.
September 15, 2006
Alan Johnson faces a tough decision: run for the Labour leadership and probably lose to Gordon Brown, or run for the Deputy leadership and face a tough battle with big names like Jack Straw. But the real dilemma is: if not Johnson versus Brown, then who else?
According to The Guardian today, Alan Johnson is under pressure from Blairites in the Labour Party (those that remain!) to run for the leadership. But a ‘close friend’ says he’d rather be Deputy to someone else, like Gordon Brown.
You can see why when you examine the figures from the Electoral Reform Society, which puts John McDonnell ahead of Brown and Johnson in the minds of over 200 trade unionists at the TUC Conference. Johnson has a mountain to climb with the unions, a group both key to the election of the next leader – and deputy – but also wary of Johnson who in many ways should be a natural ally.
With Jack Straw expected to declare his intention to run for the Deputy Leadership at the weekend, Alan Johnson’s position is precarious. He would be in real danger of losing both elections (like Margaret Beckett) and facing a disappointing future career in the Cabinet (or even outside).
But the real question for Alan Johnson is: if he isn’t the quasi-Blairite to run for the leadership, who will be? Perhaps Charles Clarke. Maybe John Reid. But his head is probably telling him that neither would stand much of a chance against Brown.
With the pace of the leadership election quickening by the day (I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t declare something at the weekend), Johnson is going to have to make decisions quickly or he’ll be left behind with too much ground to make up.
September 14, 2006
Clare Short, the former Secretary for International Development and controversial Labour backbench MP, has announced she’s to stand down at the next General Election. But comments made to the Independent newspaper have got her into hot water, with the possibility that she could have the Labour whip withdrawn in Parliament.
In a newspaper article this morning, Short said that she wanted to campaign for a hung parliament, which in essence means that she wants Labour MPs to lose their seats. Always an iconoclastic figure, Short’s declaration will split the party. Some will privately congratulate her for taking a stand, but the majority will probably find her a traitor.
Saying that she had “reached a stage where I am profoundly ashamed of the government”, Short blames the electoral system for the lack of policy debate in the Labour party, and Parliament generally. She hopes that a hung parliament will bring about Proportional Representation, which isn’t exactly a guaranteed piece of logic.
Does she have a point?
In many respects, yes. Policy within the Labour Party is decided inside Number 10, and as she notes, decisions like Trident are made within a sentence that a speech Gordon Brown gives to businessmen. The definition of democracy needs to be reset to its default, rather than the sham we have at the moment. Individuals need to be re-engaged in politics, and Westminster needs to be more open.
But to follow Clare Short’s logic to its natural conclusion, her proposal of a PR-based electoral system would not increase policy discussions within the Labour Party, but would simply force the Leader of the party to discuss policy with leaders of other parties, in order to form a consensus.
Essentially, Clare Short’s wishes look set to bring about policy-making by a slightly wider clique than at present. Secret meetings between Gordon Brown and David Cameron would take Britain to war, decide policy and set the budget. It would result in ineffective governments where mandates would mean very little and the permanent state of governance would be one of compromise.
So while she has a point about the failures of New Labour, her hopes for the future are dangerously misguided and will simply recreate the current faux-democracy under a different guise.
Traitor or Martyr?
Now Short has admitted that she would like to see a hung parliament (where no one party holds a majority) she could easily find the Labour whip withdrawn. This would effectively banish her from the Parliamentary Labour Party. But more damaging is the potential for her to be banished from the Party as an ordinary member, leaving her as an independent.
Given Short’s career trajectory, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to be an independent. But she won’t want to make that decision on her own: she will want to go as a martyr, slain by Blair and Brown, and subsequently given sympathy by those on the Left of the Labour Party who’ve gritted their teeth through 12 years of New Labour.
The real danger for her is that members of the Labour Party could be less fickle than she imagines. It’s more than possible that they will consider a traitor, no longer welcome in the Party. This is not what she will want, but given her unpredictable behaviour and tendency to go against the grain, may be what happens.
September 06, 2006
It’s clear that things are shifting pretty quickly in Westminster. Today seven members of the government have resigned because – essentially – Tony Blair won’t resign.
But we’re not quite getting the whole story, because we never do. The way these things work in Westminster are a bit complicated and full of as much conspiracy as you can probably imagine. I’m afraid I am speculating, but here’s what’s probably going on at the moment:
- The Labour backbenchers are furious that Tony Blair has announced a date for his departure, without actually saying so himself. Instead you had David Miliband explain the “conventional wisdom”, Hilary Armstrong tell us of the “perceived wisdom” and poor Hilary Benn speak of the “growing consensus”. It was pretty clear they were all singing from the same hymn-sheet, written by No 10. What’s more, the Sun were more specific in naming a date, which anyone who knows Westminster knows it will have come from No 10 too. Interestingly the leaked memo saying how Blair would enjoy a ‘farewell tour’ of the country is rumoured to have come from Gordon Brown’s allies. It may even have been written by them to embarrass Blair.
- The seven Labour backbenchers who have resigned their positions will have been getting a) a lot of stick from the Labour whips, who work for Blair and b) a lot of love from Gordon Brown’s allies, who have probably promised them jobs in his government. Expect more to sign-up for the Brown revolution as soon as his henchmen can convince them of their future opportunities for employment.
- While 17 Labour MPs signed a letter yesterday, calling for him to go, another 49 signed one declaring their undying love for the leader (practically). What’s interesting isn’t that the Blair-lovers trumped the Blair-haters, but that they could only drum up support from 13% of the party. The rest are conspicuous by their absence.
- May 31st is an interesting date for Blair to choose to leave. Notably because it’s after the local, Scottish and Welsh elections next year. Blair is pretty unliked in Scotland and Wales, as he is seen (not surprisingly) as a stupid Englishman. So staying in power during their elections will piss them off no-end.
- News organisations like the BBC and Sky are having real difficulties in finding ministers who will stand up and support Blair. Hilary Benn did so last night because he was told to, but few others are coming out of the woodwork voluntarily. Note that the 1 o’clock news on BBC One could only drum up a Welsh Lord, whose praise for Blair was extremely conditional on him going before May 31st. High praise indeed.
- While Labour backbench MPs want Blair out, they’re not entirely sure how to do it. There’s no formal mechanism for removing the leader (for some reason Blair decided not to create one!!!), and their best bet seems to be for the Cabinet to turn on him. As soon as you see a single member of the Cabinet say that they think it would be best for Blair to step down, he’s finished. They wouldn’t say so openly unless they thought they had support from others.
- Some of the Labour MPs who have resigned were slavishly Blairite before today. It suggests that their political career was built upon brown-nosing (no pun intended) whoever appears to be in charge. Now that Brown is in the driving seat, people are switching vehicles.
Personally it’s very frustrating I can’t sit in on the Lobby briefings that take place at Number 10. The tension must be incredible. Maybe they’d like to invite me? Ha ha! You can get some idea of what’s been said here, but you really have to read between the lines to figure out what sort of body language the PM’s official spokesman would have been using! I rather suspect he was trying hard to hide his dejection.
P.S. I notice from the PMOS briefing this morning: “As he had already said… David Miliband had decided to go on the Today Programme himself.” The question is whether he decided what to say himself…
P.P.S. The seven members of the government who’ve resigned all have one thing in common: their seats are in danger at the next election. They’re all from the Birmingham area (where Labour reckons it’s going to get wiped out) or Wales (see above for explanation). So it’s not about Tony going – they’re worried that if he doesn’t go soon, they’ll be following him shortly!
September 05, 2006
Let’s take a look at the evidence…
- 17 Labour MPs have signed a letter asking him to resign.
- A leaked memo details Blair’s “Farewell Tour”, indicating all he cares about now is his legacy.
- BBC News 24 and Sky News can’t find a Labour backbencher who will support Blair.
- David Miliband is backtracking on statements made at the weekend.
- No-one’s paying any attention to Blair’s policy statements that he’s making today.
- There are rumoured to be two more letters in circulation calling for Blair to go sooner rather than later.
Tony, when it became clear that you were more interested in changing the history books than in changing the country, you lost all the support you’ve ever had.
He might stay in power for a few more months, but as Michael Brown of the Independent has just said on BBC News 24:
What was a ‘lame duck’ Premiership has just become a ‘dead duck’ Premiership
Friday: Tony Blair says he’s not going to announce a timetable for his departure, telling his party to stop “obsessing” about it.
Tuesday morning: David Miliband (one of Blair’s few close allies) says Blair will go in about twelve months time.
I think we have to assume that Miliband didn’t blurt this out by accident, so what’s Tony and Co. playing at?
September 01, 2006
Every September, the Prime Minister joins the Queen on her late summer holiday to Balmoral in Scotland. It’s a trip that Cherie Blair clearly enjoys (see right), and it was assumed that this year would probably be her last.
But last night Tony Blair came back from Barbados with a bombshell for the Labour Party: he’s not about to announce his resignation at the party conference, and people should stop talking about when it’ll happen.
He’s stark-raving bonkers then.
More and more Tony Blair is acting as if he’s completely lost touch with reality and the wishes of those who put him in power in the first place. The country is tired of him, his party is tired of him, and every day he spends in power is another that the Conservatives seem to be gaining ground on Labour (in fact recent polls have put them several % ahead).
What exactly is there left for Blair to achieve that no-one else can manage? His most recent idea seems to be an increase in the use and power of ASBOs – an arrangement met with derision wherever it is mentioned, and irrelevant to the majority of people who find anti-social behaviour taking place on their doorstep.
Meanwhile David Cameron launches a campaign with Friends of the Earth in order to beat climate change, with tough targets that rival Arnie’s measures in California. It makes Blair’s visit there last month seem very hollow, and shows him to be far more in touch with the public’s concerns (and how to meet them) than Blair’s strange priorities.
But if Blair and Brown were the joint co-authors of New Labour and the ‘third way’ (which they weren’t), then surely Brown would be equally capable of taking over the reins and finishing what Blair started? Blair’s raison d’etre diminishes every time he comes on camera: his time is running out, there are plenty of people who could do the job as well as him, and they probably wouldn’t shed support from the public on a daily basis.
Ultimately, whatever he and his successor may do, it appears to be increasingly in vain. The ‘New Conservatives’ have taken a completely different approach to winning people over, not necessarily announcing policies, but certainly sending the right signals about where Britain should be heading. Labour, on the other hand, seems to be incapable of creating similar new ideas (or at least packaging them in a fresh way). It’s as if they’ve become so entwined with the bureaucracy that they run that the party machine has got stuck and is getting rusty.
There’s a statistic which might help to explain this: the number of government press officers has trebled since 1997. Why? Are we three times better informed? No.
The former editor of the (left-wing) New Statesman, Peter Wilby, seems to have got it right when he said that Labour will almost certainly lose the next election. But I’m not entirely sure it’ll be a good thing, as he suggests. If Labour can renew itself – and do so quickly – then they might be able to become a force for good again. But at the moment the war of attrition between Blair and the rest of the party is preventing Labour from making Britain better.
July 27, 2006
According to an ICM/Guardian poll out today:
The most obvious observation is that people who supported the Lib Dems over the Iraq War are drifting back to the two major parties again following what has been a disastrous year and quiet few months for Ming Campbell.
But here's some other thoughts:
- Labour is clearly banking on their new leader (assume it to be Brown) to take the lead back from the Conservatives when they take power. I think this strategy's a bit risky and Brown ought to be setting out his stall already, even if he's not in Number 10. There's a danger that he won't have long enough to impress the public before he's forced to call an election. Plus, he's about as charasmatic as cabbage soup, so needs all the help he can get.
- Labour's rise (up 3%) also suggests that voters are forgiving the government for the many problems they've got themselves into recently. This raises the question of whether people care about or understand the cash–for–honours scandal. Until it directly smacks Blair in the face, I'm not sure voters will fully associate it with the government.
- The Conservatives are continuing to do well under Cameron, although he still hasn't had much to do so far. When he starts talking about substantive policy issues people might see him as a turn–off. So far they've only heard him talk about bicycles, underwear and solar power.
- Ming is doomed. While extremely competent with the Lib Dems' foreign affairs brief, he's clearly not got the right skills to lead the party on other issues. If the Conservatives can do well while not talking about policy, how come the Lib Dems are finding the exact opposite happening to them?
- The Conservatives think they need 40% of the vote in order to get a majority. With Labour likely to receive a boost under their new leader, Cameron will know he hasn't done enough yet to avoid the possibility of a hung parliament.
- Overall, there's cause of optimism here for the Tories and Labour. But the Lib Dems have got a problem. If they lose seats at the next election, which looks likely given how close the other two parties are likely to be, then they could enter a decade of soul–searching which could cripple the party.
July 09, 2006
The newspapers seem certain that John Prescott's days in office are numbered, and despite there being no smoking gun, they've not been afraid to put the boot in.
The Mail on Sunday comes the closest anyone in the mainstream media has to confirming Prescott had an affair with fellow Labour minister, Rosie Winterton, with a two–page article on the influence Winterton has had on Prescott's career.
Read between the lines of the 'profile' piece and you get the idea of what's been going on:
no woman has exerted more influence over Mr Prescott than bubbly blonde Ms Winterton
Note newspapers only refer to women as 'Ms Anything' if they're involved in something.
Her loyalty has been richly rewarded.
She is proud of her trim figure and keeps her tan topped up through the winter. Her short skirts and knee–high boots have raised some eyebrows, but her fun–loving manner has made her popular on all sides.
And about John and Rosie:
"They've always been special friends. They get on tremendously well and she knows how to handle John"
Commons observers couldn't help but notice that Tracey Temple, the secretary with whom Mr Prescott conducted an affair, bears a certain resemblance to Ms Winterton.
Other than these highly subtle references to how well they get on, it's only in the last paragraph that the newspaper goes for the bleeding obvious:
Asked if she had had an affair with Mr Prescott, Ms Winterton said last night: "Absolutely not".
Knowing the rumours, the piece is hilarious to read as the puns, metaphors and allusions come thick and fast. It won't have any impact on Prescott's chances of keeping his job, and to be honest isn't really very interesting (it's more of a Westminster in–joke). But the revelations in other newspapers, while small, are keeping up the pressure on Prescott and will quite probably bring his Deputy Leadership to an end this week.
David Miliband and Jack Straw have been suggested as interim replacements (until the Party Conference in September). But if Blair wants to take the heat off his government's incompetence, he'll have to switch Prescott quickly, or else today's subtle allusions will become full–on allegations next weekend.
July 07, 2006
The rumour has it that the first challenger to Gordon Brown's coronation as Labour leader (and Prime Minister) will come out from the woodwork this weekend. He'll be scared as his challenger looks set to be the esteemed, notable and highly proficient…......................John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington.
Well, he's all of those things in his constituency at least, where he picked up 58.7% of the vote, beating the unlucky Conservative candidate into second place. If he can repeat this drubbing in the leadership battle then Gordon Brown will be crying into a glass of Scotch whisky as we speak.
Or not… Because it'll never happen. McDonnell represents the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, who are very much to the left of the party, and worship Tony Benn as if he were Gandhi. His 'natural base' is therefore likely to be somewhere in the region of perhaps 50 Labour MPs. Which is a drop in the ocean, especially when you factor in the likelihood that he won't be the only member of the Campaign Group to run against Brown. In fact, fellow MP Michael Meacher is expected to be highly "pissed off" if his lesser–known colleague beats him to it for the leftie vote.
McDonnell voted against the Iraq war, in favour of fox hunting, against ID cards, the terrorism bill and foundation hospitals. All in all, a red–blooded rebel.
The only reason that McDonnell might stand a miniscule chance of coming anywhere near Gordon is the way the leadership will be chosen. 33% of the votes will go to Labour MPs and MEPs, 33% to members of the party and 33% to the trade unions who fund Labour.
Don't be surprised then that McDonnell's leadership bid will be launched at the Durham Miners' Gala on Saturday, where Cabinet minister Hazel Blears will be in attendance, presumably wearing the confused smirk that always seems to adorn her face.
There will almost certainly be a token female candidate for the leadership (and I mean that in the nicest possible way – at least one female Labour MP will run because the Labour MPs will want one, even if they then vote against her), and I suspect there may be at least one more proficient candidate for the job when the leadership election comes. Possibilities include Peter Hain, Jack Straw, Alan Johnson or David Miliband, although Hain would probably be seen as the most likely of those four.
What we can almost certainly take for granted, however, is that Brown will beat his challengers, and will absolutely trounce them if they are as high–profile as Mr McDonnell.
July 05, 2006
They've also dragged the BBC into it, saying they've ignored the story and would have caused a big stink if it had been a Conservative politician.
In both senses, they're wide of the mark. The 'story' is just speculation at the moment. It doesn't look enormously great, because there was a "potential" conflict of interest, although it's 1) only potential at the moment and 2) apparently weaker than first appeared because Prezza didn't have any say over Casino policy. He also claims he was on official business, which if true, puts a different spin on the story.
Nick Robinson has taken some heat for saying the BBC's held back on it because there didn't appear to be a definite story in there – more speculation than anything else – and criticised bloggers for being slightly lazier with the truth than paid journalists.
He's right, but his tone was perhaps a little obnoxious. Bloggers are, by and large, influenced by an agenda which journalists tacitly subordinate when they take up a job (especially a politics–related one), but journalists can learn some things from bloggers. Mainly, the 'blogosphere' helps bring stories to people's attention (see Cherie's signed copy of the Hutton Report for one), but also delivers stories at a faster speed.
Sadly speed often comes at the price of accuracy, and in the case of political blogs, seems to come increasingly ahead of objectivity. So while the number of blogs should be applauded for the likelihood of someone picking up on a story quicker than one guy sat in Whitehall, they should also learn a little from real journalists if they want to be seen to be playing a similar game.
June 27, 2006
Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1806669,00.html
No more coded critiques – let's have an open debate on where we go next.
Tony Blair wants an open debate about the future of the Labour party. But he doesn't really want any such thing, for he knows the debate will centre on him and his own personal record.
If Blair wanted a full and open debate, then he wouldn't be responding to Charles Clarke's criticisms of him with a vague restatement of his values. That wasn't a 'coded critique', it was a clear challenge to Blair's authority. Blair should be saying "bring it on". Enthusiasm for campaigning amongst Labour activists is at just about zero. Come the next election, who will be heading for the doorsteps when they know exactly what sort of reaction they are going to get?
The only hope for a Labour majority in 2008/9 is if Tony Blair can erase the collective memory of the British public, so the word 'Iraq' is forgotten when it comes to selecting which box to tick. That means getting rid of the man most closely associated with the disaster. And that's him.
Blair might be pretending to foster an 'open debate', but in reality he must know by now that such a thing would bring about his speedy resignation.