Archive for ‘Labour Leadership’

September 29, 2010

>David Miliband walks away from Labour front bench

>David Miliband has this evening walked away from front line politics, and the Labour front bench led by his brother. The former Foreign Secretary say he needs to “recharge his batteries”. He also said that he feared “perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where there is none and splits where they don’t exist”.

It seems quite bizarre that a leading party figure, who received more support from MPs/MEPS and members than the winner, now feels unable to be a lead figure in the Shadow Cabinet. All the other leadership candidates, including Diane Abbot, have put their names on the ballot to make up the 19 person team.

David may claim that he gets the ‘nice bonus’ of being able to spend more time with his family, surely the coalition is now the biggest winner of the Labour leadership contest.

September 29, 2010

>What is David Miliband thinking this morning?


Photo of UK government minister David Miliband...Image via Wikipedia

David Miliband will have woken up in London (not Manchester,) this morning and wondered where on Earth it all went wrong. Blair, Brown, David. That was the Labour line of succession. But no, like something out of a Disney movie the chipper younger brother has stepped up to steal the crown. Of course it could all have been different. He could have shown  the same courage his brother has by removing Brown and becoming Labour leader. He could possibly even be the Prime Minister now. He thought he was being honourable, be wakes up this morning defeated, with his career in the balance.

There are very strong rumours that come 5pm his name will not be on the ballot for the Shadow Cabinet, and that he will in fact step away from politics. There are undoubtedly many in the private sector and in Europe who would love to snap him up. Would this mean stepping down as an MP and forcing a by-election, just as the bruises are fading from the General Election campaign?

It must be said David has behaved impeccably in defeat. He couldn’t resist going full pelt in his speech to conference, showing them what they had missed, but what should he? Most people in that hall already knew what they had missed out on as leader. However, the Iraq/Harriet Harman moment managed to take some of the gloss of brother Ed’s speech. While most people would like the Labour party to apologise for the terrible mistake that was the Iraq war, David Miliband seems to have become the sole scapegoat still standing. As Stephan Tall points out today, Ed’s record on Iraq is hardly as pristine as he likes to claim either… We shouldn’t though be surprised by yet another deathbed conversion after his neat little about turn on tuition fees.

David will announce his intentions for the future later. It does though seems increasingly that the disappointment of falling at the final hurdle has proved to much, and that David Miliband is going to ride of into the political sunset.

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September 25, 2010

>Breaking news: Ed Miliband wins Labour leadership, the day New Labour died


Picture courtesy of the BBC

VN last night reported rumours that Ed Miliband would today win the Labour leadership, and those rumours have been proved correct. Ed has beaten his older brother to become the next Leader of the Labour party. He won an extremely close race that went down to a fourth round of voting. Ed received 50.65% of the final round vote, while David won 49.35%. A candidate must get over 50% to win. Tellingly, David got more of the MPs/MEPS and party members in those two sections of the electoral college, but strong union support took Ed over the line. 

There was an emotional moment as the result was announced, with the two brothers embracing each other closely. This continued as Ed then took to the stage, praising his brother warmly, before moving on to  the other candidates. He then declared “today, a new generation has taken charge of Labour”. The speech was clearly the beginning of a massive reunification project, the start of bringing together a party long divided. 

David Miliband was seen as the ‘New Labour’ candidate, and this ultimately cost him Ed was seen as a move away from the Blair/Brown era. However, with a return to a more leftist, union backed approach, and the new leaders continual reference to ‘the new generation’ those in the packed conference hall can say they were there the day New Labour died.

September 24, 2010

>Has Ed Miliband won the battle of the brothers in arms?

>Rumours are beginning to float around that Ed, not David, Miliband will be announced as the new Leader of the Labour party tomorrow afternoon. After Ken Livingstone’s victory in the battle to become the Labour candidate for London Mayor, perhaps this pressing of the political rewind button shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The older Miliband has been tainted with the Blair legacy, caught in the furore surrounding ‘the memoirs’, and frankly has not been forgiven for being a coward when he could have removed Brown.

VN will of course bring you the result and analysis when it is officially announced, but if the rumours are true it will be interesting to see how senior coalition members, particularly in the Lib Dems, deal with a genuinely left wing Labour leader. For now, a little tribute to the warring Milibrothers:

September 24, 2010

>Unions win again as Ken Livingstone become Labour’s London Mayoral candidate

>Ken Livingstone has beaten Oona King to be the Labour’ party’s candidate for London Mayor, winning a massive 69% of the vote of London Labour members. Mr Livingstone had previously held the post of London Mayor, but was defeated by Conservative Boris Johnson in the 2008 election.

The election of Livingstone might be encouraging for Ed Miliband, as it clearly demonstrates to an lurch to old Labour leftism, and a rejection of New Labour candidates. Once again the union backed beast has beaten off a dynamic, young, female contender. Even if there is some overlap with Ed, this result will surely cause a problem for whichever Miliband wins the leadership on Saturday, as they have both tried to show themselves as a forward thinking force for change.  

Ken Livingstone has issued the following statement: 

“We need a Mayor who will stand up for London.

“The choice between me and Boris Johnson could not be clearer. I will protect the fare payer. After Boris Johnson’s unnecessary fare increases that go hand in hand with cuts to investment we need fairer fares. I promise that fares under my administration will be lower than if Boris Johnson is re-elected.

“Today’s decision by London Labour members signals the start of a campaign to change London for the better and to protect Londoners from the cuts of this government that threaten to wreck lives and push us back into recession.

“I will unite Londoners around this message.

“The London election in 2012 will be the chance to send a message to David Cameron and George Osborne that we don’t want devastating cuts to our public services, fewer jobs, and declining living standards.

“If you want them out, first vote Boris out.”

Terribly original and inspiring i’m sure you will agree…. at least it will all be over on Saturday.

September 10, 2010

>Has Ed Ball’s fallen into Tony Blair’s music trap?!

>Today the Ed Balls brigade rolled into Cornwall, and took a play right of the Blair hand book by picking up a musical instrument. The former PM famously played his guitar in public, having been a member of student band Ugly Rumours while at Oxford.

Mr Balls played the dubious choice of The Darkness’ ‘I believe in a thing called love’ with his pen pal David Evans, who contacted the MP 3 years ago about the problems he encounters as a result of suffering from Aspergers Syndrome.

David’s guitar playing seems pretty good, but Ed Balls seems ever so slightly to fast and out of time, although not actually a bad performance from the Labour leadership hopeful.

September 10, 2010

>David Miliband’s copy cat campaign highlights a deeper political problem

>The other day, the Tory Bear blog ran a story about its Editor’s experience having infiltrated David Miliband’s Movement for Change. This was not just a good read from a blogger not normally so compatible with VN, there is a more serious point for David Miliband than a Conservative infiltrator. After retiring his Tony Blair impression, Miliband D’s entire campaign seems to a very poorly concocted attempt to be Labour and Britain’s Barack Obama. ‘Movement for Change’ is no ‘Organising for America’. The point of OFA was that it engaged new people, all David Miliband has done is crammed the people who already support him into a room.

No, this falseness highlights a more serious point about politicians in general. How can the electorate relate to these people? The campaign teams may all have a crib sheet with the price of a pint of milk and a loaf of bread on it, but does anyone in the political sphere actually do anything, you know, normal? Can David Miliband tell you who is number one this week, or hum the the tune? Can his brother Ed name the three scorers for England against Switzerland the other night? Has Ed Balls read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?’?

This is not to recommend that political leaders all sit down with a ‘zeitgeist tape’ of the type made famous by Malcolm Tucker and his hapless ministerial minions. Intelligence and dedication are traits to absolutely be admired, and demanded, in our political leaders.  It is about attitude. David Miliband fails this test comprehensively, even in comparison to his clone competitors for the Labour leadership. It is reassuring that Andy Burnham will be cheering on his beloved Everton against Manchester United this weekend, endearing that Diane Abbot can probably name the children’s’ crazes of the last few years, and actually possible to imagine having a row over a pint with Ed Balls. Even Ed Miliband seems to have some level approachability. But David? Look next to the phrase ‘political hack’ in a dictionary and you would just find his picture in place of a definition. 

This though is not a problem that just befalls the Labour party, or just David Miliband. There are Liberal Democrat MPs and councillors who enjoy nothing more than an evening pouring over the arguments for proportional representation, Conservative members up long into the night reminiscing over Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. This kind of politician disengages people from the democratic process more deeply than they can possibly realise, and it is a problem increasingly befalling street level political activists too. Which normal people would give up their weekend to deliver leaflets that nobody will read? Who writes amendments to the amendments for a motion to a party conference? Such people form the backbone of local political organisation, but it is near impossible for them to connect to the people who’s vote they are trying to win.

Perhaps tellingly the most successful British political leaders of recent times, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, do not quite fit this mould. Stop screaming at your monitors for a minute and think about it. Sure all these men were brought up in middle class comfort, but it is their attitude, not environment that makes them different. All were Oxbridge educated, but none were involved in student politics. They didn’t spend their time trawling for internships on W4MP, delivering the aforementioned leaflets, or obsessively attending local party meetings on a Friday evening. They were open to a multiplicity of influences. From the close friends from Australia, India and Africa Blair describes in ‘A Journey’, to Clegg’s travels due to his language studies, and even Cameron’s brief stint working for Saatchi, these three men entered politics after forming their opinions away from politics. Although it has manifested itself in quite different ways, their unconventional political entry points mean all three men have a natural instinct for change and reform. All three men brought their parties to power.

One of the things that led to Gordon Brown’s downfall was was an inability to look out of the political bubble. He was so deeply rooted in the Labour party and politics that he couldn’t connect with people not in that sphere. It is time for politicians to remember that their place of work is called the House of Commons. This has an implication of normality, an ability to separate oneself from Westminster Village and be a common member of society. It is not about class or upbringing, it is about attitude and approach. 

If Cameron and Clegg’s ‘New Politics’ is to mean anything, perhaps it should really mean a new type of politician. 

September 6, 2010

>What will this parliamentary session bring?

>At 2.30pm today the House of Commons will resume business after its summer break. Tomorrow Prime Minister David Cameron will return from paternity leave. What though does the this parliamentary session mean for the coalition and the Labour party? 

The coming few months will see a new Labour leader elected, candidates for the London mayoral election declared, and the party conference season. In addition more details of government spending cuts will be revealed, and  their will be movement on the electoral system referendum (possibly as early as today,) so it looks set to be an interesting one.

The referendum to change the the electoral system will be a key moment in the life of the coalition. Should it fail, the Liberal Democrat ministers will find themselves under even more pressure from a grass roots getting increasingly queasy at spending cuts and bad poll results. The promise of the referendum may keep the left leaning ranks of party conference quiet at this party conference, but the future is less certain.  David Cameron’s approach will be very interesting. It would be hard for the Prime Minister to openly campaign for the ‘No’ campaign, as it would increase tensions within the government, however his deputy will surely be at the forefront of the ‘Yes’ campaign. No doubt the new Labour leader will try and make hay, playing the Oppositions favourite game of ‘lets show the differences in the coalition’. For what is worth, VN will be fully supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Of course, the Labour leadership contest will finally come to end this month. The interminably dull contest has basically come down to a choice between the two Miliband brothers, with Ed Balls ranting, Andy Burnham pretending the ‘ambitious socialism’ isn’t oxymoronic, and Diane Abbot becoming an irrelevance. The winner will be revealed at Labour conference on September the 26th. 

The Labour candidate for Mayor of London will be revealed the day before the leader is announced. The race between Oona King and Ken Livingstone has only been mildly more interesting than the leadership clones race, with King holding her own against the tough old campaigner. Boris Johnson is assumed to be the Conservative candidate, while Lib Dem Voice point out that the waters within the Lib Dem’s are slightly more muddy. The party really needs to put forward someone who can not only help get GLA candidates elected, but be someone that people can actually see running City Hall. 

That’s before even mentioning George Osbourne’s comprehensive spending review, due out soon. It is going to be a hard balancing act for the Treasury team to tackle Britain’s huge deficit, without making the entire raison d’etre of the government spending cuts. 

All in all, its going to be a busy and interesting time for the politicos, hacks, and assorted hangers-on in Westminster Village.

August 16, 2010

>Andy Burnham is Nicola Murray

>Throughout the Labour leadership contest, Andy Burnham has positioned himself to the left. He probably should have done that when posing for this photo:

August 11, 2010

>Labour Must Talk Up For The Silent Majority Who Are Waiting To Shout From The Rooftops

>VN is delighted to welcome its second guest blogger, Michael Payne*. Michael  is the former President of Lancaster University Student’s Union (the only person to achieve two terms in this role,) as well as a Labour Party member and activist.  He blogs regular at and tweets as @micpayne.

The reality of Labour’s position, despite the euphoria about the Leadership election and the London Mayoral candidate selection from party apparatchiks, is dismal and there is no point pretending otherwise. It is dismal because carping from the sidelines however effective you are at is is no way to change people’s lives for the better. Like it or not power is the way to make change and not having power really hurts. In opposition you can influence things, you can delay policies and you can criticise but change you don’t agree with is quite often inevitable.

There will be those who suggest simply working for power at every cost should not be Labour’s strategy but those people would have you believe holding dear to your principles and gaining power are mutually exclusive – they are not.

But there is much, much more Labour has to do before the next General Election to prepare itself for the fight of its life and buck the trend of decades out of power post a period in government. The coalition is providing Labour with perfect and legitimate dividing lines to campaign on; the ConDem approach to tackling the budget deficit is perfect campaigning ammunition for Labour and should be used with both barrels by our Party.

A fundamental principle that must lie at the heart of Labour’s tenacious fightback in the Autumn is: nobody voted for this; nobody voted for the ConDems’ approach to tackling the deficit, that is evident speaking to people everyday from all different walks of life. It is a matter of fact that the Tories campaigned throughout the election on a pitch to cut faster and deeper than Labour’s (Darling’s) pledge to half the deficit within four years, and the Lib Dems took a totally opposite stance (to the Tories), with their leader warning of the effects of cutting jobs and budgets too quickly. Cameron may be the Prime Minister and the ConDems may be in coalition government but it is a simple fact that they have NO mandate for the policies they are now enacting.

In order to articulate a credible economic alternative (totally plausible) Labour must unashamedly join with trade unions from across the spectrum in defending those who are living each day with trepidation (worried about when not if they will be made redundant). What is equally shameful as cuts to public sector jobs is Cameron and Osborne’s tough talking while they allow the banks to continue governing their affairs as they like and whilst Chief Executives and bosses (e.g. University Vice-Chancellors, Council Chief Executives) continue to take home pay increases and reprehensible bonuses.

Bashing the banks and fat cats isn’t populism or pandering it is just plain and simply the right thing to do.

Labour must return to its roots as a movement and build a coalition (not necessarily party political) to question why those who are not responsible for the ‘mess’ we’re in should pay with their livelihoods and vital services.

For every dirty political stunt by Cameron and his cronies attacking traditional Labour supporters – ‘Council homes crackdown’, ‘benefits clampdown’, ‘axing Building Schools For Future’ Labour must bust the myths and half-truths spun out: Labour should be arguing benefit fraud may cost £1bn but tax fraud from the most wealthy cots £40bn-70bn, Labour should point out that cutting 1/4 of the Ministry for Justice budget (the same size as the entire prisons or courts system budget) will bring our law and order services to a grinding halt in certain areas, Labour must turn a spotlight on Council’s like Tory ran Nottinghamshire preparing to rid of 3,000 (a quarter) of all their staff over the next three years (an act which will definitely impact on local services such as SureStart and meals on wheels).

Pub politics is often a derogatory term utilised in elections to undermine your opponents flaky policies and megaphone diplomacy tactics but what Labour needs to practice right now is some good old fashioned soapbox pub politics. The hoards of public sector workers, families and middle income earners who spend a Friday night enjoying a pint to get away from BBC News at Ten’s doom-mongering announcements of further threats to peoples’ livelihoods from the grinning duo Cameron and Osborne should be spoken to and listened to. Most people in the UK only have to walk 500 yards or so on a Friday evening to hear the real problems facing society and to hear the frustration of those who feel betrayed by the LiB Dems,  irate at the same old Tories and let down by Labour. Labour must realise the latent potential of these pub politicians who are the silent majority (in public and in their workplace) but are just waiting to be given the platform to stand up for their livelihoods and to protect their local doctors surgery, new school building, local hospital or recently cancelled new police station.

If Labour want to be back in the business of changing people’s lives they must set out a clear plan for a fightback and must begin doing it now:

1. Campaign Against the ConDems as one entity
Labour must campaign against the Coalition in local elections (May 2011) – making the public realise when Cameron says ‘we’re in it together’ he means the Tories and his useless props – the Lib Dems.

2. Create a credible economic alternative
Labour must draw up and begin articulating a clear economic alternative as soon as the new Leader is elected. A mixture of taxation (it’s not all about income tax – see Robin Hood tax, wealth tax, inheritance tax etc) and spending reductions is the answer, where stimulation to the economy and support for vital public services plays a key role in boosting confidence.

3. New Leader/ Trade Union Leader Talks & Trust
The new Labour leadership must hold immediate talks with the major Trade Union leaders and begin planning a strong campaign of unity in the lead up to next General Election. A new Minister for Trade Union relations should be appointed as a direct and key point of liaison. Labour should be unashamed of its relationship in support of the unions; a relationship of trust is one where disagreements can be dealt with maturely and quickly rather than becoming a pubic spat of airing dirty laundry.

4. Prepare for real radicalism if needed
We must be unafraid of supporting strikes as a last result – they may not be popular but they may in certain instances prevent further catastrophic damage to our economy and a growing queue of people in the unemployment line.

5. Re-engage young people
Labour must re-engage the youth of society – the Lib Dems’ treats to young people (axing tuition fees, anti-Iraq war, opposing free schools) have been proved not to be worth the paper they’re written on and we must capitalise on this.

6. Member Policy Ballots
The Labour leadership should be unafraid of balloting our members on major policy issues – we will need CLPs, local unions and members to drive the change and fightback for us not to be the minions of our leadership’s wishes.

7. Expand Cabinet government model
Labour must expand on ideas expressed in the Leadership election thus far; Labour councillors should be represented along with MEPs around the shadow cabinet, as should representatives of the Youth wings of the party.

8. Party finance and funding must be stabilised and scrutinised intensely
Party funds will increase as Labour begins to formulate credible alternatives to to the ConDems’ regressive approach to tackling the deficit. Funding should be targeted from big donors as well as Obama style multiple individual small donations. Once the Party finances are stabilised they must be prioritised – running a colossal Party debt is crippling.

9. Community organising should be part of everyday work for CLPs, working with local unions, community groups and churches

10. Party membership must be increased
Only by doing all of the above and making our Party a credible alternative to the ConDems will membership begin to reach its former levels of the early 1990s.

Although these proposals aren’t perfect and aren’t the answer to all our problems, what is certain is that Labour must fight back and fight back hard if we are to take power again soon and begin changing the lives of the many not just the few.

*The views of guest bloggers are entirely there own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers,, or C.A.H Multimedia.

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