A Bitter Summer Campaign Ahead – Stay Calm & Debate

If the heat of this first week of the Labour leadership campaign is anything to go by we are in for an unedifying political battle for both the leadership and soul of the Labour Party over the next 8 weeks. September can’t come quickly enough.

I am grateful for those who have fed back on the usefulness of these posts – I am hoping to keep up a steady stream over the next couple of months trying to tackle some of the issues that arise during the contest. As everybody knows I am not going to be voting for Corbyn, but I will try to set out rationally why this is the case and explain why I think this is both right for the sake of the Party I have served for 32 years, and the people we need to help across the country with a Labour government.
Rather than a series of long posts trying to cover too much material – and there is so much going on it’s going to be hard to keep this discipline – I will try to answer the criticisms of my views and take on the standard arguments trotted out by the Corbyn team and Momentum. For example in his speech at his launch Corbyn called for or almost demanded unity and loyalty from his MPs in Parliament. For a guy who has spent his entire life rebelling against the party and its previously elected leaders this came across as a little rich! I will take this sort of issue and dig a little deeper.

 So before I embark on this new Leadership election series I would love some feedback – and some of the usual ‘attacks’. My first ideas for subjects include i) the mountain Labour needs to climb to win in 2020 (or sooner), ii) Why we lost in 2010 and 2015 iii) why Corbyn is such a poor leader iv) why our current performance shows we are heading for an even worse defeat in 2020 v) Why Labour MPs were right to act vi) why Corbyn should welcome the leadership election after he said leaders should face elections every year vii) what is Momentum and ‘entryism’ viii) why has social media led to so much abuse ix) why Corbyn supporters are genuine in their belief in his ability to win x) the cult like nature of Corbyn supporters xi) why Corbyn and his entourage seem more interested in creating a social movement rather than a parliamentary majority xii) Wondering beyond the cliches and slogans what Corbyn actually stands for? Genuine question. What else is there?

Finally for now. I will also be posting more material on my Google+ page to keep my Twitter and Facebook free from too much Labour politics! Both my timelines are full of people nowhere near as interested in politics and internal labour politics as me!

The Excitement of the Reshuffle Day

It has been something of a relief for the reshuffle to dominate the political headlines today – pushing aside Labour’s woes for at least a few hours.

I spent several hours yesterday in Parliament either side of a meeting to capture the mood from all parties. I probably got to speak to about 25-30 MPs from Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties. Unfortunately it would be wrong to share too many insights and betray their trust.. But the flavour of what was said will help filter some posts over the coming days.  As I was passing from Portcullis in the House I saw Theresa May leave in her car and the support vehicles heading to the Palace. A little later she returned into Downing Street as our new PM. We have a very BRITISH way of doing these things.

 

 

It may seem strange to describe Reshuffles as exciting. They are much easier to enjoy as an outsider looking in with some sense of what the tension feels like in the air. It’s always fun to phone a ministerial hopeful with ‘number withheld’ on a day like this. It’s amazing how many people pretend to have no interest in being a Minister – but their heart misses a beat every time the phone rings today and tomorrow.

I have been with other ‘public affairs’ types today so we have been checking our phones every few minutes to see who has been sacked, promoted, moved sideways or just plain ignored (the worst feeling!) Although Ministers claim to have little power there are those of us now outside of power who need to know who we will be working with , lobbying, persuading to our causes and ambitions of the sector. It usually takes months (if not years) of hard work cultivating a relationship with a Minister to see your point of view all comes crashing down with one phone call from No10. Today I have especially been looking out for DCMS and International Devlopment. I have also been interested in DCLG (for Llep and devolution) and BiS (for the Sports Business Council).The changing of a Minister  can make a difference of ‘tone’ in a department almost immediately and even before details of new policy directions and pet projects start to emerge. Having KAREN BRADLEY at DCMS and Priti Patel at DfID sends out some clear signals. I am not sure Patel shows much sign of supporting the DfID agenda, so we will have to see what that means.

Although today has all been about the newsworthy cabinet ministers, most of our daily work is with the Junior Ministers. For me it would be ideal if Tracey Crouch remained at DCMS as Sport Minister – I have just finished my CSP review for her new Sports Strategy! I have received plenty of nervous messages from across the sport sector wondering what this might all mean. Until we have all the detail it really it too early to say.

But what a reshuffle. It certainly has created plenty of surprises with some big names bein sacked. Gove and his supporters seem to have been the biggest losers. Politics can be a cruel business if you back the wrong horse!  The choice of Boris at the Foreign Office seems to have created the biggest reaction. I am not a fan of Boris and took a sweapstake today on the first day for apologies..

Many are speculating as to whether this is a super smart move – creating a weaker post of Foregn Secretary and then sending Borsi abroad and out of the way  for 4 years! The same can be said for other leading BREXITeers – given roles to make a mess or success of their wishes. There were a couple of surprises like Stephen Crabb – hopefully we will see him back in the Parliamentary rugby team again soon wth a little more time on his hands.

I am sure tomorrow will be dominated by news about the Junior Minsters. I know as a sad political geek I will be watching closely.

However, once this has settled won I am sure I can return to the Labour leadership battle as the timetable and process becomes clear and the runners start to set out their stall.

The Beginning of the  End of Labour? 

Yesterday was another ‘historic’ day in British politics. The last 3 weeks seems have thrown up plenty of them. Today we see the Tory party install a new leader, and of course our new PM, in less than the 3 weeks since the EU referendum.


But over at the new Labour HQ the party was showing how not to run a party never mind run a country. For those following proceedings on Twitter it felt as though the C4 reporter Micheal Crick was hiding under the table with his blow by blow account of the 7 hour marathon meeting. I guess most people have never heard of the NEC of the Labour Party. I am pretty sure that most Labour members don’t spend too much time agonising over the NEC ballot that comes around every year. I suspect they will be paying a bit more attention after this weeks events.

My old MEP friend Mel Read was very fond of reminding us that the Labour Party’s love for meetings would probably mean we would be on matters arising when the revolution finally happened.

The debate at the meeting largely hinged on the question of whether Jeremey Corbyn – as the current leader of he Labour Part -would automatically be included on the ballot paper now that a properly constructed and democratic challenge had been made to his leadership by Angela Eagle MP. (more of her and the attacks on her later). There appeared to be differing legal advice. Well that’s a shock. Of course there is. Legal advice is just opinion, but usually based on a few facts and some longer words. So effectively as we all knew the vote was going to be political rather than legal. It was really important for Corbyn because it was highly unlikely that he could have secured enough nominations from the PLP – MPs / MEPs to get his name  onto the ballot paper.

So why should a healthy Labour leadership election even raise the prospect of a bitter fight, and even generate discussion about a possible split.? This is more than a battle for Corbyn, it is a battle for the soul of the party and what is stands for.

As I wrote yesterday the Party is a broad church that like most parties is a coalition of views. Usually it is the job of the Leader to hold that balance and tension and ‘lead’ what is basically a dysfunctional organistion. It is the same for the Tories and Lib Dems. Quite often though leaders with ideological differences are accepted if they look like they can win for their Party.  Labour never fell in love with Blair but liked the fact that he could win elections. The Tories ‘tolerated’ Cameron because he  led them back from the wilderness and into power in 2015. Ask most of his backbencher and there won’t be much love for him.

Corbyn, the left and his praetorian guard Momentum, break this mould. They are not interested in creating a coalition of views to build a movement and a party of government. They don’t even convince me they are interested in winning or learning about winning. They have a world view (that has currently lost 3m of the voter we got in the disasterous 2015 election according to internal reports) which they will campaign for people to vote for regardless of the views of the electorate. They blame everybody else for their problems. The reason they are stuck 8% behind in the polls, despite the Tory government in chaos, is not their fault, but the right wing media, Labour MPs, false consciousness. Basically anything but the fact that JC and the direction he is taking the party is not popular outside the narrow base of his supporters. I still believe that in a general election Corbyn could struggle to get more than 25-27% of the vote. Under a FPTP system this could lead to meltdown for Labour.

So why does this mean the party is in danger? The non-Corbynites who want to win elections see that this situation cannot continue for another 4 years. There is too much at stake for this experiment to carry on for too long, putting the Party in a position it could take decades to recover from. That’s is why MP, MEPs, Councillors, party members previous Leaders and Prime Minister have all unified to call on JC to resign. In response see the report below.

This is the new gentler kind of politics and what we can expect of this leadership election. If we can’t conduct ourselves better than this why should we be trusted with forming a government. The Gentler Politics of Corbyn.

So as we head into a leadership election over the summer the battle lines are drawn. If you are not *with* Corbyn you are either a Blairite, careerist, Red Tory, scum, traitor, etc etc. Intellectual debate has been replaced by online bullying, abuse, shouting and sloganeering.  It is all quite deliberate and lots of nice people are being used to allow this to carry on. Amongst Corbyn supporters in the wider party most would also condemn this behaviour but those close to Corbyn and those who have perpetrated this takeover of the party know exactly what it is all about.

But surely even these disagreements are not enough for a split? I hope so, but I can understand those who wonder what future there is for a hard left Labour Party being run by the people who surround Corbyn if he wins a second and therefore unchallengeable mandate in this leadership election.  It will not be the Labour Party I have been a member of for 33 years.

For the PLP who have just shown they have no confidence in Jeremy it I’ll be an untenable relationship. He has proved he is pretty poor at the job already. I can’t see that changing. So if he wins again (which given the make up of the party these days is likely) there are some fundamental differences that cannot be reconciled. There are a series of scenarios which then play out – none of them satisfactory!

The PLP could show no confidence again in JC and ask the speaker to recognise an alternate group of Laour MPs as the official opposition inside parliament (It is disputable whether this could or count happen but we live in strange times!) At this time they could look to create a new party. The key reason I think and hope this is unlikely is that the ‘assets’ and name Labour would remain with the leadership and history of splits with the SDP in the 1980s is not a good precedent. On the flip side politics is very fluid and the level of discontent is high. As UKIP have shown it is possible to breakthrough where there is a PR system (as in Wales and Europe). The FPTP system always is a block for those contemplating new parties. The 4 m UKIP votes in 2015 wielded just 1 MP.

I am personally going nowhere. Even if it does take a decade for people to realise that JC is electorally a distasterous route destined to lose and that allows another decade of Tory rule. I fear for many that this is too comfortable for them. Having a party of rallies and protest is fun for them. The idea of having to compromise to gain power and work in the interests of all the people in the UK is beyond them. Fine. If you like protest find an avenue for that – but don’t destroy the Labour Party and its chance to win elections and put into place any form of progressive politics and policies.

The future of the Labour Party is on a knife edge over the Summer of this leadership election. It is possible for parties to become irrelevant. At the moment it’s feels impossible to predict politics beyond teatime, never mind over the next decade. But I can’t help feel that as Tom Watson said “The party is in a existential crisis” and remain there  for the foreseeable future.

(Please forgive all typos etc – quick draft posted without full checking to keep up with the news cycle!)

Postscript – message from 1960 Conference from Hugh Gaitskell – and why this is a long term battle and one not to shy away from

Living Through Crazy Political Times 

Yesterday I was locked in a meeting for 4 hours and by the time I had emerged the political landscape had changed again. We had a new Prime Minister elect with David Cameron humming his way out of Downing Street later in the afternoon.


Over the weekend I intended to concentrate on putting some thoughts down about the potential (now very real) Labour leadership election and what it means for Labour as well as the progressive left more generally. But there are so many aspects to what is happening in politics in Westminster at the moment it was almost impossible to focus on any single aspect of this realignment of political certainties. So I thought it would be equally useful to do a series of thoughts on certain aspects or themes emerging from the daily political stories. Mostly these will be in reaction to what I have seen posted on social media, or I have been asked by friends who have a passing interest in politics and still seem to value my insight almost everywhere I go! I am pretty sure my family looked forward to having more time with me not discussing politics with everybody I meet after I ceased being an MP over 6 years ago! But I guess I am still a political junkie.

I was going to delay writing about the Tory leadership election because I thought there would be plenty of opportunity to do so over the summer. How wrong could I be? So if that helps work out how reliable the remainder of this article will be you can probably stop reading now.

So what on earth is going on inside the Labour Party? Well that’s the politest way it has been expressed to me. How has it come to the state of Affiars that there is even talk of a split. Talk of splits is a scenario I would work hard avoid as the splitting of the progressive alliance has allowed the 20th century to be a Tory century with minority electoral support. Unity and cooperation of progresses is vital for the 21st century!  But clearly not at all costs.

There are a series of fundamental problems with Labour that have been highlighted in the last 12 months. First. We are described as a Broad Church for good reason. We span a wide political spectrum (as all political parties do). We have ‘social democrats’ through to the hard left. The real hard left (SWP etc) have always been enemies of Labour who they see as a sell out. Since the loss in the 2015 Geneal Election and the Leadership election last year the coalition or `broad church’ has widened even further until the he tensions have become unsustainable. Generally many of the £3 members recruited have been from the wide range of Leftish groups often oppose to Labbour and its democratic parliamentary route to power.  Second the Labour vote has continued to fracture along new lines – not simple left/right. We are losing much of our core vote to UKIP on the far right, not the Lib Dems or Tories in the centre. The 2015 election and the referendum result highlighted this frissure. The coalition of voters Labour needs to pull together to win an election does lead to inherent contradictions and messy compromises. But we now have a leadership with Corbyn that seems to have given up on the notion of winning elections as its primary purpose. This is a fundamental problem for many of us Ho joined Labur to win elections and change people’s lives. We need to be much more than the ‘social movement’ Jeremy seems content to build.

I have to be really open and up front. I am no Corbyn fan. But on social media that now makes me a Blairite to be purged from the party I have been fortunate to serve for over 30 years. It has been my life and I owe it a great deal. Ironically in my early years I was probably a bit of a Bennite and was described as such. In parliament I resigned over Iraq, didn’t support Trident renewal or the introduction of student top up fees as well as taking up other soft left positions. I shared a Westminster hall debate in support of Corbyn on nuclear non-proliferation for example. But because I don’t think Corybn has the ability to lead the Labour Party into an election victory I will still be shouted down as a traitor, Blairite, vermin, scum etc. I am clear that much of this is encouraged by those who support Corbyn to intimidate opponents. As I have nothing to lose, unlike many parliamentary colleagues and good local (volunteer) party officials, I can say what I feel knowing that all that can happen is social media abuse.

But over the next few days I will try to set out why I believe Corbyn is a disaster for Labour. I hope to show why he doesn’t have the basic leadership qualities to lead a political party (although surely these are all self evident), but more importantly why the electoral strategy him and his Momentum praetorian guard are pursuing is flawed. As somebody who has fought, won and lost in a marginal Midlands seats for 25 years I think I have a little insight into how you build an electoral coalition to put Labour into government. Loughborough has now been reduced to being 97th on the target list of seats Labour must win to have a simple majority in 2020. The Tory MP now has a majority of 9000. It will not be won back by appealing to the narrow band of the population who share Corbyns’ worldview. I will add a detailed analysis of why this just doesn’t add up later this week. Loughborough is a microcosm of the country – rural, urban, university, light and heavy engineering, BAME communities etc – it is all rolled up into one constituency. Whoever is the MP for Loughborough their party will probably be in government. Balancing the liberal Labour vote on campus with the ‘core labour vote’ on the estates and the new labour vote in the villages  requires a broad appeal. Instead of widening the appeal internal Labour memos shows we have lost a further third of our support since the disaster in 2015 – and more worryingly even more In the marginals. This is the sole reason I want to see Corbyn step aside. He is ruining my Party. He is not leading, but is taking us to a dark electoral place of possible no return.
Andy Reed

(Please excuse all typos – written on iPhone)

I fear that the rest of the Summer is going to be pretty ugly in politics and especially on social media in the Labour Party if the reaction to this story is anything to go by.

It may be a pointless observation but I want to encourage a healthy debate about the future of the Party – and will be pretty ruthless on my platforms for maintaining a level of decency and respect for each other views. We live in a democracy fortunately where putting your name forward for election is encouraged. We then debate the issues. 


I waited all week to publish anything on the Labour leadership in the hope that the so-called  peace talks with the Unions might bear some fruit. But Corbyn statements all week showed he was digging in for a fight – not compromise. The news today ends that speculation and as soon as we have heard from Angela Eagle on Monday and the NEC on the process I aim to post a few thoughts as the election unfolds and the fight for the soul of the Labour Party as an election winning entity begins.

https://twitter.com/bbcbreaking/status/751744073753628672

The Iraq Inquiry – Chilcot

Today sees the publication of another independent inquiry report into the war in Iraq. The Chilcott report is likely to run to over 2.2m words. It is not the first Inquiry.

iraq I am in no doubt that not many of us will read the full report but will be rushing onto social media to pronounce how it backs our pre-held views on the subject. Even as somebody who resigned from the government in 2003 in opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq I have always understood these decisions are not simply binary and won’t be rushing to comment. I will take my time to absorb what Chilcot actually is saying.

Following the divisive nature of the Euro referendum ballot I am sure today we will see the level of vitriol we are increasingly expecting to see on social media in political discourse. When I resigned in March 2003 I was only subjected to abuse on my telephone and through email. People forget that in the run up and during the early part of the invasion there was a great deal of public support for our victory and toppling of Saddam. At times those of us opposed to the war were in the minority. I was called a coward, traitor and worse by many who saw me as nothing but a left-wing pacifist wimp!

Since the Euro refenedum I am stopped and asked by alomst everybody I see – ” I bet you are gald you are not involved in politics these days”. I am involved – but of course in a very different way.

In vain I am hoping we can have a sensible debate and actually learn the lessons from Chilcot, instead of the politics of the lynch mob. We owe it to those who lost their lives to avoid war at all costs, or where it does happen to make sure we have a plan, and exit strategy, the right equipment and clarity of purpose.

I have written and spoken a lot about my epxerience of being the first MP to resign from the government in March 2003, which does not need repeating today. I still believe we rushed to war before a case was mae and a pre-emptive war was unjustified. But the failure of this foreign policy intervention still haunts our foregin policy decisons today. We also have to take into account the alternative consequences of not acting. I recall being interviewd by Nicky Campbell on Radio 5  ‘one year on’ in 2004 and his first question was “if you had your way Saddam Hussein would still be murdering and torturing his own people – what do you say to that”. As I say. Not everyhting in life is Binary however much we would love it to be for our social media posts. I won’t be commenting further until I have had a good read of as many of the 2.2m words as I can concentrate on!

I know it may be too much to ask, but I hope others might show the same restraint before rushing to cheap meaningless ‘sloganism’. I don’t have much confidence this won’t happen.

11.00 am 6th July 2016

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