Labour will need both Darling and Johnson at the next election

I had this on Labour Uncut yesterday.

Unity should run through Labour like a stick of rock. Following David Miliband’s departure, we should reflect on what this might mean for figures like Alistair Darling and Alan Johnson in the general election campaign.



The root causes of today’s problems go back further than the crash and require structural economic change

I had this on Labour Uncut today.

We continue to live through the hangover from what Mervyn King called the NICE decade – non-inflationary continuous expansion. Just like all hangovers what we are living through is consequence of what came before. The supposed NICE decade was always pregnant with the nastiness of now.



The Sunday review on Friday: The Young Fabians’ jobs summit

I had this on Labour Uncut earlier this year:

Earlier this week on Tuesday, the Young Fabians demonstrated their capacity to work for solutions to the most pressing of problems by holding their jobs summit in the week in which the ONS announced youth unemployment has topped 1.4 million – the highest since records began.



David Miliband looks to Labour’s future in DC

I wrote this for Labour Uncut when I was on holiday in the USA recently.

On the day before his brother’s attendance at the royal wedding, David Miliband was in Washington DC. This followed his tentative steps back towards the philosophical front line with a speech at the LSE on the decline of the left in Europe. Then, at the centre for American progress, he addressed the politics of identity and fear. On both occasions, therefore, he tackled in an international context issues of profound domestic significance.



The long march from Manchester to a new socialism

I wrote for Labour Uncut on Friday on the long march from Manchester to a new socialism.

Manchester, so much to answer for. And questions remain. We know that David Miliband, Nick Brown and (we hope) Red Ed will not be in Ed Miliband’s top team. This really was a “turn the page” election, but the next chapter brings questions as well as answers.



We must plan to do more for less

I wrote for Labour Uncut on Wednesday about the need for Labour to plan to do more for less.

“Facing a new world with new challenges, we need to think again about how we can best serve the people we seek to represent”.



Beware of Osborne’s traps on the economy

I wrote for Labour Uncut on Monday that we should beware of George Osborne’s traps on the economy. I’m proud that the New Statesman thought this one of the best five blogs of the day.

Ostensibly, Manchester hasn’t greatly changed since Labour conference was last here. The buildings are all in the same place. The distinctive cool and charm remains. The corned beef hash at Sam’s Chop House still does the job.



Harman’s Budget Challenge

I had the piece below published on Labour Uncut on 16 June 2010:

The budget response is the great set-piece political challenge. Your opponent has an age to prepare and all the resources of treasury. You stand up when they sit down. By the time you sit down, the political context is virtually set, not least because your opponent’s spinners have tried to fix this. Given the centrality of economics to present politics, it is a bigger challenge than ever. Harriet Harman must rise to this as our acting leader.  Which transience of tenure, of itself, reduces her potential agility compared with a permanent leader. You have to feel for her. Here are a few, hopefully helpful, suggestions.



Realities that suggest a positive way forward for Labour

Some political realities need to be acknowledged if Labour is to move forward. These are:

First, Gordon Brown will lead Labour into the next General Election. The reaction (or, at least, non-resignation) of other leading figures in the party – particularly, Peter Mandelson, Alan Johnson and David Miliband – to James Purnell’s resignation finally confirmed this.



Where now for Labour?

The Sunday Mail reports that support for Labour has fallen to 23 percent – the lowest since opinion polls began in 1943. If Labour polled this badly at a general election, the party would lose 200 seats to the Conservatives, who would hold a massive, carte blanche majority of 220. The survey was also the first to record that the majority of voters want Gordon Brown to stand down now as PM.

These are desperate times, indeed, for Labour and while the expenses revelations “will hurt the reputation of all politicians”, argues Andrew Rawnsley, “the damage is likeliest to be greatest to Labour at the next election”. Another poll supports Rawnsley’s view. There have been many highs and lows under PM Brown. But each low seems lower and more desperate than the last one. I didn’t think it was possible to go any lower than the McBride affair but recent days have probably managed it.



The global citizenry still need governments to cooperate

“While government cooperation has declined”, writes Paul Collier in a fascinating article in the RSA Journal, “there has been an acknowledgement that global problems can only be addressed by common responses”. Gideon Rachman provides illustration of this decline in government cooperation in today’s FT. “If you look at Mr Obama’s top priorities, you get a sense of just how little the Europeans are prepared to give him. More help in Afghanistan? Most Europeans will do the bare minimum. A co-ordinated fiscal stimulus? Sorry, Europe is out of cash as well as troops”. If this really is the “most pro-American European leadership in living memory”, as Gordon Brown recently told a joint session of Congress, they have a funny way of embracing “the president that Europeans hoped and prayed for”, as Rachman correctly describes Barack Obama. It seems to me that European leadership presently provides more support for the thesis of Collier than that of Brown.

“Fortunately”, however, as Collier writes, “while the ability of governments to cooperate has declined, the ability of citizens to cooperate has increased. The Obama campaign was a spectacular demonstration of this at the national level, but there are examples internationally. It may be that cooperation at the level of civil society can be a substitute for that between governments in introducing common responses to global problems”. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is an example given by Collier to support an argument that has much commonality with David Miliband’s thinking on the – apologies for the jargon – “we can” generation. Essentially, this is about citizen-centric policy on a global scale, which is all very exciting, but apologies for layering jargon upon jargon.



The Gaullist ascendency? I still prefer cross dressing

Richard Reeves is typically thought provoking in the current Prospect. He quotes an interesting line from a recent Liam Byrne speech. Labour’s “mantra should be really simple. We want a country of powerful people”. Given his excellent biography of John Stuart Mill, I wondered whether Reeves also found this line evocative of a famous line from Mill: “with small men no great thing can really be accomplished”.

“On the one side” of the Labour Party, argues Reeves, “stand those for whom the economic crisis demonstrates the need for a more muscular state; on the other, a diverse group”, including Byrne, “who want to use the state to give more power to individuals”. Similarly, Jesse Norman has previously divided Labour into Trimmers, Romantics and Deniers. Remarks from Matthew Taylor and David Miliband are said to define the Trimmers. “Instead of a Government-centric model of change in which we assume our rulers should be given the blame for what goes wrong and the responsibility for making it right”, claims Taylor, “we need a citizen-centric model in which we reinstate ourselves as the authors of our own collective destinies”. In other words: we want powerful people.


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