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30.05.11

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.

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22.03.11

Miliband can own the future in a way that Cameron can’t

I had this on Labour Uncut today.

The longer Gordon Brown was prime minister, the harder it became, sadly, to picture him in post at the 2012 Olympics. His purchase on the future evaporated. Ed Miliband has to recover this to return to government. He has to convince that he has the answers to the challenges of 2015 and beyond. And personify these answers.

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22.09.10

Immigration: Right Policy, Poor Communications

“Like other Labour people”, Denis MacShane wrote in June, “I have been looking for the over-arching reason why we lost the general election. Now some among the Labour leadership contenders have found a reason: Johnny Foreigner. It’s nice, convenient – and utterly wrong.” James Purnell reflected around the same time that “it would be odd if the conclusion of Labour’s analysis into why we lost was that we should have been tougher on immigration and softer on public service reform.” Purnell continued:

 “The irony about the party’s current debate about immigration is that we already had about as ‘tough’ a policy on immigration as we could have. The points-based system is in practice not that different from the Conservative cap – but with businesses deciding where immigration is needed rather than the Home Office just having a blanket limit.”

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29.07.10

Sorting the economics from the ideology

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

The Daily Telegraph isn’t normally essential reading for Labourites. But yesterday it should have been, especially for Harriet Harman. Fraser Nelson set the backdrop to the politics of the deficit and the “emergency” Budget, to which she, as acting leader, will respond. This week’s report from the new Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) dramatically changes this political context. Nelson has been quick to realise this and, while our instincts differ markedly from his, we need to be equally fleet-footed.

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18.06.09

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.

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08.06.09

Labour Party: The view from Virginia Beach

I departed the UK for a family holiday in the US the morning after the night of James Purnell’s resignation. I have been desperately trying to keep up with events in the UK, despite the time difference, family obligations and the lack of Adam Boulton. But, in effect, though the much anticipated meeting of the PLP is still to happen, my sense is that Labour’s fate was sealed before I boarded Virgin Atlantic. The Cabinet’s failure to follow Purnell’s lead means that Gordon Brown remains Labour’s destiny. 

Throughout the debates about Brown’s leadership, I have always maintained that Labour has three options: 1.) Back him, 2.) Replace him, 3.) Allow him to continue without backing him. The third of these options is the worst for Labour but the choices made by key figures in the Party over recent days have placed us definitively with this option, while effectively closing off the first of these options and not quite reaching the second. So, the transatlantic view from Virginia Beach is that of a “wounded elephant” – as a Labour MP described Brown to the Guardian – continuing to lead Labour.

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10.05.09

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.

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08.02.09

Labour's centre are ideologists – it just doesn't feel like it

Given my call for Labour’s centre to be ideologists, I should say that it is my view that those in centre or even on the right of the party are often more ideological than can be presumed – it sometimes just doesn’t feel like it. Nonetheless, those on the left of the party would be mistaken if they, as “the Marxists et al” of Crosland’s day may have done, conducted themselves as if they alone are the party’s ideologists. This is because this isn’t the case. Take the comment from James Purnell below, for example.

“Today’s public debate of politics is trivialised and sclerotic. When we discuss policy at all, we rarely move beyond false choices … Triangulation cuts the path to trivialisation. This is because it sets up false choices – our left wing critics would do this odd thing; our right wing critics would do this bad thing, so the only option is to do our reasonable thing. By definition, such false choices cannot be debated. Those who disagree with us do not feel we are representing their position fairly or accurately, so do not engage with our arguments. We fail to convince them when we’re right and fail to hear them when we’re wrong. The result is detachment and frustration”.

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08.02.09

Labour’s centre are ideologists – it just doesn’t feel like it

Given my call for Labour’s centre to be ideologists, I should say that it is my view that those in centre or even on the right of the party are often more ideological than can be presumed – it sometimes just doesn’t feel like it. Nonetheless, those on the left of the party would be mistaken if they, as “the Marxists et al” of Crosland’s day may have done, conducted themselves as if they alone are the party’s ideologists. This is because this isn’t the case. Take the comment from James Purnell below, for example.

“Today’s public debate of politics is trivialised and sclerotic. When we discuss policy at all, we rarely move beyond false choices … Triangulation cuts the path to trivialisation. This is because it sets up false choices – our left wing critics would do this odd thing; our right wing critics would do this bad thing, so the only option is to do our reasonable thing. By definition, such false choices cannot be debated. Those who disagree with us do not feel we are representing their position fairly or accurately, so do not engage with our arguments. We fail to convince them when we’re right and fail to hear them when we’re wrong. The result is detachment and frustration”.

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