Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Some Advice for Andy and Yvette

In a world that gave us Milifandom, should we be shocked that Jezmania has become a thing, that Camp Corbyn has powered ahead in YouGov's poll of Labour members? Well, some of us are. And by 'us' I mean sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party and self-styled sensible people. You've had ex-Jim Murphy advisor John Mcternan castigate Jez supporters as "morons", to which Margaret Beckett - one of Jeremy's PLP "enablers" - labelled herself as such for allowing him on the ballot paper. That's not likely to go down well in Derby South CLP, who just so happened to nominate Jeremy too. And this morning we've had Tony Blair chime in with yet another of his frequent "infrequent" interventions. Out came the same old on the centre ground showing scant awareness that its time as a meaningful filter for understanding politics is long gone, and warnings about comfort zones and the like. All ammo for the Corbyn tommy gun, if you ask me.

Yes, there are palpable senses of panic and most of it emanates from the space around Liz Kendall. After all, it wasn't supposed to be like this. She was the "fresh face" no one had heard of who'd take the party back to the best of New Labour and start winning again. Her lot definitely was not to languish in fourth place and act as a strange repellent pushing members and supporters to her polar opposite. In the camps of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper there isn't panic, but there is some unease. Both can find solace in their strong CLP showings (73 and 62 to Jeremy's 76 nominations), but if either are to be leader they need to start upping the game. It's Corbyn, not Kendall that has set down the challenge and only by responding to it can they win. They can do this in a number of ways. Whether they do or not is up to them.

1) The attacks on Jeremy from friends of Liz are completely and utterly counter-productive. They are hectoring, patronising, and arrogant. You might have thought a campaign placed in distant last should show humility as it talks about winning elections. This, however, is their groove now. Falling short of one of the other two 'mainstream' candidates keeling over, they cannot get back into it. Liz is toast. However, it would be a massive error on the parts of teams Andy and Yvette to start taking this rhetoric on as the polls approach. Members have heard this argument for over 20 years. Negative and lesser evil campaigning can have a place, but it need not be from the mouths of Burnham and Cooper. What they need to do is not just campaign in a comradely way, but set out their stalls.

2. Whatever you think of Liz Kendall's politics, you know where she stands. But as her diminishing machine is jammed on relentless negativity, there's an opportunity here for Andy and Yvette. Believe it or not, there are some good things in Liz's platform. Workers on company boards, big wage rises for the care industry, and a reversal of attacks on trade unions immediately spring to mind. She's left these in her bag while she berates the membership with a megaphone. Why not pinch them?

3. Rather than being this contest's Mr Angry, Jeremy today set out a big policy announcement on tax, the economy, and public spending. These are worth looking at in some detail. There's a call for a national infrastructure investment bank and a big clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance. One can quibble about the specifics, but in the grand scheme of things these aren't particularly "left wing". Actually, in the context of economic management, by using efficient tax collection to fund infrastructure, Jez is setting out a plan for a fairer and, if you want to be technocratic about it, more rational capitalism. His route to battling the Tories over economic competence is by setting out a different, superior plan for the economy. Andy and Yvette would be wise to take a similar route - the Tories will always out-fight Labour when we fight battles on the grounds of their choosing.

4. Andy and Yvette don't need to go left or right, they need to go big. Take a leaf out of Jez's book and be bold. Andy has long talked about the need for a National Care Service. Good. Let's hear more about it. And perhaps have a think about how it can be provided so old folk don't have to sell their homes to fund it. Yvette has mentioned in passing a National Child Care Service. Brilliant, talk about it some more. It might even be one of those "aspirational" policies middle class parents are going to quite like too.

5. "Our only comfort zone should be the future" were words uttered at today's Progress audience with his Royal Blairness. Meaningless guff, or is it? As it happens, he does have a point. You might say this is a roundabout way of speaking about hope. The lead in to 1997's crushing victory allowed Labour to accumulate about it all kinds of hopes and dreams. If you look at that year's manifesto, it was very much a safety-first document. No gaskets were in danger of blowing. All Blair projected was freshness and the promise of an alternative at a moment when any alternative would do. The next leader has to do better than that, and of Yvette and Andy it's Yvette whose marketed her campaign as the most future-facing. She has said a few words about hi-tech jobs and occupations that haven't even been invented yet, but much more needs to be done. Everyone knows the biggest future challenge is climate change mitigation and renewable power - much more needs saying here, especially as - once again - the Tories are burnishing their green credentials by undercutting support for green industries. A few words against fracking would be immensely helpful too. But also, there is a big, big policy challenge on the way: the coming wave of automation is set to make large number of low and middle income jobs redundant and their like-for-like replacement by new jobs unlikely. Showing a bit of leadership now on a coming problem will pay dividends later on.

6. On business, both Andy and Yvette would do well to specify that being pro-business doesn't mean they're going to bend over backwards for them, which is usually the understanding of Labour members from all wings of the party. For example, Jeremy's tax and economy pitch is pro-business in the sense British capitalism sans austerity and coupled with infrastructural spending would do far more for productivity and profitability than corporation tax cuts. They need to have a clear focus on security for everyone, not just because it's the right thing to do, it's the politically smart thing to do, and is ultimately in the long-range interests of business. The dog-eat-dog capitalism of the Tories stymies business and business opportunities, despite the rhetoric, and can have the perverse consequence of securing further terms in power.

7. Andy and Yvette need a theme, or themes. We know they've both been round the block. Within the terms of mainstream politics, they both have potential to be good leaders of the opposition and potential prime ministers. But why are they in the race? What have they got that makes them the better choice over each other, and Jeremy and Liz? Because of Andy's flip-floppery this is a bit of an easier ask for Yvette. What the campaign needs is not more "passion" but more ideas. If either want to win, they're going to have to start talking about them - now.


Andreas Paterson said...

I read Jeremy speech and was quite surprised at just how good it was, his plans for fiscal policy were essentially textbook macroeconomics. The industrial policy plans are a little more out there but also seem to a large extent based on a lot of the insights from development literature. It was largely sensible governance with a dash of the odd bit of radicalism, it had some punchy attacks on the most recent budget and this line: "Labour must become the party of economic credibility AND economic justice" which very much reminded me of something another Labour leader said on crime.

jim mclean said...

Deffo a reaction to the attacks, and some people seem to think the PLP can get rid of him pretty quickly if he wins, maybe Labour will not win the next election if he is in charge because they will find it hard to win no matter who is in charge. The reason I am voting JC is he might turn things around up here and save Scottish Labours' arses. He has no baggage which is a great point.

Anonymous said...

New labour came to power and all the talk was of keeping within fiscal rules. So even moderate investment in key public provision is now seen as a threat to the entire system.

This is no time for middle of the road politics.

I personally would kick Kendall out of the party for her attitude toward Corbyn, where she ridiculed Burnham for even contemplating having Corbyn in the cabinet.

Boffy said...

I loved the way the panic of the Blairites is leading to them coming out with the most absurd statements. I don't know if anyone else saw these two statements by Blair and Mary Creagh yesterday, but they were both pretty much the same.

Creagh claimed that Corbyn didn't really have much support in the Labour Party, and it was all down to the party activists who turn up to party meetings to vote. The Yougov Poll seems to undermine that claim. She came out with the normal thing that the party would be morons to vote for Corbyn, because it would mean ignoring the wishes of the electors, and mean Labour was not elected - not that that seemed to bother the Blairites over Iraq.

It was put to her then that, in fact, many of the things that Corbyn stood for, such as opposition to austerity, renationalisation of rail and so on, are extremely popular. Oh well she said, in response, Labour politicians should not simply advocate policies that are popular, but policies that are right!!!!

Blair said something similar. He said, even if the policies that the left advocate were the ones required to get elected, I would not support them.

So, there you have it. We can't elect someone like Jeremy Corbyn, or adopt leftish policies, because they are not popular, and will stop you getting elected, and the only reason for the existence of the Labour Party is to get elected, so as to be able to do something. But, we can't adopt leftish policies if they are popular and the means of getting elected, because the Blairites disagree with them, anyway, and would rather not get elected than to promote leftish policies that are popular, and might actually change something for the better for lots of working people!

In other words, according to the Blairites, we can only adopt the kind of popular conservative policies they support, which benefit the rich minority.

Gary Elsby said...

I've said from day one that 50% of the Labour party can't be wrong, even though they have been for 25 years.

Jeremy is of the 50% that has been against the other 50% for even longer but can now see the whites of everyone's eyes.
The other 50% is being scrapped about by people best described as being as all things to all people. Queue Andy.

As I said earlier, Jeremy will be every terrorists nut job Great Britain can deliver and sure enough, because I just might know what I'm on about, with the ink still wet in this blog, Jeremy was publicly outed on Tv as every terrorists friend by inviting the whole lot of them to London.
Jeremy almost thre a punch he was that mad.
Trouble is, this is what they wanted to see, a terrorist loving loony bin smashing the studio up.
We all know that his correct approach would have been to say thank you and then explain how refreshing it has always been to see Harold, Jim, Tony, Gordon, John and Maggie sitting down with the same killers.
You missed the chance there Jeremy.
Jeremy still has this to lose and as we are seeing, calls are being made for bottles accidently falling towards a one on one challenge by a 'sensible candidate' versus an irresponsible terrorist loving lefty.
More of the same or change, that is the stark choice.

I'm personally loving progress being annihilated, where I'm not convinced is the ideas game being downplayed.
The future of Labour is forward thinking, clear thinking bright ideas and not resorting to reading text from history books.
The right wing of the Labour party believe they have the sole right to new ideas. This is and should be bollocks.

There is something missing from the entire agenda and for me it stares back.
What about the individual?
What happens next once out of the starting blocks of life(from cradle to grave)?
The world doesn't owe you a living.
The hell it doesn't. If it doesn't, how come the unfortunate unemployed or single Mother is currently being persecuted in reverse?
Labour has a clear opportunity to offer each and every house-hold (and individual) bog standard hope in their next move in the big world. A guidance package of help to move forward.

The Tories are bent on austerity ( a political choice) and punishment.
Labour should be the complete opposite.
Don't get angry Jeremy, just offer a difference from the same old and hope.