Sunday 8 March 2015

In Conversation with Kevin Maguire

It's not very often august media personalities descend upon us Stokies, but Thursday night was one such rare occasion. Stoke North and Kidsgrove Labour Party played host to Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror and Mark Ferguson of LabourList fame. Their mission? To entertain the battle-hardened class warriors of the local labour movement, and raise a few bob for the general election through hard-hitting questions and answers, ably selected by Mark. Unfortunately, some of it was very off the record so discretion dictates the most libellous anecdotes and gossip be skipped over. What then can be related to the good folks who weren't there?

On the campaign, Kevin thought it's going well and he can see Ed Miliband walking into Downing Street in just over 60 days time. He also noted that the hysteria we're seeing from the press is symptomatic of fear, of them thinking that Labour is going to win.

On Labour's coverage in the media Traditionally UK parties have been running scared of the media, but now it's at a low point there is no excuse to allow them to shape our message.

On Prime Minister's Questions As everyone who follows LabourList knows, Mark hates PMQs. Kevin, howeever "likes the theatre". Ed Miliband's problem up until now is that he's tried to ask questions in the expectation of a proper answer. It's taken some time for him to learn that you're supposed to rubbish, abuse, and patronise.

On becoming a MP No chance. Too ill-disciplined and addicted to mischief. The life of being a hack is easier.

Should Labour renationalise the rail? Yes. To use the Blairite mantra, what works is what we should do. Competition in natural monopolies fails, so of course it should be taken back into public ownership. Besides, anything that annoys Richard Branson can only be a good thing ...

Should Labour renationalise Royal Mail? Yes. Kevin argued that the front bench dropped the ball on this one. They had the opportunity to stop the privatisation dead by pledging to immediately renationalise it once Labour come to power again. That would have scared any investor off and scuppered the Tory/LibDem plans. They didn't, and unsurprisingly, as per every single other sell off, salaries at the top have shot up while sackings have mushroomed at the bottom.

How damaging is the Green surge? Kevin thought it was a bit of a threat in the tight marginals, and believed every vote for them will be cheered in Tory towers. However, there's little point trying to "blackmail" Green voters with that attack line - Labour has to win them over instead. There's plenty of good stuff on our policy menu vis a vis some of the cranky ones on theirs.

On the SNP threat Kevin prefaced this with the spectacle of Prime Minister cowering behind Gordon Brown in the final fortnight, and the appalling announcement the morning after the referendum that tied further Scottish devolution to English Votes for English Laws. However, he was of the view that the SNP will not win as many seats as the polls predict and that the approaching election will concentrate some minds. If, however, Labour had to go into coalition with the nats, so be it - they're preferable to the LibDems. Besides, the Tories would go into coalition with anyone to hold onto power. Kevin also related an rumour doing the rounds, that the Tories have approached the SNP with a devomax deal, which would more or less see them exiled from Westminster except in the event of war. Interesting.

What would you build from Lego? A guillotine.

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