Wednesday 29 July 2015

Dear Yvette Cooper

Dear Yvette,

Re: Leadership of the Labour Party

I read extracts of your interview with the Indy with some interest as, I think it's fair to say, your platform for Labour leadership is considered the 'lightest' among the contenders so far. No one is in any doubt what Liz Kendall stands for. Ditto Jeremy Corbyn. And last night on Newsnight, Andy finally put more flesh on the bones of his National Care Service idea. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say he followed my advice, but it's stark that whereas your three opponents have defined themselves you are yet to do so. And that's a shame, because some big ideas are getting floated in the leadership election this time round, and you should be meeting like with like. If you win on the basis of being the least offensive to everyone you will be storing up future legitimation problems for your leadership.

Today's Indy interview goes a little bit of the way in setting out what you believe, but nowhere near far enough. Let's talk about Jeremy, seeing as everyone else is. You say:
Inevitably there is frustration and anger at the prospect of five more years of Tory government. It is really important we channel that anger into defeating the Tories. It is no use just shouting from the sidelines. It is no use being angry about the world. We have got to change the world.

I don’t think we want to go back to the 1980s and just be a protest movement ... Today’s four and five year-olds could have to spend their entire childhood under a Tory government if we are not determined and ready to win again.
That message isn't going to win over many Jez supporters now, especially when when the grating and the dud of the party's parliamentary/spad/journo establishment have articulated it in spectacularly panicky terms. And not being daft, you know this too. The only reasonable conclusion one can infer is that you're explicitly pitching for Liz's second preferences. Yet, as we know from Labour First's open letter to Progress, it seems some Liz supporters are bent on not lending their second preferences to either you or Andy. You've got to win them over rather than posing as a steady-as-she-goes default choice.

You do have some advantages here. From what I can gather, most Liz supporters see themselves as forward-thinking progressives. Tony Blair's silliness about the future being the only comfort zone is so much gibberish to some, but it chimes with how Blairites view their tendency. The left and the centre - which includes you and Andy - are yesterday's people. You fight shy of what they perceive as the real world and you offer little in the way of confronting and managing it in pursuit of economic efficiency and social justice, as they like to put it. Liz's platform, for instance, recommends itself to technocratic minds. Her plan to decentralise power, for example, is a good one that would keep the wonks and the geeks very happy. Her politics, however, have some very serious weaknesses that you do not share. There are breaches your campaign can step into.

The largest of these is 'the future'. In your Indy interview, you discuss the opportunities presented by Green industries and you rightly castigate the Tories for treating it them as green crap. Good. But you need to go further. If the future is to see a renaissance of British manufacturing you have to bang the drum hard for onshore and offshore wind, wave power, solar power and, to make sure it's Team Yvette that's future-tinged, perhaps say a few words about nuclear fusion research. You also have to set your face against fracking for pretty obvious reasons: more carbon emissions, landscape and property blight, overstated claims of a jobs bonanza. A plurality of the public are opposed, and not a few of them live in seats we need to win back in 2020. The Tories have left an open goal on this one, particularly as they favour fracking for short-termist reasons.

You are also the only candidate consistently talking about science, the digital revolution, and preparing the economy for jobs that don't even exist yet. As I'm sure you know, one of the biggest policy challenges coming is a new wave of automation. These could render redundant a number of low skilled, low waged, labour intensive jobs. More importantly it could sound the death knell for a great many office-based jobs too. As Paul Mason points out in his new book dealing with this topic (among other things), business as a whole is laying off investing in this way for the moment. When the market is more buoyant and the big savings become clearer, it's going to happen. This can be dealt with in one of two ways. Pretend it doesn't exist and hope that these jobs are replaced like-for-like by the expansion of other industries. That seems to be the Tories' course and, as the 1980s and the so-called "jobs miracle" since 2012/13 tells us, that is simply not going to happen. Or some far sighted leadership can be shown now, and you're in the best position to do this. Be warned though, it might involve thinking some properly unthinkable thoughts.

By stealing a march on these things you won't just win over Liz supporters; there are floating Andy and - yes - Jeremy supporters who might be inspired by what you have to say. You can show the Labour selectorate that you know what's coming and you're the only one who's thinking about those challenges. It also puts the Tories on the back foot because of their short sighted and reckless approach to managing the economy.

Look, my politics differ a lot from yours. However, I recognise that you have a lot of experience, have the thick skin a leader needs, and these qualities commend you both to the position of the Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister. You will not get to see either of those offices unless you start distinguishing yourself from the others, and certainly not by trash-talking Jeremy. What's it to be?

Yours sincerely,



asquith said...

Incidentally, I've yet to meet the Blairite who even acknowledges that the global economic meltdown happened, let alone give a serious analysis of what this might mean for the world.

I have no particulaar dog in this race. It's Tim Farron for me, and as to the question of who'd be best for the country as Labour leader, I certainly don't want Jezza, and I'd be tempted to say Kendall because she is more economicaly sane, but Blairites have a shocking tendency to illiberalism. So we're a bit lost really.

One thing I did like about Diane Abbott was that she put civil liberties on the agenda, that most perenially unfashionable of subjects, having a more solid record than anyon now can boast.

The agenda does change though, it must have seemed in 1900 that Lord Salisbury would rule forever, and ten years later one could be forgiven for regarrding me as impregnable. So it's difficult to tell really. But I'll be keeping the champagne on ice myself tho.

BTW I hear there was a load of effing and jeffing at the council. It is all a bit shite.

Phil said...

That is an area Yvette could say more about too. Not mentioned here either is the idea of universal childcare (which I see Jeremy also supports) and a few words about inequality. I'm choosing to ignore the polls - this race is wide open between Yvette, Andy, and Jez. To win Yvette's got to be more than "none of the others".

Johnnyf said...

Hi Phil ,

I have the same feeling about Yvette Cooper that there is a strong leader there somewhere but she really needs an identity she seems so bland and playing the soundbite game . I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and dislike so much about current politics but dont underestimate the task that the new leader faces in trying to win and promote decent policies .

I have to say as the left of the party is getting the blame as usual for damaging the party that the Progress Kendall camp behaved disgracefully in the wake of the election defeat propagating their agenda mainly for political advantage . An agenda that neither the party nor the country particularly want as a solution which has upset many good people that i speak to who are not left wingers in need of heart transpalnts


Gary Elsby said...

A National care Strategy.
Hmmm, I wonder if that will be the one I wrote? We will see.

Why is it that only those who are considered 'economically sane' are the very same one's who want to persecute me?

'Austerity is a political choice' Jeremy.
Absolutely spot on and it's been a tool of the Conservatives for 300 years.
Not only should we vote for Jeremy, we should all acknowledge his sincerity and moral stance on all common issues.
I trust those that have these attributes rather than someone who writes a CV according to the crowd facing him/her.

Vote Jeremy.

Speedy said...

Goodbye Labour - disappearing into your own navel. The unions, who imposed Ed now want Jez. The unions, who ushered in Thatch (along with the SNP). The March of Folly.

Truth is most of these Leftists who herald the rise of un-electable Labour don't give a shit (indeed largely hold in contempt) ordinary working people, like Hitler in his bunker saying the Germans weren't good enough, so bring it on. Narcisists.

The unions are the worst - they want things to get worse for their members because they think by doing so they will appreciate them more. Utterly decadent and morally corrupt. Apocalyptic - the flip side of Utopianism.

Meanwhile ordinary people will suffer while the Left celebrates in bourgeois self-righteousness. No wonder these cretins were top of Lenin's list.

Igor Belanov said...

@ Speedy

Ah, I see. Lenin would have supported Liz Kendall. If the Left are 'bourgeois' self-righteous, then what form of self-righteousness do the Blairites possess?

Gary Elsby said...

According to speedy, the Unions imposed Ed.

Forgetting democracy for a moment, especially if you don't live in one or don't want to live in one, we actually have to assume and accept that the Labour party made up entirely of Trades Union members (with exception) actually has the right to choose whomsoever they wish.

We know who the failsafe candidates are and they currently run a 'better the devil you know' campaign of not too left nor not too right politics not agreeing with either Blair, Brown or Ed.

Boring boring boring.

"I didn't agree with everything that (insert name of former Labour leader)and we have to learn form our mistakes".
Crap politics of the highest order and spoken by dishonourable people hooking in vulnerable clap happy members and voters.

"Don't vote Jeremy, don't go back to the past" says Tony.
Why not?

Labour were booted out on rightish wing politics (ok, a world-wide slump is blamed on Gordon)and the SNP monster wanting a say in Great Britain where they live.

All in all, the mass (we shall see) of Labour/Union members have had enough of being Tory-lite even though this is a proven tactic to build new schools etc.
The key point is that it didn't release the workers from Tory handcuffs and real Tories win and have won anyway.

The newspapers will have a field day with Jeremy politics of disarmament and worker rights involving a raised quality of life but so what.

It is better you fight your corner on something you believe in than neither to fight or surrender anyway and this is why Labour is a 'movement' and not an 'association'.
To fight on a principle based on morals is a fight worth having and I say support Jeremy.

It doesn't surprise me that the 'nobbled' Stoke Central CLP has backed a fail-safe Yvette Cooper and I am absolutely confident that Jeremy would have got the nomination if un-hindered.

Speedy is just plain wrong and misinformed.

Speedy said...

Yes, Lenin probably would have supported Liz Kendall as she is interested in gaining power. Lenin was a man of his time, as Liz is of hers. I do not happen to agree with her, but at least she cares about changing people's lives - all the supporters of JC care about is feeling good about themselves. Useless, rather than useful, idiots

Speedy said...

Power is the one and only purpose of a political party. New Labour reflected the fact that voters were not interested in the further left offer. New Labour made many terrible errors - student fees, devolution, Iraq, mass immigration (as a means to create flexible job markets and avoid reforming welfare) etc - however, people voted for them. People will not vote for the JC offer.

Labour have failed to make (let alone win) the argument for social democracy - another New Labour failing - but it is nuts to think that, not having done so, people will suddenly have a road to Damascus moment with an even more left wing offer.

There is a public appetite for social democracy in the UK - an "English" socialism that harnesses the national characteristics of enterprise to create a fairer society with equal opportunities for all, but New Labour lacks the courage to talk about this and old Labour us stuck in the 19th Century. Perhaps the best thing will be for a split, but the trouble is it will take decades for the left to recover and by then there will be little left to build upon.