Sunday, 9 July 2017

Yvette Cooper's "Alternative Vision"
















That's a bit embarrassing. There you are, the personnel are appointed and your team is ready to go. And then the Labour leader spoils it by defying expectations, winning extra seats, throwing the Tories into their most wretched state for 20 years and surges ahead with poll leads last seen since before the Iraq War. What can you do? If you are Chuka Umunna, you can stir the pot to remind the world (and yourself) that you're still a player. Or you can proceed as if nothing happened and turn your campaign-that-never-was into a profile raising exercise. Entirely consistent with the long game the old Brownite right are playing, this is where Yvette Cooper is going: a Fabian speech here, a Pride photo opp there, and no doubt a good clutch of fringes in Brighton this September.

About that Fabian speech, this got trailed in the week as Yvette's "alternative vision". Of what and in relation to whom wasn't entirely clear. Our party as a distinctive alternative to the Tories? Well, we already have that and folks are warming considerably to the new (small n) Labour. As something different to the policy agenda and vision Jeremy Corbyn is proposing? Or a different politics? Whatever that means.

In the end, the speech was, well, underwhelming. There was the usual plea for nicer politics which, while well meaning, was hampered by the assumption underpinning it: that the abuse and violent language which see flitting across social media is a matter of bad manners and rude people. If only. We are where we are because politics is in flux and there are a lot of interests at stake. For example, let's remind ourselves of the hysterical and childish behaviour of certain Labour MPs since Jeremy assumed the leadership. I can understand why they felt threatened by a leader who doesn't share their views, has a record of wanting to see the party democratised and the PLP's privileges curbed, and turned the party into the largest in Western Europe on the basis of left wing politics. They turned to the weapons they had to hand - the platform afforded by public office, helpful friends in the media who would relay their attacks - to defend their position. Not excusable and, in some cases, downright scabby. But understandable. Naturally, such an empathetic understanding is absent from Yvette's Bill and Ted approach to political discourse. No thoughts on why people might state their politics in crude and abusive tones. No attempt to recognise they might have grievances, real or imagined, that have to be addressed. It was as apolitical as they come and would barely have made a ripple in the Sally Army's Young Soldier.

What else was in there? She identified three things Labour needs to do:
• First the task of holding the new voters we inspired, whilst reaching out beyond them to others we lost – and staying a broad based party to do it
• Second to chart a course for a progressive Brexit – the most important challenge facing our country over the next two years that will scar us for years to come if we let the Tories get it wrong
• Third to overcome the new and growing divide in Britain between city and town
Looking at each in turn, the first is so obvious that its inclusion, unless you have something interesting to say on it, is just filler. Indeed, Yvette said nothing and offered nothing that may help accomplish this. We instead get some guff on standing together as a party and how wonderful it is when we do things collectively. On Brexit, she floated the view that we should try for a cross-party commission so the Tories don't screw it up and get ourselves a good deal. I don't personally think a de facto national coalition on Brexit is something worthwhile for the party nor the interests it represents. Because yes, getting in bed to deliver a Brexit that's going to impoverish our people will do wonders in keeping our electoral coalition (point one, remember) together. Being independent of the process but working with certain Tories who are not totally kamikaze to extract concessions from the government re: negotiating lines seems the most sensible course for Labour at this juncture. And lastly, Labour's got to get towns - the route to a majority goes on a circuitous journey through them. Yes, it is true, we do. If only Labour had a programme that was about rebuilding public services and using the state to stimulate industry so towns would benefit.

Yvette's speech was less a vision and more a case of stating the obvious. Nevertheless, just as I thanked Chuka t'other day for reminding us about the merry band of irreconcilables latching onto Brexit, Yvette too has rendered a useful service. She has reminded us that her section of the party have no ideas, no clue, and no plan to respond to the situation we find ourselves in. A technocratic fix for Brexit that could sink the party? No thanks. A lecture on the importance of party unity? A missive best addressed to the people she sits with on the backbenches. And the belated remembrance of towns is a studied misreading, if not wilful ignorance, of the kind of policy package Labour is offering. Yes Yvette's was a flaccid and empty speech littered with banalities and self-evident points. If she really is the brightest mind of the PLP right, if this is the best they can do then they're in a far worse state than anyone suspected.

23 comments:

Terry Casey said...

Sadly they haven't had any ideas for many years and why Corbyn is now leader. they are a rump with nowhere to go, they do not have the ethos of the Labour Party and would be far better for their own self esteem to seek a party that does agree with their neo liberal agenda, Labour members have seen through them.

Anonymous said...

Why so chippy?
Cooper has been a prominent and highly capable MP for a number of years. She's never been been shy about making speeches and this latest one is supportive, positive and full of eminently sensible things. I dont think there's much, if anything, to disagree with, and I'd be very surprised if many in the party did so. It struck me as mainstream Labour.
On her first point, its plain that we both have to retain the support we won last time around, while winning over more converts. At least Cooper makes the point. I've yet to hear our leadership acknowledge the considerable effort still required to win the next GE.
There may not be a whole heap of exciting new ideas, but i'm very happy to hear our MP's make speeches, raise issues and point to where we have to improve if we are to win power. Thats a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

Steve

MikeB said...

I don't know whether it's helpful to include a link to the whole speech, but here it is https://labourlist.org/2017/07/the-tories-are-still-in-government-if-not-in-power-yvette-coopers-speech-to-fabians-summer-conference/

Your analysis seems accurate, Phil.

Phil said...

On Yvette's point about towns and Labour's relationship to them, here are some numbers from the general election. We're doing much better than she suggests.

Mike R said...

Whilst I agree with a lot of what you say about Cooper, and you obviously believe that she represents 'mainstream' labour - I'm not sure she does these days to be honest- for myself I thought the speech was innocuous enough though the barbs about the left showing the centrists they weren't getting it all their own way weren't missed. I am amazed that you think that Corbyn and his team 'don't acknowledge the considerable effort to win the next GE' when he hasn't really stopped campaigning at all - specifically targeting Tory strongholds and polarising personalities for weeks now. For myself, I prefer a politician who gets up and 'fights the fight', rather than those who just talk about it - if I have any misgivings it is that Corbyn IS a campaigner and untried in a position of national authority - though his leadership perhaps shows he has the ability to attract support from a wide diversity of backgrounds and people, which bodes well. Like Yvette, he does hold up a mirror and look for our areas of weakness, it's just a shame that those who are not as committed as him to 'the Labour way' use it as an excuse to snipe.

Anonymous said...

Two points

Oe. Any thought of getting into bed with a "grand coalition" to negotiate brexit is madness for Labour. Remember the Indyref.......

Two The city / town split is something that needs analysing in depth. One for any new breed of radical geographers who are following on from the sad loss of Doreen Massey

Paul said...

I guess because the speech was billed as 'Yvette Cooper describes her alternative vision for Labour', and not 'Yvette Cooper states the ruddy obvious'. So there's still work to be done to get rid of May and put Labour in power. The question is how crucial was it for somebody to point this out? It is not my impression that Labour saw the election result and then decided to spend the rest of the summer lying in hammocks and sipping pina coladas. If anything they seem more energised than ever by the result. This is part of the problem with the Labour right - not one of them has had anything remotely interesting or worthwhile to say in years. We should put them to good use, installed in old people's homes, where the constant stream of hot air will help to keep the residents warm.

Anonymous said...


Mini Cooper has little to say because her speech writers, Sun, DM, Ex, Murdoch, take your pick, cannot relate too the people the way JC does. They are percieved as liars, self serving, pocket liners, voting with the Tories on so many occasions, all to the detriment of the poor, just to score points against JC. In a mature World, if you are an honest player, regardless of your previous thoughts, you would have been on your feet appluading JC after the election, hannds in the air, "we were wrong, you did it, Mein Gott, you did it. Now Mini speaks of inclusion, she tried to get the people who won iit expelled, she is still trying that too. The comment on gentler politics, look around you, this is the time for dedicated fighters. As to retaining the voters 'we' won, Miss Mini you won nothing. We are going nowhere, so no worries over keeping us in the pparty, as you work tirelessly to come uup with ideas to expell us. Get on booard, fully, in faith, not just old words or, I say nicely, climb off the bus and use yoour onw Mini transport to a party that better resembles those who back you. That would be the Tories.

Anonymous said...

The momentum Labour had at the last election only managed 30 odd seats they are 60 odd short of any chance of taking control of our country. What we see and hear from the Corbyn party lefties is not going to produce a sucessful win next time around and are deluding not only themselves but the rest of the electorate of any success.

andrew adams said...

Looks to me like a perfectly decent speech. So what if some of it is stating the obvious, that's hardly unusual for a political speech. The point of the conference seems to have been to find a way back into power for Labour, just because many of us know (or think we know) the particular challenges we face it doesn't mean they shouldn't be spelled out.

On Brexit, I actually suggested on Twitter in the aftermath of the election result that Labour should take the kind of approach suggested by Cooper. I now think it's not such a good idea, but there are risks involved in just leaving it to the Tories.

There just seems to be an element of offence taking for the sake of it here, and an unwillingness to take anything said by people like Cooper in good faith. No doubt the previous behavior of some on the Labour right is to blame for this but I don't see how tis kind of thing helps.

Mac Andrews said...

She's a Blairite first but she hedges her bets to check the way the herd is going before committing to anything. She's a careerist hypocrite.

Makhno said...

"What we see and hear from the Corbyn party lefties is not going to produce a sucessful win next time around"

I see. What do we see and hear from the Cooper party "righties" that i going to produce a "successful win" next time around?

Last I checked they've had sod all useful to say since 2010.

rhodie said...

Run along now, there's a good chap,the Tories have put your bridge up for sale.

rhodie said...

Even then it wasn't useful either, we lost spectacularly

James Semple said...

Two points. Firstly, Yvette Cooper is an empty vessel:lots of noise, no content. Secondly, do you have more than one Anonymous commenting? Can they be sub-titled numerically - Anon1, etc - or even give us their name.?

David Walsh said...

All I see here is Corbynist Punch versus non-Corbynist left Judy. Little or no attempt (apart from Phil BC) to actually analyse and debate her speech and go beyond what was said to examine the voting faults between differing social and geographical communities or how applicable our present policy formulation is to the looming car rash that is Brexut. More insight, less invective might be a start, but I won't hold my breath.

mog said...

It is so s wingers have awayad in our Labour party that the young leftng to agree with them. wingers have always been so vociferous.

I remember as a much younger man when I was campaigning for Tony Benn as leader, some of our group just wanted to argue even when folks were trying to agree. So nothing changes.

Please folks, try and respect others in a great party rich in ideas and ideals. The enemy is obvious and it is NOT within. You think Jeremy is left wing? Look what we achieved in just 3 years following our victory in 1945. Now that WAS left wing and at least the NHS survived the Thatcher Tory attacks.

Anonymous said...

I'm often critical of Cooper - and *do* think she is GROSSLY over-rated by her media mates - but agreed, this speech wasn't *so* bad and feel out host is maybe being a bit over harsh here.

At least she is trying, even if at times clumsily, to be constructive. Compare with a divisive, delusional melt like Chuka and I think the difference is fairly obvious.

David Parry said...

'What we see and hear from the Corbyn party lefties is not going to produce a sucessful win next time around and are deluding not only themselves but the rest of the electorate of any success.'

What the hell does that even mean? Saying that the electorate are being 'deluded' into believing that the Corbyn project will succeed electorally makes no coherent sense whatsover, since whether it succeeds is ultimately in the hands of the electorate. The only way that the electorate could come to believe that the project has succeeded is if they play a part in that success by supporting it at the ballot box.

Miriam said...

Thanks. For this link. Very helpful to the discussion

Lidl_Janus said...

"Why so chippy?"

OP voted for Yvette Cooper in 2015, and hopes you'll forget this.

None of us have, of course, whatever our own leanings.

Phil said...

If I wanted it forgotten, I'd have scrubbed it from the archives, not bothered accounting for it, and not linked to it on a number of occasions since.

But, of course, anonymous people never make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Yvette Cooper is a cynical chancer, who hides her manipulative tendencies behind a 'butter-wouldn't-melt' demeanour. Remember when she was running for the leadership? Her pitch was that by electing a woman, members would be making a more radical choice than by electing Corbyn (that's more or less the exact words she used, not a paraphrase). I don't think I have seen a more revolting act of ideological arm-twisting in recent Labour politics, and that's saying something. Everything she says has to be interpreted as a manoeuvre of some kind, rather than being taken at face value.