Sunday 3 March 2019

Chuka Umunna's Honest Politics

Who doesn't like a bit of straight talking and honest politics? In a world weary of spin, the novelty of a politician open about their opinions and, well, striking an authentic note can have considerable appeal. It hasn't done the reception of Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn any harm, after all. Perhaps this is one reason why Chuka, the wannabe leader and spox for Westminster's most dismal project has decided to put his cards on the table. "You see", says Chuka, "I never felt totally comfortable in the Labour Party." Nice of him to come clean now the party is no longer providing him a cushy berth.

Chuka is a typical, if not banal, parliamentarian. The only party he owes time and devotion to is, well, his personal, private self: the Chuka Umunna Party. Once you're then in the Commons interacting with the big wigs and being a Person Who Matters, you can get swallowed by your own legend. And the more careerist and less principled the politician in question is, the more likely such a disposition consumes them. When you look at Chuka's career, it's nowhere near as egregiously offensive as his TInG compadre, Chris Leslie or, for that matter, TInG milk monitor Mike Gapes. But it is indicative of the trajectory of your common-or-garden social climber. He spent a few years swanning about London as a junior lawyer in the early-to-mid 00s before latching on to Compass (remember them?) and using the group to boost his profile. His first appearance on Question Time was way back in 2007, where he was feted then - even before he was selected for Streatham - as a great future hope for Labour. As for the Streatham selection in 2008, unlike Leslie and Luciana Berger's selections, it does appear it was a straight up and fair contest. That is unless he had help getting through to the shortlist as the automatic BME nominee - unlikely given the faction he was then aligned with. Nevertheless, he obviously impressed the selection meeting which went for him 175 to 162 over then Lambeth Council Leader (and now Lambeth MP) Steve Reed. And what happened once Chuka entered the Big House? Compass, any association with the (soft) left, and the politics that got him there was dropped and the rather staid, boring technocrat we know today was born. One can easily suppose he would not have got far at that February meeting 11 years ago were he upfront about his feelings about his fit in the party.

Here then is a cynic, someone who will do and say anything to advance his project of self-advancement. Even the innocuous but weirdly well-publicised links to the UK garage scene have a contrived whiff about them, as one of my comrades found out when he quizzed Chuka about the club nights and DJs he was into back in the day.

Of his not feeling the part, Chuka says it was his background of being mixed raced and having a working class dad and a middle class mum that meant he was out of place in Labour's culture. In the 1970s Labour Party perhaps, but in one of the most diverse and mixed constituency parties in the country in Europe's most cosmopolitan city? If it looks like self-serving nonsense and quacks like self-serving nonsense ... On and on the piece goes, but unwittingly Chuka skewers himself. On immigration, he - rightly - criticises Labour MPs who capitulate to anti-immigration sentiment and instead engage, address, and resolve concerns people might have. How short his memory is. Here is the difficulty. If vanity is your guide as opposed to politics, you become the most twisty of weather vanes. You reactions, your attention seekings are reduced to the demands of the moment regardless of what might have been said and done in the past.

Chuka has described the foundation of TInG a liberating experience. No doubt it is. No members expecting monthly reports, no whips asking you to abide by the manifesto you were elected on, no Electoral Commission scrutinising "party" finances. But deep down, Chuka knows the most liberating aspect of the whole experience, perhaps one he suspects but can't admit to himself yet, is his liberation from the tyranny of relevance.


Shai Masot said...

Back in 2016 Chuka said: “Some have suggested that there is institutional anti-semitism across the whole of the Labour Party, this is not a view I share. I have not seen one incident of antisemitism in almost 20 years of activism within my local Labour Party.”

This is not the only time Chuka changed his mind to suit his career however, as back in 2016 he part of the group that prepared the Home Affairs Committee report, and recommended clarifications to the IHRA definition of anti-semitism. In 2018 he insisted the party adopt them all, and funnily enough we didn’t see Margaret Hodge call Chuka a racist when he made the recommendations back in 2016. If one was cynical, one would think they were doing it to further their careers…

Jason said...

Only the ballot box can introduce Chuka and pals to reality.

Ken said...

Dear Phil,
I’d like your advice.,
I’ve never been totally comfortable in the Labour Party. (In fact I was bullied by my wife into joining.) Is there a party for me to feel totally comfortable, or, is that a party of one.
Uncomfortable Ken.

Alan Story said...

Three comments to my friends in the Labour Party (from someone not in Labour.)

1) Your party needs to get its sh*t together and get ready to whup the Tories.
At present, the UK has arguably the worst government since the end of WW2 and one that is led by an incompetent who loses votes in Parliament by 230 votes (which is evidently the largest loss for 1000 years.)
So Labour should be far, far ahead in the polls. (And I will scream if I hear one more Labour Party member say: “it is all the media’s fault.”)
A lot of victims of this oppressive system will be mighty angry if you bottle it come election time.

2) I know life within the Labour Party and its seemingly endless tiffs and tantrums is of great interest to many of you…but lots of us on the left outside of Labour and lots of victims of this oppressive system are much, much less fascinated.
Some of us really are not that interested today in being referred to the March 2018 comments of that “hypocrite” Tom Watson about Max Mosely.
Or Chuka this and Chuka that.
Or Chris this and Chris that.

3) We are constantly reminded that Labour is the largest party in all of Europe; what is it – 500,000 members?
Why doesn’t your leadership put them to good use, launch a MAJOR nation-wide campaign on some issue ( I can think of at least ten) and well, change the political conversation in your party and the UK?


Ken said...

Alan Story, you underestimate the determination of the right to use anti-semitism as a weapon. It is actually quite difficult to think of any area which might not be sprinkled with the accusations of anti-semitism.
Rent controls to fight greedy landlords, don’t mention Rachmanism.
Animal welfare, oh dear, anti-semitism and Islamophobia at the same time, two for one.
Greedy bankers, did we mention Goldman - Sachs.
Is there bias in the mainstream media, well...
Child grooming probably doesn’t have any traction now, although it did in pre - war Germany and the group labelled in this way now is clearly Muslims.
I’ve run out of anti-semitic tropes here except I’m astonished that the swing to the left in the LP has not been put down to Jewish influence.
The irony is that it’s the Tories who had an MP who said on camera, “We need a red faced Englishman..” When Leo Brittan joined the cabinet. Where Alan Clarke hissed “Jew” when Bernstein was being ennobled in the same ceremony as his father and Thatcher’s cabinet was described as “More old Estonian than old Etonian.”

JN said...

Aside from Chuka's personal ambitions though, what is the point of the IG? Politically, who or what do they represent? What distinguishes them from the Lib-Dems?