Monday 29 November 2021

Peddling Petty Politics

I've not known excitement like it. Over a period of hours, the new shadow cabinet was unveiled to us. Jonathan Ashworth, the great survivor at the top of the Labour tree has lost the shadow health brief to Wes Streeting, and will now diddle about with pensions. Kate Green has been banished with Bridget Phillipson rising to replace in education. Ed Miliband got demoted from the business shadow but given a fancy environmental job so it doesn't look like a sacking. Lyin' Lisa was let go from the shadow foreign office, replaced by David Lammy, and is heading over to hold Michael Gove's feet to the fire in housing and local government. Sadly, her fib count is unlikely to be affected by the posting. And the big news is Yvette Cooper has finally decided a bit more exposure to the limelight will do her chances some good as she takes on the home secretary role, a position she served in with zero distinction between 2011 and 2015. With such a team at the helm, victory is assured.

The bigger Labour news of the day, but certainly not the most interesting. What was were the jiggery-pokery between Keir Starmer and his self-identifying wayward deputy, Angela Rayner. Having gone hard on the Tory corruption row, Monday morning was to be Angela's time to shine with a keynote speech about standards. Her big ideas involved bans on former ministers taking work related to their portfolio for five years afterward, backed by fines that would claw back severence payments and pensions. Parliamentarians' behaviour would be overseen by an independent ethics and integrity commission which would also hold cabinet appointees to the standards set out in the Ministerial Code - a piece of paper, you will recall, that Boris Johnson has repeatedly disregarded when his henchmen and women have got found out. It was classic Rayner redolent of John Prescott's greatest hits: a tub thumping affectation of "authentic" radical anger she does so well married to straightforward constitutional tinkering barely anyone, apart from Tories, would find objectionable.

Unfortunately for the deputy leader, she was not allowed to have the headlines to herself. Reminding the public about Tory corruption came second to the opportunity to play silly beggars. As she began her speech, which has lived in the grid for a fortnight, news broke about the beginning of the shadcab reshuffle. Fielding follow-up questions from the assembled hacks, it appeared developments had caught her off guard, though Starmer's spox said she had been notified earlier that the hirings and firings were due to take place. What she knew and when she knew is immaterial: what is was the timing. We've seen in recent years how party bureaucrats would set timings for announcements and events to cause maximum damage to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, so it's hardly a shocker for the same stunts to get pulled to slap down the uppity Rayner. As a close friend is reported to have said, "Trying to sack Angela and make her the scapegoat for Hartlepool was stupid. But doing a reshuffle when she’s literally on her feet giving a speech attacking the Tories for being corrupt is just plain offensive." Yes, it is. And they'll do it again.

Except the wrecker on this occasion isn't a cackling minion scurrying around the leader's office, but the grand poobah himself. He's the boss, and so Starmer gets to determine the timings of his reshuffle. His appointment of the "top team" could, from the point of view of media splash, have taken place at any point before last week's Omicron variant announcement. He might have saved it for tomorrow, but chose not to. And so what does this tell us? That he's petty minded? That he bears grudges? That he can't have anyone on his shadcab team outshining him? It reveals, as if it needed revealing, all of these things. A peculiarly childish character trait for someone fancying himself the grown up of British politics.

The more Keir Starmer embraces the Labour right, the more complete his assimilation to them becomes. From ditching the ten pledges that got him elected, ruthlessly disposing of his enemies, and promoting and tossing aside lackeys who no longer please him, we've now regressed to constituency clique levels of pettiness. Like so many right wing councillors and student activists who believe themselves temporarily embarrassed Labour MPs, he's becoming a caricature of them - the sort that believes lots of swearing and shafting your own side because you can are positive proofs of the bastardry and tough decisions one has to make in politics. Starmer knows he can't sack Angela Rayner - he found that out the hard way. But the man has learned. She can't be shifted, but he can make life difficult for her. His deliberate attempt to drive Angela from the headlines is a foretaste of more to come. Though Starmer should be careful. In his deputy he has someone who also doesn't forget, nor forgives. Today saw the touching off of another low level conflict of briefing and counter-briefing just as we begin the long build to the next general election. Well done Keir Starmer for making your chances of winning that little bit more difficult.


JJ said...

I tweeted yesterday that Keir's personnel management skills make Gordon Brittas, David Brent and Alan Partridge look like titans of HR.

BCFG said...

"Well done Keir Starmer for making your chances of winning that little bit more difficult."

lets be thankful for small mercies then!

Dipper said...

As a Tory I'd say that the reshuffle is a significant step towards holding the current government to account and making life hard for them. Many government ministers are now going to face significant heavyweight opposition, most noticeable Priti Patel is going to have to do her homework against Yvette Cooper. For the first time in ages it is possible to see the shadow cabinet as an actual cabinet.

What this doesn't so is challenge the core economic policy framework of the government. Both Labour and Tory parties are high-spend state interventionist parties. This is about competence not ideology.

Finally, and obviously, Starmer has thrown the left out. He has decided he isn't going to compromise with them, isn't going to have a balanced ticket. Most of you on here now have a clear choice to make; hold your nose and vote for Starmer's labour, or take your radical principals to some other home.

BCFG said...

Thanks Dipper for confirming my thoughts that Labour is now just the Tory party with a different logo.

Also, thanks Dipper for confirming my suspicion that the real goal is to provide the electorate with no choice at all and ensure both parties stay within a very narrow horizon.

Funnily enough, the very small horizon that dipper continually tells us is the only possible horizon.

Its great when a comment confirms everything you have been arguing. :)

Dipper said...

@ BCFG I'd like a lot more private involvement in the NHS. I'd like lower taxes. I'd like less regulation. I'd like to amend the equalities act to enable discrimination in favour of selected white groups when the criteria match the existing criteria for ethnic minority groups. I'd like far fewer Covid restrictions.

None of these things are going to happen, not because Boris doesn't want them too, but because Boris wants to get re-elected and those policies are just not on the path to winning the next election. Trying to implement them would give Starmer a clear electoral target to aim at, and what Boris is all about is boxing Starmer in.

PurplePete said...

Ah ha!

Dipper is Paul Dacre and I claim my £10!

Trixiepedia said...

I was intrigued that Dipper knows Yvette Cooper will hold Patel to account, whereas the previous incumbent wouldn’t. I was wondering if Dipper knew both Cooper and her predecessor. So I asked Dipper and it turns out he has never met either of them, not even been in the same county at the same time. So I asked Dipper, then how do you know? He told me that Yvette Cooper is in fact one of the X-Men and her special ability is to hold people to account.

Well, my mind blown!

BCFG said...

@Dipper, that is funny because I would like a lot less private involvement in the NHS, I would like no taxation, I would also like some Covid restrictions please, maybe Dipper lives on Mars and they have some sort of lockdown there?

Your bit about the equalities act was unintelligible.

On Boris, he is implementing or has implemented:

More private involvement in the NHS, a lot more
Lower taxes for the rich, which is what you mean right?
Got rid of virtually every covid restriction (though Boris has no jurisdiction over Mars as far as I know)
Used Woke hysteria to bring in authoritarian measures (see the Online 'Protection' Bill or the Great Assault on Liberties as I call it)

So what are you babbling on about?

Dipper said...


"Your bit about the equalities act was unintelligible."

don't put yourself down. You can do it.