Tag Archives: David Miliband

David Miliband exits stage right

David Miliband is packing his bags and slinking off across the pond to take up a new job with International Rescue. So who’s he going to be? Virgil? Gordon? Or that other fella… wotshisname? Oh yeah, Brains. Oddly enough, this was supposedly his nickname when Blair plucked him off the backbenches and took him under his wing. Blair… there’s another one.  He’s doing all right for himself and I expect Miliband will also make a decent wedge for himself in the States.

The Labour party may have lost one of its arch-Blairites but that doesn’t mean the parliamentary party is shifting to the Left any time soon. Baby brother, Ed, has the unemployed in his sights and seems happy with the government’s attacks on the working poor of this country. His frontbench team is composed largely of disciplinarian headbangers like Liam Byrne and lily-livered cowards like Stephen Timid Timms.  They are out of touch with the lives of ordinary people whom they spit on from the lofty height of their ivory tower. Don’t be fooled by the brand spanking new One Nation Labour brand either: it is really little more than New Labour Mark 2. Mr Ed despises so-called Old Labour and he told us so in his speech back in January.

David Miliband’s South Shields seat is now vacant and a by-election has yet to be called. It’s a safe Labour seat, so there’s little danger of the party losing it… unless, the real Left can get its act together and snatch it from them. As for the Tories, they have about as much chance of taking the seat as I have of becoming Pope. Capiche?

I read a terribly naive tweet a few hours ago that went something like “ordinary need to join Labour and take it back from the Right”. Good luck with that, I thought. Loads of people have tried and failed. The parliamentary Labour party needs more than a few dedicated Left-wingers joining it in the vain hope that they can seize the party from the grip of the Blairites. It needs a complete overhaul from root to branch. It needs to welcome back the socialists it expelled in the 1980s and 1990s. But I don’t see that happening. Do you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Labour

Does anyone else care about the Miliband soap opera?

Oh how the media love a soap opera! As soon as Ed Miniband’s victory was announced, the press immediately began producing speculative story after speculative story about the future of failed leadership candidate David Maxiband. Despite his star turn at the opening of the conference in which David told the party how his brother was a “special person” and how the party must make him a “special person” to the British people, the soap opera rumbles on.

The talk coming from the usual telly news providers tells the same story: David Maxiband will resign; he will take his bat and ball and walk off the pitch. Apparently David can’t cope with playing second string to his kid brother…I mean, just look at his face when Ed is speaking. And did he really say to Harriet Harman, “Why are you clapping?  You voted for it”?  I have to say, there are some bloody good lipreaders working in telly journalism these days. And look! All the signs are there too: Maxiband appears outside his home, dressed casually and looking chipper. Surely this is a sign that he will walk?

Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.

To tell the truth, I am neither interested in nor bothered by the Miliband drama even if the media finds it fascinating. But it’s a diversion; the coalition government are about to announce the biggest raft of public spending cuts for a generation and all the BBC can talk about is ‘Will he or won’t he”? The Labour Party conference has been overshadowed by this story but what of the conference itself? Miniband talked of a “new generation” in his speech but this new generation that he talks of smacks of the neupolitik that Cleggeron keeps talking about.  Self-confessed Labour supporter Terry Christian nails it on the head in this clip from the BBC’s Politics Show.

I agree,  I detect no lurch to the left here and given Miniband’s lightly-veiled challenge to the unions not to strike, the chance of the Labour leadership supporting the workers and backing any strikes that may happen is as likely as me waking up tomorrow morning as a born-again Tory.

UPDATE:

Maxiband has taken himself off to the backbenches from where he will be free to engage in Blairite rearguard actions…maybe even plot a coup. He says he’s doing it to “recharge his batteries”. Usually the excuse is to ‘spend more time with one’s family’.

2 Comments

Filed under Government & politics, Labour

Ed Miliband becomes Labour leader. So what?

So Ed Miliband has won the Labour Leadership election. Please forgive me if I don’t get excited but this is all something of an anti-climax. Given the number of Blairites in the party, I do not expect Labour to suddenly lurch to the left. It will not happen.  In fact, I don’t expect Labour to come up with any truly socialist policies. Ed and David Miliband’s father may have been a Marxist theorist but that doesn’t mean that the brothers  share Ralph’s politics…even if Ed was pictured during the campaign wearing a pair of work boots.

The question on my mind is whether or not, older brother David, will work with kid brother, Ed in a shadow cabinet or will he fume on the backbenches? What about the other failed leadership candidates? Will Diane Abbott finally get her hands on a portfolio? Unlikely.  She’s got her media career to think about. How about Ed Balls? What’s in store for him? Shadow Chancellor? As for Andy ‘Aspirational Socialism’ Burnham maybe he’ll just become a shadow. Serves him right for being such a tosser.

Nick Robinson is on the telly now saying how the right will try to paint Ed Miliband as a left-winger because of the support he received from the unions. The Tories are supported by a variety of millionaires and private interests, yet this oft-repeated accusation of Labour ‘being in the pay of the trade unions’ does not strike them as hypocritical. Besides, which is the more democratic? Trade unions or unaccountable millionaires?

Kinnock is on BBC News talking about how he supported Ed Miliband. Is that the kiss of death or what?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Labour leadership contest

There’s a bad smell around here. Oh…it’s Peter Mandelson!

Peter Mandelson is like Banquo’s ghost: he’s always hanging around making trouble and stirring things up.  Today, he fired a warning shot over Ed Miliband’s bows by telling the Murdoch media that Labour risked heading down an “electoral cul-de-sac” if the party turned its back on its recent Nu Labour past. He also gave his blessing (or Mafioso kiss of death) to David Miliband.

He said Ed, the younger of the Miliband brothers, would take Labour back to the past by appealing to only the party’s “core” supporters.

“If you shut the door on New Labour you’re effectively slamming the door in the faces of millions of voters who voted for our party because we were New Labour,” he told the Times.

To be honest, Mandelson is deluded: the party turned its back on its core support the moment it abandoned Clause 4 and began to woo so-called Middle England. When it did this, those people who voted Labour felt alienated and betrayed; the party was continuing the policies of the Thatcher government by refusing to build new council homes and refusing to repeal the anti-union legislation that was enacted in the 1980’s.

Of all those associated with the Nu Labour neo-liberal project, Mandelson was seen as one of its chief architects. Alongside Tony Blair, it was Mandelson’s job to schmooze the wizards and alchemists of the Cittie of London, the captains of industry and  the Murdoch press (he still has quite a fondness for Murdoch). Indeed, the Nu Labour project has Mandelson’s fingerprints all over it.

What is richly ironic is this from Sky News,

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, criticised former leader Neil Kinnock and former deputy leader Roy Hattersley for attempting to “hark back to a previous age” by supporting the more left-wing of the brothers.

It was Kinnock who welcomed Mandelson into the party as a spin doctor in the 1980’s. This marked the very beginning of Nu Labour. It is ironic that Mandelson should attack Kinnock and then have a swipe at Hattersley, who was never seen as a left winger by anyone. Though, in fairness, Hattersley for all his sensibilities,  was pretty much to the left of Blair. Of course that isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do; even the very dead Ramsay MacDonald was to the left of Blair!

Finally,

Asked if he would want Lord Mandelson in a future shadow cabinet, Ed said he believed in the “dignity of retirement”.

Yep, I agree, it’s time for Mandelson to climb back into his coffin and leave us all alone.

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Labour leadership contest

David Miliband: forget our history, we’re middle class warriors now!

I was reading in The Independent that E. Miliband has been criticized by his brother for “preaching to Labour’s traditional supporters rather than reaching out to middle-class voters”. More proof if proof were needed that D. Miliband is happy to continue as Blair Mk II should he become leader.

As the brothers’ battle for the Labour leadership becomes increasingly bitter, the Shadow Climate Change Secretary will reject David Miliband’s suggestion that he would shift the party back towards Old Labour if he wins the contest.

So what is so bad about reaching out to traditional Labour supporters?  Is it because they find the working class embarrassing? Is it because Labour really has become a sort of Tory-lite and are more interested in appeasing middle class anxieties than those of the working class? Perhaps it’s too many summers spent in Tuscany and living in Islington that’s affected D. Miliband’s thinking. No wonder parties like the BNP are appealing to working class voters: Labour doesn’t care about them and nor does the Tory Party (Hon Gid made that clear with his budget).

It looks as though Miliband Junior has changed his tack because of his brother’s harsh words.

“We must have the courage to change, the confidence to know that our values, when applied to the challenges of Britain in the modern world, can reconnect with those who have turned their backs on New Labour.”

Ah, it’s all about ‘change’….anyone would think the word carried any real meaning these days. If Blair II is bad, just have a think about Ed Balls for a moment; he looks like a man possessed. Seriously, there is something wrong with the man. I wonder if he’s collegiate?

The Daily Mirror has an altogether different take. Apparently the two bothers haven’t seen each other for weeks.

Banging the desk, he all but accused David of being trapped by the right-wing press into thinking only a move to the right would see Labour back in power.

“I don’t think that will work,” he said. “I don’t think the Blair formula will work for the future. Of course we have to appeal to the middle class and the working class but if we think reheating the formulas of the 90s will get us back in power then we are completely wrong.

“Trapped by the right wing press” is very telling, since most of the country’s newspapers are in the hands of Tory-supporting proprietors and Blair II wants to follow his mentor by sucking up to them. As for Miliband the Elder, The Honorable Tobes thinks he’s great,

In his speech on Wednesday, David Miliband put clear blue water between him and the other candidates, tacitly admitting that the state grew too large under his New Labour predecessors and acknowledging the need to cut the deficit. He invoked the spirit of Rab Butler, the Conservative politician who was instrumental in persuading his party to embrace the reforms of the Attlee government, suggesting that Labour should not oppose the Coalition’s radical overhaul of public services. He even hinted that he wouldn’t try and reverse Michael Gove’s education reforms, saying he was in favour of “a diversity of schools that drives innovation and improvements”.

He’s practically wetting himself here. He continues,

That’s clinched it for me, obviously. Free Schools will only survive in the long term if they’re embraced by the Labour Party. But even if I wasn’t trying to set up a parent-sponsored Academy, this speech would still have won me round. The quality I admire most in politics is courage and it took guts for David Miliband to reject the sentimental attachment to the state that is still such a core characteristic of his party.

It’s all  me, me, me with Hon Tobes.  If Labour members vote Blair II as their leader, they can kiss their core support goodbye. In fact, I would urge core Labour voters to abandon Labour and vote for a proper left wing party. The only problem with that idea is that under the current electoral system there is no choice:  the electorate has a limited menu to choose from and none of the parties on the menu are worth voting for – especially if you happen to be working class.

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Labour leadership contest

Is Charlie Kennedy about to jump ship?

This article from The Independent says that senior Labour whips have been in talks with Charles Kennedy to try and persuade him to defect. But how could Kennedy join a party that has so much blood on its hands?

The Lib Dem leadership has denied that Kennedy is in talks with Labour. From The Guardian,

Senior Lib Dems and allies of Kennedy were quick to dismiss rumours that he is poised to rejoin Labour – the party of his pre-SDP youth – as dirty tricks by rightwing bloggers seeking to destablise the coalition, though some MPs, also unhappy with coalition policies, admit “Charles is in a funny place at the moment”.

You have to love their turn of phrase. Kennedy would feel uncomfortable in a Labour party led by David “Don’t talk about the war” Miliband. The Lib Dems then were the only one of the three main parties to come out against the war.

This announcement comes not long after it was revealed that support for the Lib Dems has declined. Nick Clegg has also angered his own members by saying that he will not withdraw from the coalition should the vote on AV not go his way.

Here at Nowhere Towers we believe that Clegg will eventually join the Tories. As for Kennedy…

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Liberal Democrats

“I want to talk about our achievements…”

…so say most of Labour’s leadership candidates. From Miliband to Miliband and from Balls to Burnham it’s the same old scenery. “I admit we got a few things wrong” and “We needed to listen more” and “Look at what we did while were in office” are layered upon vapid platitudes like “We need to get in touch with our core support” and “We must reach out to traditional labour voters”.  Andy Burnham came out with a classic the other week. He said he believed in “aspirational socialism”. To me, that just sounds like another meaningless slogan. To him, it’s probably nonsense too…but it is good sounding nonsense: he managed to squeeze in the word ‘socialism’. What an achievement!

This Labour Party is a strange beast: full of Blair idolizers and wannabes; dull careerists and the sort of free-marketeers that would have made David Owen blush, there are only a handful of Labour MPs who can be regarded as sort of left-wing. I’ve talked about how the Lib Dems are in danger of losing their identity but Labour have the same problem too; it has lost its own identity by mimicking the behaviour of its oldest rival – it was a case of ‘Monkey see, monkey do. We can be good capitalists too’!

I have never managed to scrub clean the image of Thatcher walking into 10 Downing Street only days after Blair’s victory from my memory. Many people who voted for Labour thought they were getting real change and when Thatcher walked through that door, the game was up.  Prior to the election, Prescott had said that a  Labour government would take the railways back into public ownership. Instead we got higher fares, poor service, overcrowding and companies making profits at the expense of the taxpayer.We were told that public transport in rural areas would improve. I challenge anyone to find me a rural location where there is a good, reliable service that links to other forms of transport (like rail). Labour refused to allow local authorities to spend their capital receipts from the sale of council homes on building new housing stock.  Instead shared ownership schemes were rolled out across the country. So rather than build properties for social rent, housing associations were encouraged to build these types of ‘affordable housing’; everyone could be a homeowner.

On the face of it, the Decent Homes scheme sounded brilliant but, unlike local authorities, HA’s were told that they were not going to receive any funding to upgrade bathrooms and kitchens – which they were, by now, legally obliged to do. The Peabody Trust (now simply called Peabody in a rather subtle but telling renaming of the charity) now sells any property that becomes void at auction – ostensibly in order to fund the scheme. My sources tell me that they continue to sell properties regardless of the fact that the Decent Homes scheme has been all but completed on Peabody’s estates. Peabody also devotes a great deal of its energies to building and managing a large market rent and shared ownership portfolios….and there’s me thinking that the HA’s are there to rent properties to social tenants.  How silly of me! Is this what they mean by postmodernism?

Targets, benchmarks and pointless number crunching weren’t started by Labour but they subjected nearly every aspect of life to some form of measurement. So much in love were they with meeting targets and creating the right kind of figures, that Blair and co went around he country to hold their ‘Big Conversations’. It was a big flop; most people could see that this was an empty gesture and wanted nothing to do with it.

With the Blairites in the driving seat it is hard to see how Labour can make themselves appear different to the Tories or even the Lib Dems when most of the leadership candidates have been tainted by association. All of the candidates with the exception of Diane Abbott have been close to the heart of the Nu Labour project and now are trying to distance themselves from it while, ironically, sounding like the very thing they’re trying to escape.

Today, Andy Burnham attacked the Miliband brothers for being “elitist”, a phrase he no doubt picked up from US politics.  New Labour he says,

“At its worst, it was self indulgent, arrogant, elitist, London-centric and all of that has to change. It looked hollow and rootless at times.”

It took you all this time to recognize this, Andy?

How about this from Blair’s 2005 speech to the party conference.

This autumn, we will publish our Education White Paper. It will open up the system to new providers and new partners, allow greater parental choice, expand Foundation, Academy and extended schools. Again reform, again some of it difficult. But all with one purpose: to let nothing block the way to higher standards, and greater achievement for our children. The greatest injustice I know is when good education is the preserve of the privileged. We are changing that injustice.

This sounds little different to the coalition’s plans for education. The only real difference here is in the absence of ‘free schools’ from the speech.

I don’t normally indulge in conspiracy theories but there have been times when I thought that Blair was some kind of right wing entryist – a sort of Thatcherite agent –  who joined the party as  a sort of  Trojan horse to destroy the party from within by taking it to the right. This is what Thatcher said in a speech to the Carlton Club in 1979

Our aim is not just to remove our uniquely incompetent Government from office—it is to destroy the socialist fallacies—indeed the whole fallacy of socialism—that the Labour Party exists to spread

Thatcher claimed on more than one occasion that it was her desire to ‘destroy’ socialism. The rest of the speech follows a similar tone.

We have to fight Socialism wherever we find it: at Westminster in County Halls, in Borough and District Council Chambers.

In his blog, Iain McWhirter of the Sunday Herald says,

She wanted to “abolish socialism” at home and defeat communism abroad. Incredibly, she arguably did both, and at the same time gave her name to a new “ism”: Thatcherism – a political phiosophy founded on deregulated financial markets, privatisation of state assets, sales of council homes and dismantling of the welfare state. Thatcherism wasn’t just an economic policy, however, it was a social psychology based on possessive individualism. It was about getting as much as possible for yourself and your family and then letting the rest of the world go hang.

Socialism was destroyed within the Labour Party perhaps but it, like many other ideas, continues to exist and is no more dead than Nazism. Blair created a party in his own image. It was a party of bland shoe-salesmen and former local councillors who more than happy to improve their career prospects by signing up to the Blair Stitch Project. Even the new intake of women Labour MPs was subjected to old-style sexism: Blair’s Babes they were called.  Unlike Labour women of the past, this lot were happy to be labelled ‘babes’ and to pose and smile for the cameras.  None of them could be described as heavyweight intellectual talents. There were no Barbara Castles among their number and the party was worse off for it. I mean, Caroline Flint hardly compares to such a figure. If she wasn’t posing for the cameras, she was spouting nonsense in the media.

So what were Nu Labour’s achievements?  I can’t think of any to be perfectly honest. If they want to talk about figures, then anyone can churn out rafts of statistics to justify their argument. It cuts no ice with me. The simple truth is that the divide between rich and poor deepened; social mobility decreased while homelessness increased and wages for those on meagre incomes remained low in spite of the tax credit regime which, in actual fact, made many people poorer because of the way it was administered.

Whoever wins the leadership contest  will no doubt continue to plough the same furrow left to them by Blair and Brown. David Miliband is Blair Lite; his brother, Ed seems slightly more reasonable. Balls is finished and Burnham is a non-starter. As for Abbott, she stands no chance and once the election is over, she will return to the backbenches and possibly be reunited with Portillo.

The name of Keir Hardie is like kryptonite to the Blairites. Flint probably doesn’t know who he was or what he did! For people like Flint, history doesn’t matter and nor does substance. It’s the surface that counts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour leadership contest

Labour: a socialist party?

Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party.  The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends.  This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government.  The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.

Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting.  Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:

David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.

Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?

Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.

Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.

Finally there’s the late arrival,  Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.

I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics