Tag Archives: labour party

A graphic depicting not least the heart rate of conference-goers this year.

David Cameron, looking tired and not a little strained, dutifully took to the stage at the Conservative party conference yesterday and proceeded to handwave for a while. “Our plan is right,” he insisted in reference to his government’s economic policy. “And our plan will work. I know you can’t see it or feel it yet.” He went on to describe the plan as similar to, you guessed it, building a house: “The most important part is the part you can’t see – the foundations that make it stable.” In the absence of detail or even underpinning logic, listening to this section of the speech resembled sitting through a sermon: the evidence of God’s existence is everywhere, oh ye faithful. It’s just invisible.

The week before, Ed Miliband hadn’t fared much better: “The tragedy of Britain is that it is not being met,” he intoned. “My mission. Our mission. To fulfil the promise of each so we fulfil the promise of Britain.” This sort of clumsy phrase-making marred and muddied a speech which some have characterised as wildly left-wing but which was in truth less coherent than a piece in the New Statesman by Miliband’s ex-speechwriter. Cameron had a finer turn of phrase, but the hollowness and timidity at the heart of his speech was also what, ironically, make Miliband’s sound scarier and more off-piste. There may be a bone to flesh in the latter’s speech, but all was thin gruel this past month. There has been a wooliness about the conference season that is symptomatic of a political class without the courage to spell out their nascent responses to dumbfounding events.

Even following Miliband’s mincing repositioning, it’s hard to argue with Dave Osler that the poor don’t have a party: each political tribe, and Cameron chases Miliband even as he mocks him (for instance on the division between predatory and productive businesses Tories had been lampooning all week), have focused on the squeezed middle. The problem, of course, is that the longer our political leaders opt to be mealy-mouthed the more likely it is that many more of us will be poor. They spent the last three weeks desperately trying to ensure nothing actually happened – a boo here, a catflap there were treated as cataclysms. There is much worse to come, and as Steve Richards so rightly comments today, no evidence in rhetoric or deed that we’ll have an answer when it does.

Ed's media strategy has become more complex.

Over the weekend, it was increasingly easy to tell that the Labour Party have invested in some press people. In December, Ed Miliband appointed two stalwart political journalists, Bob Roberts and Tim Baldwin, to his communications team, and their effect is already being felt: it’s not, frankly, that Miliband is saying much of anything that is different or new; it’s simply that he’s having more success in getting the messages placed. From his Fabian Society speech on Saturday to the continued positive coverage of the Oldham by-election victory, Labour are punching about their weight in column inches. Not all those inches are favourable – Melanie Philips today does her usual turn on the subject of Miliband’s supposed turn towards small-c conservatism – but, at a time when the Coalition are being talked about largely in the negative (either from the right or the left), this breadth of coverage is no bad thing.

They are being helped along by a Coalition agenda tottering under its own weight; appearing on the Today programme this morning, David Cameron was unsure on Coulson and under-briefed on the looming fight over the NHS. Nick Clegg, meanwhile, continues to get a bad press. Even Fraser Nelson has to admit it’s going well for the reds. Those rumours, repeated on This Week by Jon Cruddas, of an early General Election in May start to look more tempting from a Conservative standpoint.

After all, the news from Oldham East and Saddleworth was not all good: yes, Lib Dem voters switched to Labour; but Conservative voters switched to the Lib Dems in considerable numbers, and the net impact was, despite an increased Labour majority, a slightly increased Lib Dem share of the vote. That this still wasn’t enough to tip a majority of 103 towards Clegg’s party is a bad sign for them; but any nascent political union between the two Coalition parties is more worrying still for Labour. If, given time, Tories choose to vote for Lib Dems in other marginals, Labour will lose seats; whether Lib Dems will do the same for Tories, of course, remains an open question. Unfortunately for the yellows, of course, most of their own seats are Tory marginals – and it’s difficult to say how comfortable Labour voters will now feel in voting tactically.

So the picture is confused – not least because the AV referendum may now be delayed. But what is increasingly clear is that Labour – ahead in the latest polls by some distance – now have at least some space to make their counter-weight felt. Tactical nous is not strategic victory, however – and the party’s platform remains somewhat dazed and confused. A job for heavy lifting in the background, to be sure – but it means the Coalition yet retains the real, rather than the perceived, initiative.

Hi, kids!

Ed Miliband has spent his leadership campaign posing as the trendy supply teacher – all informal authority and ideas attractive but somehow received, for which he has a great deal of enthusiasm but possibly not the skill to implement. Having given the supply teacher a permanent contract, Labour now get to see whether he’s as good at the daily grind as he is at letting the kids off the toughest homework; even more so, the awkward kid at the back of the room who was most keen on the teacher can now expect a bit of discipline from Mr M, just to show who’s now boss.

That awkward kid, of course, represents the unions, whose members gave Miliband the leadership on the waferiest of wafer-thin majorities – 50.65 to 49.75. The post-1980 federal electoral college has delivered tight results like this before (think Healey-Benn), but never has it seen a victorious candidate lose both the MPs and party members. This makes the job of my party’s new leader more difficult than it might have been – his enemies will have a ready-made line of attack, however disingenuous, and in the coming years a potentially arid dividing line between cutters and cutted must be avoided.

Not, you’ll understand, that a member who voted for Ed Balls would accuse Ed Miliband of being too left-wing – if anything, quite the opposite. Miliband’s conversion to cuddly leftism hasn’t quite convinced me, as long-term readers will know, and what Roy Hattersley is calling the new leader’s “gentle and joyous philosophy” will require a good deal more grit if it is to carry a general election. Matthew D’ancona trots out all the emerging right-wing talking points in his latest column, but is on to something when he casts the Leader of the Opposition as a preacher rather than a persuader.

Another always astute commentator, Steve Richards, this week fingered Vince Cable, who had a fairly disastrous joint appearance with John Redwood on Question Time this week (followed, on Friday, by a ranty Chris Huhne on Any Questions), as the Coalition’s cover man par excellence. Labour’s job must be to have no truck with empty leftie populism, but to espouse certain and credible alternatives to the true programme of the government. Ed Miliband spoke a lot about making Labour a movement again. This requires uniting and providing practical purpose to the party, and that would go a long way to capitalising on the clear lack of public enthusiasm for the Coalition’s direction of travel. Maybe the party, which predates my membership by some considerable distance, knows better than I do after all …

The dilemma for the Labour party member in voting for their next leader has been simple: does one vote for success, or for purity? Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, in their most recent leadership elections, voted for success: neither Cameron nor Clegg hail from the most dominant wings of their party, yet both seemed to promise electoral gain. They now share power (though Nick shares more than Dave), and thus the experiment – like the last Labour contest, way back in 1994 – was a success. How, though, to respond to the new politics? Pick a champion  of Labour values, or a potential Prime Minister?

The choice is not so stark: three of the candidates (Ed B, Ed M, and David M) could make passable claims to offering both. But the elder Miliband places the emphasis on being a readymade PM, and the younger on championing Labour values (many of which observers may have missed he previously held); Ed Balls is the most interesting of the three, in the sense that he has blossomed during this contest more than any other – developing his arguments and harrying the government, he has emerged as not just a credible leader but also the only prominent politician offering a narrative other than the one established by the Tories (and Jonathan Freedland is right that this is the urgent task facing Labour).

Consequently, and in the absence of a clear perfect candidate, today I took the radical step of placing my first preference simply for the candidate who has fought the best campaign. And here are the words I could not possibly have predicted writing in May: that was Ed Balls. Not a single poll suggests he has much of a chance of winning – although he’s second choice amongst former MPs – so my hope remains that, between the Milibands, it’ll be the firstborn that wins. Much like many of Ed M’s own supporters, it’s clear to me he’d be the better leader of the two.

You’ll be pleased to read that I won’t bore you with where my Treasurer, NEC and NPF votes went.

In happier days.

Labour Party members this week await with baited breath their leadership ballots. In less than a month, we’ll know the identity of the new Labour leader, and it is therefore no great surprise that the mainstream media has suddenly started taking notice. The papers were full this week of claim and counter-claim from the various camps (although Burnham’s and Abbott’s remain curiously silent). Most notably, the right-wing press has been having its say, and making not a little mischief: in the Sunday Telegraph today, Matthew d’Ancona encourages Labour to vote for their own Dave; anonymous Tory sources have been briefing the Guardian’s Nicholas Watt that Cameron is practically quaking in his boots at the prospect of facing the elder Miliband; and at the Spectator’s Coffee House, Fraser Nelson adds to the emerging Tory consensus that the only man for Labour is the former foreign secretary.

Nelson is honest enough in his piece to admit that, however under-reported the contest has been, it remains acutely relevant: Labour retain too many seats to be discounted as a political force. Indeed, going on precedent, it would be more unusual for them to lose the next election that it would be strange for them to win it. This alone makes one pause when considering the right-wing noises: do they really believe David Miliband is the best leader the party has to offer, or do they fear another in their secret moments, talking up the nobbled favourite in an attempt to ensure a cakewalk?

This was certainly Sunny Hundal’s view, and it’s gratifying to think that Labour remain such a fighting force that the Coalition puts such time and energy into fixing its leadership race. But Hundal’s belief that Cameron truly fears the younger Miliband seems to me wishful thinking. Ed’s article in the Observer today is thin gruel indeed: he’ll make capitalism work for the people; he’s for wealth creation as well as redistribution; the environment, about which he was once so passionate, merits an afterthought of a sentence; he attacks (rightly) the Coalition for having no plan for growth, but his own seems to consist largely of platitudes about diversifying the industrial base. None of these ‘policies’ – more properly, platitudes – is aimed at anything more than winning the Labour leadership; it isn’t a credible programme for opposition, let alone government – and feels in some way confected, to boot.

Compare this with Ed Balls’s speech to Bloomberg, also delivered in this week of increasingly targeted attacks amongst the candidates: Balls’s campaign slogan has become ‘There is an alternative’, ostensibly referring to the dreary Coalition consensus, but in truth surely aimed at voters thinking Labour is now a subsidiary of Miliband Bros. “Adopting the consensus view,” he argues, “may be the easy and safe thing to do, but it does not make you right and, in the long-term, it does not make you credible.” This is an obvious attack on David Miliband’s campaign, but it is supported by a depth of reference and policy which beats Ed Miliband into a cocked hat. Balls, however, remains hostage to his unbreakable alliance with Gordon Brown, and has little chance of winning.

David Miliband, meanwhile, was never a true fellow traveller of Tony Blair’s – described by the ex-PM as his Wayne Rooney in the dying days of the Blair premiership, Miliband was nevertheless replaced as soon as practicable as head of Numb er 10’s Policy Unit by the true Blairite, Andrew Adonis. He escapes, therefore, easy attachment to destructive factionalism. It’s in one way to his credit, however, that he hasn’t attempted to wash his hands of the government of which he was such a prominent part. With or without the support of Jon Cruddas, however, and laudable grassroots focus aside, can Labour afford to elect be led by another politician in favour of the Iraq War, or one who communicates in the same technocratic language the electorate have so clearly come to despise?

The decidedly cuddlier Ed Miliband currently seems a compromise between the likeable-but-sullied David and the combative-but-comprehensive Balls. But he is the sort of compromise which feels watered down rather than balanced out. We have a government whose supporters condemn the Institute of Fiscal Studies as a pinko outfit as soon as it disagrees with them (even Nick Clegg had a go); it’s even unkind to animals. Its approval rating dipped into the negative this week. Labour needs a leader who can capitalise on that: Sunder Katwala has some timely thoughts on not buying the usual right-wing warnings about alienating the ‘middle’, and the question is whether the siren voices on the right are playing canny or straight when they say David Miliband is the best man for the job. Alistair Campbell, for it is he, has his own thoughts on this topic. But whatever the case, the left shouldn’t elect his as yet under-developed brother just to be ornery.

"Look, ma - no proles!"

“Public-sector pensions are like lollipops for kids.” If a quote from a figure in the new Tory (sorry, Coalition) administration has revealed more about the way in which it conceives the world, I’ve yet to find it. Quoted in today’s Telegraph, Richard Balfe explains the government’s approach to public sector negotiation. Mr Balfe is – ha – David Cameron’s envoy to the unions, and his position is simple: pensions will be used as a cosh with which to force unions to accept the swingeing cuts (£100bn over 5 years) George Osborne announced in this week’s Budget. We’re not so much all in this together as all under the same thumb.

This week’s Budget still didn’t please everyone on the right – two blogs at The Spectator, one from Andrew Haldenby and another from Matthew Sinclair, expressed early on the insatiable lust on the right for unravelling the state. But coverage from the Tory press was largely swooning – the Torygraph’s sketchwriter, Andrew Gimson, has never been quite so panting, for instance. Indeed, it’s hard to see the Liberal Democrat influence in the programme detailed by Osborne – one might emphasise the rise in Capital Gains Tax, except that it is so woefully far from being in line with income taxation that it makes a better argument for the strength of Tory backbenchers. If you were so minded, you might also point to the lift in the lowest rate of income tax. Certainly, Clegg was tugging his forelock in gratitude in the chamber. But this is small recompense for the party and its supporters.

Certainly, Cameron has made it known that, when he goes on holiday in August and on paternity leave in September, he won’t be continuing the ‘carry-on’ of Prescott taking over from Blair. Nick will not be let anywhere near the levers of state, whilst his erstwhile deputy, Vince Cable, will be sent on to the first BBC Question Time following the Budget to defend the indefensible. Cable was a sorry figure on Thursday night, all downcast gaze and half-hearted, irritable retorts. The audience gave him a much rougher time than they did Ed Balls, who turned in a pretty creditable performance which will help his profile in the Labour leadership race. The hapless Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, meanwhile, was let loose on Newsnight on the evening of the Budget to be comprehensively bested by, of all people, Liam Byrne. The Liberal Democrats are providing inimitable political cover, but what are they getting in return if not power and influence?

Because you don’t have to take David Miliband’s word for it – the Institute for Fiscal Studies made it plain that this Budget will hurt the poorest hardest. It’s no great surprise that Simon Hughes has already indicated he might vote against the rise in VAT – Liberal Democrats representing constituencies like his, from Sarah Teather to Lynne Featherstone, will be loath to cut benefits, freeze wages, and raise VAT. If they don’t, Hopi Sen’s mischievous theory will surely be the only one which fits all the facts.

It's great to see Cambridge represented, too, isn't it?

I’ve already had a couple of people ask how I’ll vote in the Labour leadership election. It’s worth noticing the coverage that contest is receiving – Labour remains relevant, and worth taking seriously, in a way that the Tories were not in 1997. Their contest of that year, ultimately a battle between William Hague and Kenneth Clarke, was reported much more as a sideshow, a comedy of errors. The Labour leadership election of 2010, whilst very much second fiddle to the Coalition’s emerging (though still confused) governing agenda, is not comparable.

All of which makes David Miliband’s last minute decision to sponsor Diane Abbott’s candidacy a curious kind of charity. This contest matters – it is serious – and to so publicly endorse a candidate with little serious hope of winning, and even less of being an electable Prime Minister-in-waiting, is an inward-looking gesture at a time when the party is desperate still to appear engaged with the outside world.

But Miliband the Elder must look inward. He is a man the general public overwhelmingly see as the heir apparent; the Labour faithful, however, are less enamoured. They are attracted to his younger brother, Ed, because he is less implicated in the worst excesses of the New Labour years, but also because he has hit on the comforting language of the ‘movement’. David, too, talks about rebuilding the party and encouraging the leaders of tomorrow – but he must also actively convince the rank and file that he cares about them. His nomination of Abbott is one way of doing that.

The appearance of tokenism that this risks might have given him pause: Abbott is of course both black and a woman, and without Miliband’s support, and that of others who have declared they won’t actually vote for her (Harriet Harman, Jack Straw), she could not have made the hustings. But her main value is in forcing the debate onto issues which may otherwise have been ignored, or ones onto which false narratives may have otherwise been imposed. She will get cheers at the hustings – and this will be cathartic for a membership which have not been consulted about their leader for 16 years. As a grassroots organisation, the Labour Party is shrivelled – this is why the candidates for leader are so uniform. Part of the point of Abbott is to allow stifled opinion to be heard, to be consulted. This is a Good Thing, though Abbott herself, or the circumstances of her nomination, may not be. It remains of prime importance, however, that whoever ultimately wins must now – having secured such a visible symbol of progress within the party – ensure that Abbott’s elevation to the ballot is not merely symbolic. Work will need to be done not just on engaging the left of the party, but encouraging the greater representation of both women and ethnic minorities.

So who will I vote for? David Miliband is impressive and experienced, of course – I like how he communicates, and his intellectual approach. But his language is perhaps too technocratic compared with his brother’s. Ed, however, feels to me very much a candidate of the party – interested in reforming and restructuring without a truly coherent expression of the ends to which those efforts are directed. Ed Balls has far clearer policy positions – and is making a good fist of being a substantive, combative figure – but unfortunately those positions have so far been more populist than considered. Labour will not simply by bashing immigrants outflank the Coalition amongst working class Tories.

Which leaves the wild cards, Abbott and Burnham. Abbott is playing to the gallery, and doing it well – but whether she has a coherent plan, or indeed an extant team behind her, is at best unclear. Burnham, meanwhile, has a compelling pitch – good both on principles of policy and personal narrative – but lacks any kind of presentational flair or charisma.

None of which, of course, gets any of us any further towards having a solid opinion on who might be best for Labour. What is best for Labour, however – an outward-looking, internally cleansing, long debate – may well have already been achieved. We can but hope: the UK can ill afford in 2010 the risibly inept Opposition of the late 1990s.

Just before the election, Anna and I were in the car listening to one of Martha Kearney’s lunchtime discussions on the World At One. The question arised of whether her guests – who included David Owen and Cecil Parkinson – had ever voted for another party. Even over the airwaves, you could hear the guests shuffle in their seats. Vote – gasp! – for another party? Even as a youthful indiscretion, such an admission betokens the death knell for a party politician’s career. Even Nick Clegg squirmed a bit when asked about his voting record during the campaign. We, or at least the media, seem to expect our politicians always to have known where their bread was buttered. Are you now, and have you always been, an automaton?

This depressed us both – what is the virtue of such tribalism? The idea that, if Cecil Parkinson had always voted Tory, he would somehow be a better Tory for it seems absurd. A more unthinking Tory, perhaps; a more blinkered Member of Parliament. Never to have considered another position (even, horror of horrors, allowed oneself to see sense in it) is surely not a desirable quality in anyone paid to consider issues. Political parties should not be treated like football teams.

All of which is by way of introduction to saying my Labour Party membership card arrived today. Friends will know I’ve been considering joining since at least the 2009 European elections; I’m a bit disappointed in myself for joining the nevertheless welcome influx of support following the 2010 General Election defeat. I distrust the leftist flocking to Labour’s troubled, if far from sinking, ship – we should not enjoy Opposition when every day we are in it is a day in which the Tories damage the communities we care about. Losing is not more righteous; defeat doesn’t make Labour Party membership any more or less valid. In the spirit of suppressing tribalism, allow me nevertheless to say that I still have big issues with what is now my party; but those issues are a reason to join – to stop carping and to do something.

I wrote in April: “I was ready to be won over by the Lib Dems; that tax problem I found in their manifesto felt like a deal-breaker. Vote For Policies, meanwhile, showed – confirmed – that on most issues I am over-whelmingly with Labour. This almost-but-not-quite match is all you can expect.” That sort of honest fellow-travelling might be out of fashion, but it is the spirit in which I join Labour: as the only meaningful vehicle for social justice in this country, even as it falls short.

Never fear, regular readers: I’ll be refraining from using this blog to go on about activist politics. Music, SF, books and history still the focus.

Well, we've got the sun...

Most people in Britain must have had a pretty good weekend – the weather has been glorious. Queasy Joe Perry, partner in 50 Miles of Elbow Room crime, has just told me that apparently the weather’s meant to take a turn for the worse tomorrow – so we’re pretty glad we got the most out of the last couple of days: al fresco meals, long canal works, general lazing. Bliss, even for closet fans of winter like, er, me.

Less sunny is today’s political and economic outlook. Though the cuts announced at the Treasury today might prove to effect the Liberal Democrats worst of all, with David Laws cast by Osborne as the Axeman, and Vince Cable as the most-cut minister), they are still significant and in places controversial: Child Trust funds are to be cut, HE budgets reduced by a further 3% following Lord Mandelson’s own squeeze, and whilst Health is ringfenced other areas – notably devolved administration and Local Government – are taking more than their fair share. In particular, and as a good post at Left Foot Forward points out, cutting the Future Jobs Fund seems to be an example of short-term thinking at the Treasury.

Also at Left Foot Forward, more on that Labour immigration debate. An equally important message for the leadership contenders is at Labour Uncut, from Jonathan Todd: “ It is always mistaken to react to election defeat by thinking that you were right, the electorate was wrong but, soon enough, they will see the error of their ways. Labour cannot afford such an elementary error, particularly after a ‘near death experience’.” In Peter Snowdon’s Back From The Brink, it becomes rapidly clear that this was the post-97 Tory party’s major mistake. “Of all the iterations we went through,” one Tory strategist of the time tells Snowdon of the party’s anti-Labour rhetoric, “the one thing that never occurred to anybody was that Tony Blair might actually meant it.” (pg. 36)

Denial and complacency are terrible things.

They're getting on better ...

Left Foot Forward has been doing a series of interesting and valuable analyses of the coalition government’s programme for government, published this week – Shamik Dass links to most of them here, and the latest post, on the regions, is here. The picture that emerges is one of benign confusion. Confusion is to be expected – even the most unified of single governments has an initially unclear programme, despite all the inked spilled on its election manifesto. The proof, as every man and his dog have said in this whole new age of cliche, will be in the pudding.

But ‘progressives’ will find it hard to ignore or discount some of the benignity: a judicial review into the extradition of Gary McKinnon; a promise to repeal some of Labour’s worst civil liberties infractions, from ID cards to the DNA database; Tory acceptance that totemic capital gains and stamp duty policies will not fly. Even Theresa May has been forced to toe the softly-softly line, insisting through gritted teeth and palpable tension that, yes, she actually rather likes gay people and they would make wonderful adoptive parents, naturally. Gottle of geer, gottle of geer.

Labour would thus be wrong to underestimate the potential of this Tory government to reshape British politics. John Rentoul may have gone too far in calling Cameron’s alliance with Clegg a takeover rather than a merger; but whether or not such a formal outcome is likely, and despite Cameron’s own (rather flimsy) insistence on the separateness of the two parties in today’s Telegraph, were the coalition to be a success it would significantly realign at least the Liberal Democrats as a party with successful centre-right experience in government. Leftie Liberals hoping for an easy return to the status quo come the next election may be disappointed: their party will have to run of their record in government, and this record will, of course, be one of tempering Tory instincts; but it will also be one of actual legislative achievements, all of which will be framed in a centre-right context. This will define not just the party’s pitch, and its subsequent direction to travel, but potentially the country’s.

Labour may therefore find it tempting to outflank the Lib Dems on the left. Their fight, however, is not with Clegg. Had their core vote not held up so well, perhaps it might have betokened a greater struggle for the second position in British politics; as it is, there is clear appetite for a Labour message delivered more adroitly; Labour are yet a party of government, and this makes their primary enemy the Tories. Tacking to the left will not defeat Cameron – it would play into his newly centrist hands. This may account for the theme of the first week of the Labour leadership contest which John Harris has disapprovingly noted: immigration. Andy Burnham in the Mirror, for instance, argued that during the election campaign Labour “were in denial about the effects of immigration on wages, housing and anti-social behaviour in places where life is hardest.” The privileging of immigration over those other issues – a priority the left-wing leadership candidate, John McDonnell, inverts – is the problem.

... and they're not.

Ed Miliband has suggested, correctly in my view, that immigration is a class issue. It is key that, in the victory of the two great parties of the middle class, Labour does not lose site of its separate roots. In safe Labour seats across the country, immigration is an issue because of social and economic deprivation. This is emphatically not to say it does not have a racist element – but it is to argue optimistically that that racism has a root other than the racist’s irredeemable, inherent, bigotry. The one-upmanship on immigration currently defining the Labour leadership race (and influenced by thinking such as David Goodhart’s) needs to be nuanced with this argument in mind. Burnham’s pitch, for example, is seductive on a certain level: the son of skilled and semi-skilled workers from the north, he has never lost touch with those roots. His ministerial career is less garlanded than the Milibands’ or Balls’s, but at this juncture that seems less important if he can show their flair for communication of his less technocratic views. As he argues thus persuasively, Labour must address, must debate, the issue which has troubled its core vote for so long (and done so understandably, if not always rightly); but there is a difference between addressing and pandering.

Of the awkward squad candidates, John McDonnell is a known quantity – and an unreconstructed leftie like me is bound to nod sagely to much of what he said in front of the PCS last week. Diane Abbott has in addition the profile and smooth media skills of the television personality she is in danger of becoming, and her message is absolutely vital in the face of what was shaping up to be a dull debate over a tiny series of minor disagreements between identikit ex-ministers. In providing the opportunity to force a keener examination of what the Labour party needs to be, though bearing in mind that a lurch to (as opposed to an embrace of) the left plays into Cameron’s cunning triangulation, it’s hugely gratifying that both are in the race: the voice of the party’s left, and – hallelujah – women, need to be represented in the Labour party of all parties. Their role ultimately is to keep the others honest, and they should start with immigration.


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