The Last Word: A Welsh giant

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A sad goodbye to Rhodri Morgan, Theresa May fobs Britain off, Corbyn’s gaffe and Len’s low expectations – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

First published on ProgressOnline

Wales lost its modern founding father with the sad news that Rhodri Morgan has passed away. He was a giant of Welsh politics and someone who forced a devolution settlement and proved it could deliver to a sceptical electorate. His record is one to be proud of and has held Welsh Labour in good stead. 

I was never convinced of the need for some of Rhodri’s ‘clear red water’ but it continues to serve Welsh Labour well to this day. 

His pragmatic and idealist self came together as the first secretary – later renamed first minister – who the public showed an unique affection for. 

Our thoughts are with Julie Morgan, the rest of his family and his friends. Read Hannah Blythyn’s obituary. 

Theresa May fobs Britain off

The Tories have announced their manifesto – easily their most rightwing in my lifetime. 

It is the blank cheque they simply do not deserve. What they have planned for pensioners is the tip of the iceberg, and further proof, that underneath lies years more of austerity. In normal and less heartbreaking times they would not get away with it. 

Conor Pope in his column this week destroys the Tory claim that they are ‘the party of the workers’. If only Labour could deliver a real blow to this argument nationally. 

This week, Theresa May made two crass comments that we should not let her live down. First, to those on benefits, she remarked, ‘I think work is the best route out of poverty’. This is two fingers up to the 55 per cent of people living in poverty who are in work. Not totally a Tory creation but one made worse by nearly every decision since 2010. Second, to equate learning disabilities and mental ill health. The woman who pleaded with her to bring back her much relied upon benefits was patronised and fobbed off. She deserve the opposite. 

Footing the bill is another thing

To much acclaim the Labour manifesto was formally launched. So was a rather spurious attempt to prove it was costed. There was literally something for everyone. I am told the Clause V meeting was assured economic credibility was a priority, yet John McDonnell still trails his u-turning opposite number.  

Jeremy Corbyn performed well at the manifesto launch, but made an unfortunate gaffe during the question and answer session – pledging to reinstate the cuts to benefits made by the Tories, then being forced to U-turn and admit a Labour government would do no such thing.

That evening I was knocking on doors and a voter said to me: ‘See, not even Corbyn supports his own manifesto. This is not the sum of Labour’s spending, it is just the start.’ Even if people like the lines of spending it is unclear whether they are prepared to foot the bill. McDonnell can insist if it funded all he likes but – as he suggests about the Tory manifesto – it is what is not in black and white that leaves people wondering. For many, Corbyn’s gaffe will crystallise that. 

So it is down to individual Labour members of parliament to use their personal credibility to win for Labour. This weekend the three seats challenge is in Wrexham, Chester and Wirral South. I hope you join us. 

Len’s low expectations

Last week, Momentum launched its ‘nearest marginal’ app – designed to help direct activists towards Labour seats with MPs under threat. That activists are being sent to Labour-held seats is a clear admission from within Corbyn’s camp that they know this is a defensive election. If they believe Corbyn was carrying Labour to victory, they would be focusing on winning seats, not defending seats we already hold.

This week, Len McCluskey unhelpfully waded in predicting Labour would do well to hold 200 seats. That would leave Labour down some 32 on Ed Miliband’s pitiful performance in 2015. Alongside briefing that this election is all about vote share, it is clear those around Corbyn are more interested in 9 June than polling day.

Seven years into a disastrous Tory government we should be gaining seats, any half-decent leader would be beating Theresa May.

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Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell

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