Interview

From time-to-time Richard Angell interviews senior politicians and interesting people

‘Reminding people that we’re not in government’

Boris-Johnson-Andrew-Gwynne-copy-768x545The shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne takes Richard Angell and Conor Pope behind the scenes of the surprise election

First published on ProgressOnline

‘I’m infamous now’, Andrew Gwynne declares. He was ‘walking along the Embankment’ to parliament recently when he noticed two people shiftily looking over their shoulder at him. ‘They turned around and said, “You’re that guy that took on Boris!”’ That was when he understood that his television antics had made him recognisable. (more…)

‘It’s enjoyable because it’s meaningful’

Being mayor is about bringing people together, Marvin Rees tells Richard Angell

First published in Progress magazine

On an otherwise disappointing local election results night – net losses under a new leader being a first in British politics – there were a few bright spots for Labour this May. The party retained the mayor of Salford with a new and energetic candidate, Sadiq Khan became the highest-ranking Muslim politician in the western world – and Marvin Rees won the mayoralty of Bristol. He stood four years previously, and lost to former Liberal Democrat-turned-independent George Ferguson. Yale University-educated, this mixed-race guy from Bristol’s toughest estate has a higher vision for his city. It is fair to say Rees is not a very tribal politician, something his councillor colleagues have found frustrating. But he is a passionate progressive and perfect for the role of mayor: big on vision and keen to bring people together for shared solutions. Two months into the job, that big picture looms large.

‘How we untangle this challenge of doing economic development that doesn’t compound inequality, lead to gentrification, and then lead places to be unaffordable’, is the task he has set himself. He calls it ‘the golden nugget’. It is so important because the city he loves is ‘good on driving prosperity’, but recent growth has ‘compounded inequality and [Bristol has] become more unaffordable’ for many. To scale ambitious heights he is shaking up the council. (more…)

‘Loyal is my brand’

Crime should rise back up the Labour party’s agenda, Andy Burnham tells Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

First published in Progress magazine

Andy Burnham has just emerged from a meeting at a mosque in Newport, south Wales, when we catch up with him. He has been out on the stump in support of Labour’s police and crime commissioner candidates. But the high-profile brief of shadow home secretary inevitably oscillates between being visible campaigning for Labour and handling some of the trickiest questions of the day around policing, security and integration. (more…)

‘London’s shop steward’

First published in Progress magazine

The soon-to-be mayor of London Sadiq Khan talks to Richard Angell and Adam Harrison, and he is hungry for new powers

We lost to everyone, everywhere’, says Sadiq Khan, quoting his friend and colleague Jon Cruddas, Labour’s former policy chief speaking on the party’s defeat last May. Scotland was a wipeout, few marginal seats were won, and the Tories even took the constituency of Gower for the first time ever. In another first, Labour lost to the Tories among Sikh and Hindu communities, and in every age category over 44. There is one exception: the capital city. In London, Labour polled 300,000 more votes than the Tories. This should be more than enough to propel the son of a bus driver into city hall this May.

Khan, however, is not complacent. His office is a hive of activity. We struggle to find a quiet spot to huddle as meeting rooms are filled with campaigning briefings and organiser training, and the phones are ringing off the hook. Karen Buck, a long-time ally of Khan and winner against the odds in hyper-marginal Westminster North, is meeting with councillor and housing lead James Murray, who splits his time between Islington town hall, the leader’s office and the mayoral campaign. The staff make up the rich diversity of Labour’s political family – everyone from ardent Corbynista to ‘redeployed’ former Michael Dugher adviser. The whole Labour family has jumped behind the member of parliament for Tooting. (more…)

‘I want us to be a governing party’

First published in Progress magazine

‘No one wants to be called a “predator”’. Angela Eagle talks exclusively to Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

The office of the shadow secretary of state for business is no easy place to find. Hidden doors lead to long corridors and spiral staircases as if we have stepped into the magical castle made famous by the Harry Potter series. We find Angela Eagle in her eyrie at the top of a turret, her view a vantage point over the parliamentary estate; it is almost like Eagle is looking out for the party in the current precarious times.

If parliament is Hogwarts, then Eagle as shadow first secretary of state is Professor McGonagall to Jeremy Corbyn’s Dumbledore. The member of parliament for Wallasey is ‘looking forward’ to her ‘first bout with George Osborne’. The appointment means she will step up to do prime minister’s questions when the government puts up the chancellor. (more…)

‘Je ne regrette rien’

First published on Progressonline

We should not stop apologising to the voters who really wanted us to win, Mary Creagh tells Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

It is less than 48 hours since the deadline for nominations to be leader of the Labour party closed. Just a week ago Mary Creagh had hoped to have secured a place on the ballot by this point. But the shadow international development secretary pulled out of the contest last weekend, firing off a parting shot at the last leadership’s abysmal relationship with business as she went.

How is Creagh feeling now, in the wake of what must have been one of the most demanding episodes in her political life? ‘Je ne regrette rien’, she says, citing the ‘messages of support’ she has received despite stepping out of the race, and the stories party members and more communicated to her in response to her call to create ‘a Britain where everybody can get on’. (more…)

‘The best antidote to anti-politics is grown-up politics’

First published in Progress magazine

Labour needs to be at the heart of a broad campaign to stay in Europe, Chuka Umunna tells Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

Thought by many to be one of the strongest contenders for the Labour leadership election, it was a surprise when Chuka Umunna withdrew from the contest. Now out of the glare of the spotlight, we took time to catch up with Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business after arguably Labour’s worst defeat. (more…)

‘It’s restored my faith in politics’

Gordon AikmanFirst published in Progress magazine

Gordon Aikman wants nothing left unsaid | Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

Gordon Aikman has been busy of late. The former Labour party staffer-turned-director of research for the unionist referendum campaign Better Together has met Hillary Clinton, been in and out of No 10, received wide coverage in national newspapers and, most recently, his partner, Joe, proposed after a day visiting the White House and the Oval Office.

In the final weeks of the independence referendum campaign Aikman found out he had motor neurone disease. The condition was recently propelled into the news thanks to the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything. Unlike Stephen Hawking, Aikman’s strain of the disease means he has just months to live. ‘I think we could all learn from Philip Gould [the New Labour pollster] and others about making the most of every day. Life is finite.’ ‘With the progressive nature of MND, I know that today is my healthiest day; I am only going to get worse. I’ve been living life and enjoying life as much as I can.’ (more…)

‘The country will be run according to a different idea’

First published in Progress magazine

There will be no pie-in-the-sky promises under the next Labour government, Ed Miliband tells Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

Entering the leader of the opposition’s now-bare office, his team are quick to point out how the operation has decamped to Brewers Green, the campaign nerve centre. In what is one of Ed Miliband’s last meetings in the Norman Shaw South office we ask him to cast his mind forward. What will Britain after five years of a Labour government look like? ‘The country will be run according to a different idea,’ he explains. ‘I think the Tories really do believe that as long as you take care of those at the top, the wealth will just trickle down to everybody else. That has not worked.’ So Labour, in contrast, believes ‘when working people succeed, that Britain succeeds’. ‘At the end of five years of this government, people think the country is more divided, more unequal, more unjust. And I hope that by the end of five years of my government, people will think, “Actually the country is more fair, more just, more equal and better serves my interests”.’ (more…)

Strong words, softly spoken

First published in Progress magazine

John Hannett is general secretary of Usdaw

Grown-up trade unionism delivers for workers, argues John Hannett in consersation with Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

As leader of one of the few trade unions increasing its membership, John Hannett is a man worth listening to. Usdaw has added 110,000 members to its ranks over the last decade, bucking the trend for union membership. This is all the more impressive for a union that represents members in shops, factories and warehouses that have struggled in the grip of recession – including those working in the 807 Woolworths stores that were forced to close in 2009. (more…)