Gordon Aikman was propelled into the media when he was tragically diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 29 during the Scottish independence referendum. Gordon served as the ‘No’ campaign’s director of research when his hands started to feel numb and he – reluctantly – went to the doctors. What started as ‘struggle with tying shoelaces and buttoning shirts’ led to some life changing decisions. ‘Quitting [Better Together] was never an option’ he told the Scotsman in June 2014. He did, however, have to cut of out commute from Edinburgh to Glasgow and work remotely. He powered through and was part of the team that held the United Kingdom together. In the same piece he warned that he would most likely being in a wheelchair by Christmas and he warned his friends of the steep decline that could follow. He defied the timing suggested by his doctors time and again. Sadly, on Wednesday Gordon lost his battle with MND and leaves behind a massive hole in so many people’s lives. (more…)
I know exactly what it feels like to want to attend a grammar school. I decided early on that I did not want to attend the feeder secondary school in my town. I had experienced so much bullying already about a sexuality I did not yet know I had. An out of county grammar school – my native Bedfordshire had long abolished the system but neighbouring Buckinghamshire had not – gave me something to focus on, and a way that avoid both the bullies and the issue they concentrated on. It was an alibi that did not require much explanation. (more…)
Yesterday the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected to his post. He has been in power for a year now. He was intact, in power all summer. And today he stood in the pulpit and pulled back from the speech he needed to give. Instead he made a speech that called for a lot but concluded nothing.
His calls for unity fall on deaf ears as they are demands for followership rather than assertions of leadership. Those who backed his rival were hoping for even just one of the following: a clear signal that it is Tories that are to be de-selected at the ballot box not Labour MPs in dusty halls and smoke-filled rooms; a promise to back a parliamentary party elected shadow cabinet; an action plan to end the abuse within the party, especially the vile sexism experiences by women MPs and national executive members; a clear embrace of those who joined under previous leaders or from traditions others than his – those around Progress, Labour First and the newly reformed Tribune Group; a pledge that Momentum would be for Labour members only – we are the biggest party in western Europe after all; an apology for failing to defend Ruth Smeeth, one of his own MPs, against antisemitism at an event on tackling antisemitism and a clear pledge that at the NEC meeting he is due to attend he would keep his pledge to back the Jewish Labour Movement’s rule change. (more…)
Today I will be at Brighton Pride with LGBT Labour, marching for rights and recognition, celebrating the great strides forward. Since 2001 the legal situation for LGBT people in the United Kingdom has been transformed. But not for all of our citizens.
Today is also Belfast Pride – a timely reminder of the contrasting rights within our union and the now stark contrast on the island of Ireland too. Just last year the Republic voted to change the Catholic country’s constitution and recognise marriage equally for all. (more…)
The British public’s decision to pull out of the European Union has shaken our politics and the economy. In turn the implications on our public services will catch up. And they are likely to be huge.
Mark Carney’s injection of £250bn into the economy and George Osborne’s tax break to companies has blown the public finances. But this additional spending is not the end of austerity but the prolonging of austerity. Public services will have constrained budgets for another decade longer. Just when you thought it was not possible, local councils will face even deeper cuts from central government, and services on which so many rely will come under further pressure.
Thankfully Labour councils are better led than at any point in our history. (more…)
A picture of Ed Miliband appears on the wall in the Australian Labor party campaign headquarters. Above the sign reads “don’t be them”. United Kingdom Labour’s high expectations and crushing defeat in 2015 had huge implications for social democrats the world over. No more so for our older sister party down under. At the time they knew a general election was due within 18 months and that while they were up against an unpopular Tory party that had just suffered a big defeat. Yet the whole party had been entangled in a huge personality battle between the previous government’s biggest figures. Sound familiar?
So why have the ALP turned their fortunes around so quickly and brought themselves to the brink of government in less than three years of opposition? (more…)
In November I wrote an editorial for Progress magazine headlined We need to talk about… losing’. At the time the Labour Party was telling itself that the fact that 450,000 people voted in a Labour leadership election in September 2015 changed the fact 11.3 million people had voted Tory in May earlier the same year. If the present situation of a prime minister versus a mayor of London heading the opposing sides in the EU referendum serves one purpose, it is to remind us how far from power we are.
Since that editorial we have had the Beckett Report, which failed to ask, let alone answer, key questions about why we fell two million votes short. The former Foreign Secretary’s duty should have been to put on record why Labour lost and sketch out a route back to power regardless of how unpopular that was with the current leader’s office. When the party decides it wants to win again the blueprint for doing so should have been found in the pages of her report. Instead that work will need doing afresh. (more…)
The team of spin doctors around Seumas Milne are colluding with Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories in the expectations game for Jeremy Corbyn’s first real electoral test in May. Both of them want people and the media to think that Scottish Labour might come third in the coming Scottish parliament elections. Davidson because it makes it more likely her party will come in second. However, for the Labour leader’s office it seems that they are prepared to throw hard-working members of the Scottish parliament under a bus just so expectations are exceeded in a few months’ time.
Those campaigning for a Corbyn leadership last summer told the wider party that an anti-austerity leader would turn around Labour’s fortunes in Scotland. The rhetoric and the party policy has changed north of the border: a top rate of tax to pay for a fair start fund for the poorest kids, 1p on income tax to reverse local government and education cuts. Scottish Labour has even junked its historic support for Trident to align itself with the new leadership, and voted in Holyrood accordingly.
I won’t pretend to have tweeted #JezWeCan, but the Labour Party has a rich tradition of groups with very different views and backgrounds. Progress was delighted to have the Guardian’s Owen Jones, Compass’s Neal Lawson, Class’s Steve Hart, and Blue Labour’s Maurice Glasman speak at our last conference – none of them exactly heirs to Blair. We can disagree without being disagreeable. (more…)
Nostalgia is to modernising politics, what rust is to iron. Corrosive.
Modernisers in the Labour Party have been dealt a heavy blow. Our candidate Liz Kendall did us proud but the result shows the challenge we face to win over our fellow party members if we want to be able to put our case directly to the British public. (more…)