Lessons learnt on the doorstep for Labour

First published on the Times Redbox

This Sunday I ventured to the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency with a car full of people. I was keen to do my bit to help Gareth Snell, a friend from my Labour Students days, and Labour’s campaign more generally.

In these heartbreaking times it is important to remember there is no factionalism in doorknocking and despite the feeling that Labour is dying in front of our eyes, most Labour activists like each other and love this party. (more…)

Less Charlie Kennedy And More George Galloway

First published on the Huffington Post

Those of us in the Labour party who have been staunchly sceptical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership from the beginning often stand accused of not taking him or his supporters seriously enough. At Progress, we are keen to rectify this perception, and apply rigorous intellectual scrutiny to the Corbyn project.

That’s why in this month’s Progress magazine, the main feature – alongside fascinating interviews with shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and the Labour leader in the House of Lords Angela Smith on holding the government to account over article 50 – is an essay on The Corbynite Ideology.

Rather than the normal ‘it’s all going wrong’ type piece that some have come to expect from Progress – regardless of how fair or true that might be – historian Richard Carr of Anglia Ruskin University looks in depth at the Labour leader’s world view. What Corbyn really believes, who continues to inspire him – spoiler: Tony Benn – and what gets him out of bed in the morning – another spoiler: Stop the War rallies.

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Byelection battles

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

The final furlong in Copeland and Stoke, the McDonnell amendment and a cutting Brexit intervention by Tony Blair – Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

Theresa May cannot even back her own policies in Copeland and Paul Nuttall has a problem with the truth in Stoke-on-Trent Central. Labour is set to win both next Thursday. Taking nothing for granted, I will be out in the latter on Sunday and hope you can join me. It is not over until it is over. 

Last week I wrote ‘it seems more important to [Copeland] voters that they save the hospital rather than the Labour party’. If this was wishful thinking by Labour, May has given the choice a huge boost. Considering the prime minister has centuries-long conventions on her side – broken only by Gordon Brown in Glenrothes – the only reason for her to appear in Copeland is to stop the closure of maternity services or defend her cuts to the National Health Service. To stonewall a ITV interviewer is the worst of all worlds, but you will find no complaints here! Paul Waugh at the Huffington Post suggested if Labour wins it will be ‘Theresa what won it’. When voters read the front page of the local paper – the lady’s not for talking – they will not be lost for words. 

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The McDonnell Amendment: Richard Angell vs. Chris Williamson

First published on Labour Vision

Today on Labour Vision we bring you a debate between Richard Angell, (Director, Progress) and former Labour MP, Chris Williamson. We have asked Richard and Chris to answer the following question:

“Would the McDonnell Amendment help or hinder the Labour Party and the people it seeks to represent?”

Richard and Chris were each given 600 words up-front to answer the question, and a further 400 words each to rebut the arguments of their opposite number. Their thoughts are below.

N.B. The McDonnell Amendment is a proposal to reduce the threshold of MP nominations required to allow a candidate onto the ballot for the Labour leadership election from 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party to 5%. Several MPs, such as Caroline Flint, are strongly opposed to the proposal.

This proposal is the brainchild of Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, who twice failed to acquire the requisite number of nominations from fellow MPs. It is argued that, if this proposal were passed by Labour Party Conference in September, then it would be to the considerable advantage of the Labour left.

Enjoy! (more…)

Divisions over divisions

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Article 50 has plunged Labour into the thick of the controversy of leaving the European Union this week. The very issue Labour could once use to divide the Tory party leaves Labour looking like they are all over the place. The vacuum in leadership allows a three line whip – aimed to indicate understanding of how 17 million people voted – to be characterised as a blank check for Theresa May’s hard Brexit.

The leadership of the party, has for once, recognised the important of being in touch with majority opinion in Britain. Yet it is Jeremy Corbyn’s close allies – both in parliament and outside – that seem to understand his position least. In fact, many of those who berated the ‘coupists’ last summer are now the ones walking off Corbyn’s frontbench or leaving the party all together. Labour members of parliament – from all wings – have got to do right my their conscience and their constituents. We should respect how they each vote, despite our deep felt feeling about how we wish the voted had gone last June. (more…)

Gordon Aikman (2 April 1985-1 February 2017)

851136294He wanted his legacy to be change for other motor neurone sufferers – an obituary of Gordon Aikman

First published on LabourList

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…)

The class pay gap

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Alan Milburn leading the way on social mobility, Clive Lewis’ campaign team, May’s US speech and Holocaust Memorial Day  – Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

Alan Milburn is doing the Labour party’s job for it … again. His work on social mobility continues to chart a path towards achieving Labour’s historic mission: breaking the link between the postcode you are born into and where you end up in life. In fact, few in Labour other than Milburn have looked seriously at how to tackle social mobility in the United Kingdom. The only exception I can think of is Tristram Hunt’s work on character education, that he commended back to the party in his recent letter resigning from the House of Commons. Based on a report commissioned by the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility and conducted by the Education Policy Institute. Ed Miliband, who never gave a speech on the issue or primary or secondary education in all the time her was leader of the opposition, had such low regard for the issue ‘there was more in Labour’s 2015 manifesto on handrails in old people’s homes than education’, an extremely frustrated Hunt told a post-general election Progress audience. (more…)

It’s ‘game on’

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Byelection dates confirmed in Copeland and Stoke, Trump confirmed as president, and Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ speech – Richard Angell looks at the events of the week

The writ will be put down for both Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central on Monday for an byelection on 23 February 2017. My colleague Matthew Faulding has already been on the Labour doorstep in the former, I look forward to joining the Labour and Progress members that are out day-in-day-out very soon. (more…)

Jeremy Corbyn’s shambolic power grab in Copeland would put New Labour to shame

First published on Telegraph Comment

It is amazing how quickly the Jeremy Corbyn project has emulated everything it says it hates. The Labour leader does not have just one senior spin doctor, but three, and is advertising for yet another. Last week they tried to u-turn on Corbyn’s lifelong position on free movement because focus groups and polling tell them they have little option – and then did not quite manage it.

Last night Labour selected its candidate in Copeland. The tactics used by Corbyn’s inner circle – not least the reported involvement of leader’s office staff David Prescott and James Schneider – would make Millbank Tower in the heady days of New Labour blush. Reports have circulated that membership lists were made available to preferred candidates well in advance, that canvassing calls were made from within the leader’s office and that national trade union political officers were picked off and put behind one candidate. (more…)

Uncertain times

All of the party’s interventions in the next 12 months should be measured by three tests, writes Progress director, Richard Angell

First published on the Fabian blog

Never has an opposition proved itself so unfit to meet the 12 months ahead of it. Just 12 days into 2017 and two policies have been proposed, critiqued and reversed by the Labour leader himself. In fact, both happened in the same 12 hours.

Whether you see Jeremy Corbyn’s new year relaunch as ‘let Bartlet be Bartlet’ or Trump-lite, it has been laid bare. More importantly it has been found wanting. We had five years with Ed Miliband as ‘his own outrider’. It resulted in him being out on his ear. This cannot last. I predict 2017 will see at least one, if not more, further Corbyn relaunches as the leadership struggles to do enough to show the party it can at least go through the motions.

To end 2017 stronger than it has started might not seem hard but it will require focus. All interventions should meet one of three tests: first, whether it makes the Tories feel the heat; second, whether it changes Labour in the eyes of the voters; or, third and even better, whether it gains Labour new levels of support. (more…)