Brexit

The loner leader

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Theresa May gave the world a glimpse of what Brexit Britain, certainly under her lack of vision, would look like. Alone with no one to talk to at the latest European Union summit she looked awkward and in desperate need of friends. No longer the new kid on the block – the Italian minister of foreign affairs Angelino Alfano has that accolade – May’s notoriety is fading and the reality of Britain’s exit from the EU has crystallized. But a plan of action has not. The unelected prime minister is consumed by Brexit yet made impotent by it at the same time. If only she faced a serious opposition … (more…)

Tone-deaf Labour

First published in the New European

Why is it left to Tony Blair to point out the government’s Brexit failings, asks Richard Angell

She may have voted Remain, but after the country opted for Leave, Theresa May performed an about-turn to appoint herself the leader of the latter.

Her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ slogan and the appointment of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davies is supposed to reassure the 52 per cent that she is the champion they have been waiting for. It has fallen to Nick Clegg and Tony Blair to head up the 48 per cent.

Yes, the referendum has split the country in half, but considering how many were heavy-hearted Leavers or reluctant Remainers, it seems odd that the prime minister uniquely positioned to unite us seems intent on entrenching our division. The question the public will be asking is: who is speaking on behalf of all of us? (more…)

After the referendum: Britain divided?

Battle of Ideas conference 2016
22 October 2016 | the Barbican

Many were shocked by the outcome of Britain’s EU referendum. Remain voters said they no longer recognised their country. Leave voters retorted that now metropolitan liberals knew how the rest of the country has been feeling for years. Is Britain split down the middle? Are there now North-South, old-young, metropolitan-rural, educated-uneducated divides that can’t be surmounted?

Filmed at the Battle of Ideas, the speakers are Richard Angell, director of Progress; Dr Munira Mirza, advisor on arts and philanthropy, Leave campaigner; Max Wind-Cowie, deputy director of ResPublica; David Lammy MP, Labour MP for Tottenham; Mick Hume, editor-at-large, spiked. The chair is Alan Miller, chairman, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).

Published on 10 Dec 2016

How IndyRef2 could become BrexitRef2

First published on Progressonline

Nicola Sturgeon believes that preparing the legislation for a second referendum on Scottish independence might be a way of calling Theresa May’s bluff on Brexit and Scotland’s place in the single market. If she tries, the bluff-calling might just be on the other foot.

In her Today programme interview this morning Sturgeon did her best braveheart routine, but the language was noticeably different. She talked about taking ‘control’ and questioned whether the future of the United Kingdom was the constant and status quo that it represented in 2014. Straight out of the Vote Leave script the civic nationalist checked off all the boxes in the English nationalist playbook. Chief Brexiteer Matthew Elliott has since the 23 June poll explained how Vote Leave had to make continuing in the European Union as risking as leaving. It worked. Brexit offers the same possibility for her second referendum – so Sturgeon hopes. (more…)

No compromise with reality?

First published in Progress magazine

No one has levelled with the public about what drives migration to this country

‘No compromise with the electorate’ was Ted Knight’s infamous opinion when he and his hard-left friends ran Lambeth council into the ground in the 1980s. After the 2015 general election, a senior Labour member of parliament who has long been associated with Progress said to me, ‘On immigration, you are as bad as the Trots – no comprise with the electorate.’ Recently another MP remarked how bizarre it was that, as they saw it, ‘Tony Blair and Diane Abbott basically have the same opinion on immigration’.  The former prime minister’s mantra of ‘fair rules without prejudice’ is certainly a position I – and most Labour party members – can get on board with. But the initial comment made me think.

Is there a neo-Blairite/neo-Bennite, liberal metropolitan elite view and is it just a modern form of Knight’s philosophy? Do they have a point? (more…)

The week the mods got organised

First published on Progressonline

They said it couldn’t be done, that moderate Labour supporters could never be persuaded to pay £25 for a vote in the leadership election. But this week, from a standing start, Saving Labour – and all those who fell in behind – galvanised the moderate wing of the Labour party and recruited a historic number of Labour voters to the party fold. 183,000 people used the party’s fledgling Registered Supporters scheme to get a vote in the forthcoming leadership election. Reports suggest that between 34 and 40 per cent are those wanting a credible opposition. More than anyone could have hoped for if the number got into six figures. And that was well before reports of 40,000 duplications – much more likely to be Jeremy Corbyn voters – were deducted from that number. (more…)

Now More Than Ever, Labour and the Country Need a Pro-European Leader

First published on the Huffington Post

Jeremy Corbyn took the opportunity to visit the European Union at the height of the referendum on Labour’s continued membership of the world’s most successful peace project. Not to make a speech, speak truth to power in Brussels – but to holiday. Portugal saw more of Corbyn than whole regions of England did. The Labour leader didn’t visit the north-east once, where the EU is vital to the economy.

(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…)

Brexit prolongs austerity but Labour’s brilliant local leaders will help communities survive

First published on LabourList

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…)

Labour needs a fresh, honest approach on immigration

First published in the ‘i’ newspaper

The people’s decision to leave the European Union has sent an earthquake through the political class. All major parties have been shaken. Brexit has been as hard on the Labour party as it has on the pound, at its lowest level since some point in the early to mid 1980s. The danger for Labour is that how many voters in its heartlands felt on one day in June 2016 defines how they behave and vote for a decade to come.

If Scotland is a guide, moving to a post-referendum politics – where whether you voted ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ defines how you vote – will take some time. It will not, as in Scotland, be a resurgent Tory party that will come for our heartlands but their rightwing cousins in the United Kingdom Independence Party. (more…)