McDonnell amendment

How can Labour reunite?

170x170bbGuardian UK politics podcast: Anushka Asthana is joined by Paul Mason, Zoe Williams and Richard Angell to discuss whether Labour’s warring factions can put aside their differences and reconnect with lost voters. Plus John McDonnell on tackling tax avoidance

Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud, Acast & Stitcher and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter (more…)

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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…)

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: Is Labour prepared for 2017?

At Fabian Society New Year conference 2017
Saturday, 14 January 2017 | Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ

Speakers included:

  • Jon Ashworth MP (Leicester South & shadow health secretary) – 15.34mins
  • Kate Green MP (Stretford & Urmston & chair, Fabian Society) – 9.40mins
  • Richard Angell (director, Progress) – 3.38mins
  • Ellie Mae O’Hagan (freelance journalist) – 21.26mins
  • Chair: Cllr Sue MacMillan (cabinet member, Hammersmith & Fulham Council)

A new prime minister, a new president, a new relationship with Europe… and a divided Labour party. After a tumultuous 2016, our January conference looks ahead to a critical year for the UK and asks where next for Britain, and where next for the British left? The morning will focus on the big challenges facing the left: what we believe, who we speak to, and how we win. The afternoon sessions will examine the global dilemmas we face: populism, globalisation and the age of Brexit and Trump. The conference will feature keynote speeches, panel debates and interactive delegate discussions.

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UPDATE: A blog on the theme on my speech was published by the Fabian Society on Monday 16 January 2017.

Stop the McDonnell amendment

My New Year’s resolution is to stop the hard-left lowering the threshold to stand for Labour leader from 15 to five per cent

First published on ProgressOnline | Featured in the Guardian

2016 was obviously a total disaster for those who want to see a Labour government in the not too distant future. Disappointing local election results, coming third in Scotland, losing the European Union referendum and the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn followed by near silence. Since 24 September 2016 there has been little done to unite the party, nothing done to flesh out of policy ideas, campaign days on grammar schools and the NHS were so poor few voters noticed and the Labour leader appears at prime minister’s question time and that’s about it. Labour finishes the year with a 25 per cent standing in the polls – some 17 points behind an unelected Tory leader that is bereft of ideas and vision. Only 18 per cent of the public like our economy team and just 17 per cent our leader. The Corbyn project has clearly failed and many who voted for him, even the second time, are rapidly coming to the same conclusion. (more…)

Reason to be cheerful

First published in Progress magazine

Conference in Liverpool was a success for moderates

—The honest truth is that I had not been looking forward to Labour party conference this year. 2015 had been the first year I had not enjoyed conference, not because of the leadership result, but because suddenly Brighton went from being friendly to alien. Those who were abusive online decided to be so in person, and my staff were treated in not dissimilar ways, just for doing their job. Added to this year’s trepidation was the exhaustion from a summer of Saving Labour, a National Executive Committee campaign, and a leadership contest that went straight into a conference where those behind Momentum and the so-called Campaign for Labour Party Democracy wanted to change our party beyond recognition.

There was some, I hope understandable, foreboding. In the lead-up to conference, Progress and Labour First – working together like never before – travelled the country on our Road to Conference tour. Back to the basics of how conference works, what motions would be up for discussion, why moving from a 15 per cent to five per cent threshold for nominations for the leadership – known as the ‘McDonnell amendment’ – would be so catastrophic. I always enjoy getting out of London for our various events series in British cities – invariably run by brilliant Labour councils – but often these ‘moderate meet-ups’ were as much about hearing the stories of abuse being levelled at long-standing constituency officers, Jewish members and women councillors and members of parliament as they were about policy and procedure. I called the editorial of a previous edition of Progress ‘heart-breaking times’ – little else brings it home more than when members who campaigned for Michael Foot are close to tears because a small number of supporters of the current leader shout them down in meetings and intimidate them into silence. And it is not everyone, just some. Often not ‘new members’ but those returning to relive the 1980s (and the same sad outcome). (more…)

One tiny change makes Labour unrecognisable

First published on the Times Redbox

Last year I left Labour party conference in Brighton exhausted. Moderates had fended off attacks on Trident and Labour’s defence policy, the rulebook was left largely unchanged, and the mistakes made in full view of the public were all homemade, by Jeremy Corbyn and his Short money-employed staff.

Recently I was back in Brighton for the Labour First/Progress Road to Conference tour. While Labour itself heads to Liverpool this year, conference is back in Brighton in 2017. Could the party be unrecognisable by then? (more…)