Scotland

May in meltdown

First published on Progress Online for The Last Word

May’s weakness exposed, leadership in local government and an impressive start for Open Labour – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

The Tories in 2015 told Britain not to vote Labour because Ed Miliband would be a disaster for the economy and he would be pushed around by Nicola Sturgeon. If it was not for the fact that the National Health Service was in crisis and the government’s only idea for improving schools is to bring back grammars, you might have to pinch yourself to remember who won. 

The morning after Sturgeon ambushed the country and announced her intention to legislate for a second referendum on Scottish independence, the Times ran with a government source saying: ‘This timing is completely unacceptable … it would be irresponsible to agree to it and we won’t.’ If half of what the first minister said about being kept in the dark about how Brexit might proceed is true, the fault in many ways lies with Theresa May and her operation in No 10. 

May likes to maintain that her ‘thoughtful’ style is a strength and shows that she is considered. It is anything but. The weakness of No 10 and her inability to know her own mind is why so much of Brexit is still unclear and why she cannot show her own colleagues, let alone parliament or the devolved administrations, the respect and consideration they deserve.  (more…)

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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…)

Five reasons Labour won’t come third in Scotland this May

First published on LabourList

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.

Having spent this time last week on the doorstep in six very different Scottish constituencies, I know our party colleagues there need our help with one-to-one chats with voters, not journalists. (more…)

rhubarbTV: Head To Tozer

Episode 2 of Head To Tozer is here! Watch Ben Tozer interview the director of Progress – Labour’s progressives, Richard Angell.

About rhubarbTV

We are rhubarbTV. It’s an acronym. Royal Holloway’s Unique Broadcasting and Recording Brand. And that is exactly what we do, broadcast and record. We aim to cover an array of events both on and off campus in order for clubs and societies to reach a stronger audience with what it is that they do.

Never think we don’t care

Scotland_tour-199x400.jpgFirst published on LabourHame

Ahead of the Progress campaign tour to Scotland’s central belt, Richard Angell – director of Progress and founder of @Lab3seats – outlines why UK Labour are keen to rally round.

The result in Scotland in May 2015 was a blow for everyone in the Labour movement. No one predicted it would be a near total wipeout. In Scotland itself fellow members are left with nearly no parliamentary representation and were plunged into not one but two leadership elections. Now you are straight back in the firing line trying to make the case for Labour against a resilient and insurgent Scottish National party.

You have had to take the loss, feel the pain and do it all again. Doorstep by doorstep. And, if some accounts are true, the environment seems even more aggressive towards us than last May, which in turn was worse than the referendum before it. I hear your pain. (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…)

Now is not the time for timidity

First published on LabourList

The Conservatives should not even have been in contention in this election. With apparent disregard for its failure to win a majority in 2010, the Tory party abandoned modernisation as soon as it entered office. It haemorrhaged support, in both voter base and parliamentary party, to the United Kingdom Independence party. It has presided over sluggish economic growth which was not felt by most across the country. And it has entrenched negative attitudes about itself – which will endure now for many decades more – among previous swing voters in places like Scotland, Manchester and London.

And yet for all these failures, the Conservative party’s aggressive belief that it alone speaks for the majority of Britain – arrogant and wrong though it may be – dragged it from the depths of the omnishambles budget in 2012 to apparently neck and neck with Labour on polling day. (more…)

Five lessons from seven seats

IMG_0182First published on Labour Hame

As the starting gun was fired on the general election campaign, the Progress team visited seven seats in Scotland to help some excellent Labour candidates – all standing for election or re-election for the first time – knock back the Scottish National party and knock out the Conservatives nationally.

Every Labour member of parliament returned to Westminster brings the Labour government that this country so desperately needs ever closer. More SNP MPs leaves only David Cameron rubbing his hands.

It was an exhilarating and exhausting two days as we stretched the three seat challenge (#Lab3seats) model to visit seven seats in 36 hours. It was fascinating for everyone on our tour. 1,078 contacts later, there are some lessons which I think are worth sharing. (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…)