Saturday, 22 May 2010

Labour leadership Saturday round-up

Today's big event is the Progress Conference: there will be tweeting on #progress2010 while LabourList is media partner

David Miliband is billed as the afternoon keynote speaker at 2.30pm.

Ed Miliband tweets that he is speaking to Progress this morning, and then is off to Derby and Sheffield this afternoon. Andy Burnham is also at the conference.

Ed Balls will be on the campaign trail in Thirsk & Malton:

Hope Progress conference goes well - I'm off to Thirsk & Malton by-election with group of Morley & Outwood members #labourdoorstep

You can hear John McDonnell on Any Questions last night on Radio 4 at 1.10pm today.

I haven't seen any news on Diane Abbott, after a blitz of coverage in the last couple of days following her announcement.


Ed Balls speaks to the Telegraph; Ed Miliband is interviewed by The Guardian. Their comments about Iraq make the headlines, as Next Left blogged last night.

Balls says that Labour lost its way on some issues in the second term, but says the "irony" is that he may become the New Labour continuity candidate.

“This leadership election is about being a credible party of government,” he says. “You could get a cheer by saying: 'Let’s withdraw from Afghanistan’, but I don’t think that’s where the public’s at. It wouldn’t be responsible. If we stop being pro-dynamism and pro-small business, we’ll be out of power for a generation. The irony is that the person not saying New Labour is dead is me. We just lost our way on some issues in the second term.”

That suggests Balls may agree with those, such as Alastair Campbell, who felt Ed Miliband may have sounded too critical of the government's record last weekend. However, there is so far relatively little substantive difference between what Ed Miliband, Ed Balls or David Miliband have said about the strengths and weaknesses of Labour's record in office.

Ed Miliband tells The Guardian he wants one in three Shadow Cabinet places to be held by women. (That, incidentally, is an ambition David Cameron has for his own government, though one currently honoured very much in the breach).

The influence of the Fabian Society's The Solidarity Society research is very evident in what Ed Miliband says about the importance of universalism, and a welfare state based not on need but on contribution:

New Labour fell victim to what it accused old Labour of doing, which is being stuck in its old orthodoxies. On the banks and the banking system we got stuck in our old orthodoxies. On the interaction of the labour market and immigration we got stuck in old orthodoxies. Now how do we move on from that? What I'm going to do in the next few weeks is lay out some fundamental principles that I think should guide us.

"I want to talk about the gap between rich and poor … I want to talk about a welfare state based not just on need but on contribution. I actually think one of the big projects we have to pursue is that we're fighting an election in the next few years – and essentially we're talking about the next 10 years – if we want to be in government in the second half of this decade, then we have to be thinking about how we shape the welfare state to be much more around the Beveridge principle and around contribution.


"What we know about the welfare state is that in order to sustain public support for it, if it's only a means-tested welfare state, then you won't maintain middle-class support for it. It was [Richard] Titmuss who said services for the poor are poor services. For the middle classes the social security system doesn't do very much if you fall out of work and you're someone on a reasonable income. All you'll be offered is a means-tested 50 or 60 quid a week.

John Harris in The Guardian is not impressed by the "immigration, immigraton, immigration" approach of several ex-ministerial candidates:

Immigration and welfare have become hot-button issues largely because of the insecurities made worse by New Labour's recurrent refusal to depart from the usual neoliberal script ...

Yesterday, one more leadership candidate came up with a no-brainer quote, though this one cut to the heart of this week's unpleasantness. "One of the things that made me run was hearing candidate after candidate saying that immigration lost us the election," said Diane Abbott, who is starting to take on a very unlikely air of saintliness. "Rather than wringing our hands about the white working class and immigration, we need to deal with the underlying issues that make white and black people hostile to immigration: things like housing and job security. We need to be careful about scapegoating immigrants in a recession. We know where that leads."

We certainly do. And on these most fundamental of issues, Labour's danger is not that long-imagined lurch to the left, but an ugly and reactionary step in the opposite direction.

Andrew Grice in his Independent column thinks that Ed Miliband is the candidate most likely to benefit from the Alternative Vote transferable voting system:

I detect a strong Labour desire to move on from the Blair-Brown era that could work against David Miliband and Mr Balls – at first glance the two candidates most likely to win. It could help Ed Miliband, who somehow managed to remain neutral in the Blair-Brown wars while working for Mr Brown. He is right to challenge his older brother; they would work well together if either man won. In 1994, Mr Brown gave Mr Blair a free run and wrongly felt deprived of the prize. With hindsight, the two modernisers should have fought it out, as the Milibands do now.

The Telegraph's Vicki Woods says the sisterhood should back Diane Abbott.

The Daily Mail suggests there is late pressure for Yvette Cooper to change her mind about running, but may be reading a little too much into the fact that she has yet to announce that she will nominate Ed Balls.

The Times today finds a new demographic - we've all gone a bit Lib-Con and so shows pretty much no interest whatsoever in the opposition party's leadership race.

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