Andy Burnham

Why should Liz Kendall give up?


An interesting thing seems to have cropped up of late; here and there, the suggestion that Liz Kendall should drop out of the Labour leadership race.

I say interesting, what I mean is utterly perplexing. So far as I can see, there is not much reason why should even consider it.

The theory seems to go that she should drop out of the race and endorse Yvette Cooper, in an effort to stop Jeremy Corbyn from winning the leadership and leading Labour to their biggest catastrophe since 1983. And whilst I do hope that Yvette wins and believe that Jeremy Corbyn would not be good for the Party, the idea that Liz’s presence or not on the ballot paper can have any influence on this is simply ignorant of the facts.

Read on…

Already picked Labour’s new leader? Then you’ve probably chosen wrong

labour leadership candidates

Have you already decided who you’re backing in the Labour leadership election? If so, I’d say you’ve probably chosen wrong.

Not that you’ve picked the wrong candidate. I’ve no idea who will win the election, much less who would be the leader we need to repair our party and get us back into power. But neither do almost any of the membership.

And that’s the point. If you’ve already chosen, you’ve probably chosen for the wrong reason.

Read on…

Justice a Step Closer

It’s not often that I have much complimentary to say about David Cameron. But I always aspire to be fair on this blog, and there are some occasions that go beyond party politics. Today was one of those days.

The revelations contained in the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel make for shocking and heartbreaking reading. After twenty three long years — longer than I have been alive — the truth is finally emerging. It doesn’t make it easier, but it means that a healing process can finally begin.

David Cameron’s apology was full and sincere, and everything that we could have asked for from a British Prime Minister. And in recognising that, we have to appreciate that four previous Prime Ministers, both Labour and Conservative, have failed to make such a recognition and apology.

Mr Cameron said:

Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years.

Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice.

The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth.

And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.

Additionally, Ed Miliband made a much-needed apology. The previous Labour government should have dealt with it, and it didn’t. Ed, wearing a Justice for the 96 lapel pin, said:

The Prime Minister was right today to offer an unreserved official apology, but all governments during this period bear their share of responsibility for the failure to get to the truth.

So we on this side also apologise to the families that we didn’t do enough to help.

Hillsborough has been a stain on our national conscience for far too long. It has been clear for a long time that not only was the disaster and its scale avoidable, but there was a cover up of the problems which led to the death toll and a disgraceful smear campaign against the victims themselves.

The months and years to come are going to be very difficult, as we find out who is truly to blame for the tragedy. We need to know who in the police and the other emergency services was responsible for the cover-up. We need to know the involvement of the Thatcher government and its members. We need to know how this could have happened.

The most heartbreaking thing that I have heard today was this from Dr Bill Kirkup, a member of the panel, at the press conference:

In total, 41 people therefore had potential to survive after the period of 3:15. What I can’t say is how many of those could have been saved. But I can say is that the potential is of that order of magnitude.

There are 41 people who may had been alive today if the emergency services had done their jobs correctly. And it has taken over two decades for that simple and shameful fact to reach the light of day.

But for now, let me just say thank you. From a lifelong Liverpool fan, who cried when he read the court transcripts of the numerous post-Hillsborough court cases, to all of the people who made this happen, thank you. Thank you to the David Cameron and Ed Miliband for the apologies their forebears couldn’t muster. Thank you to Andy Burnham and the other MPs who have fought in the Commons for this, and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign who did the same outside Parliament.

15th April 1989 was a shameful day. 12th September 2012 is a day to be proud of.

Chasing Shadows

So, after much anticipation, and a fair amount of spectacle, Mr (E.) Miliband has announced his Shadow Cabinet. And the commentators and speculators had it largely wrong (that’ll teach them). So here, fresh from my first Law & Politics in Britain and North America seminar, is my after-the-fact and probably under-informed view on the choices. This isn’t, by the way, going to be a full analysis, just a bit of comment on the bits I find interesting.

The obvious starting place is the place where all the speculation and rumour seemed to congeal- the Shadow Chancellorship. Of particular importance at the moment given the amount of attention being given to the economy, many had expected (and I had personally hoped) leadership candidate Ed Balls would get the job, given his political ferocity and economic understanding. Throughout the leadership campaign he had been noteworthy as particularly informed on the economy (just see his phenomenal There Is An Alternative speech), and has been supported by a number of key economists. Failing that, it was thought that his wife Yvette Cooper might be placed opposite Osborne, drawing on her experience as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.


Alan Johnson MP, Shadow Chancellor and Nicest Guy in Politics


Well we were all wrong. In the event, Mr Miliband has lumped for former Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Johnson, winner of my personal and very unofficial Nicest Guy in Politics Award, wasn’t much touted for the job, and is a bit of an odd appointment. Part of the reason might be that he’ll be more likely to tread the new leader’s line on the economy, being a slower reduction of the deficit rather than Balls’ radical investment and economic growth beliefs. It’s a bit early to comment on Johnson’s appointment, but whilst he’s a bit of a shock, he’s quite a diplomatic choice- probably designed to placate David Miliband’s supporters.

So consequently, Mr Balls has ended up as Shadow Home Secretary. I’m quite glad of this, to be


Ed Balls MP, Shadow Home Secretary


honest. As I said above, Ed is a fiery opponent, and I look forward to seeing him take on Theresa May and her one jacket (which is actually of particular interest, as one of Ms May’s constituents). I’m hoping that Ed will take the same hard line against cuts to the police, and policies on immigration which could potentially be disastrous to the recovering economy.

Yvette Cooper, meanwhile, sits herself down in the newly-vacated seat of David Miliband, as Shadow Foreign Secretary. This might seem an odd choice, but makes perfect sense, I think. William Hague (the Foreign Secretary) is famed as particularly talented orator, and whilst Ms Cooper may not have the same profile as the former Conservative Leader, I can assure you that she is a very talented politician. Iain Duncan Smith will be breathing a sigh of relief that he won’t be facing her across the dispatch box.


Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Education Secretary


The only other leadership candidate (aside from the two Eds) to make it into the cabinet is Andy Burnham, who has been given Balls’ old brief in Education. This appointment I can genuinely say I am thrilled with. Just as Gove is poking his head out from behind the barricade and wondering if it’s safe to come out now that the nasty Mr Balls has moved on, here comes another heavyweight. In particular, Andy’s line on fairness and equality throughout the leadership campaign fits perfectly here, and with Balls having moved to the Home Office, I can’t think of anyone better to fight the inequality and foolishness of Gove’s education policies.

Sadiq Kahn, the man who ran Ed Miliband’s successful leadership campaign, is rewarded with a brief opposite Ken Clarke in the Ministry of Justice. This is quite a promotion, for the man who was formerly Minister for Transport, and no doubt reflects his loyal service to the new leader. It’s also going to be a fairly difficult task, standing opposite one of the few men who I will laud as a “sensible” Conservative.

To finish, I’m glad to see that Shaun Woodward and Peter Hain have been worked into the cabinet, despite not qualifying through the election. Counter-democratic as it may be argued, I think that the election of the shadow cabinet is daft, and Peter Hain needed to be included so that a Welshman could be placed shadowing the Welsh Secretary. As for Shaun Woodward, I genuinely like the guy. He had the strength of character to follow his principles, and cross the floor from the Tories to Labour, which deserves respect, and I am thoroughly glad to see him as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

That’s just a taste of the new Shadow Cabinet, and if you want to see the whole list then the BBC News Website has helpfully got them all listed for you. As for how effective the various members will be in their new roles remains to be seen. But the fact is that with the results of the spending review being announced in a fortnight, they’re going to have to hit the ground running. This should make for good politics, and exciting watching.

The Red Dawn

Ed Miliband, 20th Leader of the Labour Party

Okay, that sounded more revolutionarily socialist than I’d intended, but let’s run with it…

Yesterday, the result of the long, hard campaign for the new Labour leader was revealed, and Edward Samuel Miliband was elected as the new party leader. The moment itself was something of a shock, as indicated by the surprised gasp that went around the conference when it became apparent that firm favourite David Miliband had been beaten by his younger brother.

Now, those of you who follow this blog will know that Mr Miliband was not my first choice. But that doesn’t matter. One of the many positives about this leadership campaign has been the quality of all the candidates. There were none of them that I would not have been happy with at the head of the party.

But now the contest is done, and we have our new leader. The attention must turn to the rest of the conference, and to fighting the cuts that will decimate our unsteady economy. There’s still a way to go before Labour is in full opposition mode, after the Shadow Cabinet has been elected, and appointed by Ed.

What needs to happen now is a mass mobilisation of the public, against what is to come. Ed needs to work with all sectors of society, to place Labour at the forefront of the wave of public outcry which will be rising up once Coaliton cuts set in. The biggest danger he faces, and all of Labour faces, is internal division.

The last 13 years in the Labour Party were hampered by the Blair-Brown divide. What we cannot have now is that same divide manifesting through Miliband E and Miliband D camps. So far there has been no hint of that, with David’s congratulations to Ed feeling genuine and loving, if understandably a little put out.

The other danger is listening to the right-wing media. Already accusations are being made that he is a creature of the unions. It’s true, that the union vote was what put him over the top. But that doesn’t mean he’s a slave to them, or that there is something amiss about his election. Labour is the party of the people, it’s connection to the unions is long and esteemed. The union role in the leadership election reflects their contribution to the party, and ties the party to its political beneficiaries: the working people of the United Kingdom.

The Tory-skewed media is naturally going to try and bring Ed down over this. The party cannot listen to it. The only way we are going to be able to fight the Tories and the Lib Dems is if we are united. We did great things in the 13 years of Labour government, and now the average person of this country needs us to fight these disastrous cuts with everything we have. In government we could afford to have internal divisions, even if they handicapped us. In opposition, we don’t have that luxury.

So I’m adding my voice to those greater than myself, to all those in the party. We’ve gone through this election to find our new leader. We have found him. Now we need to unite behind him, and move onto the real fight. We need to present a single, strong and united front, against an already-fracturing Coalition government.

This is where we begin our fightback. This is where we make our future.