Recorded by yours truly at the BBC Radio 5Live Labour Leadership Hustings, 25th August 2015, in Stevenage.
“We can’t just luxuriate in our own righteousness out on the side lines. That’s not a luxury the most vulnerable in Britain can afford. It’s not enough to be angry at the world. We’re the Labour Party, we have a responsibility to change the world or what’s the point of us at all.“
This is the most Prime Ministerial any of the Labour leadership candidates have looked in the contest thus far. This is what a brave, but very necessary speech looks like. This is principle.
This is why I am voting for Yvette Cooper.
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.
I went into this contest with an open mind. I hadn’t chosen a candidate, and wanted to hear what they all had to say. I could have gone for any of three of the four candidates.
The truth is that I could still live with any of those three. But one candidate has, for me, stood out as the best of the candidates. One candidate who has stood head and shoulders above. One candidate who has convinced me that they have what it takes to take the fight to the Tories and to lead the Labour Party forward from the defeat we suffered in May.
I am proud to say that I am backing Yvette Cooper to be the next leader of the Labour Party.
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.
Regular readers of this blog (if there are such things) won’t be surprised by my reaction to the latest political news to hit the press. Alan Johnson has resigned as Shadow Chancellor. Ed Miliband has replaced him with one of his competitors in the leadership race: the Rt. Hon. Ed Balls MP.
Given that he was my preferred candidate for the leadership, I’m obviously ecstatic with anticipation at this. In my opinion, it’s where Balls should have been from the word go- though I know there are probably plenty within the party who would disagree (I look forward, in particular, to discussing it with my fellow Sussex Uni Labour Society member Rob Brown, come Tuesday). Balls is an economic heavyweight, who has the qualifications for the job, and the tenacity to do it in opposition.
My opinion on Osborne (economically illiterate, Thatcherite, trust-fund baby) is also not exactly secret. So I’m particularly looking forward to the first face off between the two. Given that Balls is the Labour MP whom the Tories are most frightened of, Osborne must be shitting bricks right now. Particularly after what Balls did to Gove in the few months he was shadowing the Ministry of Education. Balls has the economic expertise to cut Osborne’s nonsense to shreds, and the oratorical talents to have him cowering behind the dispatch box.
The corresponding promotion of Yvette Cooper to Shadow Home Secretary is also a triumph for the opposition. Placing one of the most prominent female Labour MPs (probably second, after Harriet Harman) opposite the woman who voted against almost all equality legislation to come through the House in the last government is sure to prove interesting. Added to that the fact that Cooper is similarly talented to her husband, Balls, and that a home affairs storm is brewing over both control orders and 28 day detention, she could be in for considerable success in the role.
The downside of all this, of course, is that Alan Johnson has retired from frontline politics. He will be missed, without a doubt. He embodied Labour’s roots entirely, coming from a poor background, and work in the unions, to be a political heavyweight. His absence from the frontbench will be keenly felt, and we are the poorer for it. But the Labour backbenches seem to be overflowing with political heavyweights lately.
So all in all, a good day. A good day for Ed Balls; a good day for the party; a good day for the country; and a very bad day for Osborne.
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.
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
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.
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.