Archive for July, 2011

Right to buy?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

A space just opened up for Labour. Not many people have noticed it, not everyone will want to capitalise it. But it’s there, it’s potent and used correctly, it could be a deadly weapon against the Tories.

That space is consumer rights. Thanks go to Steve Hilton & my mother’s mobile phone service provider for bringing it to my attention.

Sometimes the left can be a bit confused on consumerism. Fair enough, as it is a more confusing topic than it would originally appear. As an environmentalist, I know the damage that rampant consumerism can do. But even so, I’m not opting out. I still consume goods and services every day. We need to separate over-consumption which should be discouraged, from the rights consumers should have as they go about their difficult lives.

There are some businesses which do consumer rights very well. But there are some industries in our country where a handful of companies have a monopolistic grip on the market. Telecoms, energy suppliers, banks, rail companies etc. and I can’t think of a single person who is happy – or even just satisfied – with the levels of service received. Indeed it seems that unofficially these groups have realised that none of them have to raise their game if their competitors don’t.

This post in no way intends to denigrate the difficult and demanding job done by call centre workers here and abroad. They aren’t the problem. The jolly, polite and equal parts frustrated and frustrating people I talk to to find our why my phone bill has shot up or to try to help me navigate a trip from London to Wrexham get the brunt of our ire, but ate rarely at the root of it. The people who make the decisions about customer service, those who wildly shifted the emphasis from an offer of service to a denial of responsibility aren’t at the sharp end.

Labour needs to be careful not to stifle good companies – particularly SMEs. But equally, there is a real political opportunity for Labour to be on the side of the consumer. If we can work with Which? and the FSB together to come up with a practical, workable offer to voters and consumers, this could be extremely potent territory for us.


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Winning a fight is not the same as changing a mind

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I regularly read the blogs of people I disagree with. I think it’s vital to do so not only to challenge your own perceptions, but also to work out how best to frame your arguments. I also regularly read blogs of people I agree with. Sometimes these are the same people. Politics can be a bit like that. Some days the person I’ve had a blazing Twitter row with about the necessity of trident, the very next day I’m nodding in agreement with about the campaigning future of the Labour Party. Modern communications are both fun and confusing that way.

Like real life, people have different moods online. Some days I’m feisty and argumentative, others I’m contemplative and receptive. Sometimes I just want to have a laugh. Because I’m political that laugh will often be at the expense of the Tories or their allies.

There has grown up on all sides of the Labour party a filtered response to all other parts of the party. I know because I get both sides of it. Those on the right of the Party get called Blairites and those on the left Trots. Then they all go about their business with not a single idea improved through debate, a mind changed or a voter won over. This leaves me in despair when people I know to be interesting and highly intelligent are losing the opportunity to actually try to change a mind.

When I first decided to write this blog, it was because I had read something that angered me; a lazy stereotyping of left and centre-left thinking from a centre-right Labour blogger. It added nothing to the level of debate and nothing on policy. Luckily, I’m as lazy as the thinking behind that blog piece and took a few days to actually put fingers to keyboard. I had the distance to realise that the piece I had wanted to write would have been just as annoying, just as provocative and just as pointless as the piece I was responding to.

You hear a great deal in politics about Drew Westen’s The Political Brain about the role that emotion and emotiveness plays in political choice. It’s an important and fascinating argument, but it’s usually deployed incredibly clumsily and misguidedly. If it is true, as Westen says, that people make political choices based on emotion rather than rationality, it is true that we need to consider the way our audiences absorb our messages in order to best sell our messages to voters. But too often from both the right and the left of the party, there is an obstinate sense of positioning our cliques against the rest of the party which will – in and of itself – heighten negative emotions before there is a chance to discuss the rights and wrongs of a policy position.

By defining ourselves endlessly against ourselves we quite often create opportunities to win fights. My guy won the leadership… your policy on nuclear energy has been adopted. It feels good to win. But it doesn’t do us a lot of good as a party. If we allow ourselves to fossilise into static and dogmatic strands of opinion which take turns to dominate debate, we practice only winning internal fights – not changing minds. The latter skill is far, far harder – particularly with people who already have pretty ingrained opinions. But if we can change minds among those with strong opinions, doesn’t that set us up to better change minds among the public who look to us to make the nuanced arguments clearer?

I’ve been blogging for just a little under 18 months now. It’s been an exciting time and I’ve learned a great deal. I like to think my writing has improved through regular exercise, though some of my regular critics sadly don’t agree. What I think has definitely improved is my sense of nuance. I started as quite an angry blogger. Labour were about to lose an election and I felt my party slipping away from me. I was – in my way – quite reactionary and there were times when I have been just downright rude about New Labour. I’m trying to do that less now though although I am the first to admit I don’t always succeed – especially on Twitter which is quite an instant medium and on which I don’t lazily cogitate the right response for a few days.

There are many reasons to blog about politics. Some do it to showcase their skills of analysis, some to shout loudest and hardest, some to demonstrate their insider status and contacts, some to demonstrate their separateness. All of these are valid and have an interesting place in the pantheon of political discussion. But for my taste, the best blogs and the best bloggers make arguments and explore ideas. Those are the places I can get a sense of how Labour reaches out to itself and to the wider public.

As a Party member of 21 years standing, I have an incredible respect for all other members of my party. When I think you’re wrong I will tell you. But I promise I will also try to tell you why I think so. I will listen when you respond with logic and argument rather than sloganeering and rhetoric. Please do the same.

This post first appeared on Labour Uncut


We can’t regulate for taste

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The News International scandal rumbled on slowly for so long, that no one expected it to explode in the way that it has. That Ed has been sure footed in the face of a great deal of contrary advice from all comers is to his credit. He was right to press for a review of the BskyB decision, right to press for a judge-led inquiry, and right to press Cameron on Coulson. Ed has played this well and cemented his leadership in time for the summer. I’m sure we’ll get the odd voice calling for this to be a make or break conference, but we are far from where we were.

That Ed has ploughed on, judging rightly the mood of the nation and setting himself up for a strong and convincing win against a vastly weakened Cameron is great. That he has done so on an issue that has managed to unite the Labour Party and the country – giving them a space to look anew at us and Ed is fantastic.

There is going to be an inquiry, and it will be pretty wide ranging. There is also going to be a new independent scrutiny regime of the press. That too is good. Dealing with the press is essential. But we must be careful about what we push Ed to push for. We should be careful that a carefully managed campaign for a better press doesn’t descend into a foolish crusade for a press that is better for us.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I loathe the Daily Mail. I intensely dislike its politics and the misogyny that seeps from every page. But that is a political opinion not a legal one. I should never have the right to either close down the detestable rag nor to stop those who want to buy it from doing so. Equally, I will continue to consider myself free to take time to convince people not to buy it and not to advertise in it. That too is free speech, and if we are to live in a capitalist system, the least we can do is play it at its own game.

There are things that should be changed about the way newspapers are allowed to report some kinds of stories. Science based stories in particular are often twisted, misreported or plainly misunderstood. I hope that a look at the way in which science stories are covered and reported will be part of the inquiry. Not least so a scandal like the MMR vaccine hoax can ever be permitted to endanger the lives of the children of misled and misinformed parent again.

But political stories are different. There is rarely a right or wrong answer. There aren’t good political papers and bad ones, but ones that pander to our tastes. What we can’t do is judge those tastes or attempt to push them through legislation or regulation.

At the moment, we have the public on our side on this issue. The set pieces have now ended and focus will move on to other areas, the Eurozone crisis, famine in Africa and continuing economic flat lining at home. This is right. The public won’t forgive us for squeezing too much from this crisis politically and Ed will want to talk about other issues now he has earned a proper hearing. His focus on responsibility has deftly linked the anger people feel at elite journalists, bankers and politicians and is starting to gather shape as a strong alternative narrative to the paternalistic austerity of the coalition.

We mustn’t squander this chance to expand our conversation with the public naturally by contracting our vision to a politically more comfortable press. It will lose an audience we have worked hard to get, and – in the age of interactivity – won’t work anyway.

This post first appeared on Labour List


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Where we are and where we are not

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

What has felt at times like a mammoth parliamentary session is now over. The assumptions of mere weeks ago have been challenged, and in some cases changed. As we take a breather, it’s time to take stock and consider how the last few weeks will affect the next few months and shape the narratives to come.

Ed Miliband had a bad strike, but a good war. He was in a difficult position over the strike (though less difficult than some that are coming. These unions were not affiliated to Labour) but while his message was probably the right one tactically, even a staunch loyalist like me won’t say he delivered it well. Sunny Hundal is right in his contention that that kind of interview is hardly new, but media practices are changing, and that interview left Ed looking flat-footed, tongue-tied and struggling to achieve an understanding of that new reality.

What a difference a crisis makes.

Ed’s handling of the NI affair has been superb. He’s been able to use his strongest weapon against Cameron – his grasp of detail – to devastating effect. Labour (led by Ed, but it would be supremely churlish not to use this space to praise Tom Watson and Chris Bryant) have made all the running, and have won every concession they sought from the Government.

In the long term, this matters for two reasons, the narrative about Labour and the narrative about the Tories.

Ed has rightly started to use the crisis as a jumping off point for a conversation about the responsibility agenda he has been shaping. Pulling together a narrative that encompasses the bankers who threaten our economy with their unreformed practices, journalists who threaten our privacy for the profit of oligarchs and politicians -of all parties – who threatened our democracy to line their pockets. I also have no truck with the glass-half-empty malcontents who read that speech and focus only on what is being asked of those at the bottom (which boils down to enforcing rules to protect the integrity of the welfare state) without understanding or acknowledging  the tectonic shift that a senior politician talking this way about the responsibilty owed from those at the top of the pile to the rest of us.

Ed has in the last two weeks earned the right to be listened to and cemented his leadership. He has also opened up the ears of the public by being on thier side at a time when he has some useful and important things to say. There will – of course - be a few last drinkers in the Bitter Bar, whining and anonymously briefing their pet gossip-mongers, but Ed has won the leadership and has now earned himself the space to lead.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s stock is seriously – though not fatally – damaged. He got this wrong from the start and worse failed to notice quickly enough how wrong he had got it. He has had two problems over the last week, both of which do him considerable damage.

Firstly, he’s let Ed Miliband make all the running. He gambled that being on the side of NI was the safest place to be and failed – until it was far too late – to see that the world there had changed. So he not only ended up doing all the things that will annoy the constituency he was trying to court so assiduously, but he also clearly did them at the bidding of his opponent.

Secondly, as Deborah Mattinson lays out in this report from recent focus groups, he has undone most of the good work that he had done pre-election to change the image of the “same old Tories”. The public may once have briefly thought they wanted coalition, but after thier outright rejection of Nick Clegg and thier new distaste for Cameron’s dithering and disillusion with his platform they are using comfortable familiar language to define Cameron and his Party – which is a disaster for the Tories.

Finally, let’s be honest about where we are not. Cameron has been damaged and the sheen is now off him, but I don’t think he will be forced to resign. Certainly the rumours of backbenchers calling for his blood proved to be sound and fury only. This issue has changed the mood music, it hasn’t brought down the Government. We need to be cautious that we don’t over claim or be over optimistic.

Cameron will continue, and he will have other good days. Ed will continue and he will have other bad days. Labour have earned the respect of the public on this issue, but the hard part will be translating that to a decent hearing for and support of our broader agenda. That will take a continued hard slog.


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Dave couldn’t have handled this worse if he had hacked the phones himself

Monday, July 11th, 2011

They Seek him here, They Seek him there.

In Fleet Street and Parliament Square.

That Dedicated follower….*

And that is what David Cameron has proved to be this week. No leader he. His reactions have been slow and unwieldy. Ed Miliband has led him by the nose and his capitulations have been far too slow to respond to the endless stream of filth emanating from News International.

To appear in the morning to try to attempt another respray of the Big Society but not come to Parliament to talk about the issue troubling the nation is extraordinary. To date, not getting his hands dirty has worked well for Dave. Andrew Lansley is the greedy tosser credited with the wholesale destruction of the NHS. The Lib Dems were the nasties over tuition fees. Caroline Spellman had to front the forestry u-turn.

But Dave has been massively mistaken in thinking he could sub-contract his leadership on this to Jeremy Hunt. He’s in it up to his neck, and it’s answers from him that the British Public want and deserve. Answers on his relationship with Rebekah Wade, answers on the hiring of Andy Coulson, answers on why it has taken so long for the Government to recognise that the people doing this might not be “fit and proper” people to own a branch of Comet, never mind BSkyB.

I’ve talked before about the fact that Cameron is just a bit Lazy and for all his modern sheen is a bit old fashioned when it comes to recognising the new relationship the public has with the press. This crisis has shown once again that Cameron struggles to cope with anything beyond the broad brush or the petty.

As the – until now amazingly compliant – media start to question his abilities, he will be increasingly found wanting.

This crisis has so far been a denunciation of Cameron’s judgement. It will also prove to be a damning judgement on his abilities too.

* With all due respect to The Kinks.


Something has changed

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

It is far too early to tell what effect the News International scandal is going to have on the future of the British media. It is even too early to tell what effect it will have on the premiership of David Cameron and the fate of the Tories.

But something was different this week. The narrative shifted. The opposition reported in the press was all Labour. The Lib Dems have been nowhere to be seen. No longer was the story “coalition splits” but about the tireless campaign of two Labour backbenchers Tom Watson and Chris Bryant and the effective dissection of Cameron by Ed Miliband at PMQs and in the media since.

Will this be permanent? Probably not. Splits are an interesting story. Lib Dems complain that the media don’t understand coalition when they report on splits, but frankly this is for show. The fact is they are desperate to burnish their oppositional credentials and being the opposition within is a perfect way both of doing so and of cutting Labour out of the picture. Those who complain about it now will miss it if – as I predict – it slowly ebbs away.

It’s possible the Govenrment will decide not to oppose Labour’s motion on Wednesday. That they will play a statesmanlike “not every party has the monopoly on wisdom” role, and minimise their defeat by being seen as colluding in the right decision. This kind of tactical U-turn is hardly unheard of from David Cameron. But from all we’ve heard so far that doesn’t seem likely. Some of the key parts of the Conservative family are already on the offensive. It does not feel like a coincidence that the day we learn that senior News International journalists have threatened to make it personal about Ed in retailiation for his rightly attacking the position of Rebekah Brooks, Conservative Home have started to attack Ed’s spinner Tom Baldwin. How neatly coordinated.

What Cameron will have to decide is whether to swallow a humiliating defeat with his party on the wrong side of public opinion in the belief that the  News International empire will rise again. And rise with enough clout to have been worthy of all this pain and of the humiliation the Prime Minister is taking now. Will rise and support him and annihilate his enemies. It’s not totally unlikely. As I posted on Thursday, Nothing solid has changed yet. The banks remain unregulated and unrepentent, the press may well do so too.

Wednesday’s opposition day debate will be a test for the Lib Dems. However, it is one I and most others expect them to pass. We all know that were it not for Vince’s unfortunate premature articulation in front of a giggly blonde that he would have been trying his damndest to put the knackers on the BSkyB deal. We know it’s what the Lib Dems want. What Clegg and his party have to decide is do they want it enough to defeat the Government?

What will the Lib Dems in Government do? What will their backbenchers do? This feels like it should be a simple question. There’s nothing in the coalition agreement to force them to vote for Murdoch. If they don’t they can prove their mettle and their plaintive cry of being a seperate party. If all the Lib Dems – from Clegg on down vote against, the Tories can be defeated on this issue. But there will be hell to pay for the Lib Dems. They can kiss goodbye to any – even slight – chance they had of Lords reform, for example. I also predict they won’t gain much in the polls either, their invisibility on the issue mean that the public see this as Labour’s thing. Labour have rightly won this issue. Will doing the right thing be worth the political pain for the Lib Dems? I hope so.


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Blair Vs Oasis

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Following an interesting Twitter exchange with John Rentoul & Alex Smith (and considering I’ve already done one post about News International, which I believe holds true despite today’s developments) where Rentoul revealed that Liam Gallagher has likened his brother Noel to Tony Blair.

Enjoying the comparison, I thought I’d give “The Labour leadership of Tony Blair, through the medium of Oasis albums” a go.

Definitely Maybe/clause 4

What was needed was an audacious debut. Something that would have the press sitting up and paying attention. Coming almost out of nowhere this brave move is often considered by aficionados as the career peak – despite the populism that was to come.

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory/1997 – 2002.

Confident, cocksure, swaggering even for a while this was the only game in town. While more sensitive souls yearned for something a bit more nuanced, a bit more “left field”, there was no denying the spot on populism and popularity of a winning formula.

The splits with once loyal colleages though could be seen as a warning of what was to come.

Be Here Now/Iraq

Now Widely agreed to be a huge blundering mistake, even by those keen to sing its praises at the time, this was an overlong, overblown rambling mess. Sadly it had all of the swagger of previous endeavours even as the Emperor was proved to be naked.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants/Public Service Reform

Widely loathed, but strangely loved by the true believers. Moments of genius can’t hide a darker and more disturbing direction.

Heathen Chemistry/Good Friday Agreement

When it works, when it’s good, it surprises you with just how good it can really be.

I’m going to leave my loyal reader to ponder among themselves (or in the comments) where I might have gone with Oasis’ last album – Don’t Believe The Truth…



Nothing solid has changed… yet

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

We live in a very fast moving world and very fast moving times. As a result, we tend to move quickly from issue to issue. While the News of the World is preoccupying all our campaigning capacity this week, it is as yet unclear whether anything will actually change. Murdoch will probably still be allowed to buy BSkyB.

I am usually full of admiration for the measured and interesting work of Steve Richards. But I fear he’s called it wrongly today in his celebration of the demise of News International’s power over politicians and the police.

Certainly at the moment it feels like we’ve won an important victory. Advertisers are deswerting the sinking ship, and Cameron has ostensibly announced an inquiry. But the fact is most of the key players in this saga are just playing for time and hoping it will blow over.

Admittedly. that has been their strategy for some time now, and while originally it seemed to be working, this week has shown it as foolish. So far…

We are a fickle public. I can’t help but think of the outcry over the behaviour of the paparazzi after the death of Diana. It was a mere 5 months later that photos of Britney Spears being carried from her home in an ambulance were available in every news outlet (no I’m not linking).

The press – having finally decided it is safe to comment on this scandal – have unanimously decided that Cameron’s equivocation harms him. I say it’s too early to tell. It may well be that Cameron is unconfident about speaking under oath about Andy Coulson. But equally, Cameron may just be making the assumtion that this will blow over, and that the News International stable will once again rise to be a powerful ally and more importantly a dreadful enemy. For both moral and partisan reasons, I hope Cameron has miscalculated. I hope all the commentators are right. I hope that as Steve Richards says, this is a turning point.

But for that to happen, we need to distinguish between the initial outcry and a sustained fight. News International and others with a stake in tbhis affair will keep the pressure on politicians day in, day out. If civil society moves on and forgets to push back, distracted by the next shock, the next campaign, the next outrage, their pressure will win.

For the sake of brave politicians like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant – who battled on when this was their fight alone despite extraordinary pressure to do otherwise – we need to keep up this fight. We need to follow the example of the people of Liverpool in thier longstanding boycott of the Sun after their disgraceful coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.

If we don’t, I have a horrible feeling that Richards declaration that “Nothing will ever be the same” will ring hollow a lot sooner than we might think.


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Ed’s Leadership Campaign: Perspective from the coalface

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

I’ve just finished reading Mehdi Hasan and James MacIntyre’s book about Ed Miliband and his rise to Labour leader. It’s a fascinating book about how powerful people relate to each other. It’s insights are interesting and remarkable to read. But because of its focus on the movers and the shakers it isn’t the whole story of that ramshackle, rambunctious and brilliant campaign. I was extremely proud to be a very small cog in that contraption. I remain so to this day. I’m proud of Ed’s leadership and the work that is being done to change the party and the debate. He’s not perfect and there will be times when I disagree with and criticise him. But overall, it’s one of the best things I have ever done in my life.

The phone bank in Elder street was possibly the hottest place in London. Situated in an insalubrious back street near Liverpool Street it had a bank of about 14 phones and computers. Having graduated within the campaign from caller to runner of phone banks in early July, I can’t remember a single time that all the computers were working. Logging them in was my first job on arrival and then greeting and briefing the callers.

My briefings were simple. While there was a script on the computer screen to use as a guide, there was clearly a recognition from the campaign that the volunteers were a selling point in themselves. I would encourage volunteers to listen to the people they were calling. If they were receptive to a conversation (far more were so than in my old telesales days!) they should explain what had brought them to volunteer their hot summer nights to the campaign. I believed then as now that those stories are the most compelling. They are true, they articulate the passion of those volunteers and they connected with the electorate on a shared level of understanding. MY other key point was that however tempted, however the other side of the conversation was going, we should never, ever be negative about any of the other candidates. “After all” as I would say to the volunteers “Who do you think will serve in Ed’s shadow cabinet?”.

I ran phone banks for the campaign 2 or 3 nights a week throughout July, August and September having been on the phones from their beginning. I brought in the innovation – again a motivating tool from my telesales days – of having a bell for people to get up and ring whenever we got a first preference Ed vote. It’s a lovely way of acknowledging the work done by that volunteer, and bringing the room together and building momentum. Some nights that bell went like the clappers!

 Between encouragement, taking over the more challenging calls and ensuring no volunteer died of dehydration in the sweltering heat, I was kept pretty busy. But I was a part-timer. Someone who came along after work to help out. I had no anticipation of seeing my name in the Index of Ed but there are several people missing. Perhaps because of the closeness of the final vote, there has sprung up a narrative that Ed swung the election in the tearooms of Parliament. It’s true that due to the tripartite electoral college, the votes Ed generated there were utterly crucial. But Ed won with 175,519 votes to David’s 147,220. There are some people I want to tell you about who made that happen.

First and most glaringly missing is Kat Fletcher, the employed head of volunteers for the Ed campaign. It says in the book that Ed’s team recognised the importance of their network of grassroots style campaigner – with over 5000 volunteers, credit must be given to Kat. She’s a hard nut to crack at times – and I speak as someone who now considers her a great friend. Equal parts inspiration and irascibility, Kat built herself a core army of extremely loyal and excellent volunteers. They set up a separate volunteers office – again in East London – and were working at least 12 hour days. The extraordinary dedication of volunteers like lovely Lisa Mitchell – whose working class insecurity never quite managed to mask her real brilliance, kooky Rosanna Donovan, who could get a room of corpses up and canvassing, irrepressible Rana Begum who has enough energy to light up Greater Manchester, thoughtful Aiden Hocking who worked so hard on dull data entry while having long and amazingly well informed discussions about political strategy impressive Cllr Jason Eller who combined volunteering for Ed with his duties as one of the youngest councillors in the country and finally the wonderful Hollie Tu who works like the devil and can sing like an angel. You can see some of these and more Ed M vols here straight after Ed’s victory here.

These people gave everything to the Ed Miliband campaign. Some of the people on the campaign recognised that. Ed’s brilliant field director Marcus Roberts understood probably better than anyone other than Kat Fletcher the value of what they had built. Sometimes there was some resistance to the role of the volunteers from the “boys in suits” as the Greycoat Place crowd were occasionally referred to among the vols. But the way the campaign highlighted their energy and commitment in the campaign messaging shows the importance of the work they did and why they did it.

Ed  is a fascinating and at times worrying book. I lost count of how many jobs were awarded after a phone call with a friend. The circles of power seem further away than ever after reading it. It’s clearly a true and faithful account of the campaign as seen from the Westminster bubble. But there was a little something missing, and that’s the role of the rest. The not so powerful. Ed’s campaign theme was about changing that relationship in all areas of life and I believe in his ability to dedicate his leadership to changing it. So I thought the story of some of the less powerful cogs deserved to be told in its own small, unassuming way too.


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A rock and a hard place

Friday, July 1st, 2011

There was no position Ed Miliband could have taken yesterday that would have pleased anyone. Trapped between the powerful right wing media, still trying to define him to the country as Scargill Mk II  and his well meaning but often strategically naive supporters who want to see him marching and shouting, even if that would stop him being able to actually do something in the future. The Twitter echo chamber was resounding in its condemnation of Ed. But in the real world, the conversations I heard about strikes last night probably reflected why Ed felt the need to disassociate himself from them.

There are two problems with what happened yesterday. One was the appalling presentation. The terrible BBC Interview which I described as looking like a hostage video showed a real lack of understanding in Ed’s team about the way media is changing. Ed sounded awful repeating himself and anyone with any knowledge of current media practices and the way news is now being received would have know that focusing on a line for the 6 alone was not going to look good if all you do is repeat yourself. There is an identified training need there, and it will need work over the summer break.

Secondly, Ed needs to reflect on the fact that there are going to be more strikes. These were by unaffiliated unions. The next ones might not be. I understand that he can’t support every strike and I agree that he shouldn’t. But he will find a lot more pressure to support UNITE and UNISON members. In the eyes of the public he needs to find a way to define himself as an arbitrator not an agitator. That won’t please the agitators on Twitter, but little can or will. It’s worth remembering that Twitter can be very self-reinforcing when it comes to a narrative unsupported by external events or opinion – just look at AV.

Yesterday was an attempt at the arbitrator role and I have no doubt it was well meant, but it was done very poorly. Next time a great deal more thought will have to be put into the strategy.

Let me clarify. I supported Ed because I believed then – as I believe now – that he was and is the best candidate for Leader. I have been and remain a strong supporter of his leadership. Crucially, I want his leadership to work. Identifying an area of weakness is not pouncing if the intention is to work to strengthen it. Ed will fight the next general election and I believe he can win it. But we do need to iron out the operation to make this as likely as we can.

Between a rock and a hard places is a terrible place to be. It will take a politician of Ed’s undoubted skills to navigate this better in future.


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