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Chuka Umunna takes on the Blair mantle

Most newspapers and the BBC this morning carried a story based an in interview with Chuka Umunna in GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) – “Brown ‘cuts’ denials hurt Labour’s credibility” as BBC News put it. As I write this, the issue of GQ is not yet out (as I embarrassingly discovered after wasting £2.50 on the September issue) so it was clearly widely trailed. The Guardian‘s spin is widely repeated:

Gordon Brown dealt a blow to Labour’s economic credibility by wrongly giving the impression in his final year as prime minister that the party failed to understand the importance of tackling Britain’s unprecedented peacetime budget deficit, the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, has suggested.

What he is quoted as saying amounts to little, the key point being:

My view is that the seeds were sown under the last government and Gordon [Brown] – for whom I have a lot of respect. His refusal to use the word ‘cuts’ in trying to frame the economic debate as investment versus cuts gave the impression we didn’t understand that debt and deficit would have to be dealt with.”

The tactics are pretty standard. Don’t say too much. Include something contradictory (his “respect”  for Gordon) and leave the real punchlines to the spin doctor. I’m told Peter Mandelson is one of Chuka’s most enthusiastic advocates.

But kicking Brown and underlying the need for cuts is not enough for this positioning exercise for a future leadership candidate. He has to seek positive identification with his target audience:

I do think we need to talk more proudly about our record. We do need to explain and rebut this notion that we crashed the car … My main argument in my conference speech was that we did not crash the car. Labour left the country in a far better state, and I say it all the time.”

The combination of stressing the importance of being ‘proud of our record’ whilst kicking Brown makes clear that it is the Blairite record of which we must be proud.

Gordon Brown’s publicly stated view was that “the choice at the 2010 election would be between Labour investment and Tory cuts.” Peter Mandelson’s view at the time, the Guardian reminds us, was that this was a mistake. The Blairites wanted austerity then and they want it now.

And Chuka Umunna is making clear that he is the candidate to take on the task should one be needed anytime soon. As the Guardian reports:

Umunna’s remarks echo the criticisms of supporters of Tony Blair, who say that Labour’s consistent lead in the opinion poll should not be allowed to mask poor poll personal ratings for the Labour leader and weak ratings on the economy.

You would have thought that eight months from a general election and so soon after the Tories have suffered their worst and most damaging setback for sometime with the defection to UKIP of Douglas Carswell was not the time to be publicly preparing your future challenge for Labour’s leadership. But then there is a vacancy ….. and you wouldn’t that going unfilled for too long.

Still, at least least Chukka isn’t quite as “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as his friend Peter (to whom he is “intensely relaxedabout being compared), at least not yet, anyway:

‘I have nothing against people who earn large amounts of money for creating jobs and wealth and taking risks in our country,’ Umunna insists, ‘but I didn’t feel that giving 14,000 millionaires a £40,000 tax cut was the right priority for us at this juncture [our emphasis – Ed].’ “

[From Total Politics]


  1. David Melvin says:

    An inconclusive election result with the balance being held by UKIP with more seats than the LibDems. Miliband forced out by the Progress majority in the Shadow Cabinet and replaced by Umunna who promptly forms a coalition with the Tories leaving UKIP and the LibDems in opposition. What would the Left MP’s do? Some would grit their teeth and stick with Labour others may leave and form an SDP or UKIP of the left in alliance with the Greens. Perhaps this could be the time for a realignment of political parties tied in with a more democratic electoral system. It’s possibly happening in Spain with Podemos and the IU taking support from PSOE. Only the electoral system is protecting the discredited parties.

    1. Rod says:

      “What would the Left MP’s do?”

      Like many of those who contribute to this blog, they’ll carry on saying: “Vote Labour, there is no alternative.”

      Whereas of course, Labour is no alternative.

      And Labour’s Progress entryists only get away with it because people who should know better continue to vote for them.

      When they know they’ve got your vote, they know they can ignore you.

      1. Jon says:

        You may not like the current Labour Party,but progress readers,or the right of the party aren’t entryists , they don’t use block votes and set up their own branches too it’s Left wing Mps or put up candidates against the labour ones,like militant entryist use too

        1. Rod says:

          Jon “they don’t … set up their own branches”

          Progress has its own membership, conference and an independent, undemocratic organisational network.

          There are also cult-like similarities between Progress and Militant (now the Socialist Party) – both harbour an unthinking belief in the infallibility of their leaders.

          Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many Blairites began their political lives as Marxists.

          1. Jon says:

            Marxism,isn’t the Trotskyism of militant, and progress I repeat don’t have branches,let alone as I said try to oust others using bullying methods

          2. Rod says:

            Jon: “Marxism,isn’t the Trotskyism of militant”

            Goodness! This is kind of assertion that sustains decades of bickering within Marxist sects.

  2. Gary Elsby says:

    Rod has a point.
    Here in Stoke-on-Trent, due to parachutes into ‘safe’ Labour Parliamentary seats and unknowns parachuted into half of Labour council seats, there is a determined effort to remove the lot of them by what seems like the whole City.
    Of course, this will be disputed but it does seem that half of known and unknown Labour councillors are stepping down from office very soon.
    It seems that the effort to remove Labour has been so relentless that they are ‘worn out’.

  3. peter willsman says:

    The Guardian contains a good interview with GB which put the banal witterings by CU into perspective.At least with his divisive comments CU has made it clear he is a neo liberal Blairite and we will know who to campaign against when the time comes.Some TU leaders were a bit soft on CU,this will help to wake them up!

    1. Hear, hear. That CU is history. In the wrong party. His days on the front bench are numbered.

      1. David Melvin says:

        Is CU in the wrong party? I think not. The Blairites who still dominate the Shadow Cabinet would agree with him. The Progress faction are now mainstream Labour, arguably it is the left who are in the wrong party. Len McCluskey suggested that if Labour lost the next election a new party of the left may be considered. If the Tories loose their UKIP type members it would not be difficult to see the rump-Tories (Cameronites) working with Progress. It has happened in Germany where the SPD prefer a coalition with CU rather than the Left and Greens.

        1. Jon Lansman says:

          CU may not be in the wrong party but it’s the centre-left not Progress who are mainstream amongst the membership – as the NEC results demonstrated.

          1. David Melvin says:

            I agree the centre left did well in the recent NEC elections; but is it not Progress-types who are the PPC’s and councillors who implement the Con-Dem austerity cuts? The left who voted in the NEC elections were the disillusioned who are non activists, but still keep a Labour party card in hope. I wait with interest to see what happens at the Labour party conference.

          2. Rod says:

            David Melvin: “I wait with interest to see what happens at the Labour party conference.”

            Nothing will happen a the Labour Party conference.

            If something was to happen it would have happened already, e.g. over the fake crisis at Falkirk and the subsequent dumping of the TU link, or over Umunna slapping-down last year’s conference vote in favour of taking the Royal Mail into private owernship etc.

            The Left within the Labour Party have no fight left in them. They have adjusted very happily to voting for a Party that has, and will, implement policies they claim to oppose.

            The Left within Labour are a spent force.

          3. Jon says:

            As there was only a 22% turnout! how do you know that the 78% who didn’t vote were far left! also you assume those who voted for left wingers are on the left of our party! my constituency a Blairite one,endorsed Ann black,and Swatantra voted for 2 of the left slate,

  4. swatantra says:

    Like Chuka, I’m pretty relaxed about letting aspirational entrepreneurs earning millions, as long as we can tax most of it it off them. What makes entrepreneurs tick is the challenge in creating jobs and m,aking money; its not the actual money itself, because hey wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.
    But the moment may be right hen all the circumstances come together to get a black PM, just in the same way that the circumstances were exactly right in getting Obama into the White House. These circumstances, an unpopular incumbent Leader and Govt, an Opposition Leader thats failed to make their mark, a disillusioned public wanting some hope and inspiration from a new bloke, only come together once in 100 years, until that glass ceiling is broken.
    So Chuka is right to take a lead show what he can do.

    1. Jon says:

      Well said Swatantra

  5. David Pavett says:

    Good to see that the Chuka Ummuna is recognised for what he is: a shallow right-wing politician.

    His criticism of the Royal Mail privatisation was a perfect example: the public, he argued, had been short-changed, the selling price was too low. And that was it! Just another example of the Blairites who dominate the Shadow Cabinet.

  6. Jon says:

    Supporters of Tony Blair who’s criticism of labours lead shouldn’t mask the poor rating for hythe leader, I haven’t actually heard any Blair supporters say this, but it’s true isn’t it?

    Blira went behnd the opinion polls for 10 days in December 2005 when Cameron was elected,was ahead in the polls from Dec 2005-April 2006 when the cash for peeragesut us behind again,for Balir last year in charge labour went ahead in the polls again 3 different times, and even then Labour were only a couple of points behind,during a Browns time I charge labour were 20 points behind,whatever you say about Balir, he was a winner

    I can’t see why Ummara pointing out labour needs to be business friendly and Gordon mucked up the economy,makes him a Blairite, or even that his view is wrong.

    If business men create jobs good for them,isn’t the morning star a business that makes jobs, why the picture of Chinese troops? You cut Mandlesons quote he said the intensely rich,aslong as they pay tax

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