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Don’t let Chuka take us back to not-so-New Labour

Chuka_at_Lambeth_College-2In less than 36 hours after Ed announced his resignation, Chuka Umunna launched his leadership bid. The news, for many on the left, hammers home just how disastrous Thursday’s defeat was. We had woken up on May 7 expecting a Prime Minister to take office in the coming days who genuinely bucked the trend. Miliband, unlike his counterparts, seemed to be in it for the right reasons. In stark contrast to the sinister motives lurking behind the sweaty-Eton-juice of Cameron’s forehead, he offered something honest. He wasn’t airbrushed, he didn’t pretend to support football teams he knew nothing about, and he provided a vision that tried to bring the Labour Party back to its roots.

Breaking with New Labour, Miliband started to do the things a Labour Party leader is supposed to do. He began to articulate some sort of vision. Whereas Blair had cozied up to the Chipping Norton Set, Ed took on Murdoch and refused to tailor his manifesto to the whims of non-dom media moguls like the owners of The Mail or The Independent. Whereas Blair spent billions on war, Miliband whipped the party to ensure the government didn’t prop up ISIS in Syria. He took on exploitative private landlords, cartelised energy companies, and businesses using zero-hour contracts. Though his solutions didn’t go nearly far enough, he at least started asking the right kind of questions.

Chuka Umunna’s piece, by contrast, demands an end to those questions. Acknowledging Miliband’s focus on ‘the minimum wage and zero-hour contracts… mansions and non-doms’, he rues the lack of attention paid to ‘those creating wealth and doing the right thing’. The difference between this and Ed’s bravery is striking. Miliband recognised that ‘doing the right thing’ was fighting for the exploited, not the exploiters. He understood that sometimes the interests of the former don’t fit easily with those of the latter. And he knew which interests he wanted the Labour Party to prioritise.

In the months of soul-searching that lie ahead, many will implore the party to take up Blair’s call for a move to the ‘centre ground’. They’ll argue that we should put principles aside and win elections. But the harrowing speed at which Umunna published his piece should serve as a warning. Laid out as a seven-point plan, it reads like a manifesto that had been written long before the results of the election had been released. It demonstrates that post-election debate amongst the left will not just be a time to reflect on an election defeat. For many, like Umunna, it’s an opportunity to reassert the ideology of New Labour that they’ve long been waited for.

So as we re-group and deliberate on a new direction, let’s not forget the positives of a brave campaign. And let’s not allow arguments of ‘means over ends’ to shift the party away from its roots once again. Losing an election will only be made worse if we lose sight of the values that we fought hard to claw back over the past five years.

CC BY SA Image credit: Off2riorob

46 Comments

  1. Jeffery Davies says:

    They still dont get it the ninty nine percent who aint rich dont want a little tory party but one who speaks up for them untill the tony blairs are shown the door then the parties finished it will not rise and the poor workers will have to put their own real labour party up for election but this lot have to much greed of blair era jeff3

  2. P says:

    I am quite proudly and firmly on the right of the party, and I can sincerely say I want Umunna nowhere near the leadership. I am normally very forgiving and understanding of political mistakes; politicians are people too, and sometimes get caught making jokes or gaffes that in context really aren’t that bad, but get latched onto for political gain. But Umunna’s trash-gate remarks – and infact his very membership of this “MySpace for millionaires” – deeply unsettle me, especially when the remarks were disparaging the people of the very area he was selected to represent just two years later. They betray an attitude lacking in authentic sympathy for people with fewer opportunities; not even just the disadvantaged, but even the middle class. People certainly change over time, but I am unconvinced at this juncture that he has done that.

    I’m a working class kid; I grew up on a northern council estate. My parents were on benefits and we struggled enormously financially. I struggled to do well in school because I was essentially written off for my background; I was profoundly lucky to find a really supportive sixth-form and go on to university. But I authentically believe the right of the party has the best answers to Britain’s problems and the best vision for a progressive future; I’m more lefty than your average Blairite, and don’t call myself one, but not hugely so.

    I want the right of the party to have a candidate who will speak to people like me in the electorate, who will embrace the left as a welcome ally rather than a burdensome foe, and make the case for a moderate Labour Party out of passion and principle – not electoral convenience or personal gain. Umunna is not that candidate.

    1. Carl says:

      Burnham?

    2. Robert says:

      I’m to the left and my vote is not just given to the labour party any more, it has to be worked for. the problem for the right is simple we have three right wing parties four if you state the UKIP lot and now we have a choice.

      Cameron just stated if the sick disabled can work then we will help them nice of him for those deemed to ill then the Tories will care for them.

      Better then the labour right wing reeves telling us labour will be harder then the Tories, or the Right wing Reeves telling us labour does not do welfare.

      labour right wing are growing now so we will see.

    3. Jan duffu says:

      Chuka and especially david M make my toes curl up we didn’t explain “the borrowing” and we are still too close to the union machine it was those that turned voters off us and not Ed M

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        No mate I’m afraid it really was Ed, (and all his thieving mates and whole toxic Blair legacy and labors failures in Rochdale, Rotherham, Sheffield in Birmingham and at Mid Staffs etc,) that made more very first time in my life vote for UKIP.

        Whats’ still missing; as it was after the revelations about the appalling abuse that happened at Mid Staffs is any sense of the magnitude and extent of well heeled Labor’s failure and no guilt or sense of remorse or responsibility about the suffering and brutality that will now be inflicted on the UK’s most vulnerable as a consequence.

        These vile people Umma, Balls, Reeves, Burnham, Cooper et are vermin, pure and simple.

      2. Robert says:

        I do not mind labour throwing the unions out, the Unions will save £28 million which is what they spent to help the right wing or left wing depending on how they feel people are.

        I will then save my ley which I pay to labour once a year.

        Mind you labour will then have to sort out a few bankers to pay them donations. or a rich oligarch.

  3. James Martin says:

    It will be interesting to see who gets enough MP nominations to get onto the ballot paper under the new rules. I suspect that the Blairite woman no one’s heard of (and I can’t even remember her name now) wont, posh boy Hunt might but is not certain, and even posher boy Umunna as the prince of darkness’s favoured candidate probably will.

    The key for me right now is not which right-wing muppet makes it to the vote though, but who we will have to support against them. John McDonell who was my first choice last time probably won’t sadly (although some of the new intake are on the left so you never know), but Andy Burnham (my second choice last time) assuming he stands will have broad support from the left and the unions, and rightly so.

    1. Robert says:

      Yep I think your right and with luck it will be Burnham, but you can bet Progress will be getting ready to fund Chuka.

      If Burnham decides to stand and then asks people to donate then go for it I will give him a tenner .

      I backed the lefty in Scotland and sent him ten quid and I cannot vote in Scotland.

  4. Mukkinese says:

    The use of this term “Wealth creators” is a clear indicator of where politicians stand.

    If you are going to use it in the way Chukka does above to mean entrepreneurs and those in the boardroom, you show that you pretty much sympathise with the Tory view of the world.

    If you use it to include those groups AND the workers who they need to “create” their wealth, then you sound much more like someone on the left.

    Enough said…

  5. gerry says:

    Chuka Ummuna believes – by conviction I am sure – that New Labour is the furthest left an English electorate will vote on masse. The evidence since 1979 tends to back his conviction up.

    And in 2015 0f those who voted 60% voted for parties of the right – Tory, UKIP, Lib Dem: more evidence in his corner.

    The real issue is: is there another more ideologically left way to win at least 13-14 million votes in a general election including the English south, East, suburbs and Midlands which Labour DID win in 1997 and 2001? In 1997 we nearly won Uxbridge, which is now Boris Johnson’s safe seat!

    China has laid his cards on the table – it is up to others to show how their solution can get us back even near to power so that we can create a more just, fair and equal society.

    1. Carl says:

      Metropolitan Chukka isn’t going to win over Scots or people in the regions (who he no doubt calls provincial).

  6. gerry says:

    Typo – Chuka not China!

    1. Robert says:

      What’s up China I mean Chuka. .

  7. Billericaydickie says:

    As to the title of this piece, he will and you will.

  8. Keith Hopper says:

    Good article Barney. But if not Ummuna, then who? Yvette Cooper would be a good choice. Failing that, Andy Burnham.

    The other question is whether there should be a long or a short campaign for the leadership. The Tories took the initiative early on in 2010, and quickly established their austerity narrative, leaving Labour flailing. This time around, Cameron’s first 100 days will see a great deal of negative and regressive change, and there needs to be a robust response to that by Labour.

    1. Barney says:

      Agreed – Labour needs to act quick. But there’s different ways of acting decisively. Umunna, Kendall, Cooper are not decisive. By continuing an austerity narrative on which the Tories have a monopoly, they won’t be able to challenge Cameron in 2020; it’ll ruin the party as well as leading to another defeat.

      If Harriet Harman’s ruled herself out, I’d go for Lisa Nandy or Stella Creasy. They look like the only two who could break with pre-2015 and not take us back to Blair.

      1. Jon Lansman says:

        I can’t agree with your enthusiasm for Stella Creasy, Barney. She’s certainly on the right of the party, and in the Progress tradition, focuses only on issues which are – within the Labour Party – uncontroversial. Nothing wrong with campaigning on those of course, but I want soeone who’ll also tackle issues like unreasonable restriction on strike ballots, ending privatisation, employment rights and many other things Progress don’t want to touch. And what’s the evidence for Stella being anti-austerity?

        1. Barney says:

          Jon – wasn’t enthusiasm, but I take your point. Can Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett make it?

  9. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

    Can’t we do what UKIP have done and ask him to come back?

    1. John p Reid says:

      Nigel Farage increased Ukips vote by 10% in the last 5 years, Ed has increased labours vote by 1%

  10. Robert says:

    I do not think he would want to come back and face Cameron, would you.

    1. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

      It would be unpleasant. Yes. But the Tories will lead us to another crisis if they continue to cut, and continue to encourage more precarious debt.
      Poverty will increase dramatically, and people will get more and more disillusioned and or desperate.

      It would indeed be painful to face him again, but this would soon become a fest of watching a very corrupt leader who works only for the global corporations and banks slowly hang himself in the eyes of the people.

      1. Robert says:

        I think labour made a mistake they thought the public would not do as it has done for most of the last 100 years, the party that is in power will normally be given a second term.

        Is Cameron corrupt no he’s not, useless maybe, but hell we have had enough of them in the past 100 years.

        Now then if the recover really takes off and it will, then why would you want to change the party.

        Labour has to come up with a plan policies and not dreams.

        1. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

          So you do not think that his leaders dinners, where he gives personal attention for donations, and then you find they have lucrative private health contracts corrupt?

          1. Robert says:

            Some in labour have interest in health care as well, Blunklett had payments from A4e .

            they are all at it. well most

  11. SANDRA CRAWFORD says:

    I think that there could be a very dangerous downside to having another go at NEW LABOUR.

    Just look at the way the SNP tore into the “red Tories” as they call them. A new labour leader would get a lot of humiliation from the SNP in Parliament. They would become the whipping boys for Tory policy, especially if they agree to the cuts in the deficit and social welfare, instead of fighting it.

    1. gerry says:

      Sandra – whatever you think of Blair, and I was never a fan, he has been the only Labour leader to win votes in the English suburbs , the South, the Midlands: fact.

      And I have no doubt he would have beaten David Cameron in 2010 if he was still leader, or at least put up a better show than the boring and clueless Gordon Brown…

      1. Robert says:

        Yes but each election he won millions of voters walked away, by the third election labour had lost close to 5.5 millions voters but they had not gone to anyone else they were sitting at home.

        The question now is simple why bother with a right leaning labour party when the Tories are already in that position and back and like it or not doing better then labour.

        The issue is and has always been is in trusting labour I can remember labour with Wilson he won normally being to the left not the right.

        When Blair won his elections the Tories were in the biggest mess ever, Thatcher had gone and the 1992 group wanted her back Major came in told us about family values and was messing about with Curry, he was telling us about the rich middle class of the Victorians and saying this is how you should live, forgetting when those middle class were having a fine life in rich houses the working poor were striking like the match factory girls.

        Drug addiction with Opium which could be bought for half penny a bottle and gin was the cheapest way to forget about your life.

        They voted Major out and then the Tories had Hague, IDS and then Howard for god sake I could have stood if I could stand and beat him.

        Not any more the Tories have a stronger front bench then labour and they are now to the right and according to them Red although I think it’s the blood of the poor.

        1. gerry says:

          Robert – I agree with some of your analysis, and yes the present Labour front bench is dreadful and weak.

          And you are right- New Labour lost 4 million votes compared to 1997 but early New Labour did some really good redistributive things – minimum wage, sure start, NHS funding to EU average, better schools and results, free nursery education, maintenance allowance, pension credit, devolved governments, the list is pretty impressive in retrospect!

          But put simply – New Labour was never toxic in 2010 and 2015 in those southern English seats which, if we ignore or write off to the Tories and UKIP, we will never form another majority government.

          And regardless of Labour being “right wing” or not, I will always prefer even a right wing Labour government to ANY Tory or coalition one!

          1. Robert says:

            The Min wage was wage control it did not take a Million people out of poverty but put millions into it.

            Sorry but if you think the Min wage was a success your wrong. To control the blue collar workers of course labour flooded the country with people desperate to work for sod all. drove the middle class wages down.

            Nope labour was not the answer then it’s not now listening to Chuka he is another of those people who tells us new young people are not old labour, but old people are and they are voting. he really is a Pratt.

  12. Chris says:

    Trouble is, these opportunists, by jumping in so indecently fast, are dictating the debate and the media are lapping it up.

    No one can honestly believe they’ve taken the time to study and analyse why we lost.

    1. Robert says:

      Well this always happens, the mistake was today picking the shadow cabinet before the party even met. Now then in a few weeks or months time the new leader will have to change the front bench again. labour now has to pick one of seven people and my own feeling is Mandy and Blair and Progress will have a massive say the Unions should stay away from this one, but they will not it will be Chuka or Burnham, if that is so then Burnham.

      1. gerry says:

        And we need a leader who can communicate to everybody, ideally has worked in the real world, and embodies the message of the direction the party chooses! Burnham does not have it, I’m afraid, nor does Cooper or Hunt or Kendall …Umunna might have it, but the jury is out: but then again I didnt spot what a superstar Blair was before he became leader, even though I loathe his later record re Iraq, and all those privatisations he supported….

        1. Robert says:

          He did deals to be leader he promised seats to people and jobs to those who backed him, he took Brown out for a meal and did a deal with him, what Brown did not know he would have won, but he was so poor at knowing his own mind a deal sounded better.

  13. John p Reid says:

    Are the Chipping Norton set, like the noting hill set?
    Chuka Hasnt officially stated he’s standing, so basically The left of the party, maybe backing even Andy or Yvette as the stop Chuka candidate?

    Unless I can get Cruddas to stand,it’ll have to be Liz Krndall, argh!

    By the way, the article in shadow cabinet elections coming back,was spot on.

  14. John p Reid says:

    Not an endorsement of Chuka, but this some up a lot of people I know

    http://labourlist.org/2015/05/its-time-for-the-shy-blairites/

    By the way, if Chrisine shawcrofts off the NEC and Kate Osamors a Mp, does that mean the 2 other CLpD candidates Peter willsman, go up the running order to be on the NEC , like, Johanna Baxter did when oona king went to the lords in 2010

    1. gerry says:

      John – shy Blairites: that a new one!

      The only good news from last Thursday was the victory of Naz Shah and the exit of the horrific George Galloway, and of course the near total wipeout of the Lib Dems – they will not be missed!

      And the suspension of Christine Shawcroft in Tower Hamlets – openly backing the corrupt and disgusting Lutfur Rahman against the now vindicated John Biggs – opens up a whole can of worms now: will Ken be suspended next?

      As someone who did vote for Ken for Mayor against the then party candidate Frank Dobson, I hope not but yes we must have a consistent line on this, and it will be interesting to see if she is kicked out of the party for backing Tower Hamlets First so shamelessly.

  15. Carl says:

    I’m voting for Burnham. He can actually communicate like a normal human being. He’s genuine.

  16. David Pavett says:

    Chuka Umunna would be a disaster – even if his leadership could win an election. On the other hand, most of the people currently favoured by the left would equally be a disaster.

    Why is this? It is not difficult, in principle, to understand: none of them have a clear and coherent theory of society as a historical phenomenon. They are all bound by dogmatic concepts of one persuasion or another which ultimately try to impose pre-conceived moral concepts on the social order. What we have therefore is a clash between right-wing and left-wing utopians.

    None of them can present, or can even refer to someone else who presents, an analysis of current society which sees it as a moment in social evolution. All of them are bound by ahistorical concepts and speak of society in equally abstract ways.

    I strongly oppose people like Umunna but when I see left-wing candidates for various positions (e.g. mayor of London, leader of Scottish Labour) who clearly have no serious analysis on which to base a programme and whose programme consists of a series of headlines and no more, then I feel real despair. We are such a long way from the level of thought that is required to bring about fundamental social change.

    The left needs to stop preening itself on the obvious deficiencies of those whom it opposes and spend a bit more time looking at its own inadequacies.

    Let’s face it the left is currently without a pot to piss in (theoretically speaking).

    1. Robert says:

      I totally agree but one has to make a choice none of the people who as you say know the real labour history or movement are putting themselves forward.

      I suspect those that are will get the blessing of Mandy and Blair, so I suspect it will be Chuka.

      I really do hope the Unions stay out of this election let the members Blair and Mandy pick this new leader, it is the best way to prove they are wrong.

      1. jon says:

        Blair couldn’t get his choice. Elected leader last time, Peter Mandleson, has different views than Tony Blair, wouldn’t be surprised if he backed Stella Creasy,or Liz Kendall

    2. Matty says:

      Just for thickos like me, can you give examples of previous or current Labour politicians who meet your criteria (re: clear and coherent theory of society as a historical phenomenon). I’m guessing Tony Benn for one.

      1. Robert says:

        Wilson was pretty good, kept us out of a war understood the issues about poverty.

        At the moment if we could pick somebody from the past Wilson or even Ed Heath, he had more of solid ideology of what was going on sadly he was a Tory.

        Most of the big names on the left simply will not stand again which is a pity, and Abbott is off to see if he can become mayor.

  17. swatantra says:

    No surprises I’m backing Chuka; he can win it for us; he also has a positive view on business.

    1. Robert says:

      So have the Tories and why bother with a copy when you have the real thing in power.

      Swat your showing your Blair-rite colours again.

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