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Category archive for: British Politics

Tim Farron wins Liberal Democrat leadership contest

By Andrew Denham and Matthew Francis

How do you rebuild a political party after an electoral calamity? That was the question facing the Liberal Democrats when deciding who should replace Nick Clegg as their leader.

Now the party has chosen Tim Farron to replace Clegg – a decision that could help bring back a spirit of optimism in a party battered by five years of government with the Conservatives.

After being reduced from 57 MPs in 2010 to just eight in 2015 – numbers reminiscent of the Liberal Party of the 1950s – the Lib Dems now face a difficult path back to political significance, let alone power.

Continue reading Tim Farron wins Liberal Democrat leadership contest

Catastrophe Corbyn

By Steven Fielding.

According to some observers Jeremy Corbyn has a more than outside chance of becoming the next Labour eader. Endorsed by UNITE and other, smaller, trade unions, Corbyn certainly enjoys more support than many predicted at the outset of the campaign.

Corbyn’s unexpected prominence provoked The World Tonight to run a piece on the Labour left, one to which I made a rather sceptical contribution). For, that which passes for the Labour left today is, despite appearances, at its lowest ever ebb. Long gone are the days when the Tribune Group enjoyed a membership of nearly 100 MPs and had decent representation in Labour Cabinets.

The left enjoyed its greatest influence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time that saw founding Tribune member Michael Foot become leader and in 1983 present to the country possibly Labour’s most radical manifesto. It was no accident that the left’s greatest influence came at the same time as one of Labour’s deepest electoral nadirs. For, if some see the left as the party’s ‘conscience’, electorally speaking you can have too many principles.  Continue reading Catastrophe Corbyn

General Election 2015: Voters wrong, but still revealing

By Philip Cowley.

As part of the preparation for The British General Election of 2015, I have been playing around with the latest wave of the British Election Study data, which is from the short campaign.

There is a question about whether a party had a ‘real chance’ of being in government or not, ‘either forming a government by itself or as part of a coalition’. The question isn’t brilliantly worded – it rules out other ways in which parties might be involved in government, such as confidence and supply agreements – but for all its flaws, responses to the question are still revealing.

The question asked about parties that had ‘no real chance’ of being in government. The figure for both Labour and Conservative was 3%. Almost everyone could see they had a chance. For the Lib Dems, it was 18%. Most people thought they had a chance.

Continue reading General Election 2015: Voters wrong, but still revealing

Devolution, austerity and community leadership in English Local Government

By Alison Gardner.

The ‘Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill’ published at the end of May 2015 provided the cornerstone for the new government’s flagship decentralisation agenda.  Yet as Professor Robin Hambleton has recently argued, rather than granting increased power to local government, the bill’s focus on a new layer of sub-regional, combined authorities will actually move power further away from local communities.  This problem has potential to be exacerbated by the erosion of local authorities’ ‘community leadership’ role, due to financial pressures associated with austerity.

During the early 1990s, academics and practitioners championed a role for English local government ‘not just to deliver certain services well but to steer a community to meet the full range of its needs’.  Although the idea of community leadership has deep historic roots, the 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in the contribution of local government to the strategic development and wellbeing of a locality, through its capacity to connect fragmented layers of governance in an increasingly fractured service delivery landscape.

Continue reading Devolution, austerity and community leadership in English Local Government

Labour should forget ‘Saint’ David Miliband – he fluffed his chance

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By Steven Fielding 

One of the many problems faced by Harold Wilson after he became Labour leader in 1963 was heading a team dominated by supporters of his immediate predecessor. Hugh Gaitskell had died suddenly, leaving his political friends understandably bereft.

Wilson was one of Gaitskell’s most prominent opponents and, as things went from bad to worse during his 1964-70 government, arch-Gaitskellites spent their evenings wishing Saint Hugh, the Man of Principle, was alive to save Labour from disaster. It was hard for Wilson to compete with a man whose qualities became ever more superhuman after his passing.

In the same way, Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour party was dogged by the reputation of his brother David from the start. David was the candidate supported by most of the shadow cabinet when the two took each other on in the 2010 leadership race.

Continue reading Labour should forget ‘Saint’ David Miliband – he fluffed his chance

The Future of the Left – Where next for Britain’s labour movement?

By Andreas Bieler

‘The Conservatives are not invincible – splits over the forthcoming EU referendum and their small majority in parliament are only two signs of their weakness. Together, the Left can stem the tide of austerity’, these were the words of the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. In front of a full lecture theatre with 300 people, she delivered the first Ken Coates memorial lecture, organised by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and co-hosted by the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) and the local University and College Union (UCU) association. In this post, I will draw out some of her key points.

Labour’s defeat in the general elections

Frances O’Grady heavily contested the idea that Labour had lost the elections because its programme had been too far on the left. Any Labour party programme has to focus on constructing homes, ensuring jobs and safeguarding the NHS. If at all the elections had been lost because the party had conceded too much to austerity. Moreover, the Conservative tactics of scaremongering the public of a minority Labour government depending on SNP support had worked. While she was supportive of the SNP’s anti-austerity stance, however, Frances O’Grady pointed out that the politics of place, as pursued by the SNP in Scotland, is an inadequate response to austerity. Workers in England will always have more in common with workers in Scotland than with bankers in London.

Continue reading The Future of the Left – Where next for Britain’s labour movement?