Worried Will Young

The best of the politics blogs as brought to you by Paul Evans

Too schooled for cool

When faced with the dilemma of my education, my parents poured over the prospectuses for Poshington College and Gasworks Comprehensive. After much anguished hand-wringing, they came to the right decision. David Cameron has been similarly wrestling with the knotty issue - and has now decided to send his sprogs to London comps (“pathetic!” barked the rather mean Labour Boy).

While the headlines focussed on Cameron's announcement regarding his own offspring, he and Michael Gove were also unveiling policy of substance – most eye-catchingly, encouraging the institutions of civil society to establish schools. Will Rhodes felt that a cross-party consensus on the future of state education is necessary to make any long-term reforms effective – and that local authorities are a malign force in the governance of comprehensive schools, explaining: “I don’t care what the LEAs say - they are as politically motivated as the parties who are kicking them around”.

Letters from a Tory was impressed by the idea of “state funding supporting independent public service providers in the name of social justice,” but concerned that Dave was creating a rod for his own back.

“You turned your nose up at around 15 primaries near your West London home to send your five-year-old daughter to an Anglican state school because you wanted to do what’s best for your children,” he recalled.

But while Cameron's pledge might be interpreted as an act of expedient solidarity with the increasingly hard-up middle classes, the role of his wife Samantha should not be underestimated. As Sam Coates noted some weeks ago on his Red Box blog – she is something of an enthusiast for state education.

In the same week, the Lib Dems unveiled their own education proposals, including a commitment to cut class sizes to 15 and more detail on the party's plans for a Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged children. Islington candidate Bridget Fox joined her party leader for the policy launch at a North London school. She later blogged that Clegg had cracked “that'll put them off,” in response to learning that pupils were to visit Westminster to learn more about politics. Never a truer word said in jest...

What have we learned this week?

On Facebook, Nick Clegg shows his yoof cred by embracing the '25 random things' meme. We learn that his great-great aunt dated HG Wells and that he once wrote a (“terrible”) novel. It couldn't have been worse than Iain Duncan Smith's 'The Devil's Tune,' surely.

Around the World

To New Zealand, where Jafapete on the left of centre Kiwipolitico has been reflecting on Waitangi, the national holiday marking the conclusion of the treaty which made the Maori people British subjects.

Jafapete expressed concern that the idea of national unity is: “often used to conceal the very real differences between the haves and the have nots in society,” while the Green Party's frogblog was impressed by the tone in which the day was observed, citing a: “civil debate about the appropriateness of our national anthem, our flag and our other national symbols without any of the polarising name calling I would have expected in the past”.

Videos of the Week

M.I.A remains pretty hot stuff and she got more records than the KGB. Heavily pregnant (indeed, actually due), her 'Paper Planes' (which samples the Clash's 'Straight to Hell') was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys.

M.I.A's father was a pro-Tamil independence activist and she has not been shy in using Tiger imagery – prompting one of the more interesting pop rows of last year, when Sri Lankan-American rapper DeLon accused her (through the medium of the “diss video”) of supporting terrorism - allegations which drew an angry rejection of the charge.

Quote of the Week

“You always know when someone is struggling because they say they are "worried". Will Young was "worried" about every issue, it seemed.”

Iain Dale blogging on the week's BBC Question Time.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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“We can’t do this again”: Labour conference reactions to Jeremy Corbyn’s second victory

Overjoyed members, determined allies and concerned MPs are divided on how to unite.

“I tell you what, I want to know who those 193,229 people are.” This was the reaction of one Labour member a few rows from the front of the stage, following the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory at the Labour party conference. She was referring to support received by his defeated contender, Owen Smith, who won 38.2 per cent of the vote (to Corbyn’s 61.8 per cent).

But it’s this focus on the leader’s critics – so vehement among many (and there are a lot of them) of his fans – that many politicians, of either side, who were watching his victory speech in the conference hall want to put an end to.

“It’s about unity and bringing us all together – I think that’s what has to come out of this,” says shadow cabinet member and MP for Edmonton Kate Osamor. “It shouldn’t be about the figures, and how many votes, and his percentage, because that will just cause more animosity.”

Osamor, who is supportive of Corbyn’s leadership, is not alone in urging her colleagues who resigned from the shadow cabinet to “remember the door is never shut”.

Shadow minister and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Jon Ashworth – not a Corbyn loyalist, but focusing on making the shadow cabinet work together – shares the sentiment.

Standing pensively in front of the now-empty stage, he tells me he backs shadow cabinet elections (though not for every post) – a change to party rules that has not yet been decided by the NEC. “[It] would be a good way of bringing people back,” he says. “I’ve been involved in discussions behind the scenes this week and I hope we can get some resolution on the issue.”

He adds: “Jeremy’s won, he has to recognise a number of people didn’t vote for him, so we’ve got to unite.”

The former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, another MP on the NEC, is sitting in the audience, looking over some documents. She warns that “it’s impossible to tell” whether those who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet would be willing to return, and is concerned about talent being wasted.

“We have a lot of excellent people in the party; there are new people now in the shadow cabinet who have had a chance to show their mettle but you need experience as well as ability,” she says.

Beckett, who has urged Corbyn to stand down in the past, hopes “everybody’s listening” to his call for unity, but questions how that will be achieved.

“How much bad blood there is among people who were told that there was plotting [against Corbyn], it’s impossible to tell, but obviously that doesn’t make for a very good atmosphere,” she says. “But Jeremy says we’ll wipe the slate clean, so let’s hope everybody will wipe the slate clean.”

It doesn’t look that way yet. Socialist veteran Dennis Skinner is prowling around the party conference space outside the hall, barking with glee about Corbyn’s defeated foes. “He’s trebled the membership,” he cries. “A figure that Blair, Brown and Prescott could only dream about. On average there’s more than a thousand of them [new members] in every constituency. Right-wing members of the parliamentary Labour party need to get on board!”

A call that may go unheeded, with fervent Corbyn allies and critics alike already straying from the unity message. The shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon is reminding the PLP that, “Jeremy’s won by a bigger margin this time”, and telling journalists after the speech that he is “relaxed” about how the shadow cabinet is recruited (not a rallying cry for shadow cabinet elections).

“If Jeremy wants to hold out an olive branch to the PLP, work with MPs more closely, he has to look very seriously at that [shadow cabinet elections]; it’s gone to the NEC but no decision has been made,” says Louise Ellman, the Liverpool MP and transport committee chair who has been critical of Corbyn’s leadership. “That might not be the only way. I think he has to find a way of working with MPs, because we’re all elected by millions of people – the general public – and he seems to dismiss that.”

“If he sees it [his victory] as an endorsement of how he’s been operating up until now, the problems which led to the election being called will remain,” Ellman warns. “If we’re going to be a credible party of government, we’ve got to reach out to the general electorate. He didn’t say anything about that in his speech, but I hope that perhaps now he might feel more confident to be able to change direction.”

Corbyn may have called for cooperation, but his increased mandate (up from his last stonking victory with 59.5 per cent of the vote) is the starkest illustration yet of the gulf between his popularity in Parliament and among members.

The fact that one attempt at a ceasefire in the party’s civil war – by allowing MPs to vote for some shadow cabinet posts – is in contention suggests this gulf is in danger of increasing.

And then where could the party be this time next year? As Osamor warns: “We should not be looking at our differences, because when we do that, we end up thinking it’s a good thing to spend our summer having another contest. And we can’t. We can’t do this again.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.