Why the Blairites must find a new leader

Trying to reconstruct Labour without those who last dragged it from opposition to government would b

The Blairites need a new leader. Actually, we all need the Blairites to find a new leader.

I appreciate that may not be the most popular job advertisement ever promoted by the New Statesman. Many believe the time has come to move beyond Blairism and New Labour. Others view it as a period that should be excised from history while its architect does 50 years for war crimes in Wandsworth nick.

Fair enough. The enduring love of his party was never high on Tony Blair's list of priorities for things to gain, and the Dodgy Dossier and 90-day detention bill were less than alluring billet-doux. But like it or not, Blairism, New Labourism and the whole "modernising agenda" are political strands that remain woven into the fabric of the party.

Those who thought the leadership election had consigned all this to the dustbin were wrong. The fact is that, since Ed's victory, the party hasn't really moved anywhere. That's not another Ed Miliband dig by the way, because even Miliband's most loyal supporters wouldn't argue that he's grabbed Labour by the scruff of the neck and started to drive through a bold new philosophical and political agenda.

Team Ed's pitch is that their man wants to use his time to sit back, assess the landscape, let the policy review programme develop, and within that framework start to construct a new, if not New, Labour prospectus. There are some – I'm one – who are sceptical of that strategy. But it's what we've got, so it's at least worth engaging with on its merits. And any meaningful engagement has to include the Blairites.

Pop-up Peter

The question is: who are they? Or, more precisely, who's their figurehead? Who's running the show?

Actually, let's take a step back. Who shouldn't be running it? Well, for starters, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, Tessa Jowell and Blair himself.

Peter popped up at the weekend to urge everyone to vote Yes to AV. Last time he pulled a stunt like that it was to urge everyone to vote for David Miliband, and look how that turned out. Expect a similar result next month.

The Blairite old guard deserve thanks and respect for what they did for their party and their country. Sorry, it's a fact. New Labour ended in failure, but between 1994 and 2001 it had some radical progressive achievements to its name, and those people were the architects.

But their brand is now contaminated, and every time they pop up they just remind people of that final product recall. They need to move on, and they need to be urged to move on not by their critics on the left, but by the new generation on the Labour right. Indeed, the capacity of the younger Blairites to find a new voice, and quieten the noises off, represents their first defining test.

It is a test they must pass quickly, because the window for debate that is opening up in the party will not remain open for ever. Given the premium the Blairites have usually placed on presentation, its ironic that the launch of Purple Labour, their first foray into new territory, has been so poorly managed.

But that's what comes of having a leadership vacuum. And when you have NEC members like Luke Akehurst attacking Progress for being divisive, you know you have serious command-and-control issues.

All smoke and no gunfire?

The Brownite leadership mantle has settled, after a few bumps along the way, on the shoulders of Ed Balls. The liberal left has found a leader in Ed Miliband, even if there have been one or two recent signs of buyer's remorse. In the negotiation that is about to take place over the future direction of the party, the Blairites need to ensure they also have a seat at the table.

David Miliband, prematurely dismissed by many after his defeat, remains a candidate. But he can't wait beyond the water for much longer, and will need to make his case with clarity and conviction.

Jim Murphy has already been identified as one great Blairite hope, and there are worst negatives than his "Scottishness". Douglas Alexander is another candidate, having finally made the break with his Brownite past, though there are some who think his talents are better deployed behind the scenes than front of house. And some still speak wistfully of luring James Purnell back towards the sound of the guns.

There are other candidates that will emerge. And emerge they must, because trying to reconstruct Labour without those who last dragged it from opposition to government would be foolish, and deeply damaging.

Blairism without Blair. We need it. And if anyone can build it, the Blairites can.

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The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.