Is a hung parliament best for the left?

Anthony Barnett argues that the left has a duty to kick out New Labour.

Here at New Statesman Towers we're just putting the finishing touches to this week's magazine, but I wanted to tell you about the remarkable polemic from Anthony Barnett you'll find in it.

Barnett, the co-founder of Charter 88 and openDemocracy pioneer, launches a ferocious attack on Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson and argues that all left liberals have a duty to vote New Labour out of power.

But he has little time for those who claim that David Cameron's Conservatives offer a credible alternative. The Ashcroft affair, he writes, confirmed that the two parties inhabit the same "corrupt conservatory".

Instead, he calls on voters to support the candidate most likely to increase the number of independent and third-party MPs, and produce a hung parliament.

Here are two key extracts:

We need to hang parliament and hang the two main parties. We need to vote Brown and Mandelson out, first of all, but not vote Cameron and company in to carry on where Labour has left off. We need a hung parliament so that invention and new voices are registered, so that the public can express how it has lost trust in the political class, and different forces be allowed to reshape the political scene.

Those on the left should help Britain vote out New Labour, but frustrate the Cameroons. Brown, Mandelson and Blair had an unprecedented opportunity to reform the British system with public support. Instead, they chose to intensify the centralisation of power.

Unsurprisingly, Barnett's definitive break with the Labour leadership has already provoked a hostile reaction from some. So, in the first of a series of replies to the piece, the distinguished academic David Marquand rejects calls for a hung parliament and accuses Barnett of preferring a minority Cameron government to any sort of Labour administration.

Make sure you pick up the new issue tomorrow and join the debate about the future of the left.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage