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.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.