Fear and loathing in the Labour party

Dan Hodges paints a bleak picture of relations in the Labour party following Ed Miliband's election.

Labour may be riding high in the polls, but according to Labour insider Dan Hodges in this week's New Statesman, there is growing discord within the party supposedly united after Ed Miliband's election.

Party members had hoped that Ed's election would have brought catharsis to the party, after a decade of Blair-Brown infighting but - according to Hodges - this has not been the case.

"I wish Ed Miliband hadn't run," one Labour MP told Hodges. "We should have had a straight battle between David and Ed Balls. One final reckoning. A fight to the death. Then the Blair/Brown struggle would have been resolved once and for all."

Miliband enjoyed the briefest of honeymoons following his lukewarm inaugural leader's speech. Senior Brownites spoke to Hodges immediately after Ed Miliband's inaugural speech calling it "a disaster" and declaring that "in two years we'll have him out and Yvette Cooper in."

According to another senior Brownite insider that Hodges spoke to, Ed Miliband should be - and is - worried about such a scenario.

"Ed Miliband's team are terrified of Ed Balls and Yvette. They think they're going to come and try and kill him. And the reason they think that is because they will," he told Hodges.

"There's a sense of a vacuum developing," he continued. "People are looking for leadership and direction. And at the moment, they're not getting it," according to one shadow minister.

Disunity and discord is once again looming over the Labour party. Or as one MP starkly put it to Hodges: "We're either on the threshold of the new politics or we're on the brink of a civil war."

Dan Hodges piece is available to read in this week's New Statesman, available on news stands from Thursday.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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