The Times's bizarre attack on Ed Miliband

Miliband criticised for not packing the House of Lords with party donors.

Another day, another anti-Ed Miliband story in the Times. The paper, which was a firm supporter of David Miliband, has been running a series all week on divisions within the Labour Party. But today's splash (£) is more bizarre than most. The paper effectively criticises Miliband for not packing the House of Lords with party donors.

It reports:

The Labour leader was allowed to nominate ten people for a new list of working peers published yesterday. But he decided against handing seats in the House of Lords to Nigel Doughty and Sir Ronald Cohen -- who have given more than £6 million to the party since 2005 -- as well as Jon Mendelsohn, Labour's fundraising chief.

All three had been on a list drawn up by Gordon Brown, but The Times can reveal they were later told they would not be nominated. Sir Gulam Noon was the only significant donor on the new list, to show "Generation Ed was drawing a line under the past".

After reading that, one feels moved to state the obvious: party donors do not have, and should not have, any automatic right to sit in the legislature. As Sunder Katwala points out, given the damage that the "cash-for-honours" inquiry did to Labour, it's rather surprising to see Miliband under fire for not rewarding vested interests. Indeed, had he, like David Cameron, packed the upper house with party donors, one suspects he would soon face accusations of "Labour sleaze".

New Conservative peers included prominent party donor Sir Michael Bishop, the former boss of the BMI airline and Stanley Fink, the Tory treasurer who has given millions to the party. Cameron also chose to ennoble Robert Edmiston, the multi-millionaire car salesman, whose appointment was blocked in 2005 amid concerns over his tax affairs. He was later questioned by the police during the cash-for-honours affair and led the secretive Midlands Industrial Council. As Martin Bell rightly argued: "This can only add to the public's perception that high honours can be bought. We are back to the situation we were in with cash-for-honours."

The Times would do well to turn its attention to this. Does it really want a political system even more in hock to vested interests?

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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