Former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke savaged his party's chance at the general election. Photo: Getty
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Charles Clarke: Tories set to win general election and Kinnock a better leader than Miliband

The former Labour cabinet minister launched a vicious attack on Ed Miliband and his party.

The Conservatives are set to sweep to victory at next year’s general election, former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke has declared.

Clarke warned that Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour party “has no narrative” and has failed to “set out a clear statement of what Labour would actually do”.

Instead the party has set out an “assembly of odd policies like the electricity [price] freeze or whatever”, he said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

He also declared former Labour leader Neil Kinnock a far better head of the party than Ed Miliband. A former chief of staff to Kinnock, Clarke said: “Neil has far, far more qualities than Ed Miliband as a leader”.

He added: “Neil was a fantastic leader and brought Labour back towards victory.”

Lending credence to the Conservative line that Labour overspent under Gordon Brown’s stewardship, Clarke said his party “started overspending in 2006”.

“We had very tight control prior to that, we had the situation running well,” he said, adding: “from about 2006 until 2008 we did overspend, not very, very dramatically but significantly, and we should have had the controls on”.

He also slammed Miliband’s choice of chancellor. “I think it would be better for Labour if Alistair [Darling] was there rather than Ed Balls,” he said.

Clarke, who lost his parliamentary seat in 2010, has attacked the Labour leadership in the past, but delivered the most deadly blow yet with his comment that “ the most likely outcome is a Tory overall majority”.

He also attacked former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Taking a further dig at Miliband by remarking that Blair would “have every chance of being elected prime minister” in 2015 were he Labour leader again, Clarke nonetheless criticised the former Prime Minister for amassing a personal fortune through his business interests.

Clarke said: “There is no question that he has damaged his reputation. The money has damaged his reputation, some of his contacts have damaged the reputation, some aspects of the way he's spent his life have damaged his reputation.”

He censured Brown for his poor attendance record in Parliament: “He's an elected member of parliament. If he doesn't want to be an MP he should stand down.”

Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also came under attack for making “ignorant and ill-informed statements” about Labour's immigration record.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

Garry Knight via Creative Commons
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Why Barack Obama was right to release Chelsea Manning

A Presidential act of mercy is good for Manning, but also for the US.

In early 2010, a young US military intelligence analyst on an army base near Baghdad slipped a Lady Gaga CD into a computer and sang along to the music. In fact, the soldier's apparently upbeat mood hid two facts. 

First, the soldier later known as Chelsea Manning was completely alienated from army culture, and the callous way she believed it treated civilians in Iraq. And second, she was quietly erasing the music on her CDs and replacing it with files holding explosive military data, which she would release to the world via Wikileaks. 

To some, Manning is a free speech hero. To others, she is a traitor. President Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence before leaving office has been blasted as “outrageous” by leading Republican Paul Ryan. Other Republican critics argue Obama is rewarding an act that endangered the lives of soldiers and intelligence operatives while giving ammunition to Russia. 

They have a point. Liberals banging the drum against Russia’s leak offensive during the US election cannot simultaneously argue leaks are inherently good. 

But even if you think Manning was deeply misguided in her use of Lady Gaga CDs, there are strong reasons why we should celebrate her release. 

1. She was not judged on the public interest

Manning was motivated by what she believed to be human rights abuses in Iraq, but her public interest defence has never been tested. 

The leaks were undoubtedly of public interest. As Manning said in the podcast she recorded with Amnesty International: “When we made mistakes, planning operations, innocent people died.” 

Thanks to Manning’s leak, we also know about the Vatican hiding sex abuse scandals in Ireland, plus the UK promising to protect US interests during the Chilcot Inquiry. 

In countries such as Germany, Canada and Denmark, whistle blowers in sensitive areas can use a public interest defence. In the US, however, such a defence does not exist – meaning it is impossible for Manning to legally argue her actions were in the public good. 

2. She was deemed worse than rapists and murderers

Her sentence was out of proportion to her crime. Compare her 35-year sentence to that received by William Millay, a young police officer, also in 2013. Caught in the act of trying to sell classified documents to someone he believed was a Russian intelligence officer, he was given 16 years

According to Amnesty International: “Manning’s sentence was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.”

3. Her time in jail was particularly miserable 

Manning’s conditions in jail do nothing to dispel the idea she has been treated extraordinarily harshly. When initially placed in solitary confinement, she needed permission to do anything in her cell, even walking around to exercise. 

When she requested treatment for her gender dysphoria, the military prison’s initial response was a blanket refusal – despite the fact many civilian prisons accept the idea that trans inmates are entitled to hormones. Manning has attempted suicide several times. She finally received permission to receive gender transition surgery in 2016 after a hunger strike

4. Julian Assange can stop acting like a martyr

Internationally, Manning’s continued incarceration was likely to do more harm than good. She has said she is sorry “for hurting the US”. Her worldwide following has turned her into an icon of US hypocrisy on free speech.

Then there's the fact Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Manning was released. Now that Manning is months away from freedom, his excuses for staying in the Equadorian London Embassy to avoid Swedish rape allegations are somewhat feebler.  

As for the President - under whose watch Manning was prosecuted - he may be leaving his office with his legacy in peril, but with one stroke of his pen, he has changed a life. Manning, now 29, could have expected to leave prison in her late 50s. Instead, she'll be free before her 30th birthday. And perhaps the Equadorian ambassador will finally get his room back. 

 

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.