The slogan "You Can't Trust Labour" ultimately buried Neil Kinnock, seen here in 1992. Photo:Getty Images
Show Hide image

In burying Ed Miliband's project, Labour's leadership contenders risk burying themselves

As Labour's leadership contenders race to bury the Miliband project, they risk unearthing Neil Kinnock's defeat. 

"There's no point in running around shouting 'don't trash our record'," one ally of Ed Miliband remarked in 2010, "We got 29 per cent of the vote. It's already been trashed."

Similarly, you might argue, there's no point in trying to work out which parts of the Miliband project are worth saving. It got 31 per cent of the vote. It's already dead.

That's certainly the calculation that appears to be driving the campaigns of Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper. Both Burnham and Cooper will today highlight their own closeness to business. Burnham will warn that Labour "didn't celebrate the spirit of enterprise", telling his audience that the party "got it wrong" on businesses. Kendall, meanwhile, having already delivered her critique of Milibandism, will set out her own stall with a speech in her constituency of Leicester. 

The criticism of this approach being pushed by Miliband's remaining allies is that the polls showed that economic competence and leadership, not Labour's attitude to business or aspiration, is what did for Labour. This is technically true. It seems unlikely, however, that a series of open letters from businessmen of various sizes and the constant attacks on Labour policies even from its own big-money donors didn't have something to do with the party's dire ratings on economic competence and leadership. 

Burnham's speech is good politics in the leadership race, too. He remains the frontrunner and a formidable candidate. But if there is any threat to him it looks most likely to come from Kendall on his right flank, and the more of her best lines he can appropriate, the better for him. It also further weakens the Cooper campaign's "best of both worlds" message - the less of a risky proposition Burnham looks, the less tempting Cooper's middle way is.

But there's a risk to Labour too. In 1992, the Conservatives sunk Neil Kinnock with one message: "You Can't Trust Labour". They argued that the Neil Kinnock of 1992 wasn't that different from the Neil Kinnock who stood up for Michael Foot in 1983 or the Neil Kinnock of 1987. They said he'd changed his mind before, and would change his mind again. Tony Blair - the only Labour leader to take his party into government since 1974 - had the advantage that he'd already tried to modernise the Labour party as an Opposition frontbencher, ending Labour's support for the closed shop and stealing Michael Howard's clothes as shadow home secretary. Kendall, the lowest-ranking of the candidates, can't so easily point to a record of putting her words into action. Cooper and Burnham, meanwhile, are even more implicated in the last five years. It may be that in shucking off Miliband's reputation for being anti-business, they re-acquire Kinnock's for evasiveness.

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

Getty.
Show Hide image

19 things wrong with Daniel Hannan’s tweet about the women’s march

The crackpot and these women.

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

State of this:

I mean honestly, where do you even begin? Even by Daniel’s rarefied standards of idiocy, this is a stonker. How is it stupid? Let me count the ways.

1. “Our female head of government” implies the existence of “their female head of government”. Which is odd, because the tweet is clearly aimed at Hillary Clinton, who isn’t anybody’s head of government.

Way to kick someone when they’re down, Dan. What next? “So pleased that my daughter received a wide selection of Christmas presents, unlike those of certain families”?

2. I dunno, I’m no expert, but it’s just possible that there are reasons why so few women make it to the top of politics which don’t have anything to do with how marvellous Britain is.

3. Hillary Clinton was not “the last guy’s wife”. You can tell this, because she was not married to Barack Obama, whose wife is called Michelle. (Honestly, Daniel, I’m surprised you haven’t spotted the memes.)

4. She wasn’t married to the guy before him, come to that. Her husband stopped being president 16 years ago, since when she’s been elected to the Senate twice and served four years as Secretary of State.

5. I’m sure Hillary would love to have been able to run for president without reference to her husband – for the first few years of her marriage, indeed, she continued to call herself Hillary Rodham. But in 1980 Republican Frank White defeated Bill Clinton’s campaign to be re-elected as govenor of Arkansas, in part by mercilessly attacking the fact his wife still used her maiden name.

In the three decades since, Hillary has moved from Hillary Rodham, to Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Hillary Clinton. You can see this as a cynical response to conservative pressure, if you so wish – but let’s not pretend there was no pressure to subsume her political identity into that of her husband, eh? And let’s not forget that it came from your side of the fence, eh, Dan?

6. Also, let’s not forget that the woman you’re subtweeting is a hugely intelligent former senator and secretary of state, who Barack Obama described as the most qualified person ever to run for president. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be so patronising as to imply that the only qualification she had was her husband, now, would you?

7. I’d love to know what qualifications Dan thinks are sufficient to become US president, and whether he believes a real estate mogul with an inherited fortune and a reality TV show has them.

8. Hillary Clinton got nearly 3m more votes than Donald Trump, by the way.

9. More votes than any white man who has ever run for president, in fact.

10. Certainly a lot more votes than Theresa May, who has never faced a general election as prime minister and became leader of the government by default after the only other candidate left in the race dropped out. Under the rules of British politics this is as legitimate a way of becoming PM as any, of course, I’m just not sure how winning a Tory leadership contest by default means she “ran in her own right” in a way that Hillary Clinton did not.

11. Incidentally, here’s a video of Daniel Hannan demanding Gordon Brown call an early election in 2009 on the grounds that “parliament has lost the moral mandate to carry on”.

So perhaps expecting him to understand how the British constitution works is expecting too much.

12. Why the hell is Hannan sniping at Hillary Clinton, who is not US president, when the man who is the new US president has, in three days, come out against press freedom, basic mathematics and objective reality? Sorry, I’m not moving past that.

13. Notice the way the tweet says that our “head of government” got there on merit. That’s because our “head of state” got the job because her great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother happened to be a protestant in 1701 and her uncle wanted to marry a divorcee – all of which makes it a bit difficult to say that our head of government “ran in her own right”.  But hey, whatever makes you happy.

14. Is Daniel calling the US a banana republic? I mean, it’s a position I have some sympathy with in this particular week, but it’s an odd fit with the way he gets all hot and bothered whenever someone starts talking about the English-speaking peoples.

15. Incidentally, he stole this tweet from his 14-year-old daughter:

16. Who talks, oddly, like a 45-year-old man.

17. And didn’t even credit her! It’s exactly this sort of thing which stops women making it to the top rank of politics, Daniel.

18. He tweeted that at 6.40am the day after the march. Like, he spent the whole of Saturday trying to come up with a zinger, and then eventually woke up early on the Sunday unable to resist stealing a line from his teenage daughter. One of the great orators of our age, ladies and gentlemen.

19. He thinks he can tweet this stuff without people pointing and laughing at him.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. He is on Twitter, almost continously, as @JonnElledge.