The slogan "You Can't Trust Labour" ultimately buried Neil Kinnock, seen here in 1992. Photo:Getty Images
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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. He usually writes about politics. 

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If Seumas Milne leaves Jeremy Corbyn, he'll do it on his own terms

The Corbynista comms chief has been keeping a diary. 

It’s been a departure long rumoured: Seumas Milne to leave post as Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy to return to the Guardian.

With his loan deal set to expire on 20 October, speculation is mounting that he will quit the leader’s office. 

Although Milne is a key part of the set-up – at times of crisis, Corbyn likes to surround himself with long-time associates, of whom Milne is one – he has enemies within the inner circle as well. As I wrote at the start of the coup, there is a feeling among Corbyn’s allies in the trade unions and Momentum that the leader’s offfice “fucked the first year and had to be rescued”, with Milne taking much of the blame. 

Senior figures in Momentum are keen for him to be replaced, while the TSSA, whose general secretary, Manuel Cortes, is one of Corbyn’s most reliable allies, is said to be keen for their man Sam Tarry to take post in the leader’s office on a semi-permanent basis. (Tarry won the respect of many generally hostile journalists when he served as campaign chief on the Corbyn re-election bid.) There have already been personnel changes at the behest of Corbyn-allied trade unions, with a designated speechwriter being brought in.

But Milne has seen off the attempt to remove him, with one source saying his critics had been “outplayed, again” and that any new hires will be designed to bolster, rather than replace Milne as comms chief. 

Milne, however, has found the last year a trial. I am reliably informed that he has been keeping a diary and is keen for the full story of the year to come out. With his place secure, he could leave “with his head held high”, rather than being forced out by his enemies and made a scapegoat for failures elsewhere, as friends fear he has been. The contents of the diary would also allow him to return in triumph to The Guardian rather than slinking back. 

So whether he decides to remain in the Corbyn camp or walk away, the Milne effect on Team Corbyn is set to endure.

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.