Liz Kendall addresses a hustings. Photo: Getty Images
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Liz Kendall's the right choice for local government, for London, and for Labour

Eight council leaders from the capital explain why they're backing Liz Kendall to lead Labour back into power.

As leaders of Labour-run London councils, we know the difference that Labour makes to so many lives. That’s not just about what happens in Westminster – important though that is – but what happens at a local and regional level too.

That’s especially true in London. Labour councils in the capital have faced some of the toughest budget cuts at the hands of the Tories. Whilst we can – and do - achieve a great deal for our local areas in tough circumstances, we could do so much more with Labour in government nationally.

That’s why we’re backing Liz Kendall to take Labour forwards.

She offers a fresh start for the Labour Party, and understands not only the advantages but the necessity of shifting power away from the centre and into the hands of those who need it most. In recent years we have been forced to face some tough decisions, and we’ve had to take innovative action that works for the communities we seek to represent.

Liz Kendall understands the choices we’ve had to make. She understands that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Too often the Labour leadership hasn’t trusted local councils – under Liz Kendall that won’t be the case.

We believe that Liz understands that decisions should be taken as close to people as possible. She understands that the future of the country isn’t about what happens in Whitehall, it’s about shifting power to town halls, and more importantly, to local communities – sharing power with those who have none, and using government, be it national or local, to help people help themselves and one another.

We share Liz’s desire to involve people in designing the public services they use; to give employees a stronger say in their workplaces; and to ensure that local businesses help shape the educational provision they need to create vibrant local economies.

Liz is no recent convert to devolution – over the past three years she has impressed us by her unstinting commitment to finding more local solutions for health and social care. This commitment to devolution goes further than health and social care - it’s at the heart of her plan for the Labour Party and the country.

We know that when Labour is led well – locally or nationally – it’s to the benefit of our country, our party and crucially our communities. But when Labour fails to connect with the people we seek to serve and lacks understanding of why people don’t give us their support, councillors are often the first to find out – and the first to lose their seats.

With Liz Kendall as Labour leader, the party can begin to regain the trust of the British people, putting power back in their hands and pushing power away from the centre and towards our the people themselves. And with a crucial London Mayoral contest next year, Labour can’t wait to start that process.

If Labour wants to begin the process of reconnecting with our communities – and those areas far beyond where the party needs to win to help us deliver for our communities – then Liz Kendall is the right choice.

For local government.

For London.

And for Labour.



Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader, Camden Council

Cllr Julian Bell, Leader, Ealing Council

Steve Curran, Hounslow Council

Cllr Claire Kober, Leader, Haringey Council

Cllr Lib Peck, Leader, Lambeth Council

Mayor Steve Bullock, Lewisham Council

Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader, Merton Council

Cllr Peter John, Leader, Southwark Council


Photo: Getty
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Cambridge Analytica and the digital war in Africa

Across the continent, UK expertise is being deployed online to sway elections and target dissidents.

Cambridge Analytica, the British political consultancy caught up in a huge scandal over its use of Facebook data, has boasted that they ran the successful campaigns of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 Kenyan elections. In a secretly filmed video, Mark Turnbull, a managing director for Cambridge Analytica and sister company SCL Elections, told a Channel 4 News’ undercover investigative reporting team that his firm secretly stage-managed Kenyatta’s hotly contested campaigns.

“We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing – so just about every element of this candidate,” Turnbull said of his firm’s work for Kenyatta’s party.

Cambridge Analytica boasts of manipulating voters’ deepest fears and worries. Last year’s Kenyan election was dogged by vicious online propaganda targeting opposition leader Raila Odinga, with images and films playing on people’s concerns about everything from terrorism to spiralling disease. No-one knows who produced the material. Cambridge Analytica denies involvement with these toxic videos – a claim that is hard to square with the company’s boast that they “staged the whole thing.” 

In any event, Kenyatta came to power in 2013 and won a second and final term last August, defeating Odinga by 1.4 million votes.

The work of this British company is only the tip of the iceberg. Another company, the public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, has apologised for stirring up racial hostility in South Africa on behalf of former President Jacob Zuma’s alleged financiers – the Gupta family. Bell Pottinger has since gone out of business.

Some electoral manipulation has been home grown. During the 2016 South African municipal elections the African National Congress established its own media manipulations operation.

Called the “war room” it was the ANC’s own “black ops” centre. The operation ranged from producing fake posters, apparently on behalf of opposition parties, to establishing 200 fake social media “influencers”. The team launched a news site, The New South African, which claimed to be a “platform for new voices offering a different perspective of South Africa”. The propaganda branded opposition parties as vehicles for the rich and not caring for the poor.

While the ANC denied any involvement, the matter became public when the public relations consultant hired by the party went to court for the non-payment of her bill. Among the court papers was an agreement between the claimant and the ANC general manager, Ignatius Jacobs. According to the email, the war room “will require input from the GM [ANC general manager Jacobs] and Cde Nkadimeng [an ANC linked businessman] on a daily basis. The ANC must appoint a political champion who has access to approval, as this is one of the key objectives of the war room.”

Such home-grown digital dirty wars appear to be the exception, rather than the rule, in the rest of Africa. Most activities are run by foreign firms.

Ethiopia, which is now in a political ferment, has turned to an Israeli software company to attack opponents of the government. A Canadian research group, Citizens Lab, reported that Ethiopian dissidents in the US, UK, and other countries were targeted with emails containing sophisticated commercial spyware posing as Adobe Flash updates and PDF plugins.

Citizens Lab says it identified the spyware as a product known as “PC Surveillance System (PSS)”. This is a described as a “commercial spyware product offered by Cyberbit —  an Israel-based cyber security company— and marketed to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

This is not the first time Ethiopia has been accused of turning to foreign companies for its cyber-operations. According to Human Rights Watch, this is at least the third spyware vendor that Ethiopia has used to target dissidents, journalists and activists since 2013.

Much of the early surveillance work was reportedly carried out by the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. More recently it has turned for more advanced surveillance technology from British, German and Italian companies. “Ethiopia appears to have acquired and used United Kingdom and Germany-based Gamma International’s FinFisher and Italy-based Hacking Team’s Remote Control System,” wrote Human Rights Watch in 2014.

Britain’s international development ministry – DFID – boasts that it not only supports good governance but provides funding to back it up. In 2017 the good governance programme had £20 million at its disposal, with an aim is to “help countries as they carry out political and economic reforms.” Perhaps the government should direct some of this funding to investigate just what British companies are up to in Africa, and the wider developing world.

Martin Plaut is a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Eritrea and, with Paul Holden, the author of Who Rules South Africa?