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Labour’s quandary: should that £28bn go in recycling or straight to landfill?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

With the policy seemingly poised to be dumped into the green dustbin of history, it is Ed Miliband carrying the can for what Labour strategists view as a £28bn electoral liability, rather than Rachel Reeves who announced the plan back in September 2021 at Labour’s conference in recycling capital Brighton. That, mused one MP, is because Green Ed tilts at windmills while Pale Pink Rach seeks real power.

Another was more vicious. Miliband lost Labour three elections, he fumed, so mustn’t be allowed to cost them a fourth. Memories of 2015 followed (a Miliband rule change assisted Jeremy Corbyn to take the helm), and 2017 and 2019 remain raw. The widely held view in the Parliamentary Labour Party is that Keir Starmer must give £28bn a decent funeral or fresh lease of life, but limbo land is reopening old wounds.

It is with growing dismay that despairing Tories observe David Cameron appearing the sorcerer and Rishi Sunak his apprentice: photos of the pair show the former PM turned Foreign Secretary walking tall over the current PM and even looking more commanding when seated at the cabinet table. The really desperate are seeking salvation with the Gaza issue, pinning faint hopes on Rochdale, where George Galloway stalks again in the by-election. A Red Waller in the Midlands confided he’s encouraging local Muslims to run a Palestinian candidate at the general election to blunt Labour’s challenge and reinforce his vulnerable majority. Tory HQ’s ambition for a Palestinian party doing to Labour what Nigel Farage’s Reform threatens for the Conservatives is keeping up fading spirits.

George Osborne’s austerity is returning to haunt the Tories, fumed an MP in the Red Wall New Conservatives faction. The former chancellor’s cuts regularly come up on doorsteps as public services nosedive, he screamed. Osborne, now banking a fortune in the City, recently performed his fastest U-turn since the half-baked pasty tax. After initially slamming supervised toothbrushing lessons for kids as nanny state, Osborne embraced Labour’s policy on tooth decay as it is the number-one reason kids aged six to ten are admitted to hospital. Nanny knows best after all, eh, slasher George?

Sadiq Khan has a neat riff on the party leaders. Seeking entry into London’s Guildhall, each had to prove their ID to security. Starmer said he’d make no unfunded promises, Sunak that all asylum seekers would be deported to Rwanda and Ed Davey that he’d answer whatever the guard wanted to hear. I laughed, anyway.

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Unpopular populist and Popular Conservatism groupie Liz Truss was asked for an interview by a TV channel that wasn’t GB News. She laughed hysterically. Nurse!

[See also: Rwanda rabble-rousers claim asylum from their own rebellion]

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This article appears in the 07 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Who runs Labour?