Some time ago Guido predicted the death of Peter Mandelson’s Policy Network after Lord Sainsbury withdrew funding for centrist Labour organisations. Over the weekend it came to pass as the Blairite think-tank was merged with Progress, another wholly owned / financed Sainsbury project.* To bless their union they held a virtual conference jointly. Unsurprisingly the usual TrotsApp collective were spitting feathers after tuning in…
The primary source of anger came as Sir Keir told the small 55-strong Zoom audience:
“I’m not interested in focusing on manifestos of the past. I’m interested in focusing on the manifestos of the future, based on the values of our Labour Party”
Starmer won the 2020 leadership by, in the words of Owen Jones, “promising to preserve radical policies”, something he’s now “dumping”. John McDonnell also took to Twitter, reminding viewers that the same Keir Starmer who “today dumped Labour’s last manifestos” was enthusiastic for the 2017 manifesto being the foundational document of his leadership election:
In his speech to Progress today it appears Keir Starmer has today dumped Labour’s last manifestos. This is a reminder of what he said to secure his election as leader. pic.twitter.com/dcmpUzRVCL— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 16, 2021
Seems like almost all of Starmer’s 55-strong audience were hardline Corbynistas waiting for him to pander to a centrist audience…
*The Institute for Government is now the grocery billionaire’s well-funded lobbying operation in Westminster.
Policy Network, the organisation presided over by Peter Mandelson that he once claimed was “part of the alternative to Government”, is being wound down according to Chairman Lord Riddle. Policy Network received core funding from billionaire Lord Sainsbury and he is withdrawing funding from centrist Labour organisations. Progress similarly has had some post-Sainsbury difficulties.
The organisation’s Chairman Lord Riddle admits in a qualification to the accounts that
The company’s main donor has indicated that the year ending 31 December 2017 will be the final period that funding will be available. He has indicated that at the end of this period he is prepared to fund any reasonable costs associated with down scaling the company, including the cost of redundancies and the early settlement of property and other leases.
The ability of the company to continue as a going concern is dependent upon this final tranche of funding being secured. The Directors are currently assessing whether the company can continue on a scaled down basis without the support of the main funder and are confident that they will be able to do so. As a result the accounts have been prepared on a going concern basis.
Policy Network won’t be missed much. One Blairite tells Guido that they didn’t really do much beyond “What next for social democracy” events and pamphlets. A spokesman however claims they are “very confident that, working with partners and new supporters, its work will go on, taking forward the important agenda that Lord Sainsbury has so generously supported for so long.” Policy Network was a Blairite’s redoubt, something that is no longer necessary now Blair has his own eponymous think-tank…
For the second time in a month Peter Mandelson’s think-tank, Policy Network, has launched a policy salvo against the direction the Labour Party is taking under Miliband. Mandelson privately is contemptuous of young Ed, these high-minded wonkish policy exhortations are the respectable manifestation of that contempt.
Last month his think-tank published “In the Black Labour: Why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand-in-hand” is a discussion paper in which the authors; Graeme Cooke, Adam Lent, Anthony Painter and Hopi Sen, called for Labour to embrace fiscal conservatism. The paper was an explicit rebuttal of the kamikaze economics of Ed Balls endorsed by Ed Miliband, which poll after poll shows is not seen as credible by the public. Despite the state of the economy Cameron and Osborne are supported by the British public to a far greater extend than Miliband and Balls.
In exactly the same vein shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont MP and Oxford historian Ben Jackson have written a paper for the think-tank warning that austerity governments often defeat opponents and that historically the Tories have achieved this on multiple occasions. They also urge Miliband to abandon his “predators and producers” rhetoric and “put forward a more convincing strategy for private sector growth than the Conservatives”. McClymont and Jackson further warn that Ed Miliband must avoid the “tax and spend” trap and “a simple defence of the public sector and public spending”. Alas that is Labour policy in a nutshell..
Talking to Labour insiders, ambitious young PAds, think-tankers and old hands alike, the candid admission is that they are stuck with Ed Miliband because as with Gordon Brown, there is no-one else. Ed gets a regular mauling at PMQs despite a terrible economy, still looks and sounds like the kid who does the photocopying, has failed to impress the British public and is unable at this stage of the electoral cycle to push further ahead in the polls. His shadow chancellor can never win the argument, because the argument he makes is that the British public is wrong and because it is Ed Balls who is making the argument. Dislodging Ed Balls would risk fraticidal conflict and not getting him off the television screens will guarantee Labour won’t be given a hearing on the economy.
The Labour Party’s centrists and the realist operators who just want power have written off the 2015 electoral prospects of the Labour party under the two Eds. So it is against this backdrop that we should look at two new publications that have just come out. Labour’s Business written by Luke Bozier and Alex Smith argues that the party should be pro-business, it even has one brilliantly simple business-friendly idea that the government should steal immediately – small businesses should have one person as their point of contact at the HMRC. One person who is responsible for dealing with issues arising from the complexity of the myriad of taxes – VAT, NI, capital gains, corporation taxes and the like – burdening small businesses.
“In the Black Labour: Why fiscal conservatism and social justice go hand-in-hand” is a new Policy Network discussion paper in which the authors; Graeme Cooke, Adam Lent, Anthony Painter and Hopi Sen, call for Labour to embrace fiscal conservatism. Policy Network is backed by Peter Mandelson, so is not exactly a fringe ginger group. The paper can be seen as a direct rebuttal of the kamikaze economics of Ed Balls endorsed by Ed Miliband, which poll after poll shows is not seen as credible by the public. Despite the state the economy is in George Osborne is believed and supported by the British public.
The policy details in the two papers won’t worry their Coalition opponents, they will however be seen as part of a slow move back towards the electorally potent reality-based politics of New Labour, rather than the one-more-heave-to-the-left politics of Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband and those around him believe the electorate is moving towards the positions of the Occupy and UK Uncut activist groups, a strategic error that will guarantee them electoral defeat in 2015. If Labour’s reality-based wonks want to be in government before they are old men, they have got to either get rid of the Eds or convince them to tack to the centre. These are the opening salvos…