Thursday, 6 February 2020

Politics, Politicians and 'Porky Pies'

The Times reports that Rebecca Long-Bailey's campaign to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has run into a few problems with the 'Continuity Cobyn' candidate being accused of exaggerating her back story for political gain.

Rebecca Long Bailey ‘told lies about working through the night’

By Oliver Wright and Kate Devlin - The Times

Rebecca Long Bailey has been accused of misleading Labour activists with her claim to have worked through the night to re-do the work of a colleague who quit the front bench.

The Corbynite candidate to become the next party leader told supporters that she had been forced to step in when Robert Marris resigned from Labour’s shadow Treasury team in 2016.

She claimed the team had been preparing for an appearance before a finance bill committee the next morning but Mr Marris had deleted research work prepared in advance.

She told Labour activists at a retirement dinner for Ronnie Campbell, who lost the seat of Blyth at the election: “I went in and I spoke to John [McDonnell, the shadow chancellor] . . . andI sat in that office until about 3am going through all the clauses.

“Richard Burgon was dragged in at one point. Angela Raynerwas dragged in and she got us a Domino’s pizza because we were starving.

“And we got through the clauses and we went to the finance bill committee the next day fully prepared, and I was pretty good if I’m honest.”

However, the Politics Home website found that Mr Marris had resigned on June 26, 2016, five days before the finance committee was due to meet again. Last night Mr Marris, who left the Commons in 2017, told The Times that Ms Long Bailey’s story was “demonstrably untrue”.

“Her memory appears to be very faulty,” he said. “It is a matter of public record that I resigned at the end of the session on Thursday and the committee was not due to meet again until the following Thursday. It is completely untrue that I left them in the lurch.”

A Labour source also told the Politics Home website: “That is demonstrably a total lie . . . if we want to regain the trust of the British people, trading in lies during the leadership campaign is not a great start.”

A spokesman for Ms Long Bailey, 40, said: “Rebecca recalls her and her staff having to work all through the weekend including during the night until 3am each day until the next sitting day, which commenced on Tuesday at 9am.”

Ms Long Bailey has previously been accused of telling “tall tales” about watching her father worry about job losses at the Salford docks when he was no longer employed there. She is also said to have overstated her role working for the NHS when she was a solicitor.

In a move that has infuriated MPs, Labour’s national executive committee has banned candidates from accessing official party membership lists until a week before ballots are sent out. MPs are also prohibited for the first time from using their local party membership lists to campaign on behalf of individual candidates.

Ms Long Bailey’s campaign already has access to the database of the pro-Corbyn Momentum movement of more than 40,000 members and the list of Unite union members who are signed up as Labour affiliates and can vote in the leadership election.

Critics say that both moves are designed to hurt the campaigns of her rivals Sir Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy. Labour said that the rules were fair.

Hilarious Hyphengate (27/01/20)

Matt Chorley in The Times tells the story of 'Hyphengate' and the race to replace the hapless Jeremy Corbyn as the next leader of the Labour Party.

Imagine there’s no hyphen for Rebecca’s leadership hopes

By Matt Chorley - The Times

Consistency used to matter in politics. Obviously dead-in-a-ditchgate proved that these days you can say one thing one minute and do something else the next and still waltz off with a majority.

The Labour leadership has not been immune from inconsistency. Jess Phillips wanted to campaign to return to the EU, and then she didn’t. Barry Gardiner was running, and then he wasn’t.

But a candidate to be prime minister not being totally clear how to spell their own name is a new low for inconsistency.

Rebecca Long Bailey had been Rebecca Long-Bailey, until The Times sub-editors checked with her office and were told categorically that it was Rebecca Long Bailey. She was an angel who must be missing a hyphen.

Only yesterday Rebecca Long Bailey went on Sky News and told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that she is in fact Rebecca Long-Bailey. “There actually is a hyphen.” It turns out hyphen has a place on earth.

Which matches her name on Twitter, but not on her own website. It matches her election campaign video but not her election campaign posters. It matches her Wikipedia page but not the sign outside her own office.

She was born Rebecca Long (or possibly Rebecca-Long), and married Stephen Bailey, and they came together surname-wise.

And a hyphen is probably more the vibe an aspirant hard left Labour leader wants. Matthew Parris has long had a theory that Jacob Rees-Mogg is not as posh as he makes out, writing in 2017: “The seriously grand don’t dress up, don’t stand on ceremony and don’t hyphenate; the Rees-Moggs are just rich people from Somerset whose boy never outgrew a silly phase at Oxford.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Who cares about hyphengate? Is hyphengate hyphenated? Why am I going on about this? When there is so much else going on? Well in part because between the outbreak of world war three, the inferno engulfing the planet, and the general collapse of civilisation, it is quite nice to focus on the small things.

And every time someone looks into Lon-G Bailey’s story it is, well, a bit all over the place. The Sunday Times’s Gabriel Pogrund, who has become a must read for disassembling dissembling Labour politicians, has been digging around Lo-Ngbailey’s past.

She claimed when standing as an MP: “I have been working as a solicitor with the NHS in Manchester for the past ten years.” Except she hadn’t been employed by the NHS. And had only been a solicitor for seven years.

Last month Pogrund revealed inconsistencies in her story of growing up watching her father, a docker, witness redundancies at Salford docks in her constituency. In fact, the docks closed when she was two and her father worked at another site.

There was also the strange story of how she claimed at her selection meeting to have voted for Ed Miliband in the 2010 leadership election, despite not actually being a Labour member then.

Does it matter? Probably not. But it is quite funny. And Labour people thought it was quite funny when Ukip’s Paul Nuttall had all of that trouble with his LinkedIn profile claiming he’d got a PhD. And when Andrea Leadsom had that trouble with her CV when she got the dates wrong for when she became the first American man to walk on the moon.

And this is the sort of stuff that tells you something about someone’s character.

Sir Keir-Starmer isn’t exaggerating how long he was director of public-prosecutions for. Although he is probably over-egging how much right-on work he did to prove he was on the side of the workers.

L-Ong Bailey was once seen as a frontrunner for the leadership. She is the leading flag bearer (flag-bearer) of Corbynism. Perhaps the only flag bearer.

The problem for the Corbyn project is that over the years the powers that be – Corbyn’s office, John McDonnell’s office, Unite the Union, Momentum – have clashed with, fallen out with or otherwise gone off anyone else on the Labour front bench who was any good.

Angela Rayner came and went as a Team Corbyn favourite. Emily Thornberry did the same. Clive Lewis too, once upon a time.

-Long Bailey is the only one left. And she is discovering that repeating the Corbyn playbook from 2015 isn’t working. Part of his appeal back then was him: scruffy, beardy geography teacher just saying what he really thinks. It doesn’t work for her to just say what he really thinks.

In her Sky News interview she went some way to distance herself from Corbyn too, insisting that Labour had not “won the argument” in the election as Corbyn himself has suggested. “If we’d won the argument we would have won the general election unfortunately and we didn’t.”

She was also more critical of the handling of antisemitism in the party than she had been, insisting she did speak up about it at the time (though some have questioned this, suggesting she put loyalty to Corbyn’s office above all else).

Asked to give Corbyn marks out of ten for dealing with antisemitism, she refused insisting “it’s not Top Trumps”. Perhaps she forgot that she gave his leadership ten out of ten last week.

Momentum is now backing L-o-n-g B-a-i-l-e-y, although as Emma Burnell points out in a piece for Red Box today, the left-wing campaign group accounts for less than 10 per cent of the Labour Party membership. There is also a question, as today’s Times editorial points out, about the wisdom of following Momentum’s lead: “Members might be better not taking advice from a team that has just led them to a colossal defeat.”

As Labour looks to the future, being the candidate of the recent past might not be the best thing as her rivals prepare to give her – and the Team Corbyn project – both double-barrels.

Matt Chorley’s analysis first appeared in The Times Red Box morning newsletter. Subscribe at

10 out of 10! (16/01/20)

Brian Wilson doesn't pull any punches in this hard hitting column for The Times in which he ponders Labour's future if 'Continuity Corbyn' candidates are elected to lead the party in 2020. 

Head to tell which way things will go at the stage, but a few quid on the 'cat and dog home' looks like a good bet.

Labour is finished if the nightmare ticket prevails

By Brian Wilson - The Times

‘Ten out of ten!” With that tribute to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Rebecca Long Bailey’s campaign should be doomed at birth but won’t be so long as the forces who gave us Corbyn and Ed Miliband stand behind her.

This is make or break time. If another leadership from the Ten-out-of-ten Tendency emerges then Labour is finished as a prospective party of government. One early manifestation would be slaughter in the 2021 Holyrood elections. With a different outcome, there could be a fighting chance of recovery.

Ms Long Bailey’s first cliché-ridden pitch to the selectorate neglected to mention Scotland in spite of the fact it was the first “red wall” to crumble under the weight of the unelectable. Down from 40 MPs in 2010 to one and Ms Long Bailey’s comrades-in-arms tried to deselect even him.

In her second foray Ms Long Bailey remembered Scotland only to denounce Better Together as being “too close to the establishment”. The fact it was the only poll in which Labour has been on the winning side for a decade was irrelevant; indeed proof of perfidy. Far better to fight on a “true socialist platform” and lose. Ten out ten for that.

I always tried to give Corbyn the benefit of the doubt because he never expected nor, I suspect, wanted to be leader. He was an accident of history, washed up from the Miliband debacle. Satire is not dead when Ed is leading an inquiry into what went wrong, unless he is prepared to start in 2010.

This time is different. Ms Long Bailey is an anointed successor, personally blessed by John McDonnell. Instead of departing in shame, the architects of the December 12 massacre are organising a succession in their own image. Ten out of ten for brass neck.

Mr McDonnell also backs Richard Burgon as deputy leader. Here is a man who should never be let in the same room as a microphone. He is, however, a sworn upholder of the ten-out-of-ten faith so sectarian politics demand his elevation.

It remains to be seen whether mainstream Labour members will count for much. But a last stand should be attempted. If the nightmare ticket prevails, it would be more socially useful to give our 52 quid a year to a cat and dog home than to a party which will have been the author of its own destruction.

The King Is Dead - Long Live The Queen!(08/01/20)

Rebecca Long-Bailey has joined the race to become the new Labour leader and is apparently part of a continuity Corbyn 'dream ticket' along with Richard Burgon who is standing for election as deputy leader.

In setting out her election stall Rebecca gave Jeremy Corbyn  '10 out of 10' for his leadership despite the fact that Jeremy generated the worst performance ratings of any leader in Labour's history.

Doubling down on her theme that the voters, rather than the party leadership were wrong, Rebecca added:

“I don’t just agree with the policies, I’ve spent the last four years writing them."

Now I don't know what's happened to Denis Healey's famous old maxim 'When you're in a hole, stop digging!', but Boris Johnson and the Conservatives must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Meanwhile Sadiq Khan the Labour Mayor of London says that voters 'got it right' in deciding to give Corbyn the thumbs down. 

Good for him - well said!

Sadiq Khan interview: voters right to shun Jeremy Corbyn

By Rosamund Urwin - The Sunday Times

Khan with Luna on Tooting CommonRAY WELLS

Sadiq Khan admits that he believes voters “got it right” on December 12. “Hand on heart, did we deserve to win the general election?” the Labour mayor of London asks. “Probably not, so the British public got it right.”

Khan, who is standing for re-election on May 7, calls the result “catastrophic”. He is at pains to reject Jeremy Corbyn’s claim Labour “won” the argument, stating baldly: “We lost the argument.”

I meet Khan and his labrador Luna on Tooting Common, south London. As Labour’s most popular serving politician, according to YouGov, his life is a stream of selfie requests: “Only twice have I said no. Once when I was rushing to catch a plane, the other when I was at A&E with a family member.”

In the 2016 mayoral election, Khan won the largest personal mandate of any politician in UK history, and will be courted by all the leadership candidates. He will not reveal who he backs until later in the campaign, but friends expect him to support Sir Keir Starmer.

Khan, 49, does not want a “coronation”, but says there is one attribute the new leader must have: “I want a winner. The candidates need to persuade us members that they have the best analysis of why we lost, and to set out the path to victory.”

He rejects the idea that the next leader must be female. “It should be the best person for the job,” he says. “You shouldn’t be excluded because you’re a man, but I do find it disappointing that the Labour Party hasn’t had a woman leader.”

Starmer’s other problem is that his seat, Holborn and St Pancras, is in London. The capital has become a byword for privilege in Labour.

“The prime minister is a Londoner who went to Eton,” Khan bats back. “The idea you can’t win an election because you’re a London MP is nonsense. And London is a tale of two cities: you’ve got areas with Michelin-starred restaurants and a proliferation of food banks.”

Khan was not consulted on holding a general election by the Labour leadership.

“Many of us thought it was a foolish thing to do, [as] it was an election chosen by Johnson to suit himself,” he says. “If your opponent thinks it is a good idea, why would you want to agree to it?”

He believes those advising Corbyn were “hoist with their own petard”: “They thought that the 2017 result was an aberration, that we should have won, and with one final heave, we would win in 2019,” he says. “Now we have at least five years of a Boris Johnson, hard-Brexit government. Those who were responsible for that decision need to put their hands up.”

Should Corbyn have accepted more of the blame? “What Jeremy and those around him should have the humility to recognise is [they] let Corbyn be Corbyn, and we got pasted,” he says.

Khan believes Labour needs deeper change than at the top. “It’s not just about changing the lead singer, it’s the whole band,” he says. “The music was wrong.”

He reels off reasons Labour lost. “I probably knocked on more doors than any candidate, and people didn’t have confidence in the party and our values,” he says. “They thought we were making promises just to win votes. And they thought we were a racist party because of our failure to tackle anti-semitism.”

It is the last part that pains Khan most. A Muslim, his first act as mayor was to attend a Holocaust memorial.

“We’re Labour, a party that’s about anti-racism,” he says. “For the leadership not to understand the impact of us being seen to condone anti-semitism is heartbreaking. We’ve demonstrated a breathtaking lack of emotional intelligence — or humanity.”

He has Jewish friends who did not vote for Labour because they felt it was racist. “And you know what? If a dog barks, and a duck quacks . . .” He tails off and does not finish the analogy, but adds: “It’s a disqualification to be Labour leader if you don’t understand it and don’t have a clear plan to address it.”

Does that mean throwing people out? “You’ve got to. If someone takes us to court, so be it. The ease with which Alastair Campbell was chucked out for talking about voting for another party, and yet you have anti-semites still in, beggars belief.”

He is tired of the “what-aboutery” deployed to defend Labour. “Sure, the Tories may be Islamophobic,” he says. “That doesn’t concern me. The standards I expect from Labour are higher than other parties.”

He points to the case of the former Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone. “He said things that were clearly anti-semitic,” Khan says. “He remained a Labour member for two years until he quit. He wasn’t kicked out.”

Unless anti-semitism and racism are dealt with at their roots, they become “normalised”, he adds. “It is toxic. I met decent people who said, ‘It’s a bit smelly, this anti-semitism stuff,’ and they didn’t vote for us.”

The other problem on the doorstep was Labour’s muddled position on Brexit. “People who voted remain didn’t think we were authentically remain, and people who voted leave didn’t think we were credibly leave. It was the worst of both worlds.”

He believes Johnson has misled voters. “People think it will all be signed, sealed and delivered on January 31,” he says. “But then we have 11 months to sort out a deal with the EU, or else we fall off a cliff edge. All those problems in Operation Yellowhammer could still happen at the end of the year. That’s not gone away, it’s been put on pause.”

Khan opposed Brexit but sees it as an opportunity for greater devolution to the regions, including London. He would like more powers over education, business rates and house-building.

“There’s no point in taking back control if it means Brussels will go to Whitehall — Brussels should go to City Hall and town halls around the country,” he says. “I don’t argue for London to get more resources, what I argue is for us to be in charge of the resources we have.”

Khan took over from Johnson at City Hall in 2016. “Boris had checked out two years before,” he claims. “He got to cut the ribbons to the projects begun by Ken Livingstone, but there were no ribbons for me to cut. There were messes to clear up, and projects to begin.”

Victory in May is expected to come easily for Khan. YouGov has him 27 points ahead of the Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey. His worry is voter complacency.

Khan frets that Labour is on a losing streak. “Elections can be habit-forming: you can be habitual winners or habitual losers,” he says. “And I want us to win.”