Labour and the Lords – History Misused

lords
This image was selected as a picture of the we...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s fascinating to see the House of Commons beginning the 2nd reading of the Reform of the House of Lords Bill. Nick Clegg is being attacked by members of his own government as well as the opposition as he tries to make the case for reform.

He has claimed that we should remember that Labour has always supported an elected House of Lords. As Margaret Beckett pointed out, this is entirely incorrect. Prior to the 2010 election Labour never supported an elected Lords in its manifestoes.

In its early years, at the time of the 1918 constitution, the Lords were, of course, hereditary. Their unconstitutional behaviour towards Lloyd George’s budget which had led to the 1911 Parliament Act was fresh in the memory, and Labour understandably did not want a reactionary, overwhelmingly Tory, undemocratic House to frustrate the policies of a future progressive Labour government. Labour’s first policy statement in June 1918, Labour and the New Social Order, therefore proposed abolition of the House of Lords. This, however, was left out of the election manifesto in December 1918.

For almost a century after that, Labour’s manifestoes made very little reference to the Lords. Labour’s concern was primarily with the powers, not the composition of the Lords. There were occasional brief references to the Lords not being allowed to obstruct ‘the people’s will’. Thus the famous manifesto of 1945, Let us Face the Future, included towards the end ten words to this effect. The 1935 party manifesto had revived the proposal to abolish the Lords. but it subsided and would probably have disappeared in the manifesto had a general election taken place in 1940.

In fact, such figures as Attlee and Dalton had written that a second chamber, to revise and improve Commons legislation, was desirable. They felt that an elected Lords might summon up the will to challenge the primacy of the Commons. Dalton favoured a second Chamber that was not the product of ‘direct election by popular constituencies’ but indirectly elected by the House of Commons itself, a proposal by a former Cabinet minister, H.B. Lees Smith. This odd idea did not survive.

The Attlee government by-passed changing the composition of the Lords. Hereditary though they were, the Lords deferred to the Commons through the Salisbury-Addison convention. Labour did, however, see the need to restrict the power of the Lords to delay or conceivably veto legislation coming from the Commons (eg perhaps the nationalization of iron and steel). One blow to reformers had come indeed in 1948 when the Lords exercised the power of veto over abolishing capital punishment in the Criminal Justice Bill. And so the 1949 Parliament Act reduced the delaying power, as is well known, from two years to one. Proposals in all-party talks convened by Morrison for creating life peers were promptly abandoned.

Labour did nothing about the composition of the Lords for years to come. It gave support to the life

Photograph of the debating chamber of the Hous...
Chamber of the House of Lords                                (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

peers created in the Act of 1958. In 1966, however, Richard Crossman, leader of the House, insisted that reform of the Commons, his main objective, should be considered alongside reform of the Lords. After the Lords rejected economic sanctions on Rhodesia in 1968, Harold Wilson revived the Lords issue in 1969 (ignored in the 1966 manifesto) with complex proposals for a part elected, part nominated House (to which the Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, was hostile). It included a proposal which would allow up to 80 peers being nominated by the prime minister. This was defeated in the Commons by a bipartisan campaign, led on the Labour side by Michael Foot who denounced the proposed remodelled Lords as ‘a Seraglio of eunuchs’.

To Callaghan’s joy, it was ignominiously dropped.

The Lords then reappeared on Labour’s programmes during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The idea, however, was never to have elected Lords but to abolish them entirely. As is well known, the abolition of the Lords was included in the 1983 election manifesto, the celebrated ‘suicide note’ which led to the worst election defeat for Labour since 1918. It vanished in 1987. Thereafter New Labour in the 1990s focussed on removing the hereditary peers, without immediately proposing that they be replaced by elected ones. The myriad party and government proposals since 1997 are familiar to colleagues. But the outcome was that in 2010 Labour committed itself to an elected house (albeit endorsed in a referendum). No manifesto and no leader between Arthur Henderson and Tony Blair had done so before.

The fairest conclusions are, I think, as follows:

(i) Lords reform has never been one of our priorities. Labour has always focussed on very different, mainly social and economic issues. To say that the party ‘have always favoured Lords reform’, however defined, comes close to saying nothing.

(ii) Labour has invariably focussed on the powers of the Lords, together with proposals three times (1918, 1935, 1983) for abolishing it. On balance it has been consistently in favour of a bicameral legislature ou grounds of good governance..

(iii) It has been concerned above all to ensure that the Lords, however composed, should not be encouraged to thwart the will of the Commons or challenge its primacy.

(iv) Like Lloyd George in 1911, it has over the decades not favoured an elected House, which might not be a force for progress. Our leadership stance today is, for good or ill, at variance with earlier tradition. Opinions will vary on this, and I offer none here. I am just concerned to get our discussions based on historical fact and not on fiction.

Of course, historical precedent isn’t a reason to take a policy position today. The House of Lords does need to be reformed. However, the current bill is poorly drafted, badly thought out, and will cause a great deal of difficulties at a later date should it be allowed to pass. I therefore hope this particular bill falls.

Clegg, Cameron, And Europe: The Big Kerfuffle

What a kerfuffle, eh? The press do love a bit of a fight.

Most journalism is about disagreement, difference and dissent. It creates drama and drives a story. In general, in British politics, this means  the arguments between Labour and the Tories. Over the last decade or so, fleet street have enjoyed milking the Blair/Brown divide within the Labour party, which was always good for a headline or two.

However, nowadays at least, Labour has a problem making a case on issues like the NHS, the

Schengen Agreement

economy, and defence, no matter how right we might be. That’s because the media doesn’t want to write about Ed Balls’ disagreements with George Osborne, or Andy Burnham’s differences with Andrew Lansley.

That’s not where the money is. The money is in the slightest sign of a split within the coalition.

So it’s been a bit of a boon for the media in the last few days.

As I write, Cameron is making to the House of Commons on the European summit and what it means to Britain. Nick Clegg is nowhere to be seen and any number of jokes about ‘alarm clock Britain’ will be being penned up in the press gallery above the Speaker’s chair.

The reason that will be given for his absence will probably be some prior engagement that couldn’t be cancelled. But the truth is far more likely to be that if he turned up, he’d be jeered by the Tories behind him on the government benches.

This is all because of his strangely evolving reaction to Cameron’s announcement of the use of Britain’s veto at the EU summit.

As an aside, Cameron and the Tory party using the word veto is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not sure it means what the Prime Minister seems to think it does.

The dictionary defines veto as:

the power or right vested in one branch of a government to cancel or postpone the decisions, enactments, etc., of another branch, especially the right of a president, governor,or other chief executive to reject bills passed by the legislature.

I really do struggle to see what exactly has been cancelled or postponed other than Britain’s chance to influence the future of the European Union for the next few years.

And I’m pretty sure that Nick Clegg agreed with me. At least he did at some point over the weekend. On Friday morning, he was telling the press (sniffing for splits as usual) that Cameron’s manoeuvre was probably in the best interest of the nation. By Friday evening, he was frustrated with Cameron’s manoeuvre. On Saturday, he was telling Toby Helm that he was ‘furious’ with Cameron’s manoeuvre. On Sunday, he was unleashing this tirade on the morning politics shows about Cameron’s manoeuvre. By Monday afternoon, he’s gone into hiding otherwise engaged.

It’s all a bit unwise from Clegg, really. Creating splits in the coalition, which in theory could lead to a general election, when you’re in single digits in the national polls is not a clever thing to do! His invisibility today combined with Danny Alexander and David Laws both backtracking on national television to try to paper over any splits that may have appeared, like the tenants of a slowly subsiding terraced house.

The LibDem leadership obviously feel they’ve made an error in creating the sign of disagreement. But I think their mistake is not to have disagreed in the first place. Clegg has committed that most grievous of politicians’ sins. He’s flip-flopped. First supporting, then disagreeing and now rowing back faster than an Oxford coxed eight. Clegg is left losing his rag over a decision that has broad popular support with the public, rightly or wrongly.

The Tory European actions are all very short-termist in their thinking, or at least I think they are. Losing influence across an entire continent to keep influence with 305 parliamentary colleagues, strikes me as pissing off the teachers so the kids in class will like you.

You have to wonder just when David Cameron decided to use his ‘veto’ given that he’d already planned in advance to be dining with Euro-sceptic backbenchers that same evening, despite talks still going on in France.

You could also say the same about Clegg’s anger as well, of course. Did he betray his true feelings on Friday morning and then try to keep the UK’s hand in the game with the EU by letting them know some in Government are pro-Europe? Was Nick attempting diplomatic relations there? Or was he just being stupidly naïve?

Update: Clegg’s office have apparently not gone with the prior engagement argument. They’re just saying he’s not attending the PM’s statement because “he doesn’t want to be a distraction”. If we can’t see him in the chamber, we’ll apparently forget all about any disagreement, difference and dissent.

Life Is Short

Last week, I had the sad news of an uncle passing away at the age of 64. And this morning I woke to hear of the death of Philip Gould, a sort of well-liked uncle to the Labour movement, at the age of 61.

Both of these filled me with sadness, one more than the other for obvious reasons.

It’s occasions like this that always hit us hard and make us think. And so it has been with me.

I thought I’d share this image with you all, which I first saw a year or so ago and whose sentiments I tend to like. It’s true: Life is fleeting and we should try to grab it by the scruff of the neck and not let go.

A Thousand Generations – Kinnock and I

What a strange day, Dear Reader.

As you may have spotted from other posts on here, I work in Parliament. Consequently, most days I

The Palace of Westminster at night as seen fro...

have lunch in Parliament as well. There are many places to eat in the Parliamentary estate, but as I spend most of my time on the Lords side of the building, I most often eat in what is called the River Restaurant which is attached to the Lords bar.

It’s a modern canteen-style dining room with a random mix of members’ staff, House staff in funny uniforms, and peers sitting in there. As a general rule, people just sit wherever there’s space and there’s not too much worry about Lords or Ladies sitting on their own, etc.

It’s really rather convivial and not at all snobbish or anything of the sort. Except for the rather odd Victorian uniforms you see from time to time. The Peers I’ve worked with have been some of the most down-to-earth and affable people I’ve met.

Anyway, today I sat in the first available seat to tuck into my healthy tuna steak and veg – still dieting, you see – only to find that Neil Kinnock was sat next to me being interviewed by a journalist about Labour history.

Neil Kinnock is one of my political heroes with his brilliant speeches and the beginnings of dragging the Party toward electability. I choose to airbrush out of my mind the falling over on the beach and weird Sheffield rally and focus on his warning of a Thatcherite Britain and his questioning of being the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to get a higher education.

I sat tucking into my food trying to appear all cool and relaxed and not in awe of the Bevanite Welshman from my childhood. And what a joy it was, Dear Reader, to hear him tell his stories of Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Barbara Castle, Thatcher and Militant. His skills as a raconteur are almost as good as his skills as an orator.

I listened entranced as he talked about off-the-record conversations, debates, and battles won and lost. It was utterly fascinating and I hope the journalist who writes it up does it all justice. Sadly, I suspect the journalist will be unable to convey the mimicry skills of Kinnock as he ran through a series of – rather good – impersonations of various Labour and Union people during his meander through history.

As they wound up their interview, I couldn’t help myself.

I took out my moleskine and asked for his autograph. Given Parliament’s propensity for rules and conventions, I suspect that broke any number of protocols but I couldn’t resist.

“thank you Lord Kinnock”

 

“It’s Neil. ‘Lord Kinnock’ makes me think of a pub”

I know it’s all a bit childish to be in awe of someone else and probably laughable to some, especially people in the party but I’ve always admired Kinnock. There’s just something about him I relate to.

I’m the first Carr to go to University for a thousand generations after all.

A Reshuffle For Fighters And Believers

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...
Ed Miliband MP

Ok, as I’ve already written about the most important reshuffle of the day, I thought I’d write a brief comment on Ed Miliband’s reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet*.

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter or the blogosphere today you’ll have seen there was huge amounts of speculation, debate and guesswork over who should and would be getting which job. A lot of it was wrong, some of it was obvious, all of it was pointless.

The reshuffle would’ve happened regardless of all the opinions being voiced and I think it would’ve been nicer to see some discussion on the pending economic catastrophe or the details of some of the bills that the Tories are pushing through Parliament at the moment. But such is life. I can’t always get things my way, more’s the pity!

So, what did Ed do?

Well, unsurprisingly, the big three stayed the same with Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, and Douglas Alexander getting more time to build on the work they’ve begun.

At the other end of the surprise spectrum (a spectrum I just invented and which has absolutely no measurement scale) is Chuka Umunna moving to shadow Vince Cable at Business. I guess this is indicative of Ed Miliband’s wish to move the Parliamentary Labour Party to the left with regards to banks and ‘predator’ businesses.

It was a bit of a shock for most people to see John Denham moving to become Ed’s PPS, but given the later announcement that Denham is seeking to step down as an MP at the next election, it makes sense.

Ed’s former PPS, Michael Dugher, is now given Peter Mandelson’s old title (well one of them at least!) of Minister with Portfolio at the Cabinet Office. I guess Miliband is keeping Dugher as an extra pair of eyes and ears and maybe a bit of an enforcer?

Given his position at the end of the Labour government, it was no surprise to see that all the speculation about Andy Burnham’s return to the Health brief proved to be correct. His knowledge of the policy and department means Labour will be putting up a much tougher fight against Lansley’s manouvres with the NHS.

Another former Minister returning to an old brief is Stephen Twigg, taking over from Burnham at Education. His knowledge of the brief and his skill at defeating big-beast Tories will help him take the battle to Michael Gove.

Hilary Benn’s experience at Defra in the last government will help him marshal the rural communities’ discomfort with the work of Eric Pickles over at the DCLG brief. Benn is an old-school political battler with enough guile to build a strong opposition, especially over the Planning changes.

Replacing Benn as shadow Leader of the House is Angela Eagle. Eagle had never really made an impact as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so it was unsurprising to see her moved out of that post.

She’s been replaced by one of the 2010 intake, Rachel Reeves. Reeves is an economist and former Bank of England employee, so adds to the already strong shadow Treasury team.

Harriet Harman has kept her role shadowing the Deputy PM and has been given the Culture, Media, and Sport brief after Ivan Lewis was moved over to International Development. Harman will now take on the phone hacking, review of communications law, and the handling of the Leveson Inquiry. On top of shadowing Clegg, that’s a big brief but she’s a hardened campaigner and should suit the role.

Emily Thornberry moves to Shadow Attorney General and Liz Kendall will be Shadow Minister for Care and Older People (a brief that will grow in importance), means that there are 13 women attending cabinet, in contrast to the Tories and LibDems. It’ll be interesting to see what the coalition parties do next to deal with their ‘woman problem’.

 Overall, I think Ed’s first reshuffle since the elections were scrapped is a good one. Moving people like Andy Burnham and Twigg into briefs where they have experience as well as moving fighters like Harman and Benn into key roles, makes it look like Ed wants to move the Party into a place to take on the Coalition and put up more of a fight.

For too long, the Opposition has not opposed effectively. It looks like that’s about to change.

*If you want the full list, you can find it here.

The Sun Always Shines On The Righteous

The Albert Dock's design allowed ships to lay ...
Image via Wikipedia

A train repleat with croaky voices, rumpled clothes and bleary eyes stood witness to another successful Labour Party annual conference.

There’ve been a lot of words written about the conference, the speeches, and the Party. I thought I would add to the ever-increasing library on the subject with a few of my own thoughts on things I noticed about my experience of the  Labour Party conference.

1. Liverpool had a very familiar feel

The mix of Georgian splendour like St George’s Hall and modern redevelopment around Albert Dock reminded me a lot of my home town of Newcastle.

And that wasn’t the only similarity. Travelling out of the city centre to the Everton or Toxteth areas revealed communities shattered by the lack of economic opportunity caused by the death of industry. In Liverpool’s case, the  dockers; in Newcastle, the shipbuilders.

Rows of boarded up terrace houses, nurseries, community centres stand testimony to the destruction wrought on Liverpool and, as I stood looking at the devastation, I couldn’t help but think of my family and the community I’d been raised in back in the North East. It was interesting to see the similarities in that and the way both cities are bouncing back.

2. Working a conference is very different to attending as a delegate or visitor

Early starts and long days spent planning, organising, and worrying about your own fringe events don’t lend themselves well to the late nights in bars and hotels meeting people and talking about political ideas, ideals, and directions. But those late nights are what make conference worthwhile.

It’s these late nights where you get  to meet fellow activists from around the country and compare notes. Whether those notes are on campaigning techniques or the impact of the Coalition on constituencies, towns and cities around the country varies from person to person. It’s also the chance to meet the professional lobbyists coming to conference as exhibitors and listen to what they have to say. It even gives the opportunity to talk to Labour MPs and find out more about them as well as let them find out about your issues and thoughts.

3. The free food and drink at conference fringe events comes at a cost

The majority of the bigger events around the conference offer ‘free food and drink’ as a way of enticing you in. And, given the timing of events over the lunch breaks or at dinner time, is your best chance to get any food into your system anyway.

However, the food tends to be sandwiches and finger food for the most part. And, while that’s ok for a day, it quickly becomes very beige with a distinct lack of any sign of your five-a-day. By Tuesday afternoon, my body was crying out for any kind of fruit or vegetable.

4. Despite points 2 and 3, conference is a great place to be

Surrounding yourself with people who have similar political ideologies and goals is a good thing to do once a year. It’s very empowering and motivating. Putting up with the sleep deprivation and lack of nutrients is a price worth paying for that experience.

Despite the shared goal of getting Labour back in government, there’s still a good deal of debate about how to reach that goal. Everyone has different views on what the Party should look like going forward. In one place were gathered people who self-identify as Purple, Blue, Green, Red and every other hue of Labour. And all wanted to give voice to their view in debates which were mostly fascinating and friendly and stretched long into the night.

Hence the croaky voices, rumpled clothes and bleary eyes on the train home on Thursday afternoon. A train that was a positive and encouraged place to be , no matter what you might hear from the media. There is far more that unites Labour Party members than divides us.

Why Christians Should Feel Happy To Vote Labour

Below is reproduced the text of a talk I am delivering. I thought I’d put it up here as a post and hopefully start a few thoughts and maybe a discussion. Enjoy.

*****

There’s a vitally important, very solemn question which as a Christian I have asked many times. I know most of my Christian friends have asked the same question. I’m pretty sure the majority of Christians – at least in the west – will have done the same. And now, today, I’m going to ask you that same question. It’s a big one so prepare yourselves.

The question goes like this –

What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home, like a holy rolling stone, nobody calling on the phone
‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome.

 Ok, so that’s a bit of a light-hearted way of phrasing it, but it’s still a pretty important – if not remotely solemn – question. We often spend our time trying to decide what God wants of us as we live our daily lives. As we work to make His kingdom come. There’s even a thriving market in merchandise asking just ‘what would Jesus do?’

 And we can ask this, and probably should ask this, in every area of our lives. I could probably do a long series of talks about what God wants from us and what I think Jesus would do in any given situation. In fact, there are priests, pastors and padres all around the world who do a very good job of doing just that every Sunday.

 Today, I’m going to focus only on what Jesus would do in the ballot box. Or more specifically what I think Christians should be doing in the ballot box.

As a member of the Labour Party and the Christian Socialist Movement, I naturally tend to believe that Christians should vote Labour. And here I’ll try and set out why.

One of the main principles underlying everything the Labour Party tries to do is that it is the party of the many and not the few. If you go to the party’s website you will see at the top of the party’s values is:

 Social justice

This is surely a Biblically sound value.

Throughout the Gospels we see that Jesus has a strong belief in social justice and says to those following him

‘whatever you did to these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.

That’s just one verse in Matthew (25:40 if you want to look it up). There are hundreds and hundreds of verses throughout the Bible which make the case for the importance of social justice. Here’s just a handful of examples.

 “You are all brethren.” (Matthew 23:8);

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew: 7:12);

“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke: 3:11);

“Give to everyone who asks you.” (Luke: 6:30).

The Labour Party has always worked to ensure that our nation is a fair one. Whether through the promotion of workers rights, the support of suffrage, the founding of the Welfare state and the NHS, or the more recent massive investment in schools and education, Labour strives to ensure social justice becomes the norm in this country and not a rare commodity to be forgotten as an afterthought.

The second of the Labour Party’s values is listed as

 Strong community and strong values

 Once again, I look to the gospels and see strong community throughout. The first Christians lived together. They ate together. They served each other. And as a result, God blessed their efforts toward a Beloved Community by performing miracles in their midst and adding to their community daily. Look at Acts 2: 42-47 with fresh eyes:

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

This, to me, is an awesome example of what is possible when Humanity commits to “being together” and trusts God. Jesus put the common good front-and-centre in his teaching and we should strive to do the same in our lives and in our politics. It is the Labour Party who says right there at the beginning of their constitution

“we believe that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more together than we do alone.”

And that is a principle that we try to carry beyond the party membership and out to the country as a whole. Increases in statutory pay, more places in nurseries, flexible working, and  SureStart projects all reflect that principle and that desire for community.  More together than alone.

The third of Labour’s values is

Reward for hard work

The Labour Party has always believed, from the days of Keir Hardie, that all men and women deserve the opportunity to work and that there should be dignity in that work. And Jesus taught us exactly the same belief. He knew of hard work. He was himself according to Mark, “Just a Carpenter” as well as having the hardest job of all, sacrificing himself for our sins.  God laboured six days in the creation, and we are made in His image. We should work and we should have rights in work. It has been the Labour Party that has grown those rights and introduced a minimum wage. It has been through the Labour Party that  we are ensured our dignity in work.

The fourth value of the Labour Party is

Rights matched by responsibilities

I’ve just mentioned Genesis and the idea that all people on this earth are created in God’s image. Every one of us is created equally. We should therefore be entitled to equality regardless of race, sex, physical and mental abilities, or social class. Education should be for the many and not the few. Healthcare should be for the many and not the few. A sense of society should be for the many and not the few. And it has been the Labour Party who have worked to ensure education is available to anyone and our kids aren’t being taught in leaky portacabins any more. It was Labour who ensured the healthcare system had the biggest investment of all time, reducing waiting times and improving treatments. It was Labour who stated time and again that we are not a country of individuals, and that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

So what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home, like a holy rolling stone, nobody calling on the phone, ‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome? What if he was on that bus on polling day and he had the opportunity to walk into a polling station and put a divine X on a ballot paper? Would he vote for the Labour Party’s candidate? I don’t know. But i believe he could. And I think Christians can feel good about doing the same.

The Hard Choices – Strategy vs Tactics

Ed Miliband in Dorset
Image by Labour via Flickr

I’m going to make myself unpopular with this blog post, I fear.

Ed Miliband may look a bit silly doing that silly repetitive interview. It may not be the best media management in the world, but I can’t help thinking he did the right thing in telling the world he thought the strikes yesterday were a mistake.

I’m not saying that the strikes were wrong. As I posted yesterday, I went out and spoke to some of the strikers and could understand their frustrations and their feeling that this was the only way they could communicate those frustrations in a way the Government might stop and listen to.

However, as Leader of the Opposition and a potential Prime-Minister-in-waiting, he had to avoid being painted by the media and Tories as ‘in the pocket of the unions’. Attacking Ed for saying a specific strike was a mistake is not the right thing to do. No Leader of the Labour Party has supported a specific strike action since Michael Foot.

Neil Kinnock said more than once that one of his biggest regrets was not opposing the way Scargill led the miners out in 1984. And Miliband can’t support every strike that happens, especially when the unions involved aren’t even affiliated to the Labour party.

Ed had to choose between the short-term tactic of playing to his supporters and coming out in favour of the strike, or the long-term strategy of opposing the strikes and shaking off the image of being in the pockets of the unions. At the same time, he looked to those outside the westminster political bubble like a leader who could make a difficult decision.

He tried to find a middle line and act as arbitrator. His big problem is how badly he or his staff ballsed up the tv interview he gave on the subject to the BBC. Really cringeworthy stuff. The Leader’s office really need to sharpen up their mainstream media operation. They seem to struggle to cope with TV and the printed press.

On the other hand, they’re really getting good at using new media strategy. Ed yesterday cut out the annoying middle man in the shape of a journalist and launched a defence of his position on his blog. He then pointed the public to it using his facebook and twitter. This is a strategy that has worked well for Ed before.

He knows he comes across better directly with the public than he does with the rather cynical political press. In set-piece speeches, he has in the past ensured a public audience are there to ask questions which neutralises journalists who come across as being very aggressive and negative in that environment.

Miliband made the strategic choice – the same choice made by all Leaders of the Labour Party – and has made it more difficult for Team Cameron to pigeonhole him in some old Labour Union puppet stereotype, and in the long-term, that will pay off however unpopular it may make him with the left-wing in the short-term.

He did what he needed to do and made the hard choice, and no doubt he’ll have to choose again in the months to come.

Lib Dem Leader’s Wife Caught Fiddling With Box

Letterbox, that is. Though it could be said to affect the ballot box too, at the end of the day.

There are in every election, those which end with a very tight result. Those where someone loses by just a handful of votes. After elections like that, you replay your strategy in your head and in debrief meetings afterwards. Could you have done another leaflet? Would more direct mail have been the key? Perhaps a few more doors knocked on.

All those things cross your mind. And most of the time, you’ll never know what it was that made the difference. But in Wolverhampton, Labour candidate Gurcharan Bedi may well have just gotten a clue about why he lost to Liberal Democrat Mike Heap by a margin of 41 votes.

That’s because a video has come to light of Mr Heap’s wife, Frances, removing one of Bedi’s leaflets from a letterbox and replacing it with one of her husbands. Now, it may not have made any impact. That house may have already decided how they were going to cast their vote. That may have been the one and only time she did it. But, with only 41 votes in it, Gurcharan is sure to wonder.

And the voters will remember when it comes to casting their votes next time around. As they watch West Midlands Police investigate Frances Heap for theft, they’ll also wonder if she helped steal an election.

Vote 2011

My beloved Newcastle is back under Labour control. A lot of friends and colleagues are now newly elected councillors around the country. The country has punished the Liberal Democrats quite thoroughly for making a deal with the devil the Conservative party for a little taste of power.

Camden Town’s very own Beau Bo d’Or has summed it up beautifully with the image you can see here.

Let the post-mortem begin

The next thing to keep an eye on is how well the Tories feel they’ve done. If they’re confident of the local result, there’s a chance they’ll want to call a snap general election and go to the country. The clue to whether they want to do that will be in the House of Lords. The bill to fix parliaments at 5 years is due to go before the peers very soon. If George Osborne wants to go to the polls, you’ll see the Tory Lords voting that particular piece of legislation down. One to watch…