‘May Day, May Day’ is the short, sharp headline of Dan Hodges’s column on p16. It examines how Labour is shaping up for the local and London elections at the beginning of that spring month. It is swiftly becoming a seminal moment in Westminster. How will Labour and Lib Dems react if they get disappointing results in either set of elections? How vulnerable is Boris Johnson to a one-term departure? It may still be over a month away, but the chatter and Tarot-reading over possible outcomes is well underway. We have the Queen’s Speech on the 9 May, the contents of which are causing some concern even among Lib Dems. Their leader may be pushing for Lords reform but Andrew George, the independent-minded Lib Dem MP, does not want it to dominate the legislative agenda. He may agree with the principles of making the ‘other place’ more democratic but should that battle really come at the expense of other reforms, more in-keeping with the Lib Dem’s social justice principles? I speak to George on p48
about his worries about his party’s performance in government. Having witnessed him being brow-beaten by a Lib Dem PPS in a Portcullis House lift, I can testify to his resolve. Andrew George won’t let anyone tell him what to do. There are other elections around May. Natascha Engel is standing again to be chair of the backbench business committee. She is an endearingly down-to-earth character and I wonder if she fully realises her achievement with her committee in improving the way Parliament is run. She is certainly someone who backbenchers wanting to create an impact in the Commons chamber should keep onside. You will find Amber Elliott’s excellent interview with her on p32. There’s barely space left to discuss any of the rest of the content inside this packed issue – Caroline Crampton getting inside David Willetts’ two brains on p36, Justine Greening, in her first magazine interview since becoming transport secretary, explains what she wants to achieve on p54 and Stephen Twigg on opposition to his ideas from within his own party (p42). As ever, we aim to add the colour to political life.
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On the covers Justine Greening photographed exclusively for Total Politics by Karen Robinson on 2 March 2012 at the Department for Transport, London.
Stephen Twigg photographed exclusively for Total Politics by Martina Mele on 29 February 2012 at Porticullis House, London.
4 | April 2012 | Total Politics Inbox
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TIME FOR EQUALITY Dan Hodges is right to suggest that class alone does not determine voting pa erns in our highly diverse society (TP, February). It goes without saying that Parliament, and the Labour Party, are strengthened by greater diversity. There are two parts to achieving that, and Dan concentrates on the need for coherent policies that appeal to voters. The starting point for developing them, though, is surely to have a vision and values. With his calls for responsibility and a new, welcome, emphasis on equality, that’s where Ed Miliband is beginning. Policies that chime with those values make sense to voters; it’s when we produce policies that don’t that we get into trouble.
But processes are also important to diversifying our party – look at the success of all-women shortlists. There’s a lesson from organisations who’ve improved their diversity: the importance of relentless focus on the mechanisms that achieve it. Peter Hain rightly told Progress the party needs to change “big time”. The challenge post-Refounding Labour is to ensure the new mechanisms produce the desired outcome. Kate Green MP Shadow spokesperson for equalities
HELP FOR HEATHROW Nothing puts people oﬀ politics more than when we have a go at the other side just for the sake of it, when we refuse to admit that maybe, just maybe, they’re doing something right. Well, on longer rail franchises, and on High Speed 2 (HS2), Theresa Villiers (TP, February) has done a good job so far. Train operating companies and their employees need longer franchises to oﬀer security in which to grow and develop services. Similarly, her robust defence of HS2 is welcome. But on Heathrow, she and her government are dead wrong. The UK needs our only hub airport to have a third runway, and all the crossparty consensus in the world won’t change that fact. The government needs this issue to go away. It won’t. Tom Harris MP Transport select committee member
MILLER’S WRONG MOVE Maria Miller’s decision to close Remploy factories around the country, shedding the jobs of 1,700 people in the process, was the wrong decision at the wrong time. The principle of enabling people of all abilities to work in ‘mainstream’ places of work is absolutely correct and was espoused wholeheartedly by the last Labour government. It’s also essential to point out that Remploy employees do not want to be pitied by those of us without disabilities. They simply want an equal opportunity for their abilities to be recognised. But the closure of Remploy factories in areas of market failure in a time of recession is a spiteful act. Iain Duncan Smith’s shrill riposte to Labour criticism of the move, citing “the protection of the unions” as Labour’s motivation, was a pathetic and unworthy claim. With regard to the Remploy factory in my constituency, eﬀorts will continue to secure a future for the workforce without government help. That Maria Miller refused to meet with me to hear the case for these proposals, in addition to her refusal to visit the factory in question, says all anyone needs to know about this decision. Jamie Reed Labour MP for Copeland
THE PICK OF ONLINE COMMENTS FROM TOTALPOLITICS.COM
u Commenting on Iain Wright MP’s blog praising Ed Miliband’s call for greater “patriotism” in UK business policy, Ralph Baldwin was dismissive of the Labour leader’s intervention. He wrote: “People have been saying this for the past four years. Why does Ed keep trying to lay claim to all the things everybody has known for years as though it’s some kind of original idea? It’s no wonder the public are saying he has no depth.”
u David Torrance’s article Tribal warfare on Scotland’s political tribes (TP, March), prompted a predictably tribal response online. Doug Daniel found it to be “disappointing”, taking issue with the idea that the so-called ‘cybernats’ are any more vitriolic than their unionist counterparts. “The problem with this statement is the existence of unionist activists (Labour supporters in particular) who use jibes like ‘Sco ish Nazi Party’, or call us racist,” he said.
u Sco Speight took issue with Caroline Crampton’s blog on the possibility of introducing gender quotas for UK boardrooms Upwith women,downwith‘goldenskirts’. He wrote: “The phrase ‘golden skirts’ is actually a correct definition, as no one will be able to tell if you’re there by merit or by the basis that you are a woman and therefore are needed for the quota.”
u Becky really enjoyed our photo story of George Osborne preparing for the budget (TP, March), saying the photos were “fantastic”. Ben had a slightly more teasing response: “It’s nice to see George isn’t looking quite so pasty-white and vampirical these days: one can only assume he is ge ing out a bit during daylight hours. Increased vitamin D intake; less risk of rickets. Superb news.”
u In response to Dr Barry Elsby MLA’s piece FalklandIslanders havetherighttochoosetheirfuture, David Smith was unequivocal in where that choice should lead. He wrote: “The Falklands will remain a British Overseas Territory until the Islanders decide otherwise.” Mike Beecro had a diﬀerent reaction: “We hear so much about ‘rights’. No one has any rights, unless they are given, protected and extended by others… Living in the Falklands obviously concentrates the mind on these issues, but you should not become obsessed by them. The opportunities provided by oil and gas, coupled with fishing and tourism will, if you protect them, put you in the driving seat and allow you to protect your own ‘rights’.”
u Dave was impressed by Amber Ellio ’s post about John Cryer’s le er that declare his ambitions to stand for chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). He commented: “John Cryer is the ideal choice for PLP chair. He has a history of assertive and independent thinking, and will stand up strongly for backbenchers in dealings with the leadership. He is nevertheless a unifier with good relationships across the spectrum of political direction within the party.”
Bellenden.co.uk professional and trusted
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