Left Watch
13 Aug 2013 10:56:10

The Battle of Hastings, as told by Chris Bryant

By Mark Wallace
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Bayeux Tapestry
Following the gripping instalment from Chris Bryant's diary in today's Independent, ConHome presents an earlier extract, during his previous incarnation as King Harold the Second:

Sunday, 11.15pm I'm told some Norman immigrants have landed near Hastings, probably with the intention of taking my job. I try to ensure my trumpeter will wake us all up early for a battle in the morning.

5.55am Parp (that was the trumpeter, don't be cheeky). My housecarls and I have an early start, and kick off the day with a mug of ale and some mutton - we're on the Atkins.

5.56am Is Hastings in Kent?

6.20am We had a long march from Stamford Bridge, but I needn't have worried - we've got to Hastings in plenty of time. The Normans are saying my troops look a bit tired, but that's just typical of them - talking down the Anglo-Saxons again.

6.28am Armour. What a drag. My helmet is really bulky and I can't see out properly.

7.05am Battle formation. Even the Normans have told me beforehand they think I'm going to win, but as soon as we line up they start shouting about how they've got more archers than me. I say I didn't want loads of archers anyway, so whatever.

7.15am The early skirmishing is over. I'm getting fed up with the tiny eye holes in this helmet, and I'm worried the crown on top makes me look elitist. I borrow my squire's helmet instead - much better, I can see out no problem.

8.05am Now I'm right across from William of Normandy (with whom I used to hang out at court), the smarmy git. I want the battle to be about strategy, but he insists we get bogged down in detail, how many of our men get killed, all those boring process points. He's asking why we don't have a battleplan. I say "We're the Anglo-Saxons, and we're the goodies, so we don't need one - that's why you'll always be remembered as William the Loser." Definitely came out on top.

8.40am God, shield walls get boring after a while. Crash, wallop, scream, crash, wallop, scream. Who are these Normans trying to impress?

9.00am Back to my tent to finish the battle strategy. Some Normans are saying I'm panicking, but that's rubbish - I always intended to add some little extras in about now.

9.30am Arrive at the shieldwall to deliver what I hope is a cogent, reflective battle strategy about how we can deal firmly and fairly with these bothersome foreigners.

10.02am The Normans are all running away, so as planned we charge down the hill after them. It all seems to go fine - there's lots of blood and limbs all over the place, probably theirs.

10.30am An arrow hits me in the eye - I deal with it professionally and with panache, as usual.

11.15am My surviving bodyguards are carrying my lifeless corpse off the battlefield. Someone said my soldiers are running away, but I'm pretty sure they're just keen to see the sacks of parchment sent by everyone to say how well I've done. Harold the Conqueror strikes again.

12 Aug 2013 12:35:22

Chris Bryant's immigration speech isn't just a car crash, it's a full on, bollard-smashing rampage

By Mark Wallace
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Labour RoseDuring the 2010 General Election campaign, a Labour photo opp with Gordon Brown was interrupted by a car colliding with a bus stop. At that point, I thought it was as bad as things could get - how could any metaphorical car crash by a politician possibly outdo the real thing?

Chris Bryant is evidently more imaginative, and has today embarked on a one man mission to prove me wrong. Belted into the driver's seat of a rhetorical red mini metro, he careered through the political media, ploughing into bollards, oncoming traffic, tourists and both mounted cavalrymen outside Horseguards.

Just to ensure the job was done properly, he brought his political road-trip to a halt by effecting a head-on collision with an Alan Partridge-style joke about how easy it is to mistakenly think obese women are pregnant. The metaphorical car is definitely a write-off.

Continue reading "Chris Bryant's immigration speech isn't just a car crash, it's a full on, bollard-smashing rampage" »

11 Aug 2013 10:25:12

Like Foot, Kinnock, Hague and Howard, Miliband fails the Capable Leader test. Is he doomed too?

Miliband Ed on TV
By Paul Goodman

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As Tony Blair marched inexorably on towards his 1997 landslide victory, I and fellow members of the Daily Telegraph's leader writing team clung to a pathetic last hope, like the bedraggled remnants of a Native American tribe holding fast to its ghost dance.  No British political leader with less hair than his opponent, we solemnly reassured each other, had won a recent general election.  Remember Thatcher and Kinnock!  Wilson and Home! Macmillan and Gaitskell! John Major, with his mop of grey hair, would win out over that incipient baldy, Blair.

This desparate last hope turned out to be a pile of old horsefeathers (and isn't soundly based, in  any event: Edward Heath had more hair than Harold Wilson in 1974, and lost to him twice).  I mention this to give some context to the claim I mention next.  IPSOS-Mori has been asking the question "Who is the most capable Prime Minister?" for a very long time.  No party leader since Thatcher has emerged as Prime Minister after an election in which her opponent was judged as most capable.

Continue reading "Like Foot, Kinnock, Hague and Howard, Miliband fails the Capable Leader test. Is he doomed too?" »

10 Aug 2013 12:20:21

Shapps's minions torment Labour over its "plans to increase borrowing by £2,960 for every working family".

Screen shot 2013-08-10 at 11.51.59

By Paul Goodman
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Part of the horror of Opposition is that one is pronged by a Morton's Fork.  Make no policy commitments, and you've nothing to say.  But make policy commitments, and the Government will merrily tot them up and reach some terrifying total.

Continue reading "Shapps's minions torment Labour over its "plans to increase borrowing by £2,960 for every working family"." »

10 Aug 2013 08:36:19

Has Burnham gone public because he thinks that Miliband will demote him?

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-08-10 at 07.01.28Andy Burnham says in today's Guardian that Labour has until next spring to set out more policies, and urges the integration of social care into the NHS (which isn't the party's official view.)

Every interview by a senior politician should be met by the question "what did he mean by that?", rather in the manner of Metternich enquiring after the death of Talleyrand

Burnham knows well that Labour's lead in the polls has slid, that Ed Miliband is under pressure, that he doesn't like Shadow Cabinet Ministers freelancing...and that the implied criticism of Miliband will be unwelcome.

The Shadow Health Secretary is in the wrong job. I write that not because of any intrinsic weakness Burnham may have, but because it's nearly always a mistake to shadow a department you ran.

Jeremy Hunt has been able to target Burnham's record, especially in relation to mid-Staffs, and has managed the unprecedented achievement of putting Labour under pressure over an issue which they own - at least, in relation to the Conservatives.

Continue reading "Has Burnham gone public because he thinks that Miliband will demote him?" »

8 Aug 2013 12:10:12

A freak storm strikes the Fabian Society library, scattering gobbledegook in its wake - it's David Miliband's Wonknado

By Mark Wallace
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SharknadoLast night, one of the greatest so-bad-it's-good films ever made hit British television screens. In Sharknado, a freak tornado tears through the sea off Los Angeles, scattering sharks across the city.

It's even worse than it sounds, but it's ok because the special effects are awful, there are several washed-up former stars and the love scene involves characters cutting their way out of a Great White. With a chainsaw.

Never one to pass up a commercial opportunity, David Miliband has produced a sequel impressively quickly, though I'm not sure it will prove as big a hit.

In his latest New Statesman article, it seems a freak tornado has torn through the library of the Fabian Society, scattering technical gobbledegook across Westminster. In short, it's a Wonknado.

Continue reading "A freak storm strikes the Fabian Society library, scattering gobbledegook in its wake - it's David Miliband's Wonknado" »

5 Aug 2013 18:11:17

Labour Co-Op MPs slam zero hours contracts...while their own donor uses them

By Mark Wallace
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Evidently the news has gone out today from Labour HQ that it's time Opposition MPs did something over the summer recess. The topic of choice is zero-hours contracts and, lo and behold, flurries of Labour MPs have been tweeting away.

I've picked out the four tweeting MPs above for a reason. As well as dutifully obeying the orders of the day, they have something else in common - each is a Labour & Co-operative Party MP.

One of the major employers caught up in the zero hours row that they are stoking is Co-Operative Funeralcare, part of the Co-Operative Group, aka the people who fund the Co-Op Party.

This is an awkward topic for Labour to pick, given that there are 32 Co-Op MPs on the Labour benches, including Ed Balls. While he doesn't sit as their representative, Ian Murray, the Shadow Minister responsible for the policy, lists himself as a Co-Operative Party member.

Perhaps before calling for the contracts to be banned, they might start by boycotting their own campaign donor?

4 Aug 2013 14:04:59

Chuka Umunna, "the unions' representative in Parliament", hits choppy waters

By Mark Wallace
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Chuka BullingdonI doubt today's Sun on Sunday was popular at Chuka Umunna's breakfast table. A leaked memo written by former Unite political director boasts of the influence the union has over Labour's business, regulation and wages policies.

By coincidence, the ultra-smooth Shadow Business Secretary and his Constituency Labour Party have received a whopping £47,000 from various unions over the last 5 years.

This is yet another addition to Chuka's growing reputation for being two-faced. He's cosying up to Tony Blair in public, wooing Labour centrists, while simultaneously taking a fortune from the unions and pushing Unite policy in Parliament. When someone claims to be a Blairite and a McCluskeyite at the same time, suspicions start to grow that they might not have any principles at all.

He reportedly secured the Streatham nomination by convincing a number of different cliques that he was their guy - but I suspect that trying to be all things to all men won't wash forever, and certainly not at a national level.

The Sun's leader column delivers a direct warning - something they only normally do if they intend to pursue an issue further:

"If he wants to live up to his reputation then he needs to stop acting as the unions’ representative in Parliament and start behaving as a man focused on helping business prosper."

It seems the glitter is starting to wear off "Britain's answer to Barack Obama". Will he change his ways, or stick to his tried and tested tricks?

3 Aug 2013 17:44:35

No support among Labour Euro candidates for In/Out EU referendum

By Harry Phibbs
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The polling tells us that most Labour voters would like to see an in/out referendum on the EU (by 52% to 29% in this YouGov poll for example.)

Quite a few Labour MPs back this in public and doubtless many more do in private.

There is plenty of speculation that Labour will shift its position and come round to the idea.

However Unite the Union is against it. So enough said - at least as regards the views of Labour candidates for next year's Euro Elections. The extent to which Unite managed the hijack the selection process has already been detailed by Mark Wallace.

In the past we often saw those on the Labour Left opposed to the EU - figures like Michael Foot and Tony Benn. Increasingly though our membership of the EU - at least on the current terms - is regarded as a means of advancing the socialist agenda. here was a bit of a change in 2000 when the newly elected Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said he would fight for us to join the Euro.

In any event Unite have been sniping at David Cameron's proposal for an in/out referendum both via their website and Len McLuskey's tweets. The union says the problem with a referendum is that it "could end with the UK exiting the EU."

Continue reading "No support among Labour Euro candidates for In/Out EU referendum" »

2 Aug 2013 15:58:36

Unite officials, retreads and washed-up Brownites picked in Labour's troubled MEP selections

By Mark Wallace
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Labour holesLabour have now published the results of their selection process for next year's European elections (the full regional lineups are available on LabourList). It makes for interesting reading.

As Tim Shipman of the Daily Mail has spotted, "Unite candidates or officials have the top spot in every region in Labour's MEP lists apart from East Midlands, where they are 2nd".

Quelle surprise! The union embroiled in a scandal over their plans to unduly influence candidate selections has coincidentally seen its people top the ballot almost everywhere.

Not that that's the only problem with the candidates selected.

Continue reading "Unite officials, retreads and washed-up Brownites picked in Labour's troubled MEP selections" »