THEO Blackwell has compiled his now regular digest of points to take from a major Labour Party event, ruffling a few feathers of the revolutionaries in the process. An out-and-proud Blairite, moderate, moderniser (you pick the label), he raises several concerns about how the party may react to Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide leadership victory. The reason that some of his local colleagues who hold contrasting views have been itched by his piece is that he raises the possibility of this all affecting council candidate selection choices in the future, and argues that local councillors have their own mandate which is not directly bolted onto what the national leadership of their party does.
“Being directly-elected, local councillors and leaders have their own (slightly different) mandate, of course, and as it stands there are tighter rules on their selection than for the Leader of the Party,” The writes. “How long that lasts is a question which will be answered over the next four years. Newer, more militant Corbyn supporters may be keen for councils to resist cuts by not implementing budgets, like I experienced during this debate on welfare cuts in 2013 in particular. ‘Debate’ could spill in local branch meetings and ultimately through to councillor selections in the coming years, starting next year.”
There’s that mention of councillor selection choices. The next Town Hall elections may be three years away but the stirring never really goes away. In the background, the left of the party fear the right of the party will react to Corbyn’s lead by trying to shore up its remaining power bases, such as councils like Camden where the core of the leadership did not support the Islington North MP. But at the same time, the right of the party in places like Camden are alert to any attempt by the left of the party to use Corbyn’s ascension as ammo for de-selection plots against them.
JOHN MILLS PULLS THE PLUG
IN my own experience, one of the most refreshing things about the businessman John Mills is that he is accommodating almost to a fault when journalists ask for his opinion. When he was finance chief at the Town Hall, he had a different approach to the media than the rest of Dame Jane Roberts’ cabinet: he’d take the call, answer the question, say what he thought. Thankfully, Camden’s cabinet nearly all do that now, but back then it was a rarity. As the head of the JML shopping empire and Labour’s biggest donor, however, his quickly-available frankness means he pops up in the newspapers with an almost clockwork regularity. His uncertainty about Ed Miliband’s leadership earlier this year was an easy story to get for the nationals, even if he had not meant to sound as destabilising as he did close to general election. The nationals know how to get a ‘Labour’s biggest donor has….’ story because he does not hide away his thoughts, and it was not surprising then that before the weekend was out the Telegraph had him explaining that his funding for the party was going to be paused in the wake Corbyn’s victory. He’ll fund research for the moderates instead.
On this occasion, it’s more than a soundbite. The concern for Mills, whose sister-in-law Tessa Jowell lost out to Sadiq Khan in the mayoral selection contest last week, will have been heightened by the appointment of John McDonnell, the old head of Camden Council’s policy unit, as the new shadow councillor. But it comes at a time when Labour is already fighting government reforms which could limit trade union reforms, another key funding pipeline.
MILIBAND, THE SELFIE MAGNET
THERE may be lots of snarky jokes about how quickly Ed Miliband has apparently been forgotten (see above); about how May’s general election already seems like an age away. It certainly seemed a little ghosty when Miliband popped up on television on Saturday explaining how new members were flocking to the party and that membership in his own constituency had doubled… since his resignation as leader. Still, near neighbour Giles Coren may tease him, but if you spent even a brief five minutes at the York Rise street party yesterday, you could see he still has an army of fans in NW5 who have not forgotten his contribution. Every two minutes, he was stopped for a selfie request. One wag joked as the cameraphone clicked: ‘I didn’t recognise you without your beard.’ The Milifandom lives.
RAISED EYEBROWS IN BRIGHTON
IS there something we should be reading between the lines, or the raised eyebrows, in the BBC’s reporting of how delegates at the TUC Conference in Brighton have reacted to Jeremy Corbyn’s victory? It was hard to tell yesterday afternoon.
REWIND: A tweet from Lucy Powell sent during the leadership contest. She’ll no doubt be spending more time in the Commons tea room with Jeremy Corbyn after being appointed his shadow education secretary last night.
@AnnaYearley I have never, ever met or spoken to him. At PLP, in Chamber, in voting lobbies, tea rooms, library, anywhere …
— Lucy Powell MP (@LucyMPowell) August 18, 2015
REWIND: Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges, our old MP’s son, saw this tweet from July hit the 2,000 share mark over the weekend. He might ask whether any of the drol re-tweeters really believed themselves that Corbyn was going to win back July but I’m not sure they are listening.
People need to get a grip. Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be elected Labour leader.
— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) July 22, 2015