Arnie Graf presents a challenge to both party fixers and party stalwarts alike

22nd November, 2012 6:20 pm

There’s a fantastic piece by Rowenna Davis in the Guardian today on Arnie Graf “The man Ed Miliband asked to rebuild Labour”. Graf is certainly an interesting character, and on the few times I’ve met him I’ve been hugely impressed by his calm demeanour and vast experience. (And also by the fact that he looks at least ten years younger than his 68 years.)

But what’s most impressive is his vision for Labour. The kind of party that Graf seems to be striving towards – one that’s more open, relational and transparent – is hugely appealing, and if handled correctly offers a potential template for both electoral success, and transformational Labour-lead change in communities across the country.

I’m particularly drawn to Graf’s assertion that attempts to stitch up decisions in the party may be part of the reason Labour has experienced failures in the past. As I noted just last week, even the perception of a stitch up is toxic. Sadly, there are a not insignificant number of people in the party who seem to think winning internal battles/selections is more important than ether changing the country or winning elections. A different (yet similar) group believe that the procedure of internal party meetings is more important than the outcome, and how many people turn up next time.

Graf has been particularly scathing about the party’s meeting culture, saying :

“At the end of meetings I’d rather chew off my arm with my own teeth than go back. I thought the smartest people are the ones who didn’t come. “

I can honestly say that’s an accurate appraisal of the vast majority of party meetings I’ve attended. But for some they seem to be considered delightful social occasions to be repeated an extended indefinitely. I’ve never quite understood that…

At times it can feel like these people – the fixers and the meetings for meetings sake mob – have the party in an apathy chokehold, seeking to win ever more battles by hoping that everyone else simply gives up and stops caring.

And all too often that’s exactly what happens.

But if Graf’s vision of a radically different Labour presents challenges for the party’s more difficult souls, it also presents challenges for many other Labour Party members and activists too. His approach is more about community campaigning politics than voter ID. His desire for openness in terms of selections (perhaps going as far as primaries) may jar with the way many members view party membership.

In short – he wants to see a kind of social democratic community based political party in Britain that is quite alien to the Labour Party that most of us know and (sometimes begrudgingly) love.

That’s quite a lofty ambition, and it will be made all the more difficult by the fact that the party fixers and the meeting-loving stalwarts will be united against him. But the prize – a bigger, more engaged party that can be a genuine force in communities AND Westminster – seems more than worth the hassle.

  • MarkHoulbrook

    Good Article Mark. On reading both articles it is very clear there is a spot of de ja vu in there somewhere. I wonder where some members of the NEC, Ed Miliband et al have heard all this before…and even you Mark. One thing is for sure it was not from a secret report.

  • Daniel Speight

    Step by step. Return power from the London leadership to the CLPs first.

  • AlanGiles

    It is quite incredible – Cameron appoints Australian Lynton Crosby to take care of business and so Miliband feels he has to import the man from Chicago. So it seems nobody from our own country has the talent of gumption to solve the problems of the British.

    I know that will sound insular and parochial to some, but it is indicative of this “us, too” philosophy that pervades British politics today. One side follows the other.

    Will it work?. Well, at the 2015 election if Lord Mandy has another pal like Jonathan Reynolds or Tristram Hunt he wants parachuted into a safe seat (let’s say for example Blair junior) will he get his way, or will he just shrug and let Joe or Joanne Bloggs a local person get the nomination?.

    Trust has to be earned – and it isn’t earned by importing overseas “thinkers” (and Mr Graf is so knowledgable he asked “who is Ed Miliband?”).

    But here is the biggest joke of the lot: the man imported to make Labour transparent?. What does that newspaper article say? “Graf’s report was never published, and he remains influential but near invisible to those outside Labour’s inner circle.”

    Yes, VERY transparent.

    • http://www.labourlist.org/mark_ferguson Mark Ferguson

      Graf has been around for nearly two years, Crosby hasn’t even been hired yet. And their roles are completely different. Ever the cynic eh Alan?

    • AlanGiles

      “Mark Ferguson: Graf has been around for nearly two years, Crosby hasn’t”

      Crosby was “helping” Michael Howard back in 2005 (“are you thinking what we’re thinking?” – remember) and I don’t suppose it impossible that he met up with Cameron et al while he was more recently working for Johnson in London).

      But the point remains, a bloke from Chicago (or Australia) is more likely to have his finger on the pulse of the nation than somebody in and from the UK?. Doesn’t say much for us, does it, jointly and severally?

  • https://mikestallard.virtualgallery.com/ Mike Stallard

    Meanwhile the party faithful are departing from all political parties in droves and the party income, in all parties, comes from either the TUs or else private donors.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Eeek. It’s a funny old world. The only people claiming to have a clue as per what to do about anything these days are unelected advisers or think-tank drones often not even members of the political parties they advise; without such characters our elected politicians would apparently be clueless and have to be led around the universe of political discourse like wide-eyed children! Personally I’d much prefer politicians to have their own ideas, convictions, stand for something, and act under their own volition, rather than coached and controlled by others, like ventriloquist dummies, having most of the words they speak put in their mouths by unelected ambiguous characters like Arnie Graf, Graeme Cooke, Alastair Campbell, Andy Coulson, Steve Hilton and creeps like David Freud (which charlatan determined the disastrous welfare policies of both the Labour AND Conservative Parties so committed was he to a political cause). Eeek. I have an idea! Why not save a lot of time and money and just let MPs nominate people like this as their champions, abrogate responsibility, stand back, and give let the SpAds fight their political battles for them in proxy? Cut out the middle man and all that. You know it makes sense. Eeek.

    • alfred

      I’m a Labour Party member in my mid seventies. Been a member over 50 years. Unfortunately, Arnie Graf describes my local party

  • Pingback: What You Can Get Away With (Nick Barlow's blog) » Blog Archive » If Labour won’t listen to Arnie Graf, should the Liberal Democrats?()

Latest

  • Comment Featured Roosh V: the government’s hands-off approach reflects their weak effort to tackle gender violence

    Roosh V: the government’s hands-off approach reflects their weak effort to tackle gender violence

    This weekend Roosh V and his misogynist and vicious ‘Return of Kings’ groups were scheduled to meet across the UK as part of a so-called ‘world tour’. This is the man who suggested that rape on private property should be legalised. Let’s be clear from the outset. There is never, ever, under any circumstances, any justification for rape. It is a crime of the utmost seriousness, one which, despite a recent increase in the number of rapes reported, still too […]

    Read more →
  • News Former Head of the Civil Service criticises government plan to cut party funding

    Former Head of the Civil Service criticises government plan to cut party funding

    Lord Kerslake, former Head of the Civil Service (2012-2014), has criticised the Government’s plans to cut Short money and change trade union funding. Lord Kerslake is a crossbencher. Appearing on BBC Sunday Politics he said the Government’s plans signalled “a worryingly authoritarian streak in government” that finds it difficult to accept challenge. He said everyone, regardless of party affiliation, should be concerned about the changes. He voiced similar concerns at the start of the year. The Government are planning to […]

    Read more →
  • News Corbyn calls on Cameron to reveal British military plan against Isis in Libya

    Corbyn calls on Cameron to reveal British military plan against Isis in Libya

    Jeremy Corbyn has called on David Cameron to give assurance that no decision has been made to use drones in Libya, as there are concerns drones might be operating in the country. The Independent has reported that the Labour leader has asked the Prime Minister to give “unequivocal assurance that no decision has been taken to use drones in support of military operations in Libya”. Corbyn has said Cameron needs to give a “clear commitment” to ask Parliament before he pursues […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Tories’ turmoil should ring snap election alarm bells

    Tories’ turmoil should ring snap election alarm bells

    As most party members know all too well, Labour will face its first major electoral test under Jeremy Corbyn this May. Crucial as these polls are for all of us, particularly our candidates, we cannot blithely assume that they will be the only contest that we will face this year. We need to be on a general election war footing. In June, decades of Tory infighting are set to reach a crescendo with the referendum on membership of the European […]

    Read more →
  • News “We need answers which are both radical and credible” – full text of Jon Ashworth’s Future of the Centre Left speech

    “We need answers which are both radical and credible” – full text of Jon Ashworth’s Future of the Centre Left speech

    This is the full text of the speech given by Shadow Cabinet member Jon Ashworth to Progress’ The Future of Labour’s Centre Left event on Tuesday. Thank you for inviting me to speak – my first time at a Progress event. We meet tonight after two general election defeats. So tonight’s discussion about the future of the centre left is timely. Beyond the confines of our party or the borders of our country, there are forces driving huge waves of change […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit