South Shields is a chance to do politics differently – why aren’t we taking it?

3rd April, 2013 10:57 am

A week ago David Miliband resigned as MP for South Shields – one of the safest Labour seats in the country. It is the only seat never to have gone Tory since 1832, it has been Labour since 1935 and it currently has a comfortable five figure majority. I’m always careful to avoid hubris around by-elections and the like, and ultimately the electorate will decide whether or not the Labour candidate is returned at the by-election. But I think we can be fairly sure that the people of South Shields will continue to be overwhelmingly Labour.

This isn’t a seat we expect to lose. In fact, it’s not a seat the party is worried about losing at all.

A day after his brother stepped down as MP, I interviewed Ed Miliband and talked about Labour Party selections. The Labour leader told me:

“Diversity really matters. Not just gender diversity, but lets get people from a whole different range of backgrounds…You’ve got to try and look like the country you seek to represent.”

He also said:

“It’s for local parties to make the judgement about who they want.”

And yet yesterday, when the timetable for the South Shields selection was announced, we find that the party is still conducting ridiculously short turnaround selection processes, managed by the central party and presenting the CLP with only a shortlist and a handful of days to make their decision.

To be the candidate for South Shields, you will need to be someone who can drop everything at a few hours notice to get down to London for an NEC shortlisting meeting on a Saturday, before campaigning furiously for a selection meeting on Wednesday in South Shields and then – for the candidate lucky enough to be selected – dropping everything (home, work, family) to run for the seat.

Doubtless there will be a significant number of candidates putting themselves forward for this needlessly truncated selection process – but they’re unlikely to be a broad cross-section of society, they’re far more likely to be those in the know and with the wherewithall to take part in such a process. That’s not to say a good candidate won’t come out of the process – doubtless one will – but there are countless potential quality candidates who won’t even throw their hats into the ring because of the way the system is gamed against them. Whilst General Secretary Iain McNicol deserves credit for his email to members encouraging them to stand for the seat, surely he knows that only a golden few will ever be able to take up such an opportunity in such a timeframe under such conditions.

South Shields is an opportunity to do something different, to tackle our broken politics head on. To be transparent about the way we go about things. To do politics in a way that Ed Miliband – and his brother – have espoused in recent months. There is no hurry to fill the seat. No reason why proper time and consideration would not have been appropriate. No reason why a process that gives the local CLP more time and more involvement would not have been suitable. It is not – in short – a seat that Labour expects to lose, or one where getting a candidate in place immediately is imperative. Perhaps the plan is to run the by-election on the same day as some local elections across the country – but there are no local elections that day in South Shields. In fact, such a by-election might serve to move activists from North Tyneside (where the party are trying to depose a Tory Mayor) to South Tyneside, to fight in a by-election in a safe seat.

It just doesn’t make any sense.

All of this talk about a new party, a new politics and a new way of doing things is great. But if you can’t even stand up for these principles in South Shields, how are we supposed to believe it will be different elsewhere? This was a chance to prove that the party was genuinely changing the way it did things like selections. Instead, the party has reverted to type.

And that’s a crying shame.

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  • AlanGiles

    Once again, Mark, thanks for having the courage and decency to say things as they are, and not as some tribalists would LIKE them to be.

    The fact that everything is being done, so quickly, in London rather suggests that the lucky winner already knows who he or she is.

    TBH I don’t see very much changing: to institute real change you would need a leader of steel, a person not deflected from their course by looking over their shoulders to see if the press approved or not, somebody with convictions and never prepared to abstain on a subject which has only two answers – right or wrong.

  • John Ruddy

    I agree Mark. There is no rush here in South Shields, as I doubt the other parties are aiming to select candidates quickly in the hope of taking the seat.
    As I said on the other thread, the NEC Interviews should be in the regional office, not in London. Otherwise, there is the suspicion that the seat is only available for London based candidates – which is the opposite of what Ed said in his interview.

  • PaulHalsall

    How about a working class candidate. We need to put a quota on Oxford PPEs.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      What is a “working class” candidate? I do not intend that to be a fatuous question, nor deliberately “obtuse”. Is it the background – do you have to come from a poor “sink estate”? Is it educational, with those who go to tertiary education forever part of the middle or upper classes? Is it the nature of employment, whether manual or intellectual, or even unemployed? Is it the mental attitude, in which class confrontation, or at least differences are uppermost in the thoughts? Is it some economic measure, whether salary below a certain level, or non-ownership of a house? Is it cultural, in supporting a football team and not a rugby team? Is it geographical, in which ancestors have lived in the same small area for 300 years? Is it familial, with trades passed down through generations, or politics dictated by the family elders?

      For those fortunate enough to be in work, we all work hard, whether driving a bus, filling shelves in a supermarket, or for some, running big companies.

      It would also be a different way of doing politics if a candidate was unemployed, and on JSA. That person would bring a unique perspective to Parliament.

      • rekrab

        Holy-shite! the rocky mountain wonderer returns! what’s gotcha Doc! did Yogi out smart you?

      • PaulHalsall

        Working class is ABC1 in standard sociological accounts.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas


          I think you may mean DE, not ABC1? But those standards are – my point – probably not worth being re-iterated in 2013. We are all living much different lives from 1950, or whenever they were codified. Nothing stands still anymore, and that is a good thing, although it presents complexities and challenges to cultural matters, as change always does.

          Margaret Thatcher was from Class D. Clem Attlee from Class B. Both were – to political adherents of their philosophy – great people, and yet “in the wrong party” according to this rather sterile view of class and political correlation. Let us not start with Tony Benn (Class A), or John Thurso (also Class A), or David Davis (Class E), or Harriet Harman (Class A), and then there are the Milibands, who have escalated from Class E to Class A in their lifetimes. My point being that there are so many exceptions to this classification who defy the boundaries of where they started, and have a vision for where they wish to go.

          And what CLP asks the candidate “Right, you are a proper working class person, do you promise that you will always be in Class E?” Or, “you are being parachuted in by the NEC, and are clearly Class B. How will you become Class E?”

          • rekrab

            There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            You are no Robert F Kennedy, Derek. It would be noble of you to attribute your mis-quotation to him, because he was the one who thought of it, and not you.

          • rekrab

            Yeah! great quote from R.Kennedy.
            Your quotes suggest that someone from a class A defers to class E and the opposite.
            “A king can make a belted knight, a Marques Duke and all that but an honest man is above that and king of men for all that.”

            You can’t ignore the class segregation when a government gives tax cuts to millionaires and imposes sanctions on the poorest.For 5 years they’ve printed money to keep interest rates at a record low, while at the other end of the spectrum they’ve hammered the poor with bedroom tax and benefit cuts.

          • AlanGiles

            Good morning Jaime. I know things have changed in society, but the fact is 40 years ago Labour would have included amongst it’s back benchers former miners, factory workers, ex-servicemen (and women) and present a very different picture of Labour, especially when compared to the land-owners, publishers, men of letters that were on the Conservative benches (not that there is anything wrong with being a man of letters – I wouldn’t have minded that myself).

            Nowadays, because Labour has eschewed the manual worker, they have very much the same sort of people with the same backgrounds as the Conservatives. It is not as if manual workers don’t still exist (just about!) or ex service personnel, it is just that they prefer to go for the “Us, too” option of having Oxbridge men and women who know about life, not through personal experience, but what they read in textbooks. As snooty Mandy pointed out at the Labour conference in 1997 “horny handed sons of toil are not needed by New Labour”. Nobody else from Blair then to Miliband today would actually be precious enough to SAY such a thing, but I see no evidence they don’t still THINK it and act on Mandy’s simpering snobbery.

            Somebody makes some derogatory comments about Owen Jones on this thread “Im working class, honest” – whether he is or he isn’t the fact is that he has affinity with “ordinary people” and is not afraid to write about them in a national newspaper, and the injustices they fight. Even if Owen was descended from a Baron he understands, and I think unbiased people would recognize that as genuine. People know when they are being patronised and taken for a ride, and they also know when somebody is on their side and wants to understand.

            On the other hand, you couldn’t get a sheet of Bronco between Smith and “Labour” Liam Byrne. Byrne freely admitted he agreed with three quarters of the Coalition WRB,(just as well really since his pal Purnell was responsible for accepting the Freud report which started off this whole broiling) and like the hollow vessel he is, made great noise about the tiny bit he didn’t agree with. Then he advised his party to abstain in a vote which very unfairly hit the poorest people by allowing a retrospective law to be pushed through, which denied people who had been wrongly treated to seek their remedies in court).

            Labour has lost quite a deal of it’s core vote because people feel (rightly I think) that the Oxbridge careerists who make up todays Labour party, and will drop any principle to look “tough” and please the floating voter and Daily Mail stalwort, not to mention their chief whip, don’t know, or much care about life for Mr & Mrs Average (except when they are shamelessly electioneering like Ms Asato in the Norwich NHS thread).

            Frankly if there were an election tomorrow, it is highly probable that Labour would win it, simply because the other two parties have lost it, but it wouldn’t be through merit – or enthusiasm – from the person who lives in a council flat: just that they are seen as the lesser of two evils. At heart they are seen as being all the same. Because, by and large, they are.

            Miliband makes a great deal about going to a “comprehensive school” but conveniently forgets he came from a comfortable background and also went to Oxford. He is by no means alone. I doubt that Balls natural habitat is Gregg’s even though he did a publicity shoot there with a self-satisfied rictus grin on his face the while. The public see through this crass nonsense, and it is highly insulting to the intelligence of the voting public that political parties think the public are so stupid they don’t see through it for the farce it is. Don’t even get me started on Duncan-Smith and his claim he could live on £53 per week., and knows all about unemployment having experienced it when he left the Scots Guards. An officer does not leave the services with one weeks pay in lieu of notice, and then again just before he was appointed a director of a large international publishing house. Marrying well (a Barons daughter) must have given him a real insight into poverty, naturally.

            The truth is these poseurs from all parties are seen as the fakes they are and the more they pretend to understand, the more ignorant they look

          • PaulHalsall

            Yep, I switched the refs around. Working class in EDC2.

    • John Ruddy

      I’d much rather have the BEST candidate, rather than one from a specific group such as “working class” or exxcluding some people because they went to a certain university.
      Now your definition of best candidate may differ from mine, but I want one who can understand and empathise with the issues affecting constiuents, who is effective at putting the case for labour values and policies to address those issues, and can deal with and help resolve the problems facing the people in that consituency.
      Now it could be that an ex-miner could do that well, while an Oxford PPE might not – or vice versa. People are different. However, the best people able to make that decision are surely the local membership, who should be presented with a good short list to choose from.

      • Rob

        The first point that you overlook is that selecting the BEST candidate in every seat may end up with a parliamentary party that is not the BEST parliamentary party.

        The second point that you overlook is that the conception of what is BEST may change from time to time in accordance with prevailing fashions.

    • John Ruddy

      I forgot to add – who do you think are Oxford PPEs?
      Did you know that John Prescott got a degree in Politics and Economics from Ruskin College, Oxford?

      • Redshift1

        Ruskin College isn’t an Oxford University College. It is a Trade Union college, specifically designed in many ways to give opportunities to working class people that Oxbridge institutions often do not.

        John Prescott therefore is if anything more unlike an Oxford PPE graduate than anyone!

      • A better example is Harold Wilson – although his parents (an industrial chemist and schoolteacher) were more middle than working class he came from a real working class community.

        And that is the problem with the current clone generation of Labour MPs whatever their personal backgrounds they have far less daily connection with the communities they claim to represent than a middle class family like the Wilsons would have had when he was growing up in the 1930s – or even with an Attlee who for all his public school and landed gentry background had served in the trenches with people from all walks of life and spent years as a volunteer social worker and local councillor in Stepney before becoming an MP.

        What’s really needed is a return to the political apprenticeship principle by which you couldn’t generally get nominated for a winnable seat unless you’d fought at least one election in an unwinnable one and had a solid background as a councillor.

        You’d still end up with a middle class-dominated PLP but at least the members would have had far more prior knowledge of the problems of the people they claim to represent.

        But the only way I can see this happening is to take away MPs rights to appoint their own staffers – make them use staff from a civil service pool and then ambitious future politicians would have no option other than to get real jobs and work their way up the greasy pole through local activism.

    • So what about a working class candidate with an Oxford PPE?

      Quotas are ridiculous and unjust – we need a truly democratic selection process where candidates do not need to be professional political careerists able as Mark points out to drop everything at a moment’s notice to be able to contend for a seat.

      If with that level playing field the son of a Marxist politics professor with a PPE is still considered the best candidate available then that’s who they should go for.

      • PaulHalsall

        There should be working class only shortlists.

  • PaulHalsall

    Or, let’s get Owen Jones into Parliament.

    • leslie48

      It does not matter which social class an M.P. comes from or where he/she had their university education ; its how he/she comes over to the public. How quick he/she is at combating the unrelenting dreadful Daily Mail propaganda ( so dreadful today in its headline on the Derby murderer “Vile Product of Welfare UK” ) and the whistle dog techniques the new Tory political chief is getting the Public school boys to use on stay at home benefit recipients, immigrants & public service employees like school teachers.

      Faced with more and more social divisiveness this lot are beginning to make Thatcher look like a gentle grandma figure. We want the best speakers and thinkers not some one appointed by gender, by class, by ethnicity , by region. Obama won America based on his oratory, his inspiration and his ability to make Americans see that the Democrats are more one nation than the Old Republicans but also his mighty electorate organisation getting the vote out. The enemy is outside the Labour Party not within it!

      • Daniel Speight

        The enemy is outside the Labour Party not within it!

        Recent events tend to disprove that.

        • leslie48

          No – the enemy is one known as Lynton Crosby from Australia , Cameron’s recent election adviser, who is said “to run a tight ship, focus on simple messages, target marginal constituencies and use lots of polls”. He uses ‘wedge’ politics or ‘the hot button’ ( which often divides political parties and gets intended voters away from their party) and ‘the whistle dog’ approach which typically might go for immigration, welfare recipients who stay home, public sector fat cats, poor teachers holding back working class kids, bad public sector managers whatever . In other words he goes low and hard on ‘marginal voters’ in ‘marginal seats’. That’s your enemy for the next two years. I have a suspicion he’s started last weekend. The Tories are going to get a lot harder, bolder, and to hoover up typically marginal lower middle class , affluent working class voters ( typically Essex I guess)

          • AlanGiles

            I don’t think South Shields is a “marginal” Labour constituency, and as that is what is being discussed here, this is hardly relevant, but I should say Daniel is right – you, as a party, and the rest of us, as voters do not need a whole gaggle of Indentikit politicans, all with similar backgrounds, who know damn all about “ordinary” people, except for what they read in their textbooks to produce a convincing dissertation.

          • leslie48

            Maybe you miss my point which I agree is nothing to do with South Shields but is to do with another recurrent theme here which is internal bitching within Labour – I return to my point members, readers, politicians should be focused on the real enemy which is the Tory Party who coincidently are not that far behind Labour in the polls given we are mid term and probably experiencing some of their worst misdeeds in something close to ‘a triple dip’. Moreover as an FT writer wrote yesterday our clientèle voters are being drastically reduced in terms of recipients and public sector employees. In other words Labour’s position is not looking as good as it should be given what’s externally happening. More reason to have an appeal across all the electorate – the kind of appeal we had in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

          • AlanGiles

            Part of the problem though was the 1997-2005 intake were very much the Indentikit politicians of which I spoke. Oxbridge types, who were similar to their Conservative counterparts: so much so that Tory MPs and councillors were crossing sides every week, and it caused no raised eyebrows.

            If you want to get Tory votes, Labour will have to ape the Tories – but then again, of course they already have done, and the Duncan-Smith/Byrne affair merely compounded this impression a few weeks ago.

          • leslie48

            Sorry I really do not want to go on – but may I quote a youngish working class voter from the Tory marginal Kent seat of Sittingbourne & Shepply quoted in the FT today following Osborne’s dog whistle speech to the warehouse workers: ” I like what he said…the benefit system has been bad for too long” He said he would probably vote Tory in 2015. In the Q&A afterwards some workers were concerned with EU citizens sending home CB payments back home.As I said its no accident the Eton Tory Boys are now being sent to ‘big sheds’ to talk to blue-collar workers. I bet that’s Lyton Crosby at work. Forget where the politician comes from its the cleverness of the message which counts. The Tory party are on the march.

          • “He said he would probably vote Tory in 2015.”

            In the absence of alternative policies from Labour this response is not surprising.

          • AlanGiles

            I mean no personal disrespect to Leslie (I say this because my stalker is trying to stir up trouble on the minimum wage thread from yesterday by implying I used words I didn’t use, and inviting the “victim” to comment), but I fear those people who want Labour to talk tough on welfare, immigration etc, don’t want a true Labour government. They want red rosettes talking blue langauge (in the political sense) – in other words, a semi-Tory government just as long as it’s Labour’s turn to crack the whip again.

            I want to see a Labour party with principles again, and not afraid to express them, but I am extremely doubtful that will happen any time soon.

          • To me it seems that Labour is presenting two options at the moment, neither can be properly described as being an alternative:

            1) Nothing (i.e. mostly what we’re getting at the moment).

            2) Do as the Tories do (i.e. crack-down on immigrants, benefit claimants and privatise welfare – all dressed up as making tough choices).

          • AlanGiles

            With all due respect Leslie, if that is how this man feels, the only way you will get him to vote Labour is to adopt Tory policies – which to a degree Labour have already done. The acquiesence of Byrne, Miliband et al, just a couple of weeks ago to the retrospective law regarding the WRB is an example of this capitulation. As regards this man’s view on the EU citizens sending money home, while we remain in the EU we have to abide by the rules. Neither Labour or Conservative can change things overnight, just like that.

            I feel that to try to mollify people like the man quoted will just lead straight back to the days of New Labour. I remember back in 97 when Blair was talking tough, many people thought he would be different once he attained office. He wasn’t and his first guest through the door at No 10 was Mrs Thatcher. A few months later, on the night that welfare benefits were being taken away from single mothers, at Blair’s instruction, he wasn’t even in the chamber to vote – he was entertaining pop friends “Blur” at a No 10 reception.

            This disdain permeated the NL years and I don’t have much confidence things will change in 2015.

          • Quiet_Sceptic

            No, the idea that child benefit should be paid out to children living abroad is not remotely a ‘Labour value’. It is quite reasonable to believe that the welfare of a nation’s children is the responsibility of the state in which they live.

            There will never be enough funding for welfare or public services, what we do have should be spent on those people living within the UK. Many other European nations require the child to be resident to qualify for benefits, the UK should do the same.

          • AlanGiles

            My point was, though, that both Labour, Conservative (and UKIP) try to give the impression that they can “change” things to do with the EU unilaterally overnight (“British jobs for British people” or “In Europe but not governed by Europe”), when they know this is not possible.

            Every opt-out, every change of rules has to go through the process of lengthy negotiations with all the other member nations, and usually some fudged compromise is the best result.

            I am not saying it is right, but that is how things stand. But Leslie’s Man of Kent/Kentish Man says he will vote Conservative, and I suspect the only way he would vote Labour is if they offered the same deal as he seems to appreciate from the Conservatives. The question has to be, how far are Labour prepared to enter in Conservative territory and rhetoric to “accomodate” him?, and – can or should ANY party – credibly try to be all things to all men?

          • PaulHalsall

            Can you give a list. How many Brits working in Sweden or Germany for example, claim local benefits for kids in the UK? Has any journalist done this simple bit of research?

          • rekrab

            God lord Leslie, 80,000 thousand Olympic fans hadn’t a problem in letting Osborne know he’s a menace.Are you really struggling to convince a young working class voter about a sleaze-bag like Osborne?

          • They are after Basildon, Harlow and Ilford. We need to be the party of Basildon, Harlow and Ilford!

          • Daniel Speight

            No – the enemy is one known as Lynton Crosby from Australia…

            Or is it the likes of Tom Baldwin who told the shadow cabinet not to link the BSkyB takeover with Murdoch phone hacking? Or is it the likes of ex-City businessman Liam Byrne whose views on welfare are almost identical to Ian Duncan Smith’s. Sometimes it’s not the enemies that are easiest to see that pose the greatest danger.

            So Leslie you don’t like the idea of increasing working class parliamentary candidates, but what we have now really isn’t acceptable. The middle class Oxbridge, bag carrier, spad, wonk and careerist makeup of the PLP helps to bring upon the party the disdain shown by the public for the political class in general. Your suggestion of leaving things as they are isn’t an answer.

          • leslie48

            I am not saying that necessarily ; any reputable university like Manchester, Warwick, Liverpool will be just as good. – there are plenty of folk around who went to university later in their lives and did M.Sc.’s in economics or sociology or whatever. Incidentally you or others here are diminishing New Labour which reduced child poverty considerably; there are many policies which under three Labour government improved opportunities in all areas of education, wages, maternity, job rights, health care, pensions, fuel help, tax credits. Under Blair over 2 million people were lifted out of poverty. It was Labour in power for many years doing more for those in lower incomes than these shits in power now.

          • AlanGiles

            But Leslie, with all due respect you seem too be saying again that a University background is essential. Why?.

            Having been responsible for employing a lot of school leavers in my time, I can assure you, there are excellent young men (and doubtless women as well, but you did’nt tend to get them in my field of engineering), who are intelligent, articulate, quick to learn, hard working and loyal, but didn’t go to university, perhaps because of family circumstances, or they didn’t want to – or, possibly, were not considered “good” enough.

            The best human qualities can’t be rolled into a university degree course. Empathy and honesty and integrity doesn’t need an MSc to legitimise it.

            We have had, and it has to be said, still have, highly educated politicians in all parties who are totally unpractical, and worse, untrustworthy in matters of personal conduct. A lot of people who are “clever” on paper never really experience the world of Lidl, or a world of work without important and influential contacts.

          • Rob

            Lynton Crosby didn’t create the gaps the tribes in the Labour Party, Labour did that by appealing to those groups that are net recipients from the state – (1) public sector workers and (2) those not working and those working in part-time and/or low-paid jobs who receive most of their income in the form of benefits.
            Labour hasn’t been particularly generous to public sector workers and as a result lost share of public sector worker votes to the LibDems in 2005 and 2010. Even now, Labour isn’t arguing against the pay freezes or below inflation pay increases that even low paid public sector workers are dealing with.

      • AlanGiles

        Sorry Leslie, this sounds as if I am having a go at you personally. I am honestly not but you say:

        “It does not matter ….. where he/she had their university education”

        The point is, is a university education absolutely necessary? – regardless of which party the candidate represents.

        There is something to be said for people who have not done so – as a great many of the electorate have not been to university either, it tends to imply a university education makes you a “better” politician, or person.

        As we saw during the expenses scandal, a “good” education didn’t stop many men and women from all political parties making the most strange – er – “mistakes” in their expenses.

        Just a thought.

      • John Ruddy

        i agree – however there always seems to be those who think its better to be fighting other people in the Labour movement and party than it is to be fighting the tories. And I’m talking about those on the right of the party as much as those on the left.

    • That was a joke, right? He is another Oxford PPE graduate who lives in London. Double standards.

      • PaulHalsall

        But he has not sold out, or become a spad. Owen is a Stockport boy and almost the only person challenging government rhetoric. Byrne and Milliband aren’t there, and Cooper can’t because she was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and did nothing to stop the Purnell induced disaster.

        • Chilbaldi

          Funny you think he’s a Stockport boy. I’ve heard him say he’s from Stockport, Sheffield, Falkirk, Bognor Regis, Skegness, Timbuktu. He’s casting his net wide is Owen.

        • No, he’s a political comment and a thinktank man – that is even better. People like you go around saying you want local working class candidates in selections but then you endorse an Oxford graduate who lives London who is a political comment and a thinktank man. Complete and utter double standards – what you really want is leftwing, union-backed MPs irrespective of class, profession or university and you might as well be honest about it.

      • No his degree is in a proper subject History.

    • Chilbaldi

      The day the party leadership gift Owen “I’m proper working class, honest” Jones a seat somewhere is the day I become completely disillusioned with the Labour Party.

      The day they inevitably shoehorn Sunny “Vote Lib Dem” Hundal in somewhere is the day I resign my membership.

      • tombristol

        Because allowing left-wingers to stand would be a disaster for the party, obviously. What’s wrong with Owen Jones?

        • Chilbaldi

          – Hugely unpopular with anyone outside the Guardian or far left bubbles

          – Talks a lot of easy, populist (in those circles), gallery playing nonsense

          – Head will explode within next couple of years

          Basically it would seem like a case of: ‘oooooh he’s famous, lets select him.’

          • That is very, very true. That car crash interview on This Week over the tax cut for millionaires, even Alistair Campbell found it funny.

          • The man is basically a one-man rebuttal unit – of course he screws up badly on occasion.

            Personally I find his views on Iraq and foreign policy in general to be infantile but he is doing a sterling job of defending the welfare state and the working class and deserves credit.

          • It does not deserve credit. He calls anyone who disagrees with him a Tory and he provides no alternative. He is just incredible.

      • PaulHalsall

        Owen Jones always makes it clear that he comes from a classic middle class background.

    • AlanGiles

      Good idea.. Here he is on the BBC taking on A.N.Wilson:

    • And Owen’s own background is middle class: father a local authority worker (we are not told at what level but I doubt he was a binman) and mother a ‘respectably paid’ IT university lecturer:

      And if wikipedia is believed he also has a BA and an MA from Oxford University (albeit in History rather than PPE).

      Despite (or rather because of) which he would indeed be an excellent MP.

  • “Perhaps the plan is to run the by-election on the same day as some local elections across the country”

    They can’t hold the by-election on May 2th anymore. They should have moved the writ last week to do so as Parliament is now in recess until 15th. So they can’t move the writ next week either.

    According to the reports back from NEC members, when they discussed Rotherham outcome, Miliband reminded of Thatchell and Wood (Greenwich) being destroyed by the media and the disastrous results they had in their by-elections. So it was pretty clear he didn’t want to go away from NEC panel controlled selections for by-elections. So I am not surprised to see another very quick timetable for South Shields.

    Who a short timetable should favour? I would guess somebody local or somehow already known to members as outsiders don’t have much time to make up the lost ground in 3 days (even if there have been cases of outsiders beating locals even in a quick process). However, as the shortlist is given by the NEC, there may be no locals in the shortlist anyway.

    • John Ruddy

      Surely the NEC should only be concerned with long-listing, and the local party left to short list and then select?
      That way the NEC can be confident they have weeded out anyone who might embarass the party, and the local CLP can be confident they have the option to select the right person?

  • Amber_Star

    Let’s see what the candidate list looks like before we get too excited. Maybe it is the local CLP which is driving the timetable; perhaps the CLP know already who their local candidates will be & want things done quickly to head off any ‘parachutists’ with access to the ‘party machine’.

  • Daniel Speight

    Is Ed saying one thing and doing another I wonder. Or is it the NEC that is not going along with his wishes, which is their right I suppose. Give him a call Mark and ask him why?

  • Charlie_Mansell

    They should hold the election quickly. We should learn from Brent East in 2004 where we lost by delaying the date too much. On a low turnout, we should not underestimate UKIP. 80% of the 36% of votes cast for both coalition parties in 2010 could go to them giving them a nearly 30% base before they add on some culturally traditionalist Labour voters too. Chester Le Street in similar ‘protest vote days’ of 1973 might give you an example of a very plausible result,_1973

    However I would agree with Emma Burnell that shortlisting could be done by NEC members travelling to the constituency, so locals feel more fairly treated

  • H Philby

    Why aren’t we taking the chance to do politics differently? Perhaps because I’ve heard from serveral sources that uber SPAD Patrick Diamond is busy readying his parachute…

    • John Ruddy

      I think the best he can hope for is to be shortlisted. The only way for someone to be parachuted in is if someone resigns too close to a general election (interstingly enough, as in the case of South Shields in 2001!)
      If the shortlist was Patrick Diamond and two or three other local candidates, and Diamond got the nomination from the local members, would you call that being parachuted in?
      To be honest, I would think that if he wanted a seat, his best bet would be to aim for a standard nomination for 2015. Work to get that nomination and then campaign locally to win the seat. Perhaps Hampstead and Kilburn?

      • Hampstead and Kilburn is a AWS. He is a councillor in Southwark which is currently beginning to select for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (that’s open selection) and it doesn’t look like he has applied.

    • Here is the shortlist. Looks like Diamond wasnt even on the long list. So much for your “sources”

  • Guest

    Maybe we aren’t taking a chance to do politics differently because I’ve heard from several sources that uber SPAD Patrick Diamond is busy preparing his parachute…

  • H Philby

    Perhaps because various people have told me that Patrick Diamond (born in Leeds, Mandelson spad, Southwark Councillor, Oxford Fellow) is currently preparing his parachute. There will be uproar.

    • Who? Bermondsey and Old Southwark? If he comes to Parliament that would be a great seat, any CLP will be lucky to have him – he’s welcome talent.

  • Local democracy counts for nothing, Ed Miliband talks the talk but dosn’t walk the walk.

  • Redshift1

    This can be argued till the cows come home but we’re never going to get a reasonable explanation for at least one of these points – shortlisting interviews being held in London. There’s just no excuse for this.

  • zaaqq

    The party won’t change, as I don’t believe it will ever care enough to have the self awareness to understand where the problems are. There’s a detachment from reality that has been there probably as long as their absence of values. Both go hand in hand really and it’s terribly sad.


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