Good morning. Tributes have been paid to Glenys Kinnock who died yesterday at the age of 79. She was a Labour MEP between 1994 and 2009, and as a Labour peer served as a minister in the last Labour government. Keir Starmer said she would be remembered as “as a true fighter for the Labour party and the values of the labour movement, a pioneering woman, to whom we owe an enormous debt.”
Her son Stephen, the Labour MP for Aberavon, said that he was heartbroken, describing her as a “truly formidable person in every single way”, while a statement from her family said she was a “proud democratic socialist”, highlighting her campaigning work “in Britain and internationally, for justice and against poverty all her life”. She is survived by her two children, grandchildren, and husband of 56 years, the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Our thoughts are with them all at this time.
Monday selections round-up
In Macclesfield, Tim Roca has been selected to take on the sitting Conservative MP David Rutley, who has a majority of 10,711. Roca is from the area, but currently serves as deputy leader of Westminster council, and took the lion’s share of union nominations in the selection race.
Meanwhile, in Southend and Rochford, Redbridge councillor Bayo Alaba has been picked to fight the seat for Labour. The seat has been fairly safe for the Tories – it didn’t even go red in 1997, and has been held by James Dudderidge since 2005. In 2019 he had a majority of 12,286 over the Labour candidate, none other than now-MP Ashley Dalton. But, then again, looking at recent by-election performances and current polling, these places with majorities of 10,000 or more are now the kind of places Labour can expect to make gains.
Still underway on the south coast is the interesting selection for Brighton Pavillion. Musician Tom Gray (who touts the backing of Unison, the Musicians’ Union, Usdaw, and Feargal Sharkey), local councillors Birgit Miller and Lucy Helliwell, and comedian Eddie Izzard have all said they are on the shortlist. Whoever wins will be tasked with turning the only Green seat in the country red.
We’re all Thatcherites now?
Keir Starmer made some waves over the weekend by praising Margaret Thatcher, saying that she had “sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism.” This is either exactly the kind of anodyne yet pragmatic comment you expect to hear a Labour leader who wants to win over Tory voters make about a former Conservative Prime Minister, or embarrassing toadying that valorises a woman who used her time in power to wage war on all the Labour movement stands for and holds dear. Or maybe it’s both.
The electoral case for these kind of comments is very easy to make (score points with Conservative voters without making any commitments), and makes sense. We don’t want people to think that, like the French, we in the Labour Party have no word for entrepreneur. On the other side of things, Labour is many, many points ahead in the polls (as I say: far enough ahead as to feel like they could eat margins like those in Southend and Macclesfield for breakfast) but things are rockier within the party itself (dozens of councillors have left the party over the leadership’s positions on a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel, for example), and it is my constant feeling that the leadership could do with keeping more of an eye on party management and statements that might alienate members than they presently do. The Thatcher comments have come in for some pretty harsh criticisms in the Mirror (“Taking for granted older traditional Labour voters who still despise the Rusted Lady is a dangerous strategy”, says associate editor Kevin Maguire).
Internal discontent is a manageable problem – maybe even, some in the leadership might think, an acceptable risk – when you’re polling tremendously well, but we’ll find out if I’m wrong or not if we get into government, the polls are ropey, and things are deeply financially difficult (and, as Starmer will say in a speech later today, Labour won’t “turn on the spending taps” if in power– our write up on that here). As a result Starmer may find it more difficult than it needs to be to, say, get his people onto the NEC. If only, he might say, I hadn’t praised Thatcher in early December 2023. Or maybe not.
There’s also the argument that it’s silly to try and convince anyone that the Labour Party doesn’t hate Thatcher. It’s kind of our whole thing. But God loves a trier, I suppose.
See you tonight!
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In other Labour news…
RESOLUTE: Keir Starmer will give a big economics speech today at the Resolution Foundation. Tom has a write up here.
MATHS: Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson has said that Labour might scrap Rishi Sunak’s plans for maths to 18, in favour of a higher focus on the subject in primary schools (Financial Times).
10 PLEDGES: The pledges that animated Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign have been taken down. The difference between the promises of the pledges and the reality of the policy Starmer has backed as leader has often been used to criticise the now leader.
ANN BLACK: Veteran NEC members Ann Black has her a write up of her most recent NEC report on our site this morning.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.