London Labour has by lengthy custom and practice accepted the principle of standing down candidates at election time in order not to harm the electoral chances of parties with which Labour shares much in common …

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Louise Haigh, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary:

“It’s not my job to be a persuader for the union.”

“And men and women then a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not there,
And hold their adulthoods cheap whiles any speaks
That campaigned with us upon the 1st of May.”

“Yesterday (Monday 29th November) the opposition Labour party had a reshuffle of its shadow cabinet.

This would not usually be anything of note for this blog, as it is the stuff of politics rather than of policy and law.

But there was one change that caught the eye.

The shadow Northern Irish secretary Louise Haigh was switched to the transport brief.

This was, to say the least, a shame.

Haigh had developed expertise and insights into the post-Brexit problems for Northern Ireland and the border dividing the island of Ireland.

She made a particular point of visiting Northern Ireland and Ireland regularly, so as to listen and understand the issues surrounding the Northern Irish Agreement.

She also had not only read the Good Friday Agreement (unlike some ministers), but she also understood it.

There was no better opposition politician to be in place while during reckless, erratic antics of Brexit minister David Frost and his constant threats to trigger Article 16 for no good reason.

And now, all that is lost, and the opposition front bench has to start again.”

No UK political leaders of any party seem to be taking Northern Ireland seriously

“A Labour government in Britain would remain neutral on the question of Irish unity in any future Border poll, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh has said. She described Labour as a unionist party but said the Belfast Agreement meant that the British government should not act as a persuader on one side of the argument.

“The principal of consent is still very much intact. It is only for the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own constitutional future and polls still suggest there is still a very firm majority in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom,” she told GB News.

“It’s not my job to be a persuader for the union, that was an important principle that led up to the Good Friday Agreement. One of the important principles was that Britain should not have any strategic or selfish economic interest in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. It’s up to the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own constitutional future.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said in July that he would be “on the side of unionists” arguing for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.”

The Irish Times of 23rd November 2021

I wonder if Londoner born and bred, Starmer understands that the Irish diaspora vote has a tendency to trend towards Labour in places like Birmingham and that saying Labour would campaign in a border poll with the ultra Unionists has the potential to lose my party way more votes in elections than it might ever gain?

Was his declaration of intent more rather pathetic wooing of the Red Wall Tory vote that seems designed to alienate Remain supporters; liberals; small business people; One Nation Conservatives; 2015 General Election Tory voters, 25% of whom are believed to have voted Remain in 2016; trades unionists …

Is Claire Ainsley’s and Deborah Mattinson’s post General Election book to be entitled “50 Ways to Lose a General Election” or, perhaps, “Keir Starmer: Our Part in his Downfall”?

Although surely even they would not include a chapter on how to woo support in Northern Ireland, the White House and on the Hill by siding with ultra Unionists in Northern Ireland? A policy doing wonders for Boris Johnson and Lord Frost.

The Corbynistas, predominantly located in London, bang on about Israel/Palestine, but here in Birmingham it has been a matter of little or no interest amongst the Muslim community in my city, to my knowledge for decades.

In Birmingham, it is not a pukka (God, those pies are awful!) Labour Party meeting if a Muslim chap with links to, if not property in Pakistan does not bring up Kashmir, usually at some length.

Invariably inviting the traditional, world weary response from the meeting chair, “Sorry, comrade, is there a question in there?”

Yvette Cooper came here in 2015 during the Labour leadership election and found a goodly amount of the Question and Answer session in her campaign meeting taken up by a rambling comment about Kashmir. I think the gentleman in question did not quite get around to seeking her position on independence for Kashmir.

Labour has a decades old policy, agreed at conference, just like the one it has on Israel/Palestine that Corbyn did not get around to changing.

And I surely do not need to tell you about my party’s commitment to pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland?

“The Irish interest in Birmingham, it has included electioneering for the Irish general elections in recent decades past, baffles many, but it reflects the centuries old connections between the settlement and the country.”

GFA is not just for Ireland, but for Birmingham and little boys and girls, everywhere …

Traditionally, Labour’s sister party in Northern Ireland is the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

The SDLP has in the past sat on whichever side of the House of Commons that the Labour Party is sitting and currently has two out of the Northern Ireland seats at Westminster.

The Labour Party does not organise and campaign in Northern Ireland for elections there. Although the party does have individual members registered there.

“Labour opponents of so-called progressive alliances interpret the party’s own rule as saying it must under its constitution stand candidates in all parliamentary seats, in either general elections or byelections, except in exceptional circumstances. But this is disputed by advocates of co-operation who say no such rule exists.”

Opposition parties ‘can oust Tories’ if they cooperate on seats

London Labour has a long standing, informal agreement with the SDLP not to stand candidates at elections in Northern Ireland.

London Labour has by lengthy custom and practice accepted the principle of standing down candidates at election time in order not to harm the electoral chances of parties with which Labour shares much in common.

The SDLP has until very recently taken a strong stance against the liberalisation of abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Hardly a minor issue of disagreement between Labour in Great Britain and the SDLP in Northern Ireland and at Westminster.

Election pacts are not alien to the Labour Party’s traditions.

In 1903, an agreement was made between Herbert Gladstone (the then Chief Whip of the Liberal Party) and Ramsay MacDonald (Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee) that, in thirty constituencies, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party would not stand against each other, and thus would avoid the risk of splitting their vote. As a result of this agreement, in contests against the Conservative Party, 29 Labour MPs were returned at the 1906 General Election and the Liberal Party achieved a landslide.

Highlights of the Liberal Government that followed, included a commitment to Free Trade (lower food prices and a wider range of goods and foodstuffs in the shops) …

… and the establishment of the Welfare State by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill that included the enactment of an Old Age Pension and the establishment of Wages Councils.

The SDLP party platform advocates Irish reunification.

Should one or more SDLP members be returned to the Westminster Parliament at the next General Election along with other parties favouring reunification then Labour might find itself in a bit of a spot, if it needed their support to keep the Tories out of Number Ten.

Starmer and the advisers he personally appointed are just not very good at the nitty gritty of politics and in hock to the Scottish Labour Party with its determined opposition to another independence referendum that might prove to be the price of Scottish National Party support in a hung Westminster Parliament.

Welsh Labour has set up a commission to consider the position of the principality within the United Kingdom and its deliberations will include independence for Wales.

Monday 29th November’s London Labour Shadow Cabinet reshuffle was Old Labour, pre New Labour at its very worst.

Wasting a day of campaigning in the week of an important Westminster Parliament by election and disrupting campaigning for the following three days.

The Shadow Cabinet or as many of them who were available should have been out pounding the streets of Old Bexley and Sidcup on Monday, not being engaged in all the excitement of a reshuffle.

How much better might Labour have done in Old Bexley and Sidcup on Thursday 2nd December, if Team Starmer had not indulged itself itself in the displacement activity of that Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on the Monday preceding it?

Divided parties or those perceived to be divided do not generally do as well as those putting on a united front.

The average voter does not understand the significance of the 1922 Committee undertaking a home visit to the leader of their party nor does the average voter see a thin Government bench at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

They will probably take more notice of …

If Lisa Nandy had had her way back in 2016, a third of the Shadow Cabinet would now be elected by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

At one time, it used to be the whole of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. All of whom became redundant when Labour took office as the Prime Minister had free reign to put whomsoever they desired in their Cabinet.

A two Johns sketch from back in the day (that I have yet to track down) had John Fortune interviewing John Bird, who was posing as a Labour Party apparatchik, in the aftermath of a General Election.

Bird says he is relieved that the General Election is over so they may now focus on the real elections.

“Real elections?” asks Fortune.

“Yes, to the Shadow Cabinet, the National Executive Committee …”

The 1922 Committee visited Boris Johnson in Number Ten last week.

Only a resounding victory in this week’s by election will improve Johnson’s credit with the men in grey suits.

Labour did not have to win on Thursday 2nd December, just reduce the Tory candidate’s vote share as against the 2019 General Election to lower Johnson’s credit further.

Labour did come a strong second, but, odds on, more might have been achieved.

The weightier the Labour vote share and swing to Labour in a by election, the larger the number of Tory MPs eyeing the size of their majority and considering their prospects at the next General Election and the greater their concern about Johnson’s leadership.

Corbyn and his coterie may have gone, but too often it is still amateur hour in the Labour leader’s office.

How else do you explain moving on an impressive Shadow Minister whose friendly connections and contacts might be crucial after the next General Election?

A bit of a dig there at Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Rachel Reeves from a Labour Member of Parliament, who saw off a challenge from a chap called Michael Portillo at the 1983 General Election.

There was at least one occasion prior to the 1997 General Election when one might have asked, “Were you up for Portillo?”

I was certainly up on the more famous occasion and had been since around 05:00 that morning of May 1st.

Bliss it was to see those results coming in after 23:00 in the Councillor’s box at the electoral count at Birmingham’s (Inter)National Indoor Arena.

Here, though, is a cautionary tale.

In the early hours of Friday 2nd May 1997, I was with a senior Councillor at Clare Short MP’s victory party.

We got chatting with young folk for whom this was their first General Election as activists, if not voters as well. Both myself and the Councillor are centrists and pragmatists. And we like to win.

We were adamant that Labour had to move fast to bring in some electoral system for the Westminster Parliament that better reflected the votes cast on practical grounds, if for no other reason.

They were convinced, adamant even, that the Tories had not just been vanquished at the previous day’s General Election, but were down and out for all time, too.

We demurred.

Like Dracula, we both said, the Conservative Party would rise again.

Electoral reform might not drive a stake through its collective heart, but it might diminish their capacity to dominate the politics of our nation.

Nick Cohen‘s article to which Lord Rooker refers in his Tweet.

Elections to the Senedd, itself founded by Labour in its first term after the 1997 General Election are by the Additional Member System.

Welsh Labour has never had a majority of the seats in the Senedd since devolution, but it has led every Government in Wales in that time in formal coalition or alliance with Opposition parties or with their active support.

On Saturday 27th November 2021, Plaid Cymru members backed a Senedd deal with Labour.

A Progressive Alliance was born in Wales!

Lloyd George, possibly a distant relative of mine, once remarked that you may keep your political principles pure and shining bright and not get your hands on the levers of power or get them a little tarnished, get your hands on the levers of power and do something for the good of the people.

Lloyd George the radical, reforming Liberal Chancellor between 1908 and 1915

He also said …

“For now, the Labour Party cannot fulfil its historic mission. Its limitations have been there from its inception, particularly its estrangement from Britain’s great Liberal tradition – Gladstone, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge. Except for the period of New Labour, it has never succeeded in being in government more than six years; and the devastating cul-de-sac it went down over the past decade has made those limitations worse, possibly endemic.”

What’s your most Blairite opinion?

One more heave in a Westminster General Election, Labour, is not going to drive the Tories out of Number Ten and get things done.

It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over, again, and expecting a different result.

And it may be, it may be, then that the Labour Party is now too stupid a party to last as a major force in British politics.

“… we need a new progressive movement; a new progressive agenda; and the construction of a new governing coalition.”

What’s your most Blairite opinion?

“… above all, decide whether it’s about them or about us, about the people or about making us feel good about ourselves. If it’s about them, then winning is the top priority. That means a professional organisation, strategy, preparation, not deluding ourselves that belief in our own righteousness is enough.”

Labour’s task is not to make itself feel better – it’s to win power

London Labour needs to agree alliances, formal or otherwise, well before the next General Election in the expectation that they will help maximise the number of Opposition seats won at that election and help consolidate power, thereafter.

“Britain’s next government will be some kind of coalition. That can be said with confidence, not because the outcome of the next general election is predictable, but because all governments, even those consisting of one party, are some kind of coalition.”

Labour’s best route to power is coalition, whether the party admits it or not

In the immortal words of John Smith MP, Leader of the Opposition, uttered at the end of his last ever public speech at Labour’s 1994 European Gala fundraiser on the night before he died.

“We will do our best to reward your faith in us,

but please give us the opportunity to serve our country,

that is all we ask.”

There are no caveats in that sentence about not entering into alliances.

Labour needs its Louise Haighs where they will do the most good for the party and the country, but may be my party prefers the purity of Opposition to rolling up its sleeves and getting things done in the service of our country?

We know Corbyn preferred winning the moral argument to the burdens placed on office holders and the compromises required of those who govern.

Does Starmer really just want some updated, better performed variation on Corbyn’s theme?

“Rah! Rah! Rah! We’re going to smash the oiks (and then concrete over them)!”

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Going by his podcast chat the other day with Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times, George Osborne still seems to be a bit confused about the point of socio-economic regeneration.

He spoke of the need for at least some capital projects to kickstart levelling up.

“Eton and Oxford and, yet, Johnson you’re still an oik and a clown. Any way, about this fascinating hole in the ground.”

“It’ll cost yah, guvnor, can’t get the labour, the materials … especially the wood, mister … Some prat negotiated and signed off on a Hard Brexit, mate. Its effin’ gummin’ up the works, boss.”

Boris, you went to Oxford University not Scumbag College or the Benny Hill School for the Performing Arts.”

Anyone know what levelling up means yet?

If you do know then pop your answer(s), please, on the back of a post card or in a sealed brown envelope and send them to Boris “Booster” Johnson care of 10, Downing Street, Westminster, London, SW1A 2AA, and not Carrie’s Pad or even, Blue Peter.

Then again …

The lucky winner with the best definition, not using the words, “levelling” and “up” within it, to explain the meaning of levelling up gets a peerage.

No, only joking.

Seriously, they will, instead (or may be not, who knows, eh?) receive the grateful thanks of the nation.

Incidentally, will Labour ever define a good job for the working class to the complete satisfaction of its middle class leadership?

“As an aside, I am from a (white) working class background so the affection for meaningful manual labour, with dignity, to be found amongst a middle class, Corbynistas included, who have never experienced it and have no plans to do so, rather baffles me.”

“I was the first member of my family to leave school, after three years of Sixth Form, and step straight into an office job as an Executive Officer in the Home Civil Service. For a while, when I was starting out in the Civil Service, I lived with my paternal grandparents.

My grandad, a carpenter and joiner, by trade, working class aristocracy, in fact, liked to speak of me proudly to friends and acquaintances as his grandson, the civil servant.”

Keir Starmer needs to fire Claire Ainsley

Osborne wants oodles of capital spend on projects for which Ministers may lay the corner stone, the capping stone and pose, grinning inanely …

… with an outsize pair of rubber scissors to cut the ribbon at the official opening and, you guessed it, unveil the stone marking said opening.

We have one million unfilled vacancies in the UK.

Why not spend a smidgeon of that planned capital expenditure, right now, as revenue and help fill a few of those jobs thereby growing our own domestic work force?

Let us regenerate some people not places for once?

We may not get many into work this way, but it would greatly benefit the individuals in question and possibly stave off some business failures, too.

The Times 29th November 2021

We would, admittedly, be levelling up everywhere to some extent, giving a hand up to those out of work, especially those furthest from the labour market or in some cases even in employment.

We would not be giving much in the way of a hand out to property developers.

And, given the hardest to reach usually respond best, in many cases, to outreach by the (local) voluntary and community sector then we might funnel a bit of money in their direction.

And as Kate Bingham’s boutique consultants have clearly failed to find ways to drive up Covid vaccination amongst disadvantaged groups then that might reasonably be a secondary aim of this spending.

Let us live a little and see if we might not drive up access to primary care, more generally?

We need to persuade people of the general value of tackling Man Made Global Warming so why not some projects around installing insulation in domestic and commercial premises, especially in the less well off areas?

We might even train up some of the locals to do the work, it is relatively easy in comparison with being trained to be a bricklayer (with no ready access to bricks).

Regional organisations to pull this activity together would be nice, like the Regional Development Agencies that David Cameron and George Osborne scrapped.

Agencies, Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves working coherently with employers and other key stakeholders which will is way more productive than politicians engaging in drive by consulting or making flying visits to company premises for photo opps …

… whilst they promulgate well intentioned, I am sure, ideas about what is good for business …

Reeves “enthusiasm for cutting business rates on the high street is not blunted by the evidence that cutting rates gives commercial landlords leeway to raise the rents of their high street tenants and that falls in footfall are likely to prove impervious to rate cuts.”

Team Starmer’s skills advisory panel couldn’t sell air conditioning to Arabs …

A grown up partnership wherein Labour is a responsible adult, directing a potentially wayward child?

… designed, in part, by an IVF salesperson without input from business, trades unions, local and devolved governments.

Do journalists not do research, any more?

The IVF salesperson and Chief Executive Officer of the IVF business founded by his mother, just happens to be the ambitious chair of the South Islington and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party.

We do have growing problems around the scarcity of skills and labour and investment.

Allied with a worrying ignorance amongst much of the political class

Buying, making and selling more in Britain to boost British exports (!), Rachel Reeves, is so 1960s.

Anyone for a rousing chorus of “Where have all the flowers gone?, man!”

… and a high degree of ignorance amongst our London-centric media about good business practice in 2021 and trade, commerce, industry and economics more generally.

One of our faded industrial heartlands …

Anyone for Bullshit Bingo?

Starmer’s speech to the 2021 CBI Conference was full of soundbites like this one …

Meanwhile, on Planet Reality the unemployed want jobs. A well paid boring job with good terms and conditions will do for many people.

If you want an example of a key difference between the middle, the salaried class, and the working, wage earning class, then surely it has to be that for many of the former, an occupation means a career whereas for many of the latter, it is a job.

There is a significant degree of overlap, however, in each group thinking of their particular occupation as a vocation.

People in what the Commentariat and many politicians choose to define as low skilled employment often do take pride in their work.

And one of those low, hard skilled positions invariably requires a significant degree of soft skills.

Bafflingly, if you have worked in skills, Starmer thinks riding a bicycle is a soft skill.

It is actually a hard skill that becomes less hard the better you become at avoiding falling off your cycle.

Seriously, Starmer needs some advice on employability and skills.

To return to my main point, we do not need the harvesting of low hanging fruit; quick hits or shovel ready projects in the context of socio-economic regeneration.

We do need to build on what has worked in the past; learn from what has not and trial new ways of working in a business-like manner.

Evidence based policy making.

We need recognition, especially in the media, that this policy area is not really a party political story.

It is about the building of partnerships of key stakeholders in locales, including politicians from different parties working together for the common good, and the sustaining of such partnerships through thick and thin.

“Former Tory Minister for Merseyside Michael Heseltine was “moved to tears” on learning he was to be given the Freedom of the City.

The revelation came from council leader Cllr Joe Anderson ahead of formally moving that the city’s highest honour should be bestowed on the Conservative peer in recognition for the work he had done to regenerate Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots of 1981.”

Freedom of Liverpool ‘reduced Michael Heseltine to tears’ says Joe Anderson

To mangle a quote, a Labour council a Labour council – handing the freedom of the City of Liverpool to Michael Heseltine (not Derek “Degsy” Hatton) in 2012.

Later on the Corbynistas, embarrassingly for Labour members who have read more than two books, tried to take the credit for the work of that Liverpudlian partnership between a Tory Minister and a Labour council, built on setting aside party politics.

Alan Bleasdale on Derek Hatton, Michael Murray and GBH

Socio-economic regeneration is about the delivery of outputs and outcomes that do not fit neatly into the electoral cycle and is a process that is likely to be never ending.

Storming and norming; rebadging; refocusing etc are disruptive and should only be indulged in when absolutely necessary.

People on the ground in all three sectors of the economy and the locals, residents and businesses that should be at the heart of it all, need the freedom; the power, including relatively easy access to the public money and the responsibility, to work together in relationships of creative tension, allowing a free and frank exchange of views.

Yes, dear reader, I too read, write, speak and comprehend fluent bullshit (to a purpose).

Heaven forfend, that experts in the field of socio-economic regeneration be asked to even make an observation.

And I am not talking here about time filling vox pops on the lunchtime news …

“Ey, lad, the local high street’s gone right down and what are they doing about it? Nuffing that’s what.”

Sotto voce, “Was that what you wanted, son?”

“Perfect and in one take, too!”

The question that never seems to be asked next and broadcast being, “Where do you shop?”

… or GBeebies.

“This is Gloria De Piero for GB News in deepest Ruislip. Fred Sponge, Covid, fact or fiction?”

(Editor: It says Alum Rock on the strapline. Thank God! We’ll go viral, again, on Social Media)

“High street’s gone to the dogs. And what are they doin’ about it? Nuffin!”

“Fred, that’s next week. Now about the draconian lockdown measures. Unfair, if not unnecessary, surely?”

A pity that broadcasters and columnists do not treat vox pops in the serious way Easton describes.

And spare me and the body politic, please, from pointless focus groups and Labour’s particular version of focus group Groundhog Day.

Media and politicians have nearly 100 years of theory and practice in socio-economic regeneration in a UK context from which to draw upon.

There are numerous experts on socio-economic regeneration in the private sector; voluntary and community sector down to community activist level; the public sector and academia with whom to engage.

Instead, we now have the prospect of Lisa “Small Towns” Nandy facing Michael “Grinner” Gove at the Despatch Box and engaging in arid debates about something called levelling up.

There is a certain depressing irony in Gove who campaigned so hard for Leave in 2016 now being shadowed by Nandy, who lost the English Midlands in public when she embraced Brexit in 2017.

Two would be candidates for the leaderships of their respective parties hamstrung by Brexit.

A Hard Brexit limits what may be practically achieved.

You may not lay bricks in a time of scarce bricklayers, HGV drivers and, well, bricks.

Neither major party is willing to publicly admit how much circumscribed they are by the deal the one negotiated and the other endorsed.

Still, at least we do have the opportunity to fill a few jobs, hopefully safeguarding some businesses; may be a chance to improve the health and well being of some of the most disadvantaged in our society and do a bit to tackle Man Made Global Warming.

A main target for spending, an ancillary target and a contribution to two cross cutting themes!

Do I get my peerage now, sorry, correction, the grateful thanks of the majority of the nation who would like to see Labour and the Tories address issues that really matter rather than see them behave like two bald men, fighting over a comb?

Peerless …

We don’t need no education, no London media thought control, we just need some help, right now, to help local people into work …

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Going by his podcast chat the other day with Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times, George Osborne still seems to be a bit confused about the point of socio-economic regeneration.

He spoke of the need for at least some capital projects to kickstart levelling up.

Anyone know what levelling up means yet?

If you do know then pop your answer(s), please, on the back of a post card or in a sealed brown envelope and send them to Boris “Booster” Johnson care of 10, Downing Street, Westminster, London, SW1A 2AA, and not Carrie’s Pad or even, Blue Peter.

Then again …

The lucky winner with the best definition, not using the words, “levelling” and “up” within it, to explain the meaning of levelling up gets a peerage.

No, only joking.

Seriously, they will, instead (or may be not, who knows, eh?) receive the grateful thanks of the nation.

Incidentally, will Labour ever define a good job for the working class to the complete satisfaction of its middle class leadership?

“As an aside, I am from a (white) working class background so the affection for meaningful manual labour, with dignity, to be found amongst a middle class, Corbynistas included, who have never experienced it and have no plans to do so, rather baffles me.”

“I was the first member of my family to leave school, after three years of Sixth Form, and step straight into an office job as an Executive Officer in the Home Civil Service. For a while, when I was starting out in the Civil Service, I lived with my paternal grandparents.

My grandad, a carpenter and joiner, by trade, working class aristocracy, in fact, liked to speak of me proudly to friends and acquaintances as his grandson, the civil servant.”

Keir Starmer needs to fire Claire Ainsley

Osborne wants oodles of capital spend on projects for which Ministers may lay the corner stone, the capping stone and pose, grinning inanely …

… with an outsize pair of rubber scissors to cut the ribbon at the official opening and, you guessed it, unveil the stone marking said opening.

“It’ll cost you, guvnor, I can’t get the labour, the materials … especially the wood … Some prat negotiated and signed off on a Hard Brexit and its steadily gumming up the works.”

We have one million unfilled vacancies in the UK.

Why not spend a smidgeon of the planned capital spend expenditure, right now, on helping to fill a few of those jobs, instead, thereby growing our own domestic work force?

Let us regenerate some people not places for once?

We may not get many into work this way, but it would greatly benefit the individuals in question and possibly stave off some business failures, too.

The Times 29th November 2021

We would, admittedly, be levelling up everywhere to some extent, giving a hand up to those out of work, especially those furthest from the labour market or in some cases even in employment.

We would not be giving much in the way of a hand out to property developers.

And, given the hardest to reach usually respond best, in many cases, to outreach by the (local) voluntary and community sector then we might funnel a bit of money in their direction.

And as Kate Bingham’s boutique consultants have clearly failed to find ways to drive up Covid vaccination amongst disadvantaged groups then that might reasonably be a secondary aim of this spending.

Let us live a little and see if we might not drive up access to primary care, more generally?

We need to persuade people of the general value of tackling Man Made Global Warming so why not some projects around installing insulation in domestic and commercial premises, especially in the less well off areas?

We might even train up some of the locals to do the work, it is relatively easy in comparison with being trained to be a bricklayer (with no ready access to bricks).

Regional organisations to pull this activity together would be nice, like the Regional Development Agencies that David Cameron and George Osborne scrapped.

Agencies, Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves working coherently with employers and other key stakeholders which will is way more productive than politicians engaging in drive by consulting or making flying visits to company premises for photo opps …

… whilst they promulgate well intentioned, I am sure, ideas about what is good for business …

Reeves “enthusiasm for cutting business rates on the high street is not blunted by the evidence that cutting rates gives commercial landlords leeway to raise the rents of their high street tenants and that falls in footfall are likely to prove impervious to rate cuts.”

Team Starmer’s skills advisory panel couldn’t sell air conditioning to Arabs …

A grown up partnership wherein Labour is a responsible adult, directing a potentially wayward child?

… designed, in part, by an IVF salesperson without input from business, trades unions, local and devolved governments.

Do journalists not do research, any more?

The IVF salesperson and Chief Executive Officer of the IVF business founded by his mother, just happens to be the ambitious chair of the South Islington and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party.

We do have growing problems around the scarcity of skills and labour and investment.

Allied with a worrying ignorance amongst much of the political class

Buying, making and selling more in Britain to boost British exports (!), Rachel Reeves, is so 1960s.

Anyone for a rousing chorus of “Where have all the flowers gone?, man!”

… and a high degree of ignorance amongst our London-centric media about good business practice in 2021 and trade, commerce, industry and economics more generally.

One of our faded industrial heartlands …

Anyone for Bullshit Bingo?

Starmer’s speech to the 2021 CBI Conference was full of soundbites like this one …

Meanwhile, on Planet Reality the unemployed want jobs. A well paid boring job with good terms and conditions will do for many people.

If you want an example of a key difference between the middle, the salaried class, and the working, wage earning class, then surely it has to be that for many of the former, an occupation means a career whereas for many of the latter, it is a job.

There is a significant degree of overlap, however, in each group thinking of their particular occupation as a vocation.

People in what the Commentariat and many politicians choose to define as low skilled employment often do take pride in their work.

And one of those low, hard skilled positions invariably requires a significant degree of soft skills.

Bafflingly, if you have worked in skills, Starmer thinks riding a bicycle is a soft skill.

It is actually a hard skill that becomes less hard the better you become at avoiding falling off your cycle.

Seriously, Starmer needs some advice on employability and skills.

To return to my main point, we do not need the harvesting of low hanging fruit; quick hits or shovel ready projects in the context of socio-economic regeneration.

We do need to build on what has worked in the past; learn from what has not and trial new ways of working in a business-like manner.

Evidence based policy making.

We need recognition, especially in the media, that this policy area is not really a party political story.

It is about the building of partnerships of key stakeholders in locales, including politicians from different parties working together for the common good, and the sustaining of such partnerships through thick and thin.

“Former Tory Minister for Merseyside Michael Heseltine was “moved to tears” on learning he was to be given the Freedom of the City.

The revelation came from council leader Cllr Joe Anderson ahead of formally moving that the city’s highest honour should be bestowed on the Conservative peer in recognition for the work he had done to regenerate Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots of 1981.”

Freedom of Liverpool ‘reduced Michael Heseltine to tears’ says Joe Anderson

To mangle a quote, a Labour council a Labour council – handing the freedom of the City of Liverpool to Michael Heseltine (not Derek “Degsy” Hatton) in 2012.

Later on the Corbynistas, embarrassingly for Labour members who have read more than two books, tried to take the credit for the work of that Liverpudlian partnership between a Tory Minister and a Labour council, built on setting aside party politics.

Alan Bleasdale on Derek Hatton, Michael Murray and GBH

Socio-economic regeneration is about the delivery of outputs and outcomes that do not fit neatly into the electoral cycle and is a process that is likely to be never ending.

Storming and norming; rebadging; refocusing etc are disruptive and should only be indulged in when absolutely necessary.

People on the ground in all three sectors of the economy and the locals, residents and businesses that should be at the heart of it all, need the freedom; the power, including relatively easy access to the public money and the responsibility, to work together in relationships of creative tension, allowing a free and frank exchange of views.

Yes, dear reader, I too read, write, speak and comprehend fluent bullshit (to a purpose).

Heaven forfend, that experts in the field of socio-economic regeneration be asked to even make an observation.

And I am not talking here about time filling vox pops on the lunchtime news …

“Ey, lad, the local high street’s gone right down and what are they doing about it? Nuffing that’s what.”

Sotto voce, “Was that what you wanted, son?”

“Perfect and in one take, too!”

The question that never seems to be asked next and broadcast being, “Where do you shop?”

… or GBeebies.

“This is Gloria De Piero for GB News in deepest Ruislip. Fred Sponge, Covid, fact or fiction?”

(Editor: It says Alum Rock on the strapline. Thank God! We’ll go viral, again, on Social Media)

“High street’s gone to the dogs. And what are they doin’ about it? Nuffin!”

“Fred, that’s next week. Now about the draconian lockdown measures. Unfair, if not unnecessary, surely?”

A pity that broadcasters and columnists do not treat vox pops in the serious way Easton describes.

And spare me and the body politic, please, from pointless focus groups and Labour’s particular version of focus group Groundhog Day.

Media and politicians have nearly 100 years of theory and practice in socio-economic regeneration in a UK context from which to draw upon.

There are numerous experts on socio-economic regeneration in the private sector; voluntary and community sector down to community activist level; the public sector and academia with whom to engage.

Instead, we now have the prospect of Lisa “Small Towns” Nandy facing Michael “Grinner” Gove at the Despatch Box and engaging in arid debates about something called levelling up.

There is a certain depressing irony in Gove who campaigned so hard for Leave in 2016 now being shadowed by Nandy, who lost the English Midlands in public when she embraced Brexit in 2017.

Two would be candidates for the leaderships of their respective parties hamstrung by Brexit.

A Hard Brexit limits what may be practically achieved.

You may not lay bricks in a time of scarce bricklayers, HGV drivers and, well, bricks.

Neither major party is willing to publicly admit how much circumscribed they are by the deal the one negotiated and the other endorsed.

Still, at least we do have the opportunity to fill a few jobs, hopefully safeguarding some businesses; may be a chance to improve the health and well being of some of the most disadvantaged in our society and do a bit to tackle Man Made Global Warming.

A main target for spending, an ancillary target and a contribution to two cross cutting themes!

Do I get my peerage now, sorry, correction, the grateful thanks of the majority of the nation who would like to see Labour and the Tories address issues that really matter rather than see them behave like two bald men, fighting over a comb?

Michael Gove tickled their tummies. They purred in response. They licked their lips o’er thoughts of his pork in a barrel, knowing little and caring less, about this Peppa the Pig. Keir Starmer, who he?

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"I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I never promisèd,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will."

Whilst Keir Starmer’s fan club were swooning on Monday over the Confederation of British Industry’s conference being nice about their idol and all the media attention was on Boris Johnson and Peppa Pig, Michael Gove was on Conservative Party leadership manoeuvres, working the room at the Tory dominated County Council Network.

Gove’s promises to the assembled band of councillors included providing a date for elections for the new Somerset unitary local authority before Christmas, along with devolution “County deals” proposals, too.

He said, “Yes” in reply to a question about whether or not the new planning White Paper would include a requirement for zero carbon homes.

I have solid, practical green credentials, you know, unlike you know who …

To a rumble of (rapturous?) support from the ever more admiring throng, he stated, “We are reviewing the position of Local Enterprise Partnerships. My preference is that powers, including development powers, rest with democratically elected bodies.”

“Call me Mike,” he said charmingly, to an ever more attentive, an ever more appreciative gathering.

They are becoming e’er more like putty in my hands, Gove thought to himself. I am wooing the One Nation Conservatives, the chaps we lost at Chesham and Amersham.

A delegate, falling slowly, but deeply in love with our Mike, asked, “Will the planning White Paper look at the issue of developers wriggling out of infrastructure payments (Section 106 agreements to the cognoscenti) on the grounds of viability concerns?”

“I am aware of this issue,” their new found hero replied. “I will look to see if a viability test can be firmed up.”

He tickled their tummies.

They purred in response.

He thought, I have recruited my whips, if my qualities for the leadership of the party must be tested by the mob, correction, the most intelligent electorate in the world.

If Gove becomes the next Tory Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan’s Night of the Long Knives may well be eclipsed.

Surely, put out of the Cabinet will be the Moggy, Slim, Frosty the Nowhere Man, the Geography Teacher, Madam Whiplash, Nepotism Woman …

“Let me have men about me that are fat, Sambrook like,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond finance paper shuffler has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

Uriah “It’s a pleasure to work with you, Prime Minister!” Creep will probably be moved sideways.

“Your humble servant, sir!” has been rather captured by his Treasury officials. They get everyone in the end.

Offering the bright, young lad, who married the daughter of his boss, the Home Office would neuter him nicely, whether he accepted the job or not.

Sir Arnold, “Power goes with permanence”.

Sir Humphrey, “Impermanence is impotence”.

Sir Arnold, “And rotation is castration.”

And Dominic Cummings is already yesterday’s man.

I am not so sure as to the likely fate of the South West Norfolk Globetrotter, the Dangerwoman, the Simon Templar, the Alan Whicker of the Cabinet.

Our Woman in a Suitcase.

Have media team, will travel!

“Photo opportunity, you say?”

“Top Gun on a carrier or astride a big bike?”

“My bags are packed, I am ready to go!”

“Pose like Thatcher in a Chieftain tank, in desert sand, you ask?”

“Only as long as you don’t mention Iran!”

Come what may, there will surely ere long be plenty of choice, tasty morsels to dangle before the Young Turks of the Red Wall, Oop North, to garner their votes during a Tory leadership campaign and guarantee their loyalty, thereafter.

Team Starmer’s skills advisory panel couldn’t sell air conditioning to Arabs in the Sahara Desert, but they might offer them legal advice and natural and mild In Vitro Fertilisation …

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Sir Keir Starmer QC will announce to the Confederation of British Industry’s 2021 Conference “the creation of a new skills advisory panel, including former education secretary David Blunkett, to ensure Labour has the right policies on preparing young people for work.”

“Lord Blunkett will be joined on Labour’s skills advisory panel by former senior civil servant Rachel Sandby-Thomas and businessman Praful Nargund, director of an IVF provider, Create.”

Labour will not ‘throw cash at’ UK’s problems, Keir Starmer to tell CBI

Firstly, may I point out that this was Team Starmer briefing the Guardian, a newspaper predisposed to supporting Labour. One, therefore, assumes that Team Starmer chose to highlight the names of Rachel Sandby-Thomas CB and Praful Nargund. More about that pair in a minute.

One of the reasons why I did not like Corbyn (and there were many) was that he was a wuss.

I had imagined that when he went to address a CBI conference that he would come across all hell fire preacher, making two points in particular:

A. All employers, including the Government should invest more in their new recruits and existing staff, committing to ongoing training and developing.

Most of those in work in the United Kingdom today will be in work, tomorrow, because of our ageing, shrinking workforce.

B. You argued, successfully, for tax cuts on the grounds that you could spend the retained profits better on your businesses than the Government was doing on your behalf. What have you done with that money?

Put aside your begging bowls. It is not the job of the taxpayer to train your staff.

The Government will work in partnership with you, assisting companies with the sourcing of training and supporting Small and Medium Sized Enterprises to access it with funding on a matched basis.

Did he do that?

Like hell he did, but, presumably on the advice of one of his teenage scribblers, he did once say to a group of business people that the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar and the euro was an unalloyed Brexit bonus, good for exporters.

Starmer is no more likely than Corbyn was to lay down the law to the CBI. To say Starmer is risk averse is an understatement.

I like David Blunkett, but he is no spring chicken at 74. And he majored in education not skills when he was a Member of Parliament, a Shadow Minister and a member of Tony Blair’s Cabinet.

Rachel Sandby-Thomas finished her Civil Service career at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills where she had been Director General for Skills, Deregulation and Local Growth from September 2015 to April 2016. Prior to that, she was Director General, Enterprise and Skills from September 2013, and Director General Business and Skills from May 2012.

However, from 1993 to May 2012, Sandby-Thomas had been a member of the Government Legal Service which she joined from the City, where she had worked as a solicitor with Linklaters which she joined in 1987.

In other words, Sandby-Thomas has no background in skills.

It is both a curse and a blessing of the Senior Civil Service that most of its members are generalists.

Sandby-Thomas (as her retirement from the Civil Service drew near?) moved from a specialism wherein she was an expert of decades of standing, most recently at the top of her profession, to a generalism wherein she would have been reliant on expert advice.

In other words, Labour has appointed someone, who for four years was reliant on advice about skills to sit on a skills advisory panel.

Praful Nargund is the award-winning Chief Executive Officer of CREATE Fertility (the family business), one of the fastest growing IVF companies in the world. His company’s mission is to transform IVF, by making it more natural, safe and affordable.

CREATE Fertility offers treatment through its clinics in the United Kingdom, and in Denmark. The business employs 150 people. Incidentally, only 52,195 businesses out of the 2,765,150 in the UK employ 50 or more staff.

Nargund is the chair of Islington South and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party. He studied Law at Oxford University.

Someone else with no background in skills, but something of a background in the law.

In itself, neither panel member is necessarily unsuited to the task in hand. I sat on appraisal panels for the funding of projects in areas where I was not an expert. I even chaired one or two such panels.

However, I either sat alongside or steered experts in the projects being appraised.

I have a good nose for bullshit, but detecting a faint smell is one thing and tracing it to its source quite another hence the subject experts on the panels.

The skills advisory panel “will tour the country with the shadow education secretary, Kate Green, talking to teachers, children (it is usual to refer to them as students) and educational experts.

Blunkett said: “Nothing can be more important than spreading what works, embedding high-quality and inspirational teaching and learning, and adapting a curriculum that provides motivation to young people at every stage, and reassurance to employers that they will have literate, numerate (like Reeves?), creative and responsive employees for the future.”

Labour has already announced that it would place careers advisers in every school, and beef up the teaching of digital skills.”

Labour will not ‘throw cash at’ UK’s problems, Keir Starmer to tell CBI

Starmer, of course, has no idea where he would find those careers advisers.

In retirement, perhaps?

“There are not enough of us of working age, who were born in the UK, to look after the ageing of the UK, who were born in the UK, and do all the other necessary things to keep our society and the economy of the UK functioning.”

Growing our own domestic work force …

There is an episode of The West Wing wherein President Bartlet has a secret plan to address inflation so secret that even he is not aware of its existence.

Starmerites have it seems convinced themselves their hero has a top secret plan to defuse the UK’s demographic time bomb.

Perhaps they would like to share it with their idol?

How does Blunkett propose to guarantee “reassurance to employers”, if he has no idea of what would give them confidence in such a guarantee?

Why is the skills advisory panel planning to tour the country without talking with businesses, in particular, the sort of businesses that are unlikely to be members of the CBI or any other industry or employer body.

And there are a lot of them:

And why will they not be engaging with another key stakeholder in the skills debate, the trades union movement?

Employers and local authorities backed a last-ditch Trades Union Congress drive, earlier in 2021, to rescue a scheme that has helped a generation of workers fulfil their dreams.

“Everything changed in 2016, when McKelvey was offered the chance to do a literacy taster course called Return to Learn, provided by her union, Unison, in conjunction with the union learning fund (ULF), a national government-funded partnership between unions and employers. “I really enjoyed it,” says McKelvey. “The tutor hadn’t gone to university until he was 40. I looked at him and thought, ‘Well, he’s been there, done it’. That inspired me to think I could do the same.” “

UK ministers accused of ‘settling scores’ by axing union adult learning fund

If Starmer genuinely wants to build a partnership with business (with the trades unions, devolved governments and local authorities) then he is going about it in a rather funny way.

He publicly launched a skills advisory panel at the CBI to provide “reassurance to employers that they will have literate, numerate (like Reeves?), creative and responsive employees for the future” after telling the Guardian that very morning that the only key stakeholders with whom the panel would consult were “teachers, children and educational experts”.

Starmer also has an odd way of defining listening in the context of consultation.

If Starmer wants to know how it is done, he need look no further than Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight.

Šefčovič went to Northern Ireland; spoke with all the key stakeholders there, including business people, who would engage with him; listened to what they said and on returning to Brussels, crafted proposals to ease the working of the Northern Ireland Protocol that reflected the discussions he had had with the locals.

Šefčovič has created a lot of goodwill, both for himself and the European Commission amongst folk in Northern Ireland by the manner in which he conducted himself whilst he was there and since then.

As for Rachel Reeves, one gets the impression that she thinks she knows it all.

Her enthusiasm for cutting business rates on the high street is not blunted by the evidence that cutting rates gives commercial landlords leeway to raise the rents of their high street tenants and that falls in footfall are likely to prove impervious to rate cuts.

On a par with Starmer talking enthusiastically about temporary cuts in taxes on profits. Temporary cuts which are not much of a relief to businesses failing to make a profit on which to pay any tax.

Labour’s curious approach to consultation is highlighted by one of Labour’s focus group events, this time in Stoke.

“… the Labour leader has gathered a group of about 30 voters of all political stripes in a warehouse on an industrial estate in Newcastle-under-Lyme, on the outskirts of the city.

There is a mix of young and old from all walks of life, sitting clustered around workbenches in a room usually used for teaching apprentice bricklayers. Only today the lesson is about rebuilding the old “red wall” of former stronghold seats across the north and Midlands, starting with Stoke at its heart.”

“Testing out their ideas for the economy, Reeves and Starmer say they would cut VAT for household energy bills, insulate homes to keep down heating costs, and put a focus on buying more British goods. It’s part of a listening exercise Starmer says will inform policies for the next election. “Your fingerprints could be on something we’ve talked about today,” he tells the audience.

The plans, although fairly vague, draw a positive response. But some worry that the costs of insulating their homes will fall on ordinary people. “I struggle to heat my home and keep the mould out. Council houses aren’t warm enough,” says Tracy. “But taxes are high enough already. It’ll take food off our children.” “

Starmer must offer hope to Stoke and broken Labour heartlands

The Government bullying the public sector into trying to source more British goods and services is a half arsed pitch to, some idea of compensation for, businesses struggling with the loss of custom in the Single Market, courtesy of the Hard Brexit that Starmer and Reeves had Labour endorse at the end of 2020.

It is unclear from the Guardian article if any business folk were amongst the 30 or so participants.

Now, it just so happens, I could persuade most of the group of the value of that plan for home insulation, because I was trained to do it. And I could persuade folk in business of its merits, too, but then I am not from the same career background as Rachel Reeves.

Put simply, insulation material does not grow itself (except on the back of Hardwick sheep bred in England); fabricate itself; sell itself or install itself.

A domestic insulation programme (and why stop with home insulation?) creates jobs and business opportunities as well as saving energy and at the very least slowing down the rate at which an individual’s energy bills might rise.

And, sotto voce lest we spook those timid Red Wallers, it helps with slowing Man Made Global Warming.

The Labour Party is going round in ever decreasing circles with the sort of focus groups organised by Deborah Mattinson (and Claire Ainsley). Sooner or later, the sooner the better, frankly, Labour is going to start to have to have discussions about issues not necessarily to the taste of some voters. The implications of the B word are going to have to be talked through with voters in places like Stoke.

Both main political parties are prone to capture by special interest groups. Labour especially by public sector employees and their representative bodies.

It was not for nothing that a fortnight after Corbyn launched his first leadership campaign, pledging to scrap universal university tuition fees that Team Corbyn rushed out the idea of a National Education Service.

Four years later, we were not much the wiser as to what the NES would mean in reality, except for it being National (in England), about Education and a Service.

Angela Rayner was never given the freedom to flesh out the idea.

Schroedinger’s NES kept the producer interests mostly happy with the basic concept(s).

Labour should engage the brigade with leather patches on the elbows of their jackets, some of its core vote, but it should also do so a lot, lot more with employers.

There are 2,915,000 jobs in education in the United Kingdom and 2,480,140 enterprises, employing nine or fewer staff in the UK.

General Elections in the UK tend to turn on around 200,000 votes.

Starmer needs to live a little, reaching out to business folk repulsed by Johnson’s display of dissembling, bluffing, mindless optimism and economy with the actualité at the CBI Conference. The people who especially recall his two word business policy.

Who knows, Starmer might enjoy taking a risk or two.

Labour should be arguing for education and training providers (in all three sectors of our economy, yes, Keir, there are three) to work more closely with each other and with employers than they often do now .

Fairness not favours combined with free and frank exchanges of views is what Starmer should be pledging under a future Labour Government not more of the same.

If Starmer continues on his current path then his partnership with business will start with a gunshot wedding on the Friday after polling day at the next General Election.

Odds on, that happy event will not take place, because Labour under Starmer will not win the next General Election without stepping well outside of its current, constrained comfort zone.

It is probably worthwhile remembering that Reeves with her PPE (that clearly did not cover basic mathematics) from Oxford only worked in the private sector for four years after six years in the Government Economic Service before becoming an MP in 2010.

Starmer graduated in Law from, yes, you guessed it, Oxford University, and went on to practise law in the private sector at the Middle Temple, but much of his work was with voluntary organisations, like Liberty and public bodies, like the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Foreign Office. He was appointed Head of the Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions on 1st November 2008.

Starmer became an MP in 2015.

Perhaps Sir Keir Starmer QC knows Rachel Sandby-Thomas CB from his time as a lawyer?

Sandby-Thomas, incidentally, provides a degree of educational diversity by having graduated from Cambridge University with a Double First in Law in 1985.

Clearly Praful Nargund is one of us.

David Blunkett certainly is and a safe pair of hands to boot.

Together, they look like the members of the sort of advisory panel that Sir Humphrey might recommend to a Minister.

And that is not the sort of recommendation you should necessarily be acting upon, Sir Keir.

Labour supporters might also want to reflect upon why no one serious is sitting on Labour’s advisory panel on skills, someone as expert as Gerard Coyne, who just happens to be a Labour Party member and respected former Labour Councillor on Birmingham City Council.

Coyne, twice a serious leadership contender for Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, called in 2017 for more investment in skills for young people to help address shortages that could emerge from Brexit.

It is not like Starmer is unaware of Coyne’s existence.

Gerard Coyne is widely respected by people on both sides of the negotiating table and the aisle, partly because he does his homework. He sat on the board of Advantage West Midlands, the West Midlands Regional Development Agency set up by Labour in Government, and, all too briefly, he was a member of the East Birmingham and North Solihull Regeneration Zone’s Board, an area regeneration vehicle for AWM.

AWM and EBNSRZ both had the skills agenda high on their list of priorities.

Gerard Coyne in late June this year:

“All of this makes the government’s decision to abruptly end the Union Learning Fund not just wrong but vindictive and illogical, an out and out contradiction of their own ambitions and the urgent skills needs of the UK.

This Fund had been in place for over twenty years, and supported workers with the skills they needed for employment – often reaching some of the most disadvantaged families and parts of the UK.”

By cutting the ULF, the government is undermining its own skills agenda

“For more than 20 years the Union Learning Fund has supported working people to access skills and training at work, through their unions.  Last year more than 200,000 learners got new skills through union learning. The government funding taught people to read, write and use computers: last year 62,000 got basic English, maths and IT skills through union learning. And thousands got their first ever qualification.”

“Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North of Tyne said the Union Learn project would be an essential part of the fight to eradicate poverty and inequality. 

He said: “North of Tyne are stepping in with a £430,000 investment to make Union Learn even better. 

“Workplace learning plays a vital role in helping people get the confidence and skills needed to develop their careers and job opportunities. 

“It puts more money in workers’ pockets and is good for employers and our local economy. Every £1 invested in Union Learn creates an economic benefit of £12.80.  

“Trade unions play a unique role in supporting workplace learning. Their network of 40,000 volunteer union learn reps reaches workers who are stuck in low paid work due to lack of qualifications or skills. 

“They help the hardest to reach people access learning and training and excel at supporting less confident learners. 

“That’s why I was outraged by the government decision to axe Union Learn Funding and I committed to doing something about it.”

North of Tyne commits to Union Learn Project

I served the EBNSRZ board on secondment from the Jobcentre Plus District Manager’s Office for Birmingham and Solihull in the capacity of Employment Development Manager, working closely with the Skills Development Manager and as deputy to the Deputy Chief Executive of the Zone. We were a very small team.

And a good friend of mine was one of that 40,000 mentioned by Mayor Driscoll.

May be no one serious, no one credible in the eyes of business and labour on the subject of learning and skills believes the Labour Party is going to win the next General Election under Starmer and Reeves?

Why would they want to waste their spare time working up recommendations for Labour that are highly unlikely to be enacted?

“Sorry, Boris, it’s time to go by 10 to 0,” say the officers of the Conservative Party Association of Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham …

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“Winston Churchill offered this advice about how the Conservative party should treat its leader. “The loyalties which centre upon number one are enormous. If he trips, he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he sleeps, he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good, he must be pole-axed.”

Boris Johnson has united every Tory faction – in anger at him

The Hard Left likes to believe that a handful of them gatecrashing the end of a peaceful mass demonstration against the Poll Tax put an end to the tax and then Margaret Thatcher.

It is a cherished myth to which they still cling, limpet like.

Their throwing of scaffolding poles did make great pictures for the mass media, though, and seemingly etched itself into the minds and collective memory and consciousness of our Riks of today (see Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain).

George Monbiot glueing his ear to the tarmac of the M6 will not …

However, it was sober citizens, sidling up to their local Tory MP for a quiet word at the 19th hole or in the Association bar of what some now style a Blue Wall constituency, who put paid to the Poll Tax (and then Thatcher).

The Poll Tax was deeply unpopular with the Conservative Party’s core vote.

Thatcher had lost her electoral mojo.

The Liberal Democrats say some of those same sober citizens in 2021, One Nation Conservatives; Tories opposed to Johnson’s brand of Brexit; Remain supporting Tories (25% of the Tory vote at the 2015 General Election are estimated to have voted Remain in 2016) and small business people, handed them their Orpington 1962 by election style victory in the recent Chesham and Amersham by election.

Orpington pointed the way to Labour’s narrow victory in the 1964 General Election.

To mangle a David Frost quote, will Dull Alec beat Smart Alec next time out?

The One Nation Conservatives do not like Boris Johnson’s character or lack of it; Remain supporting Tories, some Tories who voted Leave and small business people do not like his Hard Brexit.

Keir Starmer does not seem to hold much appeal for them, either.

Yet, when you look at the Chesham and Amersham by election result, you do see a great opportunity for a political party led by a sober suited, hard working, serious Knight of the Realm and Queen’s Counsellor, a loving father and husband.

Labour had its worst Parliamentary by election result not under Corbyn, but Starmer

Admittedly, he is a tad dull and campaigns in prose not poetry.

Keir Starmer’s unique selling point is surely that he is the complete opposite of Boris Johnson?

He is the chap any responsible parent would want their offspring to bring home as a prospective life partner, is he not?

I gather Johnson made no visits to Chesham and Amersham during the by election campaign or, if he did they were very low key.

The losing Tory candidate, like Pitt the Even Younger roundly criticised the voters of Chesham and Amersham for not taking the chance to elect him their Member of Parliament.

“The people have spoken, the bastards.”

Dick Tuck

He had deigned to stand in their seat.

What more did they want?

The Tory’s defensive talking points for the media, echoed enthusiastically by Labour and propagated by many amongst the Commentariat, were that the Conservative Party lost Chesham and Amersham and it was their seat to lose, because of NIMBYism, particularly the furore around changes to planning legislation and the building of HS2.

Labour suffered one of its worst ever by election results in Chesham and Amersham, if not the worst, with only 622 votes cast for its candidate.

Things can only get better may need to be replaced with the only way is up or keep on running, keep on hiding. A little Birmingham reference, there.

May be it was a bit too early for the Tories to further flesh out the lines to take with our old friend, mid term blues (and in the process embarrass Labour)?

Labour on the ground in Chesham and Amersham only put out a token leaflet (Starmer has yet to grasp how far a Labour leader’s writ really runs at election time), because they were convinced that the Liberal Democrats were well placed to take the seat.

They are, I have been, told eyeing up Steve Baker FRSA’s (whatever did he do for that?) Wycombe where he admits he has lost the support of affluent, Remain supporting Tories.

His answer?

To campaign against the cost of tackling Man Made Global Warming.

In a YouGov poll, 76% of those polled said they believed in Man Made Global Warming

I think Baker (a latter day, real life Sir Talbot Buxomly?) is trying to reclaim for the Tory Party the title of the Stupid Party.

If Johnson goes then Labour’s poll leads will, odds on, evaporate.

Starmer is at his best when enthusiastically prosecuting something or someone at PMQs.

Neil Kinnock was actually better at PMQs up against Thatcher than Starmer is cross questioning Johnson, but Kinnock still never won a General Election.

A new competent (looking) Tory leader and Prime Minister, cracking down on sleaze and corruption, surely anything will be seen as an improvement on where we are, today, will most likely shoot Starmer’s fox.

And Labour, still gun shy of any association with Labour’s winning team, will regret not doing more to heed the words of Lord Mandelson, “One thing is clear to me – it’s that Tory sleaze is not going to win the next election for Labour.

It will loosen and crumble a lot of support for the Tories and people will reach the conclusion that they are out for themselves and that they suit themselves and they fill the pockets of their own cronies and supporters, that’s true.

But that doesn’t mean to say that Labour’s just got to sit back and wait for the election to fall into their laps.

That’s not how you win elections.”

Labour Won’t Win Election With ‘Tory Sleaze’ Attacks Alone

Labour’s only hope, for now, seems to lie in the Tories shooting themselves in the head by electing a new leader too closely associated with Johnson to escape the gravitational pull of his battered legacy.

It is surely not for nothing, though, that Michael Gove routinely mimics Macavity and casts off former allies and acquaintances?

I know thee not, Cummings: fall to thy prayers;
Reply not to me with a fool-born blog post, rewriting history:
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
Till then, I banish thee,
As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
Not to come near our person by ten mile.
For competence of life I will allow you,
That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
Give you advancement.”

With due apologies to that well known Midlander, William Shakespeare.

Michael Gove tickled their tummies. They purred in response …

Oops! … I Did It Again or A Symphony for Youngish Lovers Suffering from Buyers Remorse?

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“You do realise that I am going to lose the deposit on that suit now? It’s a rental!

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

I think I did it again
I made you believe we’re more than just friends
Oh baby
It might seem like a crush
But it doesn’t mean that I’m serious
‘Cause to lose all my senses
That is just so typically me
Oh baby, baby

Oops, I did it again
I played with your heart, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby
Oops, you think I’m in love
That I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent

You see my problem is this
I’m dreaming away
Wishing that heroes, they truly exist
I cry, watching the days
Can’t you see I’m a fool in so many ways
But to lose all my senses
That is just so typically me
Oh baby, oh

Oops, I did it again
I played with your heart, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby
Oops, you think I’m in love
That I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

All aboard
Britney, before you go, there’s something I want you to have
Oh, it’s beautiful, but wait a minute, isn’t this?
Yeah, yes it is
But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end
Well baby, I went down and got it for you
Aww, you shouldn’t have

FLoDS, FBoDS and FLOTUS on the beach in Cornwall during the G7 Conference

Oops, I did it again to your heart
Got lost in this game, oh baby
Oops, you think that I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent

Oops, I did it again
I played with your heart, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby
Oops, you think I’m in love
That I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent

Oops, I did it again
I played with your heart, got lost in the game
Oh baby, baby
Oops, you think I’m in love
That I’m sent from above
I’m not that innocent

“When you’ve got him firmly by the scrotum, his heart, mind and wallet will follow?”

Boris Johnson to sue The New European over “buyer’s remorse article …

The Strange Case of Cummings, Frost, Johnson and the Lightweight(‘s) Red Boxes … “Would Inspector #Brexit please report to Number Ten immediately.”

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Dominic Cummings on the trolley with the wonky wheel he personally picked out

There is one important subject I do not want to pass over, the mistake which princes can only with difficulty avoid making if they are not extremely prudent or do not choose their ministers well.”

The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli

I find it hard to believe that the Civil Service and the Diplomatic Service did not provide Boris Johnson as Prime Minister with detailed briefings of the likely consequences of the various versions of Brexit on UK society, the UK’s economy as well as its foreign and defence policy.

We know of the existence of Operation Yellowhammer:

… and of assessments like …

… and this chap was the face of the Leave Campaign, run by a fellow called Dominic Cummings.

Boris Johnson is a heavyweight politician of many decades standing …

… the Member of Parliament for Henley between 7th June 2001 and 4th June 2008; a two term Mayor of London from 3rd May 2008 to 9th May 2016; and (chortle) the Secretary of State for Foreign (and Commonwealth) Affairs between 13th July 2016 and 9th July 2018.

And then there was all this advice and opinion from so many credible sources …

… so where did it all go (wrong)?

Well …

“Boris Johnson’s aides have been ordered to send him shorter memos, limiting papers to just two sides of A4. Civil servants have also been told to cut the number of documents put into the prime minister’s red box to “make sure that he reads them”.

The edict emerged after Johnson spent a week away at his Chevening country house. Members of the Downing Street policy unit were told to provide “weekend reading” for the prime minister on keys aspects of policy. But a source said: “They’ve been told it should be an easy read: no more than four pages, or he’s never going to read it. Two pages is preferable.” “

The prime minister’s vanishing briefs (The Sunday Times, 23rd February 2020)

“Boris Johnson’s aides have been told to keep memos to the Prime Minister short to ‘make sure he reads them’, it has been reported.

Officials have been told the cut the number of papers given to Mr Johnson for “weekend reading” and keep any memos that do make it into his red box to two sides of A4, according to the Sunday Times.

As floods devastated parts of the country following a series of storms, Mr Johnson has spent much of the last week at Chevening, a country house usually used by the Foreign Secretary.

He has not been seen in public since Valentine’s Day, when he held his first meeting with new cabinet ministers.

The Sunday Times reported senior aide Dominic Cummings had placed a hard cap on briefing documents added to Mr Johnson’s red ministerial box.

A source told the paper: “Box submissions have to be brief if he is going to read it. If they’re overly long or overly complex, Dom sends them back with savage comments.”

The reports are reminiscent of tales which emerged in the early days of the Trump administration about officials having difficulty getting the US President to read critical documents.

Officials were said to keep briefings to a single page, and to include as many pictures, graphs and maps as possible, so as to keep President Trump’s notoriously short attention span focused.

It’s said National Security officials would also include the President’s name in the text of any paragraph that required his particular attention, because he liked to read about himself.”

Boris Johnson’s aides ‘told to keep memos short’ to make sure he reads them

“The Downing Street policy unit was said to have been asked to provide the PM with ‘weekend reading’ but was told any documents had to be an ‘easy read’.

Meanwhile, the PM’s top aide Dominic Cummings is apparently blocking documents due to be placed in the premier’s ministerial red box if he deems them to be too long or complex.

The claims, reported by the Sunday Times, sparked a backlash as Whitehall sources suggested those running the government were operating as if they had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

“The Number 10 policy unit was apparently asked to provide the premier with memos on different policies so that Mr Johnson can be fully across proposals. 

But a source said the instructions were clear that the documents must be kept as brief as possible. 

They said: ‘They’ve been told it should be an easy read: no more than four pages, or he’s never going to read it. Two pages is preferable.’

The PM’s red box is filled every day with crucial documents and briefings for him to read. 

But Mr Cummings is said to have taken a strict approach to what is allowed to go into the briefcase. 

An official said: ‘Box submissions have to be brief if he is going to read it. 

‘If they’re overly long or overly complex, Dom sends them back with savage comments.’

A Whitehall source told the Sunday Times it was ‘government by ADHD’. 

It came as David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, criticised the government for reportedly coming up with a ‘hit list’ of senior civil servants it wants to replace as he also hit out at Mr Cummings. 

Mr Davis said current issues in the civil service would not be resolved with a ‘firing squad’. 

Mr Cummings previously described the former Cabinet minister as ‘thick as mince’ and accused him of being as ‘lazy as a toad’. 

Mr Davis today hit back, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Mr Cummings was not likely to be in a position of power for very long.”

Boris Johnson’s aides told to keep briefing memos to two pages

” ‘I mean, Cummings doesn’t like me, I know that, that’s self-evident, but frankly he’s a special adviser – here today, gone tomorrow,’ he said.”

Boris Johnson’s aides told to keep briefing memos to two pages

Was Dominic Cummings when lightening the load of Boris Johnson’s Red Boxes, removing any briefing papers on the consequences of a Hard Brexit or did Johnson receive some, but either not peruse them or of those he did read, not understand them?

And where was Lord David “Sovereignty at all costs” Frost whilst all this was not being boxed up or being provided and not read or being supplied and not understood?

In the British Embassy in Brussels, clutching a lead pipe, sorry, a bottle of whisky, recalling his last job, promoting uisge beatha and reminiscing about his lost youth?

Or did Boris Johnson understand the consequences all along?

KISS, Keir Starmer, KISS!

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Your Tory MP wants to make money on side when he/she (delete before publishing as appropriate) should work for you.

or

Tory MPs want to make money on the side when they should be working for you/the country (delete before publishing as appropriate).

(Consider collage of newspaper front page headlines on the scandal, ideally from the Mail, the Sun and/or the Express)

Labour works for you!

Team Starmer keep knocking out sub-standard campaign material.

It is poorly presented, badly worded and confuses the message.

Frankly, who cares for what Labour called and who voted which way?

And dodgy second jobs implies there are legitimate second jobs.

Do we want to get the average voter puzzling over the difference between the two? The average voter who takes little or no interest in politics between one polling day and the next?

No, we do not.

We want to get their attention and present a straight talking message not sow confusion about it or detract from it.

Labour Batley and Spen By Election Campaign Material

Posters and memes requiring interpreters and/or footnotes to fully comprehend their meaning are an ineffective means of communication.

Is there any polling on whether voters are more likely to know their MP’s name or recognise their photograph or vice versa?

Clearly, Team Starmer think the photograph trumps the name or else why lowlight the name?

And, if you must use photographs of Tory MPs, do not use an (agreeable, soft focus) image they would pick for themselves.

Definitely avoid one they would happily put on their own party leaflets.

In fact, why promote them at all? It is like Labour putting out a knock up leaflet on polling day in an area known to solidly vote Tory.

You just do not do it.

Although, I confess that I did like this image of Tom Randall.

Are Labour’s memes Disability Discrimination Act compliant?

Are the sizes of the fonts, the use of descending text size (!); the colours; the blocks; the use of bold lettering and italics accessible to the many not the few?

Are these memes just too busy for the message?

Tory MPs want to make money on the side when they should be working for you.

Labour works for you!

Keep It Simple Stupid!