The real cost of Corbyn’s reshuffle — Labour is talking about itself not what voters care about.

The real cost of Corbyn’s reshuffle — Labour is talking about itself not what voters care about.


Donald Brind – from a Labour perspective

I woke up this morning to hear a devastating critique of the Chancellor George Osborne’s record on the Today programme. Under him “we haven’t rebalanced the economy towards manufacturing, exports and the regions .. fixing the roof when the sun shines never happened.”

A perfect script for the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell you might think but this was, in fact, John Longworth, head of the British Chambers of Commerce speaking. He had just published a report showing that manufacturing is close to stagnation and growth will be slower than expected.

The Today programme also interviewed the Chancellor about his heavily trailed speech warning of the perils facing the country’s economy

But why no invitation to McDonnell? His absence from the Today studio was, if you like, the “opportunity cost” of Jeremy Corbyn’s protracted reshuffle. McDonnell had been sent off to the Today the previous morning to defend the sacking of shadow Europe Minister Pat McFadden and shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher. He’d had his quota of airtime on the BBC’s flagship news programme.

He was in demand later by the BBC and others but his Today experience illustrated a broader point about the reshuffle – even if it had been well planned and smoothly executed — what it offered voters was Labour talking about itself and not about the things that voters themselves care about.

That cost was also evident at Prime Ministers Questions where the Labour leader’s team had prepared for him a searching list of questions about flood prevention – a classic example of the false economies that are a feature of Osborne’s record as Chancellor. But David Cameron was equally well prepared, glossing over cuts in funding for flood prevention schemes, and scorning the reshuffle in every answer.

He delivered brilliantly an elaborate riff on based on the fact that this year sees the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. “There was a moment when it looked like this reshuffle could go into its twelfth night. It was a revenge reshuffle, so it was going to be as you like it. I think, though, we can conclude that it has turned into something of a comedy of errors—perhaps much ado about nothing. There will be those who worry that love’s Labour’s lost.”

Perhaps those with most reason to be aggrieved about the effects of the reshuffle were Labour’s London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan and the thousands of party supporters who turned up stations across the capital. They were handing out leaflets trumpeting Khan’s key pledge to freeze fares for four years. The reshuffle ensured the campaigning got less media attention than it might have done.

Yet despite the background noise Khan is campaigning strongly and his chances drew upbeat assessments from James Kirkup in the Telegraph and Alice Thomson in the Times.

Thomson pointed to polls putting Khan ahead. “Despite the assumption that all women swoon over Goldsmith, it is Khan who is way ahead with female voters as well as with the young.”

Labour is strong in London, she says, with 45 of the capital’s 73 MPs and more than 80,000 people voted in Labour’s selection but fewer than 9,000 in the Tory equivalent adding “Khan has the better machine.”

Thomson suggests that the “Tory high command” wouldn’t be too bothered about defeat for Goldsmith — “ though they would never admit it” The reason? – “they wouldn’t mind boosting Jeremy Corbyn. If he can win last year’s Oldham by-election and this year’s mayoral election, then he might yet cling on until the general election which is exactly what Mr. Cameron’s potential successors — George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson — want.”

For Labour victory for Khan is important not just because he will be a good Mayor but because his campaign is outward looking — dealing with issues that voters care about. He is providing a model of inclusive leadership that the party desperately needs.

Donald Brind

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