Stephen Kinnock, Neil and Glenys’ boy, was saying in the Guardian the other day that what Labour in Scotland really needs is a jolly good ‘re-branding’.

“…calling it the Scottish Democratic Labour party. Or the Scottish Radicals. Or the Scottish Progressive party.” He later clarifies that “the word ‘Labour’ has to stay in there, because we are the party that believes in productive, fulfilling work.” But otherwise, he says, the Scottish result requires Labour “to do some kind of radical rethinking and rebranding…”.

It’s the language of an Armando Ianucci comedy, of course and If I was a proper writer I’d just leave it at that, because Kinnock was elected just last week after a very average career in NGO-ville and has over that period spent little time in the UK, let alone Scotland. “Rebranding” – like a poor-man’s Douglas Alexander, mindlessely absorbing jargon from chocolate and pants marketeers, and then, worse, spewing it out as if it’s a meaningful contribution to anything? And which party doesn’t believe in “productive, fulfilling work” anyway? WT Actual F?

But as I’m not a proper writer, I’ll pop a couple of related things on the back-end here just out of self-indulgence.

Kinnock’s been all over the media this week and I’ve found him a bit of a curate’s egg, also emblematic in some ways. He interviews on radio and TV very well, although I think the broadcasters will ask him to be less long-winded in the coming months. His interview with the Guardian reminds me, a little, of a famous Lynn Barber interview (paywall) with Rafal Nadal where she probes him about his relationship with a girlfriend he obviously very rarely sees. Yet while there exist ambiguities that might affect Kinnock in future, my instinct is that his constituents will be proud of having a Kinnock around and will be fiercely protective of him. For Welsh people are GOOD (apart from the hats, obv).

So, Kinnock’s clever and personable with super political lineage (whether or not you appreciate Neil, which I do, and everyone loves Glenys) and has probably unwisely put himself out there too much too early – but we’ll see. What I find most interesting, though, is that he controverts the Red Princes idea of Labour MPs fixing it for their kids. In a classically mis-aimed New Statesman piece a while ago, written from Cairo, it was argued that Labour had a problem with nepotism – the Red Princes notion even became a meme for a while. Yet if you take a look at the picture of Red Princes in the piece, you’ll see that only Kinnock is now an MP. So much for that theory.

The truth is that Labour does have a pressing aristocracy problem, but it doesn’t relate to not-awfully-inspiring offspring (Euan Blair left a junior appointment with Morgan Stanley to work in Coventry? Erm…) – it’s about the extent to which the Blair and Brown era of power has given way to a period of powerlessness under back-room boys and girls who were never tested as politicians before they were placed at the very top of the pile by their patrons.

Patronage has always been a large part of politics, of course, but for the UK Labour Party at the moment, past and present patronage is everything.

So, Gordon’s special adviser has just lost an election, and because another of his special advisers has lost his seat, the party’s being asked to have another of the former’s special advisers (and the latter’s wife) as leader. Only that’s not going happen because David Blunkett’s special adviser is the one who ‘most impresses’ Len McLuskey. Ach, say some, if only Tony Blair’s special adviser wasn’t in New York being spiteful about his brother still, we wouldn’t have to rely on Harriet Harman’s special adviser getting on the ballot paper, because Peter Mandleson’s special adviser has ruled himself out now that he can’t get the numbers. Oh, but wait, Glenys Kinnock’s special adviser is having a go – no, false alarm, she’s just trying to get her face on telly. And we’ve gone full circle and disappeared up our own bottoms…

Stephen Kinnock? It’s the media who want him out there precisely because of the defunct Red Prince meme. And also because they want to build him up before they screw him. Whatever you think of Cameron, Osborne, May, Johnson, Salmond, Sturgeon, Clegg, Farron, the rest, they all had to win proper political battles on their own account, be seriously successful in the political arena, to get to the top. It’s only Labour that puts “Whose yer uncle?” first, and that’s a devastating combination of personal interest and self-destruction.

Two of the cleverest MPs I knew at the Commons were Davie Hamilton and Dave Anderson – there are plenty more Labour MPs like them. Both ex-miners, super-smart, emotionally intelligent, proper political operators yet thoroughly appealing people in the Alan Johnson mould. (Shadow) Cabinet ministers? No, of course not. For now, and for as long as Labour has no serious hope of winning an election, such folk are just  “cheeky northern/Scot rascals ‘up to no good” (para 6)’.

4 Responses to Red Prince, Labour Party aristocracy, cheeky northerners
  1. Ashcroft’s wife persuaded Ashcroft to donate £100,000 to Cameron’s leadership campaign, and the snobbery was palpable as per Sir Alec Douglas-Home surely?

    The Osborne K (to be inherited) is his link to the auld ascendancy, starving the Iriish long years, as the Bullingdon boys now starve some of the poorest.

    I was a postie when Alan Johnson was passing from General Secretary – where his failure to oppose TQM etc adequately was a disgrace – and his ascendancy strikes me as less innocent than those like Ed Mili who worked for people whose interested they continued to try and promote.

    Dave Davis’ competence summed up by his failure of a final speech for the Tory Leadership and resignation as Shadow Home Sec surely? A ludicrous set of misjudgements for any politician.

    Westminster bubble nostalgia, Eric?

  2. To my mind the lies about the imagined deal Ed Miliband was supposed to intend with Nicola Sturgeon, who had said she’d not vote down a Labour Queen’s speech, (and whose party could hardly risk another 1979) made the difference, albeit the lies about Labour and the economy 1997/2010 win the election.

    Ed Mili may have been Brown’s apprentice. Cameron was Lamont’s Chief Political Advisor who led the team which wrote the “Unemployment is a price worth paying” speech which got him the sack. He and Osborne worked at CCHQ and for Howard.

    Notoriously Cameron’s career has been followed from the Palace.

    I find Cameron’s relation to HMQueen and a hanger on there, and Osborne’s hereditary knighthood more objectionable than the media concerns about the heirs of former Labour leaders.

    It seems to me the bias the foreign and UK tax avoider owned media promote should be coubtered, not promoted.

    • Thanks, as ever. I understand where you’re coming from but:

      Surely an accepted personal knighthood (#kierstarmerforpm) leaves the recipient needing to answer more questions than a hereditary one?

      And Cameron came from miles behind to beat David Davis, a thoroughly professional (and decent) politician who was favourite to win the leadership. It was a proper scrap – no-one fixed the defeat of Davis other than Cameron himself. Labour advisers have literally never had anyone stand in their way. It’s the great failing of Alan Johnson, is the harsh truth.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *