The Labour Party leadership contest – “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”


“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is an American popular song  with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ted Koehler. Cab Calloway first recorded it in 1931. The Boswell Sisters recorded the song with The Dorsey Brothers in 1932. Frank Sinatra also recorded the song in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald recorded it for her 1961 Verve album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook. Thelonious Monk plays it on his 1967 album, Straight, No Chaser and George Harrison recorded it on his  final album  “Brainwashed”. This popular song would make a fitting soundtrack to the current leadership contest.

I received Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign literature and  I  hit the reply button and the address that popped up was Owen Smith’s campaign address. Bizarre to say the least. This was the reason I included Owen Smith in my email to Jeremy Corbyn.

Dear Mr Corbyn

Regrettably your campaign seems unable to answer my questions I  sent to you by email and post. Now you are seeking my views. Here they are; although if you run true to form you will pay no heed as your campaign team appear unable to process the correspondence:

As a Labour Party member for over thirty years, what I want  from yourself and Owen Smith  is a rigorously costed, prioritised, concrete action programme with the detail of the wherewithal to finance the delivery of your pledges. I expect to see as a matter of priority a programme of re-industrialisation – for the avoidance of doubt, I am not talking about infrastructure projects but rebuilding a strong manufacturing base with a trained work force, a strong, well funded research and development policy – and an end to the housing scandal that has been ignored by politicians of every stripe for some years.

I expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to stand behind whoever wins the leadership election. The unpalatable truth is that no matter who wins the leadership election they will lose the next general election as they conveniently  forget that positioning in the minds of Labour Party members is one thing  but positioning a credible manifesto in the minds of the electorate is another. I then trust that a caretaker leader will be elected whose task is to ensure there is a leadership election with a slate of credible candidates – including female and diverse candidates – who have substantial hinterland and will provide this member with real choice.

In terms of gender and diversity the Labour Party is strong on bombast and  magniloquence but well short on action.  I recently made a Freedom of Information enquiry on special advisers. I was informed that special advisers are recruited as temporary civil servants. Special advisers are personal appointments made by Ministers under the Constitutional Reform and Government Act 2010 and are exempt from the requirement to be appointed through fair and open competition. No information on the pay, appointment, gender or ethnicity of special advisers is held by Government. However contrary to this reply the Cabinet Office published Special adviser numbers and costs for December 2015.The estimated pay bill for 2015/16 is £8.4 Million. Opposition parties, to which the same non-rules apply, are entitled to £7.1 million from Short Money allocations for 2015/16.

A total of £15.1 million pounds will have been spent on unelected “personal” appointments that fly in the face of the Equality Act 2010.

If you and Owen Smith, a political adviser to Paul Murphy the former Northern Ireland secretary, wants to ensure gender equality and diversity then you should both ensure special advisers are appointed through open and fair competition and that becoming a special adviser is not a tawdry, backdoor  into the House of Commons.

The political establishment is bounded by the rationality of the past. The first past the system is now an anachronism. Labour is  entrenched in its old ways. The Conservatives foisted on the nation a needless referendum and will be hard put to extricate themselves from the mess of their own making. Add to this a growing number of politicians on all sides who have slid into politics via public relations, as special advisers, short lived media jobs and think- tanks. Few of them appear to have got their hands dirty working in manufacturing, agriculture, services or not for profit work. This lack of “real” world experience and an informed view of how people live has created an electorate that is disenchanted and alienated by a political system which has failed the country and the electorate.

The solution is reform. A federal system for England that gives regions a strong voice; replace the House of Lords with an elected Second Chamber, the “first past the post system” replaced with proportional representation, public funding of political parties. Compulsory voting where every citizen has to vote even if it is to register an abstention. Different ways of electing parliamentary candidates that bypasses the sclerotic party machinery, for example, Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

With regard to voting for a leader of the Labour Party, I voted for Owen Smith, marginally the best of the two appallingly weak candidates.  The reason for my vote is the utter lack of leadership that is the hall mark of the current Parliamentary Labour Party and the Party at large. With the charge of the light Brigade they at least knew in which direction they were heading.

cc Owen Smith

This will come as no surprise but no reply was received from Jeremy Corbyn. However Owen Smiths campaign team did reply.

Attached documents (click to download)

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