Has Chuka Umunna taken leave of his senses?

Ill-judged: Blue-scarved Chukka Umunna should remember that Michael Heseltine did much to destroy the UK's communities as part of the Thatcher and Major governments.

Ill-judged: Blue-scarved Chuka Umunna should remember that Michael Heseltine did much to destroy the UK’s communities as part of the Thatcher and Major governments.

After the story in The Guardian there are only two things required of Chuka Umunna: Repudiation – or his resignation.

The article states that Blue Labour stalwart Umunna would call on Conservative heavyweight Michael Heseltine for advice if Labour wins the general election. If this is true, it is madness.

Heseltine was a leading member of the Thatcher and Major Conservative governments of the 1980s and 90s, pioneering the disastrous ‘Right to Buy’ initiative that sold off the majority of council houses without replacing them, leading to the current housing crisis and the Bedroom Tax.

More recently he authored the ‘No Stone Left Unturned’ plan which made 89 recommendations on ways of stimulating local growth – 81 of which were adopted by the Coalition Government, with little effect. The UK economy has been stagnant for many years, with productivity at around the same level as it was when the Coalition came into office; it seems any boost in GDP has come from other areas – possibly the reduction in wages brought about by the widespread abuse of zero-hours contracts to rob working people of their rights to a steady job and entitlements to holiday and sick pay.

Yet it is in this area – revitalising the cities and regions – that Umunna wants Heseltine to advise. It would be an utterly pointless exercise.

For any stimulation policy to work, it has to put money where it can be most effective – in the hands of the people who actually need it to pay for things they need. But Heseltine is a Tory – they take money away from the proles; they don’t hand it out to them. He’ll devise something that makes towns look very pretty in order to hide the rot inside as local businesses and residents go to the wall.

Not only that, but it seems Umunna has not learned the overriding lesson of the Scottish referendum campaign: Voters will not tolerate a Labour alliance with the Conservatives on any level at all.

One of the main reasons the SNP is polling so well north of the border is because of a myth propagated by its candidates and supporters, that Labour and the Conservatives are “in bed”, “in cahoots”, “in alliance” – choose the phrase you prefer. It isn’t true – Better Together was an alliance of convenience because both parties wanted Scotland to remain in the union; they have very little else in common (although the SNP has exploited the very few examples of common ground to great effect, also).

Now along comes Chuka, thinking he’s clever with a plan to be inclusive and revive the “big tent” policies of Tony Blair – another figure who is now widely reviled by the electorate – and confirming everything the SNP whisperers have been saying!

Is he trying to stab Ed Miliband in the back?

If not, then now is the time to deny the Guardian story and put Heseltine back in his box.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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  1. Andy April 29, 2015 at 10:53 am - Reply

    This is several days old, isn’t ıt, and Heseltine politely declined wıth words to the effect of “being busy on other matters”?

    Another Guardian non story

    • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 11:30 am - Reply

      Where do you get your information on Heseltine’s reaction? I’d like to believe it, because it would scuttle the plan. The damage is in the claim that Umunna wanted his help in the first place, though.

      • Andy April 29, 2015 at 11:39 am - Reply

        It was on the BBC Election 2015 Lıve – not sure of the actual day but from memory it was the same day that Umanna suggested it.

        • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 11:45 am - Reply

          I find that page very hard to read nowadays. Still, glad that it’s doing some people some good.

  2. Nick April 29, 2015 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Chuka Umunna is way out of his depth for labour to win outright they need more people like me in their team and much less of the likes of Chuka Umunna who in reality haven’t a clue on anything

    for whats it’s worth mike Heseltine wouldn’t even speak to the likes of chuka so i don’t believe for one minute that conversation ever took place

    • Andy April 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Sorry what conversatıon are you referrıng to?

  3. Florence April 29, 2015 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Umunna is a creep for suggesting that. It’s an insult to those of us who actually had to live through the Thatcher years with “Tarzan” on the front bench. Nothing was done that had any real outcome. It’s a pound-shop revival of Blair’s use of Tories in his government, equally despised by the Labour voters.

    However, my finest Heseltine moment (as environment minister) was his photo-op hand-over of the first privatised waste disposal business in a Wandsworth market. From nowhere an angry flash-mob of housewives appeared and he was trapped as eggs started flying, followed by tomatoes and then the heavy guns – cabbages and loaves. He & body guards were pelted for some time, as stall holders slipped out ammo from their waste. I will never forget the utterly humiliated look on his face as they retreated, bruised, dripping with egg & tomato from head to foot. He was well hated then, in his prime. Umunna, take note, you will be judged by the company you keep.

    • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      I wonder if that Heseltine moment is on YouTube?

      • Florence April 29, 2015 at 4:36 pm - Reply

        The press were there, whole point of the exercise was to brag about privatising stuff, but it was way before us plebs got personal video or even cameras for regular use (talking 35 years ago). I think the local press did publish a picture of him before the food started flying, and didn’t mention the ruck, but Wandsworth was one of Maggie’s favorite boroughs, and the local paper was a bit too close. (Northcote Rd was the venue if there are any photo libraries out there.)

      • paulrutherford8 April 29, 2015 at 8:23 pm - Reply

        Don’t think the egging is, but then there was the occasion he decided he was god?


  4. Ian April 29, 2015 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    You see, the likes of this is why I will not vote Labour again until a purge of the right has taken place. The fact that the likes of Umunna get houseroom in the party speaks volumes about its direction of travel.

    This is the modern Labour party, people. The more you vote for them, the more encouragement they take. If you want to vote Tory, just vote Tory and have done with it but don’t pretend Labour will make any massive difference.

    If Labour win, by 2020 nothing much will have changed.

    • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      And yet others like Paul Rutherford have heard that Umunna is “straight down the line Labour”, which I take to mean a traditional Labour man.
      The comments you make intending to be derisive about Labour don’t make much sense. Of course Labour will take more encouragement from more people voting Labour – and rightly so. But Labour isn’t Tory and never will be; an argument that “they’re all the same” – which is what I think you’re trying to say – is silly nonsense. Read the manifesto. Heseltine apparently turned down the offer flat; said he had other things to do – so you can see that there’s no love lost between him and Labour.
      Your prediction, I reckon, is also bunkum – but let’s all try to make sure we’re still around in 2020 to look back on what’s happened between now and then.

      • Ian April 29, 2015 at 9:33 pm - Reply

        I’ll judge Ummuna on his actions, not someone else’s words. How about he takes notice of some of the people in the areas left devastated by Thacherism/Blairism rather than reaching out to one of the chief architects of that devastation? That shows where his sympathies lie and he should be judged as such. The fact that Hezza knocked Umunna back says nothing in the context of the election campaign, it might reflect badly on his own party and he’s not likely to help Labour in any way shape or form, regardless, election or not.

        The more people vote for these pallid, neoliberal chancers, the more encouragement they’ll have to keep being neoliberal chancers. That was the point I was making. Do you want this right wing version to take hold forever (and you know they are right wing, despite what you profess here)? If so, keep voting for it and that’s what you’ll get. I have read the manifesto and there was nothing I noticed that could be remotely described as left wing and most of the economics is solid neoliberal. They even support TTIP (plus an exemption for the NHS), have you any idea how dangerous that is? Maybe I missed it so ould you point out a genuine left wing policy n the manifesto? I mean a proper one, not one that passes asleft wing these days when everything is so far to the right the left has been wrongly redefined?

        • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 9:54 pm - Reply

          Umunna’s attitude would be that areas like Liverpool were regenerated through the actions of Heseltine. I’m not so sure – I seem to recall seeing a documentary saying that Liverpool had enjoyed a facelift but its problems remained, which is why I wrote what I did in the article – but politicians sometimes see only what’s on the surface, whether for their own convenience or because they really believe it.
          I agree with you on Heseltine’s reaction; you make persuasive points.
          Umunna is NOT a neoliberal. Look up a description of him and you’ll find that Blue Labour rejects neoliberalism and the economic policies it represents. However, Blue Labour also rejects the Welfare State as it was until at least 1979, so I still have a real problem with it. It seems to be an intentional blurring of the issues, and I think Labour should reject it.
          I disagree about the manifesto, and I disagree with you about TTIP; there are many reasons for supporting an agreement that pushes for the best, rather than racing for the worst.

      • Ian April 29, 2015 at 11:32 pm - Reply

        I can only base my comments/opinions on what I see around me here on Teesside and the Conservatives most certain;y did not do anything like enough to repair the damage they caused, everything seemed to revolve around pointless quangos like the Teesside Development Corporation and their members wearing hard hats and getting the local news. Very little else got done. The Conservatives made a concerted effort to reduce the skills base (and union representation) in this country, I think you’ll agree? Unemployment, mass use of cheap foreign labour, a country financed by the City and mortgage bubbles and a workforce that can make a Subway Melt with cheese but not much else was part of the plan.

        The Conservatives never intended to improve things in places such as mine, that’s why Umunna should be thrown out of the party. W have huge unemployment here, now we have Rachel Reeves telling us the unemployed aren’t wanted by her party and Umunna reaching out to one of the chief engineers of that unemployment. The Thick of It hasn’t got close to writing a story line this awful.

        I find Blue Labour a deeply sinister project from what I know of it, they say Labour had too much focus on equality, for a start. If a Labour party isn’t focused on equality then it is not a Labour party, IMO. There was something about centering around family flag and faith, too? I want no part of that, it’s a misunderstanding of the working class that has led to this, thinking we’re all Ingerluuuund right wing gits. Also, doesn’t the head honcho dislike the unions? Blue Labour is no Labour, as far as I’m concerned.

        TTIP is never going to be for the benefit of you and me, all trade agreements are for the benefit of corporations. Wait till all of Europe has American union laws…

        PS. Oh God, I just read James Purnell is a Blue Labourite. That just puts the tin hat on it, no? Get them all in a room and gas them. It says a lot that this is chiefly an academic exercise, doubtless a bunch of PPE-waving no-marks who know nothing of working class lives will be in the majority. Good grief. It’s their thinking that led to medical evidence and a smattering of compassion being replaced with psychological voodoo in the benefits claiming rules.

        Apologies for the length of post

        • Mike Sivier April 29, 2015 at 11:43 pm - Reply

          You misquote Rachel Reeves – she didn’t say the unemployed weren’t wanted – in fact she said Labour was determined to do right by the unemployed.

          Beyond that, you make very good points – especially with regard to Purnell. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend offing them, though. Why descend to that level?

          I especially like your comment that medical evidence and compassion were replaced with psychological voodoo in the benefit system. I think we should all adopt that phrase, or parts of it.

    • Jim Round April 30, 2015 at 4:21 am - Reply

      Ian, you make some good points here.
      I too am not convinced by Rachel Reeves, I would like to be corrected if she becomes work and pensions minister, but Labour’s strange fear of Murdoch and Dacre gives me little hope.
      What politicians of any stripe fail to grasp is that a one size fits all policy on getting the unemployed back to work won’t, erm…work.
      Teeside, as you well know, is completely different to London and the South East, same for other areas, yes, you have Nissan, who by the way, are nervous about the anti-EU stance, but they’re not enough to replace the loss of the coal and steel industry.
      Is the answer a sweetner to encourage businesses away from SE by developing the infrastructure and having an educated workforce? What made Nissan set up shop there?
      I was reading about a street of structually sound houses in North Wales that are standing empty, I have made the point before that they could be brought back into use with the help of apprentices and the local colleges.
      This would need something on a local level, as again, London is just too far away.
      I feel the same when I travel on the railway line from Wolves to Birmingham, all the old warehouses and brownfield land going to waste, there must be a better way.

      • Ian April 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm - Reply

        Not like you to defend Rachel Reeves, Mike :-) She did say this, which is a direct quote: “We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” . Make of that what you will…

        Jim Round: We have people here waiting for jobs that I don’t believe will ever materialise under any mainstream party, they’re too wedded to using unemployment as a means of controlling inflation and as we know, inflation is bad (for the rich).

        I’m not sure exactly why the economy has to be focused on the financial and service sectors, we cannot all be hedge fund managers and there’s only so many lattés and iPhones we can sell each other. (Actually, considering the manufacturing cost in the far east and retail price here of an iPhone, if companies weren’t horrifically greedy they could make and sell similar items here for a more modest profit but a profit none the less…)

        As far as I know, the jobs in London and the south east are mainly financial and service jobs, though there is a lot media and associated work. There’s not much can be done to shift that northwards and it wouldn’t have much of an effect on unemployment. What we need is a manufacturing base again. People need money to spend in their local economy to drive that economy and sustain it. I think if any government was committed to renewable energy and improving public transport they should start by building the windmills and trains and buses and the wave power equipment in places like Teesside, Birmingham, Glasgow etc. The wages then pumped into their economies need somewhere to be spent so business would take off.

        It can be done whichever side of the argument you’re on; borrowing is cheap if you want to fund it that way or you could take the right of producing money from the banks and take into government and use it to fund things (which I think, to a small extent, Miliband has proposed).

        • Mike Sivier April 30, 2015 at 5:40 pm - Reply

          The Rachel Reeves quote continues (directly from where you left off): “But the welfare state was always supposed to be there to protect people in times of need, whether that was because they lost their job, or they became disabled, to help with the cost of childcare, to help you when you are no longer earning because you are retired. That’s what the welfare state was created for. I want to ensure that the welfare state is there for my children and their children in the future.

          “The big savings to be had are by tackling the root causes of the benefits bill. If every young person who can work is working and if people are paid a wage that they can afford to live on, so they don’t have to draw down on housing benefit and tax credit, then that’s going to save a lot more money than all the talk in the world about shirkers and scroungers.”

          That puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

          As for the rest, you make interesting points.

  5. paulrutherford8 April 29, 2015 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    I don’t know much about the circumstances, but just wonder if CU mentioned Hestlestein in an ironic, tongue-in-cheek way?
    One of my cousins knows him and says he’s straight down the line Labour. But who knows? These days I trust little I read in the MSM.

  6. Daniel April 30, 2015 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Mike, you’re absolutely right to point out why this would be a terrible idea for Labour, CU might have been thinking about approaching Heseltine because I vaguely remember a media report years ago where he’d tried standing up to Thatcher over the devastation of the north (I believe it was released in Cabinet notes or something), and CU might have wondered what his ideas had been. But, as I said, vague memory so I’m not sure! (I’m no fan of Heseltine, I should note!)

    Also, you’re right to correct on Rachel, the problem I have with her is she shouldn’t be making these twistable statements in the first place! I mean, her response to the question about Labour being the party of welfare (or, as it should be called, Social Security – welfare has such a negative ring to it, probably why the Right Wing have renamed it) was fine, if you read the whole comment, but she really should have thought about how she started her reply – surely she should know how comments can be quoted directly out of context! For a supposedly experienced politician (she’s on the shadow cabinet!) she blunders far too often.

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