Mehdi's Morning Memo: Bringing Back Socialism In Brighton

Labour leader Ed Miliband addresses shoppers in Brighton town centre on the eve of the Labour Party annual conference.
Labour leader Ed Miliband addresses shoppers in Brighton town centre on the eve of the Labour Party annual conference.

The five things you need to know on Sunday 22 September 2013...


The Labour Party conference has kicked off in Brighton and Ed Miliband has a lot of defying and declaiming to do in the next 72 hours. He's had a strong start - the Observer reports:

"Speaking in Brighton on Saturday, Miliband said it was the 'forgotten wealth creators – the people who put in the hours, who do the work, who do two jobs, who do the shifts' that should be supported. At a question and answer session with the public, he was asked when he would 'bring back socialism'. 'That's what we are doing, sir,' he replied."

His core vote should be enthused and energised by some of the measures Labour's currently unveiling - on Friday night, the Opposition pledged to repeal the 'bedroom tax' if they win office in 2015; today, they're announcing new measures to fight low pay.

The Labour leader has also given a sit-down interview to the Obs, which reports:

"Ed Miliband has announced plans for a tenfold increase in fines – from £5,000 to £50,000 – for any company that fails to pay the minimum wage as part of a radical manifesto to end exploitation and drive up the skills of millions of British workers.

"... [H]e also pledges a new immigration law to ensure that medium and large companies can only take on a skilled worker from outside the EU if they pay to train a British worker in return.

"On Saturday, the party unveiled several ideas on wages from its policy review, saying it was looking at whether the minimum wage could be boosted in specific high-earning sectors such as finance, construction and computing, where companies might be able to afford a higher minimum rate."

The Sunday Times, meanwhile, splashes on 'Labour plans have '£27 billion blackhole' - but, it turns out on closer inspection, the headline depends on figures produced by a supposedly "damning assessment by Treasury officials for the Conservatives". Er, ok.

It's a clear reminder to Miliband, Balls and co that they'll face not just a hostile, Tory-supporting press in the next 20 months but that those papers often have no compunction about taking headlines and stories straight from Tory Party press releases.

Miliband has been speaking this morning on BBC1's Andrew Marr show and claimed this conference is "about the bread and butter issues that the British people face". He said a Labour government wouldn't be borrowing more for day-to-day, 'current' spending, rejecting the Sunday Times report, and urged the Treasury to focus on living standards, not Labour Party policy.

Miliband said he wasn't in favour of free schools expansion or an EU in/out referendum in 2017, was in favour of a rise in the minimum wage, and, asked about the McBride memoirs, said he had been "worried there were indications [McBride] was briefing against colleagues" and "made it clear to Gordon [Brown]". He said he had urged Brown, in Marr's words, "to get rid of this guy".

"We've listened, we've learned and now we are ready to lead," claimed the Leader of the Opposition on the Marr show.


Ding ding ding! Round 1 of ex-Blairite spin doctor vs ex-Brownite spin doctor saw Alastair Campbell berating Damian McBride on Twitter for selling his memoirs to the Daily Mail on the eve of Labour conference.

Now, according to the Sunday Times front page:

"Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, has accused Damian McBride of breaking the law by leaking the content of confidential documents from government computers, raising the possibility of a police investigation.

"Campbell branded McBride, who was Gordon Brown’s spin doctor, a 'shyster' and said he 'has admitted not just to venality but criminality'.

“'I think the other thing that people should be aware of is he [McBride] has admitted to criminal offences in this,' said Campbell.

"In his memoir, McBride admits logging onto Brown’s office email when he was in the Treasury and leaking details from some restricted and confidential documents. He also confesses to leaking secret details of the EU budget."

Will there now be a formal police investigation? How will that reflect on the Labour leadership? And will McBride hit back against Campbell and give us round 3?

On a related note, Miliband told the Observer that McBride would never work for Labour while he is leader and that anyone found briefing against a colleague would be fired because such behaviour "is totally unacceptable".


Labour's shadow business secretary tells the Sunday Times that "we're going to see the most vile, personal, aggressive and negative campaign run by the Conservative party we've seen in a generation, at this general election".

Perhaps in an attempt to turn attention away from McBride's past antics and Labour's spin shame, Umunna says:

"That's the way [the Tories] operate at the moment. I do believe that. I'm not the only one being subjected to that kind of treatment by the Tories. We saw them trying to smear [shadow health secretary] Andy Burnham, with the most outrageous statements made about him."

The paper isn't kind to Umunna, though, opening its piece with the following, rather harsh line:

"With his bespoke suits and access to a £1m villa in Ibiza, Chuka Umunna, the MP, has little personal experience of financial hardship."

Ouch. Remember what I said earlier about the Tory press?


Watch this compilation video of baby seals. You know you want to.


Will we here anything on climate change from 'Green Ed' Miliband, the former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, in his big speech on Tuesday? On Friday, in Stockholm, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will issue its much-awaited fifth assessment of the state of the science on global warming - the Observer splashes on the story:

"Scientists will this week issue their starkest warning yet about the mounting dangers of global warming. In a report to be handed to political leaders in Stockholm on Monday, they will say that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.

"Extreme weather events, including heatwaves and storms, have increased in many regions while ice sheets are dwindling at an alarming rate. In addition, sea levels are rising while the oceans are being acidified – a development that could see the planet's coral reefs disappearing before the end of the century."

The paper adds:

"According to the new report, humanity has emitted about half a trillion tonnes of carbon by burning fossil fuels over the past 250 years, a process that has caused atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to rise by 40%."

But that had no effect whatsoever on the climate, right? Right?


I have an interview with Ed Miliband in the Sunday Times magazine today; it's part of a wider essay about Ed and his late, Marxist dad, Ralph Miliband, and the political impact that the latter may or may not have had on the former.

It's behind the paywall, but here's a taster:

"There is no doubt that Ed was close to his father, and admired him a great deal — both on a personal and an intellectual level. "He absolutely loved his family," he says, leaning forward in his seat. "He would never say, when I knocked on his study door, 'I'm too busy, go away.' In a way, when I look at my own kids, he set quite a high bar [for me]."

"Ed describes his father's death in 1994 as the 'worst day' in his life. He went to see a bereavement councillor to cope: 'It's a really hard thing to recover from and come to terms with,' he says, his voice beginning to crack. 'It's indescribable.'

"For the first year or so of his leadership, Ed said very little about his dad, good or bad — even though the party's own focus groups showed that voters responded positively to Ralph's refugee-joins-the-navy-and-becomesan-academic life story.

"I once asked one of the Labour leader's closest friends to explain his (early) reticence about Ralph and he answered with one word: 'David.' Ed, it seems, didn't want to upset his defeated and defensive elder brother by trying to 'own' their father.

"It would be disingenuous, however, to pretend that Team Ed wasn't also worried about 'Red Ralph' reinforcing an image of Red Ed. Ed's advisers have a 'bunker mentality' on Ralph, says a well-informed Labour source. At the party conference in Liverpool, in September 2011, a senior aide was told that the Labour-supporting website Left Foot Forward was planning to run an article entitled 'His Father's Son'. The leader's office put not-so-subtle pressure on the writer to change the headline of the piece."


"I'm not sure I have ever been accused of being macho" - Ed Miliband laughs off a question from Andrew Marr on BBC1 this morning.


From the Independent on Sunday/ComRes poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 28

Ukip 17

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 88.

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 37

Conservatives 33

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 42.


@jameskirkup Ed Miliband is trying almost painfully hard to look relaxed and composed on #Marr. And has he dropped his voice an octave?

@tnewtondunn Talking about yourself in 3rd person klaxon: "Is it David Cameron or Ed Miliband? I say it's Ed Miliband", says @Ed_Miliband in Mirror.

@MrBLawton: Labour, who yesterday claimed it was the political arm of the feminist movement, has 34 all-men panels at their conference.


Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Three daunting hurdles that the Labour party needs to overcome."

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "It’s Ed 'Ryanair’ Miliband v David 'Business Class' Cameron."

Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "Saboteurs on both sides snatch at Obama’s olive branch to Iran."

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