UK Politics

The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left 2017

25 Sep 2017 at 09:00

This is the tenth year in a row that I have convened a panel to compile a list of the Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left. Back in 2008, Gordon Brown topped the list, but of the other 99 people included, 84 of them do not figure on the 2017 list.

This year’s panel was made up of two devout Corbynistas, one proud Blairite and a national newspaper political correspondent. The most difficult thing when deciding who to include an exclude, is to define what ‘influence’ actually means. In the end it means being influential in a combination of national politics, the media, on the Labour Party and its leader.

In all, there are 26 new entries in the whole list, on top of the 29 which appeared last year. Out go Gordon Brown, Angela Eagle, Neil Kinnock, Pat McFadden, Dan Jarvis, Rosie Winterton, Owen Smith, Kexia Dugdale and David Sainsbury, among others. From the SNP we lose Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson. Indeed, the SNP only occupy two slots on this list.

As in the 2016 list, in come a whole host of Corbynistas like Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Matt Zarb-Cousin, The Canary’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Matt Turner from Evolve Politics, Faiza Shaheen and Emma Rees from Momentum. Sir Keir Starmer is the highest new entry at number thirteen. The Greens are represented by their co-leader Caroline Lucas.

The panel also did a bit of star spotting by including the young leader writer on The Guardian Randeep Ramesh and Faiza Shaheen, the Corbynista director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies.

People always look at individuals on lists like this and sniff the political wind to find out if their heroes are on their way up and their anti-Christs are on their way down or even out. There’s little doubt that following the general election Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have entrenched their position and rising up the list. Thirty seven people on this list could loosely be described as Corbynistas, an increase from 29 last year. It’s wholly possible that next year there might be a majority of Corbynistas.

One of the highest risers last year, the former Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis (89 to 15) has plummeted this year down to 52. Journalist Rachel Shabi is the highest riser from 90 to 30, while the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush rises 30 places to 49.

The top ten makes for interesting reading, and there was a lot of debate about the placings on our panel. Karie Murphy, who runs the Leader’s office crashes in at number five, while Owen Jones re-enters the top ten at number 9, up from 24 last year.

All in all, it’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are on the rise and the right of party is still in retreat – much the same as last year. The election result has solidified Corbyn’s own position and it’s difficult to see any challenge to his authority coming forward in the next twelve months. Sadiq Khan is the most likely source of trouble, but until he can demonstrate real achievement in London, he’s unlikely to risk upsetting the ship.

So a year of achievement for Jeremy Corbyn. If we can say the same next year, it is clear that the majority of this list will be supporters of his – something which few would have bet on even two years ago.

THE LIST

1. (-) Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party
Even though the Labour Party lost the election, somehow it didn’t feel like it. Corbyn’s tenuous hold on the leadership solidified overnight and the party now feels he has earned the right to fight the next election on his own terms. His increased power was exemplified by the fact that he didn’t need to bring any (bar one, Owen Smith) of his old adversaries back into the Shadow Cabinet.

2. (+1) Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London
He may not have a speaking slot at the Labour Party conference, but he’s the most powerful elected Labour politician in the country. A cute media performer, he talks a good game, but the proof of the pudding will be in solid policy achievements. So far they are scarce. Housing is where he can really make a mark, but so far the jury’s out on whether he can meet his ambitious housebuilding targets.

3. (+1) John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
John McDonnell holds huge away over Corbyn. Some say he is Corbyn’s Svengali, although he’s in competition with our Number 4 for that title. Milne and McDonnell are said to be the ones pulling Corbyn’s strings and he doesn’t do much without their say-so.

4. (+1) Seumas Milne
Director of Communications & Strategy
Seumas Milne’s grip on power around the leader has grown hugely in the last twelve months. He’s created a powerful media team which is effective at rationing media appearances and keeps interviews with interviewers thought to be unfriendly to a minimum.

5. (+22) Karie Murphy
Head of the Leader’s Office
Said to be the oil that lubricates the Corbyn machine, Murphy is one of they key members of his operation. The leader’s office is said to be much more tightly organised and this is largely down to Murphy’s abilities.

6. (-4) Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland
Last year we said: “Sturgeon’s reputation will stand or fall on the result of a second independence referendum. Will she have the courage to push for it?” It’s now off the agenda for the foreseeable future and the loss of SNP seats in June further tarnished the reputation of Scotland’s First Minister. Have we already seen ‘peak Sturgeon’?

7. (-1) Tom Watson
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Some argued for Tom Watson to drop much further in this list. He tried to get rid of Corbyn by failed and now seems a somewhat diminished and somewhat anonymous figure. However, he has tentacles which reach into all parts of the party and remains an ultimate fixer.

8. (+4) Andrew Murray
Chief of Staff at UNITE
It may seem odd to place Andrew Murray ahead of Len McCluskey in this list but he makes the top ten due to his closeness to Jeremy Corbyn. He was drafted in to effectively run the general election campaign. He’s often accused of being a Stalinist, but this character trait served him well in running a well oiled election machine. He may be back at Unite, but his influence is still felt around Jeremy Corbyn.

9. (+15) Owen Jones
Guardian columnist
You can’t keep Owen Jones down for long and he rises in this year’s list, not just due to his media omnipresence but also his tours of the country inspiring activists in marginal seats. His prolific writings and tweets make him by far and away the most influential left of centre commentator.

10. (-1) Andrew Fisher
Director of Policy
Fisher has a controversial past but is very adept at imposing himself and his views. One of Corbyn’s most trusted lieutenants, he wrote the party’s election manifesto which was widely praised by all and sundry. He now has time to put some flesh on the policy bones.

11. (-4) Len McCluskey
General Secretary, UNITE
McCluskey has gone from mild criticism of Corbyn to his chief cheerleader in the Union movement. His union continues to fund the party to a massive extent and that’s unlikely to change.

12. (+5) Emily Thornberry
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Thornberry has recovered from her white van moment to rise, almost by accident, to the top of the Shadow Cabinet. Now seen as a serious potential successor to Corbyn she has almost effortlessly become one of his key lieutenants even if she is far from being on his wing of the party.

13. (Re-Entry) Sir Keir Starmer
Shadow Brexit Secretary
Having managed to convincingly hold half a dozen positions on Brexit in the space of a year, Sir Keir is this year’s highest new entry. Seen as a potential leader, some say he is overhyped, but given the breadth of opinion on Brexit in the party he’s done well, and done well across the Despatch box too.

14. (-4) Diane Abbott
Shadow Home Secretary
Would die in a ditch for her leader. Promoted to the Home Affairs portfolio, she ought to have shone, but she falls in this year’s list because of a series of gaffes, one of which nearly derailed the election campaign. Needs to work her passage back to a position of real influence.

15. (-5) Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
O’Grady’s profile has fallen in the last twelve months although she has lately been outspoken on Brexit. Her weakness as a platform speaker holds her back, although she is much more effective in one to one media interviews.

16. (+17) Angela Rayner
Shadow Education Secretary
A rising star, Rayner has found her voice in the fight against Theresa May’s grammar school proposals. Last year we said “the jury is out on how far she will go.” The jury’s in and she’s now seen as a serious leadership contender.

17. (New) Barry Gardiner
Shadow International Trade Secretary
Said to be the Housewives’ favourite Labour politician, Barry Gardiner achieved a huge profile during the general election given his willingness to appear on any media outlet at any time. One of the five politicians trusted to do so by Seumas Milne. The Labour equivalent of the LibDems’ Tom Brake. And that’s meant as a compliment.

18. (-10) Jon Lansman
Founder & Chair, Momentum
Lansman has started to appear on the media and does a good job when he does, and he’s largely stayed out of trouble. He’s quietly developed Momentum into a powerful activist force and this was evident in the election where he was able to deploy activists to marginal seats.

19. (New) Andrew Gwynne
Shadow Communities & Local Government Secretary, Campaigns Co-ordinator
Gwynne has become a key lieutenant to Jeremy Corbyn and has become a very effective media performer. Combative but with an obvious sense of humour. Rewarded for his loyalty and media achievements in the election campaign with an important shadow cabinet role.

20. (+8) Chuka Umunna
Former Shadow Business Secretary, Founder VoteLeaveWatch
Umunna has kept up a high media profile, despite no formal position in the party or in Parliament. A redoubtable Remainer, his main objective is now to fight Brexit from a position sometimes out of kilter with his party’s.

21. (-1) Andy Burnham
Mayor, Greater Manchester
He walked his election in Manchester and has maintained a reasonably high national profile. Handled the terror attack well and was a unifying factor. However, there’s clearly little love lost between him and his party leader.

22. (-) Caroline Lucas
Co-Leader of the Green Party
Won her seat with ease at the election and still really the only Green with a huge public recognition factor. A resonant voice in the Brexit debate, her challenge now, with her co-leader Jonathan Bartley is to take the Greens to the next level.

23. (New) Nick Brown
Chief Whip
Nick Brown has huge experience as a whip and he knows the task ahead of him, particularly in keeping his parliamentary flock together over Brexit.

24. (New) Ian Lavery
Chair of the Labour Party
Like Andrew Gwynne, Lavery was thought to have had a good election and was therefore promoted to replace Tom Watson as Labour Party chair. Liked by people on all wings of the party he is seen as a unifying force.

25. (-7) Yvette Cooper
Chair, Home Affairs Select Committee
Although beaten into third place, she emerged from the 2015 leadership campaign with some credit, and has retained a high media profile. She has made a strong start as chair of the Home Affairs select committee and is respected across the House.

26. (-3) Tim Roache
General Secretary, GMB
Roache isn’t the media friendly performer that his predecessor Paul Kenny was, and he hasn’t quite got his gift of the gab. But then again, few have.

27. (-1) Iain McNicol
General Secretary of the Labour Party
Described in this list last year as “a dead man walking”, McNichol has proved to be a great survivor. Although his authority was usurped by Andrew Murray in the election campaign, he still there and gives little sign of falling on his sword.

28. (+7) James Schneider
Head of Strategic Communications, Leader’s Office
Schneider was adept at carving out a high media profile for himself in his job as national organiser for Momentum, but since his appointment to Corbyn’s team he has had to eschew appearing on the broadcast media. A shame really as he became the acceptable face of the left.

29. (New) Matt Zarb-Cousin
Former press office to Jeremy Corbyn, Political Pundit
Since he left working for Corbyn Zarb-Cousin has developed a strong presence in the political broadcast media. A total believer in the Corbyn project he’s happy to put forward the party line in any forum, and has gained a lot of respect for his media appearances.

30. (+60) Rachel Shabi
Journalist & Commentator
Omnipresent on our screens, the redoubtable Shabi is one of the few Corbyn supporting commentators to be taken seriously by the media. Thoughtful and fluent, she deserves her massive rise in this year’s list.

31. (-10) Paul Mason
Freelance Journalist & Commentator
Some say he is Corbyn’s ‘Chemical Ali’, others see him as a guru. Our panel felt that his influence in the Corbyn inner circle is overstated but his projection of the Corbyn project in the media means his influence on the wider left remains strong.

32. (-16) Lisa Nandy
Former Shadow Energy & Climate Change Secretary
If Jeremy Corbyn were to fall under a bus, some in the Labour left were looking to Lisa Nandy as the candidate of the left in a future leadership election. However, she’s had a very quiet year for her, with just her appearances on THIS WEEK keeping up her public profile.

33. (+14) Jess Phillips
Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Chair of the Womens’ PLP
We predicted in 2015 that Phillips would be “one of the characters of the new Parliament.” We were right. Outspoken, funny and able to take the fight to the enemy, Jess Phillips is hugely talented but it’s difficult to see her accepting a front bench position, even if it were offered.

34. (New) Kerry-Anne Mendoza
Editor in Chief, The Canary
If anything can be described as Alt-Left it is The Canary, which has a distant relationship to factual reporting, even though it describes itself as a news site. In fact, it is no more than a Corbynista propaganda site, but has been hugely successful in attracting clicks. Kerry-Anne Mendoza is its public face and is in much demand in the hated MSM.

35. (-12) Dave Prentis
General Secretary of UNISON
Prentis is a softly spoken moderate and any influence he exerts will be behind the scenes rather than shouted from the ramparts. A resolute defender of Corbyn in the media. Another union leader who has had a quietish year.

36. (-6) Baroness Alicia Kennedy
Labour Peer
Having run Tom Watson’s deputy leadership campaign Kennedy is the power behind the throne. A true party insider, she knows where a lot of bodies are buried. But as Tom Watson’s star wanes, so does Kennedy’s.

37. (-5) Carwyn Jones
Welsh First Minister
Carwyn Jones has struggle to build a UK wide profile and certainly comes a poor second to Nicola Sturgeon in the self publicity stakes. However, he is a powerful advocate of Wales’s interests in Westminster and is becoming more vocal on Brexit.

38. (+28) Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister
Some say Tony Blair is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the future of Labour but given that if you’re even a tad to the right of Jeremy Corbyn you’re denounced as either a ‘Blairite’ or a ‘Tory’, it just shows that the three time election winning former prime minister still continues to shape the debate on the left, just as Margaret Thatcher does so on the right. His stance on Brexit helps him rise up the list this year.

39. (-2) Hilary Benn
Former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Chair, Brexit Select Committee
It was thought that Hilary Benn would be a real thorn in the side of the government on Brexit when he took over as chair of the Brexit Select Committee. It hasn’t really turned out like that due to the many competing voices on the issue. The next twelve months could be somewhat different, even if controlling the many different voices on his select committee is like herding disobedient cats.

40. (-1) Heidi Alexander
Former Shadow Health Secretary
One of the nicest people in parliament, Alexander was given a huge promotion when she was appointed to the Health portfolio, where she did an excellent job. Her resignation was clearly very painful to her. She ought to be a major player in the Labour Party’s future. She’s concentrating on chairing a new initiative promoting Britain’s continued membership of the Single Market.

41. (-1) J K Rowling
Labour Party donor
J K Rowling has developed a knack of speaking out rarely, but effectively. Her donations both to Labour and to the Remain campaign inevitably confer influence.

42. (-11) Kevin Maguire
Assistant Editor, Daily Mirror
Wisely turned down the job as Corbyn’s Head of Communications, Maguire has become the go to voice for those who want to know what is going on at the top of the Labour Party. Even though he has been critical of Corbyn’s performance, Corbyn’s people know they can’t afford to alienate him.

43. (-9) Kate Osamor
Shadow International Development Secretary
Last year we said: “Seen as a competent performer, Osamor needs to develop a higher public profile, which is not easy to do in this role.” It wasn’t. She didn’t. Hence her fall.

44. (-1) Ashuska Asthana/Heather Stewart
Joint Political Editors, The Guardian
They have confounded those who thought a political editor job share could never work. They’ve broken big stories and each developed a good media profile.

45. (-1) Polly Toynbee
Guardian Columnist
In 2015 we wrote: “Toynbee has been a surprising Corbyn sympathiser…but it’s inevitable that at some point she will part company with Corbyn and his team.” Last year we wrote: “It didn’t take long.” She’s now done a bit of a reverse ferret and seems again to be more supportive of the Labour leader. In danger of being out-influenced by the new generation of left of centre writers.

46. (New) Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow Business Secretary
Said to be Jeremy Corbyn’s favoured successor Long-Bailey didn’t feature in last year’s list but none of our panel could work out why. She’s in at 46 but in reality should be a lot higher given the opportunities to make political hay in this portfolio.

47. (-11) Baroness Shami Charkrabarti
Labour Peer & Shadow Attorney General
Last year we said we considered her a shoo-in to Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet. We were right. However, she continues to be dogged by accusations that the conclusions of her June 2016 inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party were tepid to say the least. Seems rather uncomfortable in the rough and tumble of party politics.

48. (New) Emma Rees
National Organiser, Momentum
A bright and media friendly successor to James Schneider, Rees is responsible for growing the activist base of Momentum. Said to enjoy good relations with the Corbyn team, she is likely to be a star of the future.

49. (+30) Stephen Bush
Editor, New Statesman ‘Staggers’ blog
One of the rising stars of a new generation of journalists on the left, he was one of the few to predict the course of Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. He is getting an increasing broadcast media profile and if he continues in this vein will next year outrank many of his older rivals.

50. (-4) Jonathan Ashworth
Shadow Health Secretary
Has been a critic of Corbyn but has decided to hang on in there in the Shadow Cabinet. Consistently walks a political tightrope, but is an impressive media performer. He’s done a very good job in this portfolio, which hasn’t restricted him speaking out on other subjects too.

51. (-3) Harriet Harman
Former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Publishing her memoirs kept her profile up, and she continue to be influential on women’s issues.

52. (-37) Clive Lewis
Labour MP for Norwich South, Former Shadow Defence Secretary
His resignation from the shadow cabinet now looks to have been a major tactical mistake. Been very quiet of late.

53. (-3) John Cryer
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
A popular chair of the PLP, Cryer has had a difficult task in keeping the party together in parliament. Deserves a medal.

54. (-3) Helen Lewis
Deputy Editor, New Statesman
Lewis’s profile has been maintained and she is considered one of the more balanced and thoughtful commentators on the centre left.

55. (-) John Woodcock
Labour MP for Barrow in Furness
One of the MPs not afraid to confront the Corynistas and tell it like it is, despite the bullying and aggression he has encountered. Everyone, including him, was astonished he retained his seat. Has had to temper his anti-Corbynism.

56. (New) Glenys Willmott
Leader, Labour Group of MEPs
Brexit has given Willmott a higher profile, but it is likely to be shortlived if we do indeed leave in March 2019.

57. (Re-entry) Anas Sarwar
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament
Standing for the leadership of Scottish Labour, even if he doesn’t win, he’s going to be a key player in reviving Labour’s fortunes north of the border.

58. (-6) Cat Smith
Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement, Youth Affairs & Local Transport
Cat Smith has been as close as anyone to the Labour leader yet she hasn’t really fulfilled her early promise. Possibly because she has a rather low profile portfolio in the shadow cabinet.

59. (-3) Jon Trickett
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister
Formerly chief political advisor to Ed Miliband, Jon Trickett has made the transition seemlessly to the new guard. However, he made little impact as campaign coordinator and although he is a reliable media performer for Corbyn, he has been shunted off into one of the more obscure portfolios.

60. (New) Richard Leonard
Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament
Competing with Anas Sarwar for the Labour leadership in Scotland, he is thought to be Jeremy Corbyn’s favoured candidate, but it remains to be seen whether his Englishness holds him back.

61. (New) Manuel Cortes
General Secretary, TSSA
One of the more cerebral trade union leaders, he is listened to across the party.

62. (New) Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Freelance Writer
Ultra Corbynista, O’Hagan’s writings are pored over by others for signs of where the left of the party is heading.

63. (-9) Jason Cowley
Editor, New Statesman
The New Statesman has agonised over its role as a left of centre magazine during Corbyn’s leadership, but it goes from strength the strength, particularly in its online offering.

64. (+22) Alison McGovern MP
Chair, Progress
One of the last keepers of the Blairite flame, she is an increasingly important voice for the right of the party, especially on Brexit.

65. (-2) John Swinney
SNP Deputy First Minister of Scotland & Education Secretary
Has moved from the Finance to Education portfolio, a traditional bed of thorns in Scotland. His performance here could signal more success for the SNP, but if he fails…

66. (-5) Mick Cash
General Secretary, RMT
The RMT continues to call more strikes than any other union, or it appears to, but for a change it seems to enjoy a lot of public support for doing so on Southern Rail.

67. (-5) Liz Kendall
Former leadership candidate
A disappointing year from Liz Kendall, despite her regular appearances on THIS WEEK. She ought to be the main spokeswoman for the right of the Labour Party but hasn’t maintained the profile she gained in 2015-16.

68. (Re-entry) Chris Leslie
Labour MP for Nottingham East
Chris Leslie re-enters this list entirely due to his profile on the issue of Brexit and his media appearances on behalf of Open Britain. An effective performer and a loss to the front bench.

69. (Re-entry) Alastair Campbell
Editor at Large, The New European, Diarist
Alastair Campbell may be the devil to many Corbynistas but he makes a dramatic re-entry to this list because he has become one of the most high profile and eloquent exponents of the case to remain in the EU. It’s not a left wing cause per se, but he’s constantly putting lead in the pencil of those on the left who believe in it.

70. (-6) Gloria de Piero
Labour MP for Ashfield
In any rational world Gloria de Piero would be one of the faces of the Labour Party, but politics is rarely rational. Her time will come.

71. (+12) Baroness Angela Smith
Labour leader in the House of Lords
The role of Labour leader in the House of Lords is crucial in the parliament, especially given the Great Repeal Bill. The question is how independent from the party leadership Smith will prove to be.

72. (-7) Katherine Viner
Editor, The Guardian
Last year we said: “You just get the feeling that The Guardian isn’t influencing the debate in the way that it used to.” There’s a distinct lack of innovation in either its print or online offering and we see no reason to change our view this year. It needs to be more than Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee.

73. (New) Steve Rotheram
Mayor of Liverpool
Rotheram has some work to do in reunifying the Liverpool Labour Party following his unsurprising victory in May. He’s an effective operator and will do well as an advocate for the city.

74. (-33) Ed Balls
Dancer
Now entering the ‘post Strictly’ phase of his life, it’s difficult to see a return to frontline politics for this talented politician. It will be interesting to see where his career takes him next.

75. (+18) Ayesha Hazirika
Political Commentator & Comedian
Former adviser to Harman and Miliband, Hazirika is now carving out a role for herself in the world of political punditry and broadcasting. She has also revived her stand-up career with a sell-out comedy tour.

76. (+20) James Meadway
Economic Adviser to John McDonnell
Meadway has overtaken Richard Murphy as the far left’s favoured economic guru. Came to McDonnell from the New Economics Foundation.

77. (-18) Mhairi Black
SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South
Mhaira Black may not quite have lived up to her maiden speech, but she remains an inspirational figure in Scottish politics. Her second year in Parliament has been quieter than her first. It was even rumoured she might stand down at the June election.

78. (-8) Marvin Rees
Mayor of Bristol
Wrestled back the mayoralty of Britain from an Independent and one of the few black figures in the Labour Party in a position of power. However, unlike other city mayors he hasn’t achieved much of a national profile.

79. (+1) Lloyd Embley
Editor, Daily Mirror
The Mirror was an early critic of Jeremy Corbyn but Embley has carefully repositioned the paper and some bridges have recently been built.

80. (New) Randeep Ramesh
Chief Leader Writer, The Guardian
A talented writer, Ramesh is seen as one of the most influential voices on The Guardian and is tipped for bigger things.

81. (-9) Lucy Powell
Former Shadow Education Secretary
A good communicator, Powell ought to be found a role which doesn’t involve languishing on the backbenches. It’s a thorough waste of her talents.

82. (New) Dawn Foster
Columnist, The Guardian
One of the new breed of columnists on the left who offer a refreshing new slant on the issues of the day. She’s becoming a bit of a feminist icon.

83. (-39) Stella Creasy
Labour MP for Walthamstow, Former deputy leadership candidate
A great champion of single issue causes, Creasy is a one woman lobbying machine. In any other world she’d be a shoo-in for the shadow cabinet.

84. (New) Andrew Harrop
General Secretary, Fabian Society
The Fabian Society has traditionally been seen as a bit fusty but under Harrop’s leadership it has seen something of a renaissance, publishing uncharacteristically controversial research papers.

85. (-28) Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
One of the most talented Labour people never to have become MP. His Labour First group is influential in the party. One of the party’s troopers.

86. (-4) Richard Burgon
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Described by some as Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Comical Ali’ Burgon is certainly a true believer. He’s got a very high profile portfolio but more often than not appears on the media talking on subjects way outside his brief. And it invariably doesn’t go well. His favourite answer to a question is “Well a better question would be…”

87. (-11) Matt Wrack
General Secretary, FBU
Wrack provided good leadership to his members in the dispute with the government over pay, conditions and pensions, and unusually, he got the public on his side. Last year he has led his union back into Labour Party affiliation.

88. (+6) Richard Angell
Director, Progress
A key player in the struggle to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, Progress has now become seen by some as the right wing rival to Momentum, when it is actually nothing of the sort. Angell’s profile is on the rise.

89. (New) Dr Faiza Shaheen
Director, Class
Another of the new breed of Corbyn supporting commentators, who’s an original thinker on Labour and social issues.

90. (New) Matt Turner
Editor, Evolve Politics
Turner has just been given a lobby pass and although Evolve isn’t as well known as The Canary, it’s infinitely more readable. Expect him to rise dramatically up next year’s list.

91. (+1) Matt Forde
Political Commentator & Comedian
An uber-Blairite Forde has developed a good reputation as a serious political commentator as well as a comedian. His mimicry is astonishingly accurate and his weekly political show on the channel DAVE has become a must-watch for viewers of all political persuasions.

92. (New) Sarah Champion
Labour MP for Rotherham
Champion has been outspoken on the issue protecting children from sexually motivated gangs and it cost her her shadow cabinet job. She’s unlikely to remain silent for long.

93. (New) David Babbs
Executive Director, 38 Degrees
38 Degrees has established itself as one of the more influential left of centre campaigning organisations, even if its effectiveness is a little hit and miss. Babbs has been a big part of its growth.

94. (-10) Rachel Reeves
Chair, Business Select Committee
Another of Labour’s lost generation who refuse to serve under Jeremy Corbyn. She’s a real loss to the frontbench, but she now has a renewed opportunity to make her mark as a select committee chair.

95. (Re-entry) Damian McBride
Special Advisor to Emily Thornberry
McBride more than anyone has helped Emily Thornberry to rise up this chart this year. And for that he deserves to return to this list.

96. (+4) Aaron Bastani
Commentator & Founder of Novara Media
A controversial figure, Bastani has carved an influential role for himself and his social media based company and is held high in the affections of Corbyn and his team. He’s been slightly usurped by The Canary and Evolve, though in terms of influence.

97. (-6) Sam Tarry
Political Officer, TSSA & Director of Corbyn for Leader
Tarry is close to Corbyn and led his team during the second leadership election. An effective operator but rumour is he has made some enemies and is being slowly edged out. Failed to get a seat at the election.

98. (-13) Luciana Berger
Former Shadow Mental Health Minister
An impressive performer, she was the only Jewish member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team. It was never going to last, was it? Stood to be mayor of Liverpool but came a very poor third in the selection. Still retains a high profile on mental health.

99. (-) Leanne Wood
Leader of Plaid Cymru
In publicity terms Plaid certainly punches above their weight given their consistent lack of ability to really make a breakthrough in the Welsh Assembly or indeed the Westminster parliament. They did get one extra seat but it feels as if Leanne Wood has taken Plaid as far as she can.

100. (New) Stormzy
Grime artist
Corbs’ favourite Grime artist. His support for the Labour leader helps him get down wiv da kidz.

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LibDem Politics

The Top 50 Most Influential Liberal Democrats 2017

15 Sep 2017 at 21:00

Each year I convene three panels to compile lists of the Top 50 Liberal Democrats, the Top 100 People on the Left and the Top 100 People on the Right. Each list is published to coincide with the three party conferences. This is the tenth year I’ve been doing this and despite two referendums and two general elections in the past three years the pace of change is, if anything, increasing – perhaps not surprising, given the stresses of Brexit and a hung parliament.

The Liberal Democrats have demonstrated the frenetic nature of politics today probably more than the two other parties, with no less than a third of the names on the list not featuring on last year’s. Out goes Tim Farron and his team after a deeply disappointing election campaign, fatally undermined by Farron’s failure to deal with the gay sex question, together with Labour’s ability to portray itself as simultaneously pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit. Still, at least the departing leader has an increase in seats, together with a surge in membership to a record level, to his credit.

And Farron remains popular with the grassroots, so he stays (just) in the top ten of our list. But the biggest movements are of course amongst the new leadership team: naturally Vince Cable shoots straight to number 1, closely followed by the party’s first woman Deputy Leader, Jo Swinson, at number 2. Others who were lined up to work on his leadership campaign (had there been an election) have climbed up or appeared for the first time: Tom Brake (now the only Commons survivor of the 1997 intake), Lib Dem peer Dee Doocey, advisers Chris Bones and David Howarth, veteran activists Duncan Brack and Mark Pack. Straight in at number 11 goes by-election victor Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park for only six months, and Cable’s new chief of staff, despite not even being a party member three years ago. Such are the opportunities available in a small party …

The other main group of new entrants, or re-entrants, are of course the party’s new MPs, some returning after their 2015 defeats. Watch out in particular for Layla Moran, new MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, the party’s first-ever female BAME MP and, judging by the number of conference fringe meetings she’s addressing, already a conference darling. The main Liberal Democrat speakers on Europe and Brexit – Tom Brake, Sarah Ludford, Catherine Bearder, and, now out of Parliament, Nick Clegg – also show perform well. And straight in at number 5 – the highest new entrant – is former MP Nick Harvey, now filling the (probably thankless) task of party chief executive.

The Lib Dems still, however, lack stars recognisable in the outside world; most of the names here will be familiar only to party activists. But Cable has had a good start in terms of media appearances (and he’s published a novel), and the return of some coalition ministerial talent should help. If the new leadership is canny enough to navigate the shoals and torrents of Brexit, and exploit the divisions all too evident in Labour and Tory ranks, the party still has a future.

1. (+15) Sir Vince Cable
MP for Twickenham, Leader
Vince Cable won the leadership unchallenged but journalists will continue to speculate how long he will last. Will he give up the leadership mid Parliament? My guess is, don’t bet on it. He will define the LibDems as a pro European party but success will depend on whether he can rebuild the LibDems’ dwindling local government base.

2. (+27) Jo Swinson
MP for East Dunbartonshire, Deputy Leader
The leader in waiting, Jo Swinson has had a quiet time since taking over the deputy leadership in July. A feisty campaigner, she will be no doubt touring the country but she ought to build a very prominent media profile. The LibDems have been a very male dominated party and it’s her task to counter that perception.

3. (-1) Nick Clegg
Former Leader
He may have lost his seat but Nick Clegg is still very popular within his own party, and is one of the party’s most recognisable faces. He is concentrating on fighting Brexit and his new book, out next month, will give him an even higher profile on the issue.

4. (-1) Sal Brinton
President
Sal Brinton has been a very unifying figure at a difficult time for the LibDems. An inveterate gossip, she makes it her business to know what’s going on in the party and to calm people down in times of crisis. She identified the ‘Farron problem’ before most others.

5. (REENTRY) Sir Nick Harvey
Interim Chief Executive, LibDems
Having failed to win back his North Devon seat at the election, few expected Nick Harvey to return to the political fray. However, the party needed a new face to run it day to day and as a well-known and respected figure he will carry much more weight than maybe some of his more non-political predecessors have done.

6. (+6) Tom Brake
MP for Carshalton & Wallington, Exiting the European Union Spokesman
Omnipresent on the media, Brake is one of the party’s most reliable, if not most exciting, performers. Even though he has only a dozen MPs to herd, being LibDem Chief Whip is never an easy job. Popular with the party’s press officers because he’s willing to go on any media outlet on a difficult wicket at the drop of a hat.

7. (-) Kirsty Williams
Former Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
She stood down from the leadership in Wales after losing all the LibDem seats in the Welsh Assembly apart from her own. She is now, however, the only LibDem in a position of power, having accepted a place in the Welsh Executive Cabinet – hence her high position in this list.

8. (-2) Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Avoiding wipeout in last year’s Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 counted as success in LibDem terms. Much of this was due to Rennie’s unexpectedly good performances in the TV debates. He built on this and in the June general election the LibDems gained three seats north of the border.

9. (-1) Lord Newby
Lib Dem Leader in the House of Lords
Given the LibDems’ strength in the House of Lords and likely impact on the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Newby will have a crucial role to play. He also coordinated the party’s 2017 manifesto. A calm, urbane man, Newby is an underrated media performer. Expect to see a lot more of him.

10. (-9) Tim Farron
MP for Westmorland & Lonsdale, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Tim Farron will remain an important voice in the Liberal Democrats. His party never completely took him to their hearts, especially in Westminster, where he was the subject of several whispering campaigns. In 2015 the party needed a rabble rouser to take over and they got one. Maybe if he’d had the full five years he could have made more of an impact.

11. (NEW) Sarah Olney
Chief of Staff to Vince Cable
Having lost her Richmond Park seat after only six months in Parliament, Sarah Olney might have disappeared from view, but in early September she was recruited to run Vince Cable’s office. Having no long background in the party, it’ll be interesting to see how she handles all of the conflicting demands on a leader’s office.

12. (-8) Norman Lamb
MP for Norfolk North, Chair of the Commons Science & Technology Committee
Norman Lamb fully expected to lose his seat in June but didn’t. He then had to decide whether to challenge for the leadership. He didn’t. Still a widely respected voice, especially on health issues, he is now chair of the Science & Technology Committee. Also possibly the most Eurosceptic LibDem in Parliament. Not a high bar to cross, it has to be said.

13. (-4) Alastair Carmichael
Former Scottish Secretary, MP for Orkney & Shetland
Formerly very close to Tim Farron, it will be interesting to see what niche Carmichael carves out for himself in this parliament. He has bounced back from his encounter with the Standards & Privileges Committee and remains a popular figure in the party.

14. (REENTRY) Ed Davey
LibDem MP for Kingston & Surbiton, Home Affairs Spokesman
It had been widely thought that Ed Davey would stand against Vince Cable for the party leadership but in the end he decided to put his family first. If Cable flounders, expect Davey to lead the opposition to him. In the interim, he will be seen as a wise owl figure, but crucial in the struggle to re-establish the Liberal Democrats as a viable parliamentary party.

15. (NEW) Layla Moran
LibDem MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, Education Spokesperson
The party’s first-ever female BAME MP, and appropriately for the Liberal Democrats someone who went to school in Brussels, Layla Moran has already been tipped as a future Liberal Democrat leader. This isn’t quite the kiss of death which it is in other parties, and with her deep interest in science and education she is likely to be a major figure in the party’s future – provided she can hold on to her seat.

16. (+2) Phil Reilly
Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats
All round nice guy, Reilly has made the transition from being one of Nick Clegg’s Press team to taking on the whole comms role for the party. He has really grown into the role and commands respect from all those who encounter him. Devout West Ham fan.

17. (+3) Shaun Roberts
Director of Campaigns & Elections
Having returned to Liberal Democrat employment after a spell working for Which? just before the Brexit referendum, Shaun has barely had chance to catch breath in his role. He’s overseen the return of the party to successful Parliamentary by-election ways – first winning a fierce internal debate over taking Witney seriously (securing a huge swing as a result) and then the dramatic victory in Richmond Park. The more modest general election result, however, means the jury is still out on whether his attempts to modernise the party’s campaigning will turn out to be successful.

18. (+3) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair Lib Dem Policy Committee
The more important or difficult a policy document is in the Liberal Democrats, the sooner the call goes in to Duncan Brack, former policy director for the party and now Vice Chair of the party’s Federal Policy Committee. A bearded environmentalist, Duncan hasn’t been spotted wearing sandals but is otherwise the perfect example of a committed, expert political activist who makes the party’s wheels run smoothly behind the scenes.

19. (+3) Mark Pack
Editor, LibDem Newswire
The activists’ activist. Former Campaigns Officer in party HQ, indefatigable trainer and author of several guides to campaigning, what Mark Pack doesn’t know about campaigning isn’t worth knowing. Editor of the most widely-read Lib Dem newsletter/blog, he is aiming to use his massive profile within the party and his place on the ruling Federal Board to push for a more consistent party strategy, including building a core vote: a tough challenge.

20. (-9) Caroline Pidgeon AM
Lib Dem leader on the GLA
Bright, funny, sassy, intelligent, she fought an excellent campaign for London mayor in 2016 even if she didn’t get the result she deserved. She now concentrates her fire on Sadiq Khan as a leading light on the Greater London Assembly.

21. (-6) Mike German
Party Treasurer & DWP Spokesman in the House of Lords

22. (+12) Catherine Bearder
Member of the European Parliament

23. (NEW) Baroness Doocey
LibDem Peer and adviser to Vince Cable

24. (+24) Baroness Ludford
LibDem Peer, former MEP

25. (NEW) Chris Bones
Adviser to Vince Cable

26. (-9) Paddy Ashdown
LibDem Peer, former Lib Dem leader

27. (-3) Caron Lindsay
Co-editor of LibDem Voice

28. (-15) Baroness Susan Kramer
Lib Dem Peer & Economics Spokesperson

29. (-3) James Gurling
Chair, Campaigns and Communications Committee

30. (+5) James McGrory
Co-Director, Open Britain, former Press Secretary to Nick Clegg

31. (-21) Lynne Featherstone
Lib Dem Peer & Spokesperson on Energy & Climate Change

32. (-18) Baroness Parminter
LibDem Deputy Leader, House of Lords

33. Lord Stoneham
LibDem Chief Whip, House of Lords

34. (+4) Tim Pickstone
Chief Executive, Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

35. (-12) David Laws
Former LibDem Schools Minister

36. (REENTRY) Polly Mackenzie
LibDem Commentator, former spad to Nick Clegg

37. (NEW) Joe Zammit-Lucia
LibDem donor, helped to set up Radix think tank

38. Christine Jardine
LibDem MP for Edinburgh West

39. (+8) Maajid Nawaz
Director of the Quilliam Foundation, former LibDem PPC

40. (NEW) Lord Paddick
LibDem Home Affairs Spokesman in the Lords

41. (NEW) Andrew Wiseman
Chair, Federal Conference Committee

42. (NEW) Jim Williams
Originator of Your Liberal Britain policy discussion initiative

43. (NEW) Alex Cole-Hamilton
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Western

44. (NEW) Bess Mayhew
Chief Executive, More United

45. (NEW) Stephen Lloyd
LibDem MP for Eastbourne

46. (NEW) Wera Hobhouse
LibDem MP for Bath

47. (-15) Rumi Verjee
LibDem donor

48. (NEW) Jamie Stone
MP (and former MSP) for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross.

49. (REENTRY) David Howarth
Former MP for Cambridge and member of the Electoral Commission.

50. (-13) Menzies Campbell
Former leader of the LibDems, LibDem peer

COMING NEXT: The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Missing the LibDem Conference, Overseas Aid & Why Justice for Grenfell

15 Sep 2017 at 13:56

Sometimes you look at the way government works – or doesn’t – and you scratch your head in bewilderment. It has been revealed that any money we provided to Caribbean Islands to help them rebuild after Hurricane Irma cannot come out of the International Development budget, it has to come out of the Treasury’s contingency fund. It is because it cannot be classed as Overseas Aid because the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda and Anguilla are British Overseas Territories. There’s that word again – ‘Overseas’. This is one of those occasions where Cabinet Ministers need to get a grip of civil servants and the government machine. And if Cabinet Ministers can’t then the Prime Minister should. The Department for International Development has enough trouble spending its budget each year on projects which are worthwhile. Come the end of the financial year they’re still literally throwing money at projects like the Ethiopian Spice Girls in order to meet the 0.7% of GDP commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the fact that we are what Andrew Mitchell calls an ‘International Aid Superpower’, but this department’s operation have still not been brought under control. And frankly, given her well known views on the subject if Priti Patel can’t do it, no one can.
*
Yesterday Sir Martin Moore-Bick opened the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster. I am afraid it is quite clear that there is nothing he can say or conclude which will satisfy the political activists who purport to speak for the Grenfell survivors and residents. Anything short of saying it was all the wicked Tories’ fault will be portrayed as a whitewash. And the gullible media will no doubt fall for it. Yes, there were undoubtedly huge failures on the part of the Tenant Management Organisation (on which the new Labour MP for Kensington sat for several years) and there were also failures by Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council, especially in the immediate aftermath of the fire. There seems to have been little accountability for major decisions and little notice taken of warnings which were given in advance on various blogs.

When the Blair government insisted on housing associations being formed to take the housing stock out of direct local authority control in 2003, I remember thinking this was an odd way to run things. I remember it because I was a candidate in North Norfolk at the time and the same thing happened there. I am not saying that this decision brought about the disaster at Grenfell, but these housing organisations in some areas became a law unto themselves, with direct democratic accountability disappearing.

Social housing has been a low political priority for decades. I’m not just talking about the lack of new council houses being built, I am talking about the maintenance of existing housing stock. For decades Labour councils all over the country, have regarded voters in social housing as a client state – people who wouldn’t consider voting for anyone else. Year after year, they’d vote in Labour councils who lamentably failed to make council estates fit and proper places to live in. Not all Labour councils, but especially those in big cities. Take Glasgow, for example. Iain Duncan Smith wasn’t alone in being appalled by what he found on the Easterhouse Estate all those years ago. But the same thing was happening in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, London and Liverpool. To govern is to choose and Labour councils chose to ignore run down estates in favour of other projects.

Some Conservative councils were no better either. Even during the Blair/Brown years when money was literally chucked at Labour councils, they did little to improve their housing stock. Shame on them all. Why should we be surprised that people who live in these areas have become totally disillusioned, not only with politics but society in general. There are too many people who live in conditions the rest of us would find appalling and unacceptable. We should not therefore be surprised when some of them fall into ways and live lifestyles the rest of us can never relate to or understand.

My point is this. Whatever failings there were in Kensington, Grenfell was not one of these estates. The fire cannot just – if at all – be blamed on long term failings of wider housing policy, in my opinion. It can, however, be blamed on decisions made locally by people who were either uninformed or should have known better. It happened because of failings in the building design and the materials used. Surely that much is clear. From the way this terrible disaster has been described by some people, it’s as if the Prime Minister herself had lit the match. Politicians are to blame for many failings in housing policy over the years, but surely we have to hope that Sir Martin Moore-Bick ignores the siren voices who just seek to blame local and national politicians. The blame for this terrible event lies in many places, but surely primarily on failings in design and materials are the most obvious immediate causes. Hopefully, we will soon know for definite.
*
I’m going to make a confession. I miss going to the LibDem conference. Call me a masochist, but I always enjoyed going. However, for the last three years I’ve missed out, if that’s the right phrase. I miss the beards. I miss the sandals. I miss the intensity on the faces of people who really felt their debates mattered. I miss the little exhibition stands for all the different LibDem pressure groups who were usually completely barking mad, but vehemently believed in their cause. I miss the white haired old lady on a motability scooter who would scoot around the conference centre running down anyone in her path, daring people not to get out of her way. I miss the LibDem delegates, who, when I was running the conference bookshop, would think nothing of asking for a discount on a 50p postcard. Actually, I don’t miss them at all. But the LibDem conference is the only one of the three conference which actually decides party policy. The event actually matters. You can’t say that for either of the other two. Which to be honest, may be for the best.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Can Jacob Rees-Mogg Ever Become Speaker?

9 Sep 2017 at 18:47

Arms sales are worth about £8 billion every year to the Uk economy. All arms exports have to be licensed through the BEIS Department and have to be signed off by the Secretary of State. Arms exports are a controversial subject and understandably so. Opposition politicians take delight in criticising the government for exporting arms to various countries with dodgy human rights records. In 2016 58% of our defence exports went to the Middle East. Between 2010 and 2015 our arms sales to Saudi Arabia amounted to £3.523 bn. [source: House of Commons Library]. They grew year on year from £550m in 2010 to £808m in 2015.

This week Vince Cable waded into the debate, something which he might come to regret. He said that if he were in government he would have stopped arms sales to Saudi Arabia a long time ago. He was, and didn’t. He was Business Secretary between 2010 and 2015. At best Vince is virtue signalling, at worst he is, to quote Zac Goldsmith, being “slippery”. I’ll leave you to judge which.
*
There was a lot of chatter about a reshuffle last week, although it seems to have died down now. We in the Westminster bubble love nothing better than a bit of reshuffle speculation. It fills column inches and hours of fun on the 24 hour news channels. It seems it’s now not going to happen, so the prospect of Jacob Rees Mogg joining the government must wait a little longer. I’m intrigued by Jacob. He’s one of my favourite interviewees, partly because he always has something interesting to say and can also be very funny. I’ve always thought his ambitions lay in acquiring the rights to sit in the Speaker’s chair rather than join the government but I wonder if his mind has been turned a little by the Moggmentum phenomenon. On Wednesday, however, something went very wrong. Jacob went on Good Morning Britain with Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan and said he was against abortion in any circumstances (including rape and incest) and was also against gay marriage. Personally, I applaud any politician who gives their honest views, and he is of course entitled to them. I disagree with both, as you’d expect, but at least he was honest, rather than do what Tim Farron did and equivocate (and even lie). The real question is this: can someone with such conservative views ever take on a leading government role? He is the Ann Widdecombe de nos jours. Ann’s abortive leadership bid in 2001 failed, ostensibly because her parliamentary colleagues couldn’t stomach her social conservatism. She was hugely popular among Tory members, and had she reached the last two in the contest she may have won. Sixteen years on, the Tory Parliamentary Party has changed a lot and I’d say it’s become massively more socially liberal.

I’m sorry to say that these remarks also put the Speaker’s Chair further from Jacob’s reach. I’m sorry because I think he’d be a brilliant Speaker. But Labour MPs will come under a lot of pressure not to support someone with such conservatives views. Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will be smiling to himself thinking, another opponent bites the dust…
*
There’s a lot of cant – yes cant – being talked about the so-called Henry VIIi clauses in the Great Repeal Bill. Isn’t the purpose of this Bill to repeal a single giant Henry VIII clause? Peter Lilley, who knows a lot about these things, has written an article pointing out “for 44 years the European Communities Act 1972 which implemented our membership of the European Community has meant EU legislation has become binding on UK citizens with no power for Parliament to amend or reject it. Once a law was agreed in Brussels, even if every single British MP voted against it, it still became law. The Repeal Bill will end that.”
Peter is offering a bottle of champagne to the first person reporting a BBC interviewer challenging a Euro-enthusiast about why they are concerned about Henry VIII clauses in this Bill but are happy with the father of all Henry VIII clauses in the Act it repeals?
I suspect he deserves to be drinking the champagne himself.
*

Only eight days until the LibDem conference starts. Contain your collective excitement please.
*
It is a mystery to me as to why Nadhim Zahawi has never been made a minister. He’s an excellent media performer and keeps coming up with interesting and sometimes radical policy ideas. This week he is suggesting that as part of a wider policy to attract back the youth vote, under 25s should be given an income tax break, where they pay a rate of 15% or even 10%. On the face of it, something serious to consider. However, I’m told the LibDems had this idea before the 2015 election, as they needed to do something to make up for their embarrassing volte face on tuition fees. However, when they polled and focus grouped the policy, it bombed among all age groups including young people. They felt it was fundamentally unfair to older generations. So the LibDems dropped the policy.

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ConHome Diary: "I'm Going Nowhere" Says May & Michael Heseltine's Delusions

1 Sep 2017 at 13:43

So Theresa May has announced she intends to fight the next election. Cue a legion of the usual suspects appearing on radio and TV questioning the likelihood of that actually happening. It was an audacious announcement for the PM to make, as she knew what the reaction might be. And given her wording to ITV News it looked to me as if it was pre-planned, rather than a spontaneous answer to a question. It is a measure of the way she has recovered her position that she felt confident enough to do this. That’s partly because there is no obvious challenger to her – no one who people could rally behind. And frankly, I don’t see that changing for a very long time. The time to challenge her was in the immediate aftermath of the election result, yet no one had the cojones to do it. And they still don’t. There will now be some inevitable speculation about whether the Prime Minister will have the courage to conduct the reshuffle she daren’t do just after the election. I wouldn’t bet against it. It would result in her creating a few more enemies on the backbenches, but she’s never particularly worried about that. She seems to be saying, ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’. Nicky Morgan has helpfully appeared on the BBC saying she won’t fight the next election, and Grant Shapps, even more helpfully, gave us the benefit of his views on the Today Programme. Of course, the “senior Tory MPs” have been at it too, giving anonymous quotes (aren’t they courageous) to journalists like this one to Sky’s Lewis Goodall: “My concern is that she actually believes what she is saying. She is delusional.” They just can’t help themselves. At least Morgan and Shapps have the balls to go on the record.
*
Well the Brexit talks are going incredibly well aren’t they? The attitude of Barnier and Juncker stinks. Their patronising condescension just reinforces all the reasons I voted to leave the EU. If ever I had any doubts about my decision (and I didn’t) the way they talk down to us as if were some recalcitrant child has allayed them. I’d love David Davis to look Barnier in the eye at one of their press conferences and call him out on it. It would be quite a moment.
*

I’ve been most amused by this new so-called Tory equivalent of Momentum, which is called Activate. Judging from some of the Whatsapp conversations reported on Guido Fawkes it’s populated by a group of spotty youths, who probably spend too much time in their bedrooms indulging in semi-permanent onanistic activities. In any case, Activate sounds more like a dermatological face cream. How very appropriate.
*
It’s sad to see Michael Heseltine on the decline. Yesterday on Sky News he was asked about the fact that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created since the Brexit vote. He replied that they had been created through credit and debt. Er, excuse me? Tell that to Aston Martin, Nissan, Toyota, Siemens etc. They have created jobs because of their confidence in Britain and the British economy. It’s strange that Michael Heseltine can’t bring himself to acknowledge that fact.
*

Next week my panel meets to compile this year’s Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right. If you have any suggestions for new entries or high climbers, please do leave them in the comments and we’ll consider your ideas.
*
There are many things I regret about the way we consume our news and politics at the moment, but the most important is that most people now seem to consume news through the prism of journalists, commentators or news programmes whose editorial line they generally agree with. I suppose it’s always been to an extent, but the phenomenon is becoming worse. Lefties read the Guardian, righties read the Telegraph. In the US righties was Fox, lefties watch CNN. And you can extrapolate this to all forms of media. I’ve seen this this week on twitter with people saying they won’t listen to my show this week because Nigel Farage is presenting it. Ridiculous. Know thine enemy, would be my advice. If you refuse to listen to or read the people you disagree with, how can you possibly be informed enough to know how to argue against them. One of the biggest compliments I can receive is for someone to contact me saying: “I disagree with you on almost everything, but…” They’ve actually taken the time to listen and then to work out how and why they disagree. That’s public discourse at its best. I much prefer to have a phone-in where most of the callers disagree. It makes for an interesting conversation rather than the kind of echo chamber you get on some shows. Some presenters take great delight in ridiculing people they disagree with. Nigel Farage has a different approach. He charms them. And it makes for good radio. I’m back on the air on Monday after my break in Norfolk.

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Britain Will Have to Pay an EU Exit Bill, But It's Up to the EU to Explain How It Should Be Calculated

27 Aug 2017 at 14:15

Tomorrow morning David Davis will be heading to Brussels for what ought to be a very telling week of negotiations with Michel Barnier and his team. Both sides have been very vocal in the last few days and if their pre-briefings are anything to go by it could be a very awkward week indeed.

One of the sticking points is the insistence from Barnier that Britain must outline what it is prepared to pay with regard to the ‘divorce’ or ‘exit’ bill. Britain has so far refused to engage with this and has restricted any comments to the fact that we recognise we will meet any commitments that we have entered into, but not pay a penny more. So far, all we have heard from the EU is that the bill could be as much as 80-100 billion euros, a figure which is so ludicrous as to be beyond a joke. What we have so far not heard is any rational way of calculating this bill. It was said by the EU some time ago that both sides must agree a formula for how the bill will be calculated, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The reason the EU is so prickly on this issue is that it will have a big black hole in its budget after Brexit. As the second biggest contributor to the EU budget, Britain’s financial munificence will be sorely missed. Barnier has been given a remit for screwing every last penny out of Britain and you can see why. There is also no recognition that Britain owns any assets as part of its EU membership or will be owed anything in return. They take the view that we’ve decided to leave, so hard luck. Britain may have contributed to fixed EU-owned assets, but that doesn’t give Britain any ownership rights over them. The fact that we have £9 billion tied up in the EU Central Bank seems not to concern them either. If this is seen as a divorce, in any divorce you divide up the assets accordingly. Not in the EU, it seems. Others don’t see it as a divorce, as divorces can involve maintenance payments. They see it as the EU equivalent of leaving a club, or maybe a gym. After you leave a club you don’t pay anything for other people to continue to use the club’s facilities after you leave.

If you look at it from a business point of view, the EU stance just doesn’t make sense. Not only are they not even willing to present an invoice, they’re asking us to explain how THEIR invoice should be calculated. It’s mad.

And we all know that if we did actually accede to their demand and tell them how much we think we should pay, they would laugh and demand double.

David Davis must surely take the view that if he EU believes we owe them any money, then it is up to the EU to tell us how much that is, not the other way around. Once they’ve told us, and explained how they have calculated it, then the proper negotiations on our exit bill can begin. That seems to me to be an entirely resonable stance on Britain’s part. Remainers, of course, will take the view that it’s up to us to follow the EU line. They always do. You’ll remember the ludicrous article in the Financial Times where they took great joy in calculating that our Brexit bill would be well in excess of £100 billion and we must jolly well pay it.

There is a view that from a legal point of view, we owe nothing. We leave on Marc 29 2019, and on that date our financial commitments end. That’s certainly the view of a House of Lords European Union Select Committee. In their report published in March they said…

“Although there are competing interpretations, we conclude that if agreement is not reached, all EU law—including provisions concerning ongoing financial contributions and machinery for adjudication—will cease to apply, and the UK would be subject to no enforceable obligation to make any financial contribution at all.”

However, they rightly warn…

“If the Government wishes to include future market access on favourable terms as part of the discussions on the withdrawal agreement, it is likely to prove impossible to do so without also reaching agreement on the issue of the budget.”

But let’s be clear, contrary to what Ros Altmann asserted in an interview with me on Friday, at no point have either Theresa May or David Davis said we don’t owe anything. Indeed, the Prime Minister has been very clear that we will meet our liabilities. So has Boris Johnson, the Foreig Secretary, although you may be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Back in July he was reported to have told the EU to ‘go whistle’ on a Brexit Bill. What he actually said was rather different. He was asked by Tory MP Philip Hollobone if he agreed with him that the EU could go whistle if they demanded a penny piece more than the £209 billion we have paid into the EU so far. Boris said that given some of th "extortionate " figures that had been bandied around by the EU so far, yes he did agree. He did not say we wouldn’t pay anything, as Ros Almann was asserting. He might have been wiser just to repeat the government line, simply that we will meet our commitments, but there you go. Here’s the evidence.

But it is incumbent on the EU to explain what our liabilities actually are. It remains a source of mystery as to why they have become unwilling to do that. Perhaps this quote from Iain Duncan Smith might shed some light on the fact that they seem frightened to do so.

""We have put into the place half a trillion pounds over the past 40 years which has never come back. That’s invested in all sorts of stuff there. We have intellectual property rights, physical investment in buildings, money in the European investment bank. We own a chunk of the EU, we don’t owe them any money. They are petrified that in two years time we will pull out and they will lose the second highest donor to the Budget.We should sweep that to one side and say honestly, these back of the envelope calculations do nobody any good.”

His view is that we owe nothing at all. I think that’s a stretch, but it’s certainly not all one way traffic.

British Assets

There is apparently a group of civil servants in Brexit Department who are drawing up a list of British owned assets in the EU – or EU assets that Britain can claim to have financed. This could include a proportion of EU property – embassies and official buildings.

The independent Brussels think tank Bruegal has calculated that the EU has around 152 billion Euros worth of assets.

It’s a moot point as to how one would calculate Britain’s share of these assets, but it is surely difficult to argue that that shouldn’t be any part of the formula used to calculate our eventual liability. Bruegl calculate that our share would be 20 billion euros. It’s worth reading Bruegel’s complete paper on how they come to this conclusion HERE

British Liabilities

The biggest fly in the ointment surrounds monies agreed in the EU budget but yet to be paid by member states, including Britain. According to a calculation by the FT’s Alex Barker in a paper for the Centre for European Reform, by 2018 there will be around 241 billion euros left to be paid. Half of this it to achieve “cohesion”, and 20% each for research and agriculture. Britain’s share of this expenditure is 29-36 billion euros according to Barker. Eastern European states are the ones who will benefit from the munificence and have drawn up plans accordingly. If Britain doesn’t pay anything, it will be left up to the other net-contributor countries to foot the bill – Germany, France, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The vexed subject of pensions is another area of controversy. EU employees and member states do not contibute to a normal pension scheme. Pension payments to ex Commission employees or MEPs do not come out of some giant pension fund, they come out of that year’s EU budget. The average annual pension for an ex Eurocrat is about £60,000. The total EU pension liability is 67 billion euros. Could Britain be expected to pay a proportion of this, and if so, how would it be calculated? Or could Britain argue that it’s a liability that falls when we leave and the fact that British citizens will benefit from EU pensions is irrelevant as the moment they join the Commission they are supposed to renounce individual country loyalties? Given that only about 4% of EU staff are/have been British, the annual liability is around £80 million, a figure which will fall year on year.

Sean Ryan from RTE summed up the range of liability calculations in Alex Barker’s paper as follows…

“A key point of contention is what is the British share of the EU budget – is it calculated from Gross National Income (GNI) in which case Britain has to pay up 15% of the overall EU bill. Or is it calculated (as the British would prefer) from an average of actual contributions after the rebate – in which case it is 12.1%. Barker then works through three different scenarios for how much Britain could end up having to pay in an exit charge. A maximalist position would see the UK having to pay up all contingent liabilities upfront, and get no rebate money after 2018. If the UK share of the bils is set at 12% they would have to pay €57.4 billion. At 15% share, the cost to the UK would be €72.8 billion. Excluding contingent liabilities and rebate would see the figures drop to €48 billion and €61 billion, depending on the percentage share used. While factoring in maximum receipts for the UK would see the bill drop again to €24.5 billlion and €33.4 billion.

And this is where the real negotiating has to start. As Whelan says later in his article these things will be decided by politics rather than law. The EU can’t risk Britain walking away and paying nothing, and Britain realises it will have to pay something in order to get a trade deal. So when David Davis says that we have to move on to talking about trade, alongside the exit bill, you can see the logic. The question is: will the EU play ball? And I rather think they won’t. Not yet, anyhow.

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LBC Book Club: Iain Dale talks to Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole author discusses her book THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO BED FOR A YEAR.

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Chris Rennard's Memoirs, Giving a Former Gang Member a Chance & Nigel Farage becomes Me

25 Aug 2017 at 13:50

This week I signed up a two volume memoir by former LibDem campaigning guru, Chris (Lord) Rennard. What this man doesn’t know about the arts (and also dark arts) of constituency campaigning can be written on a postage stamp. He, more than anyone, was behind the LibDem rise to popularity in the 1990s and 2000s. He learned his art on the streets of Liverpool in the 70s and 80s and his reputation achieved almost mythical proportions. Both Labour and the Conservatives were in awe of his mastery. The many LibDem by-election successes were down to his ability to pitch the LibDem campaign in a manner which totally obliterated the other two parties. These by-election wins gave the image of momentum and success, far beyond the reality. It was he who invented the famous LibDem bar-graphs, which whatever the reality of the situation was persuaded the local electorate it was a ‘two horse race’. This volume takes his life story up to 2006, when Ming Campbell took over the party leadership, and will be published in March 2018. A second volume will be published a year later. Back in 2003 when I was thinking of applying to be Tory candidate in north Norfolk he advised me against it on the basis that Norman Lamb would get a majority of 10,000. I thought I knew better. I didn’t. He was right. How different my life might have turned out, had I listened to him.
*
This week the government published more of its Brexit strategy papers. Some contain more detail than others, but the reaction by Remainers and the Remain supporting media has been all too typical, dismissive and laughable. Take their reaction to Wednesday’s paper on the European Court of Justice. Even though it is quite clear that ECJ jurisdiction will end when we leave, Remainers like Labour MP Chris Leslie alleged there had been a total climbdown which would make Brexiteers foam at the mouth. What was this climbdown? Well, the government were proposing a panel of arbitration to resolve disputes between us and the EU over trade, citizens rights and other areas too. The panel would be made up of one British judge, one European judge and an independently appointed judge. This is exactly the same way the EU-Canada and EU-South Korea trade agreement dispute procedures work. Having a judge on an arbitration panel does not give the ECJ jurisdiction, it gives them a panel member. A perfectly sensible arrangement. Sadly for Chris Leslie, the likes of Bill Cash and Theresa Villiers have both endorsed the suggestion. If the EU doesn’t we really will know what their agenda is in these negotiations.
*

On Thursday on my LBC show we spent an hour talking about gangs. It’s a subject I can’t say I am an expert on, but we took some fascinating calls from boys and men who had been in gangs but left. One, Peter in Streatham, rendered me speechless at times. He was 17 and first joined a gang at the age of 11. At the age of 13 he was stabbed. He felt he had no alternative but to join a gang “to provide for my family”. At 17 he had turned his life around and when I asked him what his ambition was he said “I want to be a businessman”. He currently works in Nando’s. He was articulate, eloquent, determined and had an edge about him. To be honest, I nearly offered him a job there and then. People like him, who have been on the edge of society, deserve their chance in life. I immediately had several listeners email me to offer him a job, a business opportunity or to mentor him. And good on them. I hope something comes out of this and that is set on a positive part in life.
*
Next week I’m off for a week and Nigel Farage will be presenting my show. No doubt there will be gasps of horror from anyone left of Bill Cash, but I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how he adapts to presenting a fast-paced, news-based show. Whatever one’s politics I think Nigel has become a very adept broadcaster. He engages his audience, is polite to people who ring up to disagree with him and is quite a charmer. He can also do the ‘radio bits’ very well, which many people find difficult. What I mean by this is knowing how to move from one subject to another seamlessly, knowing how to introduce the news and travel. It sounds simple, but many untrained presenters can be quite awkward at this. He’s also shown he can handle breaking news, which is possibly the most challenging part of the job. Last week I was covering the Barcelona terror attack and then had to switch to covering the death of Sir Bruce Forsyth – and then back again. So if you want to see how Nigel rises to the challenge he’ll be presenting my show from 4-7pm from Tuesday to Friday on LBC.

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Video: Iain takes part in Newsnight Industrial Relations Feature

BBC Newsnight with Nicholas Jones

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ConHome Diary: Why Theresa May Was Right to Play the Ball, Not the Man

19 Aug 2017 at 12:09

Sarah Champion is one of the more impressive Labour MPs. She is that rarest of people, a Labour front bencher who can actually string a sentence together and conduct a coherent interview without experiencing a car crash. On Wednesday evening she resigned from the front bench (for the third time I think) over an article she wrote last Friday in The Sun. She is the MP for Rotherham who took over when Denis MacShane resigned his seat back in 2012. Her offence? Well, apart from having the temerity to write for The Sun, she dared to confront the fact that most of the men who make up these gangs who target vulnerable white teenagers for sex are from the British Pakistani community. 97% of the girls who are groomed and raped are white. She dared to confront and inconvenient truth. She emphatically was not saying that all child abusers have an Asian background, but those who form these gangs do. Trying to work out why this is does not mean we should ignore an inconvenient truth. Sarah Champion opened her Sun article with these words: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?” And for that, she’s been drummed out of the Brownies and forced to resign.
Labour candidate Amina Lone, who is a muslim told Newsnight: “I grew up in a Muslim community where these attitudes were common. “White girls are easy” “Nobody cares about them” “They are just slags” “They parents don’t look after them properly” etc were/are still said today. I hear it regularly. Sarah Champion was talking about a particular type of grooming which is carried by men because of their cultural/religious practices. Obvs not all men. She is not a racist but a brave woman speaking out about a politically awkward issue. Labour, bury your heads as much as you like in the black & white purist world you push. The chickens will come home to roost.”
Quite.
However, not everyone goes along with that. Owen Jones told me on LBC he considers that paragraph to be racist. And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have a prime example of what is wrong with our politics today.
*
This week we marked the 70th anniversary of the partition of India. I don’t know about you, but it made me realise how little I knew about the event and how it came about. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh live with the consequences of partition today, so why don’t we know more about it? India is going to play a massive role in the world in the next twenty years. Perhaps our media might like to give it the same level of coverage it gives to China.
*

Why is that on A Level results day TV news reporters only ever seem to interview very good looking girls or show pictures of them jumping up in the air when they open their envelopes? Do boys not count any longer in this weird old world we live in nowadays?
*
Last week I wrote the majority of the column about Donal Trump and Kim Jong Un. Seeing as though Kim Jong Un has blinked, let’s concentrate on Trump this week. His reaction to the events in Charlottesville demonstrate why it’s impossible for him ever to unite his country. He called some Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan “very fine people”. In an angry press conference he undid all the fine words he had uttered from an autocue the previous day. He seemed unabl to differentiate between fascists and anti-fascists. On the first day back from her holidays Theresa May rightly condemned this attitude although she was careful to play the ball, not the man. It is right she should speak out, but people have to understand the Realpolitik of the situation. America remains our closest ally and a country with whom we need a free trade agreement. It’s right for the prime Minister to make clear her position, as she’s done, but gratuitous personal insults will help no one. There are, of course, further calls for his State Visit to be cancelled. Wouldn’t it be better for it to go ahead and for people to make their views clear while he is here? The way things are going, I’d be tempted to man the barricades myself, and I count myself as a down the line Americaphile.
*

Those who follow political debates on Twitter will have no doubt noticed that James Chapman’s Twitter account was deleted early on Thursday morning. When the truth comes out about what has happened, there ought to be a day of reckoning for some very irresponsible journalists (and others). And that’s all I’m saying on the subject.

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Iain Interviews Donal Blaney About the Tory Bullying Scandal

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Old Blogpost: What if a Footballer Came Out as Gay?

10 Aug 2017 at 16:50

ATTITUDE COLUMN FROM APRIL 2015: WHAT IF A FOOTBALLER CAME OUT? A NOVELLETTE ESSAY!

He hadn’t told anyone. Not even his agent. It was going to be done on his own terms. Adam Ranger hadn’t told his mother what he was about to do, and he especially hadn’t told his gossipy sister. They would all find out like the rest of the country. Had he told any one of them, he knew they would come out with all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t go ahead with what he knew would affect him for the rest of his life. You see, Adam Ranger, star England central defender, was about to announce to the world he was gay.

He knew the risks. He was prepared for the media storm that would no doubt engulf him. People who do something ‘first’ always become renowned. Adam was prepared for that – what he didn’t want to become was ‘notorious. He calculated that if he did it, others would follow suit. And follow suit quickly. He knew that in every dressing room up and down the land there were men like him. Indeed, he knew of one Premier League team where four of the starting eleven were gay. It wasn’t as if anyone was particularly secret any longer. Looks were exchanged. People just knew, but rarely said anything.

Adam had thought long and hard about how to do it. Press conference? No. Too uncontrollable. Newspaper exclusive. No. The other newspapers which hadn’t had the story would be angry and seek to trash him. TV or radio? Maybe, but would he get the time to say what he wanted to say? Would he be able to control the editing? Probably not. No, Adam decided to do a Tom Daley and record his own Youtube video.

After training one day, he went down to PC World and bought a video camera and tripod. “Alright, Adam?” said the sales assistant. “Got the girls coming round, have we? He joshed, with a deliberate wink. “Yeah, something like that,” smiled Adam. “If only you knew, mate,” he thought to himself.

He went home, set up the camera, sat down and looked straight into the lens. “I’m Adam Ranger. I play for England. And I’ve got something I want to tell you…”

Four weeks later…

It had been a momentous month. The praise, the almost entirely positive reaction from his own teammates who had lined up after training and done a collective moonie while pissing themselves laughing. The phone calls from players from other clubs, his England teammates had been a mixture of hilarious, emotional and highly charged. Tears were shed.
Three other international players followed Adam’s lead in the week after he came out to the world. A dozen lower league players did too. And all to an ever increasing shrug of the shoulders.

In his first game after the video release on Youtube Adam ran out at Upton Park, a difficult place for an opposition player at the best of times, to a standing ovation from most of the crowd. He hadn’t bargained for that and for a moment lost his composure. As the applause died down a chant started from the Bobby Moore Stand of “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” Adam laughed, grabbed the hand of one of his teammates and bowed. The applause restarted.
Yes, there were problems. He knew there would be. His agent was furious with him. “You’ve jeopardised all your commercial contracts by doing this,” he fumed. Adam suspected the very opposite would be true. And he was right. The offers flooded in. “We want you to be the face of our company,” said the chief exec of a major clothing brand. And there was more. Lots more.

Back in the room…

And that’s how I’d like to think things would be if a professional footballer took that great leap. OK, I might be writing with rose tinted spectacles, but I genuinely think it would be a lot more like this scenario than it was for Justin Fashanu 25 years ago. I have no idea how many professional footballers read Attitude Magazine. Probably more than you think. But if there’s only one, think about the trail you would blaze. Think about what kind of example you would set, not just to your fellow footballers but everyone else. Be proud of who and what you are. And tell the world.

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Tory MP Heidi Allen Goes Totally Off Message...

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It Shouldn't Happen to a Radio Presenter 57: The Iain Dale LBC Mash Up

4 Aug 2017 at 09:48

Created by @LeRadioGuy

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Iain Interviews George Osborne about Brexit (full interview)

And he has no plan for it

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