Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Doin’ it for the kids

The list of red princes and princesses given comfy jobs in Jeremy Corbyn’s office often used to make your insider worry that Momentum was just a crèche for the children of the well-educated, well-paid establishment left.

But your insider worries no more after the launch of the real thing: Momentum Kids. Let’s take it as read that childcare provision for working mothers is a good thing – and also note how moderate women Labour members of parliament have fought for it for years but are conveniently ignored when Momentum pretend they are the first to do something.

It becomes less of a good thing, and slightly sinister, when you tack onto the end of it ‘political education’ for children.

The events being put on by Momentum Kids at Momentum’s rival party conference are just surreal. There are no lessons in throwing Lego bricks through MPs’ windows yet, but children of the Corbynistas can at least learn how to make protest banners. Then there is the Teddy Bear Mandate workshop, where you can bring a teddy bear along to find our ‘your toy’s mandate’ and how it will win power.

If your child can answer that, they are one step ahead of Corbyn.

Big spending, big headaches

Expect, if Jeremy Corbyn has been re‑elected when this magazine hits your doorstep, Conservative party headquarters to be getting out their calculators alongside their champagne. There has never been any sign that Corbyn has recognised how much perceptions of profligacy contributed to Labour’s 2015 defeat. But having discovered turning on the spending taps means you can promise nice things, his shopping list this summer is running up quite a large bill. From the £167bn on green energy to the £42m on arts spending – not forgetting the £500bn investment bank – there is nothing that cannot be fixed by throwing money at it.

Corbyn’s campaign points to Theresa May’s warm words about an industrial strategy as a sign that the tectonic plates are shifting and that overspending is acceptable again. The long-term economic plan may have left office with David Cameron and George Osborne, but your insider went to enough marginal seats last year to know this is a grave error. When have the Conservatives ever missed a chance to hammer Labour’s spending at a general election?

The coming leader

Meanwhile, the vacancy on the home affairs select committee, created by Keith Vaz’s not entirely surprising departure, is suddenly a crucial role in Labour’s immediate future.

The frontrunners are Chuka Umunna and Caroline Flint. Between them they have more experience of fighting the Tories than much of the Labour frontbench put together. In fact, so too do the other names in the frame: Fiona Mactaggart, who stood last time, and Yvette Cooper, the former shadow home secretary.

The experience on offer is vast, but it is Umunna who is the favourite to land the job. The Streatham MP has used the last year to build experience. Crucially, while his scrutiny of committee witnesses is what you would expect from a former lawyer, what counts is his ability to make people outside the room pay attention. And if there is anything Labour needs, it is just that.

But it is far from a dead cert. Flint is well respected across the House of Commons (every MP has a vote to elect the chair), is one of the most experienced Labour parliamentarians, and recently won concessions from the government on the finance bill – which, as she said, shows ‘sometimes backseat drivers get things done’. Flint is a true Labour fighter.

The home affairs job is a prestigious one, but the impact it has on the Labour leadership could be more important. It feels unlikely that the winning candidate would take the leap from committee chair to leadership contender, but these are unlikely times. In the corridors of the powerless, where Labour MPs are based, it is becoming increasingly accepted that next time there is a leadership challenge – and there will be one – the focus is on changing members, not changing minds.

The thinking is not illogical. Labour’s National Executive Committee will be unable to make it as difficult to join as a registered supporter as it did this summer, making it a straight fight to recruit to our vision of what Labour should be. And, as Saving Labour’s work this summer shows, it is not just Corbyn’s campaign who can sign people up to the party.

Boris Johnson famously said he would like to be in place, ‘if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum’. The election of a new committee chair will propel a Labour moderate on to many news bulletins and front pages, for once talking about something other than Labour’s disastrous leadership.

If the next contest is set up to be about recruiting from the wider public, that seems like a pretty good place to put yourself just in case the ball breaks loose.


Cartoon: Adrian Teal

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