Coffee House

A ‘lurch to the left’ or a wise appointment?

18 April 2013

One interesting decision that Ed Miliband made this week was to appoint Karen Buck as his PPS, following the long-planned departure of John Denham. Tory MPs have told me they were very quickly given ‘lines to take’ on how this represented a big ‘lurch to the left’ on the Labour leader’s part.

CCHQ is right that Karen Buck is on the left of her party: as a shadow welfare minister she pushed for the party to oppose the £26,000 benefit cap when Liam Byrne’s official line was to leave it be (one he later reversed). But the line to take conveniently forgets that one of the principal purposes of a PPS is to act as a conduit between a leader or minister and the opposite side of the party. So a minister on the right of their party should in theory appoint a PPS on the left.

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Now it doesn’t always work out that way: Owen Paterson, for instance, seems to be pretty good at appointing PPSs who occupy the same ground that he does in the Conservative spectrum (and indeed PPSs who like resigning, or at least threatening to). But Buck might well be a useful conduit between Miliband and the left of his party on issues such as welfare when the thermometer is rising on this policy issue. She has established herself as an expert on this area in parliament to the extent that even her greatest critics on other parts of the political spectrum praise her knowledge and passion for the subject, while insisting that she’s totally wrong.

This could well come in handy for Miliband, but party sources insist to me that she was picked not because she’d be strategically useful on specific policy areas, but because she is popular and well-respected in the party and works hard on campaigning. Indeed, she became something of a celebrity in the party in 2010 for beating Joanne Cash in her Westminster North constituency: I saw young party activists approaching her to sign their conference agendas at that year’s Labour conference, so great was their admiration.

That as may be, but it’s worth watching how the leader deploys Buck when the welfare debates in his party start up again.

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  • crudbudgie

    Bet he was sorry to see the dwarf Denham bugger off.

  • judyk113

    The Labour faithful may adore Karen Buck, but as someone whose mum lived in her Westminster constituency and for whom, unlike her Tory predecessor or the very good Tory local councillor, she never did anything or showed any interest, and who had dealings with failing Westminster schools, my view of Karen Buck is that she’s a hard line left ideologue who only opens her mouth to make suitably hard line/opportunist political statements. I find Diane Abbott by contrast to be a much more thinking and likeable Labour left-winger– in comparison with Buck, that is. Buck will be someone who is well behind Len McCluskey’s Unite demands for making Labour do his union’s hard left bidding.

    Why does the Spec find it necessary to talk Buck up?

    Miliband was put in place by the Labour hard left union machine. He’s appointed an entirely compatible PPS with the Labour hard left who has little to say to the Labour centre or right, or indeed to the wider electorate.

    • Russell

      Good grief! If you think Abbott is a much more thinking and likeable person in comparison with Buck, Buck should cost labour plenty of votes. Abbott is not long for being an MP (2015 maximum unless a recall Bill is passed quickly).

      • David Lindsay

        Really? Which party thinks that it is going to take Hackney North & Stoke Newington?

        • Russell

          One that doesn’t have fanatical socialist hypocrits hopefully, or perhaps an Independent. The poor sods there have been failed by labour as have people in all the poorest most deprived constituencies in the UK.

          • David Lindsay

            That doesn’t answer the question. Diane Abbott got 55 per cent of the vote there in 2010, and more than twice the vote of the second-placed candidate, the Lib Dem. More votes, in fact, than all nine other candidates put together, including three Independents.

            She will be coming up to 62 at the time of the next General Election, so the birthplace of Blue Labour is worth watching for who gets the seat the time after that, when she will be coming up to 67. But only then, and only for that.

            • Russell

              Labour thinks it will walk it come 2015 as it is regarded as a very safe labour seat of course.

              • David Lindsay

                They are, and it is. Unless you know otherwise. So come on. Do tell.

                • Russell

                  They are? Who?
                  It is? What?
                  I did tell!

                  i realise you are a bit thick, but you asked me which party thinks it is going to win, and I told you. Obviously your reading skills are lacking.

                • David Lindsay

                  All right, I concede. The Tories (or do you mean UKIP?) are going to win Hackney North & Stoke Newington. Of course they are.

                  That is only marginally less probable than the Tories’ winning anywhere else that they do not already hold, or even holding on to many of the places that they do.

                  And it is exactly as likely as UKIP’s winning anywhere else. While Farage himself put up there? If not, why not?

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  “Labour gain, why not”. Yeah, yeah, all your predictions are faultless.

      • HookesLaw

        Well to be fair he said she was a more likeable left winger. Which is damning with faint praise in my book.
        Abbot is a stinking hypocrite which makes her mainstream Labour.

  • Smithersjones2013

    She’s just another of Miliband’s Misfits…..

  • Barakzai

    A socialist ‘expert on benefits’ who is considered by parliamentary opponents to be passionate but wrong . . . . and presumably on course to be a minister in the next Labour disaster show. Oh joy.

  • Russell

    Another idiot who believes a £26,000 benefits cap is too low and wants people earning £60,000 per year to get child allowance and unlimited housing benefit!
    What a great move by Milibrain, the labour voters will obviously love hearing the nutcase Buck.

    • HookesLaw

      Why shouldn’t people on 60k get child allowance. They pay their taxes and a lot of them. Cutting it off simply creates yet another narrowing of pay differentials.

      • Russell

        You really don’t seem to understand that not everyone has or wants children. Single childless taxpayers earning approx. £14,500 per year gross on minimum wage, would pay about £20 per week tax, some of which will be allocated to your £60,000 per year person. I realise the amount is tiny, and that the person on £60,000 will be paying a large tax bill.
        The whole benefits/allowances system is ridiculous taking tax off people and employing people and providing systems to pay them back a bit, (money going round and round inefficiently).
        But just think how low paid childless single people think when they are asked to pay into a pot which relatively rich people are being paid from.

        • HookesLaw

          Yes, not everyone wants children – I have none.
          But governments think it wise to help and encourage couples to have children. Children, well and healthy children, are a benefit to the childless. Someone has to pay taxes in the future.

          Child benefit is a fairly straightforward benefit, I see nothing excessively bureaucratic about it.

          The middle class are already being relatively more harshly squeezed in respect of tax so why should they be picked on again. The govt may of course… it would be bad politics hitting the aspiring I think.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Among many other reasons, this is the type of leftist thinking that will be putting Call Me Dave’s head on a spike, 24 months from now.

  • telemachus

    It will not make a difference to the outcome
    Remember similar concerns when he appointed “Trot” Simon Fletcher in January

    Miliband is tolerated so as not to rock the boat until after the election victory

    After that the triumvirate(Balls, Cooper & Burnham) will take over

    • Russell

      This election victory which labour have convinced themselves and the media about is becoming more uncertain every week. Just wait until the labour 7 point lead evaporates over the next 12 months and watch them panic.

      • telemachus

        You wish
        I expect a honeymoon following St Pauls and then back to the realities of the spare room subsidy and bedroom tax
        Cameron needs a miracle to rescue him

        • Russell

          All he really needs to do is attempt to pass a Bill for an in/out EU referendum either this year or next year for a win/win Conservative situation.
          If the electorate got the referendum, his popularity would rise (admittedly not as much if he campaigned for remaining in the EU and the vote was to stay in) as both pro and anti EU voters will appreciate he gave them the chance to vote.
          If Milibrain & Labour combined with the LibDems and prevented the electorate getting the referendum they would be savaged in a general election.

          Whether or not a miracle is needed to persuade Cameron to do this is the question. He is probably too thick and/or stubborn to take such action.

          • telemachus

            So you see all is lost
            First he will not have the courage
            Second if he did a feww of his troops would rebel and with everyone elase the motion would be voted down

            • Russell

              First, he may have no choice if the 100+ tory backbenchers who want out of the EU put enough pressure on him to the point where he thinks he might get the Maggie treatment and backstabbed out of being the ‘leader’.
              Second the small number of pro EU tory MP’s would be more than offset by the many defeats of labour MP’s denying the electorate a vote, and they too would be thrown out of their constituencies no matter how ‘safe’ they think they are.
              The EU are currently refusing a freeze on the next 7 year budget and they are demanding an additional 11billion euros for last years budget which they have overspent/committed to, which will further infuriate the British Taxpayers.
              Milibrain repeatedly states he is against letting the electorate have say on our EU membership and currently supports staying in along with Cameron.

              • telemachus

                And staying in is our historic destiny

                • Russell

                  Only if sufficient gullible IQ2’s follow Milibrain and Camerons advice.

                • telemachus

                  The leaders of the 2 biggest centres of popular opinion in our country cannot be wrong

              • HookesLaw

                No, the EU parliament accept the freeze on budget limits. It has other demands. Its not unusual for the budget to be rolled over and the following years budget moved around to accommodate it. The practice is running into the buffers though and the EU is not allowed to run a deficit.
                UKIP actually voted against it as well.

                In the final analysis the EU may be reduced to budgeting year on year.

                • Russell

                  Drop the misrepresentation of UKIP please, with the spin that they voted against the freeze and leave it there.
                  UKIP explained they were against a rise and a freeze, they wanted a reduction, which is why they voted as they did!

    • anyfool

      I told you last year that after the Jock independence vote, Darling will take over from Balls, Balls will be offered a post he cannot accept, game over.
      Miliband is a weak minded fool but he is sly as a fox, he stabbed his brother in the back so why do you seem to think Balls would be able to better him.
      Miliband is a union glove puppet, the unions will not allow your foolish fantasy to take place.

      • telemachus

        Remember McBride

        Also Darling is tired

        He has just the one shot left and when he wins that he and Margaret intend to live on Ύδρα (Hydra) to pursue his love of music and the poetry of Leonard Cohen

    • Andy

      Will there be Nuremberg style rallies and book burning ???

      • telemachus

        Do you suggest “The Meaning of David Cameron” by Richard Seymour, Dave Cameron’s Schooldays (Bill Coles) orCameron on Cameron: Conversations With Dylan Jones?

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