Last week I found myself hosting a big political dinner for the Labour Party at the Museum of London to raise money for important local council elections in May. I’ve attended many of these over the years and they are generally friendly, fun and a bit like a family wedding. You get to catch up with all the relatives — some you love, others are slightly weird but it’s still nice to see them and there’s this warm fuzzy glow.
This was slightly different. I knew it was a tough crowd when I got heckled by a bloke from the trade union Unite as I was in the middle of thanking party staff who do a tremendous job organising these fundraisers. He started yelling at me to praise the trade union movement, which I was going to do.
I hadn’t even got around to thanking the waiting staff who would be serving us — many of whom may have been trade union members — but he was all very ranty-pants about the whole thing.
It was pretty unpleasant but the rest of the evening went well, with great speeches from MP Dawn Butler and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (did you know his dad drove a bus? He doesn’t like to go on about it). As I was leaving, a party staffer quipped: “Can’t believe Unite just heckled you for thanking us workers – says it all.”
It sure did. A week later, the party has a new general secretary — former Unite official Jennie Formby — and many of the party staffers whom I thanked in that room have resigned. To be clear, these resignations were their choice but they could see what was coming down the tracks, which was a pretty hostile climate for anyone who existed from previous leaderships.
People decided to jump before they were pushed. You won’t know the names of these staffers but they were talented, hardworking, loyal and committed to the Labour Party. One told me: “This is no ordinary job. I’ve given my life to the party. It’s my family. This is like walking away from the kids and it’s emotionally devastating.”
The party will lose a huge amount of experience and institutional memory but let’s be clear-eyed about it — the party is under new management now. I wish Jennie Formby well, and it’s good to finally see a woman in a senior role, but I urge her to reach out to all staff — including those from the old days.
Just because they pre-date you doesn’t mean they’re the enemy. And it was shameful to see Momentum activists protesting outside Labour Party headquarters yesterday afternoon calling for more staff to be sacked. The Labour Party once prided itself on being the party of the workers — surely that applies to our own? And the task ahead is huge.
To fight the Conservatives, not those Labour people who didn't vote for Jeremy Corbyn. And to those staffers, it's horrid leaving the thing that you love. I remember it very well. But trust me, as a former aide wisely said - after you pine, you'll be fine.
A new Nixon: just what America needs
Just when you were tearing your hair out about the state of American politics, along comes a heroine from left field. Step forward actress Cynthia Nixon, best known for playing lawyer Miranda Hobbes in the hit television show Sex and the City, who on Monday night announced she was in the running to become Governor of New York.
I’m over the moon about this news on so many levels but mainly because Hobbes was one of the show’s best characters: super smart and sassy with the best soundbites, which is important in politics.
Her withering, witty approach to romance won her legions of fans. “Last night, Steve and I held hands for an hour and a half watching the fire. He was looking into my eyes; I was looking for the remote.”
She’s as good in real life and her campaign launch had some cracking lines. “We have to go out ourselves and seize it. This is a time to be visible. This is a time to fight.” I never thought I’d say it, but American politics needs a Nixon.
Thanks for getting us into the spirit, Jo
The Supreme Court was the scene for a rare thing in politics: a fun, all-female, cross-party shindig to celebrate Spirited Women of Westminster, organised by Jo Tanner, the co-founder of InHouse Communications.
Jo started the list more than two years ago but every time she got close to finalising it, something happened — like a pesky snap election — and women either moved up the greasy pole or suddenly got the chop.
So instead of publishing a list, Jo decided to throw a fabulous party — and what better gift to give us lucky “spirited” women than a giant bottle of posh gin? Nice one.