Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy adviser has pinpointed the aftermath of the 2017 General Election, including a “hubristic” party conference that year, as the moment Labour sowed the seeds of its loss in 2019. Andrew Fisher, a key aide to Corbyn who quit last September, highlighted Labour’s premature celebrations after its better-than-expected general election result in a wide-ranging post-mortem. “I think that’s probably when most of the mistakes were made,” said Fisher. “At that point we probably should have sat down very soberly and gone, ‘OK, how do we now win, because we’ve done the easy stuff?”
Labour gained 30 seats at the 2017 election with a 2 per cent swing, but Theresa May was still returned as Prime Minister. “When I went to 2017 conference, it was in Brighton as I recall, it was like a rally... it was like... kind of really overwhelming, very hubristic. Somebody should have just gone: ‘Whoa. We haven’t actually won anything yet. I know we’ve gained seats for the first time in 20 years since 1997.’ Which was quite an achievement...’ “I get it emotionally”, Fisher added to radical Left-wing website Novara Media’s TyskySour chat show. “But for me I felt that was quite alien as somebody who had been going to conference since the 1990s. I was like, ‘Why is it like this? This is weird.’ I felt quite alienated by it to be honest.”
Fisher eventually quit as an adviser to Corbyn in September 2019 to “spend more time with his family”. However, a leaked memo saw him accuse members of Corbyn’s team of a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency”. Turning the scalpel on the 2019 general election defeat, Fisher identified the blizzard of policy announcements that peppered Labour’s campaign. “We dropped some policies in quite late because they were kind of half ready and we were like ‘Quick! Let’s get them done.’
“Somebody probably should have said, ‘No, actually don’t, because you’re just overloading people, and let’s keep the focus on X Y or Z.’ “You’ve got to learn these lessons.”
Baroness Warsi says an “international response” is needed to tackle racism on social media. But until then, she has her own solution. “I have a guy who regularly sends nasty stuff to me... just some saddo,” the Tory peer said at the Migration Museum 2020 Lecture hosted by King’s College London’s Arts and Humanities Research Institute last night. But when the troll racially abused her before Christmas, Warsi “reached out to Mr Saddo”. “I said to him, ‘You seem very angry during the festive season, do you want to have a cup of tea and some samosas?’ “He hasn’t tweeted me since, so maybe it worked.”
Poetry champion William Sieghart explains a reason why he wrote a second Poetry Pharmacy book, which offers “poetic prescriptions”. “People would go: ‘You haven’t got anything for sibling rivalry?’ Or... other things like, ‘I really hate my mother.’ That got me thinking that this is an unlimited journey.”
David Hasselhoff and Stanley Johnson were at last night’s Boisdale of Bishopsgate’s Burns Night supper, though another Scottish poet stole the show. Host Ranald Macdonald, speaking in the cellar named after “Scotland’s worst-ever poet”, read William McGonagall’s lines: “Pity the blind man as he walks down the street/as he cannae see his feet.”
Vegetarian Sadie Frost on her meat-free kisses
As many Londoners continue to endure Veganuary, Sadie Frost revealed the difficulties she has faced as a vegetarian. The actress said until the age of 21 her restrictive diet meant she wouldn’t even kiss anyone who ate meat or fish. “I had to let go a bit, because I was quite over the top,” she told Yasmin Mills at an Ecofetes Inspiration Talk at Treehouse Hotel last night. She also lamented how little choice there was for vegetarians when she was younger. “I used to mash up peas and put that in a sandwich.” Yum.
Although finding meat-free food has become easier, she said her youngest son used her vegetarianism to rebel against her and would eat steak “for breakfast, lunch and dinner”.
Across town, and also on a January health-kick, presenter Fearne Cotton attended a non-alcoholic cocktail masterclass with Everleaf. Meanwhile, former Glamour editor Jo Elvin and actors Alexandra Roach, James Norton and Daisy May Cooper partied at the VIP screening of This Country at the BFI Southbank.
Atheist John Nicolson MP is experiencing a “deluge” of invitations from religious groups after accidentally declaring his allegiance to God while being sworn in to Parliament. Speaking to The Londoner at the launch of Mace magazine, the panicked SNP politician said he’s even received a lunch invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. “I can’t exactly say I think you’re inviting me under false pretences can I? I am going. Of course I am going.”
Also at the Mace launch was indefatigable Brexiteer Mark Francois. He has big plans for the 31st, he told us. “I’m not going to bed. I’m going to stay up and watch the sun rise on a free country. I’ll probably be pretty wired.” Easy, tiger.
Labour chairman Ian Lavery has called on leadership hopeful Keir Starmer to “stand aside” and make way for a woman. Surely nothing to do with Starmer being the main rival for Lavery’s preferred candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey?
Armando Iannucci’s early encounters with BBC drama types for his film In The Loop left him puzzled. They returned his script with notes and “against all the jokes were, ‘Do we need this?’” Iannucci, speaking at a Q&A for his new film David Copperfield in the BFI last night, pointed out that chase scenes in Bond films don’t add to the story either. “But take them out and it would just be ‘James you’ve got to go to Budapest you’re meeting someone at five o’clock’.“‘Hello. I’m in Budapest’. ‘OK we’ve got to pick up the suitcase that someone has left on the ledge by the fountain.’ ‘Right I’ve got that’...”