Chuka umunna

Chris Mullin’s eye for the absurd remains as keen as ever

Journalists seldom get to the top in politics. They find it hard to trot out the dreary virtue-signalling that political communication often requires. Chris Mullin, I suspect, finds it almost impossible. He was a Bennite, but the Bennites quickly discovered he was unreliable. The Blairites might have welcomed him had they not suspected, rightly, that he would get the line wrong sooner rather than later.  There’s an endearing vanity in the way Mullin reports every kind remark made about his previous published diaries The only journalist to have made the top job in politics is Boris Johnson, and he crashed and burned. My friend Denis MacShane, who has ability and

Portrait of the Week – 20 June 2019

Home Boris Johnson was well ahead in the parliamentary stage of the contest for the leadership of the Conservative party, gaining 126 of the 313 votes by MPs in the second ballot, with Jeremy Hunt second at 46 (and Dominic Raab knocked out). He had declined to take part in a Channel 4 debate, and was represented by an empty podium before an audience purporting to be floating voters. The most memorable metaphor of that debate concerned bin bags. Rory Stewart said: ‘I was trying to cram a whole series of rubbish bins into the rubbish bin.’ He had meant to say ‘a whole series of rubbish bags’, but the

The biggest mistake Change UK made was to become Change UK

Why did Change UK end up splitting? Well, there were the personality clashes. And then there was the failure to attract more MPs who were supposed to break off from their existing parties to join the quest to change politics. But the biggest reason the party ended up in this mess was that simply it became a party. When it started off as the Independent Group, its members seemed keen to cast their new caucus as something loose and exploratory, rather than a formal political party. In fact, I understand that three of the MPs – Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Luciana Berger – who announced they were leaving today

Chuka Umunna, The Alternative

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Sajid Javid likes to refer to himself as ‘The Saj’. While the Home Secretary has repeatedly denied the claims, the tendency to refer to one in the third person appears to be catching. The Times reports that Liz Truss has been known to go by ‘The Truss’ (though ‘The Chief’ has also been used). Now it seems the latest ambitious Member of Parliament with a penchant for the third person is Chuka Umunna. Except he’s a been bit more obvious. The TIG MP’s website now includes the subtitle – ‘The Alternative’. It seems picture location faux paxs are in the Westmisnter water…

Chuka Umunna’s £451-an-hour new job will help his opponents no end

The news that Chuka Umunna is getting paid £451 an hour to chair a new centrist think tank will go down very well indeed with some of his Labour colleagues. It’s not so much that those MPs are just delighted for Umunna, as it is that they can use his £65,000 salary to undermine the chances of the new centrist party that this think tank might be working for. The Labour leadership is naturally worried about the idea of a breakaway centrist party, as it could rob Jeremy Corbyn of his chance to become Prime Minister at the next general election. But the Corbynite attack line against such a party

Will Labour split?

With parliament in recess and the Prime Minister on holiday, politics is calmer than it has been in some time. But Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on Marr yesterday about the EU and the single market are a reminder of Labour’s divisions over Brexit. At some point, this tension will have to be resolved. The 49 Labour MPs who voted for Chuka Umunna’s single market amendment to the Queen’s Speech will have to either back down or repeatedly defy the whip. The question is how does this division fit with the broader struggle for control of the party machinery between the Corbynites and the rest. Will those Corbynites who want mandatory re-selection

Chuka can’t

Although Chuka Umunna was widely tipped to succeed Keith Vaz as chair of the home affairs select committee, in the end it was Yvette Cooper who proved triumphant. In fact, Umunna came a distant third in the election — with Caroline Flint coming second. So, what went wrong? The word being put round Westminster is that the vote was split between Cooper and Umunna until the Tories — allegedly worried that Umunna would prove too great a threat as chair and then have a springboard to become leader — conspired to thwart the New Labour darling. Alas, this version of events fails to ring true in the Conservative camp. ‘Let’s just say no Tories

Labour’s conference, day one: The Spectator guide

Jeremy Corbyn promised to wipe the slate clean following Labour’s fractious leadership race. Now that he’s officially clinched victory, it’s time for the party to try and do just that at Labour’s annual conference, which kicks off at 11am today. Here, The Spectator has put together a guide of the main events to look out for. This is what’s on today: 11am: Labour’s conference starts The NEC’s chair Paddy Lillis speaks shortly afterwards Fringe events: 5.30pm: The Big Debate: Labour and the economy in Brexit Britain Speakers include: Chuka Umunna; Ed Miliband; Lisa Nandy; Rachel Reeves 6pm: Stop Trident Fringe Meeting Speakers include: Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the CND; John McDonnell; Diane Abbott 6pm:

Labour’s ex-frontbenchers make the most of life outside the shadow cabinet

What can you fill your time with if you’re a former Labour frontbencher left twiddling your thumbs as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership? Well, as Caroline Flint and Chuka Umunna have shown this week by launching themselves into campaigns to replace Keith Vaz, chairing a select committee is a pretty attractive option, particularly when it is one as prestigious as the Home Affairs Committee. But both have also shown over the past few months that it is possible to be a forlorn former frontbencher and still achieve something. Umunna was on the airwaves on Monday morning talking about migration controls: a slot his Shadow Cabinet colleagues might only dream

Chuka can: his next leadership bid starts now

Last summer, Chuka Umunna disappointed his Blairite mentors when he dropped out of the Labour leadership race. Explaining his decision, Umunna said that he was uncomfortable with the level of pressure and scrutiny on both himself and his loved ones. A lot has changed since then. With Jeremy Corbyn leading a fractious party — and Umunna now happily married — could a comeback be on the cards? After Keith Vaz stepped down from his role as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, Umunna has today confirmed that he will stand in the election to replace Vaz. Umunna — who is already on the committee — will have

Chuka Umunna turns on Ken Livingstone at anti-Semitism hearing: ‘you’ll be remembered as a pin-up for prejudice’

It’s been over a month since Ken Livingstone found himself suspended from the Labour party over his claim that Hitler was a supporter of Zionism. Today the former Mayor of London was forced to face the music over his comments at the Home Affairs select committee on anti-Semitism. Although Livingstone has experienced a fall from grace since the comments, he was in a cheerful mood at the hearing. When he wasn’t pitching for his own BBC history show on Nazi Germany — ‘I’d be delighted to do it’ — he was filling MPs in on all the ‘well-educated’ Jews who had stopped him in the street of late to offer their sympathies. ‘The number of Jews

The politically correct way to do racism

Exactly a year ago this week I was at a dinner party when a famous opinion pollster leaned over to me and said: ‘You know, the best thing about this election is that within two years Chuka Umunna will be the leader of the Labour party and Sajid Javid the leader of the Conservatives.’ He was referring to the last general election — the dinner party had been convened a week before it took place. I think the chap had been invited to tell us all what would happen at the polls — and indeed he delivered a lengthy and earnest peroration on this subject, utilising all the expertise and

Leave wins the Spectator Brexit debate at the London Palladium

It was the largest debate in The Spectator’s history: we sold out the 2,200-seat London Palladium for our debate on whether Britain should leave the EU, sponsored by Rathbones. The lineup: Dan Hannan, Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey vs Nick Clegg, Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna. Andrew Neil chaired. Here are summaries of all the speeches, as well as the full audio: Daniel Hannan for Out. Tonight, I’m inviting you to make me redundant – and, into the bargain, make Nigel redundant. And I wouldn’t be doing if I were not confident that there will be plenty of openings for newly-unemployed MEPs in the boom that would follow our exit from the European Union. Why do

Did a Momentum activist suggest Chuka Umunna wasn’t ‘politically black’?

It’s been a bad week for the Tories, but it hasn’t exactly been a great week for Labour. After a list categorising Labour MPs as ‘supportive’ or ‘hostile’ towards Jeremy Corbyn was leaked, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse, because it appears that Corbynistas are now ranking MPs in terms of how ‘politically black’ they are. The Evening Standard reports that during a speech given by Marlene Ellis – a Momentum activist and member of Chuka Umunna’s local party – she claims that her local Labour party branch in Lambeth is ‘very, very right-wing’. In a recording passed to the Standard, she is reported to claim that she

Could a yoghurt defeat David Cameron?

I do not know if it has officially been measured, but my guess is that Christine Shawcroft, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, has an IQ of somewhere in the region of six. This would put her, in the global hierarchy of intelligence, directly between one of those Activia yoghurts women eat to relieve constipation and some moss. I’m sure Christine would argue, perhaps forcibly, that intelligence is an overrated, elitist concept and that no store should be put by it. Judging people by whether they are too thick to breathe in and out fairly regularly is discriminatory. The views of an imbecile, or, say, a Jerusalem artichoke, are

Today in audio: Brexit, the BBC and Corbyn’s dress sense

David Owen said it was time for Britain to leave the EU. Speaking this morning, the SDP founder said Brexit was a way of restructuring Europe in the way it needed to be. Owen went on to say there was no need for Britain leaving behind the EU to be a damaging process: Dame Janet Smith published her review into Jimmy Savile at the BBC. She said the management structure of the BBC was deeply referential. Janet Smith – whose report was criticised as an ‘expensive whitewash’ – said staff didn’t speak out ‘because they felt it was not their place’: The BBC’s Lord Hall said it was a ‘grim

PMQs sketch: Cameron’s ‘b— word’ sets off a Twitter-quake of offence

Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t changed his clothes since Christmas. He arrived at PMQs today in his dependable outfit of non-slip shoes, biscuit-coloured suit and minimum-wage tie. His white, flattened scalp and his mood of perplexed fatigue make him look like a dutiful pensioner inspecting a care-home for his beloved mum and wondering if he might check in as well, while he’s there. Today, however, mighty deeds summoned him to parliament. International monsters awaited his challenge. There were slavering dragons to tame. And famous victories to be won and celebrated. But he wasn’t up to it. As always. When Corbyn fails, it has to be said, he does so placidly and almost

A select committee revelation: the doors were painted red 20 years ago

The whole purpose of parliamentary select committees was supposed to be to help inform policy-making. Instead, they have sunk to becoming rather vulgar kangaroo courts used by wannabe barristers of the backbenchers to boost their egos. It took about five minutes at today’s session of the Commons Home Affairs Committee to establish that neither G4S nor Jomast (the landlord which provides properties in Middlesbrough for the housing of asylum-seekers) have a policy of deliberately painting front doors red in order to help identify the occupants as asylum-seekers. Only 59 per cent of properties in the town occupied by asylum-seekers are red, it turns out. Moreover, the doors have been painted

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t destroying Labour: backstabbing is

First things first: there is no force in Heaven or on Earth that could induce me to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his sad brand of sixth-former state socialism. In fact, as someone who believes in freedom and growth, the idea of ever giving my beloved ballot to the illiberal, eco-miserabilist Labour Party, regardless of who’s leading it, fills me with horror. Or is it mirth? It’s one or the other. And yet, despite my Corbynphobia, and my humane desire to see dying Labourism put out of its misery, I increasingly find myself shaking my head in something like fury at Corbyn’s Labour critics. They accuse him of destroying their

Chuka Umunna pops the question

When Chuka Umunna pulled out of the Labour leadership race earlier this year, he explained in a statement that he had decided it was time to prioritise his personal life over his political career: ‘I’ve said that I could live without leading the Labour party or politics. For once I decided to put the rest of my life first,’ the former bookies’ favourite mused. While Umunna may have been led to question his decision in the months following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as the leader of the Labour party, his efforts in regards to his personal life have at least paid off. Umunna has proposed to his solicitor girlfriend Alice Sullivan,