ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: M people who must move on up to new vote

PUBLISHED: 11:53 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 24 January 2019

Seumas Milne, the Labour Party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communicationsclude. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Seumas Milne, the Labour Party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communicationsclude. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

2016 Getty Images

Editor-at-large ALASTAIR CAMPBELL looks at the important M people who need to move for a new vote.

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John McDonnell. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesJohn McDonnell. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Time for a piece of whimsy. For one week only I will leave the high politics to others (though there is a bit of low politics dotted throughout).

Let me begin these musings with a piece of spectacular, though justified, name-dropping by introducing you to the three men who, when I found myself in their presence, caused the hair on my neck to stand to attention, my heart to race a little faster, and a slight sweat to form between my shoulder blades. They were, ladies and gentlemen... drum roll, drum roll, drum roll... Muhammad Ali, Diego Maradona and Nelson Mandela. If I need to explain why, you have no appreciation of sporting genius or the importance of character in political history, and I am confident most readers of this august journal, even the non-sports fanatics among you, have both.

But what about wordplay artists? I am sure there are plenty of those among the New European readership. Do you notice anything when those three great names are listed together? It’s the letter M. I’m beginning to think there is a hierarchy in the alphabet and M is king.

So if I think of my own private life... almost four decades of it shared with my partner Fiona Millar, still mourning the loss of our dog, Molly. Even longer spent supporting Burnley Football Club – greatest ever player Jimmy McIlroy, childhood heroes Willie Morgan and Brian Miller, who played for us when we won the First Division title in 1960 and would have won more than his solitary England cap had he not been playing in the same position at the same time as Bobby Moore, and was our manager when we had to win against Orient in 1987 or face demotion into non-league.

Andrew Murray. Photo by Pool BUU/LUYSSEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesAndrew Murray. Photo by Pool BUU/LUYSSEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

I look at the front cover of my book, Winners: And How They Succeed, and I recall my favourite interviews, with football manager Jose Mourinho and boxer Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather – the guy who took on Conor McGregor and shared hundreds of millions for the pleasure. Money. Multi-millions. We are living in a world of M, people. M-People.

Or take my journalistic career – a Mirror Group trainee, where I met not only Fiona but my best friend John Merritt, alas no longer with us. My first editor on the Mirror was Mike Molloy, owner for part of my time there was Robert Maxwell, the boss when I was deemed surplus to requirements was David Montgomery, so off I went to Today newspaper, owned second time around by Rupert Murdoch. Dial M for Murdoch, as Tom Watson called his book. Dial M for everything.

With the car bomb in Northern Ireland last weekend reminding us of the fragility of the peace process I think of some of the key players in that process: John Major, and his Northern Ireland secretary Patrick Mayhew, who took the first big risk of opening up channels to the IRA; Martin McGuinness who best symbolised the IRA’s journey from bomb to ballot box, the terrorist commander becoming an elected deputy first minister; George Mitchell, the US senator with the patience of a saint who chaired the all-party talks (maybe we need someone like him for Brexit now!); Mo Mowlam, and two of the Northern Ireland secretaries who followed her, Peter Mandelson and Paul Murphy; my oppos as press secretary in the White House (Mike McCurry) and in the Sinn Fein team (Richard McAuley), not to mention McAuley’s colleague Mitchel McLaughlin, or Martin Mansergh who was working for Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern; key MPs like Seamus Mallon, Ken Maginnis, Eddie McGrady, Bob McCartney.

Ask me to list the most important journalists covering the process, and front of mind would come Dennis Murray of the BBC, Des McCartan of the Belfast Telegraph and broadcaster Eamonn Mallie. Now let’s fast forward to today and some of the key players in Brexit and European politics more widely: prime minister Theresa May; French president Emmanuel Macron; German chancellor Angela Merkel. How the hell did that happen? The three big powers in Europe. All led by Ms! And when Mrs May came up with her latest half-baked Plan B, which involved tweaking the Good Friday Agreement, out went Ireland’s Europe minister Helen McEntee to shoot it down, followed by European Parliament vice-president Mairead McGuinness.

Len McCluskey. Picture: Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesLen McCluskey. Picture: Paul Davey / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Ah yes, you say, but over the water Donald Trump is in charge. Maybe he is, but who keeps him awake at night? Melania? Mmm, probably not. But perhaps another M – Robert Mueller? I think so.

OK, but closer to home, across the despatch box from May is Jeremy Corbyn. C for... Corbyn. Just that little m in Jeremy, but it’s Jezza to his friends. Fair enough. But let’s look more closely shall we. Who runs Corbyn?

Dear reader, I give you Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray, Karie Murphy and Len McCluskey. Milne, son of establishment man and former BBC director general Alasdair Milne, Winchester and Oxford educated, who spent most of his journalistic life loathing Labour for being too right-wing and obsessed with winning power, and now has the chance to help sustain its swing to the left. Murray, the wealthy aristocrat and lifelong communist I first got to know when he was right hand man to Transport Union general secretary Bill Morris. Around the time John Monks was in charge of the TUC. The TGWU has now been replaced as our biggest union by Unite, headed by McCluskey, definitely not a wealthy aristocrat (once of the M for Militant Tendency), but close to Corbyn and close to the leader’s chief of staff Murphy, who runs the Labour leader’s office and who was a key player in the ousting of party general secretary Iain McNicol, in charge when Ed Miliband was leader, having beaten his front-runner brother, David Miliband. A history of Ms. And who was the only other prime minister in our history to get even close to the scale of parliamentary defeat suffered by Theresa May over her wretched so-called deal? Ramsay MacDonald.

Corbyn does not move without his quartet of Ms moving with him in something close to unison. And even if he wanted to move in the direction favoured by party members – towards a People’s Vote with the option to Remain – for various ideological reasons born of the old hard left’s view of the EU as part of the globalist capitalist conspiracy, the 4Ms are reluctant, clinging to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ so-called. ‘People’s Vote over my dead body’, as they say..

Jeremy Corbyn (R) embraces a member of his team Karie Murphy (L). Picture: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)Jeremy Corbyn (R) embraces a member of his team Karie Murphy (L). Picture: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a fifth M, historically close to Corbyn, just as ideological as the 4Ms in many ways, but whose desire for Labour to win a general election possibly outweighs theirs and so is beginning to outweigh the hard-line view on Europe. It is quite something that we now look to John McDonnell as the man who might move Labour closer to a People’s Vote, as the party’s amendment put down this week ahead of the next ‘meaningful vote’ hopefully does. Not necessarily because he shares the commitment to it, or to seeing the UK’s future in Europe, that most New European readers have. But because he worries that the 4Ms’ pro-Brexit leaning stance, which, as constructive ambiguity, may have helped Labour do better than expected in the last election, may harm them in the next one.

May the best M win. If not, do not be surprised if the most prominent British M of the lot, who fought the most hapless election campaign in living memory, who has negotiated the worst deal in UK-EU history, sufficient to suffer the biggest parliamentary rejection in British history, who has allowed herself to be run ragged by a motley group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, goes for a walk in Snowdonia and decides she can call and possibly win a general election.

Memo to McDonnell. Must make the 4Ms more malleable. Take Momentum with you towards a People’s Vote. Maybe do a media slot to make the shift. Andrew Marr and Piers Morgan would be up for it. Eddie Mair if you prefer radio. Time to make a move.

That’s enough Ms – Matt, editor

Alastair Campbell is an ambassador for Mind, the mental health charity Time for a piece of whimsy. For one week only I will leave the high politics to others (though there is a bit of low politics dotted throughout).

Let me begin these musings with a piece of spectacular, though justified, name-dropping by introducing you to the three men who, when I found myself in their presence, caused the hair on my neck to stand to attention, my heart to race a little faster, and a slight sweat to form between my shoulder blades. They were, ladies and gentlemen... drum roll, drum roll, drum roll... Muhammad Ali, Diego Maradona and Nelson Mandela. If I need to explain why, you have no appreciation of sporting genius or the importance of character in political history, and I am confident most readers of this august journal, even the non-sports fanatics among you, have both.

But what about wordplay artists? I am sure there are plenty of those among the New European readership. Do you notice anything when those three great names are listed together? It’s the letter M. I’m beginning to think there is a hierarchy in the alphabet and M is king.

So if I think of my own private life... almost four decades of it shared with my partner Fiona Millar, still mourning the loss of our dog, Molly. Even longer spent supporting Burnley Football Club – greatest ever player Jimmy McIlroy, childhood heroes Willie Morgan and Brian Miller, who played for us when we won the First Division title in 1960 and would have won more than his solitary England cap had he not been playing in the same position at the same time as Bobby Moore, and was our manager when we had to win against Orient in 1987 or face demotion into non-league.

I look at the front cover of my book, Winners: And How They Succeed, and I recall my favourite interviews, with football manager Jose Mourinho and boxer Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather – the guy who took on Conor McGregor and shared hundreds of millions for the pleasure. Money. Multi-millions. We are living in a world of M, people. M-People.

Or take my journalistic career – a Mirror Group trainee, where I met not only Fiona but my best friend John Merritt, alas no longer with us. My first editor on the Mirror was Mike Molloy, owner for part of my time there was Robert Maxwell, the boss when I was deemed surplus to requirements was David Montgomery, so off I went to Today newspaper, owned second time around by Rupert Murdoch. Dial M for Murdoch, as Tom Watson called his book. Dial M for everything.

With the car bomb in Northern Ireland last weekend reminding us of the fragility of the peace process I think of some of the key players in that process: John Major, and his Northern Ireland secretary Patrick Mayhew, who took the first big risk of opening up channels to the IRA; Martin McGuinness who best symbolised the IRA’s journey from bomb to ballot box, the terrorist commander becoming an elected deputy first minister; George Mitchell, the US senator with the patience of a saint who chaired the all-party talks (maybe we need someone like him for Brexit now!); Mo Mowlam, and two of the Northern Ireland secretaries who followed her, Peter Mandelson and Paul Murphy; my oppos as press secretary in the White House (Mike McCurry) and in the Sinn Fein team (Richard McAuley), not to mention McAuley’s colleague Mitchel McLaughlin, or Martin Mansergh who was working for Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern; key MPs like Seamus Mallon, Ken Maginnis, Eddie McGrady, Bob McCartney.

Ask me to list the most important journalists covering the process, and front of mind would come Dennis Murray of the BBC, Des McCartan of the Belfast Telegraph and broadcaster Eamonn Mallie. Now let’s fast forward to today and some of the key players in Brexit and European politics more widely: prime minister Theresa May; French president Emmanuel Macron; German chancellor Angela Merkel. How the hell did that happen? The three big powers in Europe. All led by Ms! And when Mrs May came up with her latest half-baked Plan B, which involved tweaking the Good Friday Agreement, out went Ireland’s Europe minister Helen McEntee to shoot it down, followed by European Parliament vice-president Mairead McGuinness.

Ah yes, you say, but over the water Donald Trump is in charge. Maybe he is, but who keeps him awake at night? Melania? Mmm, probably not. But perhaps another M – Robert Mueller? I think so.

OK, but closer to home, across the despatch box from May is Jeremy Corbyn. C for... Corbyn. Just that little m in Jeremy, but it’s Jezza to his friends. Fair enough. But let’s look more closely shall we. Who runs Corbyn?

Dear reader, I give you Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray, Karie Murphy and Len McCluskey. Milne, son of establishment man and former BBC director general Alasdair Milne, Winchester and Oxford educated, who spent most of his journalistic life loathing Labour for being too right-wing and obsessed with winning power, and now has the chance to help sustain its swing to the left. Murray, the wealthy aristocrat and lifelong communist I first got to know when he was right hand man to Transport Union general secretary Bill Morris. Around the time John Monks was in charge of the TUC. The TGWU has now been replaced as our biggest union by Unite, headed by McCluskey, definitely not a wealthy aristocrat (once of the M for Militant Tendency), but close to Corbyn and close to the leader’s chief of staff Murphy, who runs the Labour leader’s office and who was a key player in the ousting of party general secretary Iain McNicol, in charge when Ed Miliband was leader, having beaten his front-runner brother, David Miliband. A history of Ms. And who was the only other prime minister in our history to get even close to the scale of parliamentary defeat suffered by Theresa May over her wretched so-called deal? Ramsay MacDonald.

Corbyn does not move without his quartet of Ms moving with him in something close to unison. And even if he wanted to move in the direction favoured by party members – towards a People’s Vote with the option to Remain – for various ideological reasons born of the old hard left’s view of the EU as part of the globalist capitalist conspiracy, the 4Ms are reluctant, clinging to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ so-called. ‘People’s Vote over my dead body’, as they say..

There is a fifth M, historically close to Corbyn, just as ideological as the 4Ms in many ways, but whose desire for Labour to win a general election possibly outweighs theirs and so is beginning to outweigh the hard-line view on Europe. It is quite something that we now look to John McDonnell as the man who might move Labour closer to a People’s Vote, as the party’s amendment put down this week ahead of the next ‘meaningful vote’ hopefully does. Not necessarily because he shares the commitment to it, or to seeing the UK’s future in Europe, that most New European readers have. But because he worries that the 4Ms’ pro-Brexit leaning stance, which, as constructive ambiguity, may have helped Labour do better than expected in the last election, may harm them in the next one.

May the best M win. If not, do not be surprised if the most prominent British M of the lot, who fought the most hapless election campaign in living memory, who has negotiated the worst deal in UK-EU history, sufficient to suffer the biggest parliamentary rejection in British history, who has allowed herself to be run ragged by a motley group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, goes for a walk in Snowdonia and decides she can call and possibly win a general election.

Memo to McDonnell. Must make the 4Ms more malleable. Take Momentum with you towards a People’s Vote. Maybe do a media slot to make the shift. Andrew Marr and Piers Morgan would be up for it. Eddie Mair if you prefer radio. Time to make a move.

That’s enough Ms – Matt, editor

Alastair Campbell is an ambassador for Mind, the mental health charity.

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