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Why do family connections seem to matter with Labour?

July 31st, 2009

Is the party vulnerable to charges of nepotism?

There’s an interesting article by Jeff Randall in the Telegraph this morning which explores the extent to which “which blood ties and marriages” seem to matter so much within the top echelons on the Labour party.

He notes: that the Labour cabinet includes “…the Miliband brothers, Edward and David; the husband-and-wife team, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, daughter of Prospect’s former general secretary; Harriet Harman, the niece of Lord Longford (a former Labour leader of the House of Lords) and the spouse of the party’s treasurer, Jack Dromey; Douglas Alexander, sibling of Wendy, the former leader of Labour in Scotland; Hillary Benn, son of Tony, who served as Harold Wilson’s industry secretary and Jim Callaghan’s energy secretary; and Peter Mandelson, grandson of Herbert Morrison, Clement’s Attlee’s deputy prime minister.”

The bringing together of the family links is interesting but I wonder whether it could be politically significant.

What does it say about a movement that is supposed to be about equality of opportunity that you appear to have a better chance of prospering if you have some family connections.

Would, for instance, the Miliband brothers or Hilary Benn have progressed so far and so fast if their fathers had not been so prominent within the movement. Certainly they had the benefit of name recognition.

Could not all this undermine Labour’s current calls for more “social mobility” – something that looks like being developed as a general election theme?

At a time when David Cameron can be criticised for surrounding himself with people all of whom seem to have similar backgrounds the Tories have a ready-made response.

Mike Smithson
***On PB2: Chris from Bethseda on “Who would be the first British Costa Brava MP?”