Sunday, January 11, 2009

LabourList: Or how to have a career outside manufacturing, agriculture and services...

A few days ago I blogged about Peter Oborne's "The Triumph of the Political Class".

This book claims the UK is run by an alliance of professional politicians, supportive journalists and advertising/marketing professionals. 

Unlike the old Establishment, who had successful careers before entering politics, the political class devote their lives to politics. The temptation to cling to power and enrich themselves while there is therefore strong. Furthermore, since professional politicians have spent their lives doing politics, they don't have the skills to run a country. Their modus operandi is manipulating public opinion and not governing for the benefit of the people. 

I'm quite convinced by his argument, particularly since there are so many excellent examples of the political class around. Take the biographies on LabourList, the newly launched 'indepedent' pro-Government blog [sic - check your spelling, guys!].

Out of 26 initial contributors, I've found nine who appear to have worked in something besides PR, advertising, journalism, think tanks or for the Labour Party. This includes, however, someone who helps run a blogging website and the manager of a socialist bookshop. 

If I define a 'real' job as one where you might make something or deal with the public, the civil service or corporations, I can add a couple of the senior PRs and Piers Morgan, who was a newsgathering journalist. 

It's worth mentioning that many of the self-defined 'journalists' on this list do what I'm currently doing. They write opinionated c**p. They just write opinionated c**p for the Guardian rather than self-publishing it. 

There is another type of journalist who uncovers scandals at ENRON, has their laptop blown up in war zones and talks to bereaved families. Most of the 'journalists' writing for LabourList will have never interviewed a drug addict or called 50 vicars in Westminster trying to get a quote about Gaza.

Likewise 'writers'. I'm a writer. It pays the rent - it doesn't qualify me to run the NHS. 

The 26 are:
  1. Derek Draper: Peter Mandelson's researcher, lobbyist, political editor of a small magazine, occasional psychotherapist
  2. Sarah Mulholland: Full-time youth political activist (I think). Seems to have worked for the NHS at some point, which might mean she qualifies for the 'real job' list
  3. Simon Fletcher: Appears to have worked most of his life for Ken Livingstone (12 years, eight as Chief of Staff)
  4. David Lammy: Briefly (~four years, including a Masters of Law at Harvard) a barrister before being elected to the GLA
  5. Jag Singh: Provides new media advice to political campaigns. No sign of a job in agriculture, industry, services, etc.
  6. Tom Miller: Constituency organiser, previously in youth politics. Full-time hack, in other words
  7. Ray Collins: Professional trade unionist. Seems to be have become a senior trade union official at around 30 and never claims to have started on the shop floor, so probably didn't
  8. Alan Milburn: Professional trade unionist who ran a small socialist bookshop in his youth
  9. Roger Liddle: May have briefly worked as an academic (?) before a lengthy career in think tanks, as a special adviser and a lobbyist. No evidence of a PhD or lectureship.
  10. Chuka Umunna: I don't know you, but I want to hug you. You actually have a day job as a lawyer. AMAZING! As an employment lawyer, he will work with ordinary members of the public delivering a service. SHOCKING!
  11. Sally Morgan: Worked for around five years as a geography teacher and the rest of her career for the Labour Party
  12. Stella Creasy: After doing a PhD, variously worked as a Labour activist, lobbyist and think tank researcher
  13. Pat McFadden: Left university. One year later began as a MP's researcher. Various similar jobs followed until he was elected to Parliament
  14. Spencer Livermore: First job was working on the 1997 Labour election campaign, Special Advisor to ministers ever since. Has just left to do advertising, although it's not clear whether this job involves anything but selling to the Labour Party
  15. Alex Smith: Describes himself as a 'writer and political activist' in the sense of 'I'm not unemployed, I'm a writer'. Looks suspiciously like a recent university graduate. A Google non-entity, unless he's an American football quarterback
  16. Piers Morgan: A man with talent. I've read his books. He is cool. He's a journalist, but he started on local newspapers and managed a national one so he's done a real job
  17. Mark Hanson: A PR professional who has advised big private sector clients. INCREDIBLE!
  18. Peter Mandelson: Mainly worked for the Labour Party, but had a brief period as a TV Producer in the 80s
  19. Ken Livingstone: Worked eight years as a laboratory technician before the usual political jobs. He was also briefly involved in journalism in the most hard-hitting of roles - a restaurant critic
  20. Tristram Hunt: Is an academic with a lectureship in history at QMW. LibertyCat isn't sure if it's a real job. He is a physicist so I am ignoring him, especially because this chap is really nice looking.
  21. Will Straw: Did PR for the Government and is now working at a think tank. 
  22. Luke Akehurst: Lobbyist for the arms industry with experience as a Labour Party organiser
  23. Charlie Whelan: Worked for trade unions and as a 'spin doctor' for Gordon Brown. Subsequently has made money by being a talking head
  24. Philip Gould: Worked in advertising before advising the Labour Party on how to run focus groups
  25. Douglas Alexander: Worked briefly as a solicitor (~ four years) between helping with American election campaigns and working for the Labour Party. 
  26. Ben Wegg-Prosser: A genuine new media professional who works for the company that runs Also managed and published various Guardian websites. He also worked for the Labour Party, but that's to be expected
If anyone can provide me with additional information/corrections, I'd be really grateful.


  • At 12:07 pm , Blogger Derek Draper said...

    there are new people being signed up as contributors all the time, why don't you calm down and wait a while eh?

  • At 1:12 pm , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    Will do. In the meantime:

    1. Please change the word 'indepedent' to 'independent'. It appears in both the title bar of the site and on Google.

    2. I'd recommend finding some bright, moderately on-message activists working in front-line public services or in the private sector, e.g. a union official who started in the job he represents or a doctor/teacher/nurse.

    This would make the site more interesting and relevant. It would also give it more weight - there's nothing like a nurse to shut up clueless Tory bloggers whinging about the NHS.

    It would also make Labour look like a social movement rather than a gang of professional politicians who enjoy using Twitter. Most Labour voters in Burnley think 'twitter' is the noise sparrows make.

  • At 2:34 pm , Blogger Charlotte Gore said...

    Ha, this is by far the best post on Labourlist I've seen. Good work :)

  • At 5:57 am , Anonymous Your career advice guide said...

    I completely agree. Politicians who are in it just for the sake of it and do not come from a successful career background do prove to be bad at handling the government work and people. There are just too many examples. It must be made mandatory to have some experience before a person jumps into politics.


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