Tom takes up new post with Cogitamus

Third Avenue director and founder, Tom Harris, has been appointed as an Associate Consultant with the public affairs firm Cogitamus, which specialises in transport policy.

The new role won’t affect his other commitments as Senior Counsel to Message Matters, as a member of the Reform Scotland advisory board, or as a daily columnist for the Telegraph. His role as director of Third Avenue is also unaffected.

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Prime Minister Corbyn… and other things that never happened (or will never happen)

screenshot-2016-09-25-11-51-59Third Avenue director Tom Harris is one of the authors of a new collection of “counter-factual” political histories published by BiteBack.

The 23 essays include intriguing what-ifs such as

  • What if Britain had lost the Falklands War?
  • What if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014?
  • What if David Miliband had beaten Ed Miliband to the Labour leadership in 2010?
  • What if Lyndon Johnson had been shot down in 1942?

Tom is the author of one of two essays lending the book its title, and speculates about what might happen in the event of Jeremy Corbyn, the newly re-elected Labour leader, actually winning a general election. NOTE: Not for readers of a nervous disposition…

Prime Minister Corbyn is available direct from BiteBack and from all good bookstores. Other online shops are available.

National Express – living up to its values?

Screenshot 2016-07-27 16.43.51Last year, National Express, one of Europe’s biggest and most successful transport providers, asked Tom Harris to undertake an extensive review of how successful the company has been in meeting its own commitment to its employees. NX is committed to “developing the talents, rewarding the exceptional performance and respecting the rights of all our employees”.

Using face-to-face interviews with NX staff in the UK, Spain and in the United States, Tom reported on how far the company has come and made recommendations for further improvements. His final report was submitted to the board of National Express in April 2016.

You can view and download the report here.


In post-EU Britain, what is the Labour Party for?

A recurring theme of the Labour Party’s campaign to persuade voters to back remaining in the EU was a recitation of the list of workers’ rights allegedly won and protected by the EU on our behalf.

This was a crucial element of the so-called “left wing case for the EU”. But it left one with a nagging question: if the EU is responsible for all these rights at work, what’s the Labour Party for?

The danger of attributing to the EU achievements that were hard won by trade unions working in concert with Labour governments seems not to have occurred to the party’s leaders.

So let me spell it out: every major advance in workplace rights, whether record maternity pay, the right to protection against discrimination on the grounds of race or sex, the right to join a trade union and have it recognised by your employer, and the national minimum wage, was won through a UK Labour movement.

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Who will lead Labour’s moderates? Step forward, Sadiq Khan

The biggest lie in British politics is that the Labour Party is a broad church. It is not. It consists of two separate, distinct parties, each with its own diametrically-opposed philosophy.

While Jeremy Corbyn is the nominal leader of the whole party, encompassing both left and right, he is the spiritual leader and conscience of the hard left, a party committed to red-blooded socialism and principled opposition, even if (preferably if) those principles prevent it from forming a government.

The right of the party (whose adherents self-describe variously as “soft left”, “moderates” or “New Labour”) believes first and foremost in winning elections and are prepared to make whatever compromises they need to in order to do so. They are the “half a loaf is better than no loaf at all” wing of the party, and they have nothing in common with their hard left compatriots other than a matching membership card.

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It’s official: the BNP is finally the joke party we all knew it was years ago

Reports of the British National Party’s disappearance are, regrettably, premature. It became an un-party when its own officials failed to meet the onerous conditions imposed on them by law – chiefly filling in a form and posting it to the Electoral Commission, alongside a cheque for twenty-five quid. Which turns out to be harder than it sounds.

However its role as a repository of votes from and for the hard of thinking will probably continue to be with us in the medium term; the administrative cock-up is no doubt being investigated by a BNP task force which will be on the case just as soon as they can find the bloke with the key to the meeting room. God knows what will happen when the cry goes up: “Does anyone have a stamp?”

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Jeremy Corbyn stars in Labour Party Christmas Carol


What’s the point? I mean, really: what’s the point?

Columnists throughout the country are spending this week sharing pearls of wisdom, explaining to their political masters where they’ve gone wrong in 2015, warning of the opportunities and pitfalls that lie before them in the New Year and explaining how they can be in a better position a year from now than they are today.

If I were a member of a remotely functional party or, for example, a serious party that wanted more than anything to displace the party of government, then maybe such efforts might be worthwhile. I might expect a leading Shadow Cabinet member or thoughtful back bencher to scroll through the various online didacticisms and glean the occasional idea or even inspiration from among them.

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A beginner’s guide to the Labour Party rulebook, Part 2: reselection of MPs

Much of the discussion around Jeremy Corbyn’s takeover of the Labour Party has focused on the perceived threat to moderate, mostly critical, MPs, who feel vulnerable to the threat of deselection as a Labour candidate at the next election.

“Deselection” is one of those weird words so regularly used by political activists and journalists that we forget it has very little meaning to ordinary voters. But although its meaning is relatively simple, the Labour Party processes that will decide MPs’ fates during this parliament and beyond, are absurdly complex, perhaps inevitably so, given that they have evolved through a long series of political and managerial compromise and manoeuvring.Continue reading

Jeremy Corbyn will purge Labour of troublesome MPs – without getting blood on his hands

Henry II was a complicated chap. His anger at the disloyal behaviour of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett, was all the more painful because of the close friendship they had once shared. But that was before Henry decided it would be a wheeze to make Thomas the most senior churchman in the kingdom. Did he get Beckett’s gratitude? Did he buggery.

And as we all know, there then followed history’s biggest “Who? Me?” claim of injured innocence. A group of knights, aware of how much a thorn in their king’s side Beckett had become, took matters into their own hands. After Beckett’s murder, Henry seems to have been genuinely grief-stricken by his former friend’s fate, but has never, in the intervening millennium, totally convinced historians that his hands were as clean as he claimed at the time.

The art of subtly encouraging your followers to carry out your bidding unasked has become one of politics’ darkest arts. Jeremy Corbyn genuinely seems to be uninterested in having his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party deselected as Labour candidates; he’s said so repeatedly, so it must be true.

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