Tuesday, April 29, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Fraser Kemp: Stuff Your By-Election

Following the unprecedented decision by Labour to table the writ foir the Crewe and Nantwich by-election before the funeral of Gwyneth Dunwoody has taken place, Labour suffered an unexpected blow tonight when veteran by-election strategist Fraser Kemp MP refused to take charge of the campaign. Sources tell me he has told friends he is fed up with doing by-elections with scant little reward and that he's done his last one.

Outside the Westminster Village, many people might say, Fraser Who? But to political journalists and campaigners Kemp's by-election reputation is second only to that of his long time LibDem rival Chris Rennard. Read his Wikipedia entry to see why.

So why has Fraser has withdrawn his favours? Could it be...

a) He reckons Crewe & Nantwich could be the first Tory by election gain for decades
b) He was hacked off at being left out of Gordon Brown's government
c) He reckons Gordon's a gonner
d) He thinks Tom Watson should take one for the team
e) He disapproves of the writ being moved before the funeral
To be honest, I like Fraser. He's good company and a brilliant political strategist. I never understood why he never got further in his brief front bench career. What's happening to Labour now is exactly what happened to the Tories in the 1990s. There were so many ex Ministers on the backbenches who thought they should still be on the front bench that something was bound to 'give' in the end. History is repeating itself in so many ways.

UPDATE: I happily delete b) after reading a couple of the comments in the comments thread.


Anonymous said...

Don't tell us you're going to be like this until the poll's done and dusted - just like Southall all over again, accusing all and sundry of breaches of electoral law that the police won't touch.

Tory by-elections waver between a) the "Bromley" - local blue rinses with no idea, and b) the "Southall" - braying rah CF types full of glossy nothings.

Just hibernate til May 23 for the inevitable "Lab hold". Then ConHome can start laying into Cameron with gusto as we know they want to.

Anonymous said...

I used to work hard for Labour in the West Midlands in the mid-80s. Fraser was an absolute brick and a fine chap who always had time for the local activist and the little guy, as well as being a very intelligent and shrewd operator and a firm believer in Old Labour's virtues. NuLab is unravelling because it is thinly based and only managed to fool it's base of people like Fraser; Brown managed to trick them for a while longer that he was no Blairite and believed in grassroots Labourism. This has proven to be demonstrably untrue in the case for example of the 10p tax threshold. The real Brown has like Blair been primarily occupied in helping rich city friends get even richer.

How strange British politics has become that as a Labour supporter I actually feel more confidence in Old Etonian Cameron to think of one nation than I do the "Labour" side. Although if Frank Field was standing for PM I would vote for him!

Anonymous said...

I've read his Wikipedia entry and I cannot believe that this is the face of a 49 year old.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Tom Watson - his blog has gone awol. Bizarre!

Anonymous said...

Clearly a bloke of consistent principle (Wrong mind you, but consistent!) - a rarity in modern politics, especially new labour - which no doubt has a lot to do with why he is likeable.

Anonymous said...

You obviously know nothing about Fraser. In 2004 he agreed to be one of the campaign spokespeople specifically on the understanding that he could then leave the front bench. He's not a minister because he didn't want to be one but preferred to be a backbench MP. The Labour Party's loss, I agree - but one thing Fraser is not is a bitter ex-minister.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, If what you say is true - and I suspect it may well be - then this makes it even stranger that he is turning his back on his lifelong devotion to campaigning.

Newmania said...

In 2004 he agreed to be one of the campaign spokespeople specifically on the understanding that he could then leave the front bench. He's not a minister because he didn't want to be one but preferred to be a backbench MP.

I don`t belive it.No-one goes into Politics to be unknown and irrelevant. A tale of a cock and a bull or more to point a story hatched to cover his demotion

Anonymous said...


Hate to put you right but I am a close friend of Fraser's.

The Fraser I know has never really aspired to high office. We always wanted to be Labour Party General Secretary but was shafted by No. 10 when they gave in to McDonaugh, so he decided to become an MP instead. He loved being a whip, chief attack dog and by-election supremo. He would have turned his nose up at a Minister of State position. His reward for victory in Hartlepool in 2004 was to become Alan Milburns deputy general election campaign manager.

Following the 2005 election, he decided, along with Milburn (a close friend and political ally), to return to the backbenches. He has not indicated his desire to return to government since.

Sorry to have to "set the record straight", but Fraser is a great guy who has always put the party before personal political advancement. To suggest that he is refusing to run a by-election campaign because he is annoyed he hasn't been given a "proper" job is wrong.

Anonymous said...

11.20 - a few points of fact. No 10 was occupied by John Major at the time and the GS who was appointed was Tom Sawyer. It was generally agreed that Fraser gave the most impressive interview but as the appointment was and is 100% political (the NEC votes on who to appoint) and Sawyer was backed by Unison and the party leadership, he got the job.

Iain - as for his byelection record being "second" to Rennard - not round here. Fraser wiped Rennard's eye in Hodge Hill and (in even more difficult circumstances - a 10 week campaign) Hartlepool.

I'm also not aware that there has been any falling out between Fraser ("bald eagle") and his protege Tom "young eagle" Watson. But I'm sure Tom will be loving the fact that the opposition parties have already started to obsess themselves over him. He played you for fools in Southall.

Fraser said, after Hartlepool, that "he'd hung up his gun": fair play to him if he's to be a man of his word on this, though, as I said before, that is the Labour Party's loss.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (10:27) writes;

"NuLab is unravelling because it is thinly based and only managed to fool it's base of people like Fraser: Brown managed to trick them etc......" (NuLab/NuTories; Brown/Cameron,what's the difference?)

As an instinctive conservative (with a small c) I know the feeling.

Please can we have some politicians
with a degree of ideology (dread word). I have more respect for Dennis Skinner, whose views I totally disagree with, than pretty well all the members of the Opposition/Opportunist Front Bench.

My guess is that the reason the Tories aren't 20+% ahead in the polls is because Cameron insists on following the 'focus group' rather than leading towards a conservative ideology.

Would that there were a latter day Margaret Thatcher waiting in the wings. Not to mirror Lady Thatcher's ideas, but to present an up to date, relevant, conservative ideology to the Country that we could rally behind a follow.

LEADERSHIP not followership please.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous poster who "knows Fraser well" is spot on. He has always put the party before high office. Fraser is, in fact, one of the unsung heroes of the Labour Party.

I think you will find his decision not to help anymore in by-elections was one which was made well before Brown took over.

Anonymous said...

Since 2000, Livingstone has paid his partner Emma Beal at total of £800,000 to be his office manager.

When she was originally hired from a lowly job on the ES magazine in 2000,
Livingstone paid her over £96k to be his 'office manager' despite him also
hiring his long standing female secretary.

Funny that.

Anonymous said...

Newmania said ....
"No-one goes into Politics to be unknown and irrelevant."

I agree. But many MPs are perfectly happy to remain on the back benches. They find great fulfilment in serving their constituents (and their party) and being involved in committee work. They have no desire to take on a ministerial job.

Chris Paul said...

nhlbeIf Fraser hasn't run a by-election since Hartlepool how can this be news Iain. As far as I can see Tom Watson did a rather excellent job in Ealing Southall. Rubbing Grant 1234 Shapps and Dave Cameron's Conservatives noses in it.

My feeling is that Crewe and Nantwich is NOT there for the taking for the Tories. AND that the Lib Dems if not passing the blue rinse may well close the gap.

Meanwhile in Manchester's Whalley Range there has been a huge revival in the displaying of Tory posters - without anything other than "Oh alright then" and this suits Manchester Labour very well indeed.

Anonymous said...

Back in March 2005, Tribune ran an article in which Fraser announced he wanted to return to the backbenches after the general election, to concentrate on his constituency work.

Anonymous said...

According to Newmania no-one goes into politics to be unknown and irrelevant.
Maybe, but irrelevant.
Fraser Kemp is neither unknown nor irrelevant. He's held in the highets regard by one side and feared by the other. That's pretty dwell known and pretty damned relevant where I come from.
I worked on Hartlepool as well; it was the most knackering by election I've seen. No-one could blame Fraser for taking a break and putting his feet up, but he isn't. He's focussing on his constituency, and well he might given all that's going on in the north east.

Croydonian said...

'tis fairly astonishing that you managed to find a photograph where Skeletor looks like one of the living..

hatfield girl said...

wonderful for his age said...

'(NuLab/NuTories; Brown/Cameron,what's the difference?)'

There is every difference between New Labour and the modern Conservative Party. New Labour and its Project declares itself to be 'post democratic'.

What they mean by this is a United Kingdom run by appointed administrative apparatchiks instead of our elected local representatives. You ask for ideology? That is steadily inculcated via their low-grade educational system that is funded by mulcting the tax-payer but meets none of the tax-payers desires, objectives or requirements. The ideology is to create a caste-like political structure where the mass of the people are grateful to be housed and fed and the rulers choose, control, determine, and reserve to themselves and their children the lives others might wish to lead.

Buy them off with a nasty house, poor food, a rationed 'health service' where use leads to death or disablement as much as treatment, and schools serving as youth prisons, paid for from their own taxes. And pull up the ladder of opportunity.

Conservatives are for a small state, choice, keeping the money earned by work and passing it on in the family, for encouraging entrepreneurship and refounding the UK's manufacturing industry. For partnership and co-operation in the firm and workplace, and an end to confrontation and strikes for selfish sectoral goals. For the rule of law and civil liberties defended.

You're not Wonderful for your Age, you're a Labour spoiler of other people's lives and a wrecker of our society.

And you certainly do not want people to go out and vote until you and you're New and Old Labour Party are out of office and gone from our lives.

Anonymous said...

I read today that the discoverer of LSD had died. But hatfield girl's comments show that the product is not in short supply.

Soylent green, anyone?

hatfield girl said...

How cowardly to accuse others of taking illegal drugs when commenting as anonymous. At least find yourself a pseudonym under which your remarks can be placed in a perspective even if you prefer not to use your name.