Steve Reed OBE, MP for Lambeth South (the parliamentary seat formerly known as Croydon North) has caused outrage among Labour supporters in the borough after his overly enthusiastic support of Liz Kendall in his party’s leadership contest has seen him resort to spreading personal abuse against one of his Westminster colleagues.Reed is the former Lambeth Council leader who is now vice-chairman of the overly influential Progress group, a Blairite party-within-the-party.
He attracted the ire of many Labour figures, including Croydon councillors and General Election candidates, when he used social media to post a link to a Conservative-supporting columnist in the Torygraph who decried the inclusion of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race under a headline that said “the lunatic wing of the Labour Party is still calling the shots”.
Reed has never lived in his parliamentary constituency, preferring instead to live in a house valued at £900,000 in the Shirley Hills, which he moved to following his election to his £67,000-plus-exes job as a man-of-the-people Labour MP.
He has 18,000 Twitter followers and, most importantly, a parliamentary majority of 21,000 votes. Or what ordinary, hard-working folk might describe as “a cosy job for life”.
The newspaper column Reed linked to was written by Dan Hodges, a former Blairite who, after Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader, decided to show his true colours… “Batshit crazy Labour is alive and well,” Hodges wrote, adding that Corbyn was “to the left of Karl Marx and guaranteed not to win the contest”.
Reed recommended the article by writing: “It took years for Labour and councils like Lambeth to recover from the toxic legacy of the hard left in the 1980s. Now 36 of my colleagues have given them a platform to try and make Labour unelectable again. Dan Hodges is spot on in this article.”
Fewer than 100 of Reed’s Facebook “friends” indicated that they liked Reed’s cross-party consensus with Hodges.
Many others expressed their disgust that the new shadow local government spokesman should endorse an article which included such loaded language.
“Jesus, Steve. It’s Jeremy Corbyn, not Joseph Stalin,” wrote one. “I don’t belong to the left edge of the party but a number of our colleagues (friends, campaigners) do. He probably won’t win, but at least there’s a slate of candidates now that represents the diversity of views in the party.”
Another remarked: “The only Stalinist here is the one saying parts of the party shouldn’t have a voice in shaping the future of the party.”
Niki Rosenbaum, a senior figure in Sutton’s Labour party, responded, “Corbyn has given a pledge not to indulge in personal attacks and abuse in this campaign. It’d be nice if other candidates and their supporters did the same. And no, I’m not backing him. To be honest no one candidate inspires me and I’m depressed and frustrated that the party Ed kept united for five years has descended into infighting and factionism so quickly.”
Another commented: “I resent being described as a lunatic but if being decent, honest and hardworking and dedicated to public service is not an acceptable aspiration these days, then yes, call me a lunatic.”
One commenter said: “Reed’s ‘spot on’ endorsement of Hodge’s views shows he is intent on continuing Blair’s mission, and of course is backing Liz Kendall for leader of the Labour Party, who some might say is just to the right of Genghis Khan, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Mr Reed says he wants a ‘good natured’ debate. He’s not going to get it if he continues to support this tripe.”
Timothy Godfrey, a Labour cabinet member on Croydon Council, raised Reed’s support for Kendall, “And you’re backing a candidate to the right of the Tories on the economy throughout the Blair/Brown years!”
Another commented of Corbyn: “He holds old-fashioned Labour values that came out of Methodism as much as Marx. He would have sat well in Attlee’s cabinet. One thing that Thatcher achieved was to undermine the ideological underpinnings of Labour. Some pushed into an aggressive hard left dogmatic position, many more absorbed Thatcher’s beliefs and became Blairites. It is time to connect to the old values and put them in a modern context. Austerity is bad, welfare is good. Help your fellow man and woman, do not aspire to beat them.”A Croydon Labour member added: “Why personal attacks against candidates and their supporters, Steve? You’ve made it clear who you support in this battle by the person you nominated. Now it is up to the membership and supporters to choose who they want.”
Reed’s positioning behind Liz Kendall has given senior figures in Croydon Labour further concern about his judgement, or lack of it.
“I find it extraordinary that any Labour MP would want to echo Hodges, whose sole purpose over recent years has been to diss Labour,” one party official told Inside Croydon.“Reed has made several speeches recently saying, ‘We have to win’. Many will take the view that a return to Blairism will not be a winning formula , and rather than trying to appeal to the 24 per cent who voted Tory at the General Election, Labour should be appealing to its natural supporters and trying to win over other progressive voters.
“It’s been noticed that he’s frequently very rude in his replies to constituents and others on Twitter. But then he has got ‘Likes’ on Twitter from Louise Mensch, which sort of says it all, doesn’t it?”
PS. Reed appears to have opted for less controversial Twitter activity since his dalliance with Hodges. Today, he revealed that he is struggling with first-world problems: “Bit miffed to discover the lawn sand I mixed with soil & grass seed to repair the lawn contains chemicals that kill new grass”, he wrote. We feel your pain, Steve.
PPS. Reed will be among many MPs who will be keen to hear the Tory Chancellor’s Budget announcement about the raising of the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million. Clearly, any increase in the value of his new home could just tip his property assets over even that new limit. What’s a hard-working Labour MP to do?
PPPS. It is fair to surmise that Reed might not be so enthusiastic about sending out links to other Dan Hodges articles about the Labour leadership contest. Hodges has decided he wants Yvette Cooper to become Labour’s next leader. Maybe Kendall’s too right wing even for the Torygraph writer.
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