GS candidate Hilder on his ‘manifesto’

Used under Creative Commons Licence, author Charlottelinnaehill

Labour General Secretary candidate Paul Hilder has taken an unusual approach to his application. Perhaps as a response to his status as a long-odds outside prospect, Hilder has set out a ‘manifesto’ of his ideas, published on LabourList.

The SKWAWKBOX quizzed Hilder about his ideas – and he responded to many, but not all of our questions:

1. Some parts of your document come across a bit ‘management-speak’ and are high-level rather than practical steps. How would you respond if people make that criticism?

One person’s “management speak” is another person’s competence. The ideas are what count.

2. Similarly, there will be some who are worried that further ‘professionalising’ what has so far been  organic might undermine its authenticity. What would you say to them?

I prefer focusing on “competence” rather than “professionalism”. Professionalism too often degenerates into laziness and claims of bureaucratic power. Competence is a judgment call; it’s about being able to get big things done.

3. You say it needs a ‘world-class campaign leader’, but those don’t exactly grow on trees. Any thoughts as to specific people or at least the traits/background of someone suitable?

There are lots of people who are exceptional campaigners but have been put off by the greasy poles of British politics. This is still almost as true for Labour under Corbyn as it was for Labour under Blair and Brown.

But it could be turned around with a new #GS4TheMany, a serious project of culture change, pushback on the politics of patronage in appointments, and fierce headhunting for the best talents in the country, or for that matter beyond – why not bring in Bernie and Podemos people?

4. You’ve recommended a ‘rapid review’ of opportunities for innovation/improvements – fine as far as it goes, but saying that’s not the hard part. How would the review be done and have you already identified any areas?

The initial areas for the review I proposed back in December [include] a million member drive and big organising. Of course, now there is a Gen Sec race, we can have a much bigger conversation about everything from opening up the machine to deep democracy. These are the key planks of my manifesto for change. I invite everyone to get involved in the conversation.

5. Your ‘million-member drive’, nobody’s going to say no to 400,000 more members – but again it’s easy to say. Again, what’s the nitty-gritty of how that would be achieved?

Not answered.

6. Some of what you’ve recommended in terms of pitching policy by consultation with the public will worry people who remember the focus groups and ‘triangulation’ of the New Labour years. What’s your response?

Not answered.

7. The ‘rebooted data op’ that you’ve talked about – given concerns about the Tories’ use of ‘big data’ and their closeness to Cambridge Analytica, this might sit ill with Labour members and supporters. How do you see that being done without compromising the authenticity of the movement?

I believe Big Organising is more important than Big Data; but combining the two is increasingly necessary to win big victories. There are two ways of using political data. You can use it to cynically manipulate the electorate, which has been the critique of Trump and Cambridge Analytica. But it is also possible to use data in ethical ways to empower the 99% (including by giving data to frontline campaigners in the movement all around the country) to understand the country better and to engage in deeper conversations with an increasingly diverse public.

In 2017, I have heard from well informed sources that Messina failed to give the Tories an effective data operation. They will not make the same mistake twice. We need to be ahead of them, and we can be.

8. Integration of LOTO and Southside – that’s going to mean major personnel changes, isn’t it? At least at the team-head level?

Integration of LOTO and Southside has already been happening since the general election, under Karie’s capable leadership and with McNicol’s consent.

9. You’ve talked about ‘becoming the media’ – what does that mean?

You may recall the #WeAreHisMedia hashtag. Without personalising too much, I believe that with the age of social media we are returning to a period of much more direct communication between political movements and publics, disintermediating the dead tree media and advertising companies.

10. You’ve spoken about ‘systematically organising outriders’. A lot of commentators say that ‘outriders’ – some say the SKWAWKBOX is one – played a significant role in Labour’s performance in the general elections. How can you ‘systematically organise them’ without their authenticity and effectiveness being compromised?

“Systematically organising” with outriders simply means talking to them regularly and maintaining open two-way communications channels. This must be done in an authentic way which respects the autonomy and independence of allies.

Those who were involved in these processes under the leaderships of both Brown and Obama know very well how a more clumsy top-down outrider management process can fail. I was cut off by Brown’s office for six months at one point because we refused to pull a challenging full-page ad. The failure of Obama is partly down to how he went native in Washington and abandoned the movement that elected him.

11. You’ve been heavily involved in Avaaz and 38 Degrees and have suggested ‘engaging’ them in campaigning. They’ve done some great stuff, but haven’t necessarily seemed to be friends of the Labour movement at times – could they be engaged without losing something central?

The thing people don’t understand about Avaaz and 38 Degrees is that they are genuinely twenty-first century organisations: bottom-up and member-powered. The staff and leadership have an ethic and imperative of service. Nobody can make a real network movement do something that most of its members do not want to do. Their political independence is unbreakable, and they will always maintain the freedom to challenge power, including Labour. They are not perfect. But many, if not all of their challenges have been constructive ones.

In my 2014 New Statesman article on the new politics and the collapse of the old consensus, I talk about 38 Degrees member discussions in which they viewed Cameron and Miliband as “two cheeks on the same ass”. Politicians need to inspire and engage voters and movements if they are to have a chance of winning elections.

12. Your point about prioritising locations for campaign innovation and investment is a good one – isn’t it also a damning indictment of the conduct of the last election by Southside under McNicol?

Not answered.

13. You’ve also talked about the need for ruthlessness near the end of the document. Some members want to see those thought to be obstructing the impetus of the movement be handled more ruthlessly. How would you see it being applied – and by whom?


I believe that Labour’s political leadership has huge compassion and sensitivity, and is also capable of ruthlessness when required. Strength and clarity are both necessary in political management and organisation, and improvements in discipline have been significant over the last eighteen months.

Leaders from Unite can claim a large part of the credit for these incremental improvements, and of course, they provided the lion’s share of the funds for the 2017 general election. But it seems to me that they also have big blind spots.

They need to accept that there are other strands to this movement, and capabilities they are currently missing; and to start collaborating fairly and openly with their allies in this movement. Otherwise Labour will not win the next general election. I would ask everyone to raise their sights and consider this risk seriously. Also, think of the opportunities if we can all work together toward a common goal.


Paul Hilder seems to be a man with a clear desire to see the Labour Party succeed – and to have a lot of ideas how to get there – as well as genuine respect for what the Labour leadership, movement and its union members have achieved so far.

However, he does appear to struggle in bringing high-level ideas down to nitty-gritty basics – and to eliminate jargon from the expression of his ideas: ‘disintermediating’ stood out, especially after a discussion about how to express ideas in simple terms to bring everyone on board, while the question about the practical steps to achieve a significant increase in Labour’s membership went unanswered.

Likely to be of greater concern to many members and supporters behind the ‘Corbyn project’ or inspired by its authenticity is the lack of an answer to the question on the appearance of New Labour-style ‘triangulation’ in some of Hilder’s ideas – of ‘focus-grouping’ ideas and trying to pitch policy toward the least objectionable version.

Those who believe Labour could have won the 2017 General Election if Iain McNicol and his staff had not taken a defensive approach to the campaign, in stark contrast to the positive and inspiring campaign of Corbyn and his supporters, will also be frustrated by Hilder’s apparent reluctance to criticise the approach taken by McNicol’s ‘Southside’ HQ and regional office teams.

His loyalty to his campaigning organisations Avaaz and 38 Degrees is commendable, but members who remember the times those organisations have worked contrary to the party’s aims may be uncomfortable about his interest in working alongside them – especially those who remember the 38 Degrees decision to remove a petition signed by tens of thousands against BBC political editor Laura Kuennsberg on the basis of one or two abusive comments..

Hilder’s approach to the application process may also be a cause for concern in the eyes of some observers. His decision to speak out publicly about his vision for the role and to treat the application as a campaign is understandable for an outside candidate, but the fact that it happened at the same time as the ‘MSM’ were attempting to magnify and exploit supposed divisions between unions and Momentum may well count against him.

That tack could be viewed as an attempt to appeal to those calling for Labour to elect its General Secretary and to manipulate or pressure other candidates and Labour’s NEC into fighting a contest on his terms.

That’s an approach that could be laudable in a campaigns director fighting a general election – but not necessary as compatible with a General Secretary role whose key function is to turn the wishes of the elected leadership and NEC into carried-out actions, day in and day out, election footing or not.

Hilder’s equivocal praise for union contributions to the changes and success of the Labour Party may raise concerns for those who are members of the party as well as of their unions and who recognise that the re-emergence of Labour as a genuine left-wing government in waiting would not have succeeded without the crucial solidarity of Unite and other pro-Corbyn unions at a time when the mainstream media and right-wing Labour MPs were doing everything in their power to cause it to fail.

Paul Hilder’s ideas and approach are certainly interesting – but may be better suited to a campaigns director working for a General Secretary than to the General Secretary role itself.

The SKWAWKBOX continues to endorse Jennie Formby for the General Secretary role.

Hilder’s response to questions about the suspension of (largely Jewish) members on charges of antisemitism can be found here.

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  1. Is JL withdrawing to give Hilder a clear run against Formby?

    Hilder helped found Avaaz.org which has supported humanitarian intervention and No Fly Zones in Libya and Syria. In the latter case a NFZ was described by one Western general as meaning ‘going to war with Syria and Russia.’ See the Avaaz Wikipedia page


    Very dodgy.

    Stick with Formby.

    1. Are you part of this #FakeNewsNetwork which is seeking to shut down a fair contest too? In the middle of last week Steve Walker, the private contractor in the health industry who runs Skwawkbox, got hold of a copy of the confidential #DecemberMemo I wrote for @jeremycorbyn’s office in December. But the slanted hit job above doesn’t even reference, let alone publish, that memo. Perhaps because it’s too interesting?

      Steve asked me lots of questions about the memo last Thursday; I answered most of them (and I gave him more comments which he hasn’t published, perhaps because they don’t fit his script). I thought he had enough to work with, but am happy to answer his other questions in this thread shortly. We’ll see if and how he incorporates my full comments and responses into the blog proper. Make your own minds up how straight a shooter he is.

      Since Steve has failed to tell the full story, today I have now published my full #DecemberMemo on my own Medium here: https://medium.com/@paulhilder/my-confidential-decembermemo-for-jeremycorbyn-office-fakenewsnetwork-vs-gs4themany-1e89dd98477b

      I had very positive meetings with Corbynite Party Chair Ian Lavery, Jeremy’s Director of Strategy & Communications Seumas Milne and others earlier this year to discuss how Labour can take its campaigning movement to the next level. However, despite multiple approaches, neither Karie Murphy (Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff and a former Unite official) nor Andrew Murray (the chief of staff at Unite and a notable Wizard of Oz) – both of whom are serious operators – responded in any way. It has been more than three months.

      What is particularly interesting is that Steve Walker’s blog above also seems to me to include a subtle hint of a job offer…

      I do believe I can beat Jennie Formby, if no left woman who can command broader support in the NEC is allowed to come forward. This is a secret ballot, and people are restive about several troubling issues. But the critical question now is not which faction of the left can “dominate” power – I have had enough of factionalism, power plays and efforts at domination, and I hope many of you have too.

      Now that the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the strength of the left are clear, there is a much more important question for us all to focus on. How can Labour improve on its impressive hung parliament performance to win a decisive majority in the next election — and win the battle of ideas to build a new common sense that replaces the era of Thatcherite disintegration?

      While Steve has for some unknown reason remained silent on this point too, and continues to deny being briefed by any faction, I have been very clear from the beginning. What finally spurred me to change my mind and enter the contest was hearing that other left-wing women were being pressured not to throw their hats into the ring, so that a single candidate could be crowned. This is not how the Labour Party I believe in should behave. And it is not how the Labour Party will win the next general election.

      I continue to encourage other women with strong left and democratic credentials to enter the contest, both publicly and privately. I hope other leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, will join me in doing so in the next 36 hours before the application deadline. What is there to be afraid of? Shortlisting should begin on Wednesday. I understand that the NEC’s left caucus will then vote on which of the shortlisted candidates they will support (they have not yet done so, despite what I hear was a hamfisted effort to take them for granted).

      I have also just launched a Change.org petition to the NEC Officers, calling on them to ensure trust in the process by shortlisting at least a few qualified candidates for General Secretary, and organising open live-streamed hustings debates to give members more insight and voice in this process (which however will properly be decided on by the full membership of the NEC; in closed session; and by secret ballot.) Click here and join me in signing this petition now! https://www.change.org/p/jeremy-corbyn-mp-hold-livestreamed-debates-with-a-wide-shortlist-of-candidates-for-labour-general-secretary

      PS I fully expect more of the #FakeNewsNetwork trolls to come out and have a pop at me in this thread. Bring it on, gang. I won’t be spending all my time here, but I’ll check back in regularly and respond. The questions above about Avaaz are important ones, of course, which I’ll come back on soon.

      But the bigger questions are these: what the hell is going on with the appointment of the next General Secretary of the Labour Party; and is Jeremy Corbyn happy with what others are doing in his name?

      1. Wow. #FakeNewsNetwork? Is this an indicator of your campaigning skills? Blimey. You may count me, and many, many others out of your plans, then.

        Good luck. Mind how you go.

      2. Paul Hilder had plenty of opportunity in this (over) long reply to the original article to fill in the yawning gaps in his sales pitch identified by Skwawkbox … but there is nothing in his over defensive, slightly paranoid, ( ” FAKE NEWS ….imfamy, infamy … everybody’s got it in for me “) post of substance at all. His entire slippery sales pitch reeks of opportunist verbosity. I think we’ll stick with Jennie Formby thanks – we know she has both many years of solid socialist politics and struggle behind her, AND has massive relevant organisational experience.

      3. Dear Paul,

        You’re not quite getting it, which is rather bemusing as your whole pitch is based on communication.

        The leadership of the Labour Party has a preferred candidate.

        You aren’t it.

        You have presented some interesting ideas but those ideas can be presented in a recommendations paper, they don’t need the person recommending them to be appointed general secretary.

        Regarding the million member drive, that’s already in hand but thanks for your belated suggestion.

        Your failure to address the issue of how Iain McNicol surpressed the membership of the party is the final nail in your application. You clearly have no real understanding of the issues facing the party. No offence, but we are working to a compressed time line and can’t afford to have a GS who isn’t up to date with current issues and requires briefing to understand the party.

        We need someone who can “hit the ground running”.

        That person is not you, Paul.

        Your application has helped raise your profile so you have already benefited from the party by association, but I would respectfully ask you to withdraw your inadequate application and stop muddying the waters. We’ve just had Jon doing that and it is not helpful to the Labour Party. In fact it is damaging and divisive.

        Yours etc

        Internal Affairs

  2. His photo exudes arrogance and conceit. Not a good look. Given that he chose this image to portray himself, says a lot about his judgement.

      1. Would that Health Organisation be CCGWatch, as endorsed by Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington?
        You won’t make many friends with comments like that …

      2. Paul, the photo is however the best of the two available on Wikimedia commons (both from the Change.org 2013 retreat), so a reasonable choice for Skwawkbox and others. If you don’t like it, I’d recommend giving a photo you prefer to Wikimedia commons (ie upload a photo you prefer and own the copyright of).

  3. Given how just about everyone on the left of the party regards McNicol, and his tenure as GS of the NEC, it does seem somewhat odd that Paul should say in his recent article in the New Statesman that: “I then met privately with Iain McNicol, who was the underdog but seemed like the candidate whose agenda was closest to my own….”.

    I mean Paul can’t possibly NOT be aware of the antagonism felt on the left towards McNicol, AND the reasons why, so it’s kind of odd that he would even mention such a thing. I mean if he had then gone on to say at some point that McNicol abused his position as GS, or words to that effect, then one would feel that he is being open and honest, but he doesn’t.


    1. But when you do meet McNicol in person he does seem like a very ordinary nice guy. That’s par for the course, so is being civil in those circumstances. It doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater, and suddenly forget all the pain and misery inflicted on members. Tho’ some do, obviously, as we see in your quote above apparently.

  4. The two most important interlinked issues facing the party today is its treatment of the membership and how we increase to a million members.

    Both these things are central to the democratisation of the party and winning the next General Election.

    Hilder failed to offer a concrete view or plan on how to address these issues.

    This critical omission rules him out as a credible candidate.

  5. My concern is this “million members” thing. I have been in politics a looong time. I remember the Liberals struggles to improve their membership, and the jealousy with which the Conservatives’ back-, and sometimes high-street shops were viewed. I was part of the then ENORMOUS Green Party surge, from 70,000 to 150,000 plus, which was frittered away, first by the leadership’s refusal to choose one clear principle to adhere to, and then by the following leaderships’ inability to connect and organise its new membership. An ironic case of TOO FEW rules, rather than too many!

    Labour’s current membership is beyond contemplation. To say that it is big, is to miss the point entirely. In the modern fragmented age, to engage 600,000 odd members is not BIG – it is a MIRACLE, and a pearl beyond price.

    Look at the photos of the current canvassers, all over our timelines. Notice anything odd? Mostly you are looking at a scrum of 20 or 30 people, instead of a handful, and one enthusiastic candidate!

    So, for someone – anyone – to come in and talk blithely about a million members, in these circumstances, these are the words of a charlatan or a madman. I’ll leave your more than competent readership to decide which.

  6. Still questions for Formby. Agreed that Hilder looks better suited to Campaign Director than GS – I don’t see much evidence that he understands member concerns about the current GS. However, there remain a serious question for Formby – according to a long piece on labourpartymarxists the fear is that she has ‘systematically’ voted Dispute Panel cases on to the NCC and thus very likely expulsions. This is the issue that motivated Christine Shawcroft’s anti-union outburst. I’m less concerned with the rights and wrongs of that outburst and more concerned with what motivated it – unions systematically voting with the right. Some kind of response to this issue from Formby is now looking overdue.

  7. After the disastrous experience of Mr smoothie, all things to all people, verbiage spouter , Tony Blair, I’m amazed that anyone on the Left could be fooled by this guy, with his empty rhetoric and complete lack of a gameplan to achieve the big promises (other than dodgy Blairite focus group/consult the public rubbish) . Where is the backstory evidence that he is in any coherent way on the socialist Left ? We need a serious , long-time avowed socialist with oodles of organisational experience, and solid connections with our vital trades union partners as General Secretary. Like Jennie Formby. As another poster comments, the personal photo – exhibiting endless arrogance, is a small thing, but is itself such a giveaway about this guy . The last thing our Party now needs is a dodgy verbiage merchant in charge of our Party machine. Jeremy and his team, and the Left need a loyal, competent, Left Wing willing SERVANT of the membership, not a wannabe media star. Give him a wide berth.

  8. I share the misgivings about focus groups, but the old adage GIGO (garbage in garbage out) is the main problem. If you set up a focus group to find out council estate resident views on election policy it will be different to one of Tory voters in Tunbridge. The main problem as you say is the “triangulation”. It’s still a live issue for the old guard in my CLP for example (but they also want Cooper / Owen Who for Leader and a return to top down LP policy too!). Hilder will appeal to that faction. No one has so far pointed out that he lacks the real life experience of Jenny of actually working with a large membership.

  9. “We are a broad church but only I can bring rival factions together. Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn don’t agree on much, but both of them have told me to my face that I’m ‘a tool’. I was incredibly insulted, but then a friend pointed out that it’s tools that build things. And we are building a movement that will transform society. That friend goes by the name of Bono, by the way. Did I mention he’s a big fan?”

    The hero Labour needs.

    1. Yep, if he got the job, the General Secretary’s office would definitely need more space – to contain his ego. And much better ventilation to deal with all that constant output of hot air !

  10. Thanks for this David.

    I read his bid for the General Secretary’s job in the New Statesman and had misgivings about Hilder. My first thought was he sounded a bit Blairite (and we’ve had enough of them). After reading his replies to Skwawkbox, his fake news response to Skwawkbox and now the love in with himself that he describes as His Week, I sincerely hope that he doesn’t get a serious look in.

    Everything about Hilder says he’s narcissistic, self serving and the total opposite of what Corbyn and the Party needs. Labour needs a strong General Secretary, not one who’s looking to make the story fit himself.

    1. Jeanette – to be clear, that Red Roar article is someone else writing a piece of satire about me as the Zelig of the digital left. You didn’t think it was serious did you? If so, no wonder you think I’m bonkers and narcissistic! If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask them.

      1. Give it up Paul, you’ve exposed yourself as just another right wing wrecker who goes running to the press to brief against the Labour Party.

        The leadership isn’t interested in your vacuous and specious Blairite terminology, the leadership isn’t interested and the unions aren’t intetested.

        Bugger off Paul.

  11. Corbyn’s appeal, unique and integral to his integrity in politics, is the complete integrity of his language; having absolutely nothing to do with this Westminster stinking-with-money lobbyist-PR talk; the world of cosy chats with interviewer chums in studios. That’s one reason why the Labour Party has attracted a huge and relieved insurge of members on a grand scale.

    Oh yes, and he’s a socialist. As Tony Blair once jibed on a platform “There – I’ve said it!!”

    This leader means it. The Labour Party has one chance.

  12. Got as far as three uses of ‘big’ in one sentence. He really took on-board the comments about ‘management speak’; which most people with any real intellect rail against. Glad he’s a rank outsider 😉

    1. ‘Got as far as three uses of ‘big’ in one sentence.’

      Yes, I noticed that too. In fairness, though, he’s done well to avoid pinning the word ‘society’ on the end of one of them.

      It’s really not looking good for him, is it?

  13. I would be happy with a competent decent socialist working class woman (ideally with a track record of standing by Jeremy Corbyn) and one who could answer the question: Where were you when JC was constantly under attack in the recent years?
    You see brothers and sisters in Labour in the past there was an hierarchy — Labour members (the children) – Labour Councillors (more important junior adults) – MPs (the adults and ‘The Great Men & Women of History’ (without an original idea in their heads) but no more – all Labour members are equal whatever their role and it is time to tap the brilliant ideas of the grassroots and to feed these up the chain! Labour is also A POLITCAL PARTY and we should be about politicising working people (including the progressive middle class) plus we should also be politicising the general middle class to try to win them to the progresive middle class too AND WE SHOULD BE ABOUT EMPOWERING ALL DIVERSE WORKING PEOPLE! We are not market researchers seeking opinion we should be MAKING OPINION! Tony Benn once said we “needed a teacher” but Tony was only half correct; WHAT WE NEED ARE LEADERS WHO ARE ALSO FACILITATORS TOO (and in the UK JC fits this role perfectly).
    We can also be an example to the World! Solidarity!

  14. His statement it is dire.
    But a Divine Comedy song came to me.
    “And Mister H walks down the aisle.
    With an ego, the size of a whole country!”

  15. Well done, Paul Hilder, on making yourself unelectable, to us on the “LEFT”, who believe in the “LEFT AND SOCIALISM”!
    In my long life as a Labour voter, I have never been able to comprehend a truly “SOCIALIST LEFT LABOUR PARTY, UNTIL NOW”!
    This to me, in the twylite of my years, is a dream come true!
    No more right wing politics, that only work for those, who aren’t caught up in the draconian use of robbing the poor to pay the rich! “AUSTERITY”!

  16. The facty that he wants to “beat Formby” makes him highly dodgy. Souinds like the Bliar years all over again…

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