Given the present state of British politics, and the present state of the Labour Party, it’s safe to say that Labour was never going to win the Rochester and Strood byelection.
Mind you, it’s worth remembering that maverick Labour leftist Bob Marshall-Andrews represented the constituency from 1997 until the last election, and though there have been boundary changes, Rochester is a solidly working class constituency.
But this time Labour knew that the predominantly white electors, with their concerns about immigration and misinformed scepticism towards Europe, were not going to vote Labour in sufficient numbers for the party to regain the seat. UKIP were always favourites to win, but at least Labour could comfort itself with the thought that the Tories were going to be the main losers and suffer the biggest humiliation.
That was until Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, and Labour MP for Islington South, tweeted the picture above, accompanied by the words “Image from Rochester”: the accompanying sneer could not be seen, but was all too obvious.
The wise and perceptive Anne Perkins commented in the Graun:
“It may be the most devastating message Labour has managed to deliver in the past four years. It’s already being described as the party’s “47%” moment – a reference to the observation that nailed shut the lid on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, when he dismissed the 47% of American voters who wouldn’t ever back the Republicans.
“It is really quite hard to come up with a more lethal tweet to send out to the party’s core vote on polling day.”
Mark Reckless’s comments on deporting EU migrants have shown that he is, essentially, a racist and (Farage’s half-hearted denial of this being UKIP true policy, notwithstanding) so is UKIP as a whole. But not all – or even most – of the people who vote UKIP are hardened racists.
To sneer at working class people who choose to display the St George flag and happen to own a white van, is to display a degree of patronising, middle class arrogance that only a particularly stupid New Labour career politician could possibly come out with.
As Ms Perkins notes, “One click, just one click, that’s all it takes. Ed Miliband’s Labour is once again the party of the metropolitan elite.”
P.S: At least Skinner’s back on form as he denounces Reckless and Carswell in the Commons: here
Pete Radcliff writes:
Those who argue that there would be no difference between a Tory or Labour election victory, watch this. If there are any socialists who don’t think they can connect with an election campaign run on these views – if they don’t think our movement will have their hopes raised by such a victory – I would like to know why.
Of course, hope and abstract promises don’t change the world – we would need to organise vigorously to make Labour in power do as much as we can of what we need.
If you don’t think this is the case, let me know. Go for it – I have the day off work (Pete wrote this earlier today-JD)
Above: Neil Findlay
By Vince Mills, Campaign for Socialism and Red Paper Collective
The quote (actually a misquote) attributed to Mark Twain that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated, could equally well apply to the Scottish Labour Left. The vast majority of socialists in the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) campaigned for and voted “no” in the referendum campaign. This in itself was enough for many in Left groups outside the SLP to consign it to the dustbin of history, rather perversely given the long anti-nationalist history of the socialist movement.
Of course, and here I have some sympathy, this sat alongside other accusations that the Scottish Labour Left had made little impact ideologically on the SLP, was numerically small, and showed little sign of challenging for the political leadership of the party any time soon.
On Saturday 25 October, all of that changed. It wasn’t just that the room booked for the Campaign for Socialism’s post-referendum analysis in the STUC in Glasgow had standing room only; it was the renewed sense of purpose and commitment from so many of the speakers and participants.
First up among a high powered list of political, trade union and local council speakers were Elaine Smith and Neil Findlay, both MSPs.
Elaine Smith argued that the reason for Scottish Labour’s poor performance in its heartlands of Dundee, Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West Dumbarton was a lack of socialist analysis and socialist solutions.
“The root of the problem is class society; the root of the problem is inequality; the root of the problem is in-work poverty; the root of the problem is unemployment. The root of the problem is avaricious capitalism and our job and the job of the Labour Party, surely, is to root it out.” Neil Findlay spoke next, suggesting in some detail how Scottish Labour might go about the tasks that Elaine Smith had outlined arguing that Scottish Labour had to commit to:
• a policy of full employment;
• establish a national house-building programme to build
council houses and social housing on a grand scale;
• set up a living wage unit in the Scottish government that
would use grants, procurement and every lever of government
to raise the minimum wage to the living wage;
• re-democratise local government, financing services,
freeing councils to set their own taxes again and be held to account
for doing and so beginning to reverse the 40,000 job
losses across Scottish councils;
• end the social care scandal by making social care a rewarding,
fairly paid career and ending the indignity of shorttimed
• create quality apprenticeships and new college places
that set young people up for life and develop an industrial
policy that promotes manufacturing and new sustainable
• undertake a wholesale review of the Scottish NHS — recruiting
enough staff and rewarding them to ensure an NHS
for the 21st century and ending the increasing spend on the
• and, finally, build a charter of workers’ rights and new
legislation on equalities.
Neil Findlay’s contribution was all the more important given the announcement on the day before the conference that Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour Party had resigned, citing unacceptable interference from the UK Labour leadership, and ensuring a Scottish Labour leadership contest.
Neil Findlay has since announced his intention to stand for the vacant position, allowing the Scottish Labour Left to test the support for a Left agenda in the wider party. The anticipation of this challenge on 25 October generated considerable optimism. Since then, the respected left-wing MP Katy Clark has announced that she will stand for Deputy Leader alongside Findley.
This left programme is far from the Utopian promises of the Yes Left because it is actually deliverable and this Labour Left is far from a historical footnote. It may actually be on the verge of its most important hour.
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:
“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …
“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”
Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.
Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy – anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.
In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.
Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.
It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.
But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.
At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.
The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.
Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.
Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no; the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”
What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.
The picture below should shame anyone and everyone in Britain (and the rest of the West) who doesn’t bother to vote …
Men show their fingers after the ink-stained part of their fingers were cut off by the Taliban after they took part in the presidential election, in Herat province June 14, 2014.
…but even more, it should shame those on the so-called “left” who have ever expressed (publicly or privately) any degree of sympathy for the rural fascists of the Taliban. You know who you are (and so do we), you scum.
Words of wisdom from Dave Kirk at Workers Liberty:
Above: UKIP’s appeal to angry British workers
It is true that there is an understandable revulsion against the politicians and parties whose policies and ideology accelerated the effects of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s.
Tom Walker talks about that anger in his article for Left Unity.
Walker sees UKIP’s support as primarily a repository for anger with the mainstream that is channelled against migrants, minorities and Europe by UKIP. He argues that a strong “populist” party of the left could channel that anger to progressive ends.
Other left commentators have argued a similar thing about the nearly two thirds of voters who abstained in the election. That many of them could be won over by a convincing left party, if it existed.
I think this is dangerous wishful thinking that ignores ideology. Neo-liberal, pro-austerity and anti-migrant ideas are the ruling and largely unchallenged ideas of the age. It would be patronising and wrong to think those working-class voters who voted UKIP were duped into voting for a neo-liberal anti-migrant party. They must to some degree be convinced by, share and reproduce those ideas.
We would also be kidding ourselves if we thought that non-voters shared a form of left wing anti-austerity politics rather then reflecting the balance of ideology amongst those who do vote.
We can win these people to independent working class politics, but we must face facts squarely. Those who vote UKIP or are so despairing that they do not vote are much further from socialism then most Labour voters or Green voters.
Anger is not enough to win people to socialism. We must consciously build a socialist mass movement, a socialist press, a system of socialist education.
To do this the fight to transform the existing organisations of the working class, the unions, is key. It will also require a fight in the political organisation most left-wing workers still look to, the Labour Party.
Shiraz Socialist is not in a position to express any opinion on the alleged involvement of Gerry Adams in the 1972 murder by the Provisional IRA of Jean McConville. Adams denies any involvement. Certainly, the timing of his arrest raises the possibility that it was politically motivated. However, this 2002 article by Sean Matgamna casts a useful light on Adams’ relationship with the Provos and the “physical-force” tradition within Irish republicanism:
I once knew a man who was shot by a Provisional IRA gang which included Adams
“Ireland occupies a position among the nations of the earth unique in… the possession of what is known as a ‘physical force party’ – a party, that is to say, whose members are united upon no one point, and agree upon no single principle, except upon the use of physical force as the sole means of settling the dispute between the people of this country and the governing power of Great Britain…
“[They] exalt into a principle that which the revolutionists of other countries have looked upon as a weapon… Socialists believe that the question of force is of very minor importance; the really important question is of the principles upon which is based the movement that may or may not need the use of force to realise its object…”
James Connolly, 22 July 1899
Seeing pictures of Gerry Adams grinning his Cheshire-cat-who-has-eaten-six-mice grin in triumph at SF/PIRA’s latest success reminded me that I once knew a man who was shot by a Provisional IRA gang which included Adams.
His name was John Magennis. Who was he? A British soldier? A member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? A member of an Orange paramilitary group? One of the Northern Ireland workers shot by the Provisional IRA in the early 1990s for doing repair work on RUC stations?
No, John Magennis was a Republican. He belonged to the then mainstream Republican movement from which the Provisionals split away in December 1969. Those who remained were thereafter called the “Officials”. They seemed to be the left wing of the Republican movement. They talked about class and about socialism. But in fact their leaders were Stalinists.
The Provisionals were traditionalist Catholic right wing Republicans. They recoiled from the Officials for a number of reasons – their leftism, their Stalinism, their feebleness in responding to the communal fighting in Northern Ireland in August 1969, but, most of all, their turn to politics in general. The split was triggered by the decision of the IRA leaders that Sinn Fein would henceforth take any Dail seats which they might win in an election.
The split led to conflict between the two Republican groups over control of weapons and to a shooting war in which people on both sides died.
John Magennis, a member of the Official IRA, refused to surrender his gun to the gang of Provisional IRA men. They shot him, leaving him paralysed. He survived in that condition for some years and then died.
I met John Magennis only once or twice, about the time the IRA split was taking place. John Magennis was not yet an IRA member. He had come to Manchester to visit his uncle, John-John, a one-time Belfast Republican and later a prominent trade union militant on the Manchester docks, where he worked closely with a small group of Trotskyists, of whom I was one.
A big debate on Ireland had been going on in the IS group (now SWP), at that stage a democratic organisation in which such issues could be debated and of which we were members, since the deployment of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland in August 1969, when serious sectarian fighting broke out in Derry and Belfast. Were we for or against British troops in Northern Ireland?
The discussion was very heated. Those of us who rejected the IS majority’s tacit support to the British state in Northern Ireland were denounced as bloodthirsty “fascists” at the September 1969 IS conference.
John Magennis came with one of his uncles to one of the debates in Manchester. He said he couldn’t see any acceptable alternative to “troops in”.
I remember something he said which later took on a special meaning. He expressed it in the jargon of Catholic nationalism, which idealises patriotic self-sacrifice “for Ireland”, the so-called “blood sacrifice”: “I don’t want to die for Ireland”.
Back in Belfast, he joined the “left-wing” Republicans. I heard he had been shot and paralysed, and later that he had died. It was many years before I saw him again – on TV on a home video, filmed in a nursing home, trying to learn to walk again – staggering painfully, spastically, a poor wreck of the vigorous young man he had been.