Anti-austerity Fireworks

November 5, 2013 at 12:57 am (Cuts, jazz, Jim D, Tory scum, welfare)

Louis again – this time with ‘Fireworks’ (a distant relation of ‘Tiger Rag’). Recorded June 27th 1928 in Chicago. The next day Louis and the same band (the later version of the ‘Hot Five’) made the greatest jazz record of all time, ‘West End Blues.’

Here’s ‘Fireworks’:

Maybe that will fire you up to attend one of these November 5th anti-austerity events.

Permalink 1 Comment

EU study exposes Tory ‘benefits tourism’ lies

October 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm (benefits, Europe, health service, immigration, Jim D, Tory scum, truth, welfare)

Healthcare spending on non-active EU migrants - estimates

The EU Commission’s report (Impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems) leaves no room for doubt: the Tories’ campaign against so-called “benefits tourism” is based upon a pack of lies.

The report finds that “mobile EU citizens are less likely [ie than the national average] to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.” In the UK, EU migrants account for just 4% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants while representing more than 5% of those in employment.

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd told BBC Two’s Daily Politics, “the vast majority of migrants go to the UK to work, and they actually contribute more to the welfare system than they take out, purely because they tend to be younger than the average population, and of working age. The more EU migrants you have, the better off your welfare system is.”

The report also contradicts the claim, published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph  that “600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain…at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone”. The 600,000 figure turns out not to refer to those who are unemployed but to those who are “economically inactive”, including pensioners, students, school children and the disabled. Of this total, those out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance amount to just 28%. In addition, the figures published in the study show that EU migrants are less likely than their UK counterparts to be economically inactive or unemployed. Thirty per cent of migrants are “non-active” compared to 43% of British citizens, while 7.5% are out of work, compared to 7.9% of UK nationals (the unemployment rate at the time the study was conducted).

Here’s the statement from László Andor, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:

The study makes clear that the majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic. The Commission remains committed to ensuring that EU citizens that would like to work in another EU country can do so without facing discrimination or obstacles.

Downing Street responded by issuing a statement saying there is “widespread and understandable” concern about “benefit tourism”: in other words, never mind the facts, just pander  to prejudice.

It would be nice to think Labour will take a principled stand on this, but given recent statements from the Shadow Cabinet, that’s probably too much to hope.

NB: In writing the above, I made extensive use of this report on the New Statesman website – JD

Permalink 11 Comments

March in Manchester to Save the NHS!

September 28, 2013 at 6:51 am (Cuts, health service, posted by JD, protest, Tory scum, TUC, welfare)

  •  SAVE OUR NHS

    LIVE DEMO BLOG:

    See live updates from the march and rally at our Save Our NHS blog

    JOIN US ONLINE ON THE DAY

    If you can’t join us in Manchester you can still get involved online.

    Tell the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester: SAVE OUR NHS. Defend Jobs and Services. No to Austerity.

    March and Rally – Sunday 29 September 2013

    Supporters of the National Health Service and all those who want to defend jobs, services and a decent welfare state will be marching in Manchester to deliver a clear message to Conservative Party Conference that we mean to Save Our NHS from cuts and privatisation.

    A march and rally have been called by the North West TUC, backed by unions and NHS campaign groups. They’ll be assembling at Liverpool Road (M3 4FP) from 11am, and marching to a rally in Whitworth Park.

    The protest will highlight the impact of huge job losses and spending cuts across the health service, as well as the rapid sell-off of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies – many of whom like Circle are also Conservative Party donors.

    The event will also raise concerns about the wider effect that government economic policies are having upon communities across the UK.

    Getting there:

    Coaches to Manchester are being laid on by groups around the country, with many places subsidised or free. A list of coaches can be found at http://falseeconomy.org.uk/travel/uk/all/t1.

    Coach Drop Off Point: The coach drop off point will be on Water Street, Manchester B5225. Coaches should arrive at the drop off point between 09:00 and 12:00.

    Advertise your coach
    For those looking to advertise your coach and ensure they are full, the False Economy has a section dedicated to 29th September. Register your details through http://falseeconomy.org.uk/nhs299 or alternatively, you can email Jay McKenna at jmckenna@tuc.org.uk with your coach details.

    Trains
    The nearest train station to the form up point is Deansgate Train Station. For those travelling to Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picaddilly, there will be police officers on duty on the day who will be able to point you in the direction of Liverpool Road and the march.

    Buses
    Buses will be running on the day, however there will be some alterations due to road closures. These will be published shortly on the Transport for Greater Manchester website www.tfgm.com.

    Form Up
    The form up area for unions will be signposted and this information will be circulated prior to the march.

    Route:

    The march is expected to move off at 12:15 and the route has been confirmed with police and agency partners.

    It is: Depart Liverpool Road; Turn Left onto Deansgate; Turn right onto John Dalton Street; Continue over onto Princess Street; Turn right onto Portland Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Left into Hall Street; Continue round to Bale Street; Turn left onto Lower Mosley Street; Continue down onto Albion Street; Turn left onto Whitworth Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Continue down onto Oxford Road; Finish at Whitworth Park.

    Map

    Short March/Static Demonstration
    For those who require a shorter march the two points for will be at:

    • Barbirolli Square (outside of the Bridgwater Hall) – This allows for those who wish to join the march to pass the conference centre and continue onto the rally
    • All Saints Park (off Oxford Road) – This allows for those who just wish to attend the rally to join the march to its conclusion

    Both Barbirolli Square and All Saints Park will be stewarded and policed to ensure that those with mobility requirments will have safe and easy passage in the march. All marchers are asked to respect this.

    Rally

    The rally will start at 14:15 or when the march reaches Whitworth Park, whichever is the later. It is expected to last for approximately 2 hours with speakers and music.

    Space for any stalls within Whitworth Park is limited is extremely limited. If any Union or organisation wishes to have a stall at the rally, please email Kara Stevens on kstevens@tuc.org.uk

    Accessible Viewing Area/Sign Language
    A disability viewing area will be provided near to the stage to enable clear sight lines to the stage. There will also be sign language provided on the day. This area will be signposted and stewards will direct individuals to this area if required.

    Departure
    At the end of the rally, coach pick up points and the direction of travel to train stations will be advertised on the large screen. Stewards and police will be on hand to assist with dispersal from the park and signposting individuals to coach parking.

    Get involved:

    NB: all the above is reproduced from the TUC website

Permalink 5 Comments

Bedroom tax judgement to be appealed

July 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm (benefits, Cuts, Disability, Jim D, law, tax, Tory scum, welfare)

From Leigh Day & Co:

Lawyers vow to fight on after losing part of their battle on overturning the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’

Lawyers representing adults and children with disabilities who are challenging the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ have vowed to fight on after today losing part of their High Court battle to halt the controversial new housing benefit regulations that came into force on 1st April this year.

Since 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%.  The claimants all argued that these new Housing Benefit rules discriminate against people with disabilities.

The Court accepted that they are discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful – apart from in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities.

Disabled Children and Bedroom Sharing

The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make Regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.

The Government must now make Regulations “very speedily” to show that there should be “no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities.”

The Wider Group

However the Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified.  Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right.

They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.

Appeal

Lawyers for adults with disabilities today confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as they are now left in a position where they do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of the homes that they need.

This is because the Government has declined to confirm that the new Regulations, which the Court says must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new Regulations will be made.

Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, Social Landlords and Advice Agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

3 law firms are representing the Claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors.

Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:

“This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal.  Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

***

The Guardian identifies some “puzzling anomalies” in the judgement.

Permalink 1 Comment

Report from the People’s Assembly

June 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm (capitalist crisis, Cuts, reblogged, TUC, unions, Unite the union, welfare)

A report from Andrea Gibbons of Lambeth Save Our Services

Francis O'Grady addresses opening session of People's Assembly

Above: the opening plenary

It was partially a day of misadventures I have to say. It began with me missing the opening plenary (many apologies), attending the housing session, being unable to get into the session on immigration and racism because it was too full (that so many people attended did indeed make me happy), being immensely frustrated with the regional meeting, enjoying some of the closing plenary before ducking out for pints, and the evening wrapped up when a man stumbled outside of the Sutton Arms where we were standing with blood pouring everywhere. Turns out he’d had a beer bottle broken over his head for being a Fenian, no one stopped the fight or the guy from leaving… I stood wearing Mark Steel’s hat and guarding everyone’s drinks (post of doubtful honour), while Mark and Niall ran in hot pursuit, Kevin and Helen gave some first aid as the cops showed up after far far too long, though what we needed was an ambulance which took far longer…he got away, and after being bandaged up, the injured party was well enough to ask for Mark’s autograph. We were upset, had a long talk on the train ride home about violence and sectarian violence and the left, but anyway, the assembly.

It was full, absolutely rammed full. Even with my limited experience, I’m sure it wasn’t just the ‘usual characters’ as I’ve come to hear people call them, and it was more diverse than I was fearing in terms of age and race and in all other ways, though I think we’ve still a long long ways to go. I got there just as the plenary was ending and people were pouring out of the overflow rooms where they had been watching it on screens. Over 4,000 bought tickets, and I well believe it Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 8 Comments

The Mail, Philpott, welfare…and MMR

April 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm (benefits, children, crime, Cuts, Daily Mail, Jim D, media, science, Tory scum, tragedy, welfare)

Daily Mail Welfare UK cover
As a general rule, it’s the political right who object to attempts to explain crime by reference to the social, economic or political context in which it occurs. This is, they say, to make excuses and to let evil people off the hook. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and distractions like poverty and unemployment should not enter into the equation.

.
Which makes the Daily Mail‘s campaign to link the Mick Philpott case with the benefits system, at first blush, seem rather odd. AN Wilson, writing in the Mail, stated that “What the Philpott trial showed was the pervasiveness of evil caused by benefit dependency” and went on to ask his readers, rhetorically, “Do you think Philpott would have done this crime if he has worked regularly for the past 20 years and provided for those six children out of his own pocket?”
.
Now this is all highly unpleasant stuff and clearly part of a Tory campaign to justify the government’s dismantling of the welfare state. The repugnant, monstrous figure of Mick Philpott has of course been a godsend to the Tories, taken up first by the Mail and then by Chancellor Osborne following a bizarre speech on welfare “reform” delivered at a Morrisons warehouse in Kent.
.
But I’m not joining in with the shrill, self-righteous outrage expressed by the likes of Owen Jones and Pamela Nash MP: after all, us lefties do not hesitate to blame the Con-Dems and their cuts for death and misery. The Mail and the Tories will not be defeated by moralistic posturing or complaints that certain headlines, articles and speeches are “offensive.”
.
For what it’s worth, I think the argument that Philpott did what he did in order to get his hands on more child benefit and/or a larger house, is pretty far-fetched. From what I’ve read and heard, his motives would seem to have been a desire to exact revenge upon his ex-mistress by framing her for the fire, and to simultaneously win himself media attention as a “hero” for having saved the children.
.
But the truth is, none of us can know for sure.
.
What we can know for sure, however, is that sections of the press and other media have played a big part in putting the lives of thousand of children’s health and lives at risk.
.
The present measles epidemic in Swansea is the direct result of a cynical, irresponsible and hysterical campaign run by swathes of the UK media between about 1998 and 2010, against the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and its alleged (but in fact non-existent) link to autism. Thanks to widespread vaccination, incidences of the three diseases covered by MMR had been rapidly decreasing for years, to the point where they’d become very rare. But in the 2000′s instances of mumps and measles began to rise again. Dr Ben Goldacre, in his 2008 book Bad Science, wrote:
.
“[T]he incidence of two of the three diseases covered by MMR is now increasing very impressively. We have the highest number of measles cases in England and Wales since current surveillance methods began in 1995, with cases occurring mostly in children who had not been adequately vaccinated: 971 confirmed cases were reported in 2007 (mostly associated with prolonged outbreaks in travelling and religious communities, where vaccine uptake has been historically low), after 740 cases in 2006 (and the first death since 1992)…
.
“Mumps began rising again in 1999, after many years of cases in only double figures: by 2005 the United Kingdom had a mumps epidemic, with around 5,000 notifications in January alone.”
.
Now, in Swansea, the measles epidemic has reached 588 cases and Public Health Wales have said: “it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or dies.”
.
According to the Guardian, “Take-up for the MMR vaccine dropped by 14% in south Wales in the late 1990′s after research, subsequently discredited, raised health concerns about the jab and prompted a campaign against it by the South Wales Evening Post.”
.
And which major national paper was giving the provincial South Wales Evening Post its lead?
.
No prizes for guessing:
.
Embedded Image

Permalink 1 Comment

AWL on left unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’

March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, Cuts, John Rees, Respect, socialism, solidarity, SWP, unions, welfare, workers)

From the AWL website and Solidarity newspaper:

peoples assembly fb pic

Left Unity

Unity must be linked to real action

The crises and splits in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Respect have spurred more talk about left unity. The left needs systematic unity in action where we agree, and honest dialogue where we differ, in order to reinstate socialist ideas as an option in the working class.

On 26 March the Coalition of Resistance (within which the key force is the SWP splinter Counterfire) held a press conference to promote a “People’s Assembly Against Austerity” for 22 June (previously announced in a letter to the Guardian on 5 February). Workers’ Liberty supports all such gatherings; but, worryingly, the press release described the event as a “rally” rather than a conference.

There is a back-story. In late 2010 and early 2011, as anti-cuts campaigns flourished in the first angry response to the Tory/ Lib-Dem government, a number of left groups called conferences to try to make themselves the hub of the anti-cuts movement. The SWP called one (Right to Work, since morphed into Unite the Resistance), and the SP called one (National Shop Stewards’ Network). Counterfire’s effort, the Coalition of Resistance, was the biggest.

More than 1,000 people attended the Coalition of Resistance conference on 27 November 2010. Listening to many platform speeches from celebrities calling for militancy against the cuts, including from Unite leader Len McCluskey (who also backs the June event), some of those thousand must have felt they were in on the start of a real new movement.

But not much came of it. CoR has run an informative website, and some useful stunts; but for local anti-cuts committees usually the best contribution that CoR has been able to make is to refrain from organising CoR local groups as rivals to the main committees (and CoR has not always refrained).

The CoR conference was dominated by top-table speakers, 20-odd of them in the opening and closing plenaries. Little came of most workshops. At the workshop billed as dealing with political representation, speakers were a Green Party councillor; Liz Davies, who declared herself a critical supporter of the Green Party; Billy Bragg, whose speech was a straight plea to vote yes in the May 2011 referendum on AV; and Guardian contributor Laurie Penny. It was chaired by a Green Party member and allowed little debate.

The conference applauded a call from the platform for a week of action from 14 February 2011, but there was little action that week. CoR faded.

There is also a back-story to the “People’s Assembly” trope with which Counterfire hopes to revive CoR. They did it first on 12 March 2007, as a People’s Assembly Against War, when the people who now run Counterfire were in the leadership of the SWP. That event drew a good crowd, too — 1,000 or more — but its contribution to unity in action or to serious dialogue on differences was smaller than the attendance. There were almost 40 celebrities speaking from the top table.

On 25 March, film-maker Ken Loach and writer Gilbert Achcar co-signed a letter to the Guardian promoting the “Left Unity” initiative started in December 2012 by Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson after they had quit George Galloway’s Respect movement. The initiative’s website claims that 3000 people have signed up on the web to back Ken Loach on this. No conference has been announced, but the website reports on local groups.

If those local groups can act as left forums, bringing the left together in joint action where we agree and honest debate where we disagree, then they will make a contribution.

Again, there is a back-story. Burgin had previously been active in Gerry Healy’s Workers’ Revolutionary Party as well as Respect; Hudson, in the Communist Party of Britain before she joined Respect. Loach was close to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, and then in Respect.

There have been quite a few other unity initiatives in recent years. A weary shrug (“not another one!”) would be wrong; but so would the idea that we need not think about and learn from why they didn’t work.

In 2009, both AWL and SWP made proposals for left unity (only, it turned out that the SWP’s idea of left unity didn’t include talking with AWL…) The Convention of the Left, launched in September 2008 by John Nicholson (previously Labour deputy leader of Manchester City Council, and then in the Socialist Alliance) won wider endorsement than any of the current efforts — Morning Star, Red Pepper, LRC, Respect, Labour Briefing and Socialist Worker, as well as Workers’ Liberty. It agreed to set up local left forums. Trouble is, the forums never really got going, and the “convention” turned into a series of conferences, of diminishing vitality.

The Left Unity Liaison Committee, set up by activists from the Socialist Alliance, brought together different groups to discuss, but also petered out (in the end, AWL was the only one of the activist groups attending regularly). According to the Socialist Party, their electoral vehicle, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, is the best hope for left unity. AWL was able to get a loose alliance with the SP and the Alliance for Green Socialism — the Socialist Green Unity Coalition —up to 2008-9, but the SP and AGS then pulled out in favour of No2EU and what became TUSC.

The Anti-Capitalist Initiative, in which the main force is splinters from the Workers’ Power group, also promotes itself as the way to left unity.

None of these, not even CoR which was perhaps the best effort, has had enough substance of agreed united action or of real open debate.

Paradoxically, it often happens that the smaller and more splintered the group which proposes itself as the hub for left unity, the better the initial response it gets. But it’s not necessarily easy sailing from there on!

If an activist group with a known record of political activity makes a call for unity, then people judge it partly according to their opinion of that record. If a splinter of a split of a splinter (just two people initially, as with Burgin and Hudson, or a few dozen, as with Counterfire) makes an appeal, and puts it in the vaguest terms — Burgin and Hudson suggest no more political definition than “rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions, and poses a new way of organising everyday life” — then everyone can read into it what they want.

Everyone who wants to build a socialist organisation, but is unsure about how to do it, and so holds back from joining any of the existing groups, can believe they have found a short cut. Just a click on a website, or a “like” on Facebook, and they’re already part of the big movement they want!

Burgin and Hudson cite Syriza in Greece and Die Linke in Germany as their models. But neither of those dropped from the sky in response to a few activists writing a letter to the Guardian, or doing a press conference. Syriza builds on a long political tradition — that of the Greek Communist Party, since the 1920s the main force in the Greek workers’ movement – and on sharp political battles which separated Syriza’s core both from the old Stalinists and from the soft reformists now in Greece’s Democratic Left. Die Linke rests on having been able to take over a chunk of what was the old ruling party in East Germany.

Also, neither of them is adequate. If Syriza did not have organised left groupings like DEA and Kokkino battling within it against its mainstream leadership, then there would be no hope for it doing anything other than collapsing into reformist adaptation. Die Linke is more Keynesian than socialist, and has supported cuts where it is in provincial coalition governments.

Unity is good. But talk about unity will be just a way of floating yet another left splinter unless it is translated into specific unity in action and specific dialogue about differences.

To the credit of Burgin and Hudson, they have posted on their website a thoughtful contribution from SWPer (or ex-SWPer?) Keith Flett. “However, and however frustrating some may find it, there is no way of by-passing the weight of Labour and perhaps in particular Labour activists in the unions and localities in all this…. The electoral support of Labour and its impact can’t be ignored.

“It may be argued that membership is hardly what it was in the 1950s but that is true of all political parties. It may also be argued that the hold of Labour’s approach to political change is less, but it is an argument not an historical fact.

“Even if we accept time scales change with context, historically it has taken time to build left parties.

Not just time, but effort, argument, education. And politics! Talk of unity is good, but only if it leads to specific united action and specific dialogue. Not if it becomes only a way to float yet another left splinter making its claim as being the one which is really for unity…

AWL will work with the Left Unity forums, and the People’s Assembly, on that basis.

Burgin/Hudson initiative

People’s Assembly

AWL leaflet to first Coalition of Resistance conference

Coatsey’s rather more enthusiastic view of the Assembly Against Austerity

Permalink 13 Comments

The way to stop Ukip is NOT to ape their policies

March 11, 2013 at 5:58 pm (Anti-Racism, AWL, benefits, capitalist crisis, Cuts, democracy, Europe, Jim D, populism, Racism, solidarity, UKIP, welfare, workers)

Adapted by JD from Workers Liberty/Solidarity (editorial)

Ukip has seen its support surge, most recently in the 28 February Eastleigh by-election where it won 11,571 votes — 27.8%, an increase of 24%, and enough to beat the Tories into third place. A recent opinion poll puts them on 17% – well ahead of the Lib Dems and exactly 10% behind the Tories..

They have also just won a local council seat in the North West.

Last year, in the Croydon North by-election, Ukip polled 1,400 votes, an increase of 4%. In Rotherham, it won 4,648 votes (21.67%), coming second. In Middlesbrough, it also finished second with 1,990 votes (11.8%).

The trends suggest that Ukip stands a good chance of gaining the most votes of any party at next year’s European Parliament elections.

A great deal of debate has taken place in the mainstream press about whether Ukip’s recent electoral gains were just “protest votes”, rather than indicators of the party consolidating a longer-term, loyal base. If the vote was an expression of “protest”, the questions are: who was doing the protesting, what were they protesting about, and in the name of what alternative?

A study into Ukip’s vote at the 2009 European elections, where they came second to Labour and won 16.1% of the vote, argued that Ukip’s “core supporters” are “a poorer, more working-class, and more deeply discontented group who closely resemble supporters of the BNP and European radical right parties.”

The BNP would sometimes pitch “to the left”; leader Nick Griffin claimed in 2002 that his party was “the only socialist party in Britain”, and the BNP’s local work often has an explicitly “working-class” edge and includes opposition to cuts to local services. Ukip’s pitch is different.

Where the BNP might demagogically and disingenuously attack Labour for abandoning white workers, Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage focuses on attacking David Cameron for not being conservative enough. The Tories failed in Eastleigh, Farage said, because “traditional Tory voters look at Cameron and ask themselves: is he a Conservative? And they conclude, no, he is not. He is talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India, he wants Turkey to join the EU.” The Daily Mail‘s Peter Hitchens described Ukip as “the Thatcherite Tory Party in exile”. Ukip wants compulsory “workfare” schemes for anyone on benefits, greater privatisation in education, and a part-privatised “national health insurance” model to replace the NHS.

But despite its right-wing pitch and the fact that 60% of Ukip supporters previously voted Tory (see chart at the top), figures in the Independent show that more than 40% of Ukip supporters oppose the Tories’ cap on tax credits and benefits, 43% want increased spending on public services, and more Ukip supporters than Lib Dem supporters believe that “the government is cutting too deeply”. There is a potentially unstable contradiction between Ukip’s ultra-Tory policies and the instincts of some of its working-class supporters.

It would be patronising and complacent, though, to believe that working-class people who vote Ukip do so simply to express a vague “protest” without any real understanding of or belief in what the party stands for. It is dangerous to imagine that if some left-wing electoral vehicle can replicate Ukip’s populist pitch (but from the left), we can repeat their success.

The Socialist Party-led Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood in the Rotherham, Middlesbrough, and Eastleigh by-elections on as “populist” a pitch as one could wish for — a lowest-common-denominator anti-cuts appeal. TUSC came out of the “No2EU” coalition, an attempt to tap into anti-EU and anti-migrant sentiment “from the left”. TUSC polled 620 votes in total across the three by-elections, less than half of Ukip’s lowest single score. Unfortunately Ukip’s vote represents a layer of anti-migrant, anti-Europe feeling amongst working-class people — which the left needs to relate to with a serious long-term political campaign based on socialist ideas and emphasising working-class unity.

Peter Woodhouse, a Ukip-voting train driver and former Labour supporter interviewed in the Guardian, said: “One of the reasons I voted for Ukip is immigration. I’m worried about the dropping of the barrier in January. I fully expect 2-4 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come over. What’s it going to be like? We’re a small island.” Sarah Holt, a shopworker, said: “They have talked to me about their policies and I agree with a lot of what they have told me. There’s going to be more and more foreigners coming in and taking everything from us. It’s diabolical.”

Although senior Tories like Kenneth Clarke have warned against a rightwards lurch in response to Ukip’s success, a cabinet committee met on 5 March to examine “wide-ranging plans” to restrict Bulgarian and Romanian immigration to Britain without breaching EU law.

But, critically, where is the Labour Party, the wider labour movement, and the left? Eastleigh was a dismal showing for Labour, finishing fourth in a by-election while in opposition for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper unveiled Labour’s new immigration policy last week, and while it is focusing on “crackdowns” on employers who exploit migrants, previous “crackdowns” have been used as cover to deport migrant workers rather than level up their conditions.

The far-left is politically hamstrung on the issue, having been desperately attempting to give a progressive gloss to anti-EU sentiment for years. The “No2EU” coalition and the (closely-related) Campaign Against Euro Federalism have even attacked “the so-called ‘free movement of labour’”, and “the social dumping of migrant labour”. A speech by the then-RMT President Alex Gordon to a 2011 conference of the “People’s Movement” (an Irish anti-EU coalition) argued for restrictions on immigration on the basis that continued “mass migration” would “feed the poison of racism and fascism”.

The left needs more than a change of approach or tactics; it needs a change of politics. Attempting to convince Ukip-supporting workers that their anti-migrant and anti-EU feeling would be better and more progressively expressed by voting for some supposedly “left” electoral formation (Respect, No2EU, TUSC, etc) than for Ukip is a dead-end.

We need to convince workers of an alternative set of ideas: that the enemy is not “Europe” but capitalist austerity, and that the answer to fears about increased migration putting a strain on jobs, wages, and services is not to restrict migration but to organise all workers — British-born and migrant — to fight for the levelling up of conditions to provide living wages, decent jobs, housing, and public services for all. The labour movement needs an emergency plan that can unite workers across Europe to fight for working-class policies against the policies of austerity.

• Sign this statement — “Equal rights for migrant workers!”

Permalink 12 Comments

General Plea from a Libertarian

January 7, 2013 at 6:16 am (labour party, Max Dunbar, strange situations, Tory scum, welfare, whiskey, wine)

Some truly crazy ideas have been bouncing around various Whitehall policy departments. Taken together they give a sense of a general trend.

Back in December we had the welfare card proposal, so that unemployed people couldn’t spend their benefits on cigarettes and alcohol. This week: an idea that fat unemployed people should be ordered to exercise or else lose benefits.

Many people will approve of these ideas, because they would make life difficult for people on benefits. The rationale is ‘You are dependent on the state for your income, so we have a right to dictate how you spend it.’ But there is no way that the government will stop with welfare claimants. Plain packaging, minimum pricing, proposals for legal limits on sugar and fat content will affect working people too. If unemployed people should have a welfare card, why shouldn’t working people get paid in food vouchers? After all, otherwise we would just waste our salaries on Camel Lights, pizzas and red wine. And we are all dependent on the state to some extent. Even Jeremy Clarkson drives on publicly maintained roads.

Under a Tory led austerity government you would at least expect negative freedom. They won’t empower you, or help you out in hard times. You could at least expect them to leave you the fuck alone. But they won’t leave you alone. The Fabian authoritarianism that New Labour brought into public life has not been abandoned: quite the reverse.

So they cut essential services – sickness benefits, debt advice, legal representation, you know, things that people use, stuff that matters – while grasping for more and more control over what people do in their free time.

It is a kind of government by brainstorm or thought camp, where bizarre and silly ideas are implemented with seemingly no thought for the science, the economics or the practical reality of people’s lives.

Of course sometimes we need to be protected from ourselves.

But people also need the freedom to make their own mistakes.

prohibition

DoH launches new public health poster campaign

Permalink 14 Comments

Benefit cuts: what is Labour for?

December 13, 2012 at 12:23 am (class, Cuts, Jim D, labour party, welfare)

Let’s be clear: the welfare cuts announced by Osborne last Wednesday in his autumn statement mean that for the first time since 1931, the income of the poorest people in Britain will fall as a result of deliberate government policy. All working-age benefits, including Employment Support Allowance for the disabled, will be capped at a 1% uprating per year until 2015. Inflation is expected to be at least double that.

Miliband’s response seems, at first hearing, to be encouraging. He’s denounced the plans as an attack on the poorest and made it clear that he finds Osborne’s jibe about people lying in bed with the curtains drawn while others go to work, pretty distatesful. But what Miliband and the rest of the Labour front-bench have not said is that they’ll vote against the proposals when they come before parliament next month.

It seems that Miliband’s caution is, in part at least, due to the still-pervasive influence of Blairite forces terrified of the party seeming to side with “scroungers.”  So far, the craven Work and Pensions spokesman, Liam Byrne has had little to say, and what he has said has been thoroughly evasive.

Miliband and the party leadership are going to have to make their collective mind up pretty damn soon. This is a “what is Labour for?” moment and if Miliband flunks it the repercussions (not least in the unions) will be disastrous for the party -never mind the poor sods who’ll have to suffer the cuts.

A fudge of the kind envisioned (disapprovingly) by John Harris in yesterday’s Guardian (opposing the cap on working tax credits and the like, but letting yet more blows rain down on the unemployed) will not be acceptable to the vast majority of Labour supporters and trade unionists. We must demand that all Labour MPs and spokespersons, starting with Miliband, vote and campiagn against these cuts. Nothing less will do.

And if that means taking on and smashing the Blairite scum who still infest Labour, then so be it.

As Harris (not someone I always agree with) asks: “If each and every Labour politician does not oppose this in its entirety, what exactly are they here for?”

Permalink 4 Comments

Next page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 420 other followers