Steve Bell’s If … © Steve Bell
By Dale Street (of Workers Liberty)
“Neither Nicola Sturgeon nor her deputy (Stewart Hosie) are saying austerity can be avoided. Instead, it’s being re-badged and re-profiled, or spread out for longer. …”
“The defiant refusal to accept more austerity, which won power for Syriza in Greece last month, is not being offered here. Instead, a serious bid for a share of power in Britain requires a message that won’t spook the markets.”
That was the verdict of BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser, and it is about right.
The fact that the SNP are saying that more austerity is unavoidable is at odds with the SNP’s message on the doorstep (and in television debates): that the SNP is the only Scottish party with an anti-austerity agenda.
This kind of incoherence — and dishonesty — permeates the SNP general election campaign. In fact the SNP is not running one election campaign but a collection of mutually exclusive campaigns.
SNP leaders says that this election is not about independence for Scotland but about austerity. In fact, as far as the SNP is concerned, everything is about independence, including this election.
Although both Salmond and Sturgeon previously described last September’s referendum as a “once-in-a generation” event, both of them — just seven months later — are now refusing to rule out another referendum after the Holyrood elections of 2016.
SNP election activists are far more honest and describe the general election as “a stepping stone” (sic) to another referendum and independence. (So too do the SNP’s “socialist” bag-carriers. But not even the SNP takes them seriously.)
SNP leaders claim that they want to help Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street. But they don’t actually want anyone to vote Labour! Instead, Scotland should vote for the SNP, Wales for Plaid Cymru, and England for the Greens.
Again, SNP election activists are more honest and want Scots to vote SNP and the Welsh to vote Plaid Cymru because they cannot conceive of voting on any basis other than national identity, and because there is no such thing as an English National Party, they cannot work out how the English should vote.
Unlike the public face of the SNP, they are also refreshingly honest in declaring that they really don’t care if the Tories win the general election because a Tory victory would be just an additional reason for another referendum and independence. Read the rest of this entry »
Comrade Coatesy has provided excellent coverage of today’s ruling of the Election Commissioner, who has found Rahman guilty of massive corruption and illegal practices, commented upon his personal dishonesty, barred him from office and fined him £250,000. Coatsey’s piece is rightly scathing about the various “leftists” who have defended and/or covered up for Rahman, often joining in with the ritual cries of “racist!” and “Islamophobe!” directed at anyone who dared criticise him.
Though Cowards Flinch places the scandal in the context of an underlying problem with elected mayors.
I will, no doubt be returning to this matter in due course. In the meanwhile, readers may find the following background information helpful:
Rahman was previously the leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council. However, he lost this position in 2010. The same year he was selected as the Labour candidate to stand as the directed elected mayor of Tower Hamlets before being removed by the party’s NEC. The reason for him losing both positions were accusations that the Islamic Foundation of Europe (IFE) had signed up some hundreds of members to the Labour Party to advance Rahman’s cause. The IFE is part of a network of groups around the East London Mosque aligned to the Jamaat-e-Islami (aka Maududists), which has its origins in India but is now more significantly is a force in Pakistan and were chief amongst the anti-secessionist forces in the civil war that created Bangladesh. They are Islamist in that they support an Islamic state based on Sharia law, but are (on the whole) social conservatives not jihadists.
Rahman won the 2010 mayoral election as an independent although Tower Hamlets is by no means a majority Muslim borough, less than 40% are Muslims but they do constitute the bulk of Labour’s electoral base and once Rahman was able to win this no-one could beat him. Rahman’s position was strengthened by the party formed around him, Tower Hamlets First (THF), winning 18 of the 45 council seats in 2014 and under the mayoral system Rahman could run the administration drawing on only these councillors. THF is entirely drawn from Tower Hamlets Bangladeshis (and one would assume, Muslims), although six have previously been councillors of both the Labour Party and Respect. One of these, Abjoi Miah, was a key member of Respect and appears to have been the key link person between Respect and IFE/Jamaat. He is now the central organiser of THF and a power behind Rahman’s throne. The turn to the Labour Party and Rahman appears to have been because IFE/Jamaat lost confidence in the Respect MP for Bow and Poplar (in Tower Hamlets), George Galloway, after he made a complete fool of himself on Celebrity Big Brother.
There are three important points to make about the Rahman/THF rule in Tower Hamlets and the possibility of other councils becoming Muslim run:
First Rahman and THF do not present as Islamists. For example, the council maintains an LGBT policy. It might be the case that Rahman and many of the THF councillors are not Islamists but communalists who wish to promote the interests of those of Bangladeshi origins, something that is not without precedent in local government politics in Britain. The most notable feature of Rahman/THF rule is not the establishment of an Islamic state in the East End, but the creation of a version of the millet system that existed under the Ottoman Empire whereby everyone is related to as a religious group. It is common for local councils to run a layer of social services through local voluntary groups and charities. In Tower Hamlets these are becoming increasingly demarcated on religious lines, that strengthens the links between people of Bangladeshi origin. Through its Community Faith Building Support Scheme the council gives direct support to faith based groups, the budget for 2014 being £1.3 million. Of the 2013 funding, although funding went to a variety of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh groups, two-thirds went to Muslim groups. It is such communalism and setting of religious identity into policy structures that is most problematic here, not any overt militancy.
Second, what is notable about Tower Hamlets First is their relative youth. These are not bearded elders in traditional attire, but young men in suits and whose beards are either neatly clipped or absent. In sharp distinction to older generations, there are women amongst THF’s councillors. This group has coalesced around three factors: the shutting down of channels in the Labour Party to their advancement, the rise of Respect in Tower Hamlets showing the potential to mobilise Muslim voters in a new way, and the organisation hub of Jamaat-e-Islami based on the East London Mosque. The last of these is probably the most important, but one that might not be readily replicated elsewhere. As Innes Bowen has shown in her recent book, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent, while most mosques in Britain are affiliated to the conservative quietism of the Deobandi and Barelwi strands of Sunni Islam, the East London Mosque is affiliated to the Islamist idea of Jamaat-e-Islami, with IFE being part of this stable too.
Third, success for Tower Hamlets First was tied up with the mayoral systems. Tower Hamlets First do not have the spread across the borough to win the majority of the council seats, and have only 40 per cent. Their control is thus based on winning the direct elections for mayor that Rahman did comfortably in 2010 where he took much of Labour’s vote, and more tightly in 2014 against a strong Labour challenge.
Rahman’s links with the Islamic Forum of Europe and Jamaat-e-Islami are described on pages 27-29 of this booklet.
Here’s an interesting perspective from someone who voted “Yes” in the Scottish referendum, but didn’t like the behaviour of the nationalists in the aftermath, and won’t be voting SNP in the general election. We don’t necessarily agree with all of what follows: I think the author is much too soft on the dishonest shysters who run the SNP and (speaking for myself) I certainly disagree with the author’s closing heavy-hint that s/he intends to vote Green. But it’s a worthwhile piece that makes some good points along the way. From Promised Joy:
Posted: April 16, 2015
I don’t have much of a track record as a tipster – the horse I backed in last weekend’s Grand National exceeded my expectations simply by not dying – but even I feel emboldened to hazard that the SNP might do quite well in next month’s General Election.
The polls suggest the SNP will win a majority of Scottish votes and almost all available seats. On the face of it this looks like a deep political consensus, but in reality I don’t remember our political culture ever feeling so divided.
In this post I explore post-referendum polarisation and unpick some of the myths that have come to be accepted as reality by large swathes of the electorate.
There is less than one month to go until the 2015 General Election, and Scotland is a land of myths and legends.
Here are just a few of them:
- The SNP are wild extremists;
- The SNP are more left wing than the Labour Party;
- Alex Salmond is still controlling the SNP;
- The ‘unionist’ parties are engaging in Project Fear 2 when they warn against Full Fiscal Autonomy; and
- Everyone in Scotland is either a nationalist or a unionist.
Regular readers (hi mum) will recall that I voted enthusiastically for independence last September. I was excited by the prospect of democratic renewal. I didn’t know what the policy priorities of an independent Scotland would be any more than you, but the optimist in me was keen to find out. And if as a political community we opted to pursue a greener, nuclear-free and more equal line, than that would have suited me down to the ground.
Since the No vote, of course, the imagination and fun of the Yes campaign has calcified into something far less pleasant. I wrote about it around the time the National was launched and the SNP had its massive party in the Hydro in Glasgow. Kinda thought I was being harsh at the time, but some of it was probably fair enough. Alas.
But to listen to the #SNPout mob, you’d think the SNP were a bunch of fascists.
And so we have myth number one: the SNP are wild extremists.
The SNP? Really? I know I had a pop about the enormo-dome rallies, but I just thought the party leadership had got a bit over-excited. Clearly the leadership are otherwise entirely reasonable people.
Now, there has been a bit of recent coverage of the excesses of nationalist direct action. You’ll have probably seen this stuff – you know, the strange folk who film Margaret Curran when she’s out canvasing, or who compare Blair McDougall to Hitler, or who track down and abuse young voters who express admiration for Jim Murphy during televised debates. Or who paint a ‘Q’ for quisling on the door of a Tory campaign office. Or who go berzerk at Scottish journalists like James Cook for no reason at all, yet see no problem with telling Faisal Islam that Sky should really have sent someone Scottish to cover an SNP rally.
These people are, I think we can all agree, complete pricks. And there are far too many of them.
But the SNP as a party? To me the SNP has at its core an essential decency that you’d have to be hugely partisan to miss.
You only have to glance through the First Minister’s Twitter feed to realise how humane she is. And consider the Government’s gender-balanced cabinet, the party’s all-women shortlists, and the visible diversity of the membership. These things don’t necessarily prove anything, but 100,000 people from all walks of life have joined the SNP and seem very comfortable with how things are done within the party.
Judge the SNP by their actions. They’ve been in government for eight years now (of which more later – fear not, Labour people, I’ll give them a kicking in a bit) and I don’t remember too many radical policies. I certainly don’t recall any nasty policies (although policing policy has been a bit…assertive). You can call the SNP government many things, but extremists they are not.
Which leads me to myth number two: the SNP are more left wing than the Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »
A list of petty bourgeois wankers, from ‘All That Is Solid…’
On the Far Left’s General Election Campaign
As well as being a pretty weird general election, 2015’s will see a record number of far left candidates standing. As if to underline the peculiarity of the campaign, even anarchists are standing. So let’s have a bit of a burrow into the lists and see what it says about the far left party family.
No one in a revolutionary socialist or anarchist outfit now would say women’s rights and the question of gender are distractions from the hard graft of knuckling down and prosecuting the class struggle. At least aloud, or for public consumption. As self-declared representatives of the most class conscious sections of the British proletariat, they’re the best fighters for women’s liberation. The implementation of their programmes would strike a permanent and irreversible blow for equitable gender relations. We’re a long way off from that happy day, however. So how do women fair as a percentage of far left candidates? I make it 52 out of the 223 listed so far. That’s 23.3%. For TUSC specifically of 131 seats contested women are standing in 34 of them, or 25.9%. What to say about this. The LibDems say that just 26% of their candidates are women. Annoyingly, comparable figures for the Tories and Labour are hard to come by (I don’t have the inclination to run through every single constituency). But of interest 29 for the former and 54 for the latter have been selected for the parties’ top 100 winnable seats. Among all party selections done up until last November – including incumbents – it was 73-27 men-women. Of new candidates, Labour had selected 39% women, the Tories 31%, LibDems 30%, Greens 37%, and UKIP 12%.
Pretty poor for the far left as a whole to be outdone on women’s representation by all bar UKIP, and to be less representative than the field of candidates as a whole. However, the far left should be cut a bit of slack, but only a little. They can only stand the activists they have on the books, and in the Socialist Party’s case – who’ve provided the bulk of TUSC candidates – the party comprises one quarter to one third women. To be fair, during my membership they did encourage women to come to the fore and its leading body, the executive committee, had a slight female majority. Still, the same searching questions about why more women aren’t involved have to be asked.
The second thing I want to look at is how much the election campaign is a party building opportunity. We know that far left candidates generally get pretty poor results – see last year’s European election and 2010’s outing, for example. To try and build a head of steam behind your campaigns, you require consistent electoral activity in a given area and a long-term strategic plan. Can we see evidence of that here? Last time, the far left contested 120 seats with 135 candidates. Have they built on this? Well, 92 of our candidates are standing in seats that were previously contested, which is 41%. This doesn’t look too good but do remember that TUSC has massively upped its electoral game. 53 were contested in 2010, 26 of which were under TUSC’s banner (I’ve included here the four Socialist Alternative candidates). Quite why the 17 that previously had TUSC haven’t been so visited this time is a mystery. Also, only 15 candidates are standing in the same seat as 2010, ten of which are TUSC. Sitting MPs aside, I expect the proportion in the bigger parties is about the same or even lower. However, when you’re in the business of building a radical alternative consistency and continuity between elections is important provided the candidate has been working the seat hard in the meantime.
All this begs the question of why. I doubt the CPB, SEP, CL, and WRP central committees sat down to determine their general election intervention believing a general breakthrough lies just over the horizon. Sure, like the SPGB, AGS, Workers’ Party, SSP, and Class War, it’s an opportunity to get the organisation and your work known. You’re taking advantage of a wider interest in politics than is hitherto the case. But is it worth it? Taking 2010 as our benchmark, polling scores were more often beneath one per cent than not. However, the far left tend not to measure success in terms of votes scored – as anyone familiar with post-election write ups by those concerned will tell you. It’s about the breadth of the message, of the leaflets distributed, papers solds, contacts made, and recruits who’ve signed up. There is also the experience of taking part in the campaign itself. To be involved and live in the micro universe of a campaign can be a gratifying experience, even if you don’t win. It’s an occasion of forming close ties, of working together collectively around a clearly definable common objective, of deepening one’s relationship with the group. It’s the stuff fond memories are made of. Or can be, provided it’s not deeply dysfunctional and characterised by fraying friendships. So for a small party, it’s a bonding experience, of toughening up collective discipline and identity. But it’s a risk. For newer recruits the poor result can be an occasion for disillusion and burnout.
TUSC is qualitatively different. While the general election is an occasion for party building on the Socialist Party’s part (and, to a lesser extent, the SWP’s), the objective is to work TUSC up into an electoral force that will be taken seriously over the longer term. It’s their contribution toward the new workers’ party they believe is a necessity since Labour stopped conforming to what they think such a party should look like. Implicitly, TUSC exists to show an electoral life for leftist class politics outside Labour is possible. However, there are a number of problems.
As we know, the Green Party has grown massively since last summer, a growth reflected in its spread of candidates. TUSC’s challenge, however, is not a result of organic growth. As far as I can tell, the SP is roughly the same size it was five years ago and the SWP, of course, are much diminished. Nor has there been an upsurge of active opposition to never-ending austerity that can power TUSC’s 100% no cuts message. Why then such an effort which, lest we forget, is also supported by about 600 local council candidates?
There are two things going on here. SP cadre are keen to flag up how much more advanced TUSC is compared to UKIP after the first five years of its existence, while accidentally on purpose forgetting the last 25 years of the SP standing against Labour under a variety of labels. TUSC appears to be a project that has stalled. The 2010 results were down on its predecessor’s 2005 efforts, including in its Coventry and Lewisham “strongholds”. Since then local election results have given little cheer, even if they had a councillor elected last year … on an independent ticket. As growth eludes TUSC, voluntarism has stepped into the breach. By pulling out all the stops and standing absolutely everywhere they can reflect back a sense of dynamism to their members, that this project might actually be going somewhere. The second issue is their friends in the RMT. As the sleeping partner in the TUSC initiative, it remains a source of acute embarrassment that barely any of its 72,000 members are aware of what TUSC is, let alone that their union is an affiliate. Even the much-missed Bob Crow studiously avoided all mention of the coalition of which he was a founder on his Question Time appearances. And now the RMT has Mick Cash, a Labour Party member at the helm, it’s reasonable to suppose the union’s support is living on borrowed time. In this context, to try and keep them on board, running a large campaign is about showing the RMT that another party is possible. It won’t deliver the votes, but the SP must be hoping that the sheer size of the “biggest post-war left electoral challenge” will squeeze out a respectable – by far left standards – result. Because without the RMT, not only does TUSC go the way of the dodo,their perspectives suffer ignominious collapse and a good chunk of their membership will be profoundly demoralised.
But can TUSC and the other comrades standing in the election expect a continuation of poor results? Thanks to the rise of social media, the traditional press and TV matter less this time than has ever hitherto the case. They may be locked out of the leaders’ debates but they can, to a degree, bypass them. There is also the general mood too. If by some dark miracle the Tories scrape their way into power again, it won’t be because of a resigned acceptance of the need for more austerity. It’s not uniform, it’s complex and contradictory, but the much hallowed centre ground has moved left on a number of key issues. And also the far right has disappeared up its own backside. However, with established “anti-establishment” parties in the shape of UKIP and the Greens, and with the latter fielding its own anti-austerity message, it’s hard to see how TUSC and family can hope to poll anything other than derisory votes in the absence of name recognition, consistent work, and in competition with more viable alternatives to mainstream politics.
Left Futures reports:
Dave Ward who has been the deputy general secretary (postal) of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) since 2003 was this afternoon (April 16th) declared elected as general secretary to replace Billy Hayes who has held the post since 2001 and was standing for a fourth term. CWU is the biggest trade union in the communications sector with 200,000 members working in companies including BT, Capita, EE, O2, Parcelforce, the Post Office, Royal Mail, Santander and UK Mail. Dave Ward takes over the role of general secretary from 1 June.
It is not yet clear what practical difference this will make to the union or its politics. Dave Ward is also widely regarded as being on the left, and as a member of the Labour Party he has previously served on its national executive. Whilst Billy Hayes has been a critical friend of Labour, Dave Ward who promises “no more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour” may be rather more distant. He does, however, promise to “make Labour and politics work for us” and recognises that “the general election will be very close and we need to fight against austerity and the divisive ideas of UKIP for a Labour victory.” His stance may become clearer in 10 days time when the CWU conference will discuss several motions which seek to break the link with Labour and, in some cases, consider backing other parties including the Grens, Plaid Cymru, SNP and TUSC.
Billy Hayes has been a very prominent figure in the trade union movement, the Labour Party and the wider Left for many years, and has also been a contributor to Left Futures and an active supporter for 35 years of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy at whose AGM he was the keynote speaker earlier this year. More recently, he was an opponent of the changes to the Labour-Union link which were agreed last year in the Collins report.
A CWU member told Shiraz:
“Billy lost for many reasons. One of them is that he is more ‘left wing’ and political than most CWU activists.
“Dave is no better industrially than Billy and in fact is more accommodating in his dealings with Royal Mail. He is not really that militant I don’t think – its just industrial relations in the postal sector are red in tooth and claw so you have to be prepared to take action in a way that would be resolved in other sectors.
“Dave is very limited in his wider union approach for example to organising the whole communications sector, to equality issues etc. The real difference between them is that Billy (though flawed – and I could give you chapter and verse on those flaws!) at least has a broad political approach to his trade unionism.
“The fact that Dave is sceptical about the LP-TU link, something he really played up in this election, and previously, is not of course evidence of him being more left wing or having a political view at all. Its just narrow minded ‘sub syndicalist’ trade unionism I would say.It is my opinion that if Dave had been the GS when Mandelson tried to part privatise Royal Mail we would have a had an unprincipled deal rather than the fightback that Billy led on the political front.
“Dave’s election is a step back for the CWU.”
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From Labour Uncut:
Above: Farage and Carswell in happier days
April 15th, 2015:
Long simmering tensions within Ukip are now bubbling into public view. Earlier today, Uncut bumped into an old 1990’s Westminster stalwart who had been involved with the long and difficult development of Ukip’s manifesto. He painted a picture of a house divided, riven by personal and political enmities.
At the root of all of the problems lie Nigel Farage’s personality: a man given to fads and enthusiasms with a notoriously thin skin and a congenital inability to hold his tongue or stick by the rules he sets for others.
Farage’s elision of immigration and race is blamed for toxifying Ukip’s brand by Douglas Carswell who is now operating virtually as an independent.
Mark Reckless is said to feel that Farage doesn’t understand the scale of risk he took in defecting while Raheem Kassam, Farage’s spinner, is regarded by many MEPs and staffers as a poisonous disaster.
Douglas Carswell’s absence from today’s manifesto launch almost did not register. He was absent from Ukip’s general election campaign launch at the end of March and can barely bring himself even to mention Nigel Farage’s name.
A prolific tweeter, Carswell has managed just two tweets in more than 250 over the past fortnight that mention his leader. Probably a record for a candidate in this campaign.
Mark Reckless has always lacked a certain bonhomie, as his former Conservative parliamentary colleagues attest, and has been cut out of the leader’s inner circle. Party resources aren’t flowing into Rochester and Strood to defend the seat as volunteers are being directed to Thanet to fight for Farage and so Reckless too is coming to terms with life as a virtual independent.
His absence from today’s manifesto launch was also notable. That Ukip’s two sitting MPs had better things to do than present a united front with their leader, speaks volumes about their estrangement from Nigel Farage.
Raheem Kassam was hired last November by Farage and is very much the leader’s shiny new toy. Kassam is blamed for Farage’s decision to focus on migrants with HIV in the leader’s debate, infuriating Carswell, whose father was one of the first to identify HIV/Aids in Uganda in the 1980s.
Kassam has also made enemies among the party’s MEPs, particularly the popular former director of communications, Patrick O’Flynn. Kassam used to edit the right-wing Breitbart site which coincidentally ran a story outlining how “senior members” of Ukip were moving to remove O’Flynn for being anti-business.
Yet Kassam retains the leader’s ear so he remains in post.
As Ukip’s poll rating slides, so the pretenders to the throne manoeuvre. Farage is already said to be exhausted, irritable and prone to tearing up his schedule. With three weeks to go, insiders fear that if the poll rating sinks below 10%, any last vestiges of discipline will breakdown and the party will very publicly implode, just as voters make their decision.
H/t: Nick Cohen
Having just read this (in the present edition of the New Statesman):
“Right now, there may not be much to vote for but there’s plenty to vote against. Go out and vote, if you can stand it, and I hope you can. Vote in disgust. Vote in despair. If I see you at the polling station with a grin on your face, I will worry, unless you have the good fortune to be Scottish. Vote against bigotry, hatred and fear. Vote today and change the world tomorrow. We are not as powerless as they would have us believe. Choose your enemy and choose wisely. Good luck.”
… a number of thoughts occur to me:
1/ OK: she’s (relatively) young … but on the other hand is being paid as a “political” commentator by the NS;
2/ The NS expects us to take seriously someone who writes: “I endorsed the Liberal Democrats in 2010, a fact that tops the long list of stupid things I did in my early twenties, but the feeling of hope was genuine and so was the pain of betrayal”;
2/ The NS, for all its faults, was once a journal that advocated positive socialist political engagement, not nihilism combined with vicarious Scottish nationalism;
3/ I’ll now be starting a “most stupid comment about the election” competition. So far, Laurie Penny’s in the lead, but there’s still time to go! Feel free to nominate.
By Ann Field (at the Workers Liberty website)
A few weeks ago we carried a series of articles arguing for a Labour vote rather than a Green vote in the general election.
The arguments in the articles were all very calm, cool and collected, a series of reflections on the fact that whatever the apparent attractiveness of – at least some – Green policies might be, this did not justify calling for a vote for the Greens.
But when it comes to arguing with people like yourself – socialists who are calling for a vote for the SNP in the general election – I don’t think that the same measured and moderate approach is justified.
That’s because I think you’ve simply lost the plot.
It’s true, I admit, that this isn’t a conclusion I’ve reached overnight. It’s a conclusion which I began to reach during last year’s referendum campaign, when your eyes started to glaze over at the prospect of Scottish independence.
From a socialist point of view, your arguments made no sense at all. You seemed to argue – in fact, you did argue – that the referendum was an opportunity to pass judgement on all the bad things British imperialism and the British state has done over the past 300 years.
(As part of the imperialist centre, Scotland had been just as “guilty” of all those bad things as Britain. But that basic historical fact, like so much else, simply passed you by.)
You also argued that the very existence of the British state was an obstacle to democratic and working-class advance in Scotland. (It was the only time that the working class got even a passing mention in your delirious pro-independence outpourings.)
I don’t know if you came up with that argument yourself, or whether it’s something you picked up from the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) website: “The single biggest obstacle to the Scottish people building a better society is the British state, the Westminster regime, the Crown powers.”
(If you did pick it up from the SSP website, I’m surprised that someone who prides himself on being a class-struggle socialist didn’t find anything odd about this statement. Such as the reference to “the Scottish people” rather than the Scottish (or British) working class. Or the vague reference to “a better society” rather than to workers power and socialism.)
Either way, your argument didn’t make sense.
The British state and the “Westminster regime” can hardly be said to be impervious to reform. In fact, they’ve been subject to quite a lot of reforms over the past 300 years.
How else, for example, could there be such a thing as the universal franchise? Something of a step forward, I’m sure you’d agree, compared with the franchise which existed in Scotland (and England) in 1707.
Sure, the British state is an obstacle to achieving workers power. And it certainly does contain feudal leftovers, such as the Crown powers, which are absent in other states.
But the reason why the British state is an obstacle is not because it’s British or because the Houses of Parliament are located in Westminster rather than Milton Keynes. It’s because it’s a capitalist state, and that’s why capitalist states exist.
It’s not really a difficult argument to get your head around.
Your argument – and that of the SSP – that Scottish independence was a necessity because of the nature of the British state struck me at the time as being about as logical as arguing for independence for Bavaria because Article 14 of the German constitution guarantees private property.
Or arguing for independence for Texas because: a) it has a lot of oil (cf. Scotland); b) it would be a blow against US imperialism (cf. blow against British imperialism). In fact, I do recall some members of the SSP advocating independence for Texas for precisely those reasons.
But there was one thing you were crystal-clear about during the referendum campaign.
You did NOT support the SNP. You had NOTHING IN COMMON with the SNP. You were a socialist, NOT a nationalist. It was a GROSS SLANDER to suggest that you were accommodating to the SNP and to nationalism in calling for a ‘Yes’ vote.
But now you’re calling a vote for the SNP.
I will say, however: credit where credit’s due. At least you’re open about calling for a vote for the SNP. Unlike all those people in and around the ‘Radical’ Independence Campaign who are backing the SNP but too shamefaced (and dishonest) to admit it.
Some people might regard it as an impolite way to put it, but I’ll say it anyway: your arguments for a vote for the SNP for garbled, incoherent and completely off-the-wall. (In that sense, I would concede, they are a ‘logical’ extension of your call for a ‘Yes’ vote.)
Argument number one: Labour are Red Tories. There’s no difference between Labour and the Tories.
Not much to say in response to this. Other than that it shows just how far removed you are from reality. To say that Labour’s policies are woefully inadequate is true, and I’d agree with you if that was your argument. But to argue that there’s simply no difference is really quite whacky.
In fact, given Labour policies such as increasing the higher rate of income tax, increasing corporation tax, introducing a mansion tax, taxing bankers’ bonuses, and limiting the use of zero hours contracts, the difference between Labour and Tory policies is probably greater than it has been at any point over the last twenty years.
(I agree to your inevitable objection: Given how far to the right Labour shifted under Blair, it’s not difficult to move to the left from that starting point. But that shift has taken place and needs to be registered.)
And even if there really was no difference between Labour and the Tories – as if trade unions have 50% of the vote at Tory Party conferences! – this would, at most, be a reason not to vote Labour. It would not be a reason to vote SNP instead.
Argument number two: Getting more SNP MPs to Westminster would keep a Labour government on the left and ensure it implemented what the SNP calls its progressive policies.
Logic never was your strong point, was it?
If Labour are Red Tories (argument number one), then there is no way the SNP could push them to the left (argument number two). And if Labour are Red Tories (argument number one), then how could they have progressive policies which could be implemented only thanks to a contingent of SNP MPs (argument number two)?
There’s also the obvious point that you don’t get a Labour government unless lots of people vote Labour (including voting for Labour candidates far removed from socialist politics). Voting SNP instead of Labour makes the chances of a Labour government (which the SNP would supposedly push to the left) less likely.
Yes, the Labour right wing in Scotland is making a big thing out of this argument. And yes, you and the SNP can accuse them of scaremongering (just as in the referendum anyone who pointed out that the SNP’s sums did not add up was accused of scaremongering).
But that does not alter the fact that more seats for the SNP mean less chance of a Labour government and more chance of a Tory government.
Your argument number two also has no more in common with reality than your argument number one.
Example one: Since last September Labour has had a policy of increasing corporation tax (unfortunately by just 1%). SNP policy throughout the referendum campaign was that an independent Scotland would cut corporation tax by 3%. This policy was abandoned by the SNP only last month.
A straightforward question: Has Labour adopted a policy of increasing corporation tax under pressure from the SNP? Or has the SNP dropped its policy of cutting corporation tax to con Labour voters into believing that a contingent of SNP MPS would ensure a Labour government implement its progressive policies?
(In this case: a progressive policy which the SNP still does not support, even if, for the last four weeks, it has abandoned support for a cut in corporation tax.)
Example two: In January 2014 Labour announced that it would restore the 50% rate of income tax for top earners. The SNP has consistently rejected that policy: there would be no tax rises in an independent Scotland. This policy of no 50% tax rate was dropped by the SNP just one week ago.
Another straightforward question: Did Labour decide to restore the 50% tax rate under pressure from the SNP? Or is the SNP’s one-week old support for the 50% tax rate another attempt to con Labour voters into switching to voting SNP?
And the SNP’s promises to work with Labour in Westminster but – heaven forbid! – NEVER with the Tories does not sit very well alongside their record in Holyrood.
Or did you miss that interview with Annabelle Goldie (former Tory leader in Holyrood) in the “Daily Record”, the one where she said:
“They (the SNP) were quite happy to work with us when they needed to. Alex Salmond knew he could not get agreement from Labour. When he had to get support for his budget, I don’t remember him jumping up and down and saying he cannot do business with the Tories.
Alex Salmond took those Tory votes and Alex Salmond was glad to get them. What suited him in 2007 and 2008 and in the ensuing years of minority government is the very thing now he says he’ll have no truck with.”
The SNP is not a political force to push a Labour government to the left. In words of one syllable, John McDonnell (leader of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs) explained why not in an article in the “Daily Record” last week:
“Given their track record in Scotland of supporting cuts in public spending, their attempts to race to the bottom on tax and in privatising rail and now the ferries, there is a huge divide between what socialists in the Labour Party stand for and the nationalists of the SNP.
What we (the Labour Left) want are the exact opposite of the cuts and privatisation programmes inflicted on the Scottish people by the SNP. You can’t be an austerity party in Scotland and expect to be taken seriously as an anti-austerity party anywhere else.
A vote for the SNP is a vote for their version of austerity. Worse, voting for the SNP might help the Tories stay in power. That would be a massive blow for the working class in Scotland and England.”
In fact, it’s really quite sad – although I think a more aggressive expression would not be out of place – to see SSP members out on the streets campaigning to unseat Labour MPs who share John McDonnell’s politics.
Do you really think that unseating Katy Clark and replacing her by an SNP right-winger is going to: a) help bring about a Labour government; b) push that Labour government to the left?
Argument number three: Voting SNP and sending as many SNP MPs as possible to Westminster is a way to fight back against austerity.
That’s an odd argument.
Just seven months ago you were telling me that there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that you could fight austerity at Westminster, that austerity was INSEPARABLE FROM the very existence of the British state, and that’s why Scotland HAD TO ACHIEVE independence.
But now you’re telling me that you can fight austerity at Westminster after all! It all depends on who gets elected and on the basis of what politics! I suppose I should be flattered that you now agree with one of my anti-independence arguments, even if it’s taken you seven months to get round to parroting it.
But now you’ve come up against a new problem: the SNP’s own record of ‘fighting’ austerity. Because, for all their demagogy, soundbites and rhetoric, their ‘opposition’ to austerity consists of implementing it.
Since 2007 the SNP have cut 130,000 places in Further Education colleges, the main route for working-class youth into Higher Education. That’s why class inequalities in Scottish education have remained unchanged under the SNP.
More cuts have been imposed on the fire service under the SNP than under any other Holyrood government. The SNP member who was the FBU’s Scottish Regional Secretary got his just rewards for agreeing to those cuts by being booted out of office last year, losing the election by 20% to 80%.
There is a chronic shortage of nurses in the Scottish NHS. Accident and Emergency (A&E) services in the Scottish NHS are in a state of crisis, performing even worse than in England. More people are waiting longer for A&E treatment.
But the SNP government’s spending on the NHS remains proportionately lower than the Con-Dem coalition’s. What has increased under the SNP is spending on private healthcare – up by 47% since 2011, amounting to £100 millions.
Since 2007 Scottish government funding of local authorities has been cut by 24% in real terms, even though, using the SNP’s own figures, the cut in the Westminster grant to Scotland has been less than half that (10%). SNP-controlled councils have passed on those funding cuts by axing jobs and services.
SNP-controlled Dundee Council is currently implementing £8 millions worth of cuts. The SNP-Labour coalition in Edinburgh is now imposing £22 millions worth of cuts, axing 1,200 council jobs, and withdrawing £11 millions of funding for voluntary sector organisations.
When the Procurement Reform Bill was going through Holyrood the SNP voted down Labour amendments requiring that at least the Living Wage was paid by any employer awarded a public contract (although, to better masquerade as the workers’ friend, the SNP has now changed its policy on the Living Wage as well).
This is not the record of a party committed to fighting austerity. It’s the record of a party which implements austerity.
And the SNP’s demand for Full Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland (FFA, which is what the SNP really wants from the next Westminster government) would mean more austerity.
The last Institute for Fiscal Studies report and the last Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report both confirm that replacing the Barnett Formula by FFA would result in an annual shortfall of around £6.5 billions. This could be plugged only by tax rises or spending cuts involving massive job losses.
In the referendum campaign the SNP’s answer to this shortfall was: oil. But since last September the price of oil has fallen from $110 a barrel to $50 a barrel.
The SNP’s figures never stack up. But they carry on regardless. And when anyone points this out, the response from people like you is: Scaremongering!
Argument number four: Voting SNP, sending SNP MPs to Westminster instead of Labour ones, and the resulting hung Parliament will create new openings for working-class and socialist politics.
This is no more than your referendum refrain of ‘an independent Scotland will create openings for the working class’ applied to the general election. Now we’re supposed to believe that replacing Labour MPs by SNP ones is going to boost working-class politics.
It was nonsense then. And it’s even more nonsensical now.
The SNP is not a working-class party. It has no links to the trade unions. It is not a vehicle for working-class political representation. It does not claim to be any of these things. And it does not want to be any of these things.
Sorry to state the obvious, but the SNP is a nationalist party. That’s why its election material talks about Scotland, not class, and why it appeals to voters’ national identities, not their class identities:
“The general election is Scotland’s opportunity to make our voice heard loudly and clearly. Whatever the outcome in May, only one party is stronger for Scotland: the SNP. More SNP seats – more power for Scotland.”
That’s the message from SNP politicians as well. According to Stewart Hosie: “The general election is Scotland’s opportunity to hold real power at Westminster.”
(Scotland to hold real power at Westminster? Something you and the SNP were telling me only a few months ago was absolutely impossible! And yet the SNP claims that they are the one party you can trust!)
And that’s the message that people are buying into on the doorstep.
That this is not an election in which the different competing parties represent different class interests (however inadequately in the case of Labour). It is not an election in which you vote to decide which party will form the next government. It is an election in which you vote for which party will best represent Scotland.
(If you haven’t noticed that, you should get out more.)
Politics ceases to be a matter of conflicting class interests. Instead, it becomes one of competing national interests. And that is truly fatal to any prospect of advancing a specifically working-class political agenda.
You probably still have enough leftovers from your socialist politics in you to recognise that the statement “You’re a traitor to your country” is an inherently right-wing statement.
But when the SNP denounces Labour Party members as “traitors to Scotland” for having voted ‘No’, you delude yourself into believing that’s the stuff of a working-class break from Labour to the left rather than a collapse into nationalism.
The SNP is not a vehicle for your avowed socialist politics. It’s the object of your fantasies. And your fantasies are a measure of your own collapse into nationalism and your readiness to be a self-deluding satrap for the SNP.
In fact, when I wrote above that you had lost the plot, I was really being too charitable. Politically, you’ve clearly lost the will to live.
Yours, most certainly not in solidarity:
Veteran Israeli leftist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement, Uri Avnery, gives a considered response to the recent Israeli election. Two points strike me: firstly, that this is much more pessimistic in tone than his immediate response, and – secondly – that the Morning Star (which also republished this article today) seriously and deliberately misrepresented what Avnery is saying, in they way they headlined and introduced the piece. Judge for yourselves, here. Below we reproduce Avnery’s piece exactly as he wrote it:
|The Israeli Salvation Front
THE 2015 election was a giant step towards the self-destruction of Israel.
The decisive majority has voted for an apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in which democracy will slowly disappear.
The decision is not yet final. Israeli democracy has lost a battle. It has not yet lost the war.
If it does not draw the lessons, it will lose the war, too.
All the justifications and alibis of the Israeli Left are useless. It’s the bottom line that counts.
The country is in existential danger. Not from the outside, but from the inside.
An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.
We have no other country.
FIRST OF ALL, the full extent of the debacle must be acknowledged and full responsibility must be taken.
The leaders who lost must go. In the struggle for the life of the state, there is no second opportunity.
The struggle between Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu was a match between a lightweight boxer and a heavyweight.
The idea of a National Union government must be rejected and roundly condemned. In such a government, the Labor Party would again play the contemptible role of a fig leaf for the policy of occupation and oppression.
Now a new generation of leaders is needed, young, energetic and original.
THE ELECTION pitilessly exposed the deep chasms between the different sectors of Israeli society: Orientals, Ashkenazis, Arabs, “Russian”, orthodox, religious and more.
The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.
Every sector has its own culture, its own traditions, its own faith(s). All must be respected. Mutual; respect is the foundation of the Israeli partnership.
The foundation of the Salvation Front needs a new authentic leadership that must emerge from all sectors.
The State of Israel belongs to all its citizens. No sector has exclusive ownership of the state.
The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us.
The salvation of the state must be based on a return to equality as a basic value. A reality in which hundreds of thousands of children live under the poverty line is intolerable.
The income of the upper 0.01%, which reaches to the heavens, must be brought down to a reasonable level. The income of the lowest 10% must be raised to a humane level.
THE ALMOST total separation between the Jewish and the Arab parts of Israeli society is a disaster for both and for the state.
The Salvation Front must be based on both peoples. The chasm between them must be eliminated, for the good of both.
Empty phrases about equality and fraternity are not enough. They lack credibility.
There must come into being a sincere alliance between the democratic forces on both sides, not only in words but in actual daily cooperation in all areas.
This cooperation must find expression in frameworks of political partnership, joint struggles and regular joint meetings in all areas, based on respect for the uniqueness of each partner.
Only a permanent joint struggle can save Israeli democracy and the state itself.
THE HISTORIC conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Arab national movement now threatens both peoples.
The country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the homeland of the two peoples. No war, oppression or uprising will change this basic fact.
If this conflict continues without end, it will endanger the existence of both peoples.
The one and only solution was and is their co-existence in two sovereign states: a free and independent State of Palestine side by side with the State of Israel.
The two-state solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce. On the contrary, it is a recipe for close co-existence.
The 1967 borders, with mutual agreed changes, are the basis of peace.
The co-existence of the two states in the joint homeland does necessitate frameworks of partnership at the highest level, as well as open borders for the movement of people and goods. It also needs solid security arrangements for the good of both peoples.
Jerusalem, open and unified, must be the capital of both states.
The painful tragedy of the Palestinian refugees must find its just solution, agreed upon by the two sides. This solution will include return to the Palestinian state, a limited symbolic return to Israel and the payment of generous compensation by international funds to all.
Israel and Palestine shall work together so as to achieve a return of Jewish property left in Arab countries or the payment of generous compensation.
The State of Palestine will keep its affinity with the Arab world. The state of Israel will keep its affinity with the Jewish people in the world. Each of the two states will have sole responsibility for its immigration policy.
The problem of the Jewish settlers in Palestine will find its solution in the framework of agreed border changes between the two states, the inclusion of some settlements in the Palestinian state with the agreement of the Palestinian government and the re-settlement of the rest of the settlers in Israel.
Both states shall cooperate in the creation of a democratic regional partnership, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, while resisting anarchy, terrorism and religious and nationalistic fanaticism throughout the region.
The masses of Israelis and Palestinians will not believe in the chances of peace and co-existence if there is no real and open partnership between the peace camps of both peoples.
To establish such a partnership, organizations and individuals of both sides must start right now to conduct joint political action, such as constant consultation and joint planning on all levels and in all areas.
THE JEWISH character of the State of Israel finds its expression in its culture and its affinity with the Jews throughout the world. It must not express itself in its interior regime. All citizens and all sectors must be equal.
The democratic forces within the Jewish and the Arab public must join hands and work together in their daily actions.
International pressure by itself will not save Israel from itself. The salvation forces must come from within.
World-wide pressure on Israel can and must assist the democratic forces in Israel, but cannot take their place.
BASIC VALUES do not change. However, the ways of talking about them with the public must change.
The old slogans are ineffective. The values must be re-defined and re-formulated in up-to-date language, in line with the concepts and language of a new generation.
The two-state vision was defined after the 1948 war by a small group of path-blazers. Since than, huge changes have taken place in the world, in the region and within Israeli society. While the vision itself remains the only practical solution of the historic conflict, it must be poured into new vessels.
There is a need for political unity, a unifying salvation front that brings together all the forces of peace, democracy and social justice.
If the Labor Party is able to re-invent itself from the bottom up, it can constitute the basis of this camp. If not, an entirely new political party must be formed, as the core of the Salvation Front.
Within this front, diverse ideological forces must find their place and engage in a fruitful internal debate, while conducting a unified political struggle for the salvation of the state.
The regime within Israel must assure complete equality between all Jewish ethnic communities and between the two peoples, while safeguarding the affinity of the Israeli-Jewish public with the Jews in the world and the affinity of the Israeli-Arab public with the Arab world.
The situation in which most of the resources are in the hands of 1% of the population at the cost of the other 99%, must come to an end. A reasonable equality between all citizens, without connection with their ethnic origin, must be restored.
There is no social message without a political message, and there is no political message without a social message.
The Oriental Jewish public must be full partners in the state, side by side with all other sectors. Their dignity, culture, social status and economic situation must be accorded their proper place.
The religious-secular confrontation must be postponed until after peace is achieved. The beliefs and ceremonies of all religions must be respected, as well as the secular worldview.
The separation of state and religion – such as civil marriage, mass transportation on Shabbat – can wait until the struggle for existence is decided.
The protection of the judicial system, and above all the Supreme Court, is an absolute duty.
The various associations for peace, human rights and social justice, each of which conducts its laudable independent struggle in its chosen field, must enter the political arena and play a central role together in the unified Salvation Front.
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From today’s Daily Telegraph … Sturgeon denies this, but she would, wouldn’t she? Who can seriously doubt that this is almost certainly true, if only on the principle of cui bono?
Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by The Daily Telegraph.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has privately said that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material”, a leaked memorandum seen by The Telegraph has revealed.
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by this newspaper.
The disclosure undermines public claims made by Miss Sturgeon this week that she wants to build a “progressive” alliance with Ed Miliband and other left-wing parties to keep the Conservatives out of office.
It appears to confirm growing speculation in Scotland that the SNP would privately favour another Conservative-led Westminster government – which it could campaign against in a bid to stoke up anti-English sentiment and make an “out” vote more likely in another referendum.
The Telegraph has seen the official British Government memorandum which includes details of a private meeting between Miss Sturgeon and Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK.
The memorandum which was written by a senior British civil servant, dated March 6th, states: “Just had a telephone conversation with Pierre-Alain Coffinier (PAC), the French CG [consul-general]. He was keen to fill me in on some of the conversations his Ambassador had during her visit to Scotland last week. All of this was given on a confidential basis.”
It continues: “The Ambassador….had a truncated meeting with the FM [Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister] (FM running late after a busy Thursday…). Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats… that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material).”
The civil servant appeared so surprised by the private admission made by Miss Sturgeon that he questioned whether there might have been an issue with the “translation” during the conversation.
However, it was later established that the conversation took place in English as all the French officials are fluent.
It is a common diplomatic courtesy if an ambassador to the UK visits one of the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for the British Government to be given an official readout of the conversation although the SNP leader, who has only been in position since the autumn, may have been unaware of this formality.
The disclosure of her private comments may undermine Miss Sturgeon’s new-found popularity, after she was judged by snap opinion polls to have “won” Thursday night’s general election debate with six other party leaders.
She is increasingly seen as a potential “kingmaker” in any Coalition talks as Labour support in Scotland has slumped with the SNP expected to gain dozens of seats in next month’s general election.
Yesterday, Miss Sturgeon was mobbed after she returned to Scotland in scenes reminiscent of the “Cleggmania” recorded after the Liberal Democrat leader’s success in the 2010 general election debates.
Miss Sturgeon’s comments may threaten the SNP’s huge opinion poll lead in Scotland, which is built on the support of traditional Labour voters who have grown disillusioned with the party but remain hostile to the Tories.
Yesterday, unaware that the memo had been leaked to the Telegraph, she continued to openly back Mr Miliband.
“If the SNP and Labour combined have more MPs than the Tories do – if there is an anti-Tory majority – we can lock David Cameron out of Downing Street,” she said.
“I’ve challenged Ed Miliband, and I do so again: if we have that anti-Tory majority, the SNP has said we will vote to stop a Tory government even getting off the ground.”
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, and Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the “astonishing” account of her comments proves that the SNP really wants a Tory Government with few or no MPs in Scotland, allowing the party to push the case for a second independence referendum.
Mr Murphy said: “This is a devastating revelation that exposes the uncomfortable truth behind the SNP’s General Election campaign. For months Nicola Sturgeon has been telling Scots she wants rid of David Cameron yet behind closed doors with foreign governments she admits she wants a Tory Government. It’s déjà vu all over again – the SNP say one thing in public but another private.”
Mr Rennie said: “It is astonishing that Nicola Sturgeon can look people in the eye and declare the SNP would never support the Conservatives in government when in private she secretly wants them to win.
“Despite her fluffy, positive words about working with the rest of the UK this reveals her sole ambition is to break up the UK. I’ve no doubt that the Tories in government alone would fuel the Nationalist fires. She is open with foreign diplomats about her wishes now she needs to end the chicanery and be open with the voters.”
Ms Sturgeon’s stated views in the document come after a number of opinion polls showed that Mr Cameron has significantly higher approval ratings in Scotland than Mr Miliband.
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