From Left Futures:
Jon Trickett must stand for Leader says Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
Following its executive meeting this weekend, leading centre-left Labour grassroots organisation, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), has today called on Jon Trickett MP to stand for the Labour leadership, and has urged party and trade union activists to join the call.
CLPD members have reported that there is widespread dismay amongst party activists at the uninspiring nature of the leadership election campaign, with candidates queuing up to apologise for the alleged overspending by the last Labour government, and still failing to challenge publicly the neoliberal narrative on austerity which is the primary reason why Labour was ultimately judged wanting in its handling of the economy.
Those on the Blairite wing of the party may well believe that narrative but, like Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper might not. And yet, with no left candidate putting an anti-austerity case, there is no chance of them showing any more courage than their predecessors, nor of properly exposing the reasons Labour lost this election. They will do nothing more than espouse right-wing policies in order to chase right-wing votes. A left candidate is essential to changing the nature of this election.
The Labour Party desperately needs a candidate who:
- is working class – we are rightly concerned about the numbers of women and black people amongst our leaders, but we routinely underestimate the importance of leaders who are genuinely working class and not merely capable of pointing to “working class roots”;
- is an active trade unionist – not just a union member to get the union’s backing in their selection – who sees trade union rights and organisation as something a Labour government should positively encourage rather than something which can only be discussed in private;
- is against austerity and will commit from now on, whether they win or not, to present the case against austerity, whether it comes from a Tory government, a Labour government, or for that matter an SNP government.
- will commit to turning Labour into a movement again – not just a voter ID army but a real insurgency, the sort that can’t be run from the leader’s office in Westminster, that utilises the vitality of street protest, of trade union mobilisation, of the anger of tenants and disabled people whose lives are threatened with devastation by corporate greed and Tory cuts, that speaks with passion of a message it believes;
- will commit to ending the centralisation of power within the party – with no effective internal democracy, no serious challenge or questioning through a democratic structure, it is easy for the policy wonks, spin doctors and focus group facilitators to fall for their own propaganda.
There are two obstacles to having a candidate who fits the bill: the first is that too many MPs, including MPs on the Left, have already declared their support for other candidates. The second is the absurd requirement that only those who are nominated by 15% of the parliamentary party (currently 35 MPs) are permitted to stand – a barrier to standing which CLPD opposed from the start.
In 2010, when the threshold was only 12½ %, candidates had to be “lent” nominations in order to stand, which provided clear evidence that the threshold was already too high. But in the Collins report, an increase was proposed to 20%, later reduced to a still higher 15%.
Nevertheless, the party must have a real choice. Shadow cabinet member Jon Trickett, in CLPD’s estimation, is the one best placed to fit the bill. Join the campaign now. Help us urge Jon to stand, and then help him to win.
The Communist Party of Britain and its mouthpiece the Morning Star, are all over the place on the forthcoming EU referendum. Never mind their contortions over Tory plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (and – yes – I am aware that the ECHR is separate from the EU, but the Stalinists’ arguments about ‘unaccountable transnational bodies’ and the need for ‘national sovereignty’ logically should apply as much to the ECHR as to the EU).
As recently as its May 9-10 edition, the Morning Star carried this wretched piece of ‘analysis’ of the general election result, including the following criticism of Labour:
“Support for an EU referendum and a more critical attitude towards EU anti-democratic institutions and neo-liberal policies might have stopped at least some working-class voters defecting to Ukip.”
Now, have a read of this, from today’s (May 25) Morning Star:
No vote for membership for EU citizens
Labour drops opposition to in/out vote
by Our News Desk
MOST EU citizens living in Britain will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.
The franchise for the referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election — meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in Britain will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.
Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with Mr Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence.
Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday — the day after the Queen’s speech.
A Number 10 source said: “This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”
It comes after Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman announced a U-turn on the issue, saying her party would now support Mr Cameron’s planned in/out referendum on EU membership.
She said: “We have now had a general election and reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country.
“The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum Bill when it comes before the House of Commons.”
Ms Harman added that the party will “make the case for our continued membership” and does not want to see Britain “stumble inadvertently towards EU exit.”
But unions have warned against Labour kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue after Ms Harman accepted she shared some of the PM’s concerns about the need for reform, including freedom of movement.
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Labour “must not give Cameron a blank cheque and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights.”
He added: “Labour is sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU for which a big price will later be paid by the party at elections.”
It’s difficult to know were to start in commenting upon this level of political incoherence: having urged Labour to drop its opposition to the Tories’ referendum, the Star now (fairly obviously approvingly) quotes unions warning against Labour “kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue” and the danger of “turn(ing) the clock back on employment rights.”
Didn’t you realise that attacking employment rights (along with attacking immigrants) is what the campaign for a referendum has always been all about, you Stalinist muppets?
The pitiful incoherence of the little-England Stalinists would be almost laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous to working class interests.
We need a socialist campaign to critically defend the limited working class gains that have come from EU membership, and to oppose the little-England, racist and anti-working class anti-EU campaign of both right and “left”.
NB: See also Comrade Coatesy
Rhodri Evans (of Workers Liberty) responds to a lot of current nonsense about Scotland somehow being essentially more “left-wing” than England:
One story being told about the 7 May election is that Scotland has become left-wing, and England right-wing. Labour lost, so they say, because it was too left-wing for England and too right-wing for Scotland.
A likelier explanation is that the SNP was able to project itself as both a bit left-wing, and safe, whereas Labour’s combination of general talk against “predators” with extravagantly cautious and tiny policies left it looking neither really left-wing nor really safe.
The SNP was able to scoop up a swathe of middle-of-the-road, disaffected-leftish, or left-on-some-things-right-on-others voters who in England voted Green, Ukip, or even Tory, or didn’t vote. Turnout in Scotland, 71%, was significantly higher than overall, 66%.
The basis for this SNP success is the surge of nationalism in Scotland, which allows those who see an independent Scotland as a welfare oasis and those who see it as a low-corporate-tax destination for global capital to imagine a common cause.
The British and Scottish Social Attitudes surveys are the nearest we have to statistics. They show Scottish people to be a shade more leftish than England, but no more than we would expect from the fact that Scotland’s population is more concentrated in big cities than England’s.
Trade union density is a bit higher in Scotland than in England. Like Wales, whose union density is a shade higher again, it has a higher percentage of public-sector employment. Two-thirds of Scotland’s population is in its five biggest city areas, and only 33% of England’s. 35% of Wales’s population is in three city areas.
36% of voters in England and Wales wanted more tax and more social spending; 52% of voters wanted to stay the same; 7% wanted tax cuts and spending cuts. In Scotland it was 44%, 48%, 5%.
Although Scotland has no university tuition fees, 73% in Scotland said it should have; 78% in England and Wales supported fees.
40% in Scotland want the EU to have looser powers, but to stay in; 17% want out. In England and Wales it was 39% and 25%.
Such opinion surveys are always unreliable, because dependent on exactly how questions are phrased and in what context. But they fit with other evidence: Scotland does not necessarily have (proportionately) bigger demonstrations or anti-cuts campaigns or strikes than England.
The best guess from the evidence is that opinion in Scotland, as in England and Wales, edged to the right during the Blair years and has continued that way, but it is fluid and by no means hardened.
Two conclusions follow for the labour movement. A shift back to full-on Blairite politics by Labour in England would have damaging results as in Scotland, even if the impact is less immediately spectacular because no party in England has the SNP’s ability to scoop up a range of the disaffected.
Secondly, the idea that unions disaffiliating from Labour in Scotland (as some suggest) will allow a new left surge there is fantasy.
The Labour Party was formed in Britain thanks to long efforts by growing socialist organisations who pulled unions, at first a minority of unions, with them. In Scotland, the last decade has seen a spectacular decline of the socialist left, much greater than any damage we have suffered in England.
In the 2001 general election the Scottish Socialist Party – the activist core of which came from the former Scottish organisation of Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal — got between 6% and 10% of the vote in every constituency in Glasgow, bar one where it got 4.5%.
This time the SSP, much weaker in activists than it was in 2001, ran in only four constituencies in Scotland, two in Glasgow, averaging 0.5%. Elsewhere it advised voters to back the bourgeois SNP. TUSC, the other attempt to run left-of-Labour candidates in Scotland, did worse in Glasgow (average 0.5%) than its poor average across Britain (0.6%).
If unions were about to disaffiliate because they had waged a real left-wing battle against Labour’s leaders had reached breaking point, things would be different.
In fact it’s more a matter of union leaders being bothered by their members swinging to the SNP, and disaffiliation would almost surely lead to unions’ politics in Scotland being reduced to client-relationship-type haggling for deals with SNP and the Labour rump.
By Dale Street
When Jim Murphy announced last Saturday that he was standing down as Scottish Labour Party leader, he took it as an opportunity to lambast Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey for his supposedly “destructive behaviour” towards the Labour Party.
Murphy claimed that he had been “at the centre of a campaign by the London leadership of Unite the Union, (who) blame myself or the Scottish Labour Party for the defeat of the UK Labour Party in the general election.”
“Sometimes people see it as a badge of honour to have Mr. McCluskey’s support. I see it as a kiss of death to be supported by that type of politics. … We cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.”
“The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”
Len McCluskey has twice been elected Unite’s General Secretary, in 2010 and again in 2013.
If McCluskey really is guilty of “destructive behaviour” and his politics the “kiss of death”, then the Unite members who have twice elected him their General Secretary must be either: really thick not to have seen through him; or willing accomplices of his destructive behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »
Open letter from newly-elected MPs, first published at LabourList
Having arrived in Westminster as newly-elected Labour MPs after speaking to tens of thousands of voters during our election campaigns, we know how important it is for the future of our Party to move forward with an agenda that best serves the everyday needs of people, families and communities and that is prepared to challenge the notion of austerity and invest in public services.
Labour must now reach out to the five million voters lost since 1997, and those who moved away from Labour in Scotland and elsewhere on 7 May, renewing their hope that politics does matter and Labour is on their side.
As we seek a new leader of the Labour Party, we are needing one who looks forward and will challenge an agenda of cuts, take on the powerful vested interests of big business and will set out an alternative to austerity – not one who will draw back to the ‘New Labour’ creed of the past.
Now is the time Labour needs a leader who’s in tune with the collective aspiration of ordinary people and communities across Britain, meeting the need for secure employment paying decent wages, homes that people can call their own, strong public services back in public hands again and the guarantee of a real apprenticeship or university course with a job at the end of it. From restoring Sure Start to providing dignity and a good standard of living in retirement, these are the aspirations key to real Labour values today and will re-engage people across our country in the years to come.
We look forward to engaging in the debate surrounding the Labour leadership in the weeks ahead to secure our Party as being best able to meet the challenges faced by ordinary people at this time.
Richard Burgon (Leeds East)
Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley)
Harry Harpham (Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough)
Imran Hussain (Bradford East)
Clive Lewis (Norwich South)
Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles)
Rachael Maskell (York Central)
Kate Osamor (Edmonton)
Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood)
Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central)
By John Trickett (re-blogged from his website)
This is a defining moment for the future, and arguably the survival, of the Labour Party. In the coming months there will be much debate about what went wrong and where next.
In 2005 I produced evidence that Labour had lost 4 million voters since the election in 1997. A substantial part of these missing millions were traditional working class voters. This pattern has continued over the last 10 years.
In a minor tidal wave of what looks like pre planned statements, a group of commentators have argued that what lost the election was a failure to tap into the hopes of “aspirational” voters.
However, there is not a shred of evidence for their argument. The explanations for our defeat are deeper than this simplistic assessment.
The truth is that Labour recovered amongst middle class voters but has suffered a cataclysmic decline among working class voters.
It is possible to scrutinise now the initial voting analysis provided to me by the House of Commons Library.
If we compare the election results for our last election victory in 2005 with the result last Thursday and analyse by social class, a very interesting pattern emerges.
Here are the figures.
It is possible here to see that the proportions of AB and C1 voters who voted Labour in the last three elections has held steady. Indeed Ed Miliband’s leadership led to a mild recovery of these voters between 2010 and 2015, (as it did among the C2 group.)
A full analysis of what happened last Thursday is not yet possible but at least one opinion poll has shown that ‘the election result implied by polling would give the Tories 12.5 m votes and Labour 12.2 million. However, in the event the Tories secured 11.3 million votes and Labour 9.3 million.’ There were almost 3 million Labour identifiers that we failed to mobilise.
Labour’s electoral base last Thursday was by far the most middle class we have secured in our history. A strategy based on a misunderstanding of what is happening in our country will not work. We cannot expect to win an election without reaching out to other layers of the population and equally mobilising those Labour identifiers who didn’t bother to vote.
In the coming leadership election, candidates need therefore first of all honestly to demonstrate that they can develop a three-fold strategy in England (Scotland is a very special case):
A) Hold on to and indeed increase our middle class vote
B) Reach out to working class voters, and
C) Mobilise Labour identifiers who did not vote Labour.
I will shortly publish further reflections on what we do next. However, the party should not elect a Leader who cannot concretely demonstrate that they can deliver B) above, since they are the largest group of the electorate whose support we have lost.
Those in the PLP with leadership aspirations cannot remain in denial or ignorance of these facts. They do so at their own peril, but more fundamentally fail to understand why the Labour Party exists.
By Dale Street (at Workers Liberty)
Winning just one seat in Scotland, the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) was annihilated as an electoral force, and possibly as any kind of political force, on May 7th.
On being elected SLP leader last December, Jim Murphy said: “I am confident we will hold all the Westminster seats we have.”
In January he criticised the SNP for being “sluggish, lethargic and off the pace.” He was “surprised by their lack of energy, by their lack of response, or belated response, to a lot of the things we’ve been doing. I’m just astonished by how quickly they’ve run out of ideas.”
By February of this year Murphy was predicting that the SLP would increase the number of seats it held in Scotland: “We plan to hold all that we have, and we are going after (Lib-Dem) East Dunbartonshire as well.”
But back in the real world, satisfaction rates with Murphy’s role as SLP leader had slumped to minus 19 by April, the lowest for any of the party leaders in Scotland
And on election day itself Labour won just 24% of the vote, amounting to one seat in the whole of Scotland. Murphy’s own seat saw a 32% swing to the SNP on an 81% turnout. The size of the turnout underlines how committed his own constituents were to kicking him out.
The “sluggish and lethargic” SNP, on the other hand, won 50% of the vote, and 56 out of 59 seats (compared with just six seats in 2010).
Speaking about the overall collapse in the SLP vote, Murphy blamed the SLP itself for its defeat: “It’s proven hard to turn round years of difficulty with the Scottish Labour Party in just five short months. … I will continue to lead Scottish Labour as we fight for our progressive policies.”
Murphy’s ‘analysis’ of the reasons for the SLP’s defeat is as far removed from reality as his predictions that the SLP would hold on to all its seats.
The SNP entered the election campaign knowing that 81% of ‘Yes’ voters in last September’s referendum were going to vote SNP. With those votes already in the bag, it focused on attacking the Lib-Dems for having been in coalition with the Tories, and on Labour for selling out on its principles.
As one of the SNP’s leaflets used throughout Scotland put it:
“Labour used to stand up to the Tories. Not any more. Labour and the Tories campaigned together in the referendum. And they voted together at Westminster for deeper spending cuts. The only way to lock out the Tories and force Labour back to its roots is to vote SNP.”
The claim that a vote for the SNP would force Labour ‘back to its roots’ was nonsense. (The SNP does not want Labour to go ‘back to its roots’. And if Labour were to go ‘back to its roots’, the SNP would still oppose it.)
There was also no logic to the claim that the only way to lock the Tories out of 10 Downing Street was to vote SNP. (Subsequent events confirmed this. Lots of people did vote SNP. But that did not lock the Tories out of office.)
And SNP criticism of Labour for not standing up to the Tories and backing spending cuts was deeply hypocritical.
The SNP’s own manifesto required cuts in public spending (albeit at the end of the parliamentary cycle). In Holyrood and in local authorities it has not stood up to Tory austerity but implemented it. And a raft of its Holyrood policies have disadvantaged the working class and benefited the better-off.
Even so, the attacks on Labour for not standing up to the Tories, for collaborating with the Tories in the referendum campaign, and for supporting more spending cuts struck a chord with broad swathes of the electorate. Because, however hypocritical they might be, they were true.
Labour has failed to be an effective opposition in Parliament over the past five years – too concerned with demonstrating that it would be a ‘responsible’ government, instead of using Parliament as a tribune from which to help mobilise a working-class fightback against the Tories.
Disastrously, and without any consultation with the SLP’s affiliates, the leadership of the SLP decided to set up a Labour-Tory-Lib-Dem alliance (‘Better Together’) as the vehicle for campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum, with politicians of the three parties appearing on the same platform.
And, even if they amounted to ‘austerity-lite’ rather than full-scale Tory austerity, the Labour election manifesto committed a Labour government to more cuts in public spending – again, in order to demonstrate that Labour would be a ‘responsible’ government.
But perhaps the biggest single factor accounting for Labour’s humiliation in Scotland was the fact that its leader was Jim Murphy. Read the rest of this entry »
A song for all Labour supporters tonight:
Nat ‘King’ Cole and George Shearing in upbeat mood
Analysis soon. For now, Steve Bell got it right some days ago:
Steve Bell 30.04.15 Illustration: © Steve Bell 2015
…one small but gratifying consolation:
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