Phil at All That Is Solid reports from the West Midlands hustings yesterday:
It might be a building site, but already New Street Station looks better than the soulless vault it previously was. Something else was also better than preceding iterations. When I trekked down to Birmingham yesterday for the Labour leadership and deputy leadership hustings, my hopes were not high. After all, members and supporters were invited to submit their questions before proceedings began. A manifestation of control-freakery? Actually, no. The range of questions were broad, and so the audience got a much better discussion than I was hoping for. Speaking of the people in the hall, around a thousand turned up to Brum’s New Bingley Hall – much more than previous regional events I’ve attended these last five years. Then again, when you’ve put on 50,000 members since the general election how could it be otherwise?
Sky’s Sophy Ridge moderated proceedings. There was an hour for leader candidates followed by another hour for the would-be deputies (the latter will be covered in a separate post). Each candidate was expected to stick to a strict time limit and at the end of questions gave a concluding stump speech. The questions and answers were …
Read the rest of this entry »
Letter from Scotland, by Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)
Above: Kezia Dugdale voted for Murphy’s “reforms”
“Can the Scottish Labour Party listen and learn from its defeat on 7 May?” asked Katy Clark, former Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, at last Saturday’s Campaign for Socialism (CfS) conference in Glasgow.
The 70-plus Scottish Labour members attending the event were clear about some of the things that Labour needed to do in response to that question. The same cannot be said of the Scottish Labour Executive Committee, meeting at the same time.
Speakers at the CfS conference emphasised the need for local Labour Party branches to turn outwards and campaign alongside of trade unionists and community groups, instead of just going door-knocking and asking for people’s votes.
As an appeal from one of the strikers in the Glasgow City Council homelessness caseworkers dispute highlighted, this includes campaigning against Labour-controlled local authorities which implement Westminster and Holyrood austerity dictates.
The need to expose the SNP’s record in power at Holyrood since 2007 was also emphasised: cuts in Further Education, growing inequalities in educational attainment in schools, real cuts in NHS spending, undemocratic centralisation, and not a single redistributive policy.
(Other than the council tax freeze, which serves as a tax cut for the better off.)
In fact, the SNP’s only real achievement over the past decade has been to replace class-based political affiliations and voting patterns by ones based on Scottish national identity, for which the enemy is not unaccountable wealth and power but “Westminster”.
In a conference session on trade unionism in Scotland a speaker from the Fire Brigades Union highlighted the reality of what the “left-wing” SNP and its policies mean for unions. Read the rest of this entry »
by Phil Burton-Cartledge (reblogged from All That Is Solid)
If since midday you’ve been plagued by that irritating background noise is, here’s what it is: the gnashing of Blairist teeth to the news that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign saw him lifted onto the Labour leadership shortlist. Those MPs who nominated him but are quite clear they do not support his pitch deserve a congratulatory pint. They understand much better than our “friendly” media commentators the nature of the party. Allow me to take this moment to explain why.
As you might expect, our chum Dan Hodges forecasts woe and plagues of crickets. Apparently Jeremy is “to the left of Karl Marx“, because opposing the bedroom tax and rallying against cuts is obviously more radical than smashing the capitalist state machinery and expropriating the expropriators. The left “don’t get it” – the general election result proves that the British electorate are not in the mood for their policy provision. They are a spent force the parliamentary party has to indulge, and only a thorough drubbing on a policy platform they like will ram the message though their dogmatic skulls.
Dan’s starting position, as it has always been, is that Tony Blair found the shiny baton of electoral success. Gordon Brown fumbled the hand over in the relay, and when it came to Ed Miliband’s lap he didn’t think to pick it up. For Dan, Labour’s route back to power is dull, grey, technocratic politics because what the electorate expects are boring, risk-averse, but basically competent managers. Any whiff of left-wingery frightens the horses. In my view the self-evident truths Dan and his co-thinkers subscribe to are simulated nostrums specific to the Westminster matrix, repeated and transmitted ad nauseum by sympathetic media figures to the point where it’s the received political commonsense. The problem is, it’s wrong.
Let’s be sure about this. Labour didn’t lose the election because it was “too left“. No one gave Labour the body swerve because of the mansion tax, the energy price cap, an increased minimum wage, the pledge to build more houses, and the abolition of the bedroom tax – not least when these policies were popular with the voting public.
Labour lost for two main reasons. First, on economic competence. The Tory argument that you can’t secure the NHS without securing the economy absolutely cut through. And the second was insecurity – how Labour will cave to a SNP set on milking the (English) taxpayer, rendering these islands defenceless, and imperil the union. It’s a political vein you can expect the Tories to tap again and again. Therefore the situation Labour finds itself in is a very difficult one. How can it simultaneously appeal to enough Scottish voters, enough English swing voters, and enough “traditional” voters flirting with UKIP. That difficult discussion demands all minds and all wings of the movement to be involved. This is why I’m glad Jeremy is on board, it means the left will have its say throughout the summer of leadership debates.
I’m sure Dan and his co-thinkers think the left have nothing to contribute and should have had their entry barred to the contest. Allow me then to talk the language they understand. At the general election, the Green Party won 1.1m votes. As James O’Malley points out, if just 2,984 of them had voted Labour instead in the relevant key marginals, there would be no Conservative majority government now. Let us suppose that the narrow contest they coveted had taken place. Thousands of left recruits, many of them recent, would have departed from the party. A larger cohort of some left-leaning voters hoping to see their values and hopes reflected in the leaders’ debates would also have been put off. Where would they have gone? Perhaps to the Greens, perhaps to a lefter-looking Liberal Democrats. The Blairites may be happy to see the back of these “wrong sort” of members and voters, but in so doing they would also say goodbye to a clutch of seats. It’s not 1997. Left Labour-leaning people do have somewhere else to go which, incidentally, is why Labour under their favoured Miliband was unlikely to have fared any better.
Another point that Dan and friends might also wish to mull over. While beginning under Kinnock, since Blair took over the party there has been a centralisation of organisation and a diminution of policy input from constituency parties. Gone are the days where policy was determined by the floor of conference, and now it’s mostly a managed affair for keynote speeches and the like. If there was more in the way of member-led democracy, then perhaps – just perhaps – the left would have found an outlet in policy debates. Instead they created a logjam which meant the only way the left could get its voice heard is by running a leadership candidate. If the Blairists don’t like it, tough. This is a situation two decades in the making, and their finger smudges are all over its blueprints.
So the debate we’re going to have, the proper soul-searching debate so many from across the party paid lip service to in the days following the general election is happening. Good. Let’s get on with it.
Above: Kate Hoey in characteristic pose
The Morning Star, supposedly the voice of Britain’s mainstream left and trade union movement, becomes ever more desperate in its adherence to the anti-EU position and its self-deluding pretence that this is somehow “left wing”.
In today’s Star, we’re told that “Labour MPs [are] poised for big anti-EU drive.”
It turns out that a tiny handful of eccentric, and mainly right-wing, Labour MPs have formed a group called ‘Labour for Britain’ which will campaign for a ‘No’ vote in Cameron’s EU referendum. They’re headed by Kate Hoey, the pro-hunting former Home Office MP, who said (in 2009) that she didn’t think a Tory victory would be “so devastating“: she is probably the most right-wing Labour MP in the Commons. And this is the person the Morning Star hails as the leader of the “exit left” campaign!
Other Labour anti-EU heroes of the Morning Star are Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), and Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), neither of whom can be considered in any way on the left, but are both part of the old-guard nationalist/protectionist trade union right-wing. Hopkins recently published a politically incoherent pamphlet ‘European Union – a View from the Left’ – a publication that combines pre-Marxist idealism with parliamentary cretinism in a uniquely politically illiterate combination.
And finally, as though you were not yet convinced of Labour for Britains’s left-wing credentials, we have John Mills, the boss of JML – John Mills Limited, the TV shopping and consumer products company with an annual turnover of £85m and pre-tax profits of £8.2m: Mr Mills is hailed by the Morning Star as “the national agent for the No campaign in the 1975 EEC referendum” and quoted (obviously approvingly) saying that ‘there was “an evident danger” the party could lose even more core voters to Ukip by fighting alongside the Tories to keep Britain in the EU.’
So there we have it: the CPB/Morning Star “left -wing” line-up of political dead-beats and illiterates, led by Labour’s most right-wing MP and financed by a capitalist: what a fucking shower!
Reblogged from Tendance Coatesy:
Jeremy Corbyn in Bid for Labour Leadership.
After the election John McDonnell MP made this analysis (LRC).
THIS IS THE DARKEST HOUR THAT SOCIALISTS IN BRITAIN HAVE FACED since the Attlee government fell in 1951. It isn’t just the scale of the electoral defeat – but the overwhelming incorporation of so much of the Labour Party into the political and economic system that the Labour Party was founded to transform.
There are three immediate tasks. First, we have to recognise – even more than before – that with a Tory majority government the main forms of effective resistance will be on the streets, in occupations and on picket lines. This is a time for intensive activism. This is not some form of displacement activity from other forms of political engagement, but an essential role that the left, especially the Labour left, must now grasp more enthusiastically and with more determination than ever. ….
Second, the Labour left may not have the resources in Parliament to secure a left candidate on the ballot paper for the Labour leadership election but we do have the intellectual resources to dominate the ideological and policy debate in this leadership election……
Third, the crisis our class now faces means that the left needs to get real and get together. This is no time for sectarian division. Anyone who divides us is aiding and abetting the Tories and other forces of reaction. I do not think the threat of UKIP has gone away.
It is the first and second points which make the most impact (because frankly there are divisions about, above all, the EU Referendum which are not due to ‘sectarianism’ but to very deep divisions over Europe which are not going to go away).
Now we hear.
Jeremy Corbyn runs for Labour leader: Veteran MP launches surprise bid declaring other contenders are too right-wing reports the Daily Mirror,
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn tonight launches a surprise bid for the party leadership.
The left-winger revealed he wanted to give Labour members “a proper choice” when they elected a new chief.
He becomes the fifth MP to throw his hat into the ring, joining four already firmly-established contenders.
They are Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Coooper, Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall and Shadow International Development Secretary Mary Creagh.
Mr Corbyn believed the four declared candidates were too similar, saying: “They are not offering a clear enough alternative on the economic strategy and austerity, and our attitude to welfare expenditure.
“We think the left members of the party need to have a chance of a debate.”
On his Blog site Jeremy Corbyn wrote after the election,
Voting Revealed A Disjointed Britain: Labour’s Task Is To Unify And Equalise It.
The real issue is of course austerity. Ed Miliband made some brilliant points during the campaign about wages, working conditions, education opportunities and housing, and clearly was mobilising quite a lot of younger voters to support the party.
The problem was that while Chancellor George Osborne was claiming that austerity was working and thus ignoring the inequality and poverty created, Ed Balls was in essence saying that the only difference in Labour’s policy was that his economic strategy would simply take longer to deal with the deficit.
He was not offering to restore the funding that the Tories have cut in local government particularly, or reverse cuts to benefits over the past five years.
The reality is that within a few months the Tories are going to be in disarray over Europe and many will rapidly realise the horror of what has happened when they see rising poverty and further attacks on working conditions. Surely the need for Labour is to examine the economic strategy needed to develop a more equal society with full employment, decent housing and a fully funded and public NHS, rather than taking the advice of Peter Mandelson and Lord Sugar that we weren’t “appealing to big business.” By September we will know who the new Labour leader is, and the rules require that 35 Labour MPs nominate an individual to be a candidate. I hope there are enough Labour MPs prepared to support an anti-austerity candidate in the leadership election so that party members and affiliated supporters have a real choice.
Owen Jones notes (just published on the Guardian website),
It is up to Labour MPs whether party members and trade unionists will have the opportunity to have a meaningful debate. Under Ed Miliband’s leadership the threshold for how many nominations a leadership candidate must receive to appear on the ballot paper was raised to 15%. Unless 35 Labour MPs nominate Corbyn, this farce of a leadership contest will continue and the Labour party – and the country as a whole – will learn nothing from it.
Back in 2007, I worked for the prospective Labour leadership campaign of John McDonnell, a close ally of Corbyn. But after McDonnell outshone Gordon Brown in a single leadership hustings – with the soon-to-be-unopposed leader becoming evidently flustered during the course of the evening – the Brownite goons roared into action. They knew their man would win, but they feared an unexpectedly positive showing by McDonnell in both the debates and the final result. Arm-twisting and arm-breaking followed, and a coronation ensued. Brown never defined himself, and arguably fatally wounded his premiership from the outset.
Corbyn was an arch critic of New Labour, and ironically would be the sole real defender of New Labour’s record in the contest. He would fight a rearguard offensive against the lie that Blair and Brown caused the crisis by spending too much money on schools and hospitals – spending backed, penny for penny, by the Tories until the end of 2008. He will be able to draw from the findings of Britain’s leading pollster, John Curtice – who accurately predicted the outcome of the election; these findings dispute that Labour lost for being too leftwing, and underline that Labour lost Scotland partly for being too rightwing.
Corbyn could also draw on the conclusion of Peter Kellner, the YouGov pollster, that however Ed Miliband allowed himself to be portrayed, his policies were less radical than those of Tony Blair in 1997. He could nail why Labour lost: the implosion in Scotland, and the consequent anti-SNP hysteria; the lie of “overspending”; and the lack of any coherent alternative.
If Labour MPs deny the party and the country a genuine debate, it will reflect disastrously on them. It will do whoever emerges victorious no good, either. Labour has just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history. If the party doesn’t have the good sense to have a meaningful debate now, you might wonder why it doesn’t just pack up. So come on, Labour MPs. Put your future careers aside for party and national interest. Lend Corbyn a nomination, and let a real debate begin.
I agree with Owen Jones.
A Corbyn candidacy would allow us to have a real debate, on a range of issues.
Whether we agree with Corbyn on every stand he’s ever taken is irrelevant.
He is the only one stand up against austerity.
That is the main issue.
Let’s not forget that it’s not only Labour members who will have a say in the end: it’s us affiliated trade unionists.
Our unions have taken a stand against austerity.
We have campaigned with organisations like the People’s Assembly against austerity.
Many of us also campaigned for the Labour Party.
We deserve a chance to back a candidate who expresses our views.
By Alan Theasby
RIP Charles Kennedy 1959-2015
I’m not a fan, but there is a lot Labour could learn from him.
When he took the boring “centre right” LibDems by the scruff of the neck and carved out a position as an independent “radical” party to the left of New Labour (at least to appearances), the result was a massive electoral swing in 2005, and LibDems were still seen by many as “left of Labour” in 2010 (how many thousands left in disgust at their role in the Coalition?)
When the LibDems presented radical, left politics – against the Iraq War, for EMA, against tuition fees, even anti-cuts to some extent – they got lots of support.
In Scotland the SNP is posing “left” and taking advantage of Scottish Labour’s abysmal policies: cuts, attacks on Unite union, and in bed with the Tories in “Better Together” etc. No wonder they swept the board, it’s a total indictment of Blairism and the likes of Jim Murphy!
In England the Greens are taking up the mantle that the LibDems had until 2010; this has not yet translated into votes but that’s a serious posibility if Labour contimues on its current “middle of the road/neither owt nor nowt” course or moves even further rightwards.
Lots of activists & “lefties” I know have massive illusions in the SNP & Greens, and write off the Labour Party as dead. I disagree on both counts: the SNP & Greens can pose as “left” under the Tories and with a Labour Party looking to “middle England”/ the “middle classes” (etc), but I have no illusions in them; and (although I like the word “Pasokification” – and now “Pascotification”) this is not Greece and Labour has deep roots unlike PASOK, and thewre is no sign in Britain of anytrhing like Syriza (which did not spring from nowhere but was created through splits & fusions in the existing strong Greek Communist Party, left union activists and other left groups).
So what do others think? Given that there is not even a vaguely left candidate for Leader, will Labour become a pathetic rump – or can it recover? Meanwhile, it’s come to something, hasn’t it, when the record of a former SDP’er and leader of the Lib Dems, is much braver and more left-wing than any candidate for leader of the Labour Party?
JD adds: and, at a human level, a thought from Gaby Hinsliff in today’s Graun:
All those people getting cheap laughs on social media out of Kennedy’s last erratic performance on the BBC’s Question Time, or rejoicing in his defeat on election night, were just a visible example of a culture which not only stigmatises people with mental health problems but treats public figures – politicians or otherwise – as if they were somehow less than human. If Charles Kennedy’s death leads one or two to pause before unleashing mob scorn or fury, if it prompts an ounce more compassion for people whose lives might well be more complicated than they look – well, a fine liberal legacy that would be.
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
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 »
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