By Alan Theasby
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.
Above: Seumas getting all excited
The ‘Popular Front’ (ie what used to be called “class collaboration”) is alive and well in the fevered imagination and wet dreams of the Graun‘s tame public school Stalinist:
“[T]he prospect of a Labour-led parliamentary alliance – including, say, Lib Dems, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Respect – taking Britain in a more progressive direction wouldn’t be so scary for most voters, to judge by opinion polls. It would risk being unstable and be bitterly opposed by some Labour leaders. Anything of the kind would depend on the numbers, of course, and may well be overtaken by the campaign in the weeks ahead. But it could also offer the kind of government that a large part of the population would actually want.”
From Adam Bienkov at politics.co.uk
The prime minister has suppressed a report on EU migration after it found overwhelming evidence that immigration has been good for the British economy.
The report, commissioned by Theresa May, was due to be published at the end of last year but was shelved “indefinitely” by David Cameron after it failed to find evidence to support cutting immigration.
Officials say they were inundated with evidence from experts and businesses arguing that EU migration has been positive for the UK.
“They can’t bring themselves to publish the report before the European elections because they would have to admit that freedom of movement is a good thing,” one official told the Financial Times.
Civil servants complained that the central claims of the report were not backed up by the evidence within it.
Conservative sources also pointed the finger at the Liberal Democrats for trying to block the report.
The revelation follows an intervention by the Office for Budget Responsibility yesterday claiming that the coalition’s immigration cap would make it much harder to cut Britain’s budget deficit.
“Because [immigrants] are more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure,” OBR chairman Robert Chote told MPs.
Higher net migration allowed a “more beneficial picture” for public finances than would otherwise be the case, he added.
The revelation also comes as chancellor George Osborne addresses eurosceptic groups within his party, who are putting pressure on the government to restrict free movement within the EU.
“The biggest economic risk facing Europe doesn’t come from those who want reform and renegotiation,” he will tell the Fresh Start group of MPs.
“It comes from a failure to reform and renegotiate.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the government’s report on the impact of EU migration was “ongoing”.
“We will publish it when it is ready,” they added.
The Lib Dem’s present shambles over Lord Rennard is the direct result of a botched attempt to fudge the issue of the sexual harassment allegations against this powerful and influential figure whose behaviour has been covered up by the leadership for years.
The inquiry led by Alistair Webster QC created total confusion – and gave Rennard and his supporters plausible grounds for crying ‘foul’ – by concluding that the case against Rennard was unproven, and yet also calling upon him to apologise in the light of “broadly credible” claims against him by 11 women.
Crucially, Webster’s report (though it hasn’t been seen by Rennard, or indeed Clegg, due apparently, to mysterious “data protection” concerns) seems to have blurred and confused two distinct standards of proof: Webster says the case against Rennard does not satisfy the “beyond reasonable doubt” (ie being at least 99% sure of guilt) standard required for criminal cases, and which is also, it seems, required before disciplinary action can be taken under the Lib Dem’s rules. But Rennard’s supporter and legal adviser Lord Carlile QC claims that Webster told him that even the civil “balance of probability” standard of proof could not be met. This seems incredible, given Webster’s statement that in his opinion “the evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants was broadly credible.” Remember, that the “balance of probability” test (ie being 51% sure of someone’s guilt) is considered sufficient for an employer to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct and is the test that employment tribunals apply when considering cases.
It turns out that what Webster meant was that he didn’t think there was a 51% chance of satisfying the “beyond reasonable doubt” test, which is, of course, not what the “balance of probability” test means – something that both Webster QC and Carlile QC must surely understand.
With Rennard threatening legal action, 100 women members signing a letter demanding “no apology, no whip” and the party split on generational lines, the Lib Dems are well and truly in the shit over this. Not only has their claim to be a party that takes equality seriously been destroyed: they’ve shown themselves to be a total shower who can’t even organise an effective fudge.
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Above: Maajid Nawaz
If a Muslim expresses some reservations about Quilliam’s rhetoric or strategies, I tend to assume, not that they are an Evil Islamist, but that – they have some reservations about Quilliam’s rhetoric or strategies. These are things reasonable people may disagree about. However some recent responses to Maajid Nawaz’s decision to tweet a Jesus and Mo cartoon go beyond reasonable criticism.
He tweeted the picture after it featured (on a T shirt) on BBC’s The Big Questions, where it was the focus of a debate about free speech. This is the offending image in question.
Nawaz’s tweet has apparently caused many Muslims, including Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadan Foundation, to make a formal complaint to the Lib Dems. (Nawaz is the Liberal Democrat PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn.)
Of course it is quite proper to draw attention to bigoted remarks made by politicians, and expect the whip to be withdrawn, or some other form of censure applied, depending on the level of offence. But the fact some Muslims think it is inappropriate to depict Muhammad does not make Jesus and Mo offensive. Non-Muslims, and Muslims (like Nawaz) who don’t think pictures of Muhammad are taboo, should not be bound by others’ religious dogma.
Reactions to Nawaz cover a spectrum ranging from death threats to warm support – and many of his supporters are fellow-Muslims. In the middle of the spectrum we find people who would certain not condone or incite violence but who demonstrate clear hostility towards the reformist Nawaz. Not all of his antagonists are Muslims. Here’s Gorgeous George’s response.
“No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL”
5Pillarz, a blog written largely by and for British Muslims, has decided that Nawaz should be their top candidate for ‘Islamophobe of the Year’. The EDL is mentioned at the bottom of their list of suggestions, as a kind of afterthought.
As Maajid Nawaz says:
“Why are many on the “Left” largely silent on Muslim reformers. Want to defend minorities? Well, we’re a minority within a minority, defend us”
As someone from the ‘Left’ I’m happy to defend and support Maajid Nawaz – though I’d draw the line at voting for him.
Cameron’s shameful, cynical speech about furriners coming over here to scrounge off our generous welfare system is just the latest manifestation of mainstream politicians pandering to UKIP and the racist right. The wretched Clegg’s been at it as well and Labour’s not above it either. In this poisonous atmosphere, even sections of the left are hamstrung by their anti-EU obsession. The Murdoch press and a former adviser to Frank Field (one of the most right wing Labour MPs of recent times) are not obvious sources of reason and enlightenment in this non-debate, but the following article came as a welcome breath of fresh air when it was published on March 8 in response to a speech by Iain Duncan Smith, acting as a warm-up act for Cameron’s performance today.
Naturally, I don’t agree with all of what follows, and wouldn’t personally have given either Field or Farage even the back-handed compliments (for “clarity”) that the author proffers, but overall it’s a pretty good piece. Actually, the bulk of it would make the basis of a good speech from a half-way principled Labour leader…
Benefit tourists are just political phantoms – It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us. By Phillip Collins (THE TIMES, March 8 2013)
Some of the most testing problems in a democracy are the phantoms. When crime is falling but the people say it’s rising, is it prudent for politicians to declare the people to be in error? Is it ethical to pretend the phantom is real to show a popular touch? This week the spectre came dressed as “benefit tourism”, which in a histrionic performance in the House of Commons, Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, described as a “crisis.”
I would not suggest there are no foreign nationals in Britain claiming benefits in preference to work. I have no doubt that the official figures will miss some black market activity and fraud. But to suggest that Britain is in the grip of a crisis of lazy foreigners stealing our benefits is untrue, irresponsible and not worthy of a Cabinet Minister of good standing.
The very term “benefit tourism” suggests that people treat welfare states like holiday resorts. It is a claim that large numbers of migrants are taking advantage of the generosity of the welfare state and that is their motivation in coming to Britain. Not attracted by the higher wages on offer in Britain, the feckless East Europeans go to the trouble of leaving family and friends back home because — and only because — of the irresistible allure of British housing benefit.
This is an argument that carries with it enough rope to hang itself. But let’s demolish it with the facts as well. It is not true that EU nationals can walk into Britain and live instantly off the fat of the land. Anyone from the EU who wants to stay longer than three months has to be in work, seeking work or be able to show that they will not become a burden on public funds.
For this reason, there is no reliable evidence at all that this country has a serious problem with benefit tourism. Even if there were any serious studies that showed migration patterns are linked to benefit levels, which there aren’t, the rational tourist scrounger would go to France where there are no jobs and where unemployment benefits are much higher than they are in Britain and eligibility conditions are weaker. Yet not many Poles went to France because the French have this irritating habit of speaking French.
As it happens, it has been good news that the Poles came to Britain. People from the countries who joined the EU in 2004 are much less likely to be claiming out-of-work benefits than British-born people, even though more of them are of working age. Just over 1 per cent of Polish people who live in Britain claim unemployment benefit. The rest are working. We can object to the Poles on the grounds that they are foreigners taking British jobs that should be reserved for British workers but we cannot object to them on the grounds that they are bone idle. Read the rest of this entry »
Guest-poster Roger McCarthy did some canvassing for Labour in Eastleigh last week and is active in a not dissimilar southern seat:
1. UKIP’s breakthrough
First and foremost UKIP bucked a very clear general election trend of right-wing voters only giving them a significant (say 10%+ rather than <3%) share in seats where the MP (of whatever party) is so safe that a protest vote can be delivered without endangering the Tory’s chance of winning.
Now while Eastleigh is UKIP’s best parliamentary result ever it is presaged by previous recent by-elections where right-wing voters have deserted Conservative candidates for UKIP in significant numbers across multiple types of seats gaining 21.7% in Rotherham (safe Labour), 14.3% in Corby (Tory-Lab marginal) and 12.2% in Barnsley Central (very safe Labour), 11.8% in Middlesbrough (safe Labour)
Having said this they did not do anywhere near as well in Oldham (5.8%), Leicester South (2.9%), Manchester Central (4.5%), Feltham (5.5%) Bradford West (3.3%) or Croydon North (5.7%) all of which were safe Labour seats.
(there is probably also a strong correlation with ethnicity as well with UKIP doing – surprise, surprise – well only in very white constituencies and failing in those with significant BAME populations – even when as in Leicester and Croydon they somehow managed to rustle up an Asian or Black candidate themselves).
This brings out an interesting anomaly that of a historically very high 15 by-elections in just this first half of a parliament only one has been in a Conservative-held seat and 11 were in Labour-held seats (in comparison there were 14 by-elections over the whole 2005-10 parliament of which 3 were in Tory seats)
So we are not being given a real chance to see how deep UKIPs new found support is in Conservative and Conservative-targeted marginals as only two of the 15 by-elections have been in seats where the Tory had any chance of winning.
But with that note of caution this does raise the interesting possibility that the constant obsessive propaganda on immigration by the right wing media may have finally created a right-wing populist monster which they no longer can properly control electorally and that as has happened with the Tea Party in the US there are now significant numbers of right-wing voters so lost to elementary logic and reason that they will throw winnable elections rather than support candidates who are not right wing enough for them.
And as the only way the Tories can control immigration and give the base what they crave is by leaving he EU and this is not at all on the agenda of global capital this may create a UKIP threat which just could lose them the next election by splitting the right-wing vote in their target seats.
2. The Lib Dems hang on by their fingernails
Again the result seems to show a general and under-reported trend that the Lib Dem collapse in national polls is not being reproduced in those areas where they actually hold parliamentary seats and control councils – and that while they lost a great many votes in Eastleigh this time there are still people (and we met them on the doorstep) who believe that the Lib Dems are a restraining force on the Tories and cannot be persuaded otherwise despite all the evidence that the Tories have got through every single important item from their manifesto.
And we can’t discount the Lib Dem machine in their seats – clearly they were out in force and seem to have been particularly good at collecting postal votes and that these pushed them through the final barrier,
3. Labour disappointment
Increasing the historically very poor 2010 result by 0.2% to 9.8% is of course a real disappointment for Labour as people in the campaign office genuinely believed that they could raise it significantly toward the 1997-2005 levels of 20% and local polls all showed us doing somewhat (although not that much better) than we did on the night.
And we did run a serious campaign with an excellent candidate (Whatever one thinks of John O’Farrell’s New Labour politics he clearly was by far the brightest and most personable of the candidates) many MP and front-bench visits, hundreds of volunteers and 20,000 voter ID visits – a level of activity which compares favourably with that we put into key marginals and which seems to have been almost entirely wasted and goes some way to validating the views of Miliband-haters like Dan Hodges that we should have run no more than a token campaign.
But under this was a complete absence of any real Labour party on the ground – with just 158 members in summer 2010 (the last date for which CLP membership is available), Eastleigh was the 534th smallest CLP in the UK and they really cannot have had much more than a dozen or so even semi-active members before region and national HQ started busing in volunteers.
And like my CLP they have no councillors even in deprived urban wards (and Eastleigh has them with much of the town centre being visibly run-down) which should have vote Labour and this is a huge handicap on the doorstep – while the Lib Dems have 40 out of 44 borough seats (with the Tories holding the remaining 4).
On the plus side they were close to two of the exactly 4 Labour-held seats in the South East region and which do have active and effective CLPs – but Southampton activists are unlikely to have had much more grasp of local issues than those of us who came from further afield.
4. So much for the NHA…
This was the first real test for National Health Action which was rewarded with just 392 votes or under 1% and shows them to yet another clown party which has zero real support and if it did could only threaten Labour.
But even this was better than the wretched Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate who got just 62 votes and was soundly beaten by three genuine clown parties.
Mr Justice Sweeney said he had concerns about the “absolute fundamental deficits of understanding which the questions demonstrate”. He added that, since most of the answers were in his directions to the jury, he doubted that “the extent to which anything said by me is going to be capable of getting them back on track again”.
“I am like Mr Edis in the position that after 30 years of criminal trials I have never come across this at this late stage,” said the judge. “Never.”
Mr Justice Sweeney’s remarks as he discharged an incompetent jury in the Vicky Pryce case, somehow reminded me of this little classic:
At a time when the revolutionary left is coming in for a lot of stick, it’s worth remembering that many bourgeois politicians are also scum-bags and bare-faced liars. At least Huhne will be going to jail. His perversion of the Course of Justice (bullying his then-wife into taking the rap for a speeding offence) is typical of this loathsome shyster. Back in 2009/2010 he even ripped off the tax payer with the following expenses claim, a £1,500 bill he submitted as part of his parliamentary expenses:
But a bit of petty money-grubbing like that is as nothing to the swine’s treatment of his ex-wife and family, as revealed in court today:
The messages between Chris Huhne and his son Peter that were read out in court:
PH: “We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on Mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You’ve told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?”
CH: “I have no intention of sending Mum to Holloway Prison for three months. Dad.”
PH: “Are you going to accept your responsibility or do I have to contact the police and tell them what you told me?”
PH: “I don’t want to speak to you, you disgust me, f**k off.”
PH: “You are the most ghastly man I’ve ever known. Does it give you pleasure that you have lost almost all of your friends?”
PH: “You just don’t get it.”
CH: “Happy Christmas. I love you”
PH: “I hate you so f**k off.”
Above: “Pluralism” in action?
Jon Cruddas, head of Miliband’s policy review and the embodiment of the phrase “fake left,” was busy sucking up to the Lib Dems as they gathered in Brighton yesterday. In a “debate” organised by the Fabian Society on the topic of “Is the future Plural?“, he and the uber-Blairite Lord Adonis set about being nice to the Lib Dem’s Jo Swinson and Ming Campbell. Now I am well aware that all factions within the present Labour leadership are (to use the old phrase) class collaborators, but what exactly was the purpose of telling the Lib Dems that they’ve been a “benign force…checking the worst excesses” of the government? I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it on the Today programme this morning.
Winning over Lib Dem voters and members is one thing: telling members of the Tory-led government that they’re a “benign force” is quite another. And Cruddas’s immediate reaction to Jo Swinson’s statement that politics is aready “plural” was also telling – enthusiastic agreement. the word “plural” in this context, of course, means a permanent state of coalition in both central and local government – something that has be the de facto objective of the Lib Dems and their predecessors for many years.
Adonis’s proposal for the Lib Dems to trigger a general election* sounds more radical, but in reality is a proposal to lock Labour into a Lib-Lab coalition – and of course, it’s pie-in-the-sky anyway: why would any Lib Dem in their right mind want an election just at the moment?
Perhaps the most extraordinary moment in the entire “debate” was Swinson’s rsponse to all this grovelling from Cruddas and Adonis: Labour has “a lot of work to do” before the Lib Dems would deign to consider a deal, especially as a lot of Labour MP’s are really very nasty people who’d displayed “vitriol” against the Lib Dems in Parliament…
But what the hell did Cruddas, Adonis (and presumably their boss Miliband) think they were playing at?
It’s time to crush the Lib Dems, not offer them a life-raft. Remember Professor Pongoo!
* Unfortunately, even some people on the Labour left are also advocating this foolishness.