In December’s FT John McTernan set out the evidence: “Something deeper is going on. From corporate capitalism to housing, from climate change to transport, Labour’s ideas are framing the decisions the new government is making”. He continued:
Since this was written the Financial Times, which used to be ‘about’ supporting free trade, now has a new editor and a new noncommittal agenda:
Though the latest article by Rana Faroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor at the Financial Times, has been written from an American perspective, it relates to Britain’s situation.
She points out that many corporate sectors are deeply in debt and most are reliant on financial engineering to create the illusion of growth and innovation. companies used to reinvest their earnings to boost productive capacity. Now, they mostly generate “value” by downsizing and distributing to the richest.
In pure Corbynese she states:
- we cannot afford to repeat the mistaken “socialise the losses, privatise the gains” approach used a decade ago.
- We have to start by protecting individual citizens and consumers
- giving immediate cash payouts to individuals, recapturing unnecessary payments the other side of the crisis, via the tax code
- When it comes bailouts, small and midsized businesses should come first.
- They should be given grants, not loans. Many run tight margins as it is, and would not be able to survive any additional debt burden
- If big companies want government money, they need to protect their workers and
- government should consider taking preferred equity stakes in such companies
Ending in true socialist vein: “Unlike the bank bailouts of 12 years ago, let’s socialise not just the losses but also the gains”.
A Bournville reader responds to today’s blog (‘one person’s reaction!’)
It is important to learn from those one may not like!
His first two points I agree with. The first is controversial but the second should be obvious. The third point is vacuous as it’s not spelled out.
it was a mistake to allow a General Election on Brexit – LibDems and SNP major culprits but Labour also.
The Labour manifesto was good but not effectively communicated.
The (in my opinion unfair) antisemitism slurs were unfortunate.
Organisation and leadership seemed ropey but that’s my guesswork.
Alas we are where we are, which I guess is the human condition!
A Moseley reader adds:
Blair states that Labour has always won when it secured the centre of British politics and refers to the 2019 campaign as substituting ‘a narcissistic belief in our righteousness for professionalism’. He does have a point. How many years have Labour been in government since 1920?
Britain is basically a liberal conservative nation. (note small l and c). Hence, we still have a royal family that the poor and working poor still respect and savour. Socialism is a thing which sounds like a nice idea but could never work within a monarchy. It’s a contradiction in terms.
Due to WordPress problem I cannot upload an image to this site. It is included in the email alert
Discredited? Labour’s commitments made in opposition were jettisoned by Tony Blair when in power. For instance:
- the railways were not renationalised,
- anti-union laws were not repealed and
- the earnings link with pensions was not restored.
It supported the US President’s decision to make war on Iraq which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and – according to Professor Goodman and many others – destabilised large areas of the Middle East.
Tony Blair’s hour-long speech on Labour’s 120th anniversary at Kings College (20.2.20): “We must redefine what radical means” may be heard here or read in full here.
He states that Labour has always won when it secured the centre of British politics and refers to the 2019 campaign as substituting ‘a narcissistic belief in our righteousness for professionalism’.
‘Three overarching strategic challenges’ are advocated by Blair to achieve ‘fundamental reconstruction’:
- First, we must build a new progressive coalition with LibDems, to put Labour values into practice.
- Second we need a re-imagining of the modern economy.
- Third: the right ideas in politics never work without the mentality of government.
Strangely enough he sees these three recommendations as ‘profound changes to philosophy, policy and practice’. Stating the obvious he concludes:
“2020 isn’t 1997 or even 2007. And 2030 will be a revolution different from 2020. It’s always about the future. Precisely because of that, because whilst pointing forwards, we have been travelling backwards, nothing less than “born again” head to toe renewal, will do”.
This performance recalls another such ‘poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage (offering) a tale . . . full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
Ellen Brown reports that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) has been compared with the United Kingdom’s left-wing opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. He and his left-wing coalition won by a landslide in Mexico’s 2018 general election, overturning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that had ruled the country for much of the past century. Some points made in her article are recorded below.
Called Mexico’s “first full-fledged left-wing experiment,” AMLO’s election marks a dramatic change in the political direction of the country. AMLO wrote in his 2018 book “A New Hope for Mexico,” “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…. Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”
The new president has held to his campaign promises. In 2019, his first year in office, he purged the government of technocrats and institutions he considered corrupt, profligate or impeding the transformation of Mexico after 36 years of failed market-focused neoliberal policies. Other accomplishments (recorded here) have included
- substantially increasing the minimum wage
- while cutting top government salaries and oversize pensions;
- making small loans and grants directly to farmers;
- guaranteeing crop prices for key agricultural crops;
- launching programs to benefit youth, the disabled and the elderly;
- initiating a $44 billion infrastructure plan and building 2,700 branches of a government-owned Bank of the Poor.
At a press conference on Jan. 6, he explained that the neoliberal model had failed; private banks were not serving the poor and people outside the cities, so the government had to step in
Ellen Brown reports that when speaking to a local group in December, President Obrador said his goal was to set up a Bank of the Poor with 13,000 branches, more than all the private banks in the country combined. Two days later he explained, at a news conference on Jan. 8: “There are more than 1,000 municipalities that don’t have a bank branch. We’re dispersing [welfare] resources but we don’t have a way to do it. . . . People have to go to branches that are two, three hours away. If we don’t bring these services close to the people, we’re not going to bring development to the people. … I’ll invite you within two months, three at the most, to the inauguration of the first branches because they’re already working, they’re getting the land … because we have to do it quickly”. Digital banking will also be developed.
Branches will be built on land owned by the government or donated, and software companies have offered to advise for free. The 10 billion pesos ($530.4 million) needed to build the new branches would come from federal savings from other programs and the bank’s operating expenses will be covered by small commissions paid on each transaction by customers, most of whom will be welfare recipients.
López Obrador’s goal is to construct a “new paradigm” in economic policy aiming not only to increase gross domestic product but also to improve human welfare.
Noel Hamel from New Malden: “A measured and thoughtful piece that avoids the pitfalls of mudslinging. Anyone interested in left-leaning progressive politics will find this interesting”.
Summary of Alan Simpson’s paper: Après le déluge
Parliament starts the new decade with Labour still in a state of grief…and anger…about its crushing election defeat. It’s a good place to start. The real grief is the damage done to the bigger dream that once surrounded Corbyn. Only a shift into more circular economics stands a chance.
For the Left, the problems began with Labour’s failure to root its policies in the radical decentralisation regularly espoused by both Corbyn and McDonnell, but which never made it past control obsessions within the ‘Corridoriat’ of Senior Advisors surrounding them.
Killing the dream
In 2017, thousands were drawn towards Jeremy because he symbolised a different sort of politics; something open, honest, radical and inclusive; a politics that promised to be genuinely transformative. Labour lost, but we felt like winners.
Blinded by Brexit
The 2019 election should never have happened. Johnson only had one card – Brexit – and Labour should have forced the Tories to wallow in the Brexit mess Johnson had wrapped himself in. A spring or summer election would have suited Labour much better… on condition that Johnson’s Brexit deal would first be put to a public vote.
Brexit neutrality made Labour look indecisive and Jeremy weak. It spurned Labour’s strongest card in favour of a public vote. Whatever the outcome it would have taken Brexit out of any subsequent election which would have had to address the bigger threats of societal and climate collapse already hovering around our doorsteps.
Labour lacked a simple strap-line
We didn’t even have the wit to dump the ‘Brexit’ part of the Tories’ ‘Get it done’, prefacing it with a succession of bigger issues; ‘Fix the planet: Get it done’, ‘Tackle homelessness:…’, ‘Repair the NHS:…’, ‘End poverty:…’.
The Tories set about casting Jeremy Corbyn as a man who couldn’t lead
Corbyn’s senior team helped, turning Jeremy’s campaigning zeal into an absence rather than an asset. Goodness knows how many rail-miles Jeremy clocked up, but it never became the ‘leadership’ peg the public were looking for, building a mass movement, with a hugely empowered, devolved power base.
Jeremy inherited a PLP that wanted to lynch him and (to their credit) an ofﬁce determined to stop them and he ended up with a corridor cabal.
The opportunity to build a wider consensus got lost behind internal obsessions with control, creating a siege/control mentality that was never able to reach outwards. No national/international ﬁgures were ever brought in to raise Jeremy’s policy/leadership proﬁle. No one who’d ever arm-wrestled in climate negotiations, trade deals or peace diplomacy came in to lead Labour’s transformation planning. Instead, ‘corridor control’ came to dominate. Factionalism overtook radicalism. At the most senior levels, people who’d never negotiated anything more than an extended tea-break were left in charge of the policy sifting process. The most repeated Shadow Ministerial complaint was about delays in getting radical policy proposals through the LOTO soup (LOTO: the Leader of the Opposition Office)
- Sue Hayman saw a string of her environment proposals get lost in this Never-never-land.
- Two years on, Alan Whitehead still awaits approval for publication of his Local Energy book (on radical decentralisation).
- Andy MacDonald’s pledge to set annual carbon budgets for every part of the transport sector never became the platform for transformative changes in aviation and shipping policy.
- His proposed ‘pendulum shift’ of funding from private to public transport infrastructures went the same way.
So where does Labour go next? Back to the Future? There is no ‘nice politics’ of the middle ground to return to. Business as usual will never return.
- Look at the ﬁres currently raging in Australia and the ﬂoods in nearby Indonesia.
- Look at our own pre-Christmas ﬂoods
- Look at earlier ﬁres that wreaked havoc from California to the Arctic Circle.
- Look at the ice melt.
Any wannabe Labour Leader who ducks the centrality of transformative climate politics is not worth following. As climate physicists continually try to warn us, ‘There are no small steps left’ but a systemic, transformative change might hold society together. The Left needs a bigger, anti-poverty, climate politics to hold communities, and the country, together.
Regionalised and localised approaches to ﬂood prevention, food security, air quality, re-wilding, fuel poverty, clean energy and transport must form the backbone of a Labour commitment to refound accountable, secure and inclusive democracy. It needs to go hand in hand with the radical re-empowerment of local government. There is no other way of delivering the 20%+ annual CO2 reductions needed to avoid the next tranche of climate tipping points.
In early 2017, John McDonnell, Jeremy and I began work on what was to be a Labour ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative. The plan was to open up conversations with up to 20 localities about the development of radically decentralised, clean-energy grids. Modelled on lessons from both Denmark and Germany, the plan was to put localities in the driving seat of strategies that made ‘climate’ the centrepiece of tomorrow’s economics. It needed rapid decarbonisation of the energy system, nationwide energy efﬁciency and waste reduction programmes, the use of smart technologies to localise, store and share energy, and a new skills agenda delivering full employment in a more circular economy.
The first Merseyside venue, workshops and speakers were all agreed on. But the political penny began to drop that this posed a serious threat to existing fossil fuel interests and to centralised energy generation. Suddenly no one could ﬁnd a common diary date for Jeremy and John. The 3-D commitment – decarbonisation, decentralisation and democratisation – became the ﬁrst of Labour’s ‘corridor casualties’.
Climate priorities, as well as electoral calculations, dictate that this is where Labour’s repair work must begin in Scotland and Wales as much as in the newly lost heartlands of the North and Midlands. This is where tomorrow’s security, stability and democracy politics will ﬁnd its roots.
The last election should have been the Climate Election. What happens in the next decade will determine whether we tip from crisis to collapse. Labour needs to become the Party that ensures we don’t.
Advisor on Sustainable Economics January 2020
Labour’s official report on the election result was circulated as election co-ordinators Andrew Gwynne and Ian Lavery gave a verbal presentation on Tuesday at a meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC). According to Politics Home it was leaked to the Financial Times. Jim Pickard’s straightforward appraisal in the FT is summarised below.
The authors briefly considered the possibility that Mr Corbyn’s leadership and radical manifesto could have played a role in the defeat arguing neither had been a problem in the 2017 general election, when the party made large electoral gains, stating: “It is unlikely that radicalism per se was the problem in a country looking for change”
Trafford, May 2019
Mr Corbyn (Ed: who attracted many thousands of new members to the party and drew huge crowds to his meetings) far from being a weak or divisive leader, was instead the victim of four years of unrelenting attacks on his character. This had been an “assault without precedent in modern politics”.
The document concluded there had been no easy way for Labour to address the Brexit issue given the way in which it divided voters.
The writer wonders if the document made any reference to the influence of the prolonged wrecking activities of disloyal Labour MPs?
One such, Wes Streeting, the MP for Ilford North, writing in the Telegraph, said: ”It is very clear that history has been rewritten by the losers, who are more interested in covering up the litany of failure that they have presided over rather than providing the Labour Party with an open, honest account of what has gone wrong. Labour’s election result was a result of poor political leadership in Parliament and poor organisational leadership in the party”.
Regular readers of this site will agree that quite a powerful factor in the defeat was due to constant repetition of inaccurate and derogatory material in the right-wing press provided by the constant barrage of criticism from Mr Corbyn’s own colleagues, who spared no effort in their attempts to discredit their leader.
The Conservative government owes disloyal Labour MPs such as Tom Watson, Wes Streeting. John Woodcock, Jess Philips, Margaret Hodge and Joan Ryan a huge debt of gratitude.
The vision laid out by the participants in the Labour leadership contest makes Roy Jones from Colwyn Bay – who prefers “the much maligned ‘Corbyn manifestos’ “- fear for Britain’s future (24th January).
He sees, in the contest, not a word on the economy, infrastructure and environment, from Labour’s would-be leaders.
Looking back over our previous reliance on empire with an abundance of minerals from home and abroad and an industrial revolution of science and technology which made us the workshop of the world, he continues: “This fell into decline, albeit with a brief period of hope after World War II, until faced with the inability of Britain’s bosses to modernise industries and Thatcher’s wilful destruction of most of them. All this leaves our balance of payments, income and expenditure, reliant on the financial service “industry” for 80% of those sums”.
Roy Jones lists some measures advocated in two Corbyn-inspired manifestos for a society skewed by years of preserving the status quo at the worker’s expense:
- a green industrial revolution, advancing science and technology and skilled jobs,
- the rebuilding of our public services
- providing rent controlled housing,
- addressing poverty and inequality – a living wage of £10 an hour
- increasing public ownership
- and setting up a people’s bank.
But ends: “I fear the worst kind of flabby Labour future”