Is the right-wing media really angry – or just frightened?

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The Telegraph’s headline: ‘Corbyn’s defiant coronavirus rant’, belied its content; a Sun journalist claims that Jeremy Corbyn is being ridiculed over his “delusional” claim that the coronavirus crisis has vindicated his ‘barmy economic policies’ and The Times offers three articles on the same theme, subject to paywall.

The Labour leader told the BBC that though he had been denounced “as somebody that wanted to spend more money than we could possibly afford” to fix social wrongs, he has now been vindicated by the vast sums the government is spending on the current crisis. The Tories now realised they had to “invest in the state”, he added.

In an interview with BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg Mr Corbyn said that the country is “ill-prepared” for the coronavirus pandemic because of 10 years of austerity, of underfunding the National Health Service and the benefit system.

He said the government had been shocked by the national emergency, as their instincts were for free market economics and the small state: They’ve now suddenly realised that they have to spend money to invest in the state, as we have always said as a party, and they have come around to a lot of that position. My Corbyn added:

Our society and our politics will never be the same again: we have suddenly realised as a society and a community, we need everybody – and everybody has a contribution to make.

After being denounced as somebody that wanted to spend more money than we could possibly afford, in order to right the social wrongs of this country, it has taken only three months for government to put similar amounts of money into the NHS and social benefits to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

“So this is a change in our politics, which the coronavirus crisis has actually meant in every country in the world. There’s suddenly a realisation that we’re only as healthy as the safety of our neighbour.”

Mr Corbyn attributed the party’s defeat to divisions over Brexit, which led to a vote at Labour’s conference to negotiate a new deal with the EU and then put it to another referendum. But he added: “I did my best to bring people together on the principles that in or out of the EU, we needed to have an investment-led economy, we needed to be anti-austerity.”

As he noted, since being elected as leader of the Labour Party, he had received “unprecedented level of abuse from the mainstream media of me personally”, which he said had to be “factored in”.

Asked if he had made any mistakes as leader, in the video clip he said:

Reflecting on his time as leader, he said was proud of the huge increase in Labour’s membership the party’s move towards an interventionist economic policy, its opposition to austerity and its plan for a green industrial revolution.

Are the right-wing publications quoted stung by his reflection that the government’s response to coronavirus proves he was “absolutely right” about public spending and also profoundly afraid that the Johnson government will persist with policies assisting 99% of the electorate (FT journalist “a new social contract”) diminishing ‘fat cat’ profits?

 

 

 

 

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PMQs: showing why Jeremy Corbyn is the leader this country needs

Jeremy Corbyn made his last appearance as Labour leader on Prime Minister’s Question Time (see video) and Emily Apple says that “his performance shows why now, more than ever, he’s the leader this country really needs”.

Lamiat Sabin reported that Jeremy Corbyn turned the spotlight on the workers driving the “huge collective effort” to push on through the coronavirus crisis for the greater good of society.

He told the Commons that the Covid-19 pandemic had made it clear how deeply we depend on each other in our daily lives: “At a time of crisis, no-one is an island, no-one is self-made. The wellbeing of the wealthiest corporate chief executive officer depends on the outsourced worker cleaning their office. At times like this, we have to recognise the value of each other and the strength of a society that cares for each other and cares for all.”

Mr Corbyn praised the “unsung heroes” in the NHS, emergency services, prison and probation, schools, postal service, transport, utilities, Civil Service, local authorities, and social care who “work day and night” to keep the country running and singled out one group who are usually ignored, forgotten and decried as ‘unskilled workers:’ cleaners: “All around the country — and in this building — they are doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe.”

Mr Corbyn pressed Mr Johnson on whether measures would be taken to make sure that front-line workers are protected during the pandemic, and if testing for the virus was being prioritised. He pointed out that he had asked the PM many times over the past few weeks about plans for widespread testing and had been assured that “everything that could be done was being done.” He called for clarity on why the government had not sought to buy testing kits weeks or months ago, after a leaked email showed that Mr Johnson had only written to British laboratories on Sunday to seek help in buying testing equipment.

As Emily Apple commented: added, “In fact, even Corbyn’s normal detractors suddenly seem to realise his value”:

Boris Johnson praised the outgoing Labour leader’s sincerity and “determination to build a better society” and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said he “admired” Mr Corbyn for his “unquestionable” commitment to public service and “strong principles about how we think this country may be better governed.”

Mr Corbyn stressed that he would still be campaigning as MP for Islington North, promising: “My voice will not be stilled.”

 

 

 

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Financial Times: Jeremy Corbyn DID win the ‘battle of ideas’

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”.

 

 

 

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Emailed reflections on ‘Kings College gives discredited former PM Blair a platform’

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.

Later:

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?

And concludes:

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.

 

 

 

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Kings College gives discredited former PM Blair a platform

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.

The Blair government is responsible for most of the 1512 Private Finance Initiatives which HM Treasury listed up to 31 March 2015, a ‘toxic legacy’. 

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’.

 

 

 

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A year in the life of President Obrador – who has been compared with Jeremy Corbyn

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president

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

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.

 

 

 

Après le déluge – where does Labour go now?

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.

 

Alan Simpson

Advisor on Sustainable Economics January 2020

 

 

 

 

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Accurate or whitewash? Labour’s official report on the election result

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Corbyn’s Labour’ is already missed

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”

 

 

 

 

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Ed Sykes: Jeremy Corbyn has dedicated his life to serving the poor and vulnerable, not the Bullingdon Club, money-lenders or the kings and princes of this world

Before the general election, Ed Sykes wrote in The Canary about his support for Jeremy Corbyn – a peaceprize winner who has put people and planet at the heart of his election campaign. Ed doesn’t usually speak about his upbringing, because his identity first and foremost is as a human being who wants peace. And he believes that protecting people and the planet is key to obtaining peace.

He now feels it’s his duty as a Christian to say ‘I believe 100% that voting for Corbyn’s Labour is vital’ because he believes Corbyn’s values are about as close to the values of Christianity (and all mainstream religions) as can be found in British politics today. Like progressives of all faiths and none he has been forced to speak out and defend Corbyn because people who oppose the Labour leader have weaponised religion in an attempt to attack him. He continues:

“Corbyn is a veteran anti-racist who has not only taken firm and consistent action against racism as Labour leader but has also spent his life opposing antisemitism and other forms of discrimination. Boris Johnson and his Conservative party, meanwhile, have not. Yet elitist figures in certain religious institutions have tried to convince voters that the opposite is true. And the Church of England’s archbishop of Canterbury recently made me sick by essentially backing anti-Corbyn smears”.

One phrase from Jesus that resonates most with Sykes personally is “blessed are the peacemakers”. Coming up to Christmas, he writes, it would seem absurd for Christians not to vote for Corbyn – a man of peace who stands up for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. As leading Christian magazine Premier Christianity wrote in 2017, Corbyn is:

a man with a genuine concern for the poor and a genuine passion for peace. … He talks to his enemies, he doesn’t want to kill them. As a Christian, I see very little of that from politicians and I like it very much. … He cares about the poor… He’s dedicated his life to serving them, not the Bullingdon Club, not the money-lenders or the kings and princes of this world.

Sykes quotes Corbyn’s words and comments: “In short, it would be very easy to argue that Jesus was a socialist”:

I meet Christians and others of all faiths and none on a daily basis who share and live these ideals. People who give their time for others – whether those running food banks, protecting the vulnerable, looking after the sick, the elderly, and… our young people. That spirit of respect for each other, peace, and equality is one we can all share . . .

We hear painful stories every day, of homelessness, poverty, or crisis in our health service – or across the world, of the devastating consequences of war and conflict, including millions forced to become refugees… We need to respond to these problems head-on, through action and support for social justice, peace and reconciliation. These principles are at the heart of Christianity . . . At a time of growing conflict, that message of peace could not have more urgency throughout the world.

Jesus also loathed the corruption of religious institutions, overturning tables of money in an act of resistance. . He spoke of sharing wealth so that no one had to suffer. And that’s Corbyn’s message too. And other Christian teachings include:

  • “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.
  • “The one who has two shirts must sharewith someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same”.

Ed Sykes asserts that a vote for Corbyn should have been ‘a no-brainer’ for those who believe in principles like compassion, social justice, and peace – whether they are religious or not.

 

 

 

 

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