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Labour’s effective opposition in 2017

Steve Walker blogs:

In spite of Labour’s General Election surge and its continued polling strength – not to mention more than thirty u-turns Labour under Corbyn had already forced from the Conservatives before the election – the line persists in some quarters that Labour is not an effective opposition.

That line tends to be spouted either by those who think defeating Brexit is the only important task for the opposition – or by those who talk like it for factional purposes – ignoring the fact that Corbyn’s handling of the issue has been intelligent, nuanced and politically skilful.

So, as it’s the time of year for round-ups, here is a non-exhaustive list of sixteen u-turns that the Conservatives have been forced to make because there is an opposition party willing and able to stand for something different.

And for those who think Brexit is the only vital issue, the first three are Brexit-related:

  1. Brexit deal vote u-turn
  2. Brexit impact assessment u-turn
  3. European Court of Human Rights u-turn
  4. Dementia Tax u-turn (unprecedentedly dropped from the manifesto before the GE)
  5. Pensions triple lock u-turn
  6. Housing benefit cap for supported housing u-turn
  7. Self-employed National Insurance increase u-turn
  8. School meals cost u-turn
  9. NHS Professionals sell-off u-turn
  10. Police funding u-turn
  11. Fire safety in schools u-turn
  12. Grammar schools u-turn
  13. Abortion for Northern Irish women u-turn
  14. Winter fuel payments u-turn
  15. Universal Credit 7-day waiting period u-turn
  16. Universal Credit freephone u-turn
  17. Fox-hunting u-turn
  18. Diesel tax u-turn
  19. Manchester terror attack costs u-turn
  20. Prisoner vote u-turn

The government has been weakened by Corbyn’s Labour taking a clear, firm stand – and the Labour surge resulting from the party presenting a genuine alternative.

2017 has been a historic year for Labour and much of that can be attributed to Corbyn’s vision, leadership and his strength in standing firm against an unprecedented media onslaught – and it’s been a better year for millions of UK people as a result of Labour’s effective opposition.

 

 

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A community campaign unit to draw on the talents and experience of party members

Jeremy Corbyn has set up a “community campaign unit”, a small but growing department in his office that will focus on working with communities and groups of employees, helping them to organise and campaign on local and workplace issues.

Richard Power Sayeed, whose recently published book on the New Labour years (left) is being well-received, wonders if this will turn out to be one of the most transformative political decisions of the Labour leader’s career.

“In 2018,” Corbyn predicted in the Sunday Mirror, “we will win by organising with communities that have been held back.” Corbyn hopes this make it easier for ordinary people to engage in grassroots politics and this, he hopes, will further strengthen the left.

Sayeed adds, in the Independent, “Corbyn’s popularity gives him the authority to try again, and the plan seems at least feasible now because Labour has many more members: more than half a million, compared with the Tories’ rumoured 70,000”.

He points out that ‘the Corbynistas’ – we prefer ‘Corbynieres’ – are drawn both from trade unions and from social movements: environmentalists, students, feminists, anti-racists, disability campaigners and LGBT activists.

Though not traditional political campaigners, leafletting and knocking on doors pre-election, many have been organising in communities and work places for decades so might well work with the new unit.

Laura Pidcock, the Labour MP for North West Durham, told her Facebook followers that the unit will allow their party to have an impact on people’s lives even while it’s still in opposition:

 

“We need to get rid of this awful, destructive government, but we don’t have to wait for that to be effective locally”.

 

 

 

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Keep up the good work in 2018

 MP Chris Williamson

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And others not on the list, such as MP David Drew

 

 

 

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Time for change: junk the Anglo-Saxon model* in 2018

The FT reports that senior executives at several of the largest US banks have privately told the Trump administration they feared the prospect of a Labour victory if Britain were forced into new elections.

It then referred to a report by analysts at Morgan Stanley arguing that a Corbyn government would mark the “most significant political shift in the UK” since Margaret Thatcher’s election and may represent a “bigger risk than Brexit” to the British economy. It predicted snap elections next year, arguing that the prospect of a return to the polls “is much more scary from an equity perspective than Brexit”.

Jeremy Corbyn gave ‘a clear response’ to Morgan Stanley in a video (left) published on social media reflecting anti-Wall Street rhetoric from some mainstream politicians in the US and Europe, saying: “These are the same speculators and gamblers who crashed our economy in 2008 . . . could anyone refute the headline claim that bankers are indeed glorified gamblers playing with the fate of our nation?”

He warned global banks that operate out of the City of London that he would indeed be a “threat” to their business if he became prime minister.

He singled out Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, for particular criticism, arguing that James Gorman, its chief executive, was paying himself a salary of millions of pounds as ordinary British workers are “finding it harder to get by”.

Corbyn blamed the “greed” of the big banks and said the financial crisis they caused had led to a “crisis” in the public services: “because the Tories used the aftermath of the financial crisis to push through unnecessary and deeply damaging austerity”.

The FT points out that donors linked to Morgan Stanley had given £350,000 to the Tory party since 2006 and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, had met the bank four times, most recently in April 2017. The bank also had strong ties to New Labour: “Alistair Darling, a Labour chancellor until 2010, has served on the bank’s board since 2015. Jeremy Heywood, head of Britain’s civil service, was a managing director at Morgan Stanley, including as co-head of UK investment banking, before returning to public service in 2007”.

A step forward?

In a December article the FT pointed out that the UK lacks the kind of community banks or Sparkassen that are the bedrock of small business lending in many other countries adding: “When Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, calls for a network of regional banks, he is calling attention to a real issue”. And an FT reader commented, “The single most important ethos change required is this: publish everyone’s tax returns”:

  • In Norway, you can walk into your local library or central council office and see how much tax your boss paid, how much tax your councillor paid, how much tax your politician paid.
  • This means major tax avoidance, complex schemes, major offshoring, etc, is almost impossible, because it combines morality and social morals with ethics and taxation.
  • We need to minimise this offshoring and tax avoidance; but the people in control of the information media flow, plus the politicians, rely on exactly these methods to increase their cash reserves.

But first give hope to many by electing a truly social democratic party.

Is the rainbow suggesting a new party logo?

*the Anglo-Saxon model

 

 

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Participatory politics: what will the 1922 Committee decide at the Conservative Convention, March 2018?

As Gary Younge wrote:

“Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.

Though title-trouncing Labour’s ‘hard left’ whom the Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’ she does at least present the truly democratic approach actually being taken:

“A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘Labour members select their candidates by democratic processes as laid out in the rule book. We do not comment on individual selections.’ A spokesman for Momentum told The Times: ‘We think it’s fantastic that hundreds of thousands of people new to politics have felt so inspired that they’ve joined the Labour Party. We should trust local members to be the best judge of who should represent their community”.

Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join, all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.

David Hencke reports that on November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.

The document was sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May). The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:

  • rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
  • limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
  • scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
  • use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.

Will final approval be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?

If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.

 

 

 

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A government led by Jeremy Corbyn? Senior economist Dean Turner reflects

Earlier this month, the FT noted that – as the latest national opinion polls show Labour eight points ahead of the Conservatives (though Yougov shows a far closer score) – some investors and business leaders are increasingly worried about the prospect of a leftwing UK government overturning decades of economic orthodoxy.

One of these, Ajit Nedungadi, a managing partner at TA Associates, a Massachusetts-based private equity group said. “Corbyn will be bad news for the industry. It’s black and white. There is no question. How can it be good news?”

Not everyone in the financial community views a Corbyn government in such grave terms.

Dean Turner, an economist in the UK investment office at UBS Wealth Management, believes investors have exaggerated the threat posed by Mr Corbyn, saying a government led by the Labour leader would not turn Britain into “Venezuela overnight”.

“Taxation as a share of gross domestic product would be at 1985 levels, and spending as a share of GDP at 1984 levels,”

After agreeing that it would be a “dramatic shift from where we have been for the last 30 years”, Mr Turner pointed out that many of Mr Corbyn’s policy proposals, such as renationalisation of the railways, would be seen as mainstream in other EU countries.

He also said that Mr Corbyn’s pledge to reverse cuts in corporation tax — raising the headline corporation tax rate from 19 to 26 per cent — was also relatively conventional.

Even under Mr Corbyn’s plan, for example, the UK would still have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7.

Mr Turner also dismissed speculation about a run on the pound and the imposition of capital controls, even after Mr McDonnell said that Labour would have to prepare for both possibilities. “If we do see a weaker pound, the change would be gradual,” Mr Turner said.

“I doubt we would see the kind of falls we saw post-Brexit vote.”

 

 

 

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Request to sign John McDonnell’s letter

 Go to https://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/childrens-campaign

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn award: BBC & MSM can no longer suppress news at will

Many are celebrating Jeremy Corbyn’s landmark award from the International Peace Bureau, the Campaign for World Democracy and the city of Geneva. It was Corbyn’s second major international award for peace (he received a Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award in 2013). He received it jointly with world-renowned philosopher, author and political activist Noam Chomsky.

Steve Walker asked how the BBC, as public service broadcaster, could have failed to report that the leader of the UK’s official opposition and holder of an 8-point voting intention poll lead over the government has received an international peace award – alongside one of the world’s foremost philosophers and authors?

His search found no MSM result and another undertaken by the writer 15 minutes ago found many social media entries but only one, and a very sour one at that, referring to another occasion, which ‘slammed’ Corbyn for congratulating ICAN for the Nobel Peace Award: SNP MP Ian Blackford asking “where was Labour when the SNP were left to lead the charge against the renewal of trident last year” even though Jeremy Corbyn with 47 other Labour MPs voted against renewal.

As Walker reflects “Hard to argue that (Corbyn’s peace award) is not worth at least a mention in some corner of the BBC News website”.

 

 

 

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Non-Corbynite Labour member exposes Haringey ‘takeover’ smears

The SKWAWKBOX

Haringey Labour has been the subject of nonsensical media smears because local members want council candidates who will represent their opposition to a damaging sell-off of social housing planned by the incumbent council leader and her supporters on the council.

haringey croppedA local Labour member – who is not a Corbyn supporter – asked the SKWAWKBOX to share her story, because she is so frustrated by the smear campaign. Understandably, given the readiness of deposed councillors and their supporters to smear, her identity is withheld by request.

What is really happening in Haringey

As an ordinary Labour party member in Haringey I wanted to write this to explain what is really going on. Unlike some, I do not have access to mainstream media, I am just someone who joined the Labour party in the 90s to fight for a Labour government as the Tories were destroying the mining town I grew…

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Jeremy Corbyn to receive the MacBride Peace Prize in Geneva

 

 

 

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