Category Archives: Brexit

“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.

.

Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.

In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.

But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.

The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.

The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.

He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.

OBR: damned with faint praise?

  • The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
  • The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
  • One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
  • Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.

Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:

Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.

It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.

And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

Jeremy Corbyn has made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory

o

The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

With a general election possibly on the horizon, the Establishment propaganda assault on Jeremy has already started. Odious right-wing propaganda sheets have been noticeably upping their anti-Corbyn smear-ridden stories over recent days and weeks. The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

Over the months we have repeatedly witnessed Jeremy’s extraordinary will and courage being tested in the most extreme of ways — and we are hard-pressed to think of any present-day politician who would have been able to withstand the ferocious onslaught that the Establishment has unloaded on to him — and continues to, as we write.

Let’s be clear: Jeremy would be the first to admit — I’m sure with characteristic modesty — that he’s not a perfect party leader

But the very idea of a “perfect” leader always was a fiction and every mortal human being will have weaknesses.

This allegedly “weak” leader has inspired a huge, unprecedented surge of new party members (who else could conceivably have brought hundreds of thousands of new members into the party? — Chuka Umunna; Dan Jarvis; David Miliband?); forced embarrassing U-turns from an arrogant, uncaring government; shifted the political centre of gravity in Britain significantly to the progressive left; brought morality, fairness and peace into previously moribund political narratives; performed very well in local elections before the putsch last summer by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) elite; has consistently out-performed Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks; has had the courage to take a nuanced, thoughtful view of Brexit — rather than adopting a tabloid-esque, grandstanding “pro” or “anti” position — and has remained dignified and calm in the face of daily vituperative attacks from the media, the entire Establishment and even his own party.

Rather than using any weaknesses Jeremy might have to criticise him from the left, everyone around him should be doing everything possible to complement the brilliant and unique qualities that he does possess.

He has been bullied, betrayed and ridiculed, and yet he carries on with the same grace and care he always shows to others — however objectionable their behaviour and treatment of him might be. The genuinely warm send-off Jeremy recently gave to resigner and serial Corbyn-critic Tristram Hunt is a case in point.

We also know no other politician in this country who possesses the maturity and dignity to have walked out of the unprecedented PLP meeting of June 27 last year with all its scarcely believable bully-boy nastiness directed viciously at him and to immediately urge his many thousands of supporters in Parliament Square to act respectfully, even to those we disagree with.

In the months and years to come, it is our strong conviction that it will increasingly dawn on more and more people that in Jeremy we’re looking at a deeply powerful and courageous human being.

No other Labour leader would have had the strength to withstand the relentless assault that Jeremy has had to endure from all quarters since he became party leader. Nobody else in the PLP could have rescued the Labour Party from the jaws of neoliberalism as Jeremy has; and his proud place in our class’s history is already assured for having made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory.

This post interlards a letter by Richard House with paragraphs – purple font – from an article by Richard and Skeena Rathor

 

 

 

0

 

 

Highlights from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Make UK (manufacturers) conference at the EEF

Full text here: Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Make UK conference (EEF Feb. 19)

 

Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, is the representative voice of UK manufacturing, with offices in London, Brussels, every English region and Wales

Edited extracts:

Manufacturing is the beating heart of our economy. For those employed in the sector, manufacturing doesn’t just offer a good job that pays well, it offers creative and satisfying work. But manufacturing needs the right environment to flourish: high quality infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and open and stable trading relationships.

A government prepared to invest in our economy and pursue an active industrial strategy could bring about a renaissance in manufacturing. The next Labour government will start with infrastructure. Our dilapidated transport, communications, and energy infrastructure is desperately in need of an upgrade.

Labour will unleash a massive programme of investment with a National Transformation Fund delivering £250 billion of direct capital expenditure on infrastructure and R&D, benefitting every region and nation of our country, not just London and the South East.

And we will establish a National Investment Bank to make available a further £250 billion over 10 years in the form of patient capital lent to small and medium-sized enterprises in line with the priorities of our industrial strategy, providing funding for green industries and the technologies of the future.

How can we mobilise industry to help avert the destruction of our climate?

Let me give you an example of the change we need. To avoid climate catastrophe we have to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2050 at the latest. That’s not going to happen by itself. It requires large-scale public investment into renewable energy and home insulation, which will in turn create new opportunities for private enterprise.

This is not a burden. It’s an opportunity to kick-start a Green Jobs Revolution.

Labour’s plans will create at least 400,000 skilled, unionised jobs and bring about a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, double onshore wind, and triple solar power. These new manufacturing and engineering jobs will bring skills and opportunity to parts of the country that have been held back by decades of neglect.

Technology and manufacturing don’t have to be a threat to the environment. Our responsibility is to develop the next generation of technology that will help us preserve our natural world.

Labour is committed to investing on a scale that will transform our economy. Those policies won huge public support at the general election 18 months ago. I’m disappointed that a small number of MPs yesterday decided to take a different path.

But university fees, the scrapping of grants, and cuts to training have made education less accessible just when we need a highly skilled workforce more than ever. So today I am proud to announce the appointment of our Commission on Lifelong Learning to help make the principle of lifelong learning a reality.

The Commission will bring together 14 experts from across education – top names in their fields – including Make UK’s very own Chief Economist Seamus Nevin. It is co-chaired by the former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, and the General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Dave Ward. Lifelong learning will be available to everyone no matter their background. It will make detailed proposals on how to integrate qualifications, introduce a credits system to make qualifications transferable and make it as easy as possible for people to pick up or pause their studies at times that work for them. Under a Labour government workers will never again be left feeling discarded because there will be an industrial strategy creating good, well-paid jobs and training to help workers learn new skills.

I strongly believe there should be genuine parity between vocational education and academic education.

We have to end the outdated grammar school mentality of looking down on someone who does a vocational course and looking up to someone who does an academic course. I see the skills of electrical work of computer work of design work learned through vocational courses as just as valuable as academic courses taken at university. We need all of those skills in our society. In Germany, where they really value engineering, they say: “You’re a clever kid – get down the metal workshop.’’

We ask employers to step up to invest in their workforce too.

Last week I visited the gear manufacturer Beard and Fitch in Harlow, and met Carol, a supervisor who is partially sighted. She was doing the final checking and polishing of the gears, and she had been provided with big screens to help her do her work. That’s a sensible employer who has made an investment in someone who was very good at her job. And it was paying off.

Brexit

Earlier this month I wrote to the Prime Minister laying out Labour’s alternative plan based around a permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals, a strong relationship with the single market and full guarantees on workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections. Later this week I will travel to Brussels to discuss it with Michel Barnier and others. Labour has consistently advocated a comprehensive UK-EU customs union to deliver frictionless trade and protect supply chains that stretch across the continent. Disrupting those supply chains would threaten good businesses and skilled jobs that we can’t afford to lose.

Concerns about a ‘no deal’ crash go well beyond the car industry. Take food and drink, which is actually the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It needs frictionless trade for perishable goods, where time is of the essence. Or steel. Half the steel we produce is exported most of it to the EU. A disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean trade restrictions on virtually all steel companies’ export markets. And while the big household names get all the media attention, it’s the small and medium-sized manufacturers who will find it most burdensome to adjust to new customs arrangements.

Brexit has crystallised a choice about the kind of economy we want. On the one hand, the harsh economic environment fostered by the Conservatives: low investment, low productivity, low growth and a damaging trade deal with Donald Trump. On the other, Labour’s investment-led approach, underpinned by a close relationship with our European neighbours, in a rebalanced economy that no longer privileges those who lend and speculate over those who make things.

These are anxious times for manufacturers. But the future doesn’t have to be one of decline. With a government that believes in and supports industry, manufacturing will be the engine of innovation in the green economy of the future. Infrastructure, skills, certainty. That’s what manufacturing needs. That’s what only Labour will deliver.

 

 

 

 

o

Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit Speech in Wakefield: 10.01.19

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBUjjbjyEpE

Transcript

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, delivering a speech on Brexit in Wakefield, said:

It’s a pleasure to be here in Wakefield and thank you to OE Electrics for kindly hosting us.

We are now two and a half years on from the EU referendum and we are finally reaching the moment when the House of Commons will have its say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

In those two and a half years many of the most pressing problems facing people in their daily lives, here in Yorkshire and across the country, have been ignored or relegated to the back of the queue by a Conservative Party consumed by its own internal battles over Brexit.

Years of Tory failure have left our society more divided than ever: Poverty is growing, homelessness is up, personal debt is rising and crime is up too.

The truth is, the real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes.

The Conservative Party’s main concern, as ever is to protect the interests of the few and is prepared to set everybody else against each other divide and rule style to stay in power. That’s why at every turn during the Brexit negotiations the Prime Minister has acted in ways that have exacerbated division.

In fact her only success in bringing people together has been to unite both people who voted leave and those who voted remain against her botched and damaging deal.

Now she is facing the inevitable consequence of that failure, defeat in the House of Commons. Let there be no doubt. Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal for our country and Labour will vote against it next week in Parliament.

And remember, the only reason Parliament is having what has become known as the meaningful vote is because Labour secured that concession from the government.

I would like to pay tribute to Keir Starmer and his team for all their hard work throughout this process.

If the government cannot pass its most important legislation then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity. A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons is no government at all. It has lost its mandate so must go to the country to seek another.

And the government defeat on Tuesday, after the amendment put down by Yvette Cooper was passed, is the first time a government has been defeated on a Finance Bill since 1978.

So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal then call that election and let the people decide. If not, Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success.

Clearly, Labour does not have enough MPs in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own. So members across the House should vote with us to break the deadlock. This paralysis cannot continue. Uncertainty is putting people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk.

And if a general election cannot be secured then we will keep all options on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote.

But an election must be the priority. It is not only the most practical option, it is also the most democratic option. It could give the winning party a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in Parliament and across the country.

Defeat for the government’s central policy on Tuesday would be historic. It would not only signal the failure of Theresa May’s premiership but the failure of the Conservative Party as a party of government.

This is after all a party that for decades claimed to be the natural party of government. A safe bet for the country. Now we see the reality. They don’t know what they’re doing. They have led us from chaos to crisis. And they have no answers or legislation to fix the many crises of their own making whether it’s the cost of living, housing, personal debt, escalating inequality, rising crime or collapsing public services.

But there are solutions to these crises and Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal is not “the only deal possible. ”It is a deal that reflects the kind of country that the Tories want to create. It should be no surprise that this Tory deal allows workers’ rights and environmental protections to fall behind minimum European basic standards. The government boasts that this will give the UK “flexibility”.

But flexibility for whom?

  • Flexibility for employers to exploit workers.
  • Flexibility for big corporations to pollute our environment.
  • Flexibility for multinational giants to undercut our neighbours and drive down standards everywhere.

Meanwhile Theresa May’s refusal to countenance negotiating a new customs union is based on the Tory dream of a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump which could deliver chlorinated chicken to our dinner tables and open up our NHS to giant profit-seeking American healthcare corporations.

Labour has very different priorities because we represent the interests of the many, not the few.

We have given voice to policies that command majority public support but which the political class has long refused to endorse such as fair taxation and new forms of public ownership.

When Labour goes into government we will support new high tech industries that will provide high wage secure jobs. And we will bring real investment and prosperity to areas such as Yorkshire and the Midlands, to Scotland and Wales which for too long have been held back by successive governments.

And so the alternative plan that Labour has set out for a sensible Brexit deal that could win broad support is designed to enable us to fulfil those ambitions while respecting the democratic result of the referendum.

Any political leader who wants to bring the country together cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave, any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.

I know people are genuinely scared by the prospect of no deal. I meet people who are frightened and going through real stress.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the EU nationals who have enriched our society and made such a fantastic contribution to our industries and services. With Labour your future here is secure.

And I know many people were appalled at the bigotry and racism that some politicians stoked during the referendum campaign and are still trying to exploit out of the small number of desperate refugees risking their lives to cross the English Channel.

Let’s never forget that whatever circumstances people are living in whether in tents camps or trying to survive on dangerous dinghies, everyone is a human being and we must reach out the hand of humanity in all circumstances.

And that is exactly what Labour’s Home team does, led so well by Diane Abbott.

People want to live in a country that’s tolerant, that’s diverse, that’s open. We won’t let that openness, that generosity be crushed. Let’s not lower our horizons, let’s raise them up.

I also know that in many places like Wakefield, people feel they’ve been ignored. They lost industries and no one seemed to care. They’ve been robbed of their future by a lack of investment.

These are proud, generous communities that pull together and support each other. Communities that have real pride in their towns, in their cities, in their regions, but they know they could be so much more. I understand that many of them wanted to send the politicians a message in the referendum and I hear them. Labour is the party of the working class and we’ll stand up for you.

That’s why our alternative plan prioritises jobs growth and rights.

That is why we have called for a new customs union with a British say in future trade deals; a strong single market relationship; and a guarantee to keep pace with EU rights and standards.

Combined with the election of a radical Labour government our alternative plan will allow us to make the fundamental changes that are so badly needed in our country, while respecting those who voted both leave and remain.

Why is a customs union necessary?

It’s because a new customs union and a radical Labour government with an active industrial strategy will allow a renaissance in our manufacturing sector, which will create good, secure jobs and help restore pride and prosperity to parts of our country that have been ignored for too long.

Why do we need a strong relationship with the single market?

It’s because frictionless trade and a radical Labour government with a plan to invest in every region and nation of our country, will give us the chance to kick-start real growth in our economy, allowing the wealth created by this country’s workforce to be shared more fairly.

Finally, why are we absolutely insistent on at least keeping pace with EU rights at work environmental standards and consumer protections?

It’s because with those guarantees and a radical Labour government that stands up for people against powerful vested interests, we can give workers and consumers more control over their lives.

The alternative deal Labour has proposed is practical and achievable, and clearly has the potential to command majority support in parliament.

But it is not an end in itself. The task of the Labour party and the Labour movement is the long-overdue transformation of our country.

We will bring people together by addressing the deep-seated and common problems across our country and fulfilling the aspirations that led people to vote both leave or remain.

I would put it like this: if you’re living in Tottenham you may well have voted to Remain.

You’ve got high bills rising debts. You’re in insecure work. You struggle to make your wages stretch and you may be on universal credit, and forced to access food banks.

You’re up against it.

If you’re living in Mansfield, you are more likely to have voted to Leave.

You’ve got high bills, rising debts, you’re in insecure work, you struggle to make your wages stretch and you may be on universal credit and forced to access food banks.

You’re up against it.

But you’re not against each other.

People across the country, whether they voted Leave or Remain know that the system isn’t working for them.

Some see the EU as a defence against insecurity and hostility. Others see the EU as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place.

But it’s the failed system rigged against the many to protect the interests of the few that is the real cause of inequality and insecurity whether it’s in Tottenham or Mansfield.

And, the real solution is to transform Britain to work in the interests of the vast majority by challenging the entrenched power of a privileged elite.

That is how we can help to overcome our country’s divisions.

Because for both sides the EU referendum was about much more than our relationship with our biggest trading partner and its rules. It was about what has happened to our people over decades and how to build a better future.

The Conservatives are never going to tackle the burning injustices in our country or act to overcome the deep and growing inequalities. They are incapable of leading us out of a crisis they created.

Britain deserves a government that can govern. The need for a government with a clear purpose and direction for the country could not be more urgent. A general election is the right answer and the best way to break the deadlock.

Labour is ready to bring Leave and Remain voters together to rebuild Britain for the many not the few.

 

 

 

o

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Williams: “Will Labour help to form a national government?”

.

On July 10, the FT reported that Theresa May might be left “with no choice other than to apply to extend the Article 50 exit process while she holds a general election to try to break the [Brexit] impasse”.

Michael Williams (politics, history) commented: “There is another way, which would depend on the response of the other political parties, above all Labour”. He recalls:

“In 1940, at a moment of supreme national peril, the Labour party took the decision to allow its leaders Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood to sit down around the cabinet table with the leaders of the Conservative party to face the challenge from Hitler.

“Five years later in 1945, after showing its mettle in running the Home Front during the war, Labour gained its reward with a landslide victory in the general election that allowed it to transform the country.

Today, at another moment of national peril, a similar opportunity beckons — to help form a national government to resolve Britain’s relations with the EU”. And ends:

“Will Labour earn the gratitude of the nation by seizing this new opportunity like its predecessors did in 1940?”

 

 

 

 

o

Jeremy Corbyn, a reluctant tribute: “only a decisive Labour intervention can set the country right”

Kevin Pringle, former strategic communications director for the SNP, opens his latest Times article:

“Here are words I never thought I’d write: Jeremy Corbyn could save the country. But only if he wants to.

“Brexit is an Anglo-Saxon farce, revealing a depth of incompetence, division and utter lack of preparedness on the part of the UK government that has plumbed even my low expectations. The antics of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis are about as funny as a Carry On film long after the franchise went stale. The issues at stake are too serious”.

Pringle continues with a summary of recent cabinet discussions and warnings from big business of the risks of relocation, withdrawal of investment and job losses.

He describes the prospect of Britain’s alignment to EU regulations in some sectors as a ludicrous mishmash that should be unacceptable to remainers and leavers alike – a ‘dud destination’, adding:

“Corbyn needs to take a long view of the country’s best interests and act accordingly. He should commit Labour to backing a fresh referendum so that people have an opportunity to exit Brexit when its final form is known. In these circumstances, the SNP would come on board alongside the Lib Dems and others. Such a bold move could attract the relatively small number of Tory MPs needed to deliver a House of Commons majority for a people’s vote.

“I’m no fan of Labour but I recognise that in times of need it has been the agent of Britain’s deliverance.

“One of the best-ever Commons speeches was by Michael Foot at the end of the no-confidence debate in March 1979, which the Labour government lost by a single vote. Foot argued that Labour had “come to the rescue of the country” on at least two occasions: “It is in the most difficult and painful moments of our history sometimes that this country of ours has turned to the Labour Party for salvation, and they’ve never turned in vain so far. We saved the country in 1940; we saved the country again in 1945.”

“He was right.

“It was Labour that forced a vote in the House of Commons in May 1940 after the debate on the military fiasco of the Norway campaign. The result precipitated the fall of Chamberlain as prime minister, and creation of the wartime coalition under Churchill’s leadership that was an essential element of victory.

“And in 1945, Clement Attlee’s Labour Party had the ideas and determination to rebuild an exhausted Britain, including creating the NHS 70 years ago.

“This is another historic moment, and once again only a decisive Labour intervention can set the country right”.

 

 

 

o

 

Negotiating priorities that retain the benefits of the single market and the customs union

Sienna Rodgers writes about the new amendment Labour has tabled to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill and Trade Bill, and as an amendment ‘in lieu’ of the European Economic Area amendment passed by the Lords, calling for “full access” to the EU’s internal market.

Tabled as a new clause Labour’s proposal would make “full access” to the single market a negotiating objective of the government.

It is not a change of direction but a clarification of Jeremy Corbyn’s Coventry University speech (February). In this he revealed that the party would back membership of a customs union. He also said: “Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.”

Labour’s amendments specify:

  • full access to the EU single market,
  • common minimum standards, rights and protections,
  • shared institutions with the EU
  • and no new impediments to trade.

The Labour leadership maintains that joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – advocated by some Labour MPs – would make the UK a ‘rule-taker not a rule-maker’. These new amendments are designed to replace the EEA amendment passed by the Lords and the Labour leadership will whip MPs to abstain when it comes to the Commons on Tuesday.

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, called Labour’s new amendment “a very strong and significant statement of policy” and said it was “essentially tying together the single market and customs union as a strong economic package, which I think will be welcomed by businesses and trade unions”.

 

 

 

o

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Northern Ireland speech: May 24th 2018

The full text may be read here. Some points made follow:

Twenty years ago, this week, the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to accept the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. That vote changed the course of history on this island and represented the clearing of the final hurdle of a long and difficult process that opened the door to two decades of sustained peace.

Many young people across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain do not remember a time when the bloody hand of conflict held a grip on our respective lands. Communities from Derry to Omagh to Warrington were afflicted by the plague of violence for a generation, leaving deep and long-lasting scars for all those who lived through those troubled times.

All too often in that period, the willingness to use force and reach for weapons instead of dialogue and diplomacy inflicted unnecessary suffering on innocent people.

So as we rightly celebrate the anniversary of the end to those years of violence, it’s important we remember the effort and determination it took on all sides to get where we are today.

I stand here as leader of the British Labour Party, a party that is proud of the part it played in helping to bring peace and stability to this region. Something many believed could never be achieved.

The transformation we have seen in Belfast alone since 1998 is remarkable. I visited this city long before today’s peace became a reality and have witnessed the very visible and cultural transformation that has taken place here.

After paying tribute to Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, men who led the Republican movement from conflict to negotiation and diplomacy, arts they both mastered in the cause of peace, Corbyn added: “I can’t think of a greater sign of the progress made over the last two decades, when at Martin’s funeral last year, not only were there people in attendance from republican and nationalist communities, but also representatives of the loyalist and unionist side, including First Minister Arlene Foster. It is also right to recognise the work of the British and Irish government leaders of the time, whose determination made the impossible possible. For that, both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair should both be given credit for their work.”

He also extolled the work of Mo Mowlam in negotiating the peace process, continuing: “I have always believed that to bring about real change, to end conflict, to bring communities together, you have to talk to people with whom you don’t agree. In 1998 we were fortunate to have leaders who were prepared to put that principle into practice . . .

“It was essential we recognised the traditions of each community and recognised and respected the identity of people on either side of the divide. This was and still is important for strong and healthy long-term relationships here, across communities and across borders. Perhaps where the agreement was at it boldest was in its radical reform of Northern Ireland’s political and institutional structures, as well as in creating a framework for North-South relations, and the relationship between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. That gave all parties a basis to find a route out of a generation of conflict together.

“For all the current problems and deadlock, there can be no doubt that devolution and power-sharing have given every community a voice and helped maintain the peace process.

He added that the move to establish the Northern Ireland Victims Commission helped both to promote reconciliation and preserve the memory of victims, bringing a new beginning and laying the ground for the vital work of decommissioning of arms and the removal of military infrastructure.

Looking at Stormont’s achievements, Corbyn noted that it had resisted many of the worst aspects of the government’s punitive social security policies using the powers provided by devolution.

His message to the people of this island: “Labour is as committed to the Good Friday Agreement as we have ever been. It has served us well for twenty years and, with commitment and determination, will provide us with the framework for the next 20. And with that in mind I want to make a plea to all parties and all sides. We must do all we can to make power sharing work again in Stormont. We need all sides to come together and make devolution work again. That means tough choices. It means compromise and give and take. But we owe it to the people of these islands not to allow political disagreements to open the way for any return to the grim days of the past”.

Stormont must be an example throughout the world of how dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy can defeat conflict. Now let’s show we can continue to build on that peace through democracy.

He called on the UK government to reconvene the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference if the current stalemate in Stormont cannot be sorted out in Belfast and to find a creative solution in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement that avoids a return to direct Westminster rule, and lays the ground for further progress for all communities.

Peace can and must be extended through real social and economic advances for all communities, with the state at regional and national level prepared to act to bring about a full-scale upgrade of the economy.

A Labour government in Westminster would make sure that Northern Ireland has more money to invest in its people and its public services, though many economic decisions for Northern Ireland would rightly be decided in Stormont,

He gave a commitment to supporting manufacturing in Northern Ireland and to reverse the decision to put the £1 billion contract to build the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships out to international tender, in order to keep jobs and prosperity in Britain’s shipyards and benefit Belfast. Northern Ireland can have a high tech, high skilled and exciting future.

Brexit, and the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland must be discussed, in particular the securing of future prosperity and peace on these islands:

“Labour will not support any Brexit deal that includes the return of a hard border to this island . . . By negotiating a new and comprehensive customs union with the EU, which includes a British say in future trade deals, we can ensure trade on this island stays frictionless and free flowing and prevent communities being divided . . . Opposition to the idea of bringing back a hard border to this land isn’t just about avoiding paperwork or tariffs, important though that is. It’s about deep rooted cultural and community ties. An open border is a symbol of peace, two communities living and working together after years of conflict, communities who no longer feel that their traditions are under threat”.

He emphasised that, as we leave the European Union, it is essential to ensure our manufacturers have access to markets and on-time supply chains and the communities of Northern Ireland continue to have access to vital funding for energy, research, agriculture and cultural projects.

Powers returned from Brussels to intervene, upgrade and reshape our economy for the 21st century may be used to deliver real social and economic advances for all our communities.

He ended:

I’m proud to be here in Belfast as leader of the Labour party, a party with a strong record in helping to deliver peace and greater prosperity. I hope to use this visit to talk to people from different communities and listen to their concerns and hopes for the future. We are here to celebrate twenty years of peace, twenty years as an example to the rest of the world of how communities can turn conflict into co-operation.

Let’s work together in the spirit of friendship, co-operation and hope for another twenty and beyond.

 

 

 

o

Paul Mason predicts that that Labour will govern under Corbyn

 

In June 2016, Mason (below left)  wrote in The Guardian “One thing I do know: Corbyn is incapable of lying to the British people; he is inured to elite politics; he didn’t spend his entire life in a Machiavellian project to gain power and an invitation to Oleg Deripaska‘s yacht. That’s why I voted for him and will do so again if you trigger a leadership vote.”

In a recent New Statesman article, summarised below, he sees the ongoing delegitimisation campaign as preparation for a destabilisation campaign in that eventuality:

“Wave after wave of smears are unleashed against Jeremy Corbyn – even if you accept, as I do, that he is an imperfect politician and that Labour has specific challenges with anti-Semitism, which it has handled badly . . . It is impossible to pick up a newspaper, or listen to a phone-in, without hearing some person earning six figures say the left is the main enemy of decent people and should be debarred from governing Britain until it becomes more like the right”.

He names some of the British establishment ‘players’ in each round of ‘anti-Corbyn mania’:

  • the Guido Fawkes website;
  • the Murdoch newspapers
  • senior decision-makers inside BBC News

Wannabe establishment Labour MPs – 30 or so – cannot reconcile themselves to the idea of a socialist party that fights for socialism.

Mason continues: “From the right-wing of the PLP, through to the golf clubs of Tory-shire and the chatrooms of the alt-right, a shared mythology is being created. It says: Corbyn is too dangerous to run Britain, Labour cannot be allowed to govern with him in charge; better that it loses and loses badly; better that something is done to stop him. For the Blairite MPs it’s the same game as in May 2017: diss the leader, lose the election, normal service in the interests of neoliberalism will shortly be resumed”.

He sees a riven party, with a dysfunctional head office . . . from compliance issues to the mechanisms for selecting candidates, there is a culture of horse-trading which must be stopped..

“The Tory party has been bought and sold to the Saudi monarchy and the Russian oligarchy, and when Corbyn comes to power, that sordid menage will be cleaned up”.

To avoid this, during the next election campaign there will be the overt use of tactics used covertly in the Brexit campaign: “the full Monty of digital dirty tricks. For companies that specialise in rigging elections and destabilising governments, there will be a queue of clients”.

He ends: “So Labour needs a step change on three fronts”: 

First, streamline the internal discipline

As it expanded, Labour began to attract people for whom the concept of being “left” was bound up – as has been pointed out by other contributors – with anti-imperialism and anti-elitism, rather than a coherent positive vision of socialism. Mason  stresses that we need to educate people in how to express differences respectfully; build a culture where people are educated in the values of the Labour movement: “If, amidst rising xenophobia and intolerance, an organisation – half a million-strong – is prepared to go out on rainy Saturdays and set up stalls arguing for migrants’ rights, or more generous welfare benefits, risking the ridicule of Guido Fawkes and Breitbart – what would be the logic of trying to smash it?”

Second, spread the load

There are numerous highly-talented centrist politicians sitting on Labour’s backbenches who could and should be in the shadow cabinet. Give them big positions and create a resilient alliance of necessity between the left and centre of the party, isolating the Blairite rump. Demand excellence from shadow cabinet members and replace those who can’t deliver it, regardless of past allegiances and reputations. That is Corbyn’s job.

Third, build a vibrant political culture

. . . where people are educated in the values of the Labour movement and its diverse traditions, not just given a manifesto, a rulebook and a list of doors to knock:

“We need a movement that helps people develop a belief in their own agency – not the agency of states, religions, autocrats or, for that matter, iconic Labour leaders. That part is up to us”.

 

 

 

o

Another Europe is Possible

o

Another Europe is Possible campaigned for a radical ‘in’ vote – building a community that is pro-EU even while it works towards building a stronger, reformed union that can bring about the radical social change our citizens need in the UK and across Europe. It sees Brexit as a crisis for Britain – an attack on rights and freedoms, and a potentially calamitous brake on our prosperity. But too often this debate is conducted in a language of fear.

That’s why it has released a new campaign of hope set out in a new report – The Corbyn moment and European socialism.

It was written by Mary Kaldor, Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, Luke Cooper, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Anglia Ruskin University, John Palmer, former European Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Political Director of the European Policy Centre and Niccolo Milanese, Director of European Alternatives.

It takes a fresh look at the critical role that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could play in transforming Europe’s politics, working from within the EU. You can read it in full here, and order paper copies by emailing info@anothereurope.org

The report makes the case that institutions such as the EU are essential to pushing forward radical and progressive change. A Corbyn-led Labour government could be instrumental to: 

* Taxing multinationals, including harmonising corporation tax rules and clamping down on tax avoidance.

* Regulating banks, including with a new financial transaction tax

* Protecting migrant workers’ rights and strengthening trade unions

* Digital Rights, where Labour has already played a leading role in the global debate

* Climate change, using its weight shift EU institutions and overcome big business lobbies

* Addressing global conflicts, prioritising the security of people, rather than the interests of states, on a humanitarian basis

* Ending fortress Europe, by radically altering the discourse, opening up legal routes for entry, and treating the refugee crisis as a humanitarian issue, not a security one

* Reforming the Eurozone, by playing a supportive role and example for progressive anti-austerity parties inside it

The message ends: Jeremy Corbyn has transformed British politics – and if you think he’s good for Britain, he’d be even better news for the EU, if we stay in it.

See this inspiring video with an interesting reference to Portugal, said to be flourishing under a government which has rejected austerity and used taxes to invest.

 

 

 

o