Category Archives: Democracy
Britain’s next Prime Minister could be a 70-year old former winner of Beard of the Year who’s become a hit with young voters. Steve Beauchampé assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances.
My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without. After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Milliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Milliband but without the geeky visage and voice.
That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second). Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.
However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).
And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alec Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters. A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.
Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.
So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister? Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.
If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.
Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!
August 5th 2015
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:
Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax
Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)
Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built
Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords
Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector
The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband
The minimum wage to apply to apprentices
Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS
Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership
Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities
Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed
Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)
Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum
An elected second chamber
On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.
Inside story: Corbyn’s campaign – the political shock of a generation
With thanks to the reader who sent this link.
Corbyn counters proposals which would mean marooned older people with lower incomes, spending more on heating
Today the Times reports that Jeremy Corbyn will reaffirm his party’s commitment to the concessionary travel scheme on his tour of marginal seats in Scotland.
The SNP has confirmed plans to raise the age at which Scots become eligible from 60 so that only those eligible for a state pension have a free pass – which is fine for those still employed . . . Ministers say it would protect the long-term viability of the scheme, which costs taxpayers £192 million a year.
Mr Corbyn plans to meet pensioners in Fife today and is expected to say: “Labour will protect pensioner incomes, by legislating to keep the triple lock, protecting the pensions of over one million Scottish pensioners . . . We’ll protect benefits like the free bus pass and the winter fuel allowance.”
An octogenarian reader who has an income slightly above the national average wage and uses only public transport, comments that her life would be adversely affected. As bus fares are so high she would limit journeys to two a week.
Millions of pensioners on lower incomes would be marooned in their locality most of the time – a locality which might or might not meet everyday needs as cuts close post offices and libraries.
How can affluent Conservative politicians (above, MP Kenneth Clarke) even contemplate such inhumane measures, whilst increasing capital gains and corporation tax relief to the affluent?
Kate Hudson observes that the outcome of the general election marks a significant shake-up in British politics and a surge in support for qualitatively different policies:
“It is clear that the narrative of investment in homes, health, education and jobs, has been very popular. In fact, it has led to Labour’s first increase in seats since 1997 and its biggest increase in the share of the vote since 1945”.
She views the election as a significant shift towards the politics of hope, peace, inclusivity, justice and equality.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s long – standing opposition to nuclear weapons, and his personal opposition to Trident replacement, did not deter millions of people from voting for him. Indeed the likelihood is that many – particularly young people – have voted for him precisely because he opposes war, intervention and weapons of mass destruction.
“Support for Trident replacement is negligible amongst the younger generation and it is clear that the narrative of investment in homes, health, education and jobs, has been very popular. In fact, it has led to Labour’s first increase in seats since 1997 and its biggest increase in the share of the vote since 1945”.
The right wing of the Labour Party, and a small but powerful section of the trade union movement, have ‘peddled the myth’ that Labour needs to look ‘strong on defence’ to win – and that this means supporting Trident replacement.
But, Kate believes, support for the party has surged because it has a radical vision of a different society, and because everyone knows that Jeremy Corbyn does not support Trident replacement. When he first became leader, he commissioned an extensive Defence Review throughout the Labour Party. That review has been shelved – because it showed the extent of anti-Trident opinion within the party?
She calls for that review to be published and debated at the next Labour Party conference: “This issue must not be kept off the agenda any longer”. There is no popular mandate for a Tory security policy, or a Tory-lite security policy pushed on the Labour party by a minority of pro-nuclear forces that are living in the past. Those trade unions that have put unreasonable pressure on Jeremy to keep Trident are urged to change:
“The way for them to secure and extend high quality, well-paid jobs is to support Jeremy’s policy on defence diversification. Rather than shunning this initiative they need to work with politicians and industry to develop a diversification plan, as part of a national industrial strategy that will secure their jobs without holding the rest of the country over a nuclear barrel”.
As she points out, there is now strong public backing for industrial planning and investment and this needs to go into sustainable industrial production to meet public needs, for energy, housing and public resources, not weapons of mass destruction.
Labour’s support has grown because of Corbyn’s policies based on peace, respect and our shared humanity. And this vision goes beyond national boundaries to his vision of how we relate to the rest of the world. No longer Blair’s ‘war-fighting nation’, ‘punching above its weight’, but a decent part of a shared community of nations.
Read her article here: http://www.cnduk.org/images/stories/Summer_2017.pdf
Kate Hudson, British political activist and academic, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
Like many others, I have read and appreciated Christian Wolmar’s input on transport issues over the years – HS2 of late. I know nothing of his political views though, and so was intrigued to come across this article a couple of days ago. The last four paragraphs of Wolmar’s thoughtful but pugnacious argument follow:
Labour’s strategy of equivocation on Brexit actually worked on polling day. Far from alienating both sides in the debate, as I had predicted, the party managed, to some extent, to attract both Leavers and Remainers. Suggesting that the benefits of the single market and customs union should be retained while leaving the EU was, however, a conjuring trick that cannot be repeated. At some stage, when Theresa May discovers that she cannot have her cake and eat it, Labour is going to have to decide whether the deal she has negotiated is acceptable or not.
But not now. At the moment, the best strategy is simply to watch the Tories tear themselves apart. This is not Labour’s problem, but theirs. They got us into this mess and therefore they must be held accountable. There is no doubt that once the eight, highly complex Brexit bills start to reach the Commons, then there will be a battle royale between the pro-European and Europhobe wings of the Tory party. It will be a great spectacle but such fights, like boxing matches, are better watched than entered into.
Ultimately, we do not know which way Labour will go. There is no doubt that Corbyn and John McDonnell are sceptical of the present structure and policies of the European Union but that does not necessarily mean they feel Britain’s future is better out of it.
Rather like Corbyn’s brilliant decision to enter the TV leadership debate at the last moment, Labour should wait to pounce until the chaos within government is so apparent that it is about to crumble. My hope is that Labour would then announce it will hold a second referendum because the implications of leaving prove to be so dire, and the advantages so nebulous. But then I have always been an optimist.
Christian Wolmar is a British journalist, author, railway historian and Labour Party politician He is known for his commentary on transport, named as Journalist of the Year in the National Transport Awards in 2007. He is also an advocate for cycling. Wolmar’s books and columns mainly analyse the current state of the British railway industry. He is a critic of rail privatisation and opposes the construction of HS2, the planned high-speed railway between London and Birmingham and further points north.
(Just added to ‘favourites’: https://twitter.com/christianwolmar. No need to sign up- anyone can read this.)
One Times reader commented: ”The Sunday Times is on a Corbyn bashathon today. “All hands to the wheel, 700 words on Jezza…” I would turn to the sports pages but I suspect there might be a sly dig at Labour lurking somewhere”.
Author Sarah Baxter’s photograph (right) adorns her article – and the headline continues (“his goons crush dissent”) by implying ‘heavies’ were menacing anyone failing to applaud. The sub-line was: “Labour moderates are put to the sword”, but she was merely rehashing recent events at the Unite Union.
New Musical Express (NME), a British music magazine, had the grace to give a straightforward account and also published the full text of the speech. Highlights were:
His words to the many young people in the audience who had been “fed up with being denigrated, fed up with being told they don’t matter. Fed up with being told they never participate, and utterly fed up with being told that their generation was going to pay more to get less in education, in health, in housing, in pensions and everything else. That they should accept low wages and insecurity, and they should see it as just part of life” . . .
“Because we’re there demanding and achieving something very different in our society and in our lives.
“There’s a number of things, they’re very simple, very basic questions that we should ask ourselves:
- Is it right that so many people in our country have no home to live in and only a street to sleep on?
- Is it right that so many people are frightened of where they live at the moment having seen the horrors of what happened at Grenfell Tower?
- Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches? No it obviously is not.
- And is it right that European nationals living in this country, making their contribution to our society, working in our hospitals, schools and universities don’t know if they’re going to be allowed to remain here?
I say, they all most stay and they all must be part of our world and part of our community, because what festivals are about, what this festival is about, is coming together.
“Do you know what? When people across the world think the same, cooperate the same, maybe in different languages, different faiths, peace is possible and must be achieved. And do you know what? Let’s stop the denigration of refugees, people looking for a place of safety in a cruel and dangerous world. They are all human beings just like us here today. They’re looking for a place of safety and looking to make their contribution to the future of all of us, so let’s support them in their hour of need. Not a threat and a danger.
“I think we should adopt a maxim in life that everyone we meet is unique. Everyone knows something we don’t know, is slightly different to us in some ways. Don’t see them as a threat. Don’t see them as the enemy. See them as a source of knowledge, a source of friendship and a source of inspiration.
“We cannot go on destroying this planet through global warming, through pollution, through the destruction of habitat, through pollution of our seas and rivers. We have to live on this planet, there is only one planet. Not even Donald Trump believes there is another planet somewhere else. And so let us protect the planet that we’ve got. Use the technology that we have to manage and control the use of our natural resources so that the planet is here in future generations in better condition than it is at the present time.
“But let’s also look at instability and problems around the world and tackle the causes of war: the greed of natural resources, human rights, the irrational imprisonment of political opponents. Let’s look to build a world of human rights, peace, justice and democracy all over the planet”.
The rightwing press called his preference for attending the music festival over celebrating Armed Forces Day a former soldier pointed out that JC was actually raising the morale of his grand-children by promising them a better future.
And as two Sunday Times journalists feebly jibed at Corbyn’s wrinkles (‘Glasto raves with ‘Jagger’ Corbyn‘, looking down on the ‘Glastonbury festival masses’ who in a ‘rabidly Jeremaniac mood’ ‘succumbed’ yesterday to a ‘frenzied outbreak of Corbynmania’, Corbyn ended:
“This festival, this wonderful festival and all of its stages and music gives that chance it that opportunity to so many young musicians, that they may achieve and inspire us all. And I’m proud to be here for that. I’m proud to be here to support the peace movement here and the way that message gets across. But I’m also very proud to be here for the environmental causes that go with it.
“Let us be together and recognise another world is possible if we come together to understand that. Understand the power we’ve got to achieve that decent, better society where everyone matters and those poverty-stricken people are enriched in their lives and the rest of us are made secure by their enrichment”.
We have to make Jeremy Corbyn electable. For many decades, public opinion towards politicians is that they are “liars, cheats and only in it for themselves.” In recent decades, one could add that “spin” and rhetoric has undermined any semblance of trust in institutions, companies, NGOs and politics.
It is a paradox, therefore, that a man who is “squeaky clean,” honest and principled, with considerable integrity, is deemed to be “unelectable.” Another criticism is “weak leadership.” This is hardly surprising when many Labour MPs (right wing, New Labour [Blairite] young, career politicians) have been deliberately (and often publicly) undermining him and the “New Agenda” since his election as leader.
In their defence, it is hard for them to adapt, having grown up in the Westminster bubble, whose philosophy and “conventional wisdom” is the market, growth and globalisation. If Labour loses badly, as the current polls predict, it will be catastrophic for the public sector e.g. education, NHS, local government services). The ferocious enemies of Corbyn (and the membership) will be responsible, in part. If they lose their seats, it will be poetic justice.
After his election at the Brighton conference, I said to Jeremy: “Do what the great philosopher Norman Stanley Fletcher (Porridge) advocates: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” He smiled and said that he wouldn’t.
I knew that he would have tough times ahead. Contrary to being weak, he has considerable strength of character withstanding the personal attacks, abuse and sneering by the Tories and even members of his own party, never, seemingly, rising to the bait and losing his temper. In many ways, his qualities would bode well on an international stage, commanding respect with diplomatic skills, in contrast to the confrontational style of Theresa May.
Honesty, integrity, principled, “squeaky clean” (scandal free), not in it for himself (least amount of expenses than all 650 MPs), strength of character. Apart from bike riding, does he have any countryside/environmental/Nature credentials? (Many young career politicians [especially in the Westminster bubble] do not seem to value the countryside and have little empathy with what older members of society value.
Instead of attacking Theresa May personally, identify the incompetent people she appointed, that surround her: e.g. Hunt, Grayling, Rudd, Hammond, Truss, Greening, who have implemented disastrous policies that have led to crises in education, NHS, prisons, courts, etc.
Vic’s primary theme is that Labour needs policies that will capture the imagination of the “Grey Vote” and meet their aspirations. It is a fact that most voters are mature people, whereas the young are unlikely to vote in any significant numbers. Thus, the Grey Vote could be a considerable factor in “The Marginals,” as these determine which party governs. The writer thinks that the evidence at rallies is that younger voters are far more supportive of JC on the whole.
Read Vic’s article in full here: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/to-win-labour-needs-the-grey-vote/
Vic Parks “Champion of the Grey Vote?”! (2017) MOB: 07890126836 email@example.com
Labour’s manifesto has been given the thumbs up by voters, a ComRes poll reveals today. It shows overwhelming support for plans to re-nationalise energy, tax the wealthiest and cap the pension age rise.
The poll also finds a clear majority do not rate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate to be Prime Minister – but deplores the PM’s promise to fox-hunters.