Category Archives: Democracy
Common Wealth was formed when the 1941 Committee, launched by J.B. Priestley, merged with Forward March (formerly Our Struggle) formed in 1940 and named after the book of that name by Sir Richard Acland. Our Struggle proclaimed:
We are fighting to get a better world, and we will NOT go back to the old world we knew after the last war . . . to the world of unemployment queues . . . the world in which from birth to death “the rich” and “the poor” lead utterly different lives. The little group of men who happen to have got to the top shall not be allowed to keep things all in their own hands, to shut us out of any control over our own lives, and to preserve scarcity in their own interests when we could produce plenty in the interests of all.
Common Wealth’s membership ranged from soldiers fighting in the trenches to many well-known academics, politicians and writers (listed in this document which also published its fine Declaration of aims)
Their slogan was “Common Wealth asks not WILL IT PAY but IS IT RIGHT?”
Many events and combinations included interaction with Fenner Brockway, the National Peace Council, the international Congress of Peoples against Imperialism, the Netherlands Third Way peace movement: De Derde Weg, CND and the Committee of 100. The text records
- strong links with some Chinese groups,
- effective opposition and frequent silencing of Oswald Mosley’s fascists and
- picketing of the Savoy Hotel which was then making very low-paid people work in squalid conditions.
Though Common Wealth confined itself in later years to political education, for several years it was involved with electoral politics.
Members of Parliament
Richard Acland (Barnstaple 1942-1945)
Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater 1942-1945)
John Loverseed (Eddisbury 1943-1945)
Hugh Lawson (Skipton 1944-1945)
Ernest Millington (Chelmsford 1945-1946)
In 1945 it polled the highest number of votes of all the minority parties. At this time there were 160 active branches. A year after celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1992, many of its members having died, it disbanded.
Although the party no longer stood candidates at parliamentary level, a number of individual members stood for the Labour and Ecology/Green Parties, whilst others became local councillors.
Common Wealth later became associated with the burgeoning ecology movement and, later, regional organisations, including the Campaign for the North, based in Hebden Bridge, Wessex regionalists, the SNP, an Orkney and Shetland group, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow and the Movement for Middle England.
A Bournville reader responds to today’s blog (‘one person’s reaction!’)
It is important to learn from those one may not like!
His first two points I agree with. The first is controversial but the second should be obvious. The third point is vacuous as it’s not spelled out.
it was a mistake to allow a General Election on Brexit – LibDems and SNP major culprits but Labour also.
The Labour manifesto was good but not effectively communicated.
The (in my opinion unfair) antisemitism slurs were unfortunate.
Organisation and leadership seemed ropey but that’s my guesswork.
Alas we are where we are, which I guess is the human condition!
A Moseley reader adds:
Blair states that Labour has always won when it secured the centre of British politics and refers to the 2019 campaign as substituting ‘a narcissistic belief in our righteousness for professionalism’. He does have a point. How many years have Labour been in government since 1920?
Britain is basically a liberal conservative nation. (note small l and c). Hence, we still have a royal family that the poor and working poor still respect and savour. Socialism is a thing which sounds like a nice idea but could never work within a monarchy. It’s a contradiction in terms.
Noel Hamel from New Malden: “A measured and thoughtful piece that avoids the pitfalls of mudslinging. Anyone interested in left-leaning progressive politics will find this interesting”.
Summary of Alan Simpson’s paper: Après le déluge
Parliament starts the new decade with Labour still in a state of grief…and anger…about its crushing election defeat. It’s a good place to start. The real grief is the damage done to the bigger dream that once surrounded Corbyn. Only a shift into more circular economics stands a chance.
For the Left, the problems began with Labour’s failure to root its policies in the radical decentralisation regularly espoused by both Corbyn and McDonnell, but which never made it past control obsessions within the ‘Corridoriat’ of Senior Advisors surrounding them.
Killing the dream
In 2017, thousands were drawn towards Jeremy because he symbolised a different sort of politics; something open, honest, radical and inclusive; a politics that promised to be genuinely transformative. Labour lost, but we felt like winners.
Blinded by Brexit
The 2019 election should never have happened. Johnson only had one card – Brexit – and Labour should have forced the Tories to wallow in the Brexit mess Johnson had wrapped himself in. A spring or summer election would have suited Labour much better… on condition that Johnson’s Brexit deal would first be put to a public vote.
Brexit neutrality made Labour look indecisive and Jeremy weak. It spurned Labour’s strongest card in favour of a public vote. Whatever the outcome it would have taken Brexit out of any subsequent election which would have had to address the bigger threats of societal and climate collapse already hovering around our doorsteps.
Labour lacked a simple strap-line
We didn’t even have the wit to dump the ‘Brexit’ part of the Tories’ ‘Get it done’, prefacing it with a succession of bigger issues; ‘Fix the planet: Get it done’, ‘Tackle homelessness:…’, ‘Repair the NHS:…’, ‘End poverty:…’.
The Tories set about casting Jeremy Corbyn as a man who couldn’t lead
Corbyn’s senior team helped, turning Jeremy’s campaigning zeal into an absence rather than an asset. Goodness knows how many rail-miles Jeremy clocked up, but it never became the ‘leadership’ peg the public were looking for, building a mass movement, with a hugely empowered, devolved power base.
Jeremy inherited a PLP that wanted to lynch him and (to their credit) an ofﬁce determined to stop them and he ended up with a corridor cabal.
The opportunity to build a wider consensus got lost behind internal obsessions with control, creating a siege/control mentality that was never able to reach outwards. No national/international ﬁgures were ever brought in to raise Jeremy’s policy/leadership proﬁle. No one who’d ever arm-wrestled in climate negotiations, trade deals or peace diplomacy came in to lead Labour’s transformation planning. Instead, ‘corridor control’ came to dominate. Factionalism overtook radicalism. At the most senior levels, people who’d never negotiated anything more than an extended tea-break were left in charge of the policy sifting process. The most repeated Shadow Ministerial complaint was about delays in getting radical policy proposals through the LOTO soup (LOTO: the Leader of the Opposition Office)
- Sue Hayman saw a string of her environment proposals get lost in this Never-never-land.
- Two years on, Alan Whitehead still awaits approval for publication of his Local Energy book (on radical decentralisation).
- Andy MacDonald’s pledge to set annual carbon budgets for every part of the transport sector never became the platform for transformative changes in aviation and shipping policy.
- His proposed ‘pendulum shift’ of funding from private to public transport infrastructures went the same way.
So where does Labour go next? Back to the Future? There is no ‘nice politics’ of the middle ground to return to. Business as usual will never return.
- Look at the ﬁres currently raging in Australia and the ﬂoods in nearby Indonesia.
- Look at our own pre-Christmas ﬂoods
- Look at earlier ﬁres that wreaked havoc from California to the Arctic Circle.
- Look at the ice melt.
Any wannabe Labour Leader who ducks the centrality of transformative climate politics is not worth following. As climate physicists continually try to warn us, ‘There are no small steps left’ but a systemic, transformative change might hold society together. The Left needs a bigger, anti-poverty, climate politics to hold communities, and the country, together.
Regionalised and localised approaches to ﬂood prevention, food security, air quality, re-wilding, fuel poverty, clean energy and transport must form the backbone of a Labour commitment to refound accountable, secure and inclusive democracy. It needs to go hand in hand with the radical re-empowerment of local government. There is no other way of delivering the 20%+ annual CO2 reductions needed to avoid the next tranche of climate tipping points.
In early 2017, John McDonnell, Jeremy and I began work on what was to be a Labour ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative. The plan was to open up conversations with up to 20 localities about the development of radically decentralised, clean-energy grids. Modelled on lessons from both Denmark and Germany, the plan was to put localities in the driving seat of strategies that made ‘climate’ the centrepiece of tomorrow’s economics. It needed rapid decarbonisation of the energy system, nationwide energy efﬁciency and waste reduction programmes, the use of smart technologies to localise, store and share energy, and a new skills agenda delivering full employment in a more circular economy.
The first Merseyside venue, workshops and speakers were all agreed on. But the political penny began to drop that this posed a serious threat to existing fossil fuel interests and to centralised energy generation. Suddenly no one could ﬁnd a common diary date for Jeremy and John. The 3-D commitment – decarbonisation, decentralisation and democratisation – became the ﬁrst of Labour’s ‘corridor casualties’.
Climate priorities, as well as electoral calculations, dictate that this is where Labour’s repair work must begin in Scotland and Wales as much as in the newly lost heartlands of the North and Midlands. This is where tomorrow’s security, stability and democracy politics will ﬁnd its roots.
The last election should have been the Climate Election. What happens in the next decade will determine whether we tip from crisis to collapse. Labour needs to become the Party that ensures we don’t.
Advisor on Sustainable Economics January 2020
The future for the planet is dire, with business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic
Dec 16-Jan 1st – two Gloucestershire correspondents reflect on the election results
Mervyn Hyde quietly predicted two things to himself after the Conservative victory on December 12 and his depressing predictions were confirmed. He has seen:
- gloating triumphalism on the political right
- the re-emergence of long rejected, nasty right-wing policies, like capital punishment and blood sports,
- and the political right using the election result to claim that socialism is dead and buried, perpetuating a rabid neo-liberalism.
He reminds us that the opinion polls showed – when simply presented with the policies with no party label attached to them – Labour’s policies were very popular. And in the popular vote, yn’s Labour won more votes in 2019 than Miliband’s Labour achieved in 2015.
But despite these facts, commentariat propaganda proclaimed that Labour’s policies had been “firmly rejected” and that they had “the worst election defeat since 1935” – a “disaster”.
Hyde’s verdict: “Wrong, wrong and wrong”
The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system. For well over a year now, opinion polls have been confirming that we are now a Remain country by a comfortable majority – which is why Brexiteers were terrified of having another referendum. His conclusion:
“Our antiquated voting system has to go. The election result actually showed Remain and 2nd-referendum parties winning more votes than Leave parties – with the Tories only winning an overall majority because of our undemocratic voting system . . . However I don’t believe that a form of PR would change the situation politically: the media has a massive influence and affects the outcome, whether under a PR or first-pass-the-post voting system”.
Richard House notes that the establishment commentariat is already hard at work creating a false narrative that the result is a rejection of socialism and Corbynism, rather a triumph for the brilliantly deployed self-preservation instincts of the ruling class and their control and manipulation of vast swathes of the population’s access to information.
Its carefully deployed narrative about Labour’s alleged “biggest defeat since 1935” has rapidly become a taken-for-granted “truth,” even in some Labour circles. But it’s a narrative hopelessly caught up in a first-past-the-post ideology — conveniently ignoring the fact that Jeremy Corbyn won more votes in 2019 than did Ed Miliband in 2015. Like Mervyn Hyde, House advocates a fair, proportional voting system, under which a Corbyn-led government would probably have been elected — albeit, perhaps, one held together by uneasy alliances.
The narrative was at best hopelessly simplistic, and at worst mischievous or just plain wrong. In reality, he continues, the election was lost through a highly complex toxic cocktail which included:
- the Brexit wild card,
- an unforgivingly undemocratic first-past-the-post voting system
- and an unprecedentedly vicious Establishment assault on Mr Corbyn’s Labour.
A relentless, ethics-free Tory machine awash with corporate money, played its populist hand well enough to get over the line using the fortune in their war chest, donated by the rich and the powerful. One arm of the propaganda assault was the Tories’ carefully targeted cold-calling of swing voters. Richard knows voters, for example, who were repeatedly rung up in the campaign and told that if they voted Labour, the country would have a communist government.
He fears that – because lies, deceit and unadulterated propaganda were imported into our electoral system to an unprecedented extent – democracy may well never recover and comments: “The relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn constituted the most vile character assassination campaign on anyone in British political history. Goebbels would have loved it”.
But, he adds, Labour made at least three major errors in this campaign
- They didn’t wage a sustained exposure of the establishment media’s propaganda assault on them.
- Labour spokespersons and MPs didn’t receive training on how to spot and deconstruct bias and embedded and concealed establishment narratives in media interviews, then “out” them in live interviews on the media (as Tony Benn famously and brilliantly used to do).
- Labour didn’t include a commitment to a fair voting system in its manifesto. “old-politics” tribalism prevails in the party’s leadership, which seems to prefer a majority Tory government to introducing a fair voting system though that might mean we’d have to sacrifice the chance of ever again having a majority Labour government.
The ritual condemnation of Labour’s leadership by Labour’s centre-right – in its carefully choreographed attempt to drag the party back to being the capitalism-friendly party of old – and the far-right’s appalling, power-at-any-price behaviour, will generate a race to the ethical bottom. Once the “ethically disgraceful behaviour” genie is out of the bottle, the winner will be the party who tells the most effective lies, and who cheats more successfully.
And the wealthy establishment, corporations, right-wing tabloids, and four-fifths of the press owned and controlled by non-dom, non-tax-paying billionaires living overseas, will do anything and everything in order to destroy the possibility of a genuinely left-progressive political party being elected. Richard House ends:
“A demonstrably fair voting system has to be part of the package we put together for attacking neo-liberalism. The times we’re in couldn’t be more grave or dangerous: the future for the planet is now truly dire, with two business-as-usual Neros fiddling on either side of the Atlantic”.
Two days is a long time in pre-election politics
On 28th November Francis Elliott’s triumphalist article in the Times heralded a seat-by-seat analysis based on polling by YouGov for The Times.
But two days later, a BMG poll which questioned 1,663 voters between 27 and 29 November showed that the Conservative lead had ‘narrowed sharply’ (Reuters) – halved when compared with last week’s poll.
Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, said “If this trend continues, this election could be much closer than it looked just a matter of weeks ago.”
Rob Merrick (Independent) points out that the results come at the end of a week when Mr Johnson has faced further criticism on several counts, compounding earlier allegations, including:
- his appalling attitude to single mothers and working-class men
- his unwillingness to face Andrew Neil.
- the early release from prison of the London Bridge attacker and
- his relationship with Donald Trump, who will arrive for a NATO summit in London on Tuesday.
Robert Struthers said there was growing evidence Labour is “starting to build momentum” ahead of the election on 12 December. 73% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election now planning to do the same on 12 December – up from 67% a week ago.
The change in direction is shown above and BMG’s headline voting intention figures take the Conservative lead from a likely majority into possible hung parliament territory. Will this continue and take the Labour Party into the lead?
Anti-semitism, neoliberalism and austerity rejected by Jeremy Corbyn – the first Labour leader in decades to do so
British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, point out that Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity.
They ask: “Is that (policy agenda) why mainstream media don’t want to give access to the counter-narrative?”
They were alarmed to read, yet again, a list of evidence-free accusations charging Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism (Letters, 15 November) and wrote a letter published in the Guardian today, which continued:
We are not the least surprised that the Jewish friends of the 24 luminaries who signed are worried and frightened about this supposed antisemitism – they repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.
As British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party.
We beg you, enough – and we beg the 24 protagonists and their Jewish friends – to check out the alternative voices.
- Antony Lerman,Former director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research,
- Lynne Segal, Anniversary professor, psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Richard Kuper, Founder, Pluto Press,
- Jacqueline Rose, Professor of humanities, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Adam Sutcliffe Professor of European history, King’s College London,
- Miriam David Professor emerita, UCL Institute of Education,
- Dr Brian Klug Senior research fellow in philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford,
- John S Yudkin Professor emeritus, University College London,
- Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus professor of operational research, LSE,
- Francesca Klug Visiting professor, LSE Human Rights,
- Dr Graeme Segal Emeritus fellow, All Souls, University of Oxford,
- Mica Nava Emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London,
- Elizabeth Dore Professor emeritus, Latin American Studies, University of Southampton,
- Naomi Wayne Former chief enforcement officer, Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland,
- Stephen Sedley
The Guardian also has three other letters on the subject – well worth reading.
NEC’s colossal blunder: wilfully rejecting Chris Williamson, a most able, honest and talented Labour MP
Many members will find it hard to understand the NEC’s spineless decision not to endorse Chris Williamson as a Labour candidate for his Derby constituency because he had, quite correctly, commented that Labour was “too apologetic” in response to criticism of its handling of anti-semitism allegations.
Former Labour MP Chris Williamson speaks outside the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre where he lost his High Court bid to be reinstated to the Labour Party
By doing so the NEC has inadvertently given the wider world the impression that the party is still failing to take anti-semitism allegations seriously.
In his letter to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby, Mr Williamson wrote that he was “dismayed” that party officials have “executed” a “witch-hunt” against anti-zionist members, led by “those who shroud themselves in the banner of socialism”.
Lamiat Sabin reports that he has decided to resign from the Labour Party and seeks re-election in Derby North as an independent candidate in the general election next month. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted: “After almost 44 years of loyal service and commitment, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m resigning from the Labour Party.”.
Blacklisted and vilified
And the man who was nominated in July for the MP of the Year Award (annual People’s Choice Award), which recognises MPs who work closely with disadvantaged and under-represented communities – who set up Holocaust Memorial Day events in Derby and rescinded the obsolete medieval proscription barring Jews from living in Derby – has been blacklisted and vilified as having helped to make the Labour Party ‘a frightening place for Britain’s Jews’.
“As a principled socialist and prominent Corbyn supporter, Williamson was targeted by the right within the party and Labour’s enemies outside, in alliance with those who define as anti-semitism support for the Palestinians’ fight against their oppression”:
This is the verdict of many, voiced by the secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, which deeply regrets his loss and had hoped he would stay in the party and fight for reinstatement.
“Labour is now the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines”
Comments by Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, flesh out the thoughts expressed by Richard House in his recent letter to the Western Daily Press. Some edited extracts follow and his New Statesman article may be read in full here
He opens: “Let the people decide. What could be clearer — or more honourable — than that? In these divided times, where the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, two parties aspiring for government, have opted for the polarising messaging of the demagogue, Jeremy Corbyn is saying that Labour will not dictate to the voters but instead work for them and with them”.
Summarising Jeremy Corbyn’s offer, he makes five points, Corbyn is saying,
- elect me into No 10 and the party I lead will honour the vote of 2016,
- it will do its utmost to secure the best possible Brexit deal,
- Corbyn will then put this deal back to the people,
- act for the whole country, honouring the views of the 48% cent and
- place the Labour deal vs Remain on the ballot.
Corbyn is a good negotiator and well liked by many European leaders, receiving a ‘rapturous reception and a standing ovation in Brussels (Oct 2017) after meetings with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (below) and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden.
No surprise then that – as Len McCluskey reports – signals have been sent from the highest levels of the EU that the contours of Labour’s deal, which would maintain access to the single market and retain a customs union would be acceptable to the 27 member states.
He points out that no trade unionist would go into negotiations with an employer stating where they will take a stand on any deal before discussions have even begun, so no heed should be paid to calls for Corbyn and the Labour Party to take a position before any deal has been reached adding:.
“The correct position remains that Labour must act for the whole country”
Len McCluskey makes a plea across the party to constituency delegates, trade union delegates, MPs and affiliated society members, trade unionists, socialists and, above all, democrats:
“Do not let us be divided or defined as anything other, either by our enemies or by Brexit. Support Corbyn, support this Brexit position. When a general election comes, we will go to the people with a platform of hope and reform, ensuring that nobody, no community is left behind. We have a programme that will transform this country for the better, healing the dreadful wounds of austerity.
“Amid the heated voices and uncompromising stances, Labour is now the only political party offering an approach on Brexit that speaks in calm tones to the whole country. It is the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines — because it is the only party that understands that unless we heal this country, our country, our people will suffer”.