Category Archives: Democracy

Hundreds of Israeli citizens sign letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn

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Felicity Arbuthnot draws attention to a report that hundreds of Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs, have in the last few days signed a letter expressing support for the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The letter will be sent to Labour’s Annual Conference that will take place in Liverpool starting next Sunday, September 23, and continue until Wednesday, September 26.

The letter of support reads as follows:

“We are Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, committed to civil equality within Israel, to an end to the occupation and the blockade of Gaza, to a just peace and justice for the Palestinian refugees. The solidarity of progressive forces abroad is vital to our struggle, and we therefore welcomed the election of Jeremy Corbyn, a committed campaigner for peace, as leader of the British Labour Party.”

“Since his election, Corbyn has been subjected to sustained attacks for his supposed friendliness to antisemitism. We reject the substance of these accusations completely, and we note that some of Corbyn’s accusers, such as Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, are themselves notorious racists and allies of known anti-Semites, such as Viktor Orbán and the Polish nationalists.

“We also note that, even as many of Corbyn’s critics claim to respect the right to criticize Israel in theory, in practice their attacks seem designed to shut down debate on Israel-Palestine and prevent a future Labour government from applying any real pressure on Israel to change its policies.”

“At the same time, we recognize the reality of antisemitism, including on the left, and we applaud Labour’s sustained efforts to fight it within its ranks. These efforts are free from the hypocrisy of the right, which decries antisemitism, real and imagined, while openly encouraging racism of other kinds. In a global climate of rising fascism, this hypocrisy is extremely dangerous. In order to combat it, it is absolutely necessary to repudiate antisemitism while also standing up for Palestinian rights and for socialism.

“We call upon all friends of Israeli-Palestinian peace to join the Labour Party’s leadership in its unequivocal commitment to creating a politics free of hate and prejudice, and to support us in working together toward a future without oppression and discrimination in Israel and Palestine. Labour friends, we wish you success in your upcoming National Conference and in the struggles ahead.”

At the food of the letter, following Hebrew and Arabic versions, Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel are invited to add their signatures to the letter of support for Jeremy Corbyn: http://tinyurl.com/letter2labour

 

 

 

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

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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?”

 

 

 

 

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‘For the many, not the few’: American socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, unseats the chair of the Democratic Caucus

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was elected in a New York primary, becoming the Democratic Party’s candidate for Congress and unseating Joseph Crowley, chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House.

Shelly Asquith describes this as “an election result that sent shock waves through the US political system . . . “

She adds that Crowley’s campaign outspent Ocasio’s 18-1, with donations from corporations including Google, Facebook, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

Max Crema, a Labour Party member, commented: “Most people in his extremely diverse district have no idea who he [Crowley] is — he doesn’t even live there. He’s just like the rest of the party’s elites … Democratic voters are sick of being taken for granted.”

Running on a platform of free healthcare and university education for all and the abolition of the immigration enforcement department, Ocasio refused corporate funding, instead relying on small donations and a community organising operation.

She will now stand for Congress in Queens and the Bronx, a district that is considered safe for the Democrats. Her win against Crowley will have given fresh hope to Bernie Sanders supporters who hope that he will stand in 2020.

Shelly is reminded of Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership election: “The role of getting students and young people involved couldn’t have been easier: the policies were enough. “The campaign’s energy was wild! Driven almost entirely by young people, the campaign brought together seasoned activists, many of them DSA members, with people newly energised by Alexandria’s passionate championing of progressive ideals: universal healthcare, abolishing ICE and taxing the rich.”

In Ocasio’s viral campaign video she used the slogan “for the many”. Max Crema confirmed that the campaign did look to the Labour Party: 

“Jeremy Corbyn’s repeated victories as Labour leader have been an inspiration to the American left. As much of our country descends into xenophobia and racism, his bold vision for the future has been taken up as a rallying cry.”

Elsewhere in New York, another socialist candidate is vying to unseat another sitting Democrat. Cynthia Nixon is standing for Governor on a similar platform to Ocasio. Labour’s manifesto slogan ‘For the many, not the few’ has been used in her campaign -see her website.

Shelly continues: “What can we learn from this? Young, working-class, migrant communities in particular are leading a revitalisation of socialism in America, especially in the big cities. Like the Labour Party, the Democratic Party is changing. Proximity to the establishment and big money won’t wash, and people are calling out for candidates that cannot be accused of ‘you’re all the same’ “.

As a visit from Donald Trump on July 13th looms, she wonders if the next time a US President visits the UK it would be Bernie Sanders (or a Sanders-ite) visiting Corbyn at Number 10.

And ends: “What a very special relationship that would be”.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Wanda Lozinska’s reflections on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party

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Who is to blame for Labour’s current problems? Not Jeremy Corbyn, but selfish, self-indulgent right-wing New Labour MPs refusing to do their handsomely paid jobs and continually undermining him – fuelling the flagrant press and TV who are biassed against him, serving a privileged Establishment terrified at the prospect of a Corbyn victory putting an end to their greedy, tax-evading ways.

Blair and right-wing Labour MPs ‘took over’ the party’ in the 1990s, eventually rendering it indistinguishable from the Tories. Labour lost five million core voters – a major reason for the 2010 and 2015 defeats.

Corbyn in York, May 2017

Many are now returning to Labour as they see Corbyn bringing Labour back to the Party’s original values, in a forward-looking way. Corbyn has attracted at least 350,000 new members, which at approaching 600,000 makes Labour Europe’s largest political party.

He has inspired many people, young and old – people with no previous interest in politics, to whom he relates, unlike previous Labour leaders. All are far more likely to vote for a Corbyn-led party.

Non-voters, mostly the poorest in our society, felt the previous Labour Party would be of no help to them. Corbyn is determined that everyone should have a better life.

In Corbyn’s first nine months as leader, Labour provided strong and effective opposition, forcing numerous embarrassing U-turns, defeating the Tories at least 22 times and preventing some of their worst excesses.

A Corbyn-led Labour Party represents ordinary people, ‘the many’, the 99% and won’t give tax breaks to multi-millionaires whilst children go hungry and ever-more working people have to resort to food banks.

wanda el graphic

Wanda urges all to get behind him with all the support we can muster, to help this good man deliver his vision for a better, kinder, fairer and more equal society, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

 

 

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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”.

 

 

 

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Worth revisiting: the words of 27 economists, “The Labour Party stands at a crossroads”

 Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn outside the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle

 

In August 2015, the undersigned wrote:

“This is a moment of opportunity for the Labour party and the country.

“A new movement is emerging in British politics; party membership is growing rapidly, particularly among young people who had increasingly given up on politics and politicians.

“There is a possibility that academics who have always felt that their research – whether on social policy, public health, economics, sociology or other disciplines – was ignored by policymakers may now be more in tune with the leadership of the Labour party.

“And rather than a backward-looking “old Labour” approach to politics, this is about recognising the inspiring possibilities for a fairer and more equal society offered by an information economy in an interdependent world.

“We endorse Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature for leadership of the Labour party”.

Richard Wilkinson Emeritus professor, University of Nottingham
Kate Pickett Professor, University of York
Steve Keen Professor, Kingston University
Elizabeth Dore Emeritus professor, University of Southampton
John Weeks Emeritus professor, Soas, University of London
Prem Sikka Professor, University of Essex
Alfredo Saad Filho Professor, Soas, University of London
Guy Standing Professor, Soas, University of London
Ozlem Onaran Professor, University of Greenwich
Christopher Cramer Professor, Soas, University of London
Jeff Powell Senior lecturer, University of Greenwich
Christine Cooper Professor, University of Strathclyde
Lawrence King Professor, University of Cambridge
Marjorie Mayo Emeritus professor, Goldsmiths, University of London
Hugo Radice Life fellow, University of Leeds
Susan Newman Senior lecturer, University of the West of England
Elizabeth Wilson Professor emeritus, London Metropolitan University
Malcolm Sawyer Emeritus professor, University of Leeds
Jo Michell Senior lecturer, University of the West of England
Susan Himmelweit Emeritus professor, Open University
Simon Mohun Emeritus professor, Queen Mary, University of London
Diane Reay Professor, University of Cambridge
Andrew Cumbers Professor, Glasgow University
Simon Deakin Professor, University of Cambridge
Roger Seifert Professor, University of Wolverhampton
George Irvin Professor, Soas, University of London
Engelbert Stockhammer Professor of economics, Kingston University

And thoughtful contributions from readers:

 

Mike Parr
Bath

Whoever wins the Labour leadership must not disappoint the thousands of party members, affiliates and supporters who have been energised and motivated by the election debate. There is a hunger for change within the party not just for a new vision for the future of the country but for a transformation of the way the party is organised and connects with its members and the electorate. The new leader should re-establish democracy within the party and build trust between members and the PLP. The party is strong when it operates as a community that shares ideas and builds policy from the ground up based on a full understanding of the issues that face all sections of society. There has never been a better opportunity to tap into the energy of new members and supporters and build a strong and successful political force. A leader who reverts back to the top-down focus group-tested soundbite politics of the Blair years will quickly find that the support they had will disappear and supporters will lose faith in politics.

David Thacker
London

There are two crucial points that your editorial (14 August) ignores. First, Jeremy Corbyn will prove to be an extremely popular and effective opponent of a government that most voters opposed. People will respect his straightforward, honest and principled exposure of Tory policies in practice. Second, unlike anyone who’s had power in the Labour party since Tony Blair, Corbyn is a true democrat. He’s not going to impose his policies on anyone. For the first time in decades members will be able to propose, debate, challenge and refine the party’s policies. And of course, “Events, dear boy, events” will play a major role in what transpires. If Corbyn can lead this collaboration of MPs and members, and withstand the onslaught from the media and from within the party, and if he still wants to be prime minister in 2020, the party will have strong policies and be electable. If he decides he shouldn’t be PM, another leader will emerge with policies that have been forged in the furnace of democratic debate by the membership. A better prospect, either way, than certain failure under any of the other three (unelectable) candidates.


Gordon Best
London

With Blair and the rest of the Labour establishment yet again urging the membership to play catch up with the Tories, is it any wonder that members are flocking to support Jeremy Corbyn? At long, long last, they are being offered a real choice.

Walter Wolfgang
Vice-chair, Labour CND

Polls show that most UK voters reject Trident, not just in Scotland. Corbyn is the only leadership candidate to represent this majority view. As Labour leader, Corbyn’s firm anti-Trident stance would win support in Scotland – and in the rest of the country too. He can promise voters to scrap Trident and spend the £100bn on reversing some of the cuts. He’d be backed by the TUC, Unison and many other unions who oppose Trident. Corbyn represents the public’s view on Trident, just as he stood with the public on Iraq. Corbyn has the policies and qualities to win a general election.

Stan Newens
Harlow, Essex

The critics of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election and, now, the Guardian (8 August), have argued that a leftwing programme, when Michael Foot was leader, led Labour in 1983 to “its worst result since universal franchise”. This is totally false.

In January 1981 Labour under Michael Foot was 13% ahead in the opinion polls and it was the launch of the Social Democratic party on 27 March 1981 by Roy Jenkins and three colleagues, followed by desertion by a section of rightwing Labour MPs, which destroyed Labour’s electoral lead. The behaviour of the left may not always have been faultless, but it was the disloyalty of a section of the right which was primarily responsible for our heavy defeat in 1983.

As for Gerald Kaufman’s smear at the 1983 Labour manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history”, it might be apposite for the critics to read it. It proposed “much closer control over bank lending” through the then publicly owned Bank of England, the need for which stood out in the 2008 crisis. It also proposed a plan to boost industry, improve training, enhance women’s rights, tackle the housing crisis and the balance of payments problem etc, etc. Was this wrong?

As one who lost my seat in the House of Commons in 1983, I am well attuned to the facts. If Jeremy is elected leader, as I hope, the lesson to be learned from the 1980s is that all sections of the Labour party should support him in that role.

Duncan Holley
Branch secretary of Bassa 1998-2012, Southampton

Labour supporting friends are perplexed why I should be voting for Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, it is conceivably true that “annihilation” could happen, but is the Labour party of today worth saving?

Just over five years ago I was one of the leaders of the British Airways cabin crew union (Bassa) which fought a truly bitter dispute with our employer. We were not seeking more money or better terms, just trying to hold on to certain conditions that made our jobs worthwhile. Under the leadership of Willie Walsh, strikers were sacked by BA (myself included, after 35 years), suspended and stripped of promotion. I was interviewed under caution by Heathrow police. It was a very foreboding time to lead a union in a dispute with a blue-chip company.

Against this backdrop, the usual suspects in the media blackened the reputations of union representatives, with lurid and exaggerated front-page stories to ensure, publicly, we had very few friends. It was a lonely place. There was also the 2010 general election looming, when you would have expected, or at least hoped, Labour leaders to keep a low profile, but far from it. In the days leading up to the first batch of strikes (which had been called on an 92% majority, with a massive turnout), I sat in the office of Tony Woodley, then leader of Unite, as he fielded – and to his credit rejected – a series of increasingly desperate phone calls from Labour to call off the dispute.

Perhaps naively, I was shocked at what the Labour party had become. So intent on middle-road power that they would even step on, or over, the very people they were created to protect and represent. There were a few Labour MPs who actively supported us, including, not surprisingly, John McDonnell and yes, Jeremy Corbyn. I will now gladly reciprocate that support given to us in our moment of need.

Do I care if the leader’s election destroys what the Labour party stands for in 2015, in its moribund, forgotten-its-roots, middle-ground-hugging persona? No, not any more. I backed Kinnock when he cleansed the party of its militancy, I supported Blair in those heady days of the late 90s, but any semblance of a decent, caring honourable party that caters for the underprivileged, has long been swallowed up by the unseemly, even sickening quest for power, irrespective of who gets trampled underfoot, on the way.

 

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Alternative Models of Ownership Conference (10.02.18)

 http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Q369GPank3G/Labour+Leaders+Host+Conference+Alternative/Jeremy+Corbyn

It is a pleasure to close today’s conference, which has shown once again that it is our Party that is coming up with big ideas.

And we’re not talking about ideas and policies dreamed up by corporate lobbyists and think tanks or the wonks of Westminster, but plans and policies rooted in the experience and understanding of our members and our movement; drawing on the ingenuity of each individual working together as part of a collective endeavour with a common goal.

Each of you here today is helping to develop the ideas and the policies that will define not just the next Labour Government but a whole new political era of real change.  An era that will be as John said earlier radically fairer, more equal and more democratic.

The questions of ownership and control that we’ve been discussing today go right to the heart of what is needed to create that different kind of society.

Because it cannot be right, economically effective, or socially just that profits extracted from vital public services are used to line the pockets of shareholders when they could and should be reinvested in those services or used to reduce consumer bills.

We know that those services will be better run when they are directly accountable to the public in the hands of the workforce responsible for their front line delivery and of the people who use and rely on them.  It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts.

That’s why, at last year’s general election, under the stewardship of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Transport Secretary Andy McDonald and Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, Labour pledged to bring energy, rail, water, and mail into public ownership and to put democratic management at the heart of how those industries are run.

This is not a return to the 20th century model of nationalisation but a catapult into 21st century public ownership.

The failure of privatisation and outsourcing of public services could not be clearer.

From Carillion’s collapse and the private sector’s chronic inability to run the East Coast Mainline to the exorbitant costs of PFI and the hopeless inability of G4S even to handle basic security at the London Olympics the same story is repeated again and again; costly, inefficient, secretive.

Unaccountable corporate featherbedding, lubricated by revolving door appointments between Whitehall, Westminster and private boardrooms as service standards and the pay and conditions of public service workers are driven down. This obsessive drive to outsource and privatise has been tried and tested to destruction.

Carillion’s meltdown is a watershed moment. We need to take a new direction with a genuinely mixed economy fit for the 21stcentury that meets the demands of cutting edge technological change. Public services that reflect today’s society and the industries of the future.

We need to put Britain at the forefront of the wave of international change in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities.

From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed and are taking back control of their public services.

Research by the Transnational Institute identifies 835 international examples of privatisation being reversed. It really is happening: from water under citizen ownership and control in Grenoble, France to mail under national ownership and control in Argentina.

There are very good reasons for what’s taking place. The neoliberal ideology that drove the privatisation frenzy forgot a key lesson that’s understood even by conventional neoclassical economics; that where there are natural monopolies, markets fail.

The architect of Thatcherite privatisation, Professor Stephen Littlechild thought regulators could mimic market competition but he was wrong. The regulators have proved too weak to close to the companies they’re supposed to be regulating and too prone to corporate capture which is why we’ve seen productivity increases of just 1% a year since our water industry was privatised despite all the new technology that the water industry has at its disposal.

Without genuine competition or public accountability private ownership of key utilities has meant customers at the mercy of rip-off price fixing. Water bills have increased 40% in real terms since privatisation but we don’t have anywhere else to go for our water when prices go up.

It’s this ridiculous and highly profitable situation that the water companies are so desperate to protect. The case for public ownership is so clear and so popular and we’ve demonstrated how it’s an investment with no net cost for the taxpayer. The water companies are so frightened that some have commissioned a so-called independent report to make the public believe nothing can change.

But as we know, things can and will change.

And they must when we’ve all seen how the big energy companies jack up prices too knowing full well most people don’t switch suppliers. And the energy grids are even worse, overcharging customers by £7.5bn over the last 8 years, according to Citizens Advice.

Climate change

But Labour’s plans are responding to an even bigger market failure than natural monopolies. We need to take back control of our energy system because, as Nicholas Stern described, “the greatest market failure the world has seen” is climate change.

Now, it pains me to have to contradict the US President, especially using data from a US government agency but according to NASA, the world’s average temperature in 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celsius above the 1951 to 1980 average.

We are long past debating whether global warming is happening, or if it is man-made. It is. And it is not just a threat to our future on this planet it is fuelling wars, natural disasters and the refugee crisis right now.

To avoid a future of extreme heatwaves, shortages of fresh water, falling crop yields, increased flooding, dangerous rises in sea levels, and the mass loss of biodiversity in both land and sea we need, as a bare minimum, to meet our Paris obligations and seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The challenge of climate change requires us to radically shift the way we organise our economy.

In 1945, elected to govern a country ravaged by six years of war, Clem Attlee’s Labour Government knew that the only way to rebuild our economy was through a decisive turn to collective action. Necessary action to help avert climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical.

Tackling global warming won’t be achieved by warm words. Nobody is fooled by Michael Gove’s reinvention of himself as an eco-warrior. Behind the rhetoric lies a trail of environmental destruction.

This is a Government that has licensed fracking, declared a moratorium on renewable levies, while massively subsidising fossil fuels dithered over tidal, held back onshore wind, U-turned on making all new homes zero carbon and is failing to take the necessary measures to meet our legal commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

At last year’s election by contrast, Labour pledged to ban fracking, insulate four million homes, invest in rail and bus networks to reduce traffic on our roads, invest in tidal and wind, and deliver 60% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Public ownership of our energy system

A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today. The past is a centralised system with a few large plants. The future is decentralised, flexible and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.

Smart technologies will optimise usage so that instead of keeping gas plants running just in case there is a lull in renewable generation the system fulfils needs by identifying the greenest, most local energy source. There will be much more use of local, micro grids and of batteries to store and balance fluctuating renewable energy.

We will still need a grid to match energy supply with demand and import and export renewable energy abroad because the wind won’t always blow where energy is needed. But it will be a smart grid, radically transformed.

Transforming the grid will require investment and planning on a scale that is simply not happening under the current system.

Price cap regulation encourages private grid operators to cut costs and pay money out in dividends, not to plan how the grid will need to work in 25 years’ time, or to make the necessary long-term investments we need to get there.

Grid operators are notorious for overcharging and causing delays in connecting renewables because they have no incentive to make it easy for clean, community generators to connect to the grid, or to encourage community grid initiatives that might end up undermining their profits.

The greenest energy is usually the most local but people have been queuing up for years to connect renewable energy to the national grid. With the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system, committing to renewable generation from tidal to onshore wind. Investing to connect renewable energy to the grid, giving impetus to the kind of research and innovation that will make our grids smarter, more flexible, and capable of genuine optimisation.

And actively devolving power to local communities, by giving community energy practical support and encouragement. Energy transition will depend on the initiative and ingenuity of the many to localise the production and consumption of energy.

We need public ownership and democratic control to make that happen and use the skills and knowledge of the workforce and communities across the country.

There are some who hanker after a Thatcherite so-called “prosumer” model where people produce and consume their own energy and whole communities opt out of the grid. But not everyone has the resources – natural or financial – to go it alone. Energy independence for some will mean rising bills and unreliable energy for the rest.

We need a publicly-owned grid to act as the great leveller, distributing energy from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce and guaranteeing that everyone has access to clean, affordable energy  all of the time. Anything else is not only unjust, it risks doing immeasurable harm to the climate cause.

Because we will only win support for the changes that are needed if we make sure that everyone shares in the benefits. And there are many benefits, not just in cheaper energy, an end to fuel poverty, cleaner air, and a sustainable planet, but also in the creation of new good jobs and industries in renewable energy and green tech across the country.

In short, to go green, we must take control of our energy.

Just Transition

This is why it is so important that these changes are planned democratically. Many people and communities in Britain are economically reliant on fossil fuels. Our energy system needs to change but it cannot be workers and local communities who pay the price.The devastation wreaked when our coal mines were closed, leaving a legacy of decline that former mining communities are still living with, is a brutal reminder of what can happen when those communities are silenced and disregarded in the process of change.

Never again.

In public hands, under democratic control, workforces and their unions will be the managers of this change, not its casualties. The growth of green energy and green tech offers huge opportunities for job creation. Our publicly owned energy system will ensure a smooth transition and protect workers and communities, seizing those opportunities for the many, not the few.

So let me make this commitment here today. Just as the US GI Bill gave education, housing and income support to every unemployed veteran returning from the Second World War, the next Labour Government will guarantee that all energy workers are offered retraining, a new job on equivalent terms and conditions, covered by collective agreements and fully supported in their housing and income needs through transition.

We will make good the words of the Canadian campaigner Naomi Klein, when she said: “The real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system, one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power.”

Conclusion 

Comrades and friends, a blinkered faith in untrammelled markets and a doctrinal rejection of the power of collective action are the twin dogmas that have blighted political thinking in this country for nearly 40 years, have been brutally exposed for the destructive blind alley they are.

Who can maintain that handing the private sector control of our public services delivers economic or social efficiency and best value after the havoc wreaked by the collapse of Carillion, or the £2 billion public bailout of the East Coast Mainline rail franchise?

An overriding obsession with what is claimed to be “efficiency” but which almost always turns out to mean simply “the cheapest” has fixated on cutting costs for the private providers while loading them on to the public purse and suffocated the public service ethos in the process.

By taking our public services back into public hands, we will not only put a stop to rip-off monopoly pricing, we will put our shared values and collective goals at the heart of how those public services are run. Whether that’s:

  • an energy system that doesn’t jeopardise the future of our planet,
  • a joined up transport system that helps us, rather than hinders us,
  • moving away from reliance on fossil fuels,
  • a postal service that delivers for everyone across the UK and which invests for technological change rather than managing decline,
  • a water system which puts an end to wasteful leakage and environmental degradation,
  • a society which puts its most valuable resources, the creations of our collective endeavour, in the hands of everyone who is part of that society,
  • extending the principle of universalism, right across our basic services.
  • eree at the point of use to all who use them:

 

That’s real, everyday, practical socialism. And we’re going to build it together.

 

 

o

 

London Mayor: a democratic decision

London mayor Sadiq Khan sets out his new housing policy on Friday with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He unveiled plans to require councils to ballot residents – tenants, leaseholders and freeholders – on housing estates earmarked for demolition, if they want city hall funding for the work.

The Financial Times account is summarised here – stripped of derogatory adjectives and adverbs.

FT journalists describe this move as ‘a backlash against lucrative redevelopment schemes in the capital’ and one council leader, who declined to be identified, said Mr Khan was “playing to different galleries” because he was worried about his reselection in the summer.

The National Housing Federation welcomed Mr Khan’s plans and pointed out they already speak to tenants about development schemes.

Haringey’s £4bn plans to redevelop estates with Lendlease, an Australian property company, are currently the subject of a legal challenge.  

Several councils in the capital, including Haringey, have encountered widespread opposition to redevelopment plans involving private companies, because of concerns about inadequate levels of social housing.

Last year Jeremy Corbyn, set out plans for all new regeneration projects to involve ballots of residents. He welcomed Mr Khan’s move, saying:

“Regeneration must put local people first, not property speculators. Too often these large projects have led to social cleansing, jacking up of rents and communities broken apart.”

Outlining his policy, Mr Khan said he wanted to make sure people living on housing estates were “at the heart of any decisions from the outset”. Sir Stuart Lipton, a veteran property developer who wrote a report on Tottenham for city hall following riots in 2011, advocated allowing some residents to stay in their homes during estate overhauls, while other parts are redeveloped.

Stuart Lipton agreed: “People like their community and their friendship with their neighbours, and we should be respecting that”. He added that balloting residents of estates before demolishing them was “absolutely the right idea . . . The local community have often been forgotten in London”.

 

 

 

o

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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