Category Archives: Democracy
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”.
Participatory politics: what will the 1922 Committee decide at the Conservative Convention, March 2018?
As Gary Younge wrote:
“Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.
Though title-trouncing Labour’s ‘hard left’ whom the Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’ she does at least present the truly democratic approach actually being taken:
“A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘Labour members select their candidates by democratic processes as laid out in the rule book. We do not comment on individual selections.’ A spokesman for Momentum told The Times: ‘We think it’s fantastic that hundreds of thousands of people new to politics have felt so inspired that they’ve joined the Labour Party. We should trust local members to be the best judge of who should represent their community”.
Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join, all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.
David Hencke reports that on November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.
The document was sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May). The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:
- rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
- limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
- scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
- use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.
Will final approval be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?
If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.
October: in a major speech on public ownership and the economy – which may be read in full here – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn singled out Preston Council.
Relevant extracts from the speech:
The Tories have devolved austerity to local councils and, perversely, areas with higher levels of poverty have been hit hardest. Councils have on average faced 40 per cent cuts in their budgets. But in the face of this adversity councils such as Preston have responded with inspiring innovation.
They brought together major local employers in their community, what academics call the anchor institutions, and Preston Council worked with them to drive through a local programme of economic transformation.
By changing their procurement policies, these anchor institutions were able to drive up spending locally protecting businesses and jobs.
And they’re looking at the council’s own pension fund to see where investment can support local businesses keeping the money circulating in their town.
Alice Thomson of the Times writes, “Jeremy Corbyn in a recent speech hailed Preston for showing the way to a new post-Brexit Jerusalem” but ends “A move by Preston council to employ more of the talent in its area deserves to be copied, but not by Jeremy Corbyn . . . “
More from her article will be quoted next week on the LWM blog.
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.)