Category Archives: Democracy
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.