Category Archives: Democracy
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”.
Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
So writes Richard House (below, left), in the Western Daily Press,17 September 2019, p. 18–19. He is a (reluctant) left-leaver who wants “out of the EU” and is not blind to the “hopelessly flawed nature of the 2016 referendum”.
He sees no conceivable argument for leaving being “democratically” supported – with nearly two-thirds of the voters not voting to leave, and “the disreputable Brexit campaign defined by the propagandist manipulation of spin-meister Dominic Cummings, the Cambridge Analytica outrage, a near-hysterical anti-EU right-wing press, etc”. He continues:
“Ideological Remainers are clearly oblivious to the powder-keg of anger ready to go off across the nation, if by some mischance the Lib Dems were to win the election and revoke Article 50:
“The future of this once-tolerant country is extremely bleak, with many millions of people feeling the referendum result was being ignored by a pro-EU elite determined to drive through the “United States of Europe” political project. I often do political campaigning on the street, and the level of outrage that exists on this issue is truly frightening. The political class will ride rough-shod over it at their, and our nation’s, peril”.
“I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister”. That pledge made Labour “the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain” and “bring people together”.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn said his intention was to stay out of the fray if there was a second Brexit public vote and focus on running the country – a stance adopted by Harold Wilson, in the original 1975 EU referendum and David Cameron in 2016.
Though remaining neutral in a future EU referendum held by a government he leads, Jeremy Corbyn would allow senior colleagues to back either side of the campaign, in which there would be a choice between Remain and a new Labour-negotiated deal involving a customs union and close single market relationship.
Richard House advises Corbyn’s team to find a succinct and convincing narrative for conveying this view that appeals beyond people’s primitive polarising instincts – because if they succeed, the election is there for the taking.
Richard House draws attention to an article by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, which had been shared 1600 times at 15.48 today.
Jeremy Corbyn asserts that Boris Johnson’s government wants to use no deal – which would destroy jobs and cause shortages of food and medical supplies from day one and hand our public services and protections over to US corporations – to create an offshore tax haven for the super-rich and sign a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.
Meeting at the G7 in Biarritz
He reminds us that in 2017, Boris Johnson, when foreign secretary, proclaimed that there was no plan for no deal because they were going to get a deal, continuing: “But clearly they haven’t got a deal. And now, running scared of being held to account for his reckless plans for a Trump-deal Brexit, Johnson has decided to shut down parliament to stop them doing so”.
Adding that, ‘in the maelstrom of the coming days and weeks’, all should remember that sovereignty doesn’t rest in Downing Street, or even in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn states that the democratic way forward, when a government finds itself without a majority, is to let the people determine the country’s future and call a general election which will give them the chance to have the final say in a public vote, with credible options for both sides, including the option to Remain.
He ends by expressing his determination to ensure that Labour will bring people together by giving hope and confidence that a different future is possible and that real change can be delivered for every region of this country.
‘Land for the Many’, a report commissioned by the Labour Party, was written by a group of academics, economists and land experts, lead authors including George Monbiot, the environmentalist, and Guy Shrubsole, from Friends of the Earth who has campaigned against the lack of transparency in Britain’s land ownership.
It was good to read a measured appraisal in the Financial Times by Jim Pickard, formerly a severe critic of Jeremy Corbyn and his allies. Of late several articles in that paper have been taking a more objective stance – in contrast to the Murdoch Times which usually carries a range of articles belittling Corbyn and his supporters.
A number of polices highlighted by Pickard:
- “Juries” made up of local people would sit in judgment over UK planning decisions under proposals floated by the Labour party on Monday.
- Home ownership would be extended to more people.
- All information about land ownership would be published including the identifies of beneficial owners;
- A community right to buy would be introduced, based on the Scottish model,
- Compulsory sale orders would allow councils to force the auction sale of land left vacant or derelict for a long period.
- Companies which own land in the UK through offshore structures would face an Offshore Company Property Tax under plans first set out in the 2017 Labour manifesto.
- The Land Compensation Act would be amended to allow councils to buy land at prices closer to its current use value rather than its potential future residential value.
- The planning system should be extended to cover major farming and forestry decisions and widen access to farming to more people.
- The Scottish principle of a “right to roam” across all uncultivated land and water should be adopted, with the exception of gardens.
The authors argue that the concentration of ownership in the hands of a relatively small number of landowners has worsened various social problems such as economic inequality, the housing crisis and environmental degradation and write:
“Just as we believe it is important for criminal juries to be socially representative, the way we use our land should have input from all parts of society, juries for plan-making would be comprised of local people selected at random. They would participate in designing local and neighbourhood plans at the earliest possible stage.”
Labour said it would consider the report’s recommendations as part of its wider policy development ahead of the next general election.
Having heard that those not on Facebook are not getting through this procedure I suggest that they send the following text by email to email@example.com,
Dear Tony Hall (Director General of the BBC),
Tonight, the BBC will air what they claim is a fair and impartial documentary about anti-semitism and the Labour Party. However all of the evidence so far points to the documentary being a biased hatchet job.
The BBC chose to employ the former Sun Journalist John Ware, a man who has publicly attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left repeatedly, to direct the documentary.
This is the man who was also behind the 2015 Panorama documentary which attracted widespread criticism for making false claims about Jeremy Corbyn and excluded an entire interview with Diane Abbott because, in her words, it didn’t fit the narrative.
Ware also directed a documentary described by the Muslim Council of Britain as “an anti-Muslim witch hunt” and The Guardian as “McCarthyite”. In another documentary, he falsely implied the head of a pro-Palestinian charity was using it as a front for terrorism and the BBC was forced to pay damages to the individual and publicly apologise on Ware’s behalf.
In fact, Ware has a long track-record of opposition to the left in Labour. In the 1980s he presented a documentary on a Labour council accusing the “hard left” of taking over local schools, which at the time was criticised in the BBCs own magazine for abandoning “any attempt at a reasoned, detached, analytic or investigative programme”.
It is clear John Ware cannot be trusted to direct a “fair and impartial” documentary on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. Already, there are reports that the majority of interviewees in tonight’s documentary are ex-Labour staffers – the very people who purged thousands of Labour members to stop them voting for Jeremy, resisted implementing Shami Chakrabarti’s recommendations and may have delayed action on antisemitism to undermine Jeremy’s leadership.
They have no credibility on this subject and have a clear political agenda against Jeremy Corbyn.
The BBC guidelines state that “impartiality lies at the heart of public service and is the core of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences.” It is obvious that employing a man with an anti-Labour agenda to direct a documentary about Labour is in breach of these guidelines.
We are writing to you to demand an explanation as to why John Ware was hired, and that you hold a review into how documentary content about Labour is produced, ensuring that future documentaries adhere to BBC guidelines as well as basic journalistic standards.
Sign and give postcode
So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.
Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.
Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.
The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.
Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.
We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:
- London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
- Catalonia is on fire.
- Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
- Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
- The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.
It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)
So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?
On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.
The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).
- There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
- Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
- We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
- The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.
The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”
Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.
Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here: