Category Archives: Democracy
‘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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
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:
A Corbyn government will need support from openly selected MPs and a mass members’ movement to bring about beneficial change
An editorial by Ben Chacko opens with a reference to civil servants apparently briefing the press against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – a further sign of the strain a truly radical opposition is putting on our political system.
Chacko (right) predicts that this will intensify if he enters office:
“Labour’s radical programme will face parliamentary sabotage, which is why open selection of Labour MPs to improve the character of the parliamentary party is essential.
“It will face legal challenges from corporations with bottomless wallets, institutional interference from the judiciary and the EU if we haven’t left the latter, economic warfare, meddling by foreign powers such as the United States, perhaps even the military putsch mooted in 2015”.
John McDonnell has often said that when Labour goes into office we will all go into office – and Chacko stresses:
“We need to build a mass movement of trade unions, campaign groups such as the People’s Assembly and community organisations fighting for change in every workplace, every town hall and every high street to make those words a reality”.
Only by building up united and determined pressure ‘from below’ will the political-corporate grip on power be broken.
Read the Chacko editorial here.
Jeremy Corbyn has issued a fresh call for a general election in response to the announcement that a Tory leadership contest will begin formally when Theresa May steps down on June 7th.
Vic writes from Vietnam after visiting his children and grandchildren in Australia:
Poor old Jeremy, what a battle he has had since becoming leader. When first elected, I said to him: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” [Porridge: Norman Stanley Fletcher]. He smiled and said: “I won’t.” And he kept that promise!
I’ve been active in the Party for well over twenty years, so I knew he was in for a hard time. You cannot convert a party of arrogant career politicians who are, or were, Bright Young Things [lacking life experience] with an ideology worshipping The Market “God” and Blairism. These Bright Young Things have been taking over our NGOs, charities, pressure groups, etc. over recent decades, as some sort of political parallel career.
I was at last year’s Progress*conference when the keynote speaker was the arch spin doctor, Alistair Campbell. They gave him a roaring, standing ovation!!! I remained seated!!
Of course, this Westminster bubble does not understand the meaning of “democracy.” Unlike in the past, members count for nothing! This is why the Blairites cannot come to terms with the Labour grassroots membership wish for even a moderate form of Socialism espoused by Jeremy AND that brilliant election manifesto!!
How could, for example, the Co-operative Party elite appoint a General Secretary who knew little, if not nothing, about co-operation? Was it because the Blairites have taken over the Co-op Party? A genuine co-operator is a Socialist at heart, but the abundance of Blairites undermine this principle. They are not truly Co-operators.
I asked this question at the Annual Co-op Party conference when Jeremy took office. “If you are co-operators, do you support Jeremy Corbyn?” The reply was a great deal of embarrassed responses. The then leader, John Woodcock, resigned shortly after shaking my hand!
Jeremy needs the big rallies, to show the strength of the membership’s support for him. His Glastonbury appearance was soooo significant! Of course, the adulation is overwhelming at Labour Annual conferences.
Richard House draws attention to a letter by Ruth Steigman published in the Independent this week. She writes
In the 2017 general election, Labour gained 40% of the vote, and the largest increase in its share of the vote since the 1945 general election.
Jeremy Corbyn, who started the campaign 20 points behind in the polls, achieved this result following two years of attacks from all sides, and, in the words of the BBC, “in the face of a brutal onslaught from the print media”.
He had, again in the BBC’s words, “changed British politics” and “showed, amazingly, that Labour did not have to move to the centre to win votes but could do so from the unashamed left”.
Does this totally unexpected result explain the extraordinary escalation in the onslaught from the BBC and other establishment institutions since then?
Do the countless absurd smears stem from the fact that Jeremy Corbyn and his policies are now seen as a clear threat to the establishment in this country?
The Labour MPs opposing him see their power base in the party, established over the past 30 years, under attack, but know that with half a million party members behind him, a further challenge to his leadership would fail.
They do not understand that the era of submission to Thatcherite policies is over.
Anyone standing outside a polling station in May 2017 could see what these Labour MPs cannot: instead of the usual trickle of elderly voters, large groups of enthusiastic and optimistic young people turned out to demonstrate that they were not fooled by many of the unfounded smears of antisemitism, espionage etc, and that they understood the Labour leader was under attack from all sides because he stood outside the establishment, and because his policies threatened the political dogma that had prevailed since Margaret Thatcher won power 40 years ago.
Those who hold power naturally want the status quo to continue untroubled: power never cedes without a fight. But the people are eager for change, and want a government that serves the public, not powerful vested interests.
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies articulate their anger at the failed privatisations of public services, and widespread deregulation. Ordinary Labour Party members want MPs who will not undermine the party’s democratic processes, or sabotage their efforts to achieve a Labour government.
A Labour MP from the left of the party brought us our most treasured institution, the NHS.
Now that the country is suffering in every sphere under Tory austerity – from poverty to knife crime to slum housing – Labour has the policies to prove the BBC correct in their assessment that British politics has indeed changed, and moved, with the Labour Party, to the left.
This prompt led to the discovery of Ms Steigman’s signature below the following testimony in the Islington Tribune
Below in Broxstowe last weekend
And young supporters are also not swayed by media, career-minded ‘independents’ and deputy leader
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:
“I’ve had a very interesting week in politics. I’m obviously very sad at some of the things that have happened and very sad at some of the things that have been said. Walking away from our movement achieves nothing. Not understanding where we have come from is a bad mistake.
“Because when people come together in a grouping, in a community like the Labour Party, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together for everybody . . .
“Labour, for me, is my life – and I’m very sad at people who have left our party. I really am. I say this to them: in June 2017, I was elected on a manifesto, Emily was elected on a manifesto, Richard was elected on a manifesto, Gloria was elected on a manifesto – it was the same manifesto . . . the Labour Party believes in equality and justice, that is what was the centre of our manifesto, and that will be at the centre of our next manifesto . . .
“When the media talk about the bravery of those who walked away, Anna Soubry voted for austerity and said it was a good thing. Almost immediately after leaving Chris Leslie tells us that we should not be ending university fees … and we should be cutting corporation tax and increasing the burden on others.
Mr Corbyn also addressed the anti-Semitism issues within the party, which MPs Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan both cited as they quit Labour this week:
“When people are racist to each other, then we oppose it in any way whatsoever. If anyone is racist towards anyone else in our party – wrong. Out of court, out of order, totally and absolutely unacceptable. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form and in any way whatsoever, and anywhere in our society.”
He added: “I’m proud to lead a party that was the first ever to introduce race relations legislation and also to pass the equality act and the human rights act into the statute book.”
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”.
“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?”