Category Archives: Economy

Jeremy Corbyn, a reluctant tribute: “only a decisive Labour intervention can set the country right”

Kevin Pringle, former strategic communications director for the SNP, opens his latest Times article:

“Here are words I never thought I’d write: Jeremy Corbyn could save the country. But only if he wants to.

“Brexit is an Anglo-Saxon farce, revealing a depth of incompetence, division and utter lack of preparedness on the part of the UK government that has plumbed even my low expectations. The antics of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis are about as funny as a Carry On film long after the franchise went stale. The issues at stake are too serious”.

Pringle continues with a summary of recent cabinet discussions and warnings from big business of the risks of relocation, withdrawal of investment and job losses.

He describes the prospect of Britain’s alignment to EU regulations in some sectors as a ludicrous mishmash that should be unacceptable to remainers and leavers alike – a ‘dud destination’, adding:

“Corbyn needs to take a long view of the country’s best interests and act accordingly. He should commit Labour to backing a fresh referendum so that people have an opportunity to exit Brexit when its final form is known. In these circumstances, the SNP would come on board alongside the Lib Dems and others. Such a bold move could attract the relatively small number of Tory MPs needed to deliver a House of Commons majority for a people’s vote.

“I’m no fan of Labour but I recognise that in times of need it has been the agent of Britain’s deliverance.

“One of the best-ever Commons speeches was by Michael Foot at the end of the no-confidence debate in March 1979, which the Labour government lost by a single vote. Foot argued that Labour had “come to the rescue of the country” on at least two occasions: “It is in the most difficult and painful moments of our history sometimes that this country of ours has turned to the Labour Party for salvation, and they’ve never turned in vain so far. We saved the country in 1940; we saved the country again in 1945.”

“He was right.

“It was Labour that forced a vote in the House of Commons in May 1940 after the debate on the military fiasco of the Norway campaign. The result precipitated the fall of Chamberlain as prime minister, and creation of the wartime coalition under Churchill’s leadership that was an essential element of victory.

“And in 1945, Clement Attlee’s Labour Party had the ideas and determination to rebuild an exhausted Britain, including creating the NHS 70 years ago.

“This is another historic moment, and once again only a decisive Labour intervention can set the country right”.

 

 

 

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Negotiating priorities that retain the benefits of the single market and the customs union

Sienna Rodgers writes about the new amendment Labour has tabled to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill and Trade Bill, and as an amendment ‘in lieu’ of the European Economic Area amendment passed by the Lords, calling for “full access” to the EU’s internal market.

Tabled as a new clause Labour’s proposal would make “full access” to the single market a negotiating objective of the government.

It is not a change of direction but a clarification of Jeremy Corbyn’s Coventry University speech (February). In this he revealed that the party would back membership of a customs union. He also said: “Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.”

Labour’s amendments specify:

  • full access to the EU single market,
  • common minimum standards, rights and protections,
  • shared institutions with the EU
  • and no new impediments to trade.

The Labour leadership maintains that joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – advocated by some Labour MPs – would make the UK a ‘rule-taker not a rule-maker’. These new amendments are designed to replace the EEA amendment passed by the Lords and the Labour leadership will whip MPs to abstain when it comes to the Commons on Tuesday.

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, called Labour’s new amendment “a very strong and significant statement of policy” and said it was “essentially tying together the single market and customs union as a strong economic package, which I think will be welcomed by businesses and trade unions”.

 

 

 

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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.

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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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Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s conference in Wales

Shadow Welsh secretary Christina Rees, Carwyn Jones and Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn spoke at Labour’s conference in Llandudno on 22nd April and received a huge standing ovation, in spite of the relentless media efforts to portray him negatively while often ignoring or even covering up the disarray on the government’s front benches.

A transcript is not available but his 2017 speech is well worth revisiting: http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyns-speech-to-the-welsh-labour-conference/

Highlights:

What Labour in Wales has achieved:

A health service free from unnecessary top-down reorganisations and privatisation where your hospitals are not struggling with record deficits due to the legacy of PFI. The NHS in Wales is treating more people than ever before and 90% say they received good treatment

  • Free prescriptions for all
  • A new treatment fund setup for life threatening illnesses
  • On cancer waiting times, Wales is doing better than England and cancer survival rates in Wales are improving faster than anywhere in Britain
  • You’ve protected the social care budget which has been slashed in England
  • and there are good industrial relations in Wales: no strikes provoked and no operations cancelled unnecessarily

We strongly support the doctors who don’t want patient safety to be put at risk.  Last week I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with a group of junior doctors. Let’s be clear, they are not “junior” they are dedicated, highly qualified people on whom we all depend. They are alarmed at the direction the NHS is taking.

As a parting gift they gave me this book “How to dismantle the NHS in 10 easy steps” which starts with an internal market and ends with an aim of introducing universal private health insurance.

As Nye Bevan said: “Illness is a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community”.

In Wales you have built an education system that has just delivered the best ever GCSE results

  • new schools are being built
  • primary school pupils get a free breakfast
  • the poorest college students still get the education maintenance allowance (EMA)
  • And where Welsh students aren’t shackled by mountainous debt and where grants are being maintained.

English students leave university with an average £22,000 more in debt than Welsh students; that is a shocking burden that shackles young people as they start in life. It is no surprise that home ownership has collapsed.

Jobs Growth Wales has helped 15,000 young people into work

  • The Young Entrepreneurs Bursary has helped young people to setup over 400 businesses in Wales and your plans to deliver 100,000 quality apprenticeships.
  • the Bay Campus at Swansea is already reaping the benefits of high tech jobs in the area.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that tax and benefit changes in the last five years have left the average Welsh household £560 a year worse off.

Tax cuts for the few, the super-rich and big business public service cuts and welfare cuts for the many. We have gratuitous inequality in this country the average pay of the top chief executives compared with the average worker has risen from 47 times in 1998 to 183 times last year.

For too many people in the UK who aren’t the super-rich elite and there are quite a few of them, life is wracked by insecurity, at work and at home, Labour believes that we only succeed if we all succeed together.

The impact of this insecurity on people’s lives can be huge, it affects people’s physical and mental health.

The Tories have failed to invest in modernising the economy, we are way behind other countries on our digital infrastructure, our transport, our energy system and our housing.

70 Labour councils have committed to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 – including major cities like Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, and Liverpool and here in Wales in Swansea, Torfaen and Caerphilly. And Labour in Wales has set out a clear energy policy, Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition and is supporting decentralised energy production through the Local Energy Service.

The Conservative government continues to fail to invest in renewable energy cut subsidies for the nascent solar industry but increased them for fracking and for diesel generators.

If our investment in flood defences had been continued, retaining the senior staff employed to make decisions in these emergencies and protecting the emergency services who responded to save lives and homes during those difficult days and weeks, we would not have seen the level of destruction and flood damage that caused such anguish to so many people as their homes were damaged and their belongings ruined.

Transport infrastructure is absolutely crucial to industrial development and growth. I praise the Welsh government in its support in re-opening and improving valley railway lines, the plans for the improved metro links in the south west of Wales and the crucial need to improve the North Wales line and road links.

We have already challenged the government and won on many important issues:

  1. We forced them to take a U-turn on cuts to working tax credits meaning 3 million families will no longer be hit this April with a £1,000 cut to their family income
  2. We made them backtrack on plans to further cut police numbers in their Autumn statement
  3. And we stood against the horrendous proposal that the UK would run Saudi Arabia’s prison system for them

Our party is one of social justice every child deserves a good education every student the option to study at college or university everyone deserves a decent and secure home to live in nobody should ever be left destitute the grotesque levels of inequality are unjustifiable and must go.

We are living through an era of the most grotesque deepening inequality in Britain and the West. The cynics say that inevitably the next generation will be worse of that this, I say this is not inevitable and not necessary as socialist our duty is to expand the wealth but crucially to share it so the next generation is better off than this one, and our grandchildren will be better off than our children.

 

 

 

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Another Europe is Possible

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Another Europe is Possible campaigned for a radical ‘in’ vote – building a community that is pro-EU even while it works towards building a stronger, reformed union that can bring about the radical social change our citizens need in the UK and across Europe. It sees Brexit as a crisis for Britain – an attack on rights and freedoms, and a potentially calamitous brake on our prosperity. But too often this debate is conducted in a language of fear.

That’s why it has released a new campaign of hope set out in a new report – The Corbyn moment and European socialism.

It was written by Mary Kaldor, Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, Luke Cooper, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Anglia Ruskin University, John Palmer, former European Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Political Director of the European Policy Centre and Niccolo Milanese, Director of European Alternatives.

It takes a fresh look at the critical role that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could play in transforming Europe’s politics, working from within the EU. You can read it in full here, and order paper copies by emailing info@anothereurope.org

The report makes the case that institutions such as the EU are essential to pushing forward radical and progressive change. A Corbyn-led Labour government could be instrumental to: 

* Taxing multinationals, including harmonising corporation tax rules and clamping down on tax avoidance.

* Regulating banks, including with a new financial transaction tax

* Protecting migrant workers’ rights and strengthening trade unions

* Digital Rights, where Labour has already played a leading role in the global debate

* Climate change, using its weight shift EU institutions and overcome big business lobbies

* Addressing global conflicts, prioritising the security of people, rather than the interests of states, on a humanitarian basis

* Ending fortress Europe, by radically altering the discourse, opening up legal routes for entry, and treating the refugee crisis as a humanitarian issue, not a security one

* Reforming the Eurozone, by playing a supportive role and example for progressive anti-austerity parties inside it

The message ends: Jeremy Corbyn has transformed British politics – and if you think he’s good for Britain, he’d be even better news for the EU, if we stay in it.

See this inspiring video with an interesting reference to Portugal, said to be flourishing under a government which has rejected austerity and used taxes to invest.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s well-received speech at the manufacturing employers’ conference today

Today, at the Manufacturing Organisation EEF’s conference, in the questions session following his well-received address, Jeremy Corbyn broke silence on the claim by the Sun and the Daily Mail that he had been collaborating with a Czech spy –  which had been debunked yesterday in a BBC interview with a Czech intelligence archivist.

He responded to a lamely delivered question from a Daily Mail representative and was warmly applauded by the audience. A video clip on the Skwawkbox site is well worth seeing.

Appreciation also to inews who gives the speech in full here

It has been placed with Mr Corbyn’s other addresses on this website.

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Did it provoke the multi-pronged attack the next day in The Times?

 

 

 

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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

 

Labour’s effective opposition in 2017

Steve Walker blogs:

In spite of Labour’s General Election surge and its continued polling strength – not to mention more than thirty u-turns Labour under Corbyn had already forced from the Conservatives before the election – the line persists in some quarters that Labour is not an effective opposition.

That line tends to be spouted either by those who think defeating Brexit is the only important task for the opposition – or by those who talk like it for factional purposes – ignoring the fact that Corbyn’s handling of the issue has been intelligent, nuanced and politically skilful.

So, as it’s the time of year for round-ups, here is a non-exhaustive list of sixteen u-turns that the Conservatives have been forced to make because there is an opposition party willing and able to stand for something different.

And for those who think Brexit is the only vital issue, the first three are Brexit-related:

  1. Brexit deal vote u-turn
  2. Brexit impact assessment u-turn
  3. European Court of Human Rights u-turn
  4. Dementia Tax u-turn (unprecedentedly dropped from the manifesto before the GE)
  5. Pensions triple lock u-turn
  6. Housing benefit cap for supported housing u-turn
  7. Self-employed National Insurance increase u-turn
  8. School meals cost u-turn
  9. NHS Professionals sell-off u-turn
  10. Police funding u-turn
  11. Fire safety in schools u-turn
  12. Grammar schools u-turn
  13. Abortion for Northern Irish women u-turn
  14. Winter fuel payments u-turn
  15. Universal Credit 7-day waiting period u-turn
  16. Universal Credit freephone u-turn
  17. Fox-hunting u-turn
  18. Diesel tax u-turn
  19. Manchester terror attack costs u-turn
  20. Prisoner vote u-turn

The government has been weakened by Corbyn’s Labour taking a clear, firm stand – and the Labour surge resulting from the party presenting a genuine alternative.

2017 has been a historic year for Labour and much of that can be attributed to Corbyn’s vision, leadership and his strength in standing firm against an unprecedented media onslaught – and it’s been a better year for millions of UK people as a result of Labour’s effective opposition.

 

 

o