Category Archives: Education
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:
- Brexit deal vote u-turn
- Brexit impact assessment u-turn
- European Court of Human Rights u-turn
- Dementia Tax u-turn (unprecedentedly dropped from the manifesto before the GE)
- Pensions triple lock u-turn
- Housing benefit cap for supported housing u-turn
- Self-employed National Insurance increase u-turn
- School meals cost u-turn
- NHS Professionals sell-off u-turn
- Police funding u-turn
- Fire safety in schools u-turn
- Grammar schools u-turn
- Abortion for Northern Irish women u-turn
- Winter fuel payments u-turn
- Universal Credit 7-day waiting period u-turn
- Universal Credit freephone u-turn
- Fox-hunting u-turn
- Diesel tax u-turn
- Manchester terror attack costs u-turn
- 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.
One Times reader commented: ”The Sunday Times is on a Corbyn bashathon today. “All hands to the wheel, 700 words on Jezza…” I would turn to the sports pages but I suspect there might be a sly dig at Labour lurking somewhere”.
Author Sarah Baxter’s photograph (right) adorns her article – and the headline continues (“his goons crush dissent”) by implying ‘heavies’ were menacing anyone failing to applaud. The sub-line was: “Labour moderates are put to the sword”, but she was merely rehashing recent events at the Unite Union.
New Musical Express (NME), a British music magazine, had the grace to give a straightforward account and also published the full text of the speech. Highlights were:
His words to the many young people in the audience who had been “fed up with being denigrated, fed up with being told they don’t matter. Fed up with being told they never participate, and utterly fed up with being told that their generation was going to pay more to get less in education, in health, in housing, in pensions and everything else. That they should accept low wages and insecurity, and they should see it as just part of life” . . .
“Because we’re there demanding and achieving something very different in our society and in our lives.
“There’s a number of things, they’re very simple, very basic questions that we should ask ourselves:
- Is it right that so many people in our country have no home to live in and only a street to sleep on?
- Is it right that so many people are frightened of where they live at the moment having seen the horrors of what happened at Grenfell Tower?
- Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches? No it obviously is not.
- And is it right that European nationals living in this country, making their contribution to our society, working in our hospitals, schools and universities don’t know if they’re going to be allowed to remain here?
I say, they all most stay and they all must be part of our world and part of our community, because what festivals are about, what this festival is about, is coming together.
“Do you know what? When people across the world think the same, cooperate the same, maybe in different languages, different faiths, peace is possible and must be achieved. And do you know what? Let’s stop the denigration of refugees, people looking for a place of safety in a cruel and dangerous world. They are all human beings just like us here today. They’re looking for a place of safety and looking to make their contribution to the future of all of us, so let’s support them in their hour of need. Not a threat and a danger.
“I think we should adopt a maxim in life that everyone we meet is unique. Everyone knows something we don’t know, is slightly different to us in some ways. Don’t see them as a threat. Don’t see them as the enemy. See them as a source of knowledge, a source of friendship and a source of inspiration.
“We cannot go on destroying this planet through global warming, through pollution, through the destruction of habitat, through pollution of our seas and rivers. We have to live on this planet, there is only one planet. Not even Donald Trump believes there is another planet somewhere else. And so let us protect the planet that we’ve got. Use the technology that we have to manage and control the use of our natural resources so that the planet is here in future generations in better condition than it is at the present time.
“But let’s also look at instability and problems around the world and tackle the causes of war: the greed of natural resources, human rights, the irrational imprisonment of political opponents. Let’s look to build a world of human rights, peace, justice and democracy all over the planet”.
The rightwing press called his preference for attending the music festival over celebrating Armed Forces Day a former soldier pointed out that JC was actually raising the morale of his grand-children by promising them a better future.
And as two Sunday Times journalists feebly jibed at Corbyn’s wrinkles (‘Glasto raves with ‘Jagger’ Corbyn‘, looking down on the ‘Glastonbury festival masses’ who in a ‘rabidly Jeremaniac mood’ ‘succumbed’ yesterday to a ‘frenzied outbreak of Corbynmania’, Corbyn ended:
“This festival, this wonderful festival and all of its stages and music gives that chance it that opportunity to so many young musicians, that they may achieve and inspire us all. And I’m proud to be here for that. I’m proud to be here to support the peace movement here and the way that message gets across. But I’m also very proud to be here for the environmental causes that go with it.
“Let us be together and recognise another world is possible if we come together to understand that. Understand the power we’ve got to achieve that decent, better society where everyone matters and those poverty-stricken people are enriched in their lives and the rest of us are made secure by their enrichment”.
An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:
- air pollution continues unabated,
- the health service deteriorates,
- the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
- ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
- and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
- sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
- or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.
Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly heavy workload.
New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.
A friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.
But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:
- graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
- people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
- many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
- education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
- in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
- mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.
Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:
- to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
- restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
- abolish university tuition fees
- guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
- creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
- extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
- raise the cap on NHS wages, and
- to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.
If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:
Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.
Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.
Labour Party membership (517,000 members in March 2017) is rapidly increasing after the general election was announced. Before:
Yesterday a Wimbledon reader forwarded an email message received from her friend: “Hope you all saw Jeremy Corbyn on Marr this morning. If not, DO catch up on i-player. But I fear for how it’ll be reported in the press”.
The Guardian’s John Crace was flippant/facetious and even-handedly belittled the other contributors. Dan Bloom in the Mirror was thoughtful and informative, itemising three things we learn and three things we didn’t and yet again this paper made available a link to the full transcript. The Mail and Times cherry-picked and hoped to score points on Trident/security/NATO.
Social media snapshot:
Corbyn’s calmness in the face of Marr’s questions, on both foreign and domestic policy was commended by many Twitter users:
Firmly but genially Jeremy Corbyn restrained Andrew Marr’s impetuous interruptions and calmed him down when he ‘jumped in too quickly’. Some appealing ‘soundbites’ include a wish to:
- reduce pay ratios in the public and private sectors;
- ensures universal access to good quality housing, healthcare and education;
- tariff-free trade access to the EU;
- investment bank to increase manufacturing jobs
- work out an immigration system
- and confer with supportive MEPs and colleagues who head EU states (below).
He appears to be the only prime ministerial candidate remarkable for stability, poise, honesty, patience, maturity and goodwill to all – how many more will echo the wish voiced earlier: “I want this man as prime minister!” ?
Two social media discoveries:
The media claim that older voters don’t vote Labour and won’t like Corbyn. Let’s get together to share the over 50s message and show them how wrong they are.
In graphic form
Liam Young, a democratic socialist freelance political writer for the Independent and the New Statesman, writes:
While Corbyn rebelled over academy conversion, foundation hospitals, the Iraq war, tuition fees and detention measures, Blairite MPs have offered their own warped form of ‘principled rebellion’ – airing their anti-Corbyn views in the press and decimating their party.
This is not the sort of rebellion Corbyn ever stood for.
It’s time to get real. Jeremy’s performance (on recent PMQs) has been powerful and statesmanlike and it is important to remember that he is the chosen leader, having taken more than 60% of the votes in leadership elections.
With his clear principles, he is the total opposite of the PM’s hot air. Each PMQs session goes further towards proving that to the British public.
Highlights from a Guardian article by Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting (University of Essex, below right)
Corbyn has rejected the trickle-down economic theory favoured by the Conservatives and New Labour.
The liberal economist JK Galbraith likened it to the “horse-and-sparrow theory”, which argued that if you continue to feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. Well, the sparrows have seen their share of the economy shrink.
A key strand of Corbyn’s policies is to strengthen workers’ ability to secure a larger share of the wealth generated by their own brawn, brain and skills. Towards this end, Corbyn has promised to repeal anti-trade union laws and promote collective bargaining by giving employees the right to organise through a union and negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at work.
Any mention of “collective bargaining” is likely to send neoliberals into convulsions even though big business has been using collective bargaining for decades to advance its interests. Banks, supermarkets, phone, gas, water, electricity and other companies collectively negotiate with governments to secure their economic interests. Finance directors of the 100 largest UK-listed companies, known as The 100 Group, pool their resources to secure advantages by shaping consumer protection, tax, regulation, competition, trade and other government policies. If big business is able to engage in collective bargaining, it is only fair that workers should also be enabled by law to collectively advance their interests.
Boosting workers’ share of GDP seems to be a key part of Corbyn’s policies, as without adequate purchasing power people cannot stimulate the economy
With this in mind, Corbyn advocates wage councils to set working conditions, a decent living wage and the abolition of zero-hours contracts to end the appalling insecurity caused by such working arrangements. Public sector workers have faced wage freezes and cuts in their real wages since 2008. They too have family responsibilities and Corbyn has promised to provide “an inflation-plus pay rise for public sector workers”. He has called for an end to workplace discrimination by requiring firms to publish data about the gender pay gap.
Further changes to dialogue about a division of the economic cake come through proposals to change corporate governance. Corbyn particularly wants to enact measures that would prevent directors and shareholders from extracting cash and then dumping companies, leaving employees, pension scheme members and taxpayers to pick up the tab. In the coming days we may well hear more about how workers and other stakeholders are to be represented on the boards of large companies, together with details of stakeholder votes on limiting excessive executive remuneration.
Jobs and prospects of decent pay would be boosted by investment in infrastructure and new industries. Labour has promised to create a new national investment bank and invest £500bn to reinvigorate the economy.
The burden of debt on young people and their families would be reduced by the abolition of tuition fees. This would enable many to start businesses and join the home ownership ladder, which is an increasingly distant dream for many.
Corbyn has been upfront about how various financial measures are to be funded. These include a marginal rate of 50% on taxable incomes above £150,000 and an increase in corporation tax rate. A reversal of the £15bn corporation tax cut announced by the chancellor in March alone would fund the abolition of the £10bn tuition fee.