Category Archives: Inequality
Britain’s next Prime Minister could be a 70-year old former winner of Beard of the Year who’s become a hit with young voters. Steve Beauchampé assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances.
My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without. After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Milliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Milliband but without the geeky visage and voice.
That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second). Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.
However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).
And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alec Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters. A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.
Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.
So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister? Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.
If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.
Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!
August 5th 2015
Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:
Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax
Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)
Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built
Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords
Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector
The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband
The minimum wage to apply to apprentices
Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS
Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership
Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities
Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed
Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)
Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum
An elected second chamber
On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.
Inside story: Corbyn’s campaign – the political shock of a generation
With thanks to the reader who sent this link.
Corbyn counters proposals which would mean marooned older people with lower incomes, spending more on heating
Today the Times reports that Jeremy Corbyn will reaffirm his party’s commitment to the concessionary travel scheme on his tour of marginal seats in Scotland.
The SNP has confirmed plans to raise the age at which Scots become eligible from 60 so that only those eligible for a state pension have a free pass – which is fine for those still employed . . . Ministers say it would protect the long-term viability of the scheme, which costs taxpayers £192 million a year.
Mr Corbyn plans to meet pensioners in Fife today and is expected to say: “Labour will protect pensioner incomes, by legislating to keep the triple lock, protecting the pensions of over one million Scottish pensioners . . . We’ll protect benefits like the free bus pass and the winter fuel allowance.”
An octogenarian reader who has an income slightly above the national average wage and uses only public transport, comments that her life would be adversely affected. As bus fares are so high she would limit journeys to two a week.
Millions of pensioners on lower incomes would be marooned in their locality most of the time – a locality which might or might not meet everyday needs as cuts close post offices and libraries.
How can affluent Conservative politicians (above, MP Kenneth Clarke) even contemplate such inhumane measures, whilst increasing capital gains and corporation tax relief to the affluent?
Kate Hudson observes that the outcome of the general election marks a significant shake-up in British politics and a surge in support for qualitatively different policies:
“It is clear that the narrative of investment in homes, health, education and jobs, has been very popular. In fact, it has led to Labour’s first increase in seats since 1997 and its biggest increase in the share of the vote since 1945”.
She views the election as a significant shift towards the politics of hope, peace, inclusivity, justice and equality.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s long – standing opposition to nuclear weapons, and his personal opposition to Trident replacement, did not deter millions of people from voting for him. Indeed the likelihood is that many – particularly young people – have voted for him precisely because he opposes war, intervention and weapons of mass destruction.
“Support for Trident replacement is negligible amongst the younger generation and it is clear that the narrative of investment in homes, health, education and jobs, has been very popular. In fact, it has led to Labour’s first increase in seats since 1997 and its biggest increase in the share of the vote since 1945”.
The right wing of the Labour Party, and a small but powerful section of the trade union movement, have ‘peddled the myth’ that Labour needs to look ‘strong on defence’ to win – and that this means supporting Trident replacement.
But, Kate believes, support for the party has surged because it has a radical vision of a different society, and because everyone knows that Jeremy Corbyn does not support Trident replacement. When he first became leader, he commissioned an extensive Defence Review throughout the Labour Party. That review has been shelved – because it showed the extent of anti-Trident opinion within the party?
She calls for that review to be published and debated at the next Labour Party conference: “This issue must not be kept off the agenda any longer”. There is no popular mandate for a Tory security policy, or a Tory-lite security policy pushed on the Labour party by a minority of pro-nuclear forces that are living in the past. Those trade unions that have put unreasonable pressure on Jeremy to keep Trident are urged to change:
“The way for them to secure and extend high quality, well-paid jobs is to support Jeremy’s policy on defence diversification. Rather than shunning this initiative they need to work with politicians and industry to develop a diversification plan, as part of a national industrial strategy that will secure their jobs without holding the rest of the country over a nuclear barrel”.
As she points out, there is now strong public backing for industrial planning and investment and this needs to go into sustainable industrial production to meet public needs, for energy, housing and public resources, not weapons of mass destruction.
Labour’s support has grown because of Corbyn’s policies based on peace, respect and our shared humanity. And this vision goes beyond national boundaries to his vision of how we relate to the rest of the world. No longer Blair’s ‘war-fighting nation’, ‘punching above its weight’, but a decent part of a shared community of nations.
Read her article here: http://www.cnduk.org/images/stories/Summer_2017.pdf
Kate Hudson, British political activist and academic, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
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”.
General Election – Cole: “ My money is on Corbyn . . . to displace Theresa May because he leads a movement, not just a party”
In 2016, Roger Cole, founder and chairman of Ireland’s Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), predicted that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, will displace Theresa May because he leads a movement, not just a party.
In 2009, he writes, Jeremy Corbyn visited Ireland to attend an international peace conference in Shannon organised by Pana which has, over the last 20 years, developed strong links with British CND, Scottish CND and CND Cymru. They represent all that is best among the British, Scottish and Welsh people. It is their values and their vision that gives hope for the possibility of a great future for the UK shorn of its imperial culture either in what remains of the British empire or the emerging European empire.”
Corbyn has, for his entire political life, been a supporter of CND and its values. He was re-elected Labour leader not because he is a decent, honest and humble man (which he is) but because he leads a movement, not just a political party.
It is a movement that wants, among other things, a real national health service (the greatest achievement of the historic 1945 Labour government), rather than the continuation of Britain’s imperial tradition of a commitment to perpetual war and the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme as advocated by the current ruling parties of Tories and New Labour.
If Corbyn becomes prime minister it will be because of a deep and fundamental change in the values of the British people.
So can that happen? The prime minister, Theresa May, has made it clear she is prepared to kill millions of people with the Trident missile system. She will no doubt have the total support of the war-loving neoliberal corporate media. Current polls show that in an election she would win relatively easily.
So what would Corbyn have to do to defeat the Tories?
First, he had to become the undisputed leader of Labour and his second victory went a long way to achieving that . . . While the internal attacks on Corbyn will not end, the marginalisation of the Blairites will accelerate and consolidate the unification of Labour under Corbyn in its fight against the Tories.
Corbyn’s decision to accept the democratic decision of the British people to reject membership of the emerging European empire and its emerging European army has been crystal clear. It is a decision that will go a long way to regaining the support of those voters who shifted to Ukip.
In Scotland, the SNP will more than likely continue to dominate, but would be far less antagonistic to a Corbyn-led Labour. If they work together in the first-past-the-post system, they could put the final nail in the coffin of Tory Scotland and maximise the number of MPs for both parties. After all, with a Corbyn-led government, the SNP understand that it is their best chance of a second independence referendum.
While there is no doubt that decades of Thatcher/Blair senseless warmongering and neoliberalism remains popular, especially among those that benefited from it . . . the sustained attacks on the social system, the massive and growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a small number of billionaires is losing its appeal among a growing number of ordinary people. They would prefer a more equitable taxation system, a better-funded NHS and an end to perpetual war. And why not?
So, will Corbyn become the next British prime minister? It is now a realistic option . . .The British people may decide that even if they do not support everything Corbyn stands for, they will agree to a change – in practice more of a Harold Wilson than a Clement Attlee transformation.
Anyway, I put a bet on that the Brexit side would triumph in the recent referendum. My only regret now is that I did not put more money on it.
Come the British election I will not make that mistake again: my money is on Corbyn.
With thanks for this lead to Felicity Arbuthnot
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.
Tom Colclough has insisted that despite portrayals of Corbynistas as reckless ideologues, and yes, despite a flurry of bad polls, it is clear to him why Corbyn and most importantly, his vision, must win.
He adds that Labour under Corbyn’s stewardship hasn’t been the catastrophe that many in the parliamentary Labour party wished it to be, no matter how hard they tried to make it so.
Stopping the Tories and their myriad of welfare cuts during this parliament, or forcing the U-turn on a forced academisation programme (Ed: and forensic questioning on PMQs) has been opposition worthy of the name.
Corbyn and to a large part his shadow chancellor John McDonnell have turned the tanker around to face these issues head on. Before Corbyn’s election Harriet Harman was dancing on the pinhead of the welfare bill whilst Chris Leslie was an impotent shadow chancellor.
Corbyn successfully reclaimed Labour’s voice and begun reupholstering the party, from top to bottom. Turning a party around in the aftermath of an election that haemorrhaged votes nationwide takes time and support. Labour’s resounding victories in several Parliamentary by-elections and mayoralties since were bitter pills to swallow for Corbyn’s enemies, inside and outside the PLP.
Undeterred, Jeremy Corbyn continued to inspire thousands into becoming Labour members. It is now the largest party in Europe. Of course this is no arbiter of governing ability, but it is a mass resource that tapped into, can help the party reach into corners that others simply cannot.
Now, here is the important bit. Derailing this progress now – which is what removing Corbyn would do – would see the air in the chests of thousands of new members sucked out and their potential contributions curtailed. All that will be left would be a vacuum.
Those who would fill it are those still wanting to walk down the middle of a road that has long since been diverted.
The dynamic of politics as we know it is changing. Labour under Corbyn can make progress, but he needs time, and the support from the PLP that he deserves.