Category Archives: Labour Party
Published on 9 Aug 2019
I’m just going put it out there and say that an election is coming and Boris Johnson is eminently beatable. But only if the left are more radical. They must fiercely oppose Johnson’s values, offer a clear and coherent position on Brexit and play to Jeremy Corbyn’s key strengths as a campaigner. But what do you think? Is it all over for Labour? Or will the Tories fall apart in an election campaign?
Stroud News and Journal, 31 July 2019, p. 37 [also in the Glos Gazette and Glos and Wilts Standard, 1 August)
I read Royston Gay’s letter “Labour’s anti-Semitism shames us all” with the deepest dismay. As a Labour Party member of Jewish descent, I simply do not recognise the Labour Party he writes of.
The notorious Panorama programme he speaks of was a prime example of a tabloid hatchet job, which falls apart with any serious analysis. Apart from the fact it was concocted by a Murdoch acolyte, who paraded a succession of victims who nearly all belong to organisations with an axe to grind, where was the right of reply and counter-argument?
Let’s give the anti-Semitism issue a little context. Cases of anti-Semitism involving Labour Party members amount to less than .01% of the membership. While many hundreds of incidents have to be dealt with, and I hope each and every one receives the severest sanction, the number of members involved is still relatively small. Any is too many, but this needs to be been in perspective.
There is less anti-Semitism in Labour than in society in general, and certainly less anti-Semitism and other forms of racism than in the Conservative Party.
So why is it that all the media’s focus remains on the Labour Party? The elephant in the room is that anything that can be used to undermine Labour under its present leadership is regarded as fair game. Attacking Corbyn on this issue is absurd; he is a lifelong opponent of racism of all kinds.
So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.
Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.
Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.
The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.
Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.
We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:
- London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
- Catalonia is on fire.
- Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
- Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
- The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.
It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)
So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?
On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.
The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).
- There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
- Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
- We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
- The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.
The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”
Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.
Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here:
Richard House throws down the gauntlet in a letter to the editor:
The squalid shenanigans of the Labour right over the Chris Williamson question are beneath contempt.
Good old Tosh McDonald for sticking up for him (MPs hounding Chris Williamson are ‘bullies,’ prominent trade unionist says, M Star June 29–30); and I want to respond to the call by Tosh’s for Chris’s defenders to stand up and be counted.
First, on the letters pages of this and other newspapers, I have said exactly what Chris said about anti-semitism in Labour, in the speech for which he was suspended from the party. His statements were absolutely correct and factually accurate. Chris and I both passionately believe that to the extent that there is anti-semitism in Labour, it is abhorrent and must be eradicated.
But the scale of the media coverage that the anti-semitism issue has generated is grotesquely out of proportion to the actual problem.
It has been stoked, orchestrated and weaponised in a despicable anti-Corbyn putsch attempt by the likes of Tom Watson and the Labour right.
So, I’m saying it again here, in black and white and without mealy-mouthed triangulation or equivocation, just as Chris has rightly pointed out.
So come on, rightists: suspend me from the party, too. And if you do, I look forward to seeing you in court, where, once and for all, I’ll take great pleasure in exposing your shameful shenanigans for all to see.
These people’s divisive disloyalty and misconduct are in effect making the election of a Labour government less likely, and so if anyone should be suspended from the party, it’s them, not the likes of Chris.
Dr RICHARD HOUSE
Stroud Constituency Labour Party
A Corbyn government will need support from openly selected MPs and a mass members’ movement to bring about beneficial change
An editorial by Ben Chacko opens with a reference to civil servants apparently briefing the press against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – a further sign of the strain a truly radical opposition is putting on our political system.
Chacko (right) predicts that this will intensify if he enters office:
“Labour’s radical programme will face parliamentary sabotage, which is why open selection of Labour MPs to improve the character of the parliamentary party is essential.
“It will face legal challenges from corporations with bottomless wallets, institutional interference from the judiciary and the EU if we haven’t left the latter, economic warfare, meddling by foreign powers such as the United States, perhaps even the military putsch mooted in 2015”.
John McDonnell has often said that when Labour goes into office we will all go into office – and Chacko stresses:
“We need to build a mass movement of trade unions, campaign groups such as the People’s Assembly and community organisations fighting for change in every workplace, every town hall and every high street to make those words a reality”.
Only by building up united and determined pressure ‘from below’ will the political-corporate grip on power be broken.
Read the Chacko editorial here.
Two correspondents – who admire JC in many ways – think so and one has expressed their misgivings in an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn:
First, congratulations to Labour for winning the Peterborough by-election and staving off a surge from Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party.
But what a missed opportunity earlier last week?
Much as I understand your strong antipathy towards Donald Trump, you should have made a genuine effort to meet the President of the United States when he came on his State visit.
You made your views quite clear from as far back as April that you planned to boycott Trump’s visit. You fulfilled your promise and instead spoke at an anti-Trump rally.
I have to say that your decision not to attend the State banquet was misguided and I am concerned about the lack of diplomacy you are displaying on the world stage. I am also concerned about who is advising you on foreign policy.
Jeremy, when are you going to realise that as the leader of the official opposition, you will have to meet and work with politicians that you disagree with on many issues? I would rather you had met with Trump than being on the outside looking in. But despite your protestations leading up to visit, lo and behold Trump told the public that you wanted to have a private meeting with him and he turned you down.
The ideal thing for you to have done, when you were first aware of Trump’s visit, was to issue a public statement welcoming the visit and that you look forward to discussing a number of critical issues with the Donald. Then Trump may have been more forthcoming. If not, then you would have had the upper hand in calling him out.
Yes, Trump is a polarising and controversial leader. He can be pompous, rude and offensive. But he is the most important head of government that you will have to consult on a regular basis should you become PM.
Trump’s modest operandi is all about planned chaos before resolution. So expect the drama, PR stunts and the snide remarks. But look beyond such behaviour and bluster from Trump to achieve your Party’s own goals.
Jeremy, you are the leader of a political party where many of your own colleagues have been rude, pompous and offensive publicly to your face (and back) since you became leader.
In Tom Watson (your deputy leader) you have the most insubordinate number 2 I’ve ever seen in UK politics. Even Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has made harsh remarks about your leadership.
[I know you must realise that Khan is using his own public row with Trump to boost his chances for re-election and also to go after your job.]
Remember Jeremy, you are constantly accused of allowing anti-Semitic behaviour to thrive in the Labour party. Whether this allegation is true or not, how would you feel if international leaders refuse to meet you because of such allegations?
The UK is currently being led by a rudderless Conservative government and thus here was an opportunity to meet Trump on cordial terms. You could have raised concerns over BREXIT, trade, Iran, Cuba, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, intelligence, North Korea, and China.
Just imagine the faces of Netanyahu and John Bolton if they saw pictures of you discussing Palestine with Trump? You could have been that rare of person – a pro-Palestinian politician with access to Trump.
Despite the numerous disagreements that you and Trump have, there are a few things you both have in common:
- The mainstream media in the US and UK hates you both in equal measure. Especially the BBC.
- You both are anti-EU.
- Senior management of US and UK intelligence services are no fans of either of you.
- You both support less US military aggression across the globe.
- You both support negotiations with North Korea rather than the far scarier alternative
- Sadiq Khan hates you both.
To be honest Jeremy, by now you should have globe trotted to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and UN to get first hand understanding of issues affecting the wider society, hone your diplomatic craft and build key networks.
Yes, we all know Trump has made some incendiary comments about race, women and much more. On the issue of race your advisors could have consulted the likes of Van Jones to learn how he worked successfully with Trump to achieve changes to the criminal justice system.
Jones, a Democratic Party strategist, has been a vocal critic of Trump from the very night the latter won the 2016 US presidential elections. Yet Jones managed to work with the Trump administration to pass the First Step Act, which allows non-violent criminals early release by way of increased “earned time credits.”. The Act rolls back some of the harsh and unfair measures in the 1994 Crime Bill that was passed under the Bill Clinton administration. The Crime Bill damaged the lives of African Americans more than any other group of Americans. Jones is African American.
The Labour Party’s fortunes have been floundering in recent months for reasons you do not need reminding of right now. But I strongly suggest that you add some advisors with solid diplomatic experience to your inner circle. Also do get out of the UK bubble and meet leading politicians from other nations on their home soil. We have yet to witness Corbyn the statesman on the international stage on a consistent basis.
The UK is crying out for major changes at Downing Street. The current crop of Tory candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as PM should hopefully not be there too long. We have had a decade of Tory led governments and many have grown tired of their policies, wickedness and incompetence.
It’s Labour’s turn. Just don’t blow it.
Spent three decades in working in Whitehall mainly for Customs and Excise, Cabinet Office and Home Office. Worked for public sector bodies in the UK, EU and US. Ex-London tour guide. Now lives in Jamaica. Loves photography, reading, arts, music, sports and farming.
“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”: Paul Halas
Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.
In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.
But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.
The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.
The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.
He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.
OBR: damned with faint praise?
- The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
- The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
- One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
- Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.
Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:
Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.
It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.
And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.
Jeremy Corbyn’s statement: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government” is followed by video evidence of those atrocities – lest we forget.
The Times’ misleading headline (left), its stock-in-trade, has been echoed by others, though not borne out by the following texts. These report only that Assange shouted – to give his point of view in a noisy crowd – and did not co-operate with the placing of handcuffs. No doubt if he had remained silent and passive, that would have been reported as evidence of shame and guilt.
Hansard reports faithfully – how long will that be permitted?
The Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott said: “I thank the Home Secretary for his account of events. On the Labour Benches, we are glad that Julian Assange will be able to access medical care, treatment and facilities, because there have been worrying reports about his ill health. Of course, at this point that is all a matter for the courts.
“We in the Opposition want to make the point that, even though the only charge that Julian Assange may face in this country is in relation to his bail hearings, the reason we are debating this this afternoon is entirely to do with his and WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing activities.
“These whistleblowing activities about illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale have put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US Administration. For this reason, they have once more issued an extradition warrant against Mr Assange . . .
“We have a precedent in this country in relation to requests for extradition to the US, when the US authorities raise issues of hacking and national security. I remind the House of the case of Gary McKinnon. In October 2012, when the current Prime Minister was Home Secretary, an extradition request very similar to this one was refused.
“We should recall what WikiLeaks disclosed. Who can forget the Pentagon video footage of a missile attack in 2007 in Iraq that killed 18 civilians and two Reuters journalists?
“The monumental number of such leaks lifted the veil on US-led military operations in a variety of theatres, none of which has produced a favourable outcome for the people of those countries.
“Julian Assange is being pursued not to protect US national security, but because he has exposed wrongdoing by US Administrations and their military forces”.
Richard House of Stroud writes: “Please share/cascade this timely article around the web”: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a crucial ally in the fight against antisemitism:
Over 200 Jewish members and supporters of the Labour party sign a letter urging that anyone seeking an end to bigotry and racism should back Labour and Corbyn:
The Guardian has reported that a number of implacably anti-Corbyn MPs have left the Labour party alleging a failed “approach to dealing with antisemitism”, with Luciana Berger criticising Labour for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist”.
We are Jewish members and supporters of the Labour party concerned about the current rise of reactionary ideologies, including antisemitism, in Britain and elsewhere across Europe.
We note the worrying growth of populist rightwing parties, encouraging racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. In Britain the far right is whipping up these prejudices, a threat that requires a resolute and energetic response. But instead we have seen a disproportionate focus on antisemitism on the left, which is abhorrent but relatively rare.
We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable. His involvement strengthens this struggle.
Labour governments introduced both the anti-racist and human rights legislation of the 20th century and the 2010 Equalities Act. A Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn will be a powerful force to fight against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.
It is in this context that we welcome the Labour party’s endorsement of freedom of expression on Israel and on the rights of Palestinians. Labour is correct to recognise that while prejudice against Jewish people is deplorable, criticism of Israel’s government and policies can and must be made.
We urge all who wish to see an end to bigotry and racism, and who seek a more just society, to give their support to the Labour party.