Category Archives: Labour Party
“The current Labour party is made up of dangerous and sinister people”
Athar Yawar from Surbiton comments on Michael Stapleton’s assertion (Letters, September 30) that “the current Labour party is made up of dangerous and sinister people”. Has he ever met any Labour party members? I have. So far, none of them has struck me as especially dangerous or sinister.
Labour party membership has, of course, roughly tripled to 600,000 in the two years since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. Recent polls show that his policies are overwhelmingly popular with the British people.
Are the British people, as a whole, “dangerous and sinister”? Or do they recognise, in Mr Corbyn, a man of integrity, ability and compassion?
Kath Woodward from Worksop believes that the surprising and misjudged decision to call a general election was the result of Mrs May and her advisers failing to grasp the existing scale of substantive grassroots support for Mr Corbyn. She says that this has also been understated by the media’s insistent representation of the Labour leader as a “scruffy, rambling anti-hero”, to quote Nick Pearce.
She continues: “Mr Corbyn has ideas that need to be taken seriously, as they are by his many supporters and, I would have thought, by the Financial Times, in light of the crises of neoliberalism.“
Emma Jones from Abingdon comments on economist Martin Wolf’s warning that Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to put power “in the hands of the people” is “astonishingly close” to words spoken by Donald Trump on January 20 this year (“The calamitous consequences of Corbynomics”, October 6).
She ends: “It might be more worthwhile to point out that the leader of the opposition is one of Mr Trump’s most consistent British critics, and that the prospect of an independent foreign policy is a considerable part of Mr Corbyn’s current appeal”.
Note links are probably ‘paywalled’.
Mure Dickie in the Financial Times writes about the favourite to become the party’s next Scottish leader, Richard Leonard, who is regarded by Ladbrokes as the clear favourite to defeat Anas Sarwar.
Richard believes that a leftwing vision of greater economic planning, support for indigenous industry and redistribution of wealth could propel Labour into power in Scotland in just four years, as there is growing discontent with the SNP’s record in government since 2007.
Labour’s better than expected result in Scotland in this year’s general election showed that Mr Corbyn’s manifesto of extending public ownership, redistributing wealth and power, and reversing austerity resonated in Scotland, Leonard said.
He added that Scotland should use its devolved powers to greater economic effect, including giving trade unions a much greater influence over government efforts to develop workforce skills. Sectors such as renewable energy showed Scottish industry was not getting enough benefit from state support and investment, with big overseas-owned utilities dictating the terms of construction and operation: “I want to make the argument for less reliance on the market and a bit more planning in the economy”.
He suggested that Scotland’s ageing population requires a shift away from commercial and non-profit care provision on a scale akin to the creation of the National Health Service in the 1940s. “Personally I would prefer a socialised system in the public sector,” he said.
Mr Leonard, who won a regional list seat in the Scottish parliament only last year, is keen to find ways to promote employee ownership of companies, suggesting staff could be given the right to buy an enterprise when it is put up for sale, go through a succession or facing closure: “I want to see . . . whether we can look at the structures of the economy so that we are less prone to predatory takeovers”.
Three of many reasons for Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity:
- his care for the ‘ordinary person’,
- his ‘sufficient’ lifestyle
- and his freedom from the greed which leads many in the political landscape to ‘milk’ the system and promote decisions needed by moneyed interests.
It was retweeted by a friend and Greg Foxsmith neatly summarises: “Grayling is an MP who purports to want to cut public expenditure. However, when it comes to his own public expenditure, Chris likes to get as much of it as he can”.
Foxsmith refers readers to the Telegraph for more information. Grayling’s record on cutting access to legal aid and lack of concern about prison suicides adds charges of inhumane conduct to those of greed.
Apart from passing through the revolving door to industry and then returning to aid government’s decision-making process, civil servants feature in the news less frequently than MPs.
Award-winning investigative journalist David Hencke recently re-published information about top bonuses and pay rises for five of the most senior and well paid civil servants at the Department of Work and Pensions over the last two years, which appears in the annual report and accounts of the DWP released last month. Sir Robert Devereux, permanent secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions; Neil Couling, director general of universal credit; Jeremy Moore, director of strategy; Mayank Prakash, director general of digital technology and Andrew Rhodes, director of operations are all responsible in one way or another for the delivery of Universal Credit.
All but Andrew Rhodes are paid more than Theresa May, the PM, but are, nevertheless, receiving bonuses
This, even though their new Universal Credit programme is said to be in chaos – leaving some claimants without money for up to six weeks. MP Kevan Jones (Durham North) has described the bonuses of £10-20,000 as “a reward for failure”, based on its performance in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne pilot project.
Hencke ends, “What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.
“It was this disconnect between the elite and the poor in the USA that led to the rise of Donald Trump and I suspect this huge gulf between the Metropolitan elite (of which top Whitehall civil servants are part) and the provincial poor, is in the end going to propel Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street”.
Many see the need for more MPs who have lived for the public good, even using their basic salaries to do this (such as former Coventry MP Dave Nellist). Ideally numbers would increase to such an extent that they will be able to transform the country. A beginning? Four MPs (three Labour and one Conservative) resigned from the advisory board at the University of Bath in protest against its vice-chancellor’s £451,000 pay package.
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?
The right-wing press, neoliberal politicians and corporates in Britain such as Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Tory MP Mark Pritchard and Labour MP Frank Field, are firmly attached to the US-led global order which attempts to impose its will by propaganda and force – generally in oil rich countries like Venezuela. As MP Chris Williamson pointed out in his recent Newsnight interview, the US has a track record of interference at all levels, including military overthrow of inconvenient governments, in Latin America.
They have led repeated attacks on an absent Jeremy Corbyn for failing to cheer the US-led destabilisation of Venezuela. Labour List, which is clearly backing the Blairite wing, referred to ‘Nicolas Maduro’s violent suppression after a dirty election’. The Sun’s dig:
On his return, Mr Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela. The people who have died, either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the street — all of those lives are terrible for the loss of them.” Repeatedly pressed to condemn Mr Maduro’s actions, he said: “What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue”, adding:
“We also have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people.”
Using record-high oil revenues of the 2000s, his government nationalized key industries, created participatory democratic Communal Councils, and implemented social programs to expand access to food, housing, healthcare, and education. Venezuela used its oil revenue to make improvements in poverty, literacy, income equality, and quality of life.
James Tweedie effectively put the record straight in an interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme on 7th August, with the usually combative presenter failing to challenge even one of the facts he presented. In that and a recent article he made many points. Some of these are published here.
True socialism has been advancing in Britain over the past two years with Labour’s gains in the June election on an anti-austerity manifesto and the increasing public respect for Corbyn as leader. We can see, on the horizon, rejection of the current form of Western intervention which has gained adherents for extremist groups, destabilising many of the world’s regions, followed by collaboration with others to undertake the monumental task of rebuilding and reconciliation.
Activists plan ‘rave’: Conservative answer to Glastonbury, designed to provide a cool gloss to Theresa May’s party
Henry Mance, FT’s Political Correspondent writes: “Camping. Slow food. Inspirational speakers. A Pyramid stage. It could be Glastonbury, except for one feature: Tory activists . . . The festival will be invitation-only with between 150 and 200 attendees, some of whom will camp”.
Mr Freeman said he hoped the event would become an annual fixture, adding that this year’s festival would be like a “first rave, you’ll remember who you brought” – unlikely!
Organisers of a new “Conservative Ideas Festival” are hoping to revive the spirit and popular appeal of Theresa May’s party after its battering in June’s general election. The party’s membership has fallen to somewhere below 150,000 — less than one-third that of Labour’s and not far ahead of the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats.
The party has fallen behind Labour in opinion polls, while Mrs May’s personal ratings are below those of Mr Corbyn, who was once seen as unelectable.
George Freeman, the Norfolk MP who chairs Mrs May’s policy board, came up with the idea after Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn took the Glastonbury Festival by storm this summer. “Why is it just the left who have all the fun in politics?” he said after Mr Corbyn’s appearance. saying his idea for a rightwing festival “seems to have struck a chord” and that he had “some wonderful offers of help of sponsorship and venues”. He told the Financial Times this week that he had raised £25,000 for a one-day event to be held in September.
The Conservatives will also hold their annual party conference in Manchester at the start of October, charging companies £32,500 for a 6m by 6m exhibition stand. Can’t wait!
- Angela Smith – noted for her place in the 2009 expenses scandal – backed the vote of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which led to the leadership election, in which Corbyn was re-elected as leader
- Graham Jones on record as saying he could not serve under Mr Corbyn as he was from the “extreme left” and did not hold Labour’s “true values”
As the Times and some Labour MPs try to provoke Jeremy Corbyn over the situation in Venezuela – ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ – it must be galling for them to see that public favour has never been higher.
Right wing media grudgingly acknowledges Corbyn’s power to draw huge crowds and hundreds of website readers from 36 other countries visited (left – a record number): “Jeremy Corbyn rocks Glastonbury’ – Murdoch resumes the ‘bashathon’ “
Crowds again turned out in Hastings, Southampton ( below), Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival, the Durham Miners Gala and London.
And even more striking because less transient, news forwarded by Felicity Arbuthnot, that an 8ft-tall artwork depicting North Islington MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been unveiled on the side of a pub in Archway. The artist, Sam Collins, spent a month on the mural, crafted by putting together A3 plywood squares painted at his studio.
Tony Cullen, the owner said “I’ve never seen someone so honest and willing to be accountable. I love that he’s changing the political landscape, moving it to ordinary people away from elites . . . Jeremy seemed very embarrassed, but he said [he] appreciates the quality of the art – it really captured him.”
Too much saccharine? Turn to the readers of the Times, who say that JC draws ‘Fake crowds’, is a cult leader, IRA-lover and supporter of Islamofascist terrorist murderers.
A more understated reaction: ‘The face of honest politics’.