Category Archives: Politics
Jeremy Corbyn – right on internationally related crises over 20 years – advises PM to seek evidence and proceed in accordance with international law
Mr Corbyn condemned the “appalling act of violence” on 4 March which left ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a serious condition.
Mr Corbyn asked: “Has the Prime Minister taken necessary steps under the chemical weapon convention to make a formal request for evidence from Russian government under article 9.2? Has high-resolution trace analysis been run on a sample of the nerve agent that revealed any evidence as to the location of its production or identity of its perpetrators?” and then urged continued “robust dialogue” with Moscow. See video here.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the UK is bound to provide a sample of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russian investigators under international treaties, something Ms May has withheld.
Russia’s destruction of its chemical weapons
The New York Times reported last year that President Putin of Russia presided over the destruction of his country’s last declared chemical weapons. The deputy director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental organization based in the Hague that polices adherence to the 1993 convention, declared the event “a truly momentous occasion.” Putin said that it “signals the full elimination of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by the Russian Federation.” The OPCW’s inspection teams verified the destruction at seven chemical weapons destruction facilities in the Russian Federation. On 27 September 2017, the last of these facilities, located in Kizner, officially concluded its operations.
An FT report records that Mr Corbyn told the House of Commons it would be a mistake to rush to judgment on the Salisbury attack. He asked Theresa May, prime minister, why the UK had not met Russia’s request for a sample of the chemical used, adding later on Facebook that the “Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence”.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman suggested that the nerve agent could have fallen into the hands of a country other than Russia after the break-up of the USSR: “The right approach is to seek the evidence, to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to chemical weapons attacks carried out on British soil”. He continued:
“However, also, there’s a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly. If you remember back to the WMD saga, there was both what was actually produced by the intelligence services, which in the end we had access to and then there was how that was used in the public domain in politics. So there is a history of problems in relation to interpreting that evidence (the FT adds: in a reference to the false assumption that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction ahead of the Iraq war.)
Seumas Milne. “I think Jeremy’s record in relation to judgement on internationally related crises is probably better than anyone else in the House of Commons, he has proved to make the right call time and again over the last 15 to 20 years, in particular when many others made the wrong call, and those calls have disastrous consequences.”
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.
Jeremy Corbyn has set up a “community campaign unit”, a small but growing department in his office that will focus on working with communities and groups of employees, helping them to organise and campaign on local and workplace issues.
Richard Power Sayeed, whose recently published book on the New Labour years (left) is being well-received, wonders if this will turn out to be one of the most transformative political decisions of the Labour leader’s career.
“In 2018,” Corbyn predicted in the Sunday Mirror, “we will win by organising with communities that have been held back.” Corbyn hopes this make it easier for ordinary people to engage in grassroots politics and this, he hopes, will further strengthen the left.
Sayeed adds, in the Independent, “Corbyn’s popularity gives him the authority to try again, and the plan seems at least feasible now because Labour has many more members: more than half a million, compared with the Tories’ rumoured 70,000”.
He points out that ‘the Corbynistas’ – we prefer ‘Corbynieres’ – are drawn both from trade unions and from social movements: environmentalists, students, feminists, anti-racists, disability campaigners and LGBT activists.
Though not traditional political campaigners, leafletting and knocking on doors pre-election, many have been organising in communities and work places for decades so might well work with the new unit.
Laura Pidcock, the Labour MP for North West Durham, told her Facebook followers that the unit will allow their party to have an impact on people’s lives even while it’s still in opposition:
“We need to get rid of this awful, destructive government, but we don’t have to wait for that to be effective locally”.
Participatory politics: what will the 1922 Committee decide at the Conservative Convention, March 2018?
As Gary Younge wrote:
“Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.
Though title-trouncing Labour’s ‘hard left’ whom the Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’ she does at least present the truly democratic approach actually being taken:
“A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘Labour members select their candidates by democratic processes as laid out in the rule book. We do not comment on individual selections.’ A spokesman for Momentum told The Times: ‘We think it’s fantastic that hundreds of thousands of people new to politics have felt so inspired that they’ve joined the Labour Party. We should trust local members to be the best judge of who should represent their community”.
Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join, all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.
David Hencke reports that on November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.
The document was sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May). The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:
- rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
- limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
- scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
- use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.
Will final approval be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?
If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.
Earlier this month, the FT noted that – as the latest national opinion polls show Labour eight points ahead of the Conservatives (though Yougov shows a far closer score) – some investors and business leaders are increasingly worried about the prospect of a leftwing UK government overturning decades of economic orthodoxy.
One of these, Ajit Nedungadi, a managing partner at TA Associates, a Massachusetts-based private equity group said. “Corbyn will be bad news for the industry. It’s black and white. There is no question. How can it be good news?”
Not everyone in the financial community views a Corbyn government in such grave terms.
Dean Turner, an economist in the UK investment office at UBS Wealth Management, believes investors have exaggerated the threat posed by Mr Corbyn, saying a government led by the Labour leader would not turn Britain into “Venezuela overnight”.
“Taxation as a share of gross domestic product would be at 1985 levels, and spending as a share of GDP at 1984 levels,”
After agreeing that it would be a “dramatic shift from where we have been for the last 30 years”, Mr Turner pointed out that many of Mr Corbyn’s policy proposals, such as renationalisation of the railways, would be seen as mainstream in other EU countries.
He also said that Mr Corbyn’s pledge to reverse cuts in corporation tax — raising the headline corporation tax rate from 19 to 26 per cent — was also relatively conventional.
Even under Mr Corbyn’s plan, for example, the UK would still have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7.
Mr Turner also dismissed speculation about a run on the pound and the imposition of capital controls, even after Mr McDonnell said that Labour would have to prepare for both possibilities. “If we do see a weaker pound, the change would be gradual,” Mr Turner said.
“I doubt we would see the kind of falls we saw post-Brexit vote.”
Comment Writer Jamie Aspden, a third year political science student at the University of Birmingham, argues that that the Conservative Party Conference was the conclusive sign that the government needs to change. A ‘wake-up call’ – read the article here: http://www.redbrick.me/comment/brexit/conservative-party-just-managing/. Some extracts follow.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
After referring to the lost majority and questionable DUP deal, a Cabinet at war with themselves, little good news along the way and detailing the conference mishaps Aspden comments, “Theresa May has just about managed to get through it, whilst being tripped up by countless political debacles”. He ends:
“If the Conservative Party wishes to keep its reputation as one of the oldest, greatest and most successful political parties in the free world, it needs to get its act together and fast. The cost of indecision is too high.
“The United Kingdom can no longer afford this brand of governance. As at this time, when it faces some of the greatest challenges since the Second World War: an ageing population, a changing climate and the departure from the EU, we need a, dare I say it, ’strong and stable’ government. One with innovative and inspired ideas, and with the unity and discipline needed to enact them. ‘Just about managing’ will no longer cut it.
“For the first time in decades Britain faces the possibility of a truly socialist government, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. A party which is ‘just about managing’ to hold itself together is of little use in the fight against such an opposition. Instead the party must unite and move forward as one. If not, the electorate will never forgive it for falling apart right at the moment it needed to come together.
“The country deserves and needs a government that succeeds, and it needs it now”.
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?
- 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’.
Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.
In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, links and emphasis added.
In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.
Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.
My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.
Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.
This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.
Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?
We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.
A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.
No more hand holding with Donald Trump.
The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.
Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.
I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.
A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain
A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.
Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security
I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.
The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems
Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.
I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.
And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.
Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.
There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.
A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.
There is a clear choice at the next election
Do we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”
A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.