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Building the Fight against Austerity – preamble

Lesley Docksey writes: “The relentless criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by the Tories, the MSM and some loud-mouthed Labour MPs, though depressing, are being balanced by the energy and activism of all those Labour members and supporters who back Corbyn”.

While the sheer numbers and views of the membership and supporters are being totally ignored by the PLP, they are being aired at Momentum meetings and at events like the Build Against Austerity event. This major anti-austerity meeting at Methodist Central Hall in London on 21st November, was organised by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, backed by PCS with main speakers: shadow chancellor John McDonnell and economist Yanis Varoufakis.

There has been little mention of the Trade Unions, once the backbone of the Labour Party – also PLP invisible. But the Trade Union Coordinating Group hosted a blinder of a Rally at Westminster Hall on November 21.

Around 1400 people attended and the atmosphere was electric. It is hard to describe what it is like to walk into a hall full of strangers knowing that each is a friend with the same hope, vision and aims as you – invigorating, life-affirming, energising – all these things. Lesley, who attended the meeting, continues: “People attending such events are extremely optimistic, full of hope and energy. And they laugh a lot!”

There was a lot of humour and it was genuine, not the embarrassing jokes that David Cameron uses in Parliament; positive and forward looking humour; laughter among friends.   But mostly there was an undercurrent of knowledge that, if we get it right, this is a pivotal moment in this country’s political history. If we get it right.

At the Build Against Austerity event John McDonnell spoke about how workers should and must resist any unjust legislation (such as proposed by the Tories’ Trade Union Bill). He also mentioned the reviews Labour is undertaking on the Treasury, financial sector etc., saying that there was a need for financiers “to understand that we cannot tolerate a finance sector that is not contributing to the prosperity of the country overall.”

Yanis Varoufakis, considering the fact that this country (and Europe) is actually very rich, asked “Why is so little hope growing among so many riches?”

On finance, having outlined the reviews that Labour is now undertaking on the Treasury, banking and the finance sector, McDonnell said there was a need for financiers “to understand that we cannot tolerate a finance sector that is not contributing to the prosperity of the country overall.”

All of the ‘austerity’ the country is suffering from comes from the implementation of the government’s financial objectives. To combat it, there has to be a comprehensive financial plan, particularly for investment, as clearly outlined by Varoufakis. It includes getting the corporations to pay the full amount of tax but at the same time get tax breaks for using the estimated £740 billion sitting idle for investing in innovation, research, manufacturing and infrastructure – a positive contribution to prosperity.

Suffering ‘austerity’ makes it difficult to imagine a better future, and that creates depression and despair. How do we build the hope, so evident at this event, out in the wider world?   Unity among Trade Unions, a Workers’ Rights Bill to combat the Tory assault on workers, a sound financial plan involving a Public Investment Bank and genuine investment to combat the so-called ‘necessary’ austerity programme, bringing local community campaigns into a national campaign – we need all this, just as we need unity within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But the hope, the energy and inspiration, the pressure to change things for the better, that has to come from us, the people. What everyone felt at the rally has to be shared among friends, neighbours, groups, strangers on buses, trains and in supermarket till queues. It is too good not to be shared and then acted upon.

Read Lesley’s account of the meeting here:




An engineer’s thoughts on the current state of the Labour Party

Professor Rex Harris writes: 

Today I am 76 and I thought I should take this opportunity to reflect on the state of my beloved Labour Party and hopefully demonstrate that the present “doom and gloom” surrounding the party is, in my view, totally unjustified.

Although society has made enormous strides in technology and science we are still living under a very regressive political system. Thus we still have the primitive “first pass the post” electoral system whereby, with just 38% of the vote, the Tories have been re-elected for another depressing 5 years during which time the gap between rich and poor will become even wider.

Lack of scientific expertise in Parliament

The cabinet is still predominantly ex-public school and male and in the composition of the new parliament of around 650 MPs, only a very tiny minority will have any significant scientific/engineering background and hence technical knowledge. I believe that in the last parliament there was only one science-based PhD and, in the current batch the picture is probably even worse.

This critical absence of technical expertise is, to my mind, extremely worrying as the quality of the future will be dependent on implementing long term, technically-based measures determined by the overwhelming need to reduce carbon.

The mammoths in the room are climate change and resource depletion and yet these topics received barely a mention in the debates leading up to the 2015 general election. These and related areas will determine, not only the future shape of the Labour party   but that of the whole world and these should be the dominant themes in the current and future debates.

When asked to define the most challenging aspect of his political life, Harold McMillan stated:

                                     ” Events dear boy, events”

This was a very wise statement and with the increasing manifestation of
climate change in the UK as well as throughout the world, related events will become ever-more predominant in political life. The difficult, if not impossible task, is to predict the exact time it will take for the reality of climate change and resource depletion to have a significant impact on the electorate.

Currently, I believe we are all living in a “fools’ paradise

The stark reality is that our present consumer driven economic system cannot provide the necessary long term solutions to these problems and this is why the Labour party must not seek short-term political gain by trying to emulate our existing system which seems to be based predominantly on the motivating force of personal greed.

The necessary changes cannot be achieved by short-term tinkering with the existing system

The majority realisation that there has to be a radical change could come in the next 5 years or it might take longer, but come it will.

In the meantime the Labour party, along with other like-minded groups, has to formulate detailed root and branch policies to provide a workable alternative to the present unsustainable system which is based on the growing consumption of ever diminishing raw materials and evermore carbon-based energy.

The Labour Party must provide the blueprint for a sustainable future and the sooner it sets its mind to this objective the better.

It might be useful to consider what could be some of the political priorities (in no particular order):

  • Introduce a system of proportional representation and real federalisation within the UK.
  • Increase substantially the proportion of female Labour candidates.
  • Try and increase the proportion of candidates with a scientific/engineering background. Aim for engineers and scientists to be “on top” not just “on-tap”.
  • Develop a series of independent technical workshops to inform MPs and other policy makers of the technical challenges that lie ahead.
  • Set-up a parliamentary group to investigate comprehensively the impacts of climate change and resource depletion. For instance, to develop a full-scale recycling strategy
  • Look to build a purpose-built parliament building in the Midlands and convert the existing parliament buildings into tourist attractions.
  • Strengthen and expand the concept of a “Green Bank” to fund new businesses based of sustainable technologies.
  • Electrify all urban transportation and develop battery recycling technologies.
  • Strengthen and develop EC and other international ties.

These are just some of the many priorities that Labour will have to address, analyse and then formulate workable solutions. A far cry from today’s often trivial and somewhat irrelevant arguments


Date: Monday, 27 July, 2015, 16:03